One Day in the Saddle: A SaddleSore 1000 Trip

 

Terry Baldridge

 

Executive Summary:

 

On February 28, 2004 I rode my BMW R1100R over a 1,000 miles in less than 24 hours in an attempt to obtain the Iron Butt Associationís entry-level certification of SaddleSore 1000.  I used the following route:

 

feb04ss1k.jpg (577847 bytes)

 

I-20 East from Vicksburg, MS East to Birmingham, AL

I-459 to I-65 South

I-65 South down to Mobile, AL

I10 and I12 west across to Lafayette, LA

I-49 north to Alexandria, LA

US-167 North to Ruston, LA

 I-20 back east to Vicksburg, MS

 

This route offered little in the way of new and exciting scenery, but it held lots of options if I found out I could not make the trip.  The total distance measured 1,038 miles according to what I could glean from a Gousha Road Atlas and various state road maps.  According to the odometer on my bike it was 1091 miles.  I made ten stops for gas including the beginning and ending stops.  The security guards at work were nice enough to sign my beginning and ending witness statements.  Except for being cold during the early and late hours, it was a very enjoyable trip.  I thank the IBA for certifying SS1K trips because I probably wouldnít have gotten out and rode that many miles without someone else thinking it up and I am probably better off for having done it.

 

The Big Picture:

 

On Friday, February 27, 2004 before lunch I heard a couple of people talking about it being so nice outside they didnít know if they would come back from lunch after being out in it.  I laughed a little under my breath at the thought and then before I made it back to my desk I had already formulated an afternoon ride that would have me riding down through southern Mississippi.  I had been working on riding through all the counties in the state and I thought I could probably finish all the ones in Southwest MS that afternoon. 

 

So I finished what needed to be done, covered myself for the afternoon, and I never made it back from lunch that day just as the others had threatened to do.  I had a nice ride of a couple of hundred miles and pondered over what my Saturday ride would be the next day.  I was thinking of riding up through the Delta area of Mississippi and coming back down through Eastern Mississippi.  That would get most of the remaining perimeter of state making the rest of the counties easy pickings for a divide and conquer type strategy.  I got home and installed a pair of hand guards I had ordered for my R1100R in an attempt to keep my hands somewhat warmer.  That has been the only bad part of moving from my old K100RT to the R bike.  There is nothing to block the wind off your hands with the Roadster.  I bought this bike back in November after more than a decade with the K and I really like it.  I have made three or four rides in the neighborhood of 350 to 400 miles on the R bile, but nothing really long.  As a matter of fact I donít believe I have ever ridden much over 400 miles in a day on any bike.  I had always enjoyed riding back roads and they are not very conducive to covering large amounts of mileage in a day.

 

After installing the hand guards I checked the bike out and made sure it up to a big ride the next day.  That night I went to bed figuring I would spend the next day riding through cotton country.  At 4 AM on February 28 I woke up with only one thought in my head, it was time to do the IBA Saddle Sore 1000.  I had considered it for years and had even gone so far as to spend a few lunch hours putting together potential routes, but I figured I would do it in like early May when the weather is somewhat warmer.  So I laid in bed for another 40 minutes trying to talk myself out of getting out in 30 degree weather and riding a 1000 miles.  But it was no use, much like the spontaneous ride the afternoon before, once I had it in my mind, it had to be.  About 4:30 I finally figured I had better get with it.  So I got up and put on most of the heavy clothes I own, put the bags on the bike, and took off.  I went to work and printed out a couple of my planned 1000-mile routes.  I figured since I had never ridden a really long trip before I should probably stay away a straight-line trip to somewhere 500 miles away and then back.  Instead I decided on a route that would circle around and never have me too far from home or a place I could easily rest for a while.  The security guard was nice enough to sign my starting witness form and I hit the road.  I filled up my tank at 5:45 while all of my preplanning had me starting at 4:30.  I was already over an hour behind and I hadnít even gotten out of town yet.  I left the station and waited for the stoplight to change.  It is one of the sensor type lights that will sometimes forget to change for a motorcycle.  After a reasonable amount of time I went through the red light.  I thought of a variation of the ancient proverb ďa journey of a thousand miles begins an hour late and by running a stoplightĒ.  My wife is a night nurse and my Discman was in the car at work with her, so I had borrowed my daughterís Discman the night before.  As I hit road speed on I-20 East the Discman dies.  So a quick revision made the proverb ďa journey of a thousand miles begins an hour late, running a stoplight, and with dead batteries in your DiscmanĒ. 

