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Bun Burner Gold Attempt – October 18, 2005

So… what’s the whole Iron Butt thing about anyway? There is a certain breed of motorcyclist who groves to the hum and constant drone of the road. Oh wait, I meant, ah, who likes to jump on two wheels and see new places. Quickly. Or maybe what I mean is that it takes a certain kind of person to search for freedom that can only be found on the road. It’s probably a combination of all of the above for most riders – I know it is for me. The Iron Butt Association is a group of like-minded riders who feel the call of the road. Some of us rack up an impressive number of miles in a relatively short amount of time. Like the Saddle Sore 1000 – 1000 miles in twenty-four hours. Or the Bun Burner Gold – 1500 miles in twenty-four hours. Others consider trips of epic proportions: the 50CC – coast to coast in fifty hours; the Ultimate Coast to Coast – crossing North America from Key West to Prudhoe Bay, Alaska within 30 days; or even a trans-Siberian ride! While some say it is hard to explain to a non-rider why we attempt such ambitious rides, it’s all pretty simple for me. I like to ride, I like to see new places, and I like to meet new people. I also like the freedom that comes from matching man and machine against nature. To understand that last part, you have to know that I like putting myself in out of the way places. There’s nothing better than finding yourself at the end of the beaten path and seeing sights that few have seen. Visit www.ironbutt.com for more information about the Iron Butt Association.

My ride attempt began at the first of October. The riding season is winding down here in Chicago and I was looking for a good excuse to take a few days and hit the road. A work trip appeared and I needed to be in Las Vegas for ½ a day. Hmmm. ½ a day? I suppose I could have jumped on a plane and been out in back in around 24 hours. Or I could jump on GS and take a few leisurely days out and back. Or I could do an Iron Butt on the way out and then enjoy a casual ride back. Hmmm… now we’re talking. I completed a Saddle Sore 1000 back in August of 2004, so it was only natural that I try something a bit more ambitious. Which one? I could have done a Bun Burner – 1500 miles in 36 hours – but, honest, that didn’t seem as much a challenge as the Bun Burner Gold – the same distance in 24 hours. Hmmm. 24 hours. That’s only 62.5 mph averaged over 24 hours. Hmmm, I thought. I’m a clever guy; I’ll plan on 20 hours. That meant I would need to average 75 mph over those twenty hours. Easy enough, I thought. Heh. The best is yet to come.

I started to plan. What would I need? Uhhh… a motorcycle. Check. Cold weather riding gear. Check. Would be kind of nice to have XM radio and a GPS. Check. Uhhhh… you’re gonna think I’m spoiled, but I just bought the new Garmin 376c. I had satellite weather reports as well. Overkill for sure. Maybe – stay tuned to see how I used it. A tent. A sleeping bag (for the return trip – I sure wasn’t planning on taking a rest on the way out). Check and check. A credit card. Check. Some starting and ending witnesses. Check. What was the best route? The shortest route was through Cheyenne and Salt Lake City. Ah, yeah. Probably the worst route too. Let’s not forget we’re talking about the middle of October. Further south? Denver wasn’t far enough south – although the Rocky Mountain National Park is one of my favorites, I knew I’d run into snow. I ran into snow on the aptly named Iceberg Pass in August a few years ago. I ended up deciding to head south from Chicago to St Louis and then to motor west to Winslow, Arizona. Winslow was just over 1600 miles according to Microsoft Streets & Trips. It’s hugely important, by the way, to use mapping software or real maps to determine distance on the timed distance rides as most motorcycle odometers register higher miles than actually traveled. Don’t ask me why – but wouldn’t it just suck to complete your trip and find out you had only gone 1497 miles? Man, that would suck.

As my plan came to fruition I decided that I would leave at 10:00p on Tuesday, October 18th and shoot for an arrival in Winslow at 5:00p Mountain time the following evening – twenty hours. That’s 1600 miles in 20 hours. An average of 80 mph. You know how they say if you want to make God laugh, tell him you have a plan? I should have realized it was laughter I heard as I went about my preparations.

