My 50CC Quest
April 2005

It started innocently enough... I wanted to add some challenge to my LDriding and accomplish something I could look back on with a little pride. I'd ridden a number of 1,000 mile days and in 2004 documented a SS1000, and dumped out of a BBG. Thinking that I'd never actually get around to riding a coast-to-coast because of the logistics, I toyed with the idea of riding in the MTF sponsored 50cc/100ccc in 2005. After discussing it with my "navigator" (SWMBO) and receiving her encouragement, I signed up in January and started planning the ride.

At that time, I was also planning to ride the Palmetto Ramble, and had just bought a new-to-me 2001 Concours. Add a couple of week-long business trips to that, and I pretty much devoted all my free time to motorcycle preparation and ride planning between January and April. Thankfully, the "enablers" at the MTF provided two super resources for planning. First, they had a number of Streets&Trips routes already plotted and available for download. These were easily tuned and came ready for use by riders with different fuel ranges. This saved me many hours of planning. The second tool was a spreadsheet with every fuel station on the route listed... along with hours of operation, problems, and phone numbers. They also arranged for beginning and ending witnesses and would take care of some of the paperwork chores after the ride.

Early in January, Eric, another MTF rider contacted me and invited me to ride the trip home from San Diego along with him. He lives in Ohio, and would be returning from the west coast along the same route I planned to take to Illinois. After exchanging a few emails, it seemed like a pretty good match, and we agreed to meet in Jacksonville the day before the ride, and share motel rooms along the way. I was a bit hesitant, and figured that we'd meet, not get along, and go our separate ways... no problem if that happened. But, it didn't and we got along, and actually rode the 50cc together as well as the trip back home.

I managed to ride the Palmetto Ramble, and actually finish (I'm now hooked on rallys too). That left me with a few weeks to concentrate on the 50cc plans and preparations. I started the 50cc trip with about 1,000 miles on the new bike, but that 1,000 miles did include a couple of long days. I'd made a few bike preparations for comfort and safety, and felt pretty confident with the bike. Since the actual 50cc was to start in Jacksonville at 5:00 AM on a Monday and I had a 900 mile ride to get there, I decided to ride down on Friday, spend the night about 600 miles down the way, and have a leisurely ride on Saturday to the Jacksonville area. That would give me Saturday to explore Florida and Sunday to rest up before the rider's dinner and BS session at the hotel. I was to meet Eric for the first time Sunday about noon.

As planned, I Left home Friday morning heading for Jacksonville, FL for the start. It started raining on me as soon as I hit the highway. Rained off and on all day, some of it light and at times gully washers. But, I was on a mission and although I hate starting out in the rain, I don't mind too much riding in it. Then... I got to Nashville. It took over two hours to get through Nashville due to traffic and rain. Heavy downpours and some kind of mid-day rush hour were terrible. After Nashville, I had fairly light traffic and things were going well.
Starting BIke and Rider Beginning MileageFrom The Rear

Planned 50cc Route Route As-Ridden

Then IT happened. The weather turned worse as the sun went down. Heavier rains and storms rolled along with me. Several times Interstate was backed up for one-lane closures due to water over the road. I got stuck on a mountain top in southern TN that night about 11:00 PM when thunderstorms and fog caused them to close the interstate just ahead of the GA border. Traffic was funneling down to one lane to go around trees blown on the Interstate, and flooded lanes several times. Finally the State Police closed the Interstate due to multiple wrecks ahead that blocked the road. Taking the exit at Monteagle, TN, I found a strip motel that was $27/night. Seemed like a bargain AND it was the only motel around. Took a room, and THEN saw the cop that had closed Interstate stop next door for coffee. Asked him about leaving my bike outside the room for the night. He sad "I would NOT leave my bike here on a bet! We have lots of them stolen off this mountain." @%^*. I asked how far to go to find a safe place. He said I'd have to get off the mountain and the only way was through the closed interstate. It would not be open for at least 3 to 4 hours, so I may as well stay here and just watch the bike. "If they can't see it for the fog, they can't steal it. and they are mostly after Harleys, What kind of bike IS that you're ridin' ?" Needless to say, I had an un-restful night, jumping up at every sound to check that my bike was still outside the room. I did finally sleep a little that night, and hit the road Saturday morning.

Saturday was another interesting riding day. Another thunderstorm slowed my HOV lane ride through Atlanta down to about an hour trip. I had to hide under a bridge when hail and sleet started covering the interstate and freezing on my face shield. Took the next exit off and was going to wait the storm out in a restaurant. Turned out to be a slum/dead area of the city. Made a U-turn about 2 blocks from the exit and hit the highway again. Took the next exit, an industrial area with a Waffle house; and, got breakfast. This was the slowest wafflehouse I've ever been in. Took about 45 minutes to get an omelette, and they didn't give me what I ordered, etc. The saga continues...

