Long Distance Rider Hero’s

Monday, October 14, 2002

A trip report. A long time ago I was sitting in a leadership seminar and the speaker was talking about how we all choose mentors and have our own set of hero’s who shape who we are. As an example a young Air Force Captain talked about a Colonel he had worked with who he tries to emulate and has chosen to follow as an example. The speaker also talked about surrounding yourself with people who you look up to, and who make you extend yourself. My coworkers and customers are chosen by happenstance. Within the family of endurance touring enthusiasts and long distance riders I have found people who I greatly respect. These are people from my first days within the long distance rider list community. People who I can only hope to succeed to their level.

“Lord” Mike Kneebone

In 1994 I asked Mr. Kneebone to send me any information he thought I should have about running the Iron Butt. He sent me an envelope the size of the Manhattan yellow pages. It had everything from the previous years Iron Butt in it. He sent me his email address and phone number with an approximate date that the next run would occur. I was impressed. I was more impressed when I met him the first time in person and he strongly suggested that I go ahead and apply for the Iron Butt in 1999. I vacillated and told him I was busy with Y2K fixes. I was dumb. I finally asked about entering again later and he put me on the wait list. A week before the 1999 Iron Butt he called and said. Your IN! My boss told me I would be fired if I took 2 weeks vacation before Y2K. I passed. Then I quit the job the day after the Iron Butt started. In 2001 I had new babies and Sydney threatened to kill me if I said good bye for two weeks. The call never came, but Mr. Kneebone still said go for it. You have the same chances as anybody else he has said many times. But that’s just history there are several better reasons to respect the man.

When I arrived in Gerlach last year (2001) he gave my wife a sweet bear hug, and welcomed her to the family. Having just completed a saddlesore we were already dazed. His sincere welcome was the perfect medicine and my wife is a true long distance rider to this day because of it. Mike Kneebone has shown respect, courtesy and kindness to people who have challenged him and treated him poorly. In all of my dealings with him I have felt to be the priority. Then again there are other special reasons to respect him. He worked tirelessly to bring the Iron Butt Association out of infancy into a full fledged respectable operation. In many cases he did it by force majeure and character alone. His character has won the hearts of many.

Ron Ayers

I didn’t read the books first. I met the man. A night long after the last call was done, and not many days before his BBQ for Iron Butt veterans I phoned and asked to impose. His answer was there is always room for one more. I arrived at his house and tried to help, but with the organization skills of a true manager everything was done and ready. Awesome and spectacular are not superlatives to describe the quality of Mr. Ayers as a host. His exploits and accomplishments as a businessman are well documented. His kindness and ability to sit down and chat amiably were fine qualities I did not expect.

Since Mr. Ayers has written two books on Long Distance Riding, and brought so many people into the community his accomplishments are very public. Some of the big dogs would complain that the books brought unneeded attention, and lot’s of little wanna be’s into the environment. This may be true, but as chronicles of the activity the books are very important. More important is the fact the guy is basically a star, and he is nice. Falsehood and self aggrandizement do not find themselves sitting on Mr. Ayers shoulders. He is successful in life, and not just in business.

Dale “warchild” Wilson

I traveled from Colorado Springs to my first Long Distance Riding event at Ron Ayers BBQ. Norm Grills offered me sanctuary at his house. With click of the clock I was off and on my way to the hotel everybody was based out of. There I ran across the irascible Dale Wilson. His scything wit and cantankerous humor had resulted in much teeth gnashing on the list. Often as not he was putting across the truth in a very plain and open way. Political correctness is not his best skill. His ability to be constantly honest, truly a gentleman when required, and to always stand by others has amazed me.

To help another rider he has and will travel thousands of miles. He has a family even larger than mine and makes time for others. I can’t even express how much I respect someone who gives at the level Mr. Wilson does. His work is on constant display with web page design. He travels thousands of miles to help out at the Iron Butt rally. He does this all and even though he has said many times that his long distance rally days are done. With no night vision he can’t ride in the sport he has belonged to for so long. I asked once last year why he stays active and his answer was the reason he is here. It was simple. It was concise. It was not braggadocio. He said “I made commitments.”

Joseph “Zoom” Zulaski

It is interesting to watch how people who get into the same activity nearly at the same time take different paths. The microserf in Seattle has been rally master for several rallies, developed a software package for rally masters, and completed several of the hardest rides in the long distance rider bag of tricks. Joe and I are of relative age and position in our careers. Literally at this time we were for the two opposing evil empires, but as a mercenary I change sides all the time anyway. Mr. Zulaski has generated his own measurement of postings as 1 Zulaski long or more. His posting prowess is equaled only by his ability to communicate verbally. When welcomed into his presence the subject is bikes and anything else you want to discuss. I’ve always been impressed by people who can communicate, but Mr. Zulaski takes it to a new level.

