IBR 2021 Day 4: Midwest Interlude

Wausau WI – Carmel IN
Thursday Jun 24, 2021
(~799 miles)


I’d decided to cut my rest bonus short by about an hour, so that I’d have time (barely) to grab the large bonus over in Detroit if everything else worked out. So between that, the hotel room issues, settling in, and route tweaks, I managed four hours of actual sleep.

Over the past couple days, I toyed briefly with the idea of crossing Lake Michigan on the ferry from Milwaukee. Looking at the bonus map, you could clearly tell that option was in the Routemaster’s mind when picking locations. While a ferry would have been a hoot, the ticket rates for the express ferry at $160 one-way, and this was only Leg 1 with not a lot of points or critical deadlines at stake. I’d ride the two extra hours (only two, I hope!) and go around the lake!

I clocked out of my rest around quarter past five local time (only 45 min early) and headed back across the Wisconsin River for the WIHB bonus. This time, even at around 05:30, there was no question of having daylight, so I got back on my way quickly, heading south on I-39.

Wisconsin First Home-built flying machine sign

WIHB bonus (am, second attempt)

100+ miles later, I exited onto US 151 into Madison, right around the morning rush hour. Though I was using Google Maps to avoid the worst traffic, it was a slow seven miles picking my way from stop sign to stop sign on the urban streets, dealing with drivers rushing to work and a couple constructions zones to boot. Not bad compared to northeast traffic, but still. Soon enough, I was on the quieter campus streets of the University of Wisconsin, and pulled to the side with flashers on. I dismounted and crossed the street, onto a footpath and around the hedge, seeking the WI bonus plaque. It was easy to spot from this angle.

Experiments conducted here by feeding single-grain diets to cows revealed that vitamins and other essential elements are necessary to support the biochemistry of life.

(meaning many cows ended up as lean meat for the cookpot in the name of science, once upon a time!)

Discovering vitamins and minerals sign

WI bonus

Footnote: You could surmise, based on this additional note from the Rallymasters, they they might actually have been feeling pity for the riders after a year of pandemification: “Be aware that there are many similar looking signs nearby. ”ย  Huh. I don’t think you’d ever see a warning like that in a Rick Miller rally… ๐Ÿ˜ฌ

Downtown Madison is squeezed between lakes Mendota and Monona, resulting in limited options for travel across the city, but at least I was going against the flow of traffic now. Found my way back out to open highway on I-94 and continued due east for 60 miles to my exit into Waukesha. A couple miles through the busy streets of this small city, then a short walk through Cutler Park brought me to the PAUL bonus at the Les Paul Performing Arts Center, next to the public library.

Les Paul, born Lester William Polfuss in Waukesha, perfected the first solid body electric guitar. We’ve been jamming ever since.

IBR 2021 Day 4: Midwest Interlude

PAUL bonus

Back on the bike, once again trusting Google to get me outta town, I zig-zagged through a nearby neighborhood on my way south through town with a few delays. I picked up I-43 southwest to US 12 into Illinois, and then IL 31 through the greater Chicago suburbs. Traffic was thick, speed limit max for a good 30 miles and more. I fueled up in West Dundee, then crossed I-90 into the busy city of Elgin, to pick up the rather low-point IL bonus in a business park:

Gail Borden discovered a process to preserve milk that led to a sanitary alternative to fresh milk. His first condensing plant was established here in 1865.

Elgin Milk Condensing Co sign

ELGIN bonus

Now to face getting through the dreaded gauntlet of Chicago area traffic. I had shaped a route to keep me on the outer loop highways like I-395 and away from downtown, but I had so little confidence in my Garmin right now that I decided to let Google guide me once again. It said “take I-90 east through Chi-town, mofo”. Ah crap.

Traffic actually flowed well most of the way. The last two miles before downtown were the worst, and I had to put my foot down a couple times. I jumped onto the express lane south out of the city and kept on going round the southern tip of Lake Michigan and splitting off onto I-94 once again, north towards St Joseph.

The sky had begun darkening over the lake as I moved north and sometime just past St Joe on I-196 the rain began. Rain hadn’t been a factor yet on this trip, so I simply zipped up a couple vents and carried on. It was off and on for a bit, then more just on… like HEAVY ON. Brake lights coming on all around me and water covered the roadway. Now I needed to find a safe spot to pull over ASAP to finish waterproofing and the shoulders just weren’t an option with such low visibility. I finally found such a spot under an overpass, covered my tank bag and pulled on my Aerostich rain mitts, despite my gloves being pretty damp already. I bagged my rally camera to keep it protected. The storm was cooling things down, and I just wanted to keep my comfort level up for as long as possible to stay ahead of fatigue.

phone weather radar screenshot

I left the relative shelter of my bridge back into the storm, feeling somewhat more protected and at ease. It got WORSE, with lightning flashing over nearby hills and thunder booming over the sound of the road and engine. The larger group of storm cells were behind me, but that put me right near the front edge. The rain continued to batter down while I tried to keep the pace steady and make time, remaining cognizant of hydroplaning. This was by far, the heaviest rain I’d personally experienced on a bike to-date, though I’ve heard much worse tales from others.

