A Leatherneck and an Iron Butt (a Marine attempt at the Iron Butt Association 48 Plus/10 aka 49/10

Scott Parish

Premier Member
#1
This ride report will be posted on both the Iron Butt Association (IBA) and Adventure Rider forums. I ask my fellow riders to pardon the self-indulgence of a long account; but I wanted to provide as much detail regarding the experience in hopes it would inspire some to complete this ride as I have been inspired by the account of others. The report will be separated by category/day to facilitate reading in segments rather than a single sitting. The attempt officially began on Wednesday June 13, 2018. To explain the title - the term Leatherneck is slang for a member of the United States Marine Corps and was derived from a leather collar once a part of the uniform worn to prevent the Mohammedan cutlass from slashing the throat of U.S. Marines during the Barbary war. I proudly served next to my fellow Marines for eight years active duty. While I am no longer serving – every Marine will tell you that once a Marine, always a Marine. The ride, experiences and people met along the way are the story; I am merely the storyteller.

As is often the case; next year ride plans begin as soon as the current year riding season is coming to an end. For me – 2017 was a great riding year. It began with the purchase of a BMW R1200GS Adventure after many years and thousands of miles on an extremely reliable Kawasaki Concurs 1400. The desire/drive to ride further and take those long unpaved roads leading in the distance we pass on state and county highways led me to the conclusion I required a bike with more capabilities and range without extensive modifications. The idea of course came while I was completing an IBA Bun Burner Gold (1,500 miles in less than 24 hours) towards the end of the 2016 riding season. The first ride I planned on the BMW was an IBA 100CCC (coast-to-coast-to-coast in less than 100 hours). In my case – it meant a ride departing Ocean Beach, California for Jacksonville Beach, Florida and returning to Ocean Beach. I completed the ride from start to finish in just under 88 hours. The BMW performed flawlessly and I was convinced I had made the right decision and could tackle longer rides in the future. However, before I could begin planning 2018 rides; I needed to complete what was slated for 2017 which included – my first Long Distance Rally (competing as a 2-up team with my wife Michelle (Shelly) in the How the West Was Won 34 hour Rally where we rode a little over 1,500 miles in under 30 hours finishing 15th overall and 2nd of 2-up teams while qualifying the ride as an IBA – Bun Burner Silver (1,500 miles in less than 30 hours) and Shelly’s first IBA ride earning her an IBA member number. The rally was just the first part of a planned vacation for Shelly and me which took us all over the Southwest and Pacific Northwest of the United States over a two week period covering nearly 6,000 miles. The last certified ride for 2017 also completed 2-up in just over 16 hours was a themed Saddle Sore 1,000 (1,000 miles in less than 24 hours) Memorial Ride dedicated to Shelly’s cousin Joe who had passed away the previous year.

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(above left – bonus picture Chapel of Transfiguration located inside Grand Tetons National Park during 2017 How the West Was Won Rally; right – 2017 IBA Memorial Ride)

With three IBA certified rides on the BMW and a few small modifications – I felt ready to add more challenging rides for 2018. As with most fellow IBA members – my future ride list grows more quickly than my time to complete. The list for 2018 consisted of a 48/10 (document riding/stopping in all lower 48 states in less than 10 days), Heaven to Hell Gold (from the top of Mt. Evans, Co or Pikes Peak (the highest points in the Continental United States) to Badwater, Ca (the lowest point in the United States) by way of Independence Pass and Ely, NV in less than 24 hours), Border-to-Border Gold Insanity (Mexico to Canada to Mexico in less than 48 hours), another rally; with a handful of standard Saddle Sore rides thrown in for good measure. Along the way I became fascinated with adding an “adventure” ride to the list and became obsessed with riding the Continental Divide Trail south to north (CDT – approximately 2,700 miles of unpaved roads/trails from Antelope Wells, NM to Banff, Alberta, Canada).


As with most plans – they rarely survive first contact; or in the words of Mike Tyson “everyone has a plan until I hit them in the mouth”. Well, the right cross I took came in the form of my youngest daughter and son announcing separately around Christmas they were engaged. My son had not set a date with his fiancée; but my daughter and her fiance wanted their wedding in October 2018. Needless to say Shelly and I were happy for both. However, 10 months is not much time to plan a wedding as I was soon to find out. Obviously my availability and budget for the upcoming year was going to require some adjustments. Based on the targeted month; I immediately eliminated a repeat of the How the West Was Won Rally as it is typically scheduled for late August/early September time frame which would be too close to the wedding. With the rally off the docket, I decided Heaven to Hell would have to be postponed as it would have been done directly after the rally as an alternative route back home from Colorado. This left me with the option of completing a few short rides or one long ride. I opted for the latter dropping the Border-to-Border and any planned Saddle Sore. I was left with the 48/10 and CDT both of which I really wanted to attempt. I came up with a plan that if I changed the 48/10 to a 49/10 (adding Alaska to the required state stops - officially named 48 Plus) I could complete the ride in Hyder and then head to Banff, Alberta, Canada where I could ride the CDT north to south. The logistical challenges of combining these two very different types of rides became apparent rather quickly; but I thought it was still possible. The biggest obstacle was while I have experience riding dirt bikes in Ocotillo Wells. I had not yet taken the BMW Adventure off road. I know the bike is capable; but I was worried how well I could handle a bike that will tip the scales at over 600lbs in the dirt. I read every report and watched every video I could find on the CDT. I reviewed the route options available from GPS-Kevin. It looked doable. The next challenge would be the need for different tires. I again went back on the internet and determined I could handle a tire change roadside with some practice. I had options to either carry the extra set of tires or ship to Banff. However, the practical limiter I ran up against was time. For planning purposes I needed to set aside 10 days for the IBA which left me with 10 days for the CDT. If it was all tarmac – 2,700 miles in 10 days is a cakewalk. However, on dirt that can be a tall order especially for an individual riding alone on a large adventure category bike through unfamiliar terrain. When first planning the CDT as a standalone – I allotted 2 full weeks. Shortening the CDT portion by 4 days was going to require the daily ride miles to increase to a point where I would be riding dawn to dusk since my moving average would be significantly lower than riding paved roads. I was planning to finish the IBA ride in less than 9 days; but I could not count on salvaging extra time and applying it to the second half of trip. Rather than limiting the experience of two rides I wanted to complete; it seemed logical to focus on only one. I decided to stick with the 49/10 concept rather than the original 48/10 as the notion of a ride to Hyder really became more appealing. Now that I had firmly made up my mind – all I had to do was begin the real planning.

To be continued...
 

Scott Parish

Premier Member
#4
Planning

As I said earlier – the idea of a future big ride usually begins towards the end of the current riding season. It may even have begun years ago depending on the ride and scope. Once circumstances made it clear I would only have availability for one ride - the 49/10; planning began in earnest about 6 months out. Everything begins and ends with routing. I had already copied a previous IBA member 48/10 route and decided I would use as my baseline. The route required very few modifications. I explored some options of changing the route through Idaho following a more logical progression to Oregon and Washington; but in the end opted to keep a more northerly route which initially does not seem as intuitive traveling through Idaho to Washington, followed by Oregon; and back through Washington to the Canadian border. However, I had previously ridden both routes and felt I-90 was faster and avoided Yellowstone traffic while still providing excellent scenery.

With a good general routing plan underway; I then turned my attention to bike and rider prep. Work commitments would prevent me from doing more than weekend tune-up rides so I focused on physical training. I increased my regular 3-mile run three times a week to 5-miles three times a week. I added more stretching exercises to the 3-time weekly weight training and tried to include a cross-fit video workout once a week with Shelly when possible. My goal was to increase overall physical endurance and flexibility which I hoped would pay dividends by allowing me to ride further and longer with less rest. Nutrition has always been a weakness in physical training. I do incorporate supplements and additional protein in my diet; but I find the increased gym time just barely keeps up with the Ben and Jerry consumption (something I still continue to work on decreasing).

Bike prep began when I specifically purchased a bike with long distance riding in mind. The BMW R1200 GS Adventure is purpose built to travel the world crossing a multitude of terrain. The only modifications needed are for individual rider preferences/comfort. Prior to the 100CCC completed last year; I had changed the stock windscreen to a slightly larger Puig touring screen. I had noticed more movement of the screen due to the larger size so I added duel Cymarc stabilizers which hold the windscreen securely during the most intense buffeting. The angle of the handlebars required a little more forward lean than is comfortable over long distances and the low height made it a little tricky to steer when standing – so I added a set of fully adjustable Rox bar risers which allowed me to bring the handlebars back affording a more neutral riding position and increased height making standing more comfortable. While my goal was to limit nighttime riding as much as possible – there is just no way to avoid when the goal is consecutive thousand mile days. The stock LED and auxiliary lights on the BMW are not bad; but I thought I would benefit from additional lighting so I added a pair of LED Rider LX4 lights integrated with the bike factory lights using the HEXEZCAN which basically made the installation plug and play with a few minor adjustments to intensity settings for daylight low/high beam and nighttime low/high beam percentages. The only major comfort item I did not address for this trip was the seat. While this is a much debated topic, and something I will change in the future; I decided to stick with the stock seat as I find it no more or less comfortable than any other seat I have used in the past. Plus – experience has taught me regardless of seat or aftermarket accessory (i.e. Air Hawk, Bead Rider, Alaskan Sheepskin) nothing feels great when riding 18 hours a day for multiple days on end. While a good aftermarket seat or accessory can reduce fatigue – I have found the best strategy is to move around early and often during a ride. At a minimum I have a stretching routine I follow twice an hour which promotes movement in all my extremities and changes points of contact and pressure with the seat. Only during times of heavy traffic or rain do I not move and stretch as often. In fact a good rain storm or traffic is a great cure for discomfort as all your focus is on navigation and comfort becomes less a priority.

Turning my attention back to routing; I realized I needed to plan my day end stops. The original route had hotel/motel planned stops; but I wanted to minimize or eliminate all lodging expenses for the certified portion of the ride. This self-imposed goal seemed like a great idea initially; but soon proved to be both challenging in the planning phase; but one of the most rewarding experiences during the ride.

As an Adventure Rider inmate; I was aware of tent space. I had read many ride reports where inmates had reached out and were allowed to stay with or on the property of other inmates. I initially ruled this out as an option because I thought it would be too complicated for a timed IBA ride. However, after reconsidering my options, I decided it was worth the effort to pull up the Tent Space map and determine if there were any inmates offering tent space along my planned route.

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(Above left – planned route for certified portion of ride; top right – tent space map)

It didn’t take too long to identify tent space opportunities for day 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, and 8. I set about reaching out to each of the individuals by text, private message via Adventure Rider, or email based on stated preference. Within hours or days I had heard back from 5 of the 7 inquires. The inmate listed on day 1 (Amarillo) asked to be removed after my contact and the inmate on day 5 (Cleveland) area never responded. My initial inquiry provided a description of the ride I was attempting as well as a window period of my expected arrival. At that point in planning – I had narrowed my start date down to two possibilities one week apart. This was the first glimpse I was to encounter throughout the ride of the kindness and generosity of individuals across the continent.

Needless to say – Shelly was not entirely thrilled with my idea of not staying in a motel/hotel nightly. However, when I updated her on the possibility I could be staying with or on the property of individuals I met on the internet (because when has that statement ever gone wrong) for many of the planned days; she felt a little better. The only other major area of concern Shelly had (other than me riding thousands of miles and hundreds of hours) was the issue of self-protection. My Shelly is a big supporter of the 2nd Amendment and prefers to be armed when traveling. In fact in planning our long trip last year – we disagreed on bringing a handgun. I have almost always had one with me on previous trips; but have never felt the need for it (even during a time when camping in Colorado and having a bear wander into the camp and sit down between my tent and the fire I was sitting next to). I know it is better to have and not need than to need and not have; but have seen too often when a handgun is available – it becomes a first rather than a last option leading to actions which cannot be taken back. In the end I compromised and we took a handgun; but Shelly had to make room in her limited gear space for it. Mysteriously, at some point during the trip; the handgun migrated to my bag. However, for this trip – since I was crossing the border and entering Canada; the prospect of being armed was not an option.

The ride/routing plan was really coming together. I had locked in solid tent space stop points for day 2, 3, 4, 6 and 8. I began looking at options for day 1, 5 and 7. It is always surprising the level of details available using google (i.e. details, comments, pictures). While one of the IBA moto’s is plan the ride and ride the plan; it is always better in my opinion to segment contingency planning by known known and unknown known for example – a known known is a flat tire for which you bring a plug kit and compressor; an unknown known might be what steps do I follow for a mechanical issue I cannot fix with the tools or knowledge on hand etc. I don’t mind winging it on most types of solo rides; but when time is limited – I would rather not waste potential sleep time riding around late at night in an unfamiliar area looking for a stealth place to camp. Keeping limited time in mind – I tried to have a primary and secondary spot identified for day 1, 5, and 7.

