Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Iron Butt Association - Iron Butt 5000 Long Distance Rally - I am In!

I was absolutely thrilled to find out that I was fortunate enough to be drawn for next years Iron Butt 5000 rally starting in Denver, Colorado and ending in South Carolina.  The IB5000 will be 5 days and approximately 5000 miles (over 8000kms) plus my distance to and from the start/end locations.  

A successful finish on the IB5000 results in an automatic entry to the 2011 IBR.  I am taking my entry into the IB5000 very seriously and have started my preparations including getting the FJR farkled just the way I like it, practicing my routing techniques and getting in better physical shape.  The next 6 months of preparation will be a lot of fun.

Below is a portion of the email sent to me by Lisa Laundry of the Iron Butt Association:

 November 10, 2009

Congratulations!  Your application was drawn for entry in the 2010 Iron Butt
If you are new to the Iron Butt, you can expect to ride through blistering
desert heat, numbing cold, pounding rain, painful hail and blinding snow on
some of the worst roads North America can offer.  Ask any IBR veteran and
they can give you some idea of what is to come.  If you really want to stir
them up a bit, ask them about the Charcoal Kilns in Death Valley in August.
On the other hand, the pain you inflict on yourself will soon be forgotten -
at least this is the only logical explanation I can offer as to why an
average of 70% of veteran IBR riders choose to return for a second year of

My New Bike - 2007 Yamaha FJR

Although I loved my Yamaha FJ1200, it is not a great rally bike. So with future rallies in mind, in October I purchased a gently used 2007 Yamaha FJR 1300 with 3300 miles.  Imported the bike from Kentucky which saved me about $3,000.  Unfortunately, while trailering the bike back to Canada, I hit a deer near Lima, Ohio with our relatively new 2007 Toyota Sienna....ouch.  My 4th deer collision!

Over the next several months I will be upgrading the FJR to make the perfect Long Distance Machine.

Rendez-Vous 2009 - Long Distance 12 hr Rally

Sept 11, 2009 marked the start of my second motorcycle rally, the Rendez-Vous Rally.  The Rendezvous is a 12 hour rally that starts and ends in Saint-Jean-sur Richelieu, Quebec (South of Montreal).  Let me start off by saying that this is an amazing rally.  The Rallymaster, Kevin Craft, goes out of his way to ensure that all have a good and safe time.  If you have never done a rally before, make sure to mark this one on your calender for next year!

Friday evening started with the mandatory riders meeting where the rally books were handed out.  No need for a camera in this rally.  Reading comprehension is important in any rally and this one was no exception.  A week before the start of the rally, a bonus listing was posted (i.e. general location and points value).  I had decided prior to the start of the rally on a route that took me to the Eastern Quebec townships and looping back via some southernly bonus locations with one bonus in Colebrook, New Hampshire.  At the riders meeting we were informed of a deja vu bonus for getting both Franklin bonus locations (QC and NH).  This was worth an addtional 500 points and I should have reconsidered my original route.  However, as this was only my 2nd rally, I did not want to add uncertainty by creating a completely new route.  The bonus sheet also indicated that one of my planned bonus locations could be a bit rough and that a "dual" sport was recommended!  This location was worth big points but I quickly deleted it off my route as I had no intention of taking the 92 FJ 1200 off road.  In hindsight, I should have attempted this bonus as others on equally large bikes had done so!

I went to bed around 11:00 after entering the bonus locations into my laptop and then uploading to my GPS.  I was very comfortable with my chosen route and slept well (very different than my first rally in the spring, the Minuteman 1000, were I did not sleep at all).  The riders meeting was scheduled for 5am and at 5:30am we drove up to the starting line and started a day of good fun.  The first stop "Carignan" was worth 1035 points  and everyone went to that location to have each of our pictures taken and from there everyone seemed to head off into different directions.  My next bonus stop would not be for several hours.  The early morning ride along the Trans Canada was amazing.  It was a bit cool with the temperature hovering around 7 degrees C but my electric vest kept me comfortable. Occasionally there was thick mist to ride through.  I love riding in the early hours!

My first technical problems occurred only a few hours into the rally.  The power to my GPS stopped working (later determined to be a broken pin in the cradle).  Fortunately my Garmin Quest GPS has a battery backup but I knew that it would not last the day.  I spent the rest of the day leaving the GPS off as much as possible (a good thing because by the end of the rally I was basically out of battery juice!).  This was my second rally and in both rallies I had experienced problems with my GPS.  I promised myself that I would have multiple GPS options on future rallies.

I bagged my first few bonus locations without problems.  However, by about the 3rd bonus location I realized that I had been too conservative in my route planning as I was about 1 hour ahead of schedule!.  I stopped and started looking at other bonus locations that I could add to the ride.  I occasionally met other rally riders but for the most part the roads had very little traffic.  The weather and scenery were beautiful and I was enjoying every minute of my ride.  At the Johnville bonus I bumped into Michael Boucher who I had gotten to know at  at the start of the rally.  Michael was riding a ST1300 and would ultimately place 4th on the rally. We would leap frog each other for the next several bonus locations.

I ended up riding about 25 kms on some gravel backroads.  The gravel was very loose and I had to take it easy around some hilly corners.  Arriving at the next bonus location, a graveyard, I bumped into Michael again.  Apparently, he was able to get from the previous bonus location without riding the gravel!  I recorded some information off a gravestone where a tree trunk was starting to raise the stone.  From there it was off for a quick stop across the border into New Hampshire.  The border crossing was much different than the larger crossings that I am familiar with  (i.e Sarnia/Port Huron).  This crossing was a small building in the middle of town with houses on both sides.  The US customs border card came out and asked if I was one of those "rally" riders..... apparently I was not the first to cross!  He wanted to know why I was going to Colebrook to buy a pastry from a bakery before heading back to Canada..... I answered that I had no idea but that it was some kind of sick joke from our crazy Rallymaster.

