Iron Butt Rally Preparation
Bo Griffin

I have been one of the fortunate one’s that have been accepted into this year’s Iron Butt Rally (IBR). It is a very tough and fun event that happens every other year, and I have wanted to get accepted for a number of years. My first couple of attempts, were not fruitful.

The IBR details can be read at length at their webpage: http://www.ironbuttrally.com. Basically, it is a scavenger hunt that lasts for 11 days and covers the whole United States. It sometimes involves Canada and Alaska, but rarely Mexico.

My preparation involves three things:
• Man
• Machine
• Routing and Technology

All three aspects will need to be working properly for anyone to “finish” the IBR. My first goal would be to finish the Rally. Beyond that, I would love to place in the top Ten. My next Rally I would like to “win” the Rally. However, it’s important to take baby steps, because there is plenty of work that has to take place before you can win a Rally and most of it has to do with riding………………..a lot!

This year’s IBR will start in Spartanburg, SC on August 24th. It will finish in Spokane, WA on September 4th. It will have two mandatory stops in between those points where everyone will be required to check-in within a two hour window. All the other points will be based on what we (participants) choose from the rally packet that is handed out at each one of the mandatory stops. The rally packet will have numerous waypoints (too many) that will be given to us electronically for us to choose from. The rally packet is described like a menu at a restaurant. Everything looks good on the menu, but if you choose everything, you will be a very sick person. However, if you choose the right food in the right amount, you will be fueled for the day. If you choose too many bonus points or the wrong bonus points, you could fail to finish the rally. Most of the rally points are achieved by taking photos of unique destinations, but some points are issued for fuel log sheets and rest stops.

I will make my choice from the rally packet based on what I think I can accomplish and still make it to the mandatory stops within the two-hour window. The electronic version of the bonus points will be issued to us on a memory stick that we can use on our individual laptops. The files will be MapSource, Streets and Trips, and text (maybe more). I will take the MapSource and/or the Streets and Trips file and bring it up on my computer to see which points I think I can accomplish and arrive at the mandatory stop. I will have to compute sleep time, traffic time, bonus time (some bonii may not be open 24 hours), weather time and everything else to guess at what I can accomplish. I will then create routes to these bonus locations and upload to my Zumo 550 (primary) and 2720 (secondary) GPS units.

With my route uploaded, I will depart on the voyage to capture the bonii. In most cases, I will have to take pictures on a digital camera with my rally number in the picture to document the point. The specific instructions for taking the picture (angle, perspective, contents of picture) or anything else that is required of the bonus point will be further described in the rally packet. Their will be a memory card (furnished by me) for each leg (route between mandatory stops) that will be turned in upon arriving at each mandatory stop. The memory card will be labeled with my number and kept for their processing. If I lose the memory card or it does not function properly, I will be without any those points.

Man
My personal preparations have included diet, exercise and riding. I try to eat real food that is not processed and eliminate any shape, form or fashion of a grain product. This is very difficult to do at home and close to impossible on the road, however I try. I also take extremely good multi-vitamins and a few probiotics and omega 3’s. I walk 2 miles a day (five days a week), practice yoga twice a week and lift weights three times a week.

I practice riding in all types of weather conditions during the night as well as the daytime. I try to map an unique spot on MapSource and load it on my GPS and go find the location and take a picture as practice. My time is very limited, so I have to practice a day or two during the week and on some part of the weekend (generally not all weekend). It’s tough to get enough practice when you have a limited budget and schedule but it can still be done.

An example of one of my practice rides is; I left here at 5 pm on Friday evening and rode out west to Lipan and took a picture of the large rocking chair. I then, went south to Round Top and took a picture in front of the Royer’s café. From there I rode to the baseball stadium downtown Houston for a picture. The last picture was in Mamou, La before returning to the house. (1000 miles in 24 hours)

Another example was this past weekend. I left Plano at 3 pm on Saturday afternoon. It was 106 degrees until I got to the middle of Oklahoma on my way to Missouri. I stopped at the Precious Moments Chapel to take a picture in Carthage. I then eased over to Crane to say a quick “hey” to everyone. (Jim, I’m sorry I didn’t stay and camp.) From there, I rode past a few pre 4th of July fireworks shows on the way to the Jefferson Davis monument in Fairview, Kentucky to take a picture. The Amish were prevalent in the area and it was a treat to be there. And, on to Cave City, Kentucky to take another photo of a Wigwam before returning back to Texarkana. I took another picture of the Post Office/Court House in Texarkana before arriving home Sunday night (1600+ miles).

Nothing replaces practice to get the body and mind in shape. It is necessary to practice reading a GPS during the night in a strange place. You can’t get that kind of practice from reading the instructions. It is necessary to expose yourself to these conditions. There are mini rallies available to help with the practice, but I don’t have the time or money to do it, so I create my own. I hope to continue this practice up until rally time.
Machine
My 100,000 mile BMW feels tired. However, the S&W team was recently able to revive it through a good tune-up and they continue to give me solid advice. My fuel mileage is much better and the engine runs good. I plan on the S&W team giving the bike another “pep” talk before the IBR.

In addition, I have added two Soltek HID driving lights made by Baja Designs, a J&M CB with the integration kit to include the Radar detector, two GPS units, and my iphone through the Bluetooth capabilities of my Zumo 550. The J&M headset allows use of all the sounds including music with my Zumo with a priority cancelling function. When my phone rings the music is automatically turned down. I also have my old Satellite tracker made by Star-Traxx. I would like to upgrade to the new Spot to get the 911 capabilities, but for now it is working just fine. I am toying with the idea of using a blog that I can call into on my iphone while going down the road and let it report to the website. However, that is not working very successful in some of the cases that I have experienced, so I’m not real sure about that.

I carry a water jug with a plastic tube running to my handle bars for water. I also carry a smaller cooler behind me to keep some food and liquids. It is very difficult to eat along the road. Ideally, I like to stop at a Wal-mart and load up some various nuts, raisins and carrot juice. However, I don’t like wasting too much time so I end up buying what’s available at the gas stops. Not the best choice, but I can grab something and store it on the bike to be consumed while going down the road.

Customtankbags.com is making me a tank bag with a rally book (clipboard) to ride on my tank that will allow me to store some so the what-not stuff that I will need while going down the road. I will also be able to keep some paper maps and bonus instructions there.

I have two slime kits with air compressors, worm plugs, as well as mushroom plugs. I carry a few fuses and a spare alternator belt as well as some tools. However, I don’t know how to use many of my tools. I hope I don’t have to use the roadside assistance and credit card that I will be carrying either.

I’m not planning on stopping for maintenance. I am testing a Michelin bias ply street tire on the rear that might get me more miles than the Tourances have in the past. I will need a tire that can go 14,000 without being replaced. I don’t want to spend any time in a shop scheduling maintenance or anything else. (Hold the comments on the rear drive.) However, I will have two tires in stock just in case I come through this part of the country. My friend, Stan Goodell, will change them out while I sleep.

Routing and Technology
I will carry paper maps of most of the areas that I might visit, and I may have to buy some more along the way. I don’t use paper maps often any more, but it helps a lot with the big picture view point that I may need when I get out of my region (especially Canada and the Northeast).

I will depend on my ability to create good maps on MapSource and load to my GPS. I will carry a Dell laptop that is 3.5 years old with the necessary software packages including GPS utility that can convert mapping files from one source to another. I do not have a back-up plan if my laptop crashes other than go buy a new one. In this case, I may spend hours trying to get some software back running. Herman van Beek is my GPS advisor and may have a few more back-up ideas to pack before the trip. There again, I hope I don’t need any back-up (for anything).