It's spring, so it must be time to go to Florida! - March 23rd ~ 28th, 2010

In the past my ride reports for my Florida trips have been fairly long to extremely long and filled with pictures.  Unfortunately I'm going to break that tradition this time.  There isn't much to tell and I didn't take a single photo the whole time I was gone.

The truth is that what has become my annual spring trip to visit my Dad was very much on hold this year, at least until I found a job anyway.  But we got a phone call on Friday the 19th from my Dad's step son and later wife explaining that he wasn't doing well and was in the hospital.  He had been complaining of extreme pain in his neck, shoulder and arms so they took him to the ER where as a precaution an EKG was performed.  The results of this and high enzyme levels in his blood that indicated alarmed the ER folks so they transported him by ambulance to Ft Myers where his cardiologist is.  There they determined that an angiogram should be done as a precaution.  This was scheduled for Monday the 22nd.

Julie and I discussed whether or not I should go down, well actually she told me to go and I resisted.  There wasn't anything I could do except wait on the test results and I hated to spend the money on the trip right at the moment.  So I decided to wait until Monday to hear how the tests went and then decide what to do. 

The test results were good, no real plague build up so there would be no need for a stent or any heart damage.  Good news!  At the same time it was explained to me that the high enzyme levels were indications of recent heart episodes and that Dad had lost a lot of weight since his surgery back in November.  All of this and the urgency in the voices of Dad's wife and step son prompted me to think maybe I should go on down.

So Monday night Julie and I started packing up the FJR for the trip and on Tuesday morning I headed out.  What I call "Florida Route 1", which is US 601 to US 301 to US 27 is my preferred route but I had waited until mid morning for slightly warmer temperatures to leave and didn't want to drag in after dark at my normal 'pit stop' location of Baldwin, Florida.  So I bit the bullet and headed for the Interstates.  I took I-85 to Charlotte, then I-77 to Columbia, South Carolina, then I-26 toward I-95.  My first fuel stop was technically in Orangeburg, South Carolina but in reality it wasn't far from I-95 where I put the FJR in the wind south bound.

I droned on down the Interstate, happy to be on a bike, but wishing I was somewhere else...  Construction was light and traffic was, as usual, moving on.  The only really interesting thing to happen was a trucker saw a sticker for the BRP (Blue Ridge Parkway) on my rear fender and mistook it for an MTF (Motorcycle Tourers Forum), noted my CB antenna and spoke to me on the radio about it.  Turns out he his an MTF guy and rider too so I slowed up a bit and we chatted until I jumped off I-95.  I was taking A1A and US 301 so that I could head for Baldwin and spend the night.  It was a little after 6:00 pm when I got there.  Not bad.  Not a lot of fun and not very scenic, but that wasn't the idea.

I had trouble sleeping during the night and when I did get to sleep I slept a little later than I normally do.  That put me leaving the motel around 9:00 am.  Once again I veered from my normal route which is to take SR 100 in Starke, Florida over to US 19 and run it south through the Ocala National Forest.  I have done this to avoid the traffic and congestion from Ocala over to Leesburg, but it's a little further.  This time I opted to go straight down 301 to US 27 and later I wished I hadn't.  Traffic sucked.  But I stayed on the bike and rode on, not stopping until I got to Lake Wales, Florida some 250 miles south when I needed fuel.  Then rode straight through again to Dad's house in Clewistion arriving just after 3:00 pm.  Total distance for the trip down; 762.3 miles.

With the exception of running two errands to the store for them and the nights in their spare bedroom after he tired out, I spent the rest of that afternoon, the next two days and Saturday morning sitting in a chair next to Dad's bed listening to him talk.  And man did he talk!  It had been determined that the pain in his neck, shoulders and arms were due to a pinched nerve.  Hmmph.  All this time I thought I was the cause of the pain in his neck, at least thats what he always told me!  Each day, really almost by the hour, I could see his spirits lifting.  He had lost his appetite during the previous days and weeks so I encouraged him to eat while he talked.  Actually I was kind of sneaky about it.  I'd bring in fruit or whatever in bowls or a plate and lay them beside him on the bed.  Then as he talked I'd occasionally reach over and grab a bite myself.  It didn't take long before he was reaching down and 'snacking' with me as we talked! 

When Saturday rolled around I hated to, but knew I needed to head back home.  I think it was close to 11:00 when I hit the road and headed up US 27.  This time I did take US 19 through the forest though and it was a much, much more pleasant ride. 

On SR 100 I had an interesting experience though.  It was getting late in the day, I was ready to stop for the night and Baldwin was a few miles up the road.  The FJR just seems to want 80 mph, I mean I really have to watch my speed while traveling.  The truth is I was letting it roll a little bit across that piece of country road just wanting to get to Baldwin.  I noticed three cars in a line coming the other way and eased off the throttle as they came close, then noticed the one in the middle was a deputy sheriff.  I chopped the throttle at the very instant he turned on the blue lights and hit his brakes.  Dammit!

