L.A. to NYC on a Motorcycle in Less than 50 Hours


By John Parker


10/09/02 Day one:

This ride was born out of my need to get to New York City from Los Angeles in time for the FDNY Memorial on Saturday October 12, 2002.  The New York Fire Department has been honoring their fallen members annually, in October, for many years.  Due to the tragedy of 9-11, last year was the first year they have not had a memorial.  This year was set to be a special event with the addition of the 343 FDNY members who lost their lives at the World Trade Center.  I was selected as one of 62 members of my department who would go to NYC to represent the L.A. City Fire Department.  It was also a good excuse for me to "GO RIDE" my motorcycle.  The mileage from my home in the Los Angeles suburb of Reseda to the site of the World Trade Center disaster is almost 3000 miles.  I arranged to take off several days from my work on the Crash Crew at LAX with vacation time.  This provided me with slightly less than 72 hours to get to NYC before the Memorial ceremonies were scheduled to begin.  It was a perfect scenario for a 50 CC.  Also, this could include a BBG and possibly back-to-back BBGs or a SS3000.  A 50 CC Quest is a documented ride from one coast to the other (Pacific and Atlantic) in 50 hours or less.  Most folks do their 50CC between San Diego, CA and Jacksonville, FL., a ride of around 2300 miles.  My 50 CC will be from L.A. to NYC, a ride of about 3,000 miles.  The Iron Butt Association http://ironbutt.com verifies and certifies properly documented rides and awards certificates of successful completion of these and other LD rides.  My wife Becci and I have been members of the Iron Butt Association since 1997 when we did our first documented SS1000.  My son Rick and I have done a number of documented and un-documented SS1000 rides over the years.  I did my first BBG last summer during the UTAH 1088 http://www.utah1088.com when I did 1569 miles in 23 hours.  A SS1000 is a motorcycle ride that is documented with witnesses and receipts for a distance of at least 1000 miles in 24 hours or less.  A BBG is a documented ride of at least 1500 miles in 24 hours or less.  A SS3000 is 3 back-to-back SS1000’s.  For a ride to be certified by the Iron Butt Association, it must meet certain criteria.  Independent witnesses must document the start and finish.  These can be law enforcement officers, firefighters, Iron Butt Association members, or employees at a motorcycle shop.  Also, all stops of over 10 minutes during the ride must be logged, and receipts with location, date, and time must be obtained from each stop.  If all of the criteria are met, the documents are submitted to the IBA for scrutiny and verification.  If they pass muster, a certificate is issued to the participant.


0500 PDT:  I began my quest at LAFD Fire Station 80, which is located at 6911 World Way West on LA International Airport (LAX).  It is located adjacent to Playa Del Rey Beach on the Pacific Ocean.  I found Engineer Gary Shelford in the kitchen and got him to verify my 50CC Start form and sign as the witness.


0530 PDT:  I parked my bike at Playa Del Rey Beach, and walked the ¼ mile across the wide sandy beach to the Pacific Ocean and got a sample of water and sand to signify the “spiritual start” of my coast-to-coast adventure.  The late Ron Major, acknowledged ST1100 guru and Iron Butt, showed me his collection years ago when I first got interested in Long Distance riding (LD riding).  He impressed me with his description of the Coast-to-Coast rides as “spiritually starting and ending” at the actual water line of the great Pacific and Atlantic Oceans.


0545 PDT:  I documented the “official” start of my 50 CC and BBG quests with a computerized receipt from the Chevron station on Lincoln Blvd. In Marina Del Rey, CA which is about 2 miles from the Pacific Ocean.


Start ODO = 82,006

Start Time = 0545 PDT


I began my ride east on the Marina Fwy to the I-405 then south on the 405 to the I-105.  There was very light traffic this time of the morning in L.A., especially traveling “outbound” as I was.  I used the “high occupancy” lane through the urban sprawl that makes up the “Megalopolis” of L.A. and Riverside/San Bernardino Counties.  The temperatures were in the pleasant mid 60’s so I wore only a long sleeved cotton shirt under my Darien.  When the temps did drop into the low 50’s at the top of the El Cajon Pass, a bit of heat from my Custom Heat grips was all that was required.


0735 PDT:  I stopped for gas in Barstow, CA to document my route from L.A. to I-40.  I called Becci to let her know I was all right and on course.  It was here that I discovered that the hands-free feature wasn’t working with my Nokia 8260 and my Autocom Pro 3000 intercom.  I could hear the incoming calls, but they couldn’t hear me.  I should have checked this out better before leaving, but it is not critical to the ride, as I can still stop and use the phone free of the bike.  It is great to have someone as experienced in computers and long distance motorcycle riding as Becci to provide info and encouragement to me along the way.  Even if it was just over the phone lines, Becci would turn out to be my most valuable resource as I rode, and rode, and rode…..


