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1993 Iron Butt Rally

by Bob Higdon

Monday, Sep 6, 1993 21:41 EDT

Forty-one bikes started on Tuesday, August 31, in Mansfield, Texas, just south of Fort Worth. There were two women riding solo - Phyllis Lang on a Harley and Ardys Kellerman on a BMW - and one husband-and-wife team riding two up, and thus not running for points. The breakdown of marques was as follows:

Honda 16

BMW 12

Yamaha 7

Kawasaki 4

Harley 1

Moto Guzzi 1

The first checkpoint was in Pomona, California, 30 miles due east of downtown L.A. The quickest straight-line route was 1,400 miles and they had 35 hours to do it (a 40 mph average). Most of the serious riders took a northern route, going through Zion National Park for big bonus points. The ultra-hard ride was to go south to Louisiana for even bigger bonus points, but that would result in a 2,300-mile trip to L.A. at a 66 mph average. My contribution on that section was a bonus to answer a question at the Branch Davidian Church compound near Waco: Is the crime-scene tape still across the driveway?

The first casualty was Steve Black, a near-miss winner in the 1991 Iron Butt Rally. His Venture developed a death wobble west of Amarillo, resulting in a broken ankle and road rash (Aerostich top, jeans on bottom �� guess where the rash was). The next whack was Peter Heesch, the organizer of the Cal 24-Hour ride. He hit a car near Las Cruces, New Mexico (details unknown). Internal bleeding, but no splenectomy. He's stable. Four or five other riders had mechanical problems and croaked either at the Pomona checkpoint or before. Fritz and Phyllis Lang simply misjudged their time, fell behind, and missed it.

The saddest case of all was Tom Loegering. The universal joint on his 1990 BMW Paris-Dakar broke not 200 yards short of the motel headquarters two days before the start of the event. Doug Jacobs (BMW, Oakland, California) took it apart. Kneebone called BMW NA and had a replacement drive shipped via FedEx to the Fort Worth dealer. Due to a screw-up, the package was sent by two-day mail, so the dealer took apart a new bike and stuck the unit in Tom's bike. He left 90 minutes after the other riders. By the time he reached Pomona, his bike was running so poorly that they decided to tear it down �� valves shot. When the rest of the riders were getting their instructions for the next leg, Tom was watching mechanics at Brown's BMW do a top-end job on his poor bike. He lives in L.A., so you'd think he just would have gone home at that point. Nope ��- he headed north as soon as they finished the repair.

At Pomona, two riders, Morris Kruemke (Gold Wing) and Ardys Kellerman (BMW), had indeed done Louisiana. They were first and second. Steve Attwood, the Moto Guzzi rider who had come over from England, was in third place, 110 points behind Kellerman. Others were strung out. Kneebone couldn't believe anyone had done Louisiana. Kellerman nearly didn't make it. She was within five minutes of being time- barred at Pomona. And Kruemke's Wing has to be seen to be believed �� although IBR riders are limited to 11 gallons, when Morris is touring seriously, he can load 38 (!) gallons of gas on that 1500. He told me he'd once done 1,250 miles without putting his feet down. Bathroom, you ask? Morris has a drain tube. I didn't ask to see it, but I believe it.

Dean Klein's ticket cost him. Someone said that he'd been doing 120, but I don't think his bike can go that fast. The ticket was apparently worth more than $200.

One other note about Steve Attwood. When he got the instructions in Texas, he took a map and started trying to find places that everyone else already knew. I felt sorry for him and offered to help with the geography. He just smiled and said, "No thanks. I'm going to have to learn how to do it sooner or later." The man has guts. Riding around the world will do that for you.

All in all, it was appropriate that the event had begun on a blue moon (two full moons in one month). As Hunter Thompson said, "When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro."

Monday, Sep 6, 1993

23:01 EDT

Checkpoint No. 2 (Spokane, Washington)

The riders left Los Angeles at 10:00 p.m. on Wednesday night. They were due in Spokane not later than 5:00 p.m. on Friday, 43 hours later. The quickest straight-line distance is 1,265 miles, a 29 mph average. Kneebone wanted the tough guys to go by way of Nevada, Salt Lake City, western Wyoming, and then back toward Spokane. The less difficult section would take people through San Francisco.

