Planning and Preparation
Well I'm not too sure where to start the story or how to tell it, but let's try it this way...
Sometimes life, when we step back a little and give it enough room, just seems to work out. A week before the MTF 50cc/100ccc the company I contract through came in for a meeting with the customer. Two hours later my contract was over a month earlier than agreed upon. Okey-dokey. With most things in the business world, it boiled down to money and someone played their hand and I got the shaft. So I went back to the Residence Inn, packed up my stuff and drove home back to Dallas.
Now at the time I didn't think life was working at all. That month of not working will mean I may be forced to cut down on some of the travel plans this summer or, God forbid, find another contract. But on the way home I decided to not even consider all of the bad stuff like going back to work or cutting some trips short. Rather, I decided to concentrate on the positive aspects of being, essentially, free to do whatever the hell I want to do for the next several months.
So what to do... what to do...
Oh ya. The MTF 50cc/100ccc is next week. It will be tough to outfit a bike in a week. Plus, this was my first big ride in almost 6 months after having a broken wrist and a herniated a disc that required a good injection of cortisone. What the hell though. The first long ride was bound to happen eventually and this would be a damn good way to test the body. Besides, as with any ride I'm not afraid of throwing in the towel, but only after exhausting all chances of success.
I need to plan the ride, but thought, "It's a straight line between Jacksonville and San Diego. I should be able to handle that. That only leaves coming up with an optimal and rational ride strategy. I can do that later. Let's work on prepping the unprepped stead."
The bike for this ride is my practically new, uninitiated R1150GS Adventure.
First thing on the list is essential electronics. There are three essential electronics - the Valentine, the GPS and the iPod. Of those though, music was not absolutely critical. It only serves to occupy the brain when droning across the vast wasteland that is Texas, New Mexico and Arizona. I decided singing to myself would have the same effect, but that I'd likely want to slit my own wrists in San Diego. Perhaps the only thing worse than country music is my singing.
I wanted to do the electrical stuff optimally, but I only had three days to prep the bike as I had to go to Austin to see my sister before leaving. The problem with the GS is that there's no place to house electrical components (e.g. a fusebox) without mounting an electronic enclosure somewhere. Well, that somewhere just didn't exist and I decided to quick-rig a wiring harness to use the upper 12-volt accessory outlet to provide juice to both the Valentine and the GPS. No problems at all and it was quick and simple with no impact to the long-term optimal fix which is to add a top-box to the bike, add an electronic enclosure to the top-box and run power to all accessories from there. I've been waiting for an excuse to get a top box and now I've got one.
I also wanted to add some risers to the bike, but couldn't get them in time. That was a real bummer and would prove to be a much-needed addition by the end of the ride. I had put some new Michelin T66 street tires on the bike about 1200 miles earlier. This ride would yield some good data on just how long these tires would hold up for me. The last thing is some form of hydration system. The easiest and most convenient hydration solution is a camelback in the tank bag. I went to REI and picked up a new camelback because my current one was getting a little old, crusty and abused - mainly because I didn't take good care of it and because I butchered it when rigging up the Wing.
The bike is done. The most basic requirements are satisfied. As of this trip, the bike had ~2200 miles and the following additions:
- Aeroflow Tall/Full Shield
- PIAA 520 Fogs
- StreetPilot III
- Bill Mayer Saddle
- Jesse Luggage Side Boxes
- BMW Tank Bag
- Camelback Hydration System
- Michelin T66 Tires
All I need to do now is keep my ass on the bike, gas in the tank and the wheels spinning.
On to ride strategy... I had a little discussion with myself regarding whether or not to attempt the 50cc or the 100ccc, but the discussion didn't last long at all. Go for the 100ccc and fall back to a 50cc if circumstances warranted the change. Knowing that I should strategize for the 100ccc made the process a little easier.
