Six hours of actual sleep was magnificent! Of course I was disappointed about having to cut my original route short, and that it was too late to maximize all the nearby time-restricted bonus points. But I had to put second-guessing aside and focus on what was ahead of me today.
I was excited to be headed through northern California again, revisiting the Lost Coast and getting to attempt the infamous lighthouse bonus in Crescent City. I felt like I’d laid out a decent plan to maximize the points still available to me in the time left before the finish, and had renewed energy and focus as I packed my bike in the wee hours.
I stopped in at the same 76 station and picked up my ending REST3 receipt, a startling 9.75 hours (!) after starting my break. I hopped right back on CA 4 for a couple miles to the Cummings Skyway, then over to I-80. I crossed the Carquinez Bridge in darkness, through Vallejo, and then cut over to CA 29 up to Napa. The city streets were quiet at 03:00 as I rolled up the main drag and pulled over at the waypoint for the LOUD bonus.
The first loudspeaker was invented here in 1915. Of course the first thing that happened was the loud shriek of feedback because the microphone was too close to the speaker.
I then took CA 12 for several miles west to hit US 101. There are worse ways to spend 250 miles on a motorcycle! 101 is a quick divided highway for long stretches, mostly wooded and with no traffic in these early hours. Not super scenic, but it takes you through some impressive groves of redwood trees on the way north.
I purposely bypassed the southerly approach to the remote community of Petrolia, due to the nightmare reports from my buddy James back in 2019. I’d be out of cell service for the next hour or two, so I called Char in advance to check in and let her know I’d be incommunicado. The miles passed quickly up to Fortuna, where I made the turn on CA 211, over the Eel River to Ferndale and to the Lost Coast beyond.
Mattole Road is forever imprinted in my memory from my last early morning jaunt out to the Lost Coast in the 2019 IBR. Memories came flooding back as I started up the narrow winding lane, past a construction crew just getting started for the day, and up over the misty hills. The surface was wet from ocean fog, so I took it pretty easy…not that you can go very fast on this steeply-crowned, beautiful, upgraded-cowpath-of-a-road!
It was as sketchy as I remember, especially the few unpaved sections (on steep hills!) closer to the coast, but knowing what to expect was comforting. The coastline was still kissing the offshore fogbank when I finally descended, but I caught a glimpse of the giant sea stack that so impressed me last time. I passed two rally riders headed back in to Ferndale on my way out to the sea.
I made quick work of the straight coastal stretch, then turned inland, arriving in the remote community of PETROLIA around 07:45, for a photo of the historic plaque to the first oil drilling of the Golden State.
It wasn’t in Southern California but rather here, on the Lost Coast, that saw the first oil drilled in California.
After a quick stretch and snack, there wasn’t anything for it, but to turn right around and head back out the way I’d come. The fog was starting to move out, and riding along that coastal stretch was gorgeous, with the low eastern sun shooting underneath all the clouds to brighten up the ocean and illuminate the fogbank out on the water. Just amazing! Besides a brief oh-shit moment when the rear tire slipped sideways on a cattle guard crossing, I made it back out to civilization without trouble.
By the time I hit the 101 again, I needed fuel and stopped in Eureka to fill up. As I pulled back out into traffic, a rally rider on a Harley buzzed by, so I fell in behind him. We leap-frogged each other a few times in the heavier town traffic until breaking out to faster speeds through Arcata and thence north. Some beautiful riding ensued, along the coastline and through forests of giant redwoods, and park signs for elk watching. There were plenty of passing opportunities to get around slower vehicles on the road and we capitalized on those dotted lines to make good time. It was all quite a hoot, until…
After crossing the Klamath River, we approached closer to ride near the coast again and entered into Del Norte Redwoods State Park. With only a short 15 miles to go til the big bonus in Crescent City, we saw brake lights ahead and slowed to a stop in what looked like a long backup. Flipping our visors up, I saw that the other rider was Lew Ballard, and we exchanged greetings as we assessed the situation.
