Times, They Are A Changing

First post in a long time on the cycling front. Aside from the overnight trip out to East Texas a year ago, there hasn’t been much riding since getting home from the Iron Butt Rally at the end of summer in 2009. Today marked one more change in that direction.

With the reduced miles, for a lot of different reasons, it was difficult to rationalize to myself the need to keep two bikes: the Suzuki SV1000S and the BMW R1200RT. The Suzuki was the alter-ego to the BMW … small, loud, a different kind of fun if you know what I mean. But at the end of the day, the Suzuki has seen less than 400 miles in the 4+ years I’ve own it. Time change, hobbies change, so it goes.

So today I was fortunate enough to be able to transfer the Suzuki to a good friend, who’s been bikeless now for almost 2 years. We both got into (or back into in his case) riding at the same time, so I’m sure she’ll be well enjoyed and well taken care of.

At the same time, I’ve gotten more into bicycling and some level of running than ever before. With the reduction in (motorcycle) ride time, I’m thinking about shifting this blog to be more about my journey through bicycle riding and that adventure. Admittedly, the name RocketCowboy maybe doesn’t fit a road bicycle riding hobby, but hey, I already have the domain name, right? :)

My two fitness goals for this year are to run a 5K (worst case, it’ll be the Turkey Trot this year, but hopefully before) and to ride my first bicycle race. We’ll see what kind of interesting tidbits of knowledge I can pick up along the way to those two goals, and where paths lead from there. Comments and feedback is appreciated!

It’s Time To Ride!

Surprising … when I started looking into moving the RocketCowboy blog from Blogger to WordPress (because Blogger no longer supports FTP publishing, so I’m supposed to host it with Google), I realized that I haven’t blogged a single post about motorcycle riding since I finished the Iron Butt Rally in 2009 and promised to do a write up on that experience.

Had it really been that long?!?!?!?

With the mild winter and start of the new year, Lisa and I decided it was time to get the RT road worthy again and start making some trips. Lisa has ridden on motorcycles only a few times, but unfortunately up until our wedding had only ridden with me for maybe all of 30-45 minutes in two sittings. We both were looking forward to seeing that change.

And so the process started. First we just needed to get the bike in for service and state inspection, since she (the bike) has been sitting in the garage gathering very little attention for the past two years. Just in talking about getting the bike serviced, little riding opportunities started to open up: could we ride to a Monday night Lonestar BMW Riders meeting, maybe a Thursday night coffee Meet-and-Greet with my old TWT friends, maybe ride over to dinner with some friends. Then the “right” opportunity presents itself: How about an overnight ride with my friends Jerry and Jamie somewhere close by? Now we have a purpose!

The bike service was as expected. No surprises, which was great since I hadn’t really properly stowed the bike since I wasn’t expecting to take a two year hiatus from riding. She would need new tires … the ME880s that I finished the 2009 IBR on in August of 2009 were even more rock hard than they were when I initially had them mounted, so I figured I’d try something new. The BMW shop was recommending the new Michelin PR3’s as good sport touring tires. I was previously running Metzler Z6’s when not mounting up ME880s for distance, but have had great reactions to the Pilot Roads in the past, so why not? I wasn’t surprised to see that the battery on the BMW also needed to be R&R’ed, despite being on a battery tender for the past 2 years. Gas in the tank wasn’t bad, and we burned most of that out while scrubbing in the new tires before our overnight ride, so the bike was ready to roll.

Now, where did I put all the “stuff” that goes into a motorcycle ride? Since moving into a new house almost a year after my last ride, most of the motorcycle stuff is still in boxes, with boxes having been “organized” to make the garage appear cleaner … without actually having much put away in it’s proper place. Just finding the little things … tools, SPOT, beaded seat cover … all turned into chores to test my patience. Since this is the first time to ride 2-up on the RT, and the audio issue I had with the Autocom has not been troubleshoot/corrected since the IBR, we needed to get some kind of intercom solution worked out. Eventually, the bike would come together, but I’ll post a separate blog entry for the trip later.

