August 13, 2011

Mexico – US – Canada
Tijuana – San Diego – Los Angeles – Sacramento – Eugene – Portland – Seattle – Vancouver
1393 Miles – 23 Hours 40 Minutes!
The Iron Butt Association is dedicated to safe, long-distance, endurance motorcycle riding. Although based in the United States, there are over 35,000+ members world-wide.
This ride was my second Iron Butt Association sanctioned ride. Riding from Mexico to Canada in under 36 hours is known as the “Border to Border Ride”. Qualifying for this ride includes actually beginning  inside Mexico and ending inside Canada; crossing two international borders within that time frame. We set out to do it in under 24 hours – known as the “Border to Border Insanity Ride”!
My first Iron Butt ride was my qualifying ride for membership into this wonderful group of high milage riders. It involved riding a minimum of 1,000 documented miles in under 24 hours. You can read the story of that adventure here post below.
This time, I wanted to push the envelope a bit.  I’d heard of groups doing a three flags ride, going from Mexico to Canada in a weekend. Before I became an “Iron Butt”, I couldn’t imagine riding that far in a weekend. Now, I wanted to see if I could do it in a day!
My good friend and riding buddy Michael Darling wanted in. He’d heard me talk about my first ride and wanted to join me on this one. Michael had never done a qualifying ride before, but he rode with me from Pasadena, CA to Grand Junction, CO in one day, so I figured he might be up to it. I explained that we only had one shot to make this, and he promised me that he would make it.
My good friends, Craig and Mitzi Thompson, live in Vista California, just about an hour north of the U.S./Mexican border. They have listened to all my riding stories and were always amazed at the distances I’d take on. When they heard that I was going to ride from Mexico to Canada in a day, they wanted to be a part of it. They put us up in their home the night before our departure, made us a wonderful dinner, and got up early to make us breakfast, sign our witness forms and see us off! Thanks Craig and Mitzi, you’re the best!
Saturday morning we head south to the Mexican border. The main crossing into Tijuana is out of the question, as it can take over two hours to cross back into the United States on a Saturday morning. We head for to commercial crossing at Otay Mesa, about 10 miles to the east and hope for less crowds there.
 Crossing into Mexico and then back again was the most nerve racking part of the trip. Two American gringos on two shiny black Harley Davidsons packed to the gills tend to stand out a bit once you’re south of the border. Sure enough, our bikes were searched as we crossed into Mexico, forcing us to unpack all our gear before entering Mexico. From a time standpoint, this wasn’t such a big deal, as the clock doesn’t start ticking until we obtain a receipt inside Mexico.
We took the first freeway off ramp in order to get gas and then get the heck out of Mexico and back into the good old U S of A! Halfway down the off ramp, the concrete became all broken up and there were weeds, dirt and rocks the rest of the way down the exit. We found a Pemex gas station, figured out how to use the pump and then made sure we got a dated and timed receipt.
8:05 AM –  Saturday, August 13, 2011 – and we’re off !
 Now we had to get back across the border and back into the US. It turns out that Saturday morning is a very busy time at the border. Actually, every day is a very busy day at the border crossing. Now the clock is ticking and we are stuck behind what looks to be at least a half mile of stopped cars, 12 lanes wide! If we sit here and wait, it will take over an hour to get across, and we just can’t take that kind of time.
So we did what any normal biker would do, we pulled over to the side, jumped the curb and ran up the sidewalk for a half mile, beeping our horns to get the people out of the way! We were in front of the line in five minutes flat! We did get our hands slapped by the border crossing agent though! Apparently, it’s OK to cut to the front of the line, but not on the side walk! We appologized, said we had a long way to go and begged forgiveness. After being repremanded and told to never do that again, (no worries, I’m not headed back into Mexico any time agiain soon!), and we were ushered through.
We were on the open road and headed north on the 5 Freeway. All the way to Canada! It was now starting to sink in. If we were very careful, didn’t waste any time at our gas stops, ate and drank on the road while riding, and kept the throttle open for the next 24 hours, we just might cross the country and be inside Canada within 24 hours! Wheee!
I really do love this! There’s something inside me that craves adventure, adversity and fun! I’ve been riding motorcycles since I was 16, (I’m now 54), and it’s just who I am. I’ve come to accept it and embrace it. There just isn’t anything I’d rather be doing. Which is a good thing, since this is the only thing I’ll be doing for the next 24 hours!

