Tuesday

Day 1 - Iron Butt 4810





From left: Dick & Judy Segress, Jerry & Dianne Sellers, Donna & RD.  Do we look nervous?  This was the last sane thing RD and I did before leaving for our 48 State in 10 day Iron Butt Extreme ride.  A  steak dinner at The Artichoke in Grand Lake. 


Iron Butt 4810 – Day 1

Only a handful of riders have tried and successfully completed the cross-country “48 States in 10 days” motorcycle run created by the Iron Butt Association of America.  Once the clock starts, riders have 240 hours to gather receipts for gas, food, toll roads, and hotels to prove they physically entered each state.  In addition riders must log their mileage and time at each stop.  Each motorcyclist creates the itinerary, and the run has to be completed on time regardless of the challenges posed by weather, road conditions or wildlife. My husband of 25 years, RD, and I are riding two up on our 1998 BMW.  We have either just lost our minds, as my Mother-in-Law, Nancy, says or we are in for the adventure of a lifetime.  As for myself, I’m voting for the adventure.  But it’s nice to know we have “insanity” to blame if we fail.

The alarm rang at 4 a.m. this morning and we were on the road by 5 a.m. To start the ride, you have to find 2 witnesses to sign forms validating the odometer reading, time and location of the start of our run.  Our friends, Dick and Judy Segress, on Grand Lake put us up for the night and signed our forms starting the trip.  The night before we enjoyed a fantastic steak dinner with Dick, Judy and Jim and Dianne Sellers, who own The Artichoke Restaurant. Thanks for helping us fight off the heeby jeebies before our adventure.

Right now I’m sitting in a hotel lobby in Hattiesburg, Mississippi listening to RD snore while he waits for me to write.  We have just finished the first 800 miles of our 8,500-mile course.  Today we visited our first 6 states:  Oklahoma (of course), Kansas, Missouri, Louisiana, Arkansas and finished in Mississippi.

The only problem was our very first chore.  We needed a receipt with time and date to officially begin our ride.  The gas station receipt did not have a time printed on it, so we had to run across the street to an ATM machine.  Thanks to the rider that gave RD that very helpful tip!

We covered 800 miles in about 16 hours of driving time.  We were rained on twice in Louisiana and Mississippi.  It was the best way to cut the heat.  I’ve decided I like cloudy days.  I also love riding in the rain.

We barely nicked the corners of Kansas and Missouri before picking up Hwy 65 in Arkansas and following it south to Hwy 20 going into Mississippi.  We’ve picked the perfect time to travel because everything is still green, even though it’s the middle of June.  However, it did occur to me that maybe Louisiana and Mississippi don’t have the “brown and dry” summer phase we get in Oklahoma.

A lot of things occurred to me today.  One, I realized I have a major car snooping habit.  When I was a little girl, we moved a lot.  I used to sit in front of whatever house we were living in and watch cars go by.  I would make up stories about the people in the cars and send them on all kinds of adventures.  Today I reverted to my childhood habits. 

I also enjoy waving.  Waving is fun.  No one is immune.  I wave to anyone; kids in the back seat, bored husbands, truck drivers and even the highway patrol.  And guess what?  They wave back!

I saw a nuclear power plant in Arkansas today.  All of a sudden up thru the trees came a sci-fi moment.  The scenery in that state was awesome and deserving of a more leisurely ride than what we gave today.  We will be back.

As far as first days go, I’m pretty proud of RD and the Mistress, my pet name for our BMW 1100 RT motorcycle.  We chatted a little on our intercom system, and RD did not unplug me once.   Tomorrow it gets serious.  We hit Mobile, Alabama in about 50 miles, then Pensacola, Florida before heading north to the Carolinas.  I will pull out the camera and hopefully not get an award-winning picture of a tornado.  For now, gotta get RD to bed.  Thanks again to friends and family who are supporting our craziness.  We miss you and will be home with the 100 stories I promised!

See you on the road,

Donna



Day 2 - Iron Butt 4810




Iron Butt 4810 – Day 2

It’s 2 am Eastern time and all my chores are done. Logbook complete, RD gooped up with Ben Gay, and Under Armour drying on the shower rod. We added Alabama, Florida, Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina to our list today.

Florida was a pretty eventful stop. We missed our turn and had to back track, so we stopped for gas in Pensacola. A group of Harleys pulled up. Oddny Tangvik and her friends came in from Norway, rented the Harleys and hit the road. This was their 3rd year to tour the U.S. She has a blog in her hometown, so we swapped addresses and promised to send comments.

Georgia presented some of the strangest looking trees I’ve ever seen. There’s an ivy on the trees that covers the trunk, leaves, limbs everything. It makes them look like very bizarre statues. When you see a whole grove of trees with the ivy coats, it’s pretty freaky especially at night when they all look like the boogey man.

We got doused twice today with rain and both times it was as refreshing and cool as yesterday. I’m really beginning to love riding on cloudy days. I’m also learning new and unusual ways to stretch while riding. I may have to write a book about it.

