In the Beginning
Did you ever have the feeling you may have bitten off more than you’re able to chew? Well, I’m sitting here chokin’ and pukin’ on my latest decision…
I’m thinking it’s sometime late 2001 when I found out about Hyder Seek – a little get together of endurance riders in Hyder, Alaska to celebrate Ron Ayres’ 49-state Guiness record-setting ride in 1998 when he visited all 48 states plus Alaska in 7 days and 20 minutes on a motorcycle. To commemorate Ron's achievement the IBA had recently created a new extreme ride called the 48-plus. To successfully complete the 48-plus, you have to visit all 48 states plus Alaska in 10 days or less. To top all of this commemorating off, some of the Hyder-bound riders were planning on running the 48-plus.
Hmmm... Now that sounds interesting.
I’ve always been intrigued with endurance riding even before I started riding again back in late 2000. I had completed a Saddlesore 2000, a Bun Burner Gold and had ridden quite a few 1000-mile days. I even had a couple of rallies under my belt. But nothing I’ve done could compare to riding a 48-plus. So when I signed up for Hyder Seek, I declared my intentions of riding a 48-plus to the world. Sure it was a stretch, but how does a person determine his/her limits without pushing against them from time to time? This ride would certainly take my mind, body and machine to extremes beyond their currently known limits.
After making the decision to ride the 48-plus and getting over the initial shock of declaring my intention to the world, I felt it necessary to do everything within my power to limit the mental and physical exposure that such a ride would demand of me. I figured it’s all about mental, physical and mechanical logistics now.
Mentally, I felt confident. Sure I was nervous about the ride and the obstacles (known and unknown) I would be faced with, but confident that I would be able to work through each one rationally and logically. Most of the mental challenges I would grapple through were unknown to me at the time.
Physically… well… I reckon I could do myself and the bike a favor and lose some weight, but who has time for that? Besides, I rarely get sick, I’m faster than I look, I can still lift 12oz all day and all night no worries. Plus, I wouldn’t feel right if I wasn’t pushing the GVWR of a Goldwing.
I had two choices in the mechanical department. I had an R1150RT and a GL1800 to choose from. The RT was a proven and ready machine for the task. I had just acquired the GL1800 and only put about 8500 miles on it, but I had a feeling it was ready for the task as well. Another factor in the decision was that I had plans to be on the road for another month after Hyder Seek roaming the western states so comfort and amenities were a big factor and the GL1800 won that decision hands down. However, I needed to change the ergonomics of the GL1800 before I would be able to endure the long hours in the saddle the 48-plus would demand. So it all boiled down to Russell Cycle Products. I ordered a custom seat for the GL1800 that would move me back three inches and up one inch. If I got the seat in time, I’d take the GL1800. If I didn’t, I had no reservations about taking the RT. But RCP came through and despite the fact that I partially broke in the seat on the 48-plus, the seat performed flawlessly by positioning me correctly and providing the comfort my big ass needs.
I had everything I needed. A well-equipped ride and the physical and mental stamina required to successfully complete the ride. Or so I wished.
Make A New Plan, Stan
I reckon the best place to start is with a map of the United States. The big question in the beginning was, “Where’s the optimal starting point?” Ron had started in Kittery, Maine, but I heard a rumor that he probably wouldn’t start there if he had to do it all over again. I tried various places throughout the states, but when it came right down to it, the Dallas area turned out to be a relatively optimal starting point. Actually, the optimal starting point is probably Idabel, Okalahoma. The only problem with starting in Idabel is that it’s almost 200 miles from my bed. Plus, what’s 200 extra miles in the grand scheme of things anyway? So I opted for a familiar bed and good night’s sleep.
After outlining the base route and ensuring I was traveling through each state (I checked that list a few times), I knew I needed to split the route up into legs in order for my mind to adjust to and successfully manage the insanity. Since the entire route would be roughly 8500 miles and there was 10 days to get there, I decided to split the route into nine ~1000 mile legs.
Going into the ride I knew I wasn’t going for the record. There was plenty of time to complete the ride and ensure I took care of my mind and body each night. I decided to spend the night in a bed each night, take a shower each morning and ride a steady and deliberate 1000-mile day for eight and a half days straight. The extra day and a half I reserved for the unknown – running out of gas, mental breakdowns, things I didn’t or couldn’t take into account during the planning stage or anything else that would prevent me from staying on schedule.
From riding numerous 1000-mile days prior to this I knew the best approach is to treat each day like a long day at the office. So I planned on riding from 6a to 12a each day. This gave me 18 hours to complete each leg. Some legs took less time to complete and a few took more. This was a good plan. There’s absolutely no need to screw with your body clock on a ride like this. For me personally, 3-4 hours of quality sleep a night is all I need.
Another consideration was total distance. When I first started planning, I thought the shorter the better, but in the end I opted for a few more miles in order to stay on the super-slab whenever possible. As a result, there are very few parts of this route that follow two-lane roads – at least in the lower 48.
After splitting the route into 9 legs, I decided to commit to each leg by making hotel reservations for each night. This provided a goal to reach each day. Make it to the hotel, stop, rest, wake up and ride to the next hotel. If I made it to the hotel early, I could sleep more. If I didn’t, I would sleep less. In retrospect, the promise of a bed and a shower turned out to be a damn good motivator.
I sent email out to the LDRider mailing list looking for witnesses. Jim Parish responded quickly and was a willing witness. I met Jim during the Waltz Across Texas Rally at a bonus location in Comfort, Texas. We talked for a brief moment, but I was riding my ass off and it was too damn hot for a long bull session. Ron Ayres had also responded and said he’d be glad to witness the start of the ride. I’d just be preaching to the choir if I tried to explain the significance behind this, but for all you lay people out there, here it is.... Having Ron (the current 48-plus world record holder and LD riding legend) witness the beginning of your ride is like having Jimmy Hendrix sit in the front row at your first gig. Needless to say, I didn’t turn Ron down on his offer.