Two months out I was feeling good about the ride plan. Each day was mapped out well all the way to Hyder. I had not yet decided what I would do once I arrived in Hyder and the certified portion was over. I have read a number of ride reports; but did not recall too much detail about accommodations in Hyder. The most common Hyder topic was being initiated by getting Hyderized (shot of grain alcohol i.e. Everclear). A little research identified limited options – Hyder is small and with no regular law enforcement – stealth camping could be an option. However, the bear activity combined with most likely every resident being well armed led me to conclude stealth camping on property I was not sure of ownership might not be a great idea. This left a campground (Camp Run-a-Muck) and two Inns (Glacier and Sealaska). I entered all the phone numbers in my phone and determined I would decide during the ride rather than locking in a commitment. While it might seem a little risky to leave it to the last minute – I also knew once I obtained a receipt in Hyder (still was not sure how I would do this) I could most likely find something in Stewart if nothing was available in Hyder.

At this point I realized I had not considered staging accommodations. My ride would officially start in Needles, California which is approximately 280 miles from my home. I initially considered starting the ride from my home; but it didn’t seem logical to add nearly 4 hours of ride time on or off the clock. However, with staging – you have to weigh the time saved with comfort and routine. Meaning – sometimes it might be preferable to start from home even though it adds time and miles either on or off the clock. I decided I would ride to Needles the day prior to the official start which required a decision and more research. The first decision was since it was not a part of the official ride; should I go ahead and just stay at a motel/hotel to try and get the best rest possible? The logical answer of course is yes (one Shelly supported); but I decided would include the staging day/night in the criteria of no lodging expense. The only problem with this is the normal daytime temperature in Needles for my planned departure is 110*F with a nighttime low of 80*F. Definitely not idea camping weather. I began looking at an overview map of Needles and zooming in on potential areas where I might camp without being bothered by police or locals. With school out for the summer – this opened up the possibilities of school property (generally a good option as they routinely have covered entryways etc.). Unfortunately, most of the schools I viewed seemed to have fencing all the way up to the entry; but I did tag a couple as possible along with a church or two. While looking for other shaded opportunities, I came upon the Elks Lodge. The parking lot looked good and it was in more of a residential setting which is generally safer. I emailed the Elks Lodge explaining my trip (personal details i.e. Marine Corps veteran, Registered Nurse, member of the San Diego Sheriff’s Department Search and Rescue) and requested permission to camp overnight in the corner of their parking lot. A few days later I received an email back granting my request with instructions to check-in with a member after 3pm on arrival day. Evidently, the lodge is open from 3pm-7pm to members during the week.

The only thing remaining for ride planning was which route I would take from Hyder to home. Last year Shelly and I rode the length of the Oregon and California coast; so I looked for something through Nevada as I had not taken that route in a couple of years and it is easy to find a spot to camp on BLM land. All I did was route plan; no real daily objectives or planned stops with the idea I would ride and stop depending on how I was feeling and what was available.

With the routing/ride plan start to finish now complete – I turned my attention to gear and packing. Even though I had most of the gear required – I did need to add a few extra items. The first was Bear Spray. I had never bought Bear Spray before so I was surprised (not really) that California had some restrictions which made a purchase from Amazon a little challenging. Rather than trying to find the California compliant Bear Spray online – I just went to a local REI and purchased. I have got to say – there is something exciting about Bear Spray being a necessary gear list item for a planned ride. I had read often how fierce the insect population can be in British Columbia and Alaska so I added some Sawyers repellant and treated all my gear (jacket, pants, gloves, boots, and tent) which proved effective. I also purchased new waterproof and lightweight gloves to rotate with my regular riding gloves during the trip (which also proved to be a good idea).

I will not go too granular in gear detail at this point; but I ended up packing more than anticipated. One pannier was dedicated to tools, tire plug kit, small compressor, battery back-up and jump start, 3 liters of emergency water, and most of my food for the trip. The other side pannier contained my laptop, 3 sets of base layers, extra socks, one set of cotton shorts and shirt to sleep in more comfort, flip flops, and extra warm/wind layers. The top case was reserved for daily needs/consumables – this is where I kept fruit, water bottles, food for the next 24 hours, extra maps, bear/insect repellent and storage box for necessary receipts to certify the ride. The tank bag housed readily accessible items while riding (i.e. lip balm, sunscreen, hand sanitizer, atomic fireballs, and chargers for electronic devices). I did spend some time reviewing/testing dry bags and finally settled on the First Gear 25L bags. I tried a couple of larger bags and returned to Revzilla; but wanted a system a little more flexible to use when Shelly is on the bike and I could strap to the panniers versus a larger bag across the seat. In one bag I stored a tent, folding chair, extra rain gear and improvised shelter material with room to spare. The other bag stored my sleeping bag, air mattress, travel yoga mat (aka: ground pad), pillow, and a couple of other small essentials. I highly recommend these bags – they were less than half the cost of many other brands, easy to access; fit perfect on the BMW OEM panniers, and kept everything dry. The only other new piece of gear I had not previously used which saved time when loading and unloading the bike was Rok-straps. I’ve seen them before and heard others rave; but never got around to picking up a set. Well the last trip really convinced me I needed a better method of securing items to the bike than straps and bungee cords. The Rok-straps changed a task which was always a little frustrating and time consuming to something that took less than a minute. Really is click, cinch and done. Bags never moved a bit. If you are not using Rok-straps; do yourself a favor and try a set. I will recap what worked well and what didn’t as well as what bits of gear were the most essential and which bits I could have not bothered with at the end of the report.

To be continued…
 

Scott Parish

Premier Member
#7
Staging (Tuesday June 12, 2018)
Departure day arrived. Shelly’s normal day off is a Wednesday; but she had switched with a coworker to see me off. This sort of through off my plan as I had in the weeks leading up written little notes to Shelly with song lyrics and thoughts that I had set-up to deliver to her work email on her scheduled days while I was away and flowers to be delivered twice on her Wednesday day-offs to the house. So much for planning…..I couldn’t change the flower delivery for the next day; but I asked one of our kids to swing by and bring them inside while I drafted another note to be delivered the following morning. However, it was well worth the quick change in plans to have her home to see me off. Shelly made sure I had a good breakfast while giving me space to review my mental checklists. I had planned to leave around 10AM which would have me in Needles around 3pm allowing a generous break in Barstow. The only thing I did not anticipate and we have no control over is an enormous high pressure system sitting over the southwest bringing record breaking high heat to inland areas. The forecast for Needles had the temperature at 117*F for my arrival time with an overnight low of 85*F. Hotter than normal; but all the same – once over 110*F; what difference does a few more degrees make?

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(Above – looks easy on paper – hope you keep that silly smile on your face)

For many 24 hour IBA rides; it is easy to schedule around weather unless it is a themed ride that must be completed on a certain day. For longer rides – it might be possible to schedule around some weather; however, for a 10+ day ride around the country – there is no possibility of scheduling around weather. The only thing we can do is plan appropriately to expect everything from intense heat, cold and severe rain storms (and I was not disappointed).
I left the house with a full tank of fuel. This was a staging ride and not on the clock; so I did not yet need to obtain a dated business receipt (DBR) required by the certification team to prove location. Freed of this responsibility, I was able to ride off after Shelly took the obligatory kick-off photo. I almost rode 3 miles before I became worried if I was tracking? I had set-up the trip in Spotwalla more than a month ago and had not really checked to make sure all the details were correct. I turned on Bubbler that morning and confirmed it was updated and running; but of course I couldn’t actually see tracking until I left. No problem – I will stop and bring it up on phone. Hmmm; where I stopped I could not bring up Spotwalla. Okay – quick call to my daughter who I had provided a tracking link – she confirmed I was tracking. Good – sigh of relief; gloves back on (did I mention it was starting to get hot) and back on the road. The route to Needles is really basic i.e. interstate 15N to interstate 40E; but I still had programmed the route in Garmin as well as my phone. A quick sidebar – I generally only use maps or a GPS for routing; but on this trip I decided I would use my phone to access Google My Maps were my trip was stored for point-to-point navigation while letting Garmin keep track of the overall trip. I had segmented my trip to daily legs for routing ease. I found I liked using the phone as it provided real time traffic alerts as well as a reliable time and distance to next point; whereas Garmin provided my expected end time for the day. By day 2 I had named my devices so I might as well introduce them now. Garmin (Navigator V) I named Gladys. I selected this name because the voice prompt sounds like it is coming from a (how to say this delicately) “mature” women who likely smoked most of her life. It could be a product of the Sena speaker sound quality in my helmet; but I don’t think so because the phone voice prompt is much more pleasant. I named my phone voice prompt Page. Not sure where the names came from; but it seemed appropriate and as time went by – I found myself having conversations with Gladys and Page. I felt they even took on the persona of their names. Not only was Gladys tone a bit raspy; but she had the unpleasant habit of talking over Page and would occasionally blurt out some nonsensical instruction (leave road now!). Page on the other hand was quiet spoken. She provided more technical details with her directions and seemed to amusingly tolerate Gladys interruptions. Unfortunately they disagreed daily on certain directions placing me in the awkward position of taking sides occasionally which I tried to manage by rotation.
The ride from home to Barstow was uneventful and pleasant. It was Tuesday so traffic was still light (by relative SoCal standards) passing through San Bernardino and over Cajon Pass. Once through the pass the high desert communities stretch out in front of you. Traffic can be frantic along this corridor as everyone is in a hurry to be somewhere else (not that I blame them). My previous bike (Concurs) purred along at 80mph all day long (well – at least for 150 miles which was about how long it would take to before refueling became a priority). However, the BMW I have found prefers a speed of 65-70mph. Not that it is not capable of faster sustained speeds; it is just the geometry as well as the engine performs better at a lower speed. The reward is a more comfortable ride and improved fuel range. Maintaining a 65mph average with current load and not fighting a crazy head wind – I could easily go 300-325 miles before looking for a fuel stop. Of course I planned my fuel stops a little shorter as was required by the specific routing of this trip; and in some cases (especially in the northeast) I would have fuel stops less than 100 miles from each other as I was documenting states.
I stopped at a Chevron station in Barstow I have stopped at dozens of previous times. It is always clean, well shaded and has plenty of pumps. I decided to take off some gear (in case I haven’t already provided the information – my riding gear consists of an Aerostich Darrien jacket, Aerostich AD1 pants, Forma boots, Rukka gloves, 3L military Camelbak and a Scorpion EXO AT950 modular helmet) and relax for a few minutes while in the shade next to the pumps. A FedEx driver pulled in behind and came over to ask some questions about fuel range and how I liked the bike. He got around to asking where I was riding and I told him everywhere. I used this response liberally during the trip. I found it worked well for both questions of where are you going or where are you coming from? I observed expressions ranging from amusement to quizzical confusion. I kept a map handy on top of my tank bag to provide a visual reference to my comment with additional details. I wasn’t on the clock so I was not in any real hurry and would find that when I was on the clock – I still welcomed taking a few extra minutes to chat and explain to anyone asking. In fact – maybe I should get a patch or sticker on my bike “ask me where I’m going or where I’m coming from” because I really enjoy talking to others and hearing their stories as well.
Back on the road I continued up 15N for another couple of miles before taking 40E towards Needles. This is another rather desolate corridor that I find beautiful. I love all the volcanic rock and always smile at the community name of Daggett when I pass because I envision someone asking “if we are there yet “ and being told no or yes – ether way would prompt a Daggett response since nothing else is around. However, the community is actually named after John Daggett who was Lt. Governor of California when the town was founded in 1880 for silver mining. I think my version is better.
The one redeeming visual feature approaching Needles is the inviting beauty of the Colorado River. I have crossed the Colorado more times than I can count (adding at least two more crossing during this trip); and it always excites me as I think of the history and major part this river has played through time. At 1,450 miles long; the Colorado River is the 5th longest river in the U.S. spanning seven U.S. and two Mexican states. You cannot (or at least I cannot) cross this river without thinking of courageous explores like John Wesley Powell taking wooden boats through the Grand Canyon rapids during early river expeditions.

Unfortunately, the Colorado does not cool Needles unless you happen to be sitting in the river. As forecasted – I watched the outside temperature climb to 115*F as I approached Needles and was thankful that I had a selected destination already programmed so I would not have to tool around too long in the heat. I found the Elks Lodge without problem. The parking lot looked fairly deserted and it was nearly 3pm. As is typical of Needles – not much in the way of natural shade can be found i.e. trees. I parked the bike along the side of the building which was in partial side. I got off the bike and was hoping to get permission to stay near the building where some shade could be found. I followed the printed instructions on the locked entrance door and pushed the buzzer. In a short time a lodge member came out and I informed them I was here by permission and instructed to check-in. I was carrying my ride itinerary and map to hopefully add some legitimacy for my presence. To my relief – the individual (Barbara – Exalted Ruler) recalled my email and invited me in. The lodge was fantastically air conditioned and the cool air felt great. I was ushered to the bar area (always the central gathering spot for any lodge worth its salt) and introduced to another member (Frank) and offered a cold bottle of water that I thankfully accepted.

