Ride Report from Martin Little, Rider #17:
My expectations about what sort of riding and rallying I thought I would encounter on Buttlite VIII were shaped from my experiences on Buttlite VII, well I couldn’t have been more wrong. I expected lots of Interstate riding blah blah blah, instead I did more canyon carving, gravel surfing and Fire Trail/Country Road riding bonus hunting than I would do in a typical LD ride Down Under. How good were these Rally Masters? Simply awesome that’s how!
The scene was set on Day 1 of Leg 1, heading north from Denver I breezed up to Nebraska to pick up the SUMMIT bonus, with the awesome corners on the climb up and down! Once this was in the bag I headed west to collect FEATHER in Wyoming. When my # 2 GPS brought up a shortcut on “Ranch Road” I thought why not? 30 miles of gravel surfing later and with this Bonus in the bag my smile couldn’t have been bigger. Back on sealed roads, I headed north to North Dakota to pick up MARMTH arriving at the same time as Giel on his Harley. A quick chat and we went our separate ways (actually Giel was far more efficient in his turnaround time and left before me. Mental note to myself must be quicker on these Bonus Points)
Next up was JERSEY in Ingomar, Montana. Arrived there to find a small group of Buttlite riders departing. Collected the bonus while chatting with the barman. This was his/their BIG day with so many riders (visitors) to their remote part of Montana and boy were they happy to see us. Continuing westward into the dusk I ran the tank down to fumes as I coasted into Roundup Montana right on dark. Phew that was good planning, not. Fuelled up and then considered my options, another 2 hrs to the next bonus or pull stumps and sleep now? Having clocked up 900 miles for the day I erred on the side of first day caution and took a room at the IBA motel while enjoying the 4 July eve fireworks until well after midnight. Listening to the fireworks I ruminated on the route options. I had planned to continue heading westward to Oregon but had also wanted to visit Yellowstone. I fell asleep undecided.
Day 2 began at 3:30am and having slept on the route options (well actually I slept on concrete) I decided Yellowstone, so rode south to Billings where I took over a few tables at Starbucks at 4:30am to check/finalise the route for Day 2. Yellowstone beckoned and what a choice!
The ride up to MEDWHL in the early morning light was sublime. The view was panoramic with lots and lots of corners. At the Bonus Point Brian Walters joined me while we took photos. Brian departed ahead of me (I’m slow again on these Bonuses! what the?) but it didn’t take long for me to re-join him on the good Wyoming gravel road on our way out. Back on the main road and heading downhill I left Brian to his own pace while I enjoyed those sensational corners. Things took a turn for the worse in Cody where I got caught up in the detours in place for the 4th July street parade. I spent 45 minutes “navigating” my way through this mess before finally finding my way out to the other side of town into Yellowstone. By now I was dreading what the Park traffic was going to be like and silently rueing my decision to head this way. But I couldn’t have been more wrong. The traffic was moderately heavy but flowing and I managed to maintain a reasonable pace.
At the top of Mt Washburn I had phone signal so I rang Rebecca, she answered the phone with a “You went to Yellowstone without me?” greeting. The wonders of Spotwalla. Her envy was not helped by my vivid descriptions of how good the scenery and riding was. Exiting Yellowstone by way of the western road there was a serious rain storm and the temperatures plummeted which was a relief. It didn’t last long and by the time I rode into Idaho the sun was out again.
I had planned to stop in Idaho Falls but with no beds available due to the 4th July fireworks I kept heading south to Blackfoot. I grabbed a real motel bed there and enjoyed a few hours’ sleep: Luxury! Another awesome day of riding with 90% of it off Interstates.
Day 3 was head-to-Reno day, so I plodded my way south west through Idaho and then Utah on Highway 30 (what a great backroad!) and into Nevada to take I80 to Reno. Bonus points collected were SODA in Idaho, RubyV, CLOWN in Nevada and CAVE at Lake Tahoe, a very beautiful location and well worth the ride over the hill. Riding through the southern part of Utah I stopped on a quiet back road to take some photos of the salt lakes and mountains when a truckie stopped his huge truck to check that I was OK. Jeremy the truckie was a local Utah lad doing his weekly run to California and he gladly gave me his time and knowledge of the local area. The run across Nevada to Reno was the most boring of the rally to date and hot! Checked into the Boomtown Resort 8:00pm to take my 8 hr Rest Bonus.
