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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
...continued from Day One...

I woke with the confusion that comes when waking up in an unfamiliar room after not enough rest. The feeling passed in a moment, and I remembered why I was there. The ride. THE RIDE! I had ridden over 1000 miles in under 24 hours, something most mortals will never do. I was far from first to do so, but it was a first for me.

Despite the accomplishment, or perhaps because of it, I felt strangely… normal, as if the ride itself had expanded my capacity. It is the feeble soul that runs from risk, and risk itself can strengthen the heart, regardless of the outcome. As riders, we embrace this truth; a motorcycle is a machine that runs on risk. Myself? I spent too many years avoiding challenge, but I am learning to do the opposite. Whatever the case, I now see most any other ride as possible.

I had generously given my alarm the day off and was enjoying the luxury of time, reclaiming lost rest while recounting yesterday’s miles. I had watched the sun rise and set. I had crossed multiple states, starting in freezing conditions and ending in t-shirt weather. The ride had been perfect and I had become an invincible riding machine… until my stomach ended my revelry, reminding me that this human form needed fuel.

Hunger, however, would wait. My bike had slept chained to a fence and it seemed cruel to leave it there any longer. I freed it and began a slow inspection, moving deliberately from top to bottom and front to back. Nothing was out of place but still… something had changed. A machine made of metal and oil has no soul, but takes on a unique personality when subject to the imperfections of a human rider. That bike and I had conquered a challenge, and we were closer for the exercise.

We had suffered only one minor mishap: at one point the night before, after noticing a shift in the lighting, I discovered my auxiliary light hanging from the bike, still working but with a missing lens and broken mount. I had secured it to my crash bars with e-tape and continued on. Seeing it there made me smile and I left it untouched, the same way a boy wears a bandage as a badge of honor.

The day’s goal was Key West and back, about four hours of riding. Funny how four hours was now the rest day. I geared up and headed to the main road.

Having delayed breakfast long enough, I stopped a few miles later at a café that seemed promising. I ordered and found a quiet table outside, as food is best enjoyed in the open air. Shortly after, I was joined by two lizards. Thus, my first photos of the day were grainy captures of reptiles to show my daughters.

Although enjoyable, the breakfast served only to delay the day so I finished quickly and set off. The Keys are a seemingly endless chain of islands linked by two-lane bridges, but the traffic I had been warned about was nonexistent. On several occasions, I found myself alone on a bridge, fighting the temptation to stop for a mid-bridge photo. I never stopped. I wish I had.

After sixty miles of bays and bridges, I turned south for a planned stop: Bahia Honda State Park. The abandoned railworks there had piqued my curiosity; I’m a fan of dystopian architecture and the crumbling bridge had a structure and patina that didn’t disappoint.

Although small, the park wasn’t crowded and I was able to walk mostly undisturbed. I followed a short trail and found myself surrounded by ferns and succulents and native hardy plants. The wind, foliage, blue-grey sky and infinite water made for an inspiring walk.

I wanted time in Key West, so despite the many parks and pull-offs along the way, I didn’t stop again until the end of the island. According to custom, any overnight moto trip must include a taco truck, so I found the one situated as far south as possible. I filled my top-box with tacos and coconut water and headed to a nearby beach- also as far south as I could go. There I enjoyed one of life’s simple pleasures: a meal enjoyed within earshot of gulls and gentle waves.

On the way back I rode by the buoy. The line was long and I had better places to be, so I snapped a selfie and continued on. In truth, I’m not a fan of lots of people and poultry crammed into lots of small streets, so I welcomed the escape.

I found a quiet pier about a mile east and walked to the end. Besides a few obliging birds, I was alone, so I sat for a while and let the sound of the water remind me how blessed I was to be there. To the west, I could see the radar domes of Whitehead Spit shimmering through the hazy beach air, steel sentinels hovering above the sand. All I could see to the south was ocean but I knew I was closer to Cuba than Miami. It was a perfect moment, one of many that I will not soon forget.

I walked back to the bike, thinking on how enjoyable the trip had been, and how I still had two more days of riding. And then I saw my back tire.

I had noticed a squishy feeling once before while downtown, but it had been a bit muddy and I had dismissed it. There was no denying now; my brand-new tire was flat.

Some back-story: when mounting the tire a few weeks prior, I managed to rip a small portion of rubber on the inside of the bead area. After consulting a few people I trust, I decided to patch the damage and run the tire. I had tested it to my satisfaction, but maybe the 1000 mile run had taken a toll.