There were people out of their cars and strolling around – uh oh, this didn’t look good. I nosed my way around the vehicle in front of us and saw folks standing in the oncoming lane, so I proceeded to cruise slowly up the line of cars to the front of the jam to see what was going on, with Lew rumbling along behind me. We parked up in front of the line, pulled off our helmets and Lew got the 411 from the flag lady stationed there.
What we learned was that there had been a huge landslide some weeks ago that had taken out the entire road! There was ongoing work to repair the gap, and the highway is completely closed for several hours per day, with only one lane open at a time for the rest of the day. Closing a major highway is practically unheard of back east! And unlike the east, there are no other roads along this section of coastline – this is THE road. You’d have to go miles and miles south, then east to I-5 to go north again. Being this close to the bonus, THAT was out of the question. At least the closures were on a reliable schedule – she told us we were lucky that we had “only” 45 minutes to wait until the road opened back up. Well, shit.
So we got some unexpected stretch time off the bikes. I was fully rested and didn’t need to sleep, and I wondered idly if I’d taken only eight hours rest whether I would have made it through here before the closure. There was a rest area right at this spot, with porta-potties and a beautiful view down over the ocean, so there are worse places to get stuck on the side of a road. Lew and I chatted up a fellow from Minnesota who came over to talk bikes. He was interested to hear about the rally, and then he and Lew did this whole mid-western find-a-connection thing: “have you been to…? Oh I have family there.” and “do you know that guy who…”. 🙂
Several Fed-Ex trucks and other local commercial business vehicles joined us at the front of the line. They apparently have first dibs getting through these roadblocks. The nice flag lady gave us a heads-up as the time drew near to open the road back up, so we were ready to go when she gave the all clear. We followed the quick-moving train of commercial trucks along the cliff-side road and through the very sketchy active construction zone, where you could clearly tell the road had disintegrated at one point.
Once through the repair zone, the pace picked up as we zipped by the long line of vehicles waiting their turn through the zone in the southbound lane. That was some excellent riding for several last miles through the park, taking some great curves through more gorgeous giant redwoods that erupted out of the earth next to the road like mini-skyscrapers. We descended into Crescent City before we knew it.
I was thrilled at having made it here at last, after a long few days cross country full of doubt about whether I’d be able to squeeze it in. Battery Point Lighthouse made it’s way into IBR lore courtesy of a few riders in the 2005 rally, who arrived about 15 minutes too late for the low tide walk out to the small islet. They shucked gear, waded across only to realize they’d left their flags behind. Second time out, they discovered they were out of Polaroid film. Well, you put points in front of rally riders, and a little seawater ain’t gonna stop ’em! Third time was the charm.
We decelerated into town, cruising past the picturesque beach and circling north around the harbor out to Beachfront Park on Battery Point. It wasn’t crowded per se, but it was definitely hopping with tourists here for the famous low-tide walk. We parked in some available space near the entrance, and I jogged across the driveway to scope things out. We’d pretty much hit dead low tide…there was bare sand and rocks all the way out to the lighthouse island!
Nevertheless, I didn’t know how fast the tide came in around here, and had already decided that I would change into shorts and sandals. Lew and I began doffing gear, as a couple more rally riders who’d been stuck in the same roadblock came sailing in to join the fun. I removed my IBR ID tag and stowed it safely away in my shorts pocket, so that there was no chance of losing it on my way across the exposed sea floor. Lew was already on his way over, when I finally took off after him, stopping for a couple quick photos.
It was a much shorter distance over than I’d thought, so in short order I found myself scuttling up the pathway to the top of the little humped islet. I quickly found the plaque on the outbuilding facing the lighthouse for the BATTERY bonus.
This lighthouse marks the first location in history where an Iron Butt Rally rider had to wade through waist high seawater, three times, to get a bonus photo. We hope you time low tide better and keep your pants dry.
There was a beautiful view out over the town jetty and the misty forested coastline south of here. I stopped just long enough to take it all in for a moment and snap a photo.
