Day 1: June 23, 2000
Hopefully the subject line of this e-Mail got your attention. 1529 miles in one day! How does a person do something like that? And perhaps more importantly, Why?
At 5:00 AM on Friday June 23, a small group of witnesses gathered at the Shell station on Miramar Road at I-15. There was my good buddy Bob McGonigle, Four Corners veteran Lou Caspary, my girlfriend Carla, and my approved Iron Butt Association witness Steve Hobart. Steve rode his Gold Wing from his home in Apple Valley, CA to San Diego just to sign my witness forms. Thanks again to Steve and the other witnesses, I will have more to say about them later. Handshakes and kisses all around (I particulary liked it when Bob kissed me), and when I finished pumping my gas, I forgot to tell the pump I wanted a receipt! This is the one of the most important receipts of the whole event, because it establishes the starting time for the trip! And I blew it! Fortunately the attendant inside was able to print me a duplicate, and I was ready to go, even if I was a little embarrassed. Steve and I left together, as he had to go back up I-15 to go to work, and we had planned to ride the first 100 miles or so together. When we got to the I-10 offramp near Rancho Cucamonga, Steve said it was hard for him to make the turn, because he would have rather gone with me. But I was off on my own, and soon it was time for the first gas stop in Baker, CA, where the world's tallest thermometer said it was 90 degrees at 8:14 AM, and my $9.95 Kragen Auto Parts thermometer said it was 90.4 degrees. How's that for inexpensive accuracy! At Baker I was 5 minutes ahead of schedule.
This "schedule" is of course self-imposed, but the idea is to try to use up (almost) all of the gas in the tank, then stop at a pre-determined gas station, and complete all of the pit stop activities in 10 minutes or less so that the maximum amount of time will be saved for rest at the end of the first leg in Salina, KS.
It was really hot in Baker, and the skies were clear, so I took my jacket off and stashed it on the seat behind me. Across the desert, up the hill, and then down into Las Vegas, where a spritz of rain was just enough to make the road slippery, but not enough to cool the air. And of course there is ALWAYS traffic on I-15 going through Lost Wages.
By the second gas stop in Cedar City, Utah, I was 15 minutes ahead of schedule! Hey, this is easy! Right.
It was getting a little cooler in the mountains, so I put my jacket back on at Cedar City. There were heavy clouds and lightning off to the east, but it didn't seem to be where I was headed, so I didn't put my rain gear on. Just north of Cedar City I passed a Gold Wing with a young boy in the passenger seat, probably somewhere around 6 years old, fast asleep with his helmet flopped over to one side. He was belted in, so he looked to be safe, but it sure looked odd. I also passed a motorhome pulling a car, and the car had a sign in the window which said: "I go where I'm towed to". (Say it out loud)
One of the reasons I planned this route the way I did was because I wanted to take I-70 from its western end off I-15 just north of Beaver, Utah, all the way through Utah and Colorado. In spite of the conditions I experienced on this adventure, I-70 is beautiful. I believe it is the most scenic interstate highway in the country, from I-15 all the way to the Eisenhower Tunnel at Loveland Pass in Colorado. More about this later. Right after you turn on to I-70, the road goes over a 7000 foot pass in the Pahvant Mountain Range. I didn't catch the name of the pass, but when I neared the top, an amazing thing happened. 6 miles from I-15, the road turned to the southeast, and took me right into the middle of a violent mountain thunderstorm. You might not want to believe this, but I saw it happen, the temperature dropped from 79 degrees to 45 degrees in less than a mile, and the sky opened up and deposited HEAVY freezing rain and golfball sized hail all over the roadway, and more importantly, all over ME! As I told Carla on the phone later that night, when the TV weather man reports that somewhere there was "golfball sized hail", don't ever get confused and think that that is a good thing. It hurts when it lands on you, and I was afraid it was going to break the face sheild on my new Shoei Syncrotec helmet! (I wonder if Shoei would pay me for mentioning their product? Probably not.)
