Monday, March 19, 2012

We Rode to Bike Week (A Longer Way)

In March of 2011, Dad, Mike Brown and I attended our first IBA Pizza Party in Jacksonville, Florida. In the spirit of the event we decided to complete a certified ride, a Bun Burner Gold on the way in. Our route took us from Charlotte, NC to Jacksonville, FL via Slidell, LA, Tampa, FL and Daytona, FL. Thus the blog entry from last year, “We Rode to Bike Week, the Long Way”


On the way home from that ride we decided the next ride would be to complete a SS2000. This ride involves riding over 2000 miles in under 48 hours, basically back-to-back SS1000’s. The figured the hardest part about this one would be waking up the next morning and doing it all over again…

Fast forward almost a year. I had purchased a 2008 Vstrom 1000 from a fellow IBA member in Atlanta, GA. I had spent the winter prepping the bike and adjusting it for my needs along with setting Dads bike up with new farkles. The IBA pizza party was set for Friday, March 16th so I made the arrangements necessary and began working on a route and lining up the details for the trip. To make things a bit more interesting we would be making this a Waffle House SS2000 since Dad, Mike and I are all signed up for this Waffle House Grand Tour. The ride would start and end at a Waffle House and we would need to visit at least 10 WH’s along the way. I’m sure we all remember my goof up in planning the BBG the year before and not making a single stop I had planned on. This year I was determined to not let that happen again.

I did my best to adjust the fuel stops so that each one would have a WH on the same exit. This would eliminate down time, especially if we could take the picture of the WH sitting at the fuel pump. Fortunately, it worked out quite nice aside from one or two stops, each fuel stop had a WH at the exit. Now if you have been following the blog and my Facebook updates I’m sure your thinking, “Wait, 10 fuel stops on a 2000 mile ride? I thought he had a fuel cell?” Yes, I do have a fuel cell, 5 gallons to be exact, and Mike has a 3 or 4 gallon on his Wing. However, Dad does not and his fuel range is around 180-190 miles (on the low side) at highway speed, so I planned the stops around that. I felt pretty comfortable with that range on the FJR so unless the WH up and moved or the location in the locator was wrong (which it has been in the past) I figured we would have this made. Not learning my lesson at all for the last trip, I figured I would double check with the locator and called each store that I planned on visiting to have them verify their address. Those were some fun phone calls…

(Side note, if your every really bored or maybe slightly intoxicated with your buddies. Start calling Waffle Houses and ask for their address. Yes, it’s that entertaining.)

The route we planned to take was similar to last year’s route in that we would leave from Charlotte and head to Atlanta. From there we would pick up I-20 and stay on it till we got to Terrell, TX (east side of Dallas). As a safety factor, we filled out the paper work for a SS1000 as well and planned the stop in Terrell as the ending to the 1000. We also went so far as to line up a witness there, Big John, just in case. All of us had some fears about waking up the second morning and not being too sure on completing the ride.

From Terrell, I planned the route down Hwy 175 to Jacksonville, TX to pick up Hwy 69 to Beaumont, TX. These two lane roads we knew would eat some time, but we figured we had some to spare and it looked as though this would be a good way to avoid Dallas and Huston. In addition this would give us some time off the big roads to see a little bit of Texas. Once in Beaumont the plan was to bust a trail down I-10 straight into Jacksonville. Seemed pretty straight forward, sit here, twist that and take some pictures along the way.

Odometer before leaving the house and heading to Charlotte.

Tuesday, March 13th we met Mike at the Waffle House in Concord, NC off Speedway Blvd. I had Travis and his girlfriend, Rachel, meet us there for breakfast so that they could witness before we set off around 7am. Once the papers were signed and the starting receipts were collected we set of down 85 South in morning traffic and light rain. We wouldn’t have it any other way.

It didn’t take long for the rain to stop and the traffic to clear out on I-85, however the fog did hang around for a while which kept the temperatures low. In order to get the 5 WH’s in the first leg we needed to stop in South Carolina for a location without getting fuel. This stop was in Gaffney, SC at store #717. From there it was clear sailing to Commerce, GA for the next Waffle House and first fuel stop.

Starting Waffle House in Concord , NC - #1761

We spent some time stopped in Commerce due to Dad making some adjustments to his base layers and the fact that the coffee we had for breakfast and ran right through us. While waiting I checked my emails and found that my SPOT was not tracking properly. When setting up the bike I had placed the iPod remote on top of the SPOT in order to save space. I was beginning to wonder if this was causing poor satellite reception even though I had tested it before we left the house. On my next OK message I watched as the ON/OFF light flashed red in unison with the green light over the OK button. I had thought that when I lose signal the lights wont flash in unison, so maybe it was the batteries?

