MY 1,000 mile HOG Ride

So I concoct this plan to organize a group ride with my local Harley Owner (HOG) Group, Killer Creek Chapter #0746, Roswell, Georgia.  At our June monthly meeting I invite the ‘few hundred’ members to ride with me on a “double iron butt”, 1,000 miles out and a thousand miles back to and from my summer home in upstate New York.  It just so happens my little summer place is 1002 miles from Killer Creek Harley, give or take.  I do this with a slight trepidation that most will accept and we will then be forced to sleep stacked like cord wood at my “Little Bear Lodge”, which coincidentally sleeps about a dozen comfortably, 300 – not so much.  Initial interest is disconcertingly high.  While the National HOG frowns on long distance (Iron Butt) events, I follow up on the invitation “carefully”.  It is mentioned at our monthly dinner and I am approached by 5 times more people than I have beds, couches and cots.  ‘Oops’ was my thought.  I understand initial interest will wane but dozens of riders voice, call and email overwhelming excitement at the prospect.  A fundraising ride with 150 bikers around Roswell with police escort is one thing, but 300 bikers snaking a 1,000 miles through a dozen states beginning and ending in the dark is quite another.  Not to mention you can only fit so many people on a cot!  A skull and crossbones email is sent out by my friend Nick Sanches typed in red, bolded and all in caps with words like “RISK” and “DEATH” and “HELL”.  The crowd thins.

To separate wheat from chaff I call a meeting at a local pub a month prior to the event.  I’ll answer some questions, discuss the logistics, talk game plan, but REALLY – I’ll get to see how many people are serious.  I enter the bar a bit concerned I’ll be faced with a hundred riders but luckily, this was not the case.  I am greeted by roughly a dozen familiar faces.  All with miles under their belt, another relief.  The retired guy who rode dirt bikes as a kid and just bought his first Harley after 30 years of non riding – did not show.  The two older lady friends who just bought their first bikes (Sportsters!) after a basic rider skill course – did not show.  There is a God. We ordered food, a round of drinks and explained the trip’s overall layout.  Route, speeds, exits, time limits, emergency scenarios, Iron Butt rules, etc…  Then, the floor was opened for questions.  First questions: BoHog: “Can we all bring our guns?”  My initial thought was “Holy Shit, I’ve invited cowboys to my summer home”!!  I explain the various gun restrictions of the many states we are passing through, sorry guys, no guns.  Second question: Paul B. “Where is the best place to hide a gun on a bike”?  My second thought: “We’re fucked”!  I go home hopeful all will go well.

Ride Day:  3:00 am comes early.  It is July 18, a Thursday.  I slide out of bed trying to sneak out but Yvonne wakes and hugs me with a ‘worry hug’.  I assure her and slip to the garage.  An attempt at 6 or 7 hours of sleep is scuttled by pre-ride excitement.  No 5 year old gets a good night sleep Christmas Eve.  A quick coffee, a banana, my vitamins and I pull on leathers. A thumb to the starter and I’m rumbling through my dark neighborhood startling a young deer bed down in Lou and Deb’s flowers.  I coast where I can and ‘high shift’ to keep noise down, but I know Lou curses me this day.  I hit the 24 hour gas station to get my “time stamp” gas receipt and meet my fellow biker NAME HERE on his Ultra.  We top off and ride the 1 mile to the dealership and are greeted by Jim Nicholson and Tim Hoag waiting patiently.  They smile widely and look as if they’ve been there since midnight, anxious to roll.  Two more roll in, Don Potts and Paul Boyette, all serious riders.  Half a dozen.  A good number.  A couple more expected but do not show.  The promise of a sharp 4:00 am departure is kept.  A group photo at 3:55 am in front of the dealership sign and we head south on highway 9 and turn west on State 92.  We make the 12 miles to the 1st big interstate rumbling in 3rd and 4th gear past dark shops and empty gas stations.  Little do we now ponder the 20 hours of top gear interstate pavement pounding we have embarked upon.  Temps are cool and we are all but alone snaking through suburbia.  We lean right through the entrance ramp and throttle up to cruising speed on I-75 northbound quickly with no traffic, no fanfare and no sunlight.  20 miles down and 80 miles to Chattanooga with full tanks of gas we quickly settle into a 75 mph rythm.  We get our ‘group legs’, and quickly are roaring nearer 80 in a tight staggered formation 30 yards long.  It’s as if we’ve ridden together for years.  We all have our place and our purpose in the pack.  Almost a thousand miles to go and I am sure all are as giddy as school kids.  We are fresh and rested.  There is no fatigue, no cramps, no chafe, no boredom, no hunger, no doubt and no regret.  These will all come and ebb and flow, then recede like a tide in the final miles.  The bikes purr like kittens in the cool morning air and I scoff at the mere 980 miles before me.  We pass Chattanooga and a calm fluidity comes over the pack.  This shall be conquered.  The first gas stop is a pleasant affair 125 miles in and we joke and take pictures reminding each other to “get your gas receipt”.  Smiles abound on all faces and confidence exudes from our pores.  The plan is to stop every 125 miles or so.  First light comes closer to Knoxville.  My trip log shows gas was taken on in approximately 125 mile increments.  The first at Bulls Gap, TN at 8:45am, then Wytheville, VA just past 11:00 am and a short lunch break with gas was taken at Buchanon, VA at the 500 mile mark mid afternoon.  We decompressed at “Good Times Café” a little biker honky tonk in a small country town just off the interstate.  It is mid day and temperatures were well over 90 degrees and our oil surely thin as water.  In the bar’s lot the bikes pinged and panged as they figuratively panted like ponies tied outside a saloon.  Inside the bar we sucked in the air conditioning and drank copius volumes of ice water.  This is where the leather Vanson riding pants, despite perforation, became too much for me.  Off with the leather and on with the ‘kilt’ which if you didn’t know is the customary attire of my forefathers worn on special occasions like weddings and war.  I was desperate for air flow in the nether region and there’s nothing like a kilt at 80 miles per hour to air things out!  It raises eyebrows and draws comment mostly from middle aged women at gas stops.