ODO = 82137

Leg = 130.9 mi

Gas = 3.179 gal

Distance = 130.9 mi

Time = 1:50

AVS = 71.5 mph


The ride east out of Barstow on the I-40 started what would be a very long “superslab” segment that would continue until Oklahoma City, OK.  The I-40 replaced the old Route 66.  I normally ride the 66 when traveling this direction as it is much less trafficked and has very few trucks.  Also, the little towns and businesses along the “National Trails Highway” are much more charming and the pace much more relaxing.  However, the ride I had embarked upon this morning required that I stay on the interstates as much as possible to keep my average speed up.  L.A. to NYC is approximately 3000 miles.  If you do the math, you will find that I must average 60 mph over the entire trip including stops for gas, food, and rest.  There would be little time for sightseeing on the trip out.  I would save that for the ride home.


I hit the first of many construction zones that I would have to navigate on this trip at Ludlow, CA.  This was a 28-mile length of single lane each way with 45 mph speed limit.  The trucks mostly average that, but it just takes one car with a trailer to slow the pace for everyone to 25 mph.  With no passing in these zones, it leaves the rider with a bit of time to sightsee, eat, drink, adjust gear, and stretch.  Many of these tasks were made much easier by my Schuberth helmet.  I got this helmet last February just before the 2002 White Stag Rally.  The flip up chin bar and several other unique features make this a very valuable asset on a long ride.  These construction zones come up at least every several hundred miles, and sometimes as much as every 20-30 miles.  They are a fact of life on the road and must be factored into any ride.  At the Summit through the Old Dad Mountains near Kelbaker Rd, the construction zone ended and the road opened back into 2 lanes in each direction.  As traffic spread out, and assumed its normal speed, I set my pace to my usual 3-5 mph faster than the average.  I learned this technique from an “old-timer” with several million miles under his seat when I was just a youngster.  By overtaking most of the traffic, one is able to control the situation better than if traffic is overtaking oneself.  Law Enforcement Officials (LEOs) are not alerted by your modest speed, and overtaking maneuvers are accomplished safely and timely.  There are still enough “rabbits” to speed ahead and keep the LEOs busy.  This also eliminates the situation where one’s vehicle is overtaking other vehicles at an absurdly slow rate.  This brings up one of my pet peeves on the highway.  Passing/overtaking maneuvers should be made in as timely a manner as possible.  It should take yards to pass another vehicle, not miles.  The less time spent adjacent to other vehicles on the road the safer your travel will be.  This is especially true with big rig trucks, as objects of all shapes and sizes tend to fall off of them on the road.  If you ever have the experience of being in the adjacent lane when one of these 18 + wheel leviathans throws a tread or blows a tire, you will expedite your passes from then on.  BTDT.    My other pet peeve is when vehicles stay in the left lane when the right lane is open, or won’t pull to the open right lane when an obviously faster vehicle is overtaking them in the left lane.  This left-lane-always habit clogs the highway for miles at times and results in a lot of needless road rage and bad feelings.  It is not as much a problem when riding a motorcycle, as it is much smaller and faster accelerating than the 4-wheelers, and can use the sparsely occupied right lane to pass.  

Traffic wasn’t much of a problem this weekday morning heading away from the big city, and I passed through Needles, CA and crossed the Colorado River at 1000 PDT, saying goodbye to California for 11 more days.


The ride through Kingman, AZ and on to Williams, AZ was scenic and easy going.  I had several “rabbits” leading the way, so no worries about LEOs.  A rabbit when used in this context is a driver who is willing (sometimes un-knowingly) to take the lead and trigger the LEO radar ahead of you.  That will allow a vehicle following at a discrete distance (1/4 – ½ mile) to react to his V-One radar detector alert in plenty of time to check the speedo and adjust as necessary.  Developing and handling a rabbit is a skill that I honed to perfection after years of driving in California, without a radar detector, in the days before the CHP used radar.  For the most part a radar detector isn’t an absolute necessity the way I drive, but for that odd time when a LEO is hiding out of sight in an absurdly low speed zone, it can pay for itself in one alert.  It is also interesting and useful for me to know when LEOs are in the area, as many times it alerts me to some other hazard that may not be readily visible.  The scenery along here is exceptional and quite an antithesis to the desert that surrounds this oasis for hundreds of miles in all directions.  For about 75 miles the eye is treated to pines and cool temperatures.


