The first week of December I planned a 1500-mile ride to New Mexico and back. I was really excited to ride the plan and had everything set up and ready to go in the days leading up to Friday, December 8th. I was so prepared that by 1900 on Thursday I had nothing else to do.
So, by 2000 I got ready to go to bed. My plan was to be up at 0200, on the road by 0300, and home by 0200 the following morning. I knew my route without any navigation aids because I’d ridden most of it in the past. I knew where I’d make my fuel stops. I had enough food prepared that I wouldn’t need to stop for food. The weather looked promising with temperatures no colder than the mid-thirties and no warmer than the mid-sixties.
It made dressing easy because I could layer up and not have to lose or add clothes along the ride.
I had planned on this being the final ride on the BT45R tire I mounted about 10,000 miles earlier. The tire wasn’t worn out – not even close to it – but had become so cupped at the tread-block gaps that the bike vibrated noticeably below 35 mph and when I pushed the bike at a walking pace, each cup would lightly shudder through the handle bars. The tire wore like iron but extremely unevenly in spite of the fact that I had fresh fork internals and Centramatic balancers on the front wheel.
I settled into bed, the room dark. I was tired and my eyes felt heavy, but I was so amped up, excited about the ride, that I couldn’t begin to relax enough to fall asleep. I thought about the dark stretch between interstates 10 and 8 on Highway 95 and how effective the Sevinas would be. Then the dog scratched at the door. I heard voices from the industrial park that borders my neighborhood. A siren wailed in the distance. Coyotes yipped and howled at the siren. Somewhere a TV was playing.
By 9 I was still awake. By 10, too. At eleven I began to get worried because I was about to enter into a near-24-hour ride on too little sleep. Then, at midnight, I decided it wouldn’t be safe to ride even if I fell asleep. I turned off my alarm, cancelled my ride shortly after midnight, and continued to toss and turn for a while.
Eventually I fell asleep but woke up when I usually do, at 0540. I wasn’t just disappointed. I was angry. At myself. I should have waited another hour rather than trying to rush myself to sleep. I should have put in ear plugs to muffle the distractions. Everything was my fault.
I spent the day sulking internally and because I had the day off, spent some time in the garage working on another bike. I checked the calendar and figured the next likely day to try the ride again would be in early January. The holidays, and having the living room floor tiled, would make December unlikely.
Fast forward past the two weeks spent prepping for tile, allowing the installer access for a week, cleaning up afterwards, Christmas, and New Year’s Eve, and I found myself a few days away from the same ride – take two.
I was determined not to make the same mistakes again. While I was still prepared well before I had to be, I got home from work a little early on Thursday evening and immediately took a single Benadryl. I figured it would make me drowsy enough to fall asleep but would wear off by the time my alarm would go off 0200. I put in ear plugs and the ambient noises of the house faded to almost nothing. The dog may have scratched at the door, but I didn’t hear.
It took about thirty minutes to fall asleep but I did before 2100. I slept well and went through two REM cycles before being awoken from a dream.
It was midnight. I’d slept about three hours. I did the math in my head and determined that if I fell asleep immediately, I’d get through a REM cycle and possibly start another about the time my alarm would sound. This worried me because I didn’t want to start on an incomplete REM cycle because I’d likely feel groggy well into the daytime. Lying in bed waiting to go back to sleep wouldn’t be any good, either, because if I was going to be awake, I might as well be putting miles behind me. I felt good. I felt awake.
I got up and showered, dressed, and rode to the Mobil station near the 22-eastbound onramp. I keep the clock on the Goldwing about five minutes fast. It indicated almost exactly 0100 when my receipt printed. I zeroed out my GPS, took a picture of the odometer and receipt and looked up to see a man walking up to me. I was the only person at the gas station besides him and he looked like he wanted to talk.
His mouth moved and he said something. I couldn’t hear what it was but I saw his lips move. I responded by talking in a louder than ordinary voice, “I have ear plugs in, I can’t hear you.”
“Mumble…stammer…blah – CB750…mumble…mumble…mumble.”
“Oh cool, you had a CB750. Great bikes.”
I lifted my faceplate so he could see my facial expressions, then gave him a smile and a “thumbs up.”
“Cool. Listen. I’d love to talk with you but I can’t hear you very well and I just punched on the clock for a timed ride. Take care. Be safe.”
He smiled back and returned my thumbs up sign. He didn’t look homeless, didn’t really appear to be an addict, but walked to, and was walking away from the station. I figured he’d eventually get to the point where he asked for money, but I didn’t allow the conversation to go that way before I exited the station and entered the freeway.
