Friday, January 26, 2007

Lunch Ride to Pensacola - The Ride Back!

Pensacola, FL to Hammond, LA
3:15 PM to 6:05 PM
208 miles (753 running total)
Fuel Used: 4.24
MPG: 49.0

After having lucked out with the morning sun, I fully expected my eyes to be tortured by the setting sun. Happily, a haze once again took the sky and I managed to avoid dealing with glare.

Just west of Mobile, my mother called to check on my progress. She gave me a weather update for Houston and reminded me to be careful as darkness fell.

I played hopscotch with a fellow motorcyclist for a short time on I-12. He followed me briefly and then with a final wave, roared down the road at a faster pace than I was willing to sustain.

With the air threatening to turn damp, I pulled over to put my camera away as the sun finally dipped below the horizon.

I was shocked at how well the R1200ST was doing MPG-wise during this segment of the trip. My fuel countdown began very late, so I was able to get pretty far into Louisiana before finding a busy interstate exit in Hammond, LA.

Hammond, LA to Sulphur, LA
6:05 PM to 8:45 PM
176 miles (929 running total)
Fuel Used: 3.54
MPG: 49.7

This time of day has always been a challenge for me. With poor night vision, the transition between light and darkness makes my headlights less effective when they are needed most. I was overjoyed to find that my new HID bulb replacement kit really helped out, sending lots of very bright light down the road.

A call from Rebecca at some point during this segment also helped keep me motivated.

At the 900 mile mark, and with the homestretch in sight, I realized that once again I was starting to feel hungry. My earlier (satisfied) craving for seafood gave way to desire for a yummy honey-mustard chicken salad. Just past Lake Charles, I saw a sign advertising a Cracker Barrel.

Sulphur, LA to Cypress, TX
10:04 PM to 12:53 AM
154 miles (1083 running total)
Fuel Used: 3.21
MPG: 47.9

My mother called just after I ordered my dinner. The weather update wasn’t looking so good. A storm system was lingering over Houston, dumping some light rain. Mom estimated that I would hit the outskirts of it about 40 minutes from Houston.

I didn’t really want to get back on the bike. I wasn’t particularly sore, but a tiredness had settled in. I had already ridden 200 miles further than my longest previous day. It was getting late and all I had to look forward to was a storm system and bad visibility.

Despite these thoughts, I never considered calling it a day. I kept telling myself that I only had to ride 1000 in 24 ONCE to achieve my goal. I had plenty of time in reserve if I needed to stop on the side of the road (or even get a cheap motel room!) for a nap. There was no real need to push myself.

Once I started moving, I was too busy to spare energy to focus on my doubts. There were still lots of cars on the road, providing extra light. Lots of construction between the Louisiana border and Beaumont meant that I had my hands full picking a line to avoid seams in the pavement.

The road shone wetly in my headlights as I approached Baytown, TX. The few showers I passed through were mild and I had no visibility problems.

The temperature dropped twenty degrees when I got on I-610, the Houston inner loop. I turned on my grip warmers and was glad that I had never gotten around to taking my liner out of my jacket. My new Underarmour ColdGear shirt also helped.

Dodging heavy raindrops, my body didn’t dare feel tired as I rode north on US290 toward my final gas stop of the day. In the end, I think the adverse weather was probably a good thing. It kept me on my toes at a time when I might normally relax and go complacent.

All four of the entrances to the gas station were flooded, so I ended up going through a neighboring fast food parking lot. My foot slipped a little on the slick concrete and a sick feeling flashed in my stomach. I kept the bike upright and managed to get the kickstand down after several tries. The fuel pump disgorged my final receipt. Success!

I spent a few minutes documenting the trip stats before wearily mounting back up to travel the additional 10 miles to home where my mom was still awake waiting for me to get home so she could do my witness form. My bed was a welcome sight.

Final Thoughts:

Wasn’t it boring?

Not really. I was fully occupied the entire time: from singing along to my music, fiddling with the camera, composing this report in my head, wondering when a friend would call (and hoping they wouldn’t catch me belting out something embarrassing, like Celine Dion), or just contemplating some aspect of my life and travels.

How has my outlook changed?

It’s shocking to look back at when 20 miles to the beach was a long ride, or when 150 miles between my college town and home was a major undertaking. It’s even strange to look at these last few years, when a normal day might be 400 to 500 miles and 600 was not out of the question. That’s HALF what I rode on that one January day.

The country is now just a little bit smaller and more accessible. No, I won’t plan to ride this pace frequently, but it’s good to know that my options are open.