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(Above – bike parked alongside Elks Lodge Needles, Ca – notice absence of shade)

Everyone present was politely interested in my ride plans. I explained my goal and passed around the route map. I asked if I could stay next to the building; but was offered the covered patio in the back of the lodge. I jumped at the opportunity and quickly went back outside to move the bike under the patio. Thankfully the bike was able to fit through the gate without having to remove the panniers. I was starting to unload some gear when I was invited back inside. Barbara asked if I wouldn’t mind sharing my story with members as they came to the lodge that evening. Even without the offer of the patio – I would have been happy to talk with anyone. It turns out Tuesday night was hamburger night and I was invited to join the dinner at no charge. Every member I spoke with was so gracious and curious about my trip. I discovered a majority of members are retired from the railroad with most living their entire lives in Needles. Despite the continued presence of the railroad, the economy in Needles has been under increasing strain as was evident in the condition of the roads, buildings etc. I heard from several members they were looking at the recent legalization of recreational marijuana as an opportunity to attract large indoor commercial growers to Needles for the stable (hot) climate and welcoming city government and citizenry. It was a little funny to hear senior citizens promote the legalization (or at least decriminalization) of marijuana at the federal level; but economics can be a powerful motivator to affect a change in perspective. I won’t interject my own thoughts (suffice to say I am a registered Libertarian) in the conversation; but I felt right comfortable with this discussion.

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(Above – Elks Lodge shaded patio and proposed accommodation for the night)

Prior to dinner Frank was saying they could turn on the outside patio fans for me tonight; but then offered if I would prefer to sleep in the lodge. Hmmmm – outside 100* plus temperature or air conditioned interior? The offer did not conflict with my criteria of no lodging expense so I saw it as a no brainer and readily accepted. Frank indicated they would need to lock all the doors; and asked what time I wanted to get going in the morning. I said I was hoping to start each day 0400-0430 and he said he would be back in the morning at 0400 to unlock the doors and let me out (who does this for a stranger?). Barbara showed me were the refrigerated cold water was kept and insisted I drink as much as I wanted and to fill my camelbak with bottled water (again I was humbled by the generosity).


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(Above – upgraded accommodation Elks Lodge Recreation Room)

The dinner spread was fantastic and I had a tasty grilled burger and salad. I sat with two other lodge members and we talked about my ride and the economy; but I was most captivated with more railroad stories and how they were trained and scheduled. I offered repeatedly to help clean up in the kitchen (really Shelly – I did) but each time was politely refused. I finally included myself with the outside team and helped one of the members bring in the barbecue grills and propane tanks.
It was approaching 9pm and I got the feeling some members stayed later than they normally would to speak with me. I was so fascinated with their stories I barely registered the passing of several hours. Around 9pm Barbara said I could head back to the recreation room where a couple of couches were located so they could lock up. I quickly rolled out my sleeping bag and settled in for some reading. I could hear the last members leaving and the lodge being locked. By 2130 I was alone in the lodge. I got up and walked around reading the plaques on the walls demonstrating how active the Elks Lodge is with the local community and support for youth athletics. In my case – I know I have been mostly unaware of how important a role these private organizations fulfill in communities across the world. My only exposure to Elks Lodge prior to today is we hold our annual San Diego Sheriff’s Department Search and Rescue appreciation dinner at a local Elks Lodge in El Cajon, Ca. I read for another hour, set the alarm for 0330 and eventually turned off the lights and drifted off in a comfortable (cool) sleep. Local time: 2300.

Miles: 288

Fuel expense: $18.00

Food/misc.: $0.00

Lodging: $0.00

To be continued…
 

Scott Parish

Premier Member
#8
Day 1 (Wednesday June 13, 2018)
True to habit – I rarely sleep to the alarm regardless of time set. I found myself wide awake at 0230. Since the doors were locked I was not going anywhere so there was no need to rush. I went ahead shaved and cleaned up the best I could from the bathroom sink; packed my sleeping bag away and put on everything but my jacket. Camelbak was full of cold bottled water and I had two extra bottles stashed in my tank bag for easy access.

Jim arrived promptly at 0400 as promised. He had even stopped on the way and purchased me a cup of coffee and a piece of coffee cake. It was really touching. I had already ate a banana and was not overly hungry; but took a few bites of the cake out of politeness for the trouble Jim went to and finished about half the coffee as well (coffee is a normal part of my regular daily routine; but I find I don’t need it during IBA rides very often). Jim unlocked the doors and I grabbed my gear to load the bike. I think I started sweating walking from the door to my bike (a distance of less than 25 feet). It was 0400 and the outside temperature was 85*F making me ever so thankful for the quality rest I received in a cool air conditioned space that I most assuredly would not have got sleeping outside. In fact – knowing myself the way I do – had I stayed outside; I’m sure I would have probably started the trip by midnight rather than sit and sweat (although an earlier start might have been beneficial as circumstances unfold).

Jim is a great guy and evidently, 0400 is almost his normal time he arrives to the Elks Lodge daily. In addition to being a member – Jim volunteers to clean the Elks Lodge each morning before his second volunteer job of cleaning the city pool (which must be done prior to 0700 for early swim classes). I suddenly felt like I was holding up this unbelievably nice man so I hurriedly finished stuffing everything where it needs to go and get moving.

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(Above – Elks Lodge member and Super Volunteer Jim prior to departure)

Unfortunately, as Newton’s third law has taught us, “for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction”. The opposing action of a hasty departure had me assuming I knew what direction I needed to go. It shouldn’t be complicated – just retrace steps I took yesterday. Well – the dark and unfamiliar streets all looked the same. Did I mention most street lights were not working (really need the Pot money!) and I was having a hard time reading what few signs were posted at corners (I dare our formidable Far Rider/IBA brother OX to route through Needles – not around J ). Fortunately, I have electronic devices personally programmed for such an occasion. I had failed to wake-up Gladys and let her know the ride had started. A couple of buttons pushed in a secret sequence and tada – there appears a highlighted route on the screen and Gladys yelling at me through my helmet to follow the route. Either Gladys had not turned on her hearing aids; or she was pissed off being awake at 0400? My vote was both. Little did I know this was Gladys way of hitting the snooze button?

With a ride of this magnitude; it was not possible to memorize much of the route. With the 100CCC all I basically had to do was ride east for 40 hours; turnaround and ride west for another 40 hours staying for the most part on interstate 10. Well this was a different animal and despite the hours of pouring over the map – I could not recall where I was supposed to pull my first California receipt. However, I was saved when I soon saw the lights of a gas station ahead. I’m sure if was not the station I planned to stop at; but what difference could it make? Needles is a relatively small town, there was no traffic so I couldn’t be much off my route (Oh Ox….I could really use your routing help). I pulled in and it appeared the store part was closed; but the pumps are 24 hours. My lucky day! I go through all the procedures and fill the tank to the neck, indicate yes for receipt and then nothing happens. Damn – we have all been there. No pump receipt and no attendant. Okay – I see another station down the street. I pull in and notice once again there is no attendant; but the pumps are on. Do I risk it? Not sure why I felt rushed because without the first receipt – I was still not on the clock. I figured I burned some gas on the 100 feet I rode from the previous station so why not give it a shot. Fortunately, gas in California is so expensive a dollar’s worth of premium fuel amounts to a thimble size amount and was exactly what I squeezed in. Moment of truth, yes I want a receipt; and was rewarded with said item. In fact I was so happy for that little scrap of paper I took two horrible pictures of the receipt numbered appropriately with bike mileage written across the top next to the bike odometer as required (only one good picture is necessary). Since this was the first receipt of many to come; I felt the need to post to the Iron Butt FB page before getting on the bike and heading to the next scheduled stop.

I remember discussing the route last night with a couple Elk members and recall someone saying I would briefly get back on interstate 40 as I head towards Nevada. This was confirmed as Gladys was instructing me to take the 40E onramp. As I was riding up the ramp I had a nagging thought that this felt wrong. Even though I did not memorize the route; I was pretty sure I was not scheduled to be on 40E at this point. I looked at Gladys display and noted my expected arrival to final waypoint of the day was 1:52pm. I found this interesting since I was expecting my ride day to end closer to midnight. Either I had grossly miscalculated or Gladys was grossly over-estimating my riding abilities. The other possibility which occurred to me since I was now on interstate 40 heading east was Gladys had ditched my ride plan and decided to route me directly to my final stop in Amarillo, Texas (my fault for waking her up so abruptly). Remember how I said I like this desolate stretch of highway earlier – well now I found myself cursing it as desolate is code for no exits. The next off-ramp was about 10 miles so all I could do was get there as quickly as possible and try and figure out what was happening. In that 10 mile stretch taking less than 10 minutes; I had thoughts of quitting and blaming Gladys for the failure before I realized I had another device (really 2 more) capable of sorting out what was happening.

I took the exit and stopped at the top. No concern of cross traffic as I am not even sure where the exit went. I do recall a sign indicating no services which pretty much minimizes traffic. I looked at the overall map display on Gladys and sure enough – straight line to Amarillo. I guess Gladys is a fan of George Strait and wanted me in Amarillo by Morning or was giving me a geometry lesson. I like George Strait as well (not so much geometry); but I liked the route I had planned a little better at the moment. I hit the back button a few times to review my programmed route and it came up looking right on the display. I could see the highlighted route through Nevada, Arizona, Utah, Colorado etc. Yes – take me that way – straight line again. Okay – time to prod Page. I pull up my route and ask for directions to next waypoint. Must be right because she is telling me to go in the opposite direction Gladys was taking me.

I’m back on the 40 again but now heading west. I take the exit Page told me to take despite Gladys telling me to make a U-turn. I stop at a little clearing and decided I either needed to figure out what was wrong with Gladys or turn her off for the trip. I opted for the former deciding my chances were better with both Gladys and Page working together. It took me a few minutes to figure out what I’m sure most of you reading this report already knew. Somehow during the last update – the automatic rerouting option was enabled. As soon as I turned it off – Gladys was on the same page as Page (maybe that was how I came up with the name?) and I set-off again feeling better about my chances (of at least getting to NV).

Taking 2-lane county highways can at times be relaxing or vexing. It seemed to me this stretch of highway aptly named the Needles Highway has been completely ignored on the California side for decades. Despite the increased heat; I was happy to see the sun rising to help me avoid the potholes. The biggest reward in my opinion of an early departure is watching the sun rise. When possible I always try to stop and enjoy for a moment.

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(Above – sunrise on the California/Nevada border)

Tarmac quality greatly improved crossing the Nevada border and before long I was collecting my Nevada receipt in Laughlin. Even though it was still early morning – a large family occupying two cars was also parked at the pumps and happily discussing the plan for the day. The station was open so I was not concerned about a receipt which was a good thing as the pump did not produce a receipt and I had to go inside to get one. I was feeling pretty good – two states done in less than two hours. At this rate I will be done by Friday (if it were only that easy).

Highway 68 looped me around to Kingman where I’m sure Gladys was happy to get me back on interstate 40 heading east. This is a real familiar route and before I knew it – I was stopping in Flagstaff to document my Arizona stop. I have said in previous ride reports and it is still true – Flagstaff is one of my favorite places in the United States. I love how the weather in Flagstaff is always so much different than in areas 50 miles away. Today was no different – the clouds were low and there was a mist in the air which was a pleasant respite from the triple digit areas I just rode through and those to soon come. The station I stopped had a great view of one of my favorite hiking (Elden Mountain) trails. The last time Shelly and I hiked the trail we ran out of daylight making the decent take twice as long as it should have been; but gave us a good laugh back in the tent.

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(Above – Mt. Elden, elevation 9,298’)

I took highway 89 north out of Flagstaff on my way to Utah. The 89 is really a nice highway; would be nicer if the speed limit was increased; but plenty of passing lanes are provided so you never really feel delayed. A couple of years ago I was swamped by one of those rapidly developing desert monsoon storms I will never forget. I had to pull over on the side of the highway and point the bike towards the storm while I used the kickstand and my feet to hold everything steady for about 30 minutes until the biggest portion of the storm had passed. My buddy had stopped at a station in Cameron when he saw it approaching; but I thought I could get around the edge heading to Flagstaff. We caught up to each other later and he told me the winds were lifting 55 gallon drums and throwing them around like paperweights. I was able to confirm the wind was indeed strong and I was a bonehead for trying to get around. It is one of those brief moments in our life you never forget and I recall vividly as soon as I see the bridge in Cameron.


