Sunday, June 21, 2015

Iron Butt Ride 48-10

In preparing for a forty-eight state ride in ten days, all the various possibilities, both positive and negative (mostly negative, though) are considered and addressed. The "What if's" are played out over and over in the mind and in discussions with other long distance riders.  Once the clock is started with your first gas receipt, any and all problems or issues must be resolved and the ride continues. In the planning, the multitude of variables are addressed. If anything happens, from a flat tire to a sunburn to a lost receipt, one has a plan to remedy the problem and keep riding. Your sole objective is to reach your destination within the allotted time. 

On the 48-10 Ride, one must obtain a gas receipt from each of the 48 states within a ten day period. The route, the starting state and the ending state are left up to you. That is why several years of burning the midnight oil went into planning and preparing for this ride. Which roads to avoid, what times of the day to avoid in which cities, is there an alternative faster route? Sometime the shortest route is not the fastest. Where to get service if needed, which exit to take for the next gas stop and is there easy re-entry onto the freeway after that stop? These and many more details are addressed, anticipated and planned for. All in trying to not only shorten the time and distance to ride, but also to reduce the stress during the ride. 

The weather is part of the ride that no one controls. No matter what the weather is, the ride goes on. The best one can do is have the appropriate riding gear for any situation, from thunderstorms with torrents of rains to desert heat to frigid cold.

By Day Five, the East coast states were tagged.

Nutrition on the road can be less than the best. But when hungry, warmed over gas station pizza is better than.... than....   hmmmm... not sure what.

Unless you can find a Subway, then the six inch Veggie Delight on whole wheat with baked chips and iced tea is fine roadie dining.

Motel 6 is upgrading their rooms for the traveler. Sheets are still thin, but the rates are good and the room clean.

Little time for photos on this ride, but this old neglected steam paddle boat along the Mississippi caught my eye.

Mi amigo in Rhode Island, or as Tony calls it, Little Rhodie, met me with all the goodies to do a roadside oil change.  Tony and I are planning a longer ride together next winter in South America, more on that later. Thanks Tony.

As we sped across New England, the traffic on a Friday afternoon was less than speedy.

Turnpike Service Centers with their pricy gas can be nice and clean, some even attractive.

Day Seven with just the western states to go. 
Little did I know that the eighth day would be the hottest and the coldest of the ride. From temps in the forties at 3 am near Flagstaff to over 110 degrees in the desert north of Las Vegas. 

And then there was one......

Pulling into the final gas stop in Umatilla, Oregon.

Keith, a sidecar riding friend who I met in Alaska several years back, greeted our arrival and was our final witness to document the ride. 

With the Oregon sticker, the ride is over. The map completed. 

Nine days and eleven hours after we left southeast Arkansas, all forty-eight states are tagged. No mechanical issues, no health issues. A few minor hurdles to overcome, but nothing to prevent us from reaching our goal. All of the late night planning paid off as ride unfolded.

To celebrate,  a coffee with a sweet roll.

We'll rest for a few days in Oregon before heading back to Texas, at a much slower pace.

Ride on, Da'mu.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

And the Fun begins

Rode from Houston to Lake Village, Arkansas where my 48 state run will begin on Tuesday. Passing through Willis, Texas,  I stopped in to see Doug Carr, the Gold Wing guru in our area.  Doug helped me set up Da'mu for long distance riding, so I thought it best it he sees her on the way to start the run.

Doug's shop is out in the country, across the road from a typical Texas country church.

Doug, when you see Da'mu again. all of those boxes will be colored in.

After riding in thunderstorms and 100 degree heat, we arrive in Lake Village as the sun sets.

Notice than Da'mu only has one antenna now. Lost one in a thunderstorm near Monroe.  Not sure I want lighting rods on my ride anyways.

End of Day One.... seven states tagged.

End of Day Two... six  more tagged.

Tomorrow we ride again, but now we rest.

Monday, June 8, 2015

Color between the Lines

Several years ago I read about someone riding across the United States, visiting all 48 states in the process. That sounded like fun. That particular rider started his ride in Maine. Of course starting in Maine is not practical for someone who lives in Texas.  

Then I started thinking, wondering if I could do the same, tag all forty-eight states in one long trip. Just start closer to Texas. I started studying maps and ride reports. Shortly thereafter I read about a guy who did the same 48 state ride but in ten days.....WOW. That really caught my attention.  Is such a thing possible without breaking the speed limit in every state?  It is!