I’d worry about end witnesses in Hyder when I got there.
Kenn Clark, a fellow 49-er hopeful, was kind enough to have his folks setup a website and an 800 number we could use while running the 48-plus to keep our friends and family apprised of our progress. I probably wouldn’t have called anyone until the end or until I needed help. This arrangement meant I could make one call at the end of each leg and let everyone know how that day went. Very cool and many thanks to Kenn and, especially, Belinda for listening to all of our ramblings and ensuring the website was updated properly and promptly.
So the plan is planned. Executing the plan would have to wait, but it wouldn’t be long now.
I Could Do Without Rain
I’ve always had an affinity for the desert. That wouldn’t mean shit the first leg.
I woke up early the morning of Friday, May17th after a good night’s sleep. I don’t have a difficult time sleeping before a big ride. It goes back to my school days. I’d convince myself that a good night’s sleep is far better than staying up all night cramming for a test. What’s the point? I’ve seen all of material and it’s just a matter of recall. I wound up dreaming about the test anyway. Same here. I dreamt all night long about the ride, but to my dismay I didn’t wake up in Hyder.
Get your ass up and giddyup!
Gassing Up After Meeting Jim
|I made plans to meet Jim at a gas station around the corner from Ron’s house. I filled up and we headed to Ron’s where we would get together, shoot the shinola for a few minutes, sign the papers, take a few pictures and then, well, the ride would officially begin.|
Your's Truly and Ron Ayres
|The ride over was surreal. It was like I floated the entire way there. The air was cool, humid and perfectly still. I didn’t think my tires were even touching the ground. Hell, I didn’t even think the engine was on. Perhaps this surreal moment was inspired by the weather reports I was listening to and focused upon. Apparently, there was a serious line of thunderstorms moving south from the Texoma area and into the metroplex. Might as well start the ride off with a boom!|
Thankfully, I made it out of Ron’s without a drop, but as I headed east for my first stop in Hugo, Oklahoma, I could see, feel and taste a deep, dark ominous line of thunderstorms tail-grabbing my ass. I made the turn to head north into Oklahoma and a few miles from the border the floodgates opened. Hell’s Bells. At least it lasted for an hour and a half.
When I stopped in Doddridge, Arkansas for a receipt, I could officially not see in front of me. I stopped at a store, walked in and commenced to drip about a gallon of water from my riding gear while I walked around the store trying to find something I needed. No time like the present for a Gatorade and Ding Dong fix. I choked down the Ding Dongs while smiling at the lady behind the counter and telepathically apologizing for the mess I was making. The magical mystery of the Ding Dongs came through and the rain let up enough to make it safe to carry on southward into Louisiana. Onward through the fog!
After crossing into Cajun country I spotted a clearing up ahead. Thank God! Rain really blows when you’re trying to make time and I was glad to leave the rain to the northern regions. Of course, the clearing didn’t last long and I found myself under more rain clouds from Alexandria all the way to the other side of Mobile, Alabama. All the while I’m thanking God for having gloves with a rubber face shield wiper.
The ride into Florida was embarrassing. I had decided to hit Century, Florida for a receipt, but as you’re crossing the border there’s a Piggly Wiggly just the other side of Alabama. I’m looking at the GPS and zooming in to ensure I’ve crossed the border and decide to pull into the parking lot. Surely there’s an ATM inside, but I wonder if I'm in Florida. I see some folks in the parking lot and ask, “Is this Florida?” One lady responds, “Sure is. Didn’t you see that big ol’ sign right there?” Apparently not. But I did on the way out and realized I was watching the damn GPS when I should have been watching the signage. Oh well. Florida is done.
Once I got back on the interstate I could almost see the day’s end goal – a hotel room at the Super 8 in La Grange, Georgia. A chance to reflect on the day’s ride, shed the rain gear, perform a nut check and gauge how well the ride went and my chances of making it through another 7.5 days of what I hoped would be drier weather.
The Super 8 came quickly enough and I was elated to check in and reach the room. After shedding the gear and taking a shower, I made a few notes in my journal and made the call to Belinda so she could update the website with my progress for the day. I was pretty psyched about the first day despite the deluge of rain I endured the majority of miles. However, I fell asleep quickly and dreamt about tackling the next leg that would take me to the Holiday Inn Express in Carney’s Point, New Jersey, another shower and a good night’s sleep.
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I Don’t Know Virginia, But I Hate The Bitch Nonetheless
I woke up Saturday morning to a steady rain, but by the time I checked out of the Super 8 and fired up the wing the rain had dwindled down to a drizzle. I looked forward to the ride ahead of me and the jaunt through the Carolinas, Tennessee and Kentucky which would be a combination of two-lane and four-lane state highways.
On the other side of Atlanta the rain stopped, the skies cleared and the sun’s rays made it all the way to the ground. As I made my way north from Greenville, South Carolina I was reminded of the splendid roads traveled during the Palmetto Ramble. Only this time there wasn’t a need to endure the rain and cold.
I was still a little undecided on how best to pick up Kentucky. Originally, I had planned on riding to Harlan (home of Colonel Sanders and Kentucky Fried Chicken), but most folks decided to pick up Kentucky at Middlesboro. I thought, “To hell with it. Stick to the original plan until you’re forced to change for a better reason than just plain fickleness.” So I carried on to Harlan. The roads were some good two-lane twisties that, at one point, made me think, “Blow this 48-plus ride off and ride the twisties, dude!” But then about 30 miles from Harlan the construction came along with the realization that I’m not making good time despite the good time I’m having. But it was too late to do anything about it.
