In 2012 I "abetted' a friend to run his first half marathon, the Tulsa Route 66 Half Marathon. Then in June 2013 I "abetted" another friend to run his first half marathon, the Mayor's Half Marathon in Anchorage Alaska. I cannot think of anything more rewarding than seeing a friend succeed in doing something difficult, something only a tiny percentage of the general population will ever achieve.
Going back further, I've been guilty of aiding and abetting some motorcycle riders in completing their first Saddle Sore 1000 (1000 miles in less than 24 hours). The MTF has hosted several of these over the years, and I helped with one that started and ended on the north side of Houston and another one that started and ended in Fort Worth. I organized another one for the MTF a couple of years later, starting on the south side of Houston near my house. I planned and rode the route beforehand and then "manned" the start and finish and saw a few more riders earn their first IBA certificate and membership into the IBA organization.
All this to say that I do indeed have a history of "aiding and abetting" folks who have a desire to put some long miles on rubber - tires and running shoes.
Late this past summer a woman I'd friended on Facebook but had never met in person expressed interest in the IBA when she learned of the party to be held in Dallas in early November. Our connection is her relationship with folks that I'm friends with through the Motorcycle Tourers Forum.
The only way to get into that IBA party was either to already be an IBA member or to gain membership by doing at minimum a SaddleSore 1000 to get there. The wimpy way to attend was to go as the guest of an IBA member, but to me this was totally unacceptable. Why attend and be an "outsider?" So much better to attend as a member.
So I put that out there to her...do a SS1000 to Texas. And if she didn't want to do it alone, I'd ride one too, meeting at the halfway point between her house and mine and finish it near my house. In order to get it certified and to receive her certificate at the party, the ride needed to be completed by October 25. She could stay the week with me, then ride up to Dallas the following weekend to attend the IBA party and receive her certificate of completion and membership bling.
Well, this discussion went back and forth for a month or so, and we finally agreed to a plan that would work for her, for her need to be back to work that week and to take care of her mom. It was a complicated plan, but the complication didn't affect me too much so I was good with it.
Looking ahead to the agreed-upon day to do this ride "apart together," I planned a route for me and a route for her and sent the files to her so that she could review them and then enter them into her GPS. Since I knew that my experience doing these IBA rides meant I could probably keep a higher average overall speed, I suggested that she send me a text when she got her start receipt and then text me each time she stopped. This would allow me to gauge her arrival time at the meet-up point, a gas station in Slidell LA. It was the half-way point for both of us at approximately 540 miles.
We had an agreed-to plan, now we just had to wait for Friday morning to get here. I packed my bike the night before with sandwiches, snacks, bottled water, and a simple overnight bag just in case my new friend had to abort the ride for some reason. My next door neighbor came over and signed my starting odometer witness form. Then I set my alarm for 4:00 AM Friday morning and went to bed early.
Friday morning I was up, dressed and had breakfast, then I moved my bike out into the driveway to get ready for a quick getaway once I received my friend's text message that she had started her ride. She had indicated to me that she was going to try to get started sometime between 4:30 AM and 5:00 AM. She was starting in Bowling Green, KY where she lives.
Well, as I stood in my kitchen in full riding gear and ready to go, 4:30 AM came and went, then 4:45 AM, then 5:00 AM, and still no text message from her. 5:15 AM came and went and I began to worry that she'd forgotten to text me. I turned my computer on and logged into the Spotwalla.com website to look at her SPOT tracker page. It was blank...it had no tracking messages. So I knew she'd not left yet.
Then at around 5:30 AM I got a text from her saying she was trying to call me. A few minutes later my cell phone rang and it was her. Her bike wouldn't start and she was very distraught. My opinion was that her battery was dying and the sub-freezing temp that morning was the last straw for her battery. A couple of other riding friends concurred with this on a Facebook post.
Ultimately she managed to get a bit of a charge to the battery using a trickle-charger and got the bike over to the shop where they confirmed the dying battery and installed a new one. But by now it was nearly noon, too late to salvage the plans for the day.
I proposed we do the ride on Monday or Tuesday of the following week, but we didn't confirm anything and late Friday evening I got word that she was going to try again on Saturday morning. I was pretty sure I wouldn't be able to do my IBA ride, not having enough time to get a new start witness at such a late hour. I encouraged her to go for it and that I would be watching and encouraging from the sidelines and then ride out to join her for the last 200+ miles of the route and get home safely to my house.
So that was the plan. It was still very cold the next morning for her departure - 27 degrees - so I knew it was going to be a tough several hours for her until the sun got high in the sky and she got further south where the temps would be more moderate. Throughout the day I watched her SPOT tracks and recalculated her travel pace using Microsoft Streets & Trips mapping software. I also had the weather.com webpage open and was checking weather at her location throughout the day. I sent her encouraging text messages that I knew she'd read at each of her gas stops.
