Day 10 – October 27th, 2018 – Atlantic Beach, Florida to Sonora, Texas: ~1,290 miles. The challenge is on – can we get coast to coast in 50 hours?
Did you miss Days 7-9? October 24th-26th, 2018 – Orlando, Florida to Jacksonville, Florida: ~200 miles.
4:00 AM (EST) – I am woken up by a horrible sound – my phone alarm. At one point in time I used to have “Snow” by the Red Hot Chili Peppers as my alarm because I figured it was better to wake up to something I liked. Vy grew to resent the song so much that I felt obligated to get rid of it.
I’ve been in Florida for a few days so I’m OK with the time zone difference. For Nathan, it feels like 1:00 AM. As soon as I come to consciousness, I go to ESPN.com on my phone to see how Game 3 of the World Series went, and I am bummed to find out that Max Muncy had won the game in the bottom of the 18th with a walk-off homer. I felt less bad about going to bed before the game ended when I found out that it lasted seven hours and twenty minutes, setting a record for longest World Series game in history!
6:00 AM – “Yeah, we see weirdos like you once or twice a year“. Officer #1310 of the Neptune Beach Police Department is not as surprised to hear about our cross-country plan as I expected. He signs our Starting Verification Witness form, starting the clock on our 50 hour adventure. The Kawasaki’s odometer reads 6,083 miles.
The Iron Butt Association prioritizes safety and documentation – after all, what good is the ride if you end up in the hospital? The only thing that could be worse in today’s age of selfies is not having proof that you did it! The obligation is on you as the rider to prove that you completed the challenge, and that includes witness forms at the beginning and end as well as a ride log with gas station receipts throughout the trip. Bonus points if you can include GPS tracks or anything else that makes it easier to eliminate any doubt in the mind of the volunteer who goes through the paperwork to verify your trip.
6:15 AM – As if the ride wasn’t enough of a challenge by itself, Nathan and I wanted to film a video of the process. Unfortunately, this meant that we’d lose precious time getting some photos and video instead of covering miles. We started by getting some photos of the start point. Seeing as the spirit of the ride is going from coast to coast, we parked as close as we were allowed to the sand of Neptune Beach.
In total, we probably spent about 40 minutes backtracking to the beach, getting some photos, and filming an introduction to the video (which will be coming soon). Here Nathan acts as both gaffer and cameraman while getting some B-roll:
On the Iron Butt website, there’s a couple of photos of a gentleman named Ben Askew collecting sand on both sides of the country. I thought this was a great idea, and we shamelessly copied it with some old pill bottles.
7:30 AM: The sun rises in Macclenny, Florida. I’m concerned that we are 90 minutes into our ride and have only been riding for half of that time, but the colors are too beautiful not to stop for. I snag this photo while Nathan mounts a GoPro on the back of the Gold Wing for some timelapse footage.
Seeing as Nathan was busy filming/changing camera locations/swapping out batteries nearly every time we stopped, I was in charge of getting the documentation we needed to prove that we were properly completing the challenge. Among other things, this meant getting receipts at every gas station for both Nathan and me. Not particularly glorious, but very necessary.
9:43 AM (CST): We’ve crossed into Central time, which makes it seem as if we’ve gained an hour. Obviously, that’s not the case. Our second gas stop had a bit of a surprise for us in Bonifay, Florida. Hurricane Michael had rolled through this area 10 days ago, but there were still plenty of signs of the carnage.
12:03 PM: – We stop for gas in Loxley, Alabama. There’s an Arby’s in the station so we decide to grab a quick lunch. For some reason, everyone else in Loxley seems to have had the same idea, and we spend almost as much time in line as we do eating our “fast” food. If you’re doing a ride like this, don’t be like us. Just pack a ton of granola bars and keep moving.
2:15 PM: – I start to have thoughts about how silly it is that I can now say “I’ve been to Mississippi” even though I’ve learned absolutely nothing about it except for road conditions when I’m interrupted by a flash of pain in my neck. The pain goes away almost as quickly as it appeared, but it stings a bit if I flex my neck from side to side. “Stings” turns out to be an appropriate word, as when I look down on my dash to check my speed, I see half of a bee. Apparently this jerk decided to sting me and then hitchhike. Rude.
