The Long Way Home – July 4th 2006


Mom’s flowers

Thanks to Mom, Dad, and my sister for making this trip possible.

The mission was to visit my Mom and Dad in Fort Wayne, Indiana from my home in Colorado Springs, CO over the long July 4th weekend.  To best accomplish this of course I could have flown…..but that would be too easy.  I elected to ride my motorcycle, and ride a SS1000 (1000 miles within 24 hours) size leg on the first day. While my background in long distance endurance riding on a motorcycle dates back to 1999, the last time I had done 1000 miles in a day was during the Iron Butt Rally in 2003.

Much discussion had occurred among some IBR vets recently that since everything else pales in consideration to the IBR, many vets after riding the rally, do not put in long days routinely unless on a specific mission or riding another rally. Such was my case and I debated this subject after my last rally in 2004. My longest day ride since then had been 500 miles in Oct 2005. But being a crazy, LDRider (Long Distance Rider), we consider ourselves almost invincible (we are not) and always able to ride 1000 miles in day in great style (we cannot).

With these two falsehoods firmly implanted in my brain, I planned a Friday departure of 3:00am from Colorado Springs, working my way cross country to my sister, Susan’s, house in Indianapolis. (1078 miles). Sat morning I would finish up with about 120 miles on up to Fort Wayne and then visit until late Sunday afternoon, returning to Indianapolis, before repeating the big leg on Monday back to Colorado.

Even though I had ridden the Gold Wing back from western Tennessee when I bought it in Nov 2005, it had not been out fitted like it was now so this would be an excellent first test.  Only drawback was that the aux fuel tank I am having made was not ready so I was limited to 220 miles between fill ups versus some 350+ I will have with the new tank.

Well, that was the plan… most of it was executed, some portions in better style…

Some longtime friends (Mike and Karen) visited us Thursday night before I left as they were on their way on a move cross country with the AF.  I doubt I gave them my full attention as I was doing final prep on the bike and getting in the “go mode”. Sorry!   Everything was set and the Goldwing (GW) was poised in the garage ready to go.  Hit the sack at about 10:45pm and of course, tossed and turned until I got up at 2:00am – probably slept 30 minutes.  Loaded final items on the bike and pushed away from the house at about 3:00am. Headed out Hwy 24 to Limon, CO, and kept an outlook for deer or cattle.  I found the high beams on the   GW fantastic and I could not out ride the light they throw.  I may not even add additional lighting.

Not sure why I stopped in Limon for 5 mins, but I did…

Never really felt fresh on the departure and after about two hours of riding I stopped for gas across the KS border and then headed down I-70 into the still dark KS morning.   After about 30 minutes, I pulled off an exit ramp somewhere in the middle of nowhere, crossed the ranch road, and then pulled off on the side shoulder on the off ramp. I “think” I was stopping to get an energy bar from my trunk.

I recall deploying the side stand, testing it for a lean angle, dismounting, getting the bar from the trunk and taking a few bites.  As I carefully closed the trunk and started to walk up the left side of the bike, I sensed it was falling to the right…and it did…over on its crash bars. I can only surmise the right angle of the shoulder by a few degrees made the center of gravity tenuous, and the slight force of closing the trunk put a little spring into the side stand and it rebounded past the center of no return.

Did I mention that as I watched my bike slowly beach itself like a whale that my helmet went tumbling down the 40 foot embankment like Jack and Jill?

Well it did…

….what a fine start I have gotten to this ride…less than 120 miles into  the ride, I am on a deserted interstate on ramp, bike on its side, and helmet rolling through Kansas wheat fields… I felt like I was in a bad dream…

… Realizing it was not a dream, I immediately went around to the right side of the bike and tried to lift it upright…the whale did not budge…not one inch.

I then went right to option #2, retrieve my helmet!

I scampered down the slope, found my helmet and inspected it for damage; none noted…it has been a soft grassy roll.

Climbing back up to the bike, I assessed what options I had.  Call a trucker on the CB to stop and assist? …take a picture of the whale? …take a deep breath and try to lift the bike correctly?

While the correct choice would have been to take a picture of this comical situation, instead I opted to lift the whale in the correct fashion. I again moved to the right side of the bike, backed into the bike slowly while holding the handlebar and seat support and slowly the whale fought gravity to upright itself, coming to rest on the side stand ever so gently without toppling over to the left.

Inspecting for damage, I again found none as the crash bars are designed so well on this Honda product.  OK, time to ride rather than taking part in this Three Stooges episode.  I quickly looked around to see if anyone saw me act this episode out and stowed all my items and zoomed down that on ramp into the pre-dawn Kansas darkness.

Perhaps this little episode should have been a clue to me. Perhaps I should not have written about it! J In retrospect, I knew I was not having a good day.  I could not shake the drowsiness or feeling of being tired while heading east into Kansas.  Usually the daybreak and bright sun refreshes long distance riders. In this case, it did nothing and I continue to fight this weariness for the next 700 miles.  Kansas and Missouri were blurs in my short term memory, although I did note an IRL race was at Kansas raceway on Sunday and that it was 98 degrees when I passed through Kansas City.

Just into Missouri I stopped at a rest stop and met and talked with a gent riding a BMW GS on a cross country trip.  He was wetting his cooling vest; something I think I could have used that day. On into the afternoon I continued across I-70, the most boring interstate in our United States. Around 5:30pm local time I entered the outskirts of St Louis and called Rich, (aka Chopsaw) a friend I had known on the Internet for over a year, but had never met. We both play Day of Defeat on the internet. We had planned for me to pay a short visit enroute, and I found his new house easily right off I-70.