The proverbial nasty stuff quickly began to hit the fan. Bob Drasner went out with mechanical problems. Robert Fairchild, who confessed at the start that he had never done even an 800-mile day, broke down around L.A. and went home. Carl Peters had electrical problems and bombed near L.A. Doug Jacobs had a critical problem at work and had to drop out. Then the axe fell on our own Dean Klein, aka BMW Loco: The diode board on his R100 crumped in San Francisco, knocking him out of the rally. Eddie James, on a BMW K100 with three radar detectors plus a jammer, developed food poisoning in Nevada and was hospitalized.

Richard Shrader went out with fatigue, an improvement over his '91 Iron Butt Rally when he plunged his bike into a Louisiana bayou in the middle of the night, earning the timeless nickname, "Swamp Thing." When they pulled him out and emptied his lungs, he decided that he liked the event so much that he had the Iron Butt Association logo tattooed on his right upper arm. Kneebone was so impressed that he gave Shrader the No. 1 starting position for this year, then drew lots for the other riders.

My contribution for the leg was a little bonus question that required the riders to go to an alley in downtown San Francisco and find a plaque on a wall that memorialized a scene in the movie, "The Maltese Falcon." The question was, "Private detective Sam Spade's partner was shot to death in this alley. What was his name?" Only in San Francisco would people put up an historical marker to remember something that never really happened.

When the riders came into Plunkett's BMW in Spokane, there were some dramatic shifts in the standings. Neither Kruemke nor Kellerman, the two who had done the giant Louisiana ride on leg No. 1, showed up �� worse, they didn't call. No one knew where in hell they were. But people knew where Jan Cutler had been.

Cutler, the owner of Reno BMW and organizer of many endurance runs (Nevada 1100, Bite the Bullet, co-organizer of the '91 Butt), had done a monster ride �� Arizona, Utah, and probably parts of South America �� and had rocketed out of 10th place on leg No.1 to take over first place. At Spokane, his total mileage for the first 78 hours of the event was 3,988 �� an almost unbelievable average of 51-plus mph. He was averaging 1,227 miles a day.

Peter Hoogeveen from Ontario, who missed winning the '91 Iron Butt Rally by six heartbreaking points, had done a strange route, doubling back across the Sierra Nevada mountains and picking up a lot of heavy points. He took a giant jump from nowhere to fourth place. A lot of people are wishing Peter well, since he has an unfortunate reputation of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory so often on so many different endurance events that his name has become synonymous with Horrible Bad Luck.

Joe Mandeville, an administrative law judge in Los Angeles, had also ridden a big leg, taking over second place, 200-plus points behind Cutler. Ordinarily this would be a terrible deficit to try to overcome, but the mileage run up by the leaders so far this year is uncommonly large, and these guys could be burning themselves into oblivion. If they can keep it up �� doubtful, as they approach the slower roads in the east and terrible weariness begins to settle in �� they would easily shatter all previous IBR total distance records.

What about third place? Oh, I almost forgot. Remember Steve Attwood, the Englishman on the Guzzi? There he is, a mere six points out of second place, averaging an incredible 1,200 miles a day. At the driver's meeting the night before the start, Kneebone reminded the other riders that Steve was unfamiliar with the United States and that they should give him all the help he needed. It sounds like he didn't need much. He has one advantage �� the Guzzi gets better than 60 mpg.

By Spokane, 13 of the 41 starters �� 32 percent of the field �� were either in hospitals, AWOL, or had bikes with little "X" marks in the headlights. Two nights ago I was with Kneebone in a hotel in Montvale, New Jersey. He was taking messages and updates from his voice-mail, shaking his head in disbelief. One-third of the way through the event, he had lost one-third of the field. If the pace kept up, there wouldn't be any finishers.

Next up is checkpoint No. 3 (south of Chicago), where they would have been this morning at 9:00. I'm waiting to hear from Mike right now. You really will want to stay tuned �� this leg will definitely separate the sheep from the goats. It is brutal.

Tuesday Sep 7, 1993

01:46 EDT

Checkpoint No. 3 (south of Chicago)

Jan Cutler, the leader after leg No. 2, called Mike Kneebone at 9:30 p.m. on Sunday. Cutler was in a motel in Gillette, Wyoming, about 1,150 miles from the next checkpoint in Chicago. His mood was jolly.

