I have weird ideas at times. (I know, big surprise to those that know me.) A few months ago I was asked if I would be the Road Captain for the chapter. Since I like riding, and also enjoy planning rides, I humbly accepted. I have been trying to think of rides that we can do with the chapter. I want to make sure we have some variety. Though I prefer back roads, there are people that like to hit the interstate and ride. Some people like a a short ride just to grab a quick bite, others like longer rides. We did a five day ride along the Blue Ridge Parkway, a couple of rides to Lynchburg, TN, a few to Memphis, and other shorter routes. But, none really would have been exciting for those that like interstate. So I start thinking about an interstate ride. I have heard about the Iron Butt Association (IBA) for a few years, but never really had any inclination to do anything like that. Now that I am retired, why not now?
At the August HOG Chapter, I asked Pat Hunt (General Manager at Natchez Trace HD) if there would be any issues if I were to post on the chapter page about an Iron Butt ride. I told him that it was just in the idea stage. I didn’t think that this was a ride that the local HOG chapter would sanction or want to sponsor, but could I share with others in the chapter? I would specifically mention that this is NOT a chapter ride and is no way associated with HOG or Harley Davidson. His eyes lit up and said “I’m in!” He mentioned that the local HOG chapter would not want any association with the ride, but I could share with my friends in the chapter.
I put out feelers with a couple of rider groups, mentioning this was just in the idea stage. I was looking at a few options, but none really excited me. Then I get a message from one of the guys in the chapter. He mentioned that a route to New Orleans might get us the 1000 miles we need if we build out the loop a bit. I start looking at options and see that if we head south on I-65 to Mobile, west on I-10 to New Orleans, north on I-55 to Memphis, then back to the Shoals area on US72, we can get about 1030 miles.
Next step, stops for food and gas along the way. Then when to leave.
Gas stops would be the easiest, at least I thought so. If we plan to fill up about 180 to 200 miles, most bikes on this ride should handle that. There should be truck stops along the way. A quick check on the maps and I see plenty of stops that can meet the requirements and allow for variance if needed. Where to eat… That would a tough one. When to leave… I wanted to avoid as much traffic as possible.
Seemed that planning where to eat would be directly related to when we leave. I thought about leaving late afternoon to avoid evening rush traffic in the cities we would have to pass through. But several people said that they could not drive over night and places to eat might be a bit sketchy. If we leave early in the morning, how early would we have to leave? If we leave early morning, maybe we could get home late that evening. Estimating travel time, I noticed we might be able to get to New Orleans by lunch if we left early enough. But not too early.
The pieces started to fall into place. If we leave at 4am, we could have lunch in New Orleans, and almost make it to Memphis for a late supper. If we leave at 4am, we would pass Birmingham before morning traffic, might hit a little of the late morning rush (if there is any) in Montgomery, lunch time in New Orleans, around Jackson we might catch some afternoon traffic, and should be open road the rest of the route.
I have the tentative route planned. Sure, it may need some refining to make sure we get the 1000 miles. Check the route for Harley shops to get our obligatory poker chips. Now to share to those interested and pick a date. I was thinking a Monday or Tuesday. Leaning more toward Monday since I am helping to teach a class on Tuesday evenings.
Naturally, Pat is the first I call. Was Monday okay with him? Previously, I know many dealership had been closed on Mondays. Natchez Trace is open on Mondays, but I was hoping it was a slow business day and he could get away. He does have a Sales Manager than can handle anything that comes up, right? (Sorry Chris, didn’t mean to throw you under the bus.) Pat said Monday the 25th of September was perfect.
I post the updated details in a few groups. A few comments, but didn’t seem to have a lot of interest. That is okay, if just Pat and me, we could handle it. I mention to Audrey and Mark. Audrey was excited, but she had to work on Monday. Mark wasn’t sure he could do it. I post that I will have a quick meeting to discuss the route and requirements from the Iron Butt Association to make sure we do get credit for the ride. I would hate for us to do all this work and ride 1000 miles and not earn the patch due to some paperwork issue.
I had set Thursday as the date to meet. I thought that the burger place next to the dealership where Pat works would be a good option. If we meet right as the dealership closes, it shouldn’t be inconvenient to Pat. I didn’t want to ask about using the dealership since that might imply they were endorsing the ride.
I get a message from one of the guys that lives in Tupelo who wants to join, but it would be an hour and a half each way to meet up on Thursday. I send him the info I plan to go over at the meeting. I also suggest that he start and stop his 1000 ride in Tupelo. Why put an extra 200 miles by riding to and from our start/stop point when he can just do it closer to home.
