Heading West

"Daniel, I see that you are going to Alaska. I have been there about 10 times on my motorcycle. I think that you will have one of the greatest times of your life there."
Ė Joe Mandeville, who rode 122,976 miles in one year (1993), from an e-mail received June 16, 2000.


Our planned route has Chuck and I meeting in Montana, setting up a base camp for a couple of days to make sure everything is set, and then heading north. I want to get out west as quickly as possible, so Iíve decided to attempt the Iron Butt Associationís Bun Burner 1500 ride. The Iron Butt Association is a motorcycling group dedicated to safe, long distance, motorcycle riding. Known as the worldís toughest motorcycle riders, the only way to gain membership is to complete one of the official rides. You have to earn it. The Bun Burner requires that you ride 1,500 miles in 36 hours or less. Last March, on my way to Daytona, I completed my first IBA ride when I attempted a SaddleSore 1000, which is 1000 miles in less than 24 hours. Actually I did 1,056 miles in 22 hours, which included a 6-hour rest stop when I reached Florence, South Carolina. Chuck completed his first SaddleSore when he rode his K1200LT from Florida to Connecticut.

The SaddleSore turned out to be easier than I thought it would be. My arms were a little sore, but I hadnít ridden the bike for a couple of months. But the Bun Burner is another story. And when I look at the map and realize that 1500 miles gets me to nowhere in the middle of South Dakota, I decide Iíll try to make it all the way to Sturgis, a distance of 1,735 miles from New York City. This should be interesting

Okay, youíre saying to yourself, just why would any sane person want to subject himself or herself to such torture? Well, for one, there is something a little beyond the realm of sanity when it comes to riding motorcycles to begin with. Second, attempting a feat like this makes what would be a dull ride a little more interesting. In fact, it can be extremely exciting. And third, a lot of motorcyclists like to get on their bikes and just ride and ride and ride. For them, this is just plain old fun. Besides the SaddleSore and the Bun Burner, the IBA sponsors a number of different rides including; the 50CC Quest (Coast to Coast in 50 hours), the Bun Burner Gold (1,500 miles in less than 24 hours), the Bun Burner 3000 (2 back to back Bun Burners!), CCC Gold (Coast to Coast to Coast in 100 hours, also known an the 100cc Insanity), and the mainstay of the IBA, the Iron Butt Rally itself. Every two years a select group of motorcyclists travel the four corners of the lower 48 states, riding more than 1,000 miles a day for 11 days! Itís billed as the worldís most grueling motorcycle competition. 600 riders applied for the 99 spots last year. If you want to learn more about the Iron Butt Association, check out their web site at and get a copy of Ron Ayres book "Against The Wind", an excellent account of the 1995 Iron Butt Rally.

My personal favorite IBA ride is The National Parks Tour Master Traveler which requires motorcyclists to visit 50 national parks in 25 states within a 12 month period. Getting the stamps is the easy part. Itís the 25 states that are hard. Iíve collected 387 park stamps in 47 states (Delaware has no national park sites) since last August. Iím looking forward to getting stamps in Alaska and increasing my count to 48 states. My 100 Days 48 States web site has detailed information on where all the stamps are located, as well as links to all the park sites.

Iíve been preparing myself for this Bun Burner attempt by putting on a lot of miles. In fact, since March, Iíve ridden more than 15,000 miles. This past Memorial Day weekend, I rode 3,100 miles in 5 days, one day logging in at 700 miles, my longest ride ever without taking a sleep break. A week ago, I rode the new bike up to Calais, Maine, a distance of 530 miles. The next day I rode 650 miles back. It felt great as the bike is extremely comfortable. The funny thing is, a year ago when I started doing a lot of riding, I never thought Iíd want to attempt any of these rides. Generally, I like to take it slow and enjoy myself. But I do like a challenge, and getting out to Montana as quickly as possible is my goal right now.

The rules of the Bun Burner are quite simple: Plan a route, using a computer program to measure the distance. (Your motorcycleís odometer will be off to some degree, in some cases 10% too high, and it is not a reliable measuring tool.) A straight-line route is preferred, but you can go half way, turn around and come back. Find a witness to verify your start mileage from your bikeís odometer.  Go to a gas station and fill up your tank. Get a time-dated receipt. Ride at least 1,500 miles in less than 36 hours, stopping at least every 300 miles for fuel (and a time-dated receipt). When youíve reached your destination get your final receipt and another witness to verify you made it.

My plan is to leave New York on a Sunday morning, when traffic is lightest, around 8:00 AM. Iíll make a total of 10 stops for gas, including the start and finish, spaced apart by 200 miles each. My fifth tank of gas will be ridden mostly in the dark, but after I finish that tank, and Iíve traveled 1,000 miles, Iíll stop for some sleep, checking in to a motel for six hours. When I wake up, it will be light again, and Iíll continue west. Traveling at an average speed of 65 MPH, and taking an average of 20 minutes at each fuel stop, Iíll arrive in Sturgis with about one/half hour to spare. That is, if everything goes as plannedÖ..