IBR 2019 – Leg 2a – Kennewick WA return via British Columbia

Did I share already how much I detest early mornings? Friday morning’s rider meeting commenced at 4am, which meant being up and at ’em at 3.30. Ugh. Thankfully there was also breakfast and coffee involved which made the start at least bearable.

Down in the lobby with the other riders, Jeff gave us the top 10 standings to date and then informed us that “returning to Kennewick is optional”. There would be no formal checkpoint at Kennewick on Sunday night, instead Kennewick would be an optional bonus requiring check in and check out with staff. Importantly, if we chose not to return to Kennewick, we would either have to collect a bonus located above the 60th parallel (60 degrees N) or claim both the CAPED group bonus and the ROSIE bonus on the Gaspé peninsular.

Importantly, he also said that MCKEN would be worth 0 points since the road was not yet cleared and that there would be no leeway given for attempting bonuses above the 60th parallel that turned out to be unavailable due to road conditions or other blockages. The usual rules for ‘take a photo of the road closed sign’ would not apply and no points would be given. Finally, finisher status required a minimum of 80,000 points.

With our rally packets collected we headed back to the room, but not before Kiwi checked out where we sat in the standings. Convinced we would be 100th (or somewhere close) I was amazed when he informed me that even with our measly 13,000 points, we were in 77th place! Somewhat reassured that others were clearly struggling as much or more than we were, we got back into our route planning routine.

We agreed within 10 minutes that we would definitely be coming back to Kennewick. With more than 23,000 points on offer, there was really no way we could outride that bonus. We were going to need the 8 hours rest in any case and I didn’t fancy trying to do the distances required for either the Alaska bonuses or for the Gaspé peninsular. So what would we do for the next 3 days?

After coding, this is what the bonuses looked like for the rest of the rally:

Pink is Kennewick, Green is high points, yellow medium and blue low

But we had to focus on things closer to home…

The highest value points within our reach were in Canada. We could head north and scoop up four bonuses, plus the Kennewick bonus, for a total of just over 36,000 points. Add to that our second call-in, rest and tracking bonuses, and points scored to date, and we’d be at almost 58,000 points, leaving us with 22,000 points needed on what we were still calling Leg 3 in order to be finishers. It seemed achievable.

Alternatively, we could go to California, but we’d have to collect at least twice the number of bonuses and travel more distance to get the same points. The only thing was whether or not it was actually possible to do the Canada bonuses in the time available? We’d have to catch at least 4 ferries and both high point bonuses were daylight only.

In case it hasn’t been clear to date, I have an anxiety disorder. It’s usually pretty well managed with exercise and medication, but things like the IBR are not ‘usual’ for me and while I had my medication, getting exercise on the bike during a rally is tough. My Garmin watch which monitors my heart rate had already told me that I’d done 4 times my ‘activity minutes’ goal for the week (150 minutes) even though the most activity I’d had since Monday was walking to and from the bike to a gas station attendant. My heart rate had been spiking all week for no reason other than we were doing this crazy thing on a motorcycle.

Getting up before 4am and being given a problem to solve in the shortest time possible is pretty high on the list of things guaranteed to make me anxious and adding 4 ferry timetables into the mix was making it worse. If I got one of the ferry times wrong and we missed getting back to Kennewick in time that was the end of our rally. We would DNF. So I checked, double checked and checked again. I made Kiwi sit next to me while I wrote out the timetables and put the arrival and departure times from the ferry terminals into inRoute and it seemed to be possible. Nothing more to do but suck it and see…

With that, we packed up the bike and left the hotel about 7.30am. The only thing left to work out was whether or not we should go clockwise or anti-clockwise. Either way we’d head north to Vancouver first so I could run the alternatives on the back of the bike as we rode. It was nice to be moving again, although climbing up the steep passes towards Seattle the temperature plummeted to below 50 degrees and I was looking forward to things warming up a bit!

In Seattle we stopped for a coffee at, you guessed it, Starbucks. It seemed like the right thing to do when we knew we’d have 2 hours up our sleeves before our first ferry and when we were in the home of Starbucks. It was nice to get some food in and after only 20 minutes off the bike we were pointed north again.

