At 7:44am Saturday morning, 21 April 2007, I logged the end of what should be certified by the Iron Butt Association as my 19th IBA ride and 8th Bun Burner Gold. On this run I covered 1,614 miles in 22 hours 47 minutes for an MTH (miles traveled per hour) of 70.84. This is far from being an IBA record, but it did top my previous personal best of 1,602 miles in 22 hours 40 minutes and 70.67 MTH, and marked the second time I rode “over 1600 in under 23”. My targeted route was from Miami Beach north on I-95 through Jacksonville FL and Savannah GA, turning west on I-26 in SC through Columbia and Spartanburg to Asheville NC, then back the same way.
My ride began at 8:57am the previous Friday morning. The 24-hour forecast on Nws.Noaa.gov was “clear and mild” all along my planned route, so I was looking forward to a dry and enjoyable run. There were no cager collisions along the I-95 Killing Corridor that morning, so it was pretty much smooth sailing off the Beach and up through Dade and Broward County. That changed quickly just south of West Palm Beach, where I ran into the tail end of a miles-long traffic jam. I immediately put my weaving skills to work, whitelining and sidelining my way forward through one narrow mirrored passageway after another. I soon made it to the head of the three-lane queue, where the culprits turned out to be three caution-lighted road construction pickups intentionally holding traffic back for some unseen equipment that their tailgate signs said was crossing the highway. Fortunately though, just as I pulled in behind the truck on the left, one of the other two blew its horn and all three pulled over. This delay turned out to be sort of a blessing in disguise, as what I had before me now was open lanes all the way through West Palm and on into Martin County. I did not forego the obvious opportunity to open my throttle.
The weather wizards blew it on the “clear” part of the forecast, as gray cloud cover blocked the sun for most of my way north to Jacksonville and then on up I-95 through Georgia. But no rain fell and the temperature was “mild”, so I was content with that. Then about 80 miles into South Carolina, the clouds dissipated and a warm sun was shining down as I exited onto I-26 and headed across the Palmetto State.
What you can see of South Carolina from I-95 is fairly mundane. But the further northwest I rode on I-26, the more scenic the view became. The sprawling capital city of Columbia looked a little bit like Austin, and the rolling verdant foothills around Spartanburg had a down home country appeal that reminded me of central Missouri. As I crested one of them, the smokey silhouette of the Blue Ridge Mountains loomed on the late afternoon horizon, and I knew I was getting close to North Carolina. I crossed the state line with just enough daylight left to take in the view and fully enjoy all the twists and curves and climbs and descents that go along with riding a motorcycle through the mountains. I was a surprised that the green of spring was not fully in the trees yet, but rolling over the peaks and riding down through the valleys was nonetheless a welcome reprieve from the straight, flat roads of South Florida.
It was right around sunset when I rolled into Asheville. This city of 75,000 or so is best known as the site of the Vanderbilt family’s Biltmore Estate … upon which sits the 175,000 square foot Biltmore House … which with 250 rooms, 65 fireplaces, an indoor pool and a bowling alley, ranks as the largest private home in America. Asheville is a beautiful place, and a popular tourist attraction for many. In my case, however, it was simply the targeted turnaround point for this Iron Butt run. My bike’s clock (from Clocks4Bikes.com) and odometer told me I could add a few more miles, though, so I continued north out of town on US 19/23.
About 20 miles shy of the Tennessee state line, I stopped for gas and an ATM slip to mark to my turnaround at the BP Payless Food Mart & Liquor Store in the small mountain town of Weaverville. Judging from the inbred look some of the clientele, I speculated as to the depth of the local gene pool, and wondered whether the makers of Deliverance might have done their casting calls there. But what the heck, the narrow-eyed gal at the register using a 12-gauge slug as a lip stud had a “Harley” tattoo covering half her left arm, so I figured they were biker-friendly. But then again, maybe “Harley” was her boyfriend … or brother … or both. Anyway, I logged the stop and began my 807-mile ride back to the Beach.
Until Next Time … Ride Long, Ride Free!