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(Above – historic Tanner’s Crossing Bridge – Cameron, AZ spanning Little Colorado River)

While I would have loved to stay on the 89 and take it all the way to Spanish Fork, UT; my next destination was Mexican Hat requiring me to get on the 160 passing through Tuba City before catching the 163 at Kayenta. It really is a hot stretch of road mostly populated by the Navajo nation. The tires on most of the trailer roofs had me thinking of all the tire changing threads I read on Adventure Rider where sitting the tire out in the sun and letting it warm up can make all the difference in the level of effort required to spoon on the rim. Funny how thoughts just go through the head when outside stimuli/noise in is reduced.


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(Above – hard to see; but each trailer roof is lined with old car tires – probably not for change purposes)

If you haven’t had an opportunity ride the 163; I highly recommend. Monument valley will reward you with more smiles than the miles it took to reach. The rock formations are amazing and take on new shapes as your perspective changes. This was definitely one area where I backed-off the throttle and let the majesty of nature consume me (later I would further appreciate not wasting fuel speeding through the area).

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(Above – Monument Valley Arizona/Utah border)

I had confirmed business hours and operation of most of the planned fuel stops; but admit I relied upon the internet maybe just a tad too much and didn’t always follow-up with a phone call. When I got to Mexican Hat - the only gas station was in the process of having their pumps replaced. Fortunately I had plenty of fuel in the tank (sometimes going slow pays off) so I just bought some water for the receipt and ate a banana mash. Side note – I really like having fresh fruit during a ride so I brought with me from home 3 bananas, a couple of apples and a few oranges. I now consider my top case a banana ripening accelerating machine. I had eaten one banana that morning in Needles; but in the time to ride to Mexican Hat – the heat and closed space accelerated the ripening process tenfold turning the remaining bananas to a mash which was still very good if not a bit messy to eat. Lesson learned – buy and consume bananas immediately on the road. The apples and oranges seemed to fair much better. At least everything in the case had a pleasant banana scent. The station was still busy despite the lack of pumps. Plenty of solo dual sport bike riders came through on their way to the next off road destination which left me slightly envious. Other than the dual sport riders; the only other item of interest was watching people try and find a spot of shade in an area of rock where no trees naturally grow and the temp stays in the triple digits. Fortunately, I was able to find a sliver of shade to cool off in for a few minutes.

I proceeded from Mexican Hat to my next planned fuel in Colorado. I will not go into details about the different highways; but will post the route later for review or copy to your own My Map drive. As this was midweek; traffic was fairly light and I continued to make good time. I left the Navajo Reservation and entered the Ute Mountain Reservation. This part of the route was a bit of a back track after I stopped for fuel at a reservation gas station and casino. It appeared the Ute nation was doing better financially than the Navajo nation at least in terms of casinos etc. which is not necessarily reflective of quality of life. One thing I definitely knew was the road quality once again was in bad shape as I left southern Colorado and entered New Mexico passing through Shiprock on my way towards Farmington. The road quality improved once I got on the 550 and soon I was in Cuba for the first of two planned NM stops. From Cuba my route continued south to Albuquerque where I was able to get back on the 40E once again.

I had checked the weather along my route carefully for day 1 and did not see any rain in the forecast. I anticipated heat; but not rain which should not have surprised me when I saw visually the mass of dark clouds on the horizon in the direction I was heading. About 60 miles east of Albuquerque those clouds opened up and let go some heavy rain. I had just pulled over and zipped everything up and placed Page in my tank bag so I was ready or at least I thought. It is funny when you are sure of what weather to expect what can happen to you mentally when the opposite occurs. I know it is not logical; but I was irritated at the weather. I think it was a combination of the rain coming at the end of the day as dark was approaching and I still had approximately 300 miles to go before I could call it a day. As I approached my second NM gas stop in Santa Rosa; I had put the storm behind me by a few minutes. I pulled in to the gas station hoping for a quick documented stop; but the pump was not accepting cards requiring prepay inside. There was one clerk at the counter and he was busy with a customer who apparently needed a new USB charging cord and was confused with the options. He had the clerk go over with him to the shelf and help select an appropriate cord. Shelly has often said my expressions convey my feelings brilliantly; and right now I’m sure my face and body language was saying HURRY-UP. It probably only took a minute or two; but in that time the storm caught back up and had me once again agitated. I asked for only 12 dollars in gas so I could have a receipt now and not need to go back inside after filling up. I figured it would carry me the remaining 175 miles.

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(Above – the coming storm New Mexico/Texas – beautiful cloud strata)

Back on the 40 heading east the weather got progressively worse and the stretch of road I was on was littered with wind farms so needless to say the wind was gusty which combined with darkness and rain does not make for a pleasant ride. I could have stopped and most likely would have stopped if not on an IBA ride. Heck – if I was closer to home I might have even pulled the plug at that moment. However the lights of Amarillo were a beacon providing me an incentive to finish the day.

Another issue I failed to fully appreciate that would impact the first couple days of riding was adjusting to time zone changes heading east. My ride plan had me riding 0400-2200 daily. In fact – most of my routing depended on the early start due to traffic flow so regardless of time zone; I needed to start each day at 0400 local. When I stopped and fueled in Amarillo the local time was just after midnight (I guess Gladys and George Strait was right and I made Amarillo by morning. The problem was – real morning would be here pretty soon. I could still see lightning in the sky; but I couldn’t tell which direction the storm was moving. All I knew is it currently was not raining and I was tired.

My plan had me sleeping at a rest area about a mile away. I rode over and took a look. Made three circles trying to find a spot where I might get some rest. The little travel plaza/welcoming center was lit up brightly and packed with motorist sleeping in their vehicles. The only table somewhat out of the light already had someone sleeping next to it and the other table had a gentleman sitting on it staring at me. I checked my secondary option (Lake Meredith) which looked fairly close on the map; but at the moment – 40 miles meant losing another hour of sleep and it was due north while my route was due east. Scratch option 2. The 3rd and 4th option both were along my planned route; but more than 50 miles up the highway. I figured if I was going to lose sleep; I might as well be going in the right direction. I was on the 40 heading east for about 10 miles when I saw a sign for Picnic area. You have all seen the area right next to the interstate with picnic benches but no other services. I have really only seen truckers use the areas for sleep. I don’t think I have actually seen anyone having a picnic; but it sure sounded good to me at the moment. Nothing ventured etc. so I took the exit. The place was filled with trucks parked nose-to-tail. I found a small gap between two trucks just big enough for me to squeeze the bike through and rode up under a prefab covered area with a concrete picnic table. It might not have looked like much in the daylight; but at 0030 it looked perfect to me. I was able to get the bike turned around and facing the right direction if I needed to make a hasty exit. It also provided me a little more shelter from the road. I got my gear off, and unrolled my ground pad and sleeping bag, took a quick baby wipe bath and ate a small can of tuna. My right foot was swollen so I had to apply some compression wraps (sidebar; in 2005 I had a motorcycle accident where I fractured my entire lumbar vertebra, my pelvis, and degloved the right lower leg. I had two surgeries on the leg; while the flap and subsequent skin graft was successful – the circulatory system was disrupted. Normal days the swelling will subside each night; but on long rides it can be a problem. The compression garments are custom made in Germany and fit on my foot like a glove to ensure fluids from the toes up to my knee is pushed back into circulation. I could wear the garments all day; but they can be extremely uncomfortable and when you are on the rode traveling – I have found it best to keep them as clean as possible and only apply at night as necessary).

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(Above – first night accommodation outside Amarillo, TX along interstate 40 at a roadside Picnic area, clock off by one hour)

I generally do not use ear plugs when camping; especially solo and out in the open. However, the proximity of the interstate and the passing trucks made it necessary if I wanted to get any sleep. I put the plugs in and settled down. There was a nice cool breeze blowing through and I was actually very comfortable. Local time was 0100. I set my alarm for 0330 and fell asleep in minutes.

Miles: 1,018 (States – CA, AZ, UT, CO, NM, TX)

Gas: $87.45

Provisions: $1.64 (Water)

Lodging: $0.00

To be continued…
 
#10
Day 2 (Thursday June 14, 2018)
Uncharacteristically, I slept until the alarm went off at 0330. I felt surprisingly good and felt well rested with 2.5 hours of sleep. By 0400 the bike was repacked, teeth brushed, protein drink for breakfast and I was ready to set off. A quick look at the surroundings and weather app (Dark Sky) showed I was still likely to see more rain this morning. Knowing what to expect I put on lower leg gaiters (normal field wear for Search and Rescue missions) for added protection from water getting between my lower pant legs and boots (entirely unnecessary and something I would not do again during the trip). The aspect of rain did not affect me as much this morning with some rest under my belt and knowing it would soon be light. The gap between trucks I used to gain access to the picnic enclosure was still open so I was back on the move.

Less than 10 minutes on interstate 40 the rain was back. Even though it was quite heavy; it was not accompanied with the strong wind gusts from last night making it much easier to negotiate. Just before dawn the rain gave way as I entered Oklahoma and treated me to a spectacular sunrise.


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(Above – Oklahoma sunrise)

I kept my first Oklahoma stop in Weatherford short because I needed to get through Oklahoma City before morning commute traffic slowed it down - which proved effective as I changed from interstate 40E to 35N on to 44E (toll road). A quick sidebar on toll roads: I had done my research on tolls and ordered/mounted a North Carolina Quick Pass transponder to the front of the bike. The NC-Quick Pass is also good for all EZ Pass states. The only roads the NC-Pass would not work along my route were Oklahoma and Illinois. The Libertarian in me embraces the concept of tolls where those that use the service pay for it versus the general population. However, from what I have seen – very little of the toll revenue seems to be allocated to road upkeep as it makes it way to State general funds. However, this stretch of the 44 was nicely maintained and worth the $4.75 paid to the attendant for riding the full length quickly getting me through Tulsa and my second scheduled OK stop in Owasso.

From Owasso I made my way to Coffeyville, KS. The heat and humidly were both increasing steadily and would foreshadow what I could come to expect as I would ride for hours in high heat/humidity followed by hours of rain. By the time I made it to Mansfield, MO; my wish for some cooling rain was granted. This is where I need to give a quick plug for Aerostich. Previous gear generally required me to stop and add layers, zip closures etc. which is never a pleasant prospect in near triple digit temps generally leading to hasty stops after the rain starts to avoid drenching under layers in sweat more pronounced than the rain on the jacket itself. Except in cases where I wanted to change gloves – I was able to keep riding and close the leg zippers and arm expansions when the rain would start on the go. At no point during the trip where I experienced heavy rain on at least 7 days did one drop of water get passed the gear.

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(Above – stopping for glove change in MO. Temp high 90’s with relative humidity in 80’s)

The statement “at least it is a dry heat” never made much since to me until riding through the Ozarks. I have ridden around the Southwest for so long I have come to expect high temperatures and plan accordingly. Wearing base layers and allowing air to pass up the sleeves of my jacket facilitates evaporative cooling and I stay relatively comfortable as long as I am moving. If you are unfamiliar with how best manage intense heat and evaporative cooling, I encourage you to read IBA legend Tim Masterson #415 (HardTxRider) account of his Death Valley 1,000 Insanity ride posted on the IBA forum. However, high relative humidity reduces evaporation rate; thus decreasing the rate of heat removal from the body. What this meant to me was I was feeling the effects of the heat much more intensely crossing Missouri and Arkansas in the mid 90’s than I was feeling in 100+ temps in Arizona.

By the time I reached Piggot, AR; the rain had temporarily reduced the temps to the mid 70’s. This would continue to my next destination in Fulton, KY where when the rain stopped; temps would rise to the 90’s and drop back to the 70’s once resumed. This back and forth swing had me feeling quite “swampy” inside me gear. I found myself racing the clock as daylight was decreasing. Even though I was still on CST I started with at the beginning of the day – I was feeling like I was losing more time than anticipated. My planned stop for the day was with Adventure Rider Inmate Bluelinewall /MrandMrsZINC (Pete and Lisa) near Selmer TN. (Sidebar – before sharing my exact route I will make small modifications removing the address of inmates I stayed with as well as not using last names for privacy considerations in the report. Pictures were provided and permission obtained for use). The distance from Fulton to my planned stopped was only 104 miles. I had allotted 2 hours ride time when planning this section. However, what I had failed to account for was it would be dark, the back roads I was taking are extremely twisty, and the speed limit for much of the way was below 50 mph. Pete and Lisa live in some beautiful country. Despite being tired and anxious to end the day – I still was able to appreciate the beauty surrounding me. I rode through quiet communities of small houses as well as grand mini-plantation styled homes. Wildlife was all around and I was thankful for the extra lights I installed for the trip. Pete had sent me some extra detailed instructions on finding their property which was helpful as I felt Gladys and Page were a little confused with so many paved and unpaved roads crisscrossing the mountain.

