"Circle The Mitten"
Archives - 12 June 2009
Completely in-state Michigan Saddle Sore.
1,014 Miles in about 21 Hours.
Miles were all done in the Lower Peninsula.
There would be 42 riders to finish this event, two of which were pillions.
Really ? Another late start time. This may be the last !
Embarking on these Iron Butt rides at night wreaks havoc on me.
Shortly after the sun rises the next day, my eyes become dry and heavy.
If I could only sleep in until closer to the start time, maybe things would be different. That is just not my daily schedule though, so up early is the only option. Anticipating the ride that lies ahead.
Oh well, I will just have to grind it out.
Once again, we are starting and ending the ride at Capital Harley Davidson in Lansing, Michigan. The ride to the dealership, from home, is around 80 miles. So by the time the ride is over and we make it back home, we will be approaching a 1,200 mile day.
Ken Koren is joining me on this "Circle the Mitten" endeavor.
This is another ride organized by the 76 year old Herm Bushnell, who rides an old "Evolution" Tour Glide with over 250,000 miles on the clock. It is so cool to see a rider stay with one bike for a long time and rack up big miles on the odometer. A real testament !! The Tour Glide is the predecessor to the Road Glide.
Ward Blanchard, also participated and finished in this ride. He was 86 years old. Herm said that Ward was the oldest World Wide IBA member at the time !! Very well, may still be.
Some of you know, or know of Jim VanDenBerghe - IBAJIM on ADVRIDER. This was his first Iron Butt Ride, which he finished on his 1989 Moto Guzzi Mille GT, just a handful of days short of his 61st birthday !!! Since this ride, and of this writing, he has gone on to ride somewhere in the vicinity of 20 certified IBA rides and has taken over the organizing and running of our Regional IBA rides when Herm Bushnell retired from LD riding.
So for all of you young guys in your 50's and 60's, whether you know it or not, you have a lot of miles left in you !!
On this attempt, a 2008 HD Road Glide will be the bike of choice, that I had bought brand new in a moment of weakness.
This was my third Iron Butt ride, which were all done on Harleys.
This was a time when Harley had started making some big improvements.
In 2007 they added the 95" engine and 6 speed transmission.
In 2008, in addition to that, they added Brembo brakes, 6 gallon fuel tank, throttle by wire and some sort of rubber cush drive in the rear drive sprocket that gave the big Hog a buttery smooth feel in comparison to older versions.
Then, in 2009 they upgraded just about everything else including the frame and swing arm.
Overall the Road Glide was an improved machine over my older Harley, but I never could get the airflow over the shark nose fairing and windshield to my liking. Probably due to the fact that I have a tall torso and the windshield and fairing lie so far forward; the air would crash around the fairing and shield and cause eye shaking buffeting, or if I installed a short enough shield the buffeting would diminish but the air flow would pick up velocity and the increase in noise would greatly intensify. No fairing or shield at all would have been much better. In hindsight, the addition of lower fairings on the crash bars may have resolved some of the issue.
At 6:00 pm we departed Lansing. Dimondale to be exact. Charging down Interstate 69 south towards our first mandatory fuel receipt in Coldwater on US-12, also known as Michigan Avenue.
Along this short first section, we were opening up the bikes some in short bursts and having a little fun. Glen Pancoast was once again out front on his BMW R1200RT, and I was trying to stay with him on the Road Glide. He would just pull away from me at will on the Beemer.
I don't know why I keep buying these Harleys. Guess it is a combination of them inspiring me and maybe I feel a little bit obligated, being a Veteran and a Union Member - but I really need to get over it.
Don't get me wrong, Harleys are at the top of my list obviously, but they are just not the ideal bike for long distance riding, when wanting to ride .... aggressively - comparatively and in my opinion. Hey, I have earned the right to express these views, as I have done $50,000 and 50,000 miles with Harley Davidson at the time of this ride in 2009.
That being said, they are very competent at touring, or even long distance when running a more mellow pace. The newest Harleys have really stepped it up though. Especially the 2014 and up Project Rushmore's.
After snatching a receipt from Coldwater, we ran US-12 West to Niles for our second mandatory receipt.
