Full Report: CO/WY/UT SaddleSore 1000
Being the generous chap I am, here's the full report of the ride I outlined a couple of days ago, even though no one has requested it. You're welcome. :mrgreen:
SaddleSore 1000 - 7/20/2013
It wasn’t long after co-worker and Iron Butt Association (IBA) member Robert Hughes alerted the Motorcycling group on the Jive platform at work to the biennial running of the Iron Butt Rally (IBR) that the world of long-distance riding began to take hold of my imagination. What an adventure: a “scavenger hunt” spanning 11,000+ miles of riding in 11 days, and a real test of route planning, strategy, endurance, preparation and riding skills, where riders attempt to accumulate as many points as possible by visiting a selection of possible “bonus” locations, each having an associated point value. Each rally has a different theme – this year’s was Planes, Trains and Automobiles – and the available bonus locations are tightly integrated with that theme.
I started following the (more-or-less) daily dispatches on the IBA’s web site. Authored by Bob Higdon, they were extremely well written and highly entertaining. I became intrigued by the competition and by some of the personalities involved. I began reading more on the topic, visiting the many pages of the IBA website, and subscribing to the Long-Distance Riders’ e-mail list. And I learned that admission to the IBA could be earned by riding a so-called SaddleSore 1000 – any properly-documented ride of 1,000 or more miles in under 24 hours. (Documentation involves a witness at the start, gas receipts, and a witness at the finish.)
I had only returned to motorcycling five months prior, following a five-year hiatus. Although I’d owned more than a dozen motorcycles and ridden more than 100,000 miles, I had never ridden more than maybe 350 miles in a day before, and had always been glad to get off the bike at the end of the ride. My V-Strom has a comfortable seat and excellent ergonomics. Would a 1,000-mile ride be possible?
I knew that I’d want to choose roads with higher posted speed limits, which would allow me to complete those 1,000 miles in as few hours as possible. And I knew I didn’t want to ride toward the rising sun in the morning, or the setting sun in the evening. I was also more inclined to ride a loop, if a likely one could be found, than to do an out-and-back. Pulling up Google Maps, my route was almost immediately apparent: riding from my favorite gas station in the Denver suburb of Littleton to Cheyenne, then west on I-80 through Rawlins and Rock Springs and on, into Utah, then south through Provo to Price, then picking up I-70 west of Green River and following it home would cover 1,040 miles: just enough of a cushion to ensure I’d met the mileage requirement.
In order to minimize the dangers associated with riding at night (mostly, encounters with deer and other critters) I planned a 3:30 AM start. Without any complications, I figured, I should get back to Littleton at 10:46 PM.
With 1,600 miles on my V-Strom’s odometer (and only 1,000 miles since it’s last – and first – oil change) the bike was in pristine condition for a long-distance ride. In addition to the usual gear in the saddlebags (rain suits, a few tools, maps, chain lube, a tire-repair kit and a flashlight) I packed spare oil and coolant, a 12-volt compressor, a hydration bladder, some bottled water, a first-aid kit, warm-weather riding gear, and, on a clipboard, the log sheet I would use to document my fuel stops. Attached to the clipboard was a zip-lock plastic bag for my fuel receipts.
As my planned Saturday approached, I monitored the weather forecasts closely. Everything looked clear for the first half of my planned ride, from Littleton to Provo. The chance of rain coming back through the Colorado mountains was placed at 30 percent. Those were acceptable odds. I called my bank and asked them not to cancel my debit card if they saw an unusual pattern of use on the planned day.
On Friday, the day before my ride, I went to bed shortly after dinner, at about 8:30, knowing well that sleep would be difficult. I may as well have gone to bed at my usual 10:00 or 10:30. When the alarm went off at 2:00, I’d probably slept for only a couple of hours.
At 2:45 I woke Caron, giving her half an hour to prepare to follow me to my favorite gas station at Kipling and Bowles (where, I’d confirmed in advance, the pumps print receipts with the address and an accurate time and date). At 3:15, we pulled out, Caron following me through the deserted suburban streets.