Looking in my mirror I saw him initiate a very quick and hurried turn around, undoubtedly expecting what looked like a sport bike from the front to run.  I was already slowing, and by the time he had gotten completely turned around I had my four way flashers on and was almost stopped on the side of the road.  When he pulled up behind me I was off the bike, had my gloves off and was taking my helmet off.  The officer was a younger man and he walked up to the other side of the bike and very politely introduced himself to me then thanked me for stopping so soon and easily!  I really didn't know what to say at that point, but he continued and asked me if I knew why he had stopped me.  I replied, "I'm sure I was going a little faster than he would like to have seen me going..." He smiled and said "76 mph."  I hung my head and said "Really?  My speedometer was showing 70, which I know is speeding (55 mph speed limit) but, well, there wasn't any traffic to speak of and this thing (pointing to the FJR) is so smooth..."  He smiled at me and I continued, "Listen, I've got a lot of respect for law enforcement and you guys have a tough job, so let me explain that my license is in my wallet, that is in this bag on the fuel tank, and my registration is in the left saddlebag.  I'm going to have to open both to get them.  But I'll open the tank bag first and let you look before I get my wallet, and I'll open the saddlebag when your ready we'll do the same thing with it.  OK?"  He smiled again and told me he just needed my license, so I did just as I said and gave it to him.

He went to his car and I stepped around to the other side of the bike and stood there a minute.  He was getting out of his car when I started to take my jacket off.  "Don't do that..." he said. "Keep your jacket on." And he handed me back my license.  "Slow it down just a bit, OK?" he went on, "We've had some deer run out in front of vehicles on this road and I just need you to slow down just a little.  You obviously know what your doing and have a good bike there, but just in case of a deer it'd be better if you were taking it a little easier."  I told him no problem and that I appreciated it and shook his hand.  Then he sat there behind me until I had gotten my helmet and gloves on, then pulled out in the road and blocked it for me while I pulled out.

Very cool.

I did slow down, and got to Baldwin a little after 6:00 pm.  The first thing I did when I got in my room was turn on the TV and found the weather channel.  I couldn't believe what I saw.  The forecast was for high winds, rain and a strong possibility of hail and tornado's in the afternoon for most of Georgia and South Carolina.  Sumbitch.

Julie and I talked on the phone for a while and she rather strongly urged me to get up and leave very, very early so that I'd have a better chance of missing the storms.  She was obviously right and I spent the evening getting ready for an early departure.

At 5:30 am I was on the road.  I was in my rain pants and had the tank bag covered, if it started raining I was prepared.  It was still dark and to be honest going up that part of US 301 in the early morning darkness was eerie.  Now once again I found myself in need of making time, and as bad as I wanted to and had planned to continue up US 301, I turned off and headed for I-95 again.  It was still dark as I merged onto the big road and with little to no traffic on the road I felt somewhat better about it.

The sun started to rise about the time I got to the Jekyll Island area and I'll always remember the sight of a suspension bridge in the distance off to my right in the early morning light.  In fact I wish now I'd stopped and took a picture of it, but I was on a mission.

I stopped north of Savannah for fuel and to get a cup of coffee to shake the chill off.  While fueling the bike I had an interesting conversation with the guy next to me fueling his SUV.  He was very interested in the bike and fascinated by the distance I was riding.  His eyes got huge when I told him that my son and I had just done a ride nearly 1100 miles long in just over 18 hours and laughed when I told him that made us official Iron Butt riders!  Later as I was sipping on my coffee I checked in with Julie and she told me the storms were coming in early and that I'd better quit dilly dallying and get my butt home, so I made my mind up to Iron Butt it home.

My next stop was in Orangeburg, South Carolina for fuel.  Up until I had gotten on I-26 it was an absolutely beautiful morning, but heading west on I-26 I could see the clouds rolling in.  As I pulled into the gas station I heard some truckers on the CB talking about how bad the rain was in Columbia... *sigh*  One fueled up I decided that instead of heading into the rain and having to deal with it on an Interstate among cars and trucks I'd go up US 601.  That way I'd be able to travel slower, safely and not have to contend with much traffic.

The entire way up 601 I seemed to be running just behind the rains.  The roads were damp, but no standing water and not a drop was falling.  At the same time, the sky's off to the west were U-G-L-Y, and from the weather reports the storms should be coming my way.  Yet somehow I managed to stay dry.  In fact I didn't see a rain drop until I got to Kannapolis, North Carolina, not far from the house, then rode the rest of the way home in the rain.  It was about 2:30 pm when I rolled into the house and I had covered 786 miles since leaving Clewiston. 

The total miles for the trip was 1548.4, which works out to almost 400 miles a day, and they were all relatively 'short' days.  However, I told Julie when I got home that between this trip, riding down I-85 and back the other week-end to ride some mountain roads and the SS1K Bryan and I did before that, I've had enough Interstate riding for the year!  I'm ready for the mountains!

Bruce

Riding "Bryan's Loop" - March 20th, 2010


Bryan has been telling us about a ride that he and some of his bud's like to go on from time to time.  He told us that it was a fun ride with great scenery and good twisty roads that he thought we'd really enjoy.  Not having any real particular destination in mind this past week-end, Teddy, Tim, Julie and I decided to give it a try.

