First, a word of thanks: Thanks to my wife who, in spite of her better judgment, allowed me to go on the ride. Next, to my children, Nathan, Harmony and Joshua, who accompanied my on every mile in the “chase vehicle” encouraging me, keeping semis off my back, and keeping friends, family and others up to date with text messages and twitters. Finally, I need to thank Mike, Shelby and Ron at Scoot Over (goscootover.com) for their support. They gave me advice, free service and discounted tires etc to allow me to attempt this ride. THANK YOU everyone! I literally could not have done it without you.
I'd been mentally preparing for a year or more. Actually physical preparation has been going on for a couple of months. I had told Mike, at Scoot Over, about the ride, so they agreed to “sponsor” the ride. They gave me a tune up and did some minor adjustments after my 500 mile test run in April. They also gave me a new rear tire for their cost.
I was concerned about visibility at night, both seeing and being seen. To be seen better, I went to a bike shop and bought some highly reflective tape and “dots” and liberally applied these to the rear, front and sides of the scoot. I have a reflective vest and I also bought a “Viewpoint Flashpoint Ultra” LED bicycle taillight which I attached to my vest. I figured to have it flashing at night. Is it legal? I don't know.
To help me see at night, I attached a bicycle headlight to the right hand side of the front cowl of the scooter. I finished the 500 mile ride at night and developed a fear of hitting an animal or something at night. The light point slightly to the right in hopes of giving me an additional split-second of reaction time in the event a deer or coyote were to run in front of me. I attached it with stick-on Velcro and, of course, duct tape. The picture was taken AFTER the ride and it all held together well. Did the light make any difference? Not likely, don't waste your time if you want to see better at night. Get a “real” headlight.
Route planning – I learned, after the test ride, that stopping too frequently is a time killer. For that ride, I stopped every 50 miles. My gas gauge isn't as accurate as it used to be, so I new I could go further between stops. I also learned that the Buddy doesn't get the gas mileage that it once did, so I couldn't stretch it too far. I decided on 70 mile “legs.” This worked out pretty well. Tucson to Wilcox, AZ to Lordsburg, NM to Deming, NM to Sunset View, NM to Fort Hancock, TX to Van Horn, TX are each about 70 miles. The final leg from Van Horn to Pecos is 90+ miles with no towns in between, so I knew we would be stopping on the roadside and filling from gas cans. I brought 4 extra gallons of gas along.
Timing – I decided to leave around sundown. I wanted to finish the ride in daylight, where my natural biorhythms would help me stay awake. I am routinely awake til midnight so I knew that riding til 1:00 or even 2:00 am wouldn't all that difficult for me, consciousness wise. I still worried a lot about night riding.
DEPARTURE Tucson - Wilcox
Fellow rider, Sean Lynch, met us at Mr T's Fuel to see me off and ride the first few miles with me. Additionally, he acted as witness for my Iron Butt paperwork and he presented me with a nice Gremlin Bell. (see http://www.gremlinbells.com/ for more info if you've never heard of them.) We didn't have a zip-tie, so the bell road along inside the storage bin on the scooter. Combine that with all the prayer that my wife was providing and everything turned out great.
My official departure time, according to the receipt, was 1829. Off to Wilcox! The temperature was about 90 degrees. At the time I was leaving, I honestly figured I could do this in about 22 hours. If I averaged 50mph, that is 20 hours of travel time. Average 7 minutes per stop, times 15 stops, and that gives me about 2 hours to spare. Silly me.
Starting odometer reading: 15,979
Sean accompanied me for about 15 miles, I waved as he left the exit. The first thing I notice is “Man are these cars and trucks moving fast.” The speed limit on Interstate-10 is 75mph. A short ways outside of Tucson, I hit the fastest speed I've ever done on the Buddy, 75mph, indicated. That is about 67 “real” mph. This was on a long, 5% grade going down into Benson, AZ.
As the darkness settles in, I thought of three things: 1. “It's getting cold out here.” 2. “I forgot to turn my brand new, super bright LED, blinking taillight on.” and 3. “My shoulders hurt.”
