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Buster and me… on a couple of T’s!

by Pat Roddy

“My son, either carry your shield home, or be bore home upon it.”
– Patrician Spartan, in his last words to his son before he went off to war.
sometime, BC

“I bore my fender home, but wasn’t on it.”
-pr, talking to himself on his last leg of his first ‘official’ Ironbutt Saddle Sore 1000.

A few words about Buster Moldenhauer first. Up until 10 months ago, Buster had never ridden a motorcycle. He started out on a well used R90S, stepped up to an Olympic R11R and recently graduated to an R11RT. He didn’t think he had the ‘right stuff’ to compete in the recent Blue Ridge 500 and offered his services for some behind the scenes work. I gently poked and prodded him into competing in his first 500 mile day, and not only did he compete, he swept the event. He received awards for Most Money Raised, Best Poker Hand, and, Second Place Finisher. He has taken to motorcycling like the proverbial fish to a pond.

A few weeks ago, as he, Linda and myself were sipping hot chocolate at a college hockey game, and he asked if I’d like to join him on an Ironbutt Saddle Sore 1000. I could see the smoldering fires deep in his eyes. I’ve put in some long days, but had never made any of them official, so I agreed to accompany him.

I have always been a procrastinator and if degrees were rewarded for thisI’d have a double doctorate, one for putting off things to the ultimate last minute and the other would awarded to me as being consistently so damn good at it.

On Friday, as I was taking my tires off the K1100LT to be renewed, I looked at them and thought in my best Andy Rooney twang “Why is it that your tread always looks better AFTER you take your tires off than when they are ON the bike?” I inspected them and thought I’d call Ken’s Motorcycle Tires and tell him I’d wait until after the trip to come by. Just as I propped the rear tire against the wall, I noticed something shiny in the outer 1/4 inch (who says an LT can’t ‘get over’)?.

Damn, it was a nail. Well, this made the new tire mandatory now, so I took off the front. While the calipers were hanging loose, I grabbed a flashlight to look at the pads. “Uh oh, I don’t like this one”. I took it out of the caliper, and I had gotten my money’s worth out of this set. They were original, have nearly 47K on them, and there was less than a 32nd inch of ‘stuff’ left on the starboard outside pad before bare metal would be meeting bare rotor.

A quick call to Global assured me they had the pads in stock, and since they were on the way to Ken’s, I’d bash two birds with one club.

Ken, in his usual efficiency, mounted two new Dunlop 491 Tour Elite II’s (I got 19K on the first set and 18 K on these), and I didn’t see that changing brands right now would be good karma. “Wrung what’cha brung, stick to what works” floated through my brain as I watched him finish balancing the front tire. He told me that although there are stickier tires out there, there still isn’t any tire that will outperform the Dunlop for the type of riding I do. I believe him.

“You be careful on your trip, Pat”, as Ken shook my hand after loading them in the truck. “You Beemer guys are nuts”, he grinned. Ken, although he rides an HD, does understand us. He rides his hog to Sturgis and Daytona every year. Rides, not trailers.

I stopped by Global on the way home, got the pads, and pounded through the worst rains I’d seen in awhile. Thank goodness for the truck, as I passed one soaked to the bone rider, on a K1200RS in fact, through the heavy Friday afternoon traffic Atlanta is famous for. “Leather ain’t waterproof, dude”, I thought to myself, notching up the heat one more detent. He had to be absolutely miserable.

Mounting the pads and tires went quickly. I didn’t bleed the brakes, having a much better ‘feel’ at the lever than usual. “Done”, I said. I packed, loaded and went to bed. That move nearly cost me the trip.

As I rode to Global Imports BMW for my “Saturday job” as chief bullshitter/sales assistant/demo ride leader/ on early Saturday morning, on very wet roads, with brand new tires, I did not try to do any maneuver that would sacrifice traction.

I have seen with my own eyes guys going down within 100 feet of the dealership after having new tires mounted. We used to pick them up out of the street all the time over at Wagner’s.

Sunday morning, 0315, Buster was anxious to go. He awoke me 15 minutes before the time I had set my alarm. “Just like a kid the night before Christmas, huh, Buster?”

“Yep. Let’s go.”

“Be down shortly.”

At 0420, we rolled out, heading to the Tyrone Police Department. Little town and communities get a bum rap sometimes, but there are perks living and working in a small town. You know people, they know you. Buster and the Police Chief have been friends for years, and the Chief left orders to his night staff to “sign whatever papers you need to for these two motorcyclists.” In 10 minutes, we were ready.

Buster had presented me with a loose-leaf book, with pages for notes, times, gas stops, witness forms, plastic sleeves to keep track of all receipts, everything in one way-cool package. He must have suspected that I’d toss them all in the tank bag and sort them out later. And he was probably right. Remember my two PhD’s?