Day 4 I was up early to check in at 4:00am, (feeling very refreshed after a decent night’s sleep). Got the odo check completed and then headed in for scoring. One of my objectives for this Rally was to not leave any points on the table during scoring (after leaving all my points there on leg 1 of BL7) and this box was ticked as I walked away with all my points intact!
With rider briefing completed and extra BP’s handed out, the 2,000 points at Gerlach confirmed which route I was taking for leg 2 (I had prepared 2 routes, a northern and a southern one) and I joined the mass exodus out to Gerlach. Some Rally camaraderie ensued on the side of the road while a large group of riders waited for roadworks!
The Gerlach Bonus Point was collected and from a very special location! I will come back here and spend some time soaking up the beauty of this place at another time. Heading north to California I tagged along with fellow Aussie Olaf. He had completed a marathon ride back from Kansas overnight (check out his story of the contaminated fuel!) arriving at the check-in with only 15 minutes to spare and with very little rest or sleep. At Cedarville, California we took an hour while Ollie kipped, and I kept an eye on the bikes while enjoying some Peach Cobbler in the local café. Getting going again we pressed on into northern California aiming initially for OLDSTA then MITCH. OLDSTA was discarded as being too far out of the way but was substituted with TULE, the WWII detention camp.
Once this was collected we rode further north into Oregon arriving at MITCH early evening. This Bonus was up in the forests and it felt very peaceful in the warm sunshine and shady forest. From here a quick check of the GPS said straight ahead, which surprised me slightly as I had assumed there was no through road the Freemont National Forest. A cross check on the other GPS and also Olaf’s confirmed that it was indeed straight ahead so off I set, leaving Ollie to follow at his own pace. Well we were on a Fire Trail that continued deeper into the woods, which was fun to say the least: lots of corners with gravel and potholes to keep you on your toes, plus free range cattle and the odd deer (including one with a decent head of antlers as surprised to see me as I was to see him on the road). Right on dusk I came to a fork in the road, “turn right” said the GPS, but this road turned to gravel while the road to the left was sealed. Hmmm, what to do? (I have a rule of no gravel surfing in the dark) It was tempting to take the gravel road as it was “only” 12 miles to the highway. In the meantime Ollie pulled up beside me and said, “did you see that bear back there?” “Yeah, sure mate, there’s no bear there, well I certainly didn’t see it” was my response. Next second the bear let out one of those blood curdling screams that makes the hairs stand up on the back of your neck. Well that decided the route, it was the left fork (the sealed one), and right now! Needless to say neither Ollie nor I were hanging around to see “the bear”.
Back on a decent highway (US 31) at Silver Lake we both headed towards La Pine at the junction of US31 and US97. I was happy to chug away at a slower pace enjoying the cool night air under the stars while Ollie went ahead. Took a motel at La Pine just on midnight and had no problem falling asleep.
Day 5 started at 4:00am and boy was it cold! Put the thermal liner back into the jacket and on went the heated grips on the road north to Bend. First Bonus Point for the day was PAINTH, the Painted Hills in Oregon, and they were spectacular in the morning light. An added bonus was a few miles of gravel surfing! These Rally Masters think of everything! On the way back to the highway another rider heading in waved hello, and I felt strangely reassured I wasn’t lost out here on my ownsome. Next up was BOOT in Canyon City, Oregon. Took a little while to find the wooden sign at the top of the hill but I got it eventually and continued on to Baker City for INTERP. There was a bike show or something on in the town and the main street was closed plus plenty of other non-rally bikes moving around. I found the Center on the hill overlooking the town and snapped the bonus point with the help of the local ladies manning the desk. On the way out, I had a short conference with a few other Rally Riders about the issue of the Hells Canyon bonus being restricted hours due to maintenance works. Decided to discard this and keep moving east.