As I was approaching what I hoped would be the correct unmarked lane to turn – I could see a light strobing in the distance. I knew immediately the strobe was from someone standing outside with a flashlight; and from previous gracious exchanges with Pete and Lisa – I knew this couple was actually waiting outside after 10pm on a weeknight for a near stranger. Pete directed me to a covered parking spot next to their guest house. Pete and Lisa made me feel right at home even before I dismounted the bike. They are the kindest couple you could ever hope to meet. I was led into the guest house where the air conditioner had been turned on, a personal welcoming inspiration message written on a chalkboard; and dinner on the table was waiting. I was once again overwhelmed, humbled and motivated by the generosity of others. Too often in our personal lives/routine we are led to believe the world has gone to hell. The media would like us to define ourselves as left, right, liberal, conservative, Christian, Muslim, legal, illegal, white, black etc. One of the greatest things you experience when riding across the country (especially solo) is the level of kindness and generosity that exists in the world. As physically challenging as some IBA rides can be – the payback I receive is a renewed spirit and commitment to others.

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(Above left – welcoming message – what not viewed is the meatloaf, mashed potatoes and buttered squash for dinner, micro brewed Stout by Pete, a very comfortable bed, and a fantastic shower; right – Pete and Lisa)

I would have loved to visit with Pete and Lisa and have an opportunity to get to know this young couple better; but it was getting late and they were aware of my planned early departure. After Pete and Lisa showed me around the guest house and provided some directional tips for the morning (something I should have listened more carefully) they left me to get settled. First on the agenda was a shower. I had no cell service so I hoped Shelly was able to track me to the stop as she also had a duplicate copy of my ride maps and itinerary I was working from. I washed my base layers and socks and was starting to feel human again. At least I smelled better. I was so tired I was only able to eat about half of the wonderful dinner wrapped up for me. Since I was feeling fairly dehydrated – I opted for the cold water placed in a bucket of ice over the beer. I definitely need to ride back and try Pete’s beer as it looked delicious and I am a fan of stouts. You think sorting gear would only take a few minutes; but the next thing I knew it was near midnight. Comfortable in the fact that everything was ready for the morning I crawled into bed, set the alarm for 0215; and quickly went to sleep.

Miles: 1,001 (States – OK, KS, MO, AR, KY)

Gas: $65.90

Tolls: $4.75

Provisions: $0.00

Lodging: $0.00

To be continued…
 
#11
Day 3 (Friday June 15, 2018)
0215 - My eyes opened with the alarm. This could become a habit. Once again about 2.5 hours of quality sleep left me feeling refreshed and ready to go. I removed the wrap from my right leg (something I would do each morning for the rest of the trip) and noted the swelling had resolved. I decided to postpone my morning protein drink and fruit until I reached the first gas stop which was only 18 miles away in nearby Selmer, TN. The base layers and socks I washed the previous night were still not dry so I pulled out a fresh set. Today was an important leg as it was designed to set me up for a weekend push through the Northeast. I had a lot of miles to cover and was concerned I needed to keep on schedule as I would be going through Atlanta later in the day and was hoping to do so during off-peak times.

The bike was loaded and I was ready to go by 0245 (thank-you Rok straps). I tried to ease out as quietly as possible to avoid disturbing Pete, Lisa and their neighbors. I punched in day 3 route in Gladys and next scheduled stop in Page. Gladys said to take a right at the end of the lane and Page said to go left. Yesterday Gladys and Page disagreed on routing in KY. I followed Page’s instructions which resulted in a very loopy and out-of-the way route while Gladys clearly knew a better way. Knowing this and under the rotation policy – I followed Gladys this morning and went right. Page being the good little millennial that she is; adjusted to the change and rerouted. I noticed the original 20 minutes to next destination increased to 25 on Page’s screen. Not too bad and something I could live with. Unfortunately Page and Gladys disagreed again on the next turn. I figured in for a penny, in for a pound; and stuck with Gladys. The next turn Gladys had me take added another 10 minutes on Page’s estimate and I could see why as I now found myself on a gravel road. I cannot even recall the name (something like Mountain Loop Rd). I was determined to stay positive. I was heading downhill which seemed like a good sign; but was definitely not the direction Pete and Lisa suggested last night. Fortunately, it seemed Gladys and Page agreed on the next turn several miles later and I was once again on tarmac. While it took probably 10-15 minutes longer than necessary – I was at my TN fuel stop by 0315. I topped off the tank, had a piece of fruit and protein drink, A quick scan of weather for the gulf coast states showed large weather cells across multiple states.

It was foggy as the sun began to rise in Mississippi. The median was lined with beautiful Magnolia trees in full bloom and I was feeling good. The bike was running perfectly; but it appeared the handlebars had a slight right shift to them. I had noticed this the day before but attributed it to the tank bag being a little crooked and distorting my perception. With not much else to occupy my mind I started going through reasons why the handlebars might be shifted. First and foremost was the last service a week before departure included front fork recall work which warned of front fork failure. Did the technician tighten down the forks appropriately? Was one rotated slightly? These things went through my mind; but the bike was handling brilliantly so I filed it away for later assessment.

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(Above – foggy Mississippi morning)

I collected my MS stop in Lauderdale. A work truck full of road guys was curious about my trip and we talked for a few minutes. Soon after, a big rig pulled in and the friendly driver also walked over for a chat. He was curious about where I was heading and told me his weather radar showed heavy rain all the way to New Orleans. I pulled up Dark Sky and agreed it looked intense; but also intermittent. In cases like this – punching through is not only the best option; but often the only option. If you ride the gulf coast and don’t like riding in rain – don’t go in the summer. While I’m not the most experienced rain rider coming from Southern California (I had already rode in more rain in the last few days than I would in two years around San Diego) I don’t mind it much. The only time I feel sketchy is the trifecta of rain, wind and night all converge and of course the road is new black asphalt which soaks up every lumen you can throw at it.

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(Above – Dark Sky screenshot, the little dot is me heading south)

The ride down to my next stop in Slidell, LA was not too bad. The rain was intermittent, heavy at times; but otherwise a pleasant ride I shared passing back-and-forth with a Harley rider. I had passed him as he was pulled over and putting on some rain gear. I kept my speed around 70mph through the rain; but noticed a bike headlight steadily gaining on me over the next several miles. As it neared I was able to identify it as the same bike I passed earlier. The guy was really motoring and gaining rapidly. We each flashed the appropriate sign as he passed me on the left (sidebar – I was now on my 3rd day and so far had seen very few bikes on the road; but the ones I did all waved pleasantly). As soon as he passed me he crossed back to the right lane directly in front. I expected him to continue putting distance between us; but he seemed to slow as soon as he was in front. I had my cruise set to 70mph so I never changed speeds. However, I had to back it down to 65mph just to keep a little distance between us. I was okay with that except the distance kept closing and expanding too erratically. I could clearly hear his throttle opening and closing constantly and it didn’t take long before it became annoying. I moved over to the left and increased my speed to 80mph and passed him (appropriately waving in a friendly manner). I kept accelerating until I had approximately a half mile margin between us before bringing my speed back to 70mph. Once again he came right up around me and placed himself in front where he chopped his throttle. Seriously….what is the deal? Time to dance – I pass again and this time keep it pegged longer until his light was very distant. As soon as I brought my speed back down – yep, here he comes again and the dance continues. As I pull alongside for another pass – he begins pointing down. I couldn’t tell if he was pointing at his crotch or tank. I was neither interested nor required fuel so I continued when he took the next exit.

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(Above – my dance partner)

Leaving Slidell I experienced some of the heaviest rain I had ever seen. Traffic on interstate 10 was at a complete stop. Apparently the rule is when you cannot see the vehicle in front because the rain is so heavy you put on your hazard flashers and come to a stop. As soon as it lightens up enough – you move forward but keep your flashers on until visibility has improved. I’m a quick study so I followed everyone’s example. I was glad for the extra lights because one of the HEXEZCAN features is a flasher function which alternates the LX4 lights with my turn signals giving the appearance of law enforcement. It is funny feeling sitting at a standstill on an interstate during a cloudburst storm. You can see the occupants of cars around you looking at you and wondering why you would be riding in these conditions. When you see a wake coming from the passage of the bike it is both a little unnerving and freeing at the same time. Passing big rig trucks and waving at the driver who sits about 8 feet off the ground has you feeling like a badass. Of course that badass and confidence boosting feeling can quickly lead to disaster went applied too often or in the wrong situation. Fortunately, most intense rain cells move through quickly (especially if you are heading in the opposite direction).

As I entered Alabama I was able to leave the interstate to cut over and get my Florida stop recorded. Clearly most county backroads are not engineered to shed rain as well as the interstates requiring a little more careful navigation. My Florida stop in Walnut Hill was literally a state line gas station where apparently most of the business comes from Alabama residents buying Florida lottery tickets. I was tempted to buy a ticket; but I rarely ever play the lottery in California and I was on a budget. I had a short backtrack to get back on interstate 65 on my way through Montgomery and my official Alabama stop in Auburn.

The miles were clicking by and it appeared I was on schedule to hit Atlanta after 7pm which I estimated would still be a bit heavy on a Friday night; but should still be moving well enough. I had a slight delay in Auburn because the pump receipt did not contain an address. I went in a bought some water anticipating the receipt inside to have an address; but no luck. The receipt identified the store by number and previous experience with other chains you can normally type in the store number for an address. I didn’t want to totally leave it to chance so I moved the bike in front of the door where the address was displayed and took a picture uploaded to Spotwalla along with a photo of the receipt marked according to rules next to the bike odometer (sidebar: while I appreciate the expedited certification process for Premier IBA members and waiving the witness requirement – I think it is completely unnecessary to require a picture of the receipt next to the odometer for every fuel stop on a ride. With a digital cluster – it is not easy to always get a good photograph during the day because of glare and reflection. You literally have to look to see which way the sun is shining when entering a gas station and try to position the bike in the shade as much as possible. All of this takes extra at the pump or as I had to do a couple of times; move the bike to the side of a building for shade. I am a long distance rider; not photographer. It should be enough to take a photo of the odometer at the beginning and end while still providing the receipts as required. Hopefully the IBA will revise the process as we continue to test options).

My estimated arrival time to Atlanta was almost spot-on (7pm); but what wasn’t so well predicted was traffic. The rain was back and heavy which required everyone to drive more slowly; as well as several accidents further adding to the congestion. As if that was not enough – apparently there was a great deal of construction projects that begin at 9pm; but the lane closures start at 7pm. Getting through Atlanta took 2 hours longer than anticipated and even though it was raining – it was still quite muggy and hot; but finally opened up and I picked up my Georgia stamp in Commerce.

I had arranged to stay on the property of fellow Adventure Rider Inmate Richard (rnhbryant) outside Spartanburg, SC. Richard was going to be in France for Le Mans on the date of my stop. Despite his absence; he still graciously offered space and let his family know of the plans. I was hoping to make it to his house by 10pm; but the delay in Atlanta plus the transition from CST to EST had me arriving just after midnight local. The street was pretty dark and I was having a hard time identifying house numbers. My presence on the road got a dog to start barking. I was worried about waking the neighborhood; but it worked out in my favor. A front porch light turned on and I could see a resident walking out. I wasn’t sure if this was the right house; but I thought I should explain my presence regardless. Luck would have it I had found my way to the correct house. Richard’s lovely wife Harriet greeted me in the driveway (did I mention it was after midnight). She pointed out an area in the yard where I could place my tent. Seeing that it was after midnight and I knew I needed to be back on the road in a few hours I asked if it would be okay for me to just sleep on the driveway next to the bike. Harriet had me move the bike between the cars parked in the driveway which offered more privacy from the road. I thanked Harriet and quickly unloaded what I needed. As soon as the front lights were turned off I hunkered down behind the car next to the garage door and got out of all my gear and had a baby wipe bath; put on cotton shorts and shirt and set out my base layers to dry. I wrapped my leg, rolled out my ground pad/sleeping bag; and set the alarm for 0330. I was too tired to eat and despite the insect activity and Harriet’s cat’s curiosity – I fell asleep pretty quickly. Local time: 0030.