A 100ccc is two 50cc's back to back. There's no advantage to finishing a 100ccc in 80 hours. Overall, I planned on getting my last receipt and finishing the 100ccc in 96th hour. Completing the first 50cc in less than 50 hours is critical though and, based on my past ride statistics, I thought 42 hours was an honest goal. This would leave an 8 hour period before the clock on the next 50cc began and provide sufficient time to decompress and rest up before leaving San Diego. I also split each 50cc into two legs of roughly equivalent mileage - around 1200 miles each. Based on previous rides I knew I could keep a safe, steady and deliberate pace and complete each leg in ~18 hours and that would leave a 6-hour rest period between legs. On the last 50cc, there's absolutely no advantage to finishing in less that 50 hours. However, in planning for contingencies along the way, I decided to complete the final 50cc in 46 hours. That would leave a significant amount of time for rest, to plug a tire, etc.
Now on to packing... But what's to pack for? I've got a couple of dinners and a ride to ride. I packed the minimal amount of gear to ride, eat with other people and not smell too bad while doing either. This essentially boils down to a pair of overalls, short-sleeve t-shirt, two pair of long-sleeve t-shirts, 2 pair LDComfort shorts, fleece, socks, toothbrush, toothpaste, deoderant and, the almost as important as duct tape, gold bond powder. I also had an awesome set of tools, but forgot some spare bulbs which meant I had no tail light the last evening of the ride.
So there it is. The bike is ready to haul ass, I'm ready to haul ass and the last thing to do is, well, HAUL ASS!
The Ride Out to Jacksonville
Before starting the 100ccc I needed to test a few things. First, the bike, its range and ability to gobble up a few miles. I had no statistics on this bike so I looked forward to collecting some. Second, my body and mind needed a little run to sharpen a few rough edges. Since I live in Dallas I selected the 1100-mile, all interstate route through Shreveport, Lafayette and on to Jacksonville. It was perfect preparation for the ride.
I started around 4:30am Saturday morning. My heart was racing a bit with the anticipation of the week's festivities and what this ride meant if I was physically unable to complete a major portion without reinjuring my wrist or the back. If the back gave out again I'd definitely have to find another job and that's just not acceptable at this point! I wasn't concerned about the wrist at all as the rehab went extremely well. The back on the other hand, while showing significant signs of recovery, was still an unknown under these conditions. As always, hitting the road was the best therapy. All of my attention was on the road where it belonged. I looked forward to the long day in the saddle. Life was good again.
The ride out went very well. The bike was averaging around 35 MPG and yielding a comfortable range of 250 miles before the fuel warning light came on. About right for the bladder too. I rode each leg straight through and had to stop 4 times. I kept the speed between 75 and 80. Combined with running from tank to tank meant that maintaining a 71 MPH overall average was easy. The ride took 15.5 hours and that was a good sign that I would be able to shave some time off the 100ccc time estimates without having to maintain a faster pace.
The wrist held up well just like I suspected. There was no pain at all. The back felt extremely well too. I had some muscle tightness, but muscular tension was expected. I felt absolutely no disc-related pain which was a major sign that my back would survive the big run.
A Day of Camaraderie
Sunday morning I went down to breakfast and saw a few riders - including Alan, Don and Bob. It was good to see everyone there - especially Bob knowing of his last-minute decision to come down for a little ride. After breakfast, we all pretty much were out in the parking lot making new friends, seeing old friends and welcoming the riders as they arrived.
That evening we all inundated Bucketts Restaurant for dinner. The waitress was cute, the beer was cold, the food was good and the company was excellent.
After dinner, I went to the room to make sure everything was in order and to sleep off a good buzz.
There's nothing like the start of a big ride. The clock is ticking and the miles aren't going anywhere unless you do something about it. I got to the Shell station where we were staging the ride. Since I was a little late to the participant's list, I was one of the last riders to leave Jacksonvile. After obtaining a witness and the begin receipt I went down to the beach to take a picture of my feet in the Atlantic Ocean.
Now it was time to point the bike west and giddyup.
I followed Alan, Don and Bob through morning traffic and out to I-10, but once there I wicked up the speed to what was a nice, brisk and safe speed and the trio disappeared into the horizon behind me. That wouldn't be the last time we would ride together.
