Day 0: Lexington, KY – planning our route

Day 0 for me was basically the night before the rally started! We spent most of the day (Saturday) trying to get some rest, attending the mandatory riders’ meeting and trying to stay calm while organising our packing and plan for the evening’s routing. Kiwi was pretty relaxed. I, on the other hand was second-guessing everything. To be honest, I didn’t feel ready for what was to come… but it was a little late for that now!

After some fun times socialising over dinner, we each received our rally packs containing a rally book, a score sheet, a flag and a thumb drive at about 7.30. Everyone headed back to their rooms pretty quickly after that and with Kiwi doing the electronic coding and me reading the rally book and messing about in Google Maps we had a rough plan for the next 3 days by about 10pm. I was still wired from the adrenaline so it took me a while to get to sleep, but I think we did fairly well with our first routing practice ‘for real’ and we had enough time for a decent 7 hours of rest before Day 1 started.

Just about all the bonuses were below and to the left of a straight line between Lexington, KY (the start point) and Maggie Valley, NC (the checkpoint).

Leg 1 Bonuses

I’m still a little sleep deprived so I can’t recall if I’ve already explained this, but for those unfamiliar with these types of rally, the basic premise is that all those red spots are bonus locations, and each location is worth a different number of points. Obviously it’s not possible to go to every location in three days, so the aim is to plan a route that allows you to collect as many points as possible in the time available (you lose points for arriving back to the checkpoint late and if you’re more than 2 hours late you’re time barred and classed as DNF – did not finish). Each location has specific requirements to successfully claim the points so you have to make sure you fill in the score sheet and read the rally book carefully.

In Leg 1 there was one ‘combo’ bonus – if you successfully collected the points for 9 of the 15 South East Conference football stadiums, you’d receive an extra 2500 points. I’m a visual person – so this is what it looks like when you make the stadium points little running men, with the green house as our start point and the green bed as our checkpoint. The yellow stars were other points that looked interesting.

routing - leg 1.JPG

Our number 1 goal for the rally was to have fun. I figured I could do maybe 1000kms a day, perhaps less on days it was really hot. This meant that we needed to plan and ride a route which was pretty conservative by Butt Lite standards, and visually this meant that the stadium combo made a lot of sense if we picked up the 9 stadiums that were closest to ‘home’ – those in Kentucky (1), Tennessee (1), Mississippi (2), Alabama (2), Georgia (1), South Carolina(1) and North Carolina (1). We’d make sure we did our rest bonus perfectly to pick up those points (another 2400) and then fit in what other bonuses we could that were relatively close to our route. So we had a plan.

We were going to have to have me and both flags in every photo so this was the plan for my rally pose:

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You can tell from the look in my eyes that perhaps I’m a little more alert than I should be for 9.45pm. But at least the camera works!

With that it was time for sleep!

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We did it!

I’m sitting at Gate A2 in Lexington Bluegrass Airport, KY on my way to Minneapolis via Chicago. It’s hard to believe the rally is over after all the prep and it feels strange to know that the Kiwi is out there riding, on his way back to Minneapolis without me. Let me be clear, I don’t think I could have done another 12-14 hour day on the back of the bike and it was entirely my choice to fly back. But now I feel kind of left out of the adventures and it is really weird to be apart after 2 weeks of being together 24/7.

Over the next few days I’ll write about our adventures on Butt Lite IX. I hope you enjoy!

End of days… of preparation

Last chance to purchase things and make sure our bike set up is how we want it!

When we arrived last night and got talking to the Lahmans and Jim Owen, I mentioned that I was starting to get sore pelvic bones already. Jim pointed out that I should get that fixed before the rally because what was annoying now would feel like an ice pick in 6 days’ time. Linda recommended the pillion version of the Airhawk as something she’s found invaluable before and while I had tried the Kiwi’s rider version without much success a few years ago, apparently the pillion seat version works better. A little while later Ian and Colleen McPhee (fellow Australian LD riding community members!) joined us and Colleen kindly offered to buy one on Amazon and get it shipped overnight using her US account. Unfortunately ordering on Thursday night for Friday or Saturday delivery wasn’t an option so we went to plan B.

Up early this morning, Kiwi did some research and found some local motorcycling shops we could try. But first to Walmart. We needed some essentials:

Man things:

  • Socks
  • Undies
  • Deodorant
  • Shorts without holes

Rally things:

  • SD cards for the camera
  • Lithium batteries for the Spot
  • A bag for the non-essentials and clean clothes we will leave here in Lexington for the week

Piglet things:

  • A couple of spare pairs of compression socks
  • Shampoo and conditioner
  • Girl stuff

As we were finalising our list I had a bit of a moment. I unpacked my bag and found my bike shorts. I hadn’t been wearing these on the ride down *facepalm*! I know these help ensure my butt hurts less and I hadn’t been wearing them. Yes, I would probably have been a bit warmer wearing another layer but they will definitely help with the pressure points.