I jogged back to the bike and suited up quickly, following a couple of the other riders out of the lot and back out to 101. I turned north behind Mike Best and followed him for a half mile or so before he turned in for fuel. I continued onward a few more miles, before exiting onto US 199, aka the Smith River Scenic Byway.
Now of course, there’s not much time on the clock to look too closely at the roads you’ll be taking in advance. So my oh my, what an amazing surprise US 199 was – some 80 miles of motorcycling bliss, riding on fast perfect pavement through redwood forests in the giant river canyon along the scenic Smith River. The high I felt from bagging that lighthouse bonus was sustained for the next couple hours, as I focused on my riding and threw the ST joyously into all those wonderful curves. Plenty of passing opportunities as well, so I made good time up into Oregon, where the highway straightened out a bit. It was no less scenic or enjoyable, however.
I picked up the I-5 in Grants Pass, finally crossing over my own path from Leg 1 and completing a large circuit around the nation. I got to ride all those fun fast interstate sweepers in the daylight this time. About 50 miles north, I exited in Roseburg and picked my way west through town and continued for a few miles into the surrounding countryside, crossing my old friend from Leg 1, the South Umpqua River. A local in a flatbed truck didn’t take kindly to my passing him on a long empty arrow-straight country road and saluted me for my knavery as I went by him. He should move to Boston.
This was nice rolling agricultural landscape now, with large open fields and vineyards all around, as I followed the GPS further out into nowhere on local residential streets, finally arriving at the vineyard where the first Pinot Noir was bottled in Oregon. The large sign at the entrance to the gravel driveway was all I needed for the sizeable PINOT bonus.
Oregon’s famed Pinot Noir wine industry started here in Roseburg in 1961.
As I was packing up and teetering out of the small gravel pullout, I waved to another rally rider (Mike Best?) still on their approach to the bonus. I regained the interstate to continue north and twisted the throttle hard, as I had miles and miles still to go. The I-5 took me up to Brownsville, where I exited on OR 228 and made a fuel stop before starting my journey east across Oregon.
After a few miles by the Calapooia River, I rolled into Sweet Home (Oregon, not Alabama) and joined US 20, longest road in the US, for what would be an absolutely stellar afternoon of riding across the state, starting with a lovely view along Foster Lake.
From the lake, the highway traces the South Santiam River east into the Willamette National Forest, with many miles of great curves and beautiful forest/mountain scenery. Not too far in along this stretch, I stopped in a large gravel pullout to secure the TCRACE bonus.
The first car to cross the Cascade Mountains did so near here on the Santiam Wagon Road. That occurred as part of a two-car race that started in New York City six weeks earlier.
The engaging riding continued for many more miles through the beautiful Cascades. Finally, I passed out of the forestlands through the cool outdoorsy resort town of Sisters, which seemed a pretty lively small community situated where the mountains meet the plains. Chalk it up on my “to spend the night here” wish list.
Coming down out of the mountains into the flatter and drier region of the state, I kept to US 20 and dealt with some busier urban traffic through Bend OR, emerging fairly unscathed on the other side. I soon found myself riding under beautiful blue sky across a magnificent open area of high desert plains, which I later discovered was the Oregon Badlands Wilderness. With the distant mountainous backdrop, sage green desert landscape, and lonely roadway stretching to the horizon, this was some epic riding today.
And what a difference an hour and a half makes, as I approached a nasty looking storm cell right along my route on the far side of Burns. It was beautiful and worrying at the same time, with rainbows and lightning flashes fringing the concentrated murky area of high winds and torrential downpour.
I zipped everything up on my approach, and kept an eye on the radar and the horizon both, as I ascended through some minor hills. I started to catch some intense outer rain bands from the cell, with water sheeting immediately across the road. I distinctly remember seeing the sign for Stinkingwater Pass, thinking “I’ll never forget riding through this storm cell now, with a name like that!”. I also remembered, to my dismay, that my pinlock lens on my face shield was still leaking. 🙁
Luckily, the highway at that exact spot jogged left in a wide arc around a nearby reservoir, which literally circled me neatly around the central part of the storm. The WIND coming off that cell nearly blew me sideways, though! I was feeling lucky and glad to leave that nasty bit of business behind me.
