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By request, my remembrance address from Ardys’ memorial service, Wednesday, July 24th, 2013:
We have a club that likes to call itself “The World’s Toughest Riders”.  However,  one of our greatest leaders and inspirations, the example we hope to follow whenever we get on a motorcycle,  has always been Ardys Kellerman – one of the kindest, gentlest, and happiest people you would ever meet.
The first time Ardys visited us at the family farm in New Jersey some years ago, she promptly set up her thermarest pad and sleeping bag in one of the unoccupied barn stalls, upsetting my sister.  She was worried about a lady old enough to be our mom sleeping on the barn floor, but that was what Ardys wanted to do – she loved animals, and the barn was filled with horses and cats.  She explained that these were luxuy accommodations –    there was a roof over her head, unlike the parking lots and gas stations she was accustomed to sleeping in all across the country!    Besides, she didn’t want to mess up a perfectly good bed that someone else could sleep in.  Susan gave up trying to convince her to stay in the guest bedroom, shaking her head.
Ardys’ riding accomplishments are, of course, legendary – four Iron Butt Rallies, over 1 million miles on BMW motorcycles, over 100,000 miles ridden in one year at the age of seventy-eight, and countless thousand mile days.  Yet, despite all the time on the road, all the years and miles,  Ardys never lost sight of the most important part of all that motorcycling – the people whom she met and rode with along the way.
She instantly became a friend to everyone she crossed paths with.  She amazed beginners and non-riders, loved sharing her experiences with them, and her humility and self-deprecating sense of humor always made her approachable,easy, and fun to speak with.  She felt that there was nothing extraordinary about an eighty-one year old great grandmother riding alone across the country.  It was simply what she loved to do – so, why not?    She inspired and gave hope to everyone, whether they were motorcyclists or not.  She changed people’s thinking – showing them that good will and persistence can always overcome adversity.
So, despite our sadness today, we have much for which to be thankful.  We’ve been incredibly fortunate to have this great lady as part of our lives, and it is an honor to count her as a friend, a mentor, a part of our family, and as someone we can hope to emulate.
Thank you, Ardys.

Chicago was the only one left.  All the other major metropolises, and a couple of the major suburbs (Los Angeles, Indianapolis), have had riders complete IBA-certified thousand mile days within their limits.

My standards for a major city aren’t easily met.  They are, of course, highly subjective, and are loosely based on population density, as well as historical, financial, and cultural significance.  Chicago’s establishment as a hub for trade and development of the west, its growth into the nation’s second largest city by the mid 20th century, site of the first controlled nuclear reaction with the University of Chicago-based Manhattan project, and its reputation for organized crime, corruption, and horrible traffic all made a thousand mile day appealing.  Also, the Iron Butt Association has long been rumored to have its base at Mike Kneebone’s Chicago home, so the city would complete the set of urban rides for me.
It had been the longest winter I can remember.  A friend for whom I am health care proxy had two lengthy recoveries from surgery, starting in the summer of 2010, and I had been living with him since.  The first snow fell by November 1st, and we didn’t see the ground, except where it had been cleared by a plow, until April.  The record snow and ice storms were followed by record rainfall for another month, and history’s most prolific tornado outbreak thereafter.  Too many 4+ wheelers on the road have angered Mother Nature, and rightfully so.  Perhaps, I could soothe her nerves a bit, with a Chicago Bun Burner Gold.  It would be my meager contribution to environmental fanaticism, and to society as a whole.

Every city Bun Burner Gold attempted so far had been a failure.  Sixty-two miles short in Washington, D.C.  Two hundred eighty-four miles away, barely 80% of the goal,  in New York.  Despite semi-legal lane splitting, San Francisco would still cheat me out of seventy-four miles.  Chicago was my last hope for redemption, if I could manage a respectable total.


I began to explore the possibility at the IBA Bike Week gathering in Jacksonville, with Chicago native David E.B. Smith.  Before long, he had devised and emailed a 37.1 mile route, which I studied skeptically.  It had an average speed limit of about 52 miles per hour, stayed entirely within the city limits, and included I-94, a short stretch on I-55, and South Lake Shore Drive.  Three stop signs, no traffic lights.  Things certainly looked promising on paper.

I usually prefer to ride alone, but Sean Gallagher had joined us for the San Francisco 1000, and did very well, despite little urban riding experience, and no experience whatsoever splitting lanes.


“Wanna ride Chicago?”
“C’mon, man.  It’s the only good city left, and I need to do something to keep in shape.  I’ve been sitting around, driving my buddy around in his car, cursing the car, snow, and ice since last summer.”

“Two weeks, Sunday.  Start by 0400.”

“I’ll let you know, but I’m trying to put this deal together with the Chinese.”

“You work too much.”

“Somebody’s gotta pay your bills for this, and you can’t do it.”

“It’ll be close, but if I find a $30 motel south of town, I should have enough left for gas.”

“I’ll put a check in the mail today. You’ll stay at the Holiday Inn near O’Hare, there’ll be a reservation under Sean Gallagher with your name on it.  But, if you start charging hookers and Cristal to room service, you’re on your own.”

“That sounds fair.  I can survive without them for a few days.”

After arriving in Chicago on the following Thursday, I do some grocery shopping to stock the refrigerator.  Lots of protein, a case of water, skim milk and Raisin Bran, a bulk package of pre-peeled, pitted grapefruit, and hummus.  Craig Bennett gave me a pound of homemade, corn syrup-free beef jerky, which I’ll save for the ride, filling the tankbag with that and dried pineapple.  There is some method to this – when mixed with water, these things will provide sodium and potassium to help compose electrolytes, keeping muscles working well to prevent muscle cramps, soreness, and fatigue.  The jerky will stave off hunger without raising blood glucose, reducing my need for insulin injections.

A couple of laps between two and four A.M. on Friday allay any suspicions I may have had about the route.  David’s plan is simply excellent, requiring good lean angles in rain-grooved and sometimes slick exit ramps, decisions about express or local lanes, and proper positioning to keep from running off-course when the freeways split at  least four different times.  Lake Shore Drive adds a bit of waterfront scenery, and cool breezes that will help when the afternoon gets a little too warm.  There will be plenty to keep the riders engaged and amused, before even considering the heavy traffic.  I’m able to finish laps in about thirty-two minutes without attracting the attention of law enforcement, while traveling  just a bit faster than traffic, which is both safer and most productive.  The state police and Chicago locals patrol the interstate portion, nearly 90% of the route, while Chicago covers Lake Shore Drive.  They find plenty of customers.  For this ride, discretion will be as much a requirement as persistence.

Friday evening rush hour would offer the opposite view – the slowest and most aggravating laps we’d be likely to face.  If the course could be completed in 55 minutes, the slowest pace required for a thousand mile day, there would be reasonable cause for hope.  So, I left the hotel at 1630, and paddled through three laps, averaging 47 minutes.  Not bad, even though I still had to put a foot down a few times.  Drivers seemed less distracted than New York, and aggressive, which helps keep them moving.

Saturday morning, I see Sean’s name on the caller ID.  “Dave McQueeney is riding 2000 miles to be here, and he’s gonna kick your ass for not showing up.”

“That’s why I’m here.”

“Yeah, right.  You were still working when I talked to you last night.”

“I was already on the road, and called you from the bike.  I’m downstairs in the parking lot.  Let’s get something to eat, and then I need a nap.”  I’m already in the elevator, and Sean’s starting to sound like he isn’t kidding.  Sure enough, he’s standing next to his battered R1150GS, equipped with a pair of Motolights, four Soltek HIDs, an eleven gallon Touratech gas tank, and a four gallon auxiliary fuel cell.  I envy all those lumens, and the fuel capacity.

“What the….  Why are you jerkin’ me around like that?  I gave up on you a few days ago.”

“This is payback for you and McQueeney in San Francisco.”  We both laughed.  After Sean rode across the country for the San Francisco 1000, Dave told him that he couldn’t ride, since his bike was unsafe because of a fuel leak (which had been repaired the day before).  Sean was nearly apoplectic before Dave told him, “Just kidding…..”

We have breakfast, discuss the route and ride, and Sean gets a few hours of sleep before taking some practice laps in the afternoon.

We’re both “on the clock” by 0326  Sunday.  The first few and last few hours will be the easiest to make time, while most of the world sleeps.  Even now, though, the road has enough traffic that there is no opportunity to relax.  There’s a radar trap on Lake Shore, a half mile above the U-turn.  Weather is cool and partly cloudy, though the Weather Channel talks about the possibility of thunderstorms moving through later.  I take comfort in the belief that their job isn’t meteorology, it’s making viewers worry about the weather enough to tune in so the station can sell more advertising.  By the first gas stop, I remove a layer from beneath the Aerostich.  By the second, I open the vents.

Jim Fousek, Dave McQueeney, and David E.B. Smith have all signed on as eyewitnesses for 24 hours at the checkpoint, a Shell station with qualified receipts showing the exact time, location, and gallons of fuel purchased.  It’s about two hundred yards from the exit ramp, and they wave a flag during the day and a bright flashlight at night to acknowledge that they’ve seen us and recorded our progress.  We keep a thumb on the horn button all the way up the exit ramp to make sure we’ve gotten their attention, though it never seems necessary. I pass Sean once, when traffic is at its heaviest in the afternoon, but he seems to be maintaining a quick and steady pace.  The temperature has risen enough that the cool air near Lake Michigan has become a reward for each completion of the circuit.  Traffic creeps through most of the route from late morning until early evening, demanding constant shifting, braking,  and swerving, while providing a good workout for the neck muscles.  My goal is to never put a foot down.  Every nine laps, about 337-8 miles, we stop to refuel.  Dave reports that my laps have ranged from 31 to 42 minutes, and that I am still on a BBG pace, just barely.