Fortunately, this wasn’t my first flat and I had the experience and tools needed for a proper repair. Having lost my trail-jack, I awkwardly spun the tire a few inches at a time but couldn’t find a puncture. My theory about the faulty repair was gaining strength, and my confidence was weakening. I wanted to see if the tire would hold air, so I attached my pump and turned it on. The sound it makes is both annoying and reassuring, so I waited there, annoyed and reassured.

I grew suddenly less assured… and more annoyed… when the pump stopped working. It had never failed before, but now would reach 20 pounds- about half of what I needed- and make a terrible sound, refusing to push any more air into the injured tire.

Resisting the urge to introduce the pump to the Atlantic, I packed up, left the downtown and limped to a service station to air up. While there, a sheriff suggested a good shop just down the road. Finally… a break!

I found the shop quickly, and quickly found the owner wanted little to do with me. My bike was the only one there that wasn’t a domestic V-twin. Maybe that was it, or maybe he was out of good vibrations.

I asked for a length of wood; he obliged while wondering aloud just what I was going to do with it. I quickly pulled my bike up using the wood as a trail-jack (mine was lost as you recall) and started looking again for a puncture. The owner shuffled off.

And then… relief! I found the culprit… it was no nail but rather a sliver of rock or shell that had decided to ride along. It disintegrated in my pliers as I tried to remove it. The tire had a slow leak but was holding pressure so I decided to head for my BnB and repair the tire there. I couldn’t find the owner so I said goodbye to the shop and left.

I had planned on finding a nice spot to watch the sun sink into the ocean but by that point, the the moon was higher in the sky than the sun and I wanted to get the tire sorted. I settled for another selfie.

Photo taken, I started the engine and realized I had no headlight- just as the sun was disappearing. Amazing. I employed a universally known secret fix: turn the bike off, start it again. As if that would help. But strangely… it did. I continued on but the light died again a few miles down the road.

My headlight would only work when applying the brake. I rode the rest of the way with only my flashers, in traffic, using my brakes as much as possible to trigger the headlight. It was an odd ride but I arrived unharmed.

I was fighting fears: What if this trip ended up costing more than planned? What if I had to delay my departure? What if I had to wait days for a tire? Was my electrical system failing? I called my wife; I knew she would tell me the simple truth; that it would be fine and I would figure it out. Sometimes truth lands best when coming from someone else.

It was late but I needed closure. As humans, we long for control, and I would gain a bit by solving a problem. I retrieved my tire-plugging bits and went to work. The repair, although quick and simple, was forward motion. My excellent host had located a pump, but I left the tire unfinished out of consideration for the neighbors. I cleaned up and went to sleep, at peace but wondering what the next day would hold.

My first task the next morning was to pressurize the tire. That done, I ate a luxurious breakfast of an oatmeal packet, some chocolate and a coconut water. I loaded the bike then checked the tire. It was holding. Problem #1 solved. Onto the lights.

As often happens, the headlight was now working perfectly. It refused to fail. All voltages were within spec. No amount of wiggling or twisting or tapping or pulling the harness brought any change. Still, I was not leaving without a solution.

I enjoy electrics and I knew how to solve the (possible) headlight challenge. I carry a few electrical bits and bobs but not enough to make a longer harness, so I found an auto store, rode over and traded some cash for a switch and a roll of wire. Armed with supplies and my Leatherman, I fashioned a rudimentary harness that would connect my headlight direct to battery. Problem #2… solved or at least prepared for.

I thanked my (super) host and headed north. I wouldn’t have minded more time in the Keys but I was also looking forward to the day’s ride: the Everglades to Naples, then the west coast of Florida and into Georgia. The Iron Butt was complete and now I could relax and enjoy the ride with less thought given to time management.

The Everglades were fantastic. Riding is more than just the next curve or twisty; I don’t mind miles of straight road because that usually means there’s a lot of sky to take in. The sky that day was an endless blue and white sea, stretching far beyond the green horizon and urging me onward. It was perfect riding.

I was taking side-roads and stopping frequently. I enjoy places that are quiet and feel remote, so the Everglades were a welcome change to the previous day’s location. I was hoping to see an alligator, a bear, or a panther but had to settle for the warning signs.

As good things do, the Everglades ended too soon, and I continued on to Naples for a break. I hadn’t seen any wildlife but I did see an older man get out of a Corvette, wearing high heels, lipstick, a sequined shirt, and shorts that looked like underwear. One thing I love about life is that we can all express ourselves as we see fit. Probably would have been an interesting conversation.

