Tough Iron Butt Ride

A Break from a Break

August 2007

At 10:04am on Sunday, 11 February 2007, I logged a fifty-one cent gas receipt in Fort Lauderdale marking the end of what I hope will be certified as my 17th Iron Butt ride and 6th Bun Burner Gold. A BBG requires that you cover over 1,500 miles in under 24 hours, and I made it by the skin of my teeth: 1,501 miles in 23 hours 55 minutes. Looking at those statistics alone, this would appear to be the worst of my six BBG rides. Less miles covered, and more time logged, than any of the previous five. But as we all know, statistics can be misleading:

My ride began in South Beach at 10:09am the previous day. With warm sunny skies, dry roads and light traffic, riding conditions were perfect and I was making excellent time on the run north up I-95. Everything was looking good until, a few miles south of Exit 191, I looked down to see my engine light was on. Must be a faulty indicator, I told myself, and optimistically thumped it in hopes it would go out. No dice. But except for the fact that my odometer went out, the bike still seemed to be running alright. So I continued on to the next exit, where I’d planned to stop for gas anyway.

My bike sputtered and died as I pulled into the closest c-store lot, leaving just enough momentum to coast up to the gas pumps. I went ahead and filled the tank (hope springs eternal, don’t it?), and then gave the motorcycle a quick once-over. I couldn’t see anything wrong, so I turned the key to see if she’d fire back up. Neutral lit, but the odometer didn’t come on. And when I hit the Start button, absolutely nothing happened. She didn’t have enough juice to fire, which forced me to accept that I was S.O.L. Ugh! But I reached into my saddlebag for my trusty HOG Road Atlas, and found that the closest Harley dealer was only a few miles away. I gave them a call, and an hour or so later, my bike was in their shop and the diagnosis was delivered: Busted stator. But they had ONE replacement in inventory, and in two hours more they had my battery recharged, my new stator installed, and me back on the road.

This unfortunate little episode had cost me almost four hours, and I realized that nothing short of a miracle would allow me to complete the rest of my BBG route in what was left of the 24 hours. I thought about aborting the run. But realizing that I might still qualify for a regular Bun Burner (1,500 miles in 36 hours) or SaddleSore 1000 (1,000 miles in 24 hours), I decided to hang in there and give it a shot. And shoot up the road I did. First north on I-95 to Jacksonville, then west on I-10 to Mobile, where I turned around and headed back the way I’d come. All through the cold night, I held my throttle open racing eastward on I-10 across the Florida Panhandle. I paid at the pump, stopped for no meals, and drank next to nothing to avoid having to piss. This minimized both the frequency and duration of my stops, allowing me to recover as much lost time as possible. By sunrise I was south of Jacksonville, and after two more hours of hard riding, I stopped for gas in Vero Beach at 8:31am.

At this point in the run, to earn a BBG I had to cover at least 114 more miles in 98 minutes or less. And factoring in the time required to get back on the interstate, through the Palm Beach and Broward traffic, off the interstate again, and to an ATM or gas pump for a computer time stamp, I figured my only chance for success would be to run flat out. But I knew that doing so might cause my thirsty Mikuni carburetor to guzzle all the gas before I completed the necessary miles, and I’d miss the mark anyway. I was pulling back onto I-95 pondering this paradox, when Divine Providence made its play:

I felt something unusual, and looked down to see that my breather had broken off at the mount. It was hanging on by a hose, and lying against my leg. Apparently, the constant vibration of several hundred miles of hard riding had taken its toll. At first I was disheartened…but then I was delighted! You see, loose banjo bolts had caused me to lose this breather once before, so I knew that running without it would give me much better gas mileage. And it did. So much better, in fact, that I was free to open her up and make the miles in the time remaining despite the fact that I was still to lose several more precious minutes wading and weaving through a major accident’s traffic jam before taking my final exit off I-95 at Commercial Boulevard.

A broken breather proved to be just the break I needed! Maybe there really is a silver lining behind every cloud…

Until Next Time … Ride Long, Ride Free!