RD loves the gas. He claims he’s getting better gas mileage out of the non-ethanol mix. At $3.98 per gallon we hope the pump prices don’t choke us.

We got bogged down in Atlanta. Highway 85 was fantastic until we hit rush hour traffic and sweltering heat while inhaling exhaust fumes. Cost us 1 ½ hours and bumper-to-bumper traffic. I’ve got pictures. In fact, I traveled with my camera around my neck all day. Got awesome shots during one of the downpours. Along with the Battleship Atlanta and The George Wallace Tunnel on I10 in Mobile, Alabama.

Riding 15 and 16 hours a day doesn’t leave much time for any more than food and sleep. Other riders suggested we eat power bars during the day to save time. We tried yesterday. Not going to work. Today we took the time to eat during a rest stop, and we had a lot more stamina. We chowed down on a pizza tonight! This kind of riding is calorie consuming. Maybe someone should create the Iron Butt Diet. It could work.

Lots of waving today. But not at the guy the cops pulled their guns on. While we were waiting at a stoplight, I looked to my right and saw police officers walking towards something with their guns pulled. I realized IF the light changed, and IF we drove forward, we might get shot. Should I tell RD? While I was trying to figure out what to do and hoping the light didn’t change until I could make up my mind, a man in the car next to me said, “That doesn’t make a good first impression does it?” I nearly wet my riding pants. He startled me. Then he said, “Ok. Looks like they got him.” The light changed; RD was oblivious to my soap opera moment and meeting a new friend. I saw the police officers and another man spread-eagled on the ground as we drove past.

Tonight we got spooked when we came into the mountains. We stopped in Hendersonville, North Carolina after a pretty cool twisty turny gulch. That’s what they call passes here. We kept seeing all these signs with jumping deer on them. All the trees started looking like shadow deer waiting to jump on us. Since it was close to 11 p.m., we stopped.

Better close for now and get some shuteye. RD is snoring and I’m jealous. Tomorrow we keep heading north thru the Appalachians.

See you on the road,

Donna

Day 3 - Iron Butt 4810


Iron Butt 4810 – Day 3

I can sum up today’s ride in one word. RAIN. From North Carolina to Maryland we had light rain, driving rain, misty rain, invisible rain, and one guy even told us we heading into freezing rain. Twelve hours of “you got to be kidding, I thought it was over” rain. In spite of the liquid sunshine we still managed to knock out Tennessee, Virginia, Kentucky, West Virginia and Maryland. All together about 850 miles of pure bliss.

We started the day just after juice and bananas with a ride thru the Blue Ridge Mountains. No traffic. Before the rain. I took pictures, but didn’t do a bit of justice to what we saw. When we got to Jonesborough, Tennessee I wanted to break my promise to RD – no tangents. Jonesborough is the home of the National Storytelling Museum and annual festival. Oh my, my, my. I can just imagine my buddies on stage against the backdrop of those magnificent mountains. Oh! And who knew the Smokey Mountains actually smoked? The fog creeps out of the trees in spurts and it look like a bunch of old men with stogies!

And let me tell you bikers that Highways 23 and 119 are nothing but long sweeping curves and hills that ought to be illegal. Even in the rain it was a blast. I almost broke out into John Denver. RD would have unplugged me, so I refrained. The odd thing was that we hardly had any company today. Many times we were the only ones on the road. All that unadulterated splendor is humbling. I saw so many different shades of green trees broken by huge swatches of lilac and white wildflowers cascading down the hills all the way to asphalt. Four lanes of highway, so easy to drive it was sinful.

Didn’t see any deer except off in the distance eating – thank you God. Got blessed by a preacher tonight while at a gas stop. Thank you sir for that one. Turns out in Maryland, the wildlife warning signs have deer and bears. BEARS!!!

We were so wet tonight the only thing asked at each hotel desk was whether the room had a blow dryer. Three hotels later we found one. Not because there is a shortage of blow dryers but because there was an excess of high school athletes playing a basketball tournament. This was not the night to sleep under the stars. We ordered Chinese food delivered to the room and spent 2 hours drying our riding suits with the blow dryer.

Tonight is my night for Ben Gay. I continue to learn new and unusual ways to stretch and get off my tailbone. Which was the reason for a few of my waves today.

See you on the road,

Donna


Day 4 - Iron Butt 4810



Iron Butt 4810 – Day 4

Today was probably the most grueling as far as traffic, but we totally expected it. Knocked out the New England area, adding 10 more states to the “Been there done it” list after an 870 mile run. We have yet to have a 1000 mile day and we don’t care. The steady pace we’ve set seems to be doing just fine, since we have 25 states under our belt in 4 days.

We visited Maryland, Delaware, New Jersey, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont and New York. The Bronx deserves a whole story. I’ve rarely seen people that stacked up on top of each other. The over passes were multi-story apartment complexes. We purposely waited to hit this leg of the trip in hopes of hitting less traffic. It worked. I guess. But it was still bumper-to-bumper, fast moving and layers and layers of humans living on top of each other with lots of food smells.

