Has it already been 18 months since my last (and only) Iron Butt ride? I had planned a few in 2018, but health and other things got in the way.
In October, we got my bride a 2017 Can-Am Spyder RT-Limited. She doesn’t know how to ride it yet, so I have to put the miles on it until she is ready to ride. (Side note: We are scheduled to take the Can-Am Riding Course the end of March. I hope that she will be ready to take off on it by herself, with me on the Harley, once we finish that class. Short rides at first, but we are looking forward to some longer rides in the future.)
I documented the ride that I took the weekend after we got the bike. I used it to finish up some Tour of Honor sites. I got familiar with the Spyder, it is a pretty nice bike. I still prefer my Harley.
Back to the Iron Butt. When you complete your first Iron Butt, you can opt to get a certificate, patch, pin, license plate backer, etc. Getting all the neat things is call the “Full Monty”. I got that when we did the first ride in August 2017. The Spyder has license plate backer, but it “needs” an Iron Butt license plate backer. I can’t put that on her Spyder until the bike has “earned” its own Iron Butt. Right?
The story here is that we have one had rain twice since the first of the year. The first time it rained 25 days, the second time it rained 30 days. We have a break of 4 days without rain, and the temps are above 40 degrees!
Secretly, I have been planning a 1500 ride. Trying to find a route where I can get 1500 miles within 24 hours has been challenging. 1000 mile in 24 hours is rather easy. I have several of them that I have been working on.
This morning, I casually mentioned taking a ride tomorrow. My bride told me to see if anyone else in the area wanted to join me. I posted a note on Facebook and waited. Today, we planned to take the bride out for another lesson on the Spyder. We rode to the local mall. Being Monday, the lot was almost empty. We picked a secluded area near the movie theater and she rode it around for a bit. She pulled up and asked for us to go on a ride. She just wanted to enjoy riding on the back for a bit, so I took the pilot’s seat.
We put about 75 miles on the bike today. Stopped for ice cream in Collinwood, TN, then rode back on the Natchez Trace back to Florence.
I got home and had a few comments, mostly telling me they wished they could. I know, this was very short notice.
I got my stuff laid out so I could be on the road by 3:00 am (yes, AM!). Got my forms printed, route finalized, and started this blog.
I’m excited, but not as much as I was on the first Iron Butt. I am sure I will be able to get to sleep this time. I expect I won’t jump out of bed at the first alarm in the morning, but I will get up.
My plan. Leave the house about 2:45 and head to the gas station near the house. Get all the tracking set up, GPS ready, get witness signature(s), gas the bike, get the receipt for said gas, and hit the road. The route is to head to Tuscaloosa, hit I-20, pass through Jackson, MS, on to Schreveport, LA, north to Texarkanna, TX, Little Rock, AR, then east through Memphis, TN back home. While in Little Rock, AR, I noticed that there is a geocache there that I have been wanting to find. I’ll take the 10 mile detour to visit there while in Little Rock.
It is 8:00pm on Monday evening. my plan is to get up about 2:00am. I’ll run through a final check, pack stuff for the one day ride, put forms where I can get to them quickly, and get a quick breakfast.
So, I’ll end for tonight and update either tomorrow night or Wednesday.
It is now Wednesday night about 10:45. I have just finished the paperwork and sent via e-mail. Now to tell about the ride.
As planned, alarm goes off at 2:00am. Snooze for 15 minutes, then up and moving. I had tried to lay everything out that I would need that I couldn’t put in the bike before hand. I was out the door and rolling about 2:45 as planned. Temp was 45 degrees, but it was supposed to get near 60 degrees. I layered up and was ready.
I got to the starting gas station (also the ending gas station). I turned on Rever (a tracking software) on the phone, turned on my Spot for satellite tracking, laid out all the paperwork that I would need for the ride, left the witness form with the attendant with my pre-pay for gas. Gassed up the bike went in to pick up the receipt and witness form. I had planned to have my starting time as 3:00am. I looked at the receipt as I was taking the picture with the odometer and noticed that the time was 2:59:58am. I could not have hit that better if I had tried.