Impressions of people can often be hard to reach, but I’ve learned that first impressions are usually the best impressions. We as people can often judge a book by it’s cover if for no other reason then the cover tells us about the book. Mr. Zulaski is an easy person to read. He is the type of person who accepts you for who you are, and doesn’t seem to want to change you. He has an easy going persona that is open and charged with challenge for himself. You can read that the road is not always gentle, but that good humor and honesty are as important as survival. Mr. Zulaski is the definition of good humored.

Doug Jacobs “Lou Cypher”

Most people on the list today have no idea who this guy is. That’s ok. I do. The people besides me who matter do. When I first got on the list “Lou Cypher” was taunting the list to no end. Everything was questioned. I felt I had walked into the fire of RFC wars all over again. “Lou Cypher” was the foil to everybody. Nothing was sacred. Things that now would have a list member banned for life were second nature in the early halcyon days of the list. Wars were rampant between butt veterans and everybody else. As the FNG I did not know the past histories, but taking something personal that was said by “Lou Cypher” I did something stupid. I pulled out my bag of tricks and turned some nasty little spiders loose on the net. Within minutes I knew a lot about Doug Jacobs. Within hours I knew where his office was, and what floor of what building. No laws were broken or databases corrupted. I was being petty and juvenile as I can be sometimes. I posted some of the more salient information to the list such as who he was, worked for, and general information most people could get from Google now. Then I found out who Doug Jacobs was. What he had done. How he had earned the respect of most of the big dogs. I felt about this big >< . I did apologize as lame as it was. He said he forgave me. He changed his email address too. He has faded from posting to the list, and hangs out elsewhere. He was a bigger man than me. It is the fate of all to be the makeup of our experience, choices, and tragedies and much more. Those of us with stronger characters can aspire to be totally self directed, but in the most charismatic and self willed can be brought down by the tribulations of life. I believe that the most basic character of a long distance rider is a self directed loner with great personal sense of worth. Long distance riders and those of Iron Butt fame require great character. When you leave for that first mile in thousands your only company is yourself. Nobody else is going to do the miles. Failure in character, cheating, or failing to assist another fallen rider is cause for a feeding frenzy among the brethren. This also leads to a character flaw that may or may not be exposed. The flaw of arrogance is easily understood when the level of accomplishment climbs to such high levels compared to others of the same sport. You see this in professional sports, the Olympics, and other areas where difficulty is easily measured. In my meager existence, life, and work I set my goals based on the five principles I live by. Honor, Honesty, Courage, Courtesy, and Respect are my personal principles. If I were a saint I would live to them constantly (I'm no saint), but through my motorcycling endeavors I attempt to achieve them daily. I ride smooth, steady, and with courtesy. I tell my boss and my co-workers that my job is to make them successful. My job is to make my company money, and make my clients company money. I provide my best to those I deal with because it is the right thing to do. I make mistakes, and I have made my share trust me. I do not consider myself to be better than other people because I see so many who are better than me. I see riders who I can learn much from. Before I judge others I must judge myself. I still find myself lacking in many areas. How can I judge others then? There are things that must be judged. To bury my head in the sand is not what I'm about. Judgment is a circuitous route to your own door step. How would my hero's handle strife, and the nasty vagaries of the long distance riding world? Quiet, stead-fast leadership, scything irascible wit, good humored consensus building and, raging self directed sarcasm are separate but excellent qualities. I don't know how they would mix within the current political struggles. The lists current state of unrest is nothing compared to the events prior to the 3 day shut down many years ago. It's nothing compared to the "Gasper" wars. It's a small bump compared to the "Oswald Files" (another loss to the pedagogy of the list). No less than 5 lists have been spawned from these frothing flings in self aggrandizement and self immolation. I support the list with the pitiful monetary requests Joe Denton has asked for. I support the list in it's building of community. I support the list in its shared knowledge transfer. I hope that those who watch from other areas of the motorcycling world don't look at the long distance rider community and remark that "They eat their own children". As things go people will drop into the community and drop out. For their own reasons, and reasons of others this will always be the case. I hope the animosities and vile disagreements dissipate prior to the ramp up for IB03. The starting line could be an unsavory place. The road is a long lonely place. I find is some cases I am most comfortable with myself. Nobody to explain myself to. Nobody to judge me. That is easy. I do search for the next hero. The person I can call friend. The person I can respect. Unjudging and unswayed by the travail I look for honest people of integrity. This is a more difficult task. Unlike Diogenes who was willing to give up the accoutrements of society in his search I still ride. Diogenes would have understood the people of the Iron Butt Association. What will my search find? It's a long trip, but I kind of enjoy it. Next time I might talk about mentors. It's a shorter list, and more personal in nature. Mentors are the fathers, brothers, and friends that drive you to succeed in the difficult tasks we attempt. After my experience at the LOE I know I need some help...

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