Tuesday, July 10, 2012

4,835 miles in 4 days, a coast to coast ride

OK so this ride was completed in 4 days time as in 96 continuous hours. A travel agent might call it a 5 day 4 night trip. But for me, it was all about the time on the clock from when I left the gas station near my house until I returned to that same station.

The plan was simple, get over to San Diego at a slightly relaxed pace, stopping in Van Horn, TX along the way, get a little rest and then knock out a Coast to Coast ride in 50 hours per the Iron Butt guidelines. As I was riding out there however I started to rethink my schedule as I wanted this ride to help me work out some issues for the upcoming Butt Lite rally in August. So I decided I wanted to finish the entire trip in 96 hours or less and I wanted to finish the actual riding of the 50CC in under 40 hours. That meant that I would have to keep my rest/sleep breaks short and I’d have to keep the wheels moving when I was awake.

Here’s a break down of the time I was moving and stopped/resting by the calendar day

Day Moving Resting / Stopped
Thursday 8:26 1:34
Friday 13:05 10:55
Saturday 20:08 3:52
Sunday 18:12 5:48
Monday 8:33 5:27
TOTAL 68:24 27:36

So that was an average 6 hours 54 minutes of being stopped or resting per day, not including gas stops. With the exception of 2 difficult stops on Sunday morning my gas stops ran between 5 and 10 minutes as I refined my routine of refueling both the main tank and the aux tank. Bathroom stops were done separately at rest stops because they could be completed in 3 minutes.

In California I opted to get my start witness form signed by an IBA member listed on the  IBA Approved Witness list. Leslie was great and I had a nice visit with her in the parking lot of the Motel 6 where I was staying for my short time in the area. Note to self, if you don’t see somewhere to get a bite to eat, find you something before you get off the bike for the rest stop. One can only eat so many Cliff Bars and Beef Jerky. While hanging out in the room trying to get some rest (it was 2pm local time when I got there, 10pm when I left for the start) I discovered there was a fire station just down the street which also would have made it easy to get a witness form signed. That’s what I’ll do next time if Leslie isn’t available.

Around 10pm local time I’d had enough tossing and turning so I donned my gear and headed back over to the Shell station near the beach to “get on the clock”. When I finished pumping my gas a blank receipt was printed. Oooops! I walked inside and told the attendant what had happened. He apologized and quickly printed my receipt. Then he asked me if I was starting or ending my ride. I told him starting, he wanted to make sure I had my witness form signed and then wished me a good ride. As I pulled out of the station my bike’s clock showed 12:53 AM CDT.

The ride out of town on I-8 was relaxed with little traffic and cool temperatures. I really enjoyed the twisties once I got outside of town, even in the dark they were fun. Temperatures seemed to swing quite a bit from the low 70s to low 80s as I went along.

Once past the twisties I dropped down into the desert part of I-8 and just cruised through the night stopping once along the way in Gila Bend, CA. for gas just shy of the 300 mile mark on the trip meter. Riding this stretch of highway is like riding in west Texas, you don’t want to pass up a gas station if you aren’t sure you’ll make it another 60 miles.

Around 5:30 AM CDT I was finishing my ride along I-8 and merging onto I-10 at Casa Grande. Even with my failed attempt at rest before the start of the ride I was feeling fine and things were great. I rolled through Arizona and into New Mexico as the sun started to rise.

My second gas stop was a little past the 300 mile mark because the place I had planned to stop at didn’t sell gas. They sold everything else, but the gas pumps had been removed some time ago. So I stopped at exit 62 in Deming, NM at 8:55 AM CDT. While fueling the bike I grabbed a muscle milk out of my saddle bag and a cliff bar out of my top case. That’s a breakfast of champions!

As I rode through New Mexico I could tell fatigue was creeping up on me. It just seemed like I’d never get out of the state and construction zones kept plaguing me. When I finally rolled into El Paso at 10:40AM CDT, I was happy to be done with the first third of the ride but my energy levels were down. I just kept moving and worked on staying alert as I interacted with the traffic.

