Two Rides and a Wedding Aug 26th – 30th, 1999

The Idea…A brother’s wedding in Missoula, Montana… let’s see…that about 2400+ miles from Washington DC where I live.  This could be an excellent opportunity to gain new experience on a multi-day endurance ride.  Although I had ridden a SS1000 and completed my first rally this year, I was yet untested on a multi-day ride over long miles.  This trip could be just that and more…and answer the question if more miles are more fun…

Before I even started on this ride, I learned what I privately knew in the back of my mind… people do not understand long distance endurance cycling. And the more you try and explain it, the more they don’t understand. Perhaps it’s best not to… My wife and children are used to my adventures and I don’t think they think much of them anymore. My extended family and friends understand less so, and most others understand nothing about this solitary pursuit. One senior boss even questioned me about my apparent lack of common sense. 🙂

On this particular adventure it got to the point I was getting negative vibes even before I left. These are not the thoughts you need to tackle a challenge when you yourself are unsure of the outcome. It could be a recipe for a disaster and can cripple your confidence. Next time I go for a long ride, I think I will just tell them I am flying!

But I had support from long distance riding friends. Although they thought I was biting off a big chunk they gave me their moral support. The biggest boost came from my spouse who simply said, “sure you can do it; don’t listen to them”.

The “chunk” I was biting off was attending my brother’s wedding in Missoula, Montana scheduled for Saturday, Aug 28th at noon. With a start at 0300 on Thursday, Aug 26th I planned to cover the 2400+ miles over the next 48 hours with legs of 1243 miles and 1181 miles, arriving in Missoula Friday night, Aug 27th. After the wedding on Saturday I planned to recross the United States doing a leg of 1500 miles in the first 24 hour period, then coasting in with a 900 mile leg on Monday, Aug 30th. Total round trip over 5 days (riding only 4) would be 4800+ miles.

To put this in perspective, the “ordinary route” for endurance riders to cross the United States to earn the 50CC (Cross-Country)  ride award is from Jacksonville Florida to San Diego, California; the shortest route of about 2400 miles. On this ride, the rider has 50 hours however I was doing a longer route to Missoula and had only 48 hours on the clock!

Similar only in mileage, this ride was also the mileage that many riders covered in the recent  Butt Lite Rally (5 days/5000 miles) designed to be half of the Iron Butt Rally (11 days 11,000miles+) just completed last week.

The extreme ride I was attempting to qualify for was the Saddle Sore 2000 and the other, the Bunburner Gold 1500. The first requires the rider to ride two 1,000-mile days in a 2 – 24 hour periods (48 hours). The 2nd, requires a 1500 mile route in 24 hours.   To be successful, the rider must maintain a 62.5 mph average over the entire 24 hours; including stops!

The Route

The Preparation

I had been planning this for many months so all of the prep work was done early. Maps were obtained, routes were selected, my GPS was loaded and new equipment was tested. I had decided on a southern route on the way out and the northern route for the return. Both routes were designed to miss Chicago completely based on LDR List members advice.

One concern I had was my stock seat on the Honda Pacific Coast. Most serious riders have custom seats. I did not, so while on vacation I found a sheepskin cover the seat in Maine and a wooden beaded seat cover locally. I had it rigged so I could sit on the stock saddle or flip down the skin/beads for a change of pace. Neither worked well. I also rigged up a ½ gallon thermos container with a plastic tube with a bite valve for on board hydration. I always had ice water at my disposal…this turned out to be a key and essential piece of equipment. Using a tip from Mike Chessnoe, I also purchased two large waterproof kayaking map cases from REI and I rigged them up over my tank bag with quick release clips. This allowed me to have all of the maps organized and I never had to open a map. When I ran off the page, I simply flipped it over to another map and continued along. For the bike, other than an oil change and loading, it was set!

Mark and Chris Elledge, both ST pilots, had just returned from a cross-country trip of their own on the route I was following to a large extent. They provided some great advice and warned me of the weather and the road construction factor…both which would affect my ride.

By the time Wednesday evening rolled around, I was well rested, the bike was packed, and I was ready to go.

Mark doing the start witness duties as I look on….

Mark Elledge, an IBA member, came over and witnessed my starting odometer reading on the form and I suited up for departure to my friendly Exxon for a starting receipt. I had even scouted the pumps the night before to check the Exxon computer clock to ensure it was correct.

