The Dream - The Goal - The Plan - The Ride - The Finish
We had a dream, my daughter Linda and I, to ride 8,500 miles across America, visiting all of the lower 48 states.The Goal was to complete the ride in 10 days and for me to become the oldest rider on the Iron Butt Association Finishers List to complete the ride. For my Registered Nurse daughter Linda, at the age of 60, to become the first person on the IBA Finishers list to complete the ride as a passenger in a sidecar.
The Plan was to follow a map which had been used a few months earlier by Shareef AsSadiq of San Diego to complete the same ride.
The ride would begin then, in Needles, CA, take us across the south and Midwest to the east coast, up I-95 to Maine, then back across the north country to Umatilla, OR where we would finish the ride.
At 12 Noon on August 7th, friends and family gathered at Shellie's Truck Stop in Helena, MT to see us off. Grandson Jason Darelius and his wife Allison were going to ride with us to Butte, MT where they would turn West toward their home in Missoula. A three generation ride, we thought, would be a great way to begin. The 60 mile ride to the Rocker Truck Stop west of Butte was the first stop and we bid farewell to our escort riders.
We headed south toward Dillon, MT and Monida Pass where we would cross the line into Idaho, while Jason and Allison would follow I-90 to Missoula.
We topped off the fuel cell gas tank which had been installed by Bill Ryder before we left and headed south on I-15.
We had decided to begin our adventure by doing the IBA Saddlesore 1000-1. One thousand miles in under 24 hours. This would give us another IBA ride completion with the attendant Certificate and patch.
The plan was to complete the ride to Needles, CA in under 24 hours.
The first step in in our quest was complete.
Here we made our first tactical error.
I was feeling fine, so instead of getting a motel and some rest before starting the 48x10, we got our Start Witness form signed at a Denny's Restaurant and headed out in the 115 degree heat. My Bad.
More tired than I thought and feeling the effects of the heat we promptly got lost, took the wrong road and spent our first hours searching for the Nevada/Arizona gas receipts we needed to prove we had been there. By late afternoon we were in Arizona and looking for a motel.
Since the first day of our ride had been a disaster, we briefly considered going back to Needles and starting the ride over, then decided to forge ahead from where we were and just soldier on.
From the heat at Kingman, AZ to the cooling temperatures at Flagstaff, AZ was a quick ride and there we turned north past Tuba City and Rock Point to reach Bluff, Utah which was just across the state line. Crossing the corner of Colorado we picked up that states gas receipt in the small town of Towaoc where we got on US 69 and crossed another state line into New Mexico. Plenty of Small towns along this highway so we had no trouble getting the required gas receipt before crossing another state line into the Texas Panhandle and the city of Amarillo. Oklahoma City came up fast and we gathered the gas receipt before moving on to Tulsa, Broken Arrow and to Springfield, MO.
Crossing the corner of Arkansas we moved on to Tennessee and headed south through Mississippi toward Slidell, Louisiana.
We had been hearing about the 500 year flood event hitting Slidell and we were heading right into it. The rain became heavier as we neared the Louisiana border and as we pulled on to I-12 and rode into Slidell we were looking for the first motel we could find. Soaked to the skin, we looked like we had ridden through the storm and so we had, through the dark, the wind and the rain until finally the welcoming sign of a Comfort Inn gave us a great breath of relief. The night was short. At 3:30AM the alarm sounded and we went into the dark once again, with heavy rain still falling, but with what looked like a break in the clouds far ahead.
As we rode out of Slidell the rain poured and I followed the tail lights of a pick truck which moved slowly through the night. The lights were bright enough to follow as we ran into places where the road was not visible with a couple of inches of water running across the pavement.
The next stop would be Mobile, Alabama and then after a short drive we would drop down across the state line to the small town of Century, Florida. This was the far northwest corner of the state and would be the only place in Florida we would visit for that familiar gas receipt.
Crossing Alabama we headed for Atlanta, Georgia with the rain behind us and with Linda snapping pictures in bright sunshine.
After many hours in the saddle we pulled to one side of a truck stop parking lot and raised the tent for a short mid day power nap.
This would happen a couple of times each day and if we didn't have a place to raise the tent, I would fall back on what Long Distance riders call the Iron Butt Motel.
The Rest Area picnic table has given comfort and rest to many an Iron Butt Rider while on a long ride.
We crossed Georgia. South and North Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia and into Maryland.
The East Coast, big cities, heavy traffic, this was the part of the country I had been dreading.
It was not bad. Picking up I-95 at Baltimore we headed north through Delaware and New Jersey.
Through the night we rode and approached New York at 3AM. That's when we blew a fuse and lost both turn signals, brake lights and the power supply which charged my cell phone.
I didn't even look for a stop off point where I could replace the fuse.
Driving through the cities while using hand signals instead of flashing lights probably failed to amuse taxi cab drivers, truck drivers and other motorists but we made it through and were soon into Rhode Island and Connecticut.
With bright sunshine and a pleasant rest area parking lot I found the problem fuse and got the lights working again. Unfortunately, with the cell phone battery dead we rode through Massachusetts, New Hampshire and to Kittery, Maine with no cell phone signal and thus, no Spotwalla map for the folks back home to follow. Since Kittery, Maine is just across the state line we were soon heading south on I-95 and getting ready to begin the westward trek across the north country. We now began a run across the entire state of New York and picked up the gas receipt from Pennsylvania by pullong off I-90 into Erie, PA.
