Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Iron Butt Rally - Volunteer Duty

The World's Toughest Motorcycle Rally is taking place between Monday, June 28 and July 7, 2017.  The Iron Butt Rally, 11,000 miles in 11 days, is a competitive motorcycle rally that affords the top long-distance riders from around the world an opportunity to test their Ridecraft.   The theme of this year's IBR is captured in the rally graphic.  Rider are on a Safari Adventure, seeking the very large replicas of animals, real and fanciful. 

Safari Adventure
Air - Land - Water - Prehistoric - Mythical
"Shoot them creatures and bag that bonus"

Epilog:  After competing three IBRs I found volunteering to help with the 2017 IBR just as rewarding as I imagined it would be.  I logged over 7,000 miles between the start, checkpoints and finish, with a side trip or two.  It was more relaxed kind of riding than those enduring "The World's Toughest Motorcycle Rally" though.  Still, to see huge filed of riders of the 2017 Iron Butt Rally from the volunteer side of things was very enjoyable.  This was a history making IBR on many fronts.

Thank you, Lisa Landry, Jeff Earls and John Harrison for an epic IBR experience!.

Fri, 7/7:  The Rally Staff will be available for early check-in starting at 5 am.  Same procedure as the two
Podium Finishers
Finisher Trophies and Plaques
prior checkpoints.  Except, scoring will take slightly longer owing to riders collecting more bonuses during the 5 day long Leg 3.  Riders also will take more time preparing for scoring.  Many will want to double and triple check their "Claimed Bonuses" form for completeness, accuracy and sequencing of the entries.  "Strings" that make a 'Full House', 3 of one category and 2 of another, will earn 4 times the value of the last bonus in the string.  But, all 5 bonuses in that string must be without error or the quadruple multiplier does not apply.

With the way the checkpoint process has worked at CP1 and CP2, I expect every rider who made it back in time will be complete checked in and scored by noon.  And so it was, all riders are accounted for and completed scoring before 11 am!
The core staff, Lisa, Jeff and John are compiling the finishers scores, auditing the results and preparing the presentation at this evening's finishing banquet. 

Thu, 7/6:  Head to the Barn!  The IBR Staff is returning to where it all began some 10 days before.  Back at the Minnetonka start hotel the core staff are busy monitoring the riders as they make their way to the finish.  Penalty points begin at 8:00:01 Friday morning.  Riders who do not make it back by 10:00:001 are Time Bared and earn the DNF distinction.  By the looks of the IBR Public SpotWalla group location page, almost all riders still in the game will make it back.

Sun, 7/2:  The 4 am riders meeting starts the clock for Leg 3 of the IBR.  This final leg is 126 hours long.  That's 5 days and change for riders to be on 'safari' hunting bonuses.  This is the big miles big points leg.  The top 10, announced at the riders meeting will be looking to maximize their points and finish standing.  The rally staff is packing up to make Rally Central mobile for the move back to IBR finish checkpoint in Minnetonka, MN.

I am heading to west Texas for hot weather training.  I'm riding to Big Bend National Park to ride at park speeds in the Texas heat.  I'm testing out some new equipment and riding gear in preparation for the Death Valley 1,000 Insanity ride the end of July.or first week in August.

Sat, 7/1:  Leg 2 ends at 8 pm back at the Allen TX checkpoint.  Riders start rolling in before 5 pm, with the bulk arriving after 6pm. The army of IBR volunteer staff stands ready to speed riders trough the arrival process. 
  1. Arrival - Odo check
  2. Check in - Stop the clock with the offical time keeper.  Riders have one hour after stopping the clock to report for scoring
  3. Scoring Prep - Riders organize their "Claimed Bonus" form for scoring.  A large room with a meal is provided for this activity. 
  4. Scoring - The photo media check and official scoring takes about 20-30 minutes total. 
Once scoring is complete the rider is free to tend to their needs; bike and equipment maintenance, planning prep and get some needed rest.

Rally Central
Fri, 6/30:  Monitoring the riders progress is done in Rally Central at the Allen checkpoint.  Rider who experience an issue while on the leg call Rally Master Lisa to get help.  She then posts on social media that a rider need assistance.  It is amazing how quickly and efficiently the Long-Distance riding community mobilizes when a IBR rider needs help.  See IBR Daily Reports Satellite tracking is the a most valuable tool both for the rider and rally control.  Rally Central has access to every rider's traking history, in near real time.  If a rider's track stops moving, this alerts Rally Central about a potential issue.  Phone calls usually ensue.  Sometimes, it's a rider who has decided to withdrawl from the rally.  When they call the Rally Master, she usually knows already.

Thu, 6/29:  The day begins shorly after 3am with staff preparations for the 4am mandatory Rider Meeting.  During his meeting Mike Kneebone conveys words of wisdom, Rally Master Lisa Landry reminds all of getting to the checkpoint, on time and in one piece, on Saturday and Route Master Jeff Earls gifts all riders with an epic Leg 2 selection of bonuses.  Jeff also announced the top 10 standings. 

