Exhilarating! That's right, this run was wonderful and I appreciate Alan Leduc and all the folks who contribute to the Motorcycle Tourer's Forum (MTF). I had a great time! I certainly appreciate the country we live in, and therefore, have the choices and amenities of what "we" consider every-day-life. I saw a large part of our country in a short time and I enjoyed every mile. And, since I live in America and can have hopes and dreams, I dream of winning the lottery and doing this all of the time. (There's also that long-lost uncle that's probably rich and will leave it in my name?)
The Poker Run from Hell (prfh) and Saddlesore 5000 (ss5k) required covering 5000 miles in five days. The ss5k is an extreme ride created by the Iron Butt Assn, and Alan Leduc's MTF was just creating an avenue to attain that goal with the support of others' with the same goal in mind. There were also many riders that attended to ride the so-called flower sniffing rides. To see more info on what roads I rode to complete the ss5k, just follow this link.
I live about 330 miles from Russellville. Jim Fortner (he went with me) lives in Plano (just down the road). We met in Mc Kinney, TX around 1PM on Sunday May 18, 2003. We had decided to take a scenic route because we had plenty of time. We headed northeast through Paris, TX, Broken Bow, OK, and Glenwood Springs, AR (I made a personal note to return back to this town with a river running through it for further investigation.) before turning due north to Russellville.
We arrived around 6:30 pm (ahead of target) at the Best Western (PRFH headquarters). Alan, DragracerBob and several others were already there. Alan was working out of his motorcycle trailer and it was full of PRFH material. After visiting for a few minutes and meeting a couple of folks, Alan sent me north on 7 just past Dover to Pleasant Grove, then back for my mileage check. He had to add a correction factor to my odometer miles every day to verify I achieve at least 1000 miles. This odometer check will give Alan the correction factor for my bike. Jim and I went across the street to have a Subway sandwich before going to the campground to set-up our tents for the night.
The next morning started early for me. I had set the alarm clock for 5 am, but was up by 3:30. (I soon decided 4 would be a better wake-up time for me.) I decided to lay in bed for a little while until I heard Alan's bike go by about 4. What's his hurry? I thought he wasn't going to ride the SS5000? Oh well, I can't sleep, let's go. I make my circle by the campground bathroom facilities to take care of my pre-day's routine. I arrive at the motel and go to the ice machine to borrow some ice for my hydration system. Several people were out-and-about including Doug Woodall and Dave Shealey. We had the same routine almost every morning. Alan was waiting for me in the Hotel lobby with the log-out/in sheet. After exchanging some casual conversation, I was on my way. Alan had decided not to ride, but he was there making sure everyone got off to a good start.
I stopped by the gas station to document the start and headed south in the dark only minutes before 5 am. The two-lane road meandered down chicken country through the fog to Boles, AR for our first "mandatory" stop. After leaving Boles, I headed due north on 71 to Fort Smith, AR. The traffic became thicker as I got to Fort Smith. As the Monday morning traffic became thick I decided to circumnavigate the business section (as routed by MS Streets) and take 540 to I-40. As I headed out of town I stopped at McDonalds to pick-up two breakfast burritos for the road. I have a glove box on my fairing that works for storing my snacks and daily food. It worked well, you just have to choose food that doesn't require two hands. Mc Donald's breakfast burrito works well because they are small in diameter and you can easily control it with one hand. Iron Butt rides require consistency. You must remain in that seat! The more you can do while going down the road, the better.
My first gas stop was in Oklahoma City. I have the ability to go as far as 400 miles without stopping for fuel, but Alan had my next mandatory fuel stop set at 500 miles. Since I couldn' make that, I set my stop at around 300. Upon leaving OKC, I was expecting a very boring ride to Panhandle, TX, but was gratefully surprised at the scenery west of OKC. The terrain reminded me of Wyoming with it's wide open spaces and rolling terrain. There was a very large dairy on both my left and right, and I assumed it was Braum's because I knew they are in the area. The grassland went on for miles, and the black and white spotted Holsteins were gathered around ponds pretty enough to make an advertising picture for ice cream. By the time I got to Sayre, OK a northern had blown in. I certainly wasn't expecting this, and I do believe high winds are worse than rain.
At the Love's Travel Center in Panhandle, I was met by Jeff Salyer (pictured). Jeff lives in Garden City, KS and came down to greet us at our turn-around point. The wind was blowing profusely in Panhandle, but Jeff's hair doesn't seem to be out of place? (just kidding) It was a generous offer for Jeff to come down and greet us. It gave us something to look forward to. Jeff, where was the lemonade? Jeff knew I was in a hurry (because he's done some extreme rides himself) therefore, he tried to facilitate a quick turn-around for me. Before I could leave, I noticed Dennis Powell (from Iowa) popped in on his Valkrye. I know Dennis had to be riding awful tough to arrive soon after me. I feel like I'm cheating with my 400 mile range gas capacity. It's definitely a key factor in covering a lot of miles. Several of my friends have Valkrye's and I've never seen them get better than 125 miles out of a tank of gas in those conditions. My hat's off to Dennis, I know he had to make a lot of stops.
The trip back was rather uneventful. I made the round in 16 hours (Bun Burner Gold time). I wanted to stay fairly close to this all week long. It would allow me time to get five hours of sleep each night, two hours each day to get checked in, eat something, take a shower and mentally "download" before going to bed; and one hour each morning to get up and get composed for the day. I departed every morning by 5 am and was back around 9 pm. This gave me use of "all" of the daylight hours. The schedule seemed to work for me.