Interestingly, last weekend I received the spring issue of the IBA’s quarterly magazine. The opening article … ramping up to long rides after the winter break. Since I’ve been on break for the better part of 2.5 years, it’s a particularly well timed article. :)

Parts have started to show up for getting the SV road ready as well. I’ll do the oil and brakes myself, then time to get new shoes mounted and maybe a coolant flush for good measure. More to come…

Iron Butt Rally Recap (Take 2)

Before I get into reliving the details of my Iron Butt Rally ride, I need to get my “thank you’s” out to all the people who helped me put together this ride. Without the support of my friends and family, this ride would not have been possible. Riding around for 11 days with only myself to talk to in my helmet makes that even more apparent than it might have been before the ride. :)

First, I need to thank my whole extended family: Mom, Dad, Brian and Christy of course, as well as Cass, Chuck, and Eli. You all sacrified if only by worrying about me while out on the road, but realistically the past 18 months have meant no trips to visit in Memphis, lost holidays that could have been spent with family that were instead spent in the garage tinkering with the bike (July 4th and the missed trip to the lake comes to mind quickest), and my general lack of attention to anything not IBR related or focused on the bike for the past 18 months. Brian … we just never got to the right city at the right time. Sorry I missed you in Spartanburg, and after that you were always one city, one day ahead of me. Christy … thanks for all the dinner invites even though I had to pass them up in order to save money for the ride. Cass … I know by now you’re tired of hearing about the bike, the vacations that didn’t happen, the money that went into the bike, and the three weeks of me gone on the road with hardly a word. When I needed to escape to the garage, you always understood. Chuck … I didn’t get to make near as many lunch runs up to Memphis to see you, Linda, and the kids. While it may not seem like much, those trips to mean a lot to me, and that’ll be rectified now that the IBR is behind me. Eli … you might think of it as being my second mom, I prefer to think of it as being the big sister I didn’t have. Thanks for keeping the eagle eye on my spot tracks, bugging me when I needed to stop for sleep, and offering to have the pit crew and fan club on standby if needed. Oh, and thanks for the coffee to break this anti-caffeine streak!

For my friends, and this ride showed I have many more than I would have thought, thanks for all the comments and words of encouragement. I’m sure I’m missing a few names which is not intentional, but: Tracy and Ed, thanks for being the sounding board when it came to my rally plans and for keeping me honest. Tracy, thanks in particular for riding all the way up to Spokane to make sure I got back home ok. 4000 miles round trip just for hotel food in WA state … most people would think that was a bit crazy. Ed, I know you wanted to be there as well, but that pesky work thing got in the way. Curt and Jody, my ST brothers, thanks for the text msgs, the phone calls, and all the encouragement. Curt, the phone call and encouragement from Missoula was much appreciated. Beau, Jon, Jeff, JJ, Femi, David … all my Cisco co-workers, thanks for putting up with me taking 3 weeks just as school was getting started to go and wonder around the countryside … and for the Babe’s Chicken when I got back home! Allen Dye, thanks for the encouragement leading up to the rally, the motivation during the rally (you don’t know how stressed I was in Santa Ana, but I’d trade sleep for that hallway discussion anytime), oh … and for getting me hooked on this rally thing to begin with when you and Greg put on the Texas Two Step. It’s all your fault! :) Claye, for humoring me with pictures at the start and various checkpoints along the way.

Andrea, Barb, Brad, Brian Taylor, Bryan, Don, Geoff, Greg, Jackie, Jerry, Jim, Justin, Kris, Mark, Matt, Mike, Pedro, Rob (Spruell and Rapport), Russ, Terry, Tim, Todd, Vince … we may have had a Facebook blackout which kept me from posting up during the rally, but all your comments and words of encouragement were received and much appreciated during the rally.