Routing fun with "Strings"

While the riders are out for Leg 2 the IBR staff is busy monitoring the tracking maps, auditing the scoring for Leg 1 and preparing for the arrival of riders on Saturday, Jul 1.

Wed, 6/28:  Riders have until 8:00:01 pm to arrive within the no-penalty window.  Riders who check in between 8 pm and 10 pm will be charged a point penalty for every minute after 8 pm.  Any rider checking in after 10:00:01 pm will be declared "DNF", did not finish. 
The focus of the IBR Staff is moving all 106 riders through the scoring process as accurately and quickly as possible.  Scoring opens at 5 pm.  Several step are necessary to ensure each rider's score is captured:
  • Arrival - Riders park in the reserved spaces next to the front entrance to the hotel.
  • Odometer - Riders get their MC odometer reading recorded on checkpoint arrival sheet
  • Clock In - Riders present themselves to the IBR time keeper to stop their leg clock.  On time check in triggers the "Arrival Bonus"
  • Tracking Verification - Riders present themselves to the satellite tracking monitor to verify they have a good track to qualify for the tracking bonus.  A good track triggers the "Tracking Bonus"
  • Call-In Verification:  A well formatted and on time Call-In triggers the "Call-In Bonus"
  • Scoring Preparation - Riders prepare their "Claimed Bonuses" sheet to insure bonuses are listed in chronological order and are correct/complete.  Riders are charged an administrative penalty ranging from a 10% deduction for a minor clerical errors to denial of the entire value of the bonus.  A meal is provided for riders in the scoring preparation room for the riders.  Once a rider presents themselves to the Scoring supervisor they must remain within ear-shot to wait until called.
  • Scoring -   IBR veterans, trained in the scoring process, capture the riders bonus photos and transfer them to the scoring thumb drive.  Riders then sit with a the scorer for official recording of all the rider's claimed bonuses.  Once they sit with the IBR scorer they must be ready and are not allowed to stop the scoring process to make correction.
"Is that a C or a L?"

Once their scoring is complete, riders are free to leave the area.  Most will go to their rooms to prepare for the next leg.  Some will return to their motorcycle and fix any mechanical issues developed during Leg 1.

Leg 2 bonus listing is distributed at the 4 am rider's meeting on Thursday, 6/29.  Electronic distribution occurs after this meeting for all those who attend.

Tuesday evening staff meeting?
Tue, 6/27:  With the riders scattered to the four corners of North America, the IBR staff is re-positioning to the Allen Texas checkpoint.  Some arrive today, still others are arriving tomorrow.  The focus of the staff is to get the checkpoint stations prepared for the arrival of the riders starting after noon on Wednesday, 6/28.

Mon, 6/26:  STAND TO!  Riders to their mounts for final inspection.  At 7:30 am riders are to be assembled in the parking lot for final staging.  At last night's dinner each rider was given a unique IBR ID tag.  At 8:00 am IBR Staff will troop the line to do final check before the 10:00 am start.  Riders must be standing next to their motorcycle, ready to turn on the key so Staff can document their official starting odometer reading and punch the rider ID tag.  Riders who are not "Standing To" when the Odo Team arrives at their motorcycle are passed by and penalized for their lack of focus.  They will be held back until after all other riders have left.  Only two riders fit this category on the 2017 IBR. 

"Odo" Check Team

ID Tag Punch
List Consolidation

This speaks, VOLUMES!

Sun, 6/25:  All Checked In - Over 115 riders and pillions have successfully completed the IBR check in process.  All, between 8:00 am and 2:00 pm.  Not in the history of the IBR check in process has over 100 riders been processed in such a short time. 

This essential activity was executed with precision by a cadre of dedicated volunteers, led by Lisa Landry, Rally Master.   
  • Registration:   Donna Fousek, Karen Van Santen, and Bill Thweat. 
  • Tech Inspection Station: Dale Wilson, Ande Bergmann, Brian Roberts, Derek Dickson, Jeremy Lovall, Adam Wolkoff, Brant Moteelall, and Rich Reid.
  • Odometer Check Station: Marty Leir, Carol Patzer, and Paula Behm.
  • Camera Card Formatting Station: Dave McQueeney, Ira Agins, David E.B. Smith, Eric Vallencourt
  • Video/Media Station: Dennis Bitner, John Ferber, Roger Van Santen, Greg Blewett, Pat Blewett, Verne Hauck, Bonnie Hauck, Dan Stephans
  • Insurance/Waivers/Medjet Station: Ed Otto, Kathy Engholm
  • Spotwalla Tracking Station: Tim Masterson
  • Emergency Contact Info Station: Jim Fousek 
  • Final Check In: Jeff Earls, Route Master
On the schedule today is the mandatory meetings for the "Rookies" and veteran riders. The day is capped off with the traditional "Start Banquette" where the Rally Books and Leg 1 bonus listing are handed out to each rider.
Rally "Safari" Master

Pre Safari banquet for the largest concentration of "The World's Toughest Motorcycle Rally Riders!"