When we got to the edge of the Bronx, we stopped at a McDonalds.

“That was intense,” RD said.

I stood guard over the Mistress while he went to get the food. I noticed many other people staying in their cars as well, sending only one individual inside. I decided we needed to follow the example set by the locals. Also, I didn’t like the feel of the guy that pulled up next to us and didn’t get out of his car. Just sat there staring out the window. RD left me with instructions to smack him with my helmet if he got out of line. It’s nice to be protected by the one you love.

“And remember to hit him in the nose,” he said as he was walking away.

I wondered which helmet he wanted me to use. I stood there in my tigress stance and watched the guy sleep for about 20 minutes before he tried to leave by driving over the cement divider in front of him.

I was on bear alert all day. I saw 8 deer on the side of the road and may have shrieked. RD stayed calm then asked if I’d seen any bears.

“You’re right,” I said. It’s spring and they aren’t hibernating anymore!”

“And they’re hungry,” RD replied.

Since it was Fathers day, I started thinking about RD and how we met. I saw this guy on the racetrack that would gallop horses in blue jeans, leggings, helmet and goggles. No shirt. I’d hurry and get chores done, so I could ogle him when he came by. Ogle means blatantly stare where I’m from. He was in perfect balance with the horse and perfect shape. Now 25 years later I’m with him on the Mistress. And he still makes me laugh. I love this man!

What is it exactly that we love about this sport? We are always cold, or hot, or sore, or wet or something other than comfortably sitting on the Lazy Boy watching TV. I think it’s the state of being. When we are on the bike, the past doesn’t matter; the future is the next turn. We are in tune with every sense in our bodies. The smells, the wind, the vibration of the bike skimming over the road. The scenery streams by but does not go unnoticed. For a small window of time, we are adventurers. Pioneers. Only on faster horses. And it is perfect.

See you on the road,

Donna




Day 5 - Iron Butt 4810


Iron Butt 4810 - Day 5

A long straight haul today took us through rural New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan and into Indiana. Doesn’t sound like much, but we racked up 730 miles in gusting winds under threatening cloud cover. Do they get tornadoes in this part of the country? If there was a tornado, where would a person riding on a motorcycle park?

We met another motorcyclist on our break in Ohio that was traveling behind us and got caught in a hailstorm. He had to pull over. A family in a SUV let him crawl in with them to wait it out. He was pretty shook up. I don’t blame him. He didn’t have a helmet on. We got lucky and breezed right through the middle of two fronts in sunshine and NO RAIN!!!!

We have a problem with our intercom system. RD can hear me, but I can’t hear him. So we had to resort to sign language. He actually got mad at me because I couldn’t read his made up language. Well gesturing right back at ya buddy.

The scenery was kind of monotonous through Ohio, which left me free to watch people and do my favorite thing – make up stories about people I don’t know. I’ve single handedly made more people I never knew do more things they’ve never done than anyone else on the planet. Here’s an example:

Yesterday a man blew by us in a box (car) with a sign in his window that said, “FEMA. Disaster Relief Vehicle.” He was heading towards Iowa with New York plates. Probably on his way to help in the flood areas, but here’s the real story.

Just as Joe’s wife was notified that her elderly mother had taken a turn for the worse, the phone rang.

“We need you, Joe,” the FEMA director said quietly, “the levy isn’t holding and it’s going to be bad.”

“You gotta go Joe,” his wife said before he could protest. “They need you.”

“Oh great!” yelled Brian, Joe’s son from his third marriage. “I guess this means I don’t get the car again!”

Or something like that.

They have travel malls here for rest stops. You pull into a huge parking lot and a big building offers McDonalds, Starbucks, Pop Eye Chicken, Chinese food and Sweet treats. A gift shop. Restrooms and family restrooms. Not sure what a family restroom is. Do they all shower together or something? Didn’t explore.

I scared a lady from India. We were making a very late stop to add our liners and she was walking the parking lot. A sport started by sore and weary long distance travelers. Parking lot walking. It should be in the next Olympics. Anyway, I was getting my liners out and looked at her as she passed and said hello. She grimaced – as in frowned – and scurried away. I got my feelings hurt a little. Until I went into the bathroom.

My headgear under my helmet is a single piece that covers my head and neck. It itches, so all day I move the helmet to scratch my head and by the end of the day my face is framed in some pretty wild hair. I looked like the Red Power Ranger with a horrible facial growth. I sat on the bathroom floor and laughed until my stomach hurt. Poor woman. We’d seen her and her family at the rest stop in Cleveland.

She probably thought I was following her. Scaring her. And now trying to be her friend! I wonder what kind of stories she’s making up about me!

