Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Heading for home

This morning I had the advantage of a timezone change on my side. I wanted to be on the road by 6AM CDT and lucky for me the Days Inn started serving breakfast at 6am, EDT! It was a normal motel continental breakfast but they had Quaker instant oatmeal, so I finally got another bowl of oatmeal on my trip. Last time I had oatmeal was last Wednesday in Amarillo.

I loaded up the bike and checked out of the room. There was a Texaco station across the way so I figured I'd fill up before getting on the I-20 super slab. I swiped my card a few times without luck, I then got off the bike and went in, only to be told to slowly remove my card from the card reader. That did the trick! With 6.925 gallons of gas in the tank I was ready to go, and it wasn't even 7am local time. The Zumo told me I'd be home by 5:15 with 760 miles left. Ear plugs in, XM station 12 turned on, radar detector on, I was ready and it was time to go!

Traveling west on I-20 is about as exciting as watching paint dry, but then that's how most of the interstates are. This ride was no exception. The gps wanted me to stay on 20 until I got to I-55 and then head south. The only problem with that plan was that as I neared Meridian, MS. mother-nature wanted to wash my motorcycle again. Not really wanting to ride through the rain if I didn't have to I decided to take I-59 south to avoid the rain. My plan worked. The gps recalculated and I had lost less than 5 minutes taking this route, however it wanted me to cut over to I-55 about 50 miles down the road. That wouldn't help so I ignored the Zumo for a while.

As I got close to Hiedelberg, the fuel was getting low and I was ready for a bathroom break. So I pulled into an Exxon, filled up the tank, and visited the facilities, then it was back on the bike. Total stop time was just over 7 minutes. I wasn't really trying to make it a quick stop but when traveling alone and with a comfortable seat it's easy to gas and go. So by 9:43am I was back on the road 4 hours into the trip and 284 less miles to home.

Before the gas stop I had already broken the ride down, I knew I would have to stop 2 times for gas while in route plus my start and end stops. Each stop was going to be about three and a half to four hours apart and close to 300 miles. The range depended on my throttle usage more than anything else. Riding down the super slab I like to do all sorts of math to keep my mind busy.

When I got down to Hattiesburg I decided to listen to the gps and cut over toward I-55. The zumo guided me onto highway 98. I began wondering if I was ever going to get out of the stop lights and back up to highway cruising speeds. After about 10 minutes and what seemed like a million stop lights I was back up to cruising speed. Only 333 miles since I left the motel, but at least I was closer to home.

Not much to say about hwy 98 in Mississippi. Parts of it are divided 4 lane and other parts aren't. It does intersect with I-55 at McComb though and that was what I was looking for. So I took the little clover leaf around and then I was heading south toward Louisiana and my next fuel stop.

Around 11:40 I crossed the state line into Louisiana and was starting to get hungry. Plus I needed to shed my liner as the temperature was climbing the farther south I went. So I pulled into the welcome center, ditched my liner, chewed on a cliff bar and then it was back on the road. The trip odometer said I'd done 421 miles today, I was more than half way home.

Once I got down to I-12 traffic became much more noticeable and it required me to be more attentive to the other people on the road. Crossing the bridge in Baton Rouge the 18 wheelers were in every lane. What the heck were they thinking? Slower traffic keep right people!

As I neared the Atchafalaya bridge there was all sorts of chatter on the CB. It seemed law enforcement was heavy on the bridge today. Just as my front tire crossed onto the bridge my radar detector goes crazy indicating laser radar ahead and indeed it was. But that was just the beginning, at least 2 spots along the bridge they have unmanned radar stations that supposedly allow officers to clock your speed, record your violation and then they pull you over at the other end of the bridge. Couple that with the LEOs enforcing the speed limit on the bridge and nobody was moving quickly on the bridge.

When I got to the other side there were 4 police cars waiting and all of them took off after drivers before I could get off the bridge. So at least I knew I wasn't getting a ticket at that time. Besides, with traffic as heavy as it was, I really wasn't doing anything more than just going with the flow.

By 1:50pm I was in Rayne, La. and needed gas. Plus with the warmer weather I had consumed all the water in my camelback so I need to get something cold to drink. Fuel, bathroom break, and loading gatorade/water in the camelback were the highlights of this stop. With the heat, boring interstate and traffic I was starting to get tired. I knew the next stop was going to be in Sugar Land. I took a little longer and called Reagan to let her know how I was doing and about what time I'd be home. Then it was back on the road. Total stop time, 13 minutes.

The temperature kept climbing and by the time I crossed the Texas state line it was 89 degrees with plenty of humidity. What a shock that was to my system since I had been riding in 50 and 60 degree temps the past several days. Of course, it was nice to see the welcome sign with the big Texas flag on it. I thought about what it will be like in the future when I'm traveling from coast to coast to complete my Coast to Coast or Coast to Coast to Coast iron butt rides. On those rides when I reach Texas it'll just be another state I'm passing through. Of course heading west and seeing that mile marker 880 will definitely be interesting.

