I’m back!


Hi everybody, I’m back at the „barn“, i.e. the rally finish. I was there 20 hours too early as the bike gave me some additional problems. I arrived basically with a dying Honda; I had to coast the last 30 miles on three cylinders and had almost no power left when I entered the parking of the hotel. After a rather „short“ route of only 9000 miles in about 10 days.

As I was still technically in the rally, the social media curfew still applied to me so I still had to remain quiet. This morning, I went to the scoring and got all my points except some 500 penalty points for a lost emergency contact tag that came off the latch of the hanger I was wearing for 11 days.

I got more that 55000 points for Leg 3 – this was the minimum points value to be a finisher of the WHOLE rally. Adding my points from Leg 1 and 2, I have about 85000 points. Considering the fact that I had a very relaxed rally in a non-competitive mood with lots of long rest breaks, a bike I had to nurse, numerous petrol stops, technical problems and a very close shave to get to the finish – this is a very good result, it should give me a mid-field result and finally the desired three-digit membership number that only IBR finishers can obtain. In about one hour from now, the banquet will start, followed by the ceremony.

Thanks for your support and your comments – I was reading them daily and they were a good read. Yesterday, I added quite some drama to the game…I left at 2 a.m. for the last 1100 km….I filled up every 90 – 100 km, but soon I realised that the stuttering was not due to the fuel pump. As it got worse and worse, it became more clear that the bike was losing one carburetor ( at least that’s how it felt). It got worse and worse and I went the last 30 miles on three cylinders only. The bike was slowly dying and had no power left. Finally, with the last power the bike had, I entered the parking of the finish and had done it! I couldn’t have done another 10 miles….this was a close shave! Maybe the E10 petrol (10% Ethanol) was killing my old carburetors? It’s a possibility…The bike was picked up already and is on the way back to Europe.

Apart from the scoring today, I basically was chatting with other riders, veterans, staff etc…there are so many stories and dramas to exchange…you’ll hear about some in the following official bulletins.

I also want to say a big THANK YOU to (quote) „this fat, balding, middle-aged, accountant from the UK“ that did a great job in entertaining you during the last days: John Young. He also helped me to stay focused on the main objective of this rally: to become a finisher. This worked almost all the time except on Wednesday when I nearly ruined the project by changing the plan and turning north into Michigan.

THANKS FOR ALL, MATE!!!

And now off to the banquet where new tales of heroism, boldness, despair and drama will be told….

Before the riders meeting


Soooo, in one hour from now, there will be the riders meeting, very early at 2:30 p.m. I had to attend the rookie meeting (haha), as I was considered „technically“ a rookie (no previous finish). It was a very good presentation by route master Jeff Earls who reminded the audience what will be ahead of us the next 11 days. I took notes of ideas for the rookie meeting of the Alpenbutt Rally later in July.

Jeff stressed many things that confirmed my views on this rally: the only objective is to arrive safely at the finish and to be (hopefully) a finisher. That’s all. After my DNF in 2013, that’s the only goal for me. I know that many people in Europe think that after my track record in Europe lately, I should do very, very well in the Iron Butt Rally. Well, this is absolutely nonsense. This is a totally different story. As they say: „you only know what the IBR is about when you have ridden it“. So I will try to stay as relaxed as possible in Leg 1 and Leg 2. I want to have a good time and I don’t care which standing might come out of it in the end. Period. The weather waiting for us will be an enormous burden. Fatigue and exhaustion will build up over the 11 days which could get very dangerous. And I agree with Jeff Earls, in the end it doesn’t matter which place you achieved; being a finisher is a huge achievement. There are only a handful of guys who can win this and they’re completely nuts. That’s not my thing. I will stick to the speed limits, for this reason I have installed the cruise control on the bike. I want this to be a ride of a lifetime and not be ruined by some over-pacing.

I don’t know if I will be able to post more tonight or if I will be barred from social media already. In this case, talk to you in 12 days and I wish you fun with the entertaining posts of John Young. However, I must warn you: you might be exposed to hard-core British humour, you better be prepared for it…. 🙂

More info under

http://ironbutt.com/2017ibr.cfm

PS: I got interviewed yesterday 🙂   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e_vJImjTJss&sns=fb

 

Adapt – Improvise – Overcome (part 1)


Yesterday morning, I packed my stuff and moved 10 miles north to the rally hotel. I checked in and started to exchange all the broken spare part that still needed to be changed after the drop of the bike during the Brit Butt Rally. I mounted a new right mirror together with its housing. I installed the fixed, big 2×7500 lumen LED Sevinas that Gerhard had brought from Clearwater Lights for me. I also swapped the clutch lever switch so that the cruise control will work again.

European riders at the Bauhaus Brew Lab

I spent the rest of the afternoon chatting with other fellow European and American riders. I convinced a pack of people to visit a special place in the evening: The Bauhaus Brew Labs, a small microbrewery in Minneapolis.