The 'good part' of the ride is this; Take US 276 north off of SR 11 in South Carolina.  Follow it almost to Asheville, North Carolina then take SR 215 south to US 178 south until it intersects back with SR 11 in South Carolina.  As you can see from the map photo below getting to either 'end' of this loop is a fairly long ride for us, then when the loop itself and the ride home is added in it makes for a long day. 



A few weeks prior to this trip Julie and I had attended a funeral for the father of a co-worker of hers near Boone, North Carolina and while in the area we did some 'scouting' of some of the mountain roads we love to ride.  What we found was appalling.  The area has been so hard hit by bad weather this winter that many of the roads were in horrible shape and in some cases blocked and impassable.  Because of this and due to Julie and Teddy not wanting to be cold we decided on a southern route over to "Bryan's loop".  This would keep us out of the mountains directly, yet allow us to ride parallel to them for a while before turning up into them.  It also gave us an opportunity to get off the loop if it was in as bad a shape as the other roads we'd seen and get home on roads that should be in good shape.


The first leg of this 'southern route' was to head south on I-85 and ride it all the way to Gaffney, South Carolina.  Having just recently completed the Saddle Sore 1000 IBA ride that was almost entirely done on Interstates I was less than excited about that.  But the alternative back roads would have taken much longer and time would indeed be an issue if we were to complete the loop and ride as planned.  

 

The next leg would get us off the "super slab" and back onto the back roads we enjoy.  We first discovered South Carolina's SR 11 two years ago while heading to Helen, Georgia and have enjoyed it ever since.  It's not a curvy and twisty mountain road, but it does wind it's way through the South Carolina back country allowing you to make decent time while enjoying sights such as The Cowpens National Battlefield, Table Rock State Park and Caesars Head State Park.  In no time at all we found ourselves turning onto US 276.

We didn't get far up 276 before we stopped for fuel, something to drink and to come out of our jacket liners.  But once back on the road it was easy to see why Bryan likes the road so much, it was great!  We rode along enjoying the views, scenery and the road itself while having a great time.  The only drawback was that in the tightest and twistiest part of the road we ran up on a bunch of bicyclists.  Now normally I have no problem sharing the road with anyone.  Unfortunately most of these folks were using a whole lot more road than most bicyclists do and were a real hazard.  I was really glad to finally get past them.

But I also have to confess, I did it again.  The original idea was to go as far as Brevard, North Carolina and pick up US 64 west for a short distance, then take US 178 south back to SR 11 in South Carolina.  It didn't actually work out like that...  At an intersection I saw a sign pointing to US 64 east, and one pointing to US 276 north.  My feeble mind determined that US 64 west must be just up 276 a little further, so I continued on. 


That's when things got interesting.  And we got lost.  Sorta.

As I made the left turn with the traffic light to stay on 276 several "hot rod" import cars turned onto it as well coming from the other direction.  I merged in with them with Teddy and Tim right behind me, then several more of the cars turned in behind them.  At first we were all running along minding the speed limit and easing along.  Then the cars in front of me picked up the pace a bit, so umm naturally I did too.  Tim followed me and so did the cars behind he and Teddy.  Now it was on.  The cars in front of me picked it up some more, so once again, I did too.  Now we were really moving, the problem was that I didn't know the road and was still concerned about the conditions as we were now climbing the mountain in earnest.  Things were going along OK, Tim was still right with me and the cars behind Teddy and Tim were still hanging on tight to him.  Then the bunch in front of me started to pull away.  At first I kept up, but became increasingly nervous and saw that we were pulling away from Teddy and Tim, so I backed it down a notch.  The cars in front of me simply checked out.  Gone.  Adiós Amigo.  Tim caught me in short order and I tried to find the pace he wanted to keep, hopefully so that we could get ahead of the group behind he and Teddy.  No such luck though, they were hanging on tight.  Too tight actually, which was why I was hoping to pull away.  I picked up the pace a bit, so did Tim, and so did those blasted cars.  Damn!

Then, as I rounded a left turn I saw an entrance to a park on the right and the car I had been following sitting at the entrance by itself.  As we passed the park the waiting car went in to the park and the others that were behind Tim turned in and followed it. 

It's tough for me to admit that those "tuner cars" were more than we could handle, but they were.  I keep telling myself that they were locals, knew the road, had well set up cars and were crazy to boot.  Hopefully I'm at least partially correct.

The rest of the way up we were by ourselves, which is a good thing.  Shortly before cresting the mountain and intersecting with the Blue Ridge Parkway the road got very sketchy and continued to be so on the other side.  Lots of sand, dirt and debris.  Plus it got rough as heck, bouncing us around and making it tough to stay on line.  I slowed waaay down and just rode it out until we got to the town of Woodrow and the intersections of 276, 215 and 110.

