Somewhere in Georgia

Last Try for Chattanooga

October 2007

At 8:03am on Saturday, 31 March 2007, I logged the end of 23 hours and 6 minutes of some of the most frustrating distance riding I have ever had to endure. My route of 1,544 miles was good enough to meet the “over 1500 in under 24” requirement for certification as my 18th IBA ride and 7th Bun Burner Gold, but the only thing really good about this run was that it was finally over!

At 8:57am the previous day, I logged my start-of-run ATM receipt at the South Beach Wachovia on Alton Road, then crossed the causeway and headed north on I-95. The sun was shining, the Friday morning traffic was moderate, and in no time I was in the HOV lane and up to my normal cruising speed. But not for long… Midway through Broward County, I encountered what was to be the first of many time-consuming traffic jams. Traffic in all four lanes quickly slowed to a crawl and then halted. But being on a timed run, stopping was not an option, so I weaved the white lines for a few miles, finally passing the point of the cager collision that caused the clog. The road opened up, and so did my throttle.

I soon made up the delay deficit, and by the time I passed through Daytona Beach, it looked like I was on my way to a personal best in terms of MTH (miles traveled per hour). Then somewhere south of Jacksonville, I sailed into another sea of brake lights. Once again I was forced to weave my way through the cager congestion, cautiously maneuvering my ride through the mirrored gauntlets until open lanes availed. More time was lost. But I had clear roads riding west from Jacksonville on I-10, and I made good use of them. By the time I turned north on I-75 towards Georgia, a new personal best MTH was again within the realm of possibility. But not for long… From Valdosta north to Macon, extensive road construction along I-75 had traffic slowing down and speeding up, then slowing down and speeding up, lurching forward like some giant Slinky. My hopes for any personal best faded, but I still figured I could make “over 1500 in under 24”, so I continued as best I could.

The road construction subsided at the I-475 Macon bypass, leaving me with wide lanes and light traffic all the way to my gas stop in High Falls. My frustration subsided as well. But not for long… I crested a high hill just north of there, and before me a three-lane parking lot ran literally for miles, all the way across the valley and over the next rise. “Jesus F**king Christ!” I thought, “Is this sh*t ever going to end?!?” Well, I was almost 700 miles into the run, and I wasn’t about to quit now, so yet again I resorted to whitelining the mirrored gauntlets. But not for long… Clearances were minimal and I was getting nowhere fast, so I exercised my last option: riding down the shoulder, a.k.a. sidelining.

I try to avoid sidelining, because experience has taught me that it greatly increases the likelihood you’ll end up with a flat tire from roadside debris … or a fat fine from the LEOs. But it was either shoot down the shoulder or write off the run, so I took the risk. And luckily, in a few minutes more, I rolled out of the nightmare and into the south side of Atlanta.

Traffic was flowing freely on I-75 inside Atlanta’s 285 Loop, allowing me to make good time until I crossed outside the Loop on the north, heading toward Marietta. Then sure enough, I ran right into the ass end of another traffic jam. I was so fed up that I screamed inside my brain bucket! But then I steeled my resolve, and whitelined my way to Acworth. From there, my targeted turnaround in Chattanooga was barely 80 miles away. I’d planned to run 810 miles there and back–giving me 1,620 miles total–which would’ve been a new personal best in terms of distance covered on a BBG. But I was rapidly approaching the halfway point on my 24-hour run clock. So when I stopped for gas in Dalton, I conceded that 772 miles–1,544 in total–would have to do.

Perhaps because the Friday evening rush was over, traffic from Dalton back down I-75 South through Atlanta was light, and it seemed like no time at all before I made it to my next fuel stop in Locust Grove. Then a few miles south of there, I topped a rise and saw yet another sea of red lights running all the way to the horizon. Even with the moonlight, it was too dark to safely whiteline, so once again I took to the shoulder and hoped for the best. That traffic jam must have been at least ten miles long, and when I got to the end of it, I was outraged to see the cause: Three lanes of traffic had been forced to merge into one, while half a dozen road “workers” stood casually under floodlights in the other two, doing nothing. My tax dollars at work, I guess…

Anyway, the rest of the ride south and home was uneventful. I successfully completed another BBG ride, but I failed to achieve a new personal best in terms of either distance or MTH. And for the third time on a run targeted for Chattanooga, I ended up making my turnaround somewhere else: Once because I missed a fork and ended up in Clemson … once because mechanical problems forced me to shorten and reroute my run … and this time, because of an improbably incessant succession of traffic jams. I guess Somebody was trying to tell me something.

OK, I got it. That was my last try for Chattanooga!

Until Next Time … Ride Long, Ride Free!