Anyway, everybody pulled over to the side of the road, and I did too, although I didn't know what I was going to do, I had nowhere to hide. I decided that since I hadn't put my raingear on when I probably should have, I had better put it on now. The thing that motorcyclists hate the worst (besides crashing) is having to put rain gear on in the rain. By the time I got it on, EVERYTHING I had been wearing was soaked. When I looked down, I was standing in at least 2 inches of water, and the bike was covered with golfballs! The downpour reminded me of when you bring a cooler home from the beach, and it has a lot of water in it, but it still has a bunch of ice too. It felt like somebody was pouring a used load of cooler ice on top of me and my bike! Once dressed (too late), I noticed that the 18 wheelers were not stopping, and that when their tires ran over the hail, it kind of scrunched out of the way, and started to disintegrate, so I decided to get moving, as it wasn't very pleasant just standing there getting pounded with hail. In retrospect, if I had kept moving and not stopped at all, I might have been better off, as the downpour lasted less than 1 mile. Of course, that's the Long Distance Rider's credo: Do not stop for any reason, keep moving!
Well, enough about the hailstorm, it was really something, and it had a major effect on the rest of the trip, as you'll see. From that point, all the way through Utah and almost all the way to Denver, it rained on and off. And when it wasn't raining, the temperature was in the 90's. So, it was tough. Raingear is actually a plastic workout suit like the high school wrestlers use to lose weight. When it's not raining, and it's hot like that, it's like a sauna. I stopped at a rest stop in Utah to change my socks, and pour the water out of my boots, and that took more time. And the rain, heavy at times, caused me to have to slow down, so that by the third gas stop in Crescent Junction, Utah, I had fallen 18 minutes behind schedule. And by the fourth gas stop in Frisco, Colorado, I was 22 minutes behind. When you fall behind on a tight schedule like I had planned, it is very difficult to catch up.
However, on the bright side, there is I-70. In Utah it passes through several sections of the Fishlake National Forest, and in some spots closely resembles the scenery in Capitol Reef National Park. Lots of red cliffs and unusual land formations, very beautiful, and highly recommended. Just try not to go there when there is a hailstorm in progress. In Colorado, the freeway is built right on the banks of the Colorado River, and follows it closely as it twists and turns for almost 200 miles. One 13 mile section that I loved has the eastbound and westbound lanes stacked along the side of the canyon wall, with the river down below. It twists and turns like a good mountain road, but it is 2 lanes in each direction (thank you, President Eisenhower) so that you can actually pass the Winnebagos and other land barges who are crawling along. I really want to go back and take that road again, with a little better conditions, and a little more time to see the sights.
It got dark as I dropped down into Denver, and my senses were on alert for any and all dangers, both the ones I could see, and the ones I could only imagine. The bike was running great, and I was finally making good time, until I hit Goodland Kansas, where after getting gas, I found the eastbound onramp was demolished. So I had to take the freeway westbound! Here I was, almost 30 minutes late at this point, and I'm going the wrong way! I rode slow in the left lane until I found the "Official Vehicles Only" sign, and I told it I was Official, Officially pissed, and I made the (illegal) U-turn on the freeway. The last section of the day was uneventful, and I pulled in to Bosselman's Truck Plaza in Salina, Kansas at 4:35 AM, 26 minutes behind schedule, to find Paul and Voni Glaves standing in the parking lot as though it was the most normal thing in the world to stand out in the middle of the night waiting for a perfect stranger to ride up on his motorcycle! Thanks Paul and Voni, I knew you would be there, and that thought provided motivation to keep pushing, even when I was late and wet.
Paul and Voni had also asked the clerk at the Motel 6 to save me a "down and out" room (downstairs and facing out toward the highway) to save me some time and energy. So we all went to my room, where they signed the appropriate forms, and then I made a near-critical error. Since I was late arriving in Salina, I decide to delay my departure in the morning to allow me to still try to get 2 hours sleep. Next time (what next time?) I would still plan to start the second day on time, because the way I did it, I was behind schedule the entire second day, and in danger of missing the cutoff time in Orlando! More about that in the next installment of "Rick's Wacky Endurance Ride".
Until next time,
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© COPYRIGHT 2000, Richard R. Brookes, Peter H. Baumann