"I've got these guys, Mike," Jan said.

"You went backwards to Blaine?" Mike asked.

"Yep," Cutler affirmed. "Did all the bonus questions."

"I'm impressed," Mike said, impressed.

"So I'll see you at nine tomorrow night," Jan confirmed.

"You might," Mike said. "But the checkpoint opens at nine tomorrow morning."

The phone was silent for a second.

"I've gotta go," Jan said, and hung up.

There was no way Cutler was going to average 100 mph to Chicago. He ended up missing the checkpoint Monday morning, lost 4,000 points, and doomed himself to hopeless oblivion. Misreading the instructions, such as being off by 12 hours, can tend to hurt you in the worst possible way at the worst possible time. Ask Jan. All that meat and no potatoes.

Joe Mandeville, the L.A. judge, sat at the checkpoint in Spokane, picked up the next leg's instructions, and saw that the big bonus points would require him to ride not toward the next checkpoint in Chicago, but backwards toward Blaine, Washington, on the Pacific coast as Cutler had done, at minimum a 700-mile round trip in the wrong direction. He now holds a 178-point lead.

At the Chicago checkpoint Monday morning, Mandeville was looking chipper, joked with Kneebone, and had all the trappings of a winner. But then so did Jan Cutler two-and-a-half days earlier. Mandeville has ridden 6,656 miles in 142 hours, averaging 1,125 miles every day for the past six days.

Peter Hoogeveen made the trek as well, climbing into second place. Ron Major continued his slow climb to the top, overcoming a few days of sickness, and now stands just 95 points behind Peter. This was the same methodical plodding that he managed in 1991 when he won the contest. He also went backwards to Blaine, taking over third place from Steve Attwood, who opted to ride down to Pike's Peak �� and go all the way to the top �� west of Colorado Springs. Steve is now 151 points behind Major.

Loegering's miseries, spectacular to begin with, have actually increased. This is the man who lost his universal joint in the parking lot at the start of the rally and who had to have a top end done at the first checkpoint. When he arrived in Spokane, he had to have his carbs rebuilt. By the time he arrived in Chicago, he was running on 3/4 of a quart of oil, the rest of it having mysteriously disappeared somewhere in the Great Plains. They did two oil changes, then sent poor Tom on his way. An hour east of Chicago his charging system failed. A couple of BMW riders hit the road with some sort of fix. Where Tom might be tonight is anyone's guess, but if I had been through his disasters, I'd be thinking about pushing the bike into a ditch and setting it afire. How he has made it to ninth place is the miracle of this rally. If overcoming obstacles means anything, Tom already won the Iron Butt three days ago.

The AWOL Morris Kruemke and Ardys Kellerman turned up late in Spokane, missing the checkpoint. The big ride they took to Louisiana on leg No. 1 apparently took its toll. A checkpoint is worth 4,000 points; missing one puts "finis" on one's hopes. Ardys, a tough lady in her 60s, is still plugging away, hoping for the best.

The next section ends up at checkpoint No. 4 in Gorham, Maine, just west of Portland. The easy route runs through Canada and to the top of Mt. Washington in eastern New Hampshire. A tougher route with bigger bonus points is through the ultra-slow state routes in Pennsylvania. The "extreme" route takes them backwards from Chicago to Missouri �� sound familiar? They're due in at 6:00 p.m. Tuesday.

Tuesday, Sep 7, 1993

21:54 EDT

Checkpoint No. 4 (Gorham, Maine)

Joe Mandeville, riding conservatively on the fourth leg of the rally, increased his lead to 306 points over the second-place rider. Mandeville continues to look comfortable and rested after 178 hours, yet still is averaging just under 1,100 miles a day. The event is in its eighth day and will finish south of Fort Worth, Texas, at 11:00 a.m. on Saturday.

Steve Attwood took over second place with a big ride, climbing over the former first- and second-place finishers in the 1991 IBR. He has ridden 140 more total miles than Mandeville and is still not out of the running. Attwood's ride from Chicago to Maine included a trip to the top of Mt. Washington in eastern New Hampshire for 501 bonus points. He hauled in more bonuses on this leg than any other rider. Realistically, he is the only rider left in the field with a chance to catch the Los Angeles judge.

