Southeast MA – New Buffalo MI
Thur – Fri, Sept 17 – 18, 2020
The bad news finally dropped…the final cancellation announcement of the Butt Lite X rally, which had previously been postponed from June to September due to the pandemic. My buddies Ken and Marc began to solidify their Plan B – riding the Iron Butt Association’s 48 State Challenge ride sometime in September. The parameters for this certification ride include obtaining a dated business receipt (DBR) from each of the contiguous 48 states within a period of 10 days, hence the ride’s more common moniker “the 48-10”.
I had work/life responsibilities to tend to this fall, and had rebuffed my friends’ invitation to join their ride. But as summer had worn on I missed the camaraderie of all the cancelled rally events. When I realized they weren’t intent on just charging around the country on interstates every day, nor trying to set any record times, my interest peaked, and I requested to join in on the trip planning. This wasn’t really a ride I’d intended to check off my bucket list anytime soon, but felt I couldn’t pass up such an opportunity to ride it alongside two companions to share in the fun and adventure.
We worked in tandem on an overall route in Basecamp and when we compared notes, the routes were very similar. After a week or two of further tweaking and nailing down specific stops and hotel options, we agreed on a workable and flexible base route, starting in Michigan and ending in Vermont.
The route would include several key destinations we were interested in visiting, including: the “Iron Butt” sign in Iowa, Sturgis SD, Lolo Pass in Idaho, and a pilgrimage to the IBA Memorial in Gerlach, Nevada. We would also be hitting some classic fun and interesting roads by remaining OFF the federal interstate system from Missoula MT all the way to Arkansas, plus a tasty detour through Kentucky towards the end of the ride. While it would still mean long hours each day, we’d be on the road mostly during daylight, with enough time budgeted for a decent rest and hopefully dinner and a beer each night. We split the route into nine days, keeping one extra day in reserve for any unforeseen complications or delays.
Once the base route was agreed, the three of us met up for a couple socially-distanced RTEs in the weeks leading up to departure to discuss logistics and share our excitement for the ride. Having prepped our bikes and ourselves last year for the Iron Butt Rally, we were already familiar with ensuring our bikes were in proper maintenance and that we were properly supplied for the journey.
After talking with Marc about his recent headset upgrade to the Sena 50S, I decided to upgrade from my Sena 20S as well, in order to enjoy the lauded benefits of mesh intercom group communications. I found a sweet deal online for the 50S dual pack and lent one of them to Ken for the trip. He was able to get it working with his 20S mount, though he’d often need to wiggle it a few times to get the connection to remain steady.
When the Butt Lite X bonus listings were finally released to allow for virtual rally routing practice, I added several of the bonii that were along our way to the route as options. We all agreed to take our rally flags with us for group photo opportunities to pay tribute to the heroic yet doomed efforts of Team Strange to put on their final flagship rally event (frackin’ 2020!).
A couple friends of ours had just recently completed their own 48-10 rides, on a somewhat different route than ours, and had experienced all sorts of weather and temperature extremes. In addition to the wildfires in the west, there had recently been snow storms in the Rockies, one major hurricane in the gulf states with another looming, and the pandemic to top it all off. We knew we had to be prepared for just about anything, but the outlook was looking better and better as our calendar window approached.
On the Thursday before departure, I left home for Ken’s place in New York state (~200 miles), to spend the night before our staging run out to our starting point in New Buffalo, Michigan. The atmospheric haze from the western US wildfires had been present for a couple days in New England, but it was especially noticeable while I was riding toward the setting sun, which looked like a fuzzy white disk in the sky.
Along the way, I couldn’t resist a stop at the Red Line Diner for a dinner salad and some delicious Dutch apple pie.
Ken and I were up early for a 06:00 start on Friday morning. We had about 750 miles to mow down today and wanted to get a full rest before the 1000+ mile day we’d be doing tomorrow. We met up with Marc along I-84 and zipped into Pennsylvania, stopping midway across the state along I-80 for a breakfast sandwich at McDonalds.
The Sena 50S headset was really making a huge difference in on-bike communications. With the mesh intercom, I was able to hear my companions (and phone calls) so much clearer and louder than with the older 20S model’s bluetooth connection. We drifted much further apart on the highway than we had in the past, without any degradation in signal quality or connection – it was really quite a useful and noticeable upgrade for group riding.
The temperatures remained very comfortable all day, ranging in the 50s and 60s. I’d worn my heated liner but never ended up turning it on today. The fair weather was only slightly offset by the presence of the wildfire haze, which lent a yellowish tinge to the sky when you looked for it. There seemed less of it closer to the Great Lakes and we would miss these bright blue skies in the days to come.
After posting our trip route track on spotwalla (awesome, if neglected feature!), I’d received a restaurant recommendation in New Buffalo from a fellow rider. I caught up to to the others and we headed straight to Redamak’s iconic burger joint, a local landmark eatery.
They seemed to be doing well with the Covid procedures, limiting indoor seating and spacing out the occupied tables. They are cash-only and the burgers are cooked any way you like them, as long as it is medium-well. 🙁
Personally, I prefer my burgers to moo at me, but still it was a satisfying meal after a day in the saddle. So hungry I failed to get the money shot.
After the meal, we agreed on a morning meeting time at the gas station and retired to our respective hotels. I stopped by the gas station to verify the receipts en route to the hotel. We had a very early start planned for tomorrow’s 1000+ miles, and I tried to get to bed as soon as I could.
47 states await!