It produces a lot of German style beers and seems to be a special meeting place for the younger part of Minneapolis. A colourful place with music from the seventies, an open space where people can bring their own food or buy something from a food truck and drink the beer in the brewery. I tried the Münchner Helles, Bohemian Pilsner and German style Schwarzbier (sic!) and they all were very good. The beer mats/coasters explained German words and how to pronounce them. We really had a good time and a good laugh. We even entered the wrong taxi, but the driver noticed immediately when he heard us talking German. Unfortunately, there won’t be another opportunity to come back to this funny place.

This morning, I got up in a good mood and before going to breakfast, I wanted to collect all the papers I needed for today’s registration day. I looked for my bunch of papers and documents – and found only a part of it! I searched everywhere, no stone unturned, until I had to conclude that I had left back papers in the hotel room yesterday! The problem was: I was missing the contract of my medical repatriation insurance that is mandatory. I started to panic. Without a proof of this rally, I could not start the rally on Monday! I called the Allianz hotline in Belgium…as it was Saturday today, the normal help desk was not open and the medical hotline did not have access to the data base. Then I called the last hotel, they did not have anything, but they promised to ask the cleaning lady and to call me again (which never happened). Now I really had reason to panic. I had been stupid enough not to make an electronic copy of these papers, something I usually do before I go on long trips. Damn! In a desperate mood, I went down for breakfast. I met Lisa, the rally master and confessed my problem. She told me to stay cool, I still had two days until the start tot find a solution. At the breakfast table, I discussed the problem with the other European riders. Kevin told me that he had an insurance from Geos that was obtainable online. Hm, I could try this. I looked up the website and indeed, the conditions seemed even to excel the required ones.

The logo of the 2017 Iron Butt Rally. Is this the roadkill we have to expect???

immediately bought the policy for $175 and was happy that I was back on track. I joined the other riders and passed through the different stations…paperwork, video recording of my acknowledgement of the liability specs, GPS Spot track, rally pack, camera and SD card check….then I met Lisa again and told her my positive news. She said that the insurance from Geos was not acceptable for there were some issues with the transport by airplane. We sat down and I tried to find the right terms and conditions, but I failed. I was too nervous. 

Did I already mention that rallying is an emotional rollercoaster? My mood was close to zero again. Lisa suggested to print the conditions so they could be studied. With desperation, I tried to find the documents online and luckily the computer in the hotel lobby had a printer connected. What I found in the made me hope for a happy ending: the conditions seemed to fulfil the rules so I was slightly optimistic.
However, the check of the insurances would be right at the end of the whole exercise. I had to do the tech inspection next. The bike was checked and everything was fine except the fuel tank. WHAT??? It was not compliant (you bet where my mood was in that moment…). However, the „problem“ was easy to solve…the venting hose that I placed next to my number plate needed to be extended below the number plate. I received a piece of fuel hose and attached it with zippers.

Tape-covered „commercial“ stickers…

Another issue was that the bike had „commercial“ stickers….there are from the previous owner and were Castrol Oil stickers and the name of the bike dealer….I had to cover them with tape….The next thing was the odo route to check the accuracy of the odometer. A 28 mile ride later, I returned back and had finished the technical part. Now I had to do the final part: the SPOT check again WITH some data points in it, the insurance and medical repatriation coverage. SPOT was fine (I had to engage the „show speed“ option), the repatriation was barely looked at (!) and my tourist motorbike insurance received the exemption for foreign riders as a domestic insurance is not legally to obtain with the required insurance limits. And than I had to talk to Jeff Earls, the Rally Master who checked last things and welcomed me as a starter of the 2017!! Yes! I did it! But mentally, I was exhausted. This was an unnecessary stress that normally would not have happened. I needed a rest…But first I filled up the bike and bought some food reserves.

In the meantime, my new wind shield had arrived on time and I mounted it. I had some lunch and after that, Peter tried to help me to get me the North America map in Basecamp on my computer, because I don’t want to connect the GPS device all the time when I want to do the routing. We struggled a long time, but in the end it was Gerhard who had the solution: he gave me his SD card with an old map on it, this seems to work. Excellent. Fewer worries.

Finally we gathered for a self-paid dinner of dubious quality. Some of us Europeans decided to go to the bar instead. So the day is over and tomorrow morning, I have to go to the rookie meeting for I was not a finisher last time. In the afternoon, the rider meeting will take place.

And on Monday morning, I will be among the starters of the Iron butt Rally 2017!

„Gemütlichkeit“ will soon be over…and we will need a lot of „Flüssigkeit“…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Slowly but surely….


OK, I’m back in the hotel. As John has correctly put it, today’s objective was to get my bike through customs and out of the warehouse.

I got up early and prepared again my papers. I had been instructed by the shipper that it was extremely important to obtain a stamped form 7501 from customs, otherwise the bike couldn’t be re-exported. I had a broker in stand-by in case customs would insist on a broker. So in a nervous mood, I went by taxi to the US customs and homeland security office in Bloomington.

