2021 Tour of Honor – First Ride of the Year!

Intro

About the middle of last year’s Tour of Honor Challenge, the call went out for State Sponsors. I was hoping that Alabama would be needing a State Sponsor, but did notice that they were looking for one for Georgia. With Jeff in Georgia, I mentioned it to him. I also sent a note to the organizers that I would also be willing to sponsor Georgia if they didn’t feel comfortable with Jeff since he was a “rookie.”

He got an e-mail a few days later congratulating him on being selected. Then the work began. During our ride last September, he asked if I would join him to visit some potential sites to give my input. I was glad to help.

I gave him my input on various sites, and some things that I enjoy about sites I have visited in the past. He took all that information and submitted his proposals to the organizers by the deadline. A few weeks later, he called to tell me that his top seven sites had been selected! He had gotten write-ups, locations, and pictures ready in only a few months.

Over the winter, we talked about the upcoming year. Though I had an idea where a few of the sites might be, I never asked where they were (I actually didn’t WANT to know!). He also spent the winter riding more. Being in Georgia, he had a few more warm days that I did in Alabama. He was excited and ready for April 1!

In February, he asked about meeting on March 31 to head out at 12:01 AM on April 1 to compete for a trophy in South Carolina. Since Jeff has not completed an Iron Butt ride, he also wanted to do an Iron Butt Tour of Honor Saddle Sore Extreme. This particular ride, in addition to the 1,000 miles within 24 hours, you have to visit all seven of the sites within a state. South Carolina might be a bit small to get the 1,000 miles, and would require planning that I wouldn’t feel comfortable trying to plan in a matter of minutes if we were to compete for the trophy. Besides, We could always do the Iron Butt later.

A few days later, he knew that as State Sponsor, he could not compete for a trophy in his home state, but could he do the Iron Butt ride? I assured him that there was nothing to prevent him from doing that. Since he hasn’t done an Iron Butt ride, he needs to understand the planning that goes into it. Once he has done a few, then hopping on the bike on a moments notice to take an Iron Butt ride wouldn’t be as difficult.

He then asked if I would be willing to take him on his first Iron Butt ride together. He asked if I wanted to try for a trophy in Georgia. I gave him an emphatic “NO.” I have specifically not asked for the site locations to honor his integrity. Even if I did visit them and could qualify for a trophy, I would not claim it, just because it didn’t look right and others might think that I had insider information. Again, putting his integrity at risk. He asked me to help him with routes.

By last weekend in March, we had a draft route planned. I knew about where the memorials were, and did not release the planned route as public in case anyone else saw the route and realized what it was.

We were keeping a watch on some serious storms that were forecast for my ride to meet him on Tuesday and Wednesday. I was looking over the cities and asked about changing the starting location. We talked it over and decided to meet nearer to his house. This reduced the miles, though still above the 1,000 mile threshold, as well as reducing the time.

I left home on Tuesday morning. I would ride until I either got to our meeting place or I hit rain that required me to stop. I managed to stay dry the entire ride to our meeting place. I put in 500 miles in 10 hours with less than an hour of interstate.

We met up Tuesday night for supper, then again on Wednesday morning for a ride in the area. I needed to get a gas stop in on March 31 to note my ending mileage for the BMW 2020/2021 mileage challenge. This would also be the starting mileage for 2021/2022. I had about 7,000 miles when I started April 1 last year, the mileage on March 31 was 31,000 miles! 24,000 miles in a year. Not bad considering that I didn’t get to do nearly as much riding as I had planned due to COVID and other commitments.

About time to get a later lunch or early supper. We plan to head out about 1am from a place near where he lives. As of right now, we have it narrowed down to two options.

… to be continued …

April 1

We went to bed about 5pm. The goal was to get some sleep before taking off between 1am and 2am.

The best made plans of mice and men… To make a long story short, I couldn’t get to sleep. Jeff woke up and midnight. He asked if the sites were released. I checked the app and they were there! We could go.

Jeff noticed that I wasn’t excited. I explained that I had not been able to get any sleep, I had been awake for 18 hours. We talked and decided that it might be best to scrap the ride for now.

