A Truck and Two Saddle Sores on Two Bikes to Jacksonville

Once again it was time to start planning my ride in to the Iron Butt Association (IBA) banquet in Jacksonville FL. Each year I am faced with the same decision, head straight down and enjoy the warmth of Florida, or do some epic ride to get there. I tossed around the thoughts of doing a Saddle Sore 6,000, or 6,000 miles in 6 days and even scheduled the time off from work, but with less than a week to go I still had no route. I decided it was time to either sh!% or get off the pot, so I sat down and planned a route. I checked the weather and decided to go for it. My plan was simple. I was going to leave Friday morning around 5am and push hard the first few days by riding 1,250 or so miles for the first few days so I could get in to Jacksonville Wednesday afternoon rather than early morning Thursday.

Fortunately the bike was more or less ready. I had changed the fluids two weeks before I left and put on a new tire. The week prior I had done a Leap Year Saddle Sore on February 29th and both I and the bike had no issues. I felt both the bike and I were ready to go. Of course the day before I was to leave work was crazy and I did not get home until 7pm, so all I did was pack and head to bed.

4am came fast, and I was up, showered, and dressed by 4:50. I was out the door by 5:00 am, and gassed up with my start receipt by 5:20am

I hit the road and headed west, with my first stop being about an hour west of Tulsa. Everything was going like clockwork and I was running about 325 miles between fuel stops. It felt good to be back on the road. I had some light rain off and on thus far and the temperature was in the high 30’s to mid 40’s. I hit some traffic near St Louis because I got there around 5pm. St Louis is always a pain because there are several Interstates that intersect there plus there is quite a bit of construction going on. I entered Oklahoma and was feeling pretty good. I needed to use a restroom so I stopped at one on I-44 an hour or so from Tulsa.

Back on the road and I noticed that I was getting a little cold so I shut off my heated gear and turned it back on. Sometimes I need to recycle the controller when I stop so I thought that was all it was. A few miles down the highway was a tool booth so I stopped to pay my toll and then pulled over to the side to put my change away. That was when I saw my blasted low voltage light come one. What the bloody …

I turned down the heat and the light went out and all was well for a while, but then the light came on so I pulled the plug. I wasn’t far from Tulsa and thinking that I would be better off there than anywhere else I searched for a hotel near a Harley dealer and I found one that was less than a mile away. 20 or so minutes later I pulled into a gas station and got my end receipt for the night, I had ridden 1,278 miles in 20 ½ hours. Ten minutes later I was checked into my hotel and in my room.

Since the dealer did not open until I slept in until 8am or so. Thinking about how everything unfolded I was fairly certain the issue was because my regulator went bad. I had a pretty good assortment of tools with me but I did not have a multi meter to confirm. It was a 2 minute ride to the dealer and when I asked about a voltage regulator for a 2006 Sportster I was told the part was obsolete and not available. There is an aftermarket part available so the parts guy checked their supplier to see if an aftermarket one was available at the Texas warehouse and no luck. I was stuck.

I had been in touch with a friend of mine who lived about 2 hours away and let him know I was out of luck. He had recently had a stator go bad and while he replaced it he also replaced his regulator which was likely still good. While discussing it he offered to let me take his new regulator instead if I replaced it. I was much more comfortable with that so I agreed to buy it off him. We were trying to work out a way for me to get my hands on the regulator and due to family commitments he could not get to Tulsa until that evening. I offered to rent a car and drive to him instead.

Hertz had a location about a mile away so I rode there and picked up a car. However I had to rent the car for three days since they closed at noon on Saturday and the other in town location was not open on weekends. And of course the location I was in did not have an after-hours drop off however the other location did. Can’t anything be easy??? I figured I’d deal with that issue later, took the car, drove the 2 ½ hours to my friend’s house, pulled the regulator out of his bike, and drove back to Tulsa just as it was getting dark. I installed the regulator and … Nothing! I made a quick trip to Walmart to get a test light and multi-meter to test the stator. The good news was it wasn’t grounded which is the normal issue they have when they go bad, the bad news was it was putting out a total of 8 volts at 2,000 RPM when it should be 48 volts. Time to regroup and come up with a new plan, so I re-checked into my hotel and found some food to eat while I mapped out my options.

My options as I saw them were:

  • Leave my bike at the dealer and let them fix it, with me flying or renting a car and driving home
  • Leave my bike at a friend’s house and come back for it, with me flying or renting a car and driving home
  • Rent a truck and take it home

After reviewing all my options, renting a truck seemed to be the most cost effective and efficient. After thinking about unloading the bike from the truck I opted to rent a trailer as well. Sure it was another $100 but the thought of rolling the bike backwards down a steep, slippery aluminum ramp was not fun. Plus it’s only money! Now all I had to do was get to the U haul agent and rent a truck, return the rental car, load my bike, and head home. I drove to U haul to rent the truck and told them I would pick it up later, drove to the other Hertz location to drop it off, used Uber to get back to U haul, and then drove the truck to pick up and load my bike. With all that done it was just past noon and I was on my way.

