2020 – Space Crew Dragon Launch Attempt SS2K


I was sitting at home Memorial Day weekend lamenting the fact that the final Mason Dixon 2020 rally that was schedule to be held that weekend had been postponed to the fall (and combined with the Void rally). The weather this spring was unusually warm and I’d barely had the bike out due to the Covid-19 restrictions. While feeling sorry for myself I came a across a post on Facebook from Dan Crowley stating that the IBA had approved a special certificate for a SS1k (1000 miles in 24 hours) that included watching the upcoming SpaceX Crew Dragon Launch.

As something of a space geek, I was well aware of the significance of this launch. It would be the first crewed flight from US soil since the space shuttle retired 9 years ago. It would also be the first crewed flight on a commercial rocket. While to many, rocket launches have become routine, this really was going to be a big deal. At this point I wasn’t seriously considering it, but I did some quick google maps planning and discovered that from my house in CT to Titusville FL where the best viewing opportunities would be was just over 1200 miles. I mentioned it to my wife in passing and as usual she thought I was nuts.

Over the next day or so I kept coming back to the idea of doing this trip, it would about 2400 in 48 hours which, while pushing my limits a bit, wasn’t out of the realm of possibility. I started doing some planning for real, and put a route together that would have me leaving Tuesday afternoon (just 2 days from when I started planning), arriving in time to watch the launch, continuing back until I hit the 1500 mile marker, which would give me a BunBurner 1500 Silver (1500 miles in 30 Hours). I would then get 6-8 hours at a hotel before continuing home, completing a SaddleSore 2000 (2000 miles in 48 hours) in the process. The Covid-19 restrictions were starting to ease up and being isolated on my bike, and taking appropriate precautions I felt it wouldn’t be an undue risk to me or other with me making the trip. I talked it over with my wife, who gave me the go ahead, and made arrangements for my mother to watch the kids while I was gone and my wife was working. And just like that this silly idea was going to happen.

The bike was in good shape, I’d done the annual maintenance over the winter, the tires had plenty of life, and there weren’t and out standing issues. All I had to do was reinstall the Aux fuel tank and my newly improved hydration system. I’d replaced the Coleman plastic cooler with a stainless steel vacuum thermos. This had a slightly smaller diameter so I made a new holder for it, fixing some of the mistakes I made with the first one in the process. I bought some snacks and packed a change of clothes. I had to work Tuesday, but working from home gave the flexibility to take an afternoon nap. When the time came to depart I was feeling pretty good.

 

Overall the ride down was, thankfully, pretty uneventful. Traffic was almost nonexistent. Waze took me right through the center of Baltimore and Washington DC and I encountered no issues. The one mechanical problem I had was with the Aux fuel tank. This was the first time I’d used it this year, and I’d stored it full to prevent condensation/rust. The first couple of legs were short due to needing to mark the corner where I’d deviated from the shortest route to avoid going through NYC. Therefore it was the third stop, well into the night when I went to fill it for the first time and couldn’t budge the cap. It must have seized up over the winter. I didn’t have a wrench big enough to fit it, and by this time any place I could have bought one was closed. I continued the rest of the way down without being able to use it. This meant stopping every 150 miles, about twice as often as I’d planned. I ended up sticking to the schedule within about 20 minutes though. Riding through the Carolina’s I encountered the remnants of a tropical storm and spent quite a while getting soaked. I was wearing an Aerostich suit that I recently acquired used. For the most part I’m happy with it, but it’s definitely not waterproof any more. I also had a problem with my phone detecting water in the USB connector and stopping charging. I didn’t notice this until the phone shut off and it took me a while to find a combination of cables/chargers that would make it happy again.

I also had a surprise on crossing the FL boarder where they were directing all of the cars into a way station setup for Covid screening. I was afraid they were going to turn me around ending the trip in failure. My heart sank when they asked me where I was from and directed me to another area (they were letting most of the cars continue at that point). It turned out that I just had to fill out a form stating where I was going and how long I was staying. I also had to promise to self quarantine. I was careful to wear a mask when I didn’t have the helmet on and avoided being near anyone. In total it delayed me less than 10 minutes, and I got a free pencil.

