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1500 Bun Burner


My apologies the program I originally used to create this did not like some punctuation.

A woman, a motorcycle and the "powers that be" are at best a marriage filled with love and desire, and at worst a study of a tumultuous marriage bordering on divorce. This time the love and desire won, but the battle was one of the hardest I have fought. It all started on Saturday morning (September 21, 2002) at about 2 am when I could not stay in bed any longer the desire to get going was too strong. This would be my first attempt at a Bun Burner 1500 (1500 miles in either 24 hours for the gold or 36 hours for a regular). My idea, due to lack of my usual extensive planning, was to ride out through Montana on I-90 and if I did it great and if not I would have a wonderful riding weekend, just me, my bike and my crazy ideas. It was cold, the weather people had been talking for days about record lows, so I geared up for a full winter ride, layer upon layer of alpine undergarments, full electric riding gear and my special face mask (I looked like the Pillsbury dough boy). Loading the bike with gear for endurance riding, and what little food I would be able to eat, I was gassed and on the road a little after 3 am from the Texaco station at the bottom of my hill. This route would be like so many other times I have attempted endurance rides, some I have completed some I have had to turn back, straight down I-90 as far as I could go, then turn around and come home. Though the scenery would be the same as many of my other write ups it is always tinged by highlights and changed with time. This was the first time I had ever attempted a ride like this under a full moon, and as I started out, the moon lighting my path clearly, I wondered if I should not try harder to time my rides to occur with a full moon. The sky was clear, the moon in full bloom, and the cold unbearable as predicted. As I rode through Snoqualmie Pass, WA, the temperature sign stated 33 degrees. I cannot hazard to guess the wind chill factor with speeds ranging from 75-80 mph, but I was shivering already with only 60 miles into the ride. I kept my mind focused that the weather people had predicted warm temperatures by the afternoon and that the sun would be up soon enough for me to get a full frontal glare and a potential sun burn to ad to my wind chill burn. My first gas stop was Ellensburg, though much earlier then I needed this stop was necessary as the next gas station I had learned from one of my trips may provide gas 24 hours a day but not an open bathroom. I have been to this station before an Exxon just east of downtown. The truckers and other night time drivers sitting at the cafe, give me wary looks as I run in for a bathroom break after gassing up. These folks are the craggily few that I usually encounter on these early morning jaunts, I look them over as they may look at me wondering what are they doing out so early, where are they going, or like me no place in particular just out and about cause they cant sleep. No need for food yet I am done and on the road in record time. As I ride along I realize the temperature changes occurring are drastic, though I do not have a temperature gage on my bike the years I have spent running, and riding make my guess of 20 degrees up and down pretty accurate. At points I will shiver and then pass for miles through a warm patch that stops my shivering long enough for me to have faith the cold will wane and the sun will shine. Continuing on I-90 east, my next stop will be Ritzville. Again, I have been here on almost every eastbound ride; clean bathrooms and my favorite hot cocoa machine. As I pull in there are four Harley riders gassing up. Phew it is definitely not just me thinking it is cold; all four of these huge guys look like Pillsbury dough boys too, and they are moaning and groaning about the cold amongst themselves. I gas up, run in to use the facilities and take a few extra minutes to enjoy a little English Toffee Hot Cocoa/Coffee mix. The woman at the counter mentions I look a little cold, that is definitely an understatement. After finishing the warm drink, I head out to jump around like a crazy person to get the circulation running back in my legs, the only part of me still unable to enjoy the comfort of electric gear. By now my right hand is also not doing well, it will be on this ride that I come to the realization that the hand guard on the right side is set at a slightly different position then the left, thereby does not offer the same protection. My thumb is completely dead white and in serious pain, but this will be just the precursor of things to come. Once again onto the road I go. Now I have the tinted face shield on as the sun is rising brightly and I am heading due east. The view of the sunrise over the plains just west of Spokane is gorgeous, made more so by the spectacular vision of the full moon setting in my two rearview mirrors over the Cascades. I slow through Spokane, as I know too well the officers are not friendly toward speeders, but pick it up once again in Idaho. My next stop is to be Kellogg, a usual for me. This time however things begin to go array. I pull off the highway to hit my usual gas stop, only to find all the pumps covered by plastic, looking around I see another sign for gas and cruise up the road to find the same situation. Four stations later all in the same situation, I look at my odometer and get nervous; I am nearing dire need and wondering if I will have to head out of Kellogg and chance finding gas somewhere else, when I come upon one station with old style pumps working. I wonder if there has been some kind of boycott or environmental issue or just a lack of economic need to cause all the stations to close, but my mind is so set on hurrying to get gas, eat and