Then Kiwi found a ‘stadium seat’ in the sports/camping section of the Walmart. I haven’t seen these in Australia but it’s basically a foam cushion with a handle on it that is exactly the size of a pillion seat. I tried it out on the way back to the hotel and it’s a winner. I’m a little concerned because Lisa said ‘Bless your heart’ when we got back to the hotel and I told her, and those who’ve been playing along know that things don’t usually end well when Lisa has to bless your heart. But she assured me she meant it in the good way. So I think I’m ok :|. I hope!

We also set up a couple of our GOT ‘flags’ on each side of the bike screen so I can hopefully take photos as we’re riding along. And for good measure I have a credit card sized one on a lanyard just in case. So hopefully we can slay two dragons with one rally… or something like that…

Anyway, we’re pretty well set now I think. I’m a little nervous after the rookie briefing. I know we’re not aiming to come first or break any records or anything but watching how other people do things is making me question whether we’re doing it ‘right’ and I’m one of those people who has to do everything right… Sigh. But we have a plan. Rule 1 is to have fun. We have a plan for roughly how many kms we will travel per day, with options for shorter days if it’s super hot and longer days if we’re feeling comfortable. We want to see new and different places together and so if we collect fewer points on more interesting roads rather than massive points by spending 3 days on the interstate then that’s ok. We’ll ride our own rally and see how it goes.

This is probably my last post until after the rally. It’s a ‘media blackout’ for us while we’re rallying – no Facebook or blogging or whatever – which is probably a good thing! If you want to keep following the Butt Lite IX adventures of all the riders, head over to the rally blog where the day’s best stories will feature. If it’s anything like the IBR blog, I’m hoping you don’t read about us! It’s usually the stories about how someone got lost in the woods, hit a deer and turned up at a bonus at the wrong time or on the wrong day!

Once we’re back here in Lexington, or perhaps up at the lake relaxing with our American family, I’ll tell you all the best parts. In the meantime, we might see you on the road!IMG_2566

Minnesota to Kentucky

Tuesday – Eden Prairie, MN to Prairie du Chien, WI

We left Eden Prairie just after lunch on Tuesday. Bags were packed, the rain had paused and we set our sights south… via Leo’s South Motorcycles!

The trip to Leo’s was short and sweet – we fueled up at the local servo and I high-tailed it into the airconditioned comfort of the shop to check out the merchandise. Unfortunately the smallest size they had in a cool vest was M and I’m definitely an XS in mens sizing. We did, however find a rain jacket (in pink *eyeroll*) for $20 which was a winner, as well as some visor wipes to go in the tank bag just in case and then Kiwi managed to convince me to leave before any further purchases were made!

Back on the road we thought we were going to head due east to Hastings but apparently the GPS thought differently and we ended up back near St Paul before we crossed the Mississippi (for the first time). The roads were pretty dull until we hit Wisconsin where the Mississippi and St Croix (pronounced ‘croy’) rivers meet. From here we followed the river down to Nelson which was quite nice. We stopped in Maiden Rock to collect some bonuses, at the Pickle Factory in Pepin to eat an afternoon smackerel, then crossed back into Minnesota.

We did some of these roads heading north last year and aside from ‘hey, I remember that!’ there wasn’t much to report apart from me getting a bit frustrated when we rode past potential Game of Thrones rally bonuses which we had no way of collecting (I’ll tell you about my cunning plan for that later).

EP to PdC

At La Crosse we headed back into Wisconsin and followed the river again which was nice passing through some towns preparing for July 4th celebrations, and hit Prairie du Chien (‘chain’) about 6.30pm. We snapped a cheeky bonus (time will tell whether the Queen Khaleesi is as imaginative as we are in considering the logo to be sun-like) and retired to our hotel for a cold shower.

IMG_2467

Kiwi at the BP ‘sun’ sign!

Dinner was eaten at the Angus supper club. It was delicious but mostly we had no idea what we were ordering and the waitress, while very sweet, was still in her first week and perhaps a sandwich or two short of a picnic. We had waaaaaaay too much to eat (when I ordered the egg roll appetizer I was thinking the food on the left. What I got was the food on the right!!!)

