September 14 & 15, 2013
Sometime during the beginning of 2013 I stumbled upon ironbutt.com and the Iron Butt Association. Without being too over dramatic, I had found the purpose for my motorcycle.
I am the type of person who loves road trips. I don't give a crap about where we're going - in fact I'd sooner just turn around once we got there and head somewhere new. I love the journey. I'd often joked that my idea of a good vacation was to just drive. Not necessarily go anywhere, but just to drive. Add in a motorcycle, and you've got long distance motorcycling.
This would be the farthest, by far, that I'd ridden at any one time, but never mind that! What a great excuse to spend the entire day on the bike.
I toyed with an out and back on I-90 into Montana, but eventually decided on going around the Olympic Peninsula on US-101, then to I-90 to Exit 34 in Idaho, then back Lacey. I figured it would take somewhere in the neighborhood of 18-20 hours to complete.
I decided to take some vacation time from work, so I decided that September 14, 2013 would be the day. When I mentioned what I was planning to some people at work, the reactions ran the gambit of "That doesn't sound like fun..." to "Are you insane?" The latter was an actual quote, and probably fairly accurate.
At this point, I did not have a GPS, so I'd be doing all my navigation by hand. Not that it was that hard. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to follow a few highways that I'd driven on many times before.
I woke at about 4:30 for a planned departure at 5:00 the morning on September 14. For whatever reason, my mind works in mysterious ways and it occurred to me that it must be very close to the one-year anniversary of the day I purchased my bike. Gee, that's interesting. But...wait...if I bought my bike a year ago, that means my registration is due. A quick check of my registration and lo and behold! My tabs had expired three days previously. Great! After a moment of panic, I realized that the tabs themselves were less important than whether Mr. Police Officer's computer showed the license as valid. With this in mind, I jumped on the Department of Licensing's website and renewed the tabs online. I'd pick them up after I got back.
With this crisis averted, I finished packing the new things I needed and had my wife take my picture. Then finally, after nearly a year of contemplation, I was off. First stop, the gas station down the street to get a receipt, which would be my official start time.
I arrived at the station, which was not surprisingly closed and filled up at the automated pumps. I made sure to hit "Yes" when asked if I wanted a receipt, only to be greeted with the message, "Receipt Available Inside" Wonderful.
After a moments internal debate, I decided not to chance it on another pump, and instead headed down the street for a station that was open. I found one about half a mile away and put nearly half a gallon of gas in the bike, but most importantly got my receipt. The ride could start now. I got on I-5 towards WA-8, towards the coast.
The first stop was in Hoquiam, WA to document that corner of the circle around the Olympic Peninsula. I didn't need to stop for gas, but I had to document that I hadn't take some short cut and was cheating. So I stopped and got gas. It had started raining too, so it was also a nice excuse to wipe off my visor. I'd chosen to wear my mesh jacket, having not been baptized into the church of LDComfort, so I was a happy to see that I was staying dry under the liner of the mesh jacket.
On the way out of Hoquiam, I made a wrong turn and had to turn around, but soon I was on my way north on US-101. The road, was predictably, pretty empty at this time of the morning and I saw very few cars until I reached Amanda Park, WA near Lake Quinault and spotted a port-a-potty on the side of the road, which was very timely. It was raining fairly hard at point, and I was pleased how the bike was handling.
Next stop was Forks, WA. If you just wondered to yourself, "Oooo, did you see any vampires?" you've just lost your Long Gone reading privileges. Go to another website and never come back. Forks is a logging town and anyone who looked/acted anything like a vampire would likely be tarred and feathered. Riding a BMW into town even turned a few heads, though anything that wasn't a truck jacked up a foot and a half was probably likely to do so. All that aside, I needed gas receipt and food, both of which Forks was able to provide for me. The rain at let up, but it was still pretty cold and I was thankful for the heated grips.
