As I started working on this ride report I happened to go through some old emails and stumbled across a few conversations I had with Greg Rice and Rob Wilensky back in June of 2010 regarding some brain storming on a future Bun Burner Gold attempt, BBG. [For those who may not be familiar with this, a BBG is to cover 1500 miles in less than 24 hours.] So if I trace it back, I guess I can honestly say, yes, I do know when this madness started. Also, I would like to note that I believe that was around the same time that the certificates and IBA backing plates arrived in the mail after my father and I completed our SS1000.
After completing the SS1000 in March of 2010 and realizing that the ride “wasn’t that bad,” I started throwing around the idea of attempting a BBG. First things first, throw together some half-ass route and see what the miles come out to be. After a few hours of scratching my head and looking at the mileage and estimated time frame, I was puzzled. Most of my routes were to be completed in 23 hours and 45 minutes. Now, I am not much of a betting man, but I could easily see that those odds weren’t too good. So I did what any logical person would do and started talking to people that have completed the ride before and started asking questions. The first email I sent was to Greg Rice who had completed a BBG Trifecta in March of 2009 if my memory serves me correct. This ride involves doing 3 BBG’s back to back in three days. If anyone knew any tips/tricks to completing a BBG on time and safely, I was pretty darn sure he would!
After a couple days of chatting back and forth I began talking with another IBA member, Rob Wilensky who said in his first email to me. “More importantly though is that a little birdie mentioned a BBG. Guess the bug has bitten you huh? When and where?” It was then that I realized word travels fast in the long distance (LD) community.
Fast forward to the January of 2011, we are in the middle of a cold winter in NC but Dad and I have decided to attempt the BBG the first weekend in March on the way to the annual IBA party in Jacksonville, Florida during Daytona Bike week. Also, I have invited one of my good friends from Harrisburg, North Carolina; Mr. Hammer down Brown (Mike Brown) to ride with us. We have picked a couple possible routes for this ride figuring that we would choose the one that makes the most since given weather and road conditions at the time of the ride. Planning of these routes included finding gas stations every 170 miles or so, setting them as scheduled 15 minute stops within Microsoft Streets and Trips, then calling them to make sure that their pumps would be on for use 24 hours a day. I was planning out every detail it seemed in hopes to prevent the simplest thing keeping us from completing the ride. The route we finally decided to go with took us from Concord, NC to Slidell, Louisiana across I-10 to Lake City, Florida. Then headed south down I-75 to Tampa then back up to Jacksonville, Florida via I-4 and I-95. The weekend before the IBA party, my father, Mike Brown and I got together for a little shake down ride and to discuss the plans and start time for the ride. In attempt to avoid Atlanta traffic we decided to leave Thursday morning at midnight which would put us in Atlanta around 3:00am.
The three of us had to work the Wednesday before and I had to drive from Raleigh to Lexington. The difficult part came when we had to force ourselves to sleep that Wednesday afternoon.
Wednesday at 3:30pm I ran out of work and headed home to grab the dog and then to Lexington. (This is becoming a usual thing for me it seems) After I got home I unloaded the dog I made my way into town and had dinner with Alicia and her mom before taking a couple hour nap. Dad and I finished the bike prep and had all the gear loaded up the weekend before so that when the time came all we had to do was check the tire pressure and ride. I might have slept an hour or so during my nap, but for the most part I simply laid there and ran over all the things I had packed and what I might need. Finally at 10pm I gave up, took a shower, ate some food and began suiting up and doing the last minute checks. Dad was on my heels doing the same thing and as we open the doors to the shop we are greeted with a nice cool breeze and rain. After watching the weather channel for the past week, we had a feeling this would be the case but it always sucks to find out they were right when it comes to rain… Fortunately the rain had slowed quite as bit as we made our way out of the neighborhood and on to I85 to meet Mike Brown and our starting witnesses in Concord, NC.
Two of my good friends from Charlotte, Jeff Buraglio and Travis Smith, met the three of us at the BP station off Speedway Boulevard to witness the start of the ride. When Dad and I arrived, they were loitering around the front door of the gas station and Mike was sitting at the pumps talking to a friend of his that had come down to witness for him as well. After signing all the papers, we fueled up the bikes to complete the first stop and headed off with the official start time at 00:10. (12:10am)
Mike led us out of the gas station and I suppose we were all still trying to burn the midnight fog off as we blindly followed Mike onto I85 north! It all dawned on us that something wasn’t right as we exited the on ramp. Unfortunately the next exit was 3 miles up the road, we made the turn around a few later and headed back south. We were off to a great start...
