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

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