Shortly past Waverly on the way to Grand Rapids, I snapped this screenshot of the current radar, which wasn’t good for my state of mind at the time. ๐Ÿ˜ I’d always kept bone-dry in rainstorms under my Klim gear and Alpinestar boots, gear I’ve grown to trust and depend on. But this rain was something else, digging in to every possible seam and crevice. I felt trickles of water near my crotch and down my lower legs and in my boots. What the hell, THAT’s never happened before! At least my trusty Latitude jacket was still keeping out the damp!

I looped south of Grand Rapids to I-96 and gradually began to outrun the heavier downpours. In a few more miles, I took the exit on MI 50 towards the next bonus, but immediately pulled into the busy gas station by the interstate, drawn as if by a magnet just to get out of the rain for a couple minutes. I refueled and re-filled my water jug (oh the irony), while trying to keep my gloves as dry as possible (fail). Even under the fueling area portico, the rain was coming in sideways and spattering off everything. The world was just wet all over.

OK, I wasn’t going to get any drier just sitting here, so I headed back out and turned onto Grand River Ave, an arrow-straight two-lane farm road paralleling the interstate. A couple miles later at around 15:30, I pulled into a sketchy gravel wayside parking area to capture the MI rally-wide bonus.

Here, in 1929, was placed the first picnic table along a highway right-of-way. We wonder when a motorcyclist first stopped to nap on it.

Roadside Table historical marker

MI bonus

It was still raining lightly, and I managed to carefully manage the camera in its ziploc and jot down the bonus info without getting things too wet. As I’d been riding, I’d been weighing my next move almost non-stop and running a few scenarios on the GPSes. I really really wanted to get that nice 1075-point bonus in Detroit, which I felt would cap off a pretty respectable Leg 1. But with the earlier delays in Chicago and then reduced speeds through the storm, I was running about an hour behind schedule now, and I’d planned to hit the checkpoint with no time to spare. I’d still have to get through Detroit and back out again (avoiding the ongoing I-75 south snafu), then get down to the checkpoint with one more bonus stop en route, plus maybe dealing with this storm again on the way there.

I felt there would be little chance to make up much time along the way, and the bonus just wasn’t large enough to trade for the penalty, with less time to rest at the hotel. Plus I was wet and tired and the idea of actually making it to an IBR checkpoint before penalties for the first time was appealing, I must admit. ๐Ÿ™‚ย  I had to tuck my tail, drop Detroit, and turn for the barn.

Now decided, and already on the move, I punched up the Indiana bonus into Google and skipped Detroit on my GPS routes. Following my newly chosen route, I found myself on MI 66 south to MI 50 heading southeast to cut the corner and bypass Lansing. This turned out to be some nice scenic (albeit straight) riding through farm country, especially as I got further out ahead of the storm system and the rain finally petered out. I skirted around Charlotte and finally picked up interstate 69 in Olivet, which brought me a good 100 miles south to Fort Wayne IN, and well out of the storm’s path.

I exited into the western part of the city onto local roads to find my way into Lindenwood Cemetery. The GPS and Google both had trouble getting me to the actual entrance gate, but I’ve seen this before with cemeteries, and just circled the edge of the property until I found the open main gate.

rider entering cemetery

photo credit: ‘blue72beetle’

I spotted a guy on a small bike or scooter inside the cemetery near the entrance as I went by and he gave me a wave. Found out later he was a local rally fan who’d correctly guessed the bonus location from spotwalla. I snatched his photo of me entering the cemetery off advrider.org.ย  (thanks dude) ๐Ÿ™‚

This was a nice old cemetery, with hills, winding lanes, and a few historic-looking stone mausoleums and outbuildings. It reminded me of other grand garden-style cemeteries like Mt Auburn and Forest Hills in the Boston area. I found my way to the IN bonus location, the Bowser family grave marker, without much trouble.

Bowser Stock Art 2021.png

not this Bowser…

Bowzer, back in the day.

…and def not this Bowser!

Sylvanus Bowser

Dis da guy!

Sylvanus Bowser invented the first gasoline pump. In some countries, such pumps are still commonly known as “Bowsers”.

SF Bowser grave stone

IN bonus

Mindful of the clock, I took the most direct route straight back out to I-69 and continued southwest towards Indianapolis. There was a small 83 point bonus named ARC on a slightly longer route to the west, but it would have cost me an extra 20 minutes. Now that I’d skipped the big Detroit bonus, I was zeroed in on the checkpoint and didn’t want to chance hitting any delays to make me late. Even a few minutes penalty would have negated the points for ARC anyway.

