Newark DE – Brattleboro VT
Sun Sept 27, 2020
(~568 miles +145 home)
I managed to get over six hours sleep last night for the first time on this trip and was still ready for a 04:45 departure. I’d seen last night via SpotWalla that Ken and Marc had pushed on to get a hotel in northern Jersey, so hoped to get a head start today and see them at the finish line this afternoon.
The roads were wet from overnight rain, but it had stopped already. I took I-95 and I-495 around Wilmington into Pennsylvania, exiting in Boothwyn to document this quick passage through the Keystone State.
I exited on US 322 to cross the Delaware River into New Jersey via the John Barry Bridge. Traffic was practically non-existent and I cruised slowly, on the lookout for the New Jersey welcome sign.
There was a small sign in the middle of the bridge for the state line, but I missed it and was kicking myself mentally. Then, about to take the first exit past the river, I spotted a proper welcome sign just beyond and sidled up past the offramp just far enough to get the photo. While I was there, a passing pickup truck pulled over up ahead and began backing toward me. Understanding it was probably a good Samaritan, I waved and gave the thumbs up and turned off my flashers. They continued on their way, but this was the second time someone in the state of New Jersey pulled over to offer a hand so don’t believe everything you hear from New Yorkers. 🙂
I picked up I-295 north to Camden and exited on Black Horse Pike to cut over to the New Jersey Turnpike. I spotted an open gas station and decided to pull in to get my receipt rather than make two stops near the NY border. I forgot that Jersey is one of those weird states that thinks people cannot pump gas for themselves. Nobody came out right away so I processed my card using the worn-away keypad and entered “4” when it asked for a pre-authorized amount. Well, that ended up being “4 cents” since you could not see the decimal point on the screen. When I finally realized why it wasn’t pumping any more gas, I lung up the nozzle and it still spit out a receipt that had all the required information. By this time, an attendant had come out, but I told him I was all set, stowed my $0.04 documentation receipt in my tankbag, and continued on my way.
A couple hours on the NJT as the day dawned under overcast skies, then I-80 to NJ 17 (divided four-lane) north to I-287 in Mawah. I always circle northern Jersey via I-287 when going through this area, but Marc had recommended this route and it ended up being quick and direct, early on a Sunday morning. The New York state line came up right after joining the interstate, and I proceeded to the next exit in Suffern to document state #42.
I was now back on very familiar ground, offering my customary silent thanks to the universe for a safe return while crossing the Hudson River onto home turf.
Following I-287 down to I-95 for the run across Connecticut, I completely missed the state line photo. I pulled in to the Milford rest area for my Connecticut receipt. I could taste the end of the journey, and it was difficult keeping my speed down on this interminable stretch of I-95 across the Nutmeg State. I found a few rabbits to trail and made it through without undue attention, veering north onto I-395 in East Lyme.
395 is one of the less busy stretches of interstate in the region and the near-peak autumn colors returned with a vengeance. It was really quite a nice welcome back into New England as I made good time north.
I exited in Plainfield onto the short US 6 connector and quickly crossed the Rhode Island line in Foster. Another quarter mile or so and I pulled into the XtraMart for a receipt (had to run inside for this one).
I captured my Connecticut state line photo upon reentering the state, then re-joining I-395 north into my home state of Massachusetts. Riding the route up 395 to I-290 through Worcester (that’s WUH-stah to all you westerners) to I-495, I picked up my receipt for the Bay State in Westford.
Back on I-95 north of the entire Boston metro area, I rode through New Hampshire’s short coastal region, over the Piscataqua River, and exited into Kittery, Maine, the most eastern point of my journey.
Looping up north on I-93 and I-89, I left the interstate behind on US 202 through Henniker to NH 9. I found myself blocked in behind a frustratingly slow line of cars. I gradually made passes out to the front of the line, but also made the most of the slower pace to enjoy the splendid autumn colors of southern New Hampshire. What a beautiful ride in to the finish!
As I came up over the rise from the river and into the small US 5 rotary, I spotted a motorcycle and familiar smiling face parked over in the gas station parking lot. It was my friend Gerry Arel, who had completed his own 48-10 ride about a week before we started. He’d decided to ride up from Connecticut to greet us at the finish, and snagged a nice action shot of me coming round the rotary, before I pulled into the lot and up to the pumps.