Sean finishes the 27 lap minimum about an hour after I do, and has had enough.  He completes his paperwork, and leaves a taunting message with the witness crew – “I’m the first certified finisher of the Chicago 1000”.  I grumble to Dave McQueeney, “That’s just paperwork.  He knows I completed it before him.  He was supposed to ride the BBG with me – what a slacker!”  We spar constantly, and both laugh about it.  I could never hope for a more devoted friend, and many of the rides I’ve completed wouldn’t be possible without his help.

At the last gas stop, it looks like chances for a BBG are about even.  Traffic has subsided, and I need five more laps.  I tell Dave, David, and Jim that, if it looks possible, I may try to squeeze in one more, for insurance.  “Don’t take a chance on stopping the clock before 24 hours”, Dave warns.  “Forty-one laps will give you 1521 GPS-verified miles.”

“Okay.  I’ll keep a close eye on the clock.  My official start time was 0326, correct?”


The thunderstorms sensationalized by the Weather Channel really did happen, but waited an extra eight or ten hours to show up, hoping to most effectively interfere with my last push.  After a slide through the exit ramp to southbound I-94, I back off a bit in the curves, while trying to make up for it on the straightaways.  Four laps to go.  A Chicago cop appears in an SUV, sitting and watching, opposite the left turn for the ramp to Lake Shore Drive northbound.  The next lap, I see him in the middle of the bridge, and am careful to stay at the speed limit.  I offer a friendly wave while passing.  He ignores me, which is probably better than having him notice.  If he’s still there in roughly a half hour, I’m screwed.  There’s no way to pass him again without raising suspicions, and no time to afford that sort of conversation with a mileage log of about 1480, and less time remaining  than I’d care to contemplate.  On the next pass, he’s gone.  I scan every possible hiding spot on Lake Shore, and the length of Oakwood Boulevard as I cross the bridge, but there’s no sign of him.  Throttle up.

I reach the checkpoint for the forty-first time with about high-thirties minutes to spare, and don’t even think about stopping.  I may have seen Dave McQueeney cringe and shake his head from 200 yards way, in the dark.  I know, Dave,  it’s gluttony, but I can’t help it.  Sorry.

Arriving with about six minutes to spare,  everything feels good except my debit card, which fails to produce for the second consecutive time.  The bank promised that they wouldn’t shut the card down for security.  Maybe I’ve run out of money, but I don’t think so.  Dave steps in quickly, with his card.  “Use mine.  Get a quick gallon to stop the clock, and then fill up, to log fuel use for the verification algorithm.”

Done.  It should be about 1558 miles, pending certification.  Jim, David, and Dave congratulate me and shake my hand.

Quite a few people deserve those congratulations, though.
Jim Shaw, the man who introduced me to the Iron Butt Association, bought a badly needed rear tire for the K75.  Sean Gallagher put a roof over my head in Chicago, fed me, and paid for fuel.  David E.B. Smith devised a brilliant route.  Dave McQueeney rode from El Segundo, California and back, more than 4000 miles, for the sole purpose of witnessing and recording every lap.  I still owe him about $80 for my last two tanks of gas.  Jim Fousek rearranged his schedule to spend twenty four hours in a gas station parking lot with David and Dave, and diligently reminded me to test blood glucose at every stop.  Craig Bennett kept me well-fed while riding.  Mike Kneebone will contend with another time/distance total that is likely beyond what he can publicly acknowledge.
After writing a quick note describing the ride to my legal and spiritual counsel, Bob Higdon, he offered:
I’ve always suspected that this endurance riding was a team sport.

© 2006, Iron Butt Association, Chicago, Illinois Please respect our intellectual property rights. Do not distribute this document, or portions therein, without the written permission of the Iron Butt Association.

Early Sunday morning, October 22, 2006, Iron Butt Veteran John Ryan became the first rider to complete the New York City 1000. As in 1,000 miles in 24 hours INSIDE the city of New York on an 11 year old BMW K75 with over 165,000 miles! And John did not stop there, he piled on more than 1,100 miles!

Documentation duties and witnessing were handled primarily by IBR veteran Leon Begeman (an extreme rider himself who finished the 2003 IBR in 12th place racking up 11,186 miles in 11 days on a 250cc Ninja!), who recorded each of John’s laps for the entire 24 hour period. IBR finisher Robert Higdon dropped in for a spot-audit and IBR veteran Jim Frens rode in from New Hampshire and worked the entire night shift alongside Leon.

During this stunning ride, John may have well redefined combat touring! Besides putting up with traffic jams and accidents, John was hit by an SUV muscling his way through traffic. Although it is not uncommon for NYC traffic to make “contact” (the rest of the modern world would call those accidents!), even this was extreme for NYC. The SUV changed lanes, without signalling of course, and slammed into the side of John’s bike. John said they did not even want to stop to acknowledge what happened and the only justice he could find was the SUV’s “resultant long scrape, and bent mirror.”

As with John’s recent DC-1000 ride (where he did 1,100+ miles inside Washington DC), after a few laps, the local police did take notice of John’s repeating presence. Well, here is the story in John’s own words:

Pulling off the ramp for the north turnaround, I hear a couple of short blips of a police siren, and see the flashing lights behind me. I had been keeping mental notes on the officer’s position each time I passed, and knew he was out there. Running through a checklist of the motor vehicle code, I didn’t recall any violations.

While looking for a safe place to pull over, he pulls up next to me. A veteran, 20 to 30 years on the force, probably heard it all…. “Shut it off.” As in right here, right now, I don’t care that we’re in the middle of an exit ramp.

“Yes, sir.” From many years in the “security” business in New York, I learned how to talk to the cops, especially when you’re a suspect.

“What the hell are you doing?”

“Excuse me, sir?”

“Look, you’ve passed me like, five times now, with those bright lights. You trying to antagonize me?”

“No, sir.”

“You have your license, and registration for the bike?”


I start to reach for them, but he raises a hand to stop me, which can either be a good or very bad sign.

“What the hell is going on?”

“We’re running ummm…. a motorcycle test.”

“What are you testing, this bike?” He began to sound impatient, and looked at the filthy BMW K75 incredulously.

“Well, yes, and those lights….”

“The lights work fine. You better tell me what the hell is going on. I have a tow truck….”

“Okay. I belong to this long distance motorcycle club, the Iron Butt Association. We’re trying to see how many miles it’s possible to ride a motorcycle in Manhattan in one day.”

I get a strange look at first, then a satisfied nod. He starts to pull away.

“Sir!” He stops. “I’m going to be out here for twenty four hours.”

“Okay. I just want to know what the hell it is.”

“Thank you, sir!”

And for the rest of the night, the NYPD, Leon, Bob and Jim watched over John’s ride, lap after lap after lap. We are all speechless at another stunning John Ryan ride!

Michael Kneebone

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….

atigun-pass5key-west1                                                    ultimate-pin-ucc-logo






UCC logo copyright the Iron Butt Association 

A study of my spectacular failure last year concludes that breaking the motorcycle
record of 96 hours, one minute from Prudhoe Bay,
Alaska to Key West, Florida is very attainable.
Therefore, I have no choice other than to try again.

To this end, friends and supporters have arranged a
fundraiser lunch in New Brunswick, New Jersey, on
Saturday, May 2nd. Evelyn’s Restaurant will provide a
buffet of both carnivorous and vegetarian dishes, as
well as a cash bar, from 1 to 5PM.

Evelyn’s Restaurant & Bar
45 Easton Avenue
New Brunswick, NJ 08901

Bob Higdon will supply caustic wisdom, and Melissa
Pierson, author of “The Perfect Vehicle – What It is
About Motorcycles”, will have signed copies of her book
available. A trophy will be awarded to the long
distance rider.

Tickets will cost $100 per person. They can be
purchased, and donations to the effort in any amount
can be made through PayPal, by sending money to

Thank you, and best regards,
John Ryan

The gaseous mixture we usually call the breeze feels more like a solid object here – the dinner plate that your waiter sets before you and warns is very hot.  It is July in Death Valley, a place where only the air conditioned, strongly motivated, or very stupid venture.

The closest I can get to air conditioning is to don my electric vest, zipping it up just below the chin, and to close all the vents on the Aerostich.  So equipped, I like to think that some combination of strongly motivated and very stupid brings me here.  I’ve always enjoyed riding in extreme conditions, and this is about the best things will get in the summer.

When the air temperature exceeds body temperature, as it has by twentysomething degrees, covering and insulating will keep one much cooler and safer.  During a stop at the Stovepipe Wells General Store, I drink a half gallon of water, and fill the pockets, sleeves, and torso  of the Aerostich with a five pound bag of ice.  I’m still sweating, which indicates that I seem to be getting it right.

It is barely 120 degrees today, and the clerk, who looks like he’s lived here all his life, seems a bit disappointed.  “The best we’ve seen this year is 131, the record is 134, and we’re rooting for 140.”

If enough of these big, sloppy SUVs stuffed with yuppies and kids show up, their local contribution to global warming should make one hundred forty degrees quite feasible.  Fortunately, they don’t get out of their vehicles much.  When they do, a spoiled brat quickly whines about the heat to its mother.  “It’s supposed to be that way, honey, it’s the desert.”  Good answer, mom.  In a few seconds, they’re back in the car, and the peace and quiet returns.