Off and on over the next four years I plotted and planned. This idea of visiting all forty-eight states in a ten day ride was not only a mental and physical challenge, but a mechanical one for the motorcycle of choice. Countless hours were spent studying maps, staring at computer screens, playing "what-if" scenarios on where to start, which roads to take, where to get gas, which roads are a faster route time wise even though they are more miles,  all in order to reach the next state gas stop. What is the shortest route possible to tag all the lower 48 states and do it in ten days?  How would anyone know that I actually tagged each state? etc, etc...  

The final route I arrived at is very similar to this earlier map. I will not be going on to Alaska as shown here as my passport is in Washington DC being renewed. 

In the end a very detailed plan evolved. It shows me which road to take, which exit to use, what is the brand of gas station waiting there and is it on the left or the right. How many miles to the next gas stop and which way do I turn to return to the highway. 

So... here is my map, on Da'mu's nose. All I have to do is stay between the lines and color it in.

My starting point will be the Southeast corner of Arkansas and terminating in Oregon.  Total route mileage is 7500 miles, so ride 750 miles a day for ten days and you are there. 

The 48-10 ride has now been recognized and certified by the Iron Butt Association so I will be following their guidelines in order to get my ride certification. We will get a dated time-stamped gas receipt from each state in order to prove we were there and when.

Tuesday June 9th, Da'mu and I leave home to ride up to our starting point in Arkansas. 
Bright and early Wednesday we start riding. Doubt if time and energy will allow for any postings to the blog during the ride. However we will take photos when the opportunity presents itself and post to the blog when we reach Oregon.

Thanks for following along with our newest adventure. Am sure there will be many campfire stories to share from riding the horizon.

Rest well for tomorrow we ride,

Saturday, June 6, 2015

South Texas Saddle Sore 1000

 The Iron Butt Association is a riding group dedicated to safe long distance motorcycling. The SaddleSore 1000 ride is their entry level ride to gain membership. One must ride 1000 miles in 24 hours or less. That may sound dangerous to many but, it does not require speeding nor being reckless. If you average 55 mph, you can ride the SS1000 in 18 hours.  This still allows time for gas stops, rest stops and meals if you stick to the interstate highways. It is an endurance event rather than a speed contest. 

Several years ago I mapped out and rode an Iron Butt SaddleSore1000 all within the state of Texas. If I ride from home in Cypress, down to Harlingen in the valley, turn northwest riding up to Laredo then on up to Del Rio where I turn east, it is then a straight shot thru San Antonio back to Houston and Cypress.  A total of 1058 miles.

Since Da'mu the Goldwing and I both need a shake-down ride before we leave on our planned ride in a week or so, decided to once again ride the South Texas SS1000 route.

With the bike loaded and ready, we got a good nights rest.
Da'mu is pointed out, ready to roll whenever I can get up.

The first stop two miles from the house is to fill up the gas tanks and get a dated receipt. The first receipt starts the clock for the 24 hour ride.

There are not many people buying gas at 3:22 in the morning. Auto-pay gas pumps are welcome technology.

The second gas stop is in Refugio, half way to Harlingen, as the sun peeks over the horizon.

The Texas moon slowly disappears into the early morning mist as a new day dawns.

Third gas stop at 9 AM in Harlingen. One third of the ride is complete. Harlingen is the southern most point of the trip, also it marks the corner where I turn to go northwest. The next third of the ride is mainly two lane highway.

Not sure why so many flowers in the cemetery, but sure was colorful and caught my eye.

Rolling north along the border with Mexico we spot an old car for sale. 

Sammy, the owner, comes out of the house hoping he has a buyer for his 1928 Chevrolet National Landau with a Corvette engine. 

Says he has over $24,000 "INVESTED", only asking $25,000 or Trade.  Said he liked Da'mu.....

Inside is all original, but might need a little work yet.

Fourth gas stop is in Laredo. Panic time! The receipt from the pump does not show the name of the city or state. When the gas receipts are submitted to the Iron Butt Association as part of the verification process, they are checked for location, time, date and how many gallons you bought to make sure you actually did the ride. The clerk inside the store doesn't understand why I need a duplicate receipt when I have the pump receipt in my hand. Finally the store manager prints a second receipt stating Laredo on it. Thank you!