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(Above left– South Carolina accommodations – clock off by 2 hours; above right – Harriet and Richard)

Miles: 1,024 (States – TN, MS, LA, FL, AL, GA)

Gas: $79.11

Provisions: $9.70 (water)

Lodging: $0.00

To be continued…
 
#14
Day 4 (Saturday June 16, 2018)
0330 – Sleeping to the alarm is really becoming a habit. I’m feeling good with 3 hours of sleep; but moving a little slow. It takes a few extra minutes to get back in my gear, bike packed, and teeth brushed before I’m ready to go. I postponed eating since my first stop and official SC stamp was only 22 miles up the road in Blacksburg. Of all the states I traveled; South Carolina probably had the most construction projects going I observed (not complaining – actually this is a good thing and hopefully reflective of an improved economy). Another protein drink and I was ready for the first half of the Northeastern assault. Despite buying bear spray for the Pacific Northwest portion – I dreaded the Northeast segment the most. I suppose it was more of an unknown to me since I had never been in this part of the country. My official start on a Wednesday back in Needles was solely for the purpose of enabling me to get through the Northeast over a weekend (although I might have picked a better weekend than Father’s Day). Today would be me shortest planned day as I anticipated heavy traffic and congestion. However, that was certainly not what I experienced for the first few hundred miles. The ride through North Carolina, Virginia and West Virginia was absolutely beautiful with rolling green hills dotted with trees for as far as the eye could see. The only notable issue is how it is against the law to use a radar detector in Virginia where I noticed the speed limit varies quite often ranging from 60mph to 70mph. It seemed deliberately contrived and slanted to favor the State Patrol and trick motorist with the different speed zones.

Maryland was nice until I neared Baltimore where traffic and heat started catching up and had me wanting to return to the rolling hills I rode through earlier. This was the East Coast traffic I had worried about. While I might not be exposed to rain often in Southern California; I am very used to heavy traffic on a bike. Of course the most logical thing California ever did was allow motorcycles to lane share/split. While I would have loved to split some of the traffic I was riding in there were three things holding me back; 1) not legal, 2) big aluminum panniers, 3) I’m sure someone would run me over. The traffic was moving well enough; but it felt hostile. There was no sitting back and relaxing on this portion. It was all business and made me glad I had purchased a toll transponder which allowed me to ride through the express lanes or take the EZ Pass only lanes rather than sit in the cash lines. This ride can be done around toll roads; but the timetable I set really did afford me the opportunity. It just makes sense that if you are going to ride this part of the country – get an appropriate transponder on the bike (sidebar – NC Quick Pass Transponder cost less than $14.00).

While I might have been dreading this leg somewhat – I was looking forward to notching a good number of states over the next two days afforded by relative close proximity. Riding less than 50 miles I was able to bag Delaware and New Jersey. I complained previously about toll roads and money spent on upkeep; but the exception might be New Jersey. The turnpike is purpose built to move hundreds of thousands of cars daily. I’m not sure how many lanes. At the smallest it was two lanes; but I’m pretty sure I rode through one section for 20 plus miles where there were side-by-side sections of 4 lanes each heading in the same direction. I wasn’t sure I was on the right section or not and too afraid to slow down. I knew my next stop was in the Bronx so I would just keep going with the flow and stay out of the way as much as possible. Eventually I saw signs I was good as the New York skyline was slightly visible. Signs for the George Washington Bridge made my heartrate pick-up. Gladys nor Page were too clear about what level to take so I decided I would take the upper deck in hopes of better visibility. However – all hope of a leisurely ride through New York was quickly dashed when traffic came to a complete stop. I used to wonder why most of the bridges around New York have pedestrian walkways. Why would anyone walk across the bridges? Some are very long and must take nearly an hour. Well I learned first-hand because for the next hour I was basically walking my bike. I do not recall ever moving fast enough to afford me the opportunity to put my feet on the pegs – I just sort of dragged them when not duck walking the bike along. Here it was 4pm on a Saturday and every lane was bumper-to-bumper. I assumed something must be wrong; but as I went along – I think it was just normal congestion/back-up from the toll booths up ahead. The crowding reminded me of the times Shelly and I have crossed the San Ysidro border crossing coming back from Mexico where the lines start out all over the place, slowly compress and suddenly you find yourself between two lines and nobody is giving an inch to let you in one line or the other. I saw a few local riders squeeze through; but they were all on sport bikes. There was no way I was going to get the big BMW Adventure bike through the narrow space between cars.

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(Above – final gap in traffic prior to crossing GW Bridge in New York)

I finally made it to my New York planned stop (or at least close enough as I dived in the first station I saw). My concerns over a Bronx stop was wasted time as everyone at the pumps and inside the store were just as polite and curious about my ride as everywhere else. One gentleman not wearing any earphones or playing music which could be heard by others; but apparently streamed in his head and through his entire body walked over and recommended a particular type of cooled beverage sold in the store that was some sort of coffee and fruit juice combination. I briefly considered the suggestion; but since I had stood in line in the store (you had to pay inside first before pumping) I was anxious to get moving as I still had to ride another couple of hours to my final stop.

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(Above – Bronx New York gas stop)

While I was anxious to get to my final stop – I was not so keen getting back on interstate 95. The multi-lane turnpike was reduced once again to two lanes with little decrease in volume. The pleasantness of people at stops is a distant memory as everyone on the interstate is ready to fight over inches. Of course this transformation of human behavior on the road is not unique to the northeast. I am sure I am not the only person to observe how people often take on the persona of their vehicle or favorite villain. It is astonishing how different our actions on the road differ from our actions when interacting more directly. Few of us would walk in a supermarket and cut the line to the register; but think nothing of pushing our way over in traffic. The same elderly woman you meet in line at the store that reminds you of a Great Aunt will run you over or flip you off in traffic. If you want to make a meaningful impact on the world – forget peace and hunger; eliminate traffic and much of the anger everyone experiences would disappear.

My final stop for the day was Madison, CT with fellow Adventure Rider inmate George (Motorcyclist). I was looking forward to finishing before sunset. I had text George during the day because I was unsure what time I would arrive. He was teaching a beginner MSF course and told me not to worry and that the door was unlocked and I could just let myself in and take a shower, eat, rest etc. I stopped for fuel to log my Connecticut stop around 8pm and was a George’s house shortly afterward. The town is small and really nicely organized. I easily identified George’s house from the bike parked out front.

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(Above left – driveway parking with ADVRider Motorcyclist (George) – time off by 2 hours; above right – Gorge aka: Motorcyclist)

George met me outside and offered space for my tent or an option to stay inside which I readily accepted the latter. George gave me a hand with a quick check of oil and unloading the bike. The first priority was a much needed shower and shave. We owe a lot to early inventors/scientist for electricity, antibiotics etc.; but I want to shake the hand of the individual that first thought of heating water for bathing. Obviously, they didn’t invent either; but putting the two together was brilliant (I rank it even higher than the person who first mixed peanut butter and chocolate together).

It is amazing the restorative powers of a shower. Despite being the lowest mileage day of the trip and stopping before sunset – it was still a 16 hour riding day. I was not yet quite to the halfway point and in need of a boost. George offered some food; but I was not overly hungry. I had promised Shelly I would eat so I pulled out a tuna packet from my gear for dinner and watched some MotoGp and discussed motorcycles with George. It was clear George is a real motorcycle enthusiast and very knowledgeable. A couple of hours passed in moments. Knowing I had a planned early departure – George offered up the couch and headed upstairs. He left a book on the table about IBA legend John Ryan for me to look at that I had not previously read (I am currently reading it now; Kindle download – The Man Who Would Stop at Nothing).I could see right away the book was very interesting so I set aside with a reminder to download to my Kindle in the future.

I had everything ready for the morning (helmet cleaned, Sena charging etc.); rolled out my sleeping bag and set the clock for 0430 to afford me a bit of a Sunday sleep in. Local time 2300.

Miles: 825 (States – SC, NC, VA, WV, MD, DE, NJ, NY, CT)

Gas: $69.07

Tolls: $32.90

Provisions: $9.02 (water)

Lodging: $0.00

To be continued…
 
#15
Day 5 (Sunday June 17, 2018)
0400- I’m wide awake. I knew setting the alarm for 0430 was overly optimistic; but worth a shot. I was feeling a little nostalgic today on Father’s Day and being so far away from family. Obviously I would have preferred to spend time with Shelly and the kids; but the window for the ride was limited due to professional and personal commitments requiring some sacrifices. It was too early on the west coast to check-in so I went about getting ready for the day and trying not to make too much noise. Today would mark the halfway and furthest point from home. But it would also end with me once again heading west which always gives me a bump in motivation.

With no reservations or arrangements to stay on someone’s property – I just focused on the road. I decided to wait until my first planned stop in Rhode Island to eat something since it was only about 65 miles up the road. Interstate 95 was thankfully quiet and I was able to fully appreciate the beauty of the tarmac cutting through the tree lined countryside. The most common citing other than deer was the State Patrol vehicles hiding along the side of the road or parked on overpasses with radar guns pointed ahead. The first half of the ride today would find me collecting 5 states within the first 400 miles. While time is lost when not moving – the shorter rides between stops does break-up the day nicely.

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(Above – Connecticut sunrise)

I made it to the New Hampshire fuel stop around 0945. Up until that point I pretty much had the roads to myself. However, my route would now consist of undivided two-lane county highways for the next several hundred miles crossing New Hampshire, Vermont, and upstate New York before I would reach the interstate 90 junction in Buffalo.

The volume of Harley riders also increased exponentially. While fueling in New Hampshire; at least 10 bikes stopped with dozens passing going my intended direction. Seeing groups of bikes provided me additional lift and signaled there must be good riding ahead. The only thing that struck me was since I left home – I had not seen too many bikes (maybe a product of riding during the week); but everyone I passed waved cheerfully (even my dance partner yesterday). However, on this day I was to pass hundreds of riders with very few acknowledging my existence. Some of it might be explained by the area being a popular riding spot and if you waved at every passing bike; you would hardly be able to put your hand down. But it also felt a bit bike brand related. I found it funny that many of the riders on a Harley were attired in a style with German origins; but deemed someone on a German made bike not worthy of their attention. Maybe I was being a little sensitive; but I was genuinely excited to be around so many bikes after days on the road. I was ready to high-five everyone on 2 or 3 wheels and just continued to be as friendly as possible.

Another incident worth noting while fueling in New Hampshire was an older gentleman pulling in for gas in his luxury car at the pump next to where I was standing. When he got out of the car I noticed his pants were belted closed; but his fly was wide open. I was just about to politely point it out to him when he casually reached down and zipped his fly. Interesting – it appeared he was aware his fly was open because it wasn’t like he looked down and noticed it or seemed hurried. I’m sure there are plenty of reasons why you would drive around with your fly open; but I can’t say it is something I have personal experience with or a habit of doing. I will just leave it there as just another one of those funny observations which make gas stations one of my favorite places to people watch.

Riding through the countryside can be relaxing; but it can also be just as exhausting as the super slab. Traffic was often backed-up because a couple of riders would be out front really taking their time. I have no problem with going slow and smelling the flowers; but when you have 10 plus cars lined up behind you and are even holding up RV’s; maybe it is time to pull over and let people pass? If you let it bother you; then you are in for a long day. I just approached it one vehicle at a time and was able to maintain a decent enough pace and I was enjoying only the second full day of riding without rain so far this trip.

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(Above – Lyman house Wilmington, VT)

The route through Vermont and upstate New York was all rolling hills with farms dotting the landscape. I felt like I was riding through an Ansel Adams portrait. Words and my poor skills as a photographer are not enough to convey the beauty of the land where I would not hesitate to ride again. But alas – the back roads returned me to interstate 90 where I could make some time as it was getting late in the day. I was hoping to get better views of Lake Erie; but I was only able to capture an occasional glance until I reached Cleveland.

The temperature all day had been very pleasant and held steady in the mid 80’s. It was getting close to 9pm as I was approaching Cleveland and I knew I should be able to reach my primary spot within the next half hour. I was hoping to get a chance to evaluate the area while still some light was in the sky. Getting through Cleveland on a Sunday night was a breeze. Traffic was fairly light and moved along at a good pave. The only thing moving faster was the temperature which steadily rose the closure I came to downtown until it peaked around 95*F. I was rather surprised by how hot and muggy it was and didn’t know if it was related to urban heating?

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(Above – entering Cleveland)

Tonight’s primary destination was a Little Ball Park Field in the suburb of Avon about 10 miles west of Cleveland off highway 83. I had a nearby cemetery slated as secondary and a school as my third option. My timing was perfect entering the parking lot of the Little League Park. There was just enough light left to get a good look around and only one other car present. I didn’t want to draw too much attention so I parked the bike near the sidewalk leading down to the ball fields figuring I should scout around. The lone remaining car belonged to a young family about to leave who came over to talk with me. They were a cute young couple (Chad, Mandy, and baby Nolan) that were curious about what I was doing. I told them about my trip and explained I was looking for a quiet place to sleep for a few hours and was thinking about one of the dugouts. Apparently, they come to the park frequently to stay cool because their apartment does not have air conditioning. Mandy asked lots of questions about my bike and expressed she never knew BMW made motorcycles. She told me the ball field stretches back further if I follow the path they were walking back from where nobody was likely to bother me. As they were getting ready to leave – Chad came back over and offered me some ice they had remaining in a bag that I gratefully accepted. I immediately filled my camelbak with the ice and topped off with fresh water to have ready in the morning. I got back on my bike and rode down the walkway passing several ball fields until I came to the last. The only negative with the ball park is the dugouts had roofs; but only chain-link fence walls (not the traditional wooden walls). However, the roof would provide good cover if it rained during the night and the concrete pad and bench was spacious; but not quite big enough to bring the bike in. I was however able to park the bike on the field in front of the dugout and close the gate which would wake me up if anyone tried opening. My only concern was I did not know what time the sprinklers were set to run if at all. A bonus was having a porta-potty next to the field.

