NC/VA Border

Two Wheels to Washington

June 2007

At 11:08pm on 19 January 2007, I pulled an ATM receipt at a 7-11 in the Washington DC suburb of Falls Church Virginia, marking the end of what should ultimately be certified as my 15th Iron Butt ride. This time it was another SaddleSore 1000, as I had covered 1,113 miles in 18 hours 30 minutes. With an MTH (miles traveled per hour) of only 60.16, this was far from my best performance. But I still logged over 1,000 miles in under 24 hours, and that is all the Iron Butt Association requires for their SS1000 certification.

My ride began at 4:38am that Friday morning, but I was awake and gearing up well before that. My route would be mostly a straight shot up IH-95 from Miami to the Capitol, and one last look at the weather forecast gave me good news … and bad news. The good news was that clear skies–a sunny day followed by a starry night–were predicted all along the way, so I could expect to be dry. The bad news was a nighttime forecast low of 28 degrees … which at 70mph translates into a wind-chill temperature of 6 degrees … which meant I could expect to be cold.

I hate riding in the cold, especially that cold. But it was supposed to be dry, and at least riding cold but dry beats the hell out of riding cold and wet. It didn’t matter anyway. I had places to be, I don’t fly and I don’t like cages, so it was two wheels to Washington regardless!

Once again, “hope for the best, but prepare for the worst” was the order of the day, and that meant dressing for a long wintry ride: First, one pair of knee-high Gold Toe socks, then a pair of UnderArmour ColdGear leggings, then another pair of socks, then another pair of leggings, then my jeans. Next, I pulled on and laced up my waterproof Harley-Davidson Gore-Tex FXRG-2 boots, and zipped up my leather chaps. I did all this in the warm comfort of my bedroom, of course, so well before I began to dress my upper half I was already sweating profusely from the multiple layers insulating the lower. I paused to dry off, put on a tank top and snapped the skulls of my vest, bagging the rest of my cold weather gear to be added as riding north forced temperatures to head south.

I stepped outside to find my bike being misted by more than just the timed sprinklers. So much for dry! But it was a very light mist, too light for rain gear, so I just zipped up my leather jacket, plugged my ears, strapped on my Fulmer Modus brain bucket, and rolled off the beach and up IH-95. The mist stopped before I got to Stuart, but the skies didn’t clear until I was north of Daytona Beach. The sun shined brightly over Jacksonville, but the warming effect of its radiation on my black leathers did not offset the steady decline in temperatures I was to feel from that point northward. And with each gas stop through Georgia and the Carolinas, I donned more clothing to compensate: First my H-D Gore-Tex gloves … then a bandanna around my neck … then a Schampa Warmskin riding shirt under my vest and jacket … and so on.

Dusk was approaching as I exited for gas in Rocky Mount, North Carolina. It was already cold, and I knew that once the sun set it would quickly get colder. To prepare for that, I stopped to put on all of my remaining cold weather gear, including BassPro Gore-Tex rainpants, my H-D outer jacket, Seirus Hyperlite glove liners, and a fleece balaclava. I then continued my run north up IH-95, crossing into Virginia, bypassing Richmond via IH-295, then back onto IH-95 for the approach to DC. My gear did its job, in that I didn’t start to feel uncomfortably cold until I neared Triangle, Virginia. But there I stopped for gas at the Exxon station just outside the gate to the Marine Corps University at Quantico, and the break from the wind in so doing was enough to get the chill out of my bones.

From that point, it was a short ride to the Capitol Beltway, where I merged onto IH-395 and followed it right on into downtown Washington DC for a quick nighttime mini-tour. Then, I made the mistake of heading east on US-50 into Maryland, my idea being to hit IH-495 there and loop back south, west and north to my final destination in Falls Church. My mistake was that required me to go over the Woodrow Wilson Memorial Bridge, a drawbridge that spans the Potomac River between Prince George’s County, Maryland and Alexandria, Virginia. My luck being what it is, construction at the bridge had four full lanes of traffic merging into a hiking trail, and I must have spent at least an hour waiting, wobbling, and weaving my way through a thousand-car nightmare.

There was one silver lining to that cloud though: The heat coming from so many internal combustion engines in such close proximity sure did feel good!

Until Next Time … Ride Long, Ride Free!