Anyway, it was 3:16 when I crossed over the Sabine river into Texas. Just a little over two hours to the house. And unfortunately it was looking more and more like I was going to be going through Houston during the beginning of rush hour. And the sky was getting darker to boot. At least if I'm going to get wet it'll be at the end of the day.

Going through Beaumont, the rain was starting as a slight drizzle. Nothing to get you wet but just enough to get the windshield dirty and make the pavement slick. At least the big trucks were staying in the right lane more often then not so it was easier to move along the road.

By the time I reached Houston the sky had cleared and the sun was out. It was 4:41 when I passed the east side of the 610 loop. I was heading for 59 south in downtown. As luck would have it rush hour got an early start today and I was crawling when I reached 59. But I knew I only had a few miles before I could get in the HOV lane and resume near cruising speeds.

Once I reached the HOV entrance I jumped on the throttle only to end up behind some cars that really believed the posted speed limit on the HOV. When we got to the few little curves underneath 610 I thought I was going so slow the bike might tip over. But I was still going faster than the rest of the folks on the freeway.

By 5:15 I'm taking the Sweetwater exit in Sugar Land so I can stop at the Exxon where my journey began. Just before I get there, some clueless cager pulls out in front of me. If I hadn't anticipated her reckless behavior I might have had a collision, instead I had a good laugh as I laid on my Stebel horn and she nearly jumped out of her car while cutting across 3 lanes of the feeder.

It was 5:19 when I completed the last fill up of the trip. I had traveled 4,037 miles and used 110.7272 gallons of gas. The trip average was 36.46 miles per gallon. Interestingly the miles and fuel used after my iron butt ride yielded a slightly better 38.38 miles per gallon. That might have been even better except for the five passes on the Dragon where I definitely wasn't worried about fuel economy.

Gear: What worked

Monday, May 12, 2008

So many curves

At 6:40AM my alarm started going off. This morning was the latest I've slept on the entire trip. Today was my day to ride around the area, check out the roads and eventually head toward. I'd only get one morning in the Smokey Mountains and this was it.

The plan was simple, another pass on the Dragon and then I was going to take the Foothills Parkway over to Townsend, then 73 over to 441 and ride through the Great Smokey Mountains National Park, then back around onto 28 (Hellbender) and arrive at the Deals Gap Resort to buy some souvenirs. The route was planned and loaded into the GPS.

I packed up pretty quickly and checked out of the Inn. I was getting on the road before Sweetwater BBQ started serving breakfast so I thought I'd find something up the road. Preferably a small cafe with a friendly waitress and good food.

By 8:15am my bike is dipping into the first turn of the Dragon. The road was a little damp with the morning dew and last night's weather. I take it easy just in case there's debris in the road. There's not another soul on the road, again it's my road to enjoy. Of course I remind myself that if things get out of hand no one will know either so I take it easy. But now the corners are developing a sort of natural feel to them, a rhythm. By looking far ahead things seem really slow but when I glance down at the speedometer I notice I'm going over the speed limit, oooops!. Now it's getting fun...

By the time I reached the end of the Dragon I hadn't seen a single motorcycle and only a few cars. Unlucky folks going to work I guessed. The GPS tells me my next turn is in a few miles. It's the Foothills Parkway which is supposed to be a great way to weave through the area. As I make the turn onto the parkway I see a gate across the road. It seems the road is closed. There's a sign warning of penalties for ignoring road closures. I get back on US 129 and head north.

When I get to 411 I head toward Maryville. By now I'm on 4 lane roads with lots of people and traffic for the region. I stop for gas only to see a sign mentioning 10% ethanol. NO THANK YOU!!!! So I continue on until I reach 321 toward Townsend. I had passed a little cafe just before Maryville and hadn't seen anything since when I see a sign for a cafe, gift shop and more. The name escapes me now but it was probably the meca for scrap booking types and old folks riding around in their RVs. Of course no customers were there when I pulled in but a sign said they served breakfast and I new I was getting close to the park roads.

The staff was friendly but it was definitely not the type of place I was looking for. It sort of reminded me of those Oakridge Farms stores you find in the mall around the holidays. I will say they fried my eggs just like I like them HARD...

So with food in my stomach it was was time to get back on the road. I continue on 321 toward Gatlinburg. When I pass through Townsend the GPS decides it wants me to take 337 into the park, the only problem with that idea is that the road was closed for work. So I turned around and resumed my travels on 321 toward Gatlinburg.

