ButtLite IIII, 2006
The Waffle House Run
My ride sponsered in part by:
Vetesnik Power Sports, Richland Center, WI
Wisconsin's #1 Volume Honda Dealer
The ButtLite, as it is affectionately called, is a 7-Day endurance rally put on by Team Strange. This year it was led by Adam Wolkoff and Eddie James. It was obvious that a lot of work went into planning the rally and so I'll thank up front everyone that had a hand in planning and running the rally. You all deserve more thanks than we can give. A big thanks to the town or Niobrara, NE and the Two Rivers Saloon who welcomed as all and put up with all our food and beverage needs. Thanks to the Ford dealer also for the use of their fax machine to get forgotten insurance papers. I also can't forget to thank my sponser for this. Vetesnik Power Sports in Richland Center, WI is where I purchased my ST and they donated a set of tires to me for this ride. Thanks to everyone again for supporting me and the event.
The starting point of the rally was in Niobrara, NE which is a very small town in northeast Nebraska along the Lewis and Clark Trail. It is home to a state park that overlooks a very wide area of the Missouri river. The scenery is amazing and would make it easy to spend hours just looking at the vast area that the river covers below the park. Our main meal and riders meeting was held up in the state park which made for great scenery and pictures while we waited to meet our own demise.
Riders did the usual check in, odometer check, and were assigned their rooms as they rolled into town over Saturday, Sunday, and Monday. Monday afternoon we were treated to a great meal up at the state park. We were read all the rules in excruciating detail. Outside help was strictly prohibited meaning that you could not solicit help from anyone outside of the rally for anything other than to let people know where you were and that you were safe. The rally flags were handed out and we were all treated to a mug shot with our flag. Then the rally packs were handed out and we were free to head back to our rooms. The sheets in the rally packet said 1D. This was not good news as you could expect 1A, 1B, and 1C to be handed out in the morning. Planning was fairly quick and sweet. I had the privilege of rooming with John Frick from Cincinnati. John and I spent the evening with maps all over the room and laptops blazing. It was good to talk with John and bounce around ideas a little. Some final touches and we were both in bed by midnight. We would have 2 and a half days to get to Tombstone, AZ starting at 6:30am the next morning.
We were up before the sun and it was cold and ready to rain. We were able to grab some breakfast at the Two Rivers before the riders meeting. At the riders meeting we received 3 more packets and were told that once we collected a bonus from one of the four packets that we had to stick with that packet. Processing that amount of information was not for me. After looking over the packets I simply stuck with my plan from the night before and packed up to leave. It was now raining and cold.
I'm never very sure of my route but that only goes away with plenty of practice. The first bonus would cause me to sit and wait because I would arrive before Tim Collins would be there to stamp our rally sheets. I think that Team Strange used it as a way to know how many people were headed west. There were plenty of people at the bonus when it opened and I felt better about my route. Then it was a mad dash across Nebraska on Hwy 20 over to Scottsbluff where I would snag a picture of the tallest lighthouse in Nebraska for 265 points. I couldn't help but think there couldn't be a whole lot more lighthouses in the state so I'm not sure it's saying much that this one was the tallest. That was it for Nebraska and I would head out on the long hump to Gerlach, NV. If I had been smart I would have realized that Boise, ID was an extra two hours but 900+ points. I wouldn't figure that out until I talked with my friend John in Tombstone 2 days later who decided to add it to his route.
I made it to Gerlach early in the morning the next day with a van from Minnesota following me most of the way that I was convinced at the time was Team Strange. It was just a coincidence though as it was not the rally masters checking up on the riders. I made it into town just before a train cut off the route out of town. I took the opportunity to eat breakfast at Bruno's Supper Club and get my receipt for the 3,987 points. The bacon alone was worth the trip. It would be a hot day in the desert so I wanted to get going as soon as the train cleared the tracks. I saw Charlie Huber on the way out to Gerlach as I was headed back in. It was my first trip to the legendary Gerlach of LD fame so I was glad to take the 75 miles each way just to get there and see it. I stuck to the main road as the rubble filled alternatives were not my idea of fun.
