Saturday, August 31, 2013

Iron Butt - SaddleSore 1000

I completed an Iron Butt - SaddleSore 1000 this past Sunday, (Now I have to get certified by the Iron Butt Association and that should happen!). Sent all my paperwork in on Tuesday of this week. My longest day of riding up to this point has been around 800 miles. Got my motivation from a friend out in Washington who also completed his USA4CT this past May. He did a SS1000 down I-5 from Seattle to Weed, CA and back in one day a few weeks ago.

 Heading into last Sunday the weather forecast was shaping up nice along the East Coast from Virginia to Georgia along I-95. This was my planned route for 500 miles down and 500 miles back. Here is my planned route. Wanted to keep my route on I-95 to keep my average speed up and lessen the chances of animal encounters during the overnight riding!!!

Decided to leave around midnight on Sunday morning to get the night riding done early. I tried to get some sleep Saturday evening but didn't get much in anticipation of the ride! So I was ready to go around 10:30 pm on Saturday evening!! Got my wife to sign off on my starting witness sheet and I was ready to go. Stopped at a nearby Sheetz gas station to get my official starting gas receipt. The time stamp was 10:45 pm, so that set it in place that I needed to be back at least by 10:45 pm on Sunday!

Off I went into the night. This was the first time I had ridden any distance at night with my LED headlight and stop light setup. They were really nice and truly lit up the road and sides nicely. All night I only spotted one deer on the side of the road, so that was good!

I did really well riding through the night until around 3 am. Started to get tired and a little sleepy about every hour, so I stopped to use the restroom and get a cup of coffee. One thing for sure, the truck stops along the interstate have great fresh strong coffee at that time of the morning!!

After about 6 am I began to see daylight and as the sun came up I felt completely rejuvenated, alert and awake!!

I had sent a message to my friend Harold in Charleston, SC that I was officially on my SS1000 before I left home on Saturday night. I had a message back from him that he would meet me at the South Carolina Visitor Center just north of the Georgia border around 9 am.

I made it to Exit 58 in Georgia which was the Townsend/Eulonia exit. Stopped at a Shell station and got my "turn around" gas receipt with a time stamp of 8:06 am. Felt kinda good to know I was heading home now. Like on the downhill slope!

Met Harold at the SC Visitor Center northbound on I95. Got a guy that had stopped to get our picture!

I had been wanting to have lunch for some time with Harold at a place he recommended, Schoolhouse BBQ in Scranton, SC. I checked my GPS with it added and I would still get home by 8 pm, so off we went for lunch!

It was pretty crowded as it looked like every person within 50 miles that went to church decided to come to Schoolhouse BBQ to eat today! It is a buffet the line was moving along pretty fast. As Harold and I were standing in line, we started to talk about places we ate on our USA4CT. I mentioned BBQ Depot in Vidor, TX and the lady in front of us turned around and said "I've been there!". She had lived in Kansas for several years and travelled to Texas. BBQ Depot in Vidor was one of her favorite places. She and her family had moved to South Carolina 7 years ago and now the Schoolhouse BBQ was one of their favorites.

Here was the result of traveling through the buffet line!! I could have used some "side boards" on my plate!! It was excellent. A real nice, clean place with great service and food. I would highly recommend it!!

Harold continued with me to the exit to "South of the Border" where he exited to head back to Charleston. I really appreciated him meeting up with me and riding in SC. That really helped pass the time and make that portion of the SS1000 just seem like another great normal Sunday ride with a friend!!

Other than stopping for gas, I headed straight back. Got to the Sheetz gas station for the completion at 7:15 pm. My GPS showed 1,069.6 miles and my bike odometer showed 1,095.5 miles. Interested that the Google map calculation of the same route showed 1,070 miles. So it looks like the bike odometer is about 2.3% off. That appears to be about right as I normally notice my speedometer is about 1-2 mph faster than my GPS.

I arrived back home at 7:35 pm and had my wife witness my arrival form.