Finally when I get to Lyon Springs I see a road to the right that I figure will get me into the Park. After riding through some residential area sure enough I'm in the park. I meet up with Cades Cove which was closed at this end as well. I discovered the reason for the closure was so they could mow. That's right, they close the roads to mow. I was now on Little River Road and riding through a very beautiful park. I reach 441 and head south. There wasn't much change in the size or speed on 441 compared to Little River road. But I wasn't trying to make time, I was just having fun riding through a beautiful area.

Much like riding on the Blue Ridge parkway, 441 has some pretty good elevation changes. When I got up over 5000 this time the temperature fell to 35 degrees. I passed a couple who apparently decided they were cold because they looked like they were putting on everything they had on the bike. Thank goodness for heated grips and a gerbing liner...

Once out of the park I stopped in Cherokee for more gas. This was the same place I filled up the day before. That's one of the benefits of the larger tank. After a fill up and a chat with a Harley rider I was back on 441.

A few miles down the road I met up with 19 and took that west to Robbinsville again. This part was familiar from the day before. It's a nice 4 lane highway so speeds were normal but some of the curves were still fun.

Just like the day before, as I come up to 28, "Barney Fife" is there shooting radar at those on 19. It's an easy place to let the speed creep up. Fortunately for me, you need to slow down to make the right hand curve onto 28.

This stretch was also familiar. That is until I got to where 143 intersects. Yesterday that's where I turned off but not today. I stay on 28 and the road gets twisty in a hurry. Not quite like the Dragon twisty but very fun none the less. Later I find out this little stretch of heaven is known as Hell Bender. That seems like an appropriate name. Heading west most of the curves were uphill so I was really able to carve the corners as it seems easier to control speed going uphill.

Hwy 28 comes out at the Deals Gap resort so I pulled in there to get some shirts and a drink before I made one more pass on the Dragon. As I'm getting off my bike I see two fellow instructors from the conference, Mitch and Regina. I had tried to get them to ride over with me but they didn't want to take the long way from Memphis. We talked for a while when a few more instructors from the conference showed up. After some shopping and more talking Mitch, Regina and I headed out onto the Dragon. Since I had been on it several times already I took the lead. Mitch was with me into the first corner and then he seemed to drop back slowly. That Ultra Classic is a comfy bike but it can't corner like the GS.

When I got to the observation point I stopped to let them catchup. We hung out there for a while and then continued down the other side of the Dragon. I turned around at the gravel lot and waited for them. As they got close I headed back on to the Dragon and waived goodbye. That last pass had been my best, I even left a little bit of my engine guard on one of the corners. This pass though started out with me meeting 2 gravel trucks. I took that as an omen and kept my speed low and left plenty of space between me and the center. I could also tell I was getting tired.

When I got to the Dragon Resort I stopped again to straighten out an exchange for a friend and to rest a little bit. I couldn't believe it, but all those curves had worn me out. After getting the right size shirt and a little rest I mounted up and headed toward the Cherohala Skyway. Since I still felt a little tired I took it easy and enjoyed the scenery of the skyway. It was nice but not as nice as the Blue Ridge Parkway.

When I finally got to 411 it was refreshing to see a straight road. As I traveled farther down the road it was clear that I was getting away from mountains and onto flat land again. The temperature was also rising as well. I stopped along the roadside to shed the liner then it was back on the road. I managed to stay on back roads through Tennessee and Georgia finally ending up in Bremen, Ga next to I-20. The GPS said I was less than 800 miles from home so I figured this was a great place to stay for the night.

After checking into the motel I talked to a few other riders and then walked over to Arbys for dinner. Afterwards I went back to the room and found the ice machine so I could polish off the remainder of the Crown Royal. It was a great day on the road, all those curves wore me out. Tomorrow would be filled with boring interstates.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Smokey Mountain High

It's 4:30am when my alarm clock went off today. I've got a great day planned. The conference was over yesterday afternoon but bad weather was rolling across the area so I decided to stay in Memphis for the night. Besides I really enjoy the beds in a Marriot, I wake up so refreshed.

I had packed the night before and just needed to put away a few things like the lap top and toiletries. It was going to take two trips to get everything lugged down to the bike. Once that was done a call to the front desk and I was checked out of the hotel. It was nice to start the bike again and hear the purr of the boxer. Inside the parking garage the exhaust rumbled around making the bike sound huge.

Once I got out of the garage I decided to take the southern loop around Memphis since I had traveled on the northern side earlier. It's not like I was on a serious time crunch. I only had 700 miles to go and I was leaving early enough to easily reach my hotel in Robbinsville, North Carolina before dark.