I covered the reflective bits of the bike and hung my gear and base layers out to dry. Another quick baby-wipe bath and change to cotton shorts/shirt had me feeling pretty good. I took a few extra minutes to sweep up the sunflower seeds scattered across the dugout concrete floor before rolling out my ground pad and sleeping bag. With everything ready for the next day and my bed calling me – I quickly ate a can of tuna, checked weather (big storm along route west of Chicago) and settled down to read for a few minutes. Tomorrow I was scheduled to stay with another Adventure Rider inmate and I was determined to get there sooner so I planned for an early departure and set the alarm for 0300. It was just after 10pm local and I could just barely hear the distant traffic. Feeling safe and secure I only read for a few minute before rolling over and going to sleep.

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(Above – Little League Park outside Cleveland – clock off by one hour)

Miles: 892 (States – RI, MA, ME, NH, VT, PA, OH)

Gas: $65.89

Tolls: $21.10

Provisions: $3.00 (water)

Lodging: $0.00

To be continued..
 
#16
Day 6 (Monday June 18, 2018)
0200 – I’m wide awake feeling good with 3.5 hours sleep. Everything is quiet; the heat has dialed down and it is really comfortable just lying on top of the sleeping bag. I check the weather map and confirm I will likely have to contend with some severe weather; but at least it will come after I’m through Chicago. Chicago! I had not given much thought to what time I would pass through; but all of a sudden I realized it was Monday and if I got moving quickly – I just might get through by 0700 before the majority of commuters hit the road. I got up, brushed my teeth, packed-up my gear; and opened the gate. The great thing about keeping a stock exhaust system is how quiet the bike is (makes stealth camping that much easier). My intention was to log my Ohio stop last night and top off with fuel if my primary spot was a no go. Fortunately, the Little League Park worked out great; but that meant I still needed an Ohio receipt and could use some gas. I figured I would hit the first Service Plaza after getting on the Turnpike; but that ended up not panning out as the Plaza was open; but the pumps were off for maintenance. A family had just pulled in and was letting their dogs out for some exercise. I was reviewing my map and one of them came over to see what a lone motorcyclist was doing out riding so early or late depending on perspective. I told them about my trip and that I was trying to figure out how far away the next Service Plaza was located. Fortunately, they travel the road frequently visiting family in Chicago and Cleveland as was explained to me. A quick yell back and forth between family members confirmed the next Plaza was approximately 40 miles up the Turnpike.

With my Ohio receipt safely in my box and my tank filled; my next destination is Michigan. I didn’t get to see much of Sturgis; but it looked nice enough and the store more importantly stocked Muscle Milk which is my beverage of choice for breakfast. It is just after 0630 local and I know it does look like I’m going to make my 0700 Chicago target. I was a little disappointed since I got an early start; but had this feeling I was forgetting something. Oh well – no problem. With another 90 miles to my scheduled Indiana stop and 55 miles further to Chicago; it was looking like I would hit the tail-end of morning commute around 0900.

What I was forgetting became immediately apparent as I neared Chicago. This morning I woke up outside Cleveland which is Eastern Standard Time and Chicago is Central Standard Time. Rather than arriving at 0900 and catching the tail-end of the morning commute time; it was 0800 and I was right in the middle of the heaviest commute hour. Nothing to do but hope Page will guide me through the quickest route. If I had stuck to my original 0400 start time – I would have missed this entirely.

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(Above – entering Chicago – morning commute, construction and accidents are not the friend of a long distance rider on the clock)

Page updated me regularly of the delays ahead and assured me I was still on the quickest route. I could have sworn I detected an undercurrent of sadistic humor in her tone; but it was probably just distortion from the blaring horns all around. Coming from the West Coast where blowing your horn is considered a capital offense which can lead to guns being pulled and bullets flying; I found it amusing how people in New York and Chicago use their horn generously and everyone basically ignores it. Even though traffic was moving at a crawl – at least it was not yet uncomfortably hot. I was treated by several Concrete and Waste Management truck drivers to a friendly blast of their horn followed by a heartfelt “thank-you for your service”, “go Marine”; and at least one “Oorah!” which made the frustration of traffic melt away. This was not the first, nor would it be the last demonstration of patriotism and appreciation I received/observed crossing the heartland. Whether you think of it as the Bible belt, Rust belt, or Flyover land – it is the heart of our country filled with hardworking people that love land and appreciate freedom.

I eventually made it to the turnpike where another issue presented itself I had forgotten related to tolls. Up until this point; the NC Quick Pass worked everywhere except in Oklahoma. I recalled reading IBA member SMATH’s ride report on his recent 48/10 mentioning something regarding his transponder not working in Illinois and stopping at a Toll Plaza. Apparently, my EZ Pass compatible transponder was good enough to get me in to Illinois; but Illinois is I-Pass or cash only. I must have missed the exit for a Toll Plaza because the first signage I saw indicated I-Pass only or cash lanes. I dove over to the cash lane which was fortunately a manned booth. I say this because I had already noted unmanned toll stations on the exit ramps indicating exact change or an I-Pass was required. I figured I would pay what was necessary as I rolled up and ask about a daily pass. Before I could get my gloves off and start pulling out some cash; the attendant verbalized “you’re good” and opened the gate. I wasn’t sure what “good” meant; but I didn’t want to hold up the line, so I proceeded ahead.

It looked like I was going to be on the turnpike until my next planned stop in Rockford where I would fuel and then switch to county roads. I passed through at least 3 more toll checkpoints which appeared unmanned with I-Pass or exact cash options. All my change was kept in my hygiene bag; packed in one of the panniers in case I came upon a coin operated shower (seemed logical at the time). Rather than stopping to pull out cash; I just went through the I-Pass lanes and figured I would ask Shelly to login to the I-Pass website and pay the outstanding tolls as some states provide that as an option for up to 10 days before sending out a violation. Shelly continued checking over the next several days; but nothing came up with my license plate number. Either the cameras at each of the toll stations were not working; or “you’re good” meant the attendant at the first toll booth set me up for the day?

Arriving in Rockford; I was still aware of a large weather system between me and my destination for the night in Sioux City, IA. After fueling I asked a big rig trucker that was parked next to me if he had any insight on the weather since the guy driving a truck in Louisiana seemed to have better weather tracking software and connections which proved helpful to me. Well – not this guy. He was a little smug in his reply that he didn’t worry about weather driving a 60,000lb rig. Oh, okay – then why during my entire trip was it only truckers who seemed to have an issue with my low-beam lights being bright? I cannot imagine someone driving such a big powerful rig that doesn’t need to worry about weather was bothered by the lights of a teeny weeny motorcycle. Yet – only the truckers did I consistently have issues with during the night. They would give one flash of bright lights with me flashing back once to demonstrate I was on low beam (LX4 auxiliary light settings were: daytime low 25% and high 100%; nighttime low 50% and high 100%). With cars that was all that was necessary. However, for truckers – they would flash again and I would flash back followed by them hitting their high beam lights again and leaving them on. I know the LX4s are bright (thank-you Justin aka LED RIDER) and probably could be aimed a little lower; but seriously – you are sitting 8 feet in the air with at least a 3inch tubular push bar on the front of your 60,000lb truck. If you run over something on the road; it is an annoyance. If I run over something – it will be much more serious. I especially like the technique of waiting until you are less than 100 yards away and try to blind me completely when you pass. I even had one trucker as I passed him on the interstate (going the same way) flip his bright lights as I moved in front. I drifted back to let him see my lights and then politely as possible – flashed high beams to demonstrate I was on low. As I came back up to pass – this time for good measure; he turned on the backward facing hitch spotlights on me. All I could do was wave friendly as I passed and put some distance between us.

The weather finally caught up to me or me to it appropriately in Waterloo, IA heading west on Hwy 20. I clearly saw the clouds on the horizon and once again zipped down the leg openings and closed the wrist expansions. I decided not to stop and change gloves because I liked having more dexterity wearing the lightweight (but not waterproof) gloves. I have never seen clouds drop so fast. One minute they seemed to be a thousand feet up; and the next moment they were touching the ground. I was so enthralled I only momentarily questioned the wisdom of continuing. Stopping did not seem to be an option because there was no place to go or avoid what was about to happen. At this point I generally look at the traffic coming the other way to see how they are faring i.e. cracked windshields etc. I would swear I could see white knuckles from drivers squeezing the steering wheel from across the median.

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(Above – descending clouds about to unleash hell in Iowa)

Of course the first thing to hit is the wind. It went from dead calm to a cyclone in a heartbeat, followed by the sky opening up and dropping buckets of water down on my head. It felt more like standing under a waterfall than it did rain. It was torrential (I think I described it as biblical on my Spotwalla check-in at the next fuel stop). There were only a few other vehicles around me and we all nearly came to a stop. Armed with the experience I gained in Louisiana; I quickly turned on my flashers. However, it seems what is followed in the South is not the same in the Midwest as the vehicle in front of me was indicating I am only supposed to activate my right turn signal. The driver of the car also seemed to think he was doing me a favor by pulling directly in front of me and slowing down as if to lead me (clearly not a motorcyclist – otherwise he would know how the water mist from the car decreases our visibility even more) through the storm. I didn’t want to slow down further so my only option was to pass him and lead him through the storm which I think clicked once I moved back in front of him. By way of compromise – I switched off my flashers and turned on my right turn signal to demonstrate my willingness to follow custom.

The rain continued for the next several hours; sometimes light; and sometimes heavy. Every time I thought I was moving out of the path; it either shifted or called up one of its friends to chase me. It felt a little like the movie Twister when no matter where the main actors went – a tornado seemed to appear. One little bit of routing I failed to note in my plan was a detour on Hwy 20 from Sac City to Holstein. The construction must be going on for a long time because as I am now reviewing my planned route – Google had the detour calculated. I do not even recall seeing a detour or closure sign; maybe the storm took it, or more likely I was so focused with my Kung Fu grip on the handlebars; I would have not registered anything other than an F5 tornado in my path and missed it. But fortunately, Page shook me out of my trance and had me take an exit (earlier than the one Gladys wanted me to take) which routed me pleasantly past corn fields and away from the storm. However, by the time I was back on Hwy 20; the storm was there waiting; apparently not abiding by the detour and taking a more direct route.

All focus was collecting my next receipt in Sioux City, NE before stopping for the night at the home of Adventure Rider Marc LaDue in Sioux City, IA. (These dual named cities in separate states took me for a loop in the planning phase as it didn’t take much to confuse me requiring a double check to ensure my route and plan was correct). While everyone I made contact with through Tent Space was unbelievably kind; Marc was at a whole different level. From the time I first reached out to Marc and shared my plan; he stayed in contact with me and would call or leave voicemails with everything from sock recommendations; to assurances I was welcome to stay as long as necessary if I had a mechanical failure - referencing BMW’s history of final drive failures good naturally.

While riding through the storm I must have missed a call from Marc. I retrieved the voicemail while fueling at my final stop for the day (approx. 20 miles from Marc’s house); and true to form – Marc was checking on how I was doing and what I wanted to eat when I arrived. I called Marc with an update of my location and ETA. He mentioned something about Popeye’s Chicken for dinner; and I figured I could cut the ETA in half.

Armed with a full tank of fuel and the prospect of fried chicken; I quickly finished my receipt photo dance and got back on the road. What is surprising about this part of Iowa (maybe it’s all parts?) is how quickly you transition from city to rural. One minute I’m on a paved road and the next minute I’ve turned on a deeply graveled wet road. I recalled Marc mentioning they lived on a dirt road so I figured I was good to go and should almost be done. However, at the end of the road I was routed back on pavement and instructed to take another dirt road further up. Unfortunately, the thought of a warm house, chicken etc. distracted me enough to where I took the wrong dirt road. I had no cell service so Page was of no help and Gladys seemed hopefully confused (see how I just turned it around on them..). This road had a little less gravel; but a lot more mud. I was sliding all around and doing everything I could to keep the bike upright (remember – I’m on Michelin Pilot 4 Trails and don’t let the trail name fool you; 100% pavement tires) and look at house addresses that seemed to be placed wherever. It appeared I was close; but something was amiss. I turned around several times going up and down the road to see if I missed something. I even had my modular helmet flipped open to see if I could smell chicken. Eventually a truck came driving towards me. Surely this is most likely Marc ready to chastise me for getting lost and lead me to the Promised Land – but not. The gentleman driving stopped alongside of me and asked me why I was riding up and down the road looking at the houses. I’m a little tired and have chicken on the brain which I guess brings out a little bit of the wise ass because I tell him I’m not looking at “the” houses; but looking for “a” house. Rather than being satisfied with my answer; he quickly asks “what” house. Okay – maybe I should dial it down because a chicken dinner is on the line; so I explain I’m a little turned around and provide the address I’m looking for. Having an exact address seemed to mollify him and he told me I turned in one road too early. Five minutes later I beep my horn as instructed when coming up the driveway and the garage door is opened where I am greeted by Marc’s lovely wife Marsha.