Soon enough, the clouds dissipated, providing some nice over-the-shoulder glances at the final sunset of my 2021 rally.
US 20 began to parallel the pretty North Fork Malheur River near Juntura as I zipped along in the calm, warm twilight, enjoying more smooth curves. Darkness was falling, however, and I was looking forward to hitting interstate soon. The physical and mental aspects of today’s great riding was taking its toll.
I fueled up in the small town of Vale along the way to Ontario OR, where I gratefully picked up I-84 (also still US 20), crossing the Snake River into Idaho at last. South and east I flew, through Boise and further into the night for perhaps 100 miles. In Mountain Home, I took the exit to stay on US 20 and pulled in for a quick break at a gas station just past 23:00 local time. I continued east on the Sun Valley Highway, which sounds grand, though I was oblivious to the grandness of any scenery around me in the darkness over the next 60 miles or so.
I turned north on ID 75, towards my final big bonus of the rally. After a long epic day in the saddle, it was time for a bit of torture. The next 20 miles through the three resort towns of Bellevue, Hailey, and Ketchum were very heavily patrolled by the local constabularies. I was thankful for my V1 radar detector, as it was shrieking constantly, reminding me to keep that throttle hand in check through almost constant 25 mph zones, always especially hard to do after a long day riding at higher speeds across the countryside.
Getting through that test of patience, I crossed into the Sawtooth National Forest and pulled over onto a sketchy banked gravel pullout, where my final bonus sign awaited. It was an awkward spot, in trying to make use of the bike lights to help illuminate the sign for a clear photo, while also getting the motorcycle itself in the photo (required). Luckily, there was absolutely nobody on the dark lonely road except for the few deer I’d spotted just down the road. I finally managed to get a few photos using a combination of flashlights and camera flash that would hopefully result in acceptable proof of my presence at the LIFTS bonus.
The first ski chair lifts were developed here in Sun Valley by railroad engineers.
Now, after honking my way through those cheeky deer that had gathered on the pavement after I passed by, I had to ride back through that 20 mile gauntlet of actively enforced low speeds. I imagined the LEOs, tanking up on coffee, eagerly awaiting their next foolish midnight victim who might not be sporting radar detection. It took forever but at least gave me something to think about, to avoid feeling sleepy for a while. Once I was south of Bellevue and in open country, I let er rip south along ID 75 and then US 93, to intersect I-84 once more, near Twin Falls.
There was an optional 1000-point bonus I had marked down in Wendover UT along I-80. It added an extra half hour to my route, and the GPS had me arriving after penalty points began, lowering the net value of that bonus. I was tired and looking forward to just kicking back on the interstate for a few hours now. Knowing I might still need a nap or two, I decided not to chance the late arrival. Instead of continuing south on 93, I turned east on I-84 to make my final run for the barn.
I stopped for fuel in Burley shortly before 84 plunges southeast toward Utah. I’d been in the saddle for about 24 hours now, and was feeling the effects of the long day, amazing riding though it was. I stopped for my first 10 minute shuteye just past 04:00, off a remote exit in northern Utah. Just pulled over on the side of the exit ramp, switched off the bike and lay my head down for a bit. I had a time cushion to make the finish, but not a large one, so I wanted to ensure I got there on time after all this effort and especially after skipping Wendover. I may have stopped one more time, but once Char called me from the east coast to chat, I was able to stay awake pretty well for that last hour and a half til dawn.
I kept my speed pegged at a reasonable pace on cruise control through the populated stretches down along the I-15 corridor, knowing I had timing on my side now, as long as I didn’t do anything stupid. Being safe was my chief concern right now, and I didn’t think twice about skipping a couple smaller bonuses along this final stretch down to the finish.