3rd Stop - Commerce, GA - #717

Around lunch time we found ourselves riding into Atlanta. While planning the BBG last year I learned that there wasn’t that much of a mileage difference between taking 85 through the middle and taking 285 west around it. So I figured we would make the call depending on traffic. Seeing as how we went 85 last year we decided to take 285 this year.

As we got closer to the split of 85 and 285 the traffic picked up considerably but it was flowing quite well. We did our usual thing of flowing with the traffic plus a little just to get through the traffic safely. To non-riders that might sound silly, but I am pretty sure that most of you reading this will agree that it is best to move through traffic at a safe rate rather than riding in it. As we got further into 285 the traffic continued to get heavier but it was flowing well at around 75 MPH. At this point I can’t honestly tell you where we were but while were getting through the traffic I noticed a Georgia State Trooper on the side of the highway. Once I noticed the car I focused my attention on him and realized that the officer was outside of the car and making his way into it quickly. As we passed I checked my mirrors to see where he was going and to stay out of his way. It didn’t take long and he was into the left lane with the blue lights on and coming fast. I got on the radio to warn Mike that he was coming in hot on his left side. About that time I turned back to the mirror to see the officer moving into the lane within the same space that Dad was currently riding in. He had to check up hard and ride into the next lane and avoid another car. I looked up to see where I could go then back to my mirror to see him within a couple feet of my rear tire. So I waved the officer to let him know I acknowledged he was back there and then began working my way over to the right shoulder. This took roughly a half mile due to how heavy the traffic was. Dad and Mike pulled over a few hundred yards up and waited.

I was carrying concealed so I left my hands up on the hand guards with the helmet on and flipped up. I left the officer know that I was armed, I had my permit and the location of the gun and where my wallet and info was. He didn’t seem to really care.

Officer Dawson (Badge #0598) informed me that he clocked my buddies at 78, 79 and me at 80 and he wanted to know why I was going so fast. I politely told him that I was simply going with the traffic and trying to stay out the way. It was safer for me as a rider to safely move through traffic rather than ride in it. Officer Dawson informed me that if I wanted to stay out of the way that I should ride in either the left lane or the right lane. (Never mind the fact he jumped in the left lane at 100+ mph to catch up to me) I gave him a puzzled look repeating the left lane statement. He changed the subject by pointing out my IBA tag backs and said, “Looks like you ride a lot.” My response, “Yes, and by your last statement I am assuming you don’t.” He agreed and asked for my proof of insurance and then headed back to his car. A few moments later he returned with a nice piece of paper stating that I was going 80 in a 55. I had no clue it was a 55. The last thing I was looking for in that traffic was a speed limit sign not to mention there wasn’t a car on that highway going even close to that speed! As you can imagine that set me off and after I got all my things squared away in the box again I set off down the highway and didn’t speak on the radio for a good 50 miles or more.

Now I know he was just doing his job and I guess it was just my lucky day to meet the tax collector but Officer Dawson’s driving put more people in danger than it helped. His attitude was poor and the left lane statement was just plain stupid. At the moment I am waiting to for the ticket to clear the court system so that I can found out what my fine is and what to do next. One of the actions I will be taking is writing a nice letter to the GHP explaining the situation and informing them of his actions. (Off Soap Box)

Also, just want to note that my Facebook status for the day was: “Hell I got to go!” from the movie, Smokey and the Bandit…and I got a ticket from a Georgia state trooper. Irony.

After that event it was pretty much clear sailing till we got to Pell City, Alabama. This fuel stop was the first one we had where the Waffle House literally shared a parking lot with the gas station. Photo, gas, document, lube chain and the stop was complete. However the sun was out at this point and I had to come out of my pant liner. As I walked into the store I noticed an Alabama Highway Patrolman walking in behind me and as you can imagine I was still a bit uneasy. So when he asked me if I liked my M&P I was seriously freaked out then it dawned on me I didn’t have my jacket on so I was carrying openly, sorta. I apologized and the officer dismissed it and thanked me for carrying and holding a permit. Then he wanted to talk about my holster and how well it fit, etc. Really didn’t have time for all that but I did my best to keep the conversation short while I purchased batteries for the SPOT.

4th Stop - Pell City, AL - #812

Dash layout. Moved iPod remote in fear it was blocking signal for SPOT.

Hi Dad! (My small camera broke after this shot)

Once the batteries were replaced and the bags sealed we made our way back to I-20 and headed west to Mississippi. Our next fuel stop was in Meridian; once again the Waffle House was neighboring the fuel stop, so we did pretty good to get in and out of this one and set a path for our next stop, the Mississippi River. It has been a goal of mine for many years now to cross that river. When I was younger I used to travel all over the east coast as far west as Wisconsin and in all the southern state but I have never been across the Mississippi and with this route taking us into Texas, I was finally going to complete that goal.