When I got to Van Horn, where I had been less than 30 hours previously I opted not to get gas as I still had plenty in the tank and wanted to stretch it out to maximize my 300 mile range between stops. I checked my GPS and found a Chevron up ahead in Salt Flat at exit 176. It looked like it was going to be about the right distance so that’s where I planned to stop. When I got there however the place was boarded up. Now I thought my goose was cooked. I decided I’d have to press on for Pecos as that was the next fuel station my GPS showed. Now my adrenaline was pumping, what would happen if I ran out of gas?

Just 5 miles down the road I found a Chevron station at exit 181. Talk about relief! I wanted this to be a quick stop but when I got to the pump the display wasn’t working. I stuck my card in any way, waited for a beep and took out the nozzle and selected the grade. After pumping I figured I’d have to walk inside but as it turned out my receipt printed. I had only used 8.215 gallons of gas which left me with 2.785 gallons. My previous concerns about running out of gas were unfounded. But at least now I was 100% awake and alert.

I only had one issue with border patrol in Texas at a check point. I guess the agent was new but he seemed to want to interview every single vehicle extensively as they went through. I waited in line for 15 minutes there in the hot Texas sun while barely moving in line. Finally I saw another agent step out of the building and the line picked up as he waved us on through. I was happy to be moving again but thoroughly annoyed by the needless delay.

The next gas stop was in Junction, TX, exit 456 at the Exxon. It was now 4:18 PM CDT. I knew I’d be home by 8:30 since it was only a little over 4 hours from there. While at the stop I took a couple of extra minutes to investigate a wiring problem. It seemed that I had an intermittent power connection to my GPS/CB/Radar Detector set up. I didn’t have any luck getting to the suspected connector so I hopped back on the bike and hoped that it would make it to the house without completely disconnecting.

When I got to San Antonio I followed the GPS which took me onto I-35 over to I-410 and then down to I-10 again. I was pleasantly surprised with the route and feel that it did cut a few minutes off the trip compared to just riding I-10 straight through. Once clear of town I called Reagan to let her know I was past San Antonio and that I expected to be home by 8:30.

As luck would have it the weather had been good all day long but the closer I got to Houston the darker the skies looked. Near Seally I finally pulled over, donned my rain gear, and resumed the ride. It wasn’t a hard rain but enough to make people slow down and start to make foolish decisions. I exited at Hwy 99 to head to the house. I pulled into the driveway at 8:35.

I tried to treat the stop at home like any other rest stop in a rally. Get off the bike, get something to eat, get some sleep. Reagan had me a Subway sandwich waiting, so I tended to the bike’s electrical issue, got a shower and then had my sandwich. I was asleep before 9:30.

The alarm clock went off at 1:20AM and I did my best to get moving. It was a little difficult but I managed to get on the bike by 1:54AM CDT. I rode down to the Exxon station and tried to fill up. The pump wasn’t cooperating so I moved over to another pump and finally got the bike filled up. So much for being on the road at 2am. It was 2:08 when I got on the freeway heading back into Houston.

Things seemed completely different after my rest stop. The weather in Houston was hot and muggy. I was not happy with the temperature at all for it being so early in the morning. But once I got to I-10 and started heading east the temperature seemed to drop a few degrees.

Riding along I-10 between Houston and Beaumont was pretty sedate, except when I passed a sheriff’s deputy going the same direction. I had the throttle set at 5 over the limit and so I slowly passed him. As I pulled up along side he hit me with his spot light. I just waived and kept going. I guess he wanted to see what sort of fool would be out riding at a time like this. When he got an eye full of Hi-viz green and 3M reflective panels he got his answer.

It seemed like I got to Beaumont only minutes after leaving Houston but the clock said time had actually passed. As I breezed through town I reflected on the gas station where I had started the April Fools rally months before. Before I knew it I was leaving Texas and into the final third of my route.

