A girl, a bike, and an open road

I absolutely love the generous rest breaks and meals; I’m sure that I could find a way, especially on this leg, to score more points per minute, but at over 30,000 points just for putting my head on a pillow for a few hours… hard to argue against it.

Up at 5:15am, I took a shower and packed the room, heading across the access road to a Flying J for gas and breakfast snacks, pulling a receipt at 5:44am to end my rest bonus at 8h06m; not too bad! I was finally feeling back to normal, and I set a respectable pace across the foggy fields of Iowa. The only towns I’d pass the next few hours were Iowa City, which barely registered, and a quiet Des Moines.. wait, wasn’t I just here, too? The weird jumble of memories from a multi-day rally or ride still fills my brain, like that one Mason jar of dead batteries, buttons, and odd coins that sits by the washing machine, a cohesive collection when viewed from some abstract distance, but the relationship of any two random things plucked from within seem forcibly juxtaposed. Was it really just 3 days ago I was in Buffalo, NY? Was I really just in Washington, DC the day before last? Inconceivable!

It took me about 4 hours to cross Iowa. Hour after hour of cool green fields, with the occasional hill or rippling ridge disturbing the plows, but not the fecundity of the earth here. I stopped on the far side of Des Moines for gas, and the weather was still cool and cloudy. Rain was in the forecast, so I donned my rain gear for the first time since leaving home 10 days ago. Clouds kept building in front of me, and as I drew closer to the western edge of Iowa where the city of Omaha, Nebraska sits just across the Missouri River, green started showing up on my weather radar, and a gentle rain washed everything clean. It was such a light rain, flirting with not being worth the rain gear, and after about 20 minutes I’d broken past it, but the sky remained cloudy, bright but overcast.

Omaha sits across the Missouri from Council Bluffs, IA, both cities just north of where the North Platte joins the rush to the Gulf of Mexico. Waze and Garmin both agreed that I should take I-29 for a mile then cross the river on I-480, which doesn’t actually exist, no matter what Google claims. The entire area was ripped up to rebuild the interchange with I-480, forcing me to navigate around frontage roads covered with a slick film of clay and sand from the construction and the brief rainstorm that had passed through here before meeting me back 30 minutes ago.

Of course, it was hardly a real obstacle, just one to spice up the morning a little and shave several minutes off the clock while I waited around for construction vehicles to turn. Once across the river into Omaha proper, I passed through a rather hip looking downtown stretch of coffeeshops and bars whose design aesthetic seemed to be “hipster Seattle 6 years ago” - exposed brick, lightly stained wood, and Edison bulbs could be seen through almost every window. No one was out and about, and I found out myself parking the bike in the reason for this puddle of upscale cafes, bistros, and watering holes: the corporate campus of ConAgra.

41) BCL01 - Chef Boyardee - Omaha, NB - 157 pts (x7)

Chef Boyardee was a real person?!

Ettore Boiardi, better known by the Anglicized name Hector Boyardee, was an Italian-American chef, famous for his eponymous brand of food products, named Chef Boyardee. Boiardi was born in Piacenza, Italy, in 1897 and at the age of 16, he arrived at Ellis Island aboard La Lorraine, a ship of French registration. Boiardi followed his brother Paolo to the kitchen of the Plaza Hotel in New York City, working his way up to head chef. He supervised the preparation of the homecoming meal served by Woodrow Wilson at the White House for 2,000 returning World War I soldiers. He opened his first restaurant, Il Giardino d’Italia, in 1926. The patrons of Il Giardino d’Italia frequently asked for samples and recipes of his spaghetti sauce, so he filled cleaned milk bottles. Touting the low cost of spaghetti products as a good choice to serve to the entire family, Boiardi introduced his product to the public in 1929. Boiardi sold his products under the brand name “Chef Boy-Ar-Dee” because non-Italians could not manage the pronunciation. For producing rations supplying Allied troops during World War II, he was awarded a Gold Star order of excellence from the United States War Department. Boiardi died of natural causes in 1985, at age 87 in his home in Ohio.