The second 500 miles was not quite as easy as the first.  After 500 miles at highway speed fatigue builds exponentially.  If tired were a “2” after 500 miles it is not a “4” at 1,000 – it is a “10”.  Preemptive Advils are digested by most of us and we trail “Monkey Butt Powder” from filthy gas station bathrooms.   The rest stop gags and jokes abate.  All know that the 1,000 miles within time restraints means no group fail if a bike craps out.  We ride as a group, but mechanical problems become the demise of the rider’s effort not the group’s goal.  We all watch each other’s bikes, listening, checking, and hoping.  We become less playful after 6 or 8 hundred miles.  The heat wears us down.  I secretly assess the faces of my comrades at each gas stop for fatigue.  I ponder their metal and question my own.  No one mentions stopping.  All focus on the goal, 1,000 miles or bust.  Virginia being the longest state at 340 miles of the trip, we gas up there three times.  The last gas is VA at Mt. Crawford around 4:00 pm.  The heat beats us down and I consume 30 ounces of water between each stop groping for Dasani bottles perched in my tank bag.  I realize I consume over 3 gallons of water on the road and sweat all of it out.  The sun rose on our faces but sets on our backs.  Gas in Carlisle PA comes at 7:00 pm at mile 725.  Temps finally drop below 90 degrees.  We calculate 1 more gas stop and that’s made at Greentown PA at 11:00 pm.  We are about to straddle 2 days and have gone from departure in darkness and ridden the course of an entire days sunlight.  We will roll several more hours in darkness before our destination is reached.  This is the dangerous time.  Fatigued, drained, dark, mistakes creep up on the most careful rider now.  Vigilance is urged.  Any arrival before 4:00 am at the 1,000 mile mark ushers success.  We calculate a several hour margin of victory.  Failure is only possible by way of wreck, break down, traffic or loss of will, though none would be the case.  We pull into the driveway of the “Little Bear Lodge” and the porch lights are on.  1,005 miles on my clock, 1027 miles on Jim’s!  My nieces are seated atop the deck cheering our early Friday am arrival.  Their boisterous nature is explained by the empty Jameson bottle perched between them.  It is 1:30 am.  We all smile.  We chest bump, sip whisky and start the fast descent to sleep.  On the front porch we fade and make our way to bunks and beds.  I did not dream that night.  The sun rises to wake us and I am sure we all wake with smiles on faces despite sore asses.  It is done!

This endeavor is casually spoken of by many.  It is planned by some but actually accomplished by only a rare few.  To do it as a group is yet another feat.  Six souls working 1,000 miles across these United States in 24 hours is no small chore.  It was done with these men seamlessly, efficiently and safely, but I cannot say easily.  Jim, Don, Dave, Tim, Paul, ALL have big respect from me.  I did not know the stamina of these men a year ago.  I know their metal now.  We got the T-Shirt, we registered the “Iron Butt”, we can claim the feat as our own, but for me, it may be a while before I do another.  Maybe next summer.  It could be an annual tradition?  A reason to keep sharp, stay young, hit the gym, log the miles and keep the Jameson stocked at the Little Bear Lodge.

Well, signing off for now.  Remember, ride hard, ride safe, and in the end make sure you ride home.  Written by Steve Murrin, The Original Biker Lawyer.

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