Monday, March 10, 2008

Starting the Season Out on the Wrong Foot

Not the way I wanted things to start out, but it was a learning experience. I left Houston TX on Saturday, March 1, to take 3 days getting to San Diego prior to the start of the IBA 50CC ride to Jacksonville FL. This is an MTF-sponsored event, certifiable by the Iron Butt Association, and held every other year in conjunction with the IBA annual Pizza Party in FL (which coincides with Daytona Bike Week). 

Passing through AZ, I visited some national parks (to start yet another IBA National Park Tour) including Saguaro National Park, Casa Grande National Monument, and Yuma Crossing Historical Site.

Upon arriving at the hotel in San Diego, I noticed a rub spot along the rear tire sidewall. Thinking that this was possibly early final drive failure, I contacted the local BMW shop and got the bike towed to their shop late that afternoon. 

Initial diagnosis was tire wobble due to final drive problems, but upon closer inspection they determined it was the paralever pivot bearings. This was good news, as it would mean they'd have me fixed up and ready for the start of the 50CC by that Wednesday. 

I picked the bike up Tuesday mid-day and rode it to Cabrillo lighthouse National Park and to scout the gas station and beach access locations we'd be using the next morning for the start of the 50CC. This gave me a chance to scrub in the new rear tire and make sure all was well with the repair before embarking on the long cross-country ride to Jacksonville FL.

The group met for dinner at a nearby steak house and I headed to my room fairly quickly afterward to pack my things and get as much onto the bike as I could before going to bed. After a not-very-good night's sleep I arrived at the check-in point at exactly 5:00 AM. Just a few minutes later, I was at the gas station getting my starting receipt and at the beach getting my sand/water. It all went smoothly and I was on I-8 headed east quickly.

The ride through CA, AZ, and NM went easily, although not a single gas pump would cooperate with a good receipt and I had to walk inside for every single one of my receipts that day. As I passed through El Paso, the sun began to set and I began to dread what lay ahead of me on I-10 in west Texas. I've ridden this road in daylight several times and seen the high number of deer carcasses along the shoulder.

As I expected, I began to see deer in large numbers within an hour of darkness. The sheer numbers of deer - in groups of several or more - was frightening. The pack of coyotes trotting along the shoulder, which could flush one of these herds out into the interstate at any time, didn't help matters. I stopped for gas just east of Balmorhea and took that stop to reassess my situation. 

I had a motel reservation in Kerrville at La Quinta. How far was I from that town and how long would it take me to get there? More important, how many hours of this "red alert" vigilance could I sustain? I could barely bring myself to go faster than 50 mph - the speed at which I felt I was not over-driving my headlights, PIAA's or my braking skills. I truly had paralysis of the throttle hand and was having a hard time keeping my speed up. This was slowing me down quite a bit, and over a 200 mile stretch, would add another hour at least to my travel time to Kerrville. 

I calculated that I wouldn't arrive in Kerrville until around 2:30 AM. When I reached Ozona, TX, I exited to look for a motel room. it was my planned gas stop anyway, but I knew I could not continue on to Kerrville this night.

I was checked in before midnight, and in bed within minutes. I had my alarm set for 6:00 AM and hoped to be back on the road by 7:00 AM. As it turned out, I fell back asleep for another hour, and did not get on the road until 8:15 AM. I still needed to get gas, and by the time I was entering the interstate, it was 8:20 AM and it was cold. And within 10 miles it was cold and wet.

It stayed cold and wet for the next 200 miles. I stopped for gas just east of San Antonio and began to doubt my sanity for continuing. My next gas stop was in Columbus TX, about 70-75 miles west of Houston and it was still cold and still wet. When I finished getting gas, the pump asked me if I wanted a receipt. I thought about this for a few seconds, and....pressed the "No" button. That was it. I was no longer on the clock and no longer attempting the 50CC.

As I continued riding toward Houston I agonized whether to continue toward Jacksonville. I ran through all my options: continue east, stop for the night near Pensacola and then head on in to Jacksonville, still in plenty of time for the banquet that night, just not a finisher. But I had checked the weather in San Diego just before leaving, and it showed severe weather in the eastern part of FL Thurs night and Friday. I'd be riding right into it. 

So another option was to go home, jump in the truck and continue on. But then I asked myself Why? Why drive to FL in a vehicle that gets at best 18 mpg to eat dinner then head home the next morning. It didn't make sense. So the best option would be to head home. Which I did.

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