Georgia/South Carolina Border

Murphy’s 13th Ride

February 2007

I am one of the most un-superstitious guys you’ll ever meet, except when it comes to two things: Murphy’s Law, and the number 13.

If half a century of life on this planet has convinced me of nothing else, it’s that anything that can go wrong sooner or later will go wrong. And 13 may signify “the Mother Club” or “feeling lucky” to you, but for me 13 of anything almost always means trouble.

A prime example would be my fourth Bun Burner Gold ride (1,591 miles in 23 hours 9 minutes), completed at 8:06am on Sunday 15 October 2006. My original aim was to do the ride a day earlier, but that would have meant starting on Friday the 13th. Believing that to be an invitation for disaster, I decided to delay. With Freaky Friday’s perils passed, I awoke early Saturday morning and made ready to go after my 12th Iron Butt Association ride certificate. Having successfully completed eleven previous rides and aborted one, however, this would actually be my 13th attempted Iron Butt run … so I should not have been surprised by the chain of 13 misfortunes that awaited me:

I was about halfway through my morning pot of java when I started inspecting my ride gear. I remembered I hadn’t put Zooke Anti-Fog on my visor yet, and as I reached across the table and picked up my helmet with one hand, I knocked over my coffee cup (#1) with the other. Wanting to grab my IBA paperwork before the coffee soaked in, I then dropped my helmet and broke the left-side visor release lever (#2). It took me an unplanned 15 minutes of cussing and fiddling around to get the visor reattached, and in my rush to get out the door I forgot to pocket the beef jerky (#3) I use to forego meals and shorten c-store stops.

I made it to the ATM in time to clock the start of my run near 9:00am as intended. But as soon I pulled out of the bank parking lot, I had to make a time-wasting stop because in all the excitement I forgot to put in my ear plugs (#4). At this point, I realized I needed to consolidate my feces, forget about the gremlins, and focus on my ride. But that was apparently not in the cards. Instead, I zoned out and missed my first gas exit (#5) on the Turnpike, which forced me to slow down to 60 in order stretch my reserve far enough to make the next station.

A couple of hours later, the Turnpike merged into I-75 north. I stopped for gas in Ocala, recorded and stuffed the receipt in my log book, then headed back out on the interstate. That log book is very important, because it’s where I keep all the documentation required for my ride certifications. I usually keep it in the inside pocket of my vest, and periodically feel my chest to make sure it’s there. I felt … and it wasn’t. My heart went up in my throat, and I started to pull over, but I kept feeling around and finally found it. My vest pocket had ripped (#6), which allowed the log book to slip into my vest lining. But at least I caught it before I lost it, and transferred it to my jacket at the next stop.

I crossed into Georgia hoping I’d left my bad luck behind me, but halfway through Atlanta it caught up with me again. My original intent had been to take I-75 straight through to Chattanooga and then head back, but somewhere along the way I-75 and I-85 merged and split, and I took the wrong leg of the fork (#7). Oh what the Hell, I figured. For this run, any fast freeway’s okay so long as I grind the miles. So I just kept going, until I-85 became I-985, which ended and became US-23, which took me as far as Lula before I suspected I might be heading for nowhere. My salvation was a “To I-85” sign pointing east down a two-lane road, and I saw no choice but to take it. And yes, that winding narrow stretch of SR52/SR98 did ultimately get me to Commerce and back on I-85, but only after I was forced to ride 20 miles under 45mph (#8), because I couldn’t get around all the pickups full of slow-moving good ole boys.

My odometer told me it was too early to turn around at that point, so I ran north on I-85 to Anderson (Clemson) South Carolina before doing so. I think the gremlins must have gone to sleep about then, as I enjoyed smooth sailing under cool but clear night skies all the way south through Georgia on I-85 and I-75 into the Panhandle, where I headed east on I-10 to Jacksonville and raced south down I-95 towards home.

The Sunday morning sun was rising as I pulled out of the Shell in Jupiter, and I decided I would take advantage of the daylight to open her up over the miles remaining, and do what I could to improve my run time. But the gremlins were awake again, and not about to let that happen: As soon as I got on the freeway and started to twist my throttle, a state trooper came up behind me and stayed there (#9) for twenty miles or so, allowing no opportunity for acceleration.

Not that it would have made much difference … because when I turned east on I-195 towards the Beach, I saw the causeway was closed down to one lane (#10). And when I finally got across it, Alton Road was blocked off (#11). I had to take a detour to reach the bank where I usually pull an ATM receipt to mark the end of my rides. I did finally make it to WAMU, only to discover that the ATM I normally use was not working (#12), forcing me to scramble my exhausted butt to find one that did. My “Run of Bad Luck” was finally over, or so I thought. But just as I brought down the sidestand to park my bike, the heel of my left boot fell off (#13)!

I don’t know when I’ll go after my 13th Iron Butt ride certificate. But I sure hope and pray the gremlins stay home so I can live to tell you about it…

Until Next Time … Ride Long, Ride Free!