La, la la… It was yummy, but $90 US later we may need to reconsider our food choices next time otherwise this holiday is going to require us to refinance our mortgage! A short walk back to the hotel via the ‘drive thru’ ATM and we were out for the count. This holiday lark is very tiring!

Wednesday – Prairie du Chien, WI to Evansville, IN

Wednesday dawned warm and humid. We’d agreed we’d get on the road by 7.30am so we were up and at ’em pretty early for a holiday. There was some pretty mist hanging around the hills as we rode out of town but it was still a pleasant 80-something degrees so riding wasn’t uncomfortable.

We saw lots of corn. Lots and lots of corn. And more corn… Did I mention the corn? There was also some kind of fallow crop which I’m assuming was soybeans – we were going too fast to be able to tell with any degree of accuracy, but my very basic knowledge of agriculture told me it had to be something that fixes nitrogen and soybeans or peanuts are my go-to. I think it was soybeans. And then there was more corn… And we were still in Wisconsin!

We paused at a Starbucks in Dubuque (doo-byook??), IA for breakfast – coffee and a bagel – then trundled on down through Iowa on the road to lunch at Champaigne (Champagne?), IL, past some more corn.

We stopped somewhere along the way (I can’t recall where) at a servo with a Subway attached. I got an ice tea and a cup of ice and started wetting down my neck tube and my undershirt and was just happy to be sitting in the airconditioning for a while. It was hot. It was already up around 99F at 10.30 or 11am and it didn’t get any cooler. It was also something like 70-85% humidity and from lunchtime onwards it didn’t drop below 102F – close to 40C. Strangely we didn’t see any real signs of July 4 celebrations in any of the towns we went through. A few had lawn flags and things out, but no parades or anything.

We did, however, pass a place called ‘Kickapoo’. I don’t know where the name came from. I’m pleased I don’t live there. I suspect the primary school taunting is extreme.IMG_2505 (Edited)

Anyway, lunch at another Starbucks involved a cold drink, a sandwich and re-drenching my shirt and neck tube. At this point I had no qualms getting half-naked in the bathroom to run my shirt under the tap – anything to keep cool was fine with me. Probably 40 minutes later we were back on the road again.

Our last break of the day before the run to Evansville and a hotel was at Newton, IL for fuel. It also involved me walking into the cool room where they store the beer and the wine and just standing in there for a while pondering where I went wrong with my holiday plans. I’m pretty sure my colleagues at work are going to be considering checking me into a mental institution when I tell them that I used a day of my annual leave to go be outside in 40+ degree heat and 70+ percent humidity in full riding gear for 10 hours a day.

I think Kiwi could see (and hear) that I was struggling a bit with the heat. I try not to whine too much, but even I knew I was getting whiny about how gross it was. He kindly purchased a 7 pound bag of ice for us and told me he was putting the airconditioning on for the last leg of our ride. It may not have been quite as good as the airconditioning in a car with a roof, floor, doors and windows but I was very grateful. Sitting with ice in your lap is a pretty good feeling and when it started to melt and I could drip icy water down Kiwi’s back. Small things amuse small minds I suppose 🙂

We crossed the Illinois river into Indiana and then finally, we arrived in Evansville and that cold shower was something to behold. Shared dinner of a Club Sandwich and a Cobb Salad at the local Denny’s was just what we needed and the bed was comfortable and clean.

I have incredible respect for people who do outside jobs here and those who lived here before electricity. I would have been happy to jump into a swimming pool fully clothed the way I was feeling on Wednesday afternoon. I really hope we get some cooler and/or less humid weather for the rally otherwise my ‘sure, I can do 12-14 hour days, no problem!’ is a work of fiction…

Thursday – Evansville, IN to Lexington, KY

I got a sleep in! Woo hoo! It was a couple of short hops to Louisville (Lewevle said really quickly), KY for a tyre change and then to the start hotel in Lexington – a total of only about 3 hours on the bike so a very cruisy day!

We started out late because the tyre change wasn’t until after lunch and despite some attractive roads through the Hoosier (‘whos’yer’) National Forest, the heat was back and we were keen to just get where we were going. We swung past the Starbucks at the Louisville University campus for some more airconditioning, some food, and a GOT bonus (Yay for the Cardinals!) then headed for the dealership at about 1pm.

The BMW dealership was just around the corner and beautifully airconditioned. They had more Harley Davidsons than BMWs and unfortunately the smallest size cooling vest they had in stock was an L… But then I saw the BMW K1600 Grand America. OMG. Want!