About an hour or so before the meeting, Mark tells me that another friend had called him and was going to join us. I get to the burger place and order supper. I see Pat walking across the lot to join me. Pat mentions that Audrey has been excited about the ride since I mentioned it to her a few days earlier and has managed to get someone to cover so she can have the day off. Mark and Brent walk in. Mark says that since Audrey is joining, he is in too. Audrey is finalizing a sale, so she doesn’t get to join our meeting.
Looks like six of us on the ride. Audrey, Brent, Mark, Pat, Ralph, and me. We go over the paperwork. I share some pointers that I got from the IBA. Since Brent is about an hour away, I ask if he wants to start his time closer to his home. He tells that there are no gas stations open that early in the morning where he lives.
We all agree that we will have problems getting to sleep Sunday because of the excitement and anticipation. But 3am will be early for most of us. We agree to meet at 3:45am to get paperwork signed and run through a few last minute checks. Everyone will gas up and Kick Stands Up (KSU) at 4am.
Friday I get a message from another guy that missed the meeting but wants to join. I share the information with him and we may have seven on the ride. Audrey had shared her excitement on her Facebook page. Encouragement, excitement, and a few are envious that she is doing the ride and they can’t.
It is now Saturday. Less than 48 hours before our adventure begins. My excitement has led me to start this record so far. I will add an update once we get home, and I get a few hours of sleep!
Well, I now update after the ride…
Sunday was stressful from anticipation. I get a call Saturday evening about a ride after church on Sunday. I expected that would help relieve stress by just following along. I get to the meeting place and everyone asks where are we going to go. I suggest Jim ‘n Nicks. Off we go. Great food and great friends to ride with. We get back in time that I can relax and even plan to get to bed early.
Monday, 2:30am, alarm goes off, snooze button is hit. But I don’t get to enjoy a snooze. Anticipation has my head spinning. Shower, dress, double check bike. Everything is ready. Being a bit paranoid, I ask MaryJo if she will be a witness for the group “just in case” we can’t get anyone at the gas station to agree. I have a great wife, but I owe her big time! She gets up, dresses, loads the dog into the car and follows me to the meeting place.
Ralph called on Sunday to say he couldn’t make it due to personal reasons. I had gotten a note from someone on Facebook that saw the post earlier and asked if he could join. I had sent him the links to get the forms and information on the process. So, one out and one in, still looking for six.
We pull up to the gas station. Audrey, Mark, and Pat are there. I see three unfamiliar bikes, assuming one was Bryan but I didn’t know about the other two. Introductions are made and Randy is a friend of Bryan that is riding Bryan’s Heritage Softtail. The other was Darrell, a new owner that had been talking with Audrey and decided at the last minute to join. During introductions Brent rides up.
Last minute checking of paperwork, group photos, witness signatures, and time to gas up. I get the first problem. The gas station does not have a time on the receipt when paying with cash. The credit card receipts do have date and time, just not for people that pay cash. The cashier writes the time and initials the receipt. Pictures are taken of the odometers. The pictures have time stamp and location. Crisis averted, I hope. Prayer and kiss my bride, off the eight of us go. We ride into the darkness of north Alabama. Next planned stop is 200 miles.
50 miles from Tuscumbia to Cullman, then south on I-65. For the first 10-15 miles we have construction, road milling. Sun hasn’t come up yet, so still a bit dark. Milling isn’t as bad as others that I have seen, so not much shimmying. We get through Birmingham just ahead of morning rush. Eight bikes trying to stay as a group in traffic isn’t fun, especially when only three have CB radios to communicate, but that problem was averted.
As we get through Birmingham, I hear Mark saying something on the radio about “150”. It takes a few minutes for me to understand that Randy only has 150 maximum range on his tank. This poses a minor problem, we will have to stop more than I had originally planned. Each stop means time not rolling.
First gas stop is Calera, Alabama, just south of Birmingham. Everyone fills up. We get receipts, photos of odometers, and other documentation. As we leave, we get a little traffic heading back to the interstate. Luckily, everyone else is heading north to Birmingham, we are heading south.
We get to Montgomery. Pat had mentioned earlier that we shouldn’t worry much about traffic around Montgomery. I am still concerned since we are in the area right when we expect morning rush. Montgomery was a breeze. Only traffic that we have is the backup on one of the exits, and luckily we didn’t need that exit.
Sun has come up and we can see the skies now. East of us is a beautiful sunrise. West is clear skies. We don’t care about the skies to the north since we have already gone there. However, skies to the south are darker than we would like. Though the skies above us are clear, we know rain is ahead of us. We just don’t know how much, how hard, and how long.