Crossing the border into Canada was fairly straightforward (though the border control officer did ask a few questions about why we didn’t have US entry stamps in our passports) and the traffic in Vancouver was hefty, even early afternoon on a Friday.

Welcome to Canada…
… and Vancouver traffic!

First stop was LYNN in Vancouver. It was 681 points so not big stuff, but a no-brainer given we’d be going past anyway. Once again, the waypoint was a few miles from the bonus and when we got there we had to fight the crowds of college students also trying to cross the suspension bridge, but we found the bench we needed with the right plaque, took our photo and got back on the bike.

Crossing the suspension bridge

Next up was our first ferry. I can no longer remember the timetable, but I think we might just have made the ‘early’ one if we’d not taken a wrong turn getting to the ferry terminal. But as it was, the ferry we wanted would be about 45 minutes away so we purchased our ticket, took a moment by the bike and I relaxed a little thinking things were starting to go to plan. We had a decent amount of time on the ferry itself (I think a little less than an hour) and Kiwi spent it checking the spot page regularly – it looked like a rider had just missed the ferry and was waiting for the next one behind us.

Then as we disembarked the ferry, Kiwi looked down at the spot and it wasn’t flashing! We’d only put new batteries in that morning and they were batteries we’d only just purchased before the rally. We still had our ‘Leg 3’ batteries and a spare set with us, so we pulled over in the next rest area to change them. So now I had something new and different to stress about! Winning! Thankfully it had only been about 30 minutes since our last spot and within 15 minutes we were back updating to the webpage again but we changed the location of the spot to somewhere I could see it and where it was closer to the sky so that hopefully our next set of batteries would last a bit longer.

Our next bonus was SKOOK – a hike to Skookumchuck narrows – which we’d allowed 2 hours for and which was a daylight only bonus worth roughly 5,700 points. With the extended twilights so far north, we knew we had plenty of time, even though we wouldn’t get to the trailhead until about 6pm.

The hike was awesome and just what I needed! Even in my motorcycling boots and pants (the only alternative was my thongs since the bike did not have space for walking boots) getting some exercise and fresh air and not just sitting and thinking was sooooooo good! We think it was roughly 8kms and we covered the distance in about 1 hour 40 minutes. To boot, we saw some of the fastest tidal rapids in the world close to sunset.

Skookumchuck rapids

Back at the bike and feeling much better about the world, we headed10 minutes up the road to our next ferry. We had another little while to wait and it was great to run into Merril Campbell who we’d passed on our hike and just shoot the breeze for a while. We were heading the same way and would probably hit the same bonuses for the next day or so… We were going to grab the ferry from Earls Cove to Saltery Bay, then ride to Powell River and stay there for the night to be on the first ferry in the morning over to Little River.

It was a cruisy evening and although the hotel accommodation left a little to be desired, it was cheap and it was great to watch the twilight fade over British Columbia. Last task for the day was to do our next call in bonus. It was scheduled for midnight to midday on Saturday, Eastern Daylight Time and since we were in Pacific Daylight time, the window technically went from 8pm Friday to 8am Saturday. At 11pm, after a 3.30am start, I called into the answering service to leave our bonus message… followed by the words ‘OK, I’m tired now’. Sleep came quickly.

I’d already booked our 8.05am crossing from Powell River to Little River on Saturday morning, but that didn’t stop Kiwi bounding out of bed before dawn. There was a Starbucks in town and that meant coffee and breakfast so we were out of the hotel at about 6.30am and off to find sustenance. At least I’d had some sleep!

The locals were really friendly in town – both a couple at the Starbucks who were interested in the bike and what we were doing and enthusiastically waved us off as we headed to the ferry, and a few people down at the ferry terminal (where we bumped into Merril again as well as Mark Beaulac). I also scored a T-shirt from the local radio station (95.7 Coast FM) courtesy of a lovely lady who moved to BC from Winnipeg and who had a great chat with us. It totally made my day to chat to “normal” people and I was determined to find space in my pannier for the t-shirt!

