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Friday, April 6, 2012

Iron Butt or Die

We left Virginia Beach on April 2nd headed for West Virginia as our first stop, about 400 miles. We decided to go through the middle of the state in order to collect a few more Virginia counties and also we knew we wouldn't be able to do back roads for most of the first few days. One of the things Steve and I love to do is joke about if there might be a Starbucks around as we are waving at the cows looking at us like weirdos. At a gas stop, we break out the handy dandy iPhone and find the closest Starbucks with the Starbucks App (imposed plug of Starbucks). Luckily, we found one in Lynchburg, Va. This, of course, adds about 45 minutes to our day, which is why most of our motorcycle traveling is limited to about 250 miles in any given day. Time to change some habits as we won't have many of those days on our way to California.

On our trip, we are mostly staying with friends and family, so I'll be posting a "host" photo. Cathy and Gary are friends of my family and I've known Cathy since I was young, so I pretty much consider her an aunt. They live on a beautiful golf course in Daniels, W.V. We got there just before the sun was going down, so they gave us a tour in their golf cart. After driving 400 miles on a motorcycle through the country roads of Virginia, this was the first time I feared for my life (just kidding Gary). Because it was dark, the picture I took didn't turn out very well, so I tried to lighten it and if you look hard enough, you might be able to see the twisty road made for the golf cart. Too cool, though I almost slid off the back seat a few times.

Here's the host picture of Cathy and Gary (Yes, Cathy, I think it's blog-worthy).

We left West Virginia at about 8 a.m. and headed to my Uncle Dick and Aunt Doris's house in Anna, Ill., about 566 miles. At this point in our trip (Day two of 19), it will have been the longest I've ever traveled in a day on a motorcycle. We hit the Interstate and just kept going. We were at Doris' by about 6 p.m. gaining an hour along the way. We went through Kentucky on the Bluegrass Parkway. Unfortunately, I took no pictures on this route. I can tell you that Kentucky and Illinois have definitely gotten a head start on Spring and Summer. It was already as green as you might normally see in May. Our weather was perfect for the first two days, although it did get into the 90s in Kentucky.

Here's my Aunt Doris with her awesome new little poodle. Dick, we missed you but know you are on your own adventure as a newly christened truck driver.

With the extra hour gained on Day two, we were able to set the alarm for 4:30 a.m. and it was like it was 5:30. Nice, since we had our Iron Butt day planned for Day three. The plan was to be on the road by 5 a.m. (Central Standard Time). And now I will describe our Iron Butt. Of course, I don't have any pictures of this day except one. We went through Hays, Kan., so we stopped quickly to get a sign. One of Steve's son's name is Hays and we thought this would be appropriate. In our 2010 trip to Key West, we came across a street named Calhoun in Charleston, S.C. which is his other son's name.

And from 2010:

How to describe this Iron Butt day? Miserable and Exciting.
For those who don't know, you can join the Iron Butt Association by completing 1000 miles in 24 hours or 1500 miles in 36 hours, the SaddleSore and the BunBurner, respectively. We embarked on the SaddleSore, 1030 miles from Anna, Ill. to Parker, Co. We left Doris' house at 5 a.m. just as planned. We ran into some of the worst riding weather on this day, at one point even stopping under a bridge in Kansas because lightning was striking within a mile of our riding position and that scares the bejesus out of me. We had to stop about every 150 miles for gas. I have the GS which has about a 5-gallon tank and normally gets about 43 mpg or so, but not at 80 mph. Steve has the GSA with a much bigger gas tank and could have gone more than 300 miles on a tank, but one of the rules to join the IBA require that you not go more than 300 miles on a tank of gas. So, the rules are 1000 miles in 24 hours, have a witness sign at the beginning (Doris) and at the end (Dad), gas stop at beginning and end and copies of all gas receipts and the planned route on a map. I will try to explain the conditions and my emotions throughout the day with each 150 miles.