We stopped at a place called the "Jukebox Diner", my intentions being to look at a map and figure out where in the heck we were at.  As Tim pulled up beside me I said, "I've done it again. I'm lost."  Tim grinned and said, "Yeah, well it's a good lost!  That was fun!"

As we studied the map, Julie and Teddy were looking for someplace to eat and go to the bathroom.  Never mind we were standing at a restaurant.  They saw a sign at another place down the road called the "Cold Mountain Cafe" and decided they wanted to go there, plus they didn't want to ride with us, they wanted to walk.  So Tim and I put the maps up and then eased down the roughly half a mile to where they wanted to go.  Then we discovered it was closed!  So we all loaded up (they'd had enough walking) and go back where we had been to have some lunch.


After lunch we headed south on SR 215 and once again were treated to some less than ideal conditions in spots.  More sand and debris, more chewed up road, heck there was even some snow still laying on the shoulders of the road.  At one point we even ran into a work crew that was replacing some guard railing along side of the road.  But overall it wasn't too bad and was a hoot to ride.  I imagine that once the road surface is cleaned up and patched it will be even better!  I was encouraged enough that I definitely want to go back a little later in the year.


We got onto to US 178 and were now on familiar ground.  Julie and I have ridden this road several times and enjoyed it every time.  It's a typical Carolina mountain road, good road surface, twists, turns and elevation changes that make you want to yell whoo-hoo!  Simply put, we had a ball and Julie and I really tested out the new tires we'd put on the bike a few weeks ago.  The FJR holds a line like you wouldn't believe now and just feels planted to the road.  We stopped at the intersection of US 178 and SR 11 for fuel and a rest stop before continuing on.

From there we simply back tracked our way back across 11 and I-85 to the house.  Our total miles for the day ended up being 476, but our smiles per mile was about double that.  I'm really looking forward to riding "Bryan's loop" again!

Bruce

IRON BUTT!! - March 8th, 2010

Those of you that follow this blog are familiar with what the Iron Butt Association is and that Bryan and I have been wanting to try and become members of the IBA basically since we started riding on road motorcycles back in 2004.  In order to accomplish that goal we would have to complete a documented ride of at least 1000 miles in 24 hours or less.  The following is the story on our journey into long distance motorcycle riding.


Prologue

My fascination with the entry level IBA ride is partially due to when I was an over the road trucker.  I have a very vivid memory from when I began trucking in which I was running with another truck whose driver was a grizzled veteran with many more miles under his belt than I had at the time.  We were in the very western part of Texas early one morning heading east and discussing our delivery appointment schedules over the CB radio.  He made a comment about being in Louisiana the next morning which threw me for a loop.  My mind started doing the calculations and I replied to him, "But that means we'll have to cover more than a thousand miles in about 24 hours, how are we gonna do that?"  He said, "Follow me and I'll show ya..."  And he did.  As it turned out, that more or less used to be a benchmark for over the road drivers, and became one for me. 

More recently, a motorcycle dealership I used to work for was bought out by a couple of guys during my time working there.  One of them I was told was a rider who was known by his family, friends and business partner to routinely go on extremely long rides and cover vasts distances daily while on these rides.  It was said that if you couldn't manage two hundred miles before breakfast and six hundred miles before bed, you better not even try to keep up with him.

At the time, my wife, son and I had only been riding street bikes for a short period of time and at that point primarily only made day trips in the two to three hundred mile range.  So it was interesting and inspiring to talk with him about the trips he'd been on and how he'd made them.  In fact, it was him that helped me with routing and points of interest on our trip to the Natchez Trace as well as those going to south Florida.  

But at the mention of doing a thousand miles in less than twenty four hours even he would shake his head, shrug his shoulders and say "I've done it, but it's tough son."



Planning

As I've mentioned before, Bryan and I have talked about attempting this ride for years and as mentioned in another post, planned on trying our hand at it during a Motorcycle Tourers Forum organized event last year.  That didn't pan out and since the MTF only does the event every other year we knew we were on our own if we were to do it in 2010.

Logic would dictate that it would be best to do something like this when the weather is warm, especially in the mornings and at night, but what's logical about an endeavor of this type?  Bryan's spring break from college was scheduled to begin on March 8th and gave him a week of more or less free time, I'm still among the nations unemployed and have at the very least a somewhat flexible schedule.

With that in mind I began to toy with the idea of attempting the ride a few weeks ago.  Using a mapping program on our computer I began putting together possible routes and looking into the realistic feasibility of them.  At first my plan was to make a loop using our home as the center point.  I was trying to set it up so that if at any point we decided we couldn't make it and had to stop for the night we would never be so far from home that we couldn't comfortably ride it the next day.  The problem with this scenario was that due to the incredible winter we've had there is still snow on the ground not very far north of us, and while that in itself isn't a problem because the roads are clear, it does make for some cold nights.  Plus some of the roads in the Virgina and West Virginia are incredibly beat up and full of very dangerous pot holes and damage. 

Knowing that I was going to have to abandon the circling the house plan, I began thinking about other options, more directly to the point, going south where it would, or at least should be warmer this time of year.  From past trips I knew that it was roughly 500 miles to the Daytona Beach and northern end of the I-4 area and started thinking around those points.  Going straight down and back would give us the required mileage and be easy to document, but it would also be pretty boring.