Wilcox – Lordsburg, NM
I was cold by the time I go to Wilcox. I ditched my summer weight gloves and put on my heavier, leather gloves with wool inserts. I also put on the wind breaker that I used all winter. One of the reasons I waited until May, was I wanted night-time temps of 60 degrees or better. It's one thing to ride to work for 30 minutes with temps in the 30's, but another to ride all night, I figured. Warmer clothes on, I added 1.2 gallons of gas to the scoot, turned on the taillight and hit the road.
Lordsburg, NM – Deming
My first thoughts of quitting occur, for two reasons: first, I was so cold that shaking chills had started. My teeth were chattering. However, every time I would seriously think about pulling over, packing it in and waiting for warmer temps, I would hit a pocket of warm air and start felling better. Once at Deming, I put the liner in my riding jacket.
The other thing that gave me pause, was that my motor started missing out at times. This had happened on the test ride as well. Ron, at Scoot Over, had looked for the cause, but couldn't reproduce it. I asked on Modern Buddy, my favorite scooter forum, and still couldn't find and fix it. I did replace my fuel vacuum petcock, thinking that might help with that AND my mileage issue, but it apparently fixed neither.
The other issue that came up during this leg was speed. From Tucson to Deming is a steady climb. Yes, there are a couple of very nice downhill areas, but overall, it's climbing. Somewhere west of Deming is the continental divide, elevation 4580 feet. My speeds were frequently in the 50-55bph (buddy units per hour) meaning real speeds of 40-50mph. This was not good since I have to AVERAGE 50mph.
Deming, NM – Sunset View, NM
I'm not actually sure of the town. I was looking for the Artcraft Road exit and was almost there when I ran out of gas... the first time. I quickly pulled over, popped the seat and poured my 1 liter emergency bottle into the tank and took off. I made it 68 miles. Hmm, it's was a little too late to rethink that 70 mile per leg scenario. We went down two exits, to Artcraft Road and gassed up. Unfortunately, the lobby area had closed for the night and my daughter and I both needed a bathroom, so went went down two more exits and stopped again. Time lost. I was still a bit cold, so I put my rain pants on.
As the picture attests, I was beginning to look like the Michelin Man.
Sunset View, NM – Fort Hancock, TX
Throughout all of my route planning, I tried to figure a way to NOT go through El Paso. It's not that I've ever really had a bad driving experience there. We used to live in 1984-85. I just wanted to by-pass larger cities. It was as we were going through El Paso at 2:00 am local time that I realized I had not tried hard enough to by-pass this place. Yes, it was Friday night, but it was 2:00 am for cryin' out loud. It wasn't nearly as bad as it would be later on that same day, but maybe that's what made me uncomfortable, “If there are this many cars at 2:00 am, what will it be like 8 hours from now?” Most of I-10 though El Paso is 5 lanes wide and moving fast. The right lanes frequently “Exit Only” and then begin again at the next on ramp. I elected to stay in the middle lane all the way through the city. This perturbed a couple of people, but nothing serious.
The gas station in Fort Hancock was closed, but thanks to the magic of debit cards, we got fuel anyway.
Ft Hancock – Van Horn, TX
All the way to Van Horn, I was trying to visualize my google-map in my head. For some reason, I was recalling that the I-10 and I-20 split was west of Van Horn. A short ways outside of El Paso, there had been a sign for the exit onto Texas Highway 20. The further I went toward Van Horn, I started wondering if it had said I-20 and I had missed it. I was getting quite concernedand was trying to adjust my route in my head.
Once at Van Horn, I quickly went inside and asked how far it was to the I-10/20 interchange. “40 miles.” was the reply. With no small amount of trepidation I asked “East or west of here?” I sighed with great relief when he said “East.”
I was still cold, so it was at this truck stop that I got my first and only cup of coffee. Always wary of time, I mixed ice with it and some hot chocolate so it wouldn't upset my stomach. I downed the mixture then chase it with some ice water that I needed to take more Motrin. My shoulders were killing me, still. The net result of warming myself with coffee? Zip.
We gassed up the support vehicle (i.e. my 1997 Dodge minivan) here as well. This and the fact that I needed rest and something hot/warm to drink resulted in a 20 minute stop. Time!
Van Horn to Co Rd 216, somewhere South of Toyah, TX.
