I arrive at Ducati Seattle at about 2 pm. Kevin and Randy are all ready to sign me out. They also confirm for me that my chain tension is good and the oil level is all set. I then ride the one block to the hotel I will be spending the night in so that I officially start on the Pacific ocean, or as close as possible.
I find my last meal at a local gas station, and eat it quietly in thought in my hotel room. This will be the third time I have tried to do a 50cc (Coast to Coast in 50 total hours the official rules can be found at www.ironbutt.com), unfortunately the first time was hampered by a fluke snowstorm in one of the higher passes in Montana and the second time by bike problems coupled with bad weather. This time I was determined to finish; I had been working out diligently two to three times a day in preparation for the shear physical strain this would put on my body, mentally it would be up to me to get into my zone, and the bike was running well.
Most people probably would have determined after two tries that perhaps this wasn’t quite the ride for them. But when the news came that I did not qualify for the 2005 Iron Butt Rally I was determined to do a distance ride this year and though this one had bitten my butt twice it made it that much more an enticing challenge as I truly dislike the idea that perhaps I can’t do something. I suppose I also wanted to prove as I have done so many times to the amazement of many that Ducati Monster can be touring bikes and that small diminutive women are truly strong.
I made a few last calls to loved ones reminding them there would be no further calls or communication until either I got to Annapolis or I stopped for some other reason. I knew this would be probably the hardest ride they had ever experienced with me as this would be the first time I would be unable to make any calls until I was done as any wasted time meant less time to rest.
2 am and I can no longer sleep, though I feel well rested I know I am ready. I enjoy the last shower I will have for at least 50 hours, a good breakfast without my helmet on, and the donning of clean clothes. My official start time is noted clearly on the gas station receipt as 2:37 am May 20, 2004, now I am punched in and the clock has started clicking I have but 50 hours to make it to Annapolis.
I have been closely monitoring the weather channel, I know only too well some of my riding will be done in the rain but the temps are maintaining at 50 or above all the way across the country, thereby I am not to concerned. My ride will be straight out I-90 to Billings where I will hook up with I-94 until I reach I-80 then I-76 and finally I-70 in Maryland. I will be taking a few detours to avoid traffic through St Paul and Chicago but basically my route is as noted.
The first few hours are uneventful, the section of I-90 through Washington, Idaho and Montana I know much to well. I know ever stop I will make by heart, every gas station with a clean bathroom and how far I will have to veer off the freeway to get to it. In Rocker, Montana, I take a little longer to get some coffee and eat a little something more than what I can shove up under my face shield. Most of my eating and drinking will be done with my helmet on as taking it on and off wastes time. My meals may not sound overly enticing and they will be far from gourmet but after years of traveling this way I know exactly what I need to eat to keep my energy up; Balance bars, Advantage Edge Protein bars, dried fruit, beef and turkey jerky, chocolate almond bark and fruit chew candies. My fluids will be water from my camelback coupled with coffee when I need it and only when I need it as it will require the removal of my helmet.
The weather is clear and calm so I can enjoy the scenery which is a joy once I get past Spokane and into the passes of Idaho and Montana. The speed limit too is much higher in Montana so I can keep up a pretty good pace. The only thing slowing me down at times was the construction. I would somehow over the course of this ride encounter every major construction project in every state from the west coast to the east coast.
It is not until late in the afternoon when I reach Billings that the weather starts to get rough. The winds are picking up and I can see I am in for some rough riding but I am determined that no matter what I will do this I know deep down that I can. Pulling into Forsyth the rain has started and the temperatures have dropped but this is what I had expected so I ride on.
Why am I doing this? There will be times during this ride even I am not sure. There are times when I want to stop. Where I my brain is screaming stop. Where my muscles will start to twitch of their own accord. And yet I will preserve with the knowledge of all those who have come before me, including the one girl I noticed on the IBA list of finishers who did it on a GS500.
I will take a moment to explain times. One of my strategies was not to let my body or my mind change time zones. In order to do this I kept all my watches set to Pacific Standard Time (PST), as it would not matter what zone I was in as the time of my ride was 50 hours from my start and I had started on PST. Thereby unless otherwise noted you can rest assured the time mentioned is PST.
On the road again now I would hit everything from sunny skies to pouring rain and blowing winds. The horrendous weather I would encounter just made the ridiculous number of construction projects I ran into almost a cruel joke. The various sights and gorgeous vistas helped to squelch the awful joke. I had forgotten how different the Midwest was from the West and then on to the East. I love experiencing the geographical and architectural differences every section of the country has to offer, and sometimes even just one state; like Montana, which is so large, you can go from one extreme to another before leaving the state. Though I will admit I truly dislike the tedious monotony of the mid-west and central states where there is nothing but straight flat road for miles and miles.