The only really workable idea seemed to be making a 'southern loop', so I began plotting out a course that would take us into hopefully warm and sunny conditions and be somewhat interesting to ride.  Then just hope we didn't get to the 'bottom' of the loop and discover that we weren't Iron Butt material after all and have to do it all over again the next day in order to get home.

What I came up with was a plan to ride from Lexington to Charlotte on I-85, then Charlotte to Columbia, South Carolina on I-77.  In Columbia we would take I-20 west to just outside of Atlanta, Georgia where we would get on US 129 thus avoiding Atlanta traffic and head to Macon.  From there it would be back on the interstates and I-75 to Lake City, Florida where it intersects with I-10.  We'd stay on I-10 east bound to US 301 missing Jacksonville's gridlock traffic and getting on I-95 north of town.  Then it would be a long ride up I-95 back into South Carolina where we'd take I-26 to Columbia, then back track on I-77 and I-85 to the house.  My mapping program calculated it to be 1074.4  miles and 16 hours of driving time.  So, if we left just after sun up then we would be back around midnight or so.


With the luck we'd had making plans to do this last year, I opted for more of a "lets see what happens" approach when thinking about it.  When I mentioned it to Bryan he was all for it, loved the route and wanted to plan on doing it over spring break because he wanted to "get his mind right" for the trip.  I said to him... you guessed it, "lets see what happens" so that he would hopefully keep his mind on his studies. 

In the end, and literally at the last minute we all decided that this was something that Bryan and I should try to do and on Saturday made plans to leave at 6:00 am Monday morning.


Getting Prepped

We had literally just put new tires on the FJR, changed the engine oil and filter as well as the final drive oil.  With only a little over 18.000 miles and loads of TLC on a bike designed for this type of riding, it was ready to go.  Bryan's FZ6 had been freshened up over the winter, the tires only had a couple of thousand miles on them and is also well suited for long distance riding, so it to needed nothing.


So far, so good.

Packing for the trip was a no brainer.  We would be on the road.  Period.  So one change of clothes just in case we didn't make it and stayed over night somewhere and maybe a change of undies and socks in case we got wet.  Other than that it was just going to be dressing for the ride.  We did throw in a few 'repair' items we normally wouldn't carry, just in case.

That was it.  We wouldn't need much if all we were going to be doing was riding.



Segment 1 - it begins

Good lord it was cold!  As we pushed the bikes out of the warm and well lit McCrary Motorcycle Man cave the thermometer was reading a briskish 32 degrees!  Still, both bikes fired right up and settled into clean idles.  The riders on the other hand were whining like little school girls and having as much luck getting dressed as a couple of five year olds.  Once everything was in place we pulled out of the yard and headed for our local convenience store/fuel stop to top off the bikes and get receipts showing the time of our official start.  Julie commented on Facebook later that we, or rather I, looked like the Michelin tire man with all the layers we were wearing.


The day got off to a less than wonderful start though because after pumping our fuel and getting the receipts we noticed that the time was wrong.  Not wanting to have to take off and 're-install' all of our gear and layers Bryan and I walked into the store like we rode the bikes into the station, helmets, gloves and all.  The good thing about doing repeat business with the same folks all the time is that they get to know you.  The guy working that morning was at first confused, then recognized my voice.  When we showed him our receipts and explained why that was a problem he manually corrected them and even put down his name and phone number in case someone wanted to verify the information.


Did I mention it was cold?  We shivered and shook all the way to Charlotte.  I kept thinking "This is nuts, This is nuts", but rode on anyway.  Once in Charlotte the temperature actually went up!  Close to 40 degrees!  I actually was tickled with that and began to think this might not be so bad, unfortunately it didn't last and once we were south of Charlotte the air temp gauge on the FJR began to drop again.  As we got into South Carolina and out in the middle of no where the temperatures fluctuated between 32 and 34 degrees.  The sun was behind the clouds and better yet, it began to drizzle rain.  Oh joy...  But it's like a buddy of mine says, if your gonna be stupid, you gotta be tough.  So on we rode. 

Luck was riding with us because by the time we got to Columbia the sun was out and it never really did rain enough to get us wet.  We stopped after getting on I-20 west for fuel (carefully checking our receipts) and to stretch and warm up.  Bryan had a brainstorm and laid our glove liners on top of his engine to warm them up, which worked wonderfully for a few minutes, and we were glad for that!  After taking that little break we mounted up and headed west toward our next 'turn' outside of Atlanta, Georgia.



