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(Close to) Border to Border on a motorcycle

September 3, 2013

Note:  This post has taken a bit more time to write than I thought it would.  I took this trip a few months ago and am just finishing it now.

PRELUDE

About five years ago, October of 2008 to narrow it down a little, my brother and I decided to try a type of motorcycle riding that was new to both of us – long distance riding.  Depending on who you are and what your riding style is, long distance riding could mean anything from 100 miles in one day to 10,000 miles or more in one multi-day trip.  For us, long distance riding meant an attempt to ride more than 1000 miles 24 hours.  The event was the 2008 Land of Enchantment (LOE) 1000 Rally.  That ride is a story in itself, but the end result was that we both finished the ride in less than 24 hours with more than 1000 miles under our belts, earning both of us the (possibly) prestigious SaddleSore 1000 certification from the Iron Butt Association.

Many times since that ride I have considered attempting another long distance ride.  I think my brother even thought about it once or twice.  At first, thoughts about another long ride reminded me of the rain and fatigue we endured during the LOE 1000.  As time passed, the negative memories faded and the idea of a new challenge rose to take their place.  By the time I was able to attempt another ride, the challenge I had made for myself was to ride 1000 miles in less than 24 hours and then follow that up with another 500 miles in the next 12 hours, giving me a total of 1500 miles in 36 hours or less.  The actual certifications for those rides are the SaddleSore 1000 for the first 1000 miles in 24 hours, and then a Bun-Burner 1500 miles for the entire trip.

Fast-forward to July of this year.  I was set for my second big ride of the summer.  I was at the end of my work hitch in North Dakota and had my V-Strom with me.  The ride I planned out started at my work-house in Dickinson, North Dakota, passed through my home in Rock Springs, Wyoming, and ended up in Tucson, Arizona before returning to Dickinson.  The leg between my home and Tucson was where I would attempt my SaddleSore and Bun-Burner rides.

V-Strom-Camping-Devils-TowerI was able to leave Dickinson the night before I originally planned to leave, so I made a side trip to Devil’s Tower in Wyoming.  It was dark when I made it to the KOA campground at the base of Devil’s Tower, so I wasn’t able to take any pictures and had to set up my tent in the dark.  The next morning I was able to get some pictures.  The weather was…  What?  Yes, I do actually carry a tent and sleeping bag with me on these rides, and yes, I do occasionally sleep in them.  Anyway, as I was saying, the weather was great in the morning.  I rode up to the base of Devil’s Tower, walked around for a bit, and took a few pictures.

While I was walking around I realized that in the back of my head I was looking to see if anything I was seeing now, other than Devil’s Tower itself, looked like anything I saw when I watched the movie “Close Encounters of the Third Kind”  V-Strom-Devils-TowerI didn’t see anything that looked familiar, but then again, I haven’t seen that movie in over 15 years.  I may have to watch it again just for good measure.

After walking around and taking more pictures (yep, my whole life is pretty much a Kodak moment…) I jumped on the bike and headed home for a few days.  I had to rest up for the ride to come.

By the time I made it home my ride had covered about 675 miles and three states (North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wyoming).  I thought about trying to include Montana in this trip, but decided against it.  The benefit of saying I went to Montana in this trip just wasn’t worth the time the side trip would have taken.  Another day…

DAY 1

Three days later I was ready for the meat of the ride.  The plan was to head east along Interstate 80 from Rock Springs, Wyoming to Julesburg, Colorado, turn south until I get to Amarillo, Texas, and then head west on Interstate 40 Santa Rosa, New Mexico – in one day.  That route should have given me about 1,030 miles for the first day.  After a short nap I planned on continuing west on Interstate 40 and then making a left turn at Albuquerque (sorry about that, I had to…), heading south to Interstate 20, and staying on I-10 to Tucson, AZ.  That day’s ride would add another 600 miles or so to the total.   The plan was ready.

Welcome-to-Nebraska-V-StromI left my house about 7:00 am, fueled up, and found somebody to sign the starting affidavit (required for the certifications issued by the Iron Butt Association).  The weather was great:  clear, a bit cool, and a very light wind.  Other than riding into the morning sun things couldn’t be better.  Traffic was light, and the law enforcement presence was even lighter – in other words, I made great time to Nebraska.