To be honest, I don’t know what else you get for the $28,000US price tag but the pillion seat alone was worth the money – shaped for an actual human butt! Despite substantial ribbing from all and sundry on Facebook the Kiwi could not be moved to exchange our current steed for either the black or the gold beast. It’s sad really. I considered bribing the mechanics to drop the RT off the lift so we could get a good deal on a new showroom model but thought better of it in the end. And a 10 day ‘test ride’ might result in some awkward questions at the airport from law enforcement… So we left with new tyres and a clean bike but an unimproved pillion seat.

The ride to Lexington was pretty but largely uneventful. We nearly missed our exit at one point leaving Louisville but not quite, we stopped to fuel up briefly and then managed to ride through some blessed, blessed rain just before Lexington! The gauge hit 107 just before the fuel stop – in the shade it was a little cooler but not a lot – but the rain brought things down to a very pleasant 80 and I wasn’t at all upset to hear the ‘tink tink tink’ of raindrops on my helmet.

We arrived in Lexington, checked into the Griffin Gate Marriott and once again showered off and grabbed some food. It was awesome. The evening was spent saying hello to old friends as well as meeting people I’ve only ever met on Facebook or known ‘about’. It was great listening to stories from other rides and other ‘first rallies’ and I’m very grateful to Linda and Terry Lahman as well as Jim Owen and the McPhees for sharing their stories and making us laugh!!

So that was how we got here… More next time about what we did next. And if you want to see exactly where we went, this is the Map of our Route!

 

Home and away

It feels like both more than a week and less than a week since my last post! I think we’ve travelled something close to 15,000kms from Canberra to Sydney to Dallas, TX to Minneapolis, MN and now to Evansville, IN via lots of other places… I’m going to split this up into ‘stuff we did off the bike’ (this post) and ‘stuff we did on the bike’ (next post) so if you only care about the riding then please feel free to skip this one 🙂

The drive to Sydney was uneventful, and my parents gave us a lovely send off at the airport. Being school holidays (!!) it was a little busier than the last time we travelled but nonetheless we boarded QF7 in business class and had a very relaxed trip to DFW. We even had a glass of wine to celebrate being on holidays! Boy was it good!

Now that we’ve flown business class I’m not sure we’ll ever be able to go back to economy, at least not for the long haul flights! It was great to see Takashi (my Japanese teacher many years ago), sitting just a few rows in front of us and all in all it was a very pleasant trip.

Arriving in Minneapolis late on Saturday we were welcomed by Joe and Lori which was lovely! Lori is a wonderful friend whom I have known for many years and she has kindly adopted me as her third daughter for which I am incredibly grateful! Her partner Joe was corrupted by the Kiwi last year when the Iron Butt Rally started and finished in Minnesota and Joe took the R1200 RT for a ride. Lori and Joe kindly stored Kiwi’s bike for us all of the past year and Joe bought his own (newer model) BMW R1200 a couple of months ago. We get absolutely spoilt by the two of them each and every time we visit and this visit has been no different to every other.

On Sunday Kiwi and Joe did ‘man things’ in the garage while Lori and I headed out to do errands with Meaghan (one of Lori’s biological daughters who happens to be my age and who has been a friend since high school!). This included some clothes shopping (necessary bike undergarments) as well as the purchase of two sim cards for our phones to keep us connected while travelling. The clothes purchases went well, perhaps too well but when there’s a sale on at a consignment store, what’s too well???

The purchase of the sim cards, on the other hand, turned into a nightmare! We spent 90 minutes in the Verizon store and only one phone would connect to the network. Two hours of computer time connecting to iTunes on Sunday afternoon yielded no outcome and even a further hour on Monday morning left us with a big fat zero and a trip back to the Verizon store. It’s a long, boring and frustrating story but after spending 45 minutes trying to get the phone to work with the network, and another hour trying to get a refund for the sim card that wouldn’t work we went to AT&T where in less than 20 minutes Mik had us ready to go with a new number and a data plan. Imagine a 4 year old’s best tantrum with feet stamping and yelling and punching and you’ll understand what the inside of my head looked like at that point. Lori was a legend, can I just say… Without her I might still be in that damn shop!

Anyway, onto nicer things… Over Sunday, Monday and Tuesday we had some family time including a BBQ and a ride down to Mankato, MN with Joe and Lori and then packed our things for the bike. I’m just going to say that right now I’m feeling particularly righteous about my ability to pack light. I have clothes for time off the bike, clothes for time on the bike, a minimalist toilet bag and the laptop. It all fits in the clamshell pannier with room to spare. I even have Peter Green’s Minties in there… 🙂

It’s been a pretty big week, including a Saturday that went for I think close to 40 hours. I feel like I’m mostly over the jetlag (though I still want to stay awake until midnight and then sleep until very late in the morning), we’ve had a great time with our American family and we’re ready to go!

