August 18, 2003
M*A*S*H, Iron Butt Style
After a telephone call from Peter Icaza last night, I decided to
administer mental status tests to some of the suspect riders. Icaza was
reporting that he would miss the Maine checkpoint by several hours. It
turned out that he was fewer than 200 miles from his goal and had almost 24
hours to get there. He's not the first rider to be off target by a day.
So now I look at them carefully when they check in. If they crawl up to
the table on all fours, I ask them what day of the week it is and the name
of the vice-president of Botswana. If they fall asleep before answering,
we drag them off into a corner and hit them with the fire hose. If they
get cute with me, I threaten to disqualify them. Naturally, I have no
power to do that, but they don't know it.
If I did encounter a truly questionable case, I would refer the matter to
my medical officer, Don Arthur, a two-star admiral and the commandant of
the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland. He worked the
intake scoring table today and on Saturday night he put up most of Moron's
crew for the night at his home in suburban Washington, D.C. We like to
have multi-talented individuals volunteering to help this rolling
circus. Arthur, who racked up more than 100,000 miles last year on a BMW
K1200LT and won both endurance rallies he entered, certainly fits that bill.
On the days when I don't think I'm Ernie Pyle, I like to think I'm a
doctor, like Dr. Zeuss. I sure hope no one decides to start testing
me. They might find the cat in my hat.
By early afternoon the riders began filtering into the Reynolds
Motorsports dealership in Buxton, Maine, a checkpoint on every Iron Butt
Rally since the first one in 1984. With them, strange and twisted stories
from their travels arrived too. It was sort of a "Canterbury Tales" as
told not by Chaucer but by Vlad the Impaler.
Example: Stephan Bolduc, Quebec's Iron Butt entrant, is more comfortable
speaking French than English. When he was checking in with Mike Kneebone,
the first step in the scoring process, I asked him diplomatically in my
best French how he was doing. "Ca va bien?"
"Non," he said. "I try to sleep in zee park, but zee bear he will not let
"The bear? You mean the police?"
"Non, non," he said, waving his arms. "Zee BEAR!"
I can't remember the French word for "bear," but I could understand
Example: Voni Glaves, who has undoubtedly logged more motorcycle miles
than any woman in recorded history, pointed at her BMW's odometer with
disgust. "It stopped working," she said. I looked at the traitorous
instrument. It was just 4,900 miles short of 300,000. Voni has never
learned to frown, but she wasn't quite smiling either.
Example: Jim Frens' wallet flew out of his tank bag on the New Jersey
Turnpike. Bad luck. He yanked his bike over to the breakdown lane,
stopped, jumped off the bike, and began running back down the highway. The
odds of finding the wallet, given that 20,000 cars and trucks per second
were flying up that highway, are too small to be measured. Yet Frens did
find the wallet and its cash (good), but the credit cards were long gone
(bad). At the checkpoint he told his Canterbury Tale and one of the
volunteer scorers, Howard Chain, lent Jim a credit card to finish the rally
(good). But this is the Iron Butt Rally, where no good deed goes
unpunished. My guess is that the first time Frens tries to use Chain's
card, he'll be arrested for theft, fraud, and forgery (bad).
But there is the rare Canterbury Tale where good triumphs over evil. It
happened today to Joe DeRyke. He came into Reynolds' parking lot with one
thread of his BMW R1100RT's twisted steel throttle cable still intact. The
first time DeRyke applied the slightest pressure to the throttle, the final
strand would snap faster than a heart string. The closest BMW dealer
didn't have the cable in stock, but a shop in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, 60
miles south, did.
Joe Mandeville, DeRyke's riding partner, asked me if the rules would
permit him to ride down to Portsmouth and buy the cable. No problem, I
said. Mandeville, a judge in Los Angeles, suited up and was ready to leave
when David Smith, a lawyer from Chicago, said that he was carrying an extra
throttle cable on his R1150RT. Would it fit DeRyke's bike? Well, we'll
ask Bob Wooldridge, who owns a BMW shop. He says it's no problem. But
does anyone really know how to do the replacement? Ah, there's Paul
Glaves, the tech guru of the BMW Motorcycle Owners of America, already on
his knees at the side of DeRyke's bike. He has the machine in pieces in
the parking lot, with the help of Chris Ratay, who with his wife Erin has
spent the last four years riding around the world on their BMWs. They
showed up just to be part of the crowd and now Chris had grease up to his
elbows, busily repairing the bike of a guy he had known for all of four
An hour later DeRyke was headed for the open road. He saw me. "You can't
write about this," he said. "My wife would kill me if she thought there
was anything wrong with the bike."
"Your secret's safe with me, Joe" I said.
Sure it is, like I'm going to sit on this story, the quintessential
example of True Iron Butt. We tell them over and over: If you're not
sleeping, riding, eating, filling the tank, or sitting on the pot, you're
wasting time. Yet here were a dozen contestants helping a rival for no
other reason than he needed help. They might be in his shoes one day. I
shook my head and smiled. How were we ever so fortunate as to meet such
people as these?
Wine for My Men; We Ride at Dawn
Eleven riders had gone to Canada. One had crashed, one had blown up, one
had pulled up short with no bonuses, and one, 2001 IBR winner Bob Hall,
called from his home in Ohio this morning to announce his retirement
because of a failing motorcycle. The curse of the Iron Butt had struck
again. No one has ever won two Iron Butt Rallies outright. They keep
trying. The curse keeps cursing.
The Canadian 11 were now The Canadian 7. All made it to Maine, though
Mike Hutsal was more than one hour late. His penalty was voided because he
had spent time helping his downed partner, Lee Myrah, a few days
earlier. Of these seven only Hutsal wasn't completely rested. Paul Taylor
was. "The Robo is ready to rumble," he said, referring to his license
Eric Jewell, in eighth place and more than 14,000 points behind the
seventh place rider, had been one of the original 33 red pill riders, but
had opted not to go to Canada. He hoped that he would be able to score
enough in the Florida and Maine legs to come close to those who had gone
north. That didn't happen. He hoped that they would come in bushed while
he was fresh. Fresh he was, but so were they. He is a great endurance
rider, but he had given away too much. You can't give even an inch to the
seven men who lead the IBR tonight. They won't give it back.
At 6:00 p.m. EDT tonight the run back to Missoula began. It is a
difficult ride that will require planning, precision, and luck. Only seven
men have a realistic chance to win.
Ninety hours remain.
The Top Ten (complete standings are on the www.ironbutt.com web site):
1. Leonard Roy Honda 39,273
2. Marty Leir BMW 39,222
3. Will Outlaw BMW 39,187
4. Mike Hutsal BMW 39,009
5. Mark Kiecker Honda 38,908
6. Paul Taylor BMW 38,888
7. Peter Hoogeveen Yamaha 38,830
8. Eric Jewell BMW 24,433
9. Eddie James BMW 24,421
10. Paul Pelland BMW 24,169