Iron Butt “Bun Burner 1500”

Ode to my motorcycle: A collection of plastic, metal, carbon fiber and liquids, combustible and lubricating, all mixed together in an Italian factory by men and women who drink wine and eat prosciutto. These are my kind of people, building my kind of motorcycle, and it is perfect.  Its perfection lies not in its design and appeal but in that when I turn it on, it turns me on and gets the little synapses in my head all fired up at the thought of the next adventure to work play explore race and camaraderie. 

            Sweet Wife Ann is, as she would say, a “good sport” about most of these shenanigans.  I wouldn’t dummy it down like that, but she once uttered a magical sentence in a time of doubt and questioning: “If you win, I win.”  She might shake her head or roll her eyes at my constant braaping jargon about this bike that bike this ride that ride, but she’s right there pushing me out to do these things because if you win, then I win.  In came the idea of an obnoxiously long and fast ride just to prove that it can be done, pushed by a group of egomaniacal motorcyclists that love to wear patches of been there done that on their leather outfits., The Iron Butt Association. They have cute little names for the challenges like “Saddle Sore” and “Bun Burner” but, you know, you have to label bits and pieces of life so that they are easier to tell apart.  As most motorcyclists will knowingly joke about this kind of thing, every big ride starts out with 10 willing participants who whittle down to 6 maybes which break down to 5 for-sures and ends up with 3 dudes who are ready to go.  But first, you need a witness for the IBA(Iron Butt Association) Bun Burner ride, who will attest to your insanity and wish you well travels and kiss you on the lips with wishes of your timely return.  Ok, maybe only I got kissed on the lips as our witness was Sweet Wife Ann. 

            The heroes of this tale are PJ, Dave, and yours truly.  After a quick interview, plastered on Facebook, by dear friend and MotoCorsa hype-man/Grand Master/General Manager Arun Sharma, we took off only to stop for fuel.  Three of the same bike with three totally different men set for the same destination of miles and fuel stops and burned buns with hopes of doing it all under 36 hours while blasting past Oregon, Nevada, Utah, Idaho and back to sweet beautiful welcoming Oregon. We climbed towards the still white with snow Mount Hood, as we headed southeast and the chill of the mid-June Sunday morning grew more intense by the minute as the air temperature steadily dropped until the thought of sliding off the road became all too seemingly possible.  Damn the water pack, which I wore, for getting colder and colder and setting in a chill through my back. Once over the mountain, the terrain changed dramatically from a sea of Douglas Firs to the high desert of Central Oregon.  As I stood up on my perfect motorcycle and swiveled my head from left to right, I saw more white and tall mountain peaks, in that moment, than ever in one place in this one life.  Recognize this beauty and this day.  The Universe does not disappoint.

Route 26, just west of Madras, OR
Route 26, just west of Madras, OR
The three steeds, all Ducatis, from left to right: 2013 Multistrada 1200GT, 2013 Multistrada 1200 Pike's Peak and 2015 Multistrada 1200 ST
The three steeds, all Ducatis, from left to right: 2013 Multistrada 1200GT, 2013 Multistrada 1200 Pike’s Peak and 2015 Multistrada 1200 ST

Central Pastime is a hole in the wall place in a hole in the wall town in the middle of nowhere Oregon.  The Chevron gas station attendant overheard we 3 groaning about being hungry and thirsty and suggested we bypass the chain store national undercooked bread sub joint for a ma’n’pa restaurant.  Who am I to say no to this sort of invitation, so we obliged and after a few wrong turns, walked into a relic that echoed with country music and folks who know who everyone is, except for these three strangers in strange outfits, dragging their sorry asses through their watering hole.  As I’ve traveled, I’ve come to find that a club sandwich is a safe bet in nearly any dining establishment, at nearly any hour of the day.  I will happily report that the iced tea was cold and fresh and the club sandwich left me with the desire to go back to Burns, OR, just so I can have another serving of Central Pastime’s deliciously friendly meal. 

And then we became 2. PJ was not fairing well.  As it turns out, 3 hours of sleep prior to an IBA ride is not the prescription for success.  This here is a marathon not a sprint, so no wham-bam-thank-you-ma’am.  We jokingly prodded at him to see if a bit of peer pressure would wake him up and relight the fire in his heart, but my dear friend was spent and toast.  Ego is a deadly thing if unchecked but PJ had no qualms with saying “I’m done, boys.  I am sorry.”  He stayed behind to catch some mid-day ZZZ’s andhead back home, his pride a little bruised but his body saved for another adventure on another day. 

