Day 2: June 24, 2000
I woke up, after less than 1.5 hours of sleep, and 4 minutes before the alarm was to go off. All of that sounds good, but it was already 7:00 AM local time, and I was already late. I showered (again, it's a superstition thing), packed my stuff, and at 8:00 Paul and Voni were outside my room, talking to the Harley riders who had parked there. They could not believe I rode as far as I did on Friday. Of course, if I rode a Harley, I wouldn't believe it either. In fact, it might not be possible to ride a Harley that far. I will never know.
Paul & Voni wanted breakfast, and I wanted to buy, so we walked over to Denny's, where the restaurant had just taken the orders for a large party, and therefore would not take our orders, because they would be slow in coming. Voni tried to explain to the waitress what I was up to, but to no avail, she didn't think she could solve my problem. So, after about 5 minutes of this, I put a $20 on the table, told them to enjoy their breakfast, but that I had to leave.
The starting time on the gas receipt for the second day says 8:16, and when I tried to get on I-135 southbound, I found another construction crew tearing it up. So I asked one of the foreman how I was supposed to get on the freeway going the way I needed to go, and he described 2 U-turns, although he suggested I go to the first exit in each case. I did one legal, and one illegal u-turn, and was finally underway around 8:30 AM. Soon it hit me that I was in trouble, because I had a total time cushion of 2 hours and 53 minutes for this leg, but I had already used up 1 hour and 30 minutes of it, and I had gone 0 miles toward my destination! I was screwed. So my answer to this problem was to dial in a little more power, and go as fast as I could when nobody was looking. Well, this has a negative effect on progress as well, because it uses up more gas, which means I had to stop for gas before I reached my first scheduled gas stop, which meant that my whole gas schedule was out the window. Very depressing. Also, the Weather Channel said there were storms around Tulsa, Oklahoma, so when I saw the clouds, I stopped and put my rain gear on. What happened? You guessed it, no rain all day!
Can this possibly turn out well for our hero? Yes it can. After my first fill up, I reminded myself that I know how to do this, I just was not thinking clearly. This is an endurance event, not a race. The key to endurance riding is to rack up lots of consecutive hours of steady riding, and to keep the gas stops as short as possible. So after the first gas stop in Pawnee, Oklahoma, I vowed to not try to break the land speed record, rather to just try to click off a lot of miles, and just keep pushing. As the day wore on, a curious thing happened. When you ride a long way like this, you have long periods of time on the bike, and short periods of time when you are stopped. And so during the long riding periods, I found that I started thinking of my body as a part of the equipment! For example, I would think: "next stop I had better give it some iboprofen", or "blood sugar seems low, better eat a PowerBar next stop". It was very odd, and hard to describe, but it was like there was my mind, the motorcycle, and my body, and my mind had to plan what to do for both pieces of equipment! Okay, maybe this endurance riding does warp the brain just a bit.
In any case, I picked up I-40 south of Tulsa, and took it all of the way to Memphis, Tennessee. Evidently they had terrible weather through out Oklahoma and Arkansas on Friday, because I saw the remains of 3 violent truck accidents, with smashed up cabs, and trailers in the ditch, with their contents spilled all over the ground. Pretty gruesome!
I guess the Highway Patrol was busy cleaning up accidents, because I saw almost no patrol cars for this whole 300 mile section of the trip, which allowed me to keep a good pace, and make good time, although I was not catching up to my schedule. It is difficult to say how far I was behind at each point, because I did not stop at any of my planned gas stops. But I was calculating it on the fly, and I remember I was 2 hours behind schedule for most of the day, and then after my last major delay, I fell 2.5 hours behind schedule, and for a couple of hours I really didn't think I would make Orlando by the appointed time. Between Little Rock, Arkansas, and Memphis, I came upon a huge traffic jam. There were hundreds of cars and 18 wheelers just crawling along the 2 lanes of the freeway, but no police anywhere in sight, so I took to the shoulder of the road. Hey, give me a break, I'm trying to complete an event here! The traffic jam was about 5 miles long, and I must have passed 1,000 vehicles (or more), but nobody said anything, and when I got to the front, it was just a lane squeeze for road construction, and it was Saturday, so nobody was even working, they had just left the cones up from Friday! Amazing!
In Memphis, I got confused about my route, and had to stop to check the map, although it turned out I was on the right road, I just had to go a little farther that I thought. Next came US Route 78, and the most frustrating part of the whole adventure. A couple of years ago, I took the Natchez Trace Parkway from Nashville, Tennessee to Tupelo, Mississippi (Elvis' birthplace, don't you know), and then took US78 from Tupelo north to Memphis. I found it to be a good 4-lane divided highway. So this time I planned to take it from Memphis all the way down to Birmingham, Alabama, a distance of some 180 miles. Well, the first part was just fine, but as it turns out, the lower half of this "highway" is under construction, has many detours, and goes through more small towns than I wanted to see in the middle of an endurance event! Also during this section, a screw came out of the face shield mechanism on my helmet, so I had to stop and do a roadside repair in the dark, with no tools! Very frustrating, and when I got to Birmingham, I remember figuring out that I was now 2.5 hours behind schedule, and in fact was down to having only 13 minutes of cushion left, due to the starting gas pump receipt being 10 minutes early. I was screwed. In Birmingham I got on I-20, and from Birmingham to Atlanta, my wheels barely touched the ground as I flew across the state. In Atlanta, the police were out in force, as it was Saturday night, and there were lots of cars being stopped, but not me! Then after I got out of Atlanta on I-75, I really made good time, and the gas stops were all under 10 minutes each. I was eating PowerBars while riding, and for about 8 hours, I felt more alive and more focused than I have in a long time. At the Florida Border I calculated that if I could average 80 mph for the last 235 miles, I would arrive on time.
And at 7:05, 45 minutes before the cutoff, I pulled into the Texaco station at the Conway Road Exit off the East-West Expressway in Orlando to find Bruce Barge and Ricahrd A. ("Smitty") Smith waiting for me. What a great feeling, to plan something for so long, to have as much adversity as I had, and still complete the event in time. After signing all of the forms, and kicking a few tires, I left for Ed & Marge's house, where I showered and crashed (fell asleep).
Thanks again to everybody who was so supportive in this wacky endeavor, especially Carla, who had to listen to me talk about it for almost a year. With the Bun Burner Gold 3000 complete, the rest of the trip seems pretty simple by comparison!
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© COPYRIGHT 2000, Richard R. Brookes, Peter H. Baumann