Iron Butt 1000

I want one of these license plate holders. I don’t know why.

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All I had to do to qualify for membership in the esteemed “Iron Butt” Association (and get my plate holder) was ride from New Hampshire near Lake Winnipesaukee down through Hartford, skirt New York City via I-287 into New Jersey, take I-78 over near Harrisburg, PA and then down 15 to the Sunoco Station on the old Baltimore Pike Road in Gettysburg. Turn around and do the same thing  in reverse. Over 1000 miles in less than 24 hours. Then send a check for $49 plus copies of the ride documentation.

How tough could that be?IronButtSaddleSoreLeg1 copy

Time

I left home at 3:45 am on October 15 and got back at 3:32 am on the 16th, almost one day later. Interstates all the way, cruising at 60-75 mph. Why did it take me so long? Google Maps predicted a little over 8 hours each way. Let’s say 16.5 hours of riding.

The official start and end correspond to the first and last stops for gas, not at my front door. I gassed up first at 4:03 AM on the 15th and then finally at 3:06 AM on the 16th, for a total elapsed time of 23 hours and 3 minutes.

The F650 runs about 6% slower than the Google Maps estimate for cars. That’s an extra hour. I saw the main flow of car traffic doing 80 in a 55 zone, more than once. I didn’t feel safe trying to keep up with that but I also had too much company in the right hand lane in the form of semi’s, pickups towing trailers, RVs and some just inexplicably slow drivers.  I got comfortable passing people doing less than 65.

I refueled 10 times, riding for over two hours and 125-130 miles between fill-ups, plus an extra stop near the end. I averaged about 20 minutes off the bike by the time I refueled, took a photo of the receipt next to the odometer, used the restroom, ate and drank something, switched out clothing and gear, reset the odometer, etc. So maybe 3.5 hours total for stops.

I lost 30 minutes on the first leg due to very poor visibility in the dark, foggy mist. Almost turned around. Fortunately, there was no traffic and I knew that section very well. Probably another 30 minutes total for the rest of the ride for the same reason, off and on. I rode about 11 hours in the dark and there was some misting occasionally. It’s particularly hard to see when lights are hitting beads of moisture on the face shield. I could clear it somewhat by tipping the helmet down into the slipstream.

Another 30 minutes for stop and go traffic from an accident and some single lane construction zones.

I lost another 30 minutes on the way back when Google Maps re-routed me north to avoid I-287 for some reason. I wound up riding about 1040 miles, by Google measurements. My odometer total was 1078 miles.

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Final Fill-up

 

 

Gear

I knew at 60 degrees and little sun the heat was going to slowly drain out of me and after two hours or more I would be too cold to continue. So I got a Gerbing heated vest but I hadn’t gotten a controller and the vest was too hot on straight 12 V so I only used it a little. I will need the controller to keep my core “temperature neutral” while riding for hours in cold weather.

I used my summer armored Revit jacket in Pennsylvania where it was warm and sunny, but wore my three-season Sedici with more layers for the cold, dark northern sections. UnderArmor thermal underwear, of course. I mostly used my summer armored riding gloves although I did use my “Randy” (from A Christmas Story) down mittens with wool mitten liners for the first few hours.

I added some red and white reflective strips on the back of my helmet. Never had any close calls. People could see me.

Bike

I rode the venerable BMW classic F650.

I had installed a new chain and sprockets for the trip and those ran fine. The Metzler Tourance tires had about 13,000 miles on them but were still okay, the rear one getting pretty close to minimum tread depth.

Installed an EZ Pass transponder on the back of the windscreen. I went through about 6 toll booths with it during the trip.

I had the USB adapter plugged in to my Battery Tender outlet and a phone holder on the handlebars, but with the mist and the simplicity of the route, I kept the phone on my belt for most of the ride.

Summary

Intense riding for distance isn’t my thing. I prefer to meander, take scenic routes, and generally make use of the bike as cheap transportation. But I did want to get a feel for extensive highway riding and I find I am comfortable with it as long as there isn’t too much traffic and the road is good, which precludes going near big cities.