South of Atlanta, there was another wreck that closed Interstate. I "walked" the bike for about an hour, then started a conversation with a local in the next lane. He pulled out a county map and showed me a way around the blockage on county roads. I hit the shoulder to the next exit, and used the GPS on detour mode to get back around the blockage. I had to backtrack about 25 miles to the north to get on a south-bound highway that worked. This 23 miles section of Interstate took me over four hours. Made it to a nice Days' End motel in Lake City FL. about 10:30 that night. Long frustrating day. Running through my mind was the idea that having ANY single ONE of these problems would sabotage the 50cc should it happen in the next two days. That "deluxe" motel sure felt good after the previous night. Delivery Pizza and a six pack of soda completed the night.

I had arranged to share a room in Jacksonville with Eric, a rider I'd never met, but had communicated with via Internet. Called him Sat night, and agreed to meet on the parking log of the motel in JAX. Serendipity, we met at a 4-way stop about 3 blocks from there as I was waiting for traffic and we recognized each other's bikes. We rode the rest of the entire trip together, which was nice. I'd figured that we'd meet, share the first motel room, and decide to part ways. But, both of us being tolerant, (although not sharing but 2 nights in rooms together due to someone snoring ), similar mileage range on the bikes worked well. Having that extra support of a riding partner on this trip was a good thing. We rode down to St. Augustine for lunch, and then checked into the motel. There was a parking lot full of bikes as about 44 people were leaving JAX for the ride. Dinner meeting with other riders, and a few minutes enjoying a blues festival on the JAX beach. We spent hours in the parking lot BSing with other riders and admiring bikes that were much better prepared for LDriding than mine. Got to the room about 10:30, stared at the ceiling above the bed until 3:00AM then finally went to sleep.

Up Monday at 4:00AM for THE TRIP. To the bike, quick bowl of cereal at the hotel, and we were on the way to the gas station where we would be released two at a time for the 50cc quest.

At the station, there were about 50 bikes lined around the perimeter of the parking lot, and Jason called out names several at a time. You would fuel up, get a picture, and head out to the beach to gather sand and ocean for your memento. It's a ritual at both ends of the trip... I brought back sand and water from Atlantic and Pacific oceans grabbed less than 50 hours apart. It's truly a "Coast -to- Coast" ride. We hit the highway for a long ride. Excitement overpowers the fatigue and lack of rest!

Mostly uneventful ride the first day. Wonderful weather, NO RAIN. We stopped for fuel every two hundred miles or so. I drank water form the camelback and ate from the tank bag. No real meals at all on Monday. Various riders would pass us and we'd pass others. Never more than two or three at a time. (Usually they were passing us). We'd pull into a station to fuel, then it's pass/get passed again for a while. Mostly, we were getting passed though. Nice to see other riders that understood the trip. We started about 1/3 of the way down the rider list, so most of the riders would pass us sometimes over the next 2 days.

Droned on through FL and saw the sun rise in the mirror. Temperatures were nice, starting in the low 40s and slowly rising with the daylight. I had the Widder vest, and just turned the thermostat down a notch every hour or so until it was completely off. That electric vest was wonderful, and I thanked myself for buying it several times during this trip!

Skipped across AL in a flash. Then hit southern MS. Seemed to take the whole state on a bridge :) . Same through LA. I remember lots of swamp, bridge, and of course, the sign to Hammond, LA (where I really wanted to jump off for some Cajun food.. but didn't).

Crossed into Texas in time to hit Houston about 6:00 PM... the height of rush hour. By this time, Eric and I'd come upon a couple of other riders, so we were a well spaced out group of four. Hit the HOV lane in Houston as soon as we could, and breezed through the rush hour traffic at about 60 mph. This was the city I was worried about, and we flew through it! Next up was San Antonio. We found that hard-to-spot loop exit, and took the 1604 loop around town. Probably would have done as well going straight through on I-10 since it was at night, but this was a good route. Passing both those cities eased my mind quite a bit. After my experience in Nashville and Atlanta, I was half expecting the same thing in Texas.

After San Antonio, it was the dreaded "West Texas". We'd both been apprehensive about this strip and the NM sections due to the long runs between fuel stations and deer population, plus we'd be riding it at night. Fuel was ok for us, and I didn't see hardly any deer (actually don't remember seeing a single one on this stretch for some reason... not seeing clearly, 'cause I know they were there?). I had Eric take the lead through this area so he could light up the night with his GL-1800 instead of my meager headlamp. I was finally getting drowsy when Eric pulled us into Junction,Tx for a few hours sleep. We decided to take 6 hours there.. 5 hours sleep and back on the road. Made it half way now.

I was awakened with someone pounding on the door. Reality took a few minutes to sink in, and when I opened the door it was Eric... already dressed, checked out, and ready to go. Seems that my nocturnal orchestra kept him from getting a good night's sleep. I moved as fast as I could and we hit the road about 6:00 AM and headed towards NM. Then the winds hit. Actually the WINDS hit. They were extremely strong head winds that seemed to blow from both sides and the front at the same time. Fuel mileage dropped to about 1/2 or so of normal range, which caused some problems for most riders. Speed disappeared. We were slowed down to 45 and 50 mph at times, leaning into the side wind just to have it gust from the other side. We picked up a couple of extra fuel stops due to it.