Terrence … meeting up with Tracy and myself for lunch in Wichita, and riding with us part way as we left town, definitely brought back some memories. We’ve got to get together again soon man.

My thanks to the other riders who participated along side me.

Many thanks to the organizers and volunteers who made the IBR possible. In no particular order: Mike Kneebone, Lisa Landry, Bob Higdon, Tom Austin, Dale Wilson, Bill Watt, Steve Hobart, all the scorers and checkpoint workers. The organization was incredible, and your professionalism was amazing.

I’m sure I’m missing others, unintentionally, so I might make additional edits as I remember names. My ride wouldn’t have been possible without each and every one of you.

Iron Butt Rally Recap (Take 1)

So it’s Friday night, and this was the evening I was going to write up my IBR experience while I had some quiet time to reflect on the events gone by. That is, until I was distracted by posts about Bob Higdon on the LDR list.

For anyone who hasn’t been following the IBR documentaries, Bob Higdon is the IBA Chief Legal Council, and the architect behind this year’s IBR theme. Up until the 2007 running of the IBR, it was Bob who delivered the daily updates, then Tom Austin took over for 2007 and 2009. There was a discussion on the LDR list which envoked a reference to Bob’s write up of the 1999 IBR. It was this write up that was my company over dinner this evening, and had me chuckling enough that my write up will have to wait one more day.

For anyone who hasn’t heard Bob speak in person (Eli, I’ll get you a video clip as I’m sure you’ll appreciate it), here’s a link to the write up that had me laughing over dinner:

1999 IBR Daily Report

It’s the stereotypical “Bob’isms” that got me going. Having heard him a few times at the IBR start in Spartanburg, then announcing the finishers in Spokane, I can hear the written text coming through in his voice and his dry sense of humor. Maybe it’s the fact that I just paid $12 for a margarita with dinner, but reading him describe the opening route options of the 99 IBR brought back memories of the rookies meeting in Spartanburg before we started.

I had a draft for my opening “thank you’s” for the people who helped me along the way with this year’s IBR, but that blog post will have to wait a day as I’ve been sufficiently distracted re-reading previous years’ rally reports.

Do I really have to wait another year until the IBA National Meet to hear Bob speak again?

Sunday, T -1 Days

Here it is, the Sunday afternoon before the big day. All the planning and preparation that has lead up to now, the anticipation, and … for now anyway … the relative calm as I know I’ve completed the check-in process and have been officially entered.

Yesterday was a hectic day, between getting out for tech inspection, then the odometer check, then the misc other checks and tests. We had two required training sessions to attend as well. Retired Navy Surgeon General Don Arthur was on hand to give his fatigue awareness seminar, one of my favorites, on how to recognize signs of fatigue and dehydration and how to deal with them quickly. He added a portion since the last time I saw it on the medical reasonings why “energy supplements” are bad for the LD rider.

With the only thing this morning being the interview with Ira Agins to verify that all my paperwork was in order, I got in line early and got that knocked out before breakfast.

The biggest new news from yesterday came when all riders were asked (strongly) to put away the blogging and twitter updates once the ride started, until after the ride finishes. There are several reasons for this, all of them valid and reasonable IMO, so once the ride starts at 10am Monday morning my Facebook and blog will be silent until the end of the rally. I will still be taking notes and plan to do a full write up after the event, which is not in conflict with the instructions we were given. The SPOT will still be tracking, and Cass or others who talk to me at the various checkpoints can post up that the saw me and what not, but otherwise updates will not be as frequent as I had originally planned.

We have our mandatory riders meeting here at the hotel at 2pm, followed by dinner at 5:30. It is after the dinner that we anticipate getting the rally packs for leg 1 and for the route planning to begin. The bike is fueled, GPSs and laptop are in the hotel room ready to start plotting, and the anticipation begins to build.

Thursday, T-4 days

More riders showed up, but still probably half the field left to show up on Friday.