Got all my documentation together and packaged the next day and mailed off to the Iron Butt Association. Hopefully everything is in order and I will get certified!! Overall a great ride and definitely glad I did it!

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Back of the Dragon ride

I have been wanting to ride VA16 that runs between Marion, VA and Tazewell, VA. It has been named Back of the Dragon by the locals and has it own web page. Looks like it is being "marketed" as an alternative to the famous Tail of the Dragon in North Carolina (or maybe even trying to compete with it!). It is also listed on the Southern California Motorcycling Association web site as one of the Best 15 US Roads Challenge.With all of this, I had HIGH expectations!

Looked at the weather and Sunday/Monday had two days of great forecast for motorcycle riding. Not much chance of rain and party cloudy. Not too many occurrences of two consecutive days of nice weather (without RAIN) in Virginia recently!!

So I committed, made a hotel reservation in Hillsville, VA for Sunday night and lightly packed a few things. Left the house at sunrise on Sunday morning. Just had to take a quick photo heading out the driveway as I was leaving. It was a beautiful sunrise!

Took the country roads of US 360 and US 58 across southside Virginia. Very little traffic on those roads anyway and on a Sunday morning! It was a very pleasant ride, to say the least. Stopped in South Boston to take a break and get gas. Was surprised to see that gas was only $2.87 a gallon for regular there. Don't know what was up with that, maybe they were having an old fashion gas price war! Funny that high octane was still "up there" at $3.59 a gallon!

The first real mountains are west of Martinsville. I had to stop and take a break and a picture at a wayside appropriately named "Lover's Leap":

Headed straight for the "Back of the Dragon". Stopped and gassed up again at a Shell station in Marion at the start. Across the station parking lot was another motorcyclists on a Kawasaki Vulcan pulling a trailer. I had to run in to use the restroom and when I came out he was gone so I didn't get to talk to him (BUT I would later!!).

Here is the Back of the Dragon sign that was just recently put in the ground (you can still see the fresh dirt where they dug the post holes). Interesting with the words, "eleven....try thirty-two" on the sign, as this is a competing marketing statement with the "Tail of the Dragon" in North Carolina. The Tail of the Dragon is only 11 miles long and this Back of the Dragon is 32 miles long.

So off I went. There are three mountains that are crossed. Lots of very tight curves, some switchbacks that require you to only be around 5-10 mph and "steer" around! The curves are not marked, expect for signs such as "15 mph curves next 2 miles". No guard rails and some very steep drop offs in the curves too! At the bottom of the mountains the road has a couple of passing lanes and straights before going up the next mountain.

Now for the interesting part. On the top of the second mountain I could see where the road had recently been paved and new gravel put down heavy on the berms. As I approached the first downhill curve I could see a lot of gravel on the turn where cars had cut the curve short and tossed gravel from the berm onto the road surface as well as from rain runoff. That made for very slow going and careful riding. It was really not any fun!! Every turn on this downhill side of the second mountain was covered in a lot of gravel due to the recent new paving. About half way down as I rounded a tight blind curve I saw a parked motorcycle in the road with it's flashers on and three people standing along the road. As I straightened up and braked hard I saw the second motorcycle along with it's trailer in the ditch on its side!! The one biker standing had his arm bleeding. I pulled over in front of them and put my flashers on. Had to stay on the road as the berm was very narrow and filled with loose gravel. The biker that wrecked was from Niagara Falls, NY. He was on a two week motorcycle trip. Told me his wife let him go every year for two weeks in the summer. As he rounded the curve his front wheel hit the loose gravel and he low sided and skidded into the ditch. He hit the pavement with his shoulder and had some pretty bad road rash on his upper arm. It was bleeding and had dirt and gravel in it. The other motorcycle was a local couple from Marion that was just out for a Sunday ride. They had been following the biker that wrecked. He said he saw them behind him and was a little worried he was holding them up. That may have contributed to his accident too! That was about the time I remembered the guy across the parking lot at the gas station in Marion. I said to him, hey did I see you at a gas station back off of I-81. He said, yes that was me and I remember seeing you across the parking lot. What a way to meet later!