I rode about 20 minutes to a small French Bakery to pick up some "Madeleines".  I actually bought two packages and had one for lunch....hmmmm delicious!  Got on the bike and rode to the nearest gas station for my fuel bonus.  The fuel bonus was to buy a certain minimum amount of gas between specific times.  I was able to just cram in the required amount of gas.  As I headed back towards the border, I passed the bakery again and waved at Michael who was just going in for his Madeleines purchase.  At this moment it dawned on me that I  had not gotten a receipt for the pastry purchase.  The pastries are in very specific packages that identify the bakery and location.... I convinced myself that this was adequate and continued to ride on.  Later I would regret my decision.  "Repeat after me 100 times..... Always, always, always get a receipt!"

The rest of the ride I was picking up as many bonus locations as possible....albeit bonus locations worth little points.  My well thought out route was useless when I threw out the Glen Sutton location that was worth a huge 525 points...all because of the "dual sport" recommendation.  No guts no glory..  I should have simply taken the chance on riding a few rough roads.

I was back to the hotel with about 15 minutes to spare.  I went back to the room to complete the important paperwork.  At the scoring table I was disappointed.  I gave up 485 points. 280 points for not getting a receipt from the bakery and 205 points for incorrectly spelling a name off a sign ie.  Kevine not Kevin...Yikes.  Oh well.....it was all great fun.

The awards diner was incredible.  Great food and amazing door prizes.  I found out that I had placed 11 out 22 riders.  It would have been possible for me to place in 7th position if I had not left 485 points at the table.  However, scoring and paperwork is a huge part of a rally.  I really need to pay much more attention to the details to improve my rally position.  1st place went to Cameron Sanders from North Bay Ontario.  Cameron has won the rally 3 years in a row!  Congratulations Cameron!!

After the rally we had the privilege of having Jennyfer Audet and Jacques Titolo give us a presentation on their finish at the Iron Butt Rally 2009.  It was amazing to listen to the challenges of an 11 day rally.  I had watched the start of the IBR in Spartanburg SC and had seen Jennyfer and Jacques start the rally.  It was interesting to hear their experiences. Their presentation only reaffirmed my desire to one day participate in a future IBR.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

My 2nd Iron Butt Association Saddle Sore 1600K Ride - Cochrane, Ont

Exactly one year after I rode my first Iron Butt Association (IBA) certified Saddle Sore Ride, I decided it was time to ride my 2nd Saddle Sore 1600.  On Aug 16, 2009 I left Kincardine, Ontario at 2:45am.  I obtained my starting receipt from the local Grocery store  as it is the only business open 24 hrs in our community.  The person I asked to be my witness said he was just returning from Kapuskasing, Ontario which was just West of my planned turnaround point.  He said that it would only take 7 hours to get to Cochrane.....which I quickly

calculated was impossible.  The early morning ride
was fantastic.  Other then having to constantly watch for critters and forest rats (deer), I absolutely love riding in the early morning.  As I approached Barrie, I rode through some very thick fog at about 4:30am.  I probably could have walked faster than I could ride through that soup.  Fortunately, the fog did not last long.  I tried to find gas in Orillia but nothing was open at 5:00am on a Sunday.  However, I managed to find an open Tim Hortons to obtain a receipt indicating a "corner" of my route.  Continued to ride north on Hwy 11 but there were no gas stations open.  I was nearly out of gas approaching Gravenhurst when I noticed an open station on the wrong side of the highway.  Went to the next exit and proceeded to back track to get the necessary, live sustaining fluid for the "beast" I was riding.  The sun rise near Huntsville was breath taking.  There was a mist low on the ground, and the sun appeared as a big orange ball attempting to burn through the mist.  Ended up stopping at North Bay for a banana snack.

The ride North to my turn around point of Cochrane was relatively uneventful.  Took a picture of my bike beside the Atlantic Watershed point where all streams flow South into the Atlantic Ocean and also of the famous Polar Bear statue in Cochrane.  This point marked the farthest North I have been on a motorcycle.  On the ride south to Timmins I was on a stretch of highways with little signs of civilization for many miles.  I saw a dead black bear at the side of the road and then shortly after saw a live black bear just a few feet off the road feeding.  Thought briefly about turning around to take a picture but quickly dismissed the foolish thought.  A few miles later the pavement just simply disappeared with little warning due to construction.  The gravel was very loose and had just been wetted to reduce dust.  The pavement did not reappear until about 40 kms later.... The bike and I were both covered in caked on gravel paste.... Yuck. Later in the evening the traffic came to a complete stop south of Sudbury on Hwy 69.  I shut the bike down and waited.....and waited.....and waited......  There was obviously an accident which had shutdown the highway.  I took a look at the GPS and realized that I had to backtrack about 20 minutes and ride a significant detour.   Not knowing how long the wait would be, I elected to take a detour adding significant time and mileage.  I finished the ride several hours late.  All things considered, it was an amazing ride.

My ride stats:

Moving Average Speed = 93 kph
Overall Average Speed = 86.7 kph
Total Distance = 1704 kms
Total Time = 19 hrs 36 mins
Total Gas Used = 113.82 L
Total Gas Cost = $110.68
Gas Mileage = 6.695 L/100kms (35.13 mpg)
# of stops = 8 gas stops + 4 rest/picture stops.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Minute Man 1000 - My First 24 Hour Long Distance Rally

I have been a little lazy over the summer updating my blog. On June 6, 2009 I completed my first 24 hour rally, the Minute Man 1000. The Minute Man is based in the New England states and started and ended in Northampton, Mass. In a 24 hour rally, a rider must collect points by visiting locations that are selected from a group of bonus locations. It is not possible to travel to all bonus locations, so a rider attempts to select/plan the most efficient route, collecting as many bonus points as possible and arriving back to the starting location within 24 hours.

The rallymaster was Rob Nye. The rally was an absolute blast. I rode the 92 FJ1200 in the rally and I received a lot of comments on the bike. I met many experienced rally riders and asked lots of questions.

All kinds of things went wrong on my first rally. I had spent the week previous to the rally planning my route. However, I waited for the rally book to be handed out at the dinner before finalizing the route. When I went to upload the data to my Garmin Quest GPS, the unit completely crashed and could not be reset. I ended up staying up most of the night before the start of the rally simplifying my route and recording the route on paper maps. The riders meeting was at 5:30am and I was starting my first 24hr rally with no sleep!