As I road through Nashville there was an interview on XM12 about an artist who struggled to get their songs recorded. I wondered about the road I was riding on and just how many of the famous and not so famous country artists had traveled on that same stretch of highway. Heck I might have been traveling down the same lane that Gretchen Wilson traveled in (I was riding in the fast lane). I looked around like a silly tourist to see if there were any famous people in cars around me. Nope! But then at 8 o'clock in the morning on mothers day I wasn't expecting much.

Around 9am I stopped for fuel near Gordonsville, TN. The stop was quick and then I was back out on the road. By now, I had a rhythm to my stops. Without any other riders it really was up to my whims as to how long I stopped. After getting gas I saw a Huddle House so I pulled in for a good breakfast. No oatmeal on the menu so I had a biscuit, egg and bacon sandwich with a side of hash browns and coffee. Yum!!! Although the food might not be the healthiest I like these places because you can get in and out pretty quick. Total time spent for fuel and food was 20 minutes and I wasn't even hurrying.

With the recommendation of a friend I had decided to take the long way to my room for the night and ride 50 miles or so of the Blue Ridge Parkway. If I didn't do it today, I wouldn't do it on this trip as I wasn't going to get this far east any more. By 1pm I was getting on the Blue Ridge Parkway just south of Ashville, NC and west of I-26. Although I wasn't really in need of fuel I started to look around for some but kept going when I didn't find a name brand station I liked.

The Blue Ridge was definitely worth the ride. The scenery is gorgeous. There are look outs around every corner and it just seems so peaceful. As I continued along I noticed I was getting higher and higher. 3000 feet... 4000 feet.... 5000 feet. At around 5,500 feet I pulled over at a stop to look around, it was beautiful up there. Then I kept going. Now above 5000 feet I was routine riding through clouds as they would rush up the side of the mountain. I stopped at 6062 feet and tried to call my mom to wish her a happy mother's day. I had reception but she wasn't there. Then I called Reagan to let her know where I was (as if she couldn't tell with the SPOT). I made sure to take a picture in front of the sign marking the highest point along the Blue Ridge. Then it was back on the bike.

With the slower speeds my gas mileage really did well and I didn't stop until I reached Cherokee, NC. where I found an Exxon. I had to go in for a bottle of water and my receipt when the young guy behind the counter told me I'd better find a place soon because bad weather was coming. I said I had a room in Robbinsville and he urged me to get on down the road, so that's what I did.

Even the large highways in this part of the country are wonderful. I didn't know it at the time but I missed out on a fun road known as Hellbender or US28 on the map. But that's not to say I didn't ride on wonderful roads getting to Robbinsville.

By 4pm I was rolling into town. The sky was getting a little dark but the rain hadn't started. I wanted to get checked in at the Two Wheel Inn and then find a place to eat. As I was riding through town I noticed a place called Sweetwater BBQ. Hmmm, that looked like a good choice.

The Inn was about 2 miles south of town on US 129 and well marked with signs. I checked in and was shown my room. Everything looked good. I asked about good BBQ in the area and Sweetwater was recommended so that sealed the deal. I unpacked the biked and thought maybe I might run up 129 to the Dragon after dinner depending on the weather.

Dinner at Sweetwater was OK. They served pulled brisket which I found odd. And the waitress charged me an extra $1 for white meat chicken which is something I settled for as they were out of ribs and pork loin. I tried to reason with her and finally just said, it was going to be part of her tip so she could straighten it out if she wanted to. No where on the menu did it mention an upcharge for white meat chicken. I did get to go back in the kitchen and check out their smoker though. Will, the owner, was proud to show me his kitchen. I inquired about the pulled brisket and he said it was a Sweetwater BBQ thing as he didn't originally do 'Q but started cooking it after he couldn't find any he liked in the area. I could understand that.

As I was leaving the parking lot I almost dropped the bike twice. It was on a steep hill, I was rolling backwards and had turned the handlebars to navigate away. Through shear determination I kept the bike up, I wasn't about to let the locals see this bright green city slicker drop his fancy motorcycle.

Once on the road, I figured I'd just run up and see how far it was to the Dragon. A few miles into the journey I realized I probably should have brought my Gerbing liner as the temperature was dropping and was currently at 53. I turned on the heated grips and kept going. Maybe that heated seat option would have been a nice benefit.

As I passed the Deals Gap resort I knew I had reached the famed Dragon. For the first pass I wanted to take things slow. As I got into the rhythm it occurred to me that I hadn't seen any other motorists on the road. It was as if I had the road to myself. Left, right, left another left.... the road kept twisting and turning with rises and falls along the way. I was having a blast. I passed the scenic lookout at the top and kept going until I reached the river crossing and the obvious gravel turn around area. I was grinning from ear to ear as I turned around.

Back through it I road. This time stopping at the scenic lookout for a few minutes to take in the view. It neat to see how they had created a lake by damming up one end of valley. The road called and I answered with a clunk of the shifter and a twist of the rest. During this pass I encountered a few cars and motorcycles but still I was mostly alone. It was great.