As we neared the river we picked up a fellow rider on a white Gold Wing. We noticed he was set up with a CB and Dad was able to communicate with him to bring him onto our channel. He was a local and was on his way home to Jackson. While we rode we asked him where the best place to check the river out would be and he mentioned a rest area just before the river or the casino. As we approached Jackson he pulled off on an exit ramp he said good bye and wished us luck. There is always something neat chatting with other riders that you don’t know over the CB radio and discussing rides while riding…

Just before the river Mike remembered something about the area and jumped off the highway. Turns out he really didn’t know where he was going but he figured they only made the roads so many ways around there and we would eventually find the river. Wont lie to you, this had me a bit upset as I was more concerned about the ride than I was seeing the river. However, we found our way onto a twisty road that was in the middle of some battle fields from the civil war. Along the way were some nice plantation style houses and several historical markers that explained the events in the area. We didn’t have time to stay, but it seemed very interesting and it was beautiful area. I will be back there in the future.

Looking at the GPS, I could see that we were getting close to the river and within a few minutes were pulling into a casino parking lot overlooking The Mighty Mississip’. I was the first to come over the radio and apologize to Mike for doubting him.

Since we had started the ride I had been thinking about the pictures I wanted to take at the river. Shots with the bike, myself, etc but when we got to the casino the parking lot I wanted to be in was restricted and blocked by a yellow guard rail of sorts. I rode the perimeter of this fence to find that it stopped next to a curb and a grassy hill. Yea, that wasn’t about to stop me. I hopped the curb, rode up the hill and around the pole and back down. Piece of cake.

Parked next to the Mississippi River.

I-20 bridge across the Mississippi River.

Enjoyed this photo.

There is something about that river that I will never quite be able to explain. It really meant a lot to me to cross it for the first time. As I was looking at it in the parking lot and then later crossing it via the bridge on I-20 I thought about all the people that perished trying to cross it back in the 1800’s. People trying to start a new life in a new frontier and this river was one of the huge obstacles that stood in their way and now, 200 years later, I’m riding over it on my motorcycle just to go to Texas and back because I can.

Our next stop was in Rayville, LA which was scheduled to only be a fuel stop as we didn’t need any more WH’s for this leg. However, when we pulled off on the ramp I noticed the bright yellow blocks of glory on the horizon. Bonus location! After fueling and snapping a photo we decided to head over to the local Sonic for a hot dog and a cold drink. The weather was simply amazing and was too nice not to enjoy.

Stop 6 - Rayville, LA - #689

The employees were very nice and extremely attentive though their speaking abilities left a bit to be desired. Again I found myself walking around with the grip of pistol exposed as I was not wearing my jacket. At one point one of the employees asked if we were under cover police as he pointed to my pistol. Dad and Mike could barely understand the guy and looked confused as I explained that I wasn’t and undercover cop. After explaining what had just happened, Mike suggested that I should have just put my finger over my lip and said, “shh.”

After dinner we set our sights on Texas. We had one fuel/WH stop in Long View which turned out to be one very sketchy area. With bars on the windows of the fuel stop the store clerk was selling more baggy clothing and hats than he was snacks and the customers looked less than inviting. It was my intention to get in out and as fast as possible on this one. As you can imagine that wasn’t the case. I suppose the fatigue was starting to set in on Dad as he decided to watch the numbers on the pump go by instead of watching the level of the fuel in his tank. So when the pump failed to click off he pumped a good bit of gas all over his fuel tank and body work. At this point I parked my bike and began working to assist Dad. I refused to take my helmet off as I went into the store to get some wet paper towels to clean up the mess. 15 minutes later, we finally made it out of that gas station and over to the WH for our photo.

Our last stop of the night was in Terrell, TX which was about an hour away from Long View I think. When we arrived to this store we walked in to be greeted with, “Smoking section is on that side, non-smoking on this side.” I haven’t heard that in years! After sitting down and getting situated we explained our ride and the charity that this was going towards and requested a few buttons if they had some they could spare. As usual the waitress came out with a bag full. After sipping on a cup of coffee and downing a bowl of grits, we headed down 175 to Mabank, Texas where our hotel and SS1000 witness, Big John, were waiting.

It was around 2am when the papers were signed and we got settled in for the night. We agreed to a start time of 8am or earlier which left us with about 4 hours of sleep. To keep myself from getting to comfortable I slept on the couch in the room rather than unfolding it to make the bed. It didn’t take long to fall asleep and apparently I slept well even though I woke before my 6am alarm went off.

Stop 8 - End of SS1000 - Terrell, TX - #1217

I think we were on the road sometime around 7:30am after checking out of the hotel and getting gas. When I loaded my route into the GPS something wasn’t done right in Map source as none of my turns were showing up. All I had was a straight line to the final point of that route which was fuel stop in Louisiana. So I was winging it on this part of the trip and just following along.

