Sunday September 28 at 5pm the four of us rolled into the Exxon station in Summit, NJ with 1,502 miles in 34 hours and 45 minutes, successfully completing the riding portion of the Iron Butt Association’s Bun Burner 1500.
We began at the Alexander Hamilton Service Area on the NJ Turnpike in Secaucus at 6:15am Saturday; a Kawasaki Vulcan 900, a cafed Bonneville, and a Tiger 1050 and an 800. The Vulcan rider was a little overpacked for a trip that precludes doing anything more than brushing your teeth before and after a little sleep. He even brought a gas can that I carried to Tennessee for him. What could possibly have been in his huge luggage box would be a trip-long mystery.
A very nice gentleman having some coffee nearby in a sweet Porsche agreed to witness the start and signed our docs and wished us well. We took off south on the NJTP to Newark and switched to 78. If you haven’t travelled the 78-81 route but spent your life taking 95 north and south, I recommend you try this more pleasant, less stressful route. There are many scenic places to visit along the way including Skyline Drive, Luray Caverns, and the Blue Ridge Parkway to name a few.
We had all mapped out the 4 gas stops based on mileage; the Bonneville was the smallest tank although Vincent has taken a normal fuel-injected style tank, turned the fuel pump cavity into more useable fuel space, and put it on his carbed Bonneville, so he has bragged about 200 mile ranges. Anyway, we set the points at roughly 140 miles each.
Aside from a giant sofa pillow that was consumed by the semi ahead of me and disgorged in a blizzard of white shredded stuffing from the rear right into my face (good thing the bulk piece shot to my left!) all went fine until just before the first planned gas stop. After merging from 2 lanes into 1 for a construction zone, the other 3 took off alongside the cars and the now-dug-up right lane. There were all the workers just ahead and probably a LEO or two as well so I stayed put in the traffic for the miles or so. When we came back into 2 lanes, the boys were somewhere out of my vision. A couple miles later I approached the 1st fuel stop’s exit ramp and rode up the ramp’s hill where I was able to see the other 3 up ahead still going on 78. Why didn’t they stop? I had to wait for the traffic light to allow me back onto 78 to try to catch them. I tried the 2 stations at the next exit but nothing. By text we agreed to meet at fuel stop 2 in VA. I fueled and headed off. I found out there that Vincent wasn’t on reserve yet at 135 miles for stop 1 and just kept going without waiting for me to catch up. Vincent had brought his French manners with his outrageous cartoonish accent (“we will just have some sneakers in the morning.” Me and Matt: “what?” “Sneakers! Sneakers! Zee candy bar!”)
We had a bit of gas station chicken at Fuel Stop 2 in VA and moved on uneventfully to fuel stops 3 & 4 in VA and Tennessee before passing Knoxville and turning off 81 finally towards the Tail of The Dragon. We got to our motel first, about 11 miles north of the Dragon on Rt 129. It was sunset, 7:30, and we decided to take a run on the Dragon before checking in. We headed 11 miles to the start of the Dragon and then with Vincent’s Bonneville leading and Matt’s Tiger next, they took off. I was riding sweep and had the Vulcan ahead of me on his 1st Dragon run. He did just great but no one told him to turn into the Deal’s Gap parking lot so it was after dark when he went roaring past it and I pulled in to see Vincent and Matt coming out of the store. We awaited Ariel’s return, hoping he’d notice I was no longer following. We gassed up before the store shut down at 8 then at 8:30, just as Vincent set out to look for Ariel, he came back. Just kept going for a while then decided to come back, sadly, on reserve, and the pump was closed. We figured he’d be fine to get to the Dragon’s Pitt Motel, 22 miles back and probably even to the gas stations on Rt 411 as we head back to 81.
We got back to the Dragon’s Pitt BBQ & Inn at 9pm to find the proprietor hosting a large group of sportbikers in the BBQ outdoor area, watching GoPro videos and drinking. We checked in to our two rooms and asked the gentleman if food was available even tho the kitchen had closed hours earlier. He graciously made us 4 pulled pork sandwiches, slaw, chips and beer! We were sooo happy, decompressing with 780 miles done and getting into bed by 10pm we planned on a 4:30am KSU.
After about 5 hours sleep we were back on the road, a warm clear morning and I enjoyed the trafficless Rt 129 thru the farms back to the highway. The Vulcan made it to the gas station.
Back up 81 though now the undulating mountains produced fog that wet us all down and chilled us for the rest of the morning as we rode in and out of the giant fog banks with the changing altitudes. The near catastrophe today was a car tire exploding to my immediate right; the air gust and some rubber shards hit me but the driver didn’t lose control and pulled to the shoulder.
We were getting antsy in traffic and as we passed into PA and NJ but somehow managed to roll into Summit, NJ to complete the ride and get witness signatures. Our friend who lives near there happened to ride by us but did not notice it was us in his local gas station; what a coincidence!