At 5:15am CT on Wednesday 31 October 2007, I completed what was certified as my 27th Iron Butt ride and 14th Bun Burner Gold by pulling an ATM slip at the TATravelcenter off IH-10 at exit 583 near San Antonio TX, a destination I was able to check out in advance on the Web at TATravelcenters.com. On this ride, I covered 1,535 miles in 22 hours 24 minutes for an MTH (miles traveled per hour) of 68.52. This was no personal best for me in terms of distance covered or MTH, but it still met the primary BBG criterion of riding over 1,500 documented miles in 24 hours or less as is stipulated in the Rides & Rules section of IronButt.org.
My route for this ride was from Miami Beach FL to IH-95, then north to the Florida Turnpike, continuing on IH-75 to IH-10, then west to Slidell LA, north on IH-59 to Hattiesburg MS–where Jimmy Buffet earned his bachelor’s degree in history at Southern Miss in 1969–turning west there on US-98 to McComb MS–birthplace of Moesha’s Brandy Norwood, the oversold and undergifted Britney Spears, Rock-and-Roll Hall-of-Famer Bo Diddley, and blues/jazz pianist Bobby Lounge–where I turned back south on IH-55 to Hammond LA, and from there west again on IH-12/IH-10 across the polluted Bayou State and half of Texas to the Alamo City.
Motoring a direct route from Miami Beach to San Antonio is only 1,390 miles, so I added the 145-mile loop up through the Magnolia State to be sure I met the BBG’s “over 1,500” distance requirement. Using Maps.Yahoo.com, I originally plotted my course from Miami Beach north on IH-95 to Jacksonville and then west on IH-10 from there, but a last minute check of the weather forecast at Nws.Noaa.gov, convinced me otherwise. A nasty storm front with heavy rains and 40 mile-an-hour winds was pummeling the northeastern section of the Sunshine State, so I decided to take the Turnpike and IH-75 in hopes of avoiding the worst of it. If you’re wondering why I would be routing through Jacksonville in the first place–given that I was heading for the Lone Star State–the answer has to do with more than just avoiding the tolls or extending the total mileage of my run. For Iron Butt rides originating in South Florida, I always prefer IH-75 or IH-95 over the Turnpike, and for a number of reasons. Here are two of them:
First of all, the Florida Turnpike gives you fewer gas exit options than the interstates. And you often have to stop to pay a toll getting off or back on, which costs you precious time. You can avoid many toll stops, of course, by purchasing a Sunpass transponder at Sunpass.com, but why give Big Brother yet another easy way to track your comings and goings? You might avoid all of them by making your gas stops at Turnpike Service Plazas. But you can only count on one being there every 45 miles, and Citgo Petroleum Corporation (Citgo.com)–a subsidiary of Hugo Chavez’s Petroleos de Venezuela S.A.–has the exclusive gas concession through December of 2008. This strategy can force you to make extra time-consuming gas stops, however, because you can’t pass a Service Plaza unless you are sure you have enough gas to ride 45 more miles to the next one. IH-75 and IH-95, on the other hand, usually offer gas exits every 20 miles or so. One exception is IH-75’s Alligator Alley, along which there are no gas stops for the 52-mile stretch between exits 101 on the west and 49 on the east. Exceptions aside, though, the interstates make it easier to maximize your riding distance between stops, and thereby minimize the number of stops you have to make in completing a timed run.
Secondly, the Florida Turnpike gives you fewer gas branding options than the interstates. More brands to choose from (BP, Chevron/Texaco, Exxon/Mobil, Shell, etc.) means you have more gas debit/credit/gift card options … which gives you more opportunities to “pay at the pump” without increasing the likelihood that some bank will cut off your credit card for “frequent or unusual use”. Every minute counts when you’re trying to cover over 1,500 miles in under 24 hours, and paying at the pump can shave 3 minutes or more off each gas stop. Do that 10 times, and you bank 30 minutes that you can apply to increasing your total mileage, decreasing your total time, or both.
Prepaid gas debit or gift cards are an excellent way to pay at the pump without getting your credit cards flagged. Except for Citgo, you can buy them online for all the brands mentioned above at SvmCards.net (Citgo offers them at “participating retail locations”.) The SVM people charge a hefty fee for their services … but you’ll see that as a small price to pay the first time you end up nursing your reserve to reach the only working gas pumps between East Jesus and West Bumfuck … and having one of their prepaid gas cards in your pocket means the difference between (a) paying at the pump at 2:00am and riding on to complete your run, versus (b) waiting ’til 6:00am for “Buck” to pull in and park the wrecker, turn on the lights, start the coffee, open up the station, and mercifully end the four dark hours of lonely lamentation over your lost ride certification.
Until Next Time … Ride Long, Ride Free!