Sunday, November 17, 2013

Iron Butt

 I enjoy long distance riding. It's something I can do well. For me it comes easy, for some others not so much. I never had any interest in being a jock or a rock star or a politician. I'm not good at those things. I fix crap and enjoy riding. A good combo I think.
 There was a time when my wife bought me a nice new touring bike. Before I had that bike I never heard of the IBA or Iron Butt Association. Someone once asked me if I ever did any Iron Butt rides and I didn't even realize they were talking about an actual series of rides dedicated to long distance enthusiasts. Before this I never paid much attention to how many miles were ticking over on the odometer.
   After investigating the IBA website I decided I would document a SaddleSore 1000 ride. The goal is to safely travel 1000 miles in under 24 hours. Keeping track of time, location and mileage is done by collecting gas station receipts.
 It was July of 2000 around Independence Day. I decided I would take advantage of the long weekend. The forecast sucked for riding but guess what, it sucked for cooking out and parades too. I laid out a route that would cover a thousand miles of interstate. I slept in late and left the house in the late afternoon so that I would still be fresh for the night time portion of the ride. The first fifty miles was state highway then after a couple hours of interstate I crossed the Mississippi river and entered Minnesota.
 Somewhere north of the twin cities I encountered road construction. They weren't out there working on the roads at midnight in the pouring rain but the road was definitely under construction. Both lanes were open but they were uneven. One lane was waiting for another layer of asphalt. There was no paint on the road and visibility sucked. The rain was consuming the windshield and any light was exploded into a magnificent star burst of distraction. Because I had lifted my foggy visor to try and get a better view, my clear glasses got wet and were also starting to fog up.
 I soldiered along for awhile. I was pretty much alone on the road. No hurry, just keep pushing along. The rain was coming down so hard it was bouncing up off the road. My headlight couldn't pierce this wall of water and mist that seemed about a foot off the ground. Even if the road had painted lines on it they would have been masked. The rain just wouldn't let up but I was just as stubborn.
 Two things finally made me get off the road that night. The first was my low fuel light. I exited twice but both times all the gas stations were closed. I knew I had no more than fifty miles left in the tank. I had a gps with me but the screen turned black about an hour ago. My paper map was now just pulp so I didn't know how far it was to the next city. If I was gonna run out of fuel I preferred it was in daylight. I dunno, just one of those personal rules of mine.
 The second reason I pulled off the road was because someone in a car decided to tail gate me. I don't know if he thought he was helping or if he was just an idiot but with his headlights reflecting off all the water on my shield it became almost impossible to see. What I finally did see was something that has become a welcome sight on many rides. It was the blue "rest area" sign.
 I parked the bike and sloshed my way over to a picnic table under a tree. Wet is wet but if I were to categorize states of wetness it would go something like this:

Dry. Not wet at all.

Damp. This could happen from heavy exercise or riding through the spray from a farmers irrigation system thats not adjusted to the field just right and extends into the road.

Wet. You rode home from work in the rain. You knew you'd be home soon and could warm up and dry off easily.

Soaked. Your clothes won't absorb any more moisture. You experienced this state of wetness only for a short period of time.

Miserable. You don't have to be soaked to be miserable but there are three factors that must be present. 1-your feet must be wet. 2-a lot of moisture must have found its way down your ass crack and into your groin area. 3-These things have to been bothering you for an extended amount of time.

 I was in a full blown state of miserable wetness. I left my helmet on and laid on top of that picnic table.  I eventually dozed off and actually slept pretty good for about three hours. I was awakened by the sound of a harley accelerating out of the rest area. It was a very quiet morning and this harley wasn't excessively loud but I heard it for a long time. I took my helmet off and could still hear it. I don't know why but this memory sticks with me like it just happened and I think about it a lot.
 It was done raining. I ate a vending machine breakfast then got on my bike and headed out. I found fuel. Pretty soon I dried down to a state of just being soaked. I wasn't even half way to my 1000 mile goal yet but the closer I got to home the wetter I got.  If this kept up there was a good chance I would arrive home just damp.
 The rest of the ride was uneventful. Me, a bike and my thoughts. I continued to Fargo, ND then headed south to Sioux Falls, SD then east back through Minnesota and into Wisconsin. Theres a gas station two blocks from my house. It was my official starting and ending point. I logged 1145 miles in 19 hours. Three of those hours were on a picnic table. Its really not a matter of speeding. Its more about time management.


 I sent in the paperwork and received my official certificate of completion for the ride. I've done a lot of 1000+ mile days since then but never felt the need to get them certified. Whether it be a scenic country ride, a spirited twisty back road jaunt or a full day just eating up miles...its all good.


  1. I can totally relate to that on one of my week long self contained bicycle trips.! As your pushing along the optimism and suckiness all kind of have there different places in the head. for me an experience not to regret.

  2. I have a hard time finding room for a week of stuff on a motorcycle. I couldn't do it on a bicycle.

  3. "I have a hard time finding room for a week of stuff on a motorcycle."

    Then you are doing something wrong. ;)

  4. I know I have a packing problem. I always bring stuff "just in case".

  5. LOL! I to suffer from the "Just-In-Case" syndrome, of course I 'suffered' enough as a grunt so now I like to travel in the lap of luxury with a self-inflating bedroll, stove, pots, pans, spatulas, kitchen sink...JT witnessed my 'issues' in action...LOL! As long as you're on a bike, it is good!

  6. I couldn't agree more with your "as long as you're on a bike" statement. Knees in the breeze and all that.

  7. Great writing, Scott. I've just started to explore some of your blog, & it's all interesting but this is really a fine piece. It makes me want to read more, and I reckon that's about the highest praise I've got. The categories of wetness is hi-larious...and well-observed, simply stated, and helpful to consider. Good stuff. Keep it up.