The weather was immaculate. Just a little fog near Jacksonville and a bunch of sunshine all the way to wherever. My plan was to ride from tank to tank and nut-check in Junction, TX to determine if I was tired enough to stop for a spell. The question I would ask myself is, "Can I go to sleep in 30 minutes or less?" If the answer is yes in Junction, then I'd get a room and spend 6 hours there sleeping, showering, etc. If the answer was no, I'd carry on to the next city and nut-check again.
I passed a few riders along the way to Junction, but I had the road mostly to myself - just the way I prefer it. The ride through Florida was smooth and uneventful. Once you hit Alabama, Mississippi is just a stone's throw away. I can't remember for sure, but I think this happened in Mississipi... As I was coming up on an exit I see a green bike parked well off the road. A split second later I see a guy waving his hand at me and all I could think was that a rider was in trouble and needed assistance so I braked hard and safely made the exit only to find out that he was just waving at me while he was taking a picture! He said he was just out trying to get a picture of a friend running the 50cc. No harm done, but when your groove gets interrupted like that, well, I wasn't pleased.
Louisianna still has the worst sections of interstate highway I've had the displeasure of riding, but I'd hate to think some other states may be worse. They're working on things, but I don't expect things to improve dramatically until internal combustion engines are replaced by solar-powered anti-gravity machines. And even then...
I was a little concerned about the HOV lanes coming into Houston. I was following Steve, Ulrich and Gary throuh Beaumont and into the Houston region, but just west of downtown I decided to pass them and fish for the HOV lane from my own vantage point. I wasn't sure if they knew where it was and I wanted to control the situation. I spotted the entrance and made my way to it, entered and watched traffic come to a standstill in the main lanes while I rode away into HOV nirvana. I saw several riders that weren't so lucky. I honked, waved and laughed my ass off at all of them.
San Antonio came and went and after 17 hours on the road, Junction was just around the corner. Time for the nut-check. The answer was yes and I decided to check into the Comfort Inn for 6 hours of rest.
The next morning I woke up, checked the weather channel and saw clear skies and warm temperatures all the way to San Diego. The entire day was nothing short of spectacular. The ride through New Mexico was interesting. Out of all the times I've been through New Mexico along I-40 or I-10 I've never been painted with radar until this trip. I've always seen cops rolling down the road, but they never had radar on. The area around Las Cruces was being patrolled extensively. Interestingly enough, I didn't see any cops going through Arizona.
While climbing the mountains just east of San Diego the temperature fell about 30 degrees and a crisp ride into San Diego was just what the doctor ordered. My lower back muscles had been spasming since the climb started, but there was no disc-related pain. I reached the beach around 7p local time, got my feet wet in the Pacific Ocean, took a picture and found the Motel 6 to check-in and get some sleep before starting the next leg in the morning.
My goal was to complete the first 50cc in 42 hours. I was able to complete the ride in 40 including two legs of 17 hours and a 6 hour stay in Junction, TX. The 10 hours before the next leg started was welcomed and I took full advantage of the time in San Diego. With the back spasms came some thoughts on potentially calling the 100ccc off. The last thing I want to do is hurt my back again. But I decided to get a good night's sleep, start the ride back to Jacksonville in the morning and see what happens. Calling the ride off at this point would be a premature decision.
Morning came and the back felt a little stiff. After some stretching and a shower, the back was begging to get the hell outta dodge. The checkpoint in San Diego was awesome. My hat's off to all involved with that effort. I saw Alan, Don and Bob at the Mobil station where we obtained a starting receipt. I figured we'd give it another try and see if we could ride together. On the way up into the mountains though I just couldn't take it any longer. There's something about twisty roads and a throttle that cannot be ignored. Sure it's an interstate, but it's not too shabby and relative to the rest of route, well, these are the only twisties in roughly 4800 miles. When opportunity presents itself, you go for it.