 

Since I need to have a fairly good idea of how many miles I am covering I pay attention to the mile markers and the odometer readings.  I am gaining almost a tenth of a mile between miles markers.  Taking this into account I figure I can ride with the speedometer on 80 MPH and still not be terrible interesting to law enforcement officials.  I buzz along watching the sunrise noticing that the world is covered in frost.  I knew it was cold, but this is bone chilling at first.  Luckily it doesnít take too long to get used to it.  But for once, I found myself missing the K100RTís full fairing that I had cussed so many times during hot summers.  I usually get about 165 miles on a tank of gas before the low fuel light comes on, so I was really surprised when it came on after only about 135 miles.  This will really affect the number of stops I have to make if the distance between fill ups is reduced this much.  After about 145 miles and 2 hours of travel I made my first out of town gas stop just east of Meridian, MS.  Of course the pay at the pump decides not to print my receipt so I have to go in, stand in line, and ask for it.  As I fill out my log a fellow comes up and makes some small talk about it being cold for a ride and how he is heading to Norfolk, VA to see his son come back from the Gulf to the Naval station there.  We wish each other well and both continue on our way.  It is a long time before I have any more casual conversation.  I soon learn that a battery change isnít helping the Discman out any.  As soon as I hit about 60 MPH, the thing goes off.  I slow down and pull into a rest area at the Alabama line to check it out.  As soon as I get back down to about 35 MPH it starts working again.  So I stop and pull it out.  I figure it is the vibration causing it to skip.  I go through the entire selection of menu buttons and I canít find the anti-vibration settings on it.  I guess this one doesnít have anti-vibration.  I take back off and try in vain to adjust the rig in my pocket to a place where it doesnít get too much vibration to work.  Man is it cold now.  I bought some used electric gloves a couple of weeks ago off the IBMWR market website, but had yet to get a switch cord to hook it up to the accessory plug.  I figured I would probably find a used vest with one already on it soon.  By this time I am really wishing I had power to those gloves. 

 

Time passes and I soon find myself in Birmingham, AL.  I take the first exit after I turn south on I-65.  I need a change of direction fill up and to chug down a bottle of water.  I have knocked out another 140 BMW miles and the low fuel light has yet to come on. So maybe my gas mileage is more like it should be.  Leaving the station I get really cold.  I mean really cold.  I guess when I stopped my clothes had warmed up and then when I got back on the road and in the wind all the warm got pushed out and it got chilly.  It took about 10 miles to get comfortable again.  I-65 is probably a good road for IBA types.  I was riding around indicated speed of 80 MPH and was only keeping up with the flow of traffic.  I never saw an AL patrolman on that section of road.  Of course the bad part of that area is that it looks exactly like Central Mississippi where I live.  There is nothing but pine trees and rolling hills everywhere.  I made a mental note to plan my next IBA trip to go through more interesting terrain.  While I am doing the mental thing I start calculating that if my speedometer is off by almost 10% I will have to go about 1,100 BMW miles to successfully reach my quest. 

 

