Somewhere in Texas

Motorcycle Touring? Never Take a Backwarmer On a Ride Through Hell

September 2010

Iron Butt Ride #51

At 4:53pm CT on Sunday, 1 August 2010, I pulled an ATM slip at a 7-11 in Wichita Falls to log the end of what should be certified as my 51st Iron Butt ride and my 4th Bun Burner 1500, covering a distance of 1,515 miles in 35 hours 35 minutes. My route was from Miami Beach FL to Wichita Falls TX via Gulfport MS, Alexandria LA and Dallas/Fort Worth.

My certification submission reflected nothing remarkable about this ride. After all, given a generous 36 hours to cover 1,500 miles, the Bun Burner (or BunBurner) is perhaps the least challenging of all IBA rides and a walk in the park compared to the Bun Burner GOLD series. Nevertheless, by taking a passenger through a sweltering two-day gauntlet of near-record high temperatures and heat indexes, the price paid to complete this ride was far more than we bargained for…

I consider anything over 500 miles a day “motorcycle touring”, anything over 1,000 miles a day “distance riding”, and anything over 1,500 miles a day “endurance riding”. Each is a different dynamic with a divergent set of demands for bike and rider, and that is reason enough to avoid mixing one with the other. In this case, however, I made what was intended to be an expedient exception. Here’s how it went:

Every year DP, Hidalgo and I try to take a different route on our annual pilgrimage to taunt all the “Live to Ride” trailerists buying “I Rode Mine” pins and patches in Sturgis. Last year, we looped down to Terlingua TX and followed US-385 from its southern terminus at the entrance of Big Bend National Park to its northern end coming into Deadwood SD. This year, our plan was to take parts of old Route 66 through Tucumcari NM, then ride further west and north through the Rockies with stops in Durango and Telluride CO before continuing on to Wyoming and cutting back east to Sundance, our base for the 2010 Black Hills Trailer Classic. In order to cover all those miles in the seven days allotted and still have time to enjoy the spectacular vistas of a winding two-lane tour along the Continental Divide through the high peaks and deep valleys of Southwestern Colorado’s San Juan Mountains and beyond, logistics dictated we ride hard for the first two days so we could enjoy the remaining five. I knew from experience that over two days the most I’d be able to coax out of DP was about 1,500 miles, so that was the course plotted.

Our ride began at 6:18am ET on Saturday, 31 July 2010, when I logged my initial gas receipt in Miami Beach FL. It was a typical warm and muggy South Florida morning, but once we got rolling the wind cooled us down and blue skies above made for good riding. The temperature stayed in the 80s coming up through Central Florida, reaching 88 degrees by the time we stopped for gas and water in Ocala at 10:38am. Over the next two hours it jumped another 10 degrees, reaching 98 at our stop just east of Tallahassee. And for the remainder of this day’s ride, the weather history database at will attest that the temperature along our route hovered just under a withering 100 degrees.

Being from Texas and accustomed to riding long hours under a hot sun, I was fine so long as I drank water at every gas stop. It was tough on DP, though. I had to give her a 20-minute break to cool down with some Gatorade in Defuniak Springs FL. That got us to our next stop in Wilcox AL, where we took even longer to re-hydrate her with water, iced tea and a Pepsi in the air-conditioned comfort of the we-sell-everything Oasis Travel Center located there. With that, plus a large cup filled with ice to go, she hung on like a real trooper ’til we stopped for the night in Gulfport MS … where thanks to swarms of federal bureaucrats drawn there to boondoggle by the BP Oil Spill, I was forced to pay the Best Value Inn $145.54 for a thirty-dollar room.

After a good night’s sleep and a decent breakfast at a nearby Waffle House packed with red-eyed blinged-out Saturday nighters, I logged a gas receipt and began the second leg of this ride at 5:27am CT. Much like the day before, the morning started out warm and muggy but soon blue skies and ideal riding conditions prevailed. It was a tolerable 84 degrees as we crossed the Mississippi River at Baton Rouge LA around 7:30am, and climbed to 90 by the time we reached the Relay Station at Frierson LA. DP’s resilience was falling faster than the temperature was rising, so we took a break there to recharge her batteries with some soup and sweet tea. Over the next two hours the temperature again made a 10 degree jump, topping the century mark by the time we stopped in Canton TX at 1:46pm. And from there it only got worse. Riding through the DFW freeway maze, the heat from the surrounding cars combined with the broiling rays from above to make “riding the open road” feel like being baked in an oven. It was no picnic for me, and I knew the only thing holding DP in the saddle was a little bit of melted ice and a whole lot of intestinal fortitude.

As we continued riding, the mercury continued rising. By the time we made our final stop for gas and ice in Decatur TX at 3:51pm, we were both wishing we were somewhere else. But our destination was only 75 miles away, and we had just enough time left to reach it. So we damned the 105 degree heat and twisted the throttle ’til we reached Wichita Falls and our LDR goal.

We did it! But I’ve been assured that “we” won’t be doing anything like this again…

Bruce Arnold aka IronBoltBruce 😉

Record-holding long distance motorcycle rider … bikers’ rights activist, forum partner to RC and proud member of The 100 … political agitator targeting social injustice and piercing the veil of our two-puppet system to expose the institutionalized greed of the Kleptocracy pulling all strings Left and Right … like Thomas Jefferson, an aficionado of ethnic aesthetic and a philosophical anarchist who accepts the State as a necessary evil under which the best government is less government.