At the gas stop before reaching Stovepipe Wells, I noticed the appearance of “wear indicators” on my rear tire – the cord has begun to show.  In these temperatures, I expect rapid tire wear, and decide to try an old Iron Butt Rally tactic.  In the early days, legend has it that riders would wrap duct tape around the center of the tire to extend its life.  I found this difficult to believe, but it seemed the only choice for getting this tire through the day, and to the next dealership that might stock the odd K75 size.  I try wrapping the circumference five times.  One hundred fifty miles later, the tape is wrapped around my swingarm, explaining the unsettled handling while zig-zagging through the mountain passes into Death Valley.  The tire doesn’t look much worse for wear, and the only thing that can be done about it is to keep riding and hope for the best.  Did they make better duct tape in the old days, or was it just a harder compound?

I don’t really need gas, but also don’t know how far it will be to the next station once I leave the valley.  For the unprepared, this could be a fatal place to run dry.  The gentleman tells me that his $3.49 for regular is a bargain compared to Furnace Creek.  I fill up, and am pleased with the advice when I roll through 40 miles later and see regular for $3.89 and premium at $4.09.

A series of mountain ranges, which includes the Sierra Nevadas, causes what is known as a rain shadow.  Each successive mountain range traps more moisture, so there is almost nothing left to fall in Death Valley, where precipitation averages about two inches annually and creates places like Badwater, the lowest and hottest spot in North America.

I was surprised to see some water there, if it can be called water.  There is a large, shallow puddle of brine which runs down from the mountains, with some of the liquid having a chance to accumulate before evaporation.  Even more surprising is the fact that something lives there -a small snail that must have a built-in desalination plant and a tolerance for water temperatures approaching that of a scalding shower.  Apparently, it feeds on some equally hardy algae and plankton.

While tempted to ride the bike down the wooden handicapped ramp to take a picture parked in front of the sign which announces “Badwater Basin 282 feet/85.5 meters below sea level”, there are a handful of
non-motorcyclists around who may not appreciate my efforts.  I settle for a picture of my helmet, parked atop the sign.

Just a few miles across the baked fissures of the salty flats, Telescope Peak and the surrounding mountains rise to more than 11,000 feet.  I have switched the K75’s high altitude plug on and off more times than I can count today.  Descending into the valley, the heat increases from simply very hot to nearly painful, a feeling reinforced when you raise the faceshield to scratch your nose, or see exactly how hot it feels.  That wasn’t a good idea….

Death Valley is a place of strange, desolate beauty.  Anything that lives here must really want to badly, and has somehow found a way to make its home.  Most of the animals are small, nocturnal reptiles and rodents, though there is even a genus of fish that has descended and adapted from a time when the valley had several gigantic lakes, about 10,000 years ago.

While filling my riding gear with ice in the general store, a very large, exotic, wingless gray beetle staggers across the floor in front of me, stops, rolls over, and promptly expires.  It must have wandered in from outside, and the air conditioning probably killed it.

“If we fly you out to Phoenix,
and rent a motorcycle, would you be
willing to spend the week running for us?”

It was Mark, my friend from Monmouth Entertainment,
ticket brokers extraordinaire.  Because of my efficiency
in urban environments, I do some motorcycle courier work for
them, usually between New York and Atlantic City.

“Sure, but don’t fly me out there.  I’ll ride
the bike out, just pay the expenses and a salary for
the week.  By the time you buy a plane ticket, and
rent a bike, it will be cheaper, and better this way.
Besides, I’d probably end up on some fatass Harley that wouldn’t
be any faster getting through traffic than a car.”

The FJR couldn’t take this trip without a new set of
tires.  The K75’s appeared to have a fair chance
of making it both ways, so this would be a BMW ride.

After checking the weather radar maps, it looked safe
to take I-81 and  I-40 southwest into Texas.  At a leisurely pace,
I estimated the ride to Phoenix would take about 48
hours using that route.  It was almost exactly that,
including 11 hours of sleep in two nights, and a conversation with
a state trooper in Virginia. 

Virginia is one of the top states for traffic
enforcement greed, rivaling even New Jersey.  The speed limit
drops to 60 on the interstate for every town that has more than
one building.  Traffic law and enforcement, in the
vast majority of cases, has lost sight of safety as its
primary purpose.  The state’s best reason for stopping a
lone vehicle on a wide open, well-lit interstate for
traveling at 78mph in the middle of the night is to steal some
of the operator’s money.  With this in mind, I was
shocked to receive a warning, and shook the trooper’s hand.
It’s nice to know that there’s still some reason
behind a few badges out there.

I arrived at a three star hotel in Scottsdale Sunday
night, settling into luxurious accommodations that were about
three stars above my usual.  The Phoenix metropolitan
area may not have east coast density, but makes up for in it area,
and I would put on more than 1100 miles by gametime on

Payments, collections, pickups, and deliveries would
usually start between 8 and 9AM, and, on one night,
continued until 3AM.  I would take orders on the
phone from Bruce and Bob, who sat at computers in their hotel,
barking feverishly at each other like commodities brokers, which is
essentially what they were.

The highlight of the week was a delivery to the
stadium just before kickoff.  A gentleman from New Jersey
had paid more than several years of my gross annual income for
two tickets in the fifth row, on the forty yard line,
behind the Giants bench.

He had made an early arrival, and began drinking
heavily several hours before the game.  “I’m right near
the Cabela’s in the stadium parking lot, southwest
corner of the lot.”

After walking the stadium perimeter one and a half
times in one and a half hours, I concluded that there was no
Cabela’s nearby.

“There’s no Cabela’s anywhere near here.  I
need you to go to the nearest lightpost, and tell me
what number is on the top of it.”


“You’re in the wrong parking lot.  The stadium
parking lot sections are numbered twenty through
ninety.  There’s no G6.  I know this, because I’ve seen
them all in the last hour and a half, trying to find you.”

“John, I’m getting kinda worried.  I’m an
alcoholic, I’m all f(oul)ed up, and I don’t wanna
miss the game.”

At Monmouth Entertainment, we specialize in customer service.

“If you don’t want to miss the game, you’re
going to have to help me out.  If you can’t do
that, I’m going to find the cutest girl in the parking lot,
and you’re treating us to some very nice seats at the
Super Bowl.  The first thing that I need you to
do is to stop drinking.”

“Okay, I can do that.”  I hear the sound of a
beer can hitting the pavement.

“Don’t litter, you’ll get arrested.  Put that
in recycling.”


“Can you see the stadium?”


“That’s a great start.  Now, keep moving until you
can see the stadium.”

Ten minutes later, another phone call.  “I can
see the stadium!”

“Fantastic.  Walk towards it until you see a red fence
with the Super Bowl XLII logo, and call me when you
get there.” 

Forty two minutes from kickoff, forty two minutes
from taking the cutest girl in the parking lot to the
game.  All I really wanted to do was ride to the Grand Canyon,
but I found myself unable to waste those tickets with a
clear conscience.

Another twenty minutes passes.  “I can see the
red fence!”

“Look at the nearest lightpost, and tell me what number is on top of it.”

“Seventy four.”

“Congratulations.  Now wrap your arms around
that light post, and do not let go until further notice.”
He was about a quarter mile and 20,000 people away,
and I managed to run through the throngs without knocking
anyone down.

The customer and his equally drunk friend were able
to remain standing by using lightpost number seventy four
as support.  They nearly collapsed and started
sobbing when I showed up.

“Here ya go”, I said, handing him the tickets
with a pat on the back.  “Now, pull your (self)
together, and enjoy the game.”

I watched the first half of the Super Bowl at a
“biker” bar called the Hideaway, north of town.
There were about a dozen Harleys parked out front, and
a few of the owners snapped pictures of the BMW and
asked a some questions.  A bike built with a purpose
other than fashion accessory struck them as odd, and every one of
them left promptly when the rain began right around kickoff.

After the game (great job, Giants!), I proceeded to
the parking lot of my favorite on-the-road bike
maintenance facility, Walmart.  Many Walmarts across the
country are open 24 hours, and they have a good quality oil filter
that fits the longitudinal engine K-bikes, and most
Oilheads, for $2.07 .  They also have big aluminum roasting
pans for draining the oil, and, if the Tire and Lube Express
is open, they’ll gladly recycle it for you.  Add in
a 5 quart jug of Mobil 1, and you’re ready to roll around
on the parking lot pavement, hopefully, with a good

My work in Phoenix was finished, and that entire
fiasco was little more than an excuse to see the Grand
Canyon.  I had ridden past it perhaps half a dozen times, but had
never stopped.  Since I was also working on an IBA
National Parks Tour Gold, and had just gotten paid, it was time to do
some touring.

The Iron Butt Association’s National Parks Tours are
the best way for people who don’t enjoy 1,000 or
1,500 mile days to earn an IBA membership, and are probably
the best way to earn that membership overall.  One
buys a National Parks passport, available in any visitor
center giftshop, and gets it stamped with each visit to a
National Park, Monument, Historic Site, Battlefield, et
cetera.  The objective for the basic Tour is to collect a minimum
of 50 stamps, in twenty five states, in one year.  The
NPT Silver requires that you visit each of the four corner states
of the lower 48, while the Gold means that you have done
all of that, plus Alaska, north of the 60th parallel. 