Dawn occurred shortly outside of Van Horn. Notice that I didn't say “the sun rose.” It was cloudy and dark. The difference was that now I could see a bit of landscape outside of my headlight beam. It wasn't much, but I did draw some comfort in it. However, it started as cloudy, as we turned onto I-20, it began to get foggy and as we approached Toyah, a fine mist developed. Additionally, speed continues to plague me. East of Van horn is Plateau. So called, because of it's location. We steadily climbed from Van Horn to Pecos.
I knew that I couldn't make it to Pecos without gas. I had told the kids that we would go til I ran out, pull of the road, gas and go. However, the speed limit in west Texas is 80mph. I decided to pull off when I got low, rather than risk running out of fuel on an overpass or other dangerous spot.
HALFWAY PECOS, TX!
The earlier mist advanced into a drizzle. The mist was a pain, because I had to keep wiping it off my helmet visor, but at least the road had been dry. The drizzle eliminated the dry road. Now, I was continuously wiping the visor, plus every time a truck blew past me at 80mph, I had to avoid or endure the spray from his tires. I'm wet and now I'm cold again, but I didn't want to stop, yet again, just to put on my rain jacket.
The “Flying J” in Pecos is apparently the place to be on a Saturday morning. Because of overuse, my debit card was locked down. (They warn you about this on the Iron Butt website.) I had to stand in line to prepay, then stand in line again to get my change and my receipt. I just noticed as I'm writing this, that the “prepaid” receipts don't have the time on them. I hope the Iron Butt people take note. I also had to find a witness. The young lady at the counter was swamped, so I asked another patron. Thank you Jeremy Ramsey.
Another person in line said, “That scooter sure is fast. I passed you guys back on I-10. Now you're here” Of course, he probably had the luxury of sitting down and eating real food. I ate another granola bar, fired up the bike and headed for home. It was now 11 hours and 30 minutes after we had left home. So much for that 22 hour idea.
I had two things going through my head regarding the time: “There was a lot of uphill on the way here, no we get to go down and we will make up time.” and “You may go a bit faster, but you're tired and sore and will likely need more time at each stop.” Time!
Pecos – Kent, TX
It was still drizzling, but I chose not to put on the rain jacket, because we only hit the drizzle the last few mile before Pecos.
Again, I decided to pull off the interstate before I ran totally out of gas. Put in enough gas to get to Van Horn and off we went. More drizzle.
Kent – Van Horn, TX
I wasn't hungry, but decided to grab something to eat anyway. I went into the Wendy's inside the truck stop and got a chicken “Go-Wrap.” I ate most of it, took 2 more Motrin and away we went.
Hooray! The sun came out. Once at Van Horn, I took the rain pants off.
Van Horn – Ft Hancock, TX
An army convoy, presumably from Ft Bliss in El Paso, pulled out of Van Horn right in front of us. In a car, you pass these guys because they are only allowed to drive 55mph. I knew I was not usually going 55, so I figured I would just join the convoy.
This section might be the most fun. We hit that downhill I referred to earlier and suddenly I was going 60mph, whee! Let's make up some time. We got to a steeper downhill section. I looked and there were no cars or trucks bearing down on us, so I got into the left lane went to make the first pass of the trip. I figured to pass the whole convoy. NOT!
I made it past about 3 vehicle when I noticed a semi coming up behind the van. Is it legal to merge in with a military convoy? I don't know, but that's what I did. The van squeezed in with me and let the truck go by. From that point on, I would draft the vehicle in front of me and keep an eye on fast moving traffic. When I got an opening, I would give it the gas, tuck as low as I could get and pass the next vehicle. I did this all the way til I got in front of the entire convoy.
I stayed in front of them, too, that is until I ran out of gas, again, exactly 1 mile from the “Ft Hancock 1 mile” sign post. Once more, I poured the liter bottle into the tank, hopped back on and rode into Ft Hancock.
Ft Hancock – near the Horizon City Exit, El Paso
I didn't want to risk running out of gas while on 5 lane interstate in El Paso, so I pulled onto the shoulder of the road and executed a quick pitstop. A quick fill from the gas can and off we went, with some degree of nervousness, into the city.
