LD riding isn't for everyone, any more than motorcycle riding is for everyone (even if they can afford the shiny status symbol).
For me, I just like to ride. Short trips to run errands, an afternoon run through the local mountains or to meet friends for lunch, or crossing several states just to tick them off a list. It's all good.
Like many of the IronButt members, I've been riding long distance way before I knew of any group or organization. Getting a certificate is a nice feeling, but knowing that I accomplished the ride to my own standards counts for more. The group merely provides a collection of like-minded individuals that have all agreed to a standard set of rules so that we have a common ground to work from. Not unlike this forum, come to think of it.
Yes, riding motorcycles can be dangerous. But we accept those risks and try to mitigate them by riding advanced bikes with ABS, keeping them in good repair (especially tires and brakes), wearing proper safety gear (most of the time
), taking advanced rider training, and even using forums like this to compare notes and learn from others.
LD riding is simply the same, but more so. You wouldn't buy a pair of Nikes then go run 26 miles, or buy a new parka and go climb a mountain. You work up to these goals by starting smaller, pushing yourself to the limit, then breaking through that limit and pushing on to the next one. Those limits are personal, and something that each of us has to find for ourself (or choose not to find). Even guys who have spent tens of thousands of dollars and years of training to go climb Everest have to know when they've hit their limits and have to turn back.
On my first "official" SaddleSore (1000/24) I pulled over and got a hotel simply because I needed to stop. Four hours later I felt great and continued on without problem. I've also completed a 50CC, had a nice, big breakfast, then felt good enough to continue on another few hours and another state or two.
In terms of sanctioned rides, I've done multiple 1000/24 rides such that I don't bother documenting them anymore. Under perfect conditions that's about 14 hours ride time, plus another hour for fuel stops and a quick lunch. I've also done 1500/36, B2B Gold (Mexico to Canada) in <24 hours, 1500/24, 50CC (coast to coast in <50 hours), and an SS5K (5,000 miles in 5 days). The trick is not running at full-tilt for hours on end, but rather minimizing down time (fuel stops 5-10 minutes max) and managing your sleep (especially on the longer multi-day rides). It's efficiency, not speed that will get you there safely.
I'm also doing a couple of longer-term rides, such as the National Parks Tour (50 parks in 25 states within a year) and the California National Parks Adventure (all 24 National Parks in California within a year). These serve nothing more than to get me down some random back roads that I never would have chosen on my own, and to say that I did it.
But what I prefer more is the LD Rallies. Doing 1,000/24 is almost cheating with today's modern bikes and extremely efficient Interstate systems. But turn that into a scavenger hunt where you have to chase bonus locations, take pictures of obscure roadside attractions, and answer random trivia questions and it's a whole new ball game. Suddenly instead of simply changing XM channels or looking ahead to the next fuel stop as you drone along you find the brain constantly searching for the best combination of time/distance while hustling down some little-traveled back road looking for a roadside marker or chasing the tide to get that picture of an obscure lighthouse. Now that's challenging, and a whole lot of fun besides.
Then again, it's not for everyone. And that's fine. But if it does call to you, then at least we know where you can find many more like-minded riders who don't think twice about crossing state lines just to have lunch with a few guys.