Since I am a bachelor for a week or so I decided to go for a nice long motorcycle ride. Usually I just take off a Saturday or Sunday morning but since I am just fending for myself I thought I would indulge in an extra long all-day journey. But then I read a forum post about a ride called the SaddleSore 1000. This is where you put in 1,000 miles on a motorcycle in 24 hours or less. It seemed like this was the perfect opportunity to give it a try. In the forum post, a group of eight riders leave Austin and head to Roswell, New Mexico for lunch, returning at around midnight. I thought that sounded doable and I liked the route they took, so I prepared my bike and any supplies I would need. First off, I made sure that I had all the tools I would need to repair a flat tire in case that happened (it didn’t), then I made sure to pack some energy bars and plenty of water. I knew that it was going to be really hot (100 and above) so I bought a “Buff” to put around my neck. I could soak that in water and the evaporative cooling would keep me from overheating. Plus it would protect my neck from the sun.
I didn’t get much rest the night before because I was pretty excited about the trip, but when departure time arrived, I was ready to go! I got my bike ready by 5 AM but before I got started, disaster almost struck. I pushed my bike out of the garage and onto the driveway but I had forgotten that I put my glasses on the tank bag. I didn’t notice they had fallen to the ground and then I took a step and “crunch”. Damn! Luckily the lenses were ok and I had just bent the frame and earpiece. I gently straightened them out and was good to go!
At 5:30 AM I filled up the tank at the gas station and got the receipt. This acts as the timestamp beginning of the 24-hour journey. The odometer read 8,179 as I headed out. I was officially underway! My route took me up HWY 183 to HWY 29, then west through the towns of Liberty Hill, Bertram, Burnet, Llano, and Mason. The sun rose while I was on this leg of the journey and it was cool to see the Hill Country come to life. I also thought it was good to be traveling west in the morning, and then east in the evening so I would never be looking towards the sun. From there I continued on to Junction, which was my first stop. While there I also got some Powerade and had a snack of Hawaiian bread and peanut butter that I had prepared at home.
Between Junction and Fort Stockton, it’s all I-10, and an 80mph speed limit. This was great because I was really eating up the miles! I had one fuel stop in Ozona and continued on to Fort Stockton. This stretch seemed to go by pretty fast. I got to see so many giant wind turbines in this section, which was pretty cool. I also talked with a few people at the gas station in Fort Stockton. One guy just said “Nice ride” as I was having some water, and another guy was asking what kind of mileage mt BMW got (around 63mpg). He pointed over to his bike, which he was trailering, and complained that it only got 35mpg. He said he wanted a BMW but needed the big cruiser because he rides 2-up with his wife. Life’s full of tough choices… but as long as you are on two wheels it’s good!
The next stretch went from Fort Stockton through Pecos and then into New Mexico. I wanted to stop by the “Welcome to New Mexico” sign and take a photo, but it was so hot and I was cruising so I just kept going. It was a pretty small sign anyways. The roads in New Mexico generally have a slower speed limit than Texas, so the mileage lets up a little bit. It was 65mph (and I saw the Highway Patrol pulling people over) which is a real bummer for a ride like mine.
My three fuel stops in New Mexico each had something bad about them. First, in the small town of Loving, the gas station would not let me pay at the pump. For me, it’s a hassle because I have my valueables in my tankbag which I don’t want to leave on the bike. Anyone can come by and snatch it (and the GPS) and take off before I knew it. Plus, there were three scary looking dudes just hanging out by the door watching me. I decided to just bail and find another gas station. I did get a receipt there with my canceled transaction that showed the time and date.
Travelling through the town of Carlsbad sucked because the highway turns into main street, and that main street is under construction. I had to go through stop-n-go traffic over some rough roads and high temperatures. Then when I found a gas station, it was so crowded and the stupid pump wouldn’t give me a receipt. Plus some dude drove up to me in his lowered civic and asked if I was from around here. He said he was looking for a good burger place, but it just gave me the creeps. I was already a bit on edge because of the last gas station, and then the sucky riding thru town. I really was not liking New Mexico at all at that point. Again I finished filling up and in lieu of going into the store to get the receipt, I took photos and video of the pump and my odometer, then hit the highway again heading towards Roswell. Of course right outside Carlsbad I saw someone get pulled over by the Highway Patrol. Man, New Mexico… I suppose this could have been a fortunate warning for me to keep my level of alertness up!
On the way into Roswell, I did see a great billboard. It was advertising the Rapture in May! That put a smile on my face… Anyways, when I arrived at Roswell, I gassed up again, and at least the printer worked at the gas station. Unfortunately the timestamp on the receipt was wrong, but I think it should be ok with the verification people who will review my ride. What is wrong with New Mexico gas stations? I guess I was just having really bad luck. After that I wanted to find a place to get something to drink, but it was so crowded in town I decided to just book on out of there and head back to Texas. The highways were fast again and I made good time through the towns of Plains and Post. It’s funny, but I really felt better as soon as I crossed the border into Texas. Texans are such nice people and the unlucky feeling I got in New Mexico disappeared.
I was heading southeast towards my next stop at Sweetwater when I noticed lots of rainclouds in the distance, and even an occasional lightning bolt. It actually looked very cool, especially combined with all the wind turbines in the area. Right before I hit the storm, the temperature dropped about 20 degrees and I got chilled. I was only in the rain for about 10 minutes, but it was kind of dicey. I could see lots of water on the highway, so I dropped my speed to about 60. I had to go across a curved overpass and I slowed down to about 40 because I could see the water sheeting on its surface. Luckily there weren’t any other vehicles around so I could take it nice and slow. When I got off the highway and to a gas station, my visor was clear of bugs and I was nicely soaked. I figured that soon I would be back in the heat and dried out again. At least I’d have about 20 minutes of evaporative cooling provided by my wet clothes.