When I passed the Deals Gap resort I kept on going because I was getting a little cold and wanted to get home before the rain started. I figured I had pushed my luck enough. Sure enough, about 5 miles from town I encountered a light sprinkle, nothing to even wet my windshield.

Since I hadn't scoped out the ice machine situation at the Inn I decided to stop and get a bag of ice so I could enjoy some Crown Royal back at the room. Once in the room I pulled out the laptop and started planning the next day's ride. Hmm, definitely gotta go ride the dragon 1, 2, 3 times at least!

Sweet dreams... of a dragon

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Not so Saddle Sore with the Russell Day Long

3:30 AM and my phone's alarm clock is going off. My how time flies when you are sleeping. I got to sleep last night just after 9pm. The plan is to check the weather radar and decide whether I'm heading north through Joplin or south down to I-40.... Radar indicates storms up around Joplin, I guess I'm heading south. Hopefully traffic won't be bad on I-40 going into Memphis.

That's how my morning started. With a little uncertainty regarding the time it would take along with a little disappointment for not getting to go through Missouri on this trip. But taking the lower route also meant I'd have a little extra time to pack up and maybe even grab breakfast.

By 5:15 I had things packed and checked out the bike. It was time to head out, I just needed to pickup a start receipt from the Quiktrip around the corner. 5:25am and I'm logging the receipt and telling the GPS to get me to Memphis via Little Rock. As I'm leaving Tulsa I make a mistake and end up exiting onto a service road but I jump right back on and take the next exit onto 412 heading east.

At 6:25 I'm pulling up to the Cherokee Turnpike toll plaza, this time I'm much drier and in high spirits. Just an hour into the day's ride and I've covered 66 miles. I made a little small talk with the attendant while I record my mileage and then it's back on the throttle and down the road. This time of the morning is so beautiful as the sun is rising.

When I got over to Springdale, Arkansas I thought I had stumbled onto a law enforcement convention. They were on every corner, parked on exit ramps, in the mediums, and rolling down the road. I certainly didn't want to get any souvenirs from them so I took it easy until I got a ways down the road. The rest of the trip down 540 was nice and pleasant, with beautiful green covered mountains and hills to wind through.

The first gas stop was in Plumerville, Arkansas at 9:06am with 260 miles on the trip meter. I was getting good mileage so I could have kept going but this just looked like an easy place to get off and back on without issue. While I was there I talked to a fellow rider told me I had rain toward Memphis. Rats!!! No more rain please. Oh well, I get my receipt, dash in for a facilities break and back on the bike. The stop was just a little over 5 minutes. By now I was getting pretty good at quick stops.

The closer I got to Memphis, the darker the sky got. But then about 11am the sky seemed to clear and I had sun once again. The temperatures were in the low 70's so riding was pleasant. As I got close the state line, there was a Bar-B-Q guy hawking his 'Q on the CB. His confidence in his Q seemed pretty genuine and I thought about turning around and coming back after I reached my end point in Memphis.

Since I was ahead of schedule I decided to make it a 2100 mile trip in 48 hours so I rode on through Memphis until the odometer showed the magical numbers of 32,830. That was it, 2100 miles done! I pulled into a Shell station and got my final receipt for the ride. 11:52am on the receipt and 32,834 on the odometer. I had done it.

Since I didn't have anywhere special to be, I just sort of stood around for a little while. I took off my liner, called Reagan and just reveled in my accomplishment. Then I realized I hadn't stopped for breakfast. I was going to go back through Memphis and see the Bar-B-Q man in Arkansas on channel 16.

One block away from the Shell station and my plans changed drastically. My nose told me there was good Q in the immediate area. So I stopped in at a place called Jim and Nick's. It was a little too fancy for my tastes and I thought a little over priced but I was hungry. I had their brisket and pulled pork. The pork was dry and the brisket was cut strange. Instead of slicing the brisket vertically, they sliced it horizontally. I asked my waiter about the cut of the brisket and he said he had never seen it cut like that before. Dandy! They must have had a new guy in back.

After lunch I was heading toward the hotel for the convention, not really sure who I was going to get to be my end witnesses. I figured I had friends at the convention or I might find a police or fire station by going through town. It was just then that I saw the attraction sign for Harley Davidson rentals. That was perfect, I'd go by and get some folks at the local dealership to sign my form. I thought it added a little bit of a cool factor to the whole thing since I had come to Memphis for the Harley Davidson Riders Edge conference.

The folks at Bumpus Harley Davidson were friendly and helpful. I got the Riders Edge program manager and a sales guy to sign the form. I stuck around for a little bit and shot the breeze with the sales guy and almost went over and sat on a Ulysses but thought better of it. I mean I had just gotten my Russell seat for the BMW, I definitely didn't need a new bike.

