Our story begins with tech inspection on Saturday. We were up bright and early to collect our paperwork and go through the rigours of ensuring both we and the Silver Streak were at least somewhat prepared for what the journey ahead might involve, even if we didn’t fully comprehend how crazy it was going to get.
First up at 7.50am was the odometer check – testing how accurate the bike/GPS distance calculations were against a pre-set course. This was my first test as a navigator: if I couldn’t get this right we really had no hope!! Thankfully, after looking at the paperwork a few times and reassuring myself it really was “first left, first left, first right onto the interstate, ride 14 miles, turn around, ride 14 miles, exit off the interstate, first right, first right” we managed to do it correctly the first time. Weirdly, the bike odo thought we’d gone 29.5 miles and GPS had 30 miles, which is a not insignificant difference (1.7%).
Anyway, that out of the way we proceeded to bike inspection where all went well – our helmets were up to spec, the auxiliary tank passed muster and the rest of the bike seemed to be sufficiently well kitted out to get us through.
Back inside we had our camera cards inspected and formatted, updated our emergency contact information, had our travel insurance signed off and confirmed our spot tracker was tracking. Then the scary part. Answering on video that we understood the potential consequences of participating in the rally. We signed our lives away and were done with check in, all before 11am.
We had almost a whole 24 hours before the mandatory rookie meeting at 10am on Sunday… We wandered over to the Walmart to pick up a few last minute supplies (there are always more last minute supplies) and then adjourned for a much needed rest. I was happy to just chill in our room for the afternoon and try to keep my anxiety under control before we adjourned to the local Hawaiian Japanese poke place for dinner with Dan Simmonds.
My bags were packed – I figured I’d done pretty well with my packing, filling only 1/2 a pannier allowing space for food purchases along the way and keeping unnecessary items to a minimum.
Sunday was ‘this shit is getting real’ day. We did an early morning run to the local gas station to get tyre pressures sorted and then a brief coffee at Starbucks, and then (because I wasn’t already sufficiently freaked out), we had the mandatory rookie meeting at 10am on Sunday where my notes read:
- Highs and lows are extreme
- Make the decision that gets you home safely
- Pay attention to signs of fatigue
- Take your helmet off when you go inside – makes you less intimidating
- Tip your guides
- Focus on the finish
We were officially checked in by Jeff and Mike Kneebone with the words “Welcome to the IBR” and then it was time for the rider meeting.
The rider meeting wasn’t too bad all things considered. There were updates to the official rules, mostly to take account of changes in technology and process. Rules were reiterated (such as routing assistance is not allowed except from Jeff, Lisa or Mike) and the inevitable, and usually painful, question about daylight bonuses was warded off with Jeff’s very clear and no nonsense explanation “it is daylight if distant items in the background are illuminated by natural light”.
There were a few other questions, some reasonable and some clearly driven by the same anxieties we were all feeling and which no doubt wouldn’t have been asked under different circumstances. The meeting finished with advisory information that Jeff expected finisher status would require riding a minimum of 8500 miles and the admonition: Don’t Be Stupid.
Back upstairs I showered and washed my hair and even blow-dried it since I figured it was the last time it was going to happen for 2 weeks… Then we fronted for rider photos and finally it was time for dinner. Both too soon and not soon enough the rider packets were handed out and the rider briefing started. This time my notes read:
- READING COMPREHENSION
- In alpha order
- WYMAN combo collect in any order, all combos must be claimed on bonus sheet
- Some bonuses require 2 photos or more than one thing
- Waypoints provided, not exact locations
- Photos should match
We checked our rally pack and were then ushered out of the room by Lisa (since with Kiwi on board we were only 1/2 rookie).
Back in our room, we did our thing coding up the bonuses, reading the rally book and working out a rough route. There were some attractive points values that were a long way away but we agreed a rough plan that had us staying close to Greenville on Day 1 then taking a middle route, heading north west into South Dakota, south to a few national parks and monuments, north again and finally south west to Washington. Happily, after about 3 hours we had a plan that got us roughly 19,000 points, more than the required 16,000 and seemed to be a ‘stretch goal’ but achievable.
Without too much drama I fell asleep.