I pulled straight over to the pumps to take care of business first. Of course there was no receipt forthcoming and I had to go inside for a duplicate, which proved valid. I was done!
I parked next to Gerry’s bike and cut the engine – it was so awesome to see a friendly face at the finish line! I doffed gear while he congratulated me and filled me in on Ken and Marc’s status. They had apparently stopped for lunch back in Kittery and were taking a slightly different route than I had across New Hampshire.
A short 20 minutes or so after I arrived, we spotted three bikes coming through the rotary, including a shiny black ST1300. It turned out to be, Jim Abbott, who’d met up with the guys near Manchester and led them on a more scenic route to enjoy the autumn color along route 101. He told me in a staged whisper that he’d really just wanted an ST to get to the finish first. 🙂
After Ken and Marc completed their paperwork, we all gathered in victory, congratulating one another on a safe and momentous ride. Another LD rider they’d met down in North Carolina had provided them a box of homemade cookies to eat at the finish and we toasted our achievement while exchanging stories (thanks Mr. Rasmussen!).
We posed for a few photos by the Brattleboro sign after braving the rotary traffic. Those are Arkansas flags the guys are holding, mementos from our friend Ken Andrews, who’d hosted an impromptu BBQ gathering for them just outside Little Rock a couple days back.
We hung out chatting and resting for a good hour or so in the sunny parking lot, watching the traffic stream by and pausing in conversation whenever a particularly loud group of cruisers blatted their way through the bustling rotary. We all still had some miles to put down to get home, and finally broke it up around 15:00.
I picked up some Vermont craft beer from the Brattleboro Food Co-op at the south end of town. I’d heard about the place on NER’s Facebook group and knew they’d have a good selection. Then I headed for home via the quickest path the GPS could take me, very ready to be off the bike.
I pulled into the garage right around 17:30, nice to be arriving home while still light out. After unpacking the bike and cleaning up, I enjoyed a couple well-earned cold glasses of the Shush Boy IPA with some pesto and my leftover pizza from Delaware….good stuff!
Some final thoughts
My Goodyear Tripletred rear tire had provided me with 42,000 miles of riding pleasure and confidence, even after being plugged a couple times. It is so nice to not worry about wearing tires out on a long trip like this. This tire had also brought me through last year’s IBR, and while it still probably had a few thousand more miles left, I felt the tread depth would be iffy in any heavy rain I might encounter on the upcoming CO-VOID Rally. Following the trip, I made an appointment with Break’er Bikes in NH to get my rear tire swapped out with a spare from my stockpile.
My oil-stained Klim gore-tex pants also needed attention following the trip. Luckily, some Dawn dishwashing soap and determined scrubbing seem to have removed most of the stain. Tightening the oil filler cap has so far seemed to help reduce the backspray since Alturas, but just in case the head covers will be coming off and re-sealed for a likely valve adjustment this winter.
The journey had been incredible and I was very happy with most of the routing, considering the time constraints of a certified ride. Things I might have changed include:
- Eliminate the “cushion day” and plan for a full 10 day journey. This would have allowed reducing the mileage on most days to 600-700, so as to enjoy a few more stops and/or meal opportunities. But then of course there is no margin for error…
- Re-route through Colorado to skip northwest New Mexico.
- Perhaps a bit less interstate across the southern states, assuming some quick state routes could be substituted, even at the cost of some time/miles. I really didn’t spend much time looking over that part of the route.
Every day on the bike had allowed me to ride through and experience different terrain, sights and local cultural quirks. I was frequently astounded by how amazing and diverse a country we live in, both in terms of topography and in what the “American experience” can mean for our people, living everywhere from crowded coastal suburbia to the sleepy villages tucked in amidst vast open mountain and desert regions. If more people would get up and out of their local comfort zones (pandemic notwithstanding) to experience this in person, perhaps there would be a bit less hard-headedness and division all around.
“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.” – Samuel Clemens
My thanks to the collective efforts of the Iron Butt Association for creating this epic and fulfilling ride, while allowing each rider the flexibility to complete it as they see fit. While not as challenging as riding the IBR, competing in the Big Dance certainly gave me perspective on what could be accomplished during this more relaxed ride, without the rally clock ticking in my head. This will stand as one of my favorite certification ride experiences for a long time to come.