Since 2012 I have attended the annual Iron Butt Association banquet held each March in Jacksonville FL. In 2014 I saw an announcement that they were offering ride in certificates, where a rider can complete a certified ride on the way to the event and will have their certificate presented to them there. Each year since then I have done a certified ride on my way to the event. In 2014 I did my 100 CCC (Coast to coast to coast in 100 hours) where I rode to Jacksonville, then San Diego CA, and back to Jacksonville. In 2015 I did my Bun Burner Gold (1500 miles in 24 hours) where I rode to Jacksonville via Mobile AL. For 2016 I was in search of a ride that I had not done before and settled on a Saddle Sore 5000 (5000 miles in 5 days), where I rode from Philly to Barstow CA, to San Diego, and then to Tampa FL.
Day 1: Philadelphia to St Robert MO – 1019 miles
My route for the day was to take the PA Turnpike out to I-70, then I-70 to St. Louis MO where I would pick up I-44 and head southwest and stop in St. Robert MO. My original plan was to leave at 5 am to beat traffic and so I could get into a hotel at a more reasonable hour. Those thoughts were dashed 2 days before I was scheduled to leave due to the weather guessers predicting snow in their forecast. Surprisingly they were correct and it did snow and as a result I had to delay my departure until approximately 7:30 am when the temperature warmed up above freezing and the traffic had a chance to melt the snow off the roads.
I had fun backing my bike down the hill in front of my garage but did so without dropping it, and then dodged the snow patches on my street until I hit the main roads which were wet. I got my start receipt at a gas station near my house but that did not have the town on it, so I went to another gas station for a good starting receipt. The riding was slow going as I was in rush hour but traffic kept moving on the PA Turnpike. The sky stopped leaking around 40 miles into the trip but temps stayed in the 30’s. As I passed into Indiana the sky cleared and I could see stars. Temps rose into the 40’s and I was able to turn the heat down on my heated gear. I stopped for the night in St. Robert MO at 12:05 am CST. Total miles were 1019 in a little over 17 hours.
Day 2: St Robert MO to Gallup NM– 1050 miles
My route for the day was to continue on I-44 to I-40 and take that west all the way to CA. I headed out around 7 am CST. And the sun was out, what a great day for a ride! My ride went as planned and had no issues. I chose to make a stop at Hideout Harley-Davidson in Joplin MO to take a short break. As I entered Texas the winds picked up which hurt my fuel economy but were nothing like what I was going to experience later in my ride. At some point in the ride the rear master cylinder started going bad and my rear brakes were soft. What is it with the state of New Mexico and my rear brakes??? I stopped for the night in Gallup NM at 10 pm MST. Total miles were 1050 in 16 hours, which included a 30 minute break at the Harley dealer in Joplin MO.
Day 3: Gallup NM to Tempe AZ– 1060 miles
My route for the day was to continue on I-40 to Barstow CA, then pick up i-15 to San Bernardino, and then take I-10 to Phoenix. I looked at the distance and it was about 915 miles. I started wondering if a Saddle Sore 5000 was 5000 miles in 5 days or 1000 miles a day for 5 days. That is a big difference. Of course I realized this after I left the hotel so I had no easy internet access so I opted to modify my route and take I-15 to San Diego and then take I-8 to Phoenix. I also realized that Winslow AZ was directly on my route and being an Eagles fan (the band) I just had to stop and stand on the corner with the statue of Glen Fry. I got on the road at 6:18 am MST and had an uneventful ride to Winslow. I didn’t realize it was such a small town and the old Rt. 66 runs right through it. I found the corner without issue and took a few pictures. As I was about to leave the gift shop across the street opened so I went in and grabbed a postcard for a friend and a couple of shirts.
After about 30 minutes I got back on the road. My rear brakes were getting worse so I started searching for a Harley dealer. And nothing … That was the first time I had been in a situation where there was no Harley dealer on an interstate highway. There were plenty 20-30 miles off my route, but I did not want to take the time. I continued on into California and the winds started picking up. At one point the winds were so heavy they blew my tank bag off my tank, across two lanes of traffic, and down an embankment. I pulled over to retrieve it and my cell phone which was in it. About an hour or two later the sky looked really bad so I pulled over and saw a weather alert on my phone. I pressed on and fought some heavy winds and some rain. To the north of me I could see heavy rain and lightning but that was moving away from me.