I got a picture of the receipt with the bike’s odometer and with the GPS (I had set the mileage to zero as I was pumping gas. I am ready to roll.
My route out is pretty familiar to me. I travel the first few miles every few days. This may have been the first time I have driven or ridden Helton Drive and Wilson Dam Road managing to hit every light green! A few turned green just as I was approaching. I hoped that this was a good sign.
I was past Tuscumbia, Littleville, Russelville and Phil Campbell before I realized it. With no traffic, the trip was rather quick. Phil Campbell is a small town in southern Franklin County, Alabama. It was virtually destroyed a few years ago when a tornado came through. The people in the town set up and helped each other. They managed to get more done before the Red Cross and FEMA came in to “help.” I get the impression that the townspeople got to the point that they told the Red Cross and FEMA to get out, they could manage it themselves. Strong southern family and neighborly bonds. Even though it was physically rebuilt the center of town looks like a ghost town, whether it be 3:30am or 3:30pm.
I follow AL13 south and reconnect with US43 near Tuscaloosa. Roll-Tide-Roll! Tuscaloosa is the home of the University of Alabama. It was 5:30am as I came into Tuscaloosa and it was the first signs of life along the trip. Drove through town and hit the interstate (I-20) and headed west.
I had estimated gas about every 200 miles. That low fuel light came on much earlier than expected. I pulled into Livingston, AL for gas. 187 mile and needed 5.777 gallons. 32mpg, I was hoping for better.
Back on the interstate the traffic was picking up. Each parking area added more trucks on the road as they were waking up about the time I was coming through. One sad note just as I crossed into Mississippi was a dog sitting in the median. Almost like someone had put him there and told him to sit. The traffic never phased him, he just sat and waited. Whether he was lost, from the area, or just dropped off, I’ll never know. I can only hope that he made it safely home.
Mississippi welcomed me with some light sprinkles. Not really a rain, just enough of a sprinkle to cause the trucks to throw up a trail behind them. The windshield went up and helped keep my face shield from becoming a mess.
It was getting light in the sky behind me, but was still dark in front. I knew that I could abandon the trip if I made that decision before Jackson, MS. I kept a watch on the skies ahead of me. Every now and then I could see like the clouds wanted to break up to reveal some blue trying to peek through. As I got the Jackson, it was still just a drizzle. I had checked the weather forecast along the route. Everything was supposed to be dry, though some areas may be overcast. Storms were predicted for later that evening, but I would be long gone by then. I decided to keep going.
I had expected more traffic going through Jackson, MS at 7:30 in the morning. Most of the traffic were truckers on their daily runs. They stayed mostly in the right lane and I was able to get past them as needed.
It was in Vicksburg that I realized I had forgotten a few things. I had picked up some meal bars to snack on along the way. I remembered that they were still on the counter in the kitchen. Oh well, I can stop to get a bite as I needed. The rain reminded me that I had forgotten my rain gear. I had looked at my bag with the rain gear the previous night. I had checked the weather and no rain was expected in the forecast along the entire route. I decided to leave it, so I guess that doesn’t really count as a forgotten item. But I was beginning to wish I had it!
I pulled into Tallulah, LA about 9:00am. Another 192 miles down and the low fueld light had been on for a while. This stop needed 6.39 gallons. That was close since it only has a 6.9 gallon fuel tank! 30.7mpg. I was running a bit faster this stretch as I was on interstate at 70+ the entire time.
I pulled into McDonald’s next to the gas station for a cup of coffee and a quick bit for breakfast. I don;t usually eat and McDonald’s and this wasn’t go to change my mind to start going more often. But the coffee was warm when holding the cup. I checked the local temperature and it was still below 50 degrees. Heated grips have been getting a workout.
