My First IBA SaddleSore 1000

I had been thinking of doing a SaddleSore 1000 for a while now.  The idea kept kicking around in the back of my mind, and the flame was fanned when I met Dave at Americade in 2007.  We were both roller coaster enthusiasts, and spent a couple hours riding the Comet at Great Escape and became friends.  Turns out Dave’s a long-distance rider, with 5 Iron Butt Association rides to his credit.  The more we talked the more I liked the idea of giving one a try.

The next year at Americade I met Jim, and we became fast friends.  We’ve done a number of rides together since then and found our riding styles matched quite well.  We rode back from the MotoGP races at Indy last year in one day, which I was using as sort of a dry run for an SS1000 (though Jim didn’t know it at the time).  My ride was 670 miles and at the end I felt like I could easily have gone a few more hours. Jim’s was closer to 750, and he was in pretty good shape at the end of the day as well. I had mentioned my desire to do an IBA ride during our Indy trip and got sort of a “that’s nice” response.  Some weeks after Indy I got an e-mail from Jim asking did I want company on an IBA ride?  Yes, I sure did.

So a plan was hatched to do a two-person SS1000 ride starting from NJ.  The start of the ride was going to be a bit convoluted as we live about 1.5 hours apart which necessitated a common meeting place. Once we would be riding together I laid out a route that took us on a loop of NY state, as I didn’t want to just do a straight out-and-back ride (too boring!).  I had run my route ideas by my friend Dave, and he had some good suggestions as to convenient gas stops and was even going to join us for a portion of the ride as we were passing pretty much by his house.  Vacation schedules coordinated, we had 3 days set aside in one week in May, and 1 day the next week as possible dates for the ride.  We figured we’d let the weather forecast choose our actual departure day.

I had always felt the Ducati Multistrada I was riding wasn’t the best mount for highway riding, as the wind management is not the greatest.  It is nice and roomy though, which helps for being able to move around during a long ride.  This would certainly be a make-or-break test of highway comfort.  I had already added a $6 Wal-Mart beaded seat cover (best $6 ever spend) and a Cramp Buster to make long rides more comfortable, and to these I added a Camelback hydration pack in the tankbag for drinking on the go, and a new AGV Miglia flip-up helmet to reduce the need to keep taking the helmet on and off during stops.

As the days for the ride approached, the weather forecast got worse and worse.  Neither of us was looking forward to riding 18 hours in the rain (some in the dark), so we erred on the side of caution.  Each day that first week was 50% chance of rain and t-storms all along our route, so we stayed home and watched as the sun shone all day.  For 3 days we did this, and each time the weather turned out much nicer than forecasted.  Great.

We had one day left for the ride, which turned out to be the Thursday before commencement at Rowan University where I work.  I was committed to volunteering at commencement (driving a special-needs golf cart), which meant I HAD to be at work bright and early the morning after, no matter how the ride went.  So, pretty much my stress level would be elevated the whole ride.  Things changed early in the week when Jim called and said we might be able to go a day earlier, but he’d be on call and wouldn’t know until 8am.  That sounded good to me, but I had to redo our route and meeting place to accommodate the later departure time (our original plan had us on the road at 5am and meeting at 6).  This new route had us meeting at 10 close to my house, but required me to log about 170 miles before the meet.

Ready to go

So the day of on-call came and I woke at 5:15 and had no e-mails from Jim saying he got called, so we were still possible for a go.  I suited up in my trusty Olympia Phantom suit, plugged in the Gerbings and rode to the gas station in town (which I had asked at the night before to get their hours) and got my official start receipt at 5:58am.  Had an uneventful ride around southern Jersey to get some gas receipts and then a ride up the Turnpike to exit 8 to put some big miles in.  Stopped for gas (needed to get a receipt to document the turn) and checked my e-mail.  Message from Jim – SS1K is a GO!  Relieved that my morning hadn’t been just a joyride, I headed back down the Turnpike to our meeting place at exit 2.

Right around 9 I pulled in to the Shell station on 322 with 175 miles already logged.  I had some time to relax and adjust things, as Jim wasn’t due until between 9:30 and 10.  I had a drink, ate a banana I had packed (I also brought along a bag of fig newtons, some apple slices, and various other snacks to cut down on having to run inside to buy food), and lubed/adjusted the new chain on the bike.  This was my first field test of the Lift & Lube, and it performed just fine.  I took this opportunity to swap helmets as well.  I had been  wearing my trusty Shoei RF-1000 with a WindJammer wind blocker, as this made for a quiet relaxed place to put my head when riding solo. 


The Lift & Lube in action

I had known I was going to need some music to break up the monotony of all day highway riding, so I had loaded up the iPod with tunes and even some audio books.  Jim and I have a pair of Scale Rider Q2 intercoms, so I was trying to figure out a way to be able to use the iPod and not get in the way of our communicating.  What I came up with was wearing the iPod on one of those arm-strap holders on the outside of my suit, and running the cable for the earplugs up through the sleeves.  I also brought along a 2nd iPod in case the battery on the first one ran down during the ride.  The Q2 was installed in the AGV, so time to ready that and get the iPod ready to go.  Armband?  Check.  iPod?  Check.  Earphones?  Um, earphones?  Must be in the tankbag….nope….maybe this pocket in the suit….nope….maybe this one…..oh, crap.  They're sitting in my garage. 15 hours of slab coming up and nothing but my thoughts to keep me company.  Well, those and whatever talk time we could get out of the Q2’s.