Welcome-to-Colorado-V-StromBy the time I reached Julesburg and turned south towards Amarillo the winds were blowing enough to make riding a bit difficult when they were crosswinds.  Can I just say that heavy crosswinds make riding very difficult.  I would rather ride in the rain than in crosswind.

Other than the wind the weather was still very nice.  The temperature was not too hot and still there were not many clouds – yet.  Continuing south I made it to Oklahoma in the afternoon.  Shortly after entering Oklahoma I started to see a line of puffy, white clouds to the southwest.  As I worked my way south the clouds made their way east, getting darker all the while with rain starting to fall from them.  I was going to get wet.

Welcome-to-Oklahoma-V-StromRiding in the rain, especially in the daytime, is not a problem as long as I have the proper rain gear.  I do – now (yes, there have been situations both on and off motorcycles when that wasn’t the case).  About ten miles north of the Texas border the rain and I did indeed meet.  The meeting was preceded by an awesome view of a rainbow.  I had to stop, in the rain, and get a picture (you can see the rain in the picture below).9319843050_28c8b81324_o

The rain didn’t last long.  By the time I crossed into Texas the rain had stopped, though I did ride through a couple of light showers before I reached Amarillo.  Also, with the passing of the storm the winds died down.  I would once again be riding in a vertical orientation while riding down a straight road.  Cool…

Welcome-to-Texas-V-StromThe rest of the ride was relatively uneventful.  By the time I reached Amarillo the sun had set and I was riding in the dark.  By now I had been riding for about twelve hours and was starting to get a little tired.  If I was taking this ride several years ago I would have loaded up with Mountain Dew and just buzzed my way to Santa Rosa.  Recently I swore off most soft drinks and have limited myself to Coke Zero (my new caffeine crutch) to keep me awake.  The coke did it’s job (well, the coke and the stench from the many cattle feed lots between Amarillo and Santa Rosa…) and I was able to drive on to the west along Interstate 40.

Welcome-to-New-Mexico-V-Strom

I crossed into New Mexico in the dark and saw a “Welcome To…” sign that I had never seen before.  It went all the way across the road and it was fully reflective.  Due to the height of the sign, the way my flash reflected off the sign, and possibly my general state of fatigue, I could not get a great picture, though the best one I did get is interesting to look at.

Shortly after midnight I pulled up to the Love’s Truck Stop in Santa Rosa, New Mexico, got the ending affidavit for the SaddleSore 1000, found a hotel ( if I had seen a campground I would have used it, but I didn’t…).

Day 1 totals:  17 hours and 24 minutes,  1,030.4 miles based on the GPS, not the bike’s odometer.

DAY 2

I woke up feeling better than I thought I would.  17 hours on a bike is still 17 hours on a bike, and no bike is comfortable enough to easily spend that much time on it.  That said, I still felt pretty good – no stiffness or pain.  I was ready to keep going.  I packed up, loaded up, and started riding.  Again, the weather was just about perfect.

After a quick stop to visit my mother (I was on a tight schedule and didn’t have much time to spend dilly-dallying) I turned left in Albuquerque and headed south towards Hatch, New Mexico.  At this point I had about 10 hours to go another 400 miles to finish my Bun-Burner 1500 and about another 100 miles to go after that.

Welcome-to-Arizona-V-Strom

Short of fuel and bathroom breaks I don’t think I made any unnecessary stops until I hit the Arizona border.  The ride was getting a little old by that time and I was just about ready for it to be done.  I continued west until my GPS said I had traveled over 1550 miles.  The next gas station would be the end of my timed ride.

As luck would have it the next gas station was about a mile away.  I pulled up to it, got gas, and had somebody sign my final affidavit.  I had gone 1551.4 miles in about 34.5 hours.  The rest of the trip would be done at my pace…

Saguaro-SilhouetteWith the weight of the personal challenge off of my shoulders I was able to slow down and look around.  I’m glad I did.  Although I have been all over the country, I don’t remember ever seeing  a Saguaro Cactus in real life.  As I approached Tucson I passed a valley that had several cacti.  Now that I had seen a saguaro in real life the trip had become a double success.  OK, so the picture on the right doesn’t show any of the cacti I originally saw, but I did take that picture and it is a picture of a saguaro cactus, so deal with it.

