Louisiana/Texas Border

Flat Tire in East Texas

November 2009

At 7:21am ET on Sunday, 11 May 2008, I pulled an ATM slip at the SoBe Wachovia marking the end of 2 days and 2,435 miles in the saddle. From my run north and west, I certified my 35th Iron Butt Ride, a SaddleSore 1000 covering 1,022 miles in 14 hours 24 minutes (MTH 71.25). And from my run back east and south, I certified my 36th Iron Butt Ride, a SaddleSore 1000 covering 1,141 miles in 17 hours 16 minutes (MTH 66.08). But SS1000’s were not what I was aiming for… This was supposed to have been the end of my third Bun Burner Gold 3000 (“BBG3000”). And given that I had light traffic and perfect riding weather the entire time, that would have been a quite feasible outcome. But instead, this run marked the third time in 15 months that a f**king flat rear tire took its toll on one of my Iron Butt rides:

This one took me out just after midnight on IH-10 West near Houston in Channelview TX, about 1,206 miles into the ride. I was attempting to pass an 18-wheeler on the left when the tail of my bike began that all too familiar slide from side to side–as if the rear tire was made of ice. Recognizing the tire was going flat, I ever so gently eased off the throttle, slowly coaxing the bike to the right, and finally coming to a stop at the top of an overpass. Fortunately, I was near the start of an exit. So I came up off the saddle and nursed/lugged the bike down the ramp and into the chuck-holed parking lot of a rundown No-Name Motel. Crossed fingers and a canister of ThreeBond SEAL-N-AIR failed me, and at 1:00am in the morning I had no other quick recovery routes. I mentally conceded my BBG3000 attempt, woke up the young Indian desk clerk, and paid him seventy bucks for a freeway frontage room whose door and window shook with every passing truck.

Five sleepless hours later, I was back at the “front desk” for a much-needed cup of their “complementary coffee from six to ten”. It looked and tasted like dirty water, so my caffeine craving compelled me to take a twenty-minute hike to the nearest c-store for four cups of decent java and a muffin. Once back at the room, I got on the phone with my HOG card and made arrangements for the first available tow to the nearest Harley dealer. Neither was far away. So when they rolled open the glass doors of the San Jacinto H-D Service Department at 8:00am that Saturday morning, mine was the second bike through.

Since no Iron Butt ride clock was ticking at that moment, I asked the wrench to give my bike a once-over while he was changing the tire. He did, and discovered that one of the passing lights was out. I could have made it home without it, of course, but I figured the best thing to do would be to go ahead and put new bulbs in both lamps while I was there. Not a bad idea, right?

Wrong. Thirty minutes after they finished with my bike, I was back on IH-10, fueled up and heading east. That’s when I first noticed in the reflections from the rear end of cages in front of me that my lights were going on and off. Not just my passing lights, but my headlight as well! I started to turn back. But I hate turning back once I’m headed somewhere, and the problem wouldn’t be critical until nightfall, so I pushed on to Beaumont and made my second service stop of the day at Cowboy H-D. There, we uncovered that the problem was not the loose connection that I suspected, but rather the fact that the new bulbs were drawing more than the old ones … and more than enough to trip the circuit breaker and take out my headlight in the process. The obvious solution was to replace the replacements, but the proper replacements were not in stock. They recommended I try the local auto parts stores, but by that point I was out of patience and ready to pull the plug on the whole process. So that’s exactly what I did. I pulled the bulbs out of both passing lamps, and continued my ride east with just my headlight. At least I still had both High and Low beams, and I gambled that even my luck would not run so bad as to lose both of them in the next eighteen hours.

Aside from the misfortune of having a flat tire and the comedy of errors that it precipitated, there was nothing more particularly remarkable about this ride. Good Lord willing, this will not mark the end of my BBG3000 attempts. This ride did, however, mark the end of something else:

Due to unaffordable gas prices, uncertain economic prospects, and an unexpected tax penalty, June 2008 was the first calendar month for which I did not complete at least one Iron Butt ride since December 2006. But from January 2007 to May 2008, I completed at least one IBA-certified ride each month for 17 consecutive calendar months, including altogether 22 of my Iron Butt rides. I do not know if this is an IBA record. Regardless, it represents a personal best I do not expect to challenge.

Until Next Time … Ride Long, Ride Free!

Bruce Arnold aka IronBoltBruce

Follow me on Twitter @ironboltbruce
Co-Moderator, Bruce-n-RC’s Biker Forum
Mile Eater Gold Member, Iron Butt Association (IBA)
Sustaining Member, Motorcycle Riders Foundation (MRF)
2009 Chairman’s Circle, American Motorcyclist Association (AMA)
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