2020 – Summer Solstice Bun Burner Gold

IBA BBG
Friday June 19, 2020 – Saturday June 20, 2020
(1523.6 miles)

The Iron Butt Association‘s Bun Burner Gold (BBG) ride requires 1500+ miles in under 24 hours. It’s generally considered one of the more challenging certified rides. It requires an overall average speed of 62.5MPH, there is not a lot of room for error. I’ve wanted to do see if I could pull off this ride for a while, and had started planning routes towards the end of last year. I’ve set the loose goal for myself of doing at least one certified ride a year, and had planned to try for the BBG this year. After my impromptu trip to Florida I was feeling pretty good about the prospect and with everything else being canceled, started looking at dates. The way things worked out this year I had about one significant motorcycle thing planned each month, with the exception of June, so I picked a weekend we didn’t have other plans, cleared it with the wife and started getting serious about planning.

Shortly after picking the date (June 20th) I saw an ad from Revzilla where they’d donate to a charity based on the number of miles ridden (and tracked on the Rever app) that weekend. I’d never used Rever but I figured why not? I then saw a post on Facebook that the 20th was actually the Summer Solstice. The IBA recognizes that with a special certificate and if you get the same ride on both Solstices and both Equinoxes you get a special certificate for that too. Looks like I picked a good date.

I like to have a goal to ride to, so I was originally looking for a Tour of Honor (TOH) site that would be about 750 miles away. I ended up with about 4 routes that could work. Unfortunately many of the TOH sites were closed due to the Corona virus, and coming out of New England where traffic is always a concern, I was worried about timing. I was also thinking that if I end up trying for all 4 solstice/equinox rides, doing the northern most one in the summer made sense. Consequently I settled on a northern route that followed I-80 most of the way. It also had the added benefit of passing right by Freedom Township OH, which would count for one of the harder to find bonuses in the Millage Maniacs grand tour.

Most people start these rides in the early AM so that they can get a mostly full nights rest ahead of time. That’s what I did for the first two SS1000s I did, but it results in finishing in the dark, late at night when you’re the most tired. For the Florida trip, I left in the evening due to the scheduled launch time, and felt pretty good about how that went. So about 1820 on Friday night I set off to get my start receipt and an official start time of 1842.

The trip when pretty much as planned on the way out. I planned for 250 miles between stops, but with the highway speeds I wasn’t quite making it, and ended up having to add a couple extra fuel stops. In fact over all I only averaged 30 MPG. I’m sure my right hand played a part in that but the fuel economy on this bike has been decreasing over the last few years and I’m at a loss to explain it, but it has me concerned. As I was making my way through Oiho towards the turn around point in Indiana I realized I was going to arrive before the target gas station was scheduled to open at 600. I’d planned a TOH stop on the way back if I had time as it was just off the highway. I decided to hit it on the way out to avoid arriving before the gas station opened. I also needed to make the extra fuel stop about that time so I’d kill 2 birds with one stone.

OH1

 

I arrived at the turn around point a little after 600 to find it completely dark and locked up. I checked the pumps to see if they might still be on (This was the case at one of the earlier fuel stops) but no such luck. A quick search on the GPS found another station a couple miles away. This one was 24hrs and open. Lesson learned, I’m only planning using 24hr stations in the future. I went through my fueling process, got a receipt, took a picture and grabbed some snacks. At this point I was running about 15 minutes ahead of schedule even with the extra stops and was feeling pretty good. I hopped on the bike, hit the starter… and nothing happened. This bike wont run with the side stand down in any gear, and the transmission has to be in neutral, or the clutch pulled in to start. I checked each of these things (and the kill switch & ignition) a couple times but I wasn’t that lucky. I pushed the bike to the side of the parking lot and started troubleshooting.

My Bike at the turn around point. It’s dead, but I don’t know it yet.