Iowa is a wide state and we rode for hours on US 20 before arriving at Sioux City.
Here we would take a short detour and visit South Sioux City, Nebraska for the gas receipt that would show we had indeed visited that state.
Spirits lifted at this point because we were back in our home country with long straight highways and familiar cities. Sioux Falls, South Dakota, with short jog to the east to pick up Minnesota, and then straight through South Dakota to the western edge and the city of Spearfish. Here we would continue across the Wyoming state line to the small town of Beulah where we filled the gas tank and got our receipt. Back then to Spearfish where we turned north on US 85. As we left the city we were hit with a blast of wind, billowing clouds of dust followed by a drenching downpour. Southbound bikers were leaning far to the side trying to keep their bikes upright in the high winds. As we approached Belle Fourche the winds began to subside and we were able to pull to the side of the road batten down the luggage which had began to billow in the winds. As night settled in the rain was behind us and by 11PM we reached Bowman, North Dakota where we would get our gas receipt and head off into the night toward MONTANA!
At the gas station we asked where we could find a restaurant open that late at night.
"Gazers Burgers and Beer." was the reply.
As we pulled into the parking lot we saw a man standing on the sidewalk having a smoke.
He approached and looked over our rig while saying, "You folks are living my dream!"
Seems he was Jim, the bartender at the burgers and beer emporium and he rode a Harley.
He showed a picture of his youngest daughter who was about to start college.
"Someday," he said, "Someday my wife and I will travel across the country like you are doing, someday we'll live this dream."
Jim was a nice guy. When we finished our burgers and asked for the check the waiter said, "Jim the bartender already paid your check and said to wish you a great ride."
How cool is that?
When we arrived home days later I sent him a copy of my book, Discovering Life After Alzheimer's.We met wonderful people in every state, at every rest area and truck stop we visited.
America is a wondrous place filled with wondrous people. At a Mississippi Rest Area we were approached by a young man who introduced himself as a member of a Motorcycle Ministry group, the
Bowman, ND we rode west on US 12 toward Miles City, Montana where we picked up I-94 and began the long ride across Big Sky Country.
These were highways we had traveled many times and the miles and cities flew by. Billings where the interstate highway became I-94 instead of I-90, Bozeman, Butte, Missoula were soon behind us and we headed for Lookout Pass with it's magnificent views and it's seemingly endless construction projects. Through the Idaho Pan Handle, the fabulous Lake Couer D Alene and then into Washington state. At Spokane we turned south on 90 toward Ritzville and US 395. This was the final stretch. Umatilla, Oregon and the end of the journey lay just ahead.
Crossing the Columbia River and the state line, there it was. Umatilla, Oregon!
We stopped at the first gas station we saw to fill up and get the required gas receipt to show that we had indeed traveled all the lower 48 states. Next stop was a restaurant for a late night burger. Here we found law enforcement people from several agencies having a middle of the night coffee break and asked them to sign our End-Of-Ride witness form.
They signed the form, we got a picture and the ride was over, well over that is, but leaving us with a day long ride back home to Helena, Montana from whence we had started the 8,500 mile trek ten and three quarter days earlier.
Yes, it was indeed, 10 days and 16 hours from our start in Needles, CA. We had failed to meet the 10 day deadline for the ride, by just 16 hours. The title, "Oldest Rider to complete the 48x10," would have to wait until another day, another time, when we could summon up the desire to make the arduous trek across America again.
115 degree heat in California, drenching rain in Louisiana, above normal temperatures all the way up the east coast to Maine all were contributing factors, but in the final analysis, bad judgment on the first day of the ride had kept us from reaching our goal.
We'll make better decisions next time.
The ride back home to Montana was brightened for us when Jason and Allison met us at the famous Silver Dollar Restaurant and tourist stop on the Idaho/Montana state line and rode with us as far as their home in Missoula. Our second 3 Generation ride. Thanks Jason and Allison.
From Missoula to Helena turned out to be the coldest part of the ride with the temperature over MacDonald Pass dropping to the freezing mark. And freeze is what we did as completed the longest ride. It was good to be home, but even now, in my own bed, it was hard to get to sleep as my mind continued to bring up pictures of our epic Adventure America Ride.
Thanks to Linda for keeping me awake and keeping a record of the adventure.
I know her siblings were very happy to know that she was there, in the sidecar and keeping things running as smoothly as possible.
Thanks to all for good wishes, prayers and support.
It was a great ride.
Watch for me, I'll be in the Right Lane America.
Del "Lonnie" Lonnquist (and Linda Darelius!)
Highway Smiley, founder of the Ground Pounder patch and one of the greatest Long Riders in the country, told us we had indeed met the requirements to earn his famous patch. This is one of the most prestigious of the patches you will see on the vest or jacket of a Long Distance rider.
We will be truly honored to meet with him, in the near future, and will wear his "Crimson Star" patch with pride.
When other bikers see this patch they know immediately that here is an insignia that was
Earned Not Given!
Looking forward to meeting you in person
SMILEY PATCH REQUIREMENTS:
Black Patch - 24 States or more on One Ride
Platinum Patch - 48 States Total at the Riders Leisure.
Platinum Patch with Red Star - 48 States on One Ride.