I messed up on my very first bonus location..... I ended up visiting the wrong cemetery and

almost ran out of gas. I also overslept on my rest bonus by 1 hour. The rest bonus must be 2 hours long and I choose to have a quick bite to eat at an Applebees restaurant and then slept in my very first "Iron Butt" motel which was the grassy ditch in front on Applebess. I have a very loud alarm called a "Screamin Meanie" but for whatever reason I did not set it correctly or I turned it off before waking up. I ended up arriving at the finish location at 23 hours and 45 mins or 15 minutes before I would have received penalty points.

I was nervous at the scoring table, and I was informed that one of my big point bonuses was disqualified as I had answered the question wrong. The bonus was at the top Equinox Mountain and we were asked what could been seen in the coin operated binoculars at 66 degrees. I was very careful to place the binoculars at exactly 66 degrees and I was certain that there was a dead tree exactly in my field of view......so that is what I answered. Well it turns out that there was some kind of sign which I did not see that described all the views at various locations and apparently there was a ski hill 60 miles or so out. Soooooo.... I left those points at the table. I found out later that others had made the same mistake. Even with the lost points I still managed to score # 15 out of 27 riders that were entered in the rally. I rode 1648 kms (1030 miles) which meant that my ride was not very efficient (ie. # points/mile). However, I was pleased with my result knowing that it was my first attempt at a rally and that I had completed it without a GPS and I had made many rookie mistakes. With more experience and practice, I should become more competitive.

Friday, May 8, 2009

My First Iron Butt Association Saddle Sore 1600K

My SaddleSore 1600 Adventure
Saturday, August 16, 2008
By: Perry, 1992 Yamaha FJ1200, Ontario, Canada
A loud cheer, filled with the emotion of seeing your favorite team win the Stanley Cup, rings inside my full face Shoei helmet. Looking around there is no one to share in my celebration but some local cattle grazing in a field. They turn as I ride by, but seem indifferent to what I have just accomplished. I have just ridden 1610kms in less than 24 hours (18 hours and 27 minutes to be exact) to complete the Iron Butt Associations SaddleSore 1600k (IBA SS1600k also known simply as the SaddleSore ride (1000 miles)) ride. Over a year ago I would not have believed it possible to ride a bike, let alone ride a bike 1610kms is less than 24 hours...
While in the hospital after an accident in January 2007, I believed my riding days were over. I was lying on a hospital gurney waiting for surgery where the surgeon had indicated that there was a 50-50 chance that he would have to replace my shoulder with a stainless steel ball. I accepted the worst but prayed for the best. At the end of 2006, I had just purchased a mint condition 1992 Yamaha FJ1200. I always wanted a Yamaha FJ after first seeing the red & white
FJ1100 model on the showroom floor in 1984, but they were simply too expensive for a high school kid. Now it looked as if I might never be able to ride my beloved FJ. The surgery turned out to be a success in that the surgeon had to insert only 12 screws into my shoulder and a long

 metal plate down to just above my elbow. The ex-rays showed what looked to be a grotesque looking pin cushion. So much for passing through airport metal detectors! The post surgery rehab was long and painful. However, I was able to take the FJ out in late summer 2007, but even short runs were unbearable. I spent the summer going over every inch of the bike and making some upgrades to the front fork suspension and
 adding a set of Givi hardbags. My hope was that with time and additional rehab, I might be riding again. My first ride of 2008 was very painful and in frustration I considered selling the bike. It was through the words of my encouraging wife that she convinced me to keep the FJ and to continue trying. I continued to ride and add kilometers throughout the summer, albeit with a little help from Mr.Tylenol.
Now to continue the story, I have to take a step back again a few years to 2006. While riding a previous bike, a 1991 Honda Nighthawk CB750, I saw a Yamaha FJR and its rider stopped at the side of the road near my house. I stopped to talk to this rider and asked him about his thoughts on the Yamaha FJR, a bike I considered to be the ultimate sport touring machine. I was amazed as this rider, which I will refer to by his internet Sport Touring.net handle as “huron52”, proceeded to tell me about weekend rides down to Pennsylvania. I was intrigued that it was even possible to ride such distances on a bike in such a short period of time. It turns out that huron52 lives in same area as me and works at the same company. Over the past two years he has shared stories of his long distance riding and rally adventures which I found inspiring. I often enjoyed following his trips online via the SPOT satellite tracking device. I vowed that one day to do the same. I spent many hours reading endurance riding stories on the internet and Ron Ayres books, “Going the Extra Mile” and “Against the Wind”.
The first step to riding a SS1600 is simply to tell yourself that you are going to do it. It is amazing how easy the preparation is once you have decided to just “do it”. My planning began one quiet evening by poking around the Mapsource software on my computer. I needed to plan my trip and create my SS1600 route. I wanted to ensure that the route was around 1650 km to ensure that I had margin over the required 1610kms. Now I live on the shore of Lake Huron, a couple of hours from the USA border. West of my house there is water. Going North I would quickly be in the Bruce Pennisula where the highway ends and you must then take a ferry which is slow. That leaves only South and East direction for routing. I wanted to start my ride early in the morning and knew that the closest facilities open where I could get a receipt documenting the start of the ride was the town of Kincardine, which is North of me approximately 20kms. So with Kincardine as my start I created 3 separate routes. One would take me down to the US, across Michigan, down to Indianapolis, back up to Detroit and home. The second route would also go through the US around Lake Erie, through Detroit, Cleveland, Buffalo and back through Ontario. The final planned route was entirely Canada. This route went down to London, and then along the 401 to the 403 through Hamilton and then the 407 through Toronto and continuing on the 401 to the suburbs on Montreal, Quebec. From Montreal, I would head North through the country’s capital city of Ottawa. I would then continue heading North to Hwy 60 and then using secondary highways I would travel through the large and beautiful Alqonquin provincial park and then back home. I quickly eliminated my first and second route as I was not anxious to ride through Detroit on my bike. Plus the 3rd option had me travelling through some of the nicest scenery the province has to offer. It was settled then. Route #3 was saved and carefully stored for the big day.