I ping Nathan on our Sena headsets and tell him that I need to pull over at the next exit. Remembering that you shouldn’t try to use a tool like tweezers to get a stinger out (it can squeeze more venom into your skin), he scrapes it out of me with his hotel room key from last night that he apparently forgot to return.
2:34 PM: – We enter Louisiana. I put a Bike-urious sticker under the “p” of “Keep” – first one to send me a picture of yourself with the sticker gets a Bike-urious t-shirt…
2:34 PM: – Nathan used the storage space in front of the seat on the Gold Wing to store GoPros and mounts, but he went above and beyond by mounting his DSLR on the front of his backpack straps so that in certain situations he could pop the Wing in cruise control and get some higher quality stills. Baby Jack says hi.
3:00 PM: – The 10 freeway splits at New Orleans – the smart thing to do is to hop on the 12, which takes you around the city and then merges back to the main freeway 90 miles later. But when I see the split between the 10 and the 12, I assume I should just stay on the former. This takes us into the capital, and our progress comes to a dead stop with traffic on the freeway. Nathan tells me over the Sena that it’s his first time in New Orleans. All he saw was the Superdome and several above-ground cemeteries, so here’s hoping he gets to go back soon and explore the city properly.
But before I can get back on the road, I need to clean my visor! I then swap it out for a clear one as we’ll need to ride in the dark for at least a few more hours. My hope is to get further than halfway in our ~2,500 mile journey before we call it a night.
11:56 PM – Our last gas stop of the day finds us in Fair Oaks Ranch, Texas. Nathan’s dinner of champions is a bag of crazy-flavored Doritos and an ice cream. I’m much healthier – I just get Doritos (Cool Ranch, of course). Nathan and I have a frank conversation about how tired we’re feeling and how far we want to go before calling it a night. 150 miles down the road is Sonora, Texas, and that seems good enough. I pull out my phone and book a room at the Motel 6 in Sonora on the Hotels.com app while enjoying the last of my chips.
1:00 AM – Normally, the majority of my riding miles are in the cities of Southern California, and that’s why I’m usually not worried about deer. But at night in the Middle-of-Nowhere, Texas, I’m on edge. Nathan and I know we’re tired and we’re not speeding, but I still get nervous as we pass the occasional pair of luminescent dots reflecting the H2’s high beams back at us. We catch up to a semi doing 5 under, so I kill the brights and tuck in behind it until Sonora.
1:05 AM – I’m bored.
2:30 AM – With a population of just over 3,000, Sonora is not a big city. But with nothing else around for miles, it feels like a beacon. Seeing some artificial lights wakes me up a little bit again, but my good mood is suddenly ruined by the lady at the Motel 6 check-in who (politely) informs me that she does not have my reservation. I double check my confirmation email to make sure I didn’t accidentally book a different location in my rush and then plead my case. She spends a few minutes trying to hunt it down, then renders the whole thing moot by saying: “I don’t know why we even let you make a reservation, we don’t have any vacancy.” Instead of being helpful and trying to think of a solution, my mind immediately jumps to a scene from Seinfeld:
Such is life. I’m just hoping that we can find another place to stay in town because the closest cities are about 35 miles in either direction and I don’t think I have many more miles of safe riding left in me. I give another hotel a call and– great success– the man on the phone says he’s got a room for us and asks how far away we are. “The other side of town.” I figure no one else is stopping by to snag our room at 2:40 AM, so in lieu of attempting another reservation Nathan and I hop back on our bikes for our final 5 minute stretch of the day, crossing under the freeway and ending up at the SureStay Hotel.
2:45 AM – I’m tired enough that I’d probably be fine sleeping in my Aerostich on top of the covers, but we (and by we, I mean mostly Nathan) have to download footage from the cameras, charge the batteries, and clean lenses/visors. I fire off a quick text message to Vy to let her know we’re doing all right, get ready for bed, and note a time of 3:10 AM on the LED clock before my head hits the pillow. The clock can’t even make it to 3:11 AM before I’m asleep and Nathan is subjected to my snoring.
Approximately 22 hours have elapsed, during which we’ve covered 1,290.34 miles. Here’s Part 2!