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  http://www.teamstrange.com/2018/arlene/index.htm, 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.

TO CLAIM 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!

Long time no post…

So it’s been a while since I posted. Prep has been ongoing but has had to fit in around some pretty hectic work commitments and we haven’t had much time on the bike. It’s also starting to get cold here now and my hibernation instincts are strong! That said, the past month or so has seen some new gear arrive in the post (as well as at Joe and Lori’s house in MN!) which is always fun.

First, our helmets! We each have brand new Shoei Neotec II headwear, purchased from Italy (since our local supplier wasn’t getting any in until they’d sold their Neotec I floor stock) and delivered the week before we left for our SS1600 adventure. Mine is ‘anthracite’ (code for poo brown but that wasn’t apparent when I was looking at the pic on the interwebs) and Kiwi’s is silver. Aside from the poo brown colour, they’re very nice helmets! Much quieter than my NXR and I am definitely enjoying the flexibility of the flip-top. If you’re looking for a new helmet and want something that’s comfortable, quiet and easy to use, the Neotec II is definitely a winner. The only thing that I can find to fault it is that for me, the retractable tinted visor is too short, so it partly interrupts my vision unless I keep my eyes up – but that’s really just a good incentive to keep my eyes up!!

Image result for shoei neotec 2

We also fitted new Sena 30K headsets to the helmets and those I’m less enamored with. Firstly, the ‘seamless mesh’ technology (the main reason we bought them) is not seamless. So far, we’ve reverted to the regular Bluetooth pairing option because after 3 separate attempts all we’ve managed to achieve is getting frustrated that we haven’t managed to get both helmets on the same mesh network. The functionality isn’t intuitive and the volume adjustment goes the opposite way to the 10R units we have on our other helmets.

Second, the units are bulky and because of the placement on the helmet, it’s hard for me to access the toggle to get the tinted visor up and down without accidentally pressing buttons on the intercom (at which point all hell breaks loose because I can’t work out how to un-press the button and usually have to do the old ‘have you tried turning it off, and turning it back on again’ trick!!!!). Also, because of the way the unit sits below the helmet, it gets stuck on the collar of my jacket when I turn my head. It just so happens that there’s a button on the bottom of the unit where it gets stuck and so just when you’re in the middle of a corner the headset does something you’re not expecting. This is unhelpful and potentially dangerous for both me and Kiwi.

Hopefully things will work better when we have summer riding gear on (less bulky gloves and jackets) but at the moment I’m regretting our decision to buy these units instead of the SRL model that integrates with the helmets and I wouldn’t recommend the 30K unless you have a lot of time and a lot of patience to get used to them and get them working well. So far we haven’t had either of those things and I’ve regularly spent a good two or three minutes asking ‘can you hear me? can you hear me?… what about now?’ because I’ve turned the volume dial all the way forward (and hence down) meanwhile Kiwi can hear me just fine. I feel like a turkey standing around with my high-tech helmet on and still apparently deaf. I’m going to be one crazy old bat one day!!!

In other news our vented gear has arrived from Rukka via Innotesco (whoopeeeeee!!!!) just in time for the first frost here in Canberra. I’ve tried my new jacket and pants on (standing in front of the gas fire at home) and they feel like liquid! I can’t wait to test them out on the roads but I’m not sure I can get behind Kiwi’s plan to do it before we leave for the US of A… Vented gear when it’s only 10 or 12 degrees outside isn’t really what I had in mind.

 

On a separate note, why does every manufacturer of motorcycling gear assume that if you’re female and ride a motorcycle you must like things that are pink, purple and sparkly!?!? I have nothing against women who do like the pink, purple and sparkly gear… but just quietly I’d prefer some options that aren’t quite so gender-specific. Anyway, I’m excited about the fact my jacket is white and about not baking alive if it gets warm on the East Coast in July! Yay!

Aside from purchases I’ve seen, I’ve been told that new lights have arrived in MN, ready to be fitted to the bike… as well as new shocks. If you want deets of these you’ll have to ask the Kiwi. While I’m sure both are important and valuable, at this point as long as the bike has lights and some form of suspension I don’t have that many cares to give. Sorry! But, unlike last year (when four full size moving boxes were shipped!), Kiwi has promised that these are the only things that will turn up in the MN post. We’re taking an aftermarket screen with us on the plane and then the bike will have more farkles than you can poke a stick at. Probably still not as many as Kiwi dreams of… but whatever…

So the main thing left to do is get more bonus point practice in. That was supposed to happen in earnest this past weekend but I became a snot monster with the cold currently doing the rounds here and that’s a bit gross inside a helmet… So we just did a short trip… I’ve been testing out how to get bonus point coordinates and coding into my Google maps account so that I can do stuff on the back of the bike which has so far been partly successful and I’m pleased with that progress.