Segment 2 - west bound and in the wind

Fortunately the sun came out and there wasn't a cloud in the sky!  The heat of the sun and I suppose the heat associated with being in a city provided enough warmth to get the registered temperature up into the mid 40's.  Still wearing all our winter gear we weren't exactly warm and toasty, but at least my teeth had stopped chattering hard enough to blur my vision. With uplifted spirits and excitement we found that we were more focused and energetic about the ride.  We had come about 145 miles since leaving the house and this next leg was going to be close to 165 miles before we got to a planned stop for a fuel receipt showing our turn onto US 129.  The miles flowed effortlessly underneath us as we chatted away on the CB and enjoyed the South Carolina and Georgia countryside. It was getting warmer and in what seemed like a short period of time we found ourselves at the Truck Stops of America in Madison, Georgia where we fueled, got a quick drink of water and munched down a granola bar then continued on our way.



Segment 3 -  heading south again

US 129 is a road we are familiar with, in fact we had been on this very section two years ago while returning from a trip to south Florida.  I've got to be honest here and say that after more than 300 miles of interstates riding a 'back road' was a welcome change, even if it meant not making as much time as being on the super slab.  Our spirits were still high and Bryan and I started joking around on the radio each time we came up to a curve in the road saying things like, "Whoa... a turn!" and "I don't know if I remember how to do this!".  It was only 55 miles down to Macon where the fun ended all to soon. 


Bryan's internal clock was telling him it was after lunch time and thinking we wanted a receipt showing we had gotten onto I-75 we stopped at an Arby's for a quick bite and to come out of some of our layers.  Now it was getting warm!  By rights we probably stopped for too long, roughly 45 mins, but it felt good to move around and we definitely needed to get out of some of the cold weather gear.  The air temp gauge on the FJR was reading in the high 60's and low 70's!

Back on "the big road" we set sail with Florida in our sights. We had figured this leg to be around 215 miles and knew we'd have to make a stop for fuel before we got to our next turn at I-10.  At around 2:45 in the afternoon we stopped in Chula, Georgia and did a gas and go so that we could quickly get back on the road.  It had been years since I had been on this part of I-75 and while I recognized a lot of it as you might expect it had changed a lot too, seeing the changes made the ride more interesting for me.  We rolled into a fuel stop in Lake City, Florida a little after 4:00 pm, gassed up and took a little breather.  We'd made it past the half way point now.


Segment 4 - riding across the sunshine state

To be honest, I couldn't believe how good I still felt.  I had just ridden more miles in one day than I had ever ridden before, still felt great and was ready to go!  The weather had been and was beautiful, temperatures were in the mid 70's, the sun was out, it was a great day to be on a motorcycle.  This leg of the trip would be short, all we had to do was go 75 miles to get to I-95 to start our way back north bound. 


We were on I-10 for only a little more than 40 miles and we knocked that out quickly.  I had no intentions of going through Jacksonville from the very beginning of this thing, not wanting to deal with the traffic.  Missing it was be easy though, drawing on my experiences from past rides to my dad's house in south Florida, we rode as far as Baldwin, Florida and got on US 301 north.

At first I thought I might have made a mistake in judgment because within minutes of getting on 301 we came to a rail road crossing with what seemed to be the longest train we'd ever seen!  It went on forever!  Once it cleared and we were on our way we found ourselves behind a pick up and two 18 wheelers.  The big trucks lumbered along for a bit, working their way up through their gearboxes but eventually settled in to a fairly good pace.

The pick up on the other hand decided to lag back behind them and for a while we were stuck behind it.  Seeing a chance to pass I keyed up the CB radio and told Bryan to come on and we effortlessly slid past the pick up and took up a position behind the second truck.  As we did the driver of the truck said on the CB "Are you guys on those motorcycles?"

We had been talking to trucks all day and most of them were fascinated by the fact that we had CB's and interested in what we were doing.  So I told him about our equipment and when he asked if we were on vacation I explained what we were doing.  That tickled him some because he said "I do that 'pert near every day and nobody gives me a certificate..."  I told him, "Sure they do, you just call it a paycheck."

Shortly after that he told us that there was no traffic and offered to slow down so that we could pass him. We got by him, and in short order the truck in front of him too.  As we rode off I heard the driver of the truck in front say "You sure didn't need to slow down to let them get by you partner, they have checked out!"


We rode 301 as far as A1A, then rode that over to I-95.  It was easy, enjoyable and we made good time.  Certainly better than we would have had we been caught in a traffic jam in Jacksonville.  Bryan told me that he was getting hungry and seeing as we had planned on stopping for a receipt at I-95 anyway we began looking for someplace to stop.  Bryan's FZ6 had gone on reserve so we stopped at one exit and did a gas and go, but there was literally no place to eat there.  We crossed into Georgia and found a Waffle House at the next exit and pulled in for a bite and to prepare for the next leg.


Segment 5 - night ride

This was the part of the ride I was the most apprehensive about.  See, we don't ride at night as a general rule.  Oh sure, we've done it, several times in fact.  But usually it was because we stayed somewhere longer than we might should have or even got a later start than we wanted, but in most every case the time on the road after dark was limited to a few hours.  Bryan and I were now looking at what could be another six to eight hours depending upon the variables involved.  On top of that this particular section of I-95 has never been one of my favorite roads.  It seems like everyone on it thinks they are in a race and I can't remember when there wasn't some construction going on.