No planes, trains, or automobiles are allowed, the
applicant must ride there, until the Platinum level.
Recently, the National Parks Tour Platinum was added,
asking that the rider fulfill all of the criteria for
the National Parks Tour Gold, and then rent, beg, borrow, or steal
a motorcycle after flying to Hawaii, and visit at least
one park there.  This may also require the
additional documentation of a bike rental receipt, or a picture
of you with the begged, borrowed, or stolen motorcycle in
front of a clearly identifiable Hawaiian National Parks
sign.  A copy of the police and/or arrest report from any theft
or pursuit involved may also suffice.

I left Phoenix Monday morning, confident that I could
reach the Grand Canyon and ride around the south rim by
nightfall. The weather disagreed.  About fifty miles
later, I switched on the electric jacket liner, followed by the heated grips shortly thereafter.  Another fifty miles, and I rode
through a brief snowshower.  Just a shower, nothing to
worry about.  The bike squirmed around on the road a bit, as it
might on gravel. 

There was a clearing, and everything was fine, until
I crossed the next ridge, where I was greeted by a
whiteout blizzard.  It was only thirty miles to Flagstaff,
so I chugged along, hoping for another clearing, deciding
that it couldn’t snow this hard for very long.  This
proved a hopelessly poor decision.  Within a few
miles, a foot of snow had accumulated on the interstate, and I
was surrounded by eighteen wheelers who were either
horrified or amused by the motorcyclist in their midst.

The five miles to the next U-turn were some of the
longest I have ever ridden.  At the exit, there was
enough snow to stop the bike before the end of the ramp by simply
pulling in the clutch and coasting to a halt.  Any use of
the brakes would have put the bike on its side, anyway.

After another half hour on the southbound side, the
snow stopped, and the road was clear a few miles
later.  I had passed signs for two National Monuments on the way
north, so I decided to visit those, and perhaps look for a
place to stay in Sedona. 

The red rocks of Sedona are spectacular, as are the
prices for everything and anything nearby.  Rooms
started at $90 in the dead of winter, but a very kind motel owner
and Baltimore transplant directed me to a beautiful
place, seven miles east of town, for less than half that
price.  With its new terra cotta tile floors and large area
rug, ten foot ceilings, refrigerator, microwave, king size
bed, lots of space, and the same views of the red rocks as
the places in town, this was easily the best deal of the trip.

The next morning, the Weather Channel reported a
temperature of -16F at the Grand Canyon, providing a
rare opportunity to improve on my personal best riding
temperature.  However, by the time I slithered my
way through a beautiful, but icy, winding road and north
to the Canyon, it was well above zero.  At the entrance,
the ranger was not pleased to see me.  “We have three
cars off the road, it’s all ice up ahead.  I ride a
motorcycle, too, and I wouldn’t try it.”

“I rode 3,000 miles to get here, I have to try it.”

About a mile later, the ranger’s advice began to make
sense.  The road had about six inches of frozen,
packed snow, without visible pavement.  I turned around,
deciding to give it one more day, and one more attempt to reach
the Grand Canyon.  I spent the afternoon visiting
three more National Monuments, two of which were ancient pueblo
ruins. The third, Sunset Crater, was a volcano that
erupted about a thousand years ago.  Hiking to the crater was
outlawed in the 1970s, so there wasn’t much to look at, other
than pictures and literature in the visitor center.  A
nice road through the landscape offered a distant view of the
huge pile of volcanic ash, but that was as close as you
could get.

Finally, on Wednesday, I made it all the way to the
Canyon, nearly without incident.  A few snowdrifts that
had blown across a windy, open stretch of road from Flagstaff
kept the ride entertaining, but the pavement in the
National Park was nearly clear, thanks to the bright sunshine
and hard work by the road crews.

As the quintessential tourist destination, everyone
has heard too much about the Grand Canyon.  I will
tell you a little more anyway.  You’ve probably heard that
it is a mile deep, and eighteen miles across, but exactly what
that means is lost until one stands beside this ineffably
immense beauty, watching snow drift to the edge and
over it.  The incredible hype and overexposure of the
Grand Canyon is met and exceeded by the view.  If you
ever have the chance to ride there, go.  The winter is even
better, when the crowds are thinner and the Canyon is framed
in white.  It was well worth riding through three
days of wind, cold, and snow.

I began to make my way south, hoping to score a cheap
motel near Tucson and Saguaro National Park, but a gem and
mineral show in town had tripled lodging prices in the
area.  I cursed the gem and mineralogists, just for fun.
The extra hundred miles ride to cheap accommodations made for a
gorgeous dawn from the seat of a motorcycle on my return the next morning.
Saguaro National Park features a smoothly paved one way loop
road with blind curves that are marked for speeds as low as
5 mph.  It would be a lot of fun to ride this with
sparks flying from the undercarriage, but it may be even
more worthwhile to slow down and appreciate the giant cacti
just off the shoulder, many of which are 200 years old.  An
hour spent in Saguaro will give you the very best of the
desert’s magnificence, combined with a nice  ride.  I
took two laps, one for the scenery, and another for a little

The next day would find me in White Sands National
Monument, Alamogordo, New Mexico.  After a few
miles of gradually diminishing desert vegetation, there is a
sign that reads “Pavement Ends”, as do all other
visible signs of life.  I pull alongside a large earth
mover that is clearing drifting sand from the path
ahead.  “Will this thing make it through there?”

The operator gave me and the bike a quick once over.
“Yeah, you’ll be alright.”  The surface was
loosely packed, but manageable, and I soon found
myself in the midst of pure white dunes that were high enough to
make nothing else but the sky visible.  This sea of
sand could be a bit disorienting, and I was careful to keep the
bike pointed in the same direction for the entire trip
through Dunes Drive, to avoid getting lost.  The tires
sank in deep enough that he centerstand would only go halfway down,
but that was enough to keep the bike upright for a photograph.

I had hoped to leave White Sands with a piece of
trinitite, the molten quartz mixture left by the first atomic
bomb test, but found that the test site is only open to
the public two days a year, and that collecting trinitite
is now illegal.  I know a guy who once had some sort
of nebulous “government job”, and has a thirty pound
chunk of it sitting around.  On my next visit,
I’ll bring a small hammer….

Carlsbad Caverns is a great place for the claustrophobic
who might be curious about the inside of a cave, and
was my destination for the afternoon.  The main cavern
has high ceilings, an easily hiked path a mile and a quarter
long, will give one a view of everything that they may have
wanted to see or know about a cave, and is spacious
enough to avoid feeling buried alive.  There is the
choice of an elevator, or a natural entrance, where there are
seatings to watch the daily bat migrations in the morning and
evening.  To the astonishment of at least one teenage
bimbo, there is no cell phone reception 750 feet below
the earth’s surface.

I am fortunate to have an open invitation to Voni and
Paul Glaves’ new house in the Big Bend region of Texas,
and took them up on it that evening.  They have been
two of the biggest supporters in my riding, serving as pit crew
and logistical managers, and they always add something positive
to the evil disposition I have been known to embrace
when riding with some sort of competitive goal.

Their house is the first place on the right, just
outside the city limits of Alpine, Texas.  In Texan, that
means that they live 53 miles from town.  During the
day, Route 118 south from Alpine is a good place to take your
bike for a top speed run, with five mile straightaways
separated by short stints of sweepers through the hills.  You
may see one or two other vehicles in the 53 miles to the
Glaves’, if you are in the middle of rush hour.
There is all the visibility someone prone to such things
would hope for at WFO, not much vegetation on the sides of
the road, and the only enforcement is a Border Patrol
checkpoint on the northbound side.  They don’t seem
much concerned with Americans sneaking into Mexico
illegally.  At night, however, slow down.  There are large
deer, and small wild boars called javelina.  At 40-70 lbs.,
the javelina wouldn’t be much of a problem if you hit
them in something like the Glaves’ Ford Exploder, but
would be a disaster for a motorcyclist.

I arrive at Voni and Paul’s at sunset, with their
landmark rusty old windmill silhouetted against a
fading sky of tangerine, magenta, and other color names that
I’m not creative enough to look up in the dictionary.

There is no cell phone service.  Once in a while,
Paul gets a truckload of drinking water from a well a few miles
away.  Rainwater is collected from the roof into a pair of
large cisterns, and used for everything else.  Located
at the very edge of the electric company’s power grid, the
house is a spacious adobe structure, with high speed
internet and a land-line phone.  It is a quiet
and desolately beautiful place, with surreally bright
starlight as the night’s only illumination.

Despite the distance to anything resembling
civilization, the Glaves get plenty of people passing through.
They keep a Sharpie handy, so that everyone can sign the
visitors’ log, which doubles as a refrigerator.  A visit
with them makes one proud to scribble a John Hancock and a few
words on the front door or side.  There is a van and
trailer in the gravel circular drive, left by a few Adventure
Riders who are riding their dualsports into Mexico’s Copper
Canyon.  After a few hours out on the bike, it is not
unusual to find a note left on the front door by
BMWMOA members.  “We’re having dinner in Terlingua
about 7 o’clock.  Please join us.”

It is Paul’s birthday, and one of the group happens
to have a guitar handy, so the entire restaurant is
subjected to a roughly strummed and badly sung version of
“Happy Birthday”, by fifteen veteran BMW riders whose eight-figure
accumulated mileage can be heard in their
rendition.  If any of the earplug companies wanted to run a Super
Bowl ad, this would be it.

