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00000199000001900000021100000214000002350000024700000263arrival2Dozens of people contributed everything from time, effort, money, infinite patience, and hospitality, enabling me to do this ride.  If any congratulations are in order, they belong to all of them.  I had the easy part, just riding the bike, and anyone who spends much time on a motorcycle knows that is an easy infatuation.

I come from a large family built on a foundation of unconditional love, a great rarity in this day and age.  As the only motorcyclist among them, it is truly miraculous that they have come to accept and support my endeavors, regardless of how strange they may have become.

Some of the motorcycle industry decided to place some faith in me, as well.

Yamaha Motor Company USA builds the world’s toughest motorcycle, a 2005 FJR1300.  The machine started with 140,173 miles on the odometer, and performed superbly throughout the ride, handling conditions far outside its design parameters with grace, confidence, and stability.  The bike still has nearly a year left on the factory extended warranty.  Dennis McNeal, Bob Starr, and Bart Peterson saw to it that all of the abused parts (including a punctured radiator, cracked rear wheel, and trashed bodywork) were promptly replaced before departure.  My great friends at Action Yamaha in Metuchen, NJ, have taken care of me for more than twenty years, and try to treat all of their customers with the same incredible kindness and patience.

Metzeler provided their new ME Z6 Interact tires.  They give great feedback, durability, and predictability in rain, mud, gravel, and yes, even snow and ice.  These qualities are essential to making good time safely when traction is scarce, as it will often be when trying to traverse five time zones and 45 degrees of latitude in 3.6 days.  Peter Jones and Kevin Allen convinced Metzeler that their substantial investment would prove worthwhile.

My bikes have been equipped with Motolights since I first discovered them at the beginning of my long distance riding “career”.  They make the motorcycle much more conspicuous everywhere, from an 1100+ mile day in Manhattan to the flying mud of the Dalton Highway.  Cars that used to pull out in front of me stop.  Trucks give me more room, when approaching them from either direction.  Motolights are a necessity for anyone who rides a lot.  They look like a factory accessory, are beautifully made, and withstand punishment far beyond reason.

I would need top-shelf suspension to maintain control on the broken pavement, frost heaves, potholes, mud, and gravel.  Klaus Huenecke of EPM Performance Imports supplied a HyperPro shock and fork springs, with custom, continually progressive spring rates.  I had a confidence inspiring, and even smooth, ride because of these excellent parts and Klaus’ hard work.

Craig Bennett of  Gerbing’s Heated Clothing and Sarah Bennett’s Everyone’s Journey have always kept me warm, even at -10F.  My friendship with Craig had a rather auspicious start, when I asked him to make a custom heated glove to fit over the cast on my freshly-broken left hand in February, 2001.  Yes, he was willing and able.

BeadRider kept me cool and dry in hot weather, and dry in the rain, with a set of their ceramic/composite seat covers.  They let air flow beneath you when it’s hot, and keep you from sitting in a puddle when it rains.  Other riders may look at them skeptically, but, if they didn’t work, I wouldn’t use them.

Erik Stephens and Twisted Throttle provided frame sliders and a heavy duty Givi topcase mount that even I could not break.  Matt and Adam are always willing to contribute some impromptu fiddling and fabrication to fit these new parts around huge nests of wiring and odd, one-off brackets.

Aerostich/RiderWearHouse makes and sells a host of indispensable products for people to whom motorcycling is much more than a hobby.  Their Roadcrafter one piece suit is the most versatile and thoroughly designed piece of riding gear I have ever used, over a temperature range of 130 degrees and nearly every imaginable storm.  There are many synthetic riding suits out there now, all based on the Roadcrafter.  The original has served me best, and always will.  Combat Touring boots have protected my feet and lower legs for many years and hundreds of thousands of miles, despite collisions with truck “gators”, deer, and everything else the road will offer.  They do it with everyday, all day comfort, and an adjustable fit.  Elkskin roper gloves protect my hands with great comfort and  feel for the controls.

This is beginning to sound like a series of advertisements, and I will offer no apology.  These things always make my life easier and more enjoyable.

The goals that I’ve chosen to pursue are petty things, without question.  What lends them importance are the people that I have had the great fortune to encounter along the way.  They are what has made this path much more than simply rewarding.

Not long after acquiring my first shaft drive bike, a BMW K75, I stumbled upon some of the greatest minds and riders in long distance motorcycling.  Jim Shaw, Paul Taylor, Dennis Kesseler, Leon Begeman, Shane Smith, Bob Higdon, Dave McQueeney, and Mike Kneebone, thank you.

Melissa Pierson has taken on the daunting task of acting as my “publicist”.  Many of the media and industry people who’ve helped have done so because of her tireless work.

My time in Alaska was made easy and comfortable by Kevin and Annie Huddy, who made their home mine for the better part of two weeks while I flattened tires and tried to ride through a blizzard on Atigun Pass, then brought my saddlebags to the carwash in Fairbanks when I was on the clock.  They also tracked down a receipt and expressed it home when a stubborn gas pump refused to yield.  Jack Gustafson, who accompanied me with his knobby-clad KLR on the first trip north, was the only voice of reason available in that blizzard.  Scooter Welch of Trail’s End BMW juggled his schedule and priorities endlessly to accomodate me.

Upon finally reaching the start, one of the signatures on my witness form was from a man named Bond.  James Bond.  I’m not kidding.  He works the night shift at Brooks Range Supply, says his parents named him with a great sense of humor, and he certainly provided a good omen for the ride.  After all, James Bond never loses….  Thanks Jim!