I worked as usual on Monday. I didn’t go to sleep on Monday night at all. I stayed up until about 7:00a on Tuesday morning. I thought that I would sleep most of Tuesday, leave Tuesday night, and then get the nighttime riding out of the way while I was plenty rested. Good plan. I did get five or six hours of sleep on Tuesday morning – but I wasn’t adjusted enough to sleep throughout the day. I finally ended up going out to load my gear on the bike (a BMW 1150 GS Adventure, btw) in the mid-afternoon hours. What do I see? There was a nail sticking out of the back of my almost brand new rear tire. Damn. The laughing I was hearing was turning into a full blown chuckle at this point. I thought about patching it. Heck, I was only planning four-thousand miles over the next five days. What could go wrong? I quickly decided to replace the tire. I called my local dealer who didn’t have a tire in stock. Oh well, I thought, I’m gonna have to play it by ear. I’ve got a pretty good tire patch kit (the string type) – only problem was, ah, I’d never patched a motorcycle tire. I’d patched a few car tires in my time, but never a bike tire. Ah, what the heck, it’s the same principal. I patched it, inflated the tire to the proper amount and thought I’d just check the pressure throughout the afternoon. Good news? It held just fine. As a matter of fact, it’s still holding a week later. I think I can safely say that tire patching skills are one of those cross-over skills – they work equally well on motorcycle tires as they do on car tires. I only wish the same could be said for tire-changing skills. But that’s another report.

It is near dinner time and I’m really debating the wisdom of waiting until 10:00p to depart. The original plan was to get a solid eight to ten hours of sleep and then ride through the darkest hours of the night while I was rested. That idea didn’t seem to be working, so I decided to move up the departure time. I rode over to the local firehouse and found two guys who would witness my start time – they both thought I was nuts, but gladly offered their assistance. I explained the whole Iron Butt thing and then told them I needed to find some public officials who would be willing to verify that I was really there, in person, at the start time. They agreed and then I was off to the gas station. I gassed up at the local station and then began to motor my way west.

Here’s where a little planning and thinking ahead would have really been a good idea. It turns out that leaving later in the evening was a very good plan as I’m in a western suburb of Chicago and needed to make my way to Interstate 55 south to St Louis. I can’t even begin to tell you how badly I wanted to scream when I realized that I was averaging 35-40 mph through the burbs in stop and go traffic. It took me almost an hour to reach the interstate where I could open it up a bit. This slow start dogged me throughout the ride and I cursed the decision to start early all the way up until the last minutes of my ride.

I motored down I-55 to St Louis and made St Louis in about four hours and change. You know how you sometimes form first impressions of places you visit? For years and years and years I’ve always though the roads in St Louis just suck – despite having driven there only a handful of times. This time was no exception – the potholes on 55 and 44 have their own potholes. No kidding. There’s a descending radius exit ramp off of 55 leading onto 44 that probably has 100 repaired (and not so repaired) potholes on the ramp itself. I remember riding on that ramp a few years ago and wondering where all the federal money went that was supposed to repair the interstate highway system? Hmmm. Questions for another time, I suppose. It was kind of neat, though, so see St Louis in the middle of the night. The Arch was illuminated and looked pretty cool.

I continue west on Interstate 44 and, a few hours later, pass through Springfield, MO. I grin to myself and realize that I’ve just completed “my first full day of riding” – at least according to Microsoft Streets & Trips. I’m about 550 or 600 miles into my trip and I’m feeling good. Heck, I’m feeling great. It’s around 4:30a or so in the morning and I’m looking forward to the sunrise and the rest of my trip. It’s been a chilly night, but I’m feeling pretty protected – I’m wearing long johns, gerbings heated gear, and my Firstgear HT Air pants/jackets (with waterproof liners). I’ve got a scarf wrapped around the neck and pushed up into the front of the helmet. I’m not cold at all – temps are probably in the high 30s. I’d be done without the heated stuff, though. I continue motoring west on 44 and cruise through Oklahoma and its associated toll roads. It seems they nickel and dime ‘ya on the tolls, but the receipts do serve as good proof that I was actually there for the Iron Butt folks. I’m through Oklahoma and into Texas. I had previously found a fella on the LD Riders list who agreed to serve as a final witness for me in Winslow – Doug Banfelder. Doug and I had agreed that I should call him mid-day on Wednesday to confirm that things were going well and that I was on track. He was coming all the way from Phoenix to help me out, so it made all the sense in the world to provide an update as to my progress. I called Doug about noon on Wednesday and let him know that I was still fighting to recover from a weak start and was now planning on being in Winslow a bit later than anticipated – but still well within the 24 hour window. I probably called Doug around the 1000 mile mark – meaning I had another 500 to go. I was feeling good, but was getting a little frustrated as the hours remaining seemed less and less and I was still five hundred miles out. I probably had seven hours remaining. So much for finishing in twenty hours. The laughter seemed to be getting a bit louder.