This stretch of road was one I was really looking forward to. I'd never been north of Amanda Park on US-101, and was really looking forward to some cool views of the ocean. However, while the road is right next to the shore, there are lots of trees between the road and the shore. So no cool views, only a few fleeting glances of the grey.
As US-101 turned back to the east, the sun finally broke through the clouds and the rain finally stopped. From there, my next stop was Port Angeles where I came to the realization that I had not grabbed my spare battery for my cell phone. This normally wouldn't be a big deal, but I really didn't want to get stuck in the middle of eastern Washington and not be able to call my wife. I called my wife from Port Angeles and arranged to meet her at my next gas receipt stop in Tacoma. The timing worked out pretty good and I arrived about 10 minutes prior to her. Communication on the other hand, did not work out so great, as she didn't quite understand why I didn't want to take a break to have brunch with her and my three year old daughter. A quick thank you and I was once again off.
Tacoma also brought the only real traffic of the trip, though it really couldn't have been avoided. At some point I was going to need to cross over I-5, at which point I was pretty much going to hit traffic. So I wasn't shocked when I did. Luckily it wasn't for long and after 15 minutes or so, I was back up to speed and headed for WA-18 and then on to I-90.
At the summit of Snoqualmie Pass it was starting to warm up, so I stopped to change into my mesh pants and remove the liner from my jacket. Now, less sweaty, I pressed on.
Riding across eastern Washington on I-90 is...well not too exciting. The road is pretty much straight as an arrow and you are surrounded by range land. You'll forgive me if I gloss over this part of the ride. Needless to say, I got gas a few times and that was the majority of the excitement.
Long about 6:00, I arrived at Exit 34 and ID-3 just outside Coeur D'Alene. I had scoped out a gas station a mile or so off the freeway, and headed there despite passing another station that was just off the freeway. I got gas, something to eat, and hit the head. Before I got back on the bike, I double checked my gas receipt. This one was also critical to have the address and correct time on it. Upon review....WRONG TIME! Dammit. The very nice cashier wrote the correct time on the back of the receipt, but I wasn't taking any chances on this. I went back to the station that I'd passed and got gas again. This receipt had the correct time.
Heading back west, I was greeted by the setting sun. After my retinas were sufficiently burned, the sun finally set and I settled in for the long haul back across eastern Washington. I quickly determined that the my headlights were vastly inadequate for speeds of 70 mph and spent most of the rest of the trip cursing the BMW engineers who were responsible for headlight design.
At this point, I could definitely tell that I had been on the bike for a long time, but I wasn't tired. I was really just ready to off the bike for a while. When I wasn't cursing the BMW engineers for the design of my headlights, I was cursing them for the design of my seat. When I first got the GS, I was amazed how much more comfortable the seat was from my KLR 650. This trip proved that the KLR's seat must have been barbaric, because the stock seat on the GS sucked ass. On one of my final fuel stops, I realized that I was numb from about my belt line to about halfway down my thigh. Everything... (This went away after a few days.) A new seat would be right after auxiliary lighting.
I arrived back in Lacey around midnight, pretty much on schedule. I decided to go to another gas station for my ending gas receipt. I was so excited to be done that I forgot to look at the receipt before I shoved it in the tank bag. For whatever reason, this gas station didn't print their address on receipts generated at the pump. I went back the following morning and got the manager to print out something from their system and hand write the address and sign it.
Luckily that was good enough for the IBA. I gathered up all my receipts, made copies and sent it all off to be blessed by the IBA. About two months later, I received an email from Michael Kneebone saying that my ride had be certified and I was now member 56,816 of the Iron Butt Association. To say I was excited would be an understatement.
- New equipment will be required:
- Additional lighting;
- New seat;
- Cell phone charger;
- Carry oil. After I started the bike a few days later the oil light came on and I was down about a quart;
- Plan a route that doesn't have so many "corners" that require gas receipts. I wasted a bunch of time getting receipts when I didn't need gas;
- More time in the saddle.
- Fewer breaks early in the ride so more can be taken later in the ride.