One of the disadvantages to the auxiliary tank is that in order to get to most electrical system under the seat I have to take it off. It’s not the end of the world but it’s probably 5 minutes to get it off and 10-15 to put it back on. That kind of time adds up. In an attempt to avoid taking the tank off, I started with the starter switch and side stand switch. When those both checked out I resigned myself to the inevitable and took off the tank. I then checked the fuses (there are only 3) and found that the 7.5A one for the starter relay was blown. I replaced it, hit the button and it immediately blew again. I know I could bypass the relay if I have to, but it would be a pain given that I was 750 miles from home. As an electrical engineer, I now this isn’t the smartest idea, but out of desperation I put in a larger fuse, 15A and pressed the button and the bike fired up!

I quickly put the bike back together without shutting it off. Texted the wife to let her know I’m running again and hit the road. In total I was stopped there for 45 minutes, 35 longer than planned. The Garmin 396 gives me an arrival time of 1835, 8 minutes before the 24hr mark. I know that I’m going to have to add in at least one stop for gas that it’s not accounting for and considering the likelihood of making it 750+ miles without hitting traffic or constructions I wasn’t feeling very optimistic about my chances.

As I headed down the road, the arrival time started moving up pretty quickly, and putting a direct to home route into Waze was showing an hour of margin (not accounting for fuel stops). My next scheduled stop was the Freedom Township sign 3 hours away. It only added 10 minutes to the route and I figured I’d make the call to skip it or not when I got closer. I’d also mentally decided to try fueling the bike up without shutting it off as I didn’t trust it to restart. The numbers were looking better when I got to the Freedom exit and I decided to go for it, but would do it without shutting the bike off. This required a little stretching to get the flag out of my top case, and I’m not 100% sure it will count as the bike is supposed to be in the picture, but I wasn’t willing to shut it off in the middle of nowhere for this. To add to the stress level, the camera on my phone started acting funny, most of the pictures were wavy. I’ve heard of this happening when the gyro for the image stabilization gets messed up, sometimes permanently. I was able to get a few good pictures though. I also carry a second phone, and have a backup digital camera in the top box. So while this was an inconvenience, it wasn’t going to be a major issue.



With that done, I decide to stop at the next service area for fuel. This was a little earlier than planned, but wouldn’t matter as I already new I’d have to add a stop. I figured the convince of not having to get off the toll highway would be worth it. I carefully got off the bike without putting the side stand down and got it up on the center stand. This is when I realized the huge flaw in my plan, locking gas cap. I thought I had a spare key in the top box, but no such luck (it was in the tool box at home, note to self, add spare key to packing checklist). Out of options (other than just running the aux tank, which wasn’t practical), I shut the bike off and filled up the tanks. Holding my breath, and crossing my fingers, I pressed the starter button, and as it’s done thousands of times for me, it fired right up. I headed back on my way and started kicking myself for not getting a better picture of the Freedom Township sign, oh well, hindsight’s 20-20 (Edit: I was awarded the points for the picture anyway!).

The rest of the trip was pretty uneventful and the bike started every time I asked. I did my best to minimize my stopped time, and miraculously didn’t hit any traffic or construction. Except for a few small sprinkles, I didn’t hit any rain this trip either. I attribute this to installing a new waterproof wireless charger I wanted to test. I did pickup a small exhaust leak, but I’m pretty sure it’s just a gasket that I had to tighten after the Florida trip. I also lost the cover to one of my rear turn signals somewhere along the way. I pulled into the final gas station and got my official end receipt at at 1756. In total I’d done 1523.6 miles in 23 hours and 14 minutes.

Overall I was happy with the result. Pending verification, I successfully completed a BBG and I learned a few things for the next one, and was happy with the way the timing worked out. It’s nice to get home and go to sleep without messing up my sleep schedule. I think I’m going to look into wiring in a switch to bypass the side stand interlock, this isn’t the first time I’ve had problems because of it and it should be a straight forward, low risk modification. Now I just need to get the bike cleaned up and get new tires put on it before taking it to a track day next month.

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.