The alarm went off at 3:00 AM this morning. Ugh! The night before I got the bike packed and put her out in the driveway for a fast getaway. I then took a shower and hit the sack around 9:30 PM. So this morning, all I need to do (once I wake up) is splash some water on my face, brush my teeth, and get my riding gear on, before heading over to the Buc-ee's near my house for a starting receipt to begin the SS1000 to Mitchell IN and the MTF Founder's Feast.
Let's see...I've documented 3 previous SS1000's and one SS2000 (2,000 miles in 48 hours or less). So, really, I've done 5 previous SS1000's, two of them back-to-back. I've done at least 3 others that I've not documented. Every time I go to an event in FL (IBA party, FLC2C, Wizard's Wild Weekend) I end up riding at least 1,000 miles non-stop to get home afterward. Just never bothered to get the starting witness form filled out.
So here I am, getting gas at 3:15 AM and anticipating a very long day in the saddle. It was pitch dark as I headed for the 288 freeway near my house and pointed the bike north-northeast toward Texarkana. It would stay dark until I neared Nacogdoches and I was grateful for the cloud cover that kept the temps cooler than usual.
The gas stops were going well; all of the receipts through Texas and Arkansas were accurate and complete and I was thankful for that. US 59 is not conducive to making good time, thanks to all of the small towns with their 35 mph speed limits and traffic lights. But I was pleased with my time so far, when I reached my gas stop in Texarkana, which documented that "corner" on my route. 300 miles covered by 9:00 AM, and I had been on the road for just a little over 5 1/2 hours. I always put a little "cheat sheet" in my tank bag map pocket, giving me the ETAs for each of my anticipated gas stops. This lets me know how I'm doing time-wise and helps me keep track of my time at the gas stops.
Nearly 1/3 of the way through the SS1000! Now I must face the long and boring stretch up I-30 to West Memphis. I would need one gas stop before reaching I-55. At the turn north onto I-55 I stopped for gas again to mark the "corner" of my route. This is necessary to prove the route...that is, to prove that I did not short-circuit the route by cutting diagonally.
I would like to say that I saw interesting sights along the way or that I had interesting conversations with random people at the gas stops, but unfortunately I can't!
At the split for I-57 I stopped for gas at a favorite gas station, Boomland, in Charleston MO. This was the first stop, however, that didn't have a complete gas receipt. I tried getting a receipt from the cashier, but it was no better. Fortunately, it clearly says "Boomland" on it, and there are only three of these in the country, so I'm not too worried about the quality of this receipt.
Pressing on, I made it as far as West Frankfort before I learned first-hand what the electric signs that said "30 minute delay" really meant. There were several of these signs set up every few miles along I-57. As I passed each one, I wondered just how accurate that delay time was. I was about to find out. The last sign suggested an alternate route on highway 37 but not knowing where that was and where it would take me, I didn't want to find out. I had to get a crucial turn receipt at the intersection of I-57 and I-64 and couldn't afford the possibility that the alternate route would truncate the corner and therefore eliminate some miles. I stuck with it on I-57, then, and just about West Frankfort the traffic came to a stop. We crept along in the left lane as cars raced past us in the right lane, despite the warning signs that the lane was closed ahead. We'd slowly move about 100 yards, then come to a stop for about 5 minutes, long enough for me to put the bike in neutral and, many times, to shut the bike off and put the side stand down. This continued for close to an hour, as we covered a total of about 10 miles. I punched the SPOT OK button two or three times while caught in this traffic. I wanted to document the delay just in case there was a question on my SS1000 paperwork submission.
Finally we got past the worst of it: the delays were partly due to the loss of the right lane, but mostly because they were moving dump trucks in and out of the construction area as they delivered loads of asphalt. I'm now an hour behind; I'd been keeping pretty much on schedule up to this point and the GPS had been telling me my arrival time would be about 8:45 PM (EDT). It was now estimating it at 9:40 PM. I really didn't want to arrive at Spring Mill State Park after dark, but it would be unavoidable now.
The "corner" receipt at Love's in Ina IL didn't include the address and town info but an ATM receipt did. Now I'm turning east on I-64 for the long stretch across southern IL and Indiana. Much of this interstate was also down to one lane, but traffic was at least moving at around 45-50 mph and I watched the ETA on my GPS slowly creep upward toward 10:00 PM.
My last "corner" receipt would be in Georgetown, just west of Louisville. It was just starting to get dark and rain was starting to spit on me a bit. All through Indiana fog was beginning to form on the hillsides and the cooler temperature was fogging up my faceshield with condensation. I still had over 50 miles remaining, all of which would be on secondary roads. I dreaded doing this in the dark, but now I could add rain and fog to that mix. I followed a car all the way to Paoli and I was very thankful for that. I could follow his taillights and get a sense of how the road was twisting and turning over the hills.
Paoli was a really neat town and I went around the square twice before taking the turn onto highway 37 north toward Mitchell. Now I was all alone on this road with no beacon ahead of me to follow in the rainy dark. My faceshield was condensing badly on the outside despite the now-heavy rain, and swipes with my left hand every two or three seconds were not keeping up with it. The face shield eventually became hopelessly smeary and I finally flipped it up, relying on my glasses to provide eye protection. The rain was stinging my face and I'd get the occasional hit from a bug that truly hurt. I watched the distance count down slowly on my GPS, which was happening at an agonizingly slow pace since I was running a few mph below the posted speed limit.
Finally! A glow on the horizon told me I was approaching Mitchell! I went through the intersection for US-60, where I'd be turning afterward to get to the lodge. Then the McDonald's on the right, then the gas station! I pulled in, topped off the tank, and got a perfect receipt! SS1000 complete. My FZ6's first IBA LD ride. Well, not counting the national parks she's chased after with me these last couple of years.
Time: 17 hrs 48 minutes
Now the rain didn't bother me so much. I knew I only had a couple of miles ahead of me to get to the Lodge. I turned back onto 37 and rode the short distance to US 60. Just two miles to go! A car was riding my tail, so I pulled over and waved him by. I was going slowly, not wanting to miss the turn into the park, and in the rainy darkness his headlights were blinding me.
The entrance was difficult to see in the pitch blackness as I turned left into the park. Ahead was an entrance station where I paid my $7.00 and beyond that was plunged back into darkness again. I proceeded slowly, looking for the sign that would indicate my turn toward the Lodge.
With a left turn, and down a hill, I could finally see the lodge and, pulling up in front, could see Mike a couple of others sitting on the porch. When I stopped, they all stood up and headed for me - Mike, Kevin, Don. Nice welcome committee! They made quick work of unloading my bike and Mike even parked it for me!
So...not so bad. A SS1000 on the FZ6. The Corbin seat is the only flaw on this otherwise very capable bike. I had no other complaints than that, and some day I may just go ahead and ship that stock seat off to Bill Mayer for a custom job.