First order of business was to get his arm cleaned up. He had a whole case of bottled water in a cooler on his trailer (it appeared to be really loaded down!! Probably another contributor to the accident). We washed his arm off and used a tube of neosporin from my first aid kit that I always carry in my saddlebag. Didn't have a bandage big enough to cover it, so we left it open. It was just raw from the road rash and he didn't "feel" like any bones were broken or shoulder dislocated. I am sure he was sore the next couple of morning though!!!! His trailer was still hooked to his bike so we disconnected it and all three of us got the trailer back up in the road. His bike had the passing lamp and signal lamp broke off on the left side. His engine guard was bent bad and had a lot of dirt embedded on the left side. We cleaned all that out and had to straighten (beat it) his left footboard and front shifter. We decided to try and get the bike out of the ditch. The injured rider got on the bike and it started up. Took him a little while to work the shifter to get it into first gear. I pushed and the other guy pulled and we got the bike moving down the ditch and brought it up the incline of the bank into the road. It was touch and go with the bike almost falling over a couple of times, but we make it!

Hooked the trailer back up and away we went following him on down the mountain. About half way up the next mountain he pulled off on the side of the road. We checked on him again and his arm was stinging from the wind on it and he just wanted to take a break. I left them and finished the Back of the Dragon and stopped at Thompson's Country Store on the Tazewell end.

About 15 minutes later he pulled in too and was doing better. He told me this was the "motorcycle trip from hell". His battery had died on him up near Waynesboro, VA and had to buy a new battery. Then his stator burned out near Roanoke, VA and he spent two days getting that fixed (of course that was probably the root cause of his battery dieing the day before!). I think he was ready to get back to Niagara Falls! Hope he did OK for the rest of the trip. He was really lucky this accident didn't occur on one of the many similar outside curves that went over a steep cliff without any guardrails!! This was was on the side of a hill with a ditch.

The guy at the country store was a real supporter of the Back of the Dragon road. He, of course, rides a motorcycle too and the riders adds to his business. He said they have called the state transportation many times about the gravel and they haven't done anything about it. It had been that way for several months since they paved.

Anyway, I have "been there and done it" but don't plan to do it again. I would not recommend the road for motorcycles with the gravel hazard the way it is. Also, it is like a lot of roads in the mountains of Virginia, West Virginia & North Carolina. I think the designation is just a half hearted marketing scheme by the towns, county, business and state to increase business and the local economy.

There was a place I saw on the map that I had to ride to while I was over in the area and that was Claypool Hill, Virginia!! I should have spent some time looking at the area and doing some research on my genealogy, but I needed to get back to Hillsville that evening where I had my hotel reservation.

Another place I stopped at on the way back was Burke's Garden. This is an interesting geological area in the mountains. Only one road in and that road was just as good as the Back of the Dragon and it didn't have any gravel on the road!!!! Beautiful upland valley and again, wish I had more time to ride around in the valley. I think there was a paved road that went all the way around the valley (it was about 4 miles wide and 8 miles long!!). Interesting too the Vanderbilt family tried to buy up the land to build a house back in the 1800's. The farmers there wouldn't sell, so the Vanderbilt family bought up some land on down the mountain range near Asheville, NC and built their house, known as the Biltmore Estate!!!!

It was about dinner time as I was passing back through Wytheville, VA and I had bookmarked on my GPS Skeeter's Hot Dog shop. Sad to say, the only day they are closed is Sunday and it is Sunday!! At least I got my bike picture in front of the famous place!!

On back to the hotel in Hillsville and a nice evening meal at the Rio Grande mexican restaurant. It was excellent!!

Monday morning headed up to the Blue Ridge Parkway for a leisurely trip back. Love riding the Blue Ridge Parkway. Just about the best overall motorcycle road in the USA!!

Just had to stop at Mabry Mill and get a couple of pics and do some walking. I was the only one there that early on a Monday morning! Very peaceful.