V-Strom-CVMA-on-windshieldIn order for the next paragraph to be fully understood, I have to step back and let you know what I was wearing on this ride.  For the most part I looked like any other long distance rider – in other words, I looked like the silver Power Ranger.  In addition to the helmet, gloves, riding jacket, and riding pants I was wearing a black leather vest with a patch for the Combat Veteran’s Motorcycle Association on it.  Without the vest and patch I don’t think the event in the next paragraph would have happened.  Then again, the stories I can tell about events like this one are some of the main reasons to go on adventures like this ride.

I don’t remember offhand, but I’m guessing that it was late afternoon when I finally pulled up to the gates guarding my brother’s neighborhood.  People were coming home from work.  Later on, after this event, I would notice that as people would drive through the gate they would normally keep driving assuming that no riff-raff would follow them through the gate and into their neighborhood.  As I rode up to the gate, I realized that I didn’t know the code to open the gate.  I pulled out of the main lane of travel to the side of the road, but still close enough to the gate that people could tell I was trying to go through the gate, and called my brother.  While I was on the phone getting the code to open the gate, several cars passed by me, drove through the gate, and then waited for the gate to fully close before continuing down the road to their respective destinations.  I know it had to be the vest and patch that were causing that reaction because my motorcycle looks a lot like my brother’s bike.  Most people would confuse the two with just a casual glance.  I’m pretty sure that without the vest most of the people would have thought I was my brother, if they gave it any thought at all.  I don’t know why I thought that situation was so funny, but I did and that’s that.

I got the code to go through the gate, found my brother’s house, and finished the day’s ride.  My mileage total since I left North Dakota was just over 2,300 miles.  I was ready for a vacation…

VACATION

The next few days were a blur of golf watching (live and televised), rain, cats, and a comedic rendition of Spider-man (Spider-guy, actually), all lightly marinated in beer and wine.  As far as golfing went, if we weren’t watching golf on television it seemed as though we were out playing golf.  OK, playing may be stretching things a bit.  Due either to an old injury or a severe lack of talent, I spent most of our golf time driving around in a cart making snide and/or sarcastic comments about golf shots knowing full well that I wouldn’t have to back up any of the comments by making better shots.  Yeah, life was pretty good.

Golfball-CactusI took plenty of pictures while we, uh, they were golfing.  I had that kind of time because I didn’t have to look for my golf ball every 15 minutes.  Anyway, as I said, I took plenty of pictures.  I will only show two of them here, though many of the others will be in the gallery below.  The photo to the right is of a saguaro cactus that had the bad luck to live right next to a tee box.  I don’t think all of those holes are accidental…  I saw several other cacti with holes in them.  I guess I never really considered the destructive capacity of a poorly struck golf ball.

The next pic shows the “Airplane Graveyard” on Davis-Monthan Air Force Base.  The golf course on the base gets very close to the graveyard, also known as the airplane boneyard.  If you saw the 1987 movie “Can’t Buy Me Love” with Patrick Dempsey, you may recognize the place.

Airplane-Graveyard

Mike-Saguaro-CactusV-Strom-Saguaro-CactusBack to the saguaro cacti.  I didn’t know how tall they could grow until this trip.  Over the course of my travels I took a couple of pictures that really give viewers a good feel for just how big these cacti can get.  On the left is my brother with a cactus near his house.  On the right is my V-Strom with a random roadside cactus.  Up close they are both huge compared to the mental image I had in my mind.  Yep, these things get big.

As I look over this overdone essay, I notice that I seem to be fixated on these saguaro cacti.  I’m not really sure why.  Probably the best reason I can think of is that I watched WAY to many Road Runner and Wiley E. Coyote cartoons as a kid.