I soldered on across the rest of Texas and New Mexico and into Arizona. Guess what? There’s no way I’m going to make Winslow in time. The laughter is absolutely peeling off of the canyon walls at this point. Construction in October? You bet. There was a ton of construction, and a ton of single-lane interstate traffic towards the end of my trip. I know I was being very optimistic when I planned such an ambitious ride in twenty hours, but it was frustrating knowing that I was stuck behind a bunch of 18-wheelers doing 40 mph on the interstate. It gets worse… I look down and my fuel warning light comes on. Shit. I’ve not gone the complete 1500 miles yet (am tracking via GPS as well as some printed references from Streets & Trips). I pull off the interstate and gas up. The time on the receipt isn’t even close. We’ve moved from Central time to Mountain time, but the receipt is an hour off. I don’t have the energy to go inside and argue with the guy about it. I make a quick note in my log and resolve to get another receipt somewhere down the road. I still have to at least tick over the 1500 mile mark. I want to scream. Fifteen minutes later I cross over the magic 1500 mile mark. I go a bit further and then start thinking about receipts. I stop at a gift store on the side of the interstate and end up buying some water and a candy bar. The time dated receipt is also off by an hour! I want to scream some more. The lady behind the counter explains that while everybody else in Arizona celebrates Daylight Savings, the Indian Reservations do not!!! Hmmm… I think about it and do the math and realize that not only is this a good receipt, but so is the last one that I thought was bad! That makes me feel a lot better. I’m feeling a little out of it, though. I cruise down the road and decide that I just had to have a gas station receipt with the proper time. I pull into the first station I see and it’s not a receipt at the pump kind of place. I don’t really need gas as I tanked up not so long ago. I explain to the guy behind the counter that I just need a time/date stamp saying I purchased gas. I ask him if I can just buy a dollars worth of gas. I tell him I don’t even need/want the gas, just the receipt. He gladly takes my dollar and then makes a big production out of explaining how the pump works. He completely didn’t get that I didn’t want the gas. I just grin and pump some excess gas into the tank – and it promptly runs right out the overflow vents. The receipt? The date says 1/1/01 and the time says 12:something or other. I really wanted to scream now. I jump back on the bike and cruise down the interstate and finally find another gas station. I finally get another receipt.

I’m done with the 1500 miles within the 24 hour mark, but, man, I was out of it and started making errors towards the end. I lost my four hour surplus by being too ambitious to begin with. I figure I lost at least another hour by screwing around and leaving at the wrong time on the Chicago end. I just know I ended up sitting for at least an hour in traffic that simply was not moving. I’m not sure how I could have prevented this last part, but not having a good surplus of hours built into a realistic schedule provided zero room for errors or unforeseeable delays along the route. I continue on to Winslow after the 1500 mile mark and sync up with my witness and get Doug to sign off on my paperwork. I also met the fire chief and had him witness my ride as well. Now I’ve just got to tally all the receipts and paperwork and send everything in. Lesson learned? I’d probably leave a bit later next time – just to clear traffic on the Chicago end. I’d also consider not picking up my starting receipt/mileage/time until much closer to the interstate system. I could have left home at the same time but not picked up a receipt until right before getting on the interstate – saving at least an hour that would permit a much higher mph average.