Leg 1: Wash DC to Onawa, Iowa

As I pulled up to the pump at 0330 every regular unleaded had a yellow bag over it —they were out of gas! Over to the Shell I went, but I only confirmed what I suspected; there is no timestamp on their receipt; check for yourself next time you get gas. Strike two! I felt like a MLB umpire who had just submitted their resignation. Last chance was a 7-11 where I bought two cents worth of gas and got a good receipt. The fellow thought I was nuts but we just both laughed it off.

Finally I was off and headed north out of Wash DC where the first of many challenges awaited me for the day. Once I got on to I-68 west, elevation increased and visibility decreased with fog to the point that seeing curves were difficult and advance warnings by watching the lane lines was useless. My average speed during this section was low until I came out on the western side and into Morgantown, West Virginia. As the sky lightened I could see I was in for an overcast day; just fine for me. Through Wheeling, WV and into Ohio, everything was moving smoothly until I hit the first of many road construction areas.

Back home again in Indiana, where I was born…


After crossing into Indiana I hit what would be the worst for the whole trip. Two 18-wheelers were blocking both lanes 3 miles out from the merge area to “smooth” out the merge area. I took idling behind the truck on the right for about 2 mins before I put on my right flasher and zipped around him on the shoulder and down three miles of open roadway to the one lane construction area. On into Indianapolis and through another 20 mile area of construction led me into Illinois where I took a NW diagonal beeline through the state; getting to Davenport Iowa at about 8:00pm.

I must admit as I approached Davenport I started having doubts. Neither seat combo was working well. I had been on the road for 18 hours and I had four long hours yet to go. Montana seemed and was a long way away.

Darkness found me headed toward Des Moines, IA then north of Omaha, NE. I was ready to find my hotel after heading north on I-29 toward Sioux City. Onawa, Iowa is where I had my hotel reservation and was just a little more than half way to Montana. I pulled into a gas station to get my ending receipt at a Conoco truck stop. Parked next to me was an Iowa State Trooper, filling his cruiser. I asked him to witness my ending mileage and sign my odometer that he was kind enough to do.

Across the street was my Super 8 Hotel so I checked in, quickly laid out my gear and set my screaming meanie for 3+ hours of sleep.

Suddenly a few minutes later I shoot out of the bed trying to turn the alarm off…I must have set it wrong. It takes me a minute to realize it’s correct and I had been asleep for some hours. So, I showered to wake up the rest of the way and loaded up the bike, now in heavy fog – again!

Leg 2: Onawa Iowa to Missoula Mt

Heading west through South Dakota with the sunrise over my shoulder through bug splattered windshield

I had slept an hour + into the next leg’s time limit so the clock had already started when I pulled out. I went north on I-29 in pea soup fog to I-90, then headed west across South Dakota. By noon I was across, passing Ellsworth AFB in Rapid City SD, and fueling up in Sturgis, SD. I was planning on going down to the main street and snapping some pictures of the town where the largest motorcycle rally is held, but a huge thunderstorm brewed in the south and started to spit rain and lightning; chasing me back to the interstate.

No longer spitting rain, buckets were now being emptied from above and as I came across the exit where I had planned to take a short cut pointed out by Mark, lightning was hitting all around. For a single solitary moment I felt safer on the interstate and kept going straight into Wyoming.

I had doubts right away. A strong cross wind was blowing from the left causing my Pacific Coast to initiate its “auto lean” function where the motorcycle actually leans back into the wind. This worked for awhile and then the wind grew stronger and stronger, at times attempting to wrench the handlebars from my hands. A few larger gusts blew me onto the shoulder. All this while riding through some of the least populated, barren part of the United States with signs that warn: “Next services 68 miles”. I was kicking myself for not taking the shortcut as the skies was clear to the north. This portion of the ride went on for an eternity as I passed through Gillette, then Sheridan Wyoming. Finally the winds throttled back so I throttled up.

As I passed the Montana State line in the late afternoon I felt I had scored a slight victory as at least I was in the destination state. After passing through yet another 20-mile stretch of single lane road construction, I reached Billings where I stopped for gas to the west. As darkness fell I calculated I would only need two more tanks of gas to get through Butte and into Missoula so I continued on, following the Yellowstone River west. Descending over the continental divide down into Butte in total darkness I saw flashes of lightning to the west.