Randy needs another stop for fuel. We take that chance to scan the radar. We have a while before we will get to the rain. I take the chance to reset my GPS to use that as a back-up to track mileage. For those that don’t know, motorcycle odometers and speedometers are not known to be the most accurate. This fact will be shown later to be an interesting factor.
Back on the road, but we are watching the skies. We see the rain is close. We top the next hill and see a rest area, perfect timing! Time to don the rain gear. This is the first time I can remember Mark riding without his legs being exposed, he usually rides in shorts. Brave man, bugs hurt me even through jeans. I can’t imagine how they would feel on my bare shins.
We hit the interstate just as the rain starts. Not a hard rain, just enough to be irritating and make the road wet. We get past the rain about the time we all need fuel, Evergreen, Alabama. Gas up, put away rain gear, and away we go.
I-65 ends and we are now on I-10 in Mobile, Alabama. No doubt that we are near the gulf. We can smell the gulf area and even feel the sand in the air. Oh, and it is starting to get hot. A quick stop for Randy in Tillman’s Corner, Alabama. Since we are stopped, everyone tops off on fuel while we are there. Back on the road. We pull into Slidell, Louisiana to fill up before crossing Lake Pontchartrain and getting into New Orleans.
We cross Lake Pontchartrain and New Orleans appears. Cemeteries with few if any grave stones, mostly mausoleums due to being below sea level. These are old cemeteries, next to new buildings. The impact of Hurricane Katrina is still evident. There are houses in total disarray, others in partial rebuild process, and some have been torn down and rebuilt. Old and new are side by side.
As I had developed the route and loaded into the bike, I must have removed Voodoo Harley Davidson from the list of stops. Audrey comments that we are going away from downtown and the French Quarter. Since I had the main route in process, I ask if she will set that as a destination on her bike and if she would lead us in. We circle back to downtown and exit toward the French Quarter. I love having a GPS on the bike, but there are times that the GPS doesn’t always know what is best. “Sharp left” then an immediate “Turn Right” isn’t the best plan, especially with seven bikes following and trying to keep up.
Let’s add to the challenge of navigating the French Quarter that the traffic horrible, streets narrow, little parking, and huge pot holes. Only thing that helps is that the roads are One Way so we don’t have to navigate the roads while trying to dodge on-coming cars. The GPS has us winding through the French Quarter until is says “You have arrived”. We don’t see any Harley Davidson shops, but we do see an open space where we can all park our bikes. Then we see that the machine to pay for parking is covered and says “No Parking.” We decide to take our chances. The street is too narrow for a truck to get in to tow all of our bikes, worse that we hope to get would be parking tickets. It is about 1:30 and we are hungry.
First task is to find Voodoo Harley. This isn’t a full dealership, more of a t-shirt and souvenir shop. I pick up a couple of poker ships. I notice that each one has a different design, but I am not willing to get more than three. Everyone gets their souvenir and we discuss lunch. Cafe Du Monde is a few doors down, but we need more than their beignets and coffee. We need some serious cajun food. Mark mentions New Orleans Hamburger and Seafood up the street from where the bikes are parked.
We walk back toward the bikes and get a large table. So many items on the menu, it was hard to decide on lunch. Two people share the Cajun platter. I get the Fried Shrimp Po-Boy with garlic butter fries. WOW! I wish that I had brought a cooler, I would have gotten an extra one to take home to MaryJo. I guess I will have to bring her here soon. (It will NOT be an Iron Butt ride, probably not even on the bike.)
Everyone was stuffed. Thanks to Mark for spotting this place. Hard-core bikers can always find good places to eat. We waddle back to the bikes. They are all still there with no parking tickets. I put New Orleans Harley Davidson in the GPS and lead the group out of the French Quarter. Again, the roads in the French Quarter were not designed for easy navigation by bikes, I actually doubt that cars would enjoy the trek.
By this time, between traversing the city streets looking for Voodoo HD, trying to find parking, walking around, and lunch, we have spent about 2 hours in the French Quarter. Knowing that we have a time restriction, this cut a little bit into the spare time in the plan. And we knew that we were getting close to the end of the work day which meant the possibility of rush hour traffic.
But before we can leave, we have to stop by Harley Davidson of New Orleans which is in Metairie. We wind through a few city streets to get to Airline Rd. GPS says our destination is 4 miles on the right. On queue, the magical Harley Davidson sign appears a few minutes later. This was a good spot for us to stop, pick up a few poker chips, other souvenirs, and the much needed after lunch potty break.
As expected, we get caught in a bit of afternoon traffic as we leave the area. I-10 is slow going with cars cutting into the middle of our pack. We never get a clear chance to move to the left lane to avoid interstate entrances and exits. We make the turn onto I-55 and still have some traffic for a while.
