Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Orange Blossom Special: T+2

This morning would be the day I begin my SS2000 ride that will ultimately get me to Jacksonville FL in time for the annual IBA party. Just to recap what has happened so far...

A few months back, a fellow MTF member Greg put the request out looking for someone who could serve as witness for an extreme IBA ride he'd be doing leading up to the IBA party in Jacksonville. It would be 3 Bun Burner Golds in a row (BBG x 3, or 4500 miles in 72 hours or less). I thought about this for a bit and then volunteered. It would get me out to west Texas so that I could collect a couple of national park stamps I'd been meaning to get (Guadalupe and Carlsbad Caverns) plus set me up to do an IBA ride in to the Jacksonville IBA party as well. This year the IBA put together what they called the "Orange Blossom Special," or IBA ride-ins for certificates. When we registered to attend the party we were given the opportunity to declare an IBA certifiable ride to the event. They would validate the ride and issue the certificates on-site, making the presentations at the IBA banquet Friday night. It would be a rare opportunity for instant gratification, without the need to mail everything in and then wait by the mailbox.

I initially thought I'd do either a Bun Burner Gold (BBG, 1500 miles in 24 hours) or a standard Bun Burner (BB, 1500 miles in 36 hours). But I already have a BBG and wasn't interested in attempting another along the I-10 corridor headed eastbound. So as I thought about it more, and looked at the routing in MS S&T, it occured to me that with very little effort I could do a Saddle Sore 2000 (2000 miles in less than 48 hours) to Jacksonville by first heading west to Lordsburg and then turning around and heading east, and even sleep in my own bed along the way. That would save me the cost of a hotel room on the road, and the timing would be good, since the fellow doing the BBG Trifecta would be leaving Van Horn for the third leg very early Wednesday morning. I could leave a few hours later, ride 1250 miles to Houston, sleep at home, then ride the easy remaining 850 miles or so to Jacksonville and arrive there Thursday evening.

As the date drew near for me to pack the bike and head to Van Horn, I also got to thinking about the 700 miles I'd be riding to get there. Hmm....I could ride a little further to Deming NM then turn around and arrive in Van Horn with a couple hours to spare before Greg arrived at the end of his first leg. This would be a little over 1000 miles and another SS1000. First and foremost is to be available for Greg as his witness. He'd need me at the end of his first leg, start of his second leg, end of his second leg, and start of his third leg. Any ride plans I made must come second to being there for his ride.

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So now, on Tuesday afternoon in Van Horn, I was watching Greg's SPOT track and it was clear that he was not moving as quickly as he did the day before. It looked like he'd be getting in to Van Horn at the end of his second leg at around 11:30. He called me when he was a couple of hours away to give me approximately the same ETA. In the meantime I packed my bike, leaving out only what I'd need to get on the road in the morning, and then took a shower. At about 11:20, Greg called to say he was at the gas station in Van Horn and should be at the motel in a few minutes. I began watching for him, pen in hand and ready to sign his witness papers.

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Greg looked tired as he climbed off his bike, but he seemed alert and able to remember odometer numbers that I promptly forgot before I could write them in for him on his forms. LOL! He disappeared into his room and I got ready to hit the hay, when I heard him back outside at his bike, so I stepped outside again and snapped his photo.

This morning, the mother hen thing still would not let go and I found myself awake at 4:30 with the immediate thought to check outside, make sure his bike was gone and he was on the road.

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Now I could concentrate on getting to the IBA party myself. It's 1500 miles from Van Horn to Jacksonville. But I decided to do 2000 miles so, with bike already packed the night before, all I had to do was brush my teeth, put on my riding gear, and get on the road.

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It is very dark in west Texas at night. Between Van Horn and El Paso there is little settlement - just Sierra Blanca - to pollute the night skies with light, so millions of stars twinkled down on me as I rode westward on I-10. It was a beautiful night, not too cold, no traffic, just clear roads all the way to El Paso.

On my pass through Anthony for the SS1000 two days before, I learned that the Anthony fuel exits are very congested, so I continued on to the really cool Akela Flats gas stop I had used for my SS1000 turnaround. My bike had the range to get there and it has a good gas receipt with all IBA required information, easy off/easy on, and a great store with clean bathrooms and with food and coffee. I ate a package of mini chocolate-covered donuts (one of my favorite road foods) and washed them down with a double mocha cappuchino while chatting with the older woman who was working the counter.

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At my turnaround in Lordsburg, a fellow approached me a the pump to tell me that he'd just sold a BMW R69S. Wow! Hope he got some good money for it!

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The gas mileage on the new BMW has been improving as I break in the engine. It averaged just at 50 mpg on the SS1000 to Van Horn, which is what I got on my previous BMW, the R1150R. This is helpful to know, since I'd be pushing the range a little on this SS2000 trip and I was a little worried. As anyone who has ridden in West Texas or New Mexico knows, the gas stations are few and far between on the interstate. The situation is even worse if on local roads, especially at night, another reason not to plan an endurance ride using only local roads, if at all possible.

So, with that in mind, I did my turnaround in Lordsburg, NM and headed east. I stuck to my plan for the gas stops and was pleased that I was keeping to my schedule, according to the little cheat sheet I always put in my tankbag when doing IBA timed rides. Van Horn, Fort Stockton, then on to Junction.

About 35 miles west of Junction, my low fuel light came on and the computer began to display the countdown to empty on the BMW. I was watching the distance count down on the GPS and correlating it to the distance-to-empty countdown on the BMW. Not being familiar with the accuracy of the BMW countdown, I was beginning to worry...

When I got to within 5 miles of Junction, the BMW computer was telling me I had 11 miles to empty. I began to plan for the possibility that I'd have to run or jog along I-10 to the gas station in Junction to get gas. Let's see...get the motorcycle gear off, I already have the LD Comfort shorts on, so that will work...the running shoes are in the left side case. But I never had to implement that plan. Thankfully.

The bike took 5.4 gallons of gas. The stated capacity of the bike's gas tank is 5.6 gallons.

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I had planned my Van Horn departure time for 5:00 AM with the thought that this would get me through most of West Texas Hill Country before dark. And before the deer come out to play in traffic. This was a good plan. I passed through Kerrville just at dusk, and it was completely dark by the time I got to Boerne. It's more densely settled in this area, and I only saw a few deer. It also brought me into San Antonio on the Anderson Loop after rush hour was over. Everything was working out very well.

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The timing would also get me to my favorite Buc-ee's gas station in Luling for my last gas fill-up of the day. It would be a good place to get something to eat, as well, my first food since the chocolate overload in Akela Flats that morning.

I ride this part of Texas so often that I could now say that I was almost home, even though it would still be another 150 or so miles to my driveway. I filled up again at the Buc-ee's just 1.5 miles from my house and then headed for home to sleep in my own bed before finishing the last 850 miles of this SS2000. I didn't even pull the bike into the garage...just left it in the driveway, removed everything off the bike and dumped it all on the kitchen counter to sort through in the morning.

Stats for day 1 of SS2000:

Time: 18 hours, 27 minutes

Miles: 1196

Tomorrow: Finishing up the SS2000 in Jacksonville

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