There and Back Again
A Hobbi….er, Rider’s Tale
Wow, what a trip. It’s amazing just how quickly 6 days can seem to fly by when you are riding a motorcycle across the country. There were a lot of very good moments, and there were also some very bad moments. I met some very wonderful people along the way and got to experience firsthand that no matter where you are from, or what you ride, as long as you ride you are a brother in spirit.
But perhaps I should start at the beginning, with my departure from home the evening before I was to ‘officially’ begin my assault on what would be my most ambitious endurance ride to date – a Border to Border ride, from Canada to Mexico, with a Saddlesore 1000 and Bunburner 1500 thrown in for good measure.
Friday, September 1, 2006
~1730hrs (T-12 hrs)
Having gotten out of work early, I had run off and gotten some last minute shopping done, then headed home for a shower and a bite to eat before I finished packing up the bike to head south to my designated start location.
After saying goodbye to my parents and my daughter, I headed off to gas up the bike and hit the road. My dad, packing my daughter along behind him, rode with me for the first 20km, then I peeled off to hit the #2 southbound to Calgary and points beyond.
Stopped to visit my brother in Calgary briefly and to get some cash from him, then headed off to see Steve Broadhead elsewhere in the city. He was hunting electrical gremlins on his ST, and I was there to get his signature as a start witness (a little unorthodox, I know, as I would be starting 200km and 8hrs away from him). Finally, at around 9pm, I said goodbye to Steve and hit the highway again, with the intention of getting to Lethbridge that night for a nice comfy 5 hrs of sleep in a motel before I had to get up and officially start my endurance ride.
About an hour down the road, I stopped in High River to grab something hot to drink and a quick snack, as well as throw on some extra layers as it was starting to get cool out. Typical for me, however, being as rushed as I was, I completely forgot that I had plugged in my electric vest when I left Steve’s, and when I hopped off the bike and stepped backwards, the cord stretched out and pulled the plugs apart. Given that the vest never did work again after that, my only thought is that I pulled the wiring apart inside the vest, as the connection on the bike and the fuse are still good. Another painful lesson in paying attention.
Rolled into Fort MacLeod shortly before 2300hrs, and decided that I was going to grab a cheap motel there, rather than push on to Lethbridge that night. It would just mean that I would have to get up about 10 minutes earlier in order to cover the distance to Lethbridge so that my start time there would be as close to 5am as I could get.
After unpacking what I needed off the bike and making sure that it was locked up, I set my (newly purchased) Screaming Meanie for 5hrs and settled into sleep.
When they say these things will wake the dead, they most certainly are not kidding. I think I was awake and lunging for the ‘off’ button before that infernal device had emitted it’s second tone at the ’10 minutes to go’ mark.
After having a shower and getting dressed, I repacked the bike and headed off into the pre-dawn darkness, with my destination being Lethbridge and my first gas stop to get my official start time. Once that happened, the clock would truly be ticking and I would have 24hrs to get to Page, AZ to get my SS1000 mileage done, and only an additional 12hrs to get to Nogales, MX for the BB1500 mileage and my precious B2B.
0522, Sept. 2 2006 (23544.1km)
Topped off my tank at the Esso station in Lethbridge and started the clock counting down. After I explained to the clerk what I was doing, he was more than happy to sign my witness form and start me on my way. For his trouble, he received a ‘Canada’ neck lanyard (I packed some ‘Canada’ souvenirs to hand out to my witnesses as a token of appreciation. Much better than a generic ‘Thank You’ card in my opinion).
Rolled out of the Esso station and picked up Highway 4 to take me south to Coutts and the crossing into Montana. Unfortunately, approximately 54km down the road, my GPS decided to have ‘issues’ and dumped my route. Oh well, at least I can still use it to monitor my actual speed and keep a running total of my mileage. Or so I thought.