Once again we were stopped for longer than we probably should have been, but it sure was nice to eat a bite and take a breather.  We also used the time to put on our clear helmet visors and put our layers of cold weather protection back on.  Julie had told us that from what she could tell we would be looking at 50 degree temperatures all the way in, and while thats a heck of a lot better than 30 some odd degrees, with the wind chill it was still going to be...chilly.  We pulled away from the parking lot at 7:00 pm headed home with what we figured would be two more fuel/receipt stops on the way.

95 didn't disappoint me.  We encountered multiple sections of construction that took the road down to two and sometimes only one lane open.  But when the road was completely open traffic was moving on.  I'm a believer in going a little faster than the flow of traffic.  Julie says I have to be in front, but really it allows me to concentrate more on whats in front of me than whats coming up behind me.  This worked fine as we seemed to be easily moving with and around traffic and making good time.  We kept at it all the way to Walterboro, South Carolina where we stopped for fuel around 9:30 pm.  After taking a few minutes to stretch out and a bathroom break we were riding again with I-26 in our sights and it was only a few miles away!


Segment 6 - closing the loop

Merging onto I-26 I let out a sigh of relief, although we were still in the making time mode and really had to be even more alert due to the possibility of deer, I just felt good about getting off I-95.  Columbia was a little more than 50 miles away which at this point seemed like nothing.  Bryan and I began discussing the best location for a fuel stop.  Initially I was thinking about making one on I-26 to document us being there, but as I thought about it, the places I had figured on stopping at were intersections of roads that cut through the country back toward the house.  Which worried me because I was afraid the IBA would route us that way even if we actually stayed on the interstates.  What Bryan and I ultimately decided was that we would go on to the intersection of I-26 and I-77 then stop there.  We hoped it would show what we did, and it would also give us the range to make it home with out stopping again.  So at a little before 11:00 pm we tried to do a stop and go for fuel in West Columbia, South Carolina.  I say tried because my debit card wouldn't work and I had to go in and talk to the attendant, then ultimately had to use Bryan's card to get my fuel. 


Segment 7 - the home stretch

Up until now both of us had been doing fine physically and mentally.  Oh sure we had been dealing with little pains here and there, mostly in the posterior, but nothing major.  And mentally we were both still on our "A" games, Bryan and I have been riding together for so long that we read each other like a book and can keep each other motivated as well.  But now the pain began in earnest.  My butt hurt, my throttle hand was sore as was my whole right arm and my shoulders were beginning to burn.  I mentioned this to Bryan on the radio and he told me he was right there too.

Once again it was cold out in the South Carolina back country.  Not as bad as the morning had been, but still in the mid to high 40's.  Traffic was virtually non existent which allowed us to maintain our pace, a good thing, because we both were ready to get back to Lexington.

When we reached Charlotte I've got to confess that I was beginning to wonder if I was going to be able to continue, the wimp in me had come out!  I couldn't be still in the seat, no position was comfortable, my right hand hurt, my right arm ached and we were still about 50 miles from home.  Now 50 miles seemed like a huge distance to cover.  However, after checking with each other on the radio we knew that while both us were in pain, neither of us were sleepy or too mentally fatigued to stop so we sucked it up and soldiered on. 

The ramp at our exit on I-85 is a bit sharp and a tad bit banked, which is normally a hoot to do, but this time it was an effort to bend the FJR around the turn.  Bryan later told me it was the same for him.  We stopped at the traffic light at the end of the ramp and could see the BP station that was where we would officially end the ride not 50 yards away.  Naturally, the traffic light sensor didn't pick up our bikes so we sat, and sat, and sat some more.  There wasn't a vehicle on the road except for us so we said to heck with it and blew the light.


Pulling up to the pump I shut the FJR down, then slowly, painfully, got off the bike and looked back at Bryan who was doing the same thing at the other pump.  It had been 18 hours, 50 minutes and almost 1,100 miles ago when we left.  We looked each other in the eyes, grinned and laughed like a couple of lunatics then met between the bikes and hugged.  We did it!


Once again I had problems with my card and had to use Bryan's in order to get fuel and the needed ending receipt.  Apparently the bank or whoever had blocked it because of all the transactions at multiple points in such a short time.  And obviously I didn't pay attention to one of the tips on the IBA web site where they advised calling the card company/bank and alerting them to what we'd be doing...  The stamp for our official finish time read 1:15 am and thats when we noticed the receipt didn't have a station name or address.  We went inside and naturally for the first time on the whole ride after explaining what we were doing and what we needed we found someone that not only couldn't have cared less, she almost seemed like she didn't trust us.  I mean can you imagine not feeling comfortable around two people that just admitted to riding motorcycles for more than a thousand miles in less than a day who hugged in the parking lot while laughing like the village idiots?  I mean, really.  What's the problem here?  Ultimately she did write everything in, dated and signed it though.