 We had a perfect summer day for this ride. Bright sunny skies, cell phones off, a full tank of gas and lots of hope and enthusiasm. We made it through Los Angeles without too much traffic since we were passing through early enough on a Saturday morning. By the time we were crossing the Grapevine, it was smooth sailing!
 The temperature climbed throughout the afternoon, and by the time we hit Sacramento, it was well over 105 degrees. We carried water in our Camelback backpacks. This allowed us to sip water regularly through a hose while we continued to ride. Our gas tanks hold 5.5 gallons of gas, so we have to stop every 200 miles or so. In order for us to make the trip in under 24 hours, we had to keep all stops under 15 minutes. We would gas up, fill our backpacks with cold water, grab something to eat on the road and go again. We also have to keep an accurate log at each gas stop; taking note of the location, gas station information, time, miles ridden, gas used, and total mileage. When you are in a rush, it’s easy to forget this very critical step.
In order for the trip to be acknowledged by the Iron Butt Association, you have to fully document the entire trip, submit a written report, provide all receipts for every gas stop, and have signed, dated and timed witness forms at the departure and arrival. All of the paperwork is reviewed and the map is rerouted to make sure that all of the receipts and times match up. It’s what keeps us all honest and prevents the stories from getting out of hand. So if you meet a biker who is an Iron Butt Association member, and he’s got a patch for one of these crazy rides, you can bet that he actually did it!

As the sun started to set, the temperature finally started to drop down a bit. Having done 24 hour rides before, I knew that this was a mixed blessing. As hot as it was during the day, temperatures would be brisk as we passed over the mountains in Oregon. It is not uncommon for temperatures to fluctuate by over 50 degrees on a 24 hour. This is one of the biggest challenges to long distance riding: being prepared for a wide range of temperatures as well as all types of weather. Unlike traveling in a car, also known as a “cage” to motorcyclists, there is no air conditioning, no heat, no windshield wipers. It’s more like riding in a convertible, all the time.

This intimate and unavoidable contact with the elements is exactly what draws many of us to motorcycling. By being exposed to the wind and the rain, the sun and the cold, we are  more connected the landscape. We don’t just see the scenery passing by, we feel it and smell it. It’s what makes every motorcycle trip an adventure.

Twilight is my favorite time of day. It’s my own personal “Happy Hour”. The sun sets into a glorious ball of color, illuminating the sky with a painter’s full pallet of colors. Everything looks better, colors are deeper, shadows grow longer and day transitions into night. It’s also challenging if you happen to be riding into the sun at this time of day. Fortunately, we are still headed due north, with the sun setting on our left.

As we pass Lake Shasta, we realize that this will be the last bit of scenery we see for the next ten hours. Around the bend, we are treated to a spectacular view of Mt. Shasta. This is my first time this far north in California, and it is a beautiful area.

Sights like this re-energize us and put us in the right state of mind for the rest of the trip. We stop for a quick photo opp and to put on our jackets. It’s gonna get cold soon enough.

No more photos this evening! We head north under the beautiful moon light, which only glows more brightly with time. As you spend more time riding in the dark, your eyes adjust and you can see a bit further into the outlying areas.
We smile and give each other a nod as we pass through Weed, California and the cross over the Klamath River on out way into Oregon. Our first gas stop is in Ashland
We can only imagine how beautiful the area must be during the day, but must press on. We’ll take our time and see the sights on our trip back to Pasadena.

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