I could hardly sleep the night before. I tossed and turned from 7PM to 10PM trying to fall asleep before the long day I had ahead of me. I woke up at 3:30AM and loaded up the bike. It was still warm out but I bundled up knowing that in an hour I will be 5,000 feet higher and 30 degrees cooler. I was planning to ride 1,000 miles in under 24 hours, known as a “Saddle Sore 1000.” The Iron Butt Association creates guidelines to achieve a “certified ride” to prove that you have actually traveled 1,000 miles in under 24 hours. Witnesses are required at the beginning and end of your ride along with copies of receipts that corroborate with your route and timing.
I stopped at the gas station around the block. I was still groggy and took my time filling up and double checking my gear. The attendant handed me my receipt and I stood there studying it to look for the all important time stamp that would mark the beginning of my ride. 5/17/2008 4:18:49AM – My ride had officially begun. The reality of what I had to do still hadn’t sunk in. I stood there in Phoenix, Arizona and 24 hours later I would be standing in Dallas, Texas. It’s a idea we take for granted with the air travel we have today, but to cover that distance on a motorcycle is quite different. I wouldn’t be effortlessly skipping high above the mountains and the plains.
The morning dew evaporated quicker than it could collect. The cool air was refreshing and blew away my morning grogginess. The road was empty, just the way I like it. I specifically chose a route to Dallas that would avoid the interstates. It would make it more difficult to arrive in Dallas on time, but I enjoy the two lane highways much more. The first tank emptied quickly. I was starting to get minor frostbite in my throttle hand’s thumb so I decided to stop for breakfast.
By noon I traveled two tanks (one tank = 150 miles) already and was feeling good. I was in New Mexico and made a stop at the Very Large Array. “The Very Large Array, one of the world’s premier astronomical radio observatories, consists of 27 radio antennas in a Y-shaped configuration on the Plains of San Agustin fifty miles west of Socorro, New Mexico.” (from the website) I browsed through the gift shop and walked through the informative displays only glancing at pictures. I would have liked to learned more about the site but I didn’t have the time. You can watch me ride through the Very Large Array at an earlier blog post here.
I cut across New Mexico along US Route 60. Boredom was creeping in along the long and flat plains until I caught sight of a storm drawing closer on my left shoulder. I saw blue skies far off in the distance so I raced ahead to try and prevent the storm from flanking me. The road bent into the storm and I had no choice but to stop and don my rain gear. I followed a pack of Harley riders for the company. Most didn’t have rain gear or helmets and I wondered how they could see through the rain. I ascended into the mountains and the road began to coil. The riders in front of me slowed on the curves and I decided to pass. The winds picked up and were blowing me across the road. They were the strongest winds I had ever experienced. My bike was being tossed around the lane like a toy and I could barely keep a straight line. I slowed down to retain more control and the Harleys came up behind me and bull dozed through the winds as if they weren’t there. I guess that’s an advantage of a heavier bike.
With the storm behind me I entered into Texas. I had 700 miles down and 300 to go. I finally got onto the interstates to knock down the remaining miles. I was pretty surprised that I was able to make such good time on the two lane highways. I thought they would slow me down more. I was feeling good but the light was fading and I always feel more comfortable riding during the day. I chased my shadow as the sun set behind me. I rarely ride away from the sunset. I seem to always ride into the sun as it is setting, so I got a sense of what it must have felt like for Charley Boorman and Ewan McGregor when they chased their shadows across the world. I stopped for dinner around mile 800. It was getting colder out and my muscles were starting to stiffen up. I needed hot food and some time off the bike.
The last 200 miles were unbearable. I hit a mental wall and those remaining miles seemed to take forever. I was doing my usual exercise routine while on the bike to try and keep the blood running in the cold winds. I jumped up and down on the pegs and did push ups against the handle bars. I let out a big “WOO HOO!” as I saw the first sign for Dallas. It was still 97 miles away, but the visualization of my destination and the ending of what became a hellish ride got my spirits up. I resisted the urge to speed to get there faster. I had been on the bike for 15 hours and 900 miles, and this wasn’t the time to start being reckless. So I waited out the miles and mentally checked that I had all the proper documentation from my stops to earn a place in the Iron Butt Association after completing the ride. Dallas was just the right distance away, 1002 miles away.
Everything was perfect…until I realize I hadn’t gotten a receipt at the Very Large Array. According to my odometer I would have ridden 1000+ miles, but when the folks at IBA map out my route it will come up short because I didn’t account for that 10 mile detour. I blew past the exit that lead to a friend’s house I was to crash at and decided to head down the road another ten miles. Ten miles wasn’t so bad, but I had to come all the way back. So, 20 extra miles…it felt like another 200 at that point. I wasn’t even sure if 10 miles was enough, but it seemed like a reasonable distance to account for my missing receipt at the VLA. I stopped at a gas station and claimed my ending receipt that would mark the end of my journey for the day at 05/18/2008 1:03:47AM.
Now the fun part: statistics! Almost 17 hours on the bike! I refueled eight times and ate twice. My total time stopped was 4.5 hours, and 1.5 hours were for breakfast and dinner. I spent 3 hours refueling and taking breaks which averages to 22 minutes for each gas stop. Not bad!
The next day when I got to a computer I mapped out the distance of my original route, (had I not gone those extra 10 miles). It ended up being 995 miles. I would have missed my goal by 5 measly miles if I didn’t remember that VLA detour. I sent in my papers for my Saddle Sore 1000 and should hear back in a couple months whether my ride will be certified and if I can legitimately call myself one of the “world’s toughest motorcycle riders.”