Winter is coming!

So… I was going to try to hang out until we got to the airport before posting again, but I can’t. It’s Thursday morning which means only 2 more work days before holidays and bonus point collection has commenced! Also, because one rally wasn’t enough, Team Piwi (Piglet and Kiwi) is now also participating in the Game Of Thrones rally, an Iron Butt Association Australia-run event which goes for 12 weeks and commenced on the Winter Solstice…

First, BLIX news: we’re (kind of) packed (aside from the fact that we both keep adding stuff to ‘the pile’ sitting on top of the bags which were ‘done’ as of Sunday afternoon). Things we have packed:

  • Offerings of Australian foodstuffs to provide to the Gods Who Let Us Take Up Precious Space In Their Garage With a Motorcycle That Gets Ridden Two Weeks a Year in the hope that they’ll forgive us in advance for the next 50 weeks before IBR 2019 (thanks Joe and Lori, you guys rock!)
  • Protective motorcycling clothing including jackets, pants, boots, helmets, gloves and armour
  • Summer clothing for pre- and post-rally  (funnily enough, there’s not that much of this, or even much space for it)
  • Farkles (highway pegs, something affectionately known as the ‘bead-rider’ but which when placed on a pillion seat is a new and evil form of ass-torture)

Things we have not yet packed:

  • Important things like passports and paperwork (they’re ready to go, but haven’t quite made it to the bags yet)
  • Laptops for routing

In the meantime, the Rally Master Who Must Be Obeyed Or You Will Be Sad (henceforth RaMMBO for short) has sent through the first bonus point for the rally!

This is the email:

Butt Lite IX Riders,

We are really anxious to get this rally started so we decided to give you a chance to score some points before you even arrive in Lexington.  Please read this email carefully and follow the instructions to claim this bonus and score the points:

If you’ve been hanging around TeamStrange for a while then you already know the story of Danny and Arlene Liska.  You already know that we have a special relationship with Arlene and in many ways, consider her family.  Arlene has been involved in quite a few TeamStrange events over the years and was a bonus on Butt Lite 7.

If you’re new here, no worries, we’ll happily bring you up to speed regarding this amazing woman who is a legend in the long-distance riding community.

It begins in the tiny town of Niobrara, Nebraska, the home of Danny Liska, an adventure rider long before it was a “thing.”  Danny, who, as a result of some truly remarkable globe-trotting rides, was featured in ad campaigns for BMW motorcycles in the 1960s.

In 1959, on a BMW street bike, he left behind his ranch in Niobrara and headed to Alaska, more than 3,200 miles away. After reaching the Yukon River, he turned around and headed to Ushuaia at the very bottom of South America. Along the way he hiked through the roadless Darien jungle between Panama and Colombia and worked as a stand-in for Yul Brynner during the filming of the movie Taras Bulba in Argentina.

Home again in Niobrara after more than 50,000 miles, he began planning his next adventure. He purchased a new R60 and took delivery of it in Germany. Between September 1963 and November 1964, Liska paralleled his earlier ride, this time from the top of Norway to the bottom of Africa.

Years later he recounted the first half of the odyssey in a self-published book, Two Wheels to Adventure: Alaska to Argentina by Motorcycle.

By this time Danny and his wife, Arlene, had divorced.  She had ridden almost all of those miles with Danny, two-up.  There are a thousand photos, mostly of Danny and spectacular landscapes, but not a single one of her. And yet, except for some brief intervals, she had been on both expeditions almost every mile of the way.

Danny had met and married a woman he met in Columbia and in the writing of the book, had removed Arlene from it completely. The back cover photo of Two Wheels to Adventure shows Danny on the bike with an enormous parrot. But the bird is a superimposition. If you look carefully, you can just make out the edges of a second rider. It is, or was, before the purge, Arlene.

TeamStrange founder, Eddie James, traveled to Niobrara after reading Danny’s book, in search of more information about this remarkable adventurer.  On that first visit, he was told of Danny’s ex-wife Arlene, who had joined him on those adventures.  Eddie and Arlene met and a wonderful relationship blossomed.  Eddie considered Arlene almost like a mother.  He worried about her, helped her, and encouraged her to share her stories with long-distance riders.  He helped her give presentations … complete with slides, artifacts and stories of her travels … to riders who traveled to Niobrara to meet her.

TeamStrange wants to continue, as Eddie would have, to help Arlene as much as we can.