Final Stats:

Miles Odometer: 1083
Miles GPS: 1120

Overall Average Speed: 60.4 mph
Moving Average Speed: 73.9 mph

Total Time: 18:34
Moving Time: 15:10
Stopped Time: 3:24

And yeah. The truth? I did it all for the license plate back.

Lunch Ride to Pensacola - The Ride Out!

The sky was pitch black; the fog created misty trails of light through darkness as the fuel pump slowly spat out my receipt. Relieved, I took it and carefully folded it away into the ziplock bag that held my odometer log and a couple of pens. I double-checked the contents of my tank bag and the fit of my gear before throwing a leg over my 2005 BMW R1200ST to face my longest ever planned riding day.

I first discovered the existence of the Iron Butt Association six years ago, when riding my Honda Scooter twenty miles to the beach via a San Luis Obispo County backroad was an epic adventure and generally a highlight of my month. Awed, I read the reports of motorcycling legends who crossed the continent in one sitting. I pored through accounts of the infamous Iron Butt Rally on Usenet and later eagerly hit refresh to track the progress of riders in the 2003 and 2005 rallies..

The *easiest* way to join the Iron Butt Association is by fully documenting (with witnesses and fuel receipts) a grueling ride of 1000 miles in 24 hours, also known as the Saddlesore 1000. Endurance riding certainly isn’t what I got into sport-touring to do, but glimmering somewhere in the back of my mind from the day I brought home my battle-scarred 1983 Honda GL650 Silverwing was the thought….Someday.

On January 13, 2007, Someday had finally arrived.

I had agonized over my route. I-10 west from Houston seemed like the strongest contender. I knew the road all the way to Los Angeles, with no surprises. For exactly opposite reasons, east on I-10 seemed like a good choice. I’d never taken I-10 past the Louisiana/Texas border. Could the new-to-me scenery make an ordinarily boring interstate run more of an adventure?

The forecast was sobering. Houston was in for some nasty weather, with an ice storm scheduled to arrive by Sunday night. Saturday seemed safe, with a 30% chance of rain in Houston and clear skies with warm 80 degree temperatures all the way east.

Sure of my choice, I decided to check another state off my list and told my parents and friends that I was going to go on a nice Saturday lunch ride…to Pensacola, Florida.

Cypress, TX to Lake Charles, LA
6:10 AM to 8:56 AM
175 miles (175 running total)
Fuel Used: 3.93
MPG: 44.5

Surprisingly fresh after 6 hours of sleep (I’d been WAY too excited), the first segment of my journey passed quickly. The lights of Baytown’s refineries glowed in the mist. My relatively new HID bulb replacement burned through the darkness, providing more than enough light to guide me through several construction areas on I-10.

The mist actually turned out to be helpful. I was heading due east, but the sun had risen well into the sky before it burned off the fog enough to focus into a visible point of light. Under this wan light, I crossed the border into Louisiana.

I had heard several accounts that the interstate in Louisiana was a bumpy, pitted, wheel-rim destroying mess. Braced for the worst, I was surprised and relieved to find only three very short sections of bad pavement. I relaxed my arms and let the R1200STs suspension float me over the road surface.

Many people map out their stops in advance. I decided to leave some semblance of adventure to my ride. My only criteria for the first gas stop was that it be less than 400 miles from my turnaround point in Pensacola. I exited the freeway for the first time that day at a likely place just past Lake Charles, LA.

Lake Charles, LA to Lacombe, LA
8:56 AM to 11:33 AM
197 miles (372 running total)
Fuel Used: 4.12
MPG: 47.8

The gas station was drab and run down, but had what I needed. After fueling and a quick stretch, I was back on I10.

One highlight of this segment of the trip was crossing the Atchafalaya Basin, the largest swamp wilderness in the country. I knew that I was in for something special when I started seeing signs with “Trucks use right lane next 18 miles.” The views from the elevated highway crossing were a welcome break from the piney woods.

Garth Brooks’ “Callin’ Baton Rouge” was in my head but strangely not playing on the Xm radio as I rolled over a large bridge at the entry of the city. I took a few shots of the skyline before concentrating on navigating the I-10/I-12 interchange.

Crossing well to the north of New Orleans, I began to see signs of hurricane devastation. Some businesses along the interstate were boarded up. I also saw lots of small homes with damaged roofs.

I don’t like to fuel up in large cities, so as soon as I saw my “miles to destination” drop below 190 miles (or less than a full tank), I found a likely exit. This, my second stop of the day, was just before the mess of Slidell, LA and the I-12/I-10 intersection.

