Mark's SS1000 Death Valley Ride


Premier Member
IBA Member
Mark’s Death Valley SaddleSore 1000

Joining the Iron Butt Association as a certified rider has been a goal of mine for a few years now. For one reason or another, life kept getting in the way and it kept getting put off.

I was originally going to try to do it 3 weeks ago; I had a route planned down Hwy 101, through the top of LA, and back up Hwy 5. However that weekend, a nasty weather system blew in and forced me to postpone it. In retrospect, I am glad it did. I really didn’t want to drive through LA, but had a route planned. I am really glad I was able to ride the route I rode to complete my ride.

The week leading up to the ride I was a jumble of nerves; could I really ride 1000 miles in under 24 hours? What if my bike broke down? What if I had a heart attack? What if I didn’t finished, or crashed a long way from home? The mind games were endless. I sought out some advice from the other riders that completed the Iron Butt rides on their FB page and it did a little to set my mind at ease. As expected, the night before I got only a few hours sleep and my natural alarm clock had me up at 1:30am sharp.

Those that know me know I am a meticulous planner. Everyone jokes that I am the “organizer” and I know I am. Things have to be planned and perfect. I must have built my route on Google Maps 50 times. I did Google Street View to check out the gas stations I was going to. I called gas stations to make sure they were open. Yeah…I’m that guy….

However, at 1:30am in the morning, adrenaline and nerves took over and I was a wreck trying to start the ride. After I got dressed, I went downstairs to my already packed bike, opened the garage door, and backed the bike down. I don’t know if it was nerves or lack of sleep, but I almost dropped the bike before I even left the driveway! That was a close one and no doubt I would have cancelled the ride if that would have happened!

Next, I went to the first gas station and got my starting receipt. The premise of the Iron Butt certification is you need good date and time receipts to document where you start, in between, and finish. With this and a detailed log, they can prove you were where you said you were, at the time you said you were there. I knew the Safeway near me had good receipts because I had filled up there earlier in the week (I know, I know) just to check it. However, when trying to take the picture, the glare was not showing my odometer well and it took a few tries. Then, when I tried to start my bike, the low battery light went on because I had had my new LED lamps on while trying to take the picture! I was panicked! I was going to be a long way from home and now my battery was acting up!!

The bike fired up and off I went, so I thought. About 100ft down the road, my cell phone falls off its mount and is dangling by the charge cable. I quickly pulled over, grabbed my phone, and pulled back in my own neighborhood to get it mounted properly. At this point I thought, what the hell are you doing Mark? I got the phone mounted and took off on my ride.

I jumped on Interstate 5 and started heading south. Interstate 5 is a lonely place at 2am. Its really dark, there are not a lot of people on it, and I kept thinking, what if something goes wrong? How am I going to get rescued at this time of the morning? Then, my cruise control stopped working! I couldn’t believe this…there was no way I was doing this ride without cruise control! I pulled off at Patterson and went to a gas station. The 2 screws that hold my cruise switch to the handlebars had come loose. One was lost and the other was barely hanging on. These must serve as the ground and that is why it shut off. To top it off, I knocked off my controller for the heated jacket so I was frantically searching around the parking lot with a flashlight! The guy watching me must have thought I was nuts! I finally found it wedged next to my floor board.

Thats it, I said to myself. Why are you doing this stupid ride, Mark? What do you have to prove? You have put more miles on motorcycles in your life than most! You could turn around, be home in 40 minutes, and snuggled back up with your beautiful wife in your warm bed! However, I am not a quitter! I don’t like to give up; besides, I did a Facebook Page for this! People will think I am a schmuck if I back out! I took a deep breath, tightened the cruise switch with the remaining screw, verified it worked, and took off south again.

The first stop was at Kettleman City. Rolled in, still a little shook up. Went to put in a credit card and entered the wrong zip code twice. “Please See Attendant” flashed. Shit….tried my debit card and entered my PIN correctly. Good receipt! Yes!!! Things are looking up. Back on 5 and south I go.

At this time, I was approaching Hwy 58 and the eastern sky was starting to show some color. I turned off 5, and headed up 58. The sky rejuvenated me! The dawn has arrived, I told myself! Things are looking up! I weaved through Bakersfield and headed for the Tehachapis! I love this road! Its been 20 years since I rode a bike on it; usually I’m pulling my 5th wheel headed for the desert! I danced my Vision through the curves and around traffic! The mountains were beautiful with the rising sun! I stopped at my 3rd stop for fuel and a quick snack! Things were looking up!

Eight miles after Tehachapi I dropped into the Mojave desert. I love the desert! It was so beautiful with the rising sun! I turned off on to Hwy 14 and headed north. I felt great, the bike was running great (especially the cruise), and I had the road to myself. I jammed up to Olancha for my next stop.

I fueled up and found Hwy 192 to Death Valley. This was the highlight of the trip for me! I have lived in CA since 1998 and had never made it there before. The road to the park was curvy, empty, and gorgeous. Me and my bike danced through the corners like we were dancing a waltz. When I got to the top before you drop down into the valley, I pulled over for a picture at the Father Crowley overlook. I’ve said it before and I will say it again. There are some things so beautiful, that it makes it impossible to believe that God did not create it. This was one of those things . Stunning; but I had 600 miles to go so no time to linger. I jumped on my still running bike and headed down the curvy road into the valley floor.

