Sunday, February 24, 2013

1,500 miles in 21 hours–sure why not?

Link to the map

Last month after reading one of the books from an IBR veteran I decided I needed to get back into my monthly training rides as I had done last year. I have to confess that since bringing the new bike home last September I’ve only done 1 real big mileage day and that was in December for the end of the world that didn’t happen.

So I thought it would be a good idea to do another Bun Burner Gold ride, that’s 1,500 miles within a 24 hour period. But to make it interesting I wasn’t going to just slog it out on I-10. No, I wanted to do a loop consisting of the following points; Houston –> Laredo –> Del Rio –> Van Horn –> Abilene –> Junction –> San Antonio –> Houston. That works out to 1,550 miles with only 550 miles being Interstate. The rest was highways and even some two lane roads for excitement. But the speed limit on the vast majority of the route was 75 or 80 so exceeding the 62.5mph overall minimum average seemed possible.

Then I got this other idea, exactly when it popped into my head I’m unsure. But the idea was to complete a BBG3K, that’s 1500 miles in 24 hours, back to back within a 48 hour period. To do that, I realized I need some amount of rest during that 48 hour period. Thus I came up with this new plan, I needed to be able to ride 1,500 miles within 21 hours, that would allow me 4 hours for rest, 1 hour for stopping/starting tasks at the turn around and 1 hour of cushion for the unexpected delay on the 2nd leg. Plus I could cash in that spare hour for a road side nap if all was going well.

Now the math gets a little more challenging, road selection is critical. By shortening the time by 3 hours I increased the overall average to 71.4mph. That’s overall, not just the moving average. Last summer I rode a CC50, Coast to Coast in 50 hours. During that ride I was on target to complete a BBG well under the 24 hour period, but I stopped short by sleeping at the house to save money on a hotel room. That ride showed me that I could definitely achieve the pace I needed for this new plan.

So after getting home yesterday from the ride to eat in north Dallas, I went out to dinner with Reagan and then hit the sack for some sleep. I was in bed by 9pm and up by 2am. I took my time getting ready because I wanted to start as close to 3am as possible and end before midnight.

Invariably when I try to take my time I make myself late. I made it to the gas station just after 3am, filled my tank and got my start receipt. The time on the receipt showed 02/24/2013 03:08:06 AM. I had a good receipt and I was ready to go. So I headed south on 59 to cut over to Hwy 36 to get to I-10 at Sealy. This is my preferred route to get over to I-10 now days.

Everything was working nicely as it should. I had prepared for the cooler temperatures by putting on my electric jacket before leaving the house. So as the temperature dropped I just dialed in a little more warmth. Life was good.

I hadn’t actually uploaded a route into the GPS units, but rather I just plugged in the turn around point which was a truck stop in Vado, New Mexico. To get an idea on my time to the half way point I told the GPS to route me there. Of course it wanted to go north on TX 71 to Austin and then out 290. What???? That’s a serious time suck. No person in their right mind would listen to that route. What was Garmin thinking?

When I passed through Columbus and the exit for TX 71 I got the “Recalculating” screen. OK, now the Zumo wanted me to go San Antonio. That’s better. But it was showing an arrival time of 12:55pm. Great I thought, then I realized the 665 shows arrival times in local time. So that was really 1:55pm Central time. Hmmm, that wasn’t good because it meant I was looking at a complete trip time of almost 22 hours. I rode on down the road.

When I got to San Antonio, the Zumo still said my arrival time was 12:55pm but it wanted me to take 1604 around town. I ignored it in favor of I-410. As I was taking the exit for I-410 the Zumo recalculated again and finally matched my preferred route through San Antonio. The arrival time changed, it now said 12:38pm. OK, that’s 17 minutes in my favor. The quicker way through San Antonio: I-10 –> I-410N –> I-35S –> I-10N.

West of San Antonio the temperature really started to drop. At one point it was 30 degrees. I thought about stopping to put on my electric pants liner but didn’t cherish the idea of having to take my pants off first in order to put on the electric liner. I just turned up the heat on my jacket and kept going.

It was 6:42am when I stopped the bike for the first time during the ride. It was a quick road side stop at the intersection of I-10 and Highway 41. A bio break was in order and I wanted to get a few snacks out of the side case. The break was short and I was moving 3 minutes later.