Thoughts about the ride:
Some of my friends joke about my obsession with farkles on the bike. But the farkles helped to make the ride fun. The XM Radio provided me with music, the GPS helped me to watch the weather and stay on time, and the CB helped me to meet a few truckers along the way. I might have even given one of them a reason to wear his helmet.

But the best farkle of all has to be the Russell Day Long seat. It's the best money I've spent on the bike, even better than the Adventure tank conversion. It's easy to stop for fuel in five minutes but you can't get a new rear end in 5 minutes. Of course, I was really risking my comfort on the seat as I had only ridden with it for 100 miles the day before leaving, but even in that short time I knew I had something good. RDL recommends 500 to 1000 miles to properly break in the seat. I'm pretty sure the seat was broken in by the time I reached El Paso on the first day.

Well the next few days I'll be a convention attendee but then I'm heading east for some beautiful twisties in North Carolina and Eastern Tennessee.
Go go gadget Beemer!!!

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Bun Burner Gold in the bag

Minus the bumpy start in my pre-ride inspection things were just about on schedule. With the start witness form signed I headed off to the nearby Exxon station to get my start receipt. The Speed Pass works and I have a full tank of gas. My start time is 12:05PM Central time. Everything is ready and I pull out.

The ride from Houston to San Antonio was pretty much straight forward and common. Excitement was high as the miles were clicking away. I would occasionally get frustrated with cagers for not moving out of the way and causing needless congestion on I-10. After working my way through one such cluster, I took a minute and asked myself what sort of ride this would be. Did I want to cut in and out of traffic as if this was a race or did I want to take it easy and be patient while realizing these poor saps were stuck in cages with no sense of the world around them. I decided pitying the poor saps and taking it easy would result in a much better ride.

Near San Antonio I opted to go straight through San Antonio as opposed to taking the 1604 loop since it had stop lights. My plan was to keep the "stopped" time to zero until my first official stop. Going through town around 2:30PM I figured it would be pretty calm. Was I ever wrong, folks in San Antonio are crazy on their road ways. I ended up behind a rider on a 'busa who apparently thought not wearing a helmet and wearing shorts made him cool with the ladies. I figured he must be crazy riding around in traffic like that without any protection.

First stop Junction, Texas. My fuel light had come on quite some time ago and I was really pushing to get to my first planned stop. 314 miles into the trip and the gas pump said I put in over 9 gallons of gas. Problem is, my tank is only supposed to be 8.7 gallons. I decided I'd probably have to shorten up the next stop as I wasn't getting the sort of mileage I expected. Must have been a combination of speed and the tank panniers. None the less, this stop was early according to my cheat sheet and I only spent 5 minutes stopped. Back on the road and ahead of schedule.

Second stop was an early one in Kent, Texas. My fuel light had come on even earlier and I was at 273 miles when I saw the sign for the Chevron station. Apparently the boxer isn't so economical running at speeds between 80 and 90 mph. And just to be clear, west of Kerrville the posted speed limit is 80 mph. 9 more gallons packed in, I made mental note to stop pushing my luck on the range and then I was back out on the road. Combined "stopped" time for the first 2 stops was only 14.5 minutes. I was definitely ahead of my schedule.

When I passed through Van Horn it was 8:07pm, according to my cheat sheet I was supposed to stop in Van Horn and leave by 9:36. I had already completed my second stop in Kent and was rolling through so that meant I was an hour and half ahead of schedule. I was feeling pretty good but knew anything could happen and probably would to jeopardize my completing this ride. Stay focussed and keep going.

My third stop was in Hatch, New Mexico. It had been dark for a few hours already as the sun was setting as I left Van Horn earlier. This stop was more of a "let's be cautious" stop as it was getting late and I was getting away from Las Cruces and civilization. I wasn't for sure what I'd find out on I-25 and didn't want to chance blowing my otherwise great time so far. So with 242 miles on the trip meter and my fuel light just coming on I decided to pull in. There were no stations visible from the road, but the blue information sign said it was only 2 tenths of a mile away. Sure enough, there it was. A Quick Pic station with well lit pumps. I decided to take my helmet off at this stop, walk around and even go in and get a bottle of water. I took the full 20 minutes which I had allotted for each stop. I used time to put on my Gerbing liner and clean the windshield. The forecast said it was going to get down to 51 in the early AM hours.

It was 12:43 AM by my clock when I passed through Socorro, NM which was supposed to be the third stop. My plan was to leave Socorro by 2:27AM. I was 1 hour and 47 minutes ahead of schedule. I was also 900 plus miles through the ride and just past the halfway mark for time. So far so good.