I found a gas station in Cawood, but they only accepted cash and a quality receipt was out of the question. I decided not to chance it and carried on through the construction toward Harlan. Once there, I found a Texaco with a nice receipt, filled up and hauled ass back the way I came.
I didn’t notice this before, but as I crossed into Virginia again I saw a sign that indicated how seriously Virginia enforces the speed limit and that radar detectors were illegal. I couldn’t help but think, “Where the hell am I? I thought I woke up in America!” But when I gassed up in Wytheville I put the Valentine in the trunk. No need to invite trouble and I decided that I would just go with the flow. I despise 'the flow'.
The only problem is that the flow was slow! The speed limit was 65 and everyone was doing 63. Kojaks with Kodaks were all over the interstate. What’s interesting is the gadgetry the Virginia State Troopers have on their cars. They can totally conceal themselves behind trees, bushes or whatever by using some little gadget about two feet long that sticks out the window and, I suspect, allows them shoot radar and locate speeding vehicles. No wonder the sheeple don’t speed in Virginia! I couldn’t wait to get to the other side of this state! Only problem is it’s a long fucking ride to the other end and West Virginia – around 320 miles of 65 and it took every bit of 5 hours to break through.
As it turned out, riding through Virginia ranked right down there with riding through Oregon.
When I stopped in Inwood, West Virginia I could almost smell the day’s end goal – the Holiday Inn Express in Carney’s Point, New Jersey. Hell, I was just glad to be out of Virginia and into traffic that kept a better pace. Only a few remaining stops to pick up the quickly crossed states of Maryland and Delaware before arriving in New Jersey and the promise of a shower and a bed.
I had left La Grange at 6:45a and arrived in Carney’s Point at 1:10a the next morning eighteen hours and twenty-five minutes later. While I was glad to be there, I was a little disappointed with the time I spent picking up Kentucky and riding through that bitch of a state – Virginia. Either way though, I was glad to be able to finally rest my head against a pillow.
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No Good Way Out
During the planning stage of the ride I had anticipated the third day’s ride through the northeast as being the most difficult – both mentally/physically and given the route and population density of the area. Regardless, I was looking forward to tackling the northeast. I purposely began this insanity on a Friday so I would be able to ride through the region on a Sunday. Did that help? I don’t know. I’ve never ridden through the area any other time. But I’d probably do the same thing.
The New Jersey Turnpike was rather enjoyable. I fell behind a BMW and a Mercedes and we made excellent time until I exited off the NJT and onto the Garden State Parkway. This was a mistake. There’s a 50 cent (or somewhere close to that) toll around every other corner, the speed limit is only 55 and I found cops patrolling the parkway using X-band radar. Oh well, there’s nothing I can do except plug along as best I’m able. Next time though, I’m staying on the NJT and following I-95 right through the gut. Might be better. Then again, it might just be something else to complain about. The ride was a little better after heading north on I-395 just outside of East Lynne, Connecticut.
I originally planned to pick up Rhode Island by taking highway 6 from I-395 to I-295 around Providence. But after crossing the border on highway 6 I found a gas station and opted to backtrack to I-395 and head north to I-90 and then east to I-495.
The ride through the rest of Massachusetts and New Hampshire was uneventful. Traffic kept up a really good pace and other than a few unmarked police cars, I saw very few signs of Kojak. Interestingly enough, they only seemed interested in the lunatics that were weaving in and out of traffic at high rates of speed. I wanted to pull over and thank them for that, but it would require me to stop. As long as you were moving with or slightly faster than traffic, no problems.
Crossing the border into Maine was a real treat. I had never been to Maine before and what little I saw and what little vibe I picked up on was enough to create a desire to come back some day and explore at a more leisurely pace. I found an ATM in Kittery and then crossed the border into Portsmouth and found a gas station. On the way into Portsmouth I passed through an active area full of people, shops, taverns and eateries. I so could have appreciated a beer at that moment, but there was a bed in Eerie, Pennsylvania with my name on it.
I took highway 2 west from I-495 to pick up Vermont at Pownal. However, when I reached I-91 at Greenfield, Massachusetts I decided to take I-91 north to Brattleboro, Vermont and then head west on highway 9. Let me tell you, there just ain’t a good way out of Vermont. I stopped at a Texaco in Brattleboro for another Ding Dong and Gatorade fix while I pondered over the map for a spell. It’s really six one way, half-dozen the other. Carry on westward along highway 9 and make it to Troy, New York. From there I could hop back on I-90 and giddyup to Eerie.
I was relieved when I finally broke through to Troy and hit I-90. The relief was short-lived though when I saw the mileage sign to Buffalo reading 275 miles. 275 miles!?!?!?! What the… That can’t be right. But it was. The ride through Buffalo was uneventful and at a greater pace than the ride through Virginia. Life was OK.
About 50 miles outside of Eerie the night got cold and wet. About 20 miles outside of Eerie it began to sleet. I was a little concerned, but I was also in B-F-E and didn’t have much choice but to carry on. About two miles from the exit for the Best Western I was staying in, it began to snow extremely hard. I was so glad to hit the exit because at that point it was time for me to get off the bike. Not just because of the weather, but because of the long day in the saddle.
I happily checked in and was thankful for a warm room, hot shower and a soft bed.
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I awoke to a cold morning in Eerie, but interestingly enough, the roads were clear. I was prepared to be stuck in Eerie until the morning warmed up a little, but I was able to leave on time and begin to make my way toward Cleveland, Ohio.
