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Iron Butt SaddleSore 1000 to the Last Blockbuster (June 3-June 5, 2019): Part 3 - Sacramento, San Francisco, and the Ride Home

Note: This is the third part of a three-part blog series. Click here for part one.

The next morning, Edwin and I geared up and got ready for the last stretch toward home. But first, we had to eat breakfast. We escorted Amanda and her Honda Hawk to Flapjack's Diner that was just down the street from her house. Amanda hadn't ridden her motorcycle for a while due to an ankle injury and wanted to take the quick jaunt to breakfast, so we made sure that happened safely. She was very happy to be back on her bike again.

After a nice meal, we returned to her house to load up the rest of our gear, say our goodbyes, and ride off to our next planned destination, the headquarters of Clearwater Lights in nearby Rancho Cordova. The owner, Glen, contacted Edwin online the day before and offered to treat us to lunch and a tour of the factory since we were swinging through the area anyway. I myself was excited to visit this place as I had sold many sets of these premium lights when I was still working in the motorcycle industry. Glen ordered sandwiches for us and while we waited for the food to arrive, we got to see how these lights were made firsthand. I don't have any photos of all that because, well, it wouldn't be nice to give away industry secrets. But here's part of the selection of their world-famous, high quality LED lights that they manufacture here in California.

We ended up staying there so long that I bought a set of Darla lights for Eleanor and made the choice to forgo the original plan of returning home via US-101, opting for the faster I-5. After our stay at Clearwater Lights, we cut across Sacramento westbound to swing down through San Francisco, the next of our planned stops. Of course, an obligatory photo of the Golden Gate Bridge from the Battery Spencer side was in order before crossing it (we were entering the city from the north). I even got myself a Magikarp that washed ashore in the process. AR jokes on Pokémon GO never get old.

We continued across the Golden Gate Bridge and through San Francisco, heading back onto US-101 for a short while. Our second to last fuel stop before returning to Los Angeles was a Costco in San Jose where we relaxed for a little bit and had some pizza in the food court. For motorcyclists who are travelling through populated areas, Costco stores are wonderful places to take a break. We then continued down the 101 for a little while before cutting across Gilroy on CA-152 to jump back onto I-5. The rest of the ride was exactly as we had started it, through the night and in uneventful darkness. It had been a long day so we traded off conversations back and forth to keep ourselves awake. We split off at the 405/5 interchange in Sylmar and were at our homes around 2:30 AM.

Final trip mileage after the three day journey.
So yes, that's the end of an epic three day ride across two states. At the time of this blog post, this IBA SaddleSore 1000 ride to the last Blockbuster on Earth has been officially certified and my physical certificate will be arriving in the mail soon. What makes this even cooler is that the certificates that Edwin and I will be receiving will note that our destination for the ride was "the last Blockbuster Video store on Earth." What a fun notation for a very unique endurance ride. Now to think about the next long-distance jaunt. For me, I've been contemplating a reattempt at a BunBurner Gold 1500 (1500 miles in 24 hours). Who knows? Anything is possible.

A huge thank you to Edwin for inspiring me to get back into long-distance riding form, Amanda and Emory for the hospitality in Sacramento, Glen at Clearwater Lights for the cool tour, Robert (my mechanic) for making sure Eleanor was ready for this whole ordeal, and everyone who watched our journeys online and cheered us on.


Iron Butt SaddleSore 1000 to the Last Blockbuster (June 3-June 5, 2019): Part 2 - Return to Sacramento

Note: This is the second part of a three-part blog series. Click here for part one.

Edwin and I turned in for the night at our Airbnb in Bend, OR around 11pm. Now that we were no longer under a time constraint, we took our time and left around 10am on Tuesday morning. We had about a 500-mile ride ahead of us to Sacramento so we might as well enjoy a little bit of tourism while the wheels weren't moving.

When we arrived to eat, I thought it would be amusing for Edwin and me to park next to a small Honda Metropolitan scooter in front of a daycare across the street from the restaurant. When we pulled into our spots, we were greeted with several curious children looking through the fence at the bikes. Their moms were outside and found it amusing that we parked next to the scooter. We had a quick chat with them and it was nice to hear from one of the moms, "We like motorcycles." I was getting the vibe that this was a motorcycle-friendly city and this only confirmed it. There were motorcycles popping all over the city as we rode from the Airbnb to breakfast, and I did notice that cars were yielding to them as necessary.