Another beautiful vista on the Parkway:

Also stopped and took a hike under the James River bridge on the Parkway:

While I was crossing the bridge a man and his dog passed by in their boat on the James River. Not sure who was having the best time, the man or the dog!!

Overall a great trip. Did 750 miles and saw some beautiful country and great motorcycle roads. Weather was great. Stayed in the upper 70's to low 80's. It was 55 degrees in Hillsville when I left the hotel on Monday morning! Bike ran great. Other than the one motorcycle wreck, no unusual events (Just glad I was there to help!!!) As always, nice to be back home.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

States & Provinces, SCMA USA4CT Finisher List

With the completion of the USA4CT, I have now ridden my own motorcycle in all the 49 continental United States and 6 provinces in Canada!!! It has taken me 6 years to accomplish this. Guess I will just have to start all over again now!!

49 States

6 Provinces

I am now also officially listed on the SCMA USA4CT 2013 Finisher page:

From the SCMA USA4CT Finisher web page

It will be 4-6 weeks to get my official SCMA finisher plaque. Each is custom ordered! Look forward to getting that. Bill and I plan to get one of the finisher red pavers engraved with our names and placed at the Four Corners Park in Madawaska, Maine. I will have to ride back up there just to see the paver! Also, get to stay at Martin's Motel and eat at Dolly's again!! Have to try J. T.'s Tavern out this time too!

My 2012 Ultra is scheduled for it's 30,000 mile maintenance next week. Just had the 20,000 mile maintenance done the first week of June! They do have to check and repair a loose shifter shaft on the transmission too.

Looks like the rain has finally stopped on the east coast for a few days. So gotta get some riding in to day and this weekend!!

Friday, June 28, 2013

USA4CT Summary

  • Total miles on my bike odometer for the entire trip was 11,473 miles. 
  • We had 7 days of over 600 miles with one day over 700
  • Our average daily was 478 miles 
  • On the four days from Florida City, FL to Gila Bend, AZ we traveled 2,527 miles in four days at an average of 632 miles per day.
  • Total length of trip was 24 days (May 29 - June 21) 
  • Traveled through 30 states
  • The total time we spend in the motorcycle saddle moving was 195 hours, 40 minutes and 58 seconds
  • Our average day in the motorcycle saddle moving was 8 hours, 9 minutes and 12 seconds
  • The total distance for the USA4CT tour (from Madawaska, ME to Blaine, WA) was 7,033 miles
  • Completed the USA4CT in 15 days (June 1-15)
  • Only mechanical problems with motorcycles were minor. Bills LCD radio display went blank. I had an intermittent left front signal flashing fast (both happened in Tropical Storm Andrea - we "think" both were water related!!!!)
  • Only had our rainsuits on for 3 days (all in Florida). Never had our rainsuits on outside of Florida!! 21 DAYS OF SUNSHINE!!!
  •  Favorite "corner" was Madawaska, ME
  • Least favorite "corner" was Key West, FL (although that was probably weather and "Keystone" cop related!!
  • Met two other riders currently on the USA4CT, Keith & Sharon from Fayetteville, Georgia. Met them in Florida City, FL
  • Met 4 other USA4CT finishers along the way, Joe in Madawaska, ME; Harold in Santee, SC; Marty in Crater Lake, OR; and Charles in Blaine, WA
  • Met one HD Forum member, Jeff, in Fort Pierce, FL
  • Only bought ONE Harley t shirt (Caribou, Maine)
  • Got one oil change on the road (Wildhorse HD in Bend, OR)
  • Best motorcycle accessory: Bill's back seat ice cooler!!!!!!!!!!
  • Best overnight stop was Crater Lake National Park
  • Maximum air temperature was 112 degrees in Arizona
  • Lowest air temperature was 26 degrees in Oregon
  • Our lowest elevation was sea level and highest was 7,672 along the rim of Crater Lake, OR
  • We had tropical rain in Florida, desert heat in Arizona and mountain SNOW in Oregon 
  • Saw 3 moose, lots of elk, lots of deer, 1 coyote, 1 fox,  1 dead cougar & 1 snake
  • A bottle of Scotch will last through the four corners of the US, if you only have one shot at each corner!! Proven!!