Louisiana has managed to build some great bridges over the marshes and swamps but they haven’t done so well with the roads that are built on actual solid ground. I was pleased to get across the Atchafalaya basin bridge without any delays as in times past. In Hammond I took I-12 to avoid the drop down into New Orleans.

At exit 16 on I-12 I stopped for gas at a Chevron station. I wanted this to be a standard quick stop after my earlier debacle in Houston. No such luck, the first pump kept telling me to replace the nozzle after I had inserted my credit card. I finally moved to another pump and filled up. The time showed 6:18 AM CDT on the receipt and my clock showed that I had spent 12 minutes at the stop. Grrrr.

Not long after I got back on the road the sky started to turn dark to the east. The lightening dancing across the sky was awesome to watch but I knew it was going to be a serious storm to get through. When I got close I pulled off the road, put on my rain pants and gloves, zipped up the jacket and resumed the ride into the storm. As expected it was one heck of a storm and visibility dropped substantially but I pressed on through it.

By the time I-12 joined with I-10 I had ridden out of the rain and I was heading out of Louisiana. Mississippi was nice as was Alabama. I noticed that my bike seemed to be getting better gas mileage than I had gotten the day before. Going the 300 miles between stops was going to be easy and my aux tank really wasn’t going to see much use.

I stopped in Defuniak Springs, FL for gas at 10:33AM CDT. This was exit 85. This time I just filled the main tank and didn’t even get off the bike. Finally I had a smooth gas stop.

With a full tank of gas and the end in sight all I had to do was just sit on the bike and wait as the miles clicked down. Driving in Florida on I-10 certainly isn’t a visually stimulating experience. There’s nothing but pine trees and flat straight roadway. And the heat, it’s that sticky, muggy, humid heat that won’t let you get cool no matter if your jacket is opened or closed.

When I got to Jacksonville I was excited and then I realized I still had another 20 miles to go to get to the beach. I continued to follow the GPS and it led me to my planned Shell gas station where I ended the ride. The time on the receipt showed 3:31PM EDT. Wooohooo!!! I had finished the ride in 37 hours 48 minutes.

After a short break to get a cold sports drink, eat some beef jerky and call home, I went to the fire station to get my end witness form signed. The fireman Matt was very helpful and gladly signed the form. A short ride across the street had me at the beach where I grabbed a sample of the Atlantic ocean and snapped a photo to post on Facebook.

Since it was still day light outside and I didn’t want a repeat of the restless stop in San Diego I decided to head back to Pensacola to get a room. With a full tank of gas and the better mileage I was getting I expected it would be a stop free ride. The GPS helped me find the motel 6 in Pensacola and told me I’d be there in less than 5 hours. So with one last look around at the beach and beach bodies I thumbed the starter and headed west out of town.

As I rode along on I-10 I watched the mile markers drop. I was looking for marker 13. I was also watching my fuel gauge fall. Finally I switched on the pump for the aux tank and after the customary 6 minutes I turned it off. The only problem was that my gauge didn’t go back up. Something was definitely amiss. It was clear that I wasn’t going to make it the 360 miles to my planned stop so I pulled into a gas station only to find that I had apparently used the aux tank going to Jacksonville but failed to refill it when I got to the end. Oooops. I put 10.437 gallons of fuel in the bike. By my calculations I can carry 11 gallons between the 2 tanks.

With a full tank of gas I pressed on the last 100 miles and reached my hotel at exit 13 just a few minutes after 8PM CDT. There was a Waffle House next door so I parked the bike between the two and walked into the Waffle House to get some hot food. I thought I’d be smart and book my room while I was sitting at the table. When I walked over to the hotel though their internet was down, fax machine was broken and their credit card system didn’t work either so they didn’t have my reservation. They did have power and running water so I paid cash for the room and unloaded the bike.