The statue is a really delightful likeness, and the campus of 3 and 4 story brick buildings and grassy lawns was practically empty, save for a ratty looking biker in her hiviz rain gear and a disinterested gardener running a leaf blower.

This segment: 295 miles, 4h30m
Total: 295 miles, 4h30m
Time Remaining: 26h11m
Points scored: 111,179

My next bonus was just a few blocks away.

42) BCR02 - Martin Luther King, Jr - Omaha, NB - 341 pts (x7)

It was only a few blocks over to the county courthouse, and I parked and wandered around its lawn for a couple minutes, looking for the statue. The GPS coordinates just brought me to the courthouse, but not the statue itself, so I had to squint at the tiny sample photo and compare it to the buildings around me as best I could, but I finally spotted it off to the side on a small elevated plaza. What a neat statue, too. It almost looks like MLK is a super hero… which I suppose in some ways he was, wasn’t he?

This segment: 1 mile, 0h14m
Total: 296 miles, 4h44m
Time Remaining: 25h57m
Points scored: 113,566

With only a brief stop in Mondamin, IA for gas (at a very rural Cenex, where a cashier helped me get a receipt, her mouth agape but wordless through the entire transaction), I toured north up the Missouri River valley, following that twisting aquatic highway of the plains. Lewis and Clark traveled this region, and my first bonus was in Sioux City, IA, where the expedition’s only casualty, Sergeant Charles Floyd, was buried on a bluff overlooking the river. He died of a burst appendix, a fate I pondered remembering my own painful experience only 36 hours ago.

What a beautiful day this was. The weather was perfect, not too hot, not too windy, just enough clouds to give the sky texture. Too many clouds together in one place becomes a mob of bullies, threatening to drench you for no reason other than you exist. Clouds are the angry teenagers of weather.

43) BPR06 - Abraham Lincoln - Sioux City, IA - 173 pts

Sioux City was much bigger than I expected, around 150,000 people the internet tells me. The highway runs right through town along the river, and the exits were crowded with hotels, casinos, performing arts centers, galleries… it wasn’t the town I was expecting. I navigated through downtown cleanly and up into a neighborhood park at the top of a hill, where the setup for Fourth of July festivities was just wrapping up. I had to remind myself it was a Friday; all that mattered to me was the clock tick-ticking away to penalty time.

This segment: 100 miles, 1h46m
Total: 396 miles, 6h30m
Time Remaining: 24h11m
Points scored: 113,739

Continuing north on I-29, I crossed from Iowa into southeastern South Dakota, green prairies opening up on all side. The weather continued to be just about perfect, with a bit of a breeze rippling the grasses along the highway. Traffic was thin and agricultural in nature, until suddenly Sioux Falls, SD appeared, a sudden burst of urbanism. I pushed through town to the north end, taking the very last exit before it’s junction with I-90.

44) BSC01 - Albert Einstein - Sioux Falls, SD - 189 pts (x8)

This is my third Einstein bonus for the combo.. only one more to go! The first was at the National Science Foundation, and the second was.. just.. on the sidewalk in front of a bank? This one being outside the South Dakota University Science and Technology Building seemed more appropriate. Wonder where the fourth one will be? 🤔

This segment: 89 miles, 1h28m
Total: 485 miles, 7h58m
Time Remaining: 22h54m
Points scored: 115,251

Heading back south just a short hop to the next bonus in Sioux Falls itself. I chose to pick this one up after Einstein, as it’s an Abe Lincoln statue, and remember you have to collect a non-Abe in between Abes to get the multiplier to stack.

45) BPR03 - Abraham Lincoln- Sioux Falls, SD - 189 pts

Another Scheels! Having spent almost the entire day on big empty roads across the plains, Sioux Falls traffic was a bit of a shock as I had to navigate a busy retail district to find this location in a huge shopping center.

This segment: 8 miles, 0h19m
Total: 493 miles, 8h17m
Time Remaining: 22h35m
Points scored: 115,440

Now I turn my attention back south, retracing my steps almost three hours back to the western suburbs of Omaha.