Before we left the station I gave Bryan the keys to the lock on the fence gate and the doors to our basement shop, I just knew Julie would be in bed.  I told him that as wet as the grass was the kickstands would sink in the ground, and seeing as he was younger than me he could get off his bike and open up while I held his bike up and sat on the FJR.  When we pulled up to the house, much to my surprise and glee, the landing lights (all the outside light fixtures on the house) were on, the gate was open and Julie was opening the shop doors.  She had been tracking Bryan's SPOT unit and not only knew we were in town, but close to the house.  What a woman.

Pulling into the shop and getting off the bikes Bryan and I must have seemed strangely subdued to her.  In fact she said she thought we would have been more excited, but she missed the 'celebration' at the station and right at that moment all we felt was cold, tired and sore. 


Epilogue

As long as this post is I have only really highlighted the trip.  Followers of this blog and those who know me will attest to the fact that I am usually not at a loss for words, but I'm still struggling to adequately describe my feelings about all of this.

We've been wanting to do this for soooo long and weren't really sure we had it in us.  So there is obviously joy and excitement and a huge sense of accomplishment and pride.  But when I read what I just wrote it doesn't even begin to do justice to how we actually feel.  Not even close.  To say it was a life changing experience is a bit over the top I think, but the morning following the ride I found myself almost glowing and giddy.  And I think that Bryan and I are different riders now. 

If nothing else, someone on the MTF summed it up by saying "...going from a typical 300 mile day to a 1000 mile day increased the size of your weekend playground to more than three million square miles!  Draw two circles on the map centered around you house, one at 300 miles, and one at 1000 miles.  Just look at what you've accomplished."  Speaking of our friends on the MTF, the amount of support and interest that they gave us during this ride was unbelievable.  To see for yourself click here and read the entire thread.  What a fantastic group of people!

It was a long and difficult ride.  Yet it's not the hardest thing I've ever done and Bryan has told me he feels the same way.  It wasn't the most fun I've ever had on a motorcycle or for that matter as much fun as a good day riding the mountain roads we love so much.  But I can't think about it and not smile, no, grin from ear to ear, as I am right at this moment.  In fact I'm holding back a mixture of laughter and tears as I write this.

Would we do it over again?  Ab-so-freaking-lutely!  Will we do another one, or one of the other IBA sanctioned rides?  Probably.  Will we become long distance junkies who live to cover vast distances in short periods of time every time we ride?  I doubt it.  Bryan has mentioned wanting to participate in a rally, that might be cool.  If he does, I certainly will.  That's just the way we do things.

As of this moment we haven't put all our paperwork together and sent it in to the IBA for certification, but thats simply because our day to day lives have not allowed us to sit down together and get it done.  We are planning on doing it tomorrow night, and we will.  I don't anticipate any problems getting the ride certified, but we know that it will take the all volunteer staff at the IBA two or three months to complete the process and get back to us.  But that's fine, and we appreciate the effort of all the guys and gals of the IBA.

Once that happens we will be in a very unique and small group of riders and people.  There are just slightly more than 39,000 Iron Butt members in the world.  Bryan and I will be two of them.

Bruce 

Charlotte Loop - March 6th, 2010

Not much of a report here, I'm just trying to make sure I keep up with our rides this year.

Earlier in the week we put some new tires on the FJR.  The Metzler Z6's that were on the bike when we got it had seen better days and honestly I wasn't overly impressed with them.  It's not that they were "bad" tires, they just didn't hold up very well, after a little more than 4,000 miles they were toast.  I decided to try a dual compound tire made by Michelin that they call the "Pilot Road 2CT" or PR2 for short.  This tire is constructed with a more durable rubber compound in the middle, center part of the tire for increased mileage and a softer more 'sticky' compound on the sides to provide better grip in turns.  Bryan has had a set of these on his bike for a few months and likes them, so Julie and I decided to give them a shot.  New motorcycle tires are known for being a little slick when initially installed so we decided to take advantage of a warm Saturday afternoon and go for a short ride to get the tires a little worn in and put them through a couple of heat cycles.

Bryan came home for spring break on Friday the 5th and naturally brought his bike with him.  He forgot to bring extra contacts with him and said he needed to run some errands around Charlotte so we decided to ride through the country down to his house to get what he needed, run his errands and grab a bite to eat.

We headed out on Hwy 8 south and picked up Hwy 47 south in Albemarle, which we rode basically all the way to Charlotte.  Bryan was hungry (ain't he always?) so he led us directly to the Firehouse Sandwich Shop on what is now called Bruton Smith Blvd.  They have some of the best sandwiches I've ever had so it was a treat for me! 

After lunch we followed Bryan to the other side of Charlotte so that he could drop off his rent check, only to discover that the office wasn't open and they didn't have a mail drop box.  College kids... You'd think he would have known that. ;)  From there we jumped on I-77 and I-85 and rode back to his house so that he could get the things he had forgotten to bring with him.  Once accomplished it was getting a little late in the day so we decided to just jump on I-85 and get on back to the house.  Interstates are not my favorite ways to get around on a motorcycle, but at least by doing so we were able to get some heat in the tires as well as a few miles which was after all the game plan.  The afternoon shake down and errand running ride also netted us another 150 miles for the year. 

We'll take it.

Bruce