RD is a little disheartened after today’s run. He’s fretting about mileage, thinking the route could be better. I’m trying to remind him of a few realities:

One – we’ve never done this before, so how can we fail? It’s all a creation in the making. Some days are great and some are power rangers with horrible facial growth.

Two – We have 28 states under our belt that we did not have five days ago.

Three – We average 800 miles a day. +/- 800 miles a day is an awesome feat even though it is hard on our seats. (smiling)

Four – We survived the Bronx!

See you on the road,

Donna



Day 6 - Iron Butt 4810


Iron Butt 4810 - Day 6

We finished Indiana and knocked out Illinois, Wisconsin, Iowa, Nebraska and South Dakota. We have visited 34 states in 6 days and less than 144 hours. We knocked off another 730 miles. We have 14 big ones to go. Failure is not an option. I told RD when we left Oklahoma that we would be different people when we came home. He gave me the “you are the weirdest woman on the planet look.” But I stand by my word. Here’s why:

- Both of us no longer fit into our pants. They’re too loose.

- We no longer drink coffee. Swapped it out for bananas, yogurt, some kind of muffin thing and orange juice. Lots of orange juice.

- We no longer socialize with anyone that does not hang out in gas stations (or travel malls).

- We don’t carry anything that cannot fit into a pocket somewhere in some piece of our outerwear.

I’d say that’s different. I was excited about the prospects of all that I would learn on the road. Would I be the next Jack Kerouac? Or the next Ripley’s Believe It Or Not? My vote is for Ripley. I’ve learned all kinds of stuff I didn’t know 6 days ago.

I can take a kerchief out of my breast pocket, fold it into a triangle and tie it around my neck going 70 mph on a motorcycle. Laugh. Go ahead. Now you do it.

I can sit on my hands for 12 miles. Especially when my tailbone hurts.

I can stand up on the motorcycle behind RD with no hands. Angela, catch your grandmother. And convince her that I did not really do that today. Good girl.

North/South roads are odd numbered. East/West roads are even numbered.

There are 20 posts between each mile marker counting the mile marker.

Today we made it safely past Chicago. After the Bronx and Atlanta, we were more than a little worried. We drove from one end to the other in 37 minutes. I took a picture of a cop car as he came screaming by us.

From then on it was rolling hills and fantastic road. I thought that maybe I should put all the technical stuff in this series, like how many RPM’s do we hit when we slip into 5th on a straightaway. Or what kind of spark plugs do we use. Or even first take this highway, then this one, then that one. But by all means do not go over there. Over there is dangerous and has bad animal signs.

But I decided against the techno stuff. Why? Because it’s all documented and I can do it as a follow up when I get home. Right now we’re on the road. And the road deserves attention. It deserves explanation. I want to stay in the moments. Each and every one before I have to return to the monotony of being an adult again.

Today a little boy was standing in his front yard raking. When he saw us he started waving like no tomorrow. I got so excited I waved back with just as much enthusiasm and nearly ripped my arm off at the elbow when the wind hit it. Note to self: wave small.

RD was flirting today. Not easy to do on the Mistress. But my “remember the positive stuff” was wearing off on him. Sometimes when we ride he reaches down and grabs my thigh and squeezes it like a hug. It makes me smile. It makes me think that maybe after all these years he’s not bored, or unhappy or sorry that he married me. So when he “thigh hugged” me today, I went all sappy inside. Then a huge yellow bug committed suicide on my helmet visor.

We killed a bird today. He flew into The Mistress and she won. I felt so bad. But then RD almost swallowed a full-grown pheasant. It flew up out of the grass and right into us. Wings fully extended. I yelled, forgetting my microphone worked excellently. RD nearly jumped out of his stitch. He swerved, the pheasant veered left and everyone went home to their family tonight.

I saw a herd deer running today in a pasture. And jumping. Just for fun. It was amazing to see them in the wild. RD was happy to see them running away from the road.

RD finally helped me identify the small brown fat animals that stood up when we passed them in New York and Massachusetts – groundhogs.

Do you know in Indiana they have signs that light up when an animal is on the road ahead of you? Did you know that they never tell you what kind of animal is on the road, making the sign light up? Shortly after seeing the blinking neon, warning us about an animal at midnight last night, RD saw a huge dark beast running on the road beside us. THE BIG ANIMAL!!! AAAHHHH!!!!! Then he realized it was our shadow cast on the ditch from the car lights behind us. We pulled into the next hotel.

I think we need more warning signs on the road. I think we should add sparrows, pheasant, groundhogs and people on cell phones.

See you on the road,

Donna


Day 7 - Iron Butt 4810



Iron Butt 4810 – Day 7

Today we finished South Dakota, North Dakota, Minnesota, and Wyoming. We took advice from other riders and started early, limiting our breaks to 15 to 20 minutes when we stopped for gas. And we managed to knock out 1015 miles!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Yeah! RD already had a Saddle Sore award, but this was my first. An Iron Butt Saddle Sore is a 1000 mile ride completed within a 24 hour time period. RD rode from Oklahoma to Needles, California in a little over 17 hours. I’m pretty jacked.

