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Steve Jones
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Posted: 25 April 2006 at 6:08pm | IP Logged Quote Steve Jones

So, as it turns out, I rode a BunBurner Gold 1500.



I'd like to tell you about it, but my attitude about the whole LD riding thing is a little bit different.  I should probably start with that.  Anybody who isn't interested in a meandering preface feel free to scroll down to "THE BBG:"

I like to ride. But going from "liking to ride" to purposefully pursuing an LD riding goal is hardly a logical progression.

Mostly I like fun and adventurous paved routes. Twisty roads, extreme environments (minus snow or ice call me a puss), dramatically changing habitats and climates, interesting destinations, fantastic scenery, and, if possible, desolation.

But not slab. Not straitflat.

To that end I took trips in 2004 (3000 miles) and 2005 (7,300 miles) that were just thrilling. Each was carefully planned to spend as much time as possible on my favorite type of roads. I averaged maybe 350 miles a day - 450 on a real long one. This is exactly my kind of riding.

So, how did the LD thing come up?

Well, one day in my youth I rode a CB750K a long way, 700 miles or so.   Bullhead City AZ to Newark CA via Hoover Dam, Vegas, Death Valley & Yosemite.  700 miles isn't squat in LD terms, but at the time it was a long way to me.  It was the final day of a long trip, my first real motorcycle trip.  Something about that day has stuck in my head for all these years.

A couple of years ago, somehow, "Against the Wind" by Ron Ayres came to my attention. From him I learned what LD riding is and how it is done. As I read, I found the whole thing fascinating, if not necessarily alluring.

So one evening last summer I rolled south out of
Badlands National Park after a full day of riding my kind of roads through the Black Hills and Badlands. On paper, my plan was to ride until I found a motel. There were 900 miles of straitflat between me and home.

Let's do this thing, I thought.  The plan was crumpled and tossed.  I rode on through the night.

This wasn't a sudden decision.  It had been a slowly evolving idea at the back of my brain back when I planned the whole 7,000 mile trip. But I didn't decide to pull the trigger until the last moment.

In the end I covered 1,079 miles in 24 hours. I had a blast.  I didn't do any paperwork, so it was not a real SS1000, but I felt good about the whole thing.

I was confident I could do an "official" SS1K, but I thought "what's the point?". Honestly, with a normally prepared bike, and a normal rider, it should not be much trouble to traverse a simple 1000 mile route in 24 hours, the very lowest bar required to qualify for the IBA. As demonstrated in my summer ride, you can even throw in big chunks of twisty road and still clear the 1000 mile barrier with ease.

Of course there are all manner of intentional and unintentional variables that can make a SS1K a true challenge and a significant accomplishment.

But my twisted brain focused on the more extreme IBA rides, how to make them even more challenging, and the route itself more interesting. I decided to turn that focus into a plan for a BBG1500 that included significant portions of twisty road. A route as interesting as I could make it. A route that would be all but impossible to complete as a BBG1500, at least for me.

After some marathon sessions with Microsoft Streets and Trips, I came up with a big loop from my home town of
Sullivan Missouri. The route included a pass through the famed "Tail of the Dragon" and "Cherohala Skyway" roads in the Smoky Mountains, and (as a respectful nod to the IBR) crossing the Hickman Ferry between Kentucky and Missouri - this ferry being one of the bonus locations on the 2005 IBR.  Plus I just like ferries. [note added much later - that eventually led here]

I suspected that it was not possible to complete a BBG on this route without being more "frisky" on the slab portions than I am willing. I haven't had a speeding ticket in nearly a quarter of a century, despite traversing over a million miles in that time span, and hope to keep my record alive. But I decided to give it a try anyway. Though the BBG was a long shot, I was sure I could at least complete a BB1500.

I planned my departure for
6PM, because that would get me to the Smoky Mountains after sunrise, with good enough light to enjoy the Dragon. I also needed to get to the Hickman Ferry before 5:15PM, which is when their last ferry of the day would run. Leaving earlier could put me in the twisties before daylight.  Leaving later could make me miss the ferry.

I tried to sleep until
noon, but only made it till about 10. I was concerned about sleep. Starting in the evening had me just a little spooked.