We started off down 175 towards Jacksonville, Texas where we would pick up 69. The back roads of Texas were quite nice actually and the speed limits were up around 70mph at times! Also, when you were coming into a town they had it set up where the speed limit would drop several miles out in little increments. We would be rolling 70 and then the limit would drop to 60, a few miles later it would be down to 45 and finally down to 35 before getting to town. What a concept! But wait it gets better! I can’t remember if we were on 175 or 69 at this point but I do remember thinking that the shoulders of the road were nicely done and fairly wide. A few miles later as we make our way down this two lane road we approach a car that was going slower than we were and when we got within a couple hundred feet of the car it moved over to the shoulder. The lady kept driving at her speed but motioned us on pass. HOLY COW! We waved like crazy and kept on going. A few miles later as we approached another car, the driver did the same thing. Can we get rid of the Floridians in the mountains and bring up the Texans?

Somewhere down 69 towards Beaumont we were rolling through some little town when Mike came over the radio commenting on the two semi-truck dealers in one town. He laughed after mentioning this and said, “This must be a two Dairy Queen town.” Just a moment later on the CB a truck driver keyed up and said, “This is a two dairy queen town, the other one is just up the road off of …” Wow.

Stop 9 - Beaumont, TX - #1436

Once in Beaumont we bagged two Waffle Houses before getting on I-10, one of which included a fuel stop. From there it was off to Port Allen, LA for our next stop. On our way though we got to cross one of the longest bridges I have been on before, the Atchafalaya Basin Bridge. Bridge is over 18 miles long as it makes its way across the Atchafalaya Basin. I can’t imagine how long it took to build such a bridge but it was pretty neat to cross it. The speed limit was rather slow and traffic was light so it gave me an opportunity to look around a bit while crossing.

Stop 11 - Port Allen, LA - #389

Fortunately I-10 remained rather uneventful for us until we reach the I-10/I-12 split. When I planned the route I routed us to just stay on I-10 the entire way because honestly I didn’t know any better. Well, incase you were like me and didn’t know, I-12 was built for a reason. Unless you want to go to New Orleans, it’s much easier to just take 12 and to make this worse, we made our way into New Orleans at 5:00pm. I got a lot of slow speed riding practice in on that part of the ride. Traffic was extremely heavy and would go from 80mph to stand still ever couple of miles. Awesome. Several hours later we finally made our way out of Louisiana.

Stop 12 - Theodore, AL - #1113

While rolling down I-10 I kept noticing signs that had warnings for fog. These included the standard metal signs and the flashing DOT billboards. At first I thought the DOT sign was a sign test or someone had left the sign on since the morning rush. After all it was later afternoon with temps in the upper 70’s and a good breeze. Then we got towards the bays in Alabama and Florida and we found the fog. At that point I was confused… the fog was really thick and the temps dropped 10 degrees at least. Mike later keyed up on the radio to explain that the fog was due to the warm air from the land colliding with the cool air from the ocean (or visa versa). We encountered these random fog patches several times on our ride to Jacksonville. Each one usually lasted for 10-15 miles and then it was gone. At one point we found ourselves in one of the fog patches on a long bridge at night with the drivers ahead of us brake checking. Talk about a un easy feeling. I was glad to be getting off that bridge!

Stop 13 - Marianna, FL - #919

I guess it was around 2 or 3 am when we rolled into Jacksonville, Florida to our final Waffle House stop. Store # 323. The place was packed and as you can imagine we were getting some strange looks. The three of us were exhausted as the last leg between Marianna and Jacksonville we had to fight for. We took a nice long coffee break to re group and think about what we had to do. We kept each other going by keeping the radio chatter up and discussing a better way to mount Mikes fuel cell. It’s amazing how the time and miles will fly by when you get to rambling about something.

Stop 14 - SS2000 Final Stop - Orange Park, FL - #323

After getting our photo and receipt we headed across the bridge into Jacksonville to check in with the hotel. I guess it was around 330am when we all get settled in for the night but unfortunately I wasn’t the first to fall asleep. Mike and Dad beat me to it and man they were doing a good job and sawing some logs. Between that and I guess the general excitement of the ride I was un able to fall asleep so I texted David Gillespie to see what time they were setting off on the Florida Mountain 1000. The start time was scheduled for 5:45, so around 5am I put on some clothes and headed down to the parking lot. While looking around at all the bikes I ran into some familiar faces including, Barb Smith, Ray King and the Gillespie’s. In addition I also met Joey and his father, two local LD guys out of Asheboro, NC.

Once the riders were off I made my way back into the hotel and knocked out for a few hours since Mike and Dad were now quiet as a mouse.

2000+ Miles in ~44 Hours.

GPS odometer after SS2000 Route.

Ride Report on Daytona Coming Soon!

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