The temperature hovered around 38F and the rain began to fall about 40 miles outside of Cleveland. To compound matters, I rolled through the Cleveland area during Monday morning rush hour traffic. While it wasn’t as bad as I had anticipated, it was almost worse than I ever imagined. In heavy, slow-moving traffic like that I can be found somewhere in the far left lane occupying a spot and eye-balling every irresponsible driver on the road both behind me and in front of me.
Everybody’s cool until I spot this zagnut speeding up from behind in the far right lane. He’s trying to move over into a faster lane and while I can’t blame him for that, his assumption that one lane was faster than another was drastically wrong. They were all slow! Anyway, I saw him out of my peripheral vision two lanes over to my right and all of the sudden he jerked the steering wheel to the left in an attempt to cut across two lanes of traffic and right into me. I brake as much as possible without causing the guy tailgating me from behind to hit me, apply the horn and raise my finger at this idiot. He didn’t even turn his head to check his blind spot. If he had, he would have seen me because I had positioned myself in front of his blind spot. A simple head turn. Is that too much to ask? Anyway, life-threatening incident number one averted.
Somewhere around Toledo the skies began to clear and the temperature began to rise as I headed out beyond the cold front that dipped down into the Lake Eerie region. The ride across the remainder of Ohio and Indiana was somewhat boring. There was an interesting critter detection system in place along the interstate in Indiana. There were signs that read, “Animals Present When Flashing” or something to that affect. When I stopped in Sturgis, Michigan just across the Indiana border, I asked the ol’ boy at the gas station about the system. He indicated it’s fairly new and hasn’t been fully tested yet, but should help because there’s at least a dozen incidents in every 24-hour period along that stretch of road when the deer are highly active.
I reached the greater Chicago area around 2pm and planned to attack the city by taking the Skyway and staying on I-90/94 straight to Milwaukee. The traffic was extremely heavy close to downtown Chicago and I had positioned myself in the left lane and cars were all around me. There was a guy in a van to my right and I positioned myself left of his front tire. I noticed he was resting his head on his left hand with his elbow resting on the edge of the window. I tried to move further ahead, but couldn’t without tailgating the car ahead of me. I tried slowing down, but I felt this was even worse because no one behind me adjusted their speed. They just crept closer.
So I’m riding along and I notice the van begin to creep over to the left – all the while the guy is resting his head on his hand. I move over as far left as I’m able, apply the horn and raise the finger in defiance of his idiocy. I see him raise his head off his wrist, look over and smile. I keep the finger raised and then turn it into a fist to show my disgust. He moves over and we continue. Life-threatening incident number two averted. Sorry sack of shit.
Traffic began to move at a greater pace north of the downtown area and the ride into Milwaukee was actually pleasant. While riding around the city I forgot this was the home of Milwaukee iron and Harley-Davidson. I usually wave at every rider I see. I don’t wave for my own satisfaction, but to acknowledge another dog with his head stuck out the window. You got to admit that a wave is better and safer than trying to sniff a rider’s ass. I was blatantly snubbed two times while riding through the city. I was flabbergasted at it, but I just blew it off. Besides, it’s not my problem and I’ll still wave at the next rider I see. The best part of traipsing through that area came when I encountered another Wing rider. He held out his hand high and was waving like a madman. I waved back, of course, and he just smiled from ear to ear. I had a big ol’ smile on my face while thinking this guy probably doesn’t get much of a response from other riders. A smile is mandatory riding gear when the finger doesn't take precedence.
Before the ride began I had exchanged contact information with a few friends who expressed a desire to meet me along the way so we could shoot the shinola for a brief moment and ride a few miles together. On this leg, Dave Nelson and Patrick Jacobson wanted to meet somewhere around Minneapolis. I first made arrangements to meet Dave at a rest stop near Menomonie, Wisconsin, but when I arrived there, I saw no Dave. I kind of figured if anyone was going to wait on anyone it should be Dave so I gave him 5-10 minutes and hauled ass. About 5 miles down the interstate I see a rider coming from the other direction and do my usual wave to the dog with his head stuck out the window. He waves back and I figured that must be Dave, but don’t know for sure because we’ve never met face to face before that point. I decide to pull over and about 3 minutes later Dave pulls up behind me. We exchange pleasantries, get on the bikes and ride to meet Patrick who’s waiting for us on the other side of Minneapolis.
Thankfully, Dave is riding how I like it. There was a tense moment on the loop around the city and there’s no need to repeat it here, but I’ll just say that after 4000 miles I was ready to dismount and backup Dave if he needed any assistance setting the record straight. Thankfully, the other guy didn’t want to listen and we carried on toward Patrick.
We picked up Patrick right where he said he would be, but only because he was early and waiting on us unlike someone else I now know. We rode to my planned stop in Monticello where I gassed up and we three had a nice little conversation about the ride and the incident on our way through Minneapolis. Patrick was definitely thinking properly. He had a few knick-knacks for me, but the best was a box of Little Debbies. If I were gay I’d have planted a big one on him, but a smile, handshake and guy-hug would have to do.
I can’t tell you how much of an inspiration seeing Dave and Patrick was for me. Seeing friends along the way and knowing there were people out there who were following my progress and cyber-riding along with me by monitoring the website, wishing me the best and sending out the good vibes meant a hell of a lot. The laughs we shared while stopped in Monticello are memories that I will never forget and for which I will always be thankful.
The ride from Monticello to the bed at the Comfort Inn in Wapheton, North Dakota was dark, chilly and unknown to me. I was constantly on the lookout for critters wishing to commit bambi-cide, but never saw a single one. After eighteen hours I was happy to find the Comfort Inn and rest my weary head.