Once my head hit the pillow, Jeff said I was out and snoring.

I woke up a little after 8am. We talked about options, even considered taking off right away for the Iron Butt ride. Final decision was to take two days to get to Florence.

Jeff needed to stop by his office and his house before we left for Florence. Then we hit the road. A quick gas stop in Jesup and we were off. As we left Jesup, we were heading almost due west, into a strong headwind. Riding was a challenge, letting off the throttle had the same effect as hitting the brakes.

One of the places that I wanted to stop was in Lumber City. A Bar-B-Que place called Stinson’s which is a RTE-X-USA stop for this year. We pulled into the lot and parked. I knew I was going to have an issue getting out, but angled the bike to make it easier to get out of the rut.

We just ordered a sandwich since we had our own drinks already. Since it was early for lunch, I expected a little wait. But there was a line and a backlog in getting orders filled. We waited about 30 minutes for our sandwiches. Not having an agenda for the day, we didn’t mind the wait. Once we had our lunch, it was good. Worth a wait, if I had been hungrier, the wait would have been frustrating.

As we were finishing our sandwiches, a truck pulled up and parked close to the bikes. The guy had a problem getting out of the passenger side of the truck, he couldn’t open the door all the way without hitting my bike. And they managed to pull in at such an angle that I could not back out. Jeff rolled his bike back, then I rolled mine back and forth until I could get it turned around. Then we started rolling again.

We continued west to McRae-Helena, one of the sites in Georgia. Jeff had been leading the way since he knew the best place to park for the pictures. The winds were getting stronger, curves were getting to be a challenge.

Jeff lead to the memorial and we pulled into the vacant lot across the street. We got out our flags and looked for the best angles for the pictures. He never realized how busy this little street would be. We eventually got a break in the traffic and got the pictures.

We didn’t have any set plans for tonight’s stop. Just a leisure ride and stop when we were ready. Warner Robins was the minimum, Auburn was the maximum. We made a couple of left turns to get back on the main highway, making the left turn lights in perfect timing. From here, I led the way. The winds never eased up.

As we got into Warner Robins, Jeff’s low fuel light came on. We stopped at the Museum of Aviation at Warner Robins Air Force Base. We got the picture outside of the sign and inside with the Huey.

A quick fuel stop, then I had to make a stop at the Little League Region Headquarters to get a few pictures. I wanted to get a better picture for the website that I have set up for the umpire association. It was about 3:30. We could stop at the local hotel where I have stayed several times, which has a nice Tex-Mex restaurant and bar next door. Or we could go about two more hours to Columbus/Opelika/Auburn area and hunt for a place there. It wasn’t a hard decision, we headed over to the hotel nearby for burritos and margaritas.

April 2

No pictures for today. We didn’t get in a rush to leave. The hotel’s breakfast wasn’t much more than coffee. We made coffee in the room using the coffee press I had brought with me.

We loaded the bikes. As we were getting ready to go, a family walked past and commented on the bikes. We talked with them for a minute, then Jeff asked if they would like us to pray with them. (We have been wearing our CMA vests the last few days.) The said yes. Jeff and I went to pray over their truck before we left. We said a prayer over our bikes before we took off.

I had seen on the map a place along the way where we could get breakfast. The winds were minimal today. We kept a watch for places to eat. I was not in the mood for a chain restaurant. It was about 10:30 when we pulled into Opelika. Jeff said he needed to eat, we pulled into Cracker Barrel. The wait was at least 30 minutes and the place was packed. We waited a few minutes, I checked that the pub we had visited a few years ago was opening at 11:00. We mounted up and headed over. We only waited a few minutes for them to open.

Jeff needed gas, I was fine. We stopped a few blocks away for him to fill up. If I could make it another 80 miles, we would be within his range to make it home from the next stop.

We made it to Lincoln, AL for a gas stop. I had about 5 miles left on my tank. 5.2 gallons of gas into a 5.3 gallon tank. We would both be able to make it home from here.

150 miles later, we pulled into the gas station near the house. Filled our tanks and headed home. MaryJo was waiting with the garage doors open and supper waiting.

Good ride.