The next day, we head for Big Bend National Park,
about thirty miles south, and spend the day riding through
Chisos Basin, to the edge of the Rio Grande, and along the
winding River Road, a deceptively technical ride with sudden
sharp curves and elevation changes.  Motorcycle crashes
here are not uncommon, and sometimes include experienced rider

On the way out of the park, I decide to try Old Maverick
Road, a 15 mile dirt and gravel stretch that turns out
to be 95% washboard.  Voni and Paul stay on the
pavement and meet me at the other end.  Fortunately, Paul is a
great mechanic and has a substantial shop already set up
here, so we return to the house to replace all of the broken
bolts and electrical connections.  The fuel cell is
strapped back near its proper place, the aluminum mounts having
given up somewhere on Old Maverick Road.

With these refreshments, the K75 was ready for the
next day’s ride to McComb, Mississippi, with a few stops
to visit more National Monuments and Historic Sites along
the way.  I arrive at the home of Karen and Shane
Smith about 130 AM.  Per standard IBA protocol, which is to
call anytime, I reach for my phone to give Shane a wake up
call so he can let me in the house.  My pocket is
empty, and Shane stumbles sleepily out of the house to greet
me.  I suddenly realize that the phone is 350 miles west of
McComb, probably being used to make drug deals by now.

“Mornin’, John.  Nice girl called from the gas
station outside of Houston.  They have your phone.  She figured
she’d try to call the last number dialed.”

I ride to New Orleans in the morning, and find the
Air Force, the jazz band of the armed forces branch,
warming up for a concert at the New Orleans Jazz National
Monument on Bourbon Street.  It is very tempting to stay, but
it will be 800 more miles by the time I retrieve my telephone
and return to the Smiths’ place.  One of the band
members warns, “Be careful.  There’s a line of tornadoes
headed east from Houston.”  I set out gleefully,
hoping for a bike/tornado photo op, but am met by
nothing more than hundreds of miles of heavy rain.  Tara,
the savior of my phone, refuses any reward when I
return to the scene of the previous night’s blunder.
People like this make some of the on-the-road horror stories one
hears hard to believe, and I will never cease to be amazed by
how many truly good people are still out there.  I
arrive back at Karen and Shane’s near midnight.  This may
sound like a lot of work, but a day on the bike is still
better than a day of anything else.

After a few days, I begin to wind my way north and
east, visiting Vicksburg, the Natchez Trace Parkway, a
small canyon in Alabama, and Harper’s Ferry, West Virginia,
among other places.

On the last night, I ride east through Pennsylvania,
reflecting on the journey that is nearly, finally,
finished.  The temperature is in the teens, but I
am more comfortable than I would ever be with a fireplace, big
leather recliner, and bearskin rug.  As a bit of
melancholy sets in, I begin to wonder about who ever came up with the
saying, “There’s no place like home.”  Clearly, they
never spent enough time on the road.