Oh yes, that Garmin 376c? It has XM Radio built into it and I listed to some great tunes all the way across the country. Very very nice. It has weather reception as well. I didn’t experience any bad weather on the way down, so received no real benefit from the WX portion of the unit on the way to Vegas. The return trip was a different story, though. I was able to see some fairly heavy rain outside of Tulsa that just seemed to be sitting there – not moving at all. I detoured around it – while I did get wet, I didn’t get soaked. I did get soaked the last ten miles of the trip – there were yellow (medium rain) and purple (light/medium snow/rain mix) nexrad returns near the house on my return. No real way to detour – I rode through it. The Firstgear HT Air stuff and the heated gear kept me warm and dry. No problem.

The return trip? I actually did the same route as the outbound trip, but in reverse. I was gonna go over and see the north rim of the Grand Canyon – but it closed for the season the day before my return trip. Damn. I thought about going over and seeing what’s what, but it’s 8000 ft or so over there and storms brining a few feet of snow at this time of year are not unheard of. Sure would suck to get buried alive before turning in my BBG paperwork! I cruised along the south rim and had earlier taken my time through the Hoover Dam area. I found it fascinating that they are building a large bridge over the dam – the current route through the area (US93) is a two-lane highway and very congested. It looks as if they are putting in a four-lane highway. The smaller bridges over the smaller canyons are already in place and the infrastructure for the roadway (foundation, sewers, etc.) are all in place. All that remains to be completed is the main bridge over the gorge and the paving of the new roadway. All in all it was very cool – an engineering marvel.

I also found time to take it easy a bit and go off and explore some interesting roads on the way home. This pic was off the interstate and down a dirt road and then up and around a few hills. Until I ran into the fence. http://www.titleii.com/images/cool.jpg.
 

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Nice write up, Dan. I'm considering a BBG myself next weekend, though it may be getting a bit late in the year for it.

I appreciate you sharing your experience with us.
 

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Congratulations!

Dan,
I really enjoyed your story.
You got it...pick up your receipt at a gas station right next to the freeway and that puts you right on easy street. :)
I was on a lot of the same roads before Ali took a powder. We stopped at Hoover dam and took lots of photos. What a pretty spot.
I liked your photo. I found it interesting that the GS was not liking the pot holes. I rode the GS on a test drive and thought it was smoother than the LT. Nice lights on that puppy. I'll bet you don't have a problem seeing down the road.
Nice job and you got paid for doing it...not bad.
Congratulations!
Happy trails,
 

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Nice going Dan! You know what they say "Laughter Really is the best Medicine" Say, if you'd been ridin' an LT you coulda, shoulda made it in twenty hours..heck, it only took me 23.75 hours to do my BBG. Thanks for sharing your ride with us.
 

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Dan, Perseverance can be tough way to go!
Pete
 

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Hi, Dan - man, I wish I could write like you guyz (you and Pete). Some great reading in both posts. Seldom do I read posts twice, but you guyz have me doing just that (and with a map alongside, which brings a leetle better visual picture, for me at least).

Now that Pete sparked your interest for an LD ride 'upgrade', I'll be anxious to read your next adventure tale!! Thanks to you for sharing.

Best
 

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inspired

Ok...I was thinking I "needed" to do an iron butt kinda ride .....I've hunted around home here (north GA) for a victim.....err....accomplice.....but all my biker friends just look at me like I must have hit my head too hard when I suggest that we cruise down to say...Tampa and back some Saturday.....

But....after reading your story....now I realize that it is inevitable that I get this done.....imperative even.....

So....if anyone out there in LT land anywhere near north GA has a similar inclination give me a call or email me or pull up at my doorstep and we will head out.....I'm figuring some Saturday or Sunday within the next few weeks....

Oh....and nice touch as far as riding out to a work related meeting.....I am going to bear that in mind for future reference.....maybe a trip to Chicago....

Thanks for the story.....continues to affirm why I read the material on this site....

Ride safe.....ride long
Kip
99 LT
jefferson ga......
[email protected]
404-661-1936 cell
(if there are any takers)
 
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