Today started out with a huge billboard in South Dakota warning us to watch out for jackrabbits. Great. Another animal to add to the dangerous to people on motorcycles list. What’s with the jackrabbits in South Dakota? Why would they spend money on a large billboard on prime highway land just to advertise rabbits? I’m thinking of the killer rabbit in Monty Pythons “Holy Grail.”

While yesterday we seemed to be wearing all the wrong gear, today we had all the right stuff. The weather was sunny and cool. The road was long and straight. We flew.

We decided to get to Belle Fourche, Wyoming by taking 85 South and God smiled. It was the most awesome 120 miles of heaven I’ve seen yet. Picture this. Rolling green hills cut out here and there by ravines, gulleys and ponds. In the background are occasional juttings of mountains. Not too many. Just enough sprinkled here and there for effect.

Rarely did we see any sign of humanity. No houses, no barns. Even the power lines faded away. But there were animals. I was on deer and moose duty (I think RD is pulling my leg on the moose) and was supposed to alert RD when I saw any. I’m getting pretty good at reading his sign language. A curved “c” hand flicked in a tight circle means, “tell me only about the deer on the side of the road not the ones out in the pasture with their babies!”

Sheesh! The only time we were in danger, he was oblivious. A full-grown antelope with big horns was running full speed ahead to cross the road about 30 feet in front of us. I didn’t have time to do anything but wave one arm. The antelope saw us, or heard us, or both. Thankfully he spooked and pivoted, running in the direction he’d come from. RD was zipping his vents closed and missed the whole thing. Should I be worried?

Today I saw 2 herds of buffalo. One on the road to Belle Fourche. Like 25 or thirty of them. Just hanging out being buffalo. How cool! I also saw many herds of antelope. Never saw those in the wild before either! Then I saw a very small deer. I couldn’t believe his mother left him all alone. As we passed by he stood up on his haunches and flexed his ears. JACKRABBIT!!! I added killer rabbits to the list right after moose.

See you on the road,

Donna

Day 8 - Iron Butt 4810


Iron Butt 4810 - Day 8

Tomorrow is my birthday, so RD gave me a present – an early night at the hotel. After I do laundry, double check the day’s receipts and write, I’ve been getting about 4 or 5 hours a night. So tonight is a real treat. In spite of the stop we still added another 880 miles of US of A to the odometer. We started in Wyoming, drove all the way through Montana, hit Idaho and Washington. We are just outside Oregon.

RD says we have 8 states and a little over 1800 miles to go in 2 days. It’s going to be close. He’s worried that the roads are not going to be as good as what we’ve been on. He’s done a great job of picking the roads so far. Can we ride about 900 miles a day in the heat for two days? I think so. Can we survive the wildlife…don’t know.

Today just as we were leaving Idaho, we came up on a young horse grazing right next to the highway. Loose horse, I thought. So did RD because we slowed down immediately to see if he would move. He was about the size of a yearling colt from the back. When he heard us coming he lifted his head and looked right at us. Bullwinkle! RD swerved right and the moose, he didn’t move an inch. Didn’t even flinch. Just kept standing 3 feet from the highway and chewing like he’d been doing it his whole life.

RD turned and looked at me and made his “Did you get the picture sign.” I looked down and sure enough the camera was in my hand, which was frozen into a white knuckled death grip fist. Then it started. My emotional backlash from a close encounter of the wildlife kind.

“You were serious? There are real moose here?”

He laughed.

“I thought you were making fun of me. Was that a baby? Where is the mother?”

Rd laughed harder.

“Do they have packs or herds or something? Are there any more?”

“Oh,” he said, “You better add elk to your list.” Then he took me by a statue of one on our gas/dinner/bathroom break to make sure I didn’t confuse it with a goat or something.

Do you realize that in 8 days we have had close encounters with moose, ground hogs, deer, antelope, pheasant and jackrabbits? With added fear of bears, elk and buzzards? If he tells me I have to watch out for cougars tomorrow, I’m ditching him and walking home. If I put all the animals I have to watch out for on one of those yellow hazard signs, it would just be one big black dot.

Today I spent the majority of my time shooting pictures of huge mountains in Montana. Mountains with rivers, mountains with snow, mountains with trees and mountains without trees because last years fires killed them all. I even have pictures of what the locals call “Crazy Mountains.” Southern Montana is well endowed in the mountain department. And in the very cool twisty turny road department as well.

RD is feeling the pressure and the backache of our mounting miles. He’s more worried about those we haven’t driven than those we have. Whenever he gets worried, he gets real bossy. I’m beginning to realize just how small a motorcycle can be for two people after eight days. Almost as small as the side cases that hold our entire luggage. Somehow this all resulted in RD laying down the law on a few things. It’s never worked in our marriage before, but I always applaud his perseverance.

RD rule #53 – Do not fall asleep on The Mistress. If you do and fall off, I’m leaving you.