Lacombe, LA to Pensacola, FL
11:33 AM to 2:22 PM
173 miles (545 running total)
Fuel Used: 3.69
MPG: 46.8

I’ve learned in the past to minimize potential distractions when riding distance. My stomach had been gnawing at me for the last half hour, so even though I intended to eat “lunch” in Pensacola, I knew that I needed to get a snack before continuing. Some peanut butter sandwich crackers washed down with a bottle of juice hit the spot and I was ready to go.

It was shaping up to be a beautiful day. The morning fog had completely cleared and temperatures were in the 80s. Bright blue sky welcomed me to Mississippi.

The dramatic cloud formations near Mobile, AL had me going for my camera.

The camera stayed on as I entered a tunnel under Mobile Bay.

Shortly after crossing into Florida, a loud voice boomed in my helmet “Earth to Becca!”

Before leaving that morning, I had posted on my blog that I would have my phone connected to my Starcom and would love to get calls of encouragement. My friend Rebecca was calling to see where I was. I spoke with her for a few minutes about how my ride was going and my hopes for the return trip. Curiously invigorated from the phone call, I arrived at my turn around point and fueled up.

The next order of business was finding “lunch.” Being in Florida, I felt like seafood. The road I was on had lots of restaurants and motels. I soon found a likely candidate and sat down with an order of grilled fish and crawfish etouffee at the Shrimp Shack. (mmm…Cajun).

Sunday, January 14, 2007


Cali was glad to see me!

I'll post trip stats tomorrow after I get some rest, but I don't see any reason why I shouldn't have my IBA license plate back in six months or so when they finish up verification of the paperwork from this ride.

It was roughly 1100 miles, with a start time of 6 AM and a finish time of 12:45 AM


Saturday, January 13, 2007

Lake Charles La - dinner & gas for the final push

Hammond LA

Pensacola FL

Lacombe LA

St charles LA

Going for a ride today...

I'm trying something new. I'm going on a long solo ride today, hopefully to tag a state I haven't yet visited...and something else. We'll see how it goes.

I hooked my cell phone up to my communications system. If you have my phone number, give me a call. It's set to auto-answer after a few rings, so if I stops ringing, just say hello. I won't know that you've called until YOU say something.

Friday, January 12, 2007

A Busy Schedule

I think I complained back in October about my busy schedule of motorcycling social events during the week. This week was busier than most.

Rebecca’s first weekly Sugarland Coffee Meet was a hit! Replacing our Monday Night Football for a few months, we had a great turnout at a little café off of US59. Rebecca’s report and pics are on her blog here.

I had an office dinner this week at a very nice restaurant in The Woodlands and couldn’t make it this time, but Patricia documented a very nice turnout at my normal PO’s Burgers meet in Cypress.

It’s normally my quiet evening at home, but some sharp eyes had noticed a short blurb in my community newsletter about a new meet in the neighborhood. I stopped by briefly after dinner to meet eight riders who live in my community. It was a good mix, with a Kawi sportbike, an Aprilia scooter, two Harleys, and several metric cruisers.

I headed down to Ming’s Café at Montrose and Westheimer for some yummy Chinese food and some Italian, British, and German metal. The café’s owner beamed over his Ducati while assuring me that it’s meant to be an All Brands Bike Night and EVERYBODY is welcome.

And now, it being just a few minutes past 6pm, I’ll head out for a quiet Friday night at home. I think I’ve done enough this week.

Rear Tire #4 Mounted

Lessee, I’ve got some catching up to do…

When last we left our heroine, she was rolling into her garage after foiling the cunning plan of that pesky sliver of metal.

//I guess that means my mettle was match enough for that metal.
///Stopping now.

After getting home to a pleasant NYE, I set about making plans to get some new rubber on the R1200ST. My friend Rebecca also needed a new tire, so she offered to do the pricing research, thinking the two of us could save money on shipping by pairing up.

Having mulled our options, Rebecca decided that the best deals to be had were through a popular local sportbike shop, Motorcycles Unlimited. She called and reserved a Michelin Pilot Road for me and ordered her own dual sport tire.

Between work and social events, I didn’t get around to pulling the wheel off the BMW until Saturday morning. It was as quick and easy as I remembered.

I was welcomed into Motorcycles Unlimited with a “Hi Becca!” from the big man holding court at a desk toward the back. Patrick (the owner) immediately directed a tech to take my wheel and mount my new tire. With the MotoHouston Forum discount, mount/balance was only $10 and the tire was priced close to internet-pricing. I was in and out in less than half an hour…and they do have the special spools for balancing BMW R1200 wheels.