The rest of the day was spent with 100+ degree heat along Death Valley and 110 through Las Vegas. The only way I could see to get to the Grand Canyon for the next bonus was over Hoover Dam which I knew would be packed with tourists this time of the day. The traffic, and on top of that construction, was insane but it was still most likely the fastest route. After crossing the dam the skies opened up and it poured. I watched lightning strikes hit the hilltops all around over and over again. It was enough to unnerve just about anyone. The rain continued and I made the trek to the Grand Canyon to snap a photo for 484 points before sunset. Now I was ahead of schedule and decided to visit a corner in Winslow, AZ for 555 points. There was a statue on the corner of a man with a guitar and a picture with him was what the bonus called for. Then it was off to Phoenix and find a place to sleep.
I was 2600 miles in to my route and tomorrow I would be headed to Tombstone. Hotels are getting worse at providing time stamps on their receipts so I had to use the gas station next door to get my sleep bonus started. 3 hours later I was up and headed for Gringo Pass in Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument on the US/Mexico Border. Getting there in the dark was interesting and the birds were dive bombing across the road in front of me that had several wash out areas. Luckily there wasn't any water in them but it looked like they did the day before. One bird didn't make it and jammed itself in my fairing. I didn't know until I got to Tombstone. It was gross and cleaning it out stunk. I should have left it there. I managed to get my picture in front of the post office for another 409 points at Gringo pass and then head back out. The border patrol were all over the place and I was buzzed by at least one helicopter during the ride towards Tucson. I saw a dead tree with about 6 vultures in it next to the road. That didn't make me feel any better about traveling in the desert alone. It looked like something right out of a Warner Brothers cartoon. The next bonus was a gravesite outside of tombstone for 233 points. It was easy to get to but there were more than a few people that had problems with the mud and sand to get there. I arrived almost 8 hours ahead of time which was way too early and told me that Boise should have been on my list of bonuses. I grabbed some sleep and waited for the riders meeting to start the next leg. At least I would be well rested.
My extra sleep would come in handy as I realized after the riders meeting that I would need to make a 48 hour run to Atlanta with no more than 3 hours to sleep the entire way. We would have roughly 2 and half days to get to Atlanta. There were big points in Phoenix but you would have to wait until morning to get them and I was ready to move. I was going to bonus hunt during the night and get to Phoenix in the morning but 5 miles into my route I looked at it again and did an about face towards Texas. There were big points for pistachios in Alamogordo, NM and I would get there before they opened for a little more planning and some sleep. Plus getting across the desert in the middle of the night would be a nice way to beat the heat. As I rolled in and settled down for some sleep I think I scared the cleaning woman and I was certain I could expect a police squad in about 10 minutes. Luckily nothing of the sort happened and I found a picnic table under the awning to sleep on and then plan more of my route after waking up an hour later. I was starting to wonder why I hadn't seen anyone else yet. Had I made a mistake by running east too quickly?
My route was planned and riders were pouring in to the pistachio shop. A quick bag of pistachios for Adam and Eddie bagged me 1344 points. I heard Adam really likes ribs so I made quick pace for Llano, TX and a food purchase at Coopers BBQ. I made a 2500 mile weekend trip to there from Wisconsin just to have their ribs. It was worth the trip. I-20 has a major stretch that is 80 MPH. I liked that a lot and I was there quickly and not another rider in sight. I grabbed some jerky for Adam who greatly appreciated it when I gave it to him in Atlanta. The day was half done and I needed to get to Jasper, TX and then figure out the rest of my route. Getting around Houston was a nightmare but I was eventually headed to Jasper. Jasper is near Angelina National Forest and I'm sure is a great place to visit in the day time but a one lane twisty back road to a small church was anything but great. I got my photo by the church and almost left my flag there. The place just gave me the creeps. That was a close call as losing my flag would mean I could not collect anymore photo bonuses for the rest of the rally. After collecting my photo and my flag I set up shop at a Sonic drive-in. My maps, laptop, and pile of stuff attracted a little attention from the wait staff and they asked what I was up to. I didn't want to give a lot of details as I wanted to plan but I gave them the website address and they decided to go check it out. They were very friendly but I just didn't have much time to talk. I planned the rest of my route to Atlanta packed up and headed east into Louisiana on a state highway that was slow going and I had to get all the way to Mississippi on it. It took forever.