Unexpectedly, my favorite station was closed, so I rode north toward Kipling and Belleview, where I knew there were more stations. I found a Loaf ‘N Jug open, and pulled in. After I’d gassed up the bike, Caron took a quick picture of the pre-ride Mark, and much-thanked, headed for home and bed. I logged the fuel stop, reset my trip odometers, and at 3:30, headed for Cheyenne.
It was cool, and there wasn’t much traffic as I travelled the familiar Denver highways: US 285 south (west, really), C-470 west (north, really), I-70 and I-76 east, and I-25 north. As I’d approached I-70, the idea to run my planned route backward – clockwise, rather than counter-clockwise – had occurred to me, and I’d almost yielded to the temptation, suspecting that doing so would minimize my chances for riding through rain. Instead, I remembered the advice to “plan your ride, then ride your plan,” and headed east on I-70, rather than west. It would later occur to me that the ride to and through the Eisenhower Tunnel at 11,000 feet, and over 10,662-foot Vail Pass would have been quite, er, brisk at that hour.
After I passed the Longmont area, I was on asphalt I hadn’t ridden (or driven on) in many, many years. Here the speed limit was 75. I still wasn’t exactly clear regarding just how optimistic the speedometer on the V-Strom was, but in the dark I was unable to see my watch, so timing a mile was impossible; I’d have to wait for daylight. I kept my indicated speed between 85 and 89, believing myself to be running 75 to 79. The miles slipped by. My lower back, which routinely presents me with a number of challenges, but which usually does not hurt while I’m riding, began to ache. I began to question the wisdom of this undertaking. I envisioned myself crawling back into bed beside my wife, my ride to Cheyenne and back done, defeated. I stood on the pegs and did a few pelvis rotations (a slightly obscene maneuver best done without other motorists in close proximity).
Around 4:30, the eastern sky started to lighten. It had gotten cooler and cooler, or so it seemed, since I’d left the Denver metro area. For this first leg, I was wearing a down jacket, which has always done a good job of keeping me warm on cool rides at high elevations. I found myself shivering before I’d reached the Wyoming line.
With light growing in the east, I pulled into a Valero station in Cheyenne one minute ahead of schedule, and hungry, despite having a light breakfast before starting the ride. I gassed up the bike, sent a text to Caron as promised (“CYS” – the airport code for Cheyenne) and thoughtlessly drank a bottle of ice-cold orange juice with my chocolate-chip cookies. I put a light windbreaker I’d brought on, under my down jacket.
Now westbound on I-80, the shivering intensified. But before I could give much thought to the cold, I spotted a mass of flashing emergency lights along the road in the distance. As I approached, I found a Wyoming Highway Patrol cruiser parked straddling the two lanes, and a semi stopped behind him. As I slowed, I heard a chopper overhead, then saw the compact sedan on its roof, maybe 20 yards off the roadway, with debris strewn around it. I stopped behind the semi, shut the bike off, and enjoyed a nice stretch while the chopper settled onto the highway on the other side of the cruiser, and EMTs prepared to transport the victim from the vehicle to the chopper.
As the process unfolded, the orange orb of the sun rose into the sky, and I had a chance to warm up a bit (although a steady breeze continued to blow from the west). Finally, the victim was loaded into the chopper, it lifted off, and the trooper took a couple of measurements. He then signaled the trucker in front of me with a “start ‘er up” gesture, and moved his cruiser to the shoulder. About 30 minutes had passed, but we were back underway.
I’d noticed what appeared to be a couple of isolated rain shafts ahead, illuminated in pink by the rising sun, and before I reached Laramie I was riding through a light shower. I hunkered down on the bike, believing it would be brief enough not to warrant getting the rain suit out. Thankfully, it was. I elevated my speed a bit after passing through Laramie in an effort to make up some of the time lost waiting for the chopper evacuation.
