Saturday, February 19, 2011

Iron Butt 1500

I just received my papers from the Iron Butt people and they verified my ride at 1536 miles last October in less than 36 hours- which by my clock was barely 20 minutes under the deadline when I rolled into Binghamton, New York, frozen cold and very relieved to have made it.I have to confess I am quite chuffed, not least because I did it by Bonneville rather than some space age nuclear powered armchair like a Goldwing or some such super duper tourer. I actually enjoyed the ride, more and more as time goes by even though it was in fact rather rugged at the time. I started out from home around ten o'clock on the Saturday evening, and it was tough tearing myself away from from my comfortable little house. By dawn I was near the Georgia state line on I-95, and already it was unseasonably cold, or so I thought.Sunday warmed up as I rode through the Carolinas and took a nap at what the association likes to call the Iron Butt motel, a convenient place to stop by the side of the road. I was lucky because Up North the seasons were starting to change but so far, all day Sunday it was sunny and warm, around 80 degrees.
I skirted Columbia, the capital of South Carolina and followed Interstate 77 towards the mountains of North Carolina and Virginia and nightfall. The ride across the Carolinas was perfect if not terribly twisty.
I was having a great time but it was hard for me to actually imagine myself completing this ridiculously long drawn out ride. Compared to my first Iron Butt the basic 1000 mile Saddlesore in 24 hours, this ride was rather more complex. I stopped for gas every 100 miles or so as at steady speeds in excess of 75 on the freeway my mileage dropped from my usual45 miles per gallon more or less to around 40 or even 38 if I pegged it above 80mph. For food I didn't stop to eat a "proper" meal as I wasn't especially hungry and I was rather concerned that a full meal would make me sleepy so I kept to my planned diet of water and sodas and crackers and granola bars that I had in my saddlebags. When night fell on I-81 in the mountains I started to freeze my tropical ass off. Temperatures were below 50 degrees and I was freezing. I stopped to stay in a flea pit of a motel for four hours around 2am about 200 miles from Binghamton. It was a hard ride in the cold but the Triumph ran like a champ and when I wasn't remembering to be freezing cold I enjoyed the winding ride those last miles.I made it before the deadline amazingly enough and signed in at the Sheriff's Department, much to the bemusement of the desk clerk, himself a rider.With the paperwork all done, I found a mailing shop and sent it all off immediately for verification, ate an enormous breakfast in a Greek diner, and with the threat of a heavy storm approaching the next day decided I had to keep riding to get out of the way. I couldn't see hanging around to get rained on in these temperatures at this elevation... So I went for a recreational ride through the Catskill Mountains which was a blast. I took a nap in a field and the afternoon sun was warm and the mountain meadow was the perfect spot to spread my blanket and pass out for twenty minutes. My backside amazingly enough wasn't the least bit sore.I got to see the Hudson River valley, home of the famed Daniel Pinkwater, an author who used to read stories on All Things Considered years ago and who claimed to live in this improbable place. At last I got to ride the Hudson River Valley. It was an odd place, a mixture of horribly impoverished black ghetto towns and perky picket fence white towns joined by a narrow winding road. I called Jack riepe in Pennsylvania and he connected a few highways for me to ride- I use no GPS thank you, and on my way I managed to slip on a puddle of mud in a parking lot at walking speed and the Bonneville fell on me breaking a foot peg and twisting my ankle. I was hobbling by the time I got to Jack's place and he thought it was hilarious that I had run over my own foot. Ha ha.No harm done, we went to the Triumph dealer and bought a turn signal lens and anew foot peg over the counter at Hermy's and spent a couple of excellent days chez Stiffie, his girlfriend, drinking as much of Jack's whisky as I could in the time allowed. Then the rain finally caught up to me as I rode hell for leather for the auto train south of the District of Columbia. I had the bike ready for loading in the pouring rain......and it was an enormous relief to have paid the $250 for dinner and a ride to Orlando where the train delivered up the twenty bikes and dozens of cars the next morning.From the rain and chill of Virginia to the sunshine of Florida and a final seven hour run home in time for dinner with my wife and my Cheyenne. What a great trip and what excellent memories. Now I've got to make some more memories by planning another of these Iron Butts.