Monday, July 9, 2012

My Stampede

It was 0600 hours and Stampede 7 was heartbeats away from starting. I was well rested and ready to give it a go. The bike was ready, I was ready, I kept my eye on Charlie the Nomad because when he goes, the race is on.  I have ridden 1500 miles in 24 hours before and my plan was to put two 1500 mile in 24 hour trips back to back. Part of the plan was to stop as little as possible and when necessary make the stops as brief as possible. 

When Charlie pulled out of the parking lot I followed, it was a good start. I didn't want to be in a large pack of riders, and that's the way it turned out. We were headed for Santa Monica. I had to get a gas receipt in Santa Monica so there was no reason to keep the speed down and get good mileage. No reason to trade speed for distance.

I pulled off the freeway in Santa Monica and got gas. When it was time to push the "yes" for receipt button on the pump, I accidentally pushed the "no" button because the buttons were not lined up with the screen and had to go to the cashier for a receipt.

It was quite cool near the Pacific Ocean in Santa Monica but it warmed up as I reached Riverside and by the time I hit Indio it was hot, damn hot. I was following the plan, staying in the saddle as long as possible. I made pit stop like refuelings, get gas, drink water and get going.

 I was into Texas and near the Mexican Border. I got stopped at a checkpoint and a female Border Patrol agent asked me something.  I couldn't hear her and said so. She asked again and I still couldn't hear.  After I told her I couldn't hear the third time, she waved me through. I think she may have been asking if I was a US citizen, well you bet you sweet ass I am but I got to go. I wonder how Jim would fare at the checkpoint, "Noo, I'm from Canadia eh."

 It was getting dark and I had gone around 1000 miles when I began to realize that my headlight was not working. I pulled into a gas station and ran a wire from under the seat to the headlight and got going again.  The first mechanical problem overcome at the cost of about an hour.

I didn't see much of Texas, it was a moonless night. I can tell you that I kept the speed fairly high. I was worried about deer and other animals but didn't see any. 0300 to dawn are hard hours for me, I get sleepy and I had a hard time keeping the speed up. I was somewhere around San Antonio or Houston when it started to get light. It was at a gas stop around this time that I checked my rear tire. It made my hair stand on end.  Before I left, I thought, "that tire has four or five thousand miles left on it," but now I realized that I would be lucky if it lasted till the end of the race. I sweated over that tire all through the race.

As I went into Louisiana, I began to see giant thunderstorms. I missed the first two but the third dumped rain like I have rarely seen. Sure enough the bike stopped running, drowned out. I must have looked really pathetic standing on the shoulder of the highway, soaked. My back was to a swamp and the roadway in front. Overhead lightning was flashing and thunder booming at almost the same time, I was really afraid that I might be hit. The bike was hot and dried whatever was wet and the bike started briefly, but when I tried to restart it the starter made a bad noise.

A State Trooper came to my aid. He was a great guy and took me to a parts store for a new battery. The parts store checked the battery and it was good. So it's a starter problem, I thought "I'm out of the race."  On the way back to the bike, the Trooper's boss was involved in an accident, so we had to divert to that location. When we got back I put the battery back in and still the grinding noise and no start. I put my stuff back on the bike and called my wife and told her I was done. I called the AAA to get me off the freeway.  While I was waiting for Triple A, I asked the Trooper if he would help me try to push start the Kawi one more time. Well the thing fired right up and I asked the Trooper to cancel Triple A for me and off I went.  Lost time, about 4 hours.

I hit New Orleans at rush hour. In California lane splitting is legal and so I have some skills in the lane splitting arts. I used those arts to give locals a view of lane splitting, California style. Some drivers expressed their disapproval by honking, in some strange way they must figure that a motorcycle getting by them somehow took a piece of their pie.

I went through Mississippi in late evening and Alabama full on darkness.  Florida was unexpectedly cold, but I kept up my speed on another moonless night. There was very little traffic on the highway. When I got to Jacksonville I got gas and took a photo of my GPS. 

The last leg of the Stampede went from Jacksonville to Pinebluff, North Carolina. I was tired and the road had invisible bumps that kept me awake by slamming my backbone like a mule kick. I had a little trouble finding the finish at the Greenleafe Inn, but I finally found the place and finished Stampede 7, what an adventure! My goals had been to #1 win, #2 get a Hardass Patch, #3 finish, and #4 not get hurt. I didn't win but I did reach all the other goals.    

I finished 4th, I covered the 3000 miles from Barstow, California to Pinebluff, North Carolina via Santa Monica and Jacksonville, in 49 hours and 51 minutes.