On the ferry we did more route planning for our final section post-Kennewick – we had to work out whether to try one of the river combos (either Missouri or Mississippi or both) or continue with our current strategy of just trying to get a few big point bonuses. All too soon it was time to get back on the bike for the ride up to Port Hardy, another daylight-only bonus and as we rode off the ferry we waved greetings at Jeff Gebler, a fellow Aussie who was doing a reverse loop of the islands!

Saturday wasn’t particularly eventful from my perspective. The weather was cool and mostly overcast but not wet and things went to plan. We rode up to Port Hardy and took a photo of a carrot and then backtracked for a fun ride to Gold River and a wooden boot. We passed, were passed by or bumped into Merril and Mark a few more times along the way but the scenery was enjoyable and there wasn’t too much for me to do on the back of the bike so there were a few times I dozed off.

Kiwi at BOOT

At one point during the morning while we were charging the helmets Kiwi was apparently waving a banana at me trying to get me to peel it for him – after what was apparently a valiant effort on his part to draw the fruit to my attention, he figured I must have been asleep and he made the best of trying to peel it himself while also riding which was only partly successful… When I woke up he finally got some nourishment. Sorry honey!

The other notable event was watching a black bear trying to cross the road on our way to Victoria. It was a welcome distraction in a fairly unexciting journey of about 600kms from BOOT to our digs at Victoria.

When I’d booked our Sunday morning ferry crossing from Victoria to Port Angeles late on Friday afternoon, I’d also started checking out accommodation options in Victoria. It wasn’t pretty. I’d been trying to keep our nightly expenditure below $100 US since mostly we weren’t going to be there for very long, but there was nothing remotely close to that available in Victoria unless we were prepared to stay in a shared dorm. Kiwi said he was happy to spring this one and we should stay somewhere nice for our rest bonus so about $400 A later, we had a room at the Marriott which was close to the ferry terminal and we figured would be comfortable for some serious sleep.

Unfortunately it didn’t all go to plan, and being the end of the day it was hard to stay calm and patient. We arrived at the hotel without a hitch, agreeing that I would check us in while Kiwi got a start receipt from the hotel ATM. But the hotel ATM didn’t have a sensible location description on it (instead it was ‘terminal 4839745’ or something similar) and there was a lady in front of me at the check in desk who didn’t seem to care at all how long the line was behind her, she wanted what she wanted and would take her sweet time getting it!

I could feel Kiwi getting more and more frustrated beside me as we waited to see if the receipt from the hotel would have a time and location on it. Finally, 15 minutes later, it was our turn, but the girl at the desk, while doing her absolute best to be helpful, couldn’t give us the receipt we needed. So now I had a fuming Kiwi and no start receipt. We unloaded the bike onto the luggage trolley and Kiwi went to park the bike. As I went to the lift (elevator) with our luggage I saw the bar and figured I could get a drink and a credit card receipt from there… so after I dumped our stuff in the room I raced back downstairs. Happily, the bar staff were prepared to serve a disheveled and smelly customer a ginger ale to take back to her room (and get the hell out of the nice, fancy bar!) and I sent a text to Kiwi to tell him not to roam the streets for a receipt.

Back in our room I showered while Kiwi took some time to recover from his frustration and ordered room service. I. While we waited we did some more route planning, testing what combination of bonuses might be possible and what points that would give us. It looked like the Mississippi combo bonus would be the way to go but it involved a heck of a lot of riding and zero room for error. The alternative was the Missouri River combo with a few extras but I was unenthusiastic about it; we’d already ridden those areas many times on various trips and there are only so many corn fields I can get excited about. On top of that, it was all or nothing: if we missed any one of the bonuses for any reason we’d lose the combo points and DNF. We called it a night when the food arrived and agreed to revisit on the ferry in the morning. It was I think close to $75 for dinner but it was sooooo worth it – we had a sandwich each, Kiwi had a side of soup and I had a side of salad and it was great to have fresh food inside us again. Then sleep! Luxury!