My first gas stop came in Sonora, which was 359 miles from the start. I filled the bike with 11.02 gallons, that’s pretty good since my calculated capacity is now 11.2. I opted for the Shell station because it was on my side of the road, I probably should have gone across to the Exxon on the other side. It was 7:52am when I stopped, it was 8:00am when I started rolling again. Ouch an 8 minute gas stop. I had to move the bike 3 times, plus go inside before I finally got a pump that would work with a credit card. The strange thing was that the attendant wouldn’t take my credit card inside, she’d only take cash. Note to self, avoid that Shell station like the plague!!!!

Once I was rolling again I watched the Zumo recalculate my arrival time. I was still doing better than 12:38 so my spirits remained high. I just decided I needed to make sure the rest of the stops were my standard 3 to 5 minute sort.

By now the sun was up and the temperature started to rise a little. It was still in the lower 40s but it was fine with just my electric jacket. Everything was functioning like it was supposed to. Around 100 miles into the fuel run I opened the valve to the aux tank and waited for my gauge to rise again. I had passed through Fort Stockton and was headed to Van Horn 116 miles away. The problem was that my gas gauge wasn’t rising to the occasion. It kept showing that I only had enough to make 200 miles which was going to put me very short of Van Horn.

Instead of pulling over to check my connections and look inside the aux tank, I decided that something must really be wrong like a clogged filter or something. I knew there was a gas station in Balmorhea, it’s where we ate breakfast on the way home from the Big Bend Freeze Out ride in January. I pull in and start my routine of opening the tanks, inserting my card and pulling the pump handle out. Then there was a short circuit, the hose that the pump was attached to was laying on the ground. Apparently someone drove off and broke the hose at the disconnect but the station didn’t bother to put a sign up at the pump. So I move my bike around to the other side, verify the pump is connected and proceed to fill the bike. Only 6.141 gallons!!!! Arrrrgh. I checked the valve and fuel was definitely flowing from the aux tank to the main. The pump didn’t give me a receipt so I had to go in. When I finally get back to the bike I see fuel streaming out of my overflow line from the main tank. Ooops, I forgot to shut off the aux tank valve.

When I leave the station my GPS shows I was stopped for 8 minutes again and that I only had 221 miles to my turn around point in New Mexico. Despite the delays at the 2 fuel stops my zumo predicted an earlier arrival time as I continued thanks to the 80 mph speed limit in west Texas. As I approached El Paso I had an indicated arrival time of 12:12pm Mountain Time. Alright!!! That’s definitely on track for my ride to complete in under 21 hours. I was even starting to think it might happen in 20 hours, 30 minutes or less.

I opted not to stop at the planned truck stop but rather the Texaco station across the street. My reason seemed sound at the time, the Texaco was a name brand station while the truck stop wasn’t. Guess what happened?

The receipt printer didn’t work, I had to go inside and wait in line. I decided “what the heck, I’m inside I might as well go to the restroom”. It was on the opposite side of the building through several hallways. Along the way to or from the bathroom, I lost the receipt. I had to get back in line for another copy of the receipt before I was finally able to leave. 13 minutes later I’m thumbing the starter and rolling out of the station.

Getting through El Paso in both directions was a real treat, beside the 60 mph limit inside the city limits which everyone seems to respect. There was the mother of all wind storms. I’m talking 30mph wind blowing like crazy. Sand and dust was every where and at times so was I. For me to struggle with wind it’s got to be pretty strong and on this day it was.

On the return leg the wind and dust seemed to have stretched out farther east than it was on the way over. I rode for at least 100 miles before the sky cleared and I could see the horizon again. Of course everything was coated in dust, it was everywhere. I did the best I could to clean my visor so I could see.

As usual, I was delayed at the border patrol check point on I-10 near mile marker 103. This time it was a 10 minute delay. The bummer with this delay is that you are in line moving up gradually so you can’t really relax or get off the bike and stretch. As always, just before they get to me a supervisor walks outside to chastise the agent conducting the inspection and they suddenly start moving people through without a stop. It always seems to happen at this check point for me. Maybe it’s where they send the rookies or screw ups, I’m not for sure.

