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1500 Miles In 36-Hours: On A Motorcycle!

Updated: Feb 24


Are You Kidding Me?

Say what! You did what?! On a motorcycle? Why? Am I having a mid-life crisis? Cool.

These are some of the reactions I got when I told some people what I was planning to do and ultimately did. Yeah, that’s right. I was going to ride 1500 miles in under 36-hours on a motorcycle.

My first Concours.
1990 Kawasaki Concours (ZG1000)

Back in 1997, I had a 1990 Kawasaki Concours ZG1000. That first generation Concours was based on a water-cooled shaft driven 1000cc engine. The Concours was to be the bike that put sport riding and touring together. And it did. It was the perfect motorcycle. You could use it for commuting and touring or you could roll back the throttle and take on some twisty roads. I had wanted one since the first time I saw it. After I got mine in 1997, I joined a group called the Concours Owners Group (COG). I rode my Concours everywhere. I had never considered riding a motorcycle any long distances, much less interstate travel before I moved up to the Northwest. However, after getting the bike and joining the COG, the highway started calling me. The COG had a rally in the summer of 1997 in Ennis, MT. Back then, the state of Montana had a posted speed limit of “Reasonable & Prudent.” This attracted many motorheads to want to exercise their vehicles in a “reasonable & prudent” manner.


The distance to Ennis from my home in Vancouver, WA was about 760 miles. It was my first long distance trip on a motorcycle. I left home around 6AM and arrived about 6PM. It was a non-eventful ride. I ate dinner at the little restaurant at the lodge where I stayed and went to bed. I woke up the next day and headed home. I had ridden 12-hours straight on a motorcycle.



The Iron Butt Challenge

In 2021 I took the Iron Butt Association (IBA) challenge called the Saddlesore 1000. In this challenge you ride 1000 miles in under 24-hours. I made it in under 23-hours and I wasn’t really flying down the road. Click the link to read about it. This time I was going to go 1500 miles, not much farther and a whole 12 extra hours to do it.


So, I had the experience of riding over 1500 miles on a motorcycle in a couple of days. This IBA ride is called the Bun Burner 1500. Like I stated, you must go 1500 miles in under 36-hours. It was like going on the 1000-mile 24-hour ride and just adding 500-miles and 12 more hours. Right? I just needed to tweak the time down. The nights were cooler in the summer, which is when I planned to do the ride. And the extra 12-hours made it seem like a piece of cake. Or so I thought.


It is crucial that you plan. My first ride was just “Point A to Point B” planning. I loosely planned my first challenge ride. Fuel stops, restroom breaks, caffeine, etc. would be taken as needed. I made that ride the week after Labor Day 2021 and the warm summer nights were cooling off.

The day before launch.
What I ride now is a 2009 Kawasaki Concours 14 (GTR1400). It's loaded up for the trip.

I was going from the Space Age Fuel station in Battle Ground, WA to the Best Western Motel in Lehi, UT. It is suggested by the IBA that your ride begin and end from a place where you can get a time stamped receipt, like a fuel station. That’s why I started in the Space Age station, and I would finish there. In the summer of 2022 and we had been experiencing higher than average temperatures across the country. Google had it measured at 801 miles and a drive time of 11 hours 48 minutes. My route would take me through eastern Oregon, southwest Idaho, and western Utah.

Courtesy of Google Maps 2022

These areas are known as the high desert where the climate is dry and cold in the winter and dry and hot in the summer. The temperatures where I was headed were in the high 90s. So, I had to plan for heat exposure. To cut down on fatigue, I planned to make a stop every 100 miles for fuel, hydrating, and stretching. The IBA allows up to 30 minutes for refueling and anything over that must be declared as a rest stop in your trip log. I figured it would take about 13-hours one-way with stops for fuel.


Personal Protection Equipment

Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) is a term that was hardly heard before Covid-19. You can classify a lot of gear that we use for pleasure as PPE. Football and baseball uniforms, climbing equipment, winter sports clothing are all types of PPE.


My riding gear or PPE consists of riding shoes or boots, padded trousers, an airbag vest, a mesh jacket, a modular helmet, and riding gloves. You might ask, “Why so much stuff?”

Back in another career, I was a motorcycle officer. I was involved in a crash with a semi-truck. I was wearing the gear that cops typically wear. In that day we wore knee-high boots, riding trousers like what the mounted officers wore, body armor under a uniform shirt, gloves, and a helmet. We had recently switched from open-faced helmets to the modular kind. I always wore my helmet fully closed.


The truck hit me from the left. It was August and I was wearing the summer uniform, a short sleeve shirt. My injuries were a broken left femur in two places, a dislocated right elbow, I think, and a massive abrasion on the outside of my left forearm at the elbow. The skin was scraped off down to the fat layer. The body armor protected my torso, the boots protected my lower leg and feet, the helmet protected my head. However, nothing was in place to protect my arm. Today I wear a tattoo of sorts, the scar where my skin was forcibly removed.