A small bus of Japanese tourists pulled in to the station, and a couple of the guys came over to look at the bike.  They talked amongst themselves for a while, then one of them began speaking in English:

Him - “What country, Japan?”
Me - “No, it’s a Ducati, made in Italy”
Him – “Expensive?  Maybe $25,000 US?”
Me – “Ha!  No, only  $7,000 US”
Him – “Looks expensive”

Jim rolled up around 9:45, got himself squared away, and we rolled out to the main part of the ride just before 10am.  Our Q2’s worked perfectly, and we quickly left NJ behind us.

Jim getting ready to roll

Over the Commodore Barry Bridge, a brief stint on I-95, and up the Blue Route (I-476 to you non-locals) to the PA Turnpike Northeast Extension.  Soon as we got through the toll plaza I passed a gray BMW 530i on my right, then heard Jim in my head “watch it, she’s right on your ass”.  Sure enough, she was just off my back tire and waiting for me to move.  Now I don’t mind if folks want to speed (we all do it from time to time) but don’t be an ass about it.  As soon as I moved over she moved past and took off into the distance.  About 2 minutes later we passed a trooped parked on the right shoulder, and he pulled out behind us.  Oh great, I thought, a ticket’s really going to slow us up.  Thankfully he went past us and flew up the road.  Another minute later we saw him move to the right and light someone up – guess who?  Yes!  The lady in the BMW was tagged.  Jim and I both gave a big thumbs-up to the trooper and rode on feeling just a little happier.

Got gas just south of Scranton, hit about 20 minutes of construction traffic, and then had a nice ride up I-81 into NY with Jim and I swapping leads a couple times.  I tried opening the flip-up to get a drink from the camelback, but it was nerve-wracking being that exposed at speed.  When I mentioned it to Jim at our next stop, he said he once opened his at 35mph and his face shield caught the wind and flew right out of the helmet, never to be seen again.  OK, no opening the helmet at 80mph.

Heading up I-81 in New York

Passed a tanker truck with “Technical Animal Fat – not for human consumption” written on the back – made me laugh.  Another gas stop was needed before our turn in Syracuse, which we also used as a snack break.  We got to the Syracuse Pilot (actually in ??? NY) that Dave had recommended (the one with the backwards credit-card slot) and took a 20-minute break to eat, drink, hit the restroom and make phone calls back home. Next stop was a truck stop in Buffalo for another documented turn.

The stretch of I-90 to Buffalo was easily the crappiest part of the ride.  There was nothing great to look at, lots of traffic, and a pretty strong headwind.  Up until now I had been pretty impressed with the Multi’s wind management, which seemed to be good to around 80mph (gps, not indicated).  This headwind was shaking me around though, really adding to the fatigue factor. 

It was also about this time that my knees started bothering me, in a way that was new to me.  It had actually started the day before, but only once so I forgot about it. They’d start to feel sore, so I did what I always do and stretch them onto imaginary highway pegs.  Normally this would ease the discomfort and I’d be good for a while, but this time stretching them out made the pain increase tremendously.  Like “oh crap this has to stop soon” pain.  Tried letting them hang down past the pegs just above the road surface, but that had the same painful results.  Tried standing on the pegs, and that seemed to do the trick.   This would go on during the rest of the ride.  They’d be good for about an hour, then they would start to ache.  Standing on the pegs or getting off and walking around for a minute fixed them right up, but just stretching them on the bike would be agony.  Have to keep an eye on this.

We stopped for a break at the Ontario service plaza, then shuffled off to Buffalo. 

Ontario service plaza on I-90

About 45 minutes later, just as we were about to exit I-90…

Jim - “Hey, do you have a spare key ring with your luggage key on it?” 
Me – “Yes, I have a luggage key on a ring with my ignition key on the bike, and I keep a spare set in my jacket pocket”
<long pause>
Me – “Just out of curiosity, why do you ask?”
Jim – “Because your spare key ring is hanging from the top box lock right now…”

Yikes!  When we had stopped at the Ontario plaza I ended up leaving my key ring in the top box lock, and we had just ridden the last 50 miles on the Thruway with them dangling there. I had visions of my top box opening up and my receipt bag flying away. Oh well, nice day for a ride...

Thankfully they stayed put for nearly an hour on the Thruway

We left the interstate for the next segment of the ride. From Cheektowaga down to Salamanca we took US219, which was very empty and very scenic.  Still a highway for large sections of it (with more to come based on the construction we saw), but nice fast 2-lane in places as well.  We passed through the ski towns of Great Valley and Ellicottville before stopping for gas in Salamanca in sight of the big Casino.  The gas receipt had no address on it, so Jim went inside and got duplicates for us.  It was strange listening in on his conversation with the clerk over the Q2.  Handy though, because while he was talking I could ask him to get me one too.  It reminded me of the scene in Broadcast News when producer Holly Hunter is giving instructions to news anchor William Hurt during his interview.