As we rolled out of Tyrone, 60 some miles out of Buford, I wondered how long it takes to break in the new front pads. Riding to Global, then down to Buster’s at night didn’t give me an opportunity to really ‘scrub’ them in. This bike would stop, but it wasn’t too impressive. Thank goodness the rear pads were fairly new. Cue in the “Jaws” theme right about now.

Our route was from Tyrone to Montgomery, AL to Mobile to Jacksonville FL to Savannah GA to Macon and back to Tyrone where the police would again verify our records. We had thought 16-17 hours and we’d have it bagged.

Our thinking was somewhat flawed.

We rolled south on I-85 after getting our tanks topped off to “start” the official clock with a dated and timed receipt. Orion, my most favorite constellation for deep sky observing telescopically, was as 10 o’clock high, dead ahead of our track. My GPS glowed a light blue as it churned out ever-changing speeds, lats and longs, and added up the mileage, one tenth of a mile at a time. Buster flew point and I flew the right wingman as we made good time towards Montgomery. The skies to our left were just beginning to brighten and the morning fogs due to cool and warmer air mixing were intermittent but quite thick at times, but we didn’t scrub off any speed. We just turned our awareness knobs up a few notches.

Our strategy of stopping once between tankfuls looked great on paper, but in reality, although we made good use of each one, they did add more time than we had allowed for. “No big deal”, we smiled. We had 24 hours to do this, and dammit, if it took all of that, well, then it took it. No problem. Did you just hear the background music change tempo?

I certainly won’t try and relate every mile to you now, suffice it to say that the weather was cool (40 degrees when we launched), the skies were absolutely beautiful and the forecast, for once, was right on the money.

Just as we hit Mobile, AL I noticed fluid on my right fairing pocket cover. In absolute denial, I wondered “How in the hell is it getting up here from the radiator?” I knew immediately what it was, but didn’t want to believe it was brake fluid. Since I needed gas badly anyway, we took the ‘first available’ to investigate it. My front brakes still sucked, and I had mentally convinced myself it takes some ‘time’ to roughen them up to where they gain their best friction; but since traffic was so unusually light, I hadn’t touched my brakes once out on the freeway, I didn’t get overly concerned. I should have been.

We filled up and proceeded to the parking lot behind the Amoco that gave us a scenic look over Mobile Bay. A large body of stagnant water that smelled of something very, very dead.

I retrieved my Wet Willy, filled with water and a few drops of Dawn dishwashing liquid, and removed the fluid that had gotten onto the fairing. No damage, at least not yet. If there is, well, that’s life. I don’t get too torqued about stuff like that anymore. The less ‘baggage’ you take with you mentally, the better off you are, period.

I ‘figured” that since the new pads were much thicker than the worn ones, when I had installed them I had created an overflow problem and with the weather heating up nicely, this ‘extra’ fluid had to go somewhere so it headed out to lay about on my right sided fairing. I cleaned it all up, ‘wicked’ out about a third of the fluid in the reservoir with a clean rag, and buttoned up everything nice and tight. Several squeezes of the handle, hard ones and long ones did not produce any more leaking. The front cover of the switchgear housing had several cc’s of fluid in it so I cleaned it out and reinstalled it. I then noticed my front fender was only being held on by the center screw, the two outer screws which I have had several problems with before (and I spent an inordinate amount of time with on Friday night after the pad change) had let loose. I now didn’t have the time to screw with it, and personally, I think this is the biggest design flaw of the whole bike besides a stock seat that only Marquis de Sade would enjoy.

The easy fix? Take it off and roll on. We have miles to go and are behind, especially now. This stop was almost 40 minutes, or about 50 miles.

We were rolling again, and for the first hour, all was well. My fender was bungeed to the rear rack of the K, and although it was quite confused with its’ role back there, upside down and backwards, it did enjoy the trip nonetheless.

Hour two, somewhere on I-10, the leaking began again in earnest. Hell, I hadn’t touched the brake lever, not once, and now this. Into a rest area to have another look. Maybe I missed something.

I took the cover off again, and this time, there was only a cc or so of fluid in the housing, so I thought I ‘d missed some on my first cleaning, it drained down and slowly leaked through the cracks in the housing. Have you ever noticed how you can con yourself into believing almost anything when something important (this trip) is being jeopardized?

Again, another 20 minutes of dicking around, but off we rolled.