One last note about the Tucson area before I start to wrap this up.  During the monsoon season, which conveniently started just as I was getting there, rain storms build up quick, dump a load of rain, then go away.  In any other part of the country this wouldn’t be a problem.  In Tucson, the entire south west actually, this leads to flash floods.  Other parts of the south west spend money developing a drainage plan that includes the proper infrastructure necessary to drain water away without flooding roads and houses.  According to my brother, the plan Tucson developed had only one expenditure – buy lots of signs that say low spots in the road may flood and become impassable.  To their credit, about every place I saw one of those signs the road flooded and became impassable.  Good for you, Tucson…

THE TRIP HOME

The start of my trip home was delayed by flooded and impassable roads.  At least I think they were still impassable from the storms the night before.  It was hard to tell from my bed.  At any rate, I did finally leave after the obligatory pictures of me and my brother standing by our motorcycles, what?  Just the bikes?  OK, after the obligatory pictures of our bikes…  As I said, they are somewhat similar in appearance.  My bike is on the right.  Both are made by Suzuki.  Mine, as I may have mentioned, is at V-Strom 1000, his is a Bandit 1250.

Casey-and-Mike-Suzuki-Motorcycles

Pictures done, I headed off towards Las Vegas.  Somehow I managed to slip between all of the monsoon rains for that afternoon.  As I was getting fuel near the Nevada border I saw on the local news that some people had to be rescued from flooded areas in Tucson.  Guess it’s time to put up more signs.

V-Strom-Camping-Lake-MeadMy original plan was to find a hotel in Vegas, spend the night, and get an early start.  Somewhere during the ride I realized that the words hotel, Vegas, and early start never occur in any sentence that describes what actually happened in Vegas.  Instead, I camped on the shore (more or less) of Lake Mead.  My only comment about that night is that I had forgotten how completely uncomfortable it is camping when the low temperature for the night is still in the high 80’s and there is very little wind.  Sleeping in a tent that is really nothing more than an oversized body bag didn’t help the situation much.

V-Strom-Hoover-Dam-Bridge

I did get my early start the next morning and went back over the newly built Mike O’Callaghan-Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge.  I had already crossed over the bridge the night before, but it was too dark for me to really see anything.  The last time I had seen the bridge was in April of 2009.  At that time both ends had been built, but the middle section was not complete.  I also crossed over Hoover Dam, mostly just because I could.

Before I pointed north and headed home I had a little score to settle with Las Vegas.  No, nothing gambling related.  My April 2009 trip to Las Vegas was a combination elope/wedding/honeymoon for me and my wife.  During that trip we rented a motorcycle and cruised around the area.  One of the sights we wanted to see was the cheesy “Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas” sign.  When we went looking for that the sign on that trip we just missed finding it by about two blocks.  When we went to Las Vegas for a family Christmas trip last year we found the sign, but I needed a picture of the sign with a motorcycle…

V-Strom-Las-Vegas-Sign

Haaa!!  Take that, Vegas.

As you can see, I got my picture.  Now I was ready to go home.  I didn’t see anything picture-worthy between Las Vegas and home, so the trip was fairly quick.  I got home just after dark, put the bike in the garage, and let out long thank-God-that-is-over sigh.  Yep, it was all over but the paperwork, which I would have to complete and send in before I received any of the distance riding certifications I was after.

A couple of days later I took my Goldwing back up to North Dakota.  My V-Strom was in serious need of TLC.  The tires were about shot and the chain/sprockets were shot.  I’m pretty sure the V-Strom is done for the summer.  I may have it up and running before winter, but I’m not in any real hurry.  I’m about biked out…

Over the 12 days of that trip I covered just about 4,000 miles using two motorcycles.  These are the states that I touched some part of during the ride.  Although I was never actually at either the Canadian or Mexican borders, I was close enough to make the title correct.Tucson Ride States Visited Map

G26

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7 Comments
  1. dancarne permalink

    Great blog. So humble. What a great trip. Loved all the pictures. Very inspiring trip.

    Like

  2. Awesome trip!

    Like

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. SaddleSore 1000 and Bun-Burner 1500 in one trip - Stromtrooper Forum : Suzuki V-Strom Motorcycle Forums
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