Frank Taylor from Utah came from sixth place to third with his trip to Mt. Washington. He is 409 points behind Attwood. Only severe rider error by the leaders, or mechanical breakdowns, can bring Taylor any closer to the top �� but such disasters are part and parcel of the Iron Butt Rally, as this year's event has already shown.

Peter Hoogeveen didn't make the mountain bonus, for reasons that are unclear. In an early mailing of checkpoint locations and times, Mike Kneebone originally had told the riders that the Maine checkpoint would be open from 1700-1900 on this date. That time was subsequently changed to 1800-2000, and confirmed in the rally packets that the riders were given at the rally's start. It may be that Hoogeveen thought he was due in Gorham an hour earlier than necessary. The mistake cost him severely, dropping him from second to fourth, an impossible 800-plus points behind Mandeville.

Ron Major, the '91 Iron Butt winner, evidently followed Hoogeveen's course exactly on the fourth leg, and remains less than 100 points behind Peter in fifth place with 20,060. Barring a miracle, there will be no olive wreath for Ron this year.

Richard Frost, in ninth place, won't be there for long. His bike is breaking up under him and he has told Kneebone that he is returning to Chicago for a replacement. That is permitted under the rules, but the penalty is 5,000 points.

Steve Chalmers, who had been in the top five from the beginning, also missed Mt. Washington. Had he ridden there, he would be in third place now.

Finally, Tom Loegering's amazing saga of overcoming Pain, Fear, and the BMW from Hell continues. For four hours east of Chicago, Tom sat on the side of the road with a dead charging system in his Paris-Dakar, the fourth stop-me-cold-and-beat-me-to-death mechanical problem he'd seen in as many legs. A local BMW rider on a R bike hustled to the scene, sacrificing parts of his bike so that Loegering could continue. Having given the field yet another enormous head start, Loegering steamed forward and moved up from ninth place to seventh. There may never be an Iron Butt story as awesome as this. If the man doesn't get a standing ovation at the awards ceremony, life is truly more cruel than his own bike.

Next checkpoint, Daytona, Thursday afternoon. Can Mandeville keep up the unholy pace? Can Attwood remember to keep driving on the right? Will Loegering's electrical system turn into an electric chair? Is Morris Kruemke's bladder drainage system still working?

You'll find out here.

Interim Report

Two accidents marred the ninth day of the event as the riders were en route from Maine to Florida.

Not 20 minutes after leaving the Gorham, Maine, checkpoint, Ron Major was hit broadside by a driver who ran a stop sign. Major broke his collarbone and lost a tooth. His bike, one of the most beautifully prepared endurance machines you'll ever see, was demolished. A local driver, claiming he was "confused" at the intersection, was charged in the accident.

Marty Jones, who had climbed from 10th to sixth place on the previous leg, had decided to make a run for the top. He had ridden from Maine to Pittsburgh for a large bonus, and was running through West Virginia when he low-sided in a graveled corner. He cracked his heel, but was not hospitalized.

Steve Attwood, the Englishman running in second place, reportedly was having front wheel problems and had telephoned a Guzzi dealer in Daytona for a replacement. In a call to Mike Kneebone, Attwood said, "These bloody roads are breaking up my bike!" At the Maine checkpoint, Attwood and several other riders found a shed in which to sleep for an hour. At the departure time, the riders were awakened, but apparently Attwood didn't hear the summons. He was promptly overlooked and locked in the shed. Then someone noticed that a bike with a license plate from Great Britain remained in the lot after the other riders had departed. Checking around, they found Steve still asleep. They roused him and sent him on his way.

When last heard from, he was in West Virginia, trying to figure out in which direction Florida might lie.

Thursday, September 9, 1993

Checkpoint No. 5 (Daytona Beach, Florida)

Joe Mandeville, who after the Chicago checkpoint appeared to have an insurmountable lead, watched it go down the drain this afternoon when he realized he would not be able to make the Daytona checkpoint on time. He lost 4,000 points and dropped back into the middle of the pack. Mandeville called Mike Kneebone in mid-afternoon and said that he'd just gotten greedy. It's not one of the Seven Deadly Sins for nothing.

