Part 1 of 2: JAX to SDO
Tuesday May 30, 2006 marked the end of seven days and almost 5,500 miles on two wheels for me. The lion’s share of this saddletime was devoted to my successful completion of what the Iron Butt Association calls the CCC Gold or 100CCC Insanity. The 100CCC requires that you ride from coast to coast to coast in 100 hours or less and that each of the back-to-back, coast-to-coast runs be completed in 50 hours or less. In this case, I rode from Jacksonville Beach, FL to San Diego (Ocean Beach), CA and back again, covering 4,728 miles in 95 hours 49 minutes.
Leg 1: Jax Beach to Sonora (Miles: 1,254 … Ride: Mundane)
On Wednesday May 24, I rode a leisurely 351 miles from Miami Beach to Jacksonville Beach FL, where I checked into the Best Western Oceanfront. After securing my bike and gear, I walked the few steps down to Bukkets for their happy hour seafood specials and the last few ounces of distilled spirits I’d be imbibing for several days.
I was up well before dawn the next morning, packing my bike, sucking down some hot coffee and a cold continental breakfast, and preparing for my start-of-run witnesses to arrive. Jacksonville riding buddies Kevin and Debbie Dineen rolled in as promised just after 6:45am. We dashed to the ocean’s edge, where they photographed me collecting a traditional vial of sand and sea water. Then we quickly filled out some IBA witness forms, saddled up, and rode a couple of blocks to the Texaco c-store located where US-90 terminates at A1A. There, I logged a gas receipt timestamp to start my run clock at 6:59am ET, Thursday May 25. Kevin and Debbie then escorted me down A1A to 202 and west to I-95, where we waved good-bye as I turned north to connect with I-10 and head west.
The air was warm, the skies were clear, and for the rest of the day and on into the evening, the ride across the Florida panhandle into Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, and halfway across Texas to Sonora was pretty much mundane mile-eating. Not that it wasn’t enjoyable, but I’ve ridden that stretch of I-10 far too many times for it to stir any wonder or excitement.
Leg 2: Sonora to Ocotillo (Miles: 1,019 … Ride: Challenging)
I checked out of the Best Western Sonora at 7:09am CT, Friday May 26, barely four hours after I had checked in. I felt fully rested, perhaps exhilarated, and powerfully hungry. I put a few miles on the bike and then pulled into Calib’s Country Kitchen in Ozona for a hot breakfast. This stop proved to be a diner’s delight, but a distance rider’s disaster: The steak that came with my fried eggs and flake biscuits was mouth-wateringly delicious, but it took them nearly 30 minutes to serve it up, leaving me no choice but to choke it down as quickly as possible. Lesson learned … next time, back to Waffle House … rarely fantastic, but almost always fast.
Refreshed and refueled, it was now time to cross the miles and miles of distant hills and brushy desert plains that is West Texas. Wide open expanses and empty roads made riding a pleasure and high speeds a temptation, but a steady wind from the west-southwest was taking an unexpected toll on my gas mileage and fuel tank range. The hop from Ozona to Fort Stockton was no problem, but making it from there to Van Horn with an open throttle, 4.9 gallon stock tank and thirsty Mikuni carburetor was nothing short of a miracle. Realizing I was in trouble, I slowed down to 60 when I hit reserve so as to optimize my remaining miles per gallon. But even doing that, I basically coasted into the first station on the east side of town, my gas needle having been on flat dead empty for a couple of the longest minutes of my life.
From El Paso westward, an ever-increasing headwind served as a constant reminder to keep my eye on the fuel gauge, and I willingly traded the efficiency of maximizing miles between stops for the security of knowing I would make it to the next one. On across the high desert of New Mexico I rode, dodging dust devils, crossing the Continental Divide near Separ, and continuing westward to an eerie Stephen King truckstop of a place called Road Forks. Here, the wind suddenly shifted and increased in intensity. In less than a second, my favorite midnight blue bandanna was sucked right out of my vest pocket. Two seconds more, and the long, heavy string that fastens the left side of my riding vest to the back was literally untied, unlaced and carried away as if by some evil, unseen hands. I fought to keep my bike in one lane and hang on to the pieces of my vest until, just as Road Forks appeared in my rear view mirror, the wicked crosswind subsided as quickly as it had arisen. I pulled over, packed away what was left of my vest, looked back to say goodbye to my bandanna, and headed on into Arizona.
In Casa Grande, I forked off I-10 to I-8, continuing westward towards Yuma through the Sonoran National Desert Monument. This route took me through a couple of hundred miles of some of the most beautiful desert I’ve ever seen, complete with awe-inspiring stands of hundreds of giant saguaro cactus (or is it cacti?). Then somewhere west of Gila Bend the sun finally set. In a few hours more I crossed the California state line and Imperial Valley, making my last gas stop before San Diego near its western edge in Ocotillo.
Leg 3: Ocotillo to San Diego (Miles: 90 … Ride: Awful)
As I approached Ocotillo CA, the winds I’d been fighting all day and night picked up with a suddenness and fury similar to what I’d experienced at Road Forks NM. Little did I know then, but from this point westward–until I rolled out of the Laguna Mountains and into San Diego–I’d be fighting every minute to keep my bike upright and on the road.
Refueled once more, I donned my leather jacket and rolled out into the dark blustery night, continuing westward and upward into the mountain passes. With each one thousand foot increase in elevation, a road sign informed me of my progress, and the winds seemed to grow more determined to halt it. 1,000 feet above sea level … then 2 … then 3 … then 4,000 feet and higher. There, Mother Nature decided to throw what I can best describe as a blowing white fog with fast-melting snow into the mix. I think I was riding through clouds. The temperature plummeted, visibility dropped to a few feet, and my forward progress slowed to a crawl.
At this point, I no longer harbored any concerns about making San Diego on time. My only objective was to make it through the mountains alive. I kept going. Over one summit, then down, then up over another summit, then down, then again and perhaps again. I remember seeing signs for Tecate Divide and Crestwood Summit, but I was too busy or blind to see the names of the others. Then finally, after two hours of riding through winds and weather that should only appear in nightmares, I rounded a bend and the lights of San Diego spread out before me.
San Diego normally has only two rainy days in May, and of course this was one of them. But after what I’d just ridden through, I barely noticed. I-8 carried me right on into Sunset Cliffs Boulevard, which led me to Sam’s Shell Service, where a timestamped gas receipt marked the end of my westbound coast-to-coast ride at 1:12am PT, Saturday May 27. I had covered 2,363 miles in 45 hours 13 minutes. Then, one short mile more to the Ocean Beach Hotel for witness signatures, a ceremonial scoop of Pacific sand and seawater, and finally some much needed rest.
Next month: My 100CCC Insanity Part 2, SDO to JAX!