The trip home was mostly uneventful. I drove straight through stopping for a nap as needed. I made fairly good time, getting home around 4:30 pm. I unloaded the bike, drove to the local u haul place to drop off the truck, and had my wife meet me there and take me to my storage unit to pick up another bike. I considered taking my Softail but I had not ridden it much in the past year so I opted for my 2007 Sportster. Rode that home and put it on my lift. Everything looked fine however the rear tire was shot. Fortunately the tire on my spare wheel had enough tread for the round trip to Jacksonville so after a simple wheel swap the bike was ready.

I did not plan an early departure due to the past few days. In fact, I did not even set an alarm. I got up around 9am, repacked, and loaded the bike. I was out of the house around 10:30 am and filled up. I was not planning on riding straight through but I decided to grab fuel receipts just in case. At 10:55 am on Tuesday March 10th I was ready to head to Jacksonville … again

The ride went smooth with no issues other than having to stop for fuel every 130-150 miles. That meant 9 fuel stops not counting the start and finish stops. I was feeling pretty good for the entire ride and elected to keep going. Jacksonville is only around 900 miles from home on I-95 so I kept going to Daytona Beach where I refueled and then turned around and went back to Jacksonville a little after 3am with 1,018 miles ridden in a little over 16 hours. I booked a room online in the same hotel the IBA banquet was held in and when I checked in they were able to let me keep my room for the entire 4 days I was staying there.

Wednesday morning I met up with some friends for breakfast and we laughed at how things had gone so far. I reviewed my paperwork for both saddle sores and after a brief heart attack when I thought I was 10 miles short I realized that I had written the mileage incorrectly on my start receipt for the second SS1K and all was well. With that done I had exactly no plans other than the scheduled activities for the next few days. Around noon my wife arrived and we simply spent the next few days hanging out with friends.

Friday at 4pm was the awards ceremony where most of the certificates were handed out. Of course I was 5 minutes late and my wife went up to claim mine … oops!

And just that quickly it was Saturday. After breakfast there was one more activity, ride down to Daytona Beach for the Iron Butt Rally finishers’ lunch at the pizza place rumored to be where the IBA banquet aka Pizza Party first began. It was good hanging out with other IBR finishers and the pizza was fairly good as well. At 1Pm it was time to get on the road, so we said our goodbyes and went in our different directions. The trip home was uneventful, however I did stop for few quick photo of the B-47 at the 8th Airforce Museum in Savanah GA

There was rain forecast for the trip home near the NC VA border so I stopped just before the heavy rain was starting in Wilson NC. I had received an invitation to join some friends for breakfast at 9:30 am in Annapolis MD. From my hotel it was a 4 ½ ride, so I set my alarm for 4:30 am and went to sleep.

4:30 came fast and I was up and out by 5 am, still time to make breakfast on time … If I was on my other bike with a 400 mile range. With the bike I was riding I only had a 130-150 mile range and with almost 30 miles I had at least one and maybe two fuel stops. I made it to breakfast about 15 minutes late (on time for me) and as usual the food and company were great.

After breakfast we said out goodbyes and went on our way. I opted to take the more scenic route heading across the Bay Bridge on US 50 to US 301 and ride up through Delmarva. I made a quick stop at the Massey Air museum and took a picture of my bike with their C-47 and replica Corsair. A few hours later I was home

Epilogue

Whenever something major goes wrong I make an attempt to identify the cause and what if anything I could have done differently. I had done a 1,000 mile ride the week prior as a test run with no issues, so I had not broken the cardinal rule of no major maintenance before a long ride.

I took my primary apart to identify the cause of my stator going bad and saw no smoking gun. The stator and regulator were installed during the 2017 Iron Butt Rally, with the stator being new and the regulator coming off a friend’s bike. I had probably ridden 20-30,000 miles since then. Had the regulator gone bad I would not have been surprised as it was probably 13-14 years old with 45-55,000 miles on it. But the stator has no moving parts. When I get a chance I will take it to my mechanic to see what he says. At this point in time I really don’t know what I could have done differently which is frustrating. However, I was really lucky that the charging system quit when it did. My route was straight out I-40 to California and then head south to I-10 and then east eventually picking up I-20. There is a lot of very desolate and unpopulated area along that route.

So in the end, while it sucked that my ride did not go as planned, I did make the best of it and I was lucky that it wasn’t worse.