As a result of my injuries, I have a different perspective on PPE. I wear the same brand of helmet that we used when I was a cop, Schuberth. To protect my torso, I wear an Alpinestar Tech-5 airbag vest. I have a mesh jacket for summer riding. For long road trips I use riding shoes. They give better ankle protection than boots, but occasionally I wear ropers.


I mention all the PPE that I wear to stress a point, hydration. I knew that it would be hot on my trip, but I was not going to ride without wearing proper PPE. Some hot days I want to just ride with a short sleeve T-shirt, then I look down at my left arm and get a cold reminder of what happens when bare skin meets a hard surface. Besides, going to the hospital sucks!


Let’s Ride!

Back to the trip. I decided to leave about 3AM in the morning and get as far east as I could before the sun rose. This was a mission. The key objective was to ride 1500 miles in less than 36-hours. The first stop got me to Biggs Junction, OR just after 5AM. The distance traveled was 113 miles in 114 minutes for an average speed of 60 MPH. My next stop came at 78 miles down I-84 in Hermiston, OR. It seemed like a short trip; my average speed was just under 60 MPH. It was not yet 9AM, but it was starting to warm up.


From Pendleton to La Grande, OR I-84 gets interesting as it carves its way through the Blue Mountains. The best curves are at the entrance and exit of the pass when the highway starts the climb up to the higher elevation and then goes back to the valley floor. The road surface is very good and aside from the occasional right lane slow mover you should be able to enjoy the curves on a dry day.


Dropping down into La Grande the road stays level as you head towards Ontario and the Oregon border. The maximum speed in Oregon is 70 MPH, but once you cross into Idaho the limit goes to 80 MPH. Stay under 90 and you should be all right. The heat was in the high 80s by now and all my fuel stops included a water break.


I was riding through Idaho in the right lane “going with the flow.” I spied a Dodge Challenger coming up on my left. He was going a little faster than the flow. Ah, there was my wingman. I slid over in the left lane behind him, and he stepped up his speed. So, I kept pace with him. Soon we were going at a rate that I won’t put in writing, but it was way above the flow. While we were cruising along, I happened to see a motorcycle in the westbound lanes and the rider was patting the top of his helmet. I rolled back the throttle. The Challenger also slowed. About 1/8th of a mile up the road I saw two Idaho state trooper cars sitting in the median. Well, it was fun while it lasted. After we passed the popo, we resumed going with the flow.


When I reached my stop at Mountain Home, ID, I was a little tired. It was about 1:30 PM, I lost an hour crossing the border, and the sun was up for sure. I pulled up to a pump behind a red pickup truck (PU). There was a big block engine in the bed of the truck. As I got off the bike the driver asked me if I had enough space to get to the pump behind him. I told him all was fine. Then I asked him about the engine.


Some of what I do when riding is thinking about things that I need to do when I’m not riding. One thing that was weighing on my mind was my truck. I have a 1978 GMC Longbed Stepside PU. It originally had a 454 cubic inch displacement (CID) motor. I heard that the previous owner blew that engine and now it has a 350 CID motor. Since I have owned it, I have made upgrades to the “top end” of the motor. I replaced the carburetor and intake, and exhaust. The motor was running pretty good then suddenly it started making noises from down inside it.


I told him about my truck troubles and then we started chatting about trucks and engines. His name was Samson. And he looked like Samson. He stood about 6’ 3” and he had shoulder-length dark hair. Halfway through our conversation Samson said, “Hey what’s your cell number? Let’s exchange numbers and when you start working on that truck contact me. I might be able to help you out.” I thought what a cool thing to do. I haven’t started working on the truck yet, but when I do, I’ll give Samson a shout even if it’s just to thank him for the offer.


The Halfway Point

I reached my destination about 6 PM. I called my son who lives in the Salt Lake area. He came by my hotel, and we went in his ride to dinner at Texas Roadhouse. I had not eaten anything but a couple of protein bars all day. I drank a lot of fluids, but that was it. I didn’t want to get tired after eating a heavy meal that day. We both had an 8 Oz. New York Strip along with mashed potatoes and green beans. Dinner was great. We spent a couple of hours together and then I went back to the hotel for a dip in the spa and an early sleep.

Remember I had planned for 13 hours for each leg? Well, it took 14.5 hours. If I were to guess the same time going back, then 36 minus 29 equals 7. I had seven hours to eat and sleep. I had used two eating and about one in the spa. I was left with four hours to sleep. I set my alarm and tried to get some sleep. I woke up, showered and packed. By 2 AM I was leaving the hotel parking lot. I made a stop at the Chevron across the street for fuel and a receipt to mark the start of the return trip. I was now on the return trip of my 1500-mile ride. I had about 13 hours to go 750 miles.