For the entire week prior to Saturday, August 16, I had been considering doing my SS1600 ride. The weather prediction over my planned route looked good and as an added bonus a full moon was in place for the night portion of the ride. This could be the week! In anticipation of the ride, I drove 2 hrs to London to pick up an MRA VarioTouring windshield that had been ordered from Germany. My one major annoyance with the stock FJ windshield was the wind noise which I found fatiguing on rides longer than 2-3 hours. I had tried various types of ear plugs to no avail. I knew that by installing the new windshield just before my SS1600 attempt, that I was directly violating the IBA’s Archive of Wisdom which recommended to “avoid adding accessories or doing maintenance immediately before a trip”. However, I believed the potential advantage of the added wind protection outweighed the possible problems that I could experience. Besides, what could possibly go wrong with a windshield? This decision later proved to be correct and probably made the ride much more enjoyable than it would have been with the stock windshield.
On Friday morning with excitement and trepidation, I made the decision to finally go for it. It was difficult to concentrate at work and I ended up taking the afternoon off work to make final bike preparations and to hit the sack early in anticipation for an early start to my ride. Based on my reading about the past experience of others, I had prepared a packing list of essential items including extra quality tools, flat tire repair kit including a small compressor, water (which was kept cold by freezing one of the bottles in advance and storing in a small cooler), extra headlamp bulb, flashlight, a liter of oil, duct tape, small multi-meter, wire, an extra change of clothes, a paper map with my route highlighted (in case my GPS failed), healthy snacks, and asprin. I finished packing the bike and decided to go over the bike one last time. Everything looked good except the chain tension which was a little too loose. Once again I broke the cardinal rule of not doing maintenance just before the trip, but I knew that if I did not tighten the chain that I would worry about it for the entire trip. Besides, I have tightened the chain dozens of times in the past.
Finally I laid out all my riding gear which included an SHOEI RF1000 full face helmet, Olympia AST Hi Viz Jacket, First Gear HT 2 Overpants, SOKZ (special socks for riders), LD Comfort underwear, CoolMax shirt and a fleece sweater. I went to bed early at 7:30pm and set the alarm for 12:45am in order to have my start time of the ride around 2:00am. However, sleep would not come easy. As hard as I tried, and even with all the advanced preparations, I continued to visualize my ride, paperwork and preparations. Was I forgetting something? I ended up getting up and watching TV, reading….anything to quiet my mind. Looking at the clock one last time at 10:45pm I finally drifted off into a restless sleep. I awoke suddenly. Something was wrong! I look over anxiously at the clock and it was almost 2:00am. My planned start time was 2:00am! Ah crap! I have already messed up and I had not even started the ride! Ok, I tell myself, take a deep breath…relax. Convince myself that this is no big deal and am just thankful that I woke when I did. I had never slept through my alarm before and sure enough a check of the alarm clock shows that I had set the wake time for 12:45pm rather than 12:45am. Fortunately, with all the advanced preparations I was able to shower and pack the cold water and be on the bike by 2:30am. I have my wife witness the start of the ride.
Being in a rural area, I have to ride 17kms to the nearest small town. None of the 3 gas stations are open late. However, we have one Sobeys grocery store that is open 24 hrs. I never really understood why our grocery store is open 24hrs but none of the gas stations are open. Generally if you need groceries, you can wait until the next day, but generally if you need gas, you need it now! Anyway, I go into the grocery store and the only person working there gives me a peculiar look that says “Hey man the store sign says open 24hrs, but that does not mean we expect anyone to come in, particularly someone who looks like a big banana!” (The Hi Viz Jacket I wear is a very bright yellow). Anyway, I introduce myself and explain to him my intentions to ride 1600kms in less than 24 hours. He initially stares at me as if I have lost my mind. I ignore his stare, and ask him for two things, one, if he would be willing to witness my start time and, two, a dated, timed receipt. The guy was very happy to witness my ride and printed out a “No Sale” receipt with the name of the store, address, date and time so that I did not have to buy something which I did not need. The perfect model receipt! I know that for the SS1600 ride that I only need one witness but I thought that a second witness couldn’t hurt. I return to my bike, and insert the receipt carefully into a special wallet that fits nicely in my document holder in my Givi topcase. I remind myself of Ron Ayres experience of loosing his receipts during an Iron Butt rally. I mount the FJ and start it up. My first SaddleSore ride has begun at 2:49am. My odometer start reading is 59,564km. As I turn around in the parking lot, I notice my witness has come out of the store to see me off with a wave. I wave back and smile. I take a brief detour downtown to obtain a bank ATM receipt with a date/time stamp. Once again, probably overkill, but the IBA’s rules state to obtain a gas receipt or alternatively an ATM receipt to document the start of the ride. I am sure that the dated/time grocery store receipt is adequate for the start time evidence but I wanted to be sure.
The first couple of hours were spent riding on rural secondary highways with very little traffic in the early morning. The night air was a crisp temperature of 11 degrees C but I was comfortable dressed in several layers. There was a full moon and the night sky sparkled with stars. The fields were covered in fog which glowed eerily to reflect the bright moon. The stillness of the night was only broken by the sound of the FJ gliding down the road. The view combined with the smells of wet dew was exhilarating. It was one of those “perfect” moments that make you thankful to be alive and on a bike. I kept the speed at the posted limit, anticipating a critter, big or small to come flying out of the ditches. I saw no critters but I did smell a skunk that had recently crossed over the highway. My PIAA 1100X auxiliary lights, which I had installed earlier in the summer, are perfect at lighting up the edges of the road. Unfortunately, the perfect moment was not to last, as the fog lying in the field became thicker the farther I rode inland from Lake Huron. Eventually, the visibility was cut down to about 10 feet and my speeds dropped to a crawling 40 km/hr. I knew that the roads were straight, but I was concerned about hitting something lying on the road. I was equally concerned about someone flying up behind me and becoming a permanent car hood ornament. The fog lasted about 30 minutes and gradually cleared. I saw the first of what would be 2 police speed traps on my travels. I am sure that I was the first person that had passed him for some time, but I had nothing to worry about and continued to pass him at a leisurely pace.
As I reached the city of London, Ontario at 4:42am I made my first gas stop at 151 km from the start. I still had plenty of fuel but my route was taking me in a large circle and I was following IBA’s rules to obtain a receipt at each corner of the route. This was my first gas stop ever on a long distance ride and I did not want to take a long time. While stopped, I drank a litre of water to stay hydrated, even though I was not thirsty. I got back on the bike and checked the clock. My stop was approximately 12 minutes. Not bad for my first time. The ride through London was uneventful. There are no freeways through the city so there would be many lights that I needed to get through. My route had me sticking to the major streets which meant that most lights were green unless there was traffic in the opposing streets. Fortunately, the traffic was very light going through the city.
As I approach Ontario’s major East/West freeway, the “401”, and enter the on-ramp, I notice that there is a large volume of traffic. I actually have to pick a spot and accelerate to merge between a row of semi trucks. I quickly get over to the passing lane to rid myself of these lumbering beasts, but look ahead in dismay. As far as the eye could see, there is a snake like procession of red lights glowing into the horizon. It is disappointment after riding alone for the past 2 hours. All this traffic is heading to Canada’s biggest city, Toronto. I am thankful that my route has me leaving this highway for a period of time and I am hopeful that all this traffic will choose to go in a different direction. I travel along this stretch of the 401 for about 30 minutes to the city of Woodstock, where there is a split in the freeway between the 401 and 403. The “403” takes a detour through Hamilton on the way to back to Toronto. I take the “403” and watch the snake of lights disappear in my side mirrors. I am struck by the instant change in traffic. I am once again alone with the occasional vehicle passing in the opposing direction. The air is still crisp and there is a chill from the accelerated speed of the freeway, but I am back once again enjoying the moment of the ride. The night sky is starting to lighten in the horizon. I enter Hamilton and once again the traffic becomes a little heavier. My route has me taking the 407, Ontario’s only privately owned freeway that charges a toll. I will be riding the 407 from beginning to end in an attempt to avoid the heavy traffic of the 401. As I enter the toll road, there are signs of the impending cameras that will take pictures of your plate. There is another sign that indicates that out of province/country plates will also be charged a toll. I think about this invasion of privacy for a moment… how can a private company obtain the agreement from all provincial and state governments to supply your name and home address for billing purposes? As I approach the cameras, I briefly contemplate speeding up in an effort to create a blurry picture of my bike. I chuckle at the absurd thought. I am virtually alone on this stretch of the 407 that stretches across the top of the city. I often travel to Toronto for business and the traffic congestion at all times and days of the week is legendary. I am happy about my decision to purposely select my route so that the travel through Toronto would be early Sat. morning. I notice my red fuel light flickering, I quickly calculate approximate distance to empty and determine my next fuel stop. The old FJ has a great low fuel warning system that I believe should be copied of all modern bikes. First it has a fuel gauge which is a little on the pessimistic side indicating empty well before the tank runs dry. Next there is a low fuel light that glows on the dash. At this point you needs to determine your next gas stop within the next 50kms. As an added bonus, and if you are exceptionally slow at noticing the low fuel gauge and low fuel light, there is an electric reserve switch, allowing for several additional litres of fuel on reserve. The FJ is a heavy bike wet at about 600lbs. The engine is an air cooled monster fed by 4 large Mikuni carbs and therefore the gas mileage is not great. I can get about 330 kms (205miles) out of the 22 liter (5.8 US gal) tank averaging about 6.85l/100km (35mpg). However if I push to the 330kms range, I am usually running on vapours. Generally I limit my run before gas stops to 300kms (185miles).
The 407 is still under construction and ends suddenly at the East end of Toronto where you are forced onto a city street for several kms to reconnect to the 401. It was just after 7:00am and the sun is starting to warm the air. It is going to be a great day for riding. I make my second gas stop for the trip just prior to getting back on the freeway. I repeat what is soon to be a finely rehearsed process at each gas stop. I ensure my log book is completed and the receipted tucked away safely into my wallet. I have now ridden 409km in approximately 4 hours. I pull the bike over and enter the station to use the washroom. There is only one car parked in the lot and it turns out this person also needed to use the facilities. The door is locked and I wait patiently at first. After 5 minutes I am getting a little restless as I have been very disciplined at both my gas stops and know I am just standing and waiting. I ask the attendant if someone is actually in the washroom and he assures me that someone is and that someone has been in their for some time. I contemplate leaving but instead look at the unused womens washroom. Even though I feel strange I enter the empty womens washroom and lock the door hoping that I can slip in and out without anyone noticing. Opening the door upon leaving, I am caught read handed as there is a lady coming my way to use the room. I hope that she has not seen me, but the look on her face says it all. I get suited up and I am back on the road. The next several hours of riding on the freeway are uneventful. The traffic is heavy initially heading East out of Toronto, but gets significantly lighter after about 1 hour. The temperature is warming rapidly and I am getting warm as I did not remove any layers at my last stop and my jacket vents are still closed. I come across the second police speed trap on a long stretch of highway. I am travelling slightly faster than traffic in the left lane at about 125km/hr in a 100km/hr. My speed is well within the normal range for this stretch of highway and I do not slow down as I pass the police with their radar mounted on a tripod looking for their next victim.
My next stop for gas is at 9:39am at Mallorytown, Ontario. I have now travelled 689 kms and I feel great. The sun is shining brightly and it is starting to warm up nicely. I completed filling the bike and my mandatory log entry. I hopped on the bike and pulled over in the parking lot beside two mini vans full of kids. I had just started removing my jacket when the gentleman in one of the mini vans came over to me to admire my bike. “Nice bike… a real classic”. I said thanks and we exchanged some pleasantries. I felt a little guilty for not being overly talkative. Normally I would have been more than happy to talk bikes but I was on a mission and with about 1000kms to go, I wanted to get back on the road and keep the wheels turning. I completed removing my jacket liner, sweater and pant liner and opened my jacket vents. I gave my goodbyes to the gentleman and re-entered the freeway. It was refreshing to feel the air through the open vents on my jacket.
Within 30 minutes of leaving the gas stop the sky began clouding over and the temperature dropped. It looked and felt like rain. I was wearing a Cool Max t-shirt so what was once a refreshing breeze minutes ago through my jacket open vents, now began to feel uncomfortably chilly. I kept watching the cars passing in the other direction to see if their wipers were on. I debated pulling over and zippering closed the open vents on my jacket but made a decision to go on. This turned out be the right call as within another 30 minutes, the sun was shining and it was getting warm again. I noticed a sign that indicated the last chance to buy gas in the province of Ontario. Hmmm, that seemed odd. Why would there be a warning sign announcing that this was the last station in Ontario…. I can understand warning of the last station on the road for many miles. It turns out that it was a warning that I should have heeded. Several miles later, I could see a big sign welcoming me to Quebec. All the road signs immediately changed to all French…. Why is it that many signs in Ontario are bilingual (i.e. in English and in French) but all the signs in Quebec are all French? It had been many years since I had last driven a car in Quebec and this is the first time I had driven a motorcycle in this beautiful province.