46) BMI01 - Father Edward J Flanagan - Boys Town, NB - 157 pts (x9)

Edward Joseph Flanagan (1886 – 1948) was an Irish-born priest of the Catholic Church in the United States. He founded the orphanage known as Boys Town located in Boys Town, Douglas County, Nebraska, which now also serves as a center for troubled youth. In 1904, he emigrated to the United States and became a US citizen in 1919. In 1917, he founded a home for homeless boys in Omaha. Bishop Jeremiah James Harty of the Diocese of Omaha had misgivings, but endorsed Flanagan’s experiment. Because the downtown facilities were inadequate, Flanagan established Boys Town, ten miles west of Omaha, in 1921. Under Flanagan’s direction, Boys Town grew to be a large community with its own boy-mayor, schools, chapel, post office, cottages, gymnasium, and other facilities where boys between the ages of 10 and 16 could receive an education and learn a trade. Flanagan did not believe in the reform school model, and stated, “there’s no such thing as a bad boy”. A 1938 film starring Spencer Tracy, Boys Town, was based on the life of Flanagan, and Tracy won an Academy Award for Best Actor for his performance.

The statue of Father Flanagan is located in front of his home, on the quiet campus/downtown area of Boys Town. It honestly felt like I was riding around a small Christian college, and not an actual town. Folks (not rally people..) were quietly taking photos of his statue, so I had to wait my turn to snap a photo.

This segment: 185 miles, 2h52m
Total: 678 miles, 8h17m
Time Remaining: 19h43m
Points scored: 116,853

Nearly 5pm on a Friday, and I’m joining the outbound traffic from Omaha. It might have been a sleepy city this morning, but right now it felt like the Indy 500 was holding try outs! Back on I-80, heading towards Lincoln, NB, and I was just finding my groove after about 10 minutes or so when I saw brake lights up ahead and Waze started warning me about traffic, police, and an accident up ahead. Slowing down to 25mph or so, I kept a keen eye behind me, and soon spotted where a bike had gone down next to an exit! First responders were on the scene, the rider appeared to be upright and walking around.. and besides, I was all the way in the left lane, so stopping was out of the question. Still, the bike looked familiar.. just something about it smelled like “rally bike” to me, so I called Nancy to report that I was passing by an accident and to make sure we were all accounted for. Of course, she already knew all about it; it was one of us, Eric Markus, and he was fine.. but his bike was not. His rally was over, sadly.. but at least he was ok!

47) BPR04 - Abraham Lincoln - Lincoln, NB - 173 pts

Another Lincoln bonus down, raising my multiplier to x10! This might have been my favorite Lincoln statue, very Art Deco/1930 WPA Realist. I stopped here for a few minutes to eat some snacks and drink up; I’d had a couple shaky moments navigating downtown Lincoln’s potholes amidst some heavy traffic; folks were getting their Friday nights started a little earlier than I’m used to here.

This segment: 56 miles, 0h57m
Total: 734 miles, 9h14m
Time Remaining: 18h46m
Points scored: 117,026

I-80 west again, and I’m in the home stretch, the last day of this rally. I can feel my world start to shrink in to these last few hours, thinking out the steps for what I need to do. Nebraska rolls quietly by, wide, flat grasslands with a surprising amount of trees, increasing as I-80 crosses then dips into a southern-bulging arc to follow the Platte River.

Just outside Kearney, NB, I passed under the Great Platte River Road Archway, a tourist museum built by the state of Nebraska to tell the story of the traveler who also followed the river westward.

(Photo courtesy the Nebraska Tourism Council)

I mentally added it to my list of places to stop and see when I have time. Realizing I was tired, hungry, and needed gas, so I pulled off the next exit, right into the heart of Kearney’s retail stroad. I was craving KFC for some reason, but knowing it was a Bad Idea, opted instead for a Subway.. where of course the single gentleman who I got into line behind was just holding a spot for his wife and FIVE CHILDREN… who were insanely picky… but I was already committed time-wise, so I waited out the interminable 15 minutes of listening to small kids freak out that a pickle might even possibly touch their sandwich AFTER THEY ASKED FOR PICKLES!