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Stupid is as Stupid Does
I originally thought the third day was going to be the most difficult mentally and physically, but it wasn’t. I didn’t know if I’d ever have that bad day, but it wasn’t long after leaving Wapheton that I found out today was going to be the day.
While watching the Weather Channel they predicted clear skies and strong southerly winds across the plains. How bad could they be? Well, not as bad as I would make them through some poor decisions along the way. Straight out of the shoot in Wapheton I decided to not gas up until I hit New Effington, South Dakota. So I left Wapheton having passed up known gas stops for an unknown/unverified stop in New Effington. It was only 50 miles away and I had a quarter tank, but combined with the strong headwinds that reduced the range considerably. By the time I reached New Effington – population 25 – and realized there wasn’t a gas station at the exit I began to wonder if I should have gassed up in Wapheton at any one of the open gas stations I passed before getting on the interstate.
As I came to the stop sign off the exit ramp there was a sign that indicated gas was to the right. I take a right and keep my eyes peeled for a gas station or another sign leading me to gas. After about 5 miles of nothing but corn fields and empty fields and having remembered the tiny water tower that must have been in downtown New Effington, I decide to turn around and head for the tower. At this point, the gas gauge is well below the ‘E’ and it's never been this low before. I feel like Kramer and the car salesman trying to figure out how far I can drive before running out of gas. But I make it back to the big city and find the only gas station in town. It’s closed and there’s no sign indicating when – or even if – this place will open.
A local farmer came through town in his old Chevy truck and I didn’t have anything better to do than wave him down so I could ask a few questions. I did. He stopped and we had a short conversation. This guy was an old man wearing an ancient yet functional, tattered flannel coat and a hat perched on his head with the flip-up ear pads buttoned above the ears. He wore black glasses, had a smile from ear to ear and laughed like Mutley.
“Is this the only gas station in town?”, I asked knowing full well this had to be the only station in a town where birds outnumbered the living.
“Heh heh heh. Yah. Yah. This is the only station. Heh heh heh” His shoulders shook up and down on each wheezy “Heh” while his hands were clenched to the steering wheel.
“Well does this place open soon?”
“Yah. Yah. Oh Yah. Heh heh heh. Jim opens her up at 8am and it’s the only gas around. Yah.”
“OK. Thanks a lot.”
“Heh heh heh. Yah. OK. Yah. Have a good day.”
As he rode away I could see his shoulders shaking up and down. The old bastard was still laughing at me. Of course, when I thought about him, his mannerisms, his small-town charm and his innocent desire to help a stranger, I laughed while thinking I just experienced a slice of Americana - Fargo-style.
All I can do now is wait for "Jim to open her up at 8am." I take the time to inspect the bike and make sure the tires are holding up and that nothing is loose and about to fall off. All is well with the bike except for two things – the wheels should be spinning down the interstate and it needs gas before that can happen. I continue to wait and about 45 minutes later, Jim appears in the window of his fine establishment promptly at 8am. I hear the pumps turn on and immediately begin to fill the 6.6 gallon tank with 6.6 gallons of gas. I feel like one lucky son-of-a-bitch for not having to push the wing into New Effington.
I’m off again. I decide to pump up the speed a little in an effort to make up some of the lost time. About twenty miles down the interstate I come up on a construction zone and back off the throttle to slow down to the posted 50 mph speed limit. My Valentine had gone off about a mile back and while I saw it, it just didn’t register in my tired, still-pissed-off-about-the-gas-thing mind. About the time I see the Valentine screaming at me to slow down, I spot the cop to my right who just turned on his lights. When I looked at the GPS I was going 58 in a 50.
I pulled over immediately, shut the bike down, got off the bike and took my gloves and helmet off while the officer approached.
“Do you know why I stopped you?”, he asked.
“Because I had my head my up ass coming through the construction zone?”, I replied with a shit-eatin’ grin on my face.
“Yah. Yah. That’s the reason”, he said with a surprised smile on his face.
He asked me to come sit down in his car while he writes me up. We get to talking about the trip I’m taking and the motorcycles he’s ridden. He decides to write me up for 55 in a 50 which is only a $65 ticket and I can mail in the payment in the envelope provided by the state of South Dakota. All in all, it was a very pleasant stop.
As I was getting out of his vehicle he says, “Gas is sparse out here so be careful.” I just turned around, smiled and said, “Yes. It is and I will. Thanks again.”
So I’m off yet again. The headwinds were fierce from this point all the way south to Missouri. I tried to make up time, but with the increased number of stops I was forced to make for fuel, it was all a wash. The headwinds were brutal and very tiring to this already tired and weary mind. I thought about drinking some coffee, but quickly decided against it. I just had to get through this brief period of feeling tired, sluggish and pissed off about the morning’s bad decisions. Life’s a real bitch when you’re stupid. It’s worse when you’re tired, pissed and stupid.
A couple of hours later after having made a pit stop in Sioux City, Iowa for a receipt, I’m feeling better mentally, but the headwinds are still as brutal as ever and continue to pound the bike head on. At this point, I’m 2 hours behind schedule.
I finally make it to Rock Port, Missouri for a receipt and begin to head west through Nebraska and down toward Kansas to my final destination – a bed in Colorado Springs, Colorado. But turning west doesn’t get me to the bed. There’s still a lot of riding to do.
I made plans to meet another online friend, Jeff Salyer, in Hays, Kansas. Needless to say, I was running a little late. By the time I arrived in Hays Jeff had been waiting about four hours for me. God, I felt so horrible about that. Jeff must be a patient man. But I’m glad he's waiting because, again, it was so nice to meet and visit with someone who was following your progress and wishing you well. It was a real shot in the arm and after that day of fighting through some bad decisions, a ticket and fierce headwinds, I needed something to help boost my spirits.