Dave and I connected our helmet Bluetooth devices, like aliens chattering about their next planetary domination, as we blasted through southeastern Oregon’s desert, towards our next gas stop.  You don’t know fear and loathing until the destination, in the middle of nowhere McDermitt, NV, arrives with promises of fuel and water falsely plastered on a digital map.  We might have panicked a bit but ego is a hell of a thing and we calmly walked around and pretended to not be THAT worried until a car pulled into the abandoned gas station we were coolly trotting in and the driver said “hey, guys, there’s an open gas station around the corner!” Rejoice, Texaco! It’s time to invest in a fuel canister if I’m going to keep having these adventures.

Winnemucca, NV, came after the desert turned into mountains that were rocky and grand.  No evergreens here – just rocks and sand.  We could see for miles ahead and would wave at the random set of motorcycles, going the opposite direction.  It seemed like Dave and I were the only two wheelers going into the desert while everyone else was going north towards green lands of rivers, waterfalls and lakes.  Before we hopped on the big slab of superhighway, our souls needed ice cream.  Oh, strawberry shortcake, how I love thee. The kind gas station attendant popped open a fresh bag of ice so that we could fill our water packs with the cold respite of icy water to take away the dry heat of northern Nevada.  We were happy.  The speed limit was 75MPH but our bikes didn’t see the south side of 90 until a road construction site slowed us down to a paltry 70.  It’s funny how when you come out of the big city and trot around the desert, road construction crews don’t go out of their way to make your exit and entry to the highway a luxuriously seamless affair.  At Battle Mountain, NV, we took a bumpy and off road vehicle worthy exit only to bounce our way back to the highway after a Formula 1 fast pit stop to fill the tanks and empty our bladders.

The question of “why do folks live in this area?” often creeps into my head as I ride past an area that doesn’t agree with my sensibilities.  Between Battle Mountain and West Wendover, along I-80, the living seemed grim and dry but then I remembered that Nevada is nick named “the Silver State” and this area, in particular, is home to a heavy and shiny metal that has its mention in every facet of world economics: Gold.  We climbed Pequop Summit as the sun gave one of its most dramatic shows of graceful settings through the high definition viewing portals of our rear view mirrors.  Thankfully the behemoth Ford Explorer in front of us had selectedan acceptable speed through its electronic cruise control, so we could revel in the golden light peaking through the mountains west of us. It lit everything to and fro in the most brilliant of colors that it nearly made me a believer in the power of gold and its draw to this desolate place. And then everything turned white as we coasted downhill towards West Wendover, NV.  Bugs covered the front of each machine, rider and helmet in a thick sheet of high speed insect killing spree.  I dialed Sweet Wife Ann, hoping to hear her voice before it was too late as we entered Utah.  She wanted to hear about everything but I just wanted to listen to her.  It’s my nightly routine, taking in her sing-song tales of office politics, water fountain gossip and her genuine worries over government politics.  Those little shoulders bear much weight and if she can talk about things, they get diluted.  If she talks about things, I get to listen.  If I get to listen, then she’s mine and I am forever grateful and serene. 

West Wendover, NV/UT, just before the Bonneville Salt Flats International Raceway
West Wendover, NV/UT, just before the Bonneville Salt Flats International Raceway

Everything was white because the land, east of Wendover, UT, is covered in salt.  It’s the sort of place that the gods of speed and world records use as their church so that mortals can come and pray.  I’ve only seen it in fantasies on television and magazines and dreams.  The Universe never disappoints.  Thank you for putting me there, next to the Bonneville Salt Flats.  I wanted so bad to touch it and steal a scoop to bring home so I could be reminded that I was there, having an adventure with a perfect stranger in front of me, cutting a hole through the pitch black of the night with our LED high intensity headlights.  I stood on my pegs and howled at the 90mph wind as we cut through it, westbound towards Salt Lake City.  Time was of the essence, so I bowed to the Universe and promised my return as the air took on the scent of freshly sprinkled water and salt and the horizon took on the hue of light pollution from a large city.  Utah is beautiful, whether by moon light or sun. 

In Ogden, UT, we stopped to eat a meal and decide where we would end the day’s adventure so that we could rest up to finish what we started the next day.  It was nearly 1AM and 3 cups of coffee later, the town of Rupert, ID, became our next target.  Delirium hadn’t taken hold of us, yet, but fear of the dark, so full of elk and deer, kept us from going 100MPH through the nothingness that’s between northern SLC and Rupert, ID.  Was I tired or was the wind getting stronger?  Was I exhausted or was an indicated 55 degrees, Fahrenheit, really chilling me to the bone?  