I stopped at the ranger station to get a dated receipt for my logs, and a stamp for my passport book. There is another Iron Butt challenge I am starting which is to visit 50 National Parks in 25 states in a year. This was the first stamp to kick off that challenge! Tried to buy some souvenirs for the kids, but apparently the cash register to buy those was broken. Suspiciously, the register to collect my $20 park fee worked just fine….

I headed east once again and marveled at our nations beauty! Then, it was a quick left on to Daylight Pass to head to Beatty, NV. No smokeys in sight and before I knew it I was in Beatty!

Gassed up in Beatty and headed north on 95. I love the open desert! Some see it as a boring, desolate place, but I marvel in its beauty. Hwy 95 was in great condition, roads were smooth and perfect (take note California), and I kept a nice pace going north.

There are some cool towns scattered on this road that I would love to go back and visit. Places from a time long ago…that show the harshness of the desert and those that tried to make a living off of it.

Before I knew it I was in Tonopah, NV; home of the famous Clown Motel. I took a few pictures to show I was there, gassed up, had a cheeseburger, and I was back on the road to Hawthorne. I was planning on getting gas in Hawthorne but I was getting great mpg. I was getting a little tired, however, I stopped, stretched my legs, and made a quick update video. Hawthorne is the home of one of the largest ammunition dumps in the world. There are bunkers spread out for miles, as well as an army base. There is also a Navy Base at Walker Lake, and rumors of underground alien bases and flying saucers. Well, apparently the aliens hide when the big Sicilian is coming through, as I didn’t see anything but natural beauty!

The next stop was Fernley, NV! I considered this the home stretch! Once I got to Fernley, I would turn west and be on my way home to my beautiful wife and kids! And a cigar! And a cocktail!

I made good time on I-80 until I started seeing signs that there was a major accident at the Wells St offramp in downtown Reno. Sure enough, traffic started backing up in Sparks. You cannot lane split in Nevada, but it was hot, and I did some lane “hopping”. I worked my way up through the mess, a little upset about my delay. When I saw the accident scene, I was horrified. I have never seen anything like it. Tipped over semi trailers, mangled cars; there must have been 30 vehicles involved. At this time, I was ashamed of myself. Here I am frustrated in my delay for some stupid challenge, and there were people in this accident that were not going home tonight. I said a quick prayer for them and continued up into the Sierras.

All the advice I received previously said by 700 miles I would hit a “wall” and struggle to go on. That was not the case. I danced through the Sierras in light traffic, enjoying the curves and swoops on my bike. My shoulders were a little sore, my hands hurt a little, but both of those hurt all the time anyways. My butt was fine! The Alaska Leather sheepskin seat cover saved my ass, quite literally. I felt that while a little tired, I was in full control mentally and from a reflex perspective. I was going to go as far as I could on that tank, even though I had a scheduled stop in Auburn. One tip from a veteran iron butt rider stood out; Plan the Ride, Ride the Plan. I had this stop scheduled so I took on a few gallons of fuel and headed out. All my stops this trip were under 10 minutes. I was very impressed with my efficient work of fuel stops. It would put me in a good position for my Bun Burner Gold attempt, which is 1500 miles in 24 hours. Even with the accident, I was still on pace.

Before I knew it, I was in downtown Sacramento. At 5pm. On a Friday. Traffic was terrible! However, I was close to home, lane splitting is allowed in CA, so I plowed on. Once I got past Elk Grove the road opened up and I made great time to Stockton.

Finally! The home stretch! 18 miles from my goal! Ok Mark, don’t drive into the river. Focus. You got this! I rode the levy road, crossed my two familiar bridges, and let out a yelp I’m sure everyone around me heard! I got gas at the place I had started almost 16 hours ago. A few blocks later, I was in my driveway! I hugged and kissed my wife and kids, took a shower, enjoyed a nice cigar and a cocktail! By 9:30pm, I was ready to hit the hay! I thanked God for a safe, successful day, took care of one final goal, and off to dreamland I went!
Thanks for the report and congratulations on completing the ride. :cool:

What bike did you ride? What was your average MPG? What size of fuel tank do you have?


Scott Parish

Premier Member
Congratulations on a successful ride and thank-you for sharing the experience. In my opinion - plan-the-ride; and ride-the-plan is so important because when planning - generally our heads are clear; we are well rested, and not under too much stress which is conducive to effective and logical ride planning. While I often like to wing-it for many types of rides - when attempting an IBA certified ride; good planning not only increases the likely successful completion of the ride; but also can keep you safe. You see the same concept followed in many endeavors - for example; climbing teams, especially those tackling some of the worlds most dangerous, highest, and technical peaks (think K2, Everest etc.) rely on the expedition leader remaining at a lower altitude to coordinate with climbers to ensure lack of oxygen, altitude or summit fever does not cloud judgement. You definitely made the right decision to not skip a planned stop because even though you might have been feeling good at the moment - skipping the stop could have increased your fatigue later leading to questionable judgement. Looking forward to reading more ride reports from you in the future.



Premier Member
IBA Member
Very cool...nice report.

I stopped at the ranger station to get a dated receipt for my logs, and a stamp for my passport book. There is another Iron Butt challenge I am starting which is to visit 50 National Parks in 25 states in a year. This was the first stamp to kick off that challenge! Tried to buy some souvenirs for the kids, but apparently the cash register to buy those was broken. Suspiciously, the register to collect my $20 park fee worked just fine….
Okay, so now I gotta ask...did you accomplish the Nat'l Park Tour (NPT)??? :D