As I was coming out of the mountains though, I see lights coming up on me at a fairly decent clip so I slowed a little and sure enough it was Alan, Don and Bob. I decided to fall in behind them and see what kind of pace they kept up. I was surprised at the pace and wound up following them all the way through Fort Stockton, TX. They were stopping about every 180 miles, but what the hell. My ass was a little sore and needed a breather anyway. Plus, these guys are good friends and, well, they're worth it.
We stopped in Fort Stockton for gas and decided to stop at a McDonalds for some grub. While at the Mickey Ds we talked about the end goal for the evening. Ideally, we all wanted to get past Junction before stopping. I threw out the fact that there was no incentive for me to finish in less than 50 hours. I was thinking about stopping in Junction and then perhaps somewhere around Tallahassee the next evening. I think they liked the idea, but the overriding factor may have been the 24-hour cancellation policy at the Best Western in Jacksonville. Me? I wanted to play things by ear and didn't make reservations.
Out of the three, Bob looked the most refreshed. Don and Alan looked like they had been taken out back and pummeled. I think Alan was working on an hours sleep and Bob and Don were working on two or three. After we got back on the road Bob hit a wall and the pace slowed to the point where I felt it was affecting my schedule adversely. So I wicked around them hoping they would follow suit and maintain a steadier pace. They didn't and I knew that, together, they were all three in good hands. The ride into Junction was a brilliant Texas night and I didn't see a single deer. Amazing. I stopped at the same Comfort Inn and spent 7 hours there resting and relaxing content with my decision to take my time on this leg and take advantage of the time I had to successfully complete the ride.
The next morning came and I was ready for the final day's ride to Jacksonville. Of course, that would require a cooperative day and this day would prove to be anything but cooperative.
Somewhere between San Antone and Houston I passed Aric. He fell in behind me and stopped when I stopped. It's always good to see fellow riders out on the road. Aric was no exception. He said he didn't get much sleep the night before, but we decided to at least make it through Houston together. The ride through Houston proper was uneventful. A little rain, but nothing like we'd experience in only a matter of minutes. Somewhere between Houston and Beaumont the flood gates opened. Aric and I got separated and I decided to pull over and find an overpass to park under and get out of deluge after a lightning bolt hit about 300 yards in front of me. I saw the light and heard the thunder clap at the same time and that's just a little too close for comfort. I found an overpass and spent the next 45 minutes watching it rain harder than I've seen it come down in a long time. The lightning and thunder were devastating and I was glad to be under the cover of an interstate overpass.
When I decided to gear up and ride again it was still raining, but had appeared the worst was over. I couldn't have been more wrong. Not more than 5 minutes after rolling again, the deluge resurged with even more ferocity than before. I spotted some other riders - including Aric - and we all made our way to an Exxon station, parked the bikes and went inside to nut-check the situation.
While there I met David, Coni, Jeff and John - a local BMW rider who was traveling to his home in Baton Rouge. We all sat around trying to figure out the weather. John and Coni were talking to folks on their cell phones. John's wife indicated it wasn't even raining in south Houston while Coni reported the storm stretched from Beaumont all the way to Jacksonville. We also got reports of an I-10 closure on the west side of Lafayette due to severe flooding.
I reckon we hanged around the Exxon for about two hours before the rain finally tapered off enough to make progress. For me, there was just too much time on the clock and too few miles to throw in the towel on the 100ccc attempt. I decided to trudge on and throw in the towel only when I crossed the time/distance threshold. Several riders came to a different conclusion based on a somewhat different set of parameters than my own and decided to scrap their attempt. I respect their decision to err on the side of safety. Another ride attempt is in their future and I wish them the best when they go for it again.
I followed John through some back roads around the construction on I-10 in Louisiana and on into Baton Rouge where he peeled off for home. I'd like to thank John for showing me the back way around a mess of an interstate and the company he provided while we both tail-grabbed the ass of that storm across southern Louisiana.