Minot, North Dakota was the only bright spot in 1500 miles of rain.  Gary, Dave, and Levi Wunderlich, Dan Campbell (willing to use his pristine ’05 FJR as a parts bike!), Tim and Nick Schmitz, Bob Richter, Steve Smith, Dan O’Connell, and Craig Bennett changed tires and oil while I got an hour of sleep.  They did the same in my failed attempt (101:11) last year, and were glad to do so.

Things started to get strange as I pulled into Key West.  While filling up to get my official ending receipt, a person I have never met called the gas station to congratulate me.

“Well, thanks, but how did you know about this?”

“Thousands of people have been following you online.”

(Feces).  Someone leaked what was supposed to have been a closely held password to the satellite tracking unit, and the ride had 21,000 views by the time I got to Key West.   At the southernmost point marker, where I expected to take the required picture in relative solitude and anonymity, a small crowd of press, photographers, and supporters had gathered, surrounding me with cheers and applause.

Greg and Colleen Needham saw that I wanted for nothing during my stay there, starting with an incredible dinner at the A & B Lobster House.  Clark Luster gave me a comfortable home on the island for as long as I desired, which quickly became a few days.

This would never have even started without the help of dozens more people with nothing to gain but the entertainment value of watching me take a ride.  While their judgement may be questionable, their loyalty, generosity, and kindness are beyond reproach.

They are:

Sean Gallagher, Joe & Dawn Gagliano, Frank Diraimondo, Rob & Tina Hollaender, John Everitt, David Bryan, Don & Eileen Eilenberger, Mike Kowal, Scott Redstone, Steve Knittweis, Don Arthur, Paul & Voni Glaves, Don & Marianne Gordon, Norm & Denise Smith, Dick & Irene Fish, Jim Puckett, David Derrick, Eddie James, Jim Ellenberg, Tom Clark, Chris Sakala, Nancy Collins, Brian Roberts, Dean Tanji, Lisa Landry, Charlie Hagaman, Andy Daniele, Paul Bachorz, Muriel Farrington, Bill Shaw, Don & Lynn Graling, Ed & Barbara Phelps, Morris Kruemcke, Don Hamblin, Jim Post, Bob Maurer, Tim Slifkin, Bill Mack, Gail Petersen, Len Parkin, Don Shaffer, Nancy Oswald, Don Catterton, Greg Tosto, Joe Skaggs, Dennis Swanson, Skip Palmer, Jim & Cathy McFadden, Roger & Ginna Trendowski, Jim Cavallo,  Jim Thomasey, Alex Edly, Marcelo Salvia, Alberto Arelle, Jorge Ortega, Mary Jo Gracin, Leslie Aron, Steve Schecter, John Spiezia, Sean Bartnik, Paul & Linda Lou Roediger, Tim Guscott, Ray Aubel, Michael Brosius, Dominic & Laurie Barilla, Dave Roccaforte, Abe Dabela, Brad Klein, Steve Rodriguez, Jeff Hanson, Laurie O’Gara, Phil & Karen Mollica, Martine Honigsberg, Greg Rathe, Rich Bebenroth, Steve Steinberg, Brian O’Connor, Kevin & Joan Kuhner, Renard Fiscus, Doug Barrett, Kevin Wilkinson, Ed Wong, the Skylands NJ BMW Riders, the NJ Shore BMW Riders, and two people from North Carolina who insist on anonymity.  However, if you ever need a good financial planner/broker or thousands of cubic yards of concrete, I can point you in the right direction.

Please forgive and do not hesitate to notify me if I’ve left anyone out.  Yes, some things have gotten lost along the way.  I do know that help came from Switzerland to Argentina to Alaska, California to Florida to Vermont, and nearly everywhere between, some of it from people I’ve never met.

Despite the sacrifices of all these fine people, news from the road was discouraging.  The first attempt to reach Prudhoe Bay ended in a blizzard on Atigun Pass, on a road of frozen mud.  The second attempt ground to a halt at Coldfoot, with a flat tire.  After a patch and return to Fairbanks for its replacement, the third round was assassinated by a rock that put a .50 caliber hole in the oilpan, 26 miles south of Prudhoe Bay.

With the help of Peak Light Duty Repair – Mike, Chad, Kurt, and Steve – I was finally ready to start with a bike that was better than new, thanks to an autographed bash plate to protect the repaired oil pan.  However, the weather was deteriorating faster than I would be ready to start, ensuring 300 miles of mud, followed by 1500 miles of rain, an hour inspection and interrogation at the US border, and a dumb routing mistake that cost nearly 2 more hours.

I offer these as an excuse for my mediocre finish of 86 hours, 31 minutes, with a silver lining – we improved the world record time by 9 hours, 30 minutes.

Yes, we.  All I had to do was sit around on the motorcycle.  This record, and my profound gratitude, belong to everyone who has shown such amazing faith in me.

I hope that Mike can fit about one hundred names on that certificate….

3 Comments

  1. John,

    Congratulations on a ride well ridden. We’ve met a few times in the past, but not as closely as we did at the RedWing19 ride. I was riding with Verne Hauke. One week later, I rode in the MD2020.

    Anyway…

    Just wanted to congratulate you for accomplishing a ride I hope to tackle someday. If there’s ever another ride like this in your future, please add me to your “mailing list” so I learn about it sooner than one week before it actually happens.

    On that note, I won’t soon forget how you explained the radiator issue at the RedWing19 ride.

    Take care,

    Steve

  2. You sir, are an inspiration. Thanks for posting of your travels.

  3. Would you be available for a phone conversation? In June of 2010, I’m riding in a motorcycle challenge that will start in the Keys and end up in Alaska. I’d love to pick your brain.

    Thanks!

    David


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