With 6 weeks left until we get on the plane I’ll try to post more often about what we’re up to and how excited/shit scared I am… In the meantime, happy riding all…

Home again

Despite a luxurious 8 hours of sleep on Saturday night (and the bonus two hours I got on Saturday afternoon) I was in no way ready for the 4am wake-up call on Sunday morning. The subdued elation I felt at having completed my first SS1600k was further tempered by the knowledge that having ‘finished’, I had to now get back on the bike and do another 800kms to return home. *sigh*

It was time to pony up, start heading south, and get some good Butt Lite IX practice in. It was nice to see some IBA faces around the car park as we left. Ox came past to say farewell and we gave Frans a wave as we pulled out of the hotel parking lot. Dalby was pumping on Sunday morning with all the contractors out doing some major roadworks but we made our way through the traffic, past the local bobby on point duty and out to the Newell Highway. The ride to breakfast was uneventful. A few stray roos but they were all quite small and stayed out of our way. There were some seriously big cotton trucks on the way into Moonee and we passed some other crazy riders (not the IBA kind) who then overtook us when we paused for me to take my brace off.

The bike looks so small next to the trucks!!

Next stop was Goondiwindi for brekkie and I was seriously ready for it. The sun was up, my tummy was rumbling and the local bakery looked like the place to be! We stopped and were treated to some delicious B&E rolls and surprisingly good coffee as well as a few locals looking a bit dusty after the previous day’s picnic races! Life was beautiful!

We fuelled up at the local servo and Kiwi went looking for the loos. It turned out a few hangovers weren’t the only results of the picnic races – the cashier informed us that someone in their inebriated wisdom must have thought it would be fun to shove a few toilet rolls down the bog… The toilet stop was going to have to wait!

I don’t know about Kiwi but I was feeling a lot more relaxed now the only deadline we had was getting back to work on Monday. Sure, I wanted to be home sooner rather than later, but it changes the ride completely when you know that if you want or need to stop at any time it’s not a big deal.

We crossed our first state border for the day and received the compulsory ‘biosecurity warning’ about carrying cane toads with us…

We went through Boggabilla, Moree, Narrabri (where we paused for a snack and a drink) and a few other spots along the open road before hitting our first roadworks…

… then came the hardest right-hand turn we made all day. Kiwi’s favourite road in Australia is the Oxley Highway, but it runs east out to the coast from Coonabarabran, rather than south-west towards Canberra. So we trundled on a bit further down the Newell and past the astronomy capital of Australia then turned off onto Mendooran Rd, cutting the corner to Wellington and avoiding Dubbo.

That was a great plan as far as Mendooran. We took some time out in the shade, refilled the camelback, ate some milk bottles and teeth and kept going – Google was telling us to be on the lookout for Cobbora Rd. We found it, made our turn and then about 5kms in it turned to dirt. Kiwi is well known for his ability to find dirt roads and this trip had so far been a bit of a disappointment in that respect. Kiwi asked if I was happy to keep going and figuring there couldn’t be that much dirt I said sure, of course, what could possibly go wrong??

This is the only photo. What started as a reasonable dirt road with a few floodways became gravel after about 4kms, and then rocks after 6kms. I wasn’t going to risk wriggling around on the back trying to take photos. The problem was we didn’t know how far ahead it would turn back to sealed road… We didn’t want to turn around and head back if there was only couple more kms of dirt ahead – it would be a much longer trip on the ‘proper roads’ – but at the same time AME is not a dirt bike – and I could tell Kiwi was working hard to keep the bike under control. At one point we passed a couple in a car who looked as lost as we were and just as surprised to find someone else as clearly unprepared for the road. Google clearly has a lot to answer for.

Finally, after 20kms of very rough riding, we came out the other side. We both let out the breath we’d been holding for the past 45 minutes – we’d made it without overheating the engine, dropping the bike, or getting a flat tyre!!!! Woo hoo!!!

