Keeping Score at the Butt Lite 5000

by Sev Pearman

Its one thing to put yourself in a compromising position. It’s quite another when your decisions affect others. I tried to remind myself this as I pushed my riding buddy Paul. He’d agreed to accompany me to Marietta, Georgia, where I was to man the second checkpoint on the Butt-Lite 5000.onroad30

The BL5K is an Iron Butt-style event; a scavenger hunt with a twist. Different locations are assigned various point values. The object is to collect the most points. The twist is that items in this event could literally be found coast-to-coast–simple bonuses like riding to Eastern Maine, or driving the north side of the Great Lakes. Riders started in St. Paul, rode to Denver, traveled to Marietta, Georgia, checked in at Competition Accessories in Ohio, then returned to St. Paul, in five days. Most riders would travel 5000 miles. This ain’t no Sunday poker run.

My job was to coordinate the Georgia checkpoint. Co-Rallymasters Eddie James and Adam Wolkoff, sponsors of last years Minnesota 1000, were explicit in their instructions. “Once this thing starts, it cannot stop.” This meant I had to have food, beverages and most important, the top-secret sealed bonus lists for the next leg, ready to go for fifty riders. No matter what. Whether or not Eddie & Adam arrived in time.

This brings us back to Paul. Due to the inevitable scheduling crunch, we had only two-ish days to haul the 1,100 or so miles to Marietta. Now some of you are thinking, “That’s only two 500-mile days &emdash; Piece of cake!” But I was playing it cautious, as this was our first extended trip together. Paul owns a monster ZX-11. A decent bike indeed, but equipped with the stock seat it’s no Gold Wing.

Riding with any partner is an endless series of compromises. One drives at the limit, the other 10 mph over. One stops every tankful only to…uh…de-caffeinate and refuel, while the other eats a full meal, tops up the oil, checks the air, greases the swingarm bearings,…you know who you are. With the constant give-and-take, your road trip can begin to feel like a marriage.

I mainly ride solo, and have conditioned myself to go 150 miles+ before I get sleepy cheeks. Longer intervals, a brisk but stealthy pace, fewer & shorter stops; this is my recipe for big-mile days without big hours on the road. After two legs, Paul told me that he could only stand his alleged seat for 90 miles at a stretch. Normally I wouldn’t care, but the extra breaks added to our days, shortening our time off the bikes. I found myself having to push Paul’s envelope if I wanted to arrive in Marietta in time to prepare.

Do I jeopardize our safety, or arrive late at the checkpoint? With Scowling Eddie’s mug in my mind’s eye, Paul and I compromised (there’s that word again) that if he felt too tired, he’d stop. I could then forge ahead, and he’d rejoin me in Marietta.

Fortunately, the Moto-Gods kept us together. We piled on 1,100 rain-free miles, and entered Northern Georgia. Our sole adrenaline-raising moment occurred when a KZ1000-mounted Sheriff gave us the hairy eyeball. We were within 20 miles of Marietta, and had it wicked up to…”Holy Smoke–that’s a cop!” He simply smiled, and gave us his best Ponch off-the-helmet salute. 55 mph never seemed so slow. If you are ticket-impaired, get yourself a big Dual Sport. Our Boys in Blue (almost) always ignore my BMW, and instead focus their attention on our sporty-bike buddies. Paul still shudders to think what would have happened if he were alone on his Ninja.

We spent the next day-and-a-half preparing for the rally. After ordering tables, coolers and other support equipment, we bought food, ice and half a van load of Gatorade bottles. I completely underestimated how much work was required, and we worked right up until showtime, Thursday morning. All I know is that at the next event I attend, the volunteers will be thanked.

Paul spent the morning cordoning off the parking lot, so that the 50 riders would have an obvious spot for their cycles. Eddie spent a few minutes grilling me on their specific scoring system, while Adam booted up his laptop, to instantly post results to their event website (teamstrange.com).

Riders could check in before 10:00 am, but were absolutely time-barred if not in by Noon. Their first order of business was to ride to the scoring table and announce their rider number. They would then self-score their bonus list, and bring it to me. I would cross-check their totals, as well as scrutinize their claimed points. To prevent cheating, many checkpoints required a Polaroid photo of the bonus and their rally towel.