I was traveling to the edge of Montreal where I would make my next major change in direction (heading North from my current easterly direction). I knew that I needed to stop close to Montreal to obtain a gas receipt to provide evidence that I had not taken a short cut in my circle loop. Not remembering any of the French I learned in public school (yes I know that I should have paid more attention in School), I wanted to find a newer national brand of gas station with the “pay at pump” feature. My first stop was at a Shell station. I had to wait through several lights prior to getting to the station. I stopped and started what was now a well rehearsed routine. I inserted my card into the pump….and….nothing. Ok…. insert card again and then…..nothing. Looking around noticed a small sign in English that stated “ Please pay first for all gas”. I absolutely hate these types of gas operations. If you do not know how much gas you will need you will have to leave cash and then go back and wait in line a second time for your change or alternately you need to leave a credit card at the desk. I will never leave my credit card out of sight, and I was not keen to wait in line twice. Frustrated, I put the gas hose back, close my tank gas lid, put the gloves back on and ride back to the freeway. After, my first three efficient stops, I am a little annoyed at these wasted minutes. Traveling down the freeway a couple of exits I see a Petro Canada. Once again I make my way off the freeway to “fill the beast”. The cross traffic is very heavy when I reach the first stop sign and I have wait for what seems like forever for a break. I can feel the impatience of the guy driving the large SUV behind me as he keeps inching closer and closer to my bike wheel. Finally, I see a break just big enough for a bike and I quickly grab the opportunity. To my surprise the SUV follows right behind me. I am able to merge and he continues to force his way in the small space between me and the car behind me. I have nowhere to go and the car behind me finally relinquishes more space for the “bully” while laying on his horn. I reach the station, only to find a huge line-up at each gas pump. Oh well, I thought, it took me a long time to reach this station, I might as well wait. Well I waited, and waited, and waited and realized that absolutely not one of the empty cars at the pumps had left since I arrived. I am getting impatient but take the time to admire a 2006 Yamaha FJR at an adjacent pump. It a beautiful shade of blue. I love my 92 FJ but realize that it is the “grand daddy” of the newer FJR. I never plan on selling my FJ, but I am saving my pennies to eventually purchase an FJR, a bike I consider to be the ultimate sport touring machine. I am snapped back to the reality and find myself still sitting in a line that is not moving. I see someone walking back to their car and express with frustration to their passenger that the “credit card machine is not working”. That does it, I fire up my bike and head back to the freeway. I am a little angry now as I have effectively wasted about 15 minutes at my last two stops without obtaining gas and without drinking or eating. I remember the warning sign back in Ontario regarding the last gas station and now I understand the why.
My GPS starts to flash instructions to take the next exit to begin my next leg of the journey North. Hwy 40 to 417 to the nations capital Ottawa. I am still looking for the next gas station as I want to get a receipt as close as possible at my turning point. While I am looking around, I fail to notice a very large pothole. By the time I look back to the freeway ahead of me it is too late to avoid the hole. I brace for the impact and am treated to an incredible bone jarring slam. The bike remains completely stable but I am immediately worried about the possible damage to the bike. The first thing that crosses my mind is a bent wheel rim. The idea of losing the air in my wheels at freeway speeds is not appealing. I slow down as a precaution and move over to the far right lane. I turn on all my “spidy senses”, attempting to feel or hear anything out of the ordinary. I reach back with the hand to tug at my hard Givi luggage to determine if anything has broken or come loose. After 15 minutes at a heightened red alert, with no apparent damage, I relax and make a mental note to check for damage at the next gas stop which needs to be soon.
My 4th gas stop is at St- Lazare. I am confident that the location is still adequate to prove that I have taken no short cuts at the “corner” of my route. I have now traveled about 884 kms. The gas stop is quick and without incident and I am quickly on my way. The traffic along this stretch of Hwy 40 is the heaviest on the trip so far. However, the speeds are reasonable and I find that all drivers are courteous and correctly move over to the right lane as I approach. Before long, I notice the “Welcome to Ontario” sign. I am now back in my home province on what now becomes Hwy 417. I realize that although I have been in many different States in the US on my bike, that this is the first time that I have ever been in another province. I live approximately 2 hours from the US border and I can ride to Pennsylvania with fantastic bike rodes in less mileage and time than it had taken me to ride to Quebec. However, I make a mental checklist that one day I would like to return to Quebec on the bike to ride through the Laurentian Mountains.