I spent the day puttering and confirming that everything was in order. At about
5:15 I rode to the Sullivan police department and asked the dispatcher if there was an officer available to sign my start witness form.

I had to explain what I was talking about several times before the "wary caution" look gave way to the "whatever" look, and she hooked me up with an officer who signed my form without further drama.

I guess I allowed too much time for this step, and I was at my starting point 25 minutes early. That was a long 25 minutes, just sitting there in the gas station parking lot watching the clock slowly inch towards
6PM. With about 5 minutes to go, I went to the pump, filled up and got my starting receipt.

THE BBG:

So with route planned into my GPS, fresh witness signatures on my start form and a full tank of gas, I and my ST1300A rolled out of the FasTrip in Sullivan Missouri on
Monday October 10th 2005 at 5:58 PM. I had a date with this same FasTrip, hopefully 23 hours and 59 minutes later.

Mistake number 1: I did not verify that that receipt data was correct. Their computers were not adjusted to daylight savings time, so the time read
4:56PM instead of 5:56PM. This is one of the flaws that made me question whether this BBG would be certified.

So there I was on I-44 Eastbound, a route I have commuted on about a bazillion times. My thoughts were on how to keep up a reasonable speed, without getting ridiculous. I had about an hour of daylight left, the setting sun at my back. The weather was nice, mid 60's and clear.
For the first 10 miles or so I found myself in a hellish coven of dawdling semi-trucks that seemed bent on holding me back. Getting past them required some squidly maneuvers. I don't like doing that but the alternative would have lost me too much time. I gritted my teeth and got through. Those first 10 miles were the most radical riding I had to perform in the entire trip.

I made the first of several "posts" to my audio blog. [note: the audio service I used went defunct, and the posts are lost] My cell phone is set up for hands-free voice controlled operation and is connected to my helmet speaker/mike system via my Starcom1. I had my audio blog programmed in to speed dial, so posting to the blog was seamless and simple. My plan was to leave a post about every hour or so, to allow my wife to check on my safety and progress at her leisure, without me waking her up. I had some other friends following my progress as well. I found out later my brother in law actually stayed up all night, checking the blog - fascinated by what he saw as a ridiculous stunt.  The blog is at http://stevejonesmo.blogspot.com/.

I carried beef jerky, some bottled water and Gatorade, and made sure I had drunk plenty of water before setting out.

Almost right away I realized I probably overdid my pre-hydration. Left over paranoia from my July trip I guess. I really needed to stop for, uh, relief - but pressed on for another uncomfortable 200 miles to my first fuel stop in Marshall IL.

That was a loooonng leg of the trip. I am not sure if that is what distracted me, but I nearly missed my exit onto I 70 from I 55.

Warning: GPS talk here - Luddites skip to the next paragraph. I used a Garmin GPS, which had each turn of the trip programmed into it. I had three screwups related to the GPS: The external power was not working (corrected at my first fuel stop - a loose plug), I had f'd up some arcane setting, requiring me to power-cycle the GPS every time I got to a turning point so it would correctly tell me how many miles until the next turn (corrected AFTER the trip), and I had mistakenly configured the trip log to fire on distance rather than time. In order to be sure it could hold the whole 1500 miles of log (limited to 9,999 points) I had set it up for .2 mile increments. I should have been thinking time, not distance, and set it up for 10 second increments instead. This would make it much more accurate in the twisties, and also would more accurately reflect stop location and duration (corrected AFTER the trip). I also learned AFTER the trip that I could give the turns a name meaningful to me if I started in Streets and Trips by marking them with pushpins (name length set to 10 characters or less, because Garmin truncates them to 10), then making the pushpin a stop. This will be a great improvement for my next trip. Having constant feedback about how many miles to my next turn was a great help. It prevented my needing to waste much attention on the map.

What can you say about I 70. I will leave it to the poets and minstrels. ZZZzzzzz....

I crossed into the Eastern time zone. I fueled up in
South Vienna Ohio. This was about 1 in the morning. Getting chilly, I added a layer of sweat pants and a sweatshirt under my riding gear. Other than that I felt fresh and fine. So far no drowsiness. BBG be damned, I would stop and sleep if I got drowsy. One mistake I never plan to make is to try to force my way past fatigue.