“I see you are claiming the Marietta Big Chicken bonus. Could I see your bonus sheet and photo please?”

Rider X, smiling smugly. “Here ya’ go.”

After poring over the data, I calmly ask, “Do you have a Polaroid that includes your rally towel ?”

It was almost sad to see his face fall that quickly, realizing that he had just smoked a couple hundred points. Time and again, I would find sloppy errors in a rider’s sheet.

“About the Sister Cabrini Shrine, do you have…”

“Dream on buddy,” she interrupted, “I climbed the 350 freaking stairs, and wrote down the info!”

Beginning to feel like a third-world customs agent I replied, “Yes that all looks good, but do you have the answer to the second question?”

“What second question?!?” Near the bottom of the instructions, the rally packet specifically demanded that you also record to whom the shrine was dedicated. Without that info, you’d score a big fat nothing. I couldn’t decide if she wanted to throttle me, herself for being so careless, or the rally masters for being so sadistic. A good third of the riders missed the bonus for this reason.

Paul continued to monitor the parking lot and record tales of woe. Highlights included the guy (anonymity provided to protect the embarrassed) who came in minus his left foot peg–and mount. Try riding 800 miles on the left passenger peg, fumbling with the lever at every shift. Or the guy riding a certain 6-cylinder Honda with loud tappets who requested an oil change. Imagine the horror of seeing less than one cup of a tar-like substance come out of your crankcase, after having flogged your bike hard the past two days.

Reinforcements arrived from Dekalb Tech. Lead Instructor Mike Sachs and six volunteers showed up as promised, and descended like locusts on bikes needing TLC. Some riders did major services, others simply checked the oil level and topped their tanks.

After the checkpoint officially closed, Adam tabulated results, while Eddie explained the next leg of the event. Questions were answered, and then the holy route sheets were issued. A few riders took off almost immediately, while most spread out their maps and tried to quickly estimate the most lucrative route to Ohio. Its another factor in events like this. The more time you spend planning, the more thorough your route is; but you sacrifice precious time to actually ride your route.

The final rally results are revealing. Scoring is always tight, which makes bone-head moves that much more painful. Didn’t record your odometer reading at one bonus? Sorry, those 429 lost points now drop you a place.

The bikes are equally diverse. As well as the expected BMWs and Gold Wings, people ran Concours and Honda ST 1100s. Other entries included a few Harleys, the soon to be baked CBX, and local hero Howard Steuber on the lone Ducati. Also batting for the home team were Peter Dean on his trusty KLR 650, and Road Glide mounted Rick Oswald. There were no fewer than three Connies in the top ten. So much for the reports that they are outdated buzz bombs.

The No Whining award must go to Mark Kiecker who rode 5196 miles on a completely stock Seca II 650. Mark attempted the Great Lakes route, and unknown to him, was on target to a probable first place finish, when he noticed his flapping tank bag. Seems he forgot to zip it shut at his previous gas stop, and now found himself on the back side of nowhere, with no fuel log. Rather than calling it quits, with absolutely no chance of scoring, he pressed on, eventually placing 30th. All of this on an unfaired Seca, without luggage, heated grips or a fuel cell. What’s your excuse? You can expect to see him next time, sporting some type of bionic alarmed tank bag.

As the last rider departed, Paul and I had a final conference with Adam and Eddie, thanked the Zen Moto staff, and began to clean up. We returned all of our equipment, ate dinner, and headed north on the second leg of our trip, to Vintage Motorcycle Days, in Ohio. I was happy to cover the checkpoint. I learned what an unbelievable amount of work goes into any motorcycle event. I’m already scheming about next summer’s Minnesota 2000.

One final thought. If you’ve never ridden near the Blue Ridge Mountains, then git’ on down, for it is indeed the promised land. If you get off of the Interslab and get out of town, every road is a twisty, swoopy hoot. The closest thing to it found here would be the North Shore, and certain “alphabet roads” behind the Cheddar Curtain. Just be on the lookout for KZ1000 mounties, and two guys with Minnesota plates.

M.M.M.

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