Not long after entering Ontario, I catch up to what is un-mistakenly an 80’s vintage bike. The 80s represent the era of my first riding years and I am naturally drawn to all Japanese bikes from that period. I pass the rider slowly to get a good look at the bike. It is a mid 80s Kawasaki KZ550. I give the rider a thumbs up as I pass by. The KZ pulls in behind me and becomes my riding companion until Ottawa. I have been riding for about 10 hours alone and the added company is nice. As I enter Ottawa, my KZ friend puts on his signal to leave the freeway. We exchange waves and I am once again alone in a sea of steel cages. The traffic through Ottawa is heavy but moves at a brisk pace.
North of Ottawa, the freeway comes to an end and the lanes merge into Hwy 17, a 2 lane secondary highway. Hwy 17 is the “Trans Canada” Hwy, connecting the East coast of Canada to the West Coast. Unfortunately most of the Hwy is only 2 lanes. We can only hope for the day when Canada will have a single freeway connecting East to West. The traffic is once again heavy and slow and passing is difficult. I am patient and it is only a short time before I reach the next “corner” of my route, Renfrew, Ontario. I turn off of the Trans Canada Hwy onto Hwy 60 which will take me through the town of Renfrew and ultimately through Ontario’s beautiful Aloqonquin Park. I need to stop again for gas for the mandatory “corner” receipt. I notice a Canadian Tire gas station which is great because I have a credit card which gives me 10 cents off each litre. The station is not busy and I pull up to the pump and automatically go into my Nascar pit routine. It is now 2:00 pm and I have now traveled 1,115 kms. I insert my credit card into the pump and after a brief pause I receive a message indicating that I need to pay the attendant. No problem, I chalk it up to some computer problems and wonder if there is some general problems with the system after my previous experience in Quebec. After filling up the bike, I go inside and hand my card to the attendant. She swipes the card and after a long pause, I am presented with “I am sorry sir but your card is not being accepted”. Ok… that is a first for me and I ask her to try again. She patiently swipes the card a second time and this time she announces with a little more authority, “ Sir….your card is no good”. Ouch. This is the first time this has ever happened to me. I have had cases in the past where I have received messages on my phone after a day of overspending, but I have never had a card rejected outright. Hmmm. Another employee nearby asks if I am traveling. I respond that I have and he looks at me matter of factly as if I should know better and says “Yea….. they have really been cracking down on that lately”. “That’s odd”, I thought, “apparently credit card companies no longer want us to travel”. Ron Ayres, in his book, “Against the Wind”, indicated that it is a good idea to call your credit card company in advance before taking any LD rides. Unfortunately, I had incorrectly made the assumption that given that most of my riding was in Ontario, that I did not need to call ahead. However, I did bring a second credit card with me “just in case”, but it was in my wallet which was buried deep in my luggage. I tell the attendant that I need to return to my bike to get my other card. She looks at me suspiciously and gives me the look that I had better not run. After finding my second card and taking care of the payment, I pull off to the side of the station and check in with my wife for first time this trip. She is in Barrie and shopping for school supplies for the kids. She confirms that her card was also rejected.
As I head East, the traffic becomes lighter. I catch up to another rider on a bright green sport bike. Although going slower than my previous pace, I decide to keep this other rider company. At times the rider slows to well below the speed limit around what are tame corners. Starting from a stop seems to be a struggle for him with several stalls and subsequent wide left hand turns. It becomes obvious that this biker is new and unfamiliar with the bike they are riding. I wonder about the ability of the rider to ride safely as he seems oblivious to all traffic hazards around him. I should have passed him and been on my way but I almost felt responsible to ride a safe distance behind and provide a safety buffer from the encroaching traffic. It is a relief when he eventually turns off the highway and heads down a country road.
I arrive at the East Entrance to Alqonquin provincial park a few minutes later and pass under an