I planned to stop at most of the same places for refueling as I did on the first half of my ride. I did skip a couple. My Concours 14 has a 5.8-gallon tank. I had decided to stop every 90-minutes for fuel. That worked out to about 100-miles of riding. On the return ride, I skipped a couple of those stops while I was feeling fresh. For the most part it was just riding the sun rose and started to warm me a little.


Life In the Fast Lane

Campers are what I call cars that are just hanging out in the fast lane. They aren’t really passing anyone, nor are they looking in the rearview mirror for traffic coming up on them. And, what makes them really suck is they like to drive next to cars in the slow lane! Negotiating around campers became a game for me.


I saw a show on the TV that talked about driving the Autobahn. Over there if you are in the fast lane a car coming up on you rear will put on his left turn signal to let you know to move over and let him pass. After seeing that show I started doing that when I was driving. I frequently drive to Seattle, WA from the Portland, OR area. On the way on I-5 you pass by two major military posts. Well, there used to be two, Ft. Lewis (my alma mater) and Mc Chord AFB. Now they are one post know as JBLM (Joint Base Lewis Mc Chord). I tired my passing lane signal trick there and I was not surprised when it worked. That was because a lot of military personnel use that highway and had been overseas.


I was somewhere in Idaho when I came upon a black pickup truck in the fast lane. He noticed me approaching and began to transition to the right lane. Unfortunately, he failed to notice the gray Dodge minivan with Texas plates in the right lane. The van saw him come into their lane, so they moved left. Just as I was beginning to fill the space in the left lane ahead of me that the truck made.


Remember how I described the van? I gave you the make, color, and license plate state. I had already analyzed and summed up that van as I approached it. If you don’t do that it could hurt you when riding a motorcycle, or driving a car. I figured that the occupants of the van were on a sightseeing trip from Texas. I also figured that they would not being paying much attention to a motorcycle, especially after a truck nearly clipped their front end.

They taught us in police motor school to ride like you were invisible. It has saved me more than once and this day it was going to do it again. The came into the left lane as my front wheel was just coming next to the their left rear wheel. My training kicked in and I hit the brakes just enough to let them move in front of me. Even though I knew it was going to happen, I saw it all unfold before my eyes, I was still pissed.


When I first got the Concours 14 a pickup truck did something similar. It changed lanes without checking its blind spot. Something told me that it was going to do that. I hit the horn button. The feeble stock motorcycle horn went “BEEEEEEEEEEEP!” The truck driver looked over his shoulder then moved back to the right while waving apologetically. Right then I thought I need to get a louder horn.


I found what I was looking for on Amazon. A horn that had and sounded like an American car! There were two horns a high tone and a low tone. They were shaped in a spiral like ram’s horns. The two horns were so powerful that I had to connect them directly to the battery in to make it work. When I hit the button, the horn roared at over 100 decibels just as the minivan started into my lane. BAAAAAAAAAAAAH! It must have scared the crap out of the occupants of that van. The van jinked right back into its lane. The truck had moved forward. I rolled on the throttle and the Concours 14 woke from its lazy cruise speed and blasted me past the van and the truck.


That was it. Another day being invisible. Oh look, there are curves ahead and no traffic. Cool.


Evel Knievel

Leaving Idaho, I crossed the Snake River. Probably named that because it winds between Idaho and Oregon like a giant snake on the hunt for a meal. The Snake River has a place in my heart and dare I say the heart of many riders of my generation, because we were alive at the time the great Evel Knievel was jumping just about everything imaginable with his motorcycle. He jumped rows of cars, buses, and even the fountain at Caesar’s Palace Hotel in Las Vegas, Nevada.


I remember seeing him in 1971 in the Astrodome in Houston, TX when he jumped 13 cars. He made it look so easy when he just glided down to the landing ramp.

Three years later he made his final jump across the Snake River. It was near Twin Falls, ID, north of where I was crossing at Ontario, OR. His jump was unsuccessful because the parachute of his rocket-cycle deployed prematurely. I heard that the put a memorial for him near there somewhere. He passed in 2007 at the age of only 69 years. He was an inspiration to me as young motorcycle rider.


My first motorcycle was a Honda SL-100. I got it when I was 13 and one of the first things that did was build a jump ramp. My ramp was only 12 inches tall, but it was a start. Unfortunately, I didn’t plan very well. I started at the street end of our driveway. My landing was at the garage end of the driveway. I took off, the bike rolled up the ramp, and I was flying in the air. I landed up right, but I didn’t have enough space after touching down. You know when an airplane lands how it seems to take forever for the pilots to slow the plane down and they seem to take a lot of runway to do it? It didn’t take me that long. Ten feet after I landed the front wheel hit the closed garage door. The crash broke off the lowest panel of the door. I don’t think that we ever opened that door before the crash, but we sure didn’t afterward.



