September 1-5, 2009 I am walking thinking about tomorrow, I will leave on a ride that will end much sooner than I had thought but right now I don’t know that. I am walking as I do to meditate, to clear my mind, to ease my tension, temper my excitement, I will ride until I can’t ride and then I will stop. I have, as I always do planned very well for every gas stop, even two routes just in case the weather shifts. I have learned to carry spares of everything including maps and witness forms. Yet with all the years of riding behind me, and all the years of Iron Butt competitions I still just never know what will happen or what I will encounter, so I never say this is what I will do, this is what I will accomplish, I can only say I hope or this is my desire, and then I have to let go. I see a man enter a wine shop, with a child in tow and the memories rush forth. They are so clear I can hear and smell them as if I were standing there in Paris with my sister and my father this minute. We have entered the shop we have frequented for months, soon to become years. The liquor bottles, wine bottles, and other miscellaneous mysteries line shelves so high there is a ladder to reach them all. Some are covered in a thin layer of dust, some are in bottles so beautiful they look like sculpture to be admired not broken into for their nectar, and others are newer easily recognizable to one who has grown up around a family that is never without large gatherings of friends and family. I can see this shop as if I stand there now, and the old man who runs it knows us well, though we still don’t speak French well, he is accepting and courteous, knowing my father never leaves empty handed, and seems to accept this mans recommendations almost without pause. My sister and I practically beg to tag along when my father goes, the old man is friendly but what we desire is in a large glass jar that sits just out of reach behind the glass of the counter that holds the register; candy. I can taste it now. I can sense the desire and the conflict, which one will I choose I know I only get one. I was never one to choose the same over and over always daring to try a new one, which flavor? What if I pick wrong? What if I don’t like it? These memories flood my brain with the same questions I ask myself now; what if I pick the wrong route, what if I don’t like the ride, which ride will I choose? I call my sister to ask if she remembers and she does. I love that she and I have each other to reminisce with, even with the gap of several years when a misunderstanding separated us until we reached out and found each other again. I do not tell her I am to ride, her husband knows and she somewhat knows but no one knows where yet they only know I need to ride and soon before the weather gets too bad. I have taken care of my witnesses on my way home from work, two nice men at the local gas station, so now all I need to do is eat properly finish packing and then sleep. I have slept well the last few nights so tonight’s sleep is not as critical just a few hours rest and I should be good. I will leave tomorrow when I wake, with just the barest of food in my stomach and start my 50-100 calorie ever stop diet to keep my energy in check. I do not look at my emails. I am pulled toward the computer but I don’t touch it, as it will stress me to do so knowing there is so much at work right now that needs my constant babysitting; I refrain. Morning comes quickly and before I know it as if by osmosis I have stashed my first gas receipt in my ziplock baggie in my pocket and note the time on my watch tied to my handlebars at 2:00 am. I know the watch is fast but I will not learn until I am done with my ride my start time was officially 1:45 am. I know from watching the weather that though I wanted to head route 90 the entire way it would be foolish as I would hit potential thundershowers sometime in the middle of the night after riding for more then 16 hours, this would not be good. I head out instead with the dread of 90 to 94, I am bored with it having traveled this way so many times I know every stop, every curve of the road, every view, but I march on like the trooper I am. It is dark so dark, then I see the moon it is almost full, this is a good sign it will make my early morning riding much easier, and night time riding bearable. As the hours roll by the sun starts to rise and the dawn looks like someone took a paint brush to the sky. The oranges and pinks are smeared with blue lines coming down from high toward the earth, it is a glorious sight. The beauty that surrounds me and will this entire ride moves me to savor this planet we live on, so small we are yet so damaging. I am not sure when it really starts to nag at me, maybe from the point I made the decision I had to take 94, maybe it was when I turned onto 94 in Billings my last chance to take the route I wanted to, but I am bored this is too easy. I am not tired, I am not sore (well my hand is excruciating but I have been dealing with that since my accident months ago), I am just plain bored. I can’t stop thinking about work, what I need to do, what needs to be checked, what needs to