After about 30 minutes of socializing and fresh cold water, I suited back up to continue the ride.  Rich described me later in an email as “tired, but focused”.

I think it was this stop and interaction that finally woke me up and as I crossed north of St Louis, I was finally awake.  Awake enough to realize I had just run into rush hour holiday traffic!  Stop and go traffic for 20 miles and then smooth sailing through IL where I stopped mid-state to get my final gas before heading off toward Indiana.

It does not take 58 miles to decide, keep riding! The choice is obvious!

It stayed light for the longest time with an awesome sunset which I kept looking over my shoulder at until it dissolved to dusk and darkness.  Indiana was observing daylight savings time for the first time in their history and most were enjoying it.

Arriving in Indianapolis, I made my way to Susan’s house and pulled into the open garage.  Some food and a shower, and soon we were catching up in her beautiful living room…reminded me of my IBR stop in 2003!  In the am, I packed up and hit the road, and was at my parent’s house at 10am.  A brief but great visit followed into Sunday.  Watching the NASCAR race with Dad on Sat night and breakfast with Mom on Sunday was the best and long overdue.

Mom and Dad

The thermometer was rising on Sunday about 1pm when I departed, with me planning on riding west until I got tired to minimize the mileage on Monday, July 3rd.  I got through Indianapolis as the F1 race was finishing and many corvettes, Porsches and sports cars in general zoomed by me heading west on I-70 after a hot day of spectating.

Into IL was a breeze and I felt strong, even with the heat…the bike was performing magnificently. Soon, St Louis had come and gone around 6pm and I started out across Missouri, not knowing how far I would go. The sun set when I was about 30 mins outside of Kansas City so I pulled over to snap a quick picture but I managed to miss the sun.

There was a sun there…trust me…

I called Debbie at about his point to have her look up in the Garmin Street Pilot manual if I could reset my GPS as the screen had gone black.  She suggested the screen brightness and although I had considered that I forgot what button you had to push so she told me and it worked!  That was a BIG help as that GPS is the single most important add on accessory I have on my bike!  Thanks again Debbie!

Back on the short stretch of Kansas toll road west of Kansas City (why create a 40 mile toll road in the middle of nowhere Topeka – KS City?) I saw that the Kansas City IRL race had finished some hours earlier so I missed that traffic as well!  After Topeka, I just kept riding, and was not even tired.  I considered riding the last 400 miles home that night but decided an inexpensive, but clean room at the Salina Inn beckoned so I pulled over after 663 miles about 11:15pm (local). After checking in I rode over to a truck stop and got a personal pan pizza and a coke which I carefully balanced like a tight rope artist on my bike back to the hotel.

Life is good when you can munch on a personal pan pizza, a moon pie, and slurp a coke while watching the weather channel in a room at the Salina Inn at midnight…ah vacation!

Salina Inn

The next morning I was on the road by 7:00am and home by 12:00 noon with no drama or even interesting scenery or encounters. Let’s just say if I go east again soon, it will be on a two lane road. Pulled in after 2300 miles into my garage and within 45 minutes the biggest rainstorm came through Colorado Springs that I had seen since living in Korea. It then proceeded to rain for another 7 days and 7 nights.  Ark building was a consideration…timing is everything!

and the rain comes down on the 3rd and 4th of July!

GPS: missed about 100 miles when I goofed in MO…


Why is there always an epilogue?

The bike performed as advertised. Although Chop (Rich) joked with fellow DoD players he is still cleaning up the oil from my bike, it is just that, a JOKE. 🙂 The bike never skipped a beat except when it was laying on its side (I should have got a picture) and that was my fault!  Total riding time over 4 days was approx. 34+ hours for about 2300 miles.  Average moving speed was 68.7 mph.

Epilogue: [n] a short passage added at the end of a literary work; “the epilogue told what eventually happened to the main characters”

After I got back I contemplated long distance riding once again.  Frankly, the great day I had on Sunday made the bad day on Friday nothing but a distant memory. I had a decision staring at me squarely… it was an entry draw into the 2007 IBR.  Did I really want to do it again? I had debated this very thought many times, and when I had received my entry into the 2007 IBR I had that sudden rush of excitement all over again.

Only close friends and my family knew I had been drawn so I discussed the issue with Harry and Tom (while he was traveling through AK and Canada), my two friends who had given me moral support during the 2003 IBR.  I also discussed it with Debbie and 2-3 close friends who are multiple IBR veterans with about 8 rallies combined in their resumes, and one very animated Warchild.  I came to the conclusion that for me, the IBR should “probably” be a once in a lifetime accomplishment and after discussing with Lisa, the rally master, I gave my entry back to her to distribute to the next guy/gal on the list for their once in a lifetime experience.

Factors included time, commitment, and risks…

In the end, there is still point A to point B riding left in my life, as well as competitive endurance riding.  In additional to rallies, the 49/10 (49 states, including Alaska in ten days) with Harry in the next 24 months and/or a four corners tour (Southern CA, Key West, Maine, and Northern Washington State – no time limit) seems like the right things to do.  I will also throw in some pleasure touring, maybe add a FJR1300 to the stable at a later date or give into pressure from Tom and add a dual sport bike. J Additionally, I want to go on day trips to the mountains with Debbie on the bike!

When I started this weekend trip on that Friday I sure did not think it would lead to this decision, sure to be criticized by some, but I at peace with it. I look forward to riding around the US with my friends, enjoying our country.

My father passed away 4 months after this visit…. I am so grateful I went when I did.