It’s ok, kid - it’s 6:40pm, we’re all hungry and cranky.. even me.

I waited out the family getting caught up on rally news, trading texts with a few other riders to make sure everyone was ok in the last 15 or 16 hours. Everyone I was keep in touch with were still in the rally, and were confident of being finishers. Tuna sub in hand, I pulled out the laptop and did some tinkering to fine tune the last section.

The original plan

The bonus just outside Denver was time-limited, 7am-7pm, but I realized if I ran up to Vail, CO first, then came back down to Denver, and added Estes Park, I’d score nearly as many points. I briefly thought about going counter-clockwise, or swapping Denver for Estes Park, but what it came down to is I knew I was going to be pushing through this night with little enough sleep already, and I’ve ridden the mountains of Colorado enough to know I wasn’t going to be at my best. I’m sure it would’ve been fine and safe, but in the moment I just didn’t feel like I had it in me, and lack of confidence is what would lead me to doing something stupid… so, “safety third” and I changed up the route

The new plan

Tuna sub inhaled and a new plan in play, I finished my final meal break, did paperwork, and got back onto I-80, my 45-minute break turning into an hour, but I realized the break really was welcome. I was still feeling strong, still, and I watched the sun creep lower and lower in front of me, throwing shadows across tall grass and pine tree stands. A little past North Platte, I could start to see clouds gathering on the horizon, and I started nervously following a building line of thunderstorms coming due east along I-80. If I timed it right, I would be able to slip south of them on I-76 towards Denver. The sun disappeared, and I played a fun new game called “lightning or early 4th of July fireworks” as sheet lightning appeared to the north of me and straight ahead. This was gonna be tight.

I called Jo at some point for a pep talk, because I knew she would verbally kick my ass about being such a chicken about lightning storms, and I got exactly what I wanted from her! She distracted me for a while, but eventually I realized I wasn’t going to be able to sneak past the storm, and besides, I was about ready for a nap if I was going to ride through the night. I spotted a rest area/visitors center on the map ahead, so I wrapped up with Jo, and by the time I was off the bike and parked, the wind was gusting with increasing ferocity, and a fat drops of water start splashing down.

I made it inside, just in time!

You can make fun of me for not being a TRUE IRON BUTT RIDER but I don’t mess around with lightning. I’ve almost been hit enough times already in my life, I don’t tempt the fates if I can avoid it.

The wind had shifted, and the storm was now heading directly SE, so I set my alarm, rolled up my jacket for a pillow, and took a nap for a solid hour while the storm slid over. It finally seemed to be slackening, and while lightning was still flashing, it was mostly east and south. I threw my rain gear on and continued, and within about 10 minutes the rain was gone, and the temps hovered in the mid-50s. I stopped about a half hour south in Fort Morgan to gas up, buying a chicken wrap and a couple 5-hour Energy drinks from the gas station deli. I ate half the wrap standing at the gas pump, waiting for the caffeine to settle into my veins, shivering a tiny bit.. time to break out the heated gear.

The ride into and through Denver was barely a blip at 2am. I was getting tired now, and after a brief stop in Arvada to use a gas station bathroom and run around the bike for a couple minutes, I found myself on I-70 heading west, climbing towards Loveland Pass and the Eisenhower Tunnel (highest point in the Interstate system!) amidst chilly temps. I’ve ridden in and around Denver and the Front Range so often, I felt like I was on “home turf” - a great way to finish a rally. Temps were dropping, and when I crossed the pass and started the final section towards Vail it was 35F and I started keeping an eye open for any kind of all-night gas station or McDonalds or anything warm where I could stop and nap for even a little bit, but these mountain towns, while full of amenities and services for the skiers and locals, didn’t have any sign of life. When I finally got to Vail, I navigated the tiny, artificially cute streets between multimillion dollar condos until I found the pretend alpine/Bavarian village shopping street, and located the next bonus.

48) BSC04 - Albert Einstein - Vail, CO - 2,385 pts (x10)

Albert Einstein bonus completed! That, plus the Lincoln multiplier, made this bonus worth 48,850 points!

