Cross Country to Sedona AZ, Part 1: Bun-Burner Gold

Tues 10/4/2016 – Wed 10/5/2016
Mansfield MA to Tulsa OK
~1616  miles

I never intended to ever attempt a Bun Burner Gold endurance ride, it just worked out that way.

Earlier in the year, plans developed for a group vacation in Sedona AZ with my wife’s family to celebrate various anniversaries and birthdays all together. I’d been to Sedona before and sampled the sights and hiking, but couldn’t bear to do it again on more than two wheels. I didn’t want to be confined to riding around that beautiful scenery in a cage. So I researched bike rentals and did the math and did the math, and finally decided the trip would end up very expensive and the logistics of shipping gear etc would be more stress than I wanted on a vacation. Besides I really wanted to be out there riding my own bike, so I did more research and math and mapping in Basecamp. 2500 miles from MA to Sedona AZ via the fastest route (all interstate).

Thinking in “normal” mileage days, that meant 5-6 days on interstate just to get out there and about the same to get back. Didn’t leave much room for enjoying the southwest at all, nor very relaxing or enjoyable in the number of vacation days I had left to use. Then I adjusted my thinking to allow for a long endurance ride for the first leg of the journey. If I could manage a Bun Burner 1500 ride (1500 miles in 36 hours). I’d take a big chunk of days out of the journey in relative short time, giving me more time for some actual relaxation days out there, and having the certification as a goal would make the interstate riding much more bearable.  Eventually, after reading a bunch of ride reports online, I thought I might even aim for the Bun Burner GOLD (or BBG – 1500 miles in under 24 hours), to give myself more time by starting a day earlier. If I wasn’t able to do it, and had to stop for an extended rest somewhere, at least I could fall back to a regular BB1500. I completed my first Saddlesore 1000 earlier this year and at the time never dreamed I’d be looking to do another certified ride this soon, let alone an extreme-rated ride. However, after my ride in the BMRx Rally, two weeks prior to the trip, I knew I’d be able to handle the BBG if I planned carefully and everything went right.

My wife is not into LD endurance riding (yet!), but enjoys multi-day journeys together and had decided that she wanted to ride back with me across country, even though that meant some long highway days (500 miles). She’d bring her gear out with her on the plane and we figured we’d ship back her suitcase with all our non-riding clothes and gear before we left from Arizona. I routed back the first couple days up through Colorado so we could ride US-550 aka “the million dollar highway” through the Rockies. It was shaping up to be quite a nice adventure!

Re bike prep: I’d replaced my rear tire (Michelin PR4G) with 8K miles on it) just prior to the BMRx rally and now I changed the front as well (11K). I knew the rear tire would wear faster when we rode 2-up on the return, but since it would be mostly highway and minimal twisties, I hoped that the tire would make the ~5000 miles out and back. Changed the oil and air filter and felt like the bike was ready to go, although I was still feeling a sore back from the BMRx rally two weeks prior!

I scheduled my departure for late evening after a work day, in order to make the most of my vacation time and to get through the northeast corridor between evening and morning rush hours. I planned out all my gas stops for the trip, allowing 200 – 230 miles in between, to ensure that I wouldn’t be on fumes if I arrived to find one of them unexpectedly closed for some reason. That came out to six gas stops total, which with restroom breaks I figured at 5-10 minutes apiece. The BBG certification requires two witness signatures each for the start and end of the ride. I put out a request on a riding forum for end witnesses near Tulsa and was pleased to immediately get a response from an accomplished rider living in that area who agreed to meet me to witness the end of my ride. I figured on asking one of the station attendants as the second witness. For starting witnesses, my riding buddy Silas and my sister agreed to see me off on my adventure.

I had the bike packed and prepped prior to going to work on Tuesday, with the hope of getting some sleep after work prior to the planned departure at 22:00. Unfortunately, sleep doesn’t come easy to me that early in the evening, so I basically tossed and turned in bed for a few hours until it was time to get up. I knew it would be a tough night ahead to fight the need to sleep, but also knew I would have a bit of time available to grab a power nap at a rest stop if it became necessary. I rode to the local  Mobil station to meet up with my wife and starting witnesses and get the show on the road.

As I pulled in to the gas pumps I saw my small group of well-wishers waiting and holding signs (my sister’s doing). With about 15 minutes to departure, there wasn’t too much time for chit-chat but we did so while I got out the starting witness forms and explained a bit about my plan for the next 24 hours. I secured the necessary signatures and went inside to buy some Atomic fire balls candies to help keep me awake but they didn’t stock them anymore. Luckily (and oddly) my brother-in-law apparently buys them in bulk at BJ’s and carries a stash in his trunk, so I received a big handful for my journey. Thanks Rene!

I set my GPS route for the journey and we posed a couple photos and had our final good-byes and hugs before I inserted my ear plugs, geared up, and filled up my tank to get my official starting receipt.

The time stamp on this receipt would mark my official starting time for my BBG run. Of course, the pump was out of paper and I had to run in to the store to get a duplicate printed out…it figures! With a final wave to everyone I plugged in my heated gear, ensured all systems were go, and skeedadled out onto I-495.

My route took me west on the Mass Pike to I-84, which I followed through CT and into PA. The excitement of the journey and the great send-off I’d received at the start kept me pretty alert and my thoughts occupied for the first couple of hours on the road. There was minimal traffic at this time of night (as planned), and the miles passed quickly without incident to my first gas stop near Milford PA.

The BP station at my second gas stop in Clearfield PA was close to the highway and open, so I stopped there rather than the Sheetz further up the road. Bad move, as the receipt didn’t have the city or state on it. Gaaaah! Went inside and noted the full address of the station from above the door and had the attendant (who had been sound asleep by the looks of it) sign the receipt. And back on the road!