Once into Mississippi I picked up 375 points in Natchez for a picture of a small shop shaped like Aunt Jemima. Then I would have to get over to Hot Coffee, MS, population 2, for a little sleep before they opened. I arrived an hour before they opened and got some sleep on the bike as I was dripping with sweat. The couple that runs the store in Hot Coffee are great and I chatted with them for a while before I collected my receipt. They offered me a ButtLiteII coffee mug for free but I kindly asked that they let me pay for it so that I could collect a receipt for it. There were only a couple of those mugs left and they had been there since 2000. I'm sure it would make for a great conversation piece at the scoring table in Atlanta. After leaving Mississippi I headed into Alabama and picked up 566 points for an item at the Rosa Parks Museum. Rosa Parks passed away in 2005. It was time after that to get happy and snag a picture in front of the post office in Gay, MS for 355 points. That would mean a well deserved rest before the checkpoint opened in the morning where we could collect one last bonus by buying a shirt from the BMW of Atlanta dealership that was nice enough to host the second checkpoint for us.
It was a slow ride into Atlanta but I managed to get there and check into the Days Inn. I set up for planning in the morning and then headed out to get some food and a receipt to start my sleep bonus. Thinking the hotel would not have a good receipt in the morning I spent 3 hours just relaxing and collecting my things then went back to McDonalds for the end of my sleep bonus receipt and finally went to bed. By riding all night I was in Atlanta too early but I needed the sleep. That just means I would be well rested when the checkpoint opened in the morning. I would find out that I had jumped up to tenth place at the end of the second leg which made me feel like I was at least doing something right.
In the morning I headed to the dealership and tried to sleep a little more after being scored. They had lots to eat and plenty of air mattresses to sleep on. THANK YOU BOB!!! Bob Wooldridge owns BMW of Atlanta and placed 23rd in the 2005 Ironbutt Rally. When I handed over the ButtLiteII mug during my scoring for the Hot Coffee, MS bonus Eddie got a big kick out of it and let me keep it. Adam was grateful for the beef jerky from Cooper's also. It was cold and cloudy that morning and threatening to rain again as were the other two leg starts. The rally packs were handed out for the final leg and I left to go back to my room to start planning. I spent probably too much time analyzing the rally packet but I kept trying to work out the timing of some time restricted bonuses. After getting through the packet one of the last bonuses was to get a receipt from any Waffle House. Maybe it was me being tired or being nervous but I misread this bonus to mean that you could collect a receipt from multiple Waffle Houses for multiple points. This would be my downfall of the last leg for me. I still planned to pick up bonuses along the way but the majority of my day would be spent collecting receipts.
I quickly devised a plan and collected a pamphlet from a Waffle House that had every exit where there was a Waffle House in all the states. I-285 around Atlanta had plenty of them so I set out collecting receipts from all of those. I collected close to 30 before I headed to a bonus outside of Atlanta that needed to be taken before sunset. I made it out to the rock carving and got my picture for 361 points. I then needed to head north to Caesers Head State Park on the South Carolina and North Carolina border. This of course is basically on top of a rather large hill. It was oh-dark-thirty when I arrived there and a police officer I spoke with did not recall seeing a sign up there like I had described. He also recommended I watch for deer. That was a big concern for me so I took it slow. The road twisted through a tree covered canopy for miles up to the top of the mountain. It was dark and I could not find the sign. I started back down the hill upset that I couldn't find it. I went back up to look again and still didn't find it. Back down the hill I went and just before I left I took some pictures to prove where I had been but it was eating at me. It had to be there. I knew it was on the border of the two states so I decided to keep riding down the other side of the mountain until I saw I sign that said North Carolina on it. I road back up to the top and then kept going over the other side of the mountain. The sign was a few miles past the top of the mountain. The bonus was in the bag and I could ride back down knowing the points were secured with my picture. I rolled on to Asheville, NC and went to bed at a hotel. I would have to get to a gas station to get good receipts for my sleep bonus again. I planned to have this be my last sleep bonus anyway so no more worrying about hotel receipts as I planned to ride through the last night on the road.
