Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Ft. Stockton for Lunch

There and Back, an Iron Butt tale

Our goal was simple, hop on our motorcycles and ride 1000 miles in less than 24 hours. No problem between Todd and I we would definitely have this all planned out. It would be a cake walk! For me personally it's a goal I wanted to accomplish while I still had my GSX-R 600 since people think that bike really isn't made for long distance riding.

During the week leading up to our grand journey we both had our challenges. I discovered a cut in my rear tire from a shard of glass and Todd had to get new tires because they were worn out. Saturday I get an email from him saying he got his new tires but a collar is missing for the back wheel. Oh oh! That could cancel the whole trip. Luckily he found the collar on Sunday and we were ready to ride on Monday provided the weather forecasters were at least a little incorrect.

For the past several days the weather forecast was looking worse and worse and worse. I don't mind a little rain but severe flooding isn't the sort of thing I want to go out in. At least not on the bike. I've got the Jeep to go romping around in when the waters start climbing.

So finally Monday morning arrives and the weather looks good enough to at least meet up with Todd. I get dressed and collect my stuff that I've been packing for the past 24 hours. One check of the rules and I'm out the door. Reagan comes out give me a good-bye kiss and witness my departure.

4:29am - 0 miles
I get over to the Shell gas station to fill up and get my starting receipt. On the way over I discover my first problem. It seems when I exported the route from Microsoft Streets and Trips into Garmin's MapSource and then downloaded it to my Zumo things got a little confusing. I had my house as both the start and end points so it happily tried to route me right back to the house. Deleting the last half of the route seemed to fix the problem.

OK fueled up ready to go!

5:06am - 31.7 miles
I pull into the Shell station and don't see Todd. I'm wondering where he is and then I see that he's part at the other end of the station and he seems to be ready to go. I top off my tank so I can grab a receipt for documentational purposes. Arrrgh! My credit card won't read in the card reader. Walk over to the store, give them the card (they don't understand why I don't just swipe it), go back to the pump and fill up, walk back to the store and get my card a reciept. Sure hope it's not like this at every stop.

We are on our way. While merging onto I-45 from the feeder road I hit 103mph on the GPS max speed. Oh boy! this is going to be long trip better slow it down to something a little more legal. 10 over is the goal and we should do alright with that for the most part.

6:33am - 136.1 miles
Todd has been in the lead. We've been through some pretty wet stuff and I found the holes in my jacket. I guess those water proof zippers don't work so well if you don't zip them up. Todd managed to show me that it is possible to hydroplane on a motorcycle. We pull into the Exxon in Weimar, Tx and Todd is concerned with his front wheel and the brakes. The front brake seems "grabby". "Oh oh! Will we actually make this trip", I wonder to myself. Both of us inspect the front wheel and don't see anything wrong and the break rotors aren't hot to the touch. Gas, bathroom break, clean the visors and we're back out on the road!

Burrrr! It's cold and it's the end of May. What gives. A quick check of the weather on the GPS shows the local temp to be 63 degrees. Hmmm, a wet jacket with no liner, 80 mph, yup! that's a pretty cold wind chill.

Note to self. Don't leave home without the jacket liner, no matter what time of the year it is!

As we get past Columbus the sky starts looking better and better. As the sun is rising in my mirror it looks like we've gotten past the rain. Rolling into San Antonio things are looking good and we see other riders out for a morning ride oblivious to the nasty weather back east.

8:22am - 266.5 miles

The fuel light came on a little ways back so I thought it'd be a good time to tell Todd I wanted to pull over and dump in the extra 2 gallons of gas I was carrying. Instead he decided to stop at the Chevron in Boerne so we could gas up, hit the bathroom and stuff.

After that stop I'm starting to see the benefits of signs that say "Clean Restrooms"

During this leg of the trip we stop at a rest stop to dump a little fuel.

10:49am - 441.5 miles
We pull into the Chevron in Ozona. There's a car museum with a Nascar truck in it but it looks to be closed. Turns out you can just look through the glass, they don't let you inside. The gas station is having problems with their phone lines or something because they have signs up saying no credit cards. Hmmm, cash that's something I don't normally use to by gas. We take a little extra time at this stop. We both get a snack and drinks. I can tell by looking at the GPS though that we'll be in Ft. Stockton pretty soon so.

Back out on the road and as we get moving the arrival time drops from 1pm to 12:30. Yee haw, less than 2 hours and we'll be there. And there's no need to make another stop along the way.

That is unless someone needs to make a pit stop. We pull into a rest area and I end up talking to a fellow motorcyclist who was heading to the Grand Canyon the next day. He just had to make it to El Paso today. No problem. Well except he was worried about running out of gas because he had been on reserve for the past 25 miles. He had an extra gallon of gallon gas that he was going to dump in. I was waiting for him to ask if he could borrow/buy some of my extra gas. Since he didn't waive at me earlier on the trip I was going to let him ask for it instead of just offering it to him. (Note, always waive to fellow riders). We left him there filling up his tank. I told if we saw him on the side of the road we'd stop on our way back since we were just running up to Ft. Stockton for lunch and then heading back to Houston.

15 miles down the road, in the middle of nowhere is a little town called Bakersfield, Tx. The only thing that makes it a town is the Exxon gas station. I figure the fellow biker was smart and stopped there for fuel since I didn't see him on our return trip.