The next exit up the freeway was the northeastern-most point on my trip. I turned south, through
London Ohio on 56. Almost immediately it started to drizzle slightly, which continued for a couple of hours. It was half light drizzle, half heavy mist, but never actually rain. I didn't need to stop and put on rain gear. With the extra layer I had just put on, I stayed dry and warm.

In order to clearly document the northeastern corner of my route, I needed to stop in
Mt. Sterling OH, 26 miles after South Vienna, to get a receipt. It is really too bad that the gas stations at the Mt. Sterling exit are closed at night.  I had to ride all the way into town which probably cost me 15 minutes or so. Bummer.

On into the night south on I 71 through
Cincinnati (WOW are they proud of their radar guns in Cincy), then south on I 75 through Lexington. Being too paranoid about "painting" my route with receipts, I fueled up in Florence and Lexington Kentucky.  I could have gotten away with 1 stop.

As I crossed into
Tennessee about 5 in the morning, it got foggy and I had to ease up. Continuing south, the sky brightened and I started to make out the dim shapes of hills around me. As the light in this fog shrouded dawn slowly increased, so did the Knoxville rush hour traffic. Not too bad, but a distraction.

Coming into
Knoxville I screwed up, missing the I 275 exit and taking a 4 mile detour. I quickly realized my error and backtracked. Only after I was back on track did I realize there was a gas station at the point I turned around, and I could have documented my error and legitimized the miles by getting a receipt. Certainly not worth bothering with for a 4 mile error (would have cost me too much time to stop) but a good lesson for the future. Too bad I didn't take it to heart - this would not be my last wrong turn.

I took the Highway 129 exit and headed south towards the first real interesting bit of the trip, the "Tail of the Dragon". Twenty miles or so of morning traffic separated me from where 129 peels off of 411 and into the beautiful
Smoky Mountains.

I fueled up near
Knoxville at about 7AM eastern time, but for some reason the receipt read 3:29 AM. I didn't notice that until after the trip. I think it is finally burned into my brain that I need to CHECK THE RECEIPT for correct data before I leave a stop.

Being early in the morning on a weekday I had no competition from the massive squidly contingent drawn to the Dragon, and thus the LEO presence was missing as well.

Unfortunately it was intermittently foggy and misty, with a damp road surface, so I had to experience the Dragon under the caution flag. This was the first time I had been there.

I can see the attraction, but I have to say that I found better, longer examples of this type of ride in
California last year, such as 190 east out of Springville, and 245 south of Kings Canyon National Park, as well as much of the Pacific Coast Highway.  And 36 from Red Bluff to Eureka.

I fueled up in Robbinsville, the southeastern-most point on my trip, and headed west on 143 onto the Cherohala Skyway. The fog had lifted and the road started to dry, but there were still damp patches. This is an exceptionally well designed and entertaining road, much more to my taste than the Dragon. It's a faster road.

The day warmed, and with the spirited riding on the Cherohala, so did I. I pulled over to remove the layers I had added in the night. I still felt fine. Not drowsy, not fuzzy.

143 gives way to 165 at the North Carolina/Tennessee border. I carried on through the
Cherokee National Forest and through back roads and small towns working my way back to I 75 south out of Cleveland, Tennessee.

I took I 24 through
Chattanooga, a brief dip into Georgia, a fuel stop in Jasper Tennessee, and north towards Nashville.

I thought I felt fine, but I wonder if I was getting fuzzy - because negotiating my way through
Nashville without making a wrong turn seemed surprisingly difficult. The secret, I learned, is follow the "Clarksville" signs. I struggled in vain to keep the Monkee's song "Last Train to Clarksville" out of my head. Arghh.

Speaking of songs (sort of) I should mention that my iPod was a key part of the trip. It feeds into my helmet speakers via my Starcom1 along with my radar detector and cell phone. But not for music. I use it to play digital files of unabridged recorded books which I get from audible.com.