The more two-wheeled vehicles, the better!
We had a very tasty breakfast at The Breakfast Club; choosing this place was in response to my friend, Amanda's, request to "rent her The Breakfast Club [movie] at Blockbuster." This was a great choice regardless; I haven't had a homemade chicken fried steak this delicious in a long time.
Chicken fried steak with over-easy eggs on top of a bed of homemade gravy.

Shortstack pancakes!
After breakfast, we returned to Blockbuster Video to pick up a few more requested souvenirs and to write an entry in the visitor book, something that I had forgotten to do the night before. Since we arrived there 30 minutes before closing, I didn't have time to do it. However, that gave me some time to think about what I wanted to write, and I had some fun with the visitor book entry. I also picked up a few more stickers for friends. I wanted to get a t-shirt, but they were sold out of all the sizes. Oh well.

Here are a few more fun pictures of the memorabilia on display at the Blockbuster store, some of them arriving as recent as a couple months ago:

After that, we swung through Downtown Bend to pick up a few more souvenirs and stickers. I will say that from my very brief visit here in Bend that I want to come back and spend more time around here. It's very quiet and scenic, the people are friendly, and it has a very peaceful vibe. It reminds me a little bit of downtown Petaluma, CA but with a lot more development and city investment into the city center. Bend thrives on tourism and is full of things to do, both in the city and in nearby natural areas such as Mount Bachelor.

Getting the bumper sticker was so worth it.
The wildlife is very friendly here?

After grabbing a few more souvenirs, we made our way down US-97 all the way back down to California where it connected with Interstate 5. This was a nice relaxing ride down, and we were flanked with nature on all sides. It was the first time that Edwin and I had ever seen a controlled burn in a forest, a method of intentionally setting fires for environmental reasons. For this leg of the ride, Edwin and I travelled at a slower and more consistent pace, 60-65 mph while limiting hard accelerations. This move increased our fuel economy immensely, and thanks to a combination of tweaking Eleanor's fuel map on her DynoJet Power Commander III USB and uneventful, near straight-line travel, she was averaging nearly 46 MPG during this stretch, a new personal record.

For a little while during this vacation, the fuel tank outlasted my butt.
US-97 also reconnected me with a section of I-5 that I had never ridden because I had bypassed it in my travel to Oregon in 2011, opting for Pacific Coast Highway instead. This also gave us the opportunity to see Mt. Shasta for the very first time. This was an amazing sight to see, and its presence lasted throughout the ride leaving Oregon and the reentry into California.

First week of June and the snow is still nicely packed at the top of Mt. Shasta.
We continued on US-95 until we reached the I-5 junction in Weed, CA where we stopped for gas for the first time since leaving Bend, OR. Yes, that's the name of the city. Yes, the city is definitely taking advantage of it from a marketing perspective. Yes, they have marijuana dispensaries, but that only happened after recreational consumption became legal. Also, the elevation change upon approaching Weed was a sign for me to finally change from my Aerostitch Roadcrafter jacket to my Fly mesh jacket as temps were nearing the 90s with no chance of it getting any cooler.

The first section of I-5 leaving Weed and going southbound was full of construction and that left some areas reduced down to one or two lanes on either side of traffic. Once we were out of the mountains, it was a lot of flat land, rice farms, solar farms, and emptiness until Sacramento. The empty space was filled in with random anecdotes by intercom and odd Spotify playlists. We kept the same fuel-saving strategy and never exceeded 70 mph while limiting hard accelerations and made it to Sacramento on a single tank of gas around 9pm at the home of Amanda, Chopper the Dog, and his siblings, Sophie and Moto.

After a nice dinner of homemade burgers, tying Chopper's ears, and meeting Moto for the first time, it was off to bed to get ready for the last stretch toward home.

Celebratory prosecco wine after a long ride!
Hey Chopper, I'm going to try my best to not take two years to come back to tie your ears again.

One more full day of riding ahead! Here's the last part of the journey.


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.


Now that I'm done with grad school...

Hello, I'm back from the dead. I mean, grad school.

Now that I'm done with that two-year adventure, I can return to posting regularly again here on Two-Wheeled Tourist. Obviously, a lot has happened between then and now, and many of my long-time projects, including this one, had to fall by the wayside to ensure my success in school as well as my personal sanity in the process.

So I'll start my return to blogging with this side project. Three Women On Wheels® members from three different parts of the United States coming together in Los Angeles, CA. Thirteen hours as tourists. What could possibly happen? Enjoy.