Day two I had the same schedule starting with the meet and greet with Doug Woodall and Dave Shealey at the motel while getting my ice. This trip took me up to St Louis and over and back down to Springfield, MO and Big Cabin, OK before returning home. The thing that stuck out in my mind on this trip was the price of fuel in Big Cabin. It was over $1.60 per gallon. There's no excuse for that. There was some rain on this day, but it was fairly minor.
Day three (Wednesday) started out great? After swinging by the campground for my morning freshen-up, my headlight burnt out. I hit my high-beam and continued on to the hotel where I could get some better lighting. I expected this to happen at some point, but I was hoping I wouldn't be on an iron butt ride at the time. Anyway, I was lucky enough to have an extra bulb, plus I had already practiced changing it out at home. The process went fairly easy, and I was off on my usual schedule. My energy level was very good and I enjoyed the sun coming up. I was pumped. After getting a picture of the Bald Knob Post office, I had a beautiful ride on 64 over to Memphis. It had apparently flooded in the area and there was plenty to see. Additionally, this was rice country and I had never seen anything like this. I was kind-of excited about going up through the mountain range past Nashville just to give me some new scenery, but I wished there wouldn't have been so much truck traffic. Oh well, just part of a day's work. The return trip went just fine, although I did start noticing water on the ground as I got closer to Russellville. I slammed some Taco Bell after returning to check-in and went back to camp. Jim was waiting on me at camp to keep me posted on his day's events, and I returned the favor in-kind. We spent about 10 or 15 minutes each evening doing this so I could keep up with the flower sniffing bunch, and he could get a glimpse of my travels. Jim informed me that it had rained during the day. I was concerned because I left my tent door vented to allow air through. The day before it had rained and my sleeping bag was a little damp, therefore I wanted my tent to dry out this day. Fortunately, someone else had noticed my mistake during the day (while it was raining again) and closed my vent door. I'm not sure who to thank, but I'm appreciative.
Thursday had us traveling to Illinois, and since my aunt had lived in Carbondale in the past, I was looking forward to traveling back through that area to see how much I remembered. My first stop was the Pocahontas Post Office for a picture. After that I cut across 60 to I-57. I like going across the large bridges and this area has a few, but not as many as Friday's trip. Once I got past Effingham, I saw many small farms with silos. This is what I expected more of Illinois to look like. I enjoyed this section of Illinois. On the trip back, I exercised my gas capacity and went 388 miles before refueling. I was practicing for Friday, because Alan had given us a 400 mile leg between mandatory gas stops and I wanted to see if I could make the distance. There are many factors that go into fuel mileage and winds seems to effect it the most. We had seen some high winds during the week. I had been through the same cold front at least four or five times it seemed like. After returning to Russellville I made the mistake of slamming another Taco Bell burrito only to find out our camping neighbors (Cobber, Paige and others) had invited us over for hot dogs and chips. Although, I did get a chance to go and visit for a minute. I was starting to feel anti-social, I hadn't spent any time with any of the MTF folks all week long.
I could tell that Friday was going to be a big day, because the route was up some scenic routes through Branson and then east to Paducah, KY. There was very little interstate until we got to Paducah. Dennis Powell had reminded me that morning that it was Memorial weekend and to be aware of the extra traffic. I hadn't even thought of that.
That same morning Dave Shealey said he was thinking about finishing out his week by traveling to J'ville on Saturday and riding back across to San Diego to get his 50cc. He had also done a Saddlesore 2000 on the way to prfh. This would give him a 10/10 by the time he returned back to San Diego. Good Luck Dave! (10/10 is running 1000 miles each day for 10 days straight.)
I was trying to create some extra time using the throttle through Missouri when the state trooper "convinced" me to slow down. After slowing down, I came up on many fascinating bridges in the area where MO, IL, KY, TN come together. I enjoyed riding through this area. I truly got to see a whole lot of countryside on this event. I don't know why I like riding so long and hard (therefore, I can't explain it), but seeing the countryside is a great benefit. After riding to Paducah, Alan sent us north a few miles to Metropolis, IL for a mandatory stop. It also included a trip downtown to see their Superman Museum. Our last stop was in Nashville before returning back to headquarters. I wasn't at the gas stop long when Dennis pulled up. Dennis and I had crossed paths several times this week. I told Dennis I was going to make the last 400+ miles back to headquarters without stopping. Dennis wished me well, and said he was going to take a little more time, because he felt he could relax a little at this point. Dennis beat me out of the gas station, but I must have passed him at his next fuel stop, because I never saw him again. As I arrived back at the Hotel, there was quite a crowd waiting for me. This was certainly a surprised welcome. They all clapped their hands as I rode up. This group is very supportive. Jim took me across the street and bought me some Mexican food on Don Braziel's recommendation.
The next morning was wonderful waking up in the campground with "no" urgency. It was a treat to lay there with the tent door open and watching people up having their morning coffee while the birds were chirping. I ran to town to wash my bike and get some ice for my hydration system before breaking camp. The slow race started at 9 am, so I ran over to make a run through before packing my bike for the return trip. I'm not sure what my time was, but it couldn't have been close (not to mention my penalty for putting my foot down). The food line started promptly at 11:00 for the BBQ banquet meal. Everything went very well and Alan concluded with handing out rewards and plaques. I didn't win any money with the poker hand, but I had a great time. This was also a good time to visit with some of the folks I hadn't seen earlier in the week. Alan made everyone a plaque that completed the iron butt ride. Many thanks for a wonderful week and some great memories! Jim Fortner, Doug Woodall, Don Braziel, and myself took a leisure ride back to Texas. It rained a small amount, but other than that it was a nice easy ride.
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