1145 MT:  I gassed up in Williams, AZ at the entrance to Grand Canyon National Park.


ODO = 82464

Leg = 327 mi

Gas = 9.5 gal

Distance = 458 mi

Time = 6:00

AVS = 76.33 mph


I continued east on the I-40 as planned and enjoyed beautiful weather in the mid 60’s through Flagstaff, AZ, Winslow, AZ, over the high passes of Gallup, NM, and into Albuquerque, NM.  This was a long and pretty un-spectacular bit of travel, and my electronic cruise control and Steed Sticks highway pegs paid bonus dividends by allowing me to change positions on the bike and kept me from getting lulled into numbed inattention during this section.  That is one great advantage in having a “rally prepared” bike vs. a stock one on a long ride such as this.  I have plenty of things to keep my mind active on these long rides and several items to aid in my comfort.  The Travelcade Stealth saddle helps keep my butt from developing problems.  The highway pegs allow me to reposition my legs and hips and redistribute pressure to several places on my anatomy to prevent cramps and hot spots.  A Garmin Street Pilot GPS feeds me lots of information on my whereabouts, speed, distance, average speed, top speed, points of interest and necessities along the road.  The V-1 alerts me to hazards along the road and keeps me watching far ahead for them.  An MP3 player supplies me with endless hours of my favorite tunes and allows me to get a flavor for towns ahead by listening to their FM radio stations and traffic reports.  My Ron Major auxiliary fuel cell expands my fuel capacity to 11 gallons and allows me to not have to worry about finding fuel in the vast deserted expanses of the Western U.S.  A Camelback hydrating system allows me to travel for the 5-6 hours between fuel stops without need for refreshment.  I am blessed with a gargantuan bladder, so those pit stops can wait until fuel is needed.


1734 MDT:  I stopped for gas and a bit of my onboard snacks in Albuquerque, NM.  I called Becci and let her know I was still on track and feeling good.  She was keeping track of me on a computer map program as I progressed across the country.  The notes she made as I traveled would later prove to be invaluable when I went to write this essay.


ODO = 82816

Leg = 352 mi

Gas = 9.63 gal

Distance = 810 mi

Time = 10:45

AVS = 75.34 mph


The place where I stopped in Albuquerque must have been the wrong side of town as the constabulary was made up of gang bangers and low riders with loud rap music permeating the air.  I was real glad to get back on the road and get clear of this “burg”.  Traffic was a bit of a mess, this being rush hour and lane splitting being frowned upon here.  Eventually, I was past the traffic and into the canyon, climbing up in altitude as I cleared the Sandia Mountains and crossed the high plateau toward Santa Rosa, NM.  I cruised through quaint, but beautiful Santa Rosa right at dusk.  As night enveloped me in the “center of the earth” inky black darkness of the Southwest desert, I was glad I had upgraded this bike to a 40-amp alternator, added PIAA 910 driving lights and converted the OEM headlights to High Intensity Discharge (H.I.D.).  With this setup I can turn the road ahead and to the sides into stadium-like lighting.  Every critter, large or small, freezes and lights up like a road sign.


A few miles east of Tucumcari, NM my GPS indicated 1000 miles since Marina Del Rey this morning.  My elapsed time for the first SS1000 of this trip was 13hr15min.  Not bad for driving at a steady speed with the flow of traffic.  My BBG goal is looking well in hand.  I was fairly confident in my ability to succeed in a BBG this trip, but ventured on with a bit of trepidation, as I had never ridden this far east on the I-40 in one day.


As I left New Mexico and entered Texas, I started hitting more and more bad weather.  The temperature dropped and a ground fog with drizzle and high crosswinds were whipping around me as I hit more construction west of Amarillo, TX.  I pulled off of the I-40 in the little “one horse” town of Adrian, TX to put on my Gerbing heated jacket liner and gloves.  I topped up the fuel as well, even though it wasn’t low. 


2147 CDT:  I Stopped in Adrian, TX (west of Amarillo) to put on electrics and top up fuel.  It’s 40 degrees and windy with drizzle.


ODO = 83058

Leg = 242.4 mi

Gas = 6.72 gal

Distance = 1052 mi

Time = 14:02

AVS = 74.6 mph


The drizzle and fog continued through Amarillo and all of the way through Texas.  At times the visibility dropped to 50 or 60 feet, and I had to lower my speed appropriately to compensate.  Once into Oklahoma things cleared up and, though low clouds prevailed, traveling conditions were very good.  Traffic was light at that time of night, and it still looked good for a successful BBG.  There wasn’t much to see in this part of the country, and with the dark night, there wasn’t much opportunity to soak in the landscape anyway.  I still maintained my pace at 3-5 mph over the average traffic that was slower due to darkness.  At one point near Oklahoma City, an 18-wheeler passed me on the left, so I followed discreetly as the big guy ran as my rabbit.  I caught and passed him several times as he got held up in traffic, but he passed me again each time he got a chance.  It was easy to identify him as he had bright violet side marker lights.  I didn’t see him again after I turned north on I-44 in Oklahoma City.

0204 CDT:  I topped up with gas in Oklahoma City, OK as I new this should be my last stop before I finished my BBG and took a sleep break.  I called Becci to let her know I was turning northeast and planned to stop for sleep in several hours.  She was staying awake to hear from me.  I promised to let her know when I stopped.  It was midnight for her in Oregon.


ODO = 83361

Leg = 303.2 mi

Gas = 7.7 gal

Distance = 1355 mi

Time = 18:19

AVS = 74.04 mph


Oklahoma City was a bit of a milestone for me, as I had never traveled that far on I-40 without stopping at least twice for the night prior to this trip.  I also knew that I was nearing my goal for the BBG.  That