Crossed the State Line into Idaho heading for Emmett and the FREEZE bonus. Boy was it hot now! Kept up the hydration but riding was getting decidedly uncomfortable. At the bonus point up on the hill there was no shade or shelter and by the time I had collected the bonus and written up the log I was drenched in sweat. Got going again but feeling very sluggish so I took things slowly as I rode across to Stanley Idaho for the PLOUGH bonus. Actually these words don’t do this section of Idaho justice at all. I lost count of the canyons I rode through and the number of mountains, lakes and jaw-dropping views I passed over/through/around. Wow this place has some of the best scenery I’ve ever ridden through.
Heading down US 21 with the mountains (Sun Valley) on my right was something else, but I was starting to feel off colour (unwell) and couldn’t figure out why. I collected the bonus at Stanley and decided to take 5 minutes to regather myself and decide whether to take my 8hrs Rest Bonus here. Olaf pulled up for this bonus too and upon hearing my symptoms he suggested I may have altitude sickness or something similar. Erring on the side of caution I made the decision to grab a motel room in Stanley, even thought it was still only 6:30pm. All going well it would mean I would get a 2:00am start in the morning. My day 6 route back to Denver was checked and finalised over dinner and I had no problem falling to sleep.
I had agreed with Ollie that we would both meet again at the servo to ensure we could get the required receipt, my credit card hadn’t been working at all gas stations but as it turned out my card worked well, and the receipt was provided, although the time stamp was not MT as it should have been but rather PT. In my fogged state of mind I couldn’t work this out at the gas station and as I was still feeling off colour I told Olaf I would take some more time collect myself and if needed to I’d get some more sleep.
After 30 minutes of no further sleep, I decided there was nothing further to be gained by not riding so I got back on the highway heading for the first of the Day 6 bonuses: FONT in Wyoming. It was a lonely ride on US 75 heading east. It was a lonely and eerie ride in the darkness that seemed to last for hours and it took a while to shake off the feeling of being unwell. (Not helped by passing signs suggesting I visit Custer Ghost Town and Bonanza Ghost Town) After collecting the FONT bonus, (in what felt like the middle of nowhere!) again with a few miles of gravel surfing in and out off the highway, it was on to SOUTHP, SHIPS and AMES all in Wyoming, before crossing the state line back into Colorado early evening to collect BIGT. I’m not normally a big fan of Interstates but after 2 glorious days of back roads/canyons etc. it was a relief to get onto I80 and then I25.
Coming off I25 westward to Drake to collect the BIGT bonus the sun was setting and it was a perfect summer’s evening to be out on the bike. Riding up into the Big Thompson Canyon (another canyon!) was a delight with wonderful scenery and more great corners. Bonus collected it was time to ride back down the canyon and I was blessed to have no traffic until I popped out of the canyon and back into rural townships. Back on I25 it was welcome back to reality with Friday night traffic getting heavier and heavier until it was again bumper to bumper, but all flowing quite seamlessly at 70 miles an hour as it does here in the US (not like home, mate!).
Rolled into the parking lot at Rally HQ right on 9:30pm, kicked the side stand and quietly congratulated myself on achieving 2 out of 3 Rally objectives so far: return home safe and have fun! Objective # 3 was not to leave any points on the table and I walked away from scoring 8 hours later with that box ticked also. Mission accomplished!
And thanks to so many who made this Rally such fun:
· the Rally Masters, Lisa, David and Bart (and their many many helpers) deserve the highest accolades for sending us out to the most beautiful locations imaginable;
· My fellow Rally Riders who share that camaraderie of the open road while on Rally;
· My fellow Aussies on the Rally plus the Aussies back home sharing and cheering us on;
· And last but not least my partner Rebecca who followed my every step (and wrong turn) of the journey, now if I can only convince her to join me on the pillion seat for Buttlite IX….just saying.