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(Above – Marc and Marsha)

After getting the bike positioned in the garage; Marsha gave me a quick tour of the basement area complete with a workout room (where I could sleep) and bathroom. Marc was waiting upstairs and I was anxious to meet him after so many conversations on the phone. Marc and Marsha’s home is beautiful. The stairs to get to the main floor is one of the tightest spiral staircases I have ever seen. I think I commented they were very dramatic and quite the statement piece which Marsha found amusing.

I cannot express enough how gracious this couple is. I knew from previous discussions with Marc on the phone that he was going through a difficult time with his health. I can only hope if faced with a similar challenge – I can be as brave, kind, and positive as Marc and Marsha. After a quick catch-up; I excused myself to get out of my gear and grab a shower while Marsha made a Popeye’s run.

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(Above – a little sideways positioning and I was able to sleep comfortably in Marc and Marsha’s basement workout room – cool, dark and quiet – clock off by one hour)

Feeling refreshed from a shower and getting my sleeping bag situated; I went back upstairs to chat with Marc who is a very knowledgeable and accomplished motorcyclist on and off road. Marsha had returned with chicken which was delicious. I was able to talk motorcycles with Marc and nursing with Marsha as she and I have been Registered Nurses for many years while the rain came and went outside. I felt so comfortable with this couple; I don’t think I would have minded having a final drive failure to stay longer.

Even though it was getting late – Marsha was so nice to throw my smelly base layers in her new washing machine. I was thankful to have all my base layers clean again; but more thankful for the extra time to visit with Marc and Marsha waiting for the clothes to finish drying. I didn’t want to keep Marc up too late so I said goodnight and headed downstairs. One of the things I noticed was the walls of the basement were covered with pictures of Marc of Marsha in all kinds of settings their travels had taken them. It was clearly evident what a great life these two have shared and how deep their love and support ran.

I eventually made it to my sleeping bag with the intention to read. However, the Kindle felt 10X heavier than normal so I set my clock for 0300 and went right to sleep.

Miles: 840 (States – OH, MI, IN, IL, WI, IA, NE)

Gas: $83.14

Tolls: $26.48

Provisions: $11.84 (Muscle Milk, Coke, water, along with (1) apple, orange and banana)

Lodging: $0.00

To be continued..
 
#17
Day 7 (Tuesday June 19, 2018)
0300- The alarm pulled me out of a deep sleep. The plan was if the rain was still coming down hard; I would delay departure until it was light out and visit with Marc and Marsha a little longer. A quick check outside and even though it was still wet all around – I was able to see a few stars. It only took a few minutes to pack the bike and I was slowly making my way down the gravel road by 0345. I wasn’t leaving empty handed though – in addition to a camelbak full with some of the best tasting well water I have ever had; I also had a pair of Marc’s bamboo socks he insisted I take for my travels. Marc and Marsha had also provided me with some directions in case Gladys and Page conspired to take me down more dirt roads than necessary.

Marc had warned me about the deer activity nearby which was spot on. I was barely out of the driveway before I came upon the first of what would be dozens of deer on the road I would avoid before daylight. Thankfully Gladys and Page kept me on paved roads and headed to Minnesota.

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(Above – sunrise Iowa/Minnesota boarder)

My first fuel stop of the day was Hills, MN. I was a little worried about this stop since it is a small town with two stations that are open limited hours. Lucky for me the owner of the first station had just arrived and was in the process of opening as I pulled in at 0530. He did confirm the pumps are left on at night; but if anything prevented the receipt from printing – a rider could find themselves riding much farther for documentation. While fueling a Minnesota State Patrol vehicle pulled in and I had a good chat with the Officer and station owner explaining my ride. I had a feeling that neither one quite understood long distance motorcycling and just agreed I was a crazy Californian.

Shortly after leaving Hills – I found myself back on interstate 90 heading west through Sioux Falls and collecting my SD receipt. I didn’t mind being back on the interstate as I was expecting more rain and find interstates and major highways shed the water much better than most county roads. South Dakota was one of only four states my route would require multiple fuel stops (OK, NY, SD, MT). The chicken I had eaten the previous evening had held me over very well; but found I was getting a little hungry by 10am. My stop in Kadoka, SD enabled me to buy some fresh fruit and have a cup of coffee. I was sitting on a bench outside the store when I was approached apparently by the Mayor of Kadoka. We talked for a while about my ride and he remarked the time requirement doesn’t really afford the opportunity to see much. I find this a common misconception of non-long distance riders. As we say among ourselves; we see a lot – just faster than most. I told the Mayor it is less about time and more about situational awareness. I could see he didn’t understand my point so I shared an example. As he and I were talking; I had observed two cars pull in and park on opposite sides of the store. Each vehicle had 4 occupants who exited the vehicles and spread around the station (it was a fairly large convenience store/gas station able to accommodate big rig trucks etc.) outside and inside. It was clear they were all working together as they approached people entering/leaving the store and fueling up. The approach was well rehearsed as they would engage individuals in conversation inquiring about their travels, complimenting them on their car etc. before getting around to asking for cash. I pointed out to the Mayor what was going on; and the look on his face was priceless as he pulled out a phone and called local law enforcement. I finished my fruit, coffee and was on my way without knowing the outcome. What is interesting is at no time did any of the 8 people canvassing the area approach me. I guess the appearance of living off my bike was enough to convince them I was not worth the time or was more likely to ask for a handout from them.

The weather forecast was accurate (why is it rain forecast while traveling seems to always be more accurate than rain forecasted at home?) and I was back in the rain. It started off a little spotty; but increased steadily as I passed through Rapid City. My stop in Kadoka was longer than I planned; so I figured would make it up when I reached Beulah, WY. However, when I stopped for the WY receipt; I found myself in need of another cup of coffee. Despite the solid 4 hours of sleep I had the previous night; I found myself for the first time feeling some fatigue. Since I had not made any arrangements for tonight’s accommodation (I had a primary stealth camp spot only) – I allowed my body and mood to dictate the pace.

I had to backtrack from Beulah towards Spearfish to pick-up Hwy 85N towards North Dakota. The rain had really picked up and was accompanied by a strong South Dakota westerly wind. The only thing good about the strong constant wind was it kept spray from the cars ahead and those passing in the opposite direction from obscuring my vision. In fact – I cannot recall ever being in such heavy rain while my visor remained completely clear. Traffic was very light along this stretch of highway and despite the rain and wind; I found myself very much enjoying the ride and views.

It was mid-afternoon by the time I stopped in Bowman, ND. I wasn’t the only thing that had stopped – as it appeared I had left the rain and fatigue behind me (for at least a little while). I was feeling pretty good and was planning on only stopping long enough for fuel. A 2-up couple was at the pump next to me. They were taking a day ride with an overnight motel stay and inquired about my ride. I found I was questioned more and more at each stop. I’m sure it was the appearance of me and the bike looking more like we had been traveling months instead of only one week so far. As we were talking – a guy riding a cruiser circled the pump area. I barely registered him as the travel center was packed with bikes. I looked up from fueling just in time to watch him slowly drop the bike while circling left. The rider remained standing and was able to straddle the fallen bike. The couple next to me and a few other riders walked over and helped the guy pick-up his bike. Since I was still fueling; I didn’t want to put the pump down and it appeared there was enough help. I had finished fueling and documenting my stop by the time the couple returned to their bike. As we were talking – I noticed the same guy still sitting on his bike and idling in the spot he dropped it. I observed him let the clutch out and within 5 feet of rolling; just fall over to his left and lay on the ground. This time I was able to jog over and see what was going on. A few others came out of the store and helped me lift the bike. I introduced and identified myself as a registered nurse. I asked the guy his name (Shawn) and a few other basic assessment questions to rule out a medical issue. It was quickly apparent Shawn was just really intoxicated. We rolled his bike over near the store and helped Shawn to a bench. I gave him a bottle of water and sat with him. Shawn was a really nice guy; but adamant he could ride. Since he would not accept advice about staying off the bike and I could not let him leave and endanger others – I asked the store owner to call the police to see if the presence of a uniform could help make Shawn see reason.

A county Sheriff Deputy arrived within minutes. Between him and me; we were able to convince Shawn that a stay overnight in the motel across the street was preferable to overnight in the jail. I got Shawn across the street and to the motel office door before heading back to my bike.

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(Above – Shawn’s bike after being picked up twice, Bowman, ND)

The big sky of Montana was filled with some big clouds coming my way with still 300 miles to go before stopping for the day. It looked like I had an opportunity to get past a large cell coming up from the south with a little luck and speed. My first official Montana stop in Forsyth was a quick gas and go. With only 150 miles to Columbus it was looking like I might make it before full dark. The rain once again returned; steady; but not heavy enough to require slowing. Apparently, I narrowly missed a severe hell storm as one half-mile stretch of the highway was covered with a thick blanket of white and the roadside looked like a snow-plow had come through because of the depth. I thought about slowing to take a picture; but figured it wiser to not tempt fate and keep moving.

I arrived in Columbus, MT and began looking for the little spot near the Yellowstone River I thought might be a good camp spot. The research proved to be good; and the spot would have been perfect in the dry. Unfortunately, a day of rain had turned the unpaved access road a muddy mess I was not willing to chance it. I had noted a baseball park near the exit I took and thought it worth a second look. It was still a little lighter out than I would have preferred for a camping spot in town. Only two other cars were in the lot when I parked. There was a beautiful rainbow over the town that begged to be photographed. I walked over to the nearby dugout and was happy to see it was well covered and had wooden walls. With a little maneuvering; I should be able to fit the bike inside. I took off my helmet and was already looking forward to making myself a hot meal. The rain had resumed and on my way back to my bike; a local law enforcement vehicle circled the lot and parked across the street where the two officers sat and watched me. There was plenty of signage warning against overnight parking so I knew the gig was up and I needed to move on.

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(Above – beautiful rainbow Columbus, MT, hopeful camping spot in little league ball park, not to be)

If I were asked to identify my low point of the ride; I would say it was there in Columbus, MT. I was tired, wet; and looking forward to a warm meal and drying out. I called Shelly after getting my gear back on and stood next to my bike in the gavel parking lot with the law enforcement officers watching on. I was not in much of a hurry since I was not violating any regulations and whined a bit about the day and needing a place to stop. A Super 8 was right across the street; but it never entered my mind to get a room. Shelly let me whine about the rain and the police. The slightly crooked handlebars that I had become accustomed to over the last several days now seemed like a crucial issue which needed to be dealt with immediately. I needlessly had Shelly worrying about the stability of the bike and my safety continuing.

I did not have contingency stopping points for this leg. I have road through Montana and Wyoming enough to know it is not too challenging to find a spot to camp/sleep overnight. I figured the best and only thing to do was get moving in the direction I needed to go. The next scheduled stop was Big Timber where I had planned to fuel the next morning. It was only 40 miles up the road and seemed a likely spot to find somewhere to sleep. Now that it was completely dark and going on 9pm – I figured I could find a covered spot somewhere in town.

The Conoco gas station I had tagged on my route was open; but my priority was not fuel. What I was looking for was cover. There was a Country Skillet and small casino next to the station with a few other small stores behind. It looked a little busy with truck traffic; but I was drawn to a darkened area which appeared to be a gift store that was currently closed for the night. The front wraparound porch was wide with a ramp. I walked around the building and decided I could ride up the porch and park along the side of the building. I quickly moved the bike and positioned it where there would be enough room for me to sleep between it and the building wall. I used my warm and wind layers to cover the reflective bits of the bike – walked to the front of the building and determined I was enough out of the view of traffic that I should be okay.

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(Above – plenty of sleeping space between bike and building, Big Timber, MT)

I called Shelly to let her know I was stopped for the night. I opted for a can of tuna instead of pulling out my stove and making something hot. I cleaned up the wood porch area a bit and rolled out my ground pad and sleeping bag. Another baby wipe bath and a change to wool long underwear had me feeling better than I had for hours. Ear plugs was required as not only was there the truck traffic from the nearby Conoco; but also trains along the tracks running parallel to the interstate. I set my alarm for 0330 and settled down to read for a little while before drifting off to sleep. Local time 2300.

Miles: 996 (States – MN, SD, WY, ND, MT)

Gas: $67.78

Provisions: $4.12 (Coffee X2, Banana X2)

Lodging: $0.00

To be continued..
 
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