 My Overall theme songs for the USA4CT: 

Took a look down a westbound road,
Right away I made my choice
Headed out to my big two-wheeler,
I was tired of my own voice
Took a bead on the northern plains
And just rolled that power on

Twelve hours out of mackinaw city
Stopped in a bar to have a brew
We rolled across the high plains
Deep into the mountains
Felt so good to me
Finally feelin' free

Somewhere along a high road
The air began to turn cold

Stood alone on a mountain top,
Starin' out at the great divide
I could go east, I could go west,
It was all up to me to decide
Just then I saw a young hawk flyin'
And my soul began to rise
And pretty soon
My heart was singin'

Roll, roll me away,
I'm gonna roll me away tonight
Gotta keep rollin, gotta keep ridin',
Keep searchin' till I find what's right
And as the sunset faded
I spoke to the faintest first starlight
And I said next time
Next time
We'll get it right

Born to be Wild

Get your motor runnin'
Head out on the highway
Lookin' for adventure
And whatever comes our way

Racin' with the wind
And the feelin' that I'm under

Like a true nature's child
We were born, born to be wild
We can climb so high
I never wanna die

Born to be wild


Song for each of the 24 mornings we got up:

On The Road Again

On the road again -
Just can't wait to get on the road again.
And I can't wait to get on the road again.
On the road again
Goin' places that I've never been.
Seein' things that I may never see again
And I can't wait to get on the road again.
On the road again -
We're the best of friends.
Insisting that the world keep turning our way
And our way
is on the road again.
Just can't wait to get on the road again.
And I can't wait to get on the road again.
On the road again
Like a band of gypsies we go down the highway
We're the best of friends
Insisting that the world keep turning our way
And our way
is on the road again.
Just can't wait to get on the road again.
And I can't wait to get on the road again.
And I can't wait to get on the road again. 

Daily Trip Reports

GPS Data

Map of States we traveled through

The actual GPS track map

The Four Corners Pictures

Madawaska, ME

Key West, FL

San Ysidro, CA

Blaine, WA


USA4CT - Ride Day 24 - June 21, 2013 - Fri

Start Time: 0900 EDT
Stop Time: 1530 EDT
Start Location: Clarksburg, WV
Stop Location: Richmond, VA
Lodging: Home
Dinner: Home
Miles Traveled Today: 293
Weather: 70-90, Sunny

Today was an easy riding day. Beautiful ride through the mountains of West Virginia over US 33. Here is a break stop we made at Seneca Rocks.
We decided to make one last stop just outside of Richmond and have a final cold beverage (fitting that we both had a Land Shark!) together like we had done every day of the trip (just didn't need the ice in Bill's cooler this time!).

This is where Bill and I split and headed to our homes in Richmond. We were both very anxious to now get home (and maybe rest for a few days from riding our hogs!! hehe).

GREAT trip!! One for sure that neither of us will every forget!!


I will do a Trip Summary post next to finalize the trip. Hopefully have some good data from all the tracks stored in the Zumo.

USA4CT - Ride Day 23 - June 20, 2013 - Thu

Start Time: 0700 EDT
Stop Time: 1800 EDT
Start Location: Gaylord, MI
Stop Location: Clarksburg, WV
Lodging: Wingate Inn
Dinner: Oliverio's
Miles Traveled Today: 623
Weather: 46-85, Sunny

Not much to report today until we got to Clarksburg, WV. Another beautiful sunny, mild day. Perfect for motorcycle riding! It was also our 7th and last over 600 mile day!!

Bill & I had our USA4CT "Last Supper" at Oliverio's in Bridgeport. It was excellent. The cuisine at Oliverio's is Italian and we had not had Italian since the evening in Tallahassee, FL of Tropical Storm Andrea and that was a pizza delivered Pizza Hut!! Ha! Oliverio's was a lot better than that, for sure!