I then did a quick off and on in Deer Lodge, Montana to compose myself for the last 90 miles into Missoula. I ran into a McDonalds where a guy with a definite personality disorder (different than mine) was talking about how the president, the pentagon, and government was trying to control everyone’s actions and minds. You know, typical right wing conspiracy theory stuff… I could not resist jawing with him as I munched my cheeseburger standing next to my bike. A young local kid came up on his Honda Interstate (circa 1978) that he had for sale. I could tell he really wanted to chat with me as the only excitement in town that Friday night, but I only lingered long enough to replace my helmet before heading west into the flickering lightning.

It was a 90 mile coast downhill, or at least it seemed as the road followed what I perceived was a canyon through the mountains. Just as I settled in for an easy cruise, a wind gust from the right deposited me into the left-hand lane. I leaned back into it hard and then over the next 30 mins fought every single mile to keep the bike upright at the winds tore over what I perceived as a ridgeline to my right. I did not even have time to look to my right to see if my geographical guess was correct. And it was not until I got deeper into the canyon, almost to Missoula, the winds finally subsided. I rolled into Missoula and got my finishing receipt from Noon’s food and gas market at about 2330. After finding my hotel I rode across the street to the Missoula Police Department and asked an officer to witness my odometer.

I think I got about 7 hours sleep at this point. My time in Missoula was a bit confusing to me as I always stayed on east coast time, even though I was in Mountain Standard Time. The next morning I awoke and got picked up by my sister and parents (who had flown out from IN) to go the wedding. It was a great day for by brother Mike, and my new sister in law, Lisa, and a great pig roast reception afterwards.

Leg 3: Missoula Mt to Rochelle IL

I got up at 0130 and was back at the gas stop for a starting receipt at 0149. Earlier I had a police officer perform witness duties for me again. I needed to ride over the Rockies again, across Montana, across North Dakota, across Minnesota, across Wisconsin to Illinois to qualify for the Bun Burner Gold 1500…made me gulp just thinking about the distance!

Before I even got out of town, I noticed my GPS did not have power because the light kept turning off; not a good sign. I stopped on the side of the road and with my flashlight determined the power plug had fallen apart…and pieces were missing. I would have to rely on batteries for the rest of the trip which limited the time the light could be on…bummer.

Climbing up the canyons I encountered fog from the moisture-laden air all of the way to Butte. My average speed was down to the 61-mph range and below when I stopped for gas. The sun started to break through the fog right before Billings and I made good time toward Miles City, Montana to the east.

It got warm so I stopped quickly at a rest stop to shed my Widder electric vest and heavy gloves. As I motored into North Dakota I was extremely low on petrol and if a gas station did not appear soon, I was on the verge of making a BIG mistake! I passed through Theodore Roosevelt National Park until I saw a sign for Medora, ND…Park Headquarters. and “Gas”. I detoured off the interstate to this frontier town and got gas and some pictures. This small part of North Dakota was easily the prettiest part of the state.

I was glad to find Medora…

Since I had no audio input in my helmet at all, I was without a radar detector, CB, or tunes; all standard fare for the long distance rider. That leaves lots of time to think and muddle through your affairs as you eat mile after mile, especially in long states like Montana and North Dakota… 🙂

As I continued east toward Bismarck, I caught up with the weather system that had been leaving the roads damp in front of me since the start. As a long distance rider you begin to think of our country in different terms. In this sport you can actually catch up with a national weather system (in this case, a massive counter clockwise low pressure system swirling over the northern plains), and pass through it. That’s what I was hoping for as the sprinkles started and the temperatures dropped.

The rain quickly intensified, the temperatures dropped lower so I put the vest back on. I felt the familiar water seeping into the crotch area of the aerostich but yet again, I had left the side vents open, forming an effective channel for the water. L I have yet to test the stich in a heavy downpour with the side zips shut! J

As I reached Bismarck to stop for gas I had thoughts of getting a motel for the night if I could not break through this system. In the men’s room of a large Exxon Truck Stop I asked if anyone had been coming from the east. One guy said the rain had started near Fargo and was steady until this point. I was slightly demoralized but decided to at least to get to Fargo. Back into the gale I went and kept a steady 65-mph pace in the rain in the right lane. And rain it did… all of the way through North Dakota and into Minnesota. I could actually see the circular motions of the clouds high overhead with the weather actually hitting me from the southeast.