 

I arrived at the Titusville viewing area about 2 hours before the scheduled launch. Traffic wasn’t bad at this point and while the viewing area was pretty much full, there’s always room for a motorcycle. While waiting for the launch, I made a couple of minor fixes on my setup and oiled the chain. I have an automatic oiler, but I like to do it manually when I’m able to be sure. I was also able to get the Aux tank open with a makeshift strap wrench using some webbing and a pair of pliers. That would make the trip back less stressful.

It was raining and overcast when I arrived, but as launch time approached it started to clear and was looking pretty good. We could see lightning in the distance, this was Florida after all. Unfortunately it wasn’t to be, and about 17 minutes before launch they scrubbed due to weather. I packed up my stuff, took a picture with the VAB behind the bike, and headed out. I then sat in traffic for an hour and 45 minutes… I should have planned a back road route to get out of there. I took advantage of the time to call home and check in. I know people talk about calling people on the bike all the time, but I never think of it…

Shortly after getting back on the highway I felt something hit me in the neck. At first I thought it was a rock but quickly realized I’d been stung. It hurt, it hurt a lot! I continued on until I felt another sting on my chest. I was coming up on an exit and got off as quick as I could and stripped off my gear. I was stung in the neck again in the process, but didn’t find anything. Since I was stopped anyway I decided to fuel up and as I pulled up to the pump, this guy flew from somewhere and landed on my mirror. I can’t prove it, but I’m going to blame him. He hung out there giving me the evil eye while I fueled, then flew off.

Paper Wasp!
Paper Wasp!

Other than more rain, and more phone charging problems the rest of the trip to complete the BBS (1521 miles in 27hrs 28 minutes) was uneventful. I stopped for the night in Hardeeville, SC just over the southern boarder. I was fortunate to grab a sandwich from Subway just as they were closing and crashed for 6 hours of sleep at a Days Inn.

The next morning was a little rough and I snoozed the alarm more than I intended, but still managed to be on the road by 5am. The way north was marked by more scattered rain. I would just start to dry out when it would start to rain again. My hands were pretty well pruned and the dye from my gloves took a few days to dissipate. At 12:41 I reached 2028 miles in 42 Hours 13 Minutes completing the SS2k. That was the last stop that would count for certification and while I never felt pressed for time on this trip, it was nice to be “off the clock”.

I made a slight detour to Freedom, MD to try and get a picture of a sign for the Millage Manics grand tour. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to find a sign and wasn’t in the mood to spend much time looking. While the side trip was partially wasted time it was nice to get off the highway for a bit, and it resulted in me avoiding the Baltimore tunnel which was worth while.

The big problem with going almost anywhere to or from CT is that NYC is in the way. On the way down I detoured north via I84, and while that’s less stressful it did add about an hour to the trip. On the way home, I just followed Waze and It took me right up I95 through NYC. Traffic was moving and I didn’t have any problems, but there are an awful lot of places without breakdown lanes on that route. Ridding a 23 year old bike with a known vapor locking issue, I’m always conscious of where the out is, and I get very nervous when there isn’t one. It worked out this time, but I think in the future I’ll accept the delay and avoid NYC.

I arrived home almost exactly 50 hours after I left riding 2478 miles (2586 on the odo). I ended up being about 2 hours later than I’d planned due to the traffic in Titusville and snoozing too many times. I still made it home in time to put the kids to bed, and accomplished my goals with minimal drama so I was pretty happy overall.

 

I submitted my rides to the IBA, and pending verification I’ll be adding a BBS and SS2K to my list. Next up I want to try for a BunBurner Gold (1500 miles in 24hrs). I need to find a better solution to charging my phone on the road. Ram and Quadlock have both released waterproof/resistant wireless chargers within the last month, and while they’re expensive, my experience on this trip make me believe they’re probably worth it. I’m just waiting for reviews to decide which is a better product.

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