Along the way, it started to sprinkle a bit. I hit the Indy loop highway for a few miles, turned north on US 31 and exited into a corporate park where the Marriott was situated. I was coming in about 15 minutes before penalty, so I kept an eye out for a place to top off my tanks, but there were none to be seen in the immediate vicinity. No matter, time to check in!

I pulled under the portico out of the light rain for check-in and displayed my ID badge. The wonderfully polite staff took my odo reading, verifying it with me twice, and then also gave me my check-in time, since I’d arrived so close to penalty. I was now on the clock to get prepped for scoring in 1 hour! As directed, I quickly pulled around to the back of the hotel to park near the designated door, unlocked for our use. I grabbed my necessaries for scoring and headed for the lobby.

There was a lot of activity and hubbub in the rather large lobby area of this hotel – it would appear a few other events were happening here or nearby, including a wedding, and some sort of junior athletics tournament, as there were many young people milling about. I found a quiet place to do my prep at a conference table near the scoring room and got to work.ย Since I’d been filling in the claim form along the way during rest stops, I only had to add the bonuses I’d nabbed since Wausau. I carefully went through my scoring prep checklist, assembling everything I needed, then reported for scoring with Donna Fousek at her table in the lobby.

There were quite a few envelopes in front of me, so it was time to grab some food. Someone pointed me to a nearby banquet room were I found the meagre remains of a spaghetti dinner laid out on a buffet table. Lisa Landry was there to ensure riders were getting enough food and that some was being left out by the staff to cover the few of us riders still left who hadn’t eaten or who were still out on the road. She ensured more salad, rolls and butter were brought out when she spotted me eyeing the empty buffet trays forlornly. Me was hangry!

I stuffed what I could manage in a to-go box and took it out to a table in the lobby to eat where I could hear my name being called. I wolfed down some lukewarm, but decent pasta, salad and a roll while chatting incoherently with a few other riders in the vicinity. My name was called before I could finish so I stowed the leftovers with my gear and followed Donna into the scoring room. I sat with an always-smiling Tobie Stevens first, so my photos could be copied off my SD card onto a USB stick. Then ushered over to Jim Fousek to confirm I had everything in order and was ready to score, before finally being seated with my scorer, Joel Rappaport. Quite the assembly line.

I met Joel briefly on a few occasions and of course read his great book about his own Iron Butt Rally adventures on a classic BMW motorcycle. A wicked nice guy, he invited me around to his side of the table so I could see all the action on his laptop. He entered information about my ride and verified everything was entered correctly and completely. He complimented the legibility of my handwriting on the score sheet, so I’d hate to see what some of the other riders are turning in. ๐Ÿ˜€ย  He confirmed that my evening attempt at the WIHB bonus would have passed muster (barely) for daylight requirements, so now I would have a better idea for next time how close I can cut it.

I had a clean scorecard and left no points on the table (claimed everything I could, and received credit for everything I claimed), always a satisfying achievement. I’d cut my REST1 bonus short by 296 points, and had bailed on the 1075 Detroit bonus, so I was wishing now I had taken my full rest back in Montana as originally planned, since I’d ended up staying for WIHB in the morning anyway. I could have made do with a couple hours nap somewhere in Wisconsin and possibly have made it to Detroit and to the barn with minimal penalty. Besides that wrinkle, I felt pretty good about the leg. I was tired, though surprisingly not the same bone-weary exhaustion I’d felt coming late into Kennewick in 2019. That extra stress of coming in an hour late can really do a number on you!

I checked in to my room at the front desk, which went super quick (thanks to apparent explanations and prep-work from Lisa and the rally staff), went back out briefly to cover the bike, and headed upstairs. The Marriott shower was amazing as always, and I finished eating and room chores, including prepping my laptop for Leg 2 routing in the morning. Breakfast would be available at 03:00, with the rider meeting and bonus handout at 04:00. Time for some shuteye!

LEG 1 Stats
Hours of leg: 80
Est. Stopped Rest Time: ~14 hrs
Points: 26,692
Miles: 4376
Bonus locations: 18
Rally-wide State Bonuses: 11

map of todays route

actual route


8 comments on IBR 2021 Day 4: Midwest Interlude

  1. Steve, always a great write up. I am always amazed at the detail that you can remember the rally. It was one big blur to me! Paul

    1. Thanks Paul, I’d be lost without my notes and photos – everything definitely fades quickly without those reminders!

  2. Nice job as usual! I spent half a day once in Charlotte (Pronounced char-LOT) MI during the 48 hr Tinbuttu Rally diagnosing electrical gremlins in my Triumph Trophy. I still use the motorcycle-sized jumper cables I had to buy there. Can’t wait for your next episode!

  3. I am sitting here at my desktop waiting for the rain to start pouring all over my computer starting to look for zip loc bags. Oh Oh I am inside. On the serious side it is 2am in the morning when I got up trying to figure out what I was gonna do and DING DING reads Steve’s experiences. At 2:55 I am fully engage, made a full pot of coffer and ready to read. Great writeup

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