Just about the time we get open roads, bikes get thirsty. We see a sign and take the exit. One of my rants in life, when an exit states it has gas at that exit, please make sure it is AT the exit, not several miles down the road. OK, we have already gotten off the interstate, so we might as well take a tour of Louisiana countryside. The exit had mentioned a truck stop. Well, it was sort of a truck stop. It had about a half dozen diesel pumps, but only four gas pumps. We fill up and stage over in the area of the truck pumps. Bikes gassed up, receipts checked, stop recorded, pictures taken, now time to hit the road. We expect our next stop will be north of Jackson.
We turn back onto I-55 and seems like the road is all ours. We step it up a bit to try to make up some of the lost travel time. I recall my last experience driving in Louisiana, so I keep the speed fairly close to the speed limit.
That open road feeling is short lived. As we reach the Mississippi state line, we catch road construction. Speed limit drops even when no sign of construction, but lane closing seem to be every few miles. Speed up, slow down, speed up, slow down. Then we hit Jackson, MS. It is a little after 7:00pm when we get into evening traffic in Jackson. Multiple interstates converge and cross, causing confusing and traffic swerving back and forth in front of us and through the middle of our group. All the speed changing up and down and traffic really takes a toll on gas mileage. I hear Mark on the radio that Randy is getting low on fuel. We agree that once we get past Jackson, we will stop to relax and gas up the bikes.
Randy had a enough left in his tank that it wasn’t drastic that we had to stop immediately. We look over the route, check our mileage, and check our timing. I had planned that we would get to Memphis/Collierville and make our final gas stop. This would push all of us to the limits, Randy would still have to had an interim “splash and go.” We decide to plan for Randy to top off his tank near Grenada, MS. The rest of us should be able to get in to our planned stop in Collierville.
Along this route was the only time that I felt we have any problems with a car. Notice, that is singular! Just one car. If we were behind it, it wanted to run just below the speed limit. We pull into the left lane for the group to pass. As about half the group would pass, the car would switch into the left lane and speed up past us. Then slow down again. This kept on for about 15 to 20 miles. Finally, with our “problem car” in front of us, we see lights coming up fast behind us. Two cars doing much faster that we were even trying to run. As the first one passed our “friend”, it pulled into the left lane between the two cars and kept up with them for a bit. Then it looked like it was playing the same game with them. The three would leap frog each other as they faded into the distance.
While Randy is topping off in Grenada, Mark and I discuss that we might have enough miles that we can avoid going up to I-240 in Memphis and cut across to US72 in Southaven. We talk about it and we try to do some quick calculations. About 20 miles from Southaven, Mark tells me his fuel light just came on. This means he has about 40-50 miles before he runs out of gas. This isn’t enough to get him to Collierville.
We pull into a gas stop in Southaven. I check our mileage and how far we have left to get back home. We should have about 40-50 miles extra if we head due east on MS302 toward US72, then home. I talk with the group and we agree that the route through Memphis and Collierville isn’t needed. Route change is set and off we go. A few cars on the road from the Mid-South Fair slow us down for a while.
It is almost 11:00pm as we turn onto our old friend, US72. Pat had said he needed to be home by 11:00 or he would turn into a pumpkin since he had to be at work the next morning. Audrey, Mark and I shared comments about keeping an eye on Pat as he made the change. We expected that we should hit that magic 1,000 mile mark just as we passed through Corinth, MS.
Everyone in the group had ridden this stretch of US72 between Memphis and Tuscumbia. We could almost drive it on auto-pilot. It is late, we have been on the road all day, but we still have to stay aware of our surroundings. Our bodies are starting to sense each crack, dip, and bump in to road. These vibrated to the core. We were starting to understand the “Saddle Sore 1,000.”
Audrey, Mark and I were the only ones with CB radios. We kept each other informed of how close we each were to that 1,000 mile mark. My odometer showed 998 when Mark said he his odometer showed he had the 1,000 miles. Two miles later, I reported I had 1,000 miles. We waited another couple of miles to hear Audrey’s “woohoo!” to let us know she had the 1,000 miles. We are almost done. My mind starts to focus on the documentation that we will have to start putting together. This keeps my mind awake and away from the thoughts of my sore saddle.
Brent lives in Pickwick. About 50 miles from Tuscumbia. I had previously mentioned that he might want to try to find a place close to his home so he didn’t have to finish with us then drive another hour or so back home. As we get to Iuka, MS, I hear Mark report that we had bikes pulling over. Audrey and I comment that Brent must have decided that he would head straight home. Then I notice there is only one other bike with Audrey and me. We slow down and eventually find a place to pull over. We don’t hear Mark on the radio. I realize that only Darrell is with Audrey and me.