It’s amazing what 7 hours of rest will do for a person. I woke up the next morning before the alarm and was out the door and on the bike by 5:30AM CDT. I had about 8 hours of riding to get home and plenty of time so I decided I’d stop at a McDonalds when it got to be 6:30. And almost to the minute that’s what I did as I rolled into Grand Bay, AL.

As I got into Louisiana I saw some pretty ominous looking storm clouds ahead on I-12 so I dropped down on I-10 into New Orleans and drove around them.  However coming out of New Orleans another storm cell caught me and I got a little damp because I didn’t stop for the rain gear thinking it was only going to be a little shower.

I stopped for gas in Lafayette, LA at 10:12AM CDT after having ridden the Atchafalaya basin bridge with my fuel light on and the trip meter showing 400 miles since the last fuel stop. I put in 10.92 gallons of gas. Remember my bike only has an 11 gallon capacity. Yikes, that was close.

With the final gas stop completed I was energized and ready to complete the ride. As I headed west though it was clear to me that I was going to go through another storm before making it home so I pulled over about 40 miles east of Lake Charles and donned the rain gear. It was a good thing that I did too.

I ended up riding in rain almost non-stop all the way back home. At one point in Beaumont it was so bad people were going 10 to 15 mph. I just kept the bike moving and ignored the water leaking into my gear at various point. My rain gear is waterproof not submersible proof. That’s some of the hardest rain I’ve ridden through in a very long time.

As the miles to the house clicked down so did the time remaining on the clock. I reached my gas station at 1:45PM and my driveway before 2PM. I had accomplished the ride I set out to do in less time than I had initially planned. 4,835 miles in 96 hours.

Now for anyone still reading who might be thinking, “OMG, that guy is crazy, he must have driving like a bat out of Hell!” That’s actually far from the truth. I kept my speeds at no more than 5 to 10mph over the posted speed limit. When I was in a metropolitan area I would maintain speeds with the flow of traffic. The key that made my time across I-10 so short was that I simply didn’t stop very often and when I did I tried to keep the times short. I gassed at gas stations and peed at rest areas. It’s much quicker to take a 3 minute stop at a rest area to handle the call of mother nature than it is to go inside at a gas station. It also helps circulation to get off the bike for just a few minutes.

My riding gear is pretty sorted out at this point. I am going to pickup some new LD Comfort underwear while I’m at the BMW Rally next week and I’ll look at other possible options for mesh pants. But things work overall. If I get into another hard rain storm as I did on Monday I have to accept the fact that I’m likely to get a little wet but I’ll dry out. For the moderate rain though I’m fine with the Frogg Togg pants and my Held gloves.

I still have the electrical problem to contend with so my farkles stay powered properly. I’ll pull the tank off and inspect all of the connections, pack them with die-electric grease and shrink wrap them to make sure they stay connected better. There’s also  a smell of gas I’ve notice after filling up the tanks. However I’ve been unable to find an actual leak. I’ll continue to monitor that and determine where the vapors are coming from.

I stopped 15 times for fuel along the way. The cost of which was $508.80 for 138.146 gallons of premium unleaded. That’s an average price of $3.68/gallon and an average of 34.999 miles per gallon.

I stayed at Motel 6 for this ride. The rooms were cheap and the beds were comfortable enough. Total cost for lodging 3 nights was $151.65. Of course I save $40 or so by staying at home one night. Which just for reference I won’t do again when. Stopping at home breaks the routine of being on the road and makes it more difficult to get moving again. Lesson learned.

I really had a great time on this ride. It was clear to me that the time I’ve spent at the gym is paying off. I had more stamina than ever before and I was able to function well with less sleep as a result. I think I can tweak my on bike nutrition to be more efficient but I’m pretty satisfied with things so far. Doing this ride this close to the Butt Lite was a good thing because it gave me a chance to really push myself and judge where I am in preparation. Next year before the Iron Butt Rally I plan to do a 10 day ride with the same intensity level to really help with my final preparations before the big show.

1 comment:

ChrisW said...


Congratulations - quite an achievement.

Looking forward to your account of the August trip.