First 150 (A/B-C):
It was dark and we drove the first 5 miles on small back roads leaving Doris' farm house. I was very excited about this adventure, so this leg of the trip was easy. Once we got on the Interstate, it started getting light which is kind of cool to watch as it's happening. The fog was very dense and that slowed us down occasionally. Because of the heat the day before, I had chosen not to wear my heated jacked, which was o.k. initially as it was still fairly warm. I did have my rain liners in since it was predicted to have rain that day. In fact, I thought we would wake up to thunderstorms. It had rained throughout the night, but it was clear with bright stars and about a 3/4 moon. Thank goodness, since I only had a smoke visor, which I was able to just leave in the up position while it was dark.

Second 150 (C-D):
Gas stop in Festus, Ill. at C. It was bright outside by now. Each 150 miles took about 2.5 hours including the stops. So, thinking it would only get warmer, I again decided not to wear my heated jacket.  This was a mistake, by about the 60-mile mark, I was absolutely freezing. The temperature had started dropping steadily through the rest of the day. But I refused to say something to Steve because I figured I could tough it out. I did, but man it was painful. I guess it kind of kept me awake though. The fog also started lifting, but it was still very cloudy and moist, but still no rain yet.

Third 150 (D-E):
Gas stop in Boonville, Mo. at D. Donned the heated gear for this leg, much better. But this was the sleepy start. The first 10 miles after the gas stop is fine, but the next 50 or so, I was fighting to keep my eyes open. It was very difficult, but again, I didn't say anything, I just kept blinking my eyes a lot so I wouldn't get that tunnel vision that you can get from staring ahead for too long. Then, somewhere around 80 miles, I start thinking that it would probably be o.k. if we stopped at the 100-mile mark, but then I say, well, maybe 110, then 120, then by 140, I actually felt like I could go even further, especially after driving through Kansas City. It's weird how that happens.

Fourth 150 (E-F):
Gas stop in Topeka, Kan. at E. It was difficult to be sleepy during this leg, because of the insane thunderstorms we faced. We kept our speed down for safety, then stopped under a bridge for about 15 minutes until the lightning stopped at least. After checking the phone, we could see that the weather should clear out within just a few miles, so we pushed on. We were lucky and that the rain eventually did stop. It stayed cloudy, foggy and misty, but the hard pelting rain did stop.

Fifth 150 (F-G):
Gas stop in Ellsworth, Kan. at F. I actually don't remember a lot about this one. It must have all started running together. I do remember that I was still cold and even though I had rain gear on, and I was dry, my body was cold. I put some additional clothes on and put my heated gloves on. I was feeling pretty good though to start this leg. The temperature did drop, and it was very windy. I looked in my mirror at some point and could see Steve's bike leaning to the right like we were in a turn. I thought I must be leaning into the wind as well. The big trucks were adding to that wind which became a fight to stay upright.

Sixth 150 (G-H):
Gas stop in Oakley, Kan. at G. I was getting my second wind at this point, but we were seriously cold. Only 250 miles left, so I had no intention of quitting. This was the stop that Steve and I differed the most. He was not happy, his heating system was not quite working, it was burning in one area on his neck, so he would turn it down, but then freeze in his extremities. He said he was concerned with the temperature dropping more, already in the low 40s at this point, and how wet everything was that we might run into ice on the road. And he was concerned about the high winds. Well, we decided to eat some hot chicken noodle soup in the restaurant at the gas stop. Up to this point, we just ate snacks and sandwiches that we made ahead of time. That seemed to help, but also knowing there was only 250 more miles was a huge boost for me. When we left that gas stop, the first 10 miles or so didn't seem to change, but then all of a sudden, we could actually see a silver lining, quite literally. We could see the pink of a sunset peeking under the clouds. As we kept going West, it only get better. The temperature started creeping up, the wind died down, and sun came out. The rolling prairie was gorgeous as the sun hit the hills. I thought about stopping to get a picture, but I also just wanted to keep going.

Last 100 (H-I/J):
Gas stop in Arriba, Colo. at H. With only 100 or so miles left, you would think this would have been the easiest. We had gained an hour in the previous leg, which made it seem like the sun would just stay up. But it did not, it set, like it usually does, so it had gotten dark by this point. But we could see snow on the ground. However, the air was dry, the stars were out with an almost full moon. I still don't like riding at night because my vision is not the greatest, so Steve pulled in front and I followed him. I was so sleepy, it was very difficult to keep my eyes open. I kept blinking them and moving around in my seat to keep the blood flowing. I had my visor up to keep the fresh air in my eyes. It worked, I was able to maintain and with only 100 miles and counting down, you know I was going to push to the end. Steve shared these feelings on this leg as well. We discussed it at our last gas stop before going to my Dad's house only about a mile further.