I reached Barstow and needed a receipt to mark the northwest corner of my route. The first station was an AMPM and they only took debit cards. Since I don’t like to use a debit card at a gas pump I went to the next station to top off. Their price: $3.69! About $1 a gallon more than the previous station down the street. Being short on time and since I was only taking 4 gallons, I topped off and turned south on I-15. Traffic was heavy in spots and winds were still bouncing me around. I stopped at one Harley dealer for a rear master cylinder but they had none in stock. As I got south of LA the winds subsided and I reached San Diego with no issues. Needing a fuel receipt to mark the southwest corner of my route I stopped for gas. Of course the receipt did not have the town on it, so I opted to run across the street to McDonalds for something resembling food. I waited in line for 10 minutes as the only person taking orders described what a Happy Meal was, what came with it, what options there were, what a combo meal was, what came with it, what sizes the drinks came in, what sizes of fries came in. Really??? Someone who has never eaten at a McDonalds before? I ordered and got my burger, ate it as I was walking back to my bike, and was back on the road finally! From there I had an uneventful ride west towards Phoenix. My GPS had me get off onto a state highway which I rode for 30 minutes or so until I got to I-10. It looked like a nice road if it were not dark. I stopped for the night around Midnight MST. Total miles were 1060 in 17 ½ hours.
Day 4: Tempe AZ to Seguin (San Antonio) TX– 1009 miles
My route for the day was simple, I-10 to San Antonio TX. Due to my late arrival and spending time catching up with a friend who had graciously offered to let me stay at his house, I slept in a few hours and left around 8:30 MST. I did have some wind but it was mainly a tail wind. Around El Paso TX the winds turned to a cross wind and bounced me around, but I really had no choice and kept going. Along the way I started questioning why I was doing this ride. Normally I am riding in rallies and have bonus stops every 100 or so miles, or I am picking up Tour of Honor memorials and have frequent stops. It is a lot better seeing 100 miles to go on the GPS than it is seeing 950! But I was committed and had to be in Tampa on Weds for work, and then had to meet my wife at the Jacksonville airport at 6pm. The rest of the ride went without issue although I had a few sprinkles of rain as I entered San Antonio. I stopped for the night in Seguin TX just outside San Antonio at 1:50 am CST. Total miles were 1009 in a little over 16 hours.
Day 5: Seguin TX to Tampa FL – 1140 miles
This was it, my final day. And I was ready to be done! My route was fairly simple, I-10 to I-12 (to bypass New Orleans) to I-10 to I-75 into Tampa. Due to the way my stops worked out this was my longest day of 1140 miles which is not something I like to do. Normally my first day is the longest due to my being fresher at the start, however the way the hotels worked out that just was not possible. If I could not make it to Tampa I could always end the ride after I had ridden 1000 miles. I knew this would be a bad day since there was a high pressure area southeast of me and a low pressure area to my southwest. To translate this, high pressure areas rotate clockwise and low pressure areas rotate counter clockwise. As a result, there was in effect a wind tunnel to my south directing heavy wind to the north. To the north of me the weather channel was reporting heavy thunder storms and a tornado or two. Staying was not an option due to my needing to be in Tampa plus it was forecast to get much worse with heavy flooding before it got better. Oh joy!
I left around 8:45 CST and had some rain and horrible winds. The rain let up after a while but the winds continued to pummel me. The winds eventually died down before I neared Baton Rouge LA, but then traffic came to a standstill. At one point I made the mistake of stopping in the center of the lane while on a bridge and all the oil made the road slick enough that my rear wheel spun when I tried to move forward. I cleared the first traffic jam and then ran into another as I got onto I-12. After losing over an hour in traffic I was finally moving again, however I was now about 3 hours behind schedule. After entering Florida I started getting tired. Eventually I had to stop at a rest stop for a 10 minute nap which helped immensely, but that only lasted until the next rest stop which was 40 miles away. I kept stopping at each rest stop for a brake and/or quick nap for about 200 miles until I got my second wind. At 6am I finally pulled into a gas station in Tampa FL and got my ending receipt. Total miles for the day were 1140 in 20 hours and 5290 miles in 5 days! I did it!
In summary, this really was not that hard of a ride for me. The actual riding was the easy part. All of the issues that came up are typical for what one would expect when crossing the country twice in a short amount of time. It is unreasonable to expect clear and perfect weather when riding for 5 days and covering that distance. My difficulty came from boredom. Also I was accustomed to having my GPS show a point that was 2 maybe 3 hours away and when I got there I’d be spending 10 minutes or so taking pictures or checking out whatever was there. Instead I was riding 300 miles from fuel stop to fuel stop, and at the first stop saying “hurray, 300 miles down” and then realizing I had 750 more miles to go and it was already 11am. And while I was questioning why I was doing this ride, once I got to Jacksonville I started thinking of what ride I would be doing next year on my way to Jacksonville. After all, it’s no fun going in a straight line …
My total trip miles counting the ride from Tampa to Jacksonville and then home was 6440 miles.