Don't remember much about NM and AZ other than the famous smell going into NM and the desolation of AZ. For me, the desert is quite pretty for about an hour or so, then I get to thinking about how hard it must have been for pioneers on foot to cross that or later, in Model A's or wagons, and all the generations that tried to make a living there before moving on. I do remember the mountains... I love mountains.

Then it was into CA. We took the mountains and forests at night. Nice interstate roads, wonderful down-hill sweepers with light traffic, and I finally felt what a Sport-tourer was made for. It was simply a wonderful ride going into CA. I never looked at the speedo going down the mountain, but later Eric complained a bit about my speed. He caught up before we hit the coastal traffic.

We found the beach, grabbed some sand and water (and rotten pictures), then it was off to the designated fuel stop for an ending receipt to establish a time. I got frustrated at the station, since he wouldn't just hold my credit card until I pumped and get a real receipt. He would only pre-charge xx dollars, then run a refund through the card when we were finished if we didn't use that much. Finally I said to hell with it and told him to put $5.00 on the card. Got my receipt with the time, my gallon and a half of CA gas, and was off to the motel.

The ride was officially over! There was a great welcoming party there. Jason flew from JAX just to meet us and see the 100cc riders off for the return trip. Lots of other well-known motorcyclists winding down from the ride or just hanging around to support the riders. A few pictures, and unpack the bike. Naturally the motel room was on the 3rd floor... and their elevator was out of service. Did Jason plan that too?

WIndburned guy gathering sand Arriving in San DiegoJohn and Eric in San DiegoWish I'd Waxed the Helmet
Hit the motel room about midnight and was out until about 7:00 the next morning when I got a call from a friend asking if I'd made it. Eric had a problem with his Wing that day, and had it towed to a local Honda shop for some minor R&R to get him back on the road. While he was doing that, I rode up to Mt. Palomar (upon the advice of my son), and had a nice CA mountain ride, some find food. Dinner at Anthony's Fish Grotto (my favorite seafood restaurant in SDO), where I met Eric and his son.
Mt. Palomar RidingMore California RoadsI could spend more time here!

Up the next morning for the ride back home. We made Flagstaff just in time for a light drizzle and friendly Days' End motel. That was after a bit of disappointing detour riding on the "Historic 66" highway. We did see a couple of old Route 66 icons, but there was a lot of back-road riding for no Route 66 reward (other than the remains of dead villages).

Left Flagstaff early the next morning. Then we hit "THE WIND & SANDSTORM". Through AZ and the first 80 miles or so of NM, we had cross winds and sand/dust storms that were the worst I've ever seen. We pulled off the highway for some protection and relief, and while there, they closed the Interstate we'd just passed through due to the danger. I swear (really, I did swear, several times) both bikes were leaned at 45 degrees just to run straight. Weather Channel that night said the cross winds were 39 mph. The dust/sand sandblasted the square corners off my Garmin 2610 and it's RAM mount. Sanded the right angles down to a smooth radius where the CF door is. I was too dumb to put the rain cover on it or put it in the bag. The wind was so hard it was trying to lift the helmet from my head. I worried that the snap closure would break and took to holding the strap down with my left hand, while I steadied my tank bag with my knees..

WigWam Motel Route 66The Painted DesertPetrified Forest
Finally made it to Amarillo, Tx for the night. Grabbed some great Texas BBQ and got some needed rest. That wind-storm really wore me out.

From Amarillo to home was one easy stretch. I don't remember much about OK (it is rather forgettable) but there was some nice riding through MO. We split off at Effingham, with Eric staying for the night and me riding on home. I got home about 10:30 that night, full of energy and wanting to ride some more.
Return Mileage Dirty Bike Wind Storm Reminder

Took me about 4 hours of cleaning to get all the dust out of my bike, and the bugs off the windshield.

This was a great trip. The 50cc provided the challenge I wanted without really overloading me. It was actually more challenging yet easier than I'd expected; both at the same time... dummy me was expecting it to be like "two back-to-back SS-1000 rides", which it was... other than the wind and cities to ride through. It was a bit more tiring, especially due to the winds.

I'm really glad Eric and I joined up for the ride. I'm sure I slowed him down at times, and he slowed me down at times. But, I know he forced me to take that motel at Junction, TX... which I probably would have skipped and instead stayed at an IB motel somewhere with much less rest. That Junction, TX stop was sure nice, and probably a necessity for me. Also, it's nice to let someone else take the lead for a while so you can enjoy the scenery and relax a little, then you can take the lead and provide the same comfort for him. Plus, I really appreciated the GL-1800 lights both nights.

Great trip. Perhaps it was a once-ina-lifetime thing, maybe I'll try the 100ccc next year. I don't know yet. But, I'm sure glad I did it. Created some memories that will stay with me long after that sample of sand and salt water is gone. My sincere appreciation to my wife and the MTF "enablers". Without the MTF help, I would probably still be dreaming about taking that ride. Without my wife's encouragement, it would definitely still be a dream.

Improvements I should make...

With each long ride, I learn a bit more. Here are the latest lessons in my learning plan...

Click here to read about my other rides.