As twilight faded and I got deeper into Minnesota I passed the 1000-mile mark I think. Wow…another 500 to go…L As the rains stopped the sky grew clear and it got very cold. The low in Minneapolis that night was 57 degrees, but it felt like 30 degrees, even with my vest turned on high! The heavy, fast moving traffic from returning weekend vacationers kept me on my toes as I circled Minneapolis on I-694. I stopped for gas right before the Wisconsin line and decided that if I did not elevate my average speed I was not going to make the 1500 mile point within 24 hours. I found a car going the speed (fast) I wanted and tucked in behind. I used them as a pacer, a deer scoop, and for lighting as I crossed ½ of Wisconsin with this same car and driver. At my last gas stop I had the average to 62.4 before the stop and was confident I could pick it up enough on the last leg.

After a lightning quick last gas stop I was back on the interstate headed toward Madison, Wisconsin. Increasing the average speed now was a lot more difficult then had it been early in the ride with fewer miles to average, but somewhere even with Madison I reached the magic number, 62.5mph, then 62.6mph average by maintaining “elevated cruising speeds.” I finally knew I would make the 1500 miles at this point but certainly realized I was not going to be anywhere close to my hotel in New Rochelle, IL, the 1543-mile point. The weather had slowed me down just too much.

As I reached the 24-hour point at 1502 miles at Beloit Wisconsin near the Illinois Stateline I quickly pulled off to get an ending receipt. Not finding any witnesses there, I continued south where I had this strange idea that the toll collector would not charge me because I was so cold, but in fact she made me pay my 15 cents just like everyone else. I asked about a police officer at the toll booth as a witness but no such luck.

I rolled on down to Rochelle, Illinois where I found a police witness and swung into the Super 8 Motel front parking area, It was 0400 and 25 hours after I had started…

Friendly Super 8 Desk Clerk: Did not think you were going to make it sir…”

Yes, I had some small doubts also…”

“Sir, if you would just fill out this registration slip”

“I can’t, I’m too cold”

“Sir, just your name and address”

“I can’t, I’m too cold…I’ll do in it in morning…you have my credit card right?”

“Yes sir…here is your key card”

“Most grateful, thanks; goodnight; please keep the maids out until 0800”

I practically ran to my room and set the meanie for 4 hours again getting under every warm cover I could find. I woke “refreshed” at 0800 with two tough IBA rides completed I felt a deep sense of satisfaction was looking forward to the easy cruise home.

Leg 4: Rochelle IL to Wash DC

I headed south down I-74 through Bloomington Illinois and back to I-70 for the journey back through Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Maryland. I think it was as I was rolling into Indianapolis for the 2nd time in 4 days I realized the 1999 Iron Butt Rally had just started in Ojai, California. Almost 100 riders had just been unleashed to circumnavigate the United States in 11 days, chewing up some 11,000+ miles during the course of their run. I was certainly on “my 99 IBR ride” as I finished up with a 880 mile day. This thought lingered in my mind as I negotiated the rush hour traffic between Dayton and Columbus before getting to the open highways of West Virginia as the sun set over my shoulder. Much like I had done in Wisconsin, I found a couple of cages going my way and tucked in behind them for the ride over the Maryland highlands that I-68 cross. Occasionally looking up, I could see that a higher power had just spray painted the night sky with countless beacons of light, all pointing the way home. Right before Monday became Tuesday, I pulled into my driveway and turned the key off for the last time at 2355.

Unpluged… It is always good to get home!

I am ready to go again; that the strange part…I could actually go tonight and have as much fun and have the same level of satisfaction. Although the added stress of rally conditions was not present on this ride, the challenge nevertheless was there for multi-day endurance riding. This ride did not push me to my limit, but it did give me a much greater appreciation for long multi- day scenarios.  Based upon these recent experiences, I feel confident I answered the question that brought me on this trip in the beginning…

Both BBG and SS200 IBA certified as of 17 Oct 99

Trip Statistics

Leg 1: Wash DC to Onawa, Iowa

Leg 2: Onawa Iowa to Missoula Mt

Leg 3: Missoula Mt to Rochelle IL

Leg 4: Rochelle IL to Wash DC


29 Gas Stops

47.3 average mpg

Highest mpg = 51.73mpg

Lowest mpg = 37.44mpg

Total gallons = 99.5 gallons

Total Cost = $129.18


Total Miles

Total Time

Time Moving

Avg Total Speed

Avg Moving Speed

Sleep (hours)





56.2 mph









7 (after finish)



27 hrs




4 (before start)























* Actually went 1550 total for this leg to get to hotel/ 25 hours total time

** Total hours counting Missoula downtime

*** GPS data and different timers used/mostly accurate