Saturday night’s draft route…

Sunday. Day of rest? Fat chance. Not on the IBR! The ferry from Victoria left at 6.10am, which meant we needed to be at the terminal at around 5am to clear US customs and immigration before we boarded the boat. So once again it was an early morning. Happily the receipt for the ferry ticket served as our finish receipt just down the road but it was still pre-dawn when we once again packed the bike and ponied up. Despite the drama of our start receipt, we got almost the full 8 hours of rest bonus points so we were doing well.

Tickets in hand, I walked from the ticket booth to the loading area while Kiwi rode the bike and who should we meet but Queenslander Ian McPhee route planning on his laptop alongside Wendy Crockett astride her FJR playing with her GPS doing the same. They’d ridden the route that had taken us 36 hours in less than 24 and were both looking a little the worse for wear. Wendy was philosophical in her prediction that there was a nap in her future! Merril turned up a few minutes later and we all ran the gauntlet of the immigration officials who were relaxed about the US citizens but somewhat dubious about the coincidence of two Aussies on motorcycles who knew each other but weren’t travelling together having Minnesota-plated bikes… Thankfully our answers seemed to be sufficient to placate the powers that be and we were allowed to board.

Wendy napping while the boys chat
Ready to roll

It’s hard to see other riders and not talk about ride plans and so it was on the ferry. While the others all seemed to be heading for the photo bonus at Cape Disappointment, we were going to play it safe and head to WINDY – the viewpoint for Mt St Helens. We probably could have made the photo bonus, but after our experience with the last one, I was inclined to think of them as ‘sucker’ bonuses – tempting to riders but not worth it in the long run. WINDY was worth fewer points (by about 300), but we figured it wasn’t worth the risk for us.

Once on the boat, we pulled out the route planning again. I was still unexcited about the Missouri combo and we started looking at what the options might be if we headed south quickly, scooped up a few high value bonuses around the UT, AZ and CO national parks and then spent day 11 just ‘hauling ass’ across the country. There were 6 2,000+ points value bonuses on offer which would more than make up the points available on the Missouri combo, plus we’d get to go see beautiful places we loved and which held happy memories from previous holidays. As an added bonus, we’d never ridden the national parks, only visited in hire cars!

Leg 2b, as at Sunday morning

We had a plan. We’d continue to weigh it up as we rode during the day and potentially finesse once we arrived in Kennewick, but I think we both liked the idea more than any of the others we’d considered to date. The route would get us enough points to be finishers, with about 6,000 points to spare in case we had to drop something along the way or something else went wrong, we would be riding through beautiful scenery and it wasn’t an ‘all or nothing’ option. It was 90 minutes well spent, and we couldn’t have been riding anyway.

Off the ferry, we farewelled the other riders and headed for windy ridge, where the roads were dicey and the ridge certainly lived up to its name, but the scenery was lovely and we were earning more points. I wasn’t at all keen on the very large bumps caused by road subsidence or the random patches of gravel often positioned on corners. The vehicles who felt lane markings were purely advisory if they wanted to use both sides of the road were also less than desirable, but the views were lovely and we made it there and back without incident.

Then it was just pounding through the miles back to Kennewick, where we checked in ‘early’ at about 5.30pm, threw on a load of laundry and grabbed some food. Finally, we confirmed our plans for the second part of Leg 2 and agreed we’d aim for ZION the next day. We got a full 8 hours of sleep and set the alarm for 3.30am, ready to get moving again at 4 or soon afterwards when we could officially ‘check out’ of the Kennewick bonus.

Leg 2b, as at Sunday night

Where we figured we were after Legs 1 and 2a and the points we still needed

In hindsight, as stressful as planning the ferry crossings was, we made the best decision we could have for us. We got a decent amount of points for relatively few miles ridden, we had good rest off the bike each night and we were able to use the ferry rides to plan or otherwise relax and recharge. It was the closest I got to feeling like we were ‘off the clock’ all rally. We both loved BC and the hike to SKOOK gave me enough exercise to keep me at least marginally sane. There were no tears during the three days and I was counting that as a win. Maybe, just maybe, I could get through the last 4.5 days?!


For Kiwi’s version of Leg 2a, please visit https://forum.ironbutt.org/index.php?threads/ibr-2019-ride-report_part-2a-leg-2-island-hopping-in-british-columbia.3221/#post-44482

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