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.

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