As I sat there, I checked my geocaching application. I have never stopped in Louisiana before to geocache. I saw that there was a cache about a mile away. Difficulty and Terrain were both 1.5, this should be a quick stop. I put the coordinates in the GPS on the bike and head over. I read the logs of previous finders and realized that the cache was in the cache owner’s front yard. The current owner’s great-great grandfather had built the house. When the main road through town was paved, the house had been right along the side of the road. He didn’t want to be that close, so he moved the house a few blocks away. The GPS had me looking in the wrong yard. The owner of the cache came outside and called me over, never asking what I was doing, but simply told me I was looking in the wrong yard. We chatted a few minutes and she pointed me in the right direction. Signed the log and was ready start rolling again. I spoke with a local utility worker about the bike for a few more minutes. I had plenty of time, but didn’t want to stand in the rain.
Rain. Next stop was outside Shreveport, LA. This is the halfway point. No matter what I decided now, I was going to get a 1000 mile ride in today. My planned route was to stop in Texarkana, TX. Since this was a deviation from the direct route, I needed proof that I had made that deviation. I had planned to use Texarkana, TX as a gas stop. I knew I couldn’t make it all the way from Tallulah. Minden, LA was about halfway. This stop was 125 miles from the previous stop, but still took 4.445 gallons. 28.1mpg. Speed limited had risen to 75, and trucks required going a bit faster to get around them. I had hoped for better gas mileage, doesn’t look like I will. Maybe once the bike gets the initial service at 3,000 miles things will get better. If MaryJo is riding, we will have to stop every 150 miles.
Shreveport, then to Arkansas and into Texas. Speeds still at a higher rate. I made the deviation to the planned stop in Texarkana, TX. 106 miles, 3.069 gallons. 34.5mpg, starting to look better. I had been running with the windshield lowered. This led to a bit of buffeting behind trucks, and I was still getting wet. But the gas mileage was back up.
There is a series of geocaches around the US with one in each state. This series is called “Cache Across America.” In the summer of 2016, my brother and I took a road trip in the truck from Alabama to Las Vegas. Along the way, we stopped at many, some even taking a detour of a couple of hundred miles. One that we missed on the way back from Vegas was the one in Arkansas. I had noticed that it was on the other side of Little Rock from my planned route for this SaddleSore 1000. What is 5 miles each way and a mile or so hike on a trip like this? As I approached Little Rock, the rain had finally stopped. The skies above and ahead were blue. But the clouds chasing me were dark, and still had rain that it wanted to drop on me. I decided to save this particular geocache for another trip.
I cruise into and around Little Rock. Being around 3:00pm, I was expecting more traffic. There was some, but it was mostly the traffic I had seen all day, truckers. There was one car that would zoom up next to me, ride right beside me for a bit, then zoom off. He would slow down, I would pass him. Then the process would repeat. This went on a few times. Through all of this, I had the cruise set on the bike. Finally, he just zoomed past and kept going. I see him again in less than 5 minutes. Arkansas and Louisiana must not have state funding deficit. Every few miles there would be a State Trooper with someone pulled over. Guess who their latest “customer” is? Yep, the charcoal Charger with the “Hell Cat” sticker on the side. Many times you will see someone go past at a high speed and you wonder where are all the police. This guy got caught.
Hazen, AR is my next gas stop. I make it quick. 189 miles, 5.9 gallons. 32mpg, not bad for running 70+ with the cruise on most of the time.
Skies have started to clear up. Lots of blue skies above and in front of me. Temperature is actually in the 60’s, finally! I swap gloves to my lighter, more comfortable ones.
I see brake lights ahead and everyone moving into the left lane. I see a couple of pick-ups on the side of the road. As I approach, I then notice a car off the road on its side. I didn’t see any roof damage, so not sure it it had rolled over or if it just had slid onto its side. I saw people around, I hoped no one was hurt.