The sun was setting by this time so I looked at the map and altered my route so that I would be on larger roads. They were still too small, but probably better than the ones I had previously chosen. Traveling at night through deer country is not the best thing to be doing, and I tried to follow a car and use its headlights to watch for any critters. Unfortunately, there wasn’t always a car on the highway near me so I had to drop my speed down and use my high beam. This kind of wasted a lot of time, but I knew I wasn’t really in danger of not completing the journey within the 24 hour limit so I decided to ride safe. I made my way down to Coleman and gassed up again. I asked the lady for directions and a friendly old local cowboy told me he was heading in the same direction and I should follow him. He said he’d flash his high beams when he had to bail at his ranch and that I should just keep going to the traffic light and make a right. I thanked him but told him to go on ahead because I still had to fill out my trip log entry and I wanted to clean my face shield again. Several minutes later as I was cruising down the street, I saw him unlocking the gate to his ranch, and then sure enough, the traffic signal was ahead. Good folks in Texas!
From there it was a long night journey down to Brady, then across to Mason and Hwy 29 again. There were more cars traveling and the moon was rising and shedding a bit of light on the trees so I could go a little faster. It was around this point that I passed the 1,000 mile mark and I was stoked! I had done it! But it wasn’t official until I got a receipt showing I had made it far enough. Past Llano the highway became four lanes and the trees were farther off the road so I could go much faster. Pulling into Burnet at 12:51 AM, I filled up for my last gas stop. I had to go into the store to pay for the gas, and I made sure that the receipt had the time and date on it. Walking back out to the bike, I could feel a little fatigue starting to set in. But my odometer read 9,266. I was over the top and official!
The final stages of the ride took me back down Hwy 29 to Ronald Reagan Blvd, which I travel on quite often. It was a familiar and safe route which is something I was concerned about considering my overall energy level. I actually felt really good but I knew I had been riding for so long that my reflexes weren’t nearly what they should be. When I finally arrived at Parmer, I almost turned into the gas station to get another receipt, which would have put my total at around 1,120 miles, but I decided to just go home. I had the mileage already in the bag!
Pulling into my garage at 1:44 AM, the odometer read 9,304 which meant I had traveled 1,125 miles! The actual mileage as recorded by the GPS was 1,092 and Google Maps put it as 1,099. Thats 20 hours and 14 minutes on the road! Here are my GPS stats:
Moving Time: 17 H 40 M
Moving Avg: 61.8 Mph
Stopped: 2 H 39 M
Odometer: 1,092.56 Mi
Looking back on the ride, I did make a few mistakes. If I were to do another SaddleSore 1000 (which I am NOT planning; once is enough) here are some changes I’d make:
While planning out the route, I added lots of refueling stops, figuring I’d need to stop and rest a bit because of the heat. This was probably not needed however. When you are trying to eat up miles, you should keep going and minimize the stops. Time spent at the pump is precious time wasted! You aren’t really in danger of not getting enought miles within the 24 hour window, but you just want to get home sooner, and spend less time riding in the dark towards the end. My breaks were planned from 88 miles to 140 miles. My bike can do about 240 miles, so I should have planned to do a stop every 200 or so. That would give me four fuel stops (not including the first tank). Instead, I took nine fuel stops. If you figure its about 10-15 minutes a stop, I wasted about an hour. That might not seem like a lot, but again, towards the end it makes a big difference.
Another mistake I made in route planning is that I chose the wrong highway for the dark hours. Riding through the Hill Country at night is too dangerous. There are so many deer and other critters that could cause a serious accident. Because of this, I had to travel slowly, and that ate up even more time. It would have been better to just keep on the superslab freeways where it is well-lit and you don’t have to worry about deer jumping out in front of you. In fact, even in the morning (if you start really early) it’s best to stick with the freeway.
Some tips I’d give for prospective riders:
- Invest in a cheap throttle locking device. My hand is sore and still very weak two days later. Even the CBOA hose-clamp thingamabob would have helped.
- Bring eye drops. The constant wind in the helmet will dry them out.
- Travel west in the morning, and east in the afternoon to keep the sun out of your eyes.
- Keep hydrated! That constant wind will suck the moisture out of your body quick.
- Always wear earplugs or in-ear-earbuds. This will keep the ride a lot more comfortable. I used a brand new pair of Hearos and they were excellent!!!
- Get a Buff. This protects your neck from wind, bugs, and the sun. You can also soak it with water to keep you cool.
And a couple final observations:
- My BMW F650 GS is a great traveler! Never once did it give me any problems. The seat does get a bit uncomfortable but because of the relatively upright seating, I was able to alternate between three different positions which helped a lot.
- My mind never wandered and I didn’t daydream at all. I was pretty focused the entire ride.
- Do I wish I had more photos of the trip? Yes. However, if I had to do it again, I probably still wouldn’t take photos. I know I’d again be too focused on the ride, and stopping to take a photo would totally take me out of the zone.
- If I were to plan another long ride, I would plan it not by mileage or destination, but by riding time. Plan to get to where you are going by the afternoon, and then relax!
- I love my bike even more than before. I know it sounds cheesy, but after completing this journey together, it’s almost like a good friend!