It was a very quiet place, I sat there some minutes before somebody passed by and asked  me if I was being served. I heard this question another four times and I realised that these people were very friendly and helpful. A friendly officer took my papers and took them to his office. There were no other customers. A quiet place. Finally, the officer returned. He had retyped all my documents and stamped also form 7501. That was very quick, after 45 min I was out again. Wow. This went quite well. I called the same taxi driver again and he drove me to the warehouse near the airport. I presented my papers and waited, reading a book. I was relaxed, this went much better than expected. Then a girl explained me that the customs clearance was not in the electronic system. I explained that I just had been to the customs office in Bloomington. The warehouse looked puzzled and told me that the correct customs office was in the airport terminal! But…..my mood changed rapidly. This was just a small glimpse what will be ahead of me during this rally: the usual emotional rollercoaster. Great. Get a taxi first. This almost failed as I was waiting at one entrance of the compound without realising there was another one where the cab would wait…but the driver found me. In the airport, I went to the CORRECT customs office where a massive officer took my papers. When he asked for the purpose of my stay, it turned out he was a biker as well and knew about the Iron Butt Association. We had a nice chat and finally I received the correct form 7501. He told me that there was an issue: the shipper had deleted an intermediate transport from Chicago to Minneapolis, this still needed to be fixed. Great….I took another taxi back to the warehouse where the validation of the change took ages, I felt. In the end, I could pay the warehouse fee and access the crate.

There it is…

The problem was that the bike still was in the crate. I had to rip the box open and with the help of the warehouse people I managed to get the bike out of the crate. I attached the screen to the bike, mounted the panniers and put on the rain suit. The workers refused my tip and wished me good luck. I went back to the hotel in the rain and I was happy the the whole thing took less than 5 hours.

Yes, it is cool and rainy today. We soon will miss this mild weather. Checkpoints 1 and 2 are located near Dallas, Texas. Massive thunderstorms are happening now between Florida and Texas and in the South-West, thermometers are reaching temperatures of 45 to 50 degrees celsius!!! If you want to do well in rallies, you cannot consider what weather you will encounter. But in this case, I think I will have to monitor the elements very closely. The heat wave in the South is just too much. To be avoided.

People have been asking me about the password for the link to my GPS track. But the link for the track is still missing. Here it comes:

https://spotwalla.com/tripViewer.php?id=1463f5922cb53d4e29

It will be active from Monday onwards. The start will be 10 a.m. local time.

I also learned some things today:

  1. Officials in Minneapolis are very friendly and helpful
  2. Taxi drivers here are mainly from North-Eastern Africa, such as Ethiopia or Eritrea
  3. I need to switch off my mobile internet and use it with great care. I have a good roaming daily pass for 5 Euro per day that gives me 80 MB of internet per day. However, every 1 MB on top is charged with 14 Euros (!!!!). The problem is if you receive the warning messages very late. That’s how I lost over 100 Euros (!!!) today…..

I have another night booked here, but I might pass by the rally hotel this evening….

Ready to take off


So here I’m sitting at Brussels Airport, killing time before I take off for Minneapolis via Amsterdam. The first obstacle is past me: I arrived here without problems. After yesterday’s terror attack at Brussels Central Station, it was questionable if the trains would run normal, but luckily they did. I also passed the security check at the airport, despite my bag full of cables and electronic devices. Suspicious, isn’t it? In the end, the security guy was only interested in one item…..“It’s a motorcycle mirror!….“???“…..Apparently it was deemed inappropriate to blow up a plane so I was waved through.

Yesterday I received my second Sat Nav from my GPS shop; they had managed to install the North America map properly on it. After more than two weeks of struggling with the Garmin support (the map had been assigned to the wrong GPS device), I gave up and bought another map that I installed on the Zumo 350….and it didn’t work properly. But in the end, it seemed to work yesterday. The problem is that I can’t transfer the maps to Basecamp on my computer, the monitor is too small (that’s difficult to explain now), so I need to have a device connected to the computer in order to see the map in Basecamp. But this wouldn’t work yesterday! A brief moment of shock. Without a GPS map, there’s no rally. In the end, a re-boot seemed to solve the problem….

My biggest concern is now to get the bike out of customs tomorrow in Minneapolis. Air freight is usually straightforward, but I have been told by my shipper that US officials increasingly insist to deal with a broker and not a private person. In this case, I’d have a problem. I have Thursday and Friday to get the bike back, if I don’t manage, there’s no rally for me. I want to think that I have seen worse and even getting the bike out of Dubai harbour did not take more than two days…Let’s keep fingers crossed.

As usual, I will provide a link to my GPS track the next days….if you want to know the password, contact me and I will send it to you.

Heading for the gate….

Airport in „hellhole“ Brussels…