Arlene turned 91 this year and still resides in Niobrara.  Life hasn’t always been easy for her.  She has worked hard to survive by herself.  She recently had to give up her home and land along the Niobrara River and has moved into housing “in town.”  She is no longer able to drive her car after a near miss with a semi not long ago.

Arlene is tough and proud.  She doesn’t care for charity.  On our last visit with her in August of 2017, she insisted that she is still able to work and would be earning her own money again soon.

During 2018, we are asking each rider in all TeamStrange events to make a donation to help with Arlene’s living expenses.  We currently have an account set up at the local grocery store to pay for Arlene’s groceries.  We’re also looking at ways to pay some of her utility bills.

Here’s what you need to do to earn 200 bonus points:

Between receipt of this email and 11:59 PM Friday, July 6th make a $10.00 donation to the Arlene Liska fund by going to this link, scroll to the VERY bottom of the page and follow the instructions.  All donations must be made via this link via PayPal to earn the points for this bonus.


Bring a printed copy of your PayPal receipt to scoring at the end of leg 1.  You must also claim this bonus on your leg 1 score sheet.

We have no doubt this will generate many questions so we’ll attempt to answer some of them here:

  1. What if I want to make a larger donation than $10?  We would love for you to do this but you will need to make a second donation in addition to this bonus.  There is a general donation button on the same web page where you can enter any amount you like.  (This is an issue with PayPal, not us.)
  2. Can I claim this bonus on leg 2?  No
  3. I hate PayPal.  Can’t I just write you a check or give you cash when I see you in the bar at the hotel on Friday night?  No.  If you would like to make an additional donation we will be happy to take a check (made out to TeamStrange) or cash at any time during the rally BUT you will only get credit for this bonus by following the instructions above.
  4. I hate paper.  Can’t I just show you my PayPal payment on my phone?  No.  We love paper and will only accept a printed receipt from PayPal.
  5. What if I lose my receipt when it blows out of my tank bag during leg 1?  Can I show you my phone then?  No.  Likely you will have lost more than this receipt and you will be sad.  But we’ll have a great story for the blog.
  6. I made the donation, printed the receipt, managed to not lose it, brought it to scoring but forgot to enter the bonus information on my score sheet.  Will I still get credit?  We don’t really even have to answer this one do we?
  7. I was so busy getting ready for the rally that I forgot to do this.  Someone reminded me of it after 11:59 PM on July 6th.  Can I still claim the bonus at scoring at the end of leg 1?  So, we don’t need to answer this one either.

You have 14 days to complete this bonus.  Good luck.

Lisa, Bart & David

First off, I haven’t met Arlene but she sounds like one seriously tough lady and if you have $10 (A$14) or perhaps even a bit more to donate, you too can go to the link above and make a donation – the ‘donate’ button is just above the area for collecting rally bonuses.

Second, you can see that RaMMBO has a sense of humour – and that’s one of the best things about this rally – it doesn’t take itself too seriously. There are serious things involved, but I’m now into my third year of hearing Lisa say either ‘you will be sad’ or ‘don’t make me bless your heart’ in her wonderful Atlanta, Georgia accent and even though I laugh inside each time, I know that if I make her bless my heart, I will be sad!

Third, bonus instructions have been followed and I have collected our first bonus – now we just have to claim it (on Leg 1)!!!!

  • I have printed the receipt (it’s in ‘the pile’ mentioned above)
  • I paid via PayPal, via the link above
  • I made a $10 donation for Butt Lite IX, Team Piwi.

With just over two days before we leave the country it’s pretty exciting that we’re already collecting bonuses.

Game of Thrones rally

As I mentioned above, we’re also participating in a 12 week Australian bonus collecting rally themed around the Game of Thrones. I haven’t actually seen an episode of GOT, and to my knowledge neither has the Kiwi, but that isn’t going to stop us… We’re playing (fighting???) for House Martell which has the following flag:

Image result for martell flag


We’re going to be collecting all things sun and sundial both at home and abroad, and subject to the ruling of the Queen Khaleesi (on whether or not states in the US of A count as ‘interstate’) we may also be collecting all things bird, dragon, fish, lion, flower and octopus…

All those stateside who have suggestions for said locations between MN and KY please let me know! Stay tuned!


Liftoff minus two weeks!

