Friday, May 22, 2009

IBA Certified!

I began this experience with the question, what value is there in riding 1000 highway miles within 24 hours. And now that it's over, I think I've determined that there is no simple answer to that question.

We gathered at Devil Dawg in Chantilly, VA for the send-off. It was pretty exciting. Four hundred or so motorcycles gathered together and then released to attack the streets. Everyone was excited, so everyone hit the throttle like there was no tomorrow, busting out of the industrial park to cruise my neighborhood streets. Intersections were shut-down by the police to get us all out and onto i66 as fast as possible. I don't blame them, a crowd of bikers like this? I'd want them out of my juristiction before sun-up.


By the time sun-up arrived, I was on i95 South and I'm pretty sure 75% of the bikes passed me. So much for pacing yourself. If I wanted to hang with a group, I needed to step it up to 75 mph. Strength in numbers, so...


Because I embarked on this journey alone, the highlights of my trip were meeting Adam in Suffolk, and meeting Roberta in Blacksburg, (and taking pictures with the disposable cam attached to my zipper). Aside from those checkpoints, I basically ran the bike 150 miles between stops for gas. Except for that tank I emptied on the way to our turnpoint in Bristol (exit 5 on i81). The gas light came on around mile marker 30, and I didn't want to pull over for gas knowing that I *had* to pull over again in Bristol (receiving your IBA certification required obtaining a receipt in Bristol during this ride). So I tucked in, slowed-down to about 60 mph, and finished a 180+ mile tank. That's a record for Megan's SV!


While we had lots of rain during the Eastern leg of the ride, we got the worst of it during the last 300 miles. It hailed. It hailed in the dark. It hailed in the dark, on i81 North. And then it rained. Oh how it rained. I know, for the well-experienced, motorcycling in the rain should really be no big deal. As Mike always says, you have 80% of your traction in the rain. And hell, I've ridden in my share of drizzles and downpours. But I've never ridden in weather like this. The pouring hail mixed with the complete darkness created a situation of dire straits that exceeds most others I've had on a motorcycle. But turning the panic knob down and dealing with the problem always manages to work. Even when your boots are full of water and you have to drive without your glasses because you are incapable of drying them.


I finished behind many and ahead of many, I figure, and after 18+ hours of non-stop highway driving on a 2007 Suzuki SV650, I managed to remain alert to some degree. Upon arriving at Devil Dawg, around 12:30am on Sunday morning, I got in line with a cheery but tired group of riders to get my certification! An event like this appears to bring all kinds. Could be the cause, could be the challenge, could be the camaraderie, could be anything!


I learned that you should keep a second ignition key in your pocket because you might lock the only set of keys you have in your Pelican top case (and then you'll have to fish them out with the legs of your glasses and your fingers). I learned that ear plugs are a lifesaver when you have to drive this fast for this long, so bring many, and different sized ones, because your ear canal changes shape as the day goes on. I learned that it's amazing how long you can remain alert and awake if you eat only when you're hungry, and even then you don't eat much. I learned you can use your right blinker as a hazard light when you're in the right lane - you may p!$$ people off, but at least they can see you. I learned that if you think you should pull over, whether because of fatigue or weather, then you should take the next exit (or pull over @ the next overpass). I learned that you should have a routine for each pit stop, and you should stick to it no matter what happens (otherwise you'll forget to lock your top case, lose your padlocks on the highway, and drive 150 miles with the lid bouncing up-and-down without even knowing it). I learned that there's something special about an event that was organized this well, and that draws this large a group of participants. I learned that all of this is the answer to my original question.


You can learn these lessons individually doing other, less daunting (more practical) tasks. You don't need to sign up for an IBA SaddleSore to get this education. But getting schooled this hard in 18 hours? I think that is the value of riding 1000 miles in 24 hours.


Thanks to Adam & Addison for coming out to meet me in Suffolk, Roberta for meeting me in Blacksburg and bringing all kinds of food, Megan for waiting up for me, and the organizers and participants of the Redwing 19 Ride for 2009. This post pretty much echoes the feeling the event had - skepticism->pessimism->misery->appreciation->satisfaction.

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