Donna rule #1 – Ignore RD’s rules.

Donna rule #2 – Do not sneeze in your helmet.

New thing I learned on The Mistress today – how to give RD an Advil from the small bottle in the right hand pocket of my jacket, return bottle to pocket, and zip pocket while going 75 mph on the back of a motorcycle.

New thing RD learned today – no one can swallow an Advil without water.

See you on the road,

Donna


Day 9 - Iron Butt 4810


Iron Butt 4810 - Day 9

Today we covered Oregon, California and most of Nevada for a grand total of 930 miles!

So much for getting to bed early. I spent my “birthday present” writing and taking a long hot shower. I just couldn’t settle. Consequently, my internal alarm went off, and we were loaded and on the road long before our wake up call. Good thing too because our route today was tough, tough, tough. We started by getting into some foothills where the road was very curvy and narrow. No guardrails, very little shoulder and steep drop offs. I was definitely on deer, bear, elk, antelope, moose, pheasant, jackrabbit, cougar alert.

We went through 2 national forests – Umatilla and Malheur – both of which would have been the kind of roads we would go over twice if given the time. Can deer jump down on top of you from say 20’ above you? Would they? Just wondering.

The Oregon BMW club was having a rally and other BMW’s and their riders surrounded us. It was so cool to be around other beemers and see people in the same kind of gear. The bikes were every model, color and year you can imagine. A lot of them had the same “character” as The Mistress. But she still reigns supreme.

Since starting this type of riding, I’ve wanted to get a picture of us heading into a curve. I’ve caused us to scrape more metal on asphalt trying to get that one perfect leaning shot than any other acrobatic contortions I’ve come up with. Today I think I got it. “Leaning Trees” will be left to my grand children one day.

With all our focus on animals, we were nearly whipped by the road itself today and a herd of salt devils. Towards the end of our ride through Oregon, known by the locals as the Oregon Outback, we started seeing salt flats. We were in high desert. Suddenly we were driving into a herd, and I do mean a herd of dirt devils. Only they were salt. They were on both sides of the road and we couldn’t tell if they were moving or hovering.

The terrain changed to desert quick. Sand. No plant life, just sand. And the road changed to construction with gravel. Which went around a huge salt lake. Needless to say, we were relieved to leave Oregon behind. It had cost us precious time. But once we hit Reno and picked up good highway, we hauled and made up for the land of the salt devils.

All day long RD has been giving out the thigh hugs. We’d lost our intercom system during the downpours from a few days ago. Today he figured out the problem was a bad cable. I asked him why he fixed it now since we’re almost done with the ride. He said he was lonely. And he’s been chatting ever since.

Tomorrow is the big day. We have about 900+ miles to finish. RD and I have seen the most amazing country from a viewpoint that few people ever do. And even though we are sore and tired, we are sad to see the adventure end. When we started this run, I expected we would drive from city to city with a little country in between. Amazingly it was just the opposite. About 90% of the trip has been in rural and wilderness areas broken occasionally by a town or city. We’ve seen wildlife. We’ve seen hotels at just the right time. Gas stations just in the knick of time. And weather patterns before they became a problem. And signs. Lord, we have seen signs. The sign to Gettysburg, the sign to Niagra Falls, and the sign to Elizabethtown, the home of the annual “More women named Elizabeth in one place in one day” festival. In fact, I’m thinking of taking pictures of nothing but all the signs decorating our country.

See you on the road,

Donna


Day 10 - Iron Butt 4810


Iron Butt 4810 - Day 10

I guess when someone goes on a quest they shouldn’t expect it to be easy. I knew we would come home different people, but I didn’t actually plan on the quest part. I wanted adventure. Adventures are different than quests. Adventures are fun and scary. Every kid dreams of having an adventure. A quest is a grown up version of an adventure. A quest is where it crosses your mind that this time when you pirouette on the edge, you just might fall off. A quest is where you reach into the deepest part of your state of being and hope to God when you get there that you find something. And no one knows. Until you get to your core being, your center, nobody knows what they will find. Could be courage. Could be panic.

When we woke up on Day 10, in Nevada, we knew we had a long grueling day ahead of us. But we’d become fit on the road – conditioned to 1000 miles runs. It was only 44 degrees at 5 a.m. and we knew it would be high 90’s later on. Time was critical. We knew how many hours we had left and how many miles. There was no grace period.

We hit good highways all the way through the rest of Nevada and thru Utah. The Utah Mountains weren’t like any others we’d seen. Very barren. After awhile they started looking like gnarled old men standing around chewing the fat. The temperature started climbing quickly. By the time we hit Salt Lake City, we had to peel off our liners and extra layers. But the road stayed in our favor and we couldn’t complain about the time we were making. Everything was going great until we hit the Four Corners area. That’s when it happened. We lost Colorado.