Riding at night is not attractive simply because I can’t see the road well enough, not only for spotting animals, potholes and debris, but also to see the arc of the road way ahead. It’s unsettling at speed when the road begins to curve in a way that was not anticipated.

At one low point on the ride I thought about retiring to a small scooter with my poser’s “World’s Toughest Riders” plate holder. But a day after getting home I started wondering what the next big adventure might be.

Does vacillating between “I’ll never do this again” and “I can’t wait for the next time” mean you have it just about right?

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Home at 3:30 AM, but I never got drowsy.

 

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Motorcycle Camping

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Ewan McGregor says that after doing a movie he needs to regain control of his own space, and motorcycle camping is a way to do that. But then he goes ahead and makes the Long Way ‘Round and the Long Way Down, which seem to deliberately flood his therapeutic space with work-like stuff. Or maybe if he’s in control of the work, that’s all the relief he needs?

In a much simpler scenario, my wife and I recently used a $300 Catoma 2-up-2 tent on our Delaware Water Gap trip along with some borrowed sleeping pads and bags. We carried a lot of the gear in the car to make the load on the bike lighter. Yeah, weird, we took both the bike and the car. Not the first time either.

Since then I acquired an inexpensive bag and pad and I wanted to test them out. The thought of freezing in the night had occurred to me.  Also I wanted to see if I could carry the tent and enough gear on the bike to do motorcycle camping.

If I had the side luggage racks and cases, I’d be happy to use them but they are too expensive and on an F650 they have to stick out too far into the wind, degrading the aerodynamics at highway speeds, especially on the muffler side.

Instead, I used the top box and stacked everything else in front of it.

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Everything is pretty well strapped against the top box.

I have a $90 Saddlemen TS3200 tail bag sitting on the passenger seat. It droops down over the sides of the seat by design, it’s built that way. But it doesn’t go down far enough to touch the muffler heat shields and it just clears the rear directionals. Also, it leaves the right amount of room behind me. I can lean back on it if I want, but in normal riding it doesn’t touch me.

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I knew the 6 lb. tent had to go on top of the TS3200, so I centered a small rectangular cooler inside the bag to provide rigid support for the tent. Worked out fine.

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Catoma 2-up-2 Tent

The tail bag comes with a lot of straps and I lashed the bottom and top of the bag around the base of the top box. And the bag has built-in straps that I used for the tent.

In the picture above of the stackup, you can see the $60 Teton Sports Trailhead +20F Ultralight sleeping bag sitting on top, bungie corded to the tent straps.

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The $60 Klymit V2 inflatable sleeping pad compresses down very small and went inside the cooler to protect it.

klymit_staticv2_anglebag_v1.pngWell, it’s quite a pile of gear and I was worried about it being too top heavy and maybe shifting around, but in fact it was fine. No problem handling it. Perhaps a little more care is needed stopping the bike on uneven ground and making sure the kickstand keeps everything reasonably upright.

With my slim load behind me, I enjoyed the ride up into the White Mountain National Forest where I paid a senior-pass-discounted $11 for a campsite. No showers. It was a Saturday and the campground was pretty full of small children yelling, “Daddy, Daddy, Daddy!!!” I figure the wild animals retreated at least a mile back into the woods. But I felt about as secure as I would in my own home.

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The weather was good, 75-80 during the day and 60 at night. The sleeping bag and pad were fine. I used a silk bag liner. I was plenty warm. The tent is a bit heavy and bulky, but it has the distinct advantage of a 30 second setup. Another couple minutes to stake it down and put the fly over it. Plenty of room in it.

 

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Covered Bridge over the Swift River on the Kankamangus Highway

On the way in at about 3 pm,  I had to ride through a big crowd of tourists packed inside the bridge. I took the photo above as I was leaving the campground at 7 am the following morning.

 

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Sun just up over the mountains

I was home by 9 am. Bacon and eggs. Mission accomplished.

Now I’m setting up to ride to Gettysburg and back in one day. 1000 miles. That’s right, the Iron Butt Club initiation! No camping, but a big distance stretch for me.