Jeff and I talked for about twenty minutes while I gassed up. I didn’t want to leave. I could have stayed, chatted and drank a few brews with my new friend all evening. But staying wasn’t a logical option. I had to press on and press on I did.
The headwinds of the morning and afternoon turned into the worst crosswinds I’ve ever ridden through. Between Colby, Kansas and Limon, Colorado the 50+ mph crosswinds forced me to lean the bike over far to the left as I watched truckloads of sand, grass, tumbleweeds and anything else not strapped down or with a taproot fly by in front of me. At every exit I asked myself if I should hang it up for the night, but I decided to carry on each time. It’s got to end at some point! Then, about 10 miles outside of Limon, Colorado the winds calmed and the night became still and quiet. There is a God afterall.
I stopped in Limon to perform a nut check, gas up and get a Ding Dong fix. While gassing up and walking into the station my body was still leaning left. I decided to carry on toward that day’s goal – a bed in Colorado Springs about eighty miles away. I arrived at the Super 8 around 1:30a tired and weary from a day full of bad decisions, horrendous winds and one bright spot – making a new friend in Hays, Kansas. Thanks, Jeff.
|Leg Five Image:||Small Large|
Over the Hump
What a difference a day makes. After a most enjoyable three and a half hours of sleep I awoke to the bluest of blue skies. This would be a good indication of how the entire day would be while riding through the desert southwest. After opening the drapes in the hotel room and discovering what lay before me I was eager to hit the road so I showered, dressed, checked out and hauled ass toward the bed in Las Vegas and the pillow waiting to comfort my head.
There isn’t much to write about on a day like this. The skies were blue, the winds were calm, the temperature was cool, the mind was operative and there was very little room for indecision on a route like this. No need to complicate things. Just keep the throttle twisted and enjoy the familiar ride across the desert southwest. And I did.
When I hit Needles, California the sun was dipping toward the horizon and night would soon be upon me. I was headed toward highway 95 – a stretch of road that I’ve never traveled and didn’t know what to expect. Dusk in the desert is certainly a magical moment. As the horizon hides the sun only allowing the tops of sun’s rays to shine high in the atmosphere, the deep, dark shadows of the desert appear under the stars. The shear number of stars in the sky is mesmerizing and peculiar to a person who’s lived in the city for so long. It’s not often a city boy gets to see the milky way stream across the night sky and understand the reason behind its name. God must exist. I mean, this cannot all be a bad, cruel joke. It just can’t.
After an extremely enjoyable day of riding I arrived on the north end of Las Vegas and was happy to check in to the Super 8 and rest my weary, but happy head.
|Leg Six Image:||Small Large|
Decisions And Indecision
I made a huge mistake when I booked the Super 8 in Las Vegas. I didn’t verify they had the Weather Channel. I almost changed hotels when I got there, but I was stopped and looked forward to the early arrival and the promise of a good night’s rest. I watched the local news hoping they would at least show the radar for the western Wyoming and Montana areas, but just like elsewhere in the desert, weather reports are useless and the weatherperson usually doubles as the station idiot. Las Vegas didn’t disappoint and neither did CNN, FOX News, MSNBC… Bastards!
I left Las Vegas a little before 6am heading toward a bed in Missoula, Montana. The ride up through Salt Lake City, Utah was uneventful. A few snow-capped mountains along the way and the desire to know the local weather in Evanston, Wyoming. I figured I’d ride until something happened or felt it necessary to ask some locals about the weather. I was a little tense about this decision because all of the weather reports I heard the previous days, with the exception of last night in Las Vegas, called for wintry weather across Wyoming and the Bitterroot region of Montana. Not much I can do about that and I was glad I had another day and half at my disposal to wait for a storm to pass or wait for the roads to clear. But I’ve come this far and, by God, I’m not stopping now.
As I rode east of Salt Lake City and over the mountain pass it was cold and the roads were a little damp. Not knowing Wyoming well enough, I thought the ride would only get worse the farther I traveled, but it wasn’t like that at all. After crossing over the pass the road began to gradually descend to lower elevations and into an almost desert-like terrain. I was thinking, “Sure is good to be back in the desert!!” When I finally reached Evanston, I filled up, bought a cheap-ass sandwich, Ding Dongs, Gatorade and verified the receipt. It felt good to pick up Wyoming without any issues. If Montana was this easy, I’d start going to church.
As I made my way back through Salt Lake and northward into Idaho, I stopped in Shelley, Idaho to gas up, perform a nut-check and talk to some locals about the road conditions into Montana. I also called the Montana DOT to listen to the recorded message about road conditions and closures across the state. There were large stretches of interstate around Butte that were closed because of wintry weather the night before that had dumped quite a bit of snow. Ice and slushy conditions across the Bitterroot region and I-15 and I-90. I thought to myself, “Son-of-bitch! I’m going to get this far and have to abort because of something that’s beyond my control. Church is out of the question!!”
But I chilled out in Shelley for a spell and decided to go for it. One of the locals I spoke with indicated there was a 24-hour truck stop the other side of Dillon, Montana, but he thought there was a gas station just across the border in Lima.
Alright. To hell with the decisions and indecision. Get up off your ass and ride! I thought if I had to turn around and get a hotel to wait out a storm or road conditions, I would, but I’m not going to make that decision without attempting the ride first.