The Harley Boys

Ontario was a fuel stop and then the road started a long curvy climb towards La Grande, OR. These curves cause many sphincter muscles to tighten in the winter months. No so for me because the road was dry, and it looked like it had been recently resurfaced too. It’s roads like this that make me really like this motorcycle. Kawasaki dubbed it a sport tourer because when you are ready to get down with some curves it won’t disappoint.

As I was enjoying the curves of I-84 westbound in eastern Oregon, I came up on a couple of Harley boys. Rather than blast by them, I decided to settle in behind them. The lead bike was doing pretty good negotiating the curves. However, his buddy was not. He couldn’t hold his speed when he went to lean into the curve. At first, I thought it was because he was a noob. Then I noticed that the rear wheel of his Harley wobbled every time he tried to lean over. The curves straightened out and I was coming up on another refueling stop so I moved to the right lane and with a twist of the throttle jetted by the Harley Boys to my exit.

To my surprise they took the same exit. I was glad because I wanted to tell them about the number two guy’s rear tire. There are a couple of reasons why any tire will wobble like that and the main one is usually low air pressure. That’s an easy fix. We pulled up to the pumps together and started our refueling. After excha


nging greetings the lead rider asked me about the Iron Butt Association. I have a license plate frame from the IBA. I told them that I was on a 1500-mile challenge ride.

I told him that I saw his friend’s rear wheel wobbling. They checked the air pressure, it was fine. That lead to possible bad rear wheel bearings. The owner was pissed because that’s not an easy fix. However, he wasn’t surprised. They said that bike had over 150,000 miles. We wished each other safe and pleasant journeys and I headed out.


The Oklahoma to Oregon Commuter

It was noon and it was hot. I pulled into a Space Age Fuel in Hermiston, OR at stop #14 of 15. I got gas and then moved my motor from the pumps to a parking space so I could get some water and take a restroom break. I returned to the Concours and to grab a bite to eat and rehydrate.

While I was replenishing, a man in his late forties came up to me and complimented my ride. He asked me about it. I told him all about the Concours 14 and my trip from Salt Lake City to Portland, OR. He told me that he commuted monthly to Portland from Oklahoma and had been contemplating getting a motorcycle to ride in the summer months. He liked the styling of my Concours and said that would be what he’d get if he was to get a motorcycle.

I gave him my website link and the Concours Facebook name and told him that he could find out all he needed to know from these sites. I finished my replenish routine by pouring generous amounts of cold water down my front and back torso, donning my helmet and wishing him the best of luck. Then I was off again.



The Mad Dash to Finish in Time

I saw that I had about three hours left of the 36-hours allotted as I was riding from Hermiston west to my start location. On my first Iron Butt challenge I went from and back to the same point. It just so happened to be the Space Age Fuel in my hometown. I started this run from the same Space Age Fuel. I was three hours away with no traffic. Goggle maps was now telling me that it was more due to traffic. I had already gone 1419 miles when I reached the Hermiston Space Age Fuel station, so I only needed to do another 100 miles.

The IBA likes you to go more than the minimum distance so there is no question that you did the minimum. Traffic on westbound I-84 was slowing as you got closer to the suburbs of Portland according to Google. So, I decided to cross the Bridge of the Gods at Cascade Locks, OR. The problem that I didn’t foresee was Washington State Highway 14 was a two-lane highway that curved a lot and there were a lot of us crossing over to SR-14. On top of that, curvy two-lane roads don’t have many places where you can pass cars in front of you.

I passed where I could and pressed on. Then I realized that I didn’t have to go to the starting point. I just needed to go a few miles over 1500 miles. Ahead of me a few more miles was a town that I knew well called Washougal, WA. When I got there, I could refuel, and get the coveted time-stamped receipt that I would need to verify my ride. Another thing that I didn’t do right was keep track of the exact time that I left. I had thought the I had about 30 minutes to extra. Man was I wrong!


I filled my tank. I got my phone out to take a photo of the receipt next to the motorcycle odometer and snapped a picture. Then I got to first receipt out to check the final time. I was happy, but I was still shocked. I had finished the Iron Butt Bun Burner 1500 challenge with 9 minutes to spare.

My total miles ridden in under 36 hours were 1581 miles. And, for my efforts along with my name going into the IBA records, and the satisfaction of knowing that I did it, I get this cool patch.





I found out that if you do two separate challenges you earn another award called the Mile Eater. After I sent in my paperwork for the Bun Burner 1500, all I had to do was ask for the Mile Eater award because everything was recording at the IBA.




So what's next? Stayed tuned to find out. Thanks for reading my story.



References

Iron Butt Association, World's Toughest Motorcycle Riders - https://www.ironbutt.org/

Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Evel_Knievel

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