We stopped to regroup, then it was back on the road and next stop Wellington for fuel and for me, a loo break including wetting my undershirt to try to keep cool. Thankfully it was a dry heat, but even so 35 degrees is pretty warm when you’re not getting the airflow from the front of the bike. From here we were on the home run to Canberra – via Cudal, Canowindra, Cowra and Yass…

We stopped in Cowra for a final leg stretch and snack and now I was feeling fatigue of a different kind – not so much sleepy but definitely lethargic. And my legs were feeling pretty heavy – the compression socks had been working hard all weekend but the lack of movement was definitely making for some swollen calves. I decided the way to deal with this was by finding somewhere I could lie down and lean my legs on something up in the air. IT WAS AWESOME!!!!

Then home time! The rest of the trip was spent with me squealing into Kiwi’s ear every 15 minutes as we went past a field with baby lambs in it. Kiwi insisted they were ‘out of season’ and even more cruelly refused to slow down so that I could take photos of them, pat them, and take them home to hang out with me and Hettie! They were only small! There was space on the bike!!! We have lawn and our lawnmower is broken at the moment – what’s not to love???

Anyway, I made him pay by squealing constantly in his ear and then he paid me back by getting St Elmo’s Fire stuck in my head for the rest of the afternoon!

The rest of the ride home as the sun set was divine. Yeah, my ass hurt more than I thought was possible. Yeah, I was hot and sweaty and helmet hair felt like it was going to become a permanent state of being. Yeah, the last two hours of any trip are the always the hardest. But the roads were smooth, the sky was clear, and the sights were beautiful.

The other advantage of having a pillion? She can order take away from the back of the bike for delivery on arrival at home. Thai food here we come!!!

We were welcomed home by a very excited puppy dog and I finally felt like we’d done it! I didn’t just get there, I got home again, and after three pretty big days on the bike I figure Butt Lite can only be three or four times as hard as that right??? Lisa?? Bart?? Help me out here!

So what did I learn?

  1. Be patient – taking a few extra minutes right now will probably save time!
  2. Wear the padded bicycle shorts on top of leggings, not underneath – the seams are not designed for a motorcycle seat
  3. Don’t start down a dirt road on a road bike if you don’t know how long the dirt goes for – it ended well for us this time, but it could just as easily have ended really badly (like the buckled rim we got doing the Far Ride but much worse)
  4. Not drinking alcohol in the lead up definitely helps with fatigue – and having a reason not to drink makes it much easier to resist a glass of wine at the end of a long day
  5. We work pretty well together as a team – I still have to learn that not everything Kiwi says out loud is directed at me but we didn’t get cross or cranky with each other. And despite different schedules for bodily functions, we managed to make our stops work well.
  6. I deal better with a schedule that has a shower at the end of the day and then getting myself ready that night – I can relax faster, sleep better, and there’s less risk I’ll leave something behind. Rushing in the morning doesn’t work for me.
  7. I can do it and while I wouldn’t exactly say it was fun, it is rewarding knowing that I can do it!

After 2700 and something kms we’re home, safe and with a good 10 hours of sleep ahead before work starts again on Monday.

I can only say again how grateful I am that I have a wonderful man, Kiwi, to share these adventures with! It was a pretty special way to spend a weekend together. Other thanks have to go to Lara – our magnificent dog sitter – who took great care of Hettie, sent regular ‘proof of life’ photos and whom Hettie clearly loves. And of course to everyone who helped along the way – with encouragement, kind words and hugs!

More adventures to come!!

Mustering from Coffs to Dalby

That freaking alarm!!! I swear I’d only just gotten to sleep when the thing went off and woke me up. All I can say is thank goodness I know myself well enough that I’d organised my clothes and our food when we arrived at midnight otherwise I’d have ended up wearing two pairs of undies and no bra or something equally awkward. Lesson 2 for the weekend was that the padded bicycle shorts I purchased to help with comfort had seams down the back of my legs and should therefore go on top of my leggings rather than underneath. So with that change to my most attractive attire, I shovelled some muesli into my tummy, brushed my teeth and packed my gear to get going again. There are no photos of this. I repeat that I am not a morning person. It’s a long time since I have voluntarily been vertical at anything even close to resembling 3.15am. Saturdays are meant to be for sleeping in! What on earth was I thinking????

Thankfully the sum total of the requirements for me were to get off the bike at the servo and purchase something to get us another receipt. I bought gum. Kiwi insisted this would help me stay awake. Knowing what I know now I think it was a waste of $2.50. Nothing was going to keep me awake after only 3 hours sleep. We did collect our second ‘big thing’ confirming this as a true blue Aussie road trip: The Big Banana. I didn’t manage to get a photo. Turns out it’s big for a banana but not so big you get lots of warning that it’s coming and we were past it before I realised. Oh well. You’ll just have to believe me.