get out; this is crazy I am not the boss I have never not been able to shut work out on a ride. Maybe the thought I am bored or not truly enjoying this hit me when I missed my planned stop in Ritzville and ended up at Templins in Sprague with two tiny kittens playing in the dirt near the pumps. If I was not on a ride I could have stopped and played with them, but no I am riding every second counts no time to stop and enjoy instead I have to gas up and go. Maybe the thought really started to get me when the cute guy in the gas station in Forsythe and I almost collided. If I was not on a ride I would not have had to pee with my helmet on, the inside of my mouth would not be shredded to bits from eating with my helmet on, and I wouldn’t smell like this, all meaning that maybe just maybe I would have looked decent enough to talk to him or even had the time to talk to him for a second. Why am I doing this? What is the point? I have done more riding than most; I have proven myself over and over for what purpose? What is wrong with me why are these thoughts filling my head in the middle of a ride when I normally am at peace? I can’t let go. I can’t clear my head. I look at my directions, they are clearly marked with every stop, every exit, every mile; and far to the right what I want to see the demarcations. I have clearly marked 1000, 1500, and 1980 miles; did I know somewhere in the back of my mind even when I was planning this route that I would stop too soon? Did fate or destiny play a roll in my decision to clearly mark the various stop points, as well as create two separate routes? I see now that the 1000 mark will put me right at the border of Montana and North Dakota and then my mind truly starts to rebel. North Dakota, I am not a fan of the flat land riding of this state, I am less a fan of the cities I have stayed in on my way across it for various rides, and I know only too well the animals that cross this barren stretch at night. My mind wanders, my heart sinks, I try to talk myself into it as I have done so many times before. I debate with myself it is only three gas stops, then one in Minnesota to make it to my ever elusive 1500 Butt Burner Gold (1500 miles in 24 hours). I remind myself I have done a 1500BB Gold numerous times in the middle of other rides, both my 50cc’s, most likely at some point on my 48 states, and on and on, yet my mind is fighting me tooth and nail. This is too easy, this is too boring, and I look back on the glorious Montana rides I have done when I was not competing. I think back on the area around Glacier, then into Idaho and Sandpoint, and areas south. I dream of little towns with small hotels and friendly people and just riding to ride not caring how far I needed to get, or if I had time to take my helmet off or get a cool drink or talk with someone. I knew my mind was not right and I needed to stop. There is a time and place to ride and now was not my time. I came to the conclusion I would stop in Glendive get in my third Saddle Sore 1000 and be done. I would take my time riding home through areas of Montana both familiar and unfamiliar maybe even spend some time in Idaho. I apologize now to those who live vicariously though me and my blog for this disappointing short ride, but I need to do my rides in the spring when I want to ride. This year that was not possible between my layoff, huge pay cut and my new job, now was the only option and I wasted it with my mindless nonsense. I pulled into Glendive and found nothing. I was forced to go to two gas stations just to get a date/time stamped gas receipt, the second one has a total of seven cents of gas, the attendant thought this was just too funny. Then finding a hotel took me a bit, I headed toward the Best Western sign when I arrived and found what looked like a barricade, I just couldn’t do it. I headed back down the main drag and settled on a Comfort Inn. As I got off the bike two Harley riders pulled in behind me, perhaps this was truly meant to be they were more then eager to sign me in at the end of my ride. My odometer said 1065, and according to my receipts I had ridden for 15 hours and 14 minutes. Now it hits me, I truly believe I was meant to stop now. Year ago my first ride was mentored by Ron Smith, now deceased, he was determined that I could finish my first ever Saddle Sore in 15 hours. When he witnessed me in at the end of my ride I was crying I thought I had disappointed him with my time of 16 hours. I remember his jolly laugh and big hug, he looked at me and said with all that I encountered on my virgin ride he was more than proud of my time. Now here I stood years later with a cool 15 hours (yep take into account my first gas receipt didn’t have the time), just as he had told me he thought I could do, god speed Ron this ones for you. I am nauseous and can’t imagine eating anything but I force a bit of food and tons of fluids in my system before trying to decide where I will ride tomorrow. Sleep does not come, and it is well past my usual bedtime when finally I rest. I wake as always at 2 am and prepare for my workout and time to finish repacking and confirm the route I want to take.