So today my dyna wide glide, Eowyn, and I completed our very first Iron Butt. For those who don’t know, an iron butt does not have to do with what could happen to you if camp overnight at a truck stop. Rather it’s when you ride 1000 miles in one day. Granted, I didn’t exactly get to 1000 miles but I figured it was close enough and wasn’t worth riding around the block several hundred times just to get it exactly right.
So today, starting at about 7am and finishing around 10:30pm, through 4 states, a couple mountain ranges, and crossing a 300 mile long desert with temperatures reaching around 110 degrees, I completed my first iron butt to get to San Diego.
When I woke up at dawn, I found that my foot and thigh were actually much more sore then when I went to bed. I figured I’d give the iron butt a shot anyway and see how I felt, hoping try would eventually loosen up and get better (which thankfully they did). So I packed up my stuff and hit the road, deciding to eat breakfast at my next gas stop.
The first half of the day was relatively uneventful as I finished off Texas and headed into New Mexico. The terrain changed from ranches to closer to what you would think of as desert, with tourist attractions along the way like historic trading posts.
Right before leaving New Mexico, at a rest stop, there was one interesting guy that I met. He was a really product of the 60’s, walking around with no shirt on, sporting a wicked farmers tan, and driving a van that he must have been living out of. He asked about where I was headed, and once I told him about my trip, he started telling me all the places I should visit along my route north from San Diego. He also let me in on how it was “tobacco harvesting season” in northern California, “if you know what I mean.” Then when he offered me a joint, I respectfully declined, siting how I had to drive my motorcycle as my excuse. Finally, when I told him that I was trying to get to San Diego that night, he warned me about the 300 mile desert crossing I’d have in Arizona. I said that I figured as much, thinking that I was basically already in the desert and then soon was on my way.
Then I actually did hit the desert, full on. After the first major city in Arizona, I only made it about 50 miles before I started thinking about taking a break. The heat is not like when you normally just sit out in the hot sun. You would think that the wind from driving would be cooling, but in that kind of heat, you can just feel the air cooking you. It’s kind of like the feeling of being in a sauna, where you just feel like you’re being drained rather than just feeling hot. When I would take my hand of the handle bar I could feel the heat just in the wind as I waved my hand around, and then when I would put my hand back on the grip, I could feel how much it had heated up just from being exposed to the sun and air.
Needless to say, the crossing was tough. Luckily, in that first 50 miles just as I was thinking of pulling off two guys on Harleys caught up to me. One was actually riding the exact same 1200 Sportster that I used to ride, and the other was wearing what looked like a Hells Angels emblem on the back of his jacket. I ended ip riding with these guys for quite a while, maybe 50 miles or so before I took my exit from I-10 to I-8 (which would take me all the way west to San Diego). Having the company definitely helped to keep my energy up and I was able to make it a full 130 miles before needing a gas and water break.
The most impressive thing I found with the heat is when I would stop. First I would immediately need water (and would chug about a liter) then I would notice that as soon as there was no more wind blowing by me, I would all of a sudden be sweating profusely. This is what I mean about this weird kind of heat, because you don’t feel hot in the normal kind of way, and wasn’t sure if I was sweating or not while riding. But once there wasn’t wind wicking away moisture, there was no missing it.
Given all that, I really enjoyed the crossing. First off it was a challenge and definitely kept things interesting. Second, there’s just something romantic and reminiscent of an old time western of riding an “iron horse” across the desert in scorching heat.
In the end I made it across but still had about 200 miles to go to finish and it was starting to get dark. What was interesting is that at first I would hit little pockets of really cold air and all of a sudden be freezing, then the heat would come back almost as bad as before. Then the sun went down, and it got freezing, so in less than an hour, as I started crossing mountain ranges I went from unbearable heat to shivering uncontrollably. In addition to this, winding up and over the mountains, in the dark, I was finding the wind picking up quite a bit. This was obviously a little nerve-wracking since it started blowing me from side to side, on curves, in the dark. In the end though, I made it over, just in a little slower time then I had hoped.
Afterwards, it was only a matter of driving through the city traffic before I finally made it to my friends house in San Diego, tired, sore, and maybe a little hysterical from exhaustion but safe and happy and finishing my first iron butt!