My next fuel stop was Rawlins, where I’d planned to also lube the chain, check the oil, clean the visor, have a quick snack and send a brief text (“RAW” – not the airport code for Rawlins). I arrived there at 7:51 AM, 10 minutes behind schedule. I went about my business expeditiously, then got back on the road.
Certain parts of I-80 through southern Wyoming have a quiet, stark beauty to them, something I’d forgotten. (The last time I travelled this route, in a car, was probably in the early 90s.) I continued to struggle, off and on, with my lower back, but with the 300-mile mark fast approaching, I had no other complaints. The day had warmed and become very pleasant, although I was still wearing my down jacket.
I pulled off the interstate in Rock Springs at 9:31 AM, four minutes ahead of schedule. Since I was lubing the chain at every other fuel stop, and I’d done so in Rawlins, this would be a quick stop. Gas, visor, text (“ROC”) and I was back on the interstate.
The next leg would take me to Provo – unfamiliar roads, now – so I’d quickly reviewed my route while in Rock Springs. I took exit 146 off I-80, followed the signs for US 189 south – and found myself travelling, according to the highway signs, on US 40. Hmmm. I plodded on, reasonably confident that I was on the right road, but with nagging doubts each time a sign announced that I was on US 40. Finally, I stopped, and rummaged through the maps in my saddlebags. Colorado… Wyoming… New Mexico… Arizona. No Utah. I got out my phone, and went to maps.google.com and as usual, got nowhere. (I now know to use Google’s Maps app instead.) Stymied, I gave a friendly, can-I-ask-you-a-question wave to a motorist who’d stopped at the end of the exit ramp where I’d pulled over. The passenger rolled down his window and confirmed that, yes, this was both US 40 and US 189, and it would take one to Provo. Having seen my license plate, the driver asked what part of Colorado I was from. I told her, and we chatted briefly about Colorado, then we wished each other safe travels and they got underway again.
I repacked my maps and shot down the on-ramp toward Heber City. The countryside had become rather scenic here; it was hilly and forested, and boaters and water skiers were out, enjoying the lakes. (Consulting the map now, I see that the “lakes” were likely different parts of Jordanelle Reservoir.)
My plans called for a fuel stop (and lunch) in Provo, but the headwinds I’d endured since Rock Springs on this, the longest leg of my ride (at 202.6 miles) had me concerned. I knew my mileage had deteriorated since the recent installation of a fuel management system (the big V-Strom has fuel injection issues) and between that and the headwinds, I was concerned about making it into Provo on one tank of fuel. When I spotted a collocated gas station and Wendy’s in Heber City, I pulled off, hoping that a receipt from Heber City instead of one from Provo wouldn’t jeopardize my certification.
I lubed the chain, gassed up, cleaned the visor, had a quick lunch and texted Caron (“In Heber City for gas and lunch. Provo is just down the road. Next text from Price. Love you!”). On the way back to the bike, I saw the tiniest Chihuahua I’ve ever seen, tethered to a rather larger Latina woman.
At the south end of Heber City, US 40 and US 189 split, the former heading east to Duchesne and the latter heading west to Orem and Provo. The road from Heber to Provo remained quite scenic, with forests, Deer Creek Reservoir and especially striking Mount Timpanogos dominating the landscape. In Provo Canyon, I finally found some curves, something that had been sadly missing to this point in the ride.
Having fueled in Heber, I rode through the city traffic of Provo without stopping (well, except for stoplights). It had become hot by now, but I‘d long since traded my down jacket for a lightweight windbreaker emblazoned front and back with Honda logos. Gotta keep people on their toes.
I finally spotted the sign for I-15 (“Las Vegas”) and was delighted to get back up to speed. After five or six miles of interstate, I took the exit for US 6 east, and headed for Price. Somewhere north of Heber City I’d remarked to myself about how well I was doing – except for my back – with more than 500 miles on the clock. Now, I was beginning to feel it a bit more keenly. My shoulders had started to complain, and my butt finally started to register its displeasure. It wouldn’t be long before my knees would add their achy voices to the chorus.