Roughly 60 miles later we found ourselves heading into the most dreaded part of the entire ride, Atlanta. The traffic rolling into the outskirts of Atlanta had remained very light and with this we decided to go on through the middle. When planning the route I ran the mileage for going through the center and compared it to hitting 285. S&T confirmed that it was a mile shorter to go through the middle and since we weren’t too concerned with losing one mile we took the more direct route.
If my memory serves me correct, just about the time we made our way past the 285 interchange and into Atlanta, the bottom fell out. After riding the past 100 miles without a bit of rain I figured we were through it, wrong. It was raining so hard that we had to back off the pace a good bit as the puddles on 85/20 were rather substantial. Roughly 5 miles into the down poor I started to regret my decision to purchase the “air” version of my boots and wondered if the “rain” would have been a better choice. The nice molded scoops that worked great at moving air into the boots also worked great for moving water in as well. To make things worse a cold front was behind the rain and the temperatures had dropped a few degrees and once again those scoops were doing a great job of moving cool air in around my wet feet.
An hour later we made our third stop in Heflin, Georgia of Hwy 46 at a small truck stop. After pulling in I immediately grabbed a couple dry pair of socks from my saddle bags, headed inside and found a spot to dry my feet and change into a dry pair. Back outside, I took the roll of wide electrical tape from Dad’s tank bag and wrapped it around my boots several times to make sure all the scoops were sealed and covered well.
This stop took longer than the 15 minutes that I had allotted for each stop and since my bike was falling short of the distance predicted I knew that another fuel stop or two would be required. With the goof at the first stop, the decreased pace due to the rain and the second stop taking roughly 20 minutes I was starting to think that our BBG was already toast. Back on the road we made our way to Birmingham and chose to take 459 around the southern side as it was just a couple miles shorter than going across the top. Just outside, Tuscaloosa the sun had started to rise over our backs and light up the skies, a much need morale booster as we were all tired of being in the cold, dark and wet air. At this point Mike had been leading for two legs and my fuel mileage was not improving. It turned out that after I re-geared my bike my speedometer was off a pretty good amount and the speed I was actually running was approximately 10 mph slower than I was reading. With Mikes cruise control set at a GPS speed of slightly over the posted limits, I was running at higher RPM ranges than I was used to running. That explained my decreased mileage.
Our fourth stop was at a hole in the wall truck stop in Boligee, Alabama. The pumps were old and did not have a spot for credit card purchases so we had to pay inside and wait in line with the truck drivers to pay for their fuel. Standing in line, munching on cliff bar, a couple drivers were looking at me bit funny. After a few awkward moments one of them finally spoke up and said, “Cold and early start this morning, huh?” I explained that we had started at midnight back in Charlotte, NC and explained briefly what we were doing. My story didn’t help the awkward looks any at all; one other driver’s piped up as I was stepping up to the cashier and simply asked, “Why?” My response was simple, “Why not.” I took my receipt, checked over the info and went back to the bike. At this point we had been on the bikes for 8 hours and covered around 500 miles. We were going to have to cut the stop times down a lot and hope to make up some time on I-10 to complete the trip on time.
As we made our way out of Alabama and down through Mississippi it was clear that the front that had just passed through had really done some damage. All the creeks and rivers that we crossed had busted their banks, large amounts of water were sitting in the median and some shopping center parking lot was underwater. At one point the state had ran a 5 foot tall chain link fence along the tree line next to the highway. There were several times I saw that fence completely underwater as ran next to bridges over low lying areas.
At some point on our way through Mississippi I noticed Mike moving over in his lane to avoid some road kill. The left lane was clear, so I just eased my way over to clear it as well. As the three of us going within 50 feet of the road kill a very large bird with a white head and neck came swooping down to the road kill, wings spread wide. Oh. Shit.
The eagle quickly flew back up above us and on to the bridge that was now slightly behind us. All three of us got on the radio yelling, “Did you see that!” “Was that what I think it was?” I didn’t think bald eagles were scavengers, but I suppose food is food. Talk about an act of terrorism, taking out a bald eagle at highway speed might be grounds for black listing on the airlines.
Our 5th stop was at some hole in the wall service station just outside of Lumberton, MS. Again, no pay at the pump here so we had to go in and talk with the short old man that ran the station. Normally I wouldn’t have minded talking with this guy for a bit, but I was in a bit of a hurry. What he did manage to tell me was that the last time he had a bike it was some small block powered drag bike with no radiator and a 2speed. He tried to convince me that his drag bike rode better than “my scooter” and would handle just as good, too. I laughed, told him he was probably right and headed back out. Sometimes it is better not to argue. After all, my “scooter” is just a toy motorcycle that can be purchased at Wal-Mart.
