Cowboy Up for Fish & Chips
By Milt Russell
It all started several months ago in June when my Fireman friend, Malcolm, returned from a motorcycle rally in Texas. He made the trip on his Harley Davidson non-stop all the way to S. W. Michigan. I had learned of the Iron Butt Association from reading ride stories on several BMW motorcycle web sites. I told him about the 1000 miles in 24 hours Saddlesore 1000. He told me he still had his receipts from the trip except for a few lost from his pocket enroute. I offered to help put the paperwork together and urged him to submit the trip to the IBA for a SS 1000. It was all after the fact but I thought it wouldnÔÇÖt hurt to try.
At this point I decided to design my own SS ride. If he can do it on his HD, I can do it on my BMW K1200LT. A bike much more suited to this task in my opinion. Several routes were researched. Malcolm stated he would like to go along. This time everything would be planned upfront as it should be and not as an afterthought. I was leaning toward an out and back route. Malcolm suggested something straight line where we could have a leisurely return ride preferably with some nice scenery.
In viewing the IBA website for pointers on how to do this right, I discovered the Great Lakes 100 ride. Circle all five of the Great Lakes in 100 hours. Wow, what if we combined the two. First leg being the SS and then finish the rest in the allotted 100 hours. Seemed a bit ambitious for someone who has never completed any iron butt yet, but it looked doable. So new planning began. The route would start in S.W. Michigan from the city of Saint Joseph and head east along the south side of lakes Erie and Ontario. Cross into Canada, back west toward Toronto, and then north enough miles to complete the 1000 miles for the SS. Most of the ride would be on interstate highways and it would complete 1/3 of the Great Lakes 100 trip in the first day. The next three days could be a bit more relaxed with some great roads and scenery. Just what we wanted and weÔÇÖll get two awards out of it to boot. Malcolm invited his brother Colin, another HD rider, to come along too. Colin is a professional truck driver and a good asset to have along I thought.
So there we were, all set to go. Plan A would start September 9th at 6:00A.M. That is until the remnants of Hurricane Francis came along. On Sept. 8th weather sources were predicting rain, and lots of it, for what would be many hours of our first leg. I was feeling pretty nuts enough as it was with this grand adventure without the rain. I didnÔÇÖt care for the idea at all. So here we go, the day before the ride, scrambling for plan B. At first we thought to just change direction and go the other way around. We would also cut the trip in half and come back into Michigan at Sault Ste. Marie after crossing the north side of Lake Superior .I now had a family commitment on what would have been our forth day which was another reason to make a different plan. A niece of mine had finished her training as an Air Force HH60G Pave Hawk helicopter flight engineer. I really wanted to see her during her short time back home before she reports to her next duty assignment.
I decided just reversing the route would not work as the slower roads going to, and in, Canada would make it difficult to make the 1000 miles in 24 hours. I was now considering just canceling the SS and just making this a fun ride around Lake Michigan and Lake Superior. But, Malcolm would have nothing to do with it. He wanted his SS1000 and fish & chips in Canada, or nothing. Malcolm is originally from Scotland, a great bagpipe player and apparently, likes fish & chips. So here we go looking for another route to still do both those things, but out of the way of Francis.
The west of us had much better forecasted weather. So plan B became plan C that went from St. Joe, to Omaha to Duluth MN for the SS1000. Then do the north side of Lake Superior to the Sault (pronounced soo) and return home through Michigan. Maybe tour around the U.P. (MichiganÔÇÖs Upper Peninsula) then cross the Mackinac Bridge. The bridge connects the upper and lower peninsulas of Michigan. It is 5 miles in total length and is the longest suspension bridge in the U.S. and third longest suspension in the world. Then weÔÇÖd travel south through the lower back to the S.W. corner. Get the work done the first day, and take two more days to enjoy the scenery.
We agreed to meet at the local B.P. gas station at 5:30 AM to start the trip. Colin was the first there. This was the first time IÔÇÖve met him and it was easy to see we would not be strangers long. HeÔÇÖs a real great guy and easy to get along with. Colin has a new Harley Davidson Fat Boy with just over 2000 miles on it. This trip will double that. Malcolm then arrived on his Dyna Wide Glide. We looked quit the mixed up bunch. The LT and me dressed all in textile and full face helmet. Malcolm in the more ÔÇ£traditional HarleyÔÇØ black leather jacket, black chaps, and black half shell helmet. And Colin dressed someplace in between.
