Thursday, August 12, 2010

BBG on an FZ6: A Test of Stamina and Toughness of Mind

With a little caution I rode out of my driveway at 2:15 AM early Wednesday morning, heading for the big, new Buc-ee's near my house to get the starting receipt that would begin a 24 hour test of my grit.

At 2:33 AM I was heading down 288 south toward Angleton, a necessary little side trip on my way to Denver CO, needing to log enough mileage to meet the minimum requirements for the ride. Riding around Houston at this time of the morning is a dangerous enterprise, hence the caution, and there's nothing like a motorcyclist heading down a dark highway to perhaps alert the local police to someone who may be up to no good. This was in the back of my mind for the next hour or until I was up on I-10 where traffic 24 hours/day is more typical and expected.

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All this past week I've been getting the motorcycle - my FZ6 - prepared for this IBA endurance ride of 1500 miles in less than 24 hours and in the last few days I worked on getting myself prepared, as well. Packing for this trip was the easiest part. The hardest part was convincing myself that I could do this on the FZ6. In the record-breaking heat.

My originally planned route would have taken me north through Dallas then up to Oklahoma City before turning west on I-40. But extended forecasts were for triple-digit temps for much of the day along this route. Forecasts along an alternate route - due west on I-10 to Las Cruces then up I-25 to Denver - were for temps in the mid- to high 90's, with only a slight possibility of 100+ temps along a short section of this route. It looked like going west rather than north out of Houston would be my best bet.

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Throughout the morning as I rode west on I-10 toward New Mexico I was blessed with cool, comfortable temperatures and cooperative gas pumps as I made my gas stops...Angleton, Brookshire, San Antonio, Sonora, Ft. Stockton, Van Horn...everything was going smoothly and traffic was very light.

It was my favorite time of day to ride...early morning hours just before sunrise, when the light is soft and magical, the roads hushed as the world still slumbers.

After the stop on the east side of San Antonio on the Anderson Loop I noticed an interesting phenomenon related to the GPS's arrival time. Whatever time I lost at each of the gas stops was recovered within 75-125 miles. My arrival time never wavered from the estimated 12:20-12:30 AM CDT all across Texas!

This changed, however, when I reached El Paso, where traffic was heavy and crawling along at 40-50 mph through this city which strings itself out along the interstate for miles and miles. It began to get hot, too, with temps approaching 95 degrees and feeling like 195 degrees. Heat from the radiator of my FZ6 was beginning to sear my kneecaps.

Traffic opened up and I started to move a little faster as I neared Anthony, but that was short-lived as I ground down to a stop-and-go a few miles into New Mexico. Here the interstate is down to one lane with construction and I could only guess that the back-up was due to the lanes merging into one. But it didn't get any better once past the merge spot and I crept along for a couple of miles. I was getting seriously overheated in the near 100 degree heat and with the 210 degree radiator blowing scalding hot air across my shins and knees.

Finally I reached an exit ramp where state police were directing everyone off the interstate and onto a two-way road that ran parallel to the interstate. Once on this road and moving along I was able to see that a truck fire had traffic stopped and those unfortunate enough to be caught behind the blockage but west of the exit ramp were in for a long wait. I was thankful of my timing. Being caught on that stretch of limbo would have meant the end to my BBG ride.

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Now I was moving again at highway speeds and the FZ's radiator temps dropped from 210 to 190 degrees. It was a small relief on my knees and shins but I was really looking forward to my planned stop in Dona Ana for gas and a break! It felt so good to get off the bike and into the air-conditioned C-store. As I dismounted the bike I knew I had gotten dehydrated. The change in altitude from sitting to standing gave me a bout of momentary low blood pressure dizziness. A pint of Gatorade and an ice cream bar did wonders for my outlook and core body temperature. I knew that this was probably the worst I'd experience and feel and that as the day progressed and my route took me further north, the temperatures would abate some.

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I-25 between Las Cruces and Albuquerque is new "riding ground" for me. As I rode along, I took note of the mountains off to my right and then, further along, off to my left. It was just interesting enough that the miles seemed to flow along and before I knew it I was near my next gas exit in Belen NM.

This was the turning point for me, psychologically. I knew that once north of Albuquerque it would start to get cooler as the sun went down. I also knew that I was more than 2/3 of the way there. If for some reason I could not complete the BBG within the time limits, my receipt at Belen NM would serve as my ending receipt for a SS1000.

But...I was in really good shape at this point, physically, mentally, and time-wise. It was looking like I'd get in to Denver at approximately 1:18 AM CDT, more than an hour ahead of the cut-off time. I only had 2 more gas stops - Las Vegas NM and Walsenburg CO - before arriving at the final gas stop in Denver.
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From this point forward I rode with a light heart and head...the time pressure seemed to dissipate and I no longer was worried about the possibility of failure. I thoroughly enjoyed the ride on I-25 north of I-40, where the mountains turn green and the low slanting sun turns the cliffs and bluffs a brilliant and deep red.

The sun was just dipping behind the mountains as I arrived in Las Vegas NM for a gas stop. It was a quick stop at a small little Shell station in a tiny little town. My mood was elated as I continued to have smooth gas stops, with no receipt problems, vacant restrooms, and easy access from the interstate. My gas stop planning was really paying off! Just one more gas stop before Denver! I was still maintaining "steady state" on the gas stop/arrival time and with only one stop left, I began to look forward to the end of the ride.

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Once I left the gas station in Las Vegas NM and got back onto I-25, I rode for nearly an hour in the soft dusky lighting of sunset. It was so peaceful! It didn't become fully dark until I approached Raton. This meant riding across Raton Pass in the dark, with deer crossing and bear warning signs posted every mile slowing my speed down somewhat as I climbed to over 7,500 feet elevation. I was thankful I'd thought to put on my jacket liner in Las Vegas but even so, it was chilly and I found my jaw clenching against the cold.

Construction delays through Pueblo chewed away at some of my arrival time buffer so that now the GPS was showing a 1:35 AM CDT arrival time. But at this point I'm so close it really didn't matter. Lane closures, flagmen, deeply grooved roadbed...it didn't matter. I was functioning on excitement at this point.

North of Pueblo the roads were smooth, fast, and lit with the never-ending mergers of the various communities along the I-25 corridor all the way to Denver. Before I knew it I was on the outskirts of Denver looking at exit numbers in the 180's. My target was exit 199 where I'd get my ending receipt. And there it is!! Down the ramp, turn left, go under the freeway, turn left, then right into the gas station where I'd fill up one last time and stop the clock that began 23 hours ago in Pearland TX.

I was elated! A BBG on a sportbike! Doing it 2 years ago on a BMW was one thing, but I wanted to try this, wanted to see if I could withstand the relative discomforts of a more sport-oriented motorcycle than my BMW.

Stats:

Miles: 1537 miles

Time: 22 hours, 58 minutes

5 comments:

  1. Great ride and great report Barb, CONGRATS.

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  2. Congratulations! Always fun to read about your adventures.

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  3. You make it sound so easy! Nice ride!

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  4. Thank you, Claye! Mostly easy with a few hard parts in the middle.

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  5. Congratulations Barb! That's a ride and a picture to be proud of!

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