Speaking of, I wondered what the guys who don’t wear helmets think of those who do. Riding with a helmet off is amazing, but every unfortunate insect that tests the strength of my visor reaffirms my commitment. That and the possibility of head trauma. I’ll keep my helmet and armor on. Hurtling down the highway whilst straddling a tank of flammable liquid is risk enough.

After Naples, the ride was mostly freeway and I kept to my rule of frequent stretch breaks. On one such break I reconfigured my GPS by dropping it facedown onto the concrete. Don’t try this at home, kids… I’m a pro.

My extra time in the Everglades meant nightfall was close but I rather enjoy moonlight rides. I reached my destination with an hour left in the day. No tire issues. No headlight issues. I was now halfway home. My bike had not only carried me 1000 miles in under 24 hours, but I had outrun a few fears along the way. I’ll probably meet them again; it’s important to acknowledge that fear is real, but more important is how we respond. It need not control us.

The next day was my final day. I woke early, enjoyed a leisurely breakfast, then wasted no time pointing the front tire north. Seven hours of riding stood between myself and my family, and I was ready to see them. I passed through Atlanta and Chattanooga, stopping only for fuel and food. Speaking of, I stopped at a curry house just south of Atlanta; a good curry will fill your stomach and your heart. I left with a full belly but little else. Still, I prefer a mediocre curry to other options.

Just north of Chattanooga, I stopped to switch my dark visor for a clear one. I continued on, enjoying the fourth sunset of the trip. Tennessee sunsets are beautiful: purples and oranges mixed with blues and fiery reds, detailed one minute and glowing through mountain mist the next. It was a perfect picture to end the day and a fitting parallel to the entire trip.

Two hours later, my bike was enjoying some needed rest in the garage and I was enjoying some needed rest with my family. It’s hard to describe the feeling of being greeted by a child as you walk in the door. It’s as if everything else in their world has disappeared and all energy is funneled into running and jumping into your arms. That’s how most of my rides end. This one, although the longest yet, ended much the same way.

The bridge at Bahia Honda State Park.

Another bridge pic.

The V and the Keys.

Wildflowers and a dirty helmet.

The southernmost taco truck:)

Trees and tacos at the southernmost beach. Looks like my tire is already low there...

The Buoy.

This was a nice spot.

Whitehead Spit at a distance.

The bad pump. The company did an excellent job with a quick replacement btw.

My domestic tire jack:)

Sunset selfie.

Moonrise, just prior to noticing the lighting issue.

Tire plug successful.

A beefy tire and a borrowed pump. Also, rims in need of touch-up.

MacGyver was here. In case you are wondering I had an in-line fuse already prepared.

More photos below...

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667 Posts
Discussion Starter · #2 · (Edited)
More photos...

Welcome to the Everglades.

Typical tourist fare.

The Loop Road.

The humble 705 and some Florida sky.

My family rides with me.

The closest I came to a feline encounter... to my knowledge at least.

Essentials in Valdosta.

Valdosta alleyway.

My final ride meal. Unfortunately.

TN sunset, just north of Chattanooga.

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2020 Gen3 650
176 Posts
Absolutely awesome ride report. I have the same top case as you. I'm taking mine up from Jax, FL into Robbinsville, NC in May. I doubt I'll become an iron-butt, but I'm looking forward to riding further than I have before and your words about overcoming fears inspire me to go forth intrepidly into the mountains.

great pics, too. The Keys are a special place

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2017 Kawasaki Versys-x 300 (non ABS)
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Absolutely awesome ride report. I have the same top case as you. I'm taking mine up from Jax, FL into Robbinsville, NC in May. I doubt I'll become an iron-butt, but I'm looking forward to riding further than I have before and your words about overcoming fears inspire me to go forth intrepidly into the mountains.

great pics, too. The Keys are a special place
@ubertalldude I used to backpack in Joyce Kilmer National Forest... just outside of Robbinsville. Love that area. I had an old Land Cruiser that I rode in the trails between Tellico and Murphy too. You can't have anything but a good time there !

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Discussion Starter · #7 · (Edited)
@ubertalldude Thank you. If it does some good, it's worth it. The Iron Butt aspect of the ride... it was great but I don't plan on making it a habit. I have another long-ish ride (for me) planned for the summer. It won't be an IB ride and I suspect it will be more enjoyable. Still, I wanted to do the IB thing at least once, and I'll probably do it again as it's a fun accomplishment.

Robbinsville is a great destination; that'll be a great ride.

Sometime you just can't beat the Harbor Freight solution.

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60 Posts
This was a great write up! Really enjoyed hearing about your adventures and seeing the photos to go along with it. Nice job on the iron-butt. I'm toying with the idea of one; same as you, really just to have the experience once.
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