I called for one of our local St. Joseph Township Police officers to be our starting witness. It didnÔÇÖt require much explaining as to the whys and whatÔÇÖs of what we were doing being that I work for the SheriffÔÇÖs Dept and we knew each other. With that paperwork done, we next gassed up and got the first of our receipts. It was just before 6:00 AM Eastern Time when we left east on I-94 under a beautiful star lit sky.
Then came Chicago. More often than not it seems you canÔÇÖt get near Chicago without running into either road construction or a traffic accident. It was the later of the two we would find out that brought us to stop and go, bumper to bumper traffic. At one point a truck driver next to us asked where we where going. ÔÇ£AnywhereÔÇØ answered Colin. The trucker just nodded his head in an all too familiar understanding.
We were lucky as we werenÔÇÖt that far behind the accident scene and soon we were back up to full speed. We only had one toll booth to go through before entering I-80. I was in the lead and just paid for all three of us at once. Our first gas stop was in Joliet IL. At the station was another HD rider. We talked for just a few minutes and he was kind enough to take a picture of the three of us. Off we were again. I was always in the lead during the SS portion of our ride. The plan was to always stop at the first gas opportunity after each time my trip meter turned 100 miles. The ride was going smooth, especially so for me. When it was colder in the early morning, the LT and I were doing fine. Heated grips on. Electric vest. A book on CD playing on the head phones in my helmet, of which I got teased a lot about. The other two were just slugging it out. No frills at all, except that Malcolm did at least have a heated vest to wear.
It was at the stop just before getting into Iowa that Colin said he knows a place with the best steak & eggs. You know what they say about truck drivers knowing the best places to eat. Sure enough, it was pretty good. I said we had to enjoy this meal because I did not intend to make another long stop until after reaching our final destination. At this stop we used a tip I learned I think from the IBA wed site. We ordered the food, went back outside to gas the bikes, and about the time we returned, breakfast was served.
It was at one of these first few stops that Malcolm used the expression ÔÇ£cowboy upÔÇØ when we were all set for the next leg. He had heard the expression in some movie. After that, it was Colin who adopted the saying whenever we were ready to leave and Malcolm was still trying to finish that cigarette or get in that last half cup of coffee. ÔÇ£Come on, cowboy up, the motors are runningÔÇØ became his urging to get his brother going. Poor Malcolm, ÔÇ£your rushing me, your always rushing me!ÔÇØ was the response.
Running a bit behind schedule we made our half way point. It was actually in Council Bluffs IA, about five miles short of Omaha NE. It was sunny and about 80 degrees. Just a beautiful day. Thinking we might start getting tired a bit later in the ride, I bought a bag of War Head hard candies and divided them up between us. If youÔÇÖve never tried these before, they start out VERY sour before becoming a more normal sweet. They can give quite the pucker especially when you donÔÇÖt know whatÔÇÖs coming. As was the case with Colin. Boy itÔÇÖs always fun to watch when someone tries one for the first time.
So now the plan was to double back to Des Moines and turn north on I-35 to Duluth MN. A few more stops. Quips about my cruise control and ÔÇ£time for the next chapter of my book.ÔÇØ Malcolm always trying to drink a full cup of coffee and smoke an extra cigarette. And Colin giving the ÔÇ£cowboy upÔÇØ as soon as he and I were ready to go again.
I found out after the trip, that Colin and Malcolm could tell when it was soon time to stop. They would see me duck my head down for a few moments, then before long I would signal a stop at an exit. I think what was happening was that each of the book CDs I was listening to would last about 90 miles. When the CD ended, I would know to start looking at the GPS to see how far the next gas stop might be. To those two beat to death Harley riders, it was the ÔÇ£thank goodness weÔÇÖre going to stop soonÔÇØ signal. I do believe I deserve half the award for riding my bike as compared to them riding theirs.