When I came up to speed, I called my brother, Mike. He is a truck driver who drives at night between St. Louis and Indianapolis and he would be somewhere between the two. When he answered, he was worried something was wrong. I hadn’t told him I’d be calling and he thought something had happened to someone. I told him everything was fine, I was just leaving on a ride, and wanted to know if he wanted some company while he drove.
He explained that he was just getting to Indianapolis and would be swapping trailers and might be working on the dock for a while. We agreed that he would call me back when he was heading back towards St. Louis.
Traffic was light heading out of Orange County and while the flow was fast and light, I didn’t like riding at night between 0100 and 0400 because a greater percentage of the traffic was likely impaired somehow. By 0400 I figure most of the drunks have either made it home or were detained by the police. This early, they were still leaving the bars.
I made good time, reaching Palm Springs in a little over an hour. I was just east of Indio when Mike called back. He was happy because it was really cold in Indy and he didn’t have to work the docks at all. On top of that, the heater in his cab worked really well and he was comfortable on his last leg for the week.
I worried about losing the cell signal the further east I got but we were able to talk all the way through the California desert. I finally lost him as I climbed the grade between the Arizona border and Quartzsite, but we had already planned on it and I told him I’d call him back later if that happened.
I exited the 10 at Quartzsite and put in a splash of fuel at the Love’s Travel Stop to obtain a receipt to document that I was in Quartzsite at a specific time. I didn’t need fuel and would have liked to continue on to Yuma, an hour to the south, but was worried about not getting receipts in both Quartzsite and Yuma to allow there to be no doubt as to the route I rode.
The problem with the route I chose was that it was counter-intuitive. A rider travelling on the 10 east to New Mexico would usually just stay on the 10 through Phoenix, then through Tucson and onto New Mexico. That route is shorter. Too, if a rider is heading to New Mexico from San Diego it makes the most sense to take the 8 to the 10 where it merges northwest of Tucson. I could have ridden south on the 5 to San Diego to pick up the 8 and then travel the 8 to the 10. It, too, would have meant fewer miles.
Because I chose to ride south on the 95 between the 8 and 10 Interstates, I felt I needed a receipt in Quartzsite and then an hour later, a receipt in Yuma to prove, without a doubt, the route I rode. The route was longer, but it meant no slowing down in downtown Phoenix and allowed me to ride on the 95 for an hour when there should be almost no one else on it – the perfect opportunity to blaze my Clearwater lights and maintain a good pace.
I printed my receipt, photographed it next to the odometer, and got back on the road. I passed two trucks shortly out of town, south of Quartzsite, but then ran into almost no traffic for the next hour.
My lights lit up the road and a number of time I saw the rear half of an animal that had just crossed the road in front of me as it slinked into the bushes to my right. I saw several coyotes, then I caught a glimpse of something really big – large hindquarters and a large rack of antlers. Mule deer? Elk? I wasn’t sure. It wasn’t as big as the elk I’d seen to the north or in the Rocky Mountains but it was a lot bigger than a typical deer. It glanced briefly over its shoulder in my direction and my lights illuminated its right eyeball.
A few minutes later I passed a sign announcing animal crossing that was printed with the unmistakable form of an elk. I checked later and found that there are several populations of elk in Arizona, even in the southwest part of the state. I could imagine them near Flagstaff but not so much in the low desert. I slowed to roll past the Border Patrol Station and then sped south past the military and automobile proving grounds. I reached Yuma as the town appeared to be coming to life. The sun still wasn’t up but the Chevron station at Interstate 8 had several customers besides me.
I topped off both tanks, used their restroom and moved eastward on Interstate 8. I was waved through the Border Patrol station there and then dropped in elevation east of Telegraph Pass into the Mohawk Valley.
The sky lightened very slowly. The typical bands of lightness began close to the horizon. Venus was still in view although as I moved east, it slid past my shoulder. The sun didn’t actually rise for quite a while but when it did, I warmed and felt more awake. Had I not had Mike to talk to between 0300 and 0600, I may have fought sleep.
Traffic remained very light and I made good time, and decent fuel mileage, with the cruise control set at 82 mph. Enough vehicles were travelling faster than me that I didn’t worry about getting a ticket. I ate my breakfast – a banana and protein bar – on the bike and eventually reached behind me to switch to my auxiliary tank as I approached the Tucson area.
The entire stretch between the I8/I10 interchange and downtown Tucson is an extended speed trap. I saw more Arizona Highway Patrol officers on this stretch than on the rest of the ride in total. I settled to the right lanes and went only as fast as the cars around me. Occasionally a car would barrel past me and in several cases I got to witness it getting pulled over. More than a couple of these cars had out-of-state license plates.
