Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Coast To Coast in 49 Hours and 47 Minutes

The Beginning 
On the beach in San Diego, ready to begin the trek across the country
from coast to coast in fifty hours. With the assistance of official Start Witness Shareef AsSadiq, a retired Chef Petty officer in the U.S. Navy, I filled a a pill bottle with Pacific Ocean sand and prepared to launch my attempt at becoming the oldest person to ride the Iron Butt Association 50cc Quest. Fifty hours from coast to coast.
Shareef and family invited me into their home to spend the night before helping me find the beach at 6 AM and then leading me out to Interstate 8 to officially begin my ride.

The 50cc Quest was the primary reason for the trip, but first I had to reach San Diego from Helena, Montana.
The first leg of the trip was The Iron Butt Association one thousand mile SaddleSore 1000.
The thousand mile ride from Helena to San Jose, CA, home of my daughter Janis and her family would give me a half way point stop on the way to San Diego.
This ride through Montana, Idaho, Nevada and Northern California was a great warm up for he main event and included sunny skies and warm temperatures.
The weekend with this great family included hearing Great Grand Child Miley singing in church and a great dinner at the famous Hayes mansion in San Jose and the privilege of voicing a narration for the Apostles Lutheran 50th Anniversary History Video.

A long road lay ahead and an early Monday morning send off found me heading for Barstow through central California.
The KOA campground was a welcome stopover on my way to the fabled Joshua Tree National Park.


The park is part high desert country and part the low lying desert area. The entire drive through this well cared for National Park was a flower sniffing delight.
 The pace was slow and provided a comfortable and restful ride on my way to San Diego.
 Coming out of the park I headed south to pick up The 8, as Californians refer to I-8 and had a great ride through the coastal mountains filled with large  boulders and little traffic.
Shareef AsSadiq at the Historic  Roller Coaster
on the San  Diego beach front
This would be the route I would be following the next morning as I began my cross country trek.
Dinner was at a special hamburger emporium favored by Shareef and Joyce.
The remainder of the evening was spent trying to figure out SW Connect and Spotwalla. All efforts to get my Iphone6 and it's SW Connect App to connect were for naught and w ewere unable to get the tracking function to work with the Google Map of my planned route.