I have found that long rides or drives are greatly enhanced by listening to light mysteries or thrillers, something with enough pace to keep you engaged, but not so heavy that it takes concentration to follow. I have never found them to be distracting from the things you need to do to be safe on the road. Quite the opposite, I find they keep you alert, and prevent the sort of daydreaming and drifting that sometimes comes along with long miles on the road.

I peeled off I-24 at
Cadiz Kentucky, west on 80 toward the "Land Between the Lakes" area. I was back in the central time zone, and fueled up in Cadiz at about 1 in the afternoon. I felt great.

At this point I started to get excited that the trip had gone so well there was a real chance to qualify for the BBG. I had gone about 1225 miles, and had 5 hours to go the last 275. Should be a snap until you realize that I had a ferry to cross, and that 225 of those miles were back country roads and secondary highways.

But it really was the first time I seriously thought I had a chance. The adrenaline started to kick in.

I greatly enjoyed the ride west towards Hickman, along 68 and 94. Nice country. Something about back roads like this just feels good compared to the slab, even though they weren't twisty.

One thing I was worried about was how long it takes the Hickman Ferry to run. If I just missed it, how long would I need to wait? Looking at my GPS log after the fact, it appears it is about 15-20 minutes each way, so if you just missed it you could be cooling your heels for over half an hour. That would suck!

I swear my heart was pounding as I rolled into Hickman, hoping that I timed the ferry well. That was the key to keeping my hopes of making the BBG alive.

I pulled up to the ramp, seeing the ferry in position, either just arriving or just leaving. There was one car sitting there and I asked the fellow if I was just in time or just too late. I was thrilled when he answered that I was just in time. I was pumped! Things were going my way!

We crossed the mighty
Mississippi, and I was back in Missouri.

Where everything went to hell.

After the ferry I made some great time on the back roads heading towards I 55, but then I ran into a little town called "East Prairie". A small town, but apparently my arrival coincided with shift change at the sphagnum mine or whatever. Plus, I assumed the place of honor behind the sole school bus in the burg, which stopped once every 100 yards or so to disgorge a fresh wad of pink-cheeked youthful EastPrarians. I don't mean to sound bitter, but they obviously were insensitive to my Iron Butt needs. Churls.

This debacle should have been a minor footnote in my BBG attempt, but as it happened it was a harbinger of things to come.

Once I slipped the cloying fingers of East Prairie and was delivered into the rarified air of I 55 north, I ran into construction, with the freeway necked down to one lane over and over again. There were backups, but they weren't too bad, still moving about 45 or 50, but it sure was frustrating.

I could hear the clock ticking. I watched the "ETA at final destination" field on my GPS swing wildly from "Yeah baby!" to "Fagedaboudit" over and over, as I went back and forth from normal speed to construction speed.

I fueled up at the St. Genevieve exit, 1448 miles at 22 hours and 40 minutes. Only 52 miles to go in 1 hour and 20 minutes in order to qualify for a BBG1500. Home free, right?

No. Oh no.

In one of my own personal best stupid moments, it simply did not occur to me that I could carry on north on I 55 and make the necessary remaining miles easily, oh no. I had planned my ride, and was riding my plan.

That time honored saying should be amended to add "but don't be an idiot about it!".

I left I 55, taking the MO hwy 32 exit at St. Genevieve and heading west through Farmington, Potosi and Steelville, towards Cuba.

Here is where I learned another sharp lesson. Just because the towns are small, it doesn't mean they don't have rush hour traffic. Getting through Farmington was torture. I started to feel the nauseating sensation of doom. Even outside the towns, there was too much traffic to make good time.

Then, icing on the cake, I got flustered and took a wrong turn at Flat River, resulting in an unintentional detour to Bismarck, a ten mile error. No, I did not think to get a receipt in Bismarck.

Only after the attempt did I learn that sometimes a ride will be certified even if the final receipt was gotten after the 24 hour mark, so long as sufficient miles were made that a successful completion can be extrapolated backwards from the final stop.

I simply did not know that, so as got back on track on Highway 8, I knew there was no way to get to Cuba by 5:58, where I could get a receipt and would have covered 1,550 miles. Believing I had failed, I felt as if someone had let the air out of me.