At one of the tollbooths after I had paid the toll and received my receipt, I was about to ride off when the toll person reached over and shut my face shield for me. I suppose others may have been offended but it meant the world to me that this kindly gentleman had reached over to do what I did not have the extra hand to do at that moment after having ridden for hours without any human contact at all. Such a small gesture made the next few hours just a little more bearable.
I thought the best solution to the traffic issues I had run into in Chicago last year on the Iron Butt was to go around, so outside of Madison I had hooked up to Route 39/I-90 which would intersect with I-294 around the city. What I didn’t know was that every 10 miles there would be a toll of booth and that there was a major accident on the east side of town where a major construction project had already hampered traffic flow, what should have taken but an hour at most took several.
The temperatures had now risen and the humidity of the east had joined them, so I started to gear down. I also realized that my face was suffering from the sun as though I had lathered on the suntan lotion in Jamestown, North Dakota, before leaving the hotel I had now been on the road for hours.
Funny things I would notice ranged from hopped up cars with neon lights underneath to silly names of towns. I also couldn’t help but get a silly grin on my face every time I saw a sign for a Kum-N-Go. Who ever thought of this name and did they name the stores this as a joke or did they really not know what they might be implying or was my mind just so far gone only I would come up with the alternative?
This was the first time I had ever been on the road at this time of night, I was not really prepared for the drunk drivers mixed with drossy drivers I would now have to be aware of on top of the usual deer, bad road conditions and my own weariness.
Somewhere north of Youngstown, Ohio, I was truly going to give up. I was not sure I could physically go on and the lightening and thunderstorm raging around me was truly putting the fear of God in me. I pulled into a service area and tried to nap but could not, so I called Ric and he did exactly the right thing (perhaps not what my mother would have wanted but what I needed). He first asked if I was ok, then when I confirmed I was fine but I was tired he asked how far I was from my destination and I said I thought I was 250 miles, his response was “That is not that far and you have plenty of time. Call me when you finish.” Unfortunately what neither of us realized at the time is I had not opened the map entirely and I was really almost 500 miles from Annapolis.
I remounted the bike again forcing myself on. By now the roads had reached awful rutted proportions, a dense fog had settled in and a storm was reverberating all around me. For some unknown reason though I appeared to be in the midst of it but not encountering it so I continued. Until I realized that I needed to rest. It was incredibly hard for me to stop as it was already 2 am and I was still in Pennsylvania but I knew if I didn’t I wouldn’t make it period.
I am craving food now real food. I am so close to my destination I am dreaming about a meal without my helmet on. I am debating with myself, sushi, steak, salad or cake. I am dreaming of the meals I had as a kid in the various parts of the country I have just passed through which brings me to Maryland crab, but at this point anything that didn’t mean chewing up the inside of my mouth would be heaven.
I was back on the main road lickety-split on a Saturday morning I was hoping that there would be no traffic issues or any construction sites. But not having lucked out so far I was not about to count my chickens before they hatched and once again set my sites on little goals. One more gas stop, or this town on the map. I was not in any physical pain having worked so hard to avoid that, but mentally this was taking every once of willpower I had, the only thing I could compare it to is putting me in a room filled with chocolate cake and steak and telling me I couldn’t have any!
I arrived in Annapolis and pulled into a Texaco to get my last gas receipt. It is 4:04 am and I am almost done, I only have to find three witness who can verify that I truly arrived at my destination. My first witness was a woman I approached when I could not find my hotel. She was sporting a Harley t-shirt so I figured who better and when I told her what I had just done she was thrilled to sign my witness form and wanted to my website address as well.
I arrived at the hotel and was lucky enough to be given a room though I had arrived well in advance of the normal check in time. I was also greeted by several hotel staff who were more than willing to sign me in. One of the hotel staff was an older gentleman who then would reprimand me several times when he saw me up and around and not sleeping, unfortunately the amount of caffeine I had ingested coupled with my excitement of completing this incredible ride at first prevented me from sleeping.
As soon as I was in the room I called Ric first, then my parents explaining I really didn’t want to talk in length that I had not showered or changed my clothes since Thursday at 2 am and as soon as I had done that, found food and was resting comfortably in my room I would definitely call them back to talk in length.
Even as I sit here I can not believe what I have done, it is not quite that I can’t believe I could do it but that I did. Those that I encountered on my ride home, my friends and my family too have expressed an awe much greater than that of even completing the Iron Butt Rally last year. I am not sure why but I too feel as if this was the hardest ride I have ever done. Now Ric is asking the same question I am asking myself “What is next?” Well one thing is for certain not retirement which one my mother’s friend’s asked her the other day “When will she out grow this?” I hope never as every time I set out to accomplish something that challenges me mentally and physically it brings me such joy I can’t imagine ever stopping.