The parking garage had a buzz to it, with some riders heading off for final service appointments before the start, while others were doing their own service down in the garage. Some, like me, were working out last minute problems that had cropped up, with various degrees of invasiveness (if that’s even a word). For me, I pulled off my windscreen to tighten a GPS mount that had loosened on the way out, and to apply dielectric grease on exposed connections into the GPS units to try and seal out moisture in case that was the cause of my intermittent XM problem Wednesday. At least one other rider had his bike pretty well stripped down while tracing down an intercom issue. Another was figuring out how to plumb in his aux fuel tank.

For what is a grueling competition that’s about to start, everyone is incredibly friendly. When I mentioned that I needed to run to the store for dielectric, I had no less than 3 offers to use tubes other people had with them, while several others went checking their kits to see if they brought theirs. Others are offering help fighting the intercom gremlins, or doing last minute computer tune-ups on the routing software.

I got to talk with Davo for a pretty good bit a couple of times throughout the day. Davo has flown up to the US from Australia to participate in the IBR. Since the IBR isn’t hard enough apparently, Davo knocked out an IBA Coast-to-Coast Gold … riding from the Pacific coast in Portland OR to the Atlantic coast in Charleston, 2900 miles, in just under 47 hours. And he looked like he could do it again before the start if things got a little slow around Spartanburg. The kind of details one who seldom leaves North America would think of … Davo showed me the double white stripes he has taped to his windscreen, to remind him which side of the road to ride on. I’m more worried that suburban law enforcement isn’t going to recognize that Australian license plate on the back of his bike, but Davo says he was only stalked by a LEO once while his plate was run.

And then there’s my favorite “hopeless” rider, Alex. I met Alex in LA on the Pinks RTE last November. The RTE took place the day he got back stateside from his deployment in Afghanistan. Alex is riding a 1976 Suzuki RE-5 … one of two he bought while deployed overseas. At the very last minute, his “donor” bike became his primary ride, so he’s frantically working in the garage to get things set up. This bike is a constant reminder of how far motorcycle technology has progressed over 32 years. This bike is crazy hot. This bike provides almost no electrical power for accessories. This bike has terribly brakes in the rain. All that, Alex will demonstrate some real fortitude when he lands that bike at the finish in Spokane.

I didn’t get pictures from dinner, but a group of us fell in line between Terry and Lynda Lahman’s direction for a pretty good Shrimp and Grits dinner at a local jazz club. I’ve never been a fan of grits, but these were really pretty good. Throw some great creole sauce on top, along with a flash friend shrimp and a touch of sausage, it definitely hit the spot.

Looking forward to another “stree-free” day before the real fun starts. Will have more pictures on smugmug hopefully by the end of the day.

At The Start

Well, I arrived in Spartanburg just before 5pm local time.

The ride has shown me that I’m going to be hurting, at least getting started. My lack of any prep rides has got my tolerance down. Yesterday was just under 500 miles, today was just over. Getting off the bike for bonus stops will probably help me more than I had thought before.

It looked like there were about 12 bikes in the garage when I pulled in. Most were covered up, so I didn’t get any pictures yet. We’ll see if more people are out and about tomorrow.

Only two problems with the bike as I got my ride into Spartanburg knocked out. For some reason, my cell phone voice quality is terrible … I can hear fine, but my voice is coming out garbled. The frustrating thing is that this tested fine before I left. I’ll do some testing tomorrow to see if it’s a phone issue, a coverage issue, or something new that’s come up with the intercom. This issue came up before I hit any rain. The second problem came up when I stopped for gas after the first good strong rain. The 378 started complaining that it couldn’t communicate with the XM antenna, but a power reset fixed it temporarily. I’ll do more investigation on that tomorrow as well.

There’s nothing officially scheduled until Saturday morning at 9am, so I’ve got two days to work out these things, rest up, and hopefully meet some of the other riders. With the bikes parked down in the garage, I’ve at least got an easy place to work on things … and it’s not as hot as my garage at home.