At 3:08am CT on Saturday, 30 June 2007, I pulled a gas receipt at the TA TravelCenter in San Antonio TX to mark the successful completion of what was certified as my 23rd Iron Butt ride and 10th Bun Burner Gold. On this BBG, I covered 1,528 miles in 22 hours 10 minutes, giving me an MTH (miles traveled per hour) of 68.92. My route was from Miami Beach FL north on I-95 to Jacksonville FL, then west on I-10 to US231, north through Dothan AL to Montgomery AL, south on I-65 to Mobile AL, and west on I-10/I-12/I-10 to San Antonio TX.
My ride began at 5:58am ET the previous morning. As usual, I was up two hours beforehand to get my fill of coffee and eggs while I checked the NOAA weather forecasts at http://www.nws.noaa.gov. Sure enough, I had a 50% chance of thunderstorms along most of my route, and the steady rainfall outside my kitchen window hinted that this time the predictions just might be accurate. But at least with expected nighttime lows above 70, staying warm would be no problem. And given that my rain gear did its job well through two God-awful gusty hailstorms in New Mexico just a few weeks earlier, I’d figured I’d be dry as well.
I figured wrong. The rain was still falling as I loaded up the bike, logged the start of my run, and headed off the Beach. It continued to rain all the way north up I-95 through Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties. And as I was passing the exit for Jupiter, I felt something moist and cool around my heels and toes, and realized that my waterproof H-D FXRG-2’s were–for the first time since I bought them six months earlier–filling up with water. The boots weren’t actually leaking, but somewhere above them my rain gear was, and the water was making its way down my leg and into my socks. I would be hearing the telltale squishy sound of soggy boots with every step at every stop for the rest of the ride. And when those boots finally came off at the end, it would be several hours before the pale, mushy, wrinkled bottoms of my waterlogged feet dried out enough to where I could walk without wincing.
The rain finally subsided by the time I reached Jacksonville. And wet feet aside, I had sunshine and smooth riding all the way west along I-10 to the Cottondale FL exit. Then a few miles north of there, on a shoulderless four-lane stretch of US231 between Campbellton FL and Dothan AL, I came very close to meeting my Maker: I was in the right-hand lane passing an eighteen-wheeler in the left. When I was about even with the middle of the trailer, the rig started a hard right turn, quickly closing off the lane in front of me. I opened up my throttle to try to get past him, at the same time moving as close to the edge of the pavement as I could. The gap I shot through to safety was so narrow that I literally saw nothing to the right of my front wheel but the ditch, while to my left I could’ve reached out and touched the truck’s right headlight. One second more would’ve probably been one second too late…
This near-miss illustrates one of the reasons why I route my distance and endurance rides along interstate highways as much as I can. Not only do interstates generally make it impossible for clueless cagers to turn left in front of you, but they usually have a paved shoulder or emergency lane you can escape to if cagers veer into your lane or cut you off. Another advantage of interstates on timed runs is that you don’t have to stop for red lights. On this run, for example, I lost twenty precious minutes baking in the hot summer sun as I inched through a seemingly never-ending series of cage-congested stoplights along the US231 Bypass in Dothan AL–which, by the way, doesn’t really “bypass” anything!
Despite Dothan’s delays, I managed to make it to Montgomery AL and cut across South Boulevard and over Rosa L. Parks Avenue to I-65 well ahead of Friday evening’s rush hour traffic. I rode I-65 south to its terminus in Mobile AL, then continued west on I-10 through Mississippi and into Louisiana. There, I bypassed the Big Easy by taking I-12 towards Baton Rouge LA. Somewhere along I-12 near Hammond LA, I shot past a crotch rocketeer who apparently took a great interest in me. Less than a minute later he was right behind me, and shortly thereafter right beside me. I don’t like riding two abreast in one lane at high speeds through heavy traffic, so I pulled away from him. He mimicked every move I made, apparently thinking I had challenged him to some silly cat and mouse game. Using a universal hand signal, however, I was finally able to persuade him to maintain a safe distance behind me.
I-12 merged back into I-10 in Baton Rouge LA. I continued riding west, reaching Houston TX by midnight, and approaching the outskirts of San Antonio TX near 3:00am CT. I took the Foster Road exit off I-10, planning to pull a computer-stamped receipt to log the end of my BBG run at the Flying J Travel Plaza (FlyingJ.com) there. Looking down at my bike clock, I realized I could break the 22-hour mark if I pulled my receipt quickly enough. So I stuck a credit card in the pump, squeezed a quick shot of gas, replaced the fuel nozzle, and waited for the receipt to print. Out it came … but with no time stamp! So I hurried inside–as fast as my waterlogged feet would take me–to pull an ATM slip … but the ATM was out of order!
So much for breaking the 22-hour mark on this ride … and so much for me singing the praises of Flying Js. I fired up the bike, and rolled across the overpass to a competing TA TravelCenter (TATravelCenters.com). Fortunately, their gas receipts had timestamps, their ATM worked, and I had no problems collecting my end-of-ride witness signatures from their biker-friendly patrons.
Until Next Time … Ride Long, Ride Free!