By Scott Easton  Copyright the Iron Butt Association

Around the turn of the century, the Iron Butt Association
 leadership began to look for new ways to challenge its
 membership.  Hidden in a seldom-browsed IBA webpage,
 registered trademarks began to appear, and went unnoticed
 until the Jacksonville ride-to-eat in 2006, when Mike
 Kneebone announced that they would now certify Saddlesore
 1000s ridden entirely within a single state.
 You live in Kentucky, but don’t like to ride far?  No
 excuses.  The KY-1000 awaits, if you can take it.  Some of
 the smaller, northeastern states would present unique
 problems with documentation, and exceptions to the
 Saddlesore rule forbidding repetitive routes would have to
 be made, but thousand-mile days have now been ridden in
 nearly every state.
 IBA cornerstone Dave McQueeney insisted that Washington,
 D.C. be included for certification with the state rides, as
 he had documented a stop in the District when he did his 48
 states plus Alaska ride in less than ten days.  He
 didn’t feel the series was complete without D.C.  After
 all, a town full of drunken lawyers and bloated politicians
 has three electoral votes, why shouldn’t they have their
 own Saddlesore?  He successfully lobbied for its inclusion,
 to the amusement of those who thought they knew better.
 Debates ensued between them and a very obstinate rider over
 whether such an “urban” Saddlesore was possible.
 Within a couple of months, the debate ended when a crew of
 witnesses counted the 63rd lap of Washington D.C. within 24
 hours, completed by that obstinate rider, and followed
 shortly thereafter by Bob Higdon and Mike Kneebone.
 Questions followed.  Can this be done in New York?  Los
 Angeles?  Where else?  There are now trademarks in place for
 all of the major cities.
 Someone circled New York for over a thousand miles, without
 ever leaving Manhattan.  Seventeen riders have completed
 L.A.  Two people spent a thousand-mile day in Indianapolis.
 “San Francisco would be an interesting
 challenge”, Mike Kneebone said, at the post-ride
 breakfast in D.C.  Sean Gallagher and John Ryan decided to
 take a closer look.
 Gallagher hadn’t been on a long ride in “two and a
 half years”.  Ryan seems inclined to try anything on a
 bike, and won’t admit to owning a car since the Reagan
 administration.  They warmed up by riding a southerly route,
 from the northeast, in three days, arriving at a Travelodge
 in South San Francisco, where they were to meet Tom Austin
 and Dave McQueeney. 
 Sean isn’t comfortable on the south side of the tracks,
 and checks out of the designated Travelodge ride
 headquarters after twenty minutes.  “I’m going to
 the Holiday Inn down the street.  I have 4 billion reward
 points, they have a bar, and a good restaurant.  Meet me
 over there for dinner.” 
 Gallagher proceeds to fortify himself for the ride with
 generous portions of nachos, steak, sushi, Patron, Stella
 Artois, and Marlboro Lights.  Ryan doesn’t drink or
 smoke, but eats more than enough to compensate for this
 Sean hands John a fistful of sponsorship money.  “This
 is from Roger Sinclair and me”.
 “Thanks, but I wish you wouldn’t do that”,
 Ryan says, trying to frown while looking relieved.
 “Yeah, right.  You have enough money to get
 “Nearly half way, yes.  I’ve got plenty of credit
 Sean also picks up the tab for every meal and drink we
 would have that weekend, and would hear nothing of anyone
 else contributing to the bill.
 Ryan grew up on urban riding tactics, but Gallagher is not
 very confident.  “You’ve got to be at the top of
 your game 100% of the time for this ride,” he says.
 “I’ve never really ridden in a city before, and
 I’m not sure that I have the skills for this.”
 Ryan shrugs.  “Well, you’ll have the skills by
 Monday morning….”
 Austin and McQueeney weren’t showing up until Saturday
 night for the planned Sunday ride.  It was only Thursday,
 and there were details that needed attention.
 The route looked good on paper, but would have to be tested
 in what these people think is reality.  The average speed
 limit must be greater than 41.7 miles per hour, to make a
 thousand-mile day legally feasible, otherwise, the IBA
 won’t certify it.  Distance per lap was measured.
 Traffic density and temperament were assessed, at different
 times of day.  A suitable fuel stop/checkpoint was found at
 the south end of town, open 24 hours, with receipts that
 included the required date, time, location, and gallons of
 fuel purchased.  Ryan spoke with a few members of the
 California Highway Patrol, who were busy writing speeding
 tickets at the north end of the route, and tried to explain
 what they might see on Sunday.
 All three officers were motorcyclists, one had even heard
 of the Iron Butt Association.  “How many bikes will be
 doing this?”
 “Just two of us.  In the past, we’ve caused some
 concern when officers see us pass them over and over
 “Okay.  Fifty bikes might be a different story.  Just
 don’t get pulled over, keep it safe, and you should be
 Sean would be on the “Robobike”, a BMW R1150GS
 Paul Taylor rode to victory in the Iron Butt Rally and
 promptly sold to him after giving it the thrashing of its
 life.  He drops it at San Francisco BMW on Friday for a full
 service.  Roger Sinclair had just spent a week fixing leaks
 in the 11 gallon Touratech gas tank.
 He picks the bike up the next morning, fully serviced, with
 one small caveat.  The technician explains that he could not
 test ride the bike because of a fuel leak, and noted on the
 repair order, “Unsafe to ride”.  He points to a
 small puddle of gasoline beneath it.
 Gallagher is convinced that he parked it in the warm
 building with a full tank, which then expanded through the
 overflow line.  As he pulls out of the shop, I follow at a
 safe distance, a quarter mile or so.  Everyone feels pretty
 good when he makes it back to the hotel without
 A few more test laps on the route support the notion that a
 thousand mile day in the city is possible, if that pace can
 be sustained for nearly 24 hours.  A thorough inspection of
 the checkpoint reveals another small problem, however.  The
 building, and the restroom inside, are closed from 9PM to
 “No big deal”, Sean says.  “I can just go
 behind that bush over there.”
 Ryan begs to differ.  “You’re six feet tall,
 wearing a hi-viz Aerostich, relieving yourself behind a
 three foot high bush at a busy urban intersection.  If you
 get busted for urinating in public, I’m not going to
 bail you out until I’m finished with the ride.”
 “I can bail myself out.”
 “Then, you’re not going to finish the ride.”
 “Good point.  What do you suggest?”
 “We need to find a medical supply store.”
 They’re fully equipped by the time Dave McQueeney and
 Tom Austin arrive Saturday afternoon.  The first priority is abuse of 
 Sean Gallagher.  Ryan telephones him.
 “Sean, you need to come over here and talk to Dave.
 It seems there might be a problem.”
 “What!?  What kind of problem?”
 “Well, apparently San Francisco BMW called and told
 him that your bike was unsafe.  Dave and Tom are the
 certifying authorities for this, and they say they can’t
 let you ride.  You can work as a witness, though….”
 A long string of expletives follows.  It’s strong
 enough to make even Ryan, a product of New York’s
 underside, flinch.  “How could San Francisco BMW call
 “Everybody knows Dave McQueeney.”
 Another full minute of unprintable dialog.  Finally, Ryan
 lets it go.  “Sean, calm down. I’m just
 Gallagher shows up a few minutes later, and McQueeney goes
 over the rules for the ride. 
 Dave is a soft-spoken straight talker who isn’t given
 to much humor at another’s expense.  However, he has
 been known to make an exception under appropriate
 “The route is just under twenty miles in length, so,
 John, we’ll need you to come in for gas, and an odometer
 and GPS track log check every 17 laps.  Now, Sean, since
 you’re new at this, we need you to come in for an
 odometer and GPS check on every lap.”
 Gallagher’s eyes widen, his jaw drops into his
 Aerostich, and his face turns the color of the setting sun.
 Ryan turns away, but had just taken a mouthful of Gatorade.
 The stunning blow from such an unlikely source has him on
 his knees coughing it up on the pavement.  After a few
 seconds Gallagher realizes he’s been tread upon once
 “I’ll get you guys for this,” he says,
 finally laughing.  “It might be ten years from now, and
 you’ll never know it’s coming, but I swear that I
 will get you for this.  Man, I was hot!”
 At an early dinner that night, both riders eat light, and
 Sean switches from drinking beer and tequila to Perrier.
 “Game time,” he explains.
 Two hours later, Ryan is hungry again.  Tom Austin has just
 arrived, and John unsuccessfully tries to talk him into
 having dinner.  “You need to get some sleep, don’t
 “That won’t happen for a few hours yet.”
 Ryan returns to his bike, opens a foil pack of processed
 salmon, sips from a bottle of water, and munches on dried
 fruit from his tankbag.  “Want some?”
 “No, thanks.”
 “I was expecting rain.  Every one of these city rides,
 we’ve had good weather.  We were due to get rained
 on.”  There hasn’t been a cloud in the sky for
 three days, with temperatures rising from the mid-sixties at
 night to the seventies during the day.  Light breezes, and
 no change for tomorrow.
 John sits on the bike, nonchalantly snacking away in the
 parking lot of a cheap airport motel.  It looks as if
 there’s no place he’d rather have dinner.  He seems
 rational, despite his reputation, and a thousand yard stare
 that would take the smile off Ronald McDonald’s face.
 “You really think this can be done?”
 “That’s what we’re here to find out.  The test
 rides on the route worked well enough.  The only thing that
 could stop us would be a minor disaster shutting down the
 freeway.  But, I’m wearing my lucky Higdon Courthouse
 Ride shirt – what could possibly go wrong?”
 “We know there will be plenty of that, we just have to
 keep moving, even if it’s slowly.  At one point in New
 York, we did 304 odometer miles in eight hours and fifty
 minutes, but were still able to finish, because we kept
 “I spoke with them the other day, and they sounded
 very reasonable.  We’re not going to do anything stupid,
 and don’t need to in order to finish this ride.”
 “What about Sean?  He seems a little nervous….”
 “His confidence is not what it should be, but he’s
 a big boy, has done some great rides.  It may take him a few
 hours to adapt, but he’ll be fine.”
 It’s nearly midnight.  “I think I can sleep
 now,” he says.  “We want to be rolling by four.
 See you at the checkpoint.”
 A few hours later, I follow Dave McQueeney’s
 1980s-vintage BMW R100RS about ten miles to the Chevron
 station that will be our home for the next 24 hours.  Has
 Dave survived all of his million and a half BMW miles by
 riding at 50 in a 65 mph zone?  He apologizes when we
 arrive, explaining that the bike is running on only one
 Tom Austin parks his pickup truck in a back corner of the
 small lot, providing a place for the naps that would
 certainly be needed.  He sports a California Highway Patrol
 baseball cap to thwart the suspicions of those who might
 wonder about a group of grown men hanging around a gas
 station all day and night.  It seems to work – he gets a
 wave or nod from many of the CHP and SFPD patrols that pass
 In a circle of harsh halogen lighting in the pre-dawn
 darkness, these two machines don’t look like they’ll
 travel a thousand feet,  not miles, without a lot of help.  Both
 would appear to have significant mileage with the shiny side
 down, if either had a shiny side.  Saddlebags have been
 removed and left at their respective hotels.  Starting
 odometers are recorded (112K and 127K!), GPSes are zeroed,
 witness forms signed, handshakes exchanged, and smiles fade
 as both riders swipe a credit card and fuel up.
 They’re “on the clock” by 0400, bright white
 HID lights carving across three traffic lanes, to make a
 left at the stoplight directly in front of us.  Two quick
 rights, and they’re on the freeway.  It’s a busy and
 complex five-corner intersection, and will probably serve to
 help keep them alert as the day winds slowly along.
 Dave McQueeney explains the record keeping.  The
 completion time of every lap is recorded, elapsed time will
 give some idea of traffic or other problems.  If a lap takes
 much too long, it’s probably a good idea to try them on
 the phone.  We acknowledge with a wave as they pass.  The
 riders will stop for gas every 17 laps, and have the GPS
 track log checked, to verify that they’re staying in
 bounds, that is, within the city limits.  Ryan’s bike is
 equipped with a Star-Traxx, for additonal verification, and
 so that Mike Kneebone can watch from IBA headquarters when
 he’s grown weary of watching a fresh coat of paint in
 the living room dry.
 The first few laps are nearly interesting, hoping for the
 best while anticipating the next safe arrival.  The lights on
 those bikes make them clearly visible as soon as they’re
 reached the exit ramp, nearly a half mile away.  After a few
 hours, the novelty wears off, and I retreat to the pickup
 for a nap as the sun rises.
 Two hours later, Bob Mutchler and Neil Cook have arrived,
 Dave McQueeney’s bike is running on both cylinders, Ryan
 has already made a gas stop, and Sean Gallagher is pulling
 in for his first.  “How many laps is that f$#! ahead of
 “Six right now, Sean”, Dave tells him.
 Ryan rolls past, waves, and yells to Gallagher.  “Hi,
 “Make that seven.”
 Tom and Dave don’t seem the least bit fazed by what
 must be the blinding monotony of the task.  Their fanatical
 attention hasn’t lapsed a bit.    Their devotion to
 riding, and to the Iron Butt Association, is renowned, but
 to see it in this context gives one concern for their well
 being.  Gallagher and Ryan may be trying to live on the
 edge, but Austin and McQueeney went over and lost sight of
 it years ago.
 I decide that it’s time to experiment, and ride the
 route.  The traffic light at the start is timed to turn
 green just as you’ve gotten bored enough to reach for a
 sip of water or a tankbag snack.  Thirty Californians lean
 on their horns and remind you that “lanesharing”
 isn’t just for motorcycles, as sheet metal brushes both
 knees, and a Ring Ding falls into your lap and begins to
 A left and a quick right, and another wait.  To keep us
 safe, the great state of Calfornia  has prohibited a right on red to the freeway.  Riding under the influence of diesel exhaust from the F450 in front of me is much more prudent.  A motorcycle cruises
 by on the right, with several inches to spare, slicing its
 way to the front of the line.  Maybe it’s one of ours,
 and I can catch up to take a look, but it’s out of sight
 by the time the light changes.
 Traffic is aleady very heavy.  Brake lights flash randomly,
 without reason, as when someone imagines a glimpse of
 nothing out of the corner of their eye while text messaging
 a girlfriend or trying to slap the brat in the back seat.  A
 few sweepers undulate through the hills toward downtown, the
 forest of trucks and sloppy SUVs making it difficult to pick
 a smooth line.  If I had the road to myself, this stretch
 could be fun, a chance to scuff the edges of the tires.
 Right now, it’s more important to avoid scuffing the
 edges of the motorcycle against the competition.
 Congestion builds in the north, as people try to make their
 right lane exit from three lanes to the left, while others
 have their heart set on the exact opposite.  There is an
 occasional turn signal.  Hybrid cars lumber along at twenty
 miles per hour below the speed limit.  There is an
 occasional fender bender.
 The pace picks up approaching the bridge leaving the city.
 I accelerate to the far left lane, looking for the exit and
 U-turn.  “It’s marked for 15 mph,” Sean
 Gallagher warned.  “There’s no exit ramp, and a
 concrete wall on the outside.  You’re at highway speed
 going in.  Sometime tonight, one of us is going to bounce
 off that wall.”  I put on my turn signal a half mile
 from the exit, trying to put some distance between myself
 and whatever is behind me, checking mirrors, and hoping that
 they’re paying closer attention than I’ve seen so
 far.  I frighten myself only moderately, feeling the ABS
 shudder as the concrete wall gets very big, very fast, and
 struggle to turn the thing around a curve with about a
 twenty foot radius.  Ryan told me to make a bootleg turn as
 soon as I reach the end of the divider, and get right back
 on the bridge, per the advice of the CHP.  The road on the
 island is under costruction, preventing an easy return to
 the freeway.
 I’m back to the bridge again in seconds, this time on
 the upper level, with astounding views of the city, the bay,
 and Alacatraz.  I’m reminded of a friend who takes the
 annual swim from Alcatraz to the city, a mile and a half in
 fifty degree shark infested waters.  There are all kinds of
 freaks out here on the left coast.  Some of them come from
 the east, for no other reason than to circle the city on a
 motorcycle, at least 51 times in a day.
 Two well-worn bikes pass as I reach a split in the freeway,
 north of the checkpoint.  Gallagher and Ryan, a few hundred
 yards apart, suddenly signal and change lanes in opposite
 directions as I hear and feel a series of concussive thuds.
 The rear end of the car ahead hops a few inches off the
 pavement.  I swerve and note four cages, each a little
 shorter than a  moment before, sharing what the DOT has
 appropriately named “crush zones”.