Due to the corner at 59 and I-10 we wanted to get a another fuel receipt to document that we went down to Slidell, if not there was a cut off through some back roads that could have removed 14 miles from our trip. I remembered from the S&T file that if we were on time we should be merging onto I-10 at 11:00am EST. Looking down at the clock as we pulled into the gas station in Slidell, it was 10:59am. Somehow we pulled it off and were getting back on schedule. Once on I-10 the CB was blowing up with drivers asking what was going on south bound. Well it turned out that the issue was on the east bound side and the drivers were asking south/west bound what the holdup was. Apparently he DOT was out doing repairs on one of the bridges and had the right lane shut down. Fortunately, traffic was moving fairly quickly and we were not stopped for too long. Once we got through that bottle neck it was clear sailing all the way across I-10.
Along I-10 I started to get a bit hungry and decided to dive into some goldfish that I had stashed in my tank bag. I set the throttle lock and took of my right glove. My first attempt was to just pour the gold fish into my mouth from the package. That didn’t work too well so I decided to put some in my right palm and just pop them in. Well that worked up to the point when hand got close to my face. At this point the wind broke across the top of my hand and would suck several goldfish out of my hand and blow them back behind me. This was all fine and well except that Dad was right behind me. He saw several of these yellowish orange bits pass by him and wondered what they were. After one managed to hit his helmet he realized they were goldfish and not some parts coming off my bike. Note to self: small bit size snacks like that do not work well for eating while riding. We made two stops while we were I-10 and each time we did really well to keep them short. Again, I started to think back to the S&T file and I knew we had to be merging onto I-75 in Lake City around 5:30pm EST to be on time.
Stop 9, intersection of I-75/US-90, Lake City, Florida. Fuel receipt time: 05:37:55pm. We were a little over 2/3 of the way complete at this point and judging by the time I knew we had this one in the bag if we could just keep moving. I realized that I had studied that S&T map so much that I had just about every detailed memorized. I knew that the next stop I planned was a short one at around 160 miles, just outside Tampa, then another short leg across I-4 to Daytona then to Jacksonville. Excitement started to set in; we were on schedule to complete this thing.
Commuter traffic had started to pick up as we set off down I-75 towards Tampa. We tried our best to stay together as we eased our way though the traffic that continued to pick up as we made our way south. As you can imagine, it was difficult to accomplish this and every time we did get separated, Mike would come over the radio and say, “Where ya at? I’m waiting on ya.”
It was at the fuel stop in Tampa was when I really started to notice the fatigue setting in. It was roughly 8:00pm and we had been on the bikes for 20 hours at this point. While I was getting gas I noticed a group of girls and guys about my age standing around some cars next to the station. They were dressed up and more than likely going out on the town for the night. Every time I looked up from the pump I noticed that they were looking at me and had some odd looks on their faces. At this point I really didn’t care too much so I continued with my gas, collected my receipt and went inside to take care of some business. As I walked into the men’s room, I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror and realized why they were looking at me with odd expressions. I looked wrecked! I still felt ok, but it was apparent that the hours/miles were starting to take its toll.
This next leg of the trip was the one that I was most worried about, I-4 through Orlando. After driving down to Disney just about every summer for the past few years, I knew what I was about to get myself into. While we were stopped I made sure to stretch a good bit, eat a couple cliff bars and drink some water. I knew I had to be on top of my game to make it through that section of road alive.
As I expected, traffic was heavy as we made our way out of Lakeland and into Orlando and just like it was the last time I was there, everyone was hauling ass. We were all on our toes as made it through the heart of Orlando while cars and minivans dropped multiple lanes at speeds well over the posted speed limit. We did our best to stay out of everyone’s way and pressed through successfully and just like on 75, every time Mike got separated from Dad and I, “Where ya at? I’m waiting on ya.”
120 fast and congested miles later we made our turn onto I-95 in the heart of Daytona Beach. Mike pulled off at the first exit which happened to be International Speedway Blvd. There was a Hess sign towering over the trees just to the right of the exit ramp, so we headed there. As we rounded the corner at the stop light we pulled into the gas station and were greeted by at least 150 custom sport bikes. Bright paint, flashing lights, stretch swingarms and loud exhausts filled the gas station parking lot and pump area. I immediately keyed up the radio to say, “I don’t think we belong here.” You can imagine the looks that we got from these after dark sunglass wearers when we pulled in with our helmets on, bright colored gear, saddlebags, GPS’s and 4 foot CB antennas. Thankfully there were enough pumps available for the three of us to get our gas and after I topped off I made my way over to Mike and Dad who were finishing up as well. Mike was throwing around the idea of offering his beef jerky to, “these fine folks” and Dad was just trying to figure out how to get away from the pump. As he was finishing up a group of sport bikes pulled in at an angle practically surrounding him and blocking him in at the pump. As he was motioning to the crowd that he needed to get through, they kicked out their short little kick stands and killed the bikes. Dad kept his cool, and pulled a 4 point turn around between them and the pump so that he could make his way out through the hole they did manage to leave between themselves and the other crew.