So I’m riding north through Idaho and I begin to climb toward the continental divide. I passed under a few storms, but no snow, just cold rain. Cold rain is cool. Cold and snow is not. When I get to the top of the divide and pass into Montana it was colder than a witch’s tit, but the roads were mostly clear. As I passed over each hill I wished for Lima to appear and then, after what seemed like an eternity and an endless number of wishes that would have pissed off any genie around, there it was - the Lima exit and I’ll be damned if there wasn’t a gas station there. It was 7:30p local time. Now the damn thing has to be open. It was and I had the biggest shit-eatin’ grin on my face ever. Wyoming and Montana were two question marks on this leg and I was relieved that the answer wasn’t as difficult as I had made it. All of the decision and indecision was just a waste of time.
I gassed up and went inside to talk to the attendant. She indicated that the roads were touch and go around Butte, but the weather was supposed to be clear and cold. I decided to take my receipt and concede the bed waiting for me in Missoula to the weather gods. I’m not too keen on touch and go riding when there’s a perfectly good, albeit longer, way to the same destination. I opted for a ride through the Snake River Valley of Idaho and then into Oregon, Washington, Canada and Hyder. But first, I had to find a decent substitute for the bed I sacrificed in Missoula. When I reached Pocatello, I felt like it was a good place to stop, have my first decent meal (a Subway meatball sandwich, bag of chips and a cookie) in a week, check into a hotel, get some sleep and tackle the Snake River Valley in the morning.
|Leg Seven Image:||Small Large|
I was so happy to have conquered the two unknowns of Wyoming and Montana yesterday. The only thing before me was a bunch of miles to Hyder and a little unknown area called British Columbia. First things first, though – the Snake River Valley, Oregon, Washington and the border crossing at Sumas.
A few hours the other side of Pocatello I began to reflect on the previous week of riding, the events I endured, the effort put forth, my friends and family and especially my Father – God rest his soul. I still have miles ahead of me and the ride wasn’t over by any stretch of the imagination, but I had put so much pressure on myself over the past week and especially the previous day that my emotions were boiling over.
The feeling of being so close to achieving a goal of riding all forty-nine states in less than ten days was so satisfying and liberating too. I was satisfied knowing that I would more than likely finish this ride, but I felt liberated from the mental torture I put myself through from the moment I declared to the world that I was going to ride this amazing ride. Thoughts of, “You don’t know what you’re getting into” and “You can’t do this! Don’t be a fucking idiot!” were totally shattered and I felt them all fall from my mind and body and onto the road beneath me. It felt good to leave those thoughts behind and yell at the top of my lungs, “FUCK YOU!”
My Father rode with me for a while that day. I could feel his presence and his overwhelming pride and joy of my accomplishment. My Father was a magnificent man in so many ways. If I’m able to be half the man he was, I will have lived a lifetime filled with happiness, joy, love and compassion. Our Mother passed away when we were young. My Father never remarried although he came close a couple of times. As a result, we grew up quickly, but my Father was the best mother and father a child could ever ask for. He was most assuredly a gift from Heaven above.
We talked, laughed and cried together as we rode through Idaho. We talked about the ride and how life had changed since he passed on. We laughed about old times spent together as a family – especially the trips back home to Idaho from Texas or the times we fired up the grill and enjoyed a good steak. And we cried about the old times too and the things we missed out on, the pain we felt at times and knowing there’s no way for us to physically hug each other and say, “I love you” one last time.
Yep. The emotional floodgates were open. I must have cried a gallon of tears between there and Boise, but they were all tears of joy for a goal that was so close at hand and the man who was my Father. I’m so thankful I found him out there and for the moment we were able to share together.
While I enjoyed the beauty and grandeur of Oregon, I couldn’t help but feel like I was back in Virginia. Slow speed limits and a cop presence that made me question what border I crossed. My only regret is that I was forced to make at least one stop in Oregon to get a receipt. There was no way out of spending at least a little money in a state where freedom felt so unwelcome. You can’t pump your own gas, speed limits are arbitrarily low and cops are pulling people over for no other reason than they’re going a few miles over the speed limit.
I stopped in Baker City, Oregon for gas and a receipt. At that time my American Express card was being denied so I called customer service to figure out what the hell was going on. I called prior to leaving Dallas to inform them of my travel habits over the next six to eight weeks. The lady in security said we noticed a few small charges followed by a big charge and we flagged the account. I asked her what they were to verify someone wasn’t making fraudulent charges and she told me about gas charges all over the country and a hotel room in Pocatello last night. She said most fraud is preceded by a small purchase. I said, “Do you realize that I’ve been making small charges in every state, but two so far and that if I were a criminal I’d have bought the washer and dryer a long, long time ago? Why would a criminal take 7 days to zigzag across the nation just to make a large purchase in Pocatello?” Anyway, we got all that straightened out after I told her I would start favoring my Visa card.
I made one mistake on this leg, but it was hardly avoidable. I got into the Seattle area during rush hour traffic! What a mess and it stayed a mess for a long time. I almost pulled over several times to find a place to chill for an hour or so, but decided to trudge forward toward the border. Today’s goal was a bed in Cache Creek, British Columbia that, at this point, I had yet to secure.
I planned to cross the border at Sumas because it kept me well east of Vancouver and was more convenient. As I approached the crossing and got in line with everyone else, I made a mistake. I got in the slow line. Slow lines at border crossings are slow because the person checking vehicles and people is taking too much pride in his/her job. I realized that about midway through the line, but I thought if I changed lanes now, it would look a little fishy.
