But these are the kind of days that real Iron Butt riders live on. For most of them, my day would be no big deal. Actually the most common way to become an Iron Butt Association member is to ride 1,000 miles in 24 hours or less. Itís called a Saddlesore 1,000. Iíve got quite a bit of conditioning before Iíll be able to do that, if I ever even want to.
Speaking of the Iron Butt, the semi-annual Iron Butt Rally is starting on Monday at 10:00 AM in Ojai, California. Every two years a select few riders compete in the most grueling motorcycle competition known to man. For 11 days these riders travel over 1,000 miles each day. And it is not simply a race from point A to point B. Riders must go hundreds of extra miles to gain bonus points and then reach four different checkpoints within two hour windows. Miss more than one window and you're finished. Itís hard to even imagine. Why would anyone want to do that you ask? Because itís there and these motorcyclists just love to ride and ride and ride. These are people who like to push themselves to the limit, and then beyond. To do what people say can't be done. It's easy to compare the attitude to those who climb mountains or run marathons. Easy to compare, but hard to understand unless you do it yourself.
The last time the rally was held, in 1997, over 600 people applied for the 80 spots. 61 riders completed the rally. If you are interested in reading more about the Iron Butt, check out Ron Ayres book "Against The Wind" from Whitehorse Press. Itís a great account of the 1995 rally. Ron finished sixth that year, and last year he successfully broke the World Record for visiting the lower 48-states in the shortest time possible. The ten-year-old record set by Michael Kneebone and Fran Crane had been six days, twelve hours and twenty-one minutes. Ron did it in 6 days and 12 minutes. Just a bit faster than my pace!
When Ron Ayres finished the ride, he kept going and set a brand new record. He crossed British Columbia and reached Hyder, Alaska, a little less than 24 hours later and created the 49 States in 7 days record. His bike? A BMW K1100LT, of course. In order to accomplish a task such as this, Ron planned for many months and he had to enlist the help of hundreds of fellow riders who would witness his stop in each state. After all the planning I did for this trip, I can really appreciate Ron's dedication. Ron's written a new book about his record breaking ride and all the people who came out to support him. The book is titled "Against The Clock." I can't wait to read it when I get home. .
My ride today was a little simpler than an Iron Butt day. I leave St. Louis by mid morning and head up the Mississippi along route 79, the Great River Road. By 11 AM it is already 90 degrees. I cross the river in Hannibal and stop for lunch at Grandpa Johnís Cafť in Nauvoo, Illinois. Itís good to get out of the heat for a while.
The roads are straight and the scenery is just as boring. Farmland stretches out as far as you can see. The land is so flat you can see the next two townís water towers, miles off in the distance. The pavement goes on and on, disappearing into a reflective haze of heat.
After I spend about an hour at the Herbert Hoover Historic Site and Presidential Library, I fill up the tank in West Branch and head east across the Interstate. My destination is still over 200 miles down the road. So I decide to have some fun with it and do something Iíve never done before. I ride 205 miles without stopping the bike. Itís called toasting a tank and for long distance riders it's kind of like breathing. I watch my shadow grow longer and longer as the sun sets behind me. By dusk, Iím done. Iíve ridden further than ever before. Maybe, just maybe, I could be an Iron Butt guy someday.
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