I finally pulled off that exit into now-familiar downtown Provo and navigated the last couple corners to arrive under the portico of the Marriott at a few minutes past seven. There were thousands of screaming rally fans cheering me on and tearing their hair out…OK, maybe let’s take it a notch or two down from that, but the crowd’s enthusiasm was definitely appreciated! 🙏
Someone asked for a smile and I could feel the goofy grin split my face, before a staff member came over to check my odometer reading. Whoo-hooo, I’d made it – my 2021 rally was in the books! Um, not so fast…
“ID Badge?” he asked.
“Sure, hold on a sec, I have it right h…” I started to reply, as I groped inside my jacked and around my neck for the all-important ID badge. Geez, what a pain, it must have gotten tangled around and hanging down my back or something. I dismounted and removed my gloves and helmet as the staffer waited patiently. I unzipped my jacket – no ID badge. Now hold on, this doesn’t make sense – I had even patted down the front of my jacket on the final interstate miles to ensure it was there and thought I had felt it.
OK, this wasn’t funny. My joy at finishing fell as a lead weight to the bottom of my stomach, as more riders came in to enthusiastic applause, and the grin disappeared off my face. I’m guessing I must have looked about as white as a sheet to anyone paying close attention. It was taking longer for my mind to focus on the problem and I just couldn’t believe that I was going to get ALL my points for this leg discounted for losing my badge. Just not possible! I was looking in every pocket and in my saddlebags, trying to wrack my brain. I knew I’d taken it off at my last hotel stop, in Martinez, California. Maybe I’d left it sitting on the TV credenza there? Oh crap!
The kindly staff member finally had to move on. He provisionally recorded my rider number and odo reading. He made a note on my slip that my ID badge was missing so far, but told me I’d have to find it for checking in. I donned my gear once more and rode mechanically past the folks cheering more rider arrivals, through the garage gates and up a few levels in the garage to find some space to breathe, and tear my bike apart if need be.
I pulled up the number for the Martinez hotel and gave them a call. My badge hadn’t been turned in by anyone, so I described it and asked for a quick call back if they could manage to locate it anywhere. After hanging up, it suddenly dawned on me that I’d changed clothes only once during the ride from that hotel…when I’d doffed gear to run out to the Battery Point Lighthouse! I dug through my saddlebag to find my shorts and …relief flooded through me when I felt the badge and lanyard stowed in a pocket! Of course, now I remember taking it off to ensure it didn’t end up on the bottom of the ocean in Crescent City. Holy smokes, these last 10 minutes aged me about 2 years!
OK, now I could deal with reality and try to enjoy the finish once again. I gathered my stuff for scoring and headed back down to the lobby to check in. My official check-in time was 07:26, a good half hour before penalty. I was a bit sad that I’d missed out on all the good feelings of arriving at the finish line due to the lost badge, but all that really mattered now was that I had found it, I’d be able to get scored for the leg, and now my rally was officially over!
I grabbed a few cookies that were offered and plunked myself down at a table in the lobby alongside some other riders, whom I greeted wearily. I completed my scoring prep tasks without issue and headed down the hall to drop everything off with Donna for the last time.
I headed into the next room for some breakfast while I waited to be called in, and barely had time to wolf a bit of food down before I was called back in to score. This time I had the pleasure of seeing Nancy Oswald sitting across from me to get me scored. I must have smelled ripe by now, as I was not invited behind the laptop screen this time around. 😅
After a four day leg, it is almost incomprehensible to think back over all the places you’ve just visited while at the scoring table. So I sat back and waited for Nancy to do her thing, which resulted in another thankfully clean scorecard by quarter to nine. I knew I’d be dropping down quite a bit in the standings, but hoped I’d recovered enough points on this last day to stay in the gold medals range.
Now, there wasn’t much to do except check in, grab my stuff from the bike and get some shuteye until the banquet tonight.
LEG 3 Stats
Hours of leg: 101
Est. Stopped Rest Time: ~24 hrs (includes 4.25 hours routing at start of leg)
Bonus locations: 21
Rally-wide State Bonuses: 4
IDs Lost: 1 (almost)