To add insult to injury, 3 miles west of Potosi I hit a construction stop, where I had to wait 6 minutes for the guy to flip the "stop" sign to "slow". It was now 5:57.

A minute later, I crossed the 24 hour mark. Later, evaluating my GPS log and plugging my actual route into Streets and Trips, I found that at 5:58PM I had gone 1,510.2 miles according to Streets and Trips. But believing my BBG attempt was toast, I relaxed and cruised into Cuba for a (I thought) now meaningless receipt.

Then I got my final receipt at the FasTrip in Sullivan at 6:59. I had gone 1,567 miles.

Of course I was disappointed, thinking the BBG was out of the question. But I was really thrilled to have covered the miles, and proved to myself that the route can probably be done for a BBG. It was a great and interesting ride.

I went home, told my wife I never wanted to do anything like that again (she just grinned), and slept for 13 hours.

When I woke up, my first non-biological act was to open up Streets & Trips and figure out how I could improve the route.

Sick.

Later, it was explained to me how the certification works, and I was encouraged to send my paperwork in for the BBG. So I did, hoping they would extrapolate my miles backwards from the Cuba receipt.  If they rejected the BBG, it would still be a BB1500.

I kept tweaking the route over the winter, trying (in vain) different things to make it seem less of a longshot, fully expecting to try it again.  I waited for news, hoping for the best but expecting the worst.

It took just shy of 6 months, but an email hit my inbox that had my wife running to see what all the whooping was about.  I made it, but Mike Kneebone said "You were cutting this one at the very edge!"  The ride was certified at 1502 miles.  Holy cow, that WAS close.

My next "twisted" take on IBA rides will be a Missouri SS1000.  The twist is that I will try it on my wife's 250 Ninja. [edit: I did it.... click here for the story]  And I plan to perform the ride entirely in daylight, starting half an hour before sunrise and hopefully finishing by half an hour after sunset.

I'm excited to finally get that "IBA Member" thing under my name.  This is going to be fun!


Edited by Steve Jones on 06 March 2009 at 8:20am


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Texas Tom
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Posted: 26 April 2006 at 4:14am | IP Logged Quote Texas Tom

Outstanding!  Excellent write up!  I like the honesty and your ability to analyze the victories and the defeats within this ride.  What's the ol saying...If it doesn't kill ya (not literally), it only serves to make you stronger.  Well Done.   

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Pappy James
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Posted: 26 April 2006 at 4:48am | IP Logged Quote Pappy James

Classic. nice write up.
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tsayer1
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Posted: 26 April 2006 at 5:42am | IP Logged Quote tsayer1

Exceptional writing Steve, and a great ride.Congrats on your accomplishment.

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Posted: 26 April 2006 at 10:03am | IP Logged Quote broadhead

 Steve,

Congratulations on your BBG. Are you excited about the 2007 IBR starting from your location? Hope you filled out your application form or at least submitted your name to act as a volunteer. Safe riding to you.

Steve Broadhead



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Posted: 26 April 2006 at 10:22am | IP Logged Quote Pappy James

Gee Broadhead, thanks for the post. I didn't even realize that the IBR was out of St. Louis next year. I live just north of there. I'll go volunteer.

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Steve Jones
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Posted: 26 April 2006 at 10:29am | IP Logged Quote Steve Jones

broadhead wrote:
Congratulations on your BBG. Are you excited about the 2007 IBR starting from your location? Hope you filled out your application form or at least submitted your name to act as a volunteer.
Thanks!  Yes, I am excited to see the IBR coming to St. Louis.  As soon as I saw that I volunteered.  I don't think I have an IBR in my future, as a participant, but who knows.  Certainly not 2007.  I don't have the disease that bad yet.  Nor the experience.


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Posted: 26 April 2006 at 4:44pm | IP Logged Quote KentK

Great job.  Thanks for sharing your story.

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Steve Jones
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Posted: 26 April 2006 at 5:22pm | IP Logged Quote Steve Jones

Holy crap, I just got the package in the mail... it was certified at 1502 miles.  Geez that was close...

BTW, thanks everybody for the positive feedback.


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Bradford Benn
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Posted: 26 April 2006 at 6:12pm | IP Logged Quote Bradford Benn

Nice ride!

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