Those fire balls came in handy as my initial excitement toned down and the need to sleep kept fighting to the top of my consciousness. Finally, still in PA, I decided that I needed to close my eyes for a short power nap and reboot. I decided to pull into the next rest stop I saw, which turned out to be just past Clintonville. I broke out my Screamin Meanie alarm device and checked in to the Iron Butt Hotel for ten minutes atop a nearby picnic table. Swear I only had my eyes closed for 30 seconds before that alarm woke the dead, but I did feel a bit better and more alert, so I continued on. As the sky grew lighter in the early morning hours, I knew that daylight would bring the end of my sleepiness and that obstacle would be overcome.

Grabbed a small coffee and drank half of it at my next stop in Ohio, as well as half a PBJ (ultimate endurance food IMO), while filling up the tank and taking a nature break. Made the run across Ohio and Indiana, somewhat familiar from my Moonshine run back in April, yet different in full daylight with no snow whirling around me! I dislike these four-lane stretches of midwest interstate, in large part due to the semis that are constantly trying to pass each other just when they hit an incline (there are no real “uphills”), and end up blocking faster traffic for the next 10 minutes…drives me crazy since most highways in New England disallow big trucks from the far left lane. Plus there simply aren’t as MANY trucks in the northeast, probably because we’re at one end of the country and a destination, rather than a route along the way to many places.

About halfway through Illinois,  now further west than I’d ever been on a bike, traffic gradually ground down to a complete standstill. I brought up Waze on my phone and found that there was a major accident a few miles ahead and no chance for an exit. I was in the left lane and a big semi in the right lane was barely keeping pace as we all inched forward. I noticed there was nobody in front of him and wondered if he was trying to merge left due to a lane closure just ahead or something like that. The space in front of him REALLY opened up, and so not wanting to develop CTS in my clutch hand, I took an opening in front of him and zoomed up the line of traffic. I saw no merging happening yet, and gradually came upon another big trailer truck basically inching forward in the right lane. Peeked ahead of him and saw open road. Zip! Around him too. Repeated this a few more times and got a couple honks. Hey, these guys aren’t civil servants, and nobody’s paying them to direct traffic. I wasn’t about to sit on my bike in this backup, which turned out to be over three miles long. I finally made it to the front and got past the accident scene pretty easily and continued on my way briskly, having lost perhaps 30 minutes in the jam.

It was neat seeing the St. Louis Arch as I rode through that city and across the Mississippi, “officially” into the western US now. I had just one final fuel stop left now in Missouri, where I donned my heated gear once more as evening drew on and it cooled back down from the slightly warmer temps in the mid-west states. I was on track for an 8pm (local time) finish and texted Steve Bracken, my ending witness, to provide an update on my progress. He texted back that he was already at the finish waiting for me! This guy is a real class act and it was such a load of my mind to know someone who understood what I was doing was there at the end of my ride to bear witness! Traffic disappeared and the speed limit increased once I crossed into Oklahoma and I just needed to stay upright now until the finish. I couldn’t wait to have some hot food and a comfortable hotel bed!

As I drew closer to Tulsa, at some point the interstate became a toll road and I had to stop and pay (no EZ-Pass out here apparently). I finally arrived in Verdigris, a Tulsa suburb, pulled off the highway and into the pumps at the Quick Trip station where I’d end my run. Steve came over as I removed my gloves to operate the pump and we introduced ourselves, me thanking him profusely for being there. For some reason I’d pictured him as a large bearded mid-west American dude (sound familiar?) and was a little surprised by the lanky clean-shaven Englishman saying hello to me! I filled the tank and got my final receipt…it was DONE! I pulled the bike over to the curb in front of the store and doffed more gear, and broke out the witness form as I talked inanely with Steve B about the ride, bikes, and rally riding. Steve understood how frazzled I was and put up with it all. I then marched inside and introduced myself to the two young fellows working the counter.

“I have a favor to ask…have you ever heard of the Iron Butt Association?”
Wary looks were exchanged.
“No I’m serious, no joke!”
One of them nodded slowly so I zeroed in on him.
“You have? They certify long distance motorcycle rides…” more nodding now. “Well I just finished riding 1500 miles in less than 24 hours. I rode here from Massachusetts and I need another witness to just come look at my odometer and sign a form saying that I was here. Would you mind doing that for me?”
Shy smile, shrug, then “Sure!”

Dylan (his name) followed me out to the bike, where I showed him the odo reading and gave him the form to fill in his contact information. We made a bit of small talk while he filled it out, and he asked if Steve B had done the ride too, but I told him he’d done it before and had just agreed to meet me there as a witness but I needed two. I then thanked HIM profusely as well and he went back in to his work.

Steve and I shot the shit a bit longer, him telling me some of the amazing tales of his past rally deeds and encounters with other LD riders. Then he took his leave, congratulating me again and wishing me well. I had another 30 miles left to the hotel, which I’d booked on the far side of Tulsa in Sapulpa, for an easier getaway west in the morning. Trying to get back on the highway, which I now remembered was a toll road, there was a coin receptacle and no other way to pay the toll. It even said “no bills”. There was no real place to turn around and I had no change, so I rode through in exhausted frustration saying “Bill me, Oklahoma”. Took the empty toll road through Tulsa, which is quite the sight at night, brightly lit signs and billboards absolutely everywhere. Pulled in to the Comfort Inn and peeled myself off the bike once more to check in.

Aaaaah. Now I could relax for the next two 500 mile days!

BBG ODO mileage: 1588
Time: 22:37

For reference: See HERE for rules and information about the BBG certification

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