 old log structure at the park boundary. For the next 200kms, I will travel through some of the most fantastic unspoiled scenery in southern Ontario. The road is good, with many sweeping curves. Each corner reveals another lake carved into the rocky Canadian Shield. The sun is getting low in the sky and the temperatures are beginning to drop, giving a freshness to the air. The park is full of moose and I am constantly scanning the sides of the road ahead me for any signs of these majestic animals. There is no where that I would rather be at that moment then on my bike… another perfect moment. I take the opportunity for a much needed 10 minute rest. This is the first rest I have taken on the trip outside of my gas stops. I enjoy the quietness of the stop with only bush around me. I wave at a fellow biker on an Honda ST1300 as he rides past.
The ride through the park is over too soon and I enter the town of Huntsville. This town is a busy tourist hub for cottagers in the Muskoka region during the summer and it appears that all the local vacationers have come to town to greet me. The traffic grinds to a crawl. I need gas again as this will be my last corner of my route. I pass by the first station as there is a line up of cars. I am hopeful there will be a second station before I get back onto the freeway heading South. I notice a second gas station just before the on-ramp in the parking lot of a grocery store. I must pass through several long lights to arrive at the station. I am disappointed that there is a lineup of about a dozen cars waiting in line. I make a quick decision to immediately leave and to attempt to get gas farther South. A look at my gas gauge shows the needle at empty and the red low fuel light is glowing on the dash. However, I have not switched over to my reserve so I know that I can go a few more kms before empty.
I have to travel another 20kms down the freeway before stopping for what will be my final gas stop before the end of my ride. The gas station is in Port Sydney and I know the place well as my brother-in-law lives just down the road. The roads to home from here are all now familiar and I know that that there is only about 3.5 hours of riding before me. It is now 5:33pm and I have traveled 1,387 kms. I stop at the station and after obtaining my receipt I pull over to take another 10 minute rest. It begins to dawn on me that short of any unexpected problems or breakdown, that my first attempt at an Iron Butt Saddle Sore will be successful. I am almost anxious as I get back onto the bike and start to listen for any peculiar noise from the bike that may be a precursor to an unexpected breakdown ahead. I eventually smile and excuse my paranoia and begin enjoying the last few hours of the ride. I am feeling great. I have only experienced a few moments of being uncomfortable during the ride. Anytime that I started to get the dreaded “monkey butt” feeling, I would sit on the passenger seat, shift positions or stand up on the pegs and lean forward into the wind. Occasionally, I would extend my legs straight forward and out to relieve any leg or knee cramps being careful not to lower my leg too much and contacting the pavement.
The next 2.5 hours pass quickly and uneventfully. The sun is setting and it starting to get cool. I decide to stop in the next town of Hanover to close my jacket vents and to add some layers to keep warm. Hanover is only 40 minutes from my destination. As I approach Hanover, the odometer on my GPS indicate that I have traveled 1610kms. I look at the reading initially in disbelief and then with an incredible sense of accomplishment. I have attempted and climbed my own mountain. I have succeeded at obtaining a goal that I set for myself months before. I have proven the surgeon wrong and managed to push through the pain. It is at this moment that I let out a loud cheer within my helmet. I am beaming and my cheeks hurt from the pressure applied to the helmet padding from my huge smile.
I enter the town of Hanover and stop at the far end of town in the parking lot of a Pizza restaurant. The last 10 minutes after achieving the 1610km mark have suddenly become more difficult. I have begun to get a headache and have suddenly felt tired. The back of my neck is burning and rubbing it no longer helps. I take some asprin for my headache and eat another apple and drink some more water in an effort to relieve the headache. Relaxing and taking several long deep breaths seemed to help the burning at the back of my neck. I removed my riding jacket to put on a sweater and switched over to my insulated riding gloves. I start the bike and take off down the main street. I was surprised at how dark it had become and then realized that I still had my tinted visor installed on my helmet! I was mad at myself for forgetting to replace the visor during my stop. I made a quick stop to replace the visor and I was on my way again.
Each km now is one additional km that I do not need to do to complete the Saddle Sore ride. My route had added an additional 50 kms over and above that required. 50 kms over a trip of 1610 kms seemed insignificant at the time I planned the trip. Those last kms however would now turn out to be more difficult than the previous 1600kms. The physiological factors of continuing to ride after achieving enough kms is unbelievable. I now felt tired and just wanted the ride to be over. It had gotten dark and was getting very cold. What was previously a refreshing temperature in the morning now felt like a winter chill.
I have driven this road hundreds of times in the past and knew every landmark. I cannot express the relief of seeing the glow of the lights of Kincardine off into the distance of the night sky. Finally, I could see the Esso gas station that was to become my end point. I arrived at the station and stumbled as I dismounted. I was exhausted but also overjoyed. I filled up the bike and entered the station store. I ask the station attendant if she would be witness to the end of my long distance ride. I begin to explain to her my accomplishment and she seems amused. Her eyes and facial expression betrayed her thoughts that she was convinced that I was crazy. She signed my witness form, probably more to get rid of this rambling crazed biker than anything. I had ridden 1664kms in 18 hrs and 27 mins.