IBR Rider Meeting - "Are there any questions?"

All Checked In - "Ready to Ride?"

Sat, 6/24:  Game On!  The posting of the IBR Rally poster is a time honored tradition to graphically announce the theme of the rally.  Veteran IBR riders gleam lots of intel about the Route Master's strategy for the rally.  Rookies marval at the artwork and wonder..."what could it mean" ...just kidding.  But alas, the real strategy and complexity of the rally will not be apparent until the distribution of the Rally Book at the Sunday evening start banquette.

Today, riders will be moving through the check in process designed to make sure each participant meets the strict requirements of the IBR.
  • Technical Inspection - Each motorcycle must pass the inspection for overall motorcycle safety, auxiliary fuel tank, and even muffler decibel level. 
  • Odometer Check -  Each rider follows a know distance course to determine their motorcycle's mechanical odometer variance 
  • Camera & SD Card -  Rider must submit three SD memory cards used by their digital camera.  Their picture is imprinted on each SD card for later validation.
  • Document Verification and Video - Risk acceptance documentation and video taping of each rider acknowledgment of the risk.
  • Final Check In - SpotWalla satellite tracking check, emergency contact info, MedJet verification and the all important entry into the official scoring computer.
I am working the SpotWalla satellite tracking check station.  Each rider in the IBR is required to have an active satellite tracking device that feeds the IBR SpotWalla portfolio. IBR SpotWalla Public Map

All Que'd Up
Camera SD card check
Risk Video Taping


Final Check In

Fri, 6/23:  And the fun begins!  First up this morning, stuffing the IBR Swag bags.  Each rally rider receives a bag stuffed with all manner of goodies..."Swag" in the promotional vernacular.  Mike Hutsal is a double Swag bagger! 

Swag Production Line
Swag Control
10 Shirts!?
Capt Ande'...Tech Inspector
  • Rally Name tag
  • Rally T-Shirts
  • Rally Hat
  • Rally stickers
  • Rally pens
  • Rally compact toothbrush
  • Wyman Waypoint sticker 
  • Instruction flyer
Later in the morning Dale Wilson lead the cadre of volunteer Technical Inspectors through the IBR rider parking lot.  Many riders took advantage of this orientation seminar for the Tech Inspectors to have their aux tanks given a quick look before formal technical inspections on Saturday and Sunday.  The tool bags were flying out of every nook and cranny.

Thur, 6/22:  Had a good ride to the IBR Start/Finish hotel.  Weather was hot in Texas and Oklahoma, got cooler in Kansas but not by much.  After spending the night in Topeka I stopped off in Boone Iowa to drop off a Wyman Memorial plaque place holder for the Boone/Scenic Valley Railroad Museum.  The Museum is the hosting authority for the Wyman wapoint sign and memorial plaque.

Started to rain off and on as I entered Minnesota.  By the time I got to Minneapolis it was the beginning of rush hour.  Traffic was snarled all over.  The highway selected by my GPS was closed so I had a detour that took me west, north then back south.  It took me an hour to go the last 10 miles to get to the La Quinta, where I am staying for the start festivities.  All the IBR riders are at the Marriott next door.  Had dinner with a couple of comrades and we talked about all manner of things motorcycle.

About the Iron Butt Rally

The Iron Butt Rally (IBR) is the world's premier long-distance motorcycle event.  The IBR is divided into three 'legs' of varying duration (see the schedule below) and riders must arrive at the Checkpoints before the arrival window closes.  Riders from around the world participate in the 11 day event to score points by visiting 'bonus' locations, take a picture to prove they were there, make a log entry and ride to the next bonus location.  So, it's a timed event where route planning, ridecraft, and resources management are keys to success. After three legs the riders are ranked by their claimed and awarded bonus points.  The top 10 'Podium' finishers are recognized at the awards banquette.  Just finishing the IBR is recognized the world over as evidence of one's superior long-distance motorcycling skills.

The IBR Overall Schedule

  • Thu-Fri, Jun 21-23:  Gathering of the riders, IBR staff and volunteers in Minnetanka, MN
  • Sat-Sun, Jun 24-25:  Rider check-in, technical inspections, registration
  • Sun Evening, Jun 25:  Start Banquette - Rally Books and Leg 1 bonus listing distributed
  • LEG 1:  10 am 6/26 to 8 pm 6/28 (58 hours)
  • LEG 2:  4 am 6/29 to 8 pm 7/1 (64 hours)
  • LEG 3:  4 am 7/2 to 10 am 7/7 (126 hours)
  • Fri Evening, Jul 7:  Awards Banquette and celebration!