Giving the IBA SaddleSore 1000 another go

My history with the Iron Butt Association’s SaddleSore 1000 is a bit spotty, but I finally had a mostly problem-free experience doing a 1,000 miles in 24 hours ride on July 8.

My first IBA SaddleSore 1000 attempt was in 2012, but I managed to lose the paperwork when I moved a few weeks later. My second time didn’t go to plan, as a major traffic jam turned what I’d hoped would feel like a triumph into something I still question whether I should have completed.

My ride in July was mostly without incident, and it felt great finally having an enjoyable ride – that’s been duly recorded in the IBA’s annals – under my belt.

I struggled a little bit with picking the route, as an experience on a tour a few weeks prior to the ride convinced me to alter my original plan. 

My initial route used the same turnaround point I’d utilized for my 2020 SaddleSore 1000 – the Iowa 80 truck stop near Davenport, Iowa. A tour to Iowa and Wisconsin in June that included my GPS rerouting me all over Chicago due to traffic congestion made me rethink that plan. Riding to the Iowa 80 would mean traversing the Chicago metro – one I’ve been seriously delayed getting through several times.

I had several other turnaround points I’d identified to the southwest, south and east of Cleveland, but I realized my 2022 touring plans didn’t include any time on one of my favorite interstates – the West Virginia Turnpike. I decided to incorporate the twisty toll road into my SaddleSore route and chose Morganton, N.C., as my turnaround point.

I settled on Morganton because of my reluctance to ride Interstate 77 beyond its interchange with Interstate 40 due to the number of times I’ve run into serious slowdowns between I-40 and Charlotte. The Morganton route offered a bunch of gas stations I could stop at along the way that would give me sufficient mileage to complete the ride’s objective, and I’d ridden I-40 from I-77 to U.S. Route 321 once before.

I left my house as the sun was rising over Cleveland on July 8 and clocked my official start time with my first fuel receipt a few minutes after 6 a.m. The first leg of the ride aboard my 2008 Yamaha FJR1300 was the one I was most concerned about. Though I was getting on the road before rush hour set in, there was a bunch of construction taking place on Ohio State Route 8 and I-77 in Akron and Canton. I was worried that a crash in one of the narrow lanes in the construction zones would really delay me. 

Fortunately, the ride through the construction went smoothly and I zipped through the all-to-familiar terrain that I-77 traverses from Canton to Marietta.

My first fuel stop was at a GoMart a few miles after I crossed the Ohio River and entered West Virginia. I picked that station because it’s located on a traffic circle that’s right close to the I-77 alignment, which makes for less time getting on and off the interstate.

Conditions were cool when I departed Cleveland, but things started to warm up after the first fuel stop thanks to the rising sun and my southbound travel.

The second of the three segments of the ride to Morganton featured the twists and turns of the West Virginia Turnpike that I’d been looking forward to – though it was apparent that adverse weather was ahead. Though I enjoyed carving through the mountains in dry conditions, the clouds only grew darker as I got closer to my second planned fuel stop at Princeton, W.Va.

The stop went quickly, but I took a second to change gloves and deploy my tank bag’s rain cover in preparation for the inevitable. The rain held off until I was a couple miles from the North Carolina border, but the showers began as traffic slowed to a near standstill a short distance from the border. I inched my way forward as the light rain turned heavier and eventually discovered the traffic jam was caused by a lane closure for a guardrail repair. 

By the time I was past the work zone, the rain was quite heavy. I had just passed an exit and rest area and decided the best and safest thing to do was keep going. The rain was headed north, so I deduced that by riding into it and I would shorten my exposure to it. Though visibility was quite limited for a short stretch, I quickly made it to the other side of the storm.

Temperatures had been rising gradually before I encountered the storm, but they skyrocketed in the storm’s wake. By the time I made it to the rest area at I-77 milepost 58, my gear was mostly dry. After a short break I was back en route to my turnaround point at Morganton. I was feeling physically OK at that point, but the heat was bearing down on me through the relatively flat central North Carolina terrain.

After navigating through major construction at the I-40/I-77 interchange, it was a straight shot to the Speedway gas station off I-40 Exit 105. I’d lost about 20 minutes due to the slowdown at the Virginia/North Carolina border, but was running a few minutes ahead of schedule before then.

I wanted to get right back on the road, but knew rushing back to riding without properly rehydrating would end up costing me more time overall. After downing a bottle or water and a Powerade Zero, it was time to start heading back the way I came.

The ride back was made rather exciting by the weather. About the time I crossed into Virginia, the skies began to get very dark as a storm system was moving in from the west. I knew it was coming from having watched the forecast for several days before the ride, and I just had to hope that I didn’t have to stop due to lightning, thunder, or hail. 

Though the rain was intense at times, nothing occurred that would’ve given me reason to stop riding. By the time I got to my second fuel stop at Princeton, W.Va., the rain had subsided – though it would drizzle off and on until I crossed into Ohio.

The ride home on the West Virginia Turnpike featured fresh wet conditions – though I was surprised how much fun I was still having in the curves despite the soaked and slippery pavement.

The fatigue that had started hitting me in North Carolina – and had been put on pause by the wet conditions – came surging back as I was approaching the Ohio border. I had to take an extended break at the GoMart that I’d stopped at on the way down, which put me about 25 minutes behind schedule.

I completed the ride at about 11 p.m. – later than I’d hoped to be back, as I despise riding at night. But, unlike my previous SaddleSore 1000 ride, I didn’t feel defeated at all. I’d done what I’d set out to do and didn’t have to ride in the dark for very long. A sliver of sunlight had been visible on the western horizon when I reached the outskirts of Canton – which is where the preponderance of street lights on I-77 begins.

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