I refueled in Benson, Arizona, turnaround site of my first documented Ironbutt ride. The morning had turned pleasant, warm and only a slight breeze blew. I got my receipt and photo’d it next to the odometer, arranged a few other things, hit the OK button on my SPOT tracker, used the restroom and got back onto the freeway.
I ate several pieces of beef jerky as I continued east. It suddenly hit me that because I lived very near the coast, I had ridden all the way across California, and would be all the way across Arizona and most of the way across New Mexico by noon. Some additional calculating made me realize that I might be able to complete the entire 1500-mile ride not just in a 24-hour period, but all on the same calendar day. In spite of being a little cold as I climbed into New Mexico, I was excited, and it allowed me to ignore the discomfort as the temperature dropped.
I motored through Deming, NM and crossed the 750-mile mark. Another twenty-two miles or so and I would reach my turnaround point. I was craving a cup of coffee and was beginning to get hungry for lunch. I stopped in Akela – the receipt still identified the town as Deming – and fueled, attended to some busy work, used the restroom, and bought a cup of coffee. When I got back to the bike I used the GPS to do a little calculating and found that I was 62.2 miles from the New Mexico/Texas border.
A middle-aged man approached me and began talking to me. I explained that I had earplugs in and couldn’t hear him very good.
“Very well, then….” he said using a proper British accent. “I’ll talk louder.”
“Are you on a long trip?” he asked.
“Long on miles,” I said. “But I’ll be home tonight.”
“Oh, where are you coming from?”
“Where are you going to, then?”
“California. This is my turnaround point.”
He acted like he was going to say something, then paused. Then opened his mouth to same something else, then paused again.
“It’s just what I like to do.”
“Is your bike comfortable for that?”
“Very,” I said. I explained about my Russell seat and how I could change foot and leg positions and stretch out my things and calves while in the seat and how sometimes I do pushups off the bars to move around a little.
“We’re from New York,” he said. “We’re on holiday, going to Southern California.”
I enjoyed the time spent with him and continued to sip on the warm coffee.
His wife walked up and asked, “Are you making friends, Nigel?”
I’m not making this up.
“Yes. Can you believe this, Elizabeth? This man is riding his motorbike from California, and going back to California, today.”
“Well,” she said. “That’s certainly a long way.”
He asked a few more questions about the bike and politely excused himself to get back on the road.
I left behind them but overtook them on the interstate, this time going west. Both of them waved enthusiastically as I passed them in their black Nissan Murano. It did, in fact, have New York plates.
I finished the last of my coffee and unwrapped a sandwich, again eating a meal while on the move. I mated the sandwich with another banana and the last few pieces of jerky. The bike was headed downhill slightly as I dropped in altitude and I felt like I was going slower than I actually was. I ate my lunch slowly and enjoyed the ride.
I noticed a few things I missed on the way out and before too long I passed back into Arizona. Well into the second half of the ride, it looked as if I would finish the ride before the end of the day. My ETA at the ride end dropped from 1230 to 1159 to 1130 and continued to drop occasionally as I rode on.
I had planned on getting fuel again in Tucson but didn’t need it yet so I continued on. Passing through Tucson I received an incoming call from my Dad, which I didn’t expect, and had a talk with him for a while. He gave me updates on his health and his wife’s health. Both are struggling with different things and he told me he was just made aware of a new condition he’ll likely have to treat.
Growing up, my Dad only demonstrated strength. I rarely saw him sick but I did see him work hard at almost everything he did. Because he always had a long commute, he would save the weekend to attend to physical work. I know now how he must have felt on Monday mornings, but he never complained. The last few years have been difficult for him. He’s had several hospitalizations for different things. He’s endured a bypass and complications from circulation issues had him lose several toes.
He was a young man in a young man’s body when I was a kid. Now, he is a young man in an old man’s body. It’s difficult for me as I’m past 50 years old and deal with the aches and pains and atrophy that age brings with it. I’m still a young man in an aging man’s body.
I’ve been asked why I always sign my name with a “W” or spell out “Warren” in the middle when I sign my signature. The short explanation is that Warren was my father’s name and my grandfather’s name. Every time I sign using it, I mean to honor the two of them.
I continued to think about him the rest of the way home.
As I neared the I8/I10 interchange I was low enough that I felt I should stop for fuel. I had to decide if I would stop before or after getting on the I8. Something told me that I should before, so I exited at the last exit before the interchange and I fueled up at a truck stop.