I knew where her gas stops would be, so once she made the gas stop in Duson LA, I could calculate her arrival time at the next gas stop in Hankamer TX. I got on my bike and headed toward Hankamer when I knew she was about 1.5 hours away.
Considering the difficulty I was having in approximating her arrival time using the SPOT tracks, which have erratic delays and some missed track points, I managed to get to the gas station in Hankamer just a few minutes ahead of her. I didn't want her to arrive and not see my bike. I knew that could be very demotivating for her.
The other thing I was doing while "armchairing" her ride was keeping my eye on the Houston TranStar traffic webpage. There was a potential troublesome hotspot on the route just west of Houston. The original route took us west of Houston to Sealy then turning around and heading back to the finish gas station south of Houston near my house. Construction to build the flyover ramps from I-10 to the Grand Parkway had the east and west bound lanes of I-10 closed completely. TranStar was showing 55-60 minute delays in both directions. Not good. So in the last hour before getting on the bike to head over to Hankamer, I tinkered with her route to divert it in another direction to avoid this huge delay.
Trying to send us south toward Lake Jackson didn't give us quite enough miles. So I decided on a route that would take us to 610 East Loop heading north and then west to I-45, then north on I-45 to League Line Road north of Conroe. We'd need to get a receipt at the junction of 610 and 45 to prove her route, since an alternate, faster route up 146 would have truncated the route enough to not have enough miles. In the end, I knew this was the best route. It had one huge advantage over the original route out to Sealy, and that was the fact that it would be along a very well-lit freeway within an urban area and with other traffic. My friend told me she had problems driving at night. The roads in Houston are so well-lit that it's not unusual to see drivers who have forgotten to turn their cars' headlights on.
|Meeting up at a gas station in Hankamer TX|
Just minutes after I arrived at the Shell station in Hankamer I could see a motorcycle coming down the exit ramp and then into the gas station. It was my friend! Needless to say, she was happy to see me. I was a little concerned about what to expect...was she going to be "wasted?" Would she be able to continue? Once she was off the bike it was obvious that she was very wound-up and hyper and I assured her that we had time for her to grab something to eat and to gather her wits before the last leg...just a little over 200 miles.
While she ate, I made the modifications to the route in her GPS. Once she was ready to go, we got back onto I-10 and continued west toward Houston and 610. We stopped at a gas station on the feeder road of I-45 just north of 610 so that she could get a receipt to mark the corner of the route. It was an adventure, since this is not the best side of town and the gas station had locked doors and bullet-proof glass and she had to buy a bottle of water through a security window.
But we got it done and then got back onto I-45 north to the Chevron station at League Line Road north of Conroe. I stop at this gas station every time I take a trip out of town when my route takes me up I-45. It's large, clean, has an attached McDonald's and has good receipts, i.e. includes all the correct information to document an IBA ride: correct address, time, date.
|Turnaround point in Conroe|
|Turnaround point in Conroe|
Now all we needed to do was turn around and head south on I-45 through downtown Houston, onto 59 to 288 and then just a few more miles to the finish gas station near my house.
Houston is one of those cities that never sleeps. No matter what time it is, day or night, traffic is always heavy. This night was no different. It's heavy but it moves right along, unlike rush hour traffic. So once we were within the Beltway on the north side, it became hard for me to see my friend in my rearview mirrors. The frequent lane changes of the cars around us meant she was no longer able to stay directly behind me. But I knew she had the final gas station in her GPS and that it would route her to the finish even if she lost me in the traffic.
But even though we lost occasional visual contact with each other, once I got south of Houston downtown and into lighter traffic, she was able to find me and fall in behind me.
|Getting finish receipt in Pearland|
Soon we were exiting 288, turning right at the light, and then pulling into the Buc-ee's gas station. Her SS1000 is done! She did it! We both filled up our tanks, she got her finish receipt to document her stop time and we then headed the short distance to my house.
I had champagne chilled and waiting, and some fresh fruit - pineapple, strawberries, cantaloupe - and some cold cuts and cheese to have a near-midnight celebratory snack. I'm not sure it had fully sunk in for my friend that she had successfully completed her first IBA ride! She was exhausted and cranky and definitely not in the mood to celebrate, lashing out at me on a variety of imagined shortcomings on my part. I urged her to go take a relaxing shower, hoping it would defuse things a bit. But I was exhausted myself, and went to bed.
We were both up early the next morning so that I could drive her to the airport for her flight home. Her bike would stay with me in my garage until she flies back to Houston on Thursday afternoon and we then go to Dallas on Friday for the IBA party get-together.