No matter, the ride  could go on without it, but without giving family and friends a tracking map to follow my progress with.
Early to bed and early to rise as the 5:30 AM alarm told me to rise and shine.
Shareef had coffee ready and we were soon in the garage making a last minute check of all vital components.
He led me to the beach for the traditional pill bottle of Pacific Ocean sand and then led the way to the Shell gas station nearest to the beach.
Only two thousand four hundred miles lay between this Shell gas station and a similar Shell station a few blocks from the Atlantic Beach in Jacksonville, Florida.
A feeling of elation swept over me as Shareef waved me onto The 8 and he turned onto an off ramp.
The Precious computer generated gas receipt marking the exact time and date of my departure was stowed away in the special leather folder which was securely in place in my sidecar.
The Ride had begun!
In 2003 a 77 year old biker named Vernon Rank of Yakima, Washington had begun his 50cc Quest from the opposite shore, riding from Jacksonville, Florida to San Diego, California.
He had held the record for being the oldest person to make the ride for 12 years and now, I, at the age of 80 was seeking to raise the bar for other "From Out Of The Past Riders" who might want to take up the challenge.
Family and friends had offered prayers, good luck wishes and reminders to get plenty of sleep when possible.
The mountains I had ridden the afternoon before loomed in front of me and a light covering of clouds held the bright sunshine back making the first leg of the ride more than bearable. It was fantastic.
The feeling of elation remained for hours in my mind as I swept upward toward the 4,400 foot summit.
Having never ridden through the High Desert country the water for radiators signs brought moments of humor.
A few short hours of riding saw the terrain changing and soon I was back in the flat lands of eastern California with it's large agricultural area and signs reading "Elevation- Sea Level."
The highway stretched out in front of me as I began to feel the enormity of the task ahead.
I began to mentally gauge each area I would be moving through and where would be the best places to stop for short naps and the number of gas and food stops I would be making.
With the sidecar I lose about 25% of the power because of the wind resistance and
aerodynamics of the rig.
Pulling the Mini Mate tent camper behind added even more weight and gas stops are required every hundred miles.
Twenty 10 minute gas stops would add two hundred minutes of off road time.
I carried a cooler with bottles of Ensure Nutrition drink, fiber protein bars and bottles of water.
These supplies would cut the time for food stops to a bare minimum, but these stops, however necessary did cut into the fifty hour time limit for the Quest.What do you do when the gas station is closed and the receipt fails to print? Take a picture of the gas pump and hope it will serve as a testament to your stop and the sincerity of your intentions.
The morning and afternoon hours sped quickly by and with the sun setting behind me I began to think about my first short sleep time and where it would be.
Alas, as the sun went down the rain moved in and as I moved in to New Mexico the prospects for a rest stop began to fade.
Donning the new rain gear daughter Linda had ordered before leaving for her Medical Mission in Tanzania, I was dry and making good progress despite the wet roads.
So much so that I opted to ride through the night and make as much progress as I could toward reaching a KOA camp on the outskirts of Las Cruces New Mexico.
By 3 AM I was very tired and knew I had to make a rest stop.
There were no rest areas or truck stops in sight. I did find an all night gas station that had a small restaurant area with coffee, sandwiches and seating area. I had a sandwich and slept for 30 minutes before heading again for the bike. I had removed my leather chaps when I stopped.While putting the rain gear on I forgot about the chaps hanging from the luggage rack on the sidecar and didn't discover my error until I stopped for gas a hundred miles down the road. I hope they were found by a biker in New Mexico who will put them to good use. Las Cruces loomed into view and since I was no longer tired I raced on by and headed for El Paso. Missing the cut off outside of town I rode through the city and despite the early morning Saturday hour I ran through some fairly heavy traffic.
San Antonio was next and I was worried about early morning weekend traffic.
At one point traffic on all lanes came to a complete stop. Sirens ahead indicated the possibility of an accident ahead so I pulled onto the shoulder of the highway, leaned back and slept for what turned out to be 20 minutes.
As the traffic  thinned I moved back onto I-10 and quickly put the city behind me.
Having traveled through Houston, Texas several times I knew ahead of time that the Sam Houston Freeway was going to be my quickest route around the city and I had prepared by going on line and purchasing a Texas EZ pass for the tolls.
It worked like a charm and I was making good time around the great city until I ran out of gas. I was trying to stretch the reserve supply until I got back on The 10, but it didn't make it. The two and a half gallon gas can I carry on the back of the sidecar had helped several out of gas bikers on previous rides and now it was my turn. I had to laugh about it because I knew my Houston daughter Joni and her husband Gary, as well as my Houston brother-in-law Stan Smith would have a good laugh over myrunning out of gas on the tollway. Brief as the stop was it still used up valuable time.
Back on the toll way again the run to it's convergence with I-10 was short and I was beginning to believe again that I would make a successful ride and become the oldest person to ride the 50cc Quest.
I didn't realize at the time that the potential for a "DNF-Did Not Finish" was about to become a real possibility.
As I moved onto I-10, traffic suddenly slowed and then ground to a halt.
No signs, no sirens, no suggestion as to what was happening as four lanes of traffic sat motionless in the late afternoon Texas heat.
As the traffic sat without moving for a full hour it was becoming more apparent that there was no way I was going to make Jacksonville Beach in fifty hours.
Motioning to the driver in the next lane to back up slightly, I turned sideways and at full rev ran off the interstate highway, through a ditch, up a steep bank and onto a secondary road.
This road turned north and I rode several miles before pulling off and calling on Iphone6 SIRI for help.
"Find me an entrance ramp onto I-10 that will take me to Baton Rouge," I implored the computerized voice of hope.
"Turn back," she said and with great reluctance I began to retrace my ride on the secondary road. As I approached the great Houston Traffic Jam once again her voice said "turn left in one half mile," which I did and found myself on a short one lane I-10 entrance ramp which was looking down at a scene of destruction. A semi truck going through an I-10 construction project had crashed blocking all lanes in both directions. All traffic was stopped, but I was moving past the jam and back onto the Interstate with no traffic ahead of me or behind me.
Now I was making time, but with grave doubts about the prospect of making up the lost time.
The loud bang of the Mini Mate trailer tire blowing out brought these doubts into even sharper focus. While doing a Saddlesore 1000 from Minneapolis to Helena my twin brother Dean had insisted that I purchase a spare wheel and tire for the trailer and this I got out of the side car as quickly as possible and changed out the tire.
Back on the road the sun was once again fading and with a long nights ride ahead of me the same "You can't make it" doubts came back stronger then ever.
From Baton Rouge I moved over to I-12 for Hammond and Slidell, Louisiana.
At 1:30 AM, with sleep filled eyes and a tendency to drift onto the shoulder of the highway becoming more apparent, I reluctantly pulled into a rest area and leaned back to have a quick 15 minute power nap. Three hours later, at 4:30 AM I awoke refreshed but realizing that my failure to set an alarm had probably cost me my opportunity to complete the quest in time.
Nevertheless, I left the rest area with the thought that I had done what I could and had overcome some of the obstacles and would arrive safely, which the Iron Butt Association constantly reminds riders is the most important thing.
I rode my age the rest of the way cruising past Tallahassee, and small Florida cities like Lone Oak.
As I approached the city of Jacksonville I passed by many gas stations which could have given me the required computer generated time and date stamps, but the spirit of the 50cc Quest is that you ride to the gas station closest to the  beach on both the start and the finish.
I called on SIRI for help once again and she turned me onto I-95 and led me through the city to the Shell Gas station nearest the beach.
My daughter Diana and her husband Ilidio Sacramento had arrived at the station to meet me over an hour before. Sitting on camp chairs by the curb they saw me, but in my rush to get to the gas pumps and that precious time and date receipt I failed to see them  As they and their cameras moved closer I was quickly running a credit card and pumping gas. Hanging up the hose to bring that receipt I saw them for the first time and said, "I don't think I made it."
I WAS WRONG!
With 13 minutes left in my fifty hour time limit I had the required receipt and had become the oldest person to ride the Iron Butt Association 50cc Quest.

Diana and Ilidio never gave up, they arrived early at the Shell Station, set up camp chairs and settled down to wait, knowing that at some point I would come down the street heading for the gas pump that would show my exact arrival time.

Thanks Diana and Ilidio, for your patience and for your understanding that I needed a nap before continuing on to our final destination of Lake Mary, Florida.
The short nap on the sands of Jacksonville Beach was really needed.
  The feeling of elation was overwhelming.This was a moment I could relive over and over again in whatever years I have left for this sport of Long Distance Riding that some call borderline insanity.

 The ride is over, but the memories linger on.


All that is left is to thank all of you for your support, your understanding, your prayers and your faith in what an old guy, or any person can accomplish if they never quit, never say die,
but with faith and hope, just keep on keeping on.

4 comments:

  1. We so enjoyed having you here in the Bay, Grandpa! See you next trip :)

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  2. You are a true inspiration! I'm so glad you didn't give up and just kept going because in the end you still made it! Congratulations and way to go, sir! Much respect to you.

    Minna

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