The station clocks were set for Central Standard Time, instead of Mountain Standard Time, for some reason, and the receipt printed a time one hour ahead of the actual time. I looked down at the odometer and wrote down the mileage. Because the fuel island traffic was starting to back up, I pushed the Goldwing away from the pumps before taking the photo of the odometer and receipt. In the 100 feet that I pushed the bike, the odometer increased by one mile. My odometer note on the receipt was one mile different than the odometer. I corrected the number on the receipt and took the photo.
It was a good thing I stopped for fuel when I did. I checked later and found that there was no fuel available off the I8 until Gila Bend. I wouldn’t have made it that far.
I watched the sun rise on Interstate 8 and was now preparing to see it set on the same highway. I dropped my tinted shade down, fought the glare, and ate my dinner. I received two more phone calls on this stretch and found out that one of my employees had been underpaid in the last pay period. I gave instructions that I would fix things on Monday.
Other than my middle back being sore and my head itchy from my helmet liner, I was feeling good. With two stops to go, my ETA had dropped to 2230 and I decided that my new goal was to make up enough time to be able to complete the two, quick, splash-and-goes in Yuma and Quartzsite and still make it in by 2230. My ride would total 21.5 hours – a very respectable time for a 1500-mile ride – and be completed on the same calendar day.
In Yuma, a large number of SUVs and trucks loaded with camping gear and ATVs were fueling for a weekend in Glamis. I found a single empty pump, fueled, skipped the bathroom break, documented, and got back on the road. I lost seven minutes of time but made some of it up on Highway 95. Exiting Yuma, I saw a crop duster performing his work in the dark. I couldn’t think of many things more dangerous.
The 95 was much busier in the early evening than it had been the morning before. Fortunately, it was spaced out enough that I was able to pass vehicles regularly and the pace of the cars I did get stuck behind was not slow. I passed through the Border Patrol Station and was waved through after the working dog got a sniff or two of me and the Goldwing.
I reached Quartzsite. There were a number of campfires near the highway. The world was awake. It wasn’t when I came through earlier.
I performed my final fuel stop in Quartzsite and very quickly got back on Interstate 10. A young couple in an older Kia SUV entered the freeway ahead of me and immediately set a fast pace. I let them pull away from me for about a half mile and then paced behind them. I was able to outpace most of the remaining traffic.
They, then I, entered into California and they picked the wrong lane at the border checkpoint. I passed them in the shorter lane, was waved through, and then crept away from the checkpoint waiting for them to pass me again. They did as we entered Blythe and I was able to stay between one-quarter and one-half mile behind them all the way to Palm Springs. I lost them in traffic somewhere near the 111 exit.
It didn’t make a difference. Other vehicles passed me and they became my new blockers.
Through Banning, Beaumont and Moreno Valley I made up time. My ETA was now down to 2240.
The traffic was heavy but moving fast, and cars jumped from lane to lane before the 60/91 interchange. I went in to the overpass a little hot and had to get hard on the brakes to avoid running into the back of a slow-moving vehicle that moved into my lane without using his signal. It raised my heart rate and caused me to remember that getting home was more important than ending the ride on time. I slowed down and let the cruise control regulate my speed.
I continued to make up time, however, and finally, just after entering the 22 freeway, my ETA dropped to 2230. I exited the freeway at Beach Boulevard at 2229 and stopped for a red light. I had just missed the previous green light and waited, and waited, and waited. When the light finally changed, I sped to the left and dove into the Mobil station I had left from earlier in the day. I quickly pumped a dollar’s worth of fuel and printed the receipt.
My start time was actually 0054 so the fact that I got back a minute after my 2230 goal didn’t mean much. The ride covered 1546 miles and was completed in 21 hours and 37 minutes. It started and ended on the same day. Not many Bun Burner Golds can claim that.
The moving average was about 75 miles per hour. The overall average was 72.5 miles per hour. My top speed was only 88 miles per hour and I reached it passing two cars in a row on highway 95. When able, I set the cruise control at 82 – never higher. A number of times I had it set lower, sometimes considerably lower.
I minimized my down time at refueling and didn’t make a single stop other than to fuel the bike. I drank enough to keep from being dehydrated but not so much that I needed to stop in between fuel stops. Two of my fuel stops were unnecessary and would have cut an additional 15-20 minutes off my total ride time if I had skipped them.
The ride plan adjusted to near the actual leave time and with the actual stops and Google Maps miles:
The log of the ride as it actually occurred:
Overall, I was pretty happy with the measurables of the ride.
I had a great time. I was tired when I got home but hadn’t fought sleep at any point. I was a little sore but was able to unpack, fix something to eat, shower, and watch TV for a while.
Once I started come down from the high of the ride, I slept well.