Your scribe is posting a few words here in hopes of assisting folks who do not know much about what is really involved in riding 1000 miles a day for 11 days while routing on the fly and collecting bonuses in remote or high traffic locations. It is understandable that not many people on this planet would understand, because less than 650 people have ever completed the Iron Butt Rally.

Our remaining riders are all following little pink lines on their GPS units, a digital representation of their best-effort routes for bonus collecting on a very long Leg 3. They are all hoping to gather as many points as possible before the finish this Friday in Pittsburgh, PA. We wish them well, but what does it feel like to ride the last few days of the 11-day IBR?

I am usually more of a Johnny Cash fan, but ever since Mike Kneebone made the Johnny Nash song “I Can See Clearly” the theme song for my first IBR competition, way back in 2001, the words resonate in my mind every two years, at about this time. 

“I can see clearly now the rain is gone
I can see all obstacles in my way
Gone are the dark clouds that had me blind
It’s gonna be a bright, bright, sunshiny day

Oh yes, I can make it now the pain is gone
All of the bad feelings have disappeared 
Here is that rainbow I have been praying for
It’s gonna be a bright, bright, sunshiny day 

Look all around, there’s nothing but blue skies
Look straight ahead, there’s nothing but blue skies

I can see clearly now the rain is gone 
I can see all obstacles in my way
Gone are the dark clouds that had me blind 
It’s gonna be a bright, bright, sunshiny day”

This evening, riders on Leg 3 have passed the 200-hour mark in their epic 11-day journey. Many of them are currently in a metaphorical dark cloud as their tired brains and sore bodies strive to function efficiently despite the stress. Some may feel like they have jumped from the frying pan into the fire, some may feel like they are simmering in a crock pot, and some may feel like they are in a pressure cooker. No matter what, they are about to be served up on a plate in a few days for all to see.

They are struggling to organize the bonus options and combo possibilities, calculate the miles remaining to Pittsburgh, count down the time remaining to the start of the penalty window, evaluate the condition of their bug-encrusted, road-weary metallic steeds, wondering if they have enough tread life remaining in their rear tires when there may not be enough time to change tires, stewing over whether they have enough water on board to hydrate them in the record heat, and perhaps … even struggling to remember today’s calendar date as all the days on the road begin to run together. It is June 27, by the way.

Heck, some of them are experiencing all these mental gymnastics while riding nearly blind through a real bank of dark clouds and pouring rain. Seeing clearly may elude them for the next few days, as gnawing doubt and the weight of the unknown tries desperately to crush their weary spirits.

But much like an airliner ascending through an ominous dark cloud and breaking into the clear air space above a turbulent storm system, giving the pilot a view of the big picture of brilliant sunshine illuminating the tops of the storm clouds, making the storm a thing of beauty instead of something ominous and dreadful, perhaps even catching a glimpse of a promising rainbow, these riders will soon feel the relief of arriving at the finish hotel. 

For most, the burdens they have carried for 11 days, or perhaps even for a couple of years, will be lifted. The unknowns will become known. The relief experienced will feel like the dawn of a bright, bright, sunshiny day. The obstacles, or most of them, will have been overcome and will no longer be in their way. 

At the finish, fierce competitors will hug and congratulate each other as friends for life, because they have been in the storm together and ridden through it all …. into the sunshiny day at the end. It is truly a life-changing experience for most who complete the rally.

There will be some who did not reach their altitude targets, but time and reflection can provide some perspective and revelation, such as realizing that becoming a finisher should be a bright spot for every rider who overcomes their personal challenges to complete the rally. Most motorcycle riders will never know, or even appreciate, what it feels like to become a finisher of the IBR.

All IBR finishers, regardless of placement, will have had the opportunity to look deep inside themselves during these 11 intense days. Eleven days of challenging themselves in ways most people will never attempt, nor comprehend, nor even try to understand. 

They will have found a strength and self-reliance in themselves that they might not have expected to uncover. They will have experienced highs and lows of epic proportions. They will have confronted inner demons and shoved them aside, if not completely obliterated them. 

They will have found remote and interesting locations which will become future vacation trips with family and friends. Destinations to be enjoyed without the pressure of the clock limiting the time for in-depth exploration. They will have become one of the very small number of individuals on earth who have done what is required to earn an IBR finish, joining the few riders who have overcome the obstacles and earned that rare and coveted 1-, 2-, or 3-digit IBA number.

So, if you are of a mind to do it… send some love to those riders surrounded by the dark storm clouds, those who may be temporarily blinded by the obstacles between them and the finish. They have less than 64 hours to get back to Pittsburgh, but 60+ hours is still a long time to sit in a pressure cooker and it is still a lot of miles.

Here’s to hoping that on Friday, every one of them will be able to say:

“Yes, it is gonna be a bright, bright, sunshiny day!”

Staff’s View of Storms Over the Riders