I was getting the hang of the aux tank and the valve now. I just had to work it on faith that at a minimum I had 320 miles in the tank when running at the 80 mph speed limit. I knew I could make it to Fort Stockton on gas but I needed some fuel myself. So when I got to Van Horn I dashed through the McDonalds drive thru for 3 double cheeseburgers. Finally a stop that went like it was supposed to, 3 minutes from the time I rode into the parking lot until the time I was back on the road. Dinner was enjoyed along the way home.

When I got to Fort Stockton I pulled into the Chevron as I was familiar with the station and it was on the correct side of the road. Everything with the stop was going well until I pressed “Yes” for a receipt. The message “Clerk has receipt inside” popped up. Ooops. So I go inside to get a receipt. A 9 minute stop this time.

As I resumed my ride east I wandered where I’d be when the sun finally set. It was now 5:15 and I knew I had less than 2 hours of day light. I was certain I was still going to be west of Kerrville when the darkness fell.

When 7pm came I was just past Sonora and heading east. I turned on my FutureVision HID driving lights and lit up the road. Since they are aimed well in Low Beam mode, I’m able to ride with them turned on in traffic. There was no flashing of the high beams from other drivers. The lights helped me see several deer along the way, they were all staying near the brush away from the road’s edge which was fine by me. When I had stretches of road without oncoming traffic I used the high beam to help spot deer even earlier.

As I neared San Antonio, I was able to dial my deer radar down just a little and relax while dealing with the increase in traffic. Passing through town just after 9pm was pleasant with only moderate traffic to contend with. I followed I-35N over to I-410S and stopped at the Shell station just before getting back on I-10. The stop was 6 minutes long but only because I wanted it to be. This time the credit card worked, the receipt printer worked, it all worked as expected. I knew I was on time and this was the last in-route stop so I took a couple of minutes to stretch and grab some stuff from my top case.

It was 9:21pm when the bike was again rolling east on I-10. The Zumo said I’d be to my destination by 11:50pm. That was fine. I passed a LEO on the way out of town but he wasn’t interested in me as I had the cruise set only a couple of ticks above the posted speed limit.

As the final hours passed on the ride I made mental notes of how the bike was and how I was. My butt was fine, the shoulders were tired but not in pain. The back of the knees were my only real issue. The highway pegs aren’t quite long enough for me to stretch out my legs, thus I didn’t use them as much. That definitely needs to get fixed in the coming weeks.

I counted down the miles until exit 720 in Seally where I turned south on Hwy 36 which would get me back to Hwy 59 and my original starting point. As I completed the last leg of this ride, the zumo was updating itself and indicating that I’d reach the finish in 20 hours and 40 minutes. Excellent.

When I took my exit off of Hwy 59 things really seemed to be in my favor as all the lights turned green at just the right time. I pulled into the Exxon station, returning to the same pump I had started at this morning. I opened the aux tank to get a splash of gas and get off the clock. Then trouble struck once again, the pumps were shutdown. Arrrrgh!!!

I closed up the rear tank and hustled around the corner to a Shell station that I don’t like to do business with. I tried my Amex, it failed. Shocker!!! For some reason this station in particular has a problem processing American Express cards. I don’t know why, I don’t care why, I just don’t do business with them normally. I switched to my backup card and put in $1.18 of gas. The receipt printed with a date/time of 02/24/2013 11:52:50pm.

My official ride time would be 20 hours and 44 minutes. Yes! I could ride a Bun Burner Gold in less than 21 hours. My plan to ride a BBG3K next month seems possible.

Total miles traveled was 1540.9 by GPS and 1543 by the bike’s odometer. Looking at my GPS logs it shows I was traveling for 20 hours, 40 minutes with an overall average of 75mph. Elapsed stop time was 51 minutes 46 seconds.

This ride was not a perfect ride. It also wasn’t a blistering fast pace. My stops were longer than I’d like for a good rally pace. I wasn’t pushing the speed limits either. I had the radar detector turned off for most of the trip and the cruise was set just a couple of ticks above the posted limit to match the flow of traffic. My max speed reported by the GPS was only 88mph (remember I was riding in a 80mph area) which was probably when passing a row of trucks to get around them.

Time to send in the paper work and get ready for next month’s trip

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