get back on the road I do not stop to ask. Wallace passes again to my right, I will I promise as I do every time come back one day and visit. As I cross into Montana I pick up the pace along with everyone else on the road, without realizing for a moment the bike is not shaking or twisting erratically. Oh my, this is incredible. I test the waters picking up the pace a little more, nope not a twist or a shake to be found and now as I turn into some tighter corners at speeds I have never been able to keep on this bike, I swear to hug Randy at the Duc shop next time I am there. I don't know what he did when he put the new tires on Thursday but whatever it was this is the first time in over a year I have been able to ride this bike the way it should be ridden, with the only thing holding it back from top speed being my desire not to get a ticket and the speed limit. My next stop is Missoula, nothing much happening just the usual gas, facilities use and food. By now I am starting to get hunger pains mixed with that nausea I always experience when riding endurance, so bits of balance bars, chocolate and beef jerky make it into my mouth as I gas up. I will not stop again until Butte. The temperatures I am sure are warming but I am so cold there is no warming me. I continue on to Livingston and finally into Reed Point, MT. I had planned on going to Columbus but there is no reason to do an extra 17 miles each way as there is gas in Reed Point. I am very pleased I have chosen to stop here. This is a local stop, just one gas station and small store, with just one paved road through town, and barely paved it is. I gas up and take advantage for a longer break as I contemplate the route, grab another hot cocoa and learn I am not the only crazy one to have stopped here. This will be the first time I have taken enough time on this ride to remove my helmet, and I am glad I do as the gentleman behind the counter asks about where I am headed and where I am from. I provide my usual shortened version so as not cause alarm or instigate a potential call to the local authorities. Only to find that the owner thinks this is great, as he had a gentleman visit this summer who was riding back and forth from Florida to Washington and even Alaska trying to do 100,000 miles in a year! I even notice the sign above the cooler with distances listed for mileage to many points from here to all over the US, and wonder how many other distance riders have passed this way, perhaps in some remarkable way we are linked and drawn to this wonderful place where we are welcome, smiled upon and looked at with awe. I have guessed after closely reading the map I am on track to hit 1,000 miles in about 14 hours, due to the wonders of the Duc shop and the speeds I am able to now comfortably hold. Even the need for added gas stops due to the speeds appears not to be slowing me down too much. I remind myself I have 36 hours if I want to do a normal Bun Burner, but begin to wonder based on the times I am keeping if I could actually complete a Gold in 24 hours. I know I will not be able to ride 24 hours but with the times I am holding and this weird high energy I am maintaining (a little caffeine at particular intervals) I could conceivably finish in 21 hours, which I have almost ridden before. I smile and turn up the tunes, while churning numbers in my head on times, necessary stops and my physical ability. I also realize that I have been hearing news of temperatures in the 20s for tonight and realize even if I don't complete the Gold I must somehow try to get to the other side of all the passes I have just come through or be ready to experience extreme pain and suffering tomorrow. I am cruising quickly, but not any faster than most of the traffic and even at times being passed by a few, going at least 100. Even the truckers appear to think the car speed limit is for them, which is just fine for me as motorcycles are hard enough for radar to pick out, couple that with truckers and we are next to impossible to tag, though I do catch a few beeps on my radar while passing state officers going the other way I know they cant seem to get a clear reading. This time I do not stop in Livingston instead cruising into Three Forks, MT as I know the less I have to stop the better my time will be. It is not long before my calm demeanor will be tested to the limit. I am somewhere between Anaconda and Deer Lodge (my next scheduled stop) when a blue Chevy truck passes me. I don't think much of it, until a white bucket flies out of the back of his truck in front of me. I am far enough back to swerve to avoid it, but not the debris, though I try. I feel my rear tire hit something and think to myself that this could be one of those times I fear the most, alone on a long stretch of freeway with night coming on quickly and a bike down. At first I do not notice the twitching, but at the speeds I am running it is just a few seconds before the headshake starts to rattle the bike. I have read enough and heard enough stories to know the meaning of the situation, which would not have been the case if the bike had been running like this the whole ride. But just a little over 1,000 miles into the ride and I find myself in one of my most feared situations (the only thing worse would have been it happening at 3 am in the dark). I am alone on I-90 unable to push the bike any further off the road, as the rear tire is as flat as pancake, and no one regardless of my desperate waving is stopping or slowing. This will be only the second time I have called 911 in my life. I think twice before doing it, debating the need for emergency assistance from the police as another trucker flies by me and I realize it is them or me; so I call. Politely I explain my situation, apologizing profusely for calling but telling the woman on the other end of the line how frightened I am. She