My Failed BB-1500/BBG, November 2004

(This one I want to remember!)

After much planning, one false start, and a cold morning start, I wimped out on my first BBG attempt and first visit to the Deming Veterans Gathering. I simply got too cold to continue, turned around, and made a nice weekend ride out of it. Other than missing the BBQ, no regrets, I had a wonderful ride and learned a bit more about my limits (at least "recreational" limits).

I wanted to attend the Deming Veterans Gathering RTE in Deming, NM. Since the trip would be about 1600 miles, it seemed the perfect opportunity for a ( long-shot) BBG or at least a (highly probable) BB-1500. I had major worries about several components of making this a successful ride, but decided to go for it. I sheduled three vacation days adjacent to a weekend (with an optional day to follow) so I had a total of five days to get there, rest up, enjoy the Q, ride some NM roads, and make a slower ride back home.

A BBG will be hard for me to accomplish. My bike (1998 ACE Tourer) has about a 110-120 mile range at higher speeds, so the fuel availability out west and at least 14 fuel stops play against me. I carried a 1 gal "emergency" fuel tank on the luggage rack so I wouldn't be stranded, but if any single thing went wrong, a BBG was out of the question. I can consistently make 7 minute fuel stops as long as pay-at-the-pump works, and by my schedule, I would have less than a 20 minute pad for a Gold ride. On the other hand, a BB-1500 should be a piece of cake. My SS-1000 last summer was over 1100 miles, and I could have easily made it a BB-1500 had I wanted to since I had 16 hours left to cover that final 400 miles. Time in the saddle is no problem for me, as I truly love riding.. and riding.. and riding.

Planning consisted of two possible routes, I wanted to ride the "north route" as it would be through territory I hadn't seen in a long while, but also preplanned a southern route in case the weather was too bad along the north route. North route was via St. Louis, Oklahoma City, and Albequerque. The southern route took me further to the south, in an attempt to avoid possible bad/cold weather. It was south through IL to Memphis, Little Rock, Texarkana, Dallas, and down along the Mexican border to Deming. Since there was unseasonably cold weather forecast, at the last minute I choose the south route.

I scheduled an official IBA witness for a thursday start (Thanks Keith), but the weather forecast early Thursday morning showed a 90% probability of thundershowers over almost half my route. I scrubbed the Thursday's ride before ever starting. I don't mind riding in cold weather, or rain. But, I don't want to ride in cold rain, and refuse to ride in thunderstorms. So, with the bike packed and ready, it sat in the garage while I went to work Thursday. Thursday night, the weather looked better, mostly dry with some bearable cold temperatures. So, I decided to try again Friday morning and enlisted the neighbors to witness me start. I didn't want to bother Keith again two days in a row.

Friday, it was up and going. Local temperature was 31 degrees. I checked the weather again, and predictions were for gradually warming weather along the route until it got into the low to mid 50s. From the forecast, I expected about 48 by the time I was out of IL and around 50 by the time I hit Little Rock. Forecase was about the same until it dropped back in to the mid to high 40s during the night, with a final couple of hours in the high 30s in the early morning of west Texas. Witness signatures about 7:00 AM, and on the road.

 Starting Odometer    Starting Picture

Starting Odometer Obligatory starting portrait

Well, the weather guys lied... but more later.

The first 130 miles was easy. I was warm enough, and with IL's lower speed limit, the fuel was lasting. Although I've ridden down I-57 many times, I've never tried to stretch the fuel on that road, so when "The Next Exit" (but not S&T) said there was a 24 hour truck stop at an exit, I believed them. It was an interesting truck stop. Gravel and mud puddle drive way (even at the pumps). I dodged the water getting to the pump as I wondered how much water would be in the gas. An old, 4-pump gas station (one diesel pump was required to make the list I guess), with antique pumps. I had no choice now, but to fuel up. Filled the tank, and glanced over at a restroom "building". It was in a second building outside the main "store". Although there were several unsavory characters milling around the place, and I was more than a little nervous leaving my bike there with accessories on the bars, I had little choice. With my helmet still on and cabled to the radios in the tank bag, I carried the tank bag into the restroom to take care of business. That done, I glanced at the bike to insure that the GPS was still on it, and went inside to pay. I couldn't hear anything the character behind the counter said, but shouted that I wanted a cash receipt. He walked over to the window, picked up binoculars to read the pump, and started writing a receipt on a dime store receipt book. I peeled out 7 dollar bills form my stash in the tank bag, and was on the way. Although the book said it was a 24 hour truck stop, the sign outside actually said "14 Hour TRUCK STOP"). Not a good sign for the rest of the trip.

Fortunately, after that stop, I continued to make good time. My bike requires fuel at 110 to 125 miles depending upon speeds, and it was doing ok. Made an uneventful trip all the way to Texas on schedule, and it looked like I might even make the BBG. Through the day, I didn't feel that it'd warmed up like I expected it to, and the weather radio confirmed it. I started at 31F, and the temperature was only up to the mid 40s by mid afternoon. And it felt like they were cooling off quickly by sundown.

Somewhere in East Texas, I decided that I would probably not be able to complete the ride. I was just too cold. When I started to shiver a bit, I made a turn-around and went back to a truck stop in Texarkana, TX. Checked the weather channel, and sure enough, the temperatures were colder than expected... again. There, I made the decision to wimp out and find motel. I hated to do it, but guess I have a little, tiny bit of common sense left. At the time I aborted, I'd averaged 69 mph over all, with a riding average of 73.8 mph. That included driving through Little Rock and its construction areas during rush hour. I was really happy to make it through there without losing my average speed. At the 12 hour mark, I was slightly over 800 miles. I stood a good chance at the BBG, which I'd considered a really long shot.

Although I've ridden long hours in 50 degree weather as recently as 2 weeks ago, and ridden a couple of hours at a time when it was in the 30s. I was not prepared for extended time at temperatures below 50, much less below 45. I wore layers of silk, polartech, cotton, flannel, and above that FirstGear insulated outer wear. Liner gloves and socks, then a chemical warmer, and winter gloves and socks almost kept the fingers and toes warm. For ME, this just isn't enough. I'll have Widder clothing on order before I attempt more distance riding when it's below 50 degrees.

To salvage a wonderful weekend (even though I missed The Gathering), I had a good hot meal at the truck stop and watched the weather forecast. They promised rain over the entire state of TX for Saturday, including where I was. To miss the rain, I rode back east 75 miles to overnight in Arkadelphia AR. Sunday I took a 12 hour ride through the central-north AR mountains and scenic roads of southern MO. Came to rest in the St. Louis area where I spent the night playing with the grandkids. Had a leisurely visit, and ride home Sunday afternoon. Fortunately, the Saturday and Sunday riding was wondeful. Nice mountain twisties and sweepers, and I never felt cold all day though the temperatures were in the 45-50 range.

 Arkansas Mtn Roads  Arkansas Mtn Roads  Arkansas Mtn Roads

View of those Saturday Arkansas Roads

Next time.... if it's cold, I will be wearing Electrics!

Routes

Numbers are fuel stops

North Route Option


North

South Route Option


South

Link to Official Deming Vetrans Gathering Site