The panhandle of Florida is not what I would call an exciting ride, but the freeways are in good shape, had minimal Sunday afternoon traffic on them, no Police, and as you approach Jacksonville, are as smooth as glass. With treelined freeways, with the medians also filled with trees, at speed, with nothing ahead of you but empty road, you really can experience what it is like to fly, except for Immelmans, hammerheads and barrel rolls. You do not want to go there on a motorcycle.

We were approaching JAX and dusk was upon us. The leaking began again, so another unscheduled stop was forced upon us. This time, I took off the top of the master cylinder, inspected it closely for something in the gasket, cleaned it off and reassembled it. I still was unsure of where this stuff was coming from. Repeated squeezing of the lever never produced a visible leak. I was getting mildly frustrated with myself for my slack preparedness for this trip, our times in the saddle were getting slower, and we still had over 400 miles to go, with the most desolate stretch of freeway in the southeastern United States, I-16, over two hours away, facing us like the dark monster that lives under your bed or in your closet, licking its chops as we approached from the south.

North of Jax, we stopped again for fuel. You need to get a receipt at each ‘corner’, if your route has corners. Next time, I’ll do a straight line-that would be much easier and wouldn’t force you into buying 1 gallon of gas here and there, increasing your stopping times. But I digress.

I-95 towards Savannah was OK, a few destruction zones that warned of DOUBLE FINES for SPEEDING. We thought HAH!, you have to have cops on the roads to enforce that, and we hadn’t seen but one all day. They need days off too, right?

We reached Savannah, got fuel again, and the leaking had appeared to stop. My front brakes were still barely there, and I am sure that some fluid got replaced with some air somewhere in the pad changing job I hurriedly did two nights ago. I won’t ever hurry that job again, believe me.

OK, we grabbed a light meal, donned our electrics for the long ride down I-16 to Macon, and decided no more stops until I needed fuel, which is about 170 or so miles. I did stretch it out on one of our previous stops, the one where we did the first brake fluid check thing, and before I pumped in any gas, had Buster come over to take a look.

“See anything down there Buster?”, I asked.

He looked, smiled, and the echoes from my tank said “that was mighty close, pr” as he walked back to his bike.

Can you say bone dry? That tank ate 5.2 gallons, ravenously.

I purposely ate light, fearing the worst. The long, dark beast of I-16 would lull me to sleep, with little to look at and near zero traffic. I had once previously fallen asleep at the handlebars, on a solo gonzo run to the keys to see T-Mia, Roger, John Outlan, the PinkMan, Gary Harris, Jeff Dunkle, Don Graling and others at the Gator Rally a few years ago. I fell asleep before, quite well as a matter of fact, so I knew I could do it again. The first and only time I ever did that I avoided a deathly disaster just because I awoke, barely two seconds before slamming into the rear of a semi at 110 mph. It was dark, well, just dawning, and when I awoke, chin on chest, the first thing I saw when my eyes opened was my speedo. I had rolled on the throttle when I had fallen asleep. When I raised my head, all I could see was the rear of the truck gaining on me at light speed, and thank God I had taken CLASS at Road Atlanta. I executed the mostsevere countersteering move of my life, jabbing the left bar so hard I am surprised it didn’t bend, missing the truck by inches. I recovered on the left shoulder of the left lane, spied a Rest Area, and immediately cut in front of the truck to make it. He blasted his horn as he roared by the exit, but I ignored the trucker as I did my best to get that LT stopped.

The exit sign said 15 mph.

The rest area security guard came over to me as I was removing my helmet, trying to get my heart back into a normal sinus rhythm. Ventricular tachycardia will not support life for long. “Do you always take exits at 100 miles an hour?”, he asked sourly. Charm, and telling the damn truth got me out of that one.

I had a strategy for I-16. Buster takes the left lane, I take the right lane just off his right rear, we both use our high beams, and if one of us needs a break, he takes the lead and the other will follow.

“Pat, if I need to stop, even if I need to get a room, I hope that’s OK with you. I DO NOT want to go into a ditch”. We both agreed on that. This Saddle Sore thing could wait if it had to. Safety was our first and foremost goal (he of no decent front brakes uttered).

Convincing each other that if we had to bag the ride, we’d survive to do it another day, was an easy decision for both of us to make. It was really no problem. Buster is a former airline pilot. I am a former pilot too, fixed wing, gliders, some formal training in helos, but most noteworthy for hot air balloons (and yeah, some low level fixed wing stuff-strafing farmers on their tractors from behind, my landing gear just a foot or so over their heads, trying my damnedest to blow their hats off but that’s another story).

{Nothing was ever proven against me doing that, but was highly suspected by my instructors when angry farmers would call the local airport bitching about some gol’ darned airplane…..}.