Just after Hammond, LA I saw a great deal of lightning and decided I was getting a little too close for comfort. I pulled into a rest area to call my sister and get a weather report. She said there was a lot of rain from New Orleans through to the Alabama/Florida border, but the rain was only light to moderate with localized heavy spots. Sounded good to me. The worst of the storm seemed to be over and now it was just a matter of riding through the rain. Not a problem at all. I got back on the road and it rained all the way through Pensacola. After that, not another drop.
I had plenty of time to get to Jacksonville and decided to take a nut-check in Quincy, FL at a Flying J truck stop a little after 3am. I decided to take a two hour break and get some shut-eye in the lounge before riding the last 200 miles into Jacksonville. Those two hours were pleasant, but I think my snoring drove the ol' boy sitting in the lounge with me out of the area. Oh well.
After waking up and walking around for a spell to get the blood flowing again, I hopped on the bike for the final push to Jacksonville. When I arrived I went to the beach to take a picture of my feet in the the Atlantic Ocean for the second time in four days.
After that I proceeded to the Shell station for a receipt and an official end time of 7:43am - 97 hours and 41 minutes after leaving Jacksonville 4 days earlier. I wanted to get to Jacksonville in time to see the riders arrive and depart for their return legs to San Diego. Perhaps the best part of the end of the trip was seeing Michael and Viktoria ride in on the Busa. They both had smiles on their faces and, wow!, my hat's off to them both on a wonderful ride. Very few folks thought they would both make the entire 100ccc and they proved them all wrong. Very cool.
Next stop? The Best Western for a room and a shower and then Joe's Crab Shack for the banquet. All three were welcomed, needed and enjoyed.
Summary and Afterthoughts
Overall, the entire week was excellent. With regard to the mental and physical aspects of the ride there wasn't anything out of the ordinary that occurred or anything that needs focused attention. The wrist was fine. The back was slightly stiff, but fine and my mind was able to rationally think through the issues without being too terribly affected by the people around me.
I'm still committed to running the IBR with the GS. The bike has given no indication that it will be nothing short of a stellar performer and is sufficiently capable in a rally. I've still a lot of riding to do before the IBR though and I will be demanding a hell of a lot from the GS over the next 6 months. From treks to Prudhoe Bay, Key West, Nova Scotia, Newfoundland to the IBR, I'm gonna wear the GS out. Good mechanical maintenance and upkeep will be critical, but I have full confidence in the bike. It broke in nicely on this ride and quit burning oil around 4K miles. There's almost 10K on the bike now.
I'm still evaluating tires on the GS. The current set of T66's are the first street tires I've had on the bike. Ideally, I'd like to get 13-15K out of a rear, but I just don't think that's going to happen. The current set has 9K miles and I reckon there's another 2K, possibly 3K, to go. I'll try the Tourances next and see what happens.
My hat's off to the following companies... First Gear for their Kilamanjaro jacket which has kept me dry as bone and protected for two years now. Tour Master for their Cortech pants that only leaked a few drops in the deluge near Houston. Joe Rocket for a pair of gloves with the built-in windshield wiper thingy. Red Wing Shoes for keeping my feet dry, warm and comfortable.