By my fourth stop I was starting to feel a little tired. It was 3:20AM by my clock. The weather was starting to get a little cool as the temperature dropped. I had turned on my Gerbing liner and I was staying nice and warm. I had gone 300 miles since the last stop and my mileage was seemingly better as I had just reached the 0 miles indicator on my fuel warning which with the larger tank meant I had at least another gallon of fuel in reserve. This was just about true as I was only able to stuff 7.99 gallons of gas into the tank. Remember it's an 8.7 gallon tank. At 300 miles I seemed to be back on my planned distance between stops. I figured I could easily make it to Amarillo which was a planned stop. So back on the bike for a total of an 11 minute stop. Not bad.

Tucumcari, NM was supposed to be the fourth stop and when I passed by it was 4:22AM and according to my cheat sheet I was supposed to be leaving there by 6:21AM. Yep! That's right I was 2 hours ahead. Well best laid plans and all that....

You see when you get too comfortable with a ride like this something is bound to happen and happen it did. After my fourth stop mother-nature decided to start washing my bike in the form of liquid moonlight a.k.a. RAIN. No biggie, riding in rain is fine as it was only a light mist. But finally it started coming down hard and there was no letting up. I was quite the entertainment for some truck drivers who thought I had to be a little crazy and wet. I tried talking to them but never got a response. I'm not sure if my CB was on the fritz or what but my XM Radio had tunes in my helmet so it kept me going. Finally though I pulled off the road for a break to adjust things, cover my seat and change gloves as my so called waterproof cold weather gloves were soaked through. Problem was my summer gloves had also gotten wet in the tank panniers so that left me with my bulkier summer gloves which were difficult to fit inside my Aerostitch triple digit rain covers. Finally I managed to get them on though. When I shut down the bike there was a problem with my electrical stuff which resulted in nothing coming back on when I turned on the key. So I unpacked everything and tapped the relay. It would come on as long as the key was on so I figured I was OK. This unplanned stop happened at 5:15AM in Adrian, Texas and cost me 16 minutes. See best laid plans and stuff...

When I pulled into the Flying J in Amarillo, I was wet and tired with only 1303 miles completed. My speeds had definitely slowed down due to the rain and that meant I had given up some of my extra time. It was 6:23AM when I stopped, according to the cheat sheet I was supposed to arrive at 8:03. Screw it! I was going inside to warm up, eat some breakfast and relax for a little bit. As long as I was on the road by 7am I'd still be an hour and half ahead. I used a trick I learned from the IBA Archive of Wisdom and found the waiter, placed my order, laid down my gear and went to the bathroom to wash up. Washing up, yes I know it's ironic considering I had been in the rain. But the water on my face felt refreshing and helped. When I got back, my food was on the table and I was able to enjoy it without wasting any more time. Even though the waiter spilled butter on some of my gear I tipped him well for such great and fast service. With food in my stomach it was time to fill the bike and get going. Walking back out in the rain sucked. When I got on the bike I nearly dropped it because of a slick surface under my foot but I sure wasn't going to let that happen and told the bike to stand up. It did! With fuel in the tank and my receipt tucked away I was back on the road at 7:01AM, my schedule told me I needed to leave by 8:23 so I was only 1 hour and 23 minutes ahead at this point. But still ahead none the less.

I continued across I-40 and the rain wasn't letting up. I arrived at the Flying J in Oklahoma City at 10:27AM which was an hour and 20 minutes ahead of schedule. The rain was coming down pretty heavy and I was just hoping to find a slot to park in so I could get my receipt without getting soaked further. The stop only took about 5 minutes and I was back out on the road. But this was the most interesting stop of the trip...

Just as I pull up to my pump I notice a pickup truck pulling up right next to me. My first thought is "Can't this idiot wait in his dry truck and let me fill up in peace". Then he starts talking to me about the weather and asking how long I've been riding in it. I talk to him while pumping gas. Then he asks where I'm heading and I say I'd like to make Joplin. He offers to let me crash at his house which he says is on the north side of town. Now I've decided this guy has gone from being a jerk to a psycho motorcycle stalker and figure it's time to make an excuse to get to my top case where I have my pistol. I mean who the heck offers a stranger a place to stay these days. When the pump finally clicks off to tell me the tank is full this guy asks me where my witness form is for him to sign. It was at this point that I had a little laugh. I introduced myself and he said his name was Gary. So now Gary didn't seem so scary and psychotic to me. I thought twice about his offer for a place to stay but figured I'd be better off with the extra mileage. Gary wanted to help so he put a few dollars in a ziplock baggie for the tollway and checked on my snack supply. He told me about a great Hampton Inn up in Joplin just off the road and said I could make it in a few hours depending on the weather. We shook hands and off I went, bound and determined to make Joplin. And feeling pretty good knowing there was a fellow IBA member who had taken time out of his day to meet me and help out along the way. From jerk to psycho to friend in five minutes what a stop. Thanks Gary!

