Google+ Two-Wheeled Tourist: Iron Butt SaddleSore 1000 to the Last Blockbuster (June 3-June 5, 2019): Part 1 - The Ride


Iron Butt SaddleSore 1000 to the Last Blockbuster (June 3-June 5, 2019): Part 1 - The Ride

I've missed doing Iron Butt Association (IBA) rides, so it was fitting to come out of my hiatus and complete one after a long two years of graduate school and weird life changes. The last time I had done one was back in 2011 when I rode from Columbus, OH to Elko, NV on a SaddleSore 2000. In reality, it was more of consolation from a failed attempt at a BunBurner 1500 Gold. Due to tornado warnings with about 300 miles to go, it wasn't worth the risk to ride through the night and finish the route. Perhaps I'll attempt the BBG 1500 again when I have the chance.

About a year before this ride began, I had started talking to my riding friend, Edwin (IG: zeros_adventure), about the possibility of completing a SaddleSore 1000. He didn't want to attempt it by himself and I didn't blame him; these rides are daunting. Doing so would be the first every IBA certified ride for him and the first one that I would do with another rider. Until now, all of my completed IBA rides were done solo. In addition, this would be the first time that I would be beginning the IBA ride in California; my previous rides had begun in Ohio.

When we reached a point in time that we could put solid plans down, we thought of fun places to ride to as the final destination of the SaddleSore 1000. I came up with the idea of riding to the last Blockbuster Video store on the planet in Bend, Oregon. This Blockbuster Video gained a bit of notoriety when it became the last location standing in March 2018 following the closure of locations in Alaska and Australia. Also, the cameo of a Blockbuster Video in "Captain Marvel" brought memories of the store back to the forefront. When I casually punched in the address for the store on Google Maps, it turned out that a straight shot on Interstate 5 was only 820 miles from Los Angeles. To make up the last 180 miles, I tweaked the route to swing out eastbound on I-80 and US-95 which would cause us to enter Oregon through Nevada and then cut across the state to get to Bend.

The route we ended up settling on. Planning done on inRoute for iOS.
With planning all set with a final meeting the Friday before, we geared up the bikes and left at midnight on June 3 from Redondo Beach. His ride of choice was a 2005 Suzuki VStrom 650 and I was on Eleanor, my 2007 Yamaha FJR1300, the same bike that I had used to complete all of my certified IBA certified rides to date. This time around, my FJR was starting this ride with approximately 205,000 miles on the odometer.

We rode I-5 northbound to Sacramento through the night, stopping in Lost Hills and Mercy Springs for gas, snacks, and a stretch break. The biggest challenge with night riding was definitely the fatigue and boredom that came with the nothingness of the interstate. We made it to Patterson and sat down for breakfast. Even with the extended break, we still made it to Sacramento by 8am as planned and made the transition over to I-80, passing through Reno and Winnemucca, NV and onto the desolation of US-95.

We found the sunrise in Patterson, CA.

Looking for our sanity somewhere near Emigrant Gap, CA.
One of the most essential tools that we had were our helmet-mounted Sena bluetooth intercoms. Communication during a long ride like this was essential, and it was important to keep each other updated on how we felt physically as well as continue conversations to stay awake. I found it fun to interject at times and inundate Edwin with random facts about the areas we were passing through because he had never ventured any farther north than Monterey, CA...until now. Also, staying hydrated was a priority. I went with my trusty CamelBak while Edwin went with a container mounted on a cup holder since he had a modular helmet that he could flip up. I threaded the flexible straw tube of the CamelBak through the bottom of my helmet.

Hello, Oregon. We come in peace.
Once we made it to US-95 in the early afternoon, it was a very desolate road with gas stops very far and in between. However, it was very beautiful and we were able to travel at a spirited pace. The state line was empty and only had a few buildings around it. We were rained on briefly shortly after crossing into Oregon but it wasn't a major downpour that required us to change into our rain suits. Speaking of gas stops, we had to detour to Rome, OR for gas after realizing that there were no other opportunities to fill up at the US-95/OR-78 junction where we were supposed to turn to head to Bend. That was an additional 16 miles down US-95, and it got hairy because we were well into our reserve levels in gas and didn't know how much we had left. To make things even more fun, the gas station in Rome was surrounded by sketchy gravel and potholes you could swim in. But we made the stop and survived. I wish I had taken a photo of the singular gas pump in the lot!

Somewhere on US-95 in Nevada. Those clouds in the sky would catch up with us later.
Once we made it back down the road to OR-78, it was about 200 miles of some of the quietest roads and nicest scenery you could imagine. Barely any cars, no airplanes or powerlines, and no cops in sight. We had to really throw down some speed to make it to Blockbuster before it closed because of those extended breaks we took because of fatigue, breakfast, photo ops, and a couple quick maintenance things (oil fill and chain lubing) along with the detour in Rome. With the exception of rain for about ten miles, the weather was as about as ideal as it could get. It was as cold as the upper 50s during the beginning of the ride and never exceeded 85°F at any time during the ride.

The good news? We did make it at 8:30pm that night with just enough daylight left to take pictures at the entrance. That was a long, 20.5 hour day. There was pizza, sliders, and wings at the end of the journey.

Here are the final stats from my own GPS tracking app (Geo Tracker) on my Android phone:

Of course, what goes up must come down. We took two days to return home from Bend, OR and took a more leisurely and touristy approach to that leg of the journey. Stay tuned on another blog entry for that.

Additional notes from this ride:

  • Riding through the night was nice because there was no traffic. However, there were times that riding in the dark made it easier to lose focus.
  • It's hard to plan for an Iron Butt when you're choosing roads that you've never ridden through. Be prepared to make last-minute changes, such as the detour to Rome, OR.
  • There was no reason to speed for extended periods of time. Maintaining legal highway speeds was sufficient for completing this ride.
  • Bringing your own snacks saves time and money! Also, consider easy to eat snacks such as energy bars. I'm a fan of Honey Stinger Organic Waffles.
  • Bring additional fluids for your bike! We ended up using chain lube and topping off on motor oil.
  • You don't have to carry everything with you when you ride with a friend. For example, I brought the snacks and Edwin had a cooler to store all the drinks.
  • Know the other person's riding style. Chemistry is essential to completing an Iron Butt ride with a partner. This wasn't the first time I had ridden with him; in fact, the first long ride we did together was a total of 250 miles and was treated as a simulation of the real thing.
  • Invest in a high-capacity USB power bank and a reliable cable. (Anker is a tried and tested brand that I prefer.) Knowing that my Sena intercom couldn't last an entire 20-hour run, I made sure to plug the headset in to charge during use in the latter parts of the ride.
Want to know how we got home? Here's the next part of the ride.

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