I think I’ve finally found a tire dealer to replace San Jose’s Road Rider. Thanks again to Patrick at Motorcycles Unlimited!

Rear tire #4 is mounted at 22333 miles.

Just a note for R1200ST owners who are having a hard time aligning the exhaust hanger bolt:
It’s rubber mounted, so if you can just get the bolt through and threaded into the nut, the two pieces WILL come together even if they don’t appear to be aligned. I vaguely remember struggling with it last time. Hopefully this little note will jog my memory NEXT time so this bolt doesn’t take so long to start.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

NYE Ride and Tire Repair Kit Review

Most of the time, emergency-use items such as first-aid kits and tire repair kits are just so much extra weight. In those rare occasions when they are needed, they are worth their weight in gold.

It was a beautiful Texas winter day, brisk but clear, and the last day of the year. The blue skies and rolling fields beckoned.

Riding out of College Station, where I had spent the previous night at the TWTexans end of year BBQ and Pie Run, I headed north toward scenic OSR (Old San Antonio Rd). It was quite a contrast from riding in west Texas. Lush green farm fields populated with herds of livestock behind white painted fences bordered the small two-lane.

The recent storms had made an impact. I stopped briefly to wait for a pilot vehicle to guide me through an area that had been hit by a tornado. There was trash everywhere; twisted metal, ravaged farmhouses, and bits of paper and wood. The road was covered with mud from the construction crews struggling to re-erect downed power lines.

I fueled up at the intersection of OSR and I-45. The gas station had been there a LONG time. The modern (but still not yet card-reading) pumps were in back, and the older style pumps (not working, but still neat) were in front.

Heading north toward my highly anticipated transition from the “Prairies and Lakes” region to the “Piney Woods” region, I noticed my rear tire wallowing into turns. I pulled over and found that it was losing air but I felt it would probably make it south to Madisonville (a larger town on I-45).

Which brings me to:

Review - Progressive Suspension Tire Repair Kit – Tubeless tires

I’ve been pretty lucky. My last flat tire was back in mid-2002, over 60,000 miles ago. It was a sad, messy affair: That first moment when I realized that something must be very wrong because I was able to flat foot my bike…limping it under power around to the corner gas station…kneeling there looking grimy, cute, and helpless with a just-bought plug kit until a passing motorist took pity on me and did the deed.

In the last hours of 2006, I was in a very different situation. Due to the diligence of a past boyfriend, I was prepared with a never-used plug kit and a little more confidence in my wrenching chops.

After discovering the flat, I slowly rode the bike 15 miles to the first gas station I saw and pulled over next to the air pump. A wandering-by BSG (big strong guy) balanced the bike so I could get it onto the centerstand. Optimistic, I dismissed him with thanks and put 75 cents into the machine to get it to dispense air.

I shouldn’t have wasted my coins. As soon as air began entering the tire, I heard it hissing loudly out. I rolled the wheel around (DOH- should have done this before buying air) to find a staple sized sliver of metal lodged in the tire.

Some needle-nose pliers from my onboard tool kit easily removed the sliver and I was rewarded with a rush of escaping air as my tire went completely flat.

My plug kit included an awl-like implement, several torpedo-shaped rubber plugs, a tube of cement, air cartridges and a tube for using them (not needed in this case), and (happily) a small sheet of instructions.

The instructions were straightforward enough. Ream out the hole with the awl, smear hole, awl, and plug with cement, insert plug (it fit neatly onto the awl for the push), and trim the plug. It seemed easy enough for the greenest novice and much more simple than the sticky string-type plugs I’d struggled with in 2002. The plugs included a “self-vulcanizing strip” around the narrowest part, which I guess is supposed to permanently bond to the tire when it heats up.

The instructions mentioned nothing about drying time for the cement. Just to be safe, I left it to cure while I went into the gas station for more quarters and a bottled Starbucks caramel frappuccino.

I heard no tell-tale hissing when I filled the tire with air, so I felt safe to head home. Throughout the ride, I frequently tested the air pressure by rolling the bike side-to-side to feel for wallowing. It held air sufficiently to get me into my garage.

I would recommend this kit. It’s simple to use and small enough to fit on most sportbikes.

Progressive Suspension Tire Repair Kit, Tubeless Type - $34.95

Also available as a bare bones kit without air cartridges - $9.75