Waiting in line for what seemed like an eternity gave me time to consider the contraband I was smuggling across the border. You know, the drugs and child pornography stash I kept hidden in the left saddlebag next to the guns. It was finally my turn. I’m a little nervous cuz I’ve never crossed the Canadian border and didn’t know what to expect. I stop the bike, turn off the engine, put the sidestand down and fish out my driver’s license. The customs agent looks over my license and asks me a set of standard questions. I provide the correct answers to them all and then she asks me to park the bike and go in and show my birth certificate to the customs officer at the desk. I thought, “Here we go. I wonder how far I’m going to be forced to bend over, whether or not lube would be used and how long this reaming would take.” In the end it wasn’t too bad at all. No lube and no bending over. Just a few more questions and off I went. Phew!
I wanted to make up the lost time spent traveling through the Snake River Valley and make it to Cache Creek, but when I reached Abbotsford it was getting late and I saw a Ramada Inn with my name on it. I pulled in, checked in and ordered in. When I called down to order room service, a pretty voice answered and we began to chitchat a bit. After telling her I’ve been on the road for 8 days I finally told her what I wanted and she replied, “Hungry, eh?” The only response I could muster was, “Fuckin’ eh!” That would become the typical response to most Canadians when they ended a question or statement with “eh?”
You must be tired, eh? Fuckin’ eh!
|Leg Eight Image:||Small Large|
The Unknown Road to Hyder
I didn’t do much research about the roads and services in Canada. As a result I was more than happy to tackle this last stretch of road beginning at sun up. I told myself that I would ride until dusk and if I wasn’t in Hyder by that time, I’d get a hotel and finish up the next morning. I also convinced myself that it was only 700 miles to Hyder from Abbotsford rather the 900 miles it turned out to be.
I got an early morning start from the Ramada Inn at 5:20a and geared myself up for a pleasurable and final push to Hyder. Since I didn’t know much about services along the way, I chose to gas up frequently and take my time. When I got on the highway I noticed a speed limit sign that read “100” in big black letters and then “km/h” in smaller letters underneath. I went from cool to shit in no time flat and changed the readout on the GPS so I knew just how fast I was going.
The stretch of road along highway 1 between Hope and Cache Creek is magnificent. It’s a nice, winding little stretch of road that follows the Fraser and Thompson rivers with the road on one side and train tracks on the other. There were many scenic overlooks and other places that would have produced some spectacular pictures, but I chose to carry on. Besides, I was planning on coming through the region again whenever I decided to make my way back into the states.
In all honesty, I fell in love with every bit of British Columbia I saw along the way to Hyder. Granted, a lot of it was geared toward tourism and I would have rather traveled another route, but I saw very few cars for long stretches and every town I rolled into was warm and inviting. When I reached Prince George though, I got the distinct feeling that this town is too damn big for BC. Thankfully, I stayed on the outskirts of the city before heading west on highway 16 toward a bed at the Grandview Inn in Hyder.
I kept riding and riding and looking and looking and riding more and I thought, “I’ve got to be closer than it appears. That’s cool though. It’s still light out and I really don’t feel like stopping.” I carried on… and on… and on across BC. Finally, after stopping in New Hazelton I looked at the map and figured out it was 900 miles to Hyder from Abbotsford rather than the 700 miles I originally concocted. But I still didn’t feel like stopping and the sun was still shining.
At Kitwanga I headed north on highway 37 and could smell Hyder from there. That stretch of 37 is lonely. There is hardly anything between Kitwanga and Meziadin Junction where 37A and the Glacier Highway begins and winds towards Hyder. When I arrived at the junction I was surprised it was still light outside. I had thought the sun would at least begin to set, but it seemed to just loom above the horizon in an effort to shine the way to Hyder. In actuality I was so far north that the sun wasn’t even going to set until around 11pm. What’s next, Einstein?
After checking in though, I just didn’t feel like laying around. I felt like catching a good buzz and celebrating. I took a shower, got dressed and walked back over to the Sealaska Inn where I proceeded to find the buzz I was looking for and where I met a few locals and other folks from around BC. We talked, drank, laughed and shared stories together before closing the bar down sometime after midnight.
It was a hell of a time and the proper ending to a ride I will not soon forget. Now, if I didn’t screw up the paperwork!!
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Summary And Lessons Learned
Some statistics for the entire trip...
|Total Miles:||9379 Uncorrected / ~8910 Corrected|
|Ride Time:||6 Days, 11 Hours and 42 Minutes|
|Total Time:||8 Days, 17 Hours and 45 Minutes|
|Gallons of Gas:||245.78|
|Entire Route Image:||Small Large|
The lessons learned. I'll add more as I recall them.
- Breaking the entire route into smaller, manageable peices helped my mind cope with the the insanity of the ride.
- Using a motel as an end goal each evening proved to be good motivation.
- There's plenty of time to ride this ride and still take care of yourself mentally and physically.
- With a range around 200 miles or more, an auxillary fuel cell is not mandatory for this ride.
- Proper and thorough planning of the route, stops, motels... reduces stress.
- Good raingear is a must.
- Don't mull over decisions long. Take some time to think through issues, but don't let your mind play games with you. Make a decision and execute it. If it was the wrong decision, you'll know about it sooner and be able to make another decision, perhaps the right one, sooner.
- Don't pass up a known gas stop for an unknown one.
- Verify the hotel has the Weather Channel before you make reservations.
- Stay out of the slow lane at border crossings.
- Like any other IBA ride, a steady, deliberate and methodical pace is all that's required.
- The most difficult part of each day came in the first couple of hours after hitting the road. The body and mind are still a little spent from the previous day's ride and the promise of another long day on the road. Breaking through this barrier is essential, getting through it safely is critical and, as such, it's imperative you know and understand your limitations. There's a fine line between being stable and alert enough to ride and requiring more rest. Like Dirty Harry says, "A man's got to know his limitations."