Iron Butt Rally 2001

Tuesday, September 04, 2001

I’ve watched the Rally as it unfolds. Since the beginning I’ve bugged the irascible Mr. Kneebone for a starting spot. With the tinkling of shattered dreams to date I’ve not been able to ride or even draw a slot. When I say beginning I mean the lamented missed rally of 1988 fame. I joined the Long Distance Rider list in 1997 to watch the tales unfold, and hear of the soon to be parted from bike and rally. Each iteration of the rally a sense of urgency seems to permeate the participants. An urgency to succeed and do better. An urgency and feeling of foreboding. The tick tick tick of the timeless clock for any event. Will this be the last one?

The Iron Butt Rally is not about the press. The Iron Butt Rally is not about the audience. It seems so simple, but it has to be about the ride. The Rally sets the bench mark and has become it’s own environment. There are ride feats that are harder, more grueling, and much less visible to the negative connotations our society besets on personal achievement. The mark of an event of this nature places on the participants can be seen in the wild eyes far away stares you can see in any picture of a participant. The Rally adds to the life of each participant. There is a bench mark that few can understand, but most who do understand need few words to compare. The ride is about the riders.

In my noncompetitive nature, and basically laid back riding style I’ve participated in a few rallies. I’ve finished dead last in a Nevada rally. Nobody gave me any hell either. I rode. I enjoyed. I met my limits. I came home. Simple. Riding in that grand Texas tradition the Waltz I rode ever so slowly, got lost, and sat on the side of the road relaxing drinking a soda. In the Waltz I finished in the middle of the pack, and for the life of me will never understand how. There were other riders who were more intense, motivated, and better. But, I ride for me. In this grand event of epic proportions riders challenge themselves and the environment across the North Continental Land Mass. Corner to corner. North to South. Like the great explorers of epic and time they search out the small and obscure and move on to the next adventure. What a ride.

I’ve met the legends, and talked to the people who ride. Four times I’ve shook hands with Ron Ayers at different events. Four times I’ve had his two books in my rally bag ready to sign. Four times I walked away with unsigned books. Why ruin the event with autograph seeking when there is so much to learn of what the unwritten ride will be. Better to keep my mouth shut and my mind open. Listen for the story that never made it to print. Sitting in a hotel room in Texas listening to Dale Wilson tell of a spectacular scary light show. A tale about lightening storms with flame leaping from the sky and mind searing deafening thunder. A perilous ride through Colorado and Utah. A story shared easily and comfortably as if with an old friend, and yet Dale Wilson had known me all of about 5 minutes. The community is stronger for the people it attracts.

The Iron Butt Rally is made up of these type of people. The wild adventurer’s and southern gentleman. The people who take the adventure to another step inducing new challenges in how they prepare their equipment. The Iron Butt Rally is about the riders, and the riders are what make the Iron Butt Rally more than an euphemism for riding fast. The strategy and planning of a campaign rival the largest military movements. The adventure and challenge are inherent in how the rider perceives the ride. Check point to checkpoint is just as valid as every bonus and squeaking in on time. The factor of how the ride is accomplished I think will never be better explained than hearing two different competitors months later tell you about the exhaustion and elation of two totally different rides in the same rally. Either way they were both challenged. Either way the success or failure to make the ride will be the same for both types of riders.

The Riders. It is and always will always be about the riders. The people out shaking the cobwebs out of their musty exhaustion ridden minds. The tested and tried of the dastardly conniving Mr. Kneebone. To those of the riders lucky enough and strong enough to finish it will be well done and congratulations. To those who are challenged and tested beyond their means it will be well done and congratulations. The test in one part is starting. The part I fail at each time. The test in another is continuing on. Many will find this a hurdle that man or machinery may fail to overcome. Finally the test will come down to standing in the road and being determined to go on rather than take that “short” little nap. A test of will is what makes this a Rally worth starting in the first place.

But, what do I know about the Iron Butt Rally? Really the answer is not a thing. You can’t know about the rally until you do it. In my short life I’ve met with many challenges of large proportion. Never have I ever wanted to take up the challenge so much as with this particular test. Watch with intensity. Listen carefully. Learn with certainty. Synergy is about taking away more from an encounter than the level of effort found in it’s component parts. You can’t know it until you do it. You can’t live it unless you’re picked. The hurdles to just get in are huge. Someday. Working hard to make it next time. I may succeed. The Rally and Riders are the heroes of the day.

Leave a Reply