Unfortunately, even though this was the official end of my Saddle Sore ride, I still needed to travel 17 kms to get home. Although tired, I was able to roll off these kms without problem. The site of home was an almost emotional experience. I parked the bike, left every thing on the bike and immediately started stripping off my jacket, riding pants and boots. I got my wife to sign as an additional witness and then after having a quick bite to eat, walked straight for the bedroom and collapsed in exhaustion and passed out into a deep sleep. I awoke suddenly 30 minutes later in a state of panic. I could not recall obtaining a receipt at the Esso station at the end of the ride! I look at the clock. It has still been less than 24 hrs since I started out. I quickly develop a plan to ride back to the station and obtain a receipt to document the end of my ride. Before suiting up, I check my receipts in my top box. There before me is a receipt for my last gas stop. I think back and I do not recall receiving the receipt or even placing it into my wallet. I double check that all my other receipts from the ride are still in my wallet. Convinced that all my receipts were accounted for, I go back to bed and drift into a sound deep sleep with the satisfaction of knowing that I had ridden an efficient and more importantly a safe Saddle Sore 1600K.
I have had a chance to look back on my ride and there are several lessons learned which I will apply to my next long distance ride. My goal is to get several additional Saddle Sore and Bun Burner rides under my belt before tackling some long distance endurance rallies. My ultimate goal is to one day run with the pros in the Iron Butt Rally. Below is a list of my lessons learned. Many of you will recognize that much of this advice is given on the Iron Butt Associations website under “Archive of Wisdom”. Apparently some lessons are only learned by experiencing them first hand!:
1. I need a bit more discipline at my gas stops. I had a pretty good system going by the last couple of gas stops. However at each stop, I took the time to drink 1 litre of water to stay hydrated. I figured I wasted about 5-10 minutes each stop for a total wasted time of about 1 hour over the trip. I could have used that 1 hour for a separate dedicated stop to eat a light meal at supper. Lesson learned = Attach a stop watch on the handlebar and get into a defined routine at each gas stop and track total stop time and purchase a portable hydration system like a Camelback so that I can drink water while riding.
2. At each stop, I tried to snack on an apple or granola bar. I did not stop for a proper light meal. However, by the end of the ride, I had a severe headache and was feeling pretty weak. I felt much better when I got home and had something meaningful to eat. Getting a headache while riding definitely drops the fun factor a few notches. Lesson Learned = Take the time to eat proper meals (i.e. by taking the time to stop I can go father comfortably)
3. I need to get a flip up full face helmet. I was reluctant to snack when I should have because of the inconvenience of removing my full face helmet. Estimated time lost to removing and putting helmet back on was 8 x 2 minutes = 16 minutes (i.e. 1 additional gas stop).
4. I love my new ¾ Olympia AST Jacket and it will be a great touring jacket. However, combined with the pants it takes a long time to unzip/buckle at rest stops. My plan is to use the Olympia Jacket/Pant combo for general riding and touring. I will be purchasing a one piece Aerostich Roadcrafter. I understand that these suits are very quick to put on/take off and should be perfect for LD rides or rallies.
5. My credit card was cancelled mid trip resulting in some delays. Apparently, they thought it was odd that my card was being used all over the province and Quebec in such a short time frame. Lesson Learned = Call the credit card company in advance and let them know what I am doing. Wasted time = 15 minutes (1 additional gas stop)
6. Would be nice to have some music or radio to listen to during a long ride. I am going to put together a communication tankbag. Would also like to get some custom moulded earplugs with a built in earphones.
7. I have a GPS and it was amazing how much the average speed for the trip dropped from a stop. It took hours of riding on the freeway to bring back up the average speed due to wasted time at each stop. The key to a better ride would be to ride consistently with more efficient stops rather than riding fast. Not sure what an average gas stop should take but I am guessing that 10 minutes would be reasonable.
Ride Statistics Summary:
Total Mileage: 1664 kms
Total Time: 18 hours 27 mins
Average Speed: 90.2 kms/hr
# of Gas Stops: 6
# of Stops for Breaks: 1

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