After following some RVs through some delightful curves – quite slowly – I got into the oasis of Price at 2:42 PM, twenty minutes ahead of schedule. It had become hot. Genuinely hot. Not kinda-hot. I gassed up the bike, sent the promised text, and lingered in the air-conditioned convenience store for a while. I dumped the now-hot water out of my hydration bladder, replaced it with cold water from the store, traded my windbreaker for my mesh jacket, and after working up the courage to leave the air-conditioned bliss, started the 156.8 miles to Grand Junction, the hydration bladder stowed under my mesh jacket, next to my belly.
Perhaps 10 minutes down the road, I found a way to get the drinking tube into my mouth. I expected a mouthful of warm water before the cold stuff reached the tube, but all I got was warm, and more warm. This wasn’t working exactly as planned. And the scenery was becoming dramatic. Stark desert. The kind of desert where you imagine the buzzards circling overhead if your bike should quit. And it was getting hotter. Hotter than hell. The road ran straight for miles at a time now, with only an occasional turn interrupting the monotony. Did I mention it was hot? Really hot.
I was genuinely uncomfortable, and wondering what the signs of heat stroke are long before I saw the traffic of I-70 in the distance. I knew I should stop in Green River to drink and cool off, but the exit came up more quickly than I expected, and I was passing a semi. Oops. Now what? Thankfully, there was a second exit, and a gas station/convenience store maybe a half-mile down the road, back toward Green River. I pulled in, got out of the mesh jacket as quickly as possible, and dashed inside. I downed a (16-ounce?) Gatorade in two long pulls, then I went out to repack my gear with the mesh jacket at the bottom. Damn, it’s hot out here. And there’s a motel, right there. I could check into an air-conditioned room for a few hours, cool off, get some rest and still get back within 24 hours. Hmmm. But Vail Pass and the Eisenhower Tunnel would be a really cold ride after midnight. Hmmm. I hurried back into the store, where I bought a small bottle of water, walked outside and doused myself with it. I put on the windbreaker, and got underway as quickly as possible.
With the Dasani-accelerated evaporation, I started to feel better. And Colorado lay ahead; there wasn’t much of Utah left. That had to be a good thing.
I’d squandered most of that 20-minute lead I had on my schedule, so I ran seven or eight MPH over the limit. (I’d had a chance to time some posted miles back in Wyoming – ah, lovely Wyoming – after the sun had come up, so I knew that 85 indicated was actually 78, and similar ratios appeared to apply at lower highway speeds, as well.) Somewhere between Green River and Grand Junction, I stopped to check on a fellow with a Gold Wing on the shoulder. The bike was loaded, including a suitcase on the passenger seat, and equipped for the long haul with GPS and other electronic goodies. The owner was using a hand pump to transfer fuel from his auxiliary tank to the main tank, and complaining of a problem with pumping fuel from the aux tank. When I offered to help, he indicated he had it under control, so I wished him well, and got underway again.
With more than 700 miles completed, I was now feeling it. My back continued to require those standing pelvis rotations – now, about every 40 miles – while my shoulders, knees and butt loudly accused me of cruelty. Thankfully, with the exception of one brief hiccup under heavy throttle in the heat of eastern Utah, the bike had run like a champ, and with the exception of the brutal heat, the weather had been tolerable.
The land changes quickly as one crosses from Utah into Colorado. Trees once again appear. A feeling that I might actually complete the ride – which I’d first felt the other side of Price – grew stronger.
At 5:50 PM I pulled off the interstate in Grand Junction for fuel. I’d planned to eat some real food here, but the heat had sapped my appetite. I lubed the chain, gassed up, cleaned the visor, went inside and grabbed a large Pepsi. (Dumbass: you could have bought a small and refilled it.) As I drank it in the “lounge” (surrounded by guys who looked to have spent a lot more time on the road than I) I sent a text (“GJT. Ride from Price was Hot! Hot! Hot! Not hungry… gonna slam down a Pepsi, pee and head out. 147 miles to Vail. Love you!”).