Hightailing it through the scrub brush of South Texas, spotted an unusual looking whitetail deer off to the side. Turning around for a better look, realize it's an Oryx. They are not native to Texas or anywhere in the Americas. Someone has imported this for their ranch.

Stepping on the foot peg to remount the bike, the peg bends, sagging toward the pavement. Oops. Guess I've been eating too many pop tarts. For the rest of the trip, am careful to only step on the peg near the frame. Once back home, that will be an easy fix.

Fifth gas stop, Del Rio.  Second mechanical problem. The gas cap on the auxiliary gas tank won't come off. Stuck! Tugged, pulled, tapped and wiggled. Is not budging. Finally loosened the small vent cap on the red cap with a hex wrench.  The red cap then lifted off. Don't know if there was a vacuum inside the aux tank when I pumped gas out earlier, but the vent hose should prevent that. Unless the  vent hose is plugged. Or if heat caused the steel housing to expand enough to pinch the cap.  I thought the pump was working slower than normal on the last transfer. That could create a vacuum if the hose is clogged. Something else to fix once we are back home.

A motorcycle dragging along a sidecar is not a fuel efficient vehicle. With the main 6.5 gallon tank I can ride 130 miles before the low fuel light come on. The auxiliary gas tank gives me another 100 miles of range. If I can't fill the auxiliary tank or if I lose the ability to transfer fuel, we will have a problem. Out west the distances between gas stations can be considerable. Leaving Laredo we see a sign saying: Next Service, 60 miles.

On the road between Laredo and Del Rio, we encountered frequent road repair and construction. The heavy oil trucks are tearing up roads that were never designed for the large amount of eighteen wheeler traffic. All caused by the South Texas oil boom.

From Laredo up through Carrizo Springs and on to Del Rio the road is two lane with no side road for detours. The highway department employs flagmen to control the flow. Which means one sits in the hot sun on hot pavement waiting for your turn to go. Seven different times we waited for flagman to let us through. The temperature in the Texas scrub brush hit a high of 100 today. Sunburn was a concern.

It is dark when I reach Seguin for the sixth and final gas stop before home. Back on the freeway I turn on the LED driving lights. Pop! the lights go out. We're okay! The main lights are working. Just the LED driving lights went out. But what happened? 

The switch for the driving lights is in the same housing as the switch for the auxiliary gas tank pump. Better check it as I will need the five gallons of gas I just put in there to get home. Hit the pump switch.... nothing! Houston we have a problem.

The switch gang on the left handlebar. The white wire is powering my iPhone in a handlebar mount. 

Is pitch black, but can use a light to replace a fuse. However I can't see enough to start tracking down a shorted wire. Replacing a fuse without fixing the problem is just wasting fuses. Time to develop a back up plan.

Okay, we are 180 miles from home. The main tank is good for 130 miles. The five gallons in the aux tank, though good for another 100 miles, is useless because now we can't transfer it.  

We'll ride another 80 miles, then start looking for a gas station to refill the main tank. That will get us home. It will add an extra stop and minutes to the ride. Checking the clock, we should be okay if nothing else happens.

Rolling along in the dark, am getting tired and the eyes are weary. Finally convince myself to pull off in a picnic area to rest. There are several eighteen wheels stopped with their motors idling in the darkness. Laying down on the concrete table, I set the alarm for a 22 minute power nap. Mosquitos are hungry so I pull the neck wrap over my face and jam my hands deep into the coat pockets. Thinking those eighteen wheelers must never shut off their engines, will never sleep with all this noise - when the alarm jolts me awake.

That short nap did the trick.  Back on the road we make our extra stop for gas in Columbus.

It is after midnight when we pull into the gas station where the ride started. Buying one gallon of gas in order to get the dated receipt, the ride clock officially stops at 12:35 AM. Twenty-one hours and thirteen minutes after we started. Hmm, the south Texas road construction really slowed me down. The last time I rode this route on two wheels, it took 17 hours. 

Only two more miles to go to reach home, throw a cover over a bug-splattered Da'mu and sleep. Tomorrow we can think about how to resolve the electrical and mechanical issues.

Back home, a Da'mu sleeps late the next day.

  This week and next will be busy making adjustments, repairs, and packing. Da'mu and I needed this shakedown ride to expose any weaknesses in the bike or the rider before we start our long planned 48 state run. And if for nothing else than to celebrate my seventieth birthday. 

Stay tuned for the 48 state ride.