It’s been a big week but we’re here at Rally HQ in Greenville, SC. As I write, the bulk of the batshit crazy participants signed up for IBR 2019 are somewhere in the local area, with a few of the (mostly big dogs) still on their way in.
The last leg of our ride into town yesterday went pretty smoothly, but did nothing to allay my concerns about relying on Garmin’s navigational algorithms. Some of you may recall that on day 3 of BLIX last year (the last day of leg 1), we “followed the Magenta Line” up something called the River Road. Somewhat similar to the Yellow Brick Road to Oz, this road had a few surprises in store for us and turned out to be less of a road and more of a fire trail/ goat track with boulders the size of tennis balls and some very steep climbs. I wasn’t that impressed to be honest.
I was keen to ride the Cherohala Skyway as it was supposed to be ridden (rather than the nearby goat trail) and we agreed we’d give it a go on our way south, even though it added 2 hours to our trip.
I’m pleased we did for lots of reasons! First, it took us off the Interstate system and it was lovely to ride through the smaller towns and see the sights of Tennessee and North Carolina. Second, despite a year of map updates Garmin again tried to send us down the River Road and when we passed on that one it tried to send us down ‘Turkey Creek Road’ (WTF?!?!). Finally, the Cherohala Skyway is a pretty awesome road to ride. It had great corners, beautiful scenery and I’m really pleased we made the effort to do it as it was meant to be done.
The morning was fairly cool and I was happy to keep my rain jacket on to keep the wind out (a very effective way to turn a summer jacket into an autumn one!) but it was also nice not to be riding in 100 degree + temperatures (40+ Celsius). Once done, we jumped back on I-40 and headed down into Greenville.
It was a fairly short day. We left London soon after 8am, arrived here about 4pm and had a couple of not insignificant stops off the bike, including a longer-than-expected detour to a Starbucks in Knoxville involving some less-than-desirable navigation on my part. Nevertheless I was tired. By the time we got off the bike I was vaguely teary and doubting my ability to do the IBR.
Thankfully, again, Kiwi was very understanding and reassuring and a wise friend reminded me to think about why I signed up for the IBR in the first place and to be sure I was doing it because I wanted to.
So why did I sign up? Why am I doing this after saying at the end of BLIX that I was done and never, ever coming back? It was because I knew I’d regret it if I had this opportunity and didn’t seize it with both hands. Not because I wanted to please anyone but myself but because I didn’t want to let myself down. Is that the best reason to do something like this? Maybe not, but it’s my reason.
Am I nervous? Yes. Is this going to be hard? In lots of ways. Will we give it our best shot? Damn skippy we will. No doubt there will be some not-so-pretty moments along the way, but we’ll get through them and have some pretty cool stories to tell.
So what about today? Well, after a decent sleep-in this morning (huzzah for 10 hours’ sleep!) we breakfasted with some familiar faces and then re-packed our bags. With some careful culling of clothing and non-rally-essential gear, I’m down to a medium-sized stuff-sack for my clothing and personal items and we have food and tools in the top box with space to spare for maps and paperwork.
We did some shopping at the local Walmart which included oil for the bike and a ‘fix a flat’ repair thingo, as well as a couple of singlet tops for me for sleeping in (I left my PJ top in the dryer in Eden Prairie) and some additional nutritional items (Clif bars for Kiwi and muesli bars for me, plus some nutrition supplement drinks and crackers and trail mix for snacking).
Finally, we made a few last-minute bike adjustments attaching the USB charging cable to sit behind the pillion seat so I can charge my phone and a helmet on the fly and set up the computers ready to go on Sunday night.
We also gasbagged with rally friends. I’m a bit trepidatious (is that a word?) about our nutrition on the go. It’s one of the things I’m responsible for but not having had a lot of time to check out what’s available in ‘gas stations’ and truck stops, I’m not 100% sure what we’ll be able to get at any given location. It’s very reassuring to get tips and tricks from other riders (and pillions) about how they handle these things and think about what might work for me. It’s also lovely to share the ‘oh holy hell, what was I thinking and how am I going to get through this’ thoughts with another rookie pillion! It’s always so reassuring to know you’re not the only one questioning your life choices!
So now it’s just about time for bed and this will be my last post before we ride off into the crazy that is IBR 2019. IBR is a social media free zone and I refuse to get us disqualified for doing something I shouldn’t.
Tomorrow is tech inspection, followed by mandatory meetings on Sunday and then we get our rally packs at dinner on Sunday night sometime after 5pm. Thank you all again for your well wishes. If you’d like to keep an eye on all things IBR while we’re in social media blackout, please head over to http://ibr.wvi.com/ for the daily reports (generally pretty entertaining) and some photos of the bikes in the parking lot! It will also have the public spot tracker page which can be entertaining to watch (or not).
A final note, our licence plate number ends in ‘OMG’. I kid you not. Doesn’t that just say it all :)?! See you on the flip side!