I was glad to be back in Colorado, and feeling hopeful, but the pain in my shoulders, knees, back and butt were beginning to wear on me. But now, I was close enough that abandoning the ride was almost unthinkable. So I pressed on. As the sun settled toward the western horizon, I spotted bighorn sheep in Glenwood Canyon and reminded myself to be vigilant for deer and other critters.
Before I got to Vail – actually, only a few miles before – I had to get off the bike. I stopped at a rest area (they love roundabouts in Eagle county) and stretched, cleaned the visor, and took some ibuprofen. (I’d taken the first dose in Price; this one was probably too little, too late.) Then I got back on the road, and stopped in Vail for fuel. At 8:25 PM (44 minutes ahead of schedule) I called Caron, told her where I was and asked her to meet me at my favorite Littleton gas station at… uh… 10:00? Although I’d had no problem staying alert while riding, I was having considerable difficulty adding one hour and 25 minutes to the current time.
A guy on a Harley passed me as I started up the western approach to Vail Pass, and I fell in behind him. I’d put the down jacket back on in Vail, but it was quite nippy up high. Saw several deer on the descent. Mr. Harley pulled off at Dillon (Silverthorne?) and I started the approach to the Tunnel. Again, it was quite cool up high, but the ride through the actual tunnel was discernibly warmer.
I’d planned to ride straight through from Vail, but once again found I had to get off the bike before reaching my goal. I stopped in Georgetown, called Caron to let her know of the delay, and downed most of a hot chocolate before climbing on for the last leg.
At 10:15, I pulled into my favorite gas station, in Littleton, with 2,701 showing on the odometer (1,070 more than at the start, and 18 hours and 45 minutes later). It felt terrific to be off the bike, even though I’d still have to ride it home. Caron was waiting; she took several photos of my bug-splattered V-Strom while I went inside – twice – in order to complete my transaction. Evidently, they were having problems getting their pumps to accept cards.
I followed Caron home, pulled the bike into its spot in the garage alongside my car, left my jacket, helmet and gloves on the back of my car and, after a light snack, climbed into bed, the deed done. Didn’t want anything to do with the bike for a while (but I did drag it out and cleaned the bugs off the following day, Sunday).
Will I attempt a 1500-miles-in-36-hours BunBurner (or the 1500-miles-in-24-hours BunBurner Gold)? Contemplate a 50-hour coast-to-coast run? Start shopping for auxiliary fuel cells and HID riding lights? Saturday evening, my answer would have been “not a chance.” Now, four days later, I’m not so sure. My shoulders, knees, and butt have recovered. My back is once again what it usually is. But I am still waiting for full sensation to return to the index and middle fingers and thumb of my right hand, and for full strength and control to return to my left hand.
Regardless of any potential future long-distance efforts, will I have greater appreciation for the accomplishments of those who ride 1000 miles a day, day after day for 11 days in the Iron Butt Rally? Oh, yeah. Yes, I will.
---2016 FJR1300 ES.
---Previous bikes: 1970 Honda CB100; 1972 CB175; 1973 CB350; 1975 CB550; 1977 CB750; 1978 Yamaha 750 Triple; 1980 Goldwing; in and out of the sport on an FT500 Ascot and an assortment of 1980s four-cylinder Hondas in the late 80s and early 90s; 1995 Honda 750 Nighthawk; 1999 Suzuki SV650; 2002 Honda 750 Nighthawk; 2012 DL1000 V-Strom; 2010 FJR; 2014 Yamaha Super Ténéré ES.
---IBA #56124. Two SS1Ks, one BB1500, one BBG; placed 9th in MERA's 2014 Five & Dime 5-day rally (solo class).
Last edited by MRV; 07-24-2013 at 05:15 PM.