Every time we crossed a state line RD would put his left hand on top of his left shoulder, palm up, and we would clasp hands. It was our official “add another state to the list” victory handshake. But after the third time we crossed the New Mexico border the handshakes stopped. We were lost. Our GPS had not been delivered in time to make the trip with us. We had traveled through the last 9 days using a street atlas. The maps were useless without a coordinating road sign. There were no signs. Just desert and mesa. The atlas doesn’t explain “how to find yourself using the geography.”

RD was the most frustrated I’ve ever seen him. We were losing daylight fast. We pulled off the road twice to turn around. And the leader of a small herd of horses decided to challenge us. There were two babies by their mama’s sides when we came roaring over their hill. We could tell that much. What was harder to see was which side of the fence they were standing on. Only to realize there was no fence! Free range. We didn’t know until that moment what those two words could mean to motorcycles.

The closer we got to the herd, the more agitated the horses became. We’re old racetrack people. Because of our experience we knew one glaring fact – when it comes to horses - expect the unexpected. This was a fight or flight animal. They react. Every race tracker learns to respect the “loose horse.”

As we got closer the stud stomped his feet, ducked his head and swung it in a tight arc like he was trying to head butt us – a sure sign of anger. Just before we were side by side with him, he tucked his rear end and jumped. Up in the air he went, pawing at us while standing on his hind legs. He was 6 feet from the road and us. RD punched it and we sped by, leaving him and his mares behind, hoping he wouldn’t chase us.

We finally got directions at the only gas we could find and now had our Arizona and Colorado receipts. But we weren’t done fighting the wilderness yet. We just could not get our directions right; we were racking up lost miles. We had already driven over 900 miles for the day. We kept getting turned around and the sun was setting. We didn’t know if our confusion was from fatigue or dehydration. We finally stopped outside of Shiprock, New Mexico.

RD tried hard to settle himself, but frustration was wreaking havoc with his emotions. I could tell he was pulling from the deepest part of his being for guidance. All I could do was be quiet and wait. All of a sudden I saw his back straighten. He squared his shoulders, looked at me and said, “Get on the bike.”

I asked what we were going to do. He told me because the sun was setting and we needed to go east the setting sun should be on our backs not in our faces. So we turned around. Whenever he came to a crossroad, he navigated according to the position of the sun. Within 10 miles we were back on track and knew our road, but we had lost precious time and used almost a full tank of gas.

We stopped in Bloomfield, New Mexico for gas and got the best news we’d heard in hours. Highway 550 to Albuquerque was 4 lanes, fairly straight, little traffic and about 30 miles shorter than we thought. Once we hit Albuquerque, we could pick up I40 all the way to Texas. After riding 900+ miles – counting our being lost – we still had 400 miles to go to finish.

At that point I honestly could not identify my emotional state. I was standing on a razor blade. Did I tell RD to stop; rest and we’d live with hitting 47 states in 10 days? Or did I spur him into action with a pep talk. And if we continued then got in a wreck because he was physically exhausted, could I live with that? The Iron Butt Association riders pride themselves on finishing their rides, but not at the risk of safety. Standing on a razor blade was mild compared with what I was feeling.

We stood on either side of The Mistress and just stared at each other. No words. Just eyeball to eyeball. RD and I work well as a team because we lay it on the line with each other.

“RD, listen to me. We have 47 receipts to prove that we just came through 47 states in 9½ days. No on can say that we didn’t try. This is not worth dying over.”

His jaw started to jut out. His brown eyes started flashing. “I will not get you killed.”

On the inside I was dancing the happy dance. I had found a quote before the trip by Goethe, “Be Bold and Mighty Forces Will Come.” He was so mad at himself that he had the adrenalin of a prizefighter running through him. The mighty forces had come.

“I’ll get us to Albuquerque and then we’ll decide what to do from there, but I will not get us killed. Now get on the bike.”

“You got it,” I said, “let’s finish this thing and check into a hotel with room service.”

I knew this man. I’d seen him fight before. I’d seen him buck horses in and out of barns with everyone on the track throwing wheelbarrows and hay bales out of his way. And he’d hung on. I knew for a fact, when we hit Albuquerque and the realization hit him that we only had 200 miles between our goal and us; he would reach deep and hit the mark.

We were in high elevations in the middle of the night and pushing ourselves beyond any limits we’d hit before. I kept nodding off and hitting RD’s helmet with mine. The wind kept slapping me awake. I tried to make my brain work. I counted trucks; I counted stars; I counted mile markers. Counting wasn’t working.

So I did what I do best. I started writing this story in my head – our story. RD’s and mine. The story we would tell our grandchildren if we lived to have any.

“One day your Grandpa decided to see the world. Only he didn’t want to sit in a box the way other people do. He wanted to experience the road. He wanted to smell every smell, see every detail, feel every change in the road and breathe it all in…”

I was on a pretty good roll there for a while, but the cold was getting to me. RD was not talking. I was not talking. We were flying. I knew if I was cold, he had to be colder. Whining was not an option. Then I remembered a video I’d seen in my World Religion class at Oklahoma City University. It was about Buddhist monks in Tibet that would sit in the mountains day and night wrapped in nothing but sheets. It was a quest for them. They were concentrating so hard on praying that they became oblivious to their surroundings.