I don’t remember much of the trip between leaving the hotel at 4am and getting close to Byron Bay just before 6am. I was conscious but mostly my eyes weren’t open. I feel like a bad pillion admitting this. I don’t know what the consensus on this one is, but I feel like the really hard part is the riding of the bike and that the least I can do is stay awake when Kiwi is required to be awake if for no other reason than to help him stay awake. In that task I failed. Only once did I drift off so much that my helmet knocked against Kiwi’s, but I think there was a good 45 minutes to an hour where I was at least dozing.

By 6 the sun was starting to rise on our right and I managed to emerge from my dozy haze to do some actual navigating. We had planned a rough route but needed some extra distance before Dalby to make sure we hit the 1600kms required and our thinking was to get them by detouring to Byron Bay. We still had about 90 minutes of ‘spare time’ available and Google suggested we could get to Byron in about 20 minutes, giving us a 20-30 minute breakfast stop and still some wiggle room to get to Dalby.

That was all well and good until we turned off the highway the road conditions deteriorated rapidly. What was supposed to be a detour, it took us 25 minutes to get to the lighthouse at Byron Bay because it turns out that the alternative lifestyle capital of Australia has some very relaxed drivers on its roads, even at 6.30am on a Saturday! The final part of the road to the lighthouse was closed, but we took our photos and got back on the bike.

We paused briefly in town to scarf down some food (beef, bacon, egg and cheese pies!! Delicious!!) and a much required coffee, fuel up the bike and collect our corner receipt. By this stage I think we were both feeling pretty time pressured. Our ’45 minutes total’ detour was now looking like an hour and we still needed time to get a couple more corner receipts north of Dalby. With that in mind, we were back on the bike fairly quickly and had the wheels turning soon after 7. If I got out of bed at 3.15am after only 3 hours of sleep and then it was all for nothing I’m going to be seriously cranky!

I am still amazed at how many people were up swimming, surfing, running and walking at 6.30 on a Saturday! There were people everywhere, including some with some very questionable dress sense, but nonetheless running up and down hills around town. Clearly Byron Bay’s reputation as a very health conscious community is not just about yoga and growing your own crops…

Back on the highway we were making decent time again. Crossing the Queensland border we skirted around the Gold Coast, staying away from the Commonwealth Games traffic, and headed for Esk.

I was awake, but the scenery was pretty average and the time passed with me and Kiwi exchanging judgemental comments about the various drivers and passengers of the cars sharing the road with us and laughing about what awful people we are. I’m so grateful I have a partner (in life and in riding) who doesn’t take life too seriously!

From Esk we went through Blackbutt and hit Yarraman for our final corner receipt – then it was time for our final dash to the finish line on some beautiful country roads. The weather was warm but not unbearable in riding gear, the sun was shining, and the GPS was still saying we were going to arrive at 11.35 – well within our time window! Yippee!

What’s that? Someone’s moving house? Their whole house?? Seriously??? Yep. Seriously…

Talk about a double wide load! Vehicles coming the other way were on the verge and there was grass flying everywhere as they went past. Thankfully we got past without too many dramas, had 1600kms on the odometer at 11.25am and we hit Dalby to fuel up and claim our finishers receipt at 11.45 with either 1623km or 1662km under our belts depending on whether you believe the GPS or the odo. Phew!

Then it was time to make our way to the Dalby Leagues Club, register and confirm we really were finishers. I don’t have any more photos from Saturday. But I have loads of great memories. I was welcomed with open arms into the IBA community – some familiar faces and a few new ones to boot. Lynne ‘The Pillion’ and Fatman, TableDrain and Colleen, TJ, PhilMor, Tele, Brookester, Ox, Cuddles, Frans and Jeannie, and many others gave me hugs and congratulations and made me feel very special – thank you all! I suspect I wasn’t as gracious and elegant as I would have liked to have been. Despite the success, my overwhelming feeling was one of fatigue. I wanted a shower and I wanted to return to a horizontal position.

A couple of hours’ nap time and I was feeling almost human again. Human enough to keep going for the evening’s ceremonies and social activities at least. We had some food and then I dragged the Kiwi away again. Those signs of fatigue (bloodshot eyes, humming in your head) were all very present and as much as I wanted to stay and chat, Sunday morning was going to involve another alarm and I needed all the sleep I could get before then. Thank you to all those who said hello, had a chat and made me feel so welcome. I’m sorry I wasn’t more sociable!

So there you have it! The story of how we made it to Dalby… In one piece and within the necessary time frame. It was fun but not too fun if you know what I mean. But we still had to get home again… *eye roll*

Who’s bright idea was this again??