From Niles, we followed US-31 North all the way to Manistee where we had to stop at the Super 8 for free coffee and to sign a log book.
On a heavily forested stretch of road before arriving in Manistee we had an amazingly close encounter with a deer. Too close. Adrenaline pumping and shaky aftermath close. Ken was in front during this leg of the ride. The temperature was getting cold, nearing 40 degrees and some light hazy fog was forming. All of the sudden, there was a large deer standing sideways smack dab in our lane. Looking right at us. There was not much distance to react and all Ken could do was veer a little to the right. He just cleared the Deer while hugging the shoulder of the road and I swear he could have smacked that critter right on the ass as he passed. Wish he would have and got the beast moving as I was over to the left a bit more and no way I was going to make the shoulder. As I was approaching and bracing for a strike, his hooves started searching for traction. The blacktop was cold and damp with dew and I could actually hear his hooves clacking on the pavement as he was literally running in place due to the slippery road and his abrupt start. Time seemed to stand still as this all unfolded. Thought my ride was over. Miraculously, he caught traction and catapulted onto the other side of the road just as I passed through the space he had just occupied not seconds ago.
On the way to our next fuel receipt in Traverse City, I ran over a very large dead and bloated Raccoon in the road. Days later, after noticing my young Yellow Lab sniffing around the underside of the Road Glide, decided I better take a closer look. Gobs of thick white greasy fat were found smeared up under the engine and floorboards.
At the fuel stop in Traverse City it was 1:41 am, Herm and another rider were also there filling up. It is always cool to bump into other participants during the ride. This is usually a frequent occurrence throughout the duration, as most riders are never very far apart.
Time to head for Mackinac City and another fuel receipt.
It was full on darkness in the Northern Michigan wilderness. Upon cresting a hill, we were treated with the spectacular view of the Mackinac Bridge, all illuminated against the black night sky. This was especially inspiring, as it took me by total surprise.
This would be the halfway point of the ride. It was 3:30 in the morning at Mackinaw City. Many of us were simultaneously at this stop in the Northern most tip of the Lower Peninsula. The "Big Mac" loomed nearby. It was downright cold by this time. To be expected, as we were pretty much surrounded by bodies of water. Lake Michigan to our West, Lake Huron to our East and the Straits of Mackinac directly in front of us. We were all putting on any extra gear that we had available while we mulled around sipping coffee and discussing our ride thus far. Our windshields were all full of condensation. For a moment, it almost appeared to be frost. Had to be not far from becoming. Felt like it anyway.
Now we started descending down the Eastern shores of Michigan, along Lake Huron on US-23 South. The cold and fatigue was setting in along this stretch. We stopped at a roadside park along the lake and I had to rail off some pushups to fight off the sleepiness and get the blood flowing. This was another tough ride. Lots of slow two lane. Stressful night riding and cold. Been awake a long time already because of the evening start. This is when the demons perch up on your shoulder and start chattering away. Guilt. Doubt. Eyelids feel like lead. These are the times they are talking about when it is said you better have sorted out all your problems before the ride. Can't have baggage. Better not have family problems or an unclear conscience or they just may haunt you. This is when you learn about yourself and the mental and emotional issues and weaknesses that you had better fix.
The magnificent sunrise over Lake Huron invigorated our souls. A temporary reprieve. We rolled into Alpena around 6:30 and stopped into McDonalds for some coffee and breakfast. Much needed.
With full stomachs we continued down to Bay City and somehow became turned around while looking for US-25. We lost some time before finally finding our way and resuming the route that would now outline the "Thumb" of Michigan. We followed US-25 into Port Austin at the Northern tip of the thumb for a mandatory stop at the Lighthouse Café for free coffee, and to sign the log book proving we had stopped here and at what time. This was the 800 mile mark.
Then it was onward to Port Huron for our final fuel receipt. We arrived in Port Huron sometime around noon. After breaking for lunch, we filled our tanks and hammered the freeway back to Lansing. Along this stretch of freeway, I was again fighting off the sleepiness. Occasionally standing and screaming in my helmet. That fired me up .... for about 5 minutes. We finished the ride around 3:00 pm. After performing the necessary paperwork, it was back on the road to knock down another 75 miles or so home.