is wonderful explaining it is ok and she is sending someone out along with a wrecker. It is but minutes before a town officer appears. One of my saviors, Office Hurley (I believe I did not get his card - my bad) and I discuss the situation as I call AAA to tow me on a flat bed (I must say AAA is worth every bit of the over $100 I spend every year). AAA tells me 45 minutes, but the officer explains the company they are sending out is too far away and he gives me the number to a local tow. The officer explains a state trooper is on the way but he will stay with me until the trooper arrives. We discuss bikes and what I am doing and where I am going. He can't believe what I am up to, that I am alone, and do this alone 99 percent of the time. I explain to him I am really sorry for calling the police but no one would stop, and I was frightened. He says nope nowadays no one stops. As a couple of Harley riders cruise by I gawk and say I don't know how they can ride without helmets. The officer smiles and agrees, making a quick comment about how many times they have to pick them up off the freeway, implying it is not with an ambulance. We talk about his work, and his hours, just small talk until the other officer arrives. When the state trooper arrives I am shocked at the disrepair of his vehicle but realize the territory they must cover probably makes it impossible to keep up with the wear and tear on the paint. The two discuss the situation, like best friends, even about meeting for coffee after work (5 am). They both look at me amazed I was able to keep the bike upright, not as amazed as I am; as when the tire went it went quickly and at full speed. It is a good thing I have raced GS500's for years. The town officer drives off, and the state officer checks on the eta of the tow, while he has me climb in the car so we can drive back and try to find what I hit. I take stock of the car, having never been in a state trooper vehicle. My goodness you want to see gun-power, this is a little scary I am sitting next to the biggest high powered riffle I have ever seen. But the trooper is too cool, he has tattoos all over his hands including the one on his right hand that says UHOH too funny. We head down the road but can't find anything, I am so embarrassed thinking he must think me fool or a liar but he doesn't seem to think it is a big deal. We don't have to wait too much longer before the tow shows up. We have already communicated with him via radio so I am fully aware he can't fix my tire but he can help me try to patch it with the kit I carry. So I begin to make desperate phone calls to all the guys I know who have ridden long enough to know something about patch kits and whether or not I can ride the over 500 miles home on a patch or if I am in for a really big tow bill or truck rental. I finally get a friend of mine on the line who explains I should be ok but to take it easy and get a new tire as soon as I get home. A new tire these are new tires, and take it easy I am in Montana. He laughs and reminds me that is the price of riding a motorcycle and that I need to keep the speeds down. That is when the realization of a 24 hour Bun run is definitely gone. The tow is Nazor out of Anaconda, the owner is Mickie a doll of a man. The state trooper and Mickie seem to know each other well. They work together to get the bike up on the flat bed. Night is now moving in quickly as we are on Mountain time. I explain to Mickie what it is I will need help with, as we head 5 or more miles back the way I came and then 10 miles off the beaten path to the small town of Anaconda. He is taking me here as this is where his shop is, and he explains there are hotels I can stay in, but no bike shops. Not as if a bike shop would make a difference at this point since tomorrow is Sunday and nothing will be open. My spirits are waning, how will I get home if we can't fix the tire, and when. We arrive at his shop where he waves hello to a kindly old woman with small dog, I believe he called out Grandma. Backing the truck partially into the shop the temperatures are dropping fast and he makes comment he cannot believe I am riding in this cold. We have talked on the drive of what I am up to, and he is as shocked as the officers. Of course when he puts air in the tire the noise we hear is on the bottom. So he lifts the bike and I turn the tire to get a better look at the hole. Oh my goodness it is as I expected huge, with a large piece of plastic. I had hoped it was a nail, as I have ridden nail hole patched tires without a care, but this thing is sharp and oddly shaped and did not create a clean hole but one that twisted down and to the right. Mickie doesn't look happy, and he expresses his concern that we can fix it. But he also understands my need to get back on the road so he is willing to try, that and he is impressed by the kit I am carrying saying he has never seen one quite like it and it may just work. Working together we get the hole cleaned out and patched. He puts in just enough air to test the hole with soapy water, so far so good. But now I am feeling fatigued and the cold is becoming unbearable as I am not hooked to my electrics but standing in cold garage. A bit more air and a quick discussion we decide it is a go. I ask his opinion should I stay the night here or go. He smiles and says you want to get going, just be careful and check the air in Deer Lodge to see if it is holding. I ask him to sign me out as even if I have only come this far I can have another official Saddle Sore 1000 under my belt. I ask him how I get back to the freeway and he smiles and tells me to follow him he will get me as far as the main street then to take Route 48 back to I-190. I try tip him, knowing only too well how much extra work he has done for me, and he refuses saying he has never met anyone like me before. I