I kept seeing that video in my head of those monks sitting cross-legged in the mountains, snow all around them, wrapped in white sheets – steam coming off their backs and dissolving into the air above their heads. I started picturing myself the very same way. I wasn’t a Buddhist monk, but I borrowed their steam.

My Mother-in-Law, Nancy, had given me a cross-stitch picture years ago that said, “Reach up as far as you can, and God will reach down the rest of the way.” So I reached up to The Big Guy. And I kept thinking of steam coming off my back. Suddenly I was warm. I had to stop to recheck all my vitals: heart pumping, check; wind roaring in ears, check; no feeling in my fanny, check, check, check. Am I warm? Or dead? Dead and warm don’t usually go together in the same sentence. My whole trip crystallized as the realization that I was warm, when it was impossible to be so, hit me like the wind gust from a semi-truck pulling three trailers.

I didn’t need to find my courage – I never lost it. I was a storyteller. It’s what I do. What I’ve been since I was 9 years old. My job is to tell such a good story that people forget the multitude of details they have to handle just to survive. I’m the one who makes up stories so that, hopefully, people forget their tragedy and their hardship. I’m the one who takes people somewhere new and exciting, forgetting everything for one sliver of a moment except the adventure I’m leading them through.

Life became simple again. I’d gotten off on a tangent these last few years. It was nobody’s fault but my own. Because I couldn’t wrap my mind around the fact that this world needed another storyteller. I had gone to the best university and studied writing with the professionals. I had let my professors pull my brains out of my ears and put them back again. There was no reason to fail except for me. I was fighting myself. I didn’t need a quest. I was one.

And in that moment, on the back of The Mistress, the stars streaming by, the cold wind slapping us and the miles screaming past, I knew one thing and one thing only. We were alive! And this is what life is all about. There was no failure. Just continual practice. Some practice sessions were perfect and some were disasters. Right this second I had no idea on God’s green earth what kind of practice session we were experiencing. Then I realized. It didn’t matter.

In two hours the whole show would be over. Whether we made Texas or not, our ride, our race, our quest, our adventure would be completed. I was experiencing first hand what every creator realizes. There are 3 rock solid parts to every story: a beginning, a middle and an end. We overcame our fear of the beginning. We survived the practice sessions of the middle as we learned the road. We were dead off in the completion stage. I was warm. This was life. And it was perfect.

Suddenly RD grabbed my thigh and jolted me. Up came his palm, right on top of his shoulder, exactly like he’d done 47 times before. I saw the Welcome to Texas sign through tears as I grabbed his hand in our 48th victory handshake.

We had a little over one hour to get our final receipt. We were home safe or so we thought. The miles kept streaming by and we saw nothing. Lots and lots of nothing or as the song goes, “miles and miles of Texas….”

The panic in my gut started bubbling up, and I started burping. RD rule #357. Because of the microphones burping on The Mistress is not allowed. I was going to be unplugged if I didn’t get it under control. I kept looking at all the semi-trucks around us and thinking they had to have gas. Lots of it. There had to be a gas station close by the trucks.

Thirty miles later we saw the Shell station. We pulled in and I started to congratulate RD. He held up his hand and said, “Don’t. Not until we have the receipt.” We got $12 worth of gas. The machine asked if we wanted a receipt – yes or no. RD pressed “yes.” The machine said, “See attendant.” We both turned to the closed store behind us. We had 42 minutes left and no receipt.

“Get on the bike,” RD barked.

Back on I40. Town #2. 30 minutes to go. No gas station. Nothing.

Back on I40. Town #3. Two gas stations across the street from each other. We pulled into the closest one. Bought $1.00 in gas. Hit the “print receipt” button. Out it came. No address. No time. No good.

“Damn,” RD yelled, “can they make it any harder on us?”

“Go to the other station,” I said.

“Why? It’ll just be the same thing,” he replied.

“You don’t know that,” I yelled, “You don’t know what that station has until you go over there and see for yourself. Do it!”

RD cranked up The Mistress and drove across the street. Our routine was so rehearsed in the last 10 days; he didn’t have to think anymore. Insert card. Pull key from ignition. Flip up tank bag. Unlock gas cap. Wait for approval. Lift nozzle. Press.

We bought 26 cents of gas. 5 minutes to go. Print receipt? Yes. Yes. Yes.

Out came the reason for the last 10 days of our life. Out came the end of our whole adventure. Out came the results of 48 United States of America, 8,500 miles and 4 minutes short of 240 grueling, beautiful, amazing hours. And it was perfect.

With sincere appreciation and gratitude to family, friends and all those who lived the last 10 days with us. We couldn't have done it without your supporting comments and phone calls.

See you on the road,

RD and Donna