We finally made it. I was so happy we did it and I think Steve couldn't believe how tough I was. He said he can't think of any girl he's ever known that would have been able to do that. The total trip took us 19 hours and I will likely never do it again. But we will be getting our certificates from the Iron Butt Association.

So, now, we are in Denver for a couple of days. Even though we rode 1000 miles yesterday, we got back on the bikes today and rode over to BMW of Denver. It seems we cannot go on a trip and not buy new helmets. Both of us got new helmets. I got the Arai XD3. That is the helmet I've been wanting for some time, but at $586, it was just too much. It was discounted by 30 percent, so I got it. Here's a photo of my new helmet. I don't have a photo of Steve's new Schuberth helmet, but you won't be able to miss it in future photos.

The BMW store had a nice Honda Shadow that someone had traded. I'm trying to convince my Dad to get it. We will leave our Fulmer helmets for him and my step mom, Yunit, in case they buy that bike.  See how great Yunit looks on my bike? I don't know, Dad, I think she should have her own.

Here we are with the beautiful mountains in the background, followed by a picture of my Dad, Bill, and his wife, Yunit, then a picture of my brother Chris.

We will do a day trip tomorrow up to Boulder to see my other brother who is in college there.


  1. Kelley is definitely hard core. The last leg of our more than 1,000 mile day was a real gut check. I feel like I should get her something for her inspiring fortitude. Maybe I can find one of my old Army Ranger Tabs from my years with the 1st Ranger Bn down at HAAF...

  2. Absolutely amazing endurance! Of course Kelley could do it....I'd never have questioned that. I hope you can take it slower and do some exploring going forward as it is beautiful out there. Are you really not going to touch your toes in the Pacific? You won't be too far away. Keep the blogging up. Big sis

  3. Congratulations to each of you. The Saddlesore 1000 is nothing to laugh at in good weather, when it's windy and cold the challenge becomes more difficult. After three of them I don't leave on a trip without heated gear because hypothermia can kill you. When you get back let's compare notes on time management, the real secret to the SS1000.

  4. Loved your description of the "blinking Eyes" scenario. Any rider who has put more than a few miles on their bike in one day knows exactly what you were talking about and how that feels. It is both a good thing and a not so good thing.

  5. Keep the stories coming. I am living vicariously through you. Enjoying every bit of it. Way to go Sista Congrats on your iron butt ride; you're one tough chick!!
    Jenn Logan

  6. Kelley, Congratulations on your Saddlesore 1000! You're my new heroine. After many years & miles of riding, the longest I have ridden is 750 miles in a day, all in the rain. I often aspired to do an Iron Butt. It's not as high on my personal priority list now since I am doing many other motorcycle related things, so it will probably never happen for me. No matter, it's the great experiences that count and they keep coming. I love reading your blog and am able to relive the feelings I had as a newer rider as well as enjoy the trip with you. Strong women unite! We CAN be tough and feminine at the same time.

  7. Great writeup Kelley; you have a way with words. And an Iron Butt to boot; congrats.

  8. Mountains. Now the fun begins. And the pictures!

  9. Nice blog, my wife & I tour on a 91 K100RS, very similar blog although we are strictly pavement riders. If ever in Las Vegas, we have been know to drink a little coffee...bookmarking your blog

  10. Mr. Crapdealerbob :), we will be passing through Las Vegas on Wednesday, probably going to stop at the BMW Motorcycle store there, probably mid-afternoon some time.

    1. GS Lady, really enjoyed you crossing Nevada post this morning. We will be at the BMW dealer tomorrow morning, leaving my bike for a complete service, but my afternoon and evening is completely booked, any chance you will arrive before 11am?? It is amazing how similar our blogs are, hope we can see you guys tomorrow. email