Montgomery, AL slips past me and I make to the Owassa exit before I need fuel again (over 150 miles on this tank before the light).  The fellow there informs me they donít have any bottles of water that arenít already cold.  Their storeroom is refrigerated.  So I refill a bottle I had emptied earlier from the tap, chug it down, and refill it for later.  By now it is noon, but I still donít feel warm enough to take off any of the excess layers of clothing I have on.  The further south I get on I-65 the more interesting the scenery gets.  The Mobile River bottoms are a wondrous sight.  I am sure it is much prettier a little later in the year, but it is probably much more buggy then too.  I pass within about 60 miles of my in-laws house, this is one of my planned ďoutsĒ if the ride got too rough, but I donít need an ďoutĒ this day.  I stopped in Mobile for a change of direction fill up and my credit card will not work at the pay at the pump.  I waste several minutes walking back and forth to the cashier.  While I am slowly taking care of business a Gold Wing pulling a trailer comes and goes from the station.  Across the street a bunch of Harleys make lots of noise pulling out of a diner.  I have only seen about three other bikes the entire day and here is a whole gaggle of them at this one exit.  As I pull back onto I-10 I realize I am seeing lots of bikes.  I probably literally saw hundreds of bikes in a matter of next 100 miles.  It finally hits me that it is almost Bike Week at Daytona and they must all be going down there.  I see all sorts of bikes.  There are numerous Harleys and Gold Wings, a good number of BMWs and sport bikes.  There are also lots of bikes on trailers.  I can kind of understand the people pulling bikes behind RVs.  I can understand people with hardcore choppers and radical sport bikes trailering down, but there are Glides and Gold Wings being pulled down there for goodness sakes.  I figure they are snickering at me because they are going to Daytona and I am going the other way.  But, at the same time I am snickering at them because I am doing an IronButt and they are not. 

 

I-10 turns to I-12 as I head to Baton Rouge.  I make it almost to Baton Rouge before I need gas again.  That makes over 700 BMW miles so far.  So I am about two-thirds of the way when you figure in the error factor.  It is about 4:00 PM so I have been on the road for a little over 10 hours.  After filling up I go in and find a phone book.  I feel certain that Hebertís Cycle in Baton Rouge will have a switch cord for my gloves and the thought of warmer hands after dark really brightens my day.  I used to live in Baton Rouge about 10 years ago and I bought the old K100RT from them back in like 1992.  It is always good to stop in and see them.  But, when I make the call all I get is recording saying they close at 3 PM on Saturday.  Drat the luck. 

 

Crossing the Mississippi River on I-10 Bridge I have to wonder how many times I have crossed that bridge on a bike and I believe every time I have crossed it I have hummed Born to Be Wild.  I donít know what it is about that bridge that causes me to hum that tune, but it is hard wired into me.  While I will sometimes hum it when I cross the Mississippi River at Vicksburg or Natchez; I have to do it when I cross at Baton Rouge if and only if, I am on a bike.  Strange.  The Atchafalaya Basin provides another brief respite from rolling hills covered in pine trees.  All too soon I have to fill up again to signify my turn north on I-49.  It is getting dark now and I see fewer motorcycles coming down to meet me.  I-49 seems to be a much more devoid of all types of traffic than the others I have ridden that day.

 

The few times I have driven through Alexandria I have always found it somewhat confusing, after nearly 900 indicated miles in the saddle, this trip is no easier.  I had checked the map at Lafayette and made sure I knew which road to take out of Alexandria to get back on the Interstate at Ruston, LA.  As I pull out of Alexandria on my first two-lane road of the day I see sign that says Winnfield ahead.  Winnfield?  That should take me way east of where I need to hit the I-20.  I will not have enough mileage at the end of the trip if I go through there.  I pulled over at a little gas station and with the attendant looking at me intently across the parking lot, pulled my map out.  Silly me, Winnsboro is way east of where I want to go while Winnfield is directly in line with where I want to go.  I wish I had thought about putting the straps on for my tank bag the night before, then I would have had a map there for me to look at instead of having to pull over and dig it out. There probably would have been enough padding in the bag to keep the Discman from skipping too.  It is a tad late to worry about that now.  As previously mentioned I have never been much of an interstate rider when on a scooter.  I have always-preferred secondary and back roads.  Thinking back on it I am sure I rode as many interstate miles in that one day than I have the rest of my riding career put together.  It is full dark now and I am on two-lane road in the heart of rolling hills populated with suicidal deer.  Even though I am tired, I am on full alert.  I would feel much safer back on an Interstate.  A fuel stop in Winnfield is made longer by the time on the receipt being off by about 45 minutes.  The lady tells me she thinks she can reset the time.  After conferring with a book that looked the size of a large metropolitan phone book for what seems like about 5 or 10 minutes she later decides she canít reset the time.  So I get her to put the correct time, a phone number, and initial it for me, and then I am off again.  A short time later I am in Ruston, LA ready to get back on I-20 for the trip across northern LA and then home.  A quick fill up to signify a change of direction and I am off again.  Oh, wait a minute.  This pay at the pump receipt doesnít have the location on it.  I go in and ask the fellow if he can print out a receipt with the address on it.  In a sequence that mimics the last fuel stop, he works with the machine some and then looks me square in the eye and says, ďNo, I canít do thatĒ.  So I got him to stamp the receipt with the stamp they endorse checks with and hoped that will work.  Two bad receipts the whole trip and they happen to be in a row.  If I had thought about it, I think there was an ATM on site I could have gotten a receipt from.  But I didnít think about it until now when I was typing it up.

