At the end of leg 1 of the 2015 Iron Butt Rally Sydney and I found ourselves done. We did not choose to be done. We did not want to quit. We are sitting in the hotel room long after the other riders have departed crying, consoling, and basically wondering what went wrong. In short our brand new 2015 BMW K1600 GTL Exclusive had a catastrophic failure of the engine control computer. In a time sensitive rally specifically designed to shake out the can be done from the can’t be done this is exactly the kind of issue meant to weed the entrants.
We finished the first leg of the rally thinking we had a minor issue, but would be continuing. We had big hugs for the wonderful rally volunteers and architects of our absolute joy. We’re not fast, we’re not super competitive, but this one grand ride was all we could hope for. Bodies and spirits were willing, extensive over time worked to pay the bills, and here we were a third of the way done. Not able to continue on.
The Iron Butt Rally is one of the few activities I enjoy. I don’t have any other hobbies and all of my other activities over the last few decades have been in the pursuit of riding and touring on motorcycles. This was my anniversary gift to my beautiful wife and the big K bike was her bike, her pedestal upon which a glorious two weeks would be spent touring the nation we both love. We built our bodies, spent our meager salaries on the expensive luxury of a new motorcycle. We spared no expense for this was our dream. The K16 GTLE was given to Sydney for our anniversary as a sign of my devotion to her safety and comfort.
In retrospect I have caused her grief, pain, and hurt her confidence in my judgement. I should not have bought the bike for us.
To the casual reader it may not seem like much of a dream. To spend 11 days in high heat, grueling conditions of wind and weather, and all of it exposed to mother nature. Tied at the hip to your spouse literally touching each other for 16 hours a day. It however is our dream. Our place to find enjoyment and it only happens every two years. There is no reboot and just go again. A dead bike killed our wild enjoyment of the ride.
The bike can’t be fixed in a timely manner. Rentals are few and far between. Riders have offered us their bike, but the clock has been ticking and the time to jump has passed. Our rally is done. Our dreams shattered. From the absolute hilarity and enjoyment of riding in a rally we both love, within a community we adore, to the soul crushing disappointment and despair of withdrawing from the rally because the trusted steed failed. Maybe enjoying something so fully simply isn’t possible. The glee and whimsical giggles from Sydney as we powered out of some deep corner into a vista of true American beauty at one of dozens of such places will haunt me.
A brand new literally right off the show room floor motorcycle. The top of the line BMW Exclusive touring motorcycle died in the hands of the dealer here at Sandia BMW. The technicians and staff at Sandia BMW were awesome. Yet, they can’t bring the dead to life or resurrect crushed dreams. The folks at my home dealer Dulles BMW near Washington DC have been great. The service department guys have been a joy to work with. I hope both dealers know I don’t feel they are to blame. Maybe it is just “one of those things”. I don’t know.
I’m going to ask BMW to take the bike back under the Lemon Law of Virginia or just out of good faith. I can’t have a bike I can’t trust. The bike ripped our souls from our chest at a moment of joy and crushed the life out of us in a few short minutes. It may be just a ride, an activity of pranksterish fun, but it is our activity. I can’t express the soul searing pain some of these photos show of true happiness on Sydney’s face only to know days later it would be snuffed out by the whimsy of digital control modules demise. Over stated? Over played? Too emotional? The Iron Butt Rally is the culmination of several thousand hours work for both of us in extended work hours, saving, scraping, and general sacrifice by each of us and our children to pull it all together.
We flew our older son in to Virginia to help take care of my Vietnam veteran father who has had multiple strokes (and lives with us) so we could pull off this ride. Our younger teenage boys pulled together and managed the house so our older son wouldn’t have to worry about to much. This was a pretty big deal several people helped to make happen.
I’m going to have to leave the bike at Sandia BMW while they try and get it fixed which can take quite a long time we are guessing. Then I’ll have to arrange transportation as I’ve got to go back to work next week.
I feel like I have failed the Iron Butt Rally volunteers, staff, and other riders. Most of all I failed Sydney.
Here are some pictures in no particular order from the fun we did have.