Eventually we made our way out of what I referred to as “the fashion show” and on to I-95 for the last leg home. The worst part about this leg was that once we got onto I-95 there was a large sign that said how far it was to several towns, one of which was Jacksonville. Now if that wasn’t bad enough, the state of Florida apparently likes to put those things every 10 miles or so and I swear that at that time the number beside Jacksonville never dropped as fast as I thought it should have.
After what seemed like a couple hours of riding we finally found ourselves pulling into Jacksonville as we crossed under the large overpass with JACKSONVILLE lit up across the side of it. In triumphant glory I threw both my hands up in the air as we passed under it. It would have made an amazing photograph I think, right up until the point where Mike tapped the brakes on his wing and I had to quickly get a hold of my controls. Dad was in the back at this time and of course saw all of this unfold and finds great humor in that entire situation.
Around 11:00pm on Thursday night, Mike Brown, my father and I pulled into the Kangaroo station across from the Ramada Inn of exit 5A on 295 in Jacksonville. Official fuel receipt time of 23:16, 11:16 PM. We had rode 1542 miles in 23 hours and 4 minutes. Dad and I hugged like we did after the SS1000, then Dad walked over to Mike and shook hands. We stood around for a moment trying to figure out just where in the world we were going to eat because, by god we were tired of Fig Newton’s, beef jerky and cliff bars. Next door to the hotel was a Steak and Shake so we eased on over and got a table. I think the three of us will agree that was probably the best burger and fries we had ever eaten.
That night I slept like a rock once I got in bed. Dad and I each took a shower and unpacked before we ever laid down. We chatted for a few moments and apparently we stopped for a just a moment before Dad decided to ask when Jon was coming in tomorrow. Silence. I was out.
I woke the next morning to a banging on my door and someone yelling, “Breakfast!” I still can’t imagine who that could have been? I lifted my head, looked across the bed and noticed that sheets weren’t the slightest bit disturbed. I hadn’t moved at all during the night. The first thought that crossed my mind was; How in the hell did Greg do three of those back to back to back?
After a quick shower I made my way down to an awesome buffet style breakfast. Mike and Dad were chatting with a few other IBA members when I walked up. We all ate and chatted for about an hour until we got up and made our way out to the bikes so that we could have some witnesses sign off on the mileage. Tom Atkinson and my buddy Rob Wilensky were happy to the ending witnesses for my father and me. (Thanks guys!)
We were planning on making our way down to Flagler Beach for an RTE put on by Ray King. While we were completing the ending witness forms, I noticed that my chain was hanging awfully low and was in serious need of adjustment. On my way back down to the bike, chain lube, plexus and a rag in hand, one of those BMW adventure guys confronted me and caught me off guard. His bike and gear looked like it had seen many hard miles and the only washing it received in the past year was that of the rain at 70mph. He saw the rag and plexus in my hand and said, “Polish, that’s nice.” Caught off guard and trying to defend myself, I informed him that it was for my windshield. His response was, “Aww” as he rode off. I hung my head and walked to my toy motorcycle, took the tools from the seat and hid the polish as well as the rag. I adjusted my chain and then made my way back to the room; I closed the door and drew the curtains as I began cleaning my face shield. Dad thought this was rather odd, but after I explained the situation, he quickly followed suit.
The speedway was awesome, though it was not very well set up to watch racing on the infield. However, seeing the bikes run 180mph along the banking more than made up for it! The race was red flagged after one rider low sided coming off of NASCAR turn 4. The rider slid off the corner, down onto the apron and damn near into pit road. During the red flag all the teams were required to change to a softer compound front tire. While that was going on we made our way back under the track to get some food and get a seat in the grandstands. The red flag took so long that they ended up shortening the race to a 15 lap sprint. After two restarts one hell of a race broke out between the lead eight riders. On the last lap a couple of them got tangled up coming in to the tri-oval just before the finish line. Two bikes and riders were going everywhere; parts were littering the track and one the bikes managed to make it all the way to the finish line where it almost took out the flag men that were standing in the infield. Fortunately both riders were ok and the rest of the field made it through the debris at the end of the track safely.
Below are videos taken by Jon Mock of the Daytona 200.