This statue looks exactly like the one in South Carolina… I wonder, did someone get a Costco pack of these statues or something?

This segment: 580 miles, 11h03m
Total: 1,314 miles, 20h17m
Time Remaining: 7h43m
Points scored: 165,876

It was 3:45am, and I really needed to find a place to take a quick power nap. The temps outside were in the mid to upper 30s, and I considered going into the lobby of a fancy lodge-style hotel that I’d parked in front of to plead my case for 20 minutes in a chair by the fire, but the door was locked and no staff visible, and as I was walking back to the bike, I realized that the narrow walkway between the side of the building and a series of large, 3’-high concrete planters were acting like some sort of heat trap.. I could feel the heat radiating off them. So, I did the only thing reasonable: in Vail, Colorado, I laid down on the sidewalk and closed my eyes.

Of course, I wasn’t actually comfortable, and as I was fussing a bit trying figure out the best way to not lay my bare head OR my helmet on the gritty concrete, I heard the sound of whistling and a walkie-talkie squawk! Was I busted?! Was I going to get trespassed from Vail, Colorado for vagrancy?!

Not this time.. the security officer was just walking the street, and he either didn’t see me or chose to ignore me, but as soon as he was out of earshot, I hopped up and got back on the bike. I don’t need to get rousted from a fancy resort town again!

4am, and starting to blink back microsleeps, a sure sign of “get off the bike right NOW!” Heading east again back towards Denver, I slowed down and decided to stop at the next exit with anything off it; luckily around 4:20am I made it to Wheeler Junction where a large gas station and restaurant lit up the night. Although closed, it had several benches along the side of the building for diners waiting for their tables. I bundled up with all my gear against the cold and dozed off for 25-minutes, waking up… well, not refreshed, but a heck of a lot better than I was before. I nibbled some sugar in the form of Smarties candies to get my brain working and awake; judicious application of small amounts of empty carbs can jump start a tired body without causing a crash. I felt safe to get back on the bike, trusting that I could make it to Silverthorne, 20 minutes east, a big town right before Eisenhower Tunnel. At least now my mind wasn’t turning every snag and bush along the highway into an elk!

I got into Silverthorne a couple minutes past 5am, the sun starting to rise, when I saw a glorious sight - an open McDonalds! I ordered an Egg McMuffin and a coffee, and dozed in a warm booth for 20-25 more minutes, letting hot caffeine and protein calories work their way completely through my system, before heading back out into a bright, chilly morning.

49) BSP02 - John Reid - Golden, CO - 1,162 pts (x10)

John Reid (1840 – 1916) was a Scottish-American businessman who has been called “The Father of Golf” in the United States. Lyall was born on October 14, 1840 in Dunfermline, Scotland. In 1866, Reid emigrated to the United States. Around 1887, he introduced and played the “Royal Scottish Game” on an improvised course near his home and was the leader of the Apple Tree Gang. On November 14, 1888, at a dinner at his house, he founded and, served as the first president of Saint Andrew’s Golf Club located in Hastings-on-Hudson, New York. Reid’s portrait by Frank Fowler hangs in the dining room. Today, the club is the oldest golf club in the United States.

I arrived at this bonus, at the clubhouse of a golf course, at 6:45am, 15 minutes before it was technically open for scoring. I pulled in and parked next to Daniel Eckert, and we chatted while walking over to grab a photo. There were 2 other rally riders walking back from the clubhouse, and they told us we could go ahead and submit it even though it was early. We nodded, but called our scorers to confirm that we didn’t need to wait 15 more minutes, and were given the green light; apparently the window for scoring was the hours the golf club was open, but as long as we could legally gain access to a bonus, then the bonus would be accepted.