I had noticed in the last hour or so that we didn’t seem to be making any time, we kept falling behind no matter how good our pace was.  I had printed out a list of our gas stops, and what time we should arrive at them.  I had built in time for rest stops, so I was really scratching my head as to why we were losing time.

Gassed up and ready to move on, I pulled down my flip-up and couldn’t get it to latch properly.  I’d push it down hard, it would sound like it latched, but I could lift it right up again.  Tried this many times with the same result.  I thought I finally got it and we hit the road.  Right before we pulled onto I-86 I tried pulling up on the helmet and it popped right open.  Dang it!  Spent 5 minutes at the side of the road working on it, but couldn’t figure it out.  Off my head I could get it to lock just fine, but wearing it made it not latch.  Into the saddlebag it went, and the Shoei went back on my head. 

I-86 was pretty empty out here as we headed East for the first time today.  Due to some crossed signals Dave wasn’t going to ride with us, but was going to meet us for dinner in Bath, NY.  I had been e-mailing him (and my wife) our status updates at rest stops during the day, and the last one let him know we should be there just before 8pm.  I also finally figured out where our lost time was going.  As I noted, I had made up a sheet with stops and times when I laid out our route.  When Jim had proposed the on-call version of our ride, I redid the route and the stop sheet at work, but this time I forgot to put in any time for rest stops.  Doh!

Just before we got to our exit I got completely splattered with juicy green bugs.  I had to duck down behind the windscreen to get out of the swarm, and even then it was nasty. 

We got off I-86 onto Rt 53 and pulled into the Pilot to see Dave standing there getting pictures of us as we rolled in (thanks, Dave!).  We had a nice long dinner with Dave at the Subway (they had Pibb, yes!), and before we knew it an hour had gone by and we had to hit the road again.. I fiddled some more with the AGV, and managed to get it latched again.  Note - the next day I played with the helmet, and discovered that if I squeezed the bottom sides just a bit while lowering the flip-up portion it locked positively. If I didn't squeeze it the latch wouldn't quite catch. That explained why it would work when not on my head - my cheeks were pushing out the bottom sides just slightly.

Pulling into the Pilot in Bath, NY


Tired but happy

On my helmet you can make out the remnants of the bug swarm I just rode through. First time looking at thi spicture it took me a few seconds to figure out what was on top of my helmet - just a lightpole behind me

Me and Jim, ready to press on

Me and Dave, who was a big part of the inspiration to do this ride

It was full dark now, and I was glad to have communication between us again.  Took I-86 to US15 south, which was probably very pretty by the light of the day.  It was on this stretch of hiway that my high beam died.  This happened once before, on a trip to WV, so I was only annoyed and not alarmed.  Stopped in Williamsport, PA for gas and a receipt, and stretched our legs a bit.

Late night gas in Williamsport

Jim was getting concerned that he was not going to have 1,000 IBA miles by the end of the ride, so we started trying to figure out how he could get another 20-30 miles in.  As it was, he wasn’t going to be home before 4am, and he was wary of trying to find gas stations at the tail end of the ride to extend his miles.  He figured it was going to be pretty hard to pass up his house to bag some miles he might or might not end up needing. Eventually I came up with a solution – instead of splitting up at exit 2 again, we’ll ride down together to near the Delaware Memorial Bridge and he can pick up the turnpike at exit 1.  This way he’d pick up another 20 miles and not have to change his planned stops at the end of the ride.

Next was a run on I-80 to our next required ‘turn’ stop at White Haven, PA.  We stopped along the way at a rest area to stretch again.  It was midnight by the time we got to the WaWa in White Haven, and my Q2 had run it’s battery down.  We didn’t waste time at the WaWa before pulling onto the Northeast Extension had heading south.  This was the first time we were retracing our steps on the ride, but since it was dark it didn’t really matter. Stopped at the Allentown rest area for another stretch, and then it was on to the last leg of the ride for me.  Crossed the Delaware at the Commodore Barry Bridge again, and took I-295 down to the Pilot at Carney’s Point.  Getting off the bike at 2:17am, my SS1000 was officially done.  I had done 1016 IBA miles, 1059 actual miles.  I got my final receipt, and Jim took off for his 100 mile final run home.  He eventually rolled in around 4:20am, with 1024 IBA miles.

I rode the last 15 miles of 2-lane home carefully, as deer are always a concern in my neck of the woods.  I also started thinking about what my next Iron Butt ride would be, as I was feeling just fine after 1,070 miles and nearly 21 hours.  I pulled into my driveway around 2:45.

This was the GPS stats for the ride starting at our meeting point. My stats for the morning solo ride were:

177.8 miles
56.1 Overall Avg
65.3 Moving Avg (wow, that's consistent)
82 max speed
3:10 total time
2:45 moving time
0:26 stopped time (4 stops, not too bad)

The Route

My solo part of the ride, 177.8 miles

The main part of the ride, 874.1 miles

Some Final Thoughts