My next stop was 11:43AM at the Turner Turnpike toll booth. I used the baggie of dollar bills that Gary had given me and asked the attendant to please take the necessary amount as I couldn't get the money out with my rain covers on. Apparently she was a trainee and when her supervisor saw the situation she agreed and they very ceremoniously took out 4 1 dollar bills and then put 50 cents back in the bag along with a receipt. They thought I was a little crazy to be out in weather like this but when I told them I had just ridden 1600 miles in the last 24 hours I'm pretty sure they thought about calling the looney pen for me.

Since my stop at the Flying J was so quick I waited until I was heading north on I-44 past the toll booth to call Reagan. I knew she was watching things on the SPOT site but figured it would be good to call and say I made it. She asked where I was planning to stop since the weather was really bad ahead and included large hail. I didn't see any places to stop so I pressed on into Tulsa.

By the time I reached Tulsa my pants had started leaking and my boots were filling with water as a result. I was done! I knew I had managed to do the needed distance in time and I was tired and wet. A hot shower and comfy bed were what I wanted. I first tried a Super 8 but when I asked about parking the bike under an awning they said NO and so I decided to leave. Wet, frustrated and tired I looked up lodging on the Zumo. There was a Days Inn around the corner. I went over there and found out they had a room for a lower rate and didn't care where I parked my bike. After getting my room key I realized I had failed to get an end receipt before stopping at the motel, so back out I go to the Quiktrip for a fill up and my end receipt for the day. It was 12:34pm and I had gone 1652 miles in just over 24 hours.

Once back to the room it was time to unload the bike and get inside. I got out of my wet clothes and tried to hang everything up to dry so I could start out dry the next morning. Then it was time for sleep. I only wanted to sleep for 4 hours so I wouldn't completely ruin my sleep schedule for the next day. It didn't take long to fall asleep.

After a good nap I got up and resumed efforts to dry out my clothes. There wasn't anything close to eat and I didn't feel like pulling on my wet boots to get down the way to Arby's. Thank goodness for Chinese delivery. An hour later it arrived while news reports talked about horrible weather around Tulsa with storm watchers scouring the area for twisters.

I made some adjustments to my route to complete the SaddleSore 2000 and would go back down to Little Rock and ride in I-40. With a full stomach and things starting to dry, it was time to get more sleep, 3:30am would come very early.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Getting ready for my Bun Burner Gold

It's been quite some time since my last post on the blog. April really didn't see much "fun" riding as there were other things in life that were taking up my time. None the less, in between work and other commitments I've been getting ready for my Iron Butt Bun Burner Gold ride. For those not in the know, that's 1500 miles in 24 hours or less.

I managed to get my new Russell Day Long seat yesterday thanks to the help of folks there expediting the build and shipping it out 2nd day UPS. The seat is instrumental to the ride as my Rick Mayer seat just hasn't met my expectations. Other new additions to the bike in preparation for this ride were a Valentine One radar detector and SPOT Satellite tracker. And of coure this past weekend I changed the oil as it was time for my 30K service. During that routine maintenance I checked everything I could to make sure I didn't have mechanical problems on this ride.

Preparing for this ride has meant preparing my body for the ride. For the past week I've avoided caffeine and alcohol. By last Thursday I noticed I wasn't getting as sleepy in the afternoons as I usually do. I could definitely feel a more even energy level through out the day. I've also made sure to get plenty of rest this week. I call it putting sleep in the sleep bank.

This morning my day started like a normal Tuesday, get up and go walking. I skipped my bow flex workout and had breakfast. A quick check of my inbox and a little last minute packing. Then it was time to get back to bed and take a nap. It was more like laying in bed and watching the History channel but it was rest and that's what I was looking for. When 10am came around my alarm went off and I grabbed a shower and started getting dressed. Everything was going as planned. Once I was ready I walked into the garage to make last minute checks on the bike. First problem...

When I turned on the key, my installed accessories did not power up. I turned off the key and tried it again. Still nothing. Worry was starting to creap in, was my trip about to be scrapped over some silly electrical issue? I unpacked everything and began troubleshooting. I have a delay circuit installed that keeps my accessories on for 20 minutes after the key is turned off. It's not supposed to give me problems so it's tucked deeply up in the tail section and requires removing the top case and side case mounts to gain access. Once all that was removed I tapped on the onboard relay and I heard the magical click. Things turned on and I was back on track after putting things together again.

Since I wanted to leave at noon, I decided to get Reagan and my lawn guy Ryan to sign my start witness form. With that done it was time to get on the bike, say good bye and go get my start receipt. All the planning was done, the only thing left was to ride the first 1500 miles of the trip before noon the next day...