Ride Log and Statistics
|Date||Time In||Time Out||Location||Odometer||Gallons||Description|
|03-10-2003||NA||06:02 ET||Jacksonville, FL||3356||NA||Beginning Receipt.|
|03-10-2003||08:15 CT||08:25 CT||Cottondale, FL||3622||7.598|
|03-10-2003||12:15 CT||12:25 CT||Pass Christain, MS||3889||7.321|
|03-10-2003||15:35 CT||15:43 CT||Sulphur, LA||4153||7.028|
|03-10-2003||18:40 CT||18:45 CT||Columbus, TX||4370||5.850|
|03-10-2003||22:05 CT||22:12 CT||Junction, TX||4617||6.455|
|Junction, TX||4618||NA||Rest Stop - Comfort Inn.|
|03-11-2003||07:30 CT||07:55 CT||Pecos, TX||4875||7.492|
|03-11-2003||09:30 MT||09:40 MT||El Paso, TX||5091||5.867|
|03-11-2003||12:45 AZ||12:55 AZ||Wilcox, AZ||5323||6.488|
|03-11-2003||15:25 AZ||15:35 AZ||Gila Bend, AZ||5535||5.707|
|03-11-2003||17:25 PT||17:35 PT||Ocotillo, CA||5748||6.208|
|03-11-2003||18:55 PT||19:05 PT||San Diego, CA||5842||2.913|
|San Diego, CA||5848||NA||Rest stop - Motel 6.|
|03-12-2003||05:00 PT||05:08 PT||San Diego, CA||5852||NA||Begin time for second 50cc.|
|03-12-2003||08:20 AZ||08:30 AZ||Yuma, AZ||6036||5.977|
|03-12-2003||10:00 AZ||10:05 AZ||Gila Bend, AZ||6160||3.951|
|03-12-2003||12:15 AZ||12:25 AZ||Benson, AZ||6333||4.872|
|03-12-2003||14:20 MT||14:25 MT||Deming, NM||6490||4.428|
|03-12-2003||17:05 MT||17:15 MT||Siera Blanca, TX||6709||5.089|
|03-12-2003||20:25 CT||20:55 CT||Fort Stockton, TX||6867||3.716||Gas and McDonald's.|
|03-12-2003||23:40 CT||23:45 CT||Junction, TX||7077||5.257|
|Junction, TX||7077||NA||Rest stop - Comfort Inn.|
|03-13-2003||09:10 CT||09:20 CT||Columbus, TX||7325||6.895|
|03-13-2003||11:10 CT||11:15 CT||Houston, TX||7412||2.32|
|03-13-2003||11:30 CT||12:15 CT||Houston, TX||7430||NA||Stopped due to rain, lightning.|
|03-13-2003||12:25 CT||14:30 CT||Houston, TX||7436||NA||Stopped due to rain, lightning.|
|03-13-2003||18:55 CT||19:05 CT||Port Allen, LA||7692||7.251|
|03-13-2003||19:50 CT||20:20 CT||Covington, LA||7760||NA||Stopped at a rest stop on I-12 to evaluate weather. The time and odometer reading are best guesses.|
|03-13-2003||22:50 CT||23:00 CT||Pensacola, FL||7934||6.317|
|03-14-2003||03:05 ET||05:10 ET||Quincy, FL||8151||5.402||Gas and rest stop.|
|03-14-2003||07:43 ET||NA||Jackonville, FL||8354||5.478||Official end receipt.|
Some statistics for the entire ride:
|Total Miles:||4758.1 GPS|
|Total Riding Time:||63:30|
|Riding Average MPH:||74.9|
|Overall Average MPH:||48.7|
|Gallons of Gas:||135.25|
As with any ride and regardless of a rider's experience level certain things are learned about yourself, the bike, the ride, etc. Here are some of things I learned along the way:
- Three ergonomic changes are required to the GS to make it an even better mile-eater than it already is. First, risers from BMW Santa Cruz. Second, a friction throttle lock. Third, peg lowers. I shouldn't need to explain the need for a friction lock, but just in case further explanation is required, email me and I will enlighten you as soon as I'm able to type with both hands again. The risers will help maintain the position of my torso in an optimal long-term riding position. The peg lowers will adjust the angle of knee bend to a more tolerable long-term riding position.
- The small range advantage the GS provides over previous bikes significantly improved the ride statistics for the first 50cc allowing me to complete the run in 40 hours. I used data from previous rides and bikes to set the initial 42 hour estimation.
- Tunes are as critical as the Valentine and GPS on a ride like this. There are long periods where the mind needs to be kept occupied. My singing didn't cut it.
- I've got to address the helmet issue. I would like a flip-front helmet, but haven't really looked. Given my head's generous proportions, finding one may be an issue. The flip-front helmets have a distinct advantage over a fixed, full-face helmet.
- I also must address the foggy shield issue. While running through the rain I was forced to crack the shield open in order to maintain a minimal amount of visibility. It's a safety concern and I need to find a solution.