Part 2 of 2: A Hard Ride East
For me, Monday March 13 marked the end of five days and almost four thousand miles in the saddle. My trip began with a 1,610 mile Iron Butt BunBurner 1500 ride from Miami Beach FL to Round Rock TX via Atlanta, Birmingham, Jackson, Shreveport, Dallas and Bruceville. I completed this BB1500 in 29 hours 5 minutes road time, 33 hours 27 minutes total time. My trip ended with a 2,083 mile Iron Butt SaddleSore 2000 ride from San Antonio TX to Miami Beach FL via Dallas, Texarkana, Little Rock, Memphis, Nashville, Knoxville, Asheville, Charlotte, Columbia, Savannah and Jacksonville. I completed this SS2000 in 36 hours 30 minutes road and total time, as I did not stop for a motel sleep break. Last month I told you about my Wet Ride West. This month, let me tell you about my Hard Ride East:
As I headed north on I-35, the gray clouds over San Antonio quickly gave way to a warm and sunny Texas spring morning. An incessantly powerful March wind was at my back, noticeably improving my fuel efficiency, and making it difficult to keep the needle under 90. In no time flat, the tailwind whisked me all the way to Dallas, where I connected with I-30 and headed towards Texarkana.
East of the DFW metroplex I rode into the rolling, open plains of northeast Texas. There, my much appreciated tailwind became an unceasingly annoying crosswind that had me riding at a lean all day and well into the night. But for the moment, the sun was bright, the sky was blue, and I was warm and dry. That was good enough for me.
I made it almost all the way across Arkansas before stopping in Palestine at sundown to don my lid and leathers. From there, it was a short hop to the Mississippi River and across into Memphis, a city with a dazzling nighttime riverfront and downtown skyline. Continuing east towards Nashville, I took a break to grab some grub in Jackson Tennessee, the hometown of that famous railroader Casey Jones. His museum was right next to the Waffle House where I ate, but it was too late for me to do much more than take a look at his restored and retired engine. Then it was on through Nashville and eastward to Knoxville, where I entered the Appalachians and the Eastern Time Zone around 3:00am.
In retrospect, I should’ve pulled into a motel and got some shut-eye at this point. I could have done so and still completed my SS2000 within the required 48 hours. And had I done so, I would have experienced the most beautiful and challenging segment of my ride fully rested and with the increased safety and scenery of daylight. I should have … but I didn’t. I kept going.
To get from Knoxville to Asheville on I-40, you have to go through Hartford, Tennessee and Iron Duff, North Carolina. And between Hartford and Iron Duff are 28.5 miles of nothing but uphill and downhill twists and turns as the road winds its way through a mountainous area where the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Cherokee National Forest and Pisgah National Forest converge at the Tennessee/North Carolina border, just east of the 6,621 foot peak of Mount Guyot. It reminded me of the Iron Mountain Road (US-16A) near Mount Rushmore, but on a much grander scale. Fatigued by more than 22 hours in the saddle, this proved to be one of the most daunting stretches of interstate I have ever ridden. I hope to ride it again someday … when I am rested and alert enough to enjoy it … and in daylight, so I can appreciate more than just the shadows of what must be an abundance of natural beauty.
The sun arose and lifted my spirits as I finished breakfast and a third cup of coffee at the Huddle House in Asheville. From there, I rode a scenic 80 miles to Hickory as I-40 wound its way through peaceful valleys bounded by majestic mountains. Then it was time to turn south on US-321 to Gastonia, east on I-85 to Charlotte, and on down through South Carolina via I-77 to I-26 to I-95 near St George. I then rode uneventfully through the lowlands of Carolina and Georgia, which merged seamlessly into the familiar flatlands of the Sunshine State. Six hours more and I reached the end of my 2,083 mile run. I was back on the Beach, sleeping soundly and no doubt snoring loudly, dreaming about my next ride…
Until Next Time … Ride Long, Ride Free!