We’re well and truly into countdown mode now – just two weeks until QF7 leaves Sydney for Dallas Fort Worth with a Piglet and a Kiwi on board. Of course it won’t just be us on board… it will also be our luggage and while it’s included in our fare from here to Texas, I suspect Delta will be boosting their annual profits somewhat with the luggage charges from DFW to MSP! Along with the usual things one packs for a Summer holiday: t-shirts, shorts, undies, thongs (flip-flops to you Yanks), cozzies etc. we’ll also have our motorcycling gear: helmets, boots, jackets, pants and gloves, and a veritable smorgasbord of delicious Australian foodstuffs that have questionable nutritional value: Tim-Tams, Picnic bars, Red Rock chips, Shapes, Crunchies, Mint Slices and possibly even some Kiwi Peanut Slabs. Which all means plenty of space coming home for holiday purchases 🙂 (my cunning plan is working so far).

A couple of weeks ago we made an attempt to get a practice ride in with bonus point collection but unfortunately a fairly serious road closure/detour and the need to pack for my week of work travel meant that no bonus points were actually recorded but we did have a delicious hot chocolate at the Woodworks Cafe in Bungendore on our way home. We also confirmed the need to purchase new headsets for the Neotec IIs which are now winging their way from Italy and hopefully the sale of the Sena 30Ks second hand will somewhat mitigate the additional costs.

The other thing we achieved was working out how to get the bonus point coding from Basecamp into my Google Maps account so that I can do point-to-point routing on the back of the bike. I had previously got the impression that it wasn’t really possible to get routes into Google but some interweb searches revealed that it’s possible to import personal maps into Google and I can then colour-code the different groupings of bonus points (high, low, medium values; different categories and so on) which is very exciting. Unfortunately my winter gloves don’t work with the touch screen on the phone, but I know that the summer gloves work so with any luck I’ll be able to avoid traffic jams and so on as we’re riding around.

In other preparation news, we’re now two full weeks into dry June, which will drift into dry early July and I suspect by the finish banquet I’ll have Cadbury status (‘a glass and a half’)… Two weeks down, four weeks to go until the next vino! My first weekend without wine was a serious test of willpower – hanging out with my big sis usually means serious wine consumption but not last weekend and this weekend hasn’t been much easier – it’s bloody cold here at the moment and the call of the red wine while sitting in front of the fire has been strong… I’m definitely looking forward to getting back to weekend afternoon drinks when the rally is done!

Excitingly, this morning we did our first test ‘route planning’ exercise using the 2017 NIITWIT rally pack sent through by Lisa Hecker (thank you Lisa!!!). It was a great opportunity to see how we can use our different skills to plan an effective route and it went pretty well. Apart from a few quirks associated with trying to use an ipad rather than a laptop to get the waypoints into Google maps, it was pretty smooth sailing. Kiwi coded the points in Basecamp while I read through the rally book and worked out which combo bonus we should aim for and then worked out a route based on that. Once Kiwi had finished coding, we tested my draft route in basecamp, made some modifications for the fact that some of the points I’d originally chosen were daylight only and our plan would have had us getting to them at 1am and then worked out the full timing.

We came up with something that we think would have been a rideable route for us, with a couple of ‘stretch’ bonuses we could have added in if we had time, as well as some options to drop out bonuses close to the finish if we’d been running short on time. All in all it was a fairly successful effort and we were done and dusted in a bit under 2 hours. To be honest, I feel much more comfortable about our plan to route now that we’ve had a go! And we have a plan of attack in case there are other (different) combo arrangements, like the IBR ‘threads’ last year. Seriously, if I could just do the route planning (and/or there were bonuses for getting 10 hours sleep every night on the IBR) I’d be jumping on the back next year too! The strategy and ‘constrained optimisation’ problem solving involved in the route planning is right up my alley, I just can’t conceive of spending 20 hours a day for 11 days riding the route once I’d planned it!!!!

Anyhoo, if we get time we might do another practice next weekend. The main thing is going to be packing! Next weekend is our last weekend before we get on the plane, which means packing the bags, buying last minute supplies and getting seriously excited! Only 1 week and 4 days until check in opens for our flight! According to the Qantas app our 17 hour flight will only take 25 minutes:

Of course on the way back it will take 36 hours… the joys of time travel. Next update will probably be when we’re at the airport waiting to board. Until then, have a wine or a beer or something for me (someone needs to keep the businesses ticking over while i’m on the wagon)! I see much tonic water and dry ginger ale in my future as I pretend there is gin or vodka in it!