Near the Horizon City Exit, El Paso – Anthony, TX
“I'm alive!” I shouted to the kids as I parked at the pump at the Anthony Flying J. The sprint through El Paso was the most frightened I have even been on a scooter. I was again tempted to quit the Iron Butt, except, I knew that even if I quit and somehow found a way to get off the road, I would still have to go the rest of the way through El Paso. I kept having nightmarish visions of being sideswiped by a car then being run over by my own kids. It was awful.
Quick mental calculations (as quick as you can calculate after no sleep and 700 miles of scooter riding) showed that we were cutting it close. It was 12:30 pm,Arizona time. That meant we had 6 hours to cover about 250 miles. I couldn't remember exactly how far it was to Tucson. I chose Anthony to stop because it was clser to Deming than Artwalk Road and I didn't want to run out of gas again.
Anthony, TX – Deming, NM
That next sign read “Deming – 84 miles” Drat! Wrong again. So we pulled off at a picnic area. I ran around in circles, flapping my arms, in order to loosen the muscles of my hips, thighs and shoulders, while Nathan filled the scooter from a gas can. We couldn't skip the Deming stop because the van needed gas again as well. My pain is getting very, very intense. The Buddy is a great scooter, and I love it, but it is NOT a highway cruiser.
I am seriously doubting that I'll make it in time. An alternative plan comes to mind. I could stop the ride in Vail, AZ. That will buy 20-30 minutes. I may make it yet. Because I am having to prepay for gas and because both vehicle need fuel and because I need to eat something, this stop is longer than I would like, probably 15 minutes of precious time. I toss of piece of cheese and a small bag of Fritos down my gullet and we're off.
Deming – Lordsburg, NM
This section is unremarkable except for the fact that the scooter seems to be running a bit better. Also, as we left the gas station, I realize how much pain I'm in. I pull off and get some Aleve, from Harmony.
Lordsburg, NM – Exit 352, AZ
No time to stop at Wilcox. It has now become a real possibility that we won't make it. There are three large hills between here and home, just west of Wilcox, Texas Canyon, east of Benson, then the steep climb out of Benson, the same one that I went 75bph the night before.
The last mileage sign said it was 90 miles to Tucson and we had 2 hours remaining. I don't know how much gas I have available in cans, but made the decision to skip Wilcox, simply because of the time it takes to get off the road, over to the station, pay, fuel and get back onto the road. I know there's a rest area at the top of Texas Canyon. I planned to top off there and race to the finish. More arm flapping and running in place. Pain! Time!
Exit 352 – Texas Canyon, AZ
I ran into a swarm of something west of Wilcox. I started getting pummeled and ducked behind my windscreen. As we were gassing up at the rest area, a couple walked up, asked what we doing, then asked, “We were right behind you outside of Wilcox. Did you go through the same swarm of bugs we did?” Funny.
I flapped my arms some more and told the kids that I would decide at the Vail exit, whether or not to I would try for Mr T's. Again, I note that the scooter is running stronger. Have you ever seen how a horse acts after you've been riding for a while and then the horse realizes you're heading for home?
Texas Canyon – Finish!
The same grade of hill that resulted in 45mph speeds last evening, barely slows me to 52mph now. My son tells me that I hit 68 real mph down the hill into Benson.
I have my first close call while zooming down the hill. The entire trip, big rigs had been giving me a lot of room. Some even honked and wave. While I was going down this hill, tired, sore and hanging on for dear life, a truck truck started past me, then began drifting into my lane. He quickly corrected, so I think he might have been checking his radio or texting or something.
We got to the Vail exit and my watch said 1755. That meant 34 minutes to cover what I estimated to be 12 or 13 miles. Go for it!
I began to get very nervous coming in to town. The traffic was unusually heavy and fast. You're always reading tragic stories about people being killed just a few miles from their destination. Finally, I pulled into the station. I made it with 20 minutes to spare, according to my watch. I filled my tank from the exact pump as 23 and a half hours previous and, “damn!” it didn't give me a receipt. That's okay, I needed to get a witness for the paperwork anyway. I went in and had Jon Drake, sign my form.
Finish odometer reading 17,125
According to the Iron Butt site, it will be 2-3 months before I get the official notification. It is even possible that they they will not count my ride. I sure hope they do, but one thing is certain, my kids and I will have something to talk about for a LONG time.