 It has gotten warm enough that the shade from a tree near
 the sidewalk looks good, and I wave to the small IBA crowd
 that has gathered there while passing the checkpoint.  Dave
 McQueeney makes a notation on his omnipresent clipboard.  He
 shouldn’t plan to keep track of what I’m doing,
 because there won’t be much.
 I return to the clogged freeway for a few miles, shifting
 and swerving like a kid in a schoolyard game of tag.  The
 turn signals get enough use that my left thumb starts to
 cramp, and suddenly the odd BMW controls make sense.  You
 can share the work between both hands.  Relief is just
 ahead, though – a huge clot of brakelights, six lanes wide.
 I won’t be needing the signals for a while.
 I brake to a stop, keeping one eye on the mirrors.  Sean
 Gallagher is just ahead, having tossed his lanesharing
 virginity to the wind.  What would Jill think?  Her only
 concern, according to Sean, was that he return home safe,
 sound, and on time for their daughter’s wedding, six
 days hence.
 My thoughts are yanked back to where they belong by a
 sickening impact and shower of broken glass, as a Ford
 Exploder on the left lives up to its name by joining the
 traffic jam a little too quickly.  The driver removes an
 iPhone from the remains of his teeth and spits a mouthful of
 blood, while untangling himself from the offending airbag.
 Lanesplitting is starting to look very safe, and I creep
 Another bike goes by, to the extreme right side of the
 right lane.  John Ryan pulls even with Sean, who is mired
 somewhere in the middle, beeps the horn, waves him over, and
 keeps rolling.  Sean looks around and begins to squeeze his
 way laterally, but doesn’t get much cooperation.  After
 a few minutes, he’s able to reach the side and start
 moving again, disappearing into the sea of steel and
 The cooling fan kicks in, adding a Death Valley breeze to
 what has suddenly become much too warm a day.  The extreme
 right lanesharing is starting to look good, and I’m able
 sneak over eventually, tiptoeing between fenders, mirrors,
 and the tire-puncturing debris on the edge of the road.
 After thirty minutes of this, I’ve reached the bridge
 again, and some relief, as the used car lot spreads out and
 picks up the pace.  The U-turn goes a little more smoothly
 this time, without activating the ABS.  The break
 doesn’t last long, as nothing is moving when I return to
 the southbound side.  I’m beginning to
 understand the DMV motorcycle road test – this is what they
 had in mind when they have you teeter along at 4 mph between
 parking cones.  I pass a car stereo blaring Journey’s
 “City by the Bay”, the singer taunting me about
 how much he wants to be here.  Right now, I’d rather be
 anywhere else.
 The misery persists.  Eight miles to the checkpoint.  Five.
  Two.  Gallagher and Ryan pass again, with Sean starting to
 look like he knows what he’s doing.  My learning curve
 has flatlined.  The best I can hope for is to stay at the
 checkpoint, feast on microwave burritos, and sip a Big Gulp.
 Everyone’s times have doubled since the start, so I
 feel a little better about my two laps in an hour and a
 half.  The 26.3 mph average won’t make a thousand mile
 day, but how long can these conditions last?  Well, about 14
 hours, with lanesharing a necessity on most of the route
 until nearly midnight.  The San Francisco 1000 will never
 grace my resume. 
 Sean pulls in for a gas stop just after sunset, chuckling
 to himself.  He passed a patrol car without realizing it
 until he heard a Dodge Hemi breathe deep and saw the black
 and white Charger pull alongside.  The PA system crackled,
 and then announced, “SHUT YOUR BLINKER OFF!” 
 “How is it out there?”
 “They’re pretty good about clearing the wrecks.
 They’re gone by the next lap.  Remember The Outlaw Josie
 Wales?  I keep repeating the Indian’s mantra – endeavor
 to persevere.  It helps.  Then, that son of a bitch will
 pass me again, which helps, too.  There’s somethin’
 wrong with that boy,” Sean says with a grin.
 When John’s hideous FJR arrives for its third fuel stop
 a couple of hours later, Tom and Dave shake his hand and
 extend their congratulations.  The San Francisco 1000 is
 finished.  Ryan, unfortunately, is not. 
 “I’m going to keep going for 24 hours, if you
 don’t mind….”
 “Sure.  Whatever you want to do, we’ll be
 “Thank you.  How’s Sean feeling?”
 “Tired, but determined.  He’ll make it.”
 Ryan returns a few hours later, with bad news.  The exit
 ramp has been closed by construction.  “How many laps
 does he have left?”
 “He’s not gonna be happy.  We need to take one
 exit north, and wind through some residential streets to get
 back to Mission.”
 The lanesplitting requirement has expired, so I decide to
 head out for another look.  Traffic has subsided to the
 point that it’s no worse than riding through a herd of
 deer, until I reach a Highway Patrol car, crossing back and
 forth with emergency lights on, making it clear that no one
 will pass.  I picture one of those minor disasters that
 closes the freeway, but soon see the reason – one driver has
 given another a
 NASCAR-style bump into the wall.  The cop pulls over to the
 crash, closing only two lanes.  I’m able to complete a
 full circuit without putting a foot down, except for the
 traffic lights.  Sean Gallagher passes on the bridge,
 flipping up the chin on his modular helmet to enjoy a few
 long drags on a cigarette as he approaches the turnaround.
 His long history in the recycling business is evident as he
 extinguishes the smoke and puts it in the map pocket of the
 tankbag.  “I can get four laps out of a butt that
 He comes in for his last fuel stop an hour later, and gets
 his ending receipt.  Tom Austin checks the GPS, which reads
 1004.7 miles.  Sean has been scored by Tom at the Iron Butt
 Rally, and knows what to expect – all business.  Even so,
 he’s a bit taken aback when Tom tells him, “I think
 you should take three more laps, for some insurance
 Sean looks at the pavement, but is smiling as he gets back
 on the bike.  “Yes, sir!”
 With all of the suspense and both riders’ San Francisco
 Saddlesores essentially finished, John is able to raise some
 interest.  He cuts to the front of the line at the
 checkpoint traffic light, passing, amongst the dozen or so
 other cars, the California Highway Patrol.  The officer zigs
 out of the turn lane and zags alongside Ryan at the front.
 The two look at each other, but nothing happens, and they go
 their separate ways when the light turns green.
 Another FJR devotee, Tom Melchild, is a welcome sight for
 the late night crew, bringing his affable demeanor to
 lighten the load through the last few hours.
 Sean pulls in with his insurance miles and a huge sigh of
 relief.  He puts in a few gallons of gas, notes the odometer
 reading on the receipt, and collects signatures on the
 ending witness form.  1064 miles, GPS certified.  He
 staggers over to the curb, looking for Ryan, hoping to wave
 him in.  John cruises by, slapping his hand without touching
 the brakes.  “Nice ride, Sean!”
 He returns to his bike, leans against it, and lights
 another smoke, shaking his head in disbelief.  “I’m
 finished.  I have a flight home tomorrow afternoon, a
 friend’s keeping the bike at his place.  I’ll ride
 it home next week.”
 Sean shakes hands and thanks everyone before climbing back
 on the motorcycle. His only goal now is arrival at a good
 night’s sleep, just a few miles away.  Hopefully,
 he’ll awaken before that afternon flight.
 The most fascinating thing in the small hours after
 midnight is Dave McQueeney’s nearly robotic ability to
 function.  He’s been out here nearly 24 hours, on a few
 hours of sleep, calmly and precisely making notes, without
 taking a break or missing a lap, without a sign of fatigue,
 boredom, or change in disposition.  He passes the hours
 quietly sharing his multitude of riding experiences,
 everything from gorgeous destinations to keeping an Airhead
 together for hundreds of thousands of miles.  It’s no
 surprise that BMW awarded him their highest honor, Friend of
 the Marque, a few years ago.
 Ryan finally pulls in, exactly 24 hours after his start.
 After getting all the paperwork finished, he’s ready for
 breakfast, but no one is willing to join him.  I’ve
 started to fall asleep standing up, and want nothing more
 than the squeaky bed in my budget motel room.  Dave
 McQueeney, however, is ready to ride home.  Four hundred
 miles.  “I checked out of the hotel yesterday.”
 These people are not like us.
 It has been said that whoever is in charge of the universe
 looks after drunkards and fools, and they apparently look
 after some of the IBA’s stranger denizens, as well.
 Ryan’s front tire begins to show its steel belt, and the
 front wheel bearings aren’t bearing anything by the time
 he reaches Flagstaff.  Sean Gallagher flies back to San
 Francisco the following week, determined to score a 50CC on
 the way home, when his BMW final drive does what they have
 become famous for  in Tallahassee.  Whoever’s in charge
 wanted to see a San Francisco Saddlesore, but decided that
 was enough.
 Another city has fallen within the IBA realm.  Much of the
 membership has regarded these rides scornfully, and they are
 certainly not appealing in the traditional sense.  Most long
 distance riders want to go somewhere, without concern for
 the journey as destination, as it is in the purest sense
 with an urban Saddlesore.  The constant high demand on
 situational awareness makes it so, and that is not something
 many riders are comfortable with, or perhaps capable of, for
 a thousand miles.  Those who claim such a short, repetitive
 route is boring clearly have no relevant experience.  There
 is no opportunty for boredom, with conditions and hazards
 changing so much that no two laps are alike. 
 Steven L. Thompson has written “Bodies in
 Motion”, a book which offers to explain why riding
 motorcycles feels good.  We are beings who have learned to
 enjoy the physical sensations of moving around, which
 started as basic instinct and grew as we evolved into the
 planet’s dominant species.  For some, a spectacularly
 distant place isn’t needed to enjoy this instinct.
 Simply being on a motorcycle, braking, accelerating,
 swerving, reacting, and surviving, is not only good enough –
 it is fantastic.