 

So I am back on the interstate.  Home of higher speed limits and buffer zones from wooded areas where deer reside.  As I get down out of the hills and into the Mississippi Delta area of Louisiana what do I see but deer upon deer upon deer.  I saw several groups of 3 or 4 and lots of single deer standing on the south side of the road grazing.  I had seen none earlier when I was really worried about them and now that I think I am in the clear they are everywhere.  So I pulled the speed down some and moved into the left lane for the rest of the trip.  A little after 10 PM I crossed the Mississippi River (without humming Born to be Wild I might add) and pulled back into Vicksburg.  I went across town to the same station I filled up at before 6am that morning.  This time the pump doesnít want to work with pay at the pump.  So I have to go in to pay.  But I am not worried, I still have more than seven hours for them to print the receipt out before I am going to be late.  They manage it much faster than that.  Once again a security guard at work is nice enough to sign my witness form so I am done.  According to the odometer I have covered 1,091 BMW miles in less than 17 hours.  I go home, talk to my daughter a few minutes, and fall into some blissful sleep.   The thought of getting up early and riding an additional 500 miles in a roundtrip up to Memphis to make it a BunBurner1500 enters my mind, but I decided I am not doing it with without electricity to my gloves (and maybe a matching vest).

 

Click here if you want to see the certificate.

 

Here are a few statistics from the trip.

 

Miles

Miles

      1,091

Total Time

Hours

      16.78

Average Speed

MPH

      65.00

Fuel Used

Gallons

      27.26

Fuel Mileage

MPG

      40.03

Fuel Expense

$

      49.18

Miles based on BMW Speedometer Readings.

 Lesson learned for my next trip (and I already working out a BunBurner 1500-mile route that would take me through the Smoky Mountains down the Eastern Seaboard and end at my In-laws on the Gulf Coast):

 

1)         I can stay on a bike all day and cover lots of mileage safely.  This is the main thing I wanted to know.  Now I need to find out if I can do it on multiple days.

 

2)         Active warmth is essential on a bike with no fairing if the temperature is going to be below about 60.  There is only so much warm clothes can do for you.  I was dreading the early morning stops because I knew it would take me about 10 miles to get over the shivers afterwards.  That takes the fun out of it.

 

3)         If you are going to spend 17 hours on a bike, try to choose an area where the scenery is new and/or exciting.  Pine tree on rolling hills might be interesting to someone from west Texas, but it all looks alike to me. 

 

4)         Earplugs.  I usually have a pair or two with me, but in this case I went two days without earplugs or music and I felt it at the end.

 

5)         Drink up.  It was cool and I chugged what I thought was a good bit of water.  I was still dehydrated the next day.  I probably need one of those camelback rigs that I can drink from while I am traveling before doing anything further into summer.

 

6)         Do I now have an IronButt?  Probably not.  But at least I have worked my way up from LeadButt to AluminumButt.  Maybe I can work my way into the ferrous metals before too long.

 

Once again it was an interesting trip that I probably would not have ever made without a group like IBA certifying them.  So I managed to get off my lazy duff and spend the day out on the road where it should be.

Postscript:

I received an email from Mike Kneebone on March 22,  2004 saying my ride had been accepted.  I received the certificate a few days later.

 

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