As I pass the exit sign for Jonesboro, AR, I realize that this is a stretch of I-40 that I used to travel quite a bit. It has been a long time. The area is still as flat as I remembered, almost desolate. Pulling into West Memphis, AR, I see that the dog track is still there. I thought it had been Southland Dog Track. Now the sign is Southland Gaming and Racing. I had passed a Harrah’s OTB (Off Track Betting) in Mississippi. Expecting a larger casino type place. Nope, it was just a single building about the size and condition of an old liquor store. Southland Gaming seemed to be in better shape that the OTB that I had passed earlier. Late afternoon on a Tuesday, there didn’t seem to be a lot of business.
As I approached Memphis, I branched off I-40 onto I-55. Another of my old routes when I lived in Memphis. This was the quickest way from downtown to East Memphis, Germantown, and Collierville. GPS was warning me of traffic ahead. Delay times would vary between 5 and 20 minutes. I knew the route and knew that I would hit traffic as I got closer to the airport. There were some other options that I could have taken in the past, but not knowing how they were maintained and how many other people would try those routes, I opted to stay on the interstate until I got to Collierville.
Sun set and it started getting dark quick. South on I-55 in downtown Memphis and I had plenty of light. Made the turn close to the airport and it suddenly was dark. Most people had turned on their lights. Notice “most”. It seems that there is always one person that doesn’t feel the need to turn on their lights. This is almost as bad as people that keep on their high beams. This particular person, no lights and was enjoying swerving across lanes. No blinker, just head for a gap between cars. I had a while before my exit, and all the lanes seemed to be moving about the same. I picked one lane and stayed put.
Traffic was getting heavier, but it was moving almost at posted speed. GPS kept warning me about traffic ahead. The distance until the traffic kept getting shorter, but I didn’t see any break lights. GPS finally said the traffic was in .5 miles. Yep, there go the brake lights. Speed drops from 55 to about 45, but we all keep moving. The ramp from I-240 onto Getwell Rd was blocked due to an accident. A couple of vehicles were scattered across the exit, but there didn’t seem to be any major damage. As with most accidents, people had to slow to check it out.
Traffic speeds back up, but doesn’t seem to thin out any. Actually, there seem to be more cars at each interchange. I had just a couple of miles until my exit, so I start working my way to the right lanes. I make the exit onto 385 (Bill Morris Parkway). Still a lot of traffic, but it is moving.
With the sun gone, it starts to get cooler again. I take the exit for US72. I am almost done. I have 900 miles under my belt. This last stretch I have done so many times, but I can’t get careless. I’m not tired, it is just after 7:00pm. Quick stops are filling up with people needing their liquid refreshment from a hard day’s work.
I can’t make it all the way home on what is in this tank of gas. Any fill-up now would get me home. I pull into a gas station in Lamar, MS. 138 miles on this tank of gas, 4.107 gallons. Gas mileage up to 33mpg. Getting better, but I was riding closer to 65-70 than interstate speeds.
When I travel, I pay for gas with cash. I don’t trust the pumps, too much of a chance to get my card skimmed. I usually go in, give the person a $20, tell them the pump, gas up, get my change and receipt. As I have been doing that on this trip, I have collected a rather large stash of $1 bills. This stop was $11.50. As usual, I had left a $20 with the clerk. I return in, hand her $1.50 and say I’d rather have a $10 bill than more $1 bills. Blank stare. Pause. The manager notices the silence and comes over. The girl is standing there with the $1.50 in her hand. She asked the manager how she should process this. The manger says, close it as usual. Instead of giving me $8.50, she should just give me a $10 bill. The girl started to says that it will mess up the cash register since it won’t total out right. The manager looks at me, I look back. In unison, we shake our heads. I left with my cash receipt and a $10 bill.
At an earlier stop, I had offered a couple of $1 bills so I could get a $10 in change instead of a bunch of $1 bills. The cashier thanked me since she is always running short of $1 bills. This particular cashier was a bit more mature than the girl in Lamar. Both were very nice and pleasant personalities. It only goes to show the difference in teaching math skills. Sorry, I digress.