Pilots, although much maligned for their orderliness and sometimes stuffiness and cockiness, have an understanding amongst themselves. For the most part, they all get along, they all understand the dangers in what they do. Much like us motorcycle riders. Buster and I had an understanding. We’d both quit before auguring in. There would be no pressure to continue if one of us decided to stop.

“Hey Buster, I am with you. If one of us bags it, we both bag it. It’ll be here next week.

And since only 4 other people on the planet knew we were undertaking this, no one would know if we came home a day late. No harm, no foul.

Riding in formation, Buster in the left lane, in the left tire groove and myself in the right lane, riding the right tire groove and flying just behind him, we used our high beams to push back the night like so much black water that immediately enveloped us from the rear. We made good time, not blazing, but a good average of a steady 75 mph. No moon that night, only starlight and an occasional vehicle on the other side of the freeway. Oh yeah, the ditches had lights too, yellow ones, Bambi eyes. That was another reason for tempering our speeds. I saw several, but thankfully none made any moves in our direction. I replayed the scenario through my mind a hundred times. What would I do, with diminished braking capabilities? Would I try to brake? Would I just jink? Would my horn stop their advance? Would? Would? Would….? This kept me awake and alert the whole drive back to Tyrone. Several ‘bloody’ spots on the road would bring a vivid reminder to me lest I forget my Woulds. There shouldn’t be a ‘season’ on deer. You should be able to hunt them year round. They are a definite danger to us, a very lethal danger. Cute, but very deadly. In GA alone last year, 8 people lost their lives to collisions with deer, with over 3,000 reported incidents and hundreds of injuries. I wonder if the hunters going home with Bambi’s on the hoods of their pickup trucks really know why I give them all an enthusiastic thumbs up when I roll by.

We arrived back at our first gas station, the owner looking somewhat flummoxed. “Didn’t I see you guys in here early yesterday morning?”, he asked. I just smiled to him and said “Yessir, you did. My buddy out there and I just made a long trip”. I must have looked worse than I felt.

My GPS read 1099 miles as I got back on my LT. As I pocketed my receipt, uhh, put it my loose-leaf binder, I smiled. Our day was done, save for going to the Police Department to have them verify us again. Buster had already called ahead while I fueled up to make sure they were there and weren’t out somewhere, prowling the night streets of Tyrone. My GPS read 1105 when we hit the PD. My odometer reading is 16 miles less than the GPS, for those who want to know 🙂

At 0145 AM, just shy of 22 hours, we were heading for Buster’s house. I didn’t feel like riding another 60+ miles home. I was cold, I was tired, and yes, my ‘saddle’ was a tad sore. But it was a good sore. I had an inner glow and so did Buster. I could see it as he pulled off his helmet.

Some look at long distance riders like they are nuts. Others just shake their heads, not having one iota of a clue of why anyone would ever ride a motorcycle, let alone, riding one on a long trip. You can bet these people, if ever reincarnated as dogs, would be the ones puking and pissing in the back seat and not the ones hanging ten on the window sill, heads extended out the window, loving every minute of their commutes with their masters.

Many people admire 7 foot tall ‘pituitary cases’ that can slam a ball through a 10 foot high hoop. Others admire guys who can hit a ball with a stick into the left field bleachers, while still others admire guys who can carry a ball that some pig gave his all for into the end of a field where he then bashes the ball into the ground and struts around like an epileptic chicken, and yet again others admire women who can hit a yellow ball over a fence, back and forth, back and forth. While these athletes garner ridiculous multimillion dollar salaries, I do not envy or admire any of them.

The folks I most admire are the ones who can do what Buster and I just did, but then can go out the next day and do it again, and again, and again. The riders of the Iron Butt Rally, to me, are to be admired. Resident riders here on the IBMWR list, like Mike Cornett, Greg Pink, Jon Diaz, Larry Fears. Iron Butters Gary Harris, Adam Wolkoff and Elsie Smith. They pour on the miles with little to no recognition, and certainly no million dollar salaries; but it is something I can directly and intimately relate to.

They are the ‘athletes’ I admire, my heroes. Riders I look up to, wishing like a little kid does of his athletic hero, dreaming to be able to grow up someday and do what their ‘heroes’ do. I know I’ll never grow up, but I can dream.

I know deep down I cannot ever do what they do, I was lucky enough to do what we finished up early this morning, and do it once. Sure, I’d do it again, and maybe a little differently, but I know I couldn’t do it for 11 days in a row.

My helmet is off to all of my heroes, and my first SaddleSore 1000 is dedicated to each and every one of them.


PS- As I pulled out of Buster’s garage, he hollered out:

“A Bun Burner 1500 is next, followed by a 50CC”!!!

I smiled behind my full face helmet, knowing I’ll be going with him on each venture. Maybe we can combine the two………..