This morning 94 motorcycles departed Cranberry Township, just north of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania headed by several less than direct routes to Rancho Cordova, California. These motorcyclists are riding the second leg of the 2013 Iron Butt Rally, popularly described as "11 days, 11,000 miles". Those unfamiliar with the rally should think of it as a very large scavenger hunt. Riders receive a certain number of bonus points for taking a photograph or obtaining a receipt at some specified location. There are many more possible bonuses than anybody can possibly obtain. Some bonuses may only be available for specified limited periods of time. The game is to plan and ride a route collecting as many bonus points as possible. Voni and I are not among those 94 riders. We rode and successfully completed the rally ten years ago but have not had any irresistible urges to repeat the adventure since then. We are however also headed to Rancho Cordova, California and intend to arrive there sometime Sunday. Not coincidentally those 94 rally riders are expected to arrive Sunday too. The checkpoint window is open for two hours. Riders who arrive on time suffer no penalty, but during that two hour window penalty points apply for every minute the rider is late. At the end of the two hours, any rider who has not arrived is DNF - did not finish - and is out of the game.

After spending a few weeks visiting Mike in Kansas and Melanie and family in Iowa, we headed west on our road bikes to California. Paul will work at the scoring table as rally riders arrive in Rancho Cordova. Voni is the semi-official hugger at the checkpoint, hugging each rider as they arrive. She has done so every biennial rally since 1999. After the riders depart Rancho Cordova headed back to Pittsburgh on Monday morning we too will depart Rancho Cordova. But our plans are to visit Voni's cousin Paul Hathaway at a cabin on the river west of Santa Rosa and to then attend our friend (who we met riding in Southern Africa) Lindsey Mickles' weekend-long 80th birthday party in Petaluma. When we depart Petaluma we will head directly to our annual BMW national rally in Salem, Oregon.

Since leaving Mike's in Kansas we have been loitering our way toward California. We allowed plenty of time for a change. We spent an overnight in Colby, Kansas and then camped for three nights in the delightful Cache La Poudre River canyon northwest of Fort Collins, Colorado. About that time newscasters began describing the "record setting heat wave" that had descended upon the Southwest United States. Our entire route from Colorado to California, across western Colorado, Utah, and Nevada was forecast to be not just summer hot but brutally hot. Triple digit temperatures were forecast to be the norm. So we devised a plan to start early each day and to be off the road and at a motel by noon or thereabouts each day. It has been a pleasant trip. Our stops after short days have included: Vernal, Utah; Nephi, Utah for two nights; Ely, Nevada; and Fallon, Nevada. On the non-travel day at Nephi we rode the beautiful Mount Nebo Scenic Loop northeast of Nephi (pronounced 'knee fy').

Today we slept late, Paul wrote his next technical column for the BMW Owners News a month early, (he wrote the current one last night) and we rode a grueling 65 miles - hotel to hotel - to Carson City. Saturday will be a rest day. Then early Sunday morning we will ride the last whole 115 miles to the rally checkpoint.

In 2008, after we returned from a motorcycle ride to Alaska, Paul was asked "what is the most important thing to take on a trip to Alaska?" His response was simply "time". "Allow time to see things, do things, and change plans if necessary". Given our current trip we couldn't agree more.

We will report more as it happens.

Lots of pictures here:

Voni AND her Mechanic Paul