I pull back onto US72 from the gas station. I pass Walnut, MS and on to Corinth, MS. The closer I get to home, the more familiar the roads are. To the point where I know when to switch lanes to avoid tar snakes and pot holes before they are seen in the headlights.
As I approach Burnsville, MS, I see that I am closing in on the 1,000 mile mark. I have a flashback to September 2017. 8 of us had gone to New Orleans for lunch and were on this stretch of US72. It was about this spot where we starting calling out we hit 1,000 miles. Then we lost a bike. He had hit something in the road and broke his front rim. We estimated he was just at the 1,000 mile mark. But he couldn’t go on. His ride was done.
As I reminisce, the odometer shows I had 1,000 miles. I check the GPS, it says I still have a few more miles. Trusting the GPS more than the bike’s odometer, I hold off on my celebration. This time, there is no sharing with the group via the head sets. It is just me with a bigger smile. I had done it!
I know that sometimes that staff at the Harley dealership stays late with a customer, being 8:30, not sure if anyone would be there. Weather was nice today in Tuscumbia, I hope they had a lot of customers. Maybe they had one late customer and I could stop in and tell Pat about the trip. I pass the Alabama Music Hall of Fame, the Harley place is dark.
Two miles later I made my turn onto Woodward Ave, then a right on 6th Street. I get to Wilson Dam Road, I start thinking about 3:00 this morning on this same road. It was colder then, but not by much. More traffic now, some businesses are still open. I cross the Singing River Bridge into Florence. Right on Florence Blvd., left on Darby Dr. then cross Cox Creek with a left turn into Circle K.
My last visit here today I did all my checking and setting things up before gassing up. This time I head in, pre-pay, gas up, then get my receipt. DONE! I take my clipboard in and ask the attendant to “witness” that I was there. I go get my pictures, turn off the various trackers I have running, and send a text to my bride that I will be home in a few minutes. Last stop was 115 miles, 3.863 gallons, which comes to 27.8mpg. Not too bad.
I go get the clipboard and thank him. He asks why. I pause, smile at him, and just say “why not?”. He seriously asks again, why did I do it. For a challenge, a race, or what. How much was the prize money. I explain that a serious response is “why not.” There are no monetary rewards. Just the personal satisfaction of doing it. I explain that I meet so many people, most are really nice. I get to see parts of our country. Most beautiful, others not so much. But every place is unique. He nods. I hope he “gets it”.
I make the short ride home. My bride is waiting in the driveway. The bike is so dirty, no need to put on the cover.
Trip time started at 3:00am, finish was 8:50pm. Total trip time was 17hrs and 50min. Total miles (according to odometer) was 1052. I think my average speed was 59mph. Overall gas miles was 30.8mpg. The Harley probably would have gotten closer to 40mpg.
The Spyder now has 2653 miles on it. The initial maintenance is due at 3,000 miles. I think I can manage to get a few trips to reach that mile mark in a week or so. Once it goes in for that maintenance, I hope the fuel mileage will go up a bit. I hope that we can bank on between 30 and 35mpg on longer trips. This trip was not like a usual trip. We usually take back roads and the speed isn’t as high. Those factors help get the fuel mileage higher than on the interstate at 70-75+, even with cruise control.
Paperwork has been submitted. As I was preparing the paperwork, I noticed that my witnesses had filled out everything, but had forgotten to sign the form. I will go back to the gas station to get both autographs. Funny that it was both attendants at the same gas station that forgot to sign. Not a major problem. I can get these signature and reload the paperwork for the Iron Butt Association before they review it.
I now have two Saddle Sore 1000 rides done. My next goal is a Bunn Burner 1500 Gold. Now I just need to find a place to go. Vegas? Florida and back? Head northwest? Hmm, got to think about this.