7AM pajama clad hydraulic clutch lever bleeding action!
7AM pajama clad hydraulic clutch lever bleeding action!

Rupert, ID, greeted us with a gas stop and a Tops Motel, managed by a sleepy 3AM motel manager who kindly checked us into a very comfortable room with two clean beds and the best 4 hour nap a man could pay $64 for, during an adventure like this.  In 18 hours, we achieved Dave’s hope of 1000+ miles in less than 24 hours – The IBA Saddle Sore 1000.  We updated our social media and woke with a slight panic of time having gotten away from us.  Once my clutch lever fluid was flushed, we saddled up and took off towards Boise, ID, where I found a surprise of Southern proportions: A Cracker Barrel.  Southern style cooking, slightly out of place in the North West was such a welcoming sight.  A few glasses of very sweet iced tea and some eggs, grits, cheesy potato hash casserole, and chicken fried steak were not the best idea. The body wants rest and calm while it digests that sort of maniacal feast, not to be bounced around the highway winds at near triple digit speeds.

In Oregon, we decided to slow down a bit so as not to get a speeding ticket and potentially disqualify ourselves from this nutty riding bet.  I don’t know if it’s really enforced by the IBA, but it kept us behaving, mostly.  There’s something intoxicating about riding a finely tuned Ducati that blasts the mountain sides with the singsong of its engine note, especially when the roads get curvy.  Any idiot can go fast in a straight line.  It takes dedication and trust to go fast through the curves of life, roads and highways.  Pick a line, dedicate to it, and follow through.  Life is a motorcycle ride through a curvy road and you cannot question your decision whilst mid-way through it.  Hold on and go – don’t be brash and you’ll be fine.  At Deadman’s Pass Lookout, we stopped to look at what lay beneath us and were greeted by a friendly man named Mark, whose first love was a 1963 250cc Ducati Diana in Southern California.  He’s got more miles under him than Dave and I combined, and we fancy ourselves long distance riders.  After much story sharing, Mark left us with this thought about how to keep a marriage with guys like us a successful affair:

“You should let your man do the things he wants to do with his motorcycle, from time to time, so that he comes back home to you rejuvenated and refreshed.” 

The wisdom of Mark, who lit up at the sight of two modern Ducati land rockets.
The wisdom of Mark, who lit up at the sight of two modern Ducati land rockets.

As we met with the mighty Columbia, the highway became increasingly beautiful as the Columbia Gorge formed around us and became the beautiful piece of interstate highway that people in the Pacific Northwest do not take for granted.  Things came to a sudden halt at The Dalles, OR, because of road construction and Dave and I were suddenly fearful of failure.  We had 3 hours left to finish our 1500 miles, and had already completed it but needed to stop somewhere and have a receipt printed for proof that we came, we saw, we conquered our challenge.  Once the reality that traffic had zero intent do move set in, we did the only thing which would allow us to finish: cheat.  The right shoulder of the highway became our personal lane to salvation and completion of this arduous task.  Slowly we crept past miles and miles of cars, trucks and weary 18wheelers and quickly took exit 44 to Cascade Locks, OR, where I know a place full of willing participants in “who wants to be a witness to my shenanigans?”

Tired and ready for the ride to end, but still happy not to be sitting at a desk.
Tired and ready for the ride to end, but still happy not to be sitting at a desk.

Thunder Island Brewing, in Cascade Locks, is one of the most picturesque places to sit down and have a pint of craft brewed deliciousness.  We, the tired, dismounted our steeds and disrobed our riding jackets, gloves and helmets.  It seemed as if all eyes were on us as we stumbled into the beer hall and heard an angel sing a verse: “would you like a beer?”  Why, yes, I would.

Nothing like a cold and extremely delicious beer to help finish an incredible motorcycle run. Cheers!
Nothing like a cold and extremely delicious beer to help finish an incredible motorcycle run. Cheers!

1599.7 miles, through Oregon, Nevada, Utah, Idaho and back to Oregon for bragging rights and a patch.  Our spirits needed this like our bodies need rest and water and the loving touch of our partners.  We shook hands, smiled at each other and fared one another well and went home to see our wives, who let us do things with our bikes from time to time, so that we come home to them with clear heads, ready to be filled with plans of future adventures with the machines that are acollection of plastic, metal, carbon fiber and liquids, combustible and lubricating, all mixed together in an Italian factory by men and women who drink wine and eat prosciutto.

My kind of people.

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