A couple of months ago, in an article entitled “Murphy’s 13th Ride,” I told you about how anything involving the number 13 always seems to bring me bad luck. I ended that installment saying “I don’t know when I’ll go after my 13th Iron Butt certificate, but I sure hope and pray the gremlins stay home so I can live to tell you about it…”
They didn’t. Sure enough, my first attempt at certified ride #13 failed when my rear tire went flat 500 miles into the run. Determined to blow through my bad luck barrier, though, two days later I re-tired and tried again:
As I stepped out of my Tallahassee motel room on Monday morning, 20 November 2006, a bright sun was warming the crisp wintry air, slowly diminishing the prior night’s chill, and melting the frost crystals on my saddle. The weather forecast for my planned route west indicated daily highs in the low-60’s, with nightly lows in the mid-30’s. And according to the wind chill calculator at LdrLongDistanceRider.com, 35 degrees at 70 MPH yields a wind chill temperature of 16, so I dressed accordingly. Above the belt it was undershirt, long-sleeved shirt, leather vest and jacket, neck bandanna and H-D Gore-Tex gloves. Below, it was ColdGear leggings from UnderArmour.com, jeans, leather chaps and a new addition to my cold weather ensemble, a fifty-dollar pair of SealSkinz ChillBlocker “waterproof” socks I bought online from BassPro.com (and later returned for refund … once I learned the hard way that SEALSKINZ PRODUCTS ARE NOT WATERPROOF … but that’s another story). My H-D hard weather jacket, Bass-Pro Gore-Tex outer pants, and the thin leather dress gloves I used as glove liners were packed at the top of my bag. That way, I’d have quick and easy access to them when the temperature dropped after sunset.
By 9:54am ET that morning, my gear was packed, bike fueled and start-of-run witness signatures gathered, so I logged a c-store ATM slip and rolled out onto I-10 heading west. The roads were clear and I was making good time until I got to Mobile, Alabama. There, lunchtime traffic was clogging the I-10 artery, so I employed a little white-lining to weave my way through the blockage. A duly authorized representative of the Mobile County Sheriff’s Department–whose cruiser suddenly appeared out of nowhere in my rear view mirror–apparently took exception to my maneuvers, and gave me a blue-light invitation for a roadside chat.
Even before he was fully out of his car–and right through my helmet and earplugs–I could hear the stocky, silver-haired Deputy giving me what-fer with a deep Southern drawl. His fire-and-brimstone safe driving sermon continued without pause as he walked up to me. I pulled out my wallet, and waited to hear that all too familiar query that ends with “license and registration.” But I never did! He came alongside me, looked me straight in the eye, and finally went silent for a moment. Then, without ever asking me for license, registration, insurance, or even an explanation, he turned around and marched right back to his cruiser, still preaching something about speeding and signaling as he got in and took off. I sat in my saddle for a moment, dumbfounded. But then, not wanting to tempt fate, I quickly stashed my wallet, hit the start button and made a beeline for Mississippi!
The ride across Mississippi and Louisiana was cool but uneventful. Then, soon after I crossed into Texas, the sun went down and so did the temperature. It was in the forties when I stopped on I-10 east of Houston in Hankamer to don the remainder of my cold weather gear. But by the time I exited I-45 north for gas in Huntsville, the temperature had fallen into the thirties, and I was really beginning to feel the chill in the wind. Anxious to cover the remaining 80 miles and make a planned turn west (and warm-up stop) on US-84 in Fairfield, I decided to open her up. That turned out to be a mistake, because somewhere along the road on that cold, pitch-black night, a Texas State Trooper sat waiting patiently to discourage that particular course of action. His distant blue lights grew rapidly in my frost-covered mirrors, and once again I pulled over for a meeting with the Man. Steam seemed to pour out of the cruiser as the trooper topped with ten-gallon hat stepped out and came up beside me. Unlike his Alabama compatriot, at first he said nothing. He just looked me up and down, shaking his head, and sort of smiling. Then, as my numb fingers fumbled for my wallet, the air between us became filled with frosty breath as he fired off one question after another, hardly giving me any opportunity to reply… “Do you know what the speed limit is?” “What are you doing riding a motorcycle on a night like this?” “Don’t you know that it’s COLD out here?!?” “Where are you headed?” “Why don’t you just pull over and get a room before you freeze to death?!?”
Too cold to retort, I just shrugged my shoulders and handed him my license and papers. He hurried back to the warmth of his car, while I waited and wondered what the fine would be. And just when I was beginning to think I might have more troubles than a traffic ticket, he got out of his cruiser, walked back up, and as I expected, asked for my signature. But not on a ticket … it was only a warning! Hallelujah and go figure. Pulled over twice in twelve hours, and given a walk each time. Alright! My bad luck barrier was busted at last!
It took four more hours of chilling but uninterrupted riding to make my way west on US-84 to Waco, then south on I-35 through Austin, and log the end of my ride in San Antonio at 2:22am CT Tuesday morning. I covered 1,081 miles in 17 hours 34 minutes, earning (when certified) another SaddleSore 1000, and finally overcoming my “13” curse.
Until Next Time … Ride Long, Ride Free!