A similar fate befell Peter Hoogeveen, who was time-barred in Daytona, trying to recover from a poor Chicago-Maine leg.

Steve Attwood, overcoming front-wheel problems on his Moto Guzzi Le Mans, has taken the lead with one leg to go. He limped into Daytona with shot bearings, replaced the wheel, and appeared to be ready for the final segment. Riders are due back in the Fort Worth, Texas, area by 11:00 a.m. on Saturday, just 36 hours away. Attwood has logged 10,236 miles so far.

Frank Taylor is 457 points behind Attwood. Gary Moore, riding consistently, moved up to third place, just 17 points behind Taylor. Steve Chalmers, who had held fifth place for most of the rally before dropping to 10th when he failed to make the Mt. Washington bonus, moved back up to fourth place with a big Pittsburgh bonus �� not the most direct route from Maine to Daytona. Had Chalmers done Mt. Washington, he would be a mere 50 points behind Attwood.

Tom Loegering, on the BMW that has given him endless trouble, continued to ride steadily, moving from seventh to fifth on the most recent leg.

The mechanical toll on the bikes continued. Ray Becerra�s ST1100 went belly-up in South Carolina when the transmission turned to dust. Richard Frost switched bikes at home for a 5,000-point penalty and made to Florida on time.

The last leg will be true to the spirit of the Iron Butt. The most direct route from Daytona to Fort Worth will bring about 1,000 points in bonuses. More challenging is a 2,000-mile ride down toward Key West. The section through the Tennessee mountains is the most difficult, at 2,400 miles; if Attwood chooses this route and picks up the principal bonuses, he cannot be beaten. A final route takes the riders straight to the finish. There they must run 512 miles to Boise City, Oklahoma, check in, then turn around and come back to Fort Worth. It's an easy ride, worth about 2,000 points, and represents the last bitter backtracking pill that the riders will have to endure.

Fort Worth, Texas

Sunday, September 12, 1993

00:23 EDT

Steve Attwood won the '93 Iron Butt Rally, triumphing over a field of 41 riders. In the event's 11 days, Attwood rode 12,458 miles, averaging 1,132 miles per day. In the final leg, despite terrible mechanical difficulties, Attwood increased his winning margin to over 1,600 points.

Three routes lured the riders to the finish in Texas from the Daytona checkpoint: ride to Key West; to the mountains of Tennessee; or to Oklahoma, 500 miles beyond the finish line, then backtrack. Attwood opted for the straight, clear roads to Oklahoma. All was well until he developed a flat tire near Fort Worth on the outbound leg. In barely 20 minutes he removed the wheel and tire, patched the tube, remounted the tire, and was on his way. Normal people would take an hour or two for the job. When asked why he didn't use the BMW tire plug kit he carried, Attwood replied that he was saving that for an emergency.

His miseries didn't end there. On the final dash back to Mansfield, Texas, from Boise City, Oklahoma, he stopped for gas in Wichita Falls, Texas. The bike wouldn't restart. Attwood pulled one of the spark plugs and rode the last 150 miles on one cylinder, unable to go faster than 45 mph. He arrived at the final checkpoint 90 minutes late. In another half hour, he would have been time- barred and lost the rally.

The rest of the field:

2nd: Frank Taylor (Venture)

3rd: Gary Moore (Wing)

4th: Eddie Metz (Wing)

5th: Harold Brooks (Wing)

6th: Steve Chalmers (Venture)

7th: Tom Loegering (BMW P-D)

8th: Don Dingbaum (CBR600) - smallest bike ever to finish an Iron Butt Rally

9th: Jack Savage (FJ1200)

10th: Doug Packard (KLR600)

Tom Loegering's hateful and malevolent BMW Paris-Dakar, which had failed him so early and so often, again went belly-up with another charging system failure just after the Daytona checkpoint. He had finally run out of time in which to recover, but he never ran out of heart. If BMW made bikes as tough as Loegering's iron will, they'd never break.

This has been an Iron Butt for the ages. The clich�s spring to mind, but the motto of the invitation-only association remains more true today than ever: The World's Toughest Motorcycle Competition. This year the leader of the pack lives in Great Britain. We couldn't have a finer example.

Congratulations to the competitors �� we can only stand in awe of your accomplishments.


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