This segment: 94 miles, 2h57m
Total: 1,408 miles, 23h14m
Time Remaining: 4h46m
Points scored: 177,496

As we were walking back to the bikes, an early morning golfer, cigar already puffing away, engaged us to chit-chat about the bikes. After a minute or two, I realized it was one of those conversations where we were going to get grilled about the entire history of the IBA and long distance riding, so… well, I feel a bit bad about this, but I let Daniel keep talking to the guy while I did paperwork, shed my rain and heated gear, and got ready to leave. Daniel finally wiggled away from the conversation, and I confirmed we were both heading next to the Estes Park bonus.

I headed up CO-93 as far as Boulder, where I switched over to US-36 north through town; it only took a couple extra minutes, and let me wave at a friend’s house as I rode by. Boulder is usually my base of operations when I ride in Colorado, so I’m pretty familiar with the route to get up to Estes Park. Daniel followed through town, and soon we were on the north side of Boulder and past the Flatirons. The day really was warming up, 65F now, and the ride to Estes Park passed without incident, a fun little twisty stretch that usually provides rather close-up views of deer and elk, but this morning the herds of elk were far off the road, grazing placidly in the sunshine.

50) BIN02 - Enos A. Mills - Estes Park, CO - 1,762 pts (x10)

Enos Abijah Mills (1870 – 1922) was an American naturalist, author and homesteader. He was the main figure behind the creation of Rocky Mountain National Park. He moved to Colorado in 1884 at the age of 14. He suffered from an unidentifiable illness which he later discovered to be an allergy to wheat. At age 15, he made his first ascent of Longs Peak. Over the course of his life, he made the trip 40 times by himself and nearly 300 additional times as a guide. He built his homestead near Longs Peak and the town of Estes Park, Colorado at the age of 15, completing it at 16. Mills led the fight to preserve the area around Longs Peak as a national park, and used his speeches, his writing, and photography to lobby for the park. President Woodrow Wilson signed into law the bill that made the Rocky Mountain National Park the tenth national park on January 26, 1915. He was called the “Father of Rocky Mountain National Park” by the Denver Post. Mills died at age 52 in 1922. He died from blood poisoning from an infected tooth.

Estes Park was the usual clot of tourists, here at the eastern gate of Rocky Mountain National Park. The statue was in a small park next to the police station and town hall, plenty of easy parking. I grabbed the photo, waved goodbye to Daniel, and wandered into the town hall next door to use the bathroom. When I emerged, a couple more riders were franticly trying to find the bonus, rushing through their process. We’re so close, friends! Remember to breathe; there’s time for it!

This segment: 68 miles, 1h29m
Total: 1,476 miles, 24h43m
Time Remaining: 3h17m
Points scored: 195,116

Almost done… almost done! I rode the twisty US-34 east fast, through Thompson River Canyon until the road hits the plains in Loveland and straightens out into Yet Another Stroad. I considered the pros and cons of heading to Laramie first, grabbing a Lincoln bonus just outside of town and then a regular bonus in town proper, but it would be cutting it very, very close. Instead, I went back onto I-25 north all the way to Cheyenne, past the interchange with I-80, wiggling my way through a run-down section of Cheyenne to a small neighborhood park where the final bonus of my 2022 LDX Rally was waiting for me.

51) BCR04 - Martin Luther King, Jr. - Cheyenne - 341 pts (x10)

So many folks missed that this bonus and its combo. While not a huge score, certainly is better than a poke in the eye!

This segment: 87 miles, 2h00m
Total: 1,563 miles, 26h43m
Time Remaining: 1h17m
Points scored: 202,526

Bonus secured, I briefly thought about running over to Laramie and grabbing the 2 bonuses there, but Google was claiming about 90-100 minutes, and I only had 77 left before penalty, so I scratched that plan, and instead rode to a gas station to top off the tanks, and then over to the rally hotel and the finish line, stopping my rally clock at 10:28am.

1,565 miles

So many folks already in and done! I parked the bike and headed inside, bouncing with energy and happy to see everyone. Like everyone else, I was a little bit louder than I needed to be, so Lisa Landry shushed me and then escorted me to scoring, where I received a final score - including the Leg B rest bonus, tracking bonuses, etc - of 240,746 points. Far and away, a finisher’s score, but how would I place in the field?

Leg B: 3,299 miles

Onward to the results ➡️

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