I don’t have a drinking problem.  I don’t really smoke, either,  just a few packs of cigarettes, when I’m out with friends, drunk, and that isn’t enough to cause cancer, so it’s not a problem.  I may stagger out the door of your party after six martinis, a few beers, and a glass of wine, but, don’t worry, I do this every night, and I’m okay to drive.  I’ll be fine as soon as I get behind the wheel, thank you.

Motorcycling may be a little different.  My friends tell me I may have a problem, with its roots in my mental health.  My legal and spiritual advisor suggested a name for this blog – “One Flew Out of the Cuckoo’s Nest”, implying some sort of escape, as if there is something wrong with me, that I should be institutionalized.  I disagree, of course, and used the name only because it’s cute.

It started innocently enough, on June 19th, 1980.  John Everitt bought a motorcycle, and brought it over to show me.  The clutch is over here, the gas on the other side.  Twist it back to make it go faster.  These are the brakes, step on this one, squeeze that one.  It seemed easy enough, and felt good.  By the end of the day, I had a motorcycle permit, and owned a beautiful 1971 Honda CB350 with an emerald green tank, chrome fenders, and only 5,000 miles on the odometer.

I rode to work every day, and to the beach every weekend.  Strangers on motorcycles waved to me as they passed.  I could stay with a new Trans Am in an impromptu stoplight drag race, and had spent only $500 on my bike.  Girls liked to go for rides, helping a young and pathologically shy motorcyclist develop some crude social skills, and maybe even a little confidence.  The bike quickly became my basic transportation, and life with this new addiction was very good.

My licensing at the NJDMV’s test facility in August went smoothly.  After all, I had already ridden thousands of miles in the New York metropolitan area, including forays into the city both night and day, in all kinds of traffic.

The instructor had me ride around the course, using hand signals instead of the blinkers.  Stop the bike at the top of the hill, put down the kickstand, and walk a circle around it with the motor running, to prove that you can find neutral.  Turn a few figure eights over here.  Congratulations.

The ride home from getting my license was the beginning of learning the hard and effective way.  I approached a corner at a speed well above my modest skills, ran wide, and slid on the gravel at the edge, slamming into the outside curb.

My poor bike!  How could I do such a stupid thing to my best friend?  With my skill set, that was easy.  It started and ran fine, despite my fears, and my grave insult.  I rode it home, and someone drove me to the emergency room, after realizing that I had sustained the first of my current total of more than thirty fractures.  No, they’re not all from motorcycle accidents.  Only about twenty eight of them….

I spent the evening picking gravel from the roadrash and experimenting with my left hand, looking for ways to make it work with a broken thumb metacarpal and a cast up to the elbow.  That’s my clutch hand, maybe I can….

I couldn’t squeeze the fingers together, but was able to engage and disengage the clutch by pivoting my forearm back and forth from the shoulder, with four digits hooked around the lever.  A few minutes later, I was back on the road.  The bike behaved like nothing had happened, and was still my best friend.  You simply don’t find that kind of loyalty in a human being.

While the metacarpal knit back together, my skills improved.  By the time the cast was taken off, I had pitched the bike into a full-lock slide around a left-turning car, and learned to combine cautious braking with the throttle to smooth downshifts in the rain.

Winter approached, and my fellow motorcyclists disappeared from the road.  I wondered how they managed without riding for nearly half the year, it must be like going without a drink or without booting up some junk for the entire winter.  What is wrong with these people?  I think they have a problem….

I bought one of those fancy full faced helmets, learned a lot about what being really cold means, and learned a little bit about staying warm.  Bundle up like the Michelin man, get some heavy gloves with gauntlets, and attach a Throat Coat to the bottom of the helmet.  I didn’t know about balaclavas yet, and the Throat Coat worked well.  Halo makes something similar today, called the Helmax.

I resolved to ride on the coldest night of the year, and have done so for the past twenty eight winters, riding nearly every day that there isn’t snow on the roads, and perhaps too many days when there is.  It has gotten much easier now, with great advances in synthetic fabric technology, electric clothing from Everyone’s Journey, and heated handgrips.  I’ve only gotten frostbite once, and that was slight, while the learning curve was still quite steep.  My personal best is riding at -10 degrees Fahrenheit, and I had to travel to Vermont in December to find that.  It doesn’t get any colder  in New Jersey, ever.  I have managed a thousand mile day entirely in single digit temperatures, for a January appearance in southwestern Virginia, to settle a disagreement with a state trooper.

My riding habit started at about 10,000 miles per year, and nearly tripled by 1990.  Cars became insignificant, and I eventually gave up on  them.  I was riding big sportbikes with a group of authority figures, using that to authorize rides like the one from Chester, Pennsylvania, to New Brunswick, New Jersey in little more than thirty minutes.  It was an emergency, after all, we had to get to the nightclub before closing.  Looking back on it now, it stands out as one of the most remarkable rides of my life.  It is remarkable that we weren’t the least bit worried, and it is remarkable that we survived.  Yes, it was a lot of fun, but I’m quite sure that it won’t happen again.

Then, I started hanging out with a bad crowd, or so I was told.  BMW riders.  I bought a K75 from an uncle’s estate in the summer of 2002, and went to some club meetings of the New Jersey Shore BMW Riders.  These were  people to whom riding is much more than a hobby, who traveled across the country on their bikes, who knew everything about them, and were incredibly generous with their time and knowledge.  This was the right crowd for me, and whether they were bad or not didn’t matter.

They even gave me a trophy at my first event, the Northeast Presidents Breakfast of the Internet BMW Riders.  My Yamaha FZR1000, with its 180,000 miles, won the ratbike contest, dubbed “Least Likely to Arrive”.  I had done plenty of dumb things on a motorcycle, but this was the first time that I felt truly appreciated for it.

I noticed a few license plate frames from the Iron Butt Association at these BMW events.  I had first heard of the IBA in 1984, reading about the Iron Butt Rally in a bike magazine.  It seemed like too much of a good thing, but now I had met some of these riders, and liked them.  Two of them, Jim Shaw and Paul Taylor, encouraged me to document a thousand mile day to qualify for membership.  Their influence led to a day of drinking in, I mean, riding, more than 1600 miles, with an hour and a half to spare, on the east coast.  I should have stayed on the bike for that hour and a half.  I could have topped 1700 miles, easily.  But, I don’t have a problem….

Paul Taylor won the Iron Butt Rally that year, and said that he would love to see me ride in it for 2005.  That’s like the local dealer saying he’ll give you a free kilo for every ten kilos you sell.  So, you trade in your Glock for an Uzi, and get serious about business.

The K75 became unrecognizable, with Motolights, a Russell seat, HID driving lights, and a BLM Accessories fuel cell.  This bike has taken me from New York to San Francisco in less than 48 hours. It was the also the first to complete the IBA Bun Burner Gold Trifecta, covering 4674 miles  from New Jersey to Winslow, Arizona and back in less than three days.  This 740cc motorcycle puts about 55 horsepower to the rear wheel.  No other bike under 1200cc has completed a Bun Burner Gold Trifecta.  I have ridden the K75 200,000 miles in six years, including a 7th place finish in the Iron Butt Rally, 12,573 miles in eleven days.

My saintly sister and brother-in-law financed a beautiful new Yamaha FJR1300 from my lifelong supporters at Action Yamaha, concerned that I was running out of reliable transportation as miles piled up on the other bikes.  The FJR has been transformed as well, and is now beautiful only from a functional standpoint.  It boasts a 13 gallon Artisan Auto Body Fuel tank designed by Leon Begeman, HID driving lights, and more modifications than I can recall without a few  more drinks.  It has accumulated nearly 130,000 miles, and still has 16 months left on the warranty.  It has also become the only motorcycle to complete 4 consecutive Bun Burner Golds (1500 mile days) while fully documenting it to IBA standards.

My name is John, and I’m a motorcycloholic.  I own nothing but my motorcycles and the clothes on my back, and have no career, savings, or health insurance, because I have chosen to ride instead of responsibly chasing my tail like everyone else.  I’ve ridden more than a thousand miles in a day within the city limits of Washington, D.C., New York, and San Francisco, refusing to stop at a mere thousand miles while adding more mileage than the IBA will make public.  I ride 50-70,000 miles per year, but want to find a good sponsor who will provide enough support to allow me to become the first person to ride 200-300,000 miles in a year.  I’m dissatisfied with my trip from Prudhoe Bay to Key West in 101 hours 11 minutes, and intend to improve it by at least eight to ten hours, bettering the current world record.  I want to ride at least 11 consecutive Bun Burner Golds, and the only thing that can stop me is money.

Wait a minute, that isn’t right.  I’m not as motorcycloholic.  I don’t have a problem.  I can quit any time I want….