We just had to have dessert to celebrate too, so we had the bread pudding. Had not had bread pudding for dessert either since Florida City, FL. This was excellent. Don't know which one was better. They were both great in their own ways. If you like bread pudding, they you know what I mean (almost every bread pudding is different anyway).

We returned to the hotel (had to ride our bikes to Oliverio's) and parked for the night. We then finished (only one drink left anyway) the bottle of Scotch and had a cigar outside the hotel to finalize the last evening of our USA4CT!

Thursday, June 27, 2013

USA4CT - Ride Day 22 - June 19, 2013 - Wed

Start Time: 0700 CDT
Stop Time: 1830 EDT
Start Location: Superior, WI

Stop Location: Gaylord, MI
Lodging: Quality Inn
Dinner: Wild West Sports Bar
Miles Traveled Today: 501
Weather: 48-75, Sunny

Well the highlight of today was the crossing of the Mackinac Bridge. This is quite a bridge. It is the longest suspension bridge in the Western hemisphere and the third longest in the world (It was the longest from the time it was built in 1957 to 1998!). The bridge is 5 miles long and 552 feet above the water (and you can see the water through the steel grating as you are crossing!!!). A real thrill ride, for sure! Fortunately there was not much wind in the straits today, since the bridge will sway back and forth up to 35 feet in the wind!!

One lane was closed for maintenance while we were crossing. Traffic was very light so there was no delay.

Interesting that one lane is paved and one lane is steel grate. We had to ride on the steel grate for awhile since the paved side was closed for maintenance on a portion of the bridge.

We were surprised at the few hotels at exits going south on I75 from the bridge. We stopped at Gaylord. The Hampton Inn was already sold out and we ended up at a Quality Inn for the night.

We plan to get to Clarksburg, WV for our last night on the road!

USA4CT - Ride Day 21 - June 18, 2013 - Tue

Start Time: 0630 CDT
Stop Time: 1800 CDT
Start Location: Williston, ND
Stop Location: Superior, WI
Lodging: Best Western
Dinner: The Shack
Miles Traveled Today: 617
Weather: 52-80-57, Sunny

We were kinda glad to get up early and head out of Williston, ND. I guess this must have been what the California Gold Rush was like back in the 1800's. We stopped to get gas in eastern Montana and a local told us to watch our and be careful the closer we got to Williston. Really did not expect what we did encounter there!! I would have to say I am glad I came through the area and personally witnessed all the business activity going on there, but we were so glad to get out of the area and head on east. Sure don't plan to go back to Williston anytime soon. If you need a job, looks like that is the place to be!!

Here was one of the many oil wells going into production. Most of them were venting and burning off the gas as in this one.

This was a typical picture of all the highways/streets in Williston. Even had temporary stop lights installed on wooden poles at many intersections due to the truck traffic. We made the mistake this morning of not stopping on the right side of the road for gas and had to cross over to the left side to a gas station. Didn't think we would ever get pulled back out on the highway going east!!

Lots of construction of temporary housing, i.e. "mancamps" everywhere. They even had temporary "mobile motels".

EVERYTHING was expensive too. The highest price we paid for premium gas was in Williston, ND. Even higher than California!! ($4.59 a gallon). Kinda ironic that gas/oil was so expensive there with the oil/gas boom going on!!

No doubt it is an economic boom to the town and state and I am sure there are a lot of mixed feelings with the locals there with the huge disruption in their lifestyle.

Lot's of infrastructure going in. Water, sewer, electric lines, roads, etc.!!

Anyway, good to see it, but was really glad to leave this morning!!

No other pictures today. We crossed both North Dakota and Minnesota on US 2 and landed in Superior, Wisconsin for the night. Good day of riding and another 600 mile day! Temperature was a little cool both in the morning and when we arrived in Duluth/Superior. I guess Lake Superior keeps the air temperature cool/cold for awhile in the summer!