We pull into an opening in the median. As we waited, we saw a motorcycle lights coming toward us. Pat pulls up and tells us that Bryan’s bike had a problem. At this point, we only thought he had a tire blow out. We waited for a bit longer. Without word from Mark, I decided to double back and check on the others.
I saw two bikes on the side of the east bound lanes. I turn around and pull up behind Bryan and Randy. Bryan’s front rim is busted. He hit something, and he hit it hard. He joked that it must have been an armadillo. If he had hit any animal, there would have been residue. His rim was clean.
We discussed the most important thing, did he have the 1,000 miles? His odometer showed a little over 1,000. Randy only showed about 995. Bryan was OK, a bit shaken up and still amazed that he didn’t lay down the bike. He quickly had a friend with a flatbed truck on the phone. It was shortly after midnight.
Bryan ad Randy agree that they have a plan to finish. They encourage me to head on with the rest of the group. I take off to catch up. As I head east, I see two bikes pass me heading west. I thought that it was Pat and Mark heading back to check on Bryan and Randy. I call on the radio and do not get a reply. I slow down, hoping that they will turn around and catch up. I see lights a few miles behind me.
Eventually, the lights vanish. My phone rings. It is Mark. It was he and Audrey that had come back to check on me. Mark had passed me as I went back to check on Bryan and Randy. Brent, Darrell, and Pat had gone on ahead and were going to meet up at the designated finish spot. They should only be a few minutes ahead of me. Mark and Audrey were going to find another place to finish the ride.
As I pull into the Shell station, I see Brent, Darrell, and Pat gassing up their bikes. I asked if they had checked about getting a witness that we completed. I walked inside and talked with the young lady at the cash register. She agreed to sign as our witness. I gassed up, got the receipt, and we all got our witness forms completed.
The four of us compared our final mileage on the bikes. The range varied by about 10 miles, but we were all over 1,000 miles. Darrell had another 30 miles to ride heading east. Brent had about an hour to get back to Pickwick. Pat and I had about 10 miles for us to get to our homes. I followed Pat as he headed north on Wilson Dam Road. Crossing the Singing River Bridge over the Tennessee River, I called home. I will be there in about five minutes. MaryJo said she was waiting up.
1:30am, I pull into my driveway. MaryJo has the door open for me to ride the bike into the garage. It was good be be home. Felt so good to have a welcome home hug. Blue looked up from his bed, gave me a couple of tail wags, then laid his head back down to resume his snoring.
My head was still spinning, so much going through my mind. I wanted to share all the experiences with MaryJo right then. I finally got to bed about 2:30. The day was done.
Tuesday morning I wake up about 9:00am. I start getting all the documentation together. I checked the IBA website, check my documentation. Back and forth to make sure I have everything. I did panic for a minute when I see that a copy of the receipt must be in the picture with the odometer. WHAT! I had the pictures, but did not have the receipt in the pictures. All the pictures were time/date stamped and I did have the location included in the picture. Another check and I see that the picture is only required for their more advanced rides. Since this is the “basic” ride, I don’t think the pictures will be a problem.
Forms filled out, write-up done, supporting documents scanned, pictures uploaded, now to send them off. All the attachments are too big to send via e-mail. I have to create a Google Drive, upload the files, attach a link to the e-mail and try again. WAIT… Those five minutes seemed like hours, but the confirmation that the IBA evaluator had my application.
It was done. A month of planning, a day of hard riding, followed by a day of paperwork. Oddly, only physical problem I have is the ringing in my ears. My butt isn’t sore. Pat and Audrey both made it to work Tuesday morning. I shared information with the others so we could make sure that our paperwork matched up pretty close.
IBA says it will take two to three months for the application to get reviewed. I checked their website and they have just posted rides from June and July.
Now I have to get back to my retired life and wait.
Friends asked me why we did the ride. I pause, then just tell them we decided we wanted cajun food for lunch. Hmm, fresh Maine lobster sounds good. Anyone care to join?
Latest update. About a week ago, I got an e-mail from the President of the IBA. He was asking about the additional documentation. I replied with the link to the files and he acknowledged that he found the files.
Monday, October 23, we stop by the post office early from our trip to the DC area. The clerk says that there may be additional mail today since he was still sorting through mail. About 3:30, I see that we have mail. I go out to the mailbox and see a package from the IBA. Yep, they approved everything. I have a certificcate, patch, stickers, and a license plate to allow me to brag about completing the Iron Butt Saddle Sore 1000. I heard that most of the others got their stuff either that same day or the next.
We did it!