smile, as I am continuously so lucky as to meet wonderful people like him even in the worst of circumstances. He leads me in a Subaru Brat over gravel roads so pot-holed I bottom out heavily twice as it is too dark for me to see clearly and keep up with him without rallying. When we get to the main road he gets out of the vehicle tells me which way to go and asks if I have a flashlight. I say yes what for, he was just making sure if I broke down again I would be able to see or at least have people see me as motorcycles do not have flashing lights. As I drive away thinking about all that has happened today, I wonder if the powers that be had meant for me to meet all these people. I wish could figure out what part they might play in this thing we call life. Instead I must simply be happy knowing I have encountered today three incredibly kind caring individuals who I hope only the best for. I am riding now at below the speed limit, not sure how much I can push the tire. Rolling into Deer Lodge it is really late and I debate stopping, but after checking the tire and gassing up I figure Missoula or further depending on how tired I get. I pop a bit more food and head out. Missoula arrives quickly and I realize it would be silly for me to push at this point, my speed has been cut significantly and I am tired and colder than I can possible imagine. I pull in to get gas, and look around. This is not a great part of town but I see a Double Tree and figure the extra expense is worth the safety. It is late and they are full. The realization that I may not have any choice but to keep going is sinking in as I see a sign for a Holiday Inn and follow it. I trudge up to the desk, put on my biggest smile and say one room, just one room. The man behind the counter says he has but one left and it is a smoking room. I don't care I will take it, even at this ungodly cost. As he is ringing me up he says long ride, I say so far today over 1200 miles and he says he can't believe it! Just then his companion arrives informing him that there is one non-smoking room available they had been unaware of so, he changes my accommodations, when another man shows up looking for a non-smoking room and is turned away. Two seconds later and I too would be in a smoking room. I ask what the hoopla is all about and am told it is home coming. Ok now this is getting too ridiculous I pick the one town I may not have been able to get a room in, on one of the coldest days of the year! Dragging my gear into the room my first priority is heat. I turn up the heater to full and then hop in the shower at top heat. Falling asleep is difficult at best, numbers, times and too much caffeine are rolling around in my head it is close to 10:30 pm PST before I think I nodded off. At 2 am PST (yep the sleep disorder does not rest) I am up, by 2:30 am I am out the door and on the road, avoiding any channel surfing for weather as I do not want to know how cold it is out there, but I do try to figure out if I can get both pairs of jeans I have with me on. Nope even my skinny butt won't allow for this on top of all the other layers. It could not be more than upper 20s my body tells me. My first stop will be St. Regis, as on a Sunday in the middle of nowhere I know this gas station is open 24 hours a day and has my hot cocoa. Sure enough it is. I have not mentioned up to this point my amazement at the gambling but it is everywhere and even at this hour the slot machines in the gas station are ringing as I drink my hot cocoa and eat a piece of breakfast cookie. I know I must try to eat more but the nausea from the cold is more than I can bare, so I will simply have to try and keep myself hydrated. I jump around for a bit before heading out trying desperately to get the numbness I am experiencing in my knees and calves to subside, too no avail. I hit the highway testing my speeds to see if the tire is holding. I am now comfortably just barely maintaining the speed limit. Though at this hour it makes little difference, as there is little to no traffic. By the time I hit Spokane I am comfortably pushing the envelope of speed as I figure now I am close enough to home to be able to get home with a little help and not too big a bill, though it would mean not finishing the 1500. I am also wondering if I can make decent time and not look too lazy when I do finish. My last stop before home is a small Texaco I have used before, in the Town of Quincy. It is as I am exiting the freeway to the station that I realize there is something wrong. I am easing off the throttle but the bike is not slowing. I do not panic but calmly try to fix the situation, as there is no one for miles, 100 thoughts go through my head on how to handle a bike with a stuck throttle just as I force it to give and come to a stop. My goodness, one more thing I will have to look into when I get home. I take a few extra minutes to double check the tire before heading out, and then cross my fingers before jumping back on I-90. I am fading fast when I hit Cle Elum, WA. I can feel myself having trouble handling the bike, as fatigue and the shivering are taking their toll on my already worn out body. My legs are numb from the cold, my right hand is hurting, and my old shoulder injury is throbbing in unison with the bumps in the road. I awkwardly manhandle the bike into my last gas up, and home. Hungry and tired, I get my final sign in a full 30 hours and 30 minutes after I started. It is broaching 70 degrees but I am so cold I turn on the heat, take a long extremely hot shower, then cuddle with the kitty under the electric blanket for over an hour before the shivering stops. I must now complete my paperwork send it off to the Iron Butt Association and pray they do not disqualify me for my slight off-road adventure. Until next time, Rachel


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