When I arrived at the border, I handed the guard my ID and asked where the nearest place to get something hot to drink was, as the temperature was hovering around 8C and I was a little chilled (damn that non-functional electric vest!) ‘Shelby is the closest, about 30 miles down the road’. He waved me through, I thanked him, and headed off into what was now getting to be sunrise.
Stopped in Shelby to grab a hot chocolate and a quick bite to eat, as I hadn’t had breakfast yet. I was planning to do that when I got to my next gas stop, scheduled to be Great Falls. Again, things wouldn’t quite go as planned. Northern Montana doesn’t have much in the way of scenery, but it does have a lot of wind, and this affected my mileage so much that I was very shocked when my bike started to sputter and I had to flip to reserve about 10 miles north of Vaughn Montana.
0836, Sept. 2 (Vaughn Montana, 23826.2 km)
Filled up the bike and shivered a bit, as the temperature had been steadily dropping as I headed south (what the heck is up with that?) I think it stopped getting colder when my thermometer hit 2.6C, and I wouldn’t start to see the temps climb again until I hit Great Falls.
1022, Sept. 2 (Montana City, Montana, 23992.6 km)
Was starting to get back on track and did a quick gas and go. Oil level on the bike was fine, and everything was running smoothly.
1248, Sept. 2 (Dillon, Montana, 24194.3 km)
Pulled in for fuel again, and saw a brand new BMW R1200GS at one of the pumps. I knew which gas pump I was going to. As I was fuelling up, the owner of the bike came out to check out my ride, and when I told her who I was and what I was doing, she recognized me right away. Her enthusiasm for my ride and encouragement picked up my spirits and gave me a new drive to keep going. After some well wishes on both sides, I rode off, with my intended destination being Idaho Falls for fuel and lunch.
1520, Sept. 2 (Idaho Falls, Idaho, 24424.3 km)
Fueled the bike at the Flying J and myself at the McDonalds – gotta love their dollar menu. Also called my SS1000 finish witness, Doug Banfelder, to let him know where I was and that I was running a little behind schedule due to the winds and the slowly increasing temperature. I had been hoping to be further south at this point in time.
1739, Sept 2 (Perry, Utah, 24678 km)
I had wanted to make this a quick gas and go, but the heat was starting to get to me, and I refilled my hydration pack and gave the bike a once over to make sure that it was handling the heat. Still hadn’t burned a drop of oil, and I was fairly impressed. These bikes are supposed to have a reputation for burning oil when running for a long time at freeway speeds. Of course, I had been trying to keep my speed down to between 70 and 75 mph in order to maximize my fuel economy. I was getting into a nice steady groove and eating up the miles, even though I was still running behind.
2124, Sept 2 (Nephi, Utah, 24903.8 km)
This was a long stop, as I was getting tired and needed a breather. Got to talking to a wonderful mormon gentleman by the name of Kevin who gave me some great advice about things to watch for and where I would be able to get gas on my chosen route. Thanks Kevin, your advice was spot on. Also tossed my extra layers back on, as the temps were starting to come down and I knew I was going to be heading into the mountains in just a few more miles.
2337, Sept. 2 (Beaver, Utah, 25085.5 km)
Stopped for fuel and also gave Doug another call to let him know where I was and that I figured I would be at least another 2 hours or so getting to Page. Boy, was I ever optimistic. After I left Beaver I headed off down I15 for the last time that night, turning off to head East on SR20 over the mountains. I started to doubt my choice of routes when the first thing I encountered was a Texas gate and a long climb with several warning signs – deer, elk, and cows. ‘Great, just what I needed to watch out for at this time of night’
The state really needs to put up another warning sign on that road though, for rabbits. I had more close encounters on that short 20 mile stretch of sadistically slow and twisty pavement with the small furry vermin than I did with bambi. Never did see any elk or cows though, for which I was thankful. Once I got onto US89 I was able to get my speed up to a much more respectable 50 – 60 mph, still staying on the lookout for critters.