12:28pm - 553 miles
We roll into Ft. Stockton. Wooo hooo! We fill up and then take off to find the giant Road Runner and look for a place to eat. We don't find the Road Runner and head into town from the west on 285. Wanting something quick and easy we grab Subway for lunch and take a breather. The young lady behind the counter was way too happy but pretty stingy on the mustard. I ask directions to the Road Runner which she promptly informs me is just down the street a ways. She's not really sure how far but it only takes 10 minutes to go from one end of town to the other. How hard can it be to find.

Thanks to Todd's eagle eye, we find it. I had driven right past it in the lead...

1:45pm - back on the road!

3:28pm - 712.6 miles
We stop in Sonora at the Chevron. I think Todd has a thing for Chevrons. The bugs seem exceptionally prevalent today so we've been sure to clean our visors at every stop. This is a typical stop, gas, bathroom, drinks. Since it's getting warmer we take a few extra minutes to admire the scenery before jumping back out on the road.

4:31pm - Roadside hospitality
Kimble County's finest decide to welcome us to their fine county. The corvette patrol comes by us chasing a pickup truck but manages to slow down enough to tell us to pull over. What??? What's he talking about. Then another deputy in a Crown Vic pulls up along side and signals us to stop. This has got to be a joke.

The deputy to walks up to us before we can get our helmets off and informs us we were doing 88 in an 80mph zone. Huh? 8 over and he's stopping us. What gives. We give him our stuff and he promptly gives us tickets for speeding and a nice pamphlet that tells us how to pay our $145. Interestingly the pamphlet tells you not to call to discuss the ticket but to only call if you need to set up a payment plan. Interesting!

The best part to the 10 minute ordeal was when the deputy thanked us for being courteous and understanding. Like we had a choice. Thanks officer Bart.

We get back on the road and ride into Junction to stop at the Mc Donalds for a bathroom break. For some reason Todd didn't think it was a good idea to go to the bathroom on the side of the road while we were pulled over. Who knows maybe we would have gotten a ticket for that instead of speeding. Really? 8mph over. While at the stop I dump in the 2 gallons of gas so we can make it past San Antonio.

6:52pm - 915 miles
Are we there yet? After the speeding tickets things slowed down to the speed limit +/- 5mph. Let me tell you when we are going those speeds it seems that you are at odds with the cagers more frequently. We stop at the Tiger Tote in Seguin to hit the bathrooms and fill up for the last time. According to the GPS I've got 155 miles to the house. No problem I can make that and if I run out of gas before I get back to the Shell station I've got 2 gallons to spare. Again, my credit card gives me trouble but after explaining to the clerk that the card was good and I even had a $50 bill to back up my purchase he could go ahead and turn on the pump for $20. $17.76 and I'm fueled up. I fill up my Camelback and grab a snack bar.

Back out on the road...

OK, when we passed Luling I realised the one flaw in our master plan. Holiday traffic. At some points were doing 55 mph in the left lane and it was obvious that everyone was anxious to get home. Driving seemed to progressively get worse the later it got. I was just hoping that it wouldn't rain before I got home.

8:53pm - 1050 miles, Exiting TX-99

Almost home now. Just 20 miles left. No problem. Just want to take it easy on the Grand Parkway. It's just too easy to crank up the speed when it's only 60mph along there.

9:17pm - 1070.7 miles
I fill up the tank and get my ending receipt. I've done it 1000 miles in less than 24 hours. Actually it was never any doubt that I could make the distance in less than 24 hours. The real question was whether I'd get home before bedtime or before sunrise.

9:30pm - Home again
I pull into the driveway and Reagan is kind enough to open the garage door for me. As I'm taking off my gear and putting the bike up there's so much to tell her. And of course I have to tell her about the speeding ticket and the Corvette patrol car. She too is surprised. "8 over, really?"

Mission accomplished. And it was surprisingly easy.

Here's a list of the gear I used:
  • Olympia AST Jacket - OK but needed the liner in the harshest rain
  • Olympia Ranger Pants - Worked great!
  • UnderArmor underwear - VERY important!
  • Shoei RF-1000 - had an annoying air leak which whistles
  • TourMaster Road Boots - very comfortable
  • Olympia summer gloves - no good in the rain and turned my palms black from the dye
  • E.A.R. Inc custom ear buds - good sound but could have blocked out more wind noise
  • Garmin Zumo 550 w/ XM Radio - This made the trip fun. I was jamming to tunes the whole time
  • Suzuki Gel Seat - don't ride without one
  • Cycle Venture Bike Pack - worked great to carry everything even my 2 gal. gas can
  • 1 liter Camelback bladder - I kept it in my tank bag, I won't ride without it now
Luckily we didn't have any mechanical problems along the way so I didn't have to pull out the tools but I was ready. Air pump, tire repair kit, wrenches, tie wraps, etc... I was ready just in case.

Next I think I'll bag the Bun Burner 1500 (1,500 miles in 36 hours). Maybe later in the week when I go pickup the BMW R1200GS in Tamp, FL. Before the "hospitality" stop in Kimble county I was thinking the Bun Burner Gold (1,500 in 24 hours) would be fun. It would be simple, just ride out to El Paso and turn around. It's not out of the question but it seems a little harder to do staying within +/- 5mph of the speed limit. At least in Kimble county.

One thing I've learned on this adventure. If you need to go 1000 miles and it's along interstate you don't have to take 2 days to get there. It can be done in a day and you still have time to make it to happy hour at your destination.

More tales from the road to come, I'm sure.

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