In the morning I made pace up the Blue Ridge Parkway to the highest point on the parkway. I thought this was going to be an issue because the Parkway is slow and crowded. However by luck I was up there early on a Monday morning and there was zero traffic. Running the parkway by yourself is great. I was up and back down in great time and headed for Nashville. In Nashville I pulled in for a food receipt at a well known BBQ place but the name escapes me now. I bumped into Jim and Donna Phillips there and had a chance to visit for a little bit. I asked Jim where they were headed next and he just looked at me and said he had no idea then pointed at Donna who was feverishly pouring over the paperwork figuring it out. Jim said all he does is drive. Donna does all the planning and she was obviously pretty proficient at it. We both were ready to head out at that point. I would continue to pick up Waffle House receipts across Tennessee the rest of the day as I made my way to pick up another 233 points for the #1 mile marker in Scale, KY and then on to Metropolis, IL to snag a picture with Superman for another 280.
I would need then to head up and east of St. Louis to Reno, IL. I just needed a picture of the sign to the church in Reno. I'm sure there was a reason for this bonus since it was worth a lot of points but I'm not sure what it was. Not far away was the Chain of Rocks bridge. This bridge has a lot of history and spans the Mississippi river. It is a very long bridge and the bonus was to walk out to a historical marker in the middle of the bridge to take a picture of it with your rally flag. I wasn't looking forward to the walk but it had to be done. When I arrived at the bridge there was a huge gate blocking access to the bridge. As it would turn out the bridge was now closed at night but the rally masters did not know this. As the rules typically go you should take a picture of the blocked access with your rally flag proving that the bonus was not accessible and you were there to collect the bonus. That was a big break for me because it probably saved me 20 to 30 minutes of walking. It was now time to get through St. Louis and make it over to Speed, MO to get a picture of the city limit sign for 438 points. I talked with a friend for a while on the phone to pass the time. It also helped me stay awake.
After leaving Speed it was a long ride up I-29 towards Niobrara and it took forever. I stopped a couple times for a little sleep but I needed to keep moving to make it back on time. There were a few bonus stops in Nebraska to grab on the way to the finish and that is where I started to see more riders. I had collected 47 Waffle House receipts at that point but they would turn out to be worthless so I only turned in the one for the points. If they had been good it would have been over 19000 points but as it turned out it was just good for a story that will live on for quite a while I'm sure. Back in Niobrara we could collect one more bonus before checking in by getting a picture with Lurleen who would turn out to be Eddie's new romantic interest who had created the internet nickname Lurleen to taunt riders, and Eddie, on the Team Strange website. The last bonus was done and it was time to tally the points. Rebecca Vaughn had requested that she get the opportunity to score me since she knew about my ride. So the running joke was that I scored with Rebecca Vaughn at the ButtLite. We both had a good laugh over it. When the smoke settled Alex Schmidt would take the whole rally by storm. John Coons took third, Jim and Donna Phillips did it two up for fourth, Mike Evans captured 7th, my roomie John Frick took 8th, and Ron and Carrie Hanson tied for 10th. I traveled 7,197 miles over the 7 days and placed 17th overall. My Waffle House tour would cost me a minimum of 7 places in the final results but overall I was still pleased about not losing more places. My routes were good in the other legs but not perfect.
Overall there were a lot of things I did right and a few critical things I did wrong. There were a lot of great stories being told over dinner that night and it was great to listen to how everyone else's rally went. The Waffle House story will probably live on for quite a while. I know Eddie will be telling that one at the bar for a few years at least. Adam and Eddie really put on a great rally and they had some great help. Thanks again to everyone that helped with the rally. Hopefully I'll get another chance to screw it up again real soon.
So let me get this straight. You can only turn in one receipt?
I ran out of jerky but the good news is I have a whole pack of polaroids left.
For me I learned a lot and I had a great set of friends that provided a lot of moral support on this trip. You know who you are and I really, really, really appreciated it. Bless you all.