(Originally published in BMW Owners News Magazine – September 2015)
“There are 86,400 seconds in a day – how are you spending yours?” I found that quote some time ago on the back of a bathroom door. No kidding. It stuck with me, and I often find myself thinking about that question. How am I spending mine?
Sometime in January of 2013, on one of those dull days when it was cold and drizzling outside and there was no chance of slipping in a ride, I was thinking about that quote and began daydreaming about doing something adventurous and amazing on two wheels. I had just read about someone completing an Iron Butt Association ride and pondered the possibilities. I jumped online and read more about the IBA and what exactly had to be done to be awarded membership into this organization of the “World’s Toughest Motorcycle Riders.” I was completely intrigued and set my sights on a SaddleSore 1000.
So, I marched my confident self into the garage where my husband was wrenching on a bike and announced the news… “I want to be a member of the Iron Butt Association.” Believe me, his eyes popped right out of his head. After undergoing what felt like the “Spanish Inquisition” followed with a long lecture, I stood there unbroken and totally determined to undertake this challenge. He finally realized that this was going to happen and there was no changing my mind, so the preparations began.
Over the next few months, I took on the task of figuring out how to best travel 1,000 miles in 24 hours, while my husband spent time going through the mechanics of both of our motorcycles. I had read that many people attempting a SaddleSore 1000 get up early one morning and ride the whole 1,000 miles by the end of a very long day. That didn’t sit well with my body clock. I was determined to break those 24 hours down into segments and timed stops, including a long break for a stint in a hotel room for some quality sleep. I had many naysayers upon explanation of how I was planning the ride, but I forged forward anyway with even more determination to do it my way. I hand-wrote note cards for each stop detailing the city name, exit number and time in and out, carefully making sure time zone changes were factored in. It was quite a system I had set up.
So the big day finally came, and we began the ride in Asheville, North Carolina. The take-off was very smooth, and I glided down the road with a huge smile knowing that this day’s 86,400 seconds were going to be spent experiencing great adventure. With each stop, I was encouraged by my note card system…it was working! We ended up accruing a bank of excess time through quick stops and good road conditions. That worked out perfectly, as we encountered a lengthy traffic jam just below Indianapolis where we were at a dead stop. I wasn’t at all disappointed knowing we had extra time to spare, so I took a “selfie” and sent a post to my Facebook blog page. Prior to our departure, I had family and friends asking me to text them at our stops to relay our status. I knew that task wasn’t going to compute into our timeline, so I made the decision to set-up a Facebook blog page to relay the information one time to all. Best decision ever.
As the sun set that evening and we made our way to our hotel stop in Madison, Wisconsin, it got cool and then cooler, and then downright cold. I was not prepared. It was July and I had my summer gloves. I mean, who in their right mind would carry winter gloves that time of the year? Pulling in the clutch proved to be quite a challenge because of my frozen fingers, but I managed to get it done. We got in to Madison, unpacked, showered, cleaned helmets and hit the mattress. Sleep was sudden, and upon arising three hours later, I was ready to take on the world. I enjoyed watching the sun rise that morning over the sleepy landscape of Wisconsin. I knew that I was spending the last fourth of those 86,400 seconds doing something amazing for myself…I was becoming a more courageous person, knowing I was getting ready to complete a very large challenge. It was euphoric, honestly.
We sailed into our ending location of St. Paul, Minnesota, with 45 minutes, or 2,700 seconds, to spare. Once the ending fuel receipt was safely in my hands, I threw up one of my mighty fist pumps and squealed with delight as happy tears flowed down my cheeks. I did it! And I did it my way! I was now a full-fledged member of the Iron Butt Association, and I was addicted immediately. That long-distance bug had bitten me hard.
So as I sat around this past winter wondering what long-distance fun I could conjure up, I knew my next step was a BunBurner 1500. Just as the year before, preparations fired up in the spring, including my trusty note cards filled with every timed detail of the trip. This year, I had 129,600 seconds to work with (36 hours) in planning a 1,500 mile ride. And as an added bonus, I realized during my figuring that we would have a longer sleep break. So, the trip was planned out, and we were ready to go…
And then it happened. Sixteen days prior to our departure, my husband woke up at 3:00 a.m writhing with abdominal pain. After a trip to the emergency room, tests and much medical hubub, he was diagnosed with a large kidney stone. Of course the naysayers immediately stepped forward and advised us to cancel our upcoming Iron Butt ride. I wasn’t listening. I knew in my heart we would figure this out and be sailing down the road as planned. And then 3 days later while exiting out of my laundry room, I found myself on my knees…a bulging disk on my L5 was now trying to put the brakes on our trip. Crookedly (as I couldn’t stand up straight), I still stood my ground and refused to give up. Call it sheer determination and my super-hard head, but I would not call it quits this easily.
After many doctor and chiropractic visits, medication and a procedure to break up the kidney stones, we were packed and ready to go. We set sail out of Hendersonville, North Carolina, looking to lay down 1,500 miles and be in Rapid City, South Dakota 36 hours later. There were a couple of “hiccups” along the way. It wouldn’t be an adventure if it all went perfectly. When it was my turn to lead, I took us on an unplanned 50 mile scenic loop (yes, I got us lost) using my trusty note cards as reference. And then, there was the “rest stop bike drop” scene…again, all me. Honestly, my saddlebags were a little heavier than usual, but after the BunBurner 1500 segment of the trip, we had 19 more days of high adventure on two wheels, so I had to have extra girly stuff. That’s life with The Fashionista. The good, the bad, and the glamorous.
But, the funniest part of the trip, in my opinion, was my SweeTarts escapade. Towards the final 400 miles of the ride, the sleepys hit me…HARD. Again, my stubborn nature took control, and I refused to give in. At the following fuel stop, I downed a Red Bull and tucked a large roll of SweeTarts in my tank bag. Every wave of sleepy that came over me would warrant a dip into the tank bag for several of those magic candies to perk me back up. Not the best remedy, I know, but it was working for me. I had the last 50 miles in sight and my last 4 SweeTarts poking out of my tank bag for easy access. We were going to make it together, me and my SweeTarts. As I reached for them, hoping to chew on a couple for a few more miles of wide-eyes before the lids got heavy again, something whooshed by the left side of my helmet. I looked down at my stash, and it was gone with the wind. You could hear me hollering obscenities for miles, I’m sure.
I made it over the finish line anyway with 59 minutes, or 3,540 seconds, to spare. My famous mighty fist pump was cast to the sky and I shouted out in victory to another Iron Butt Association ride accomplished. As we made our way to the hotel for a hot shower, stiff drink and comfortable bed, I reflected on the many hurdles, big and little, that tried to quash this big adventure with no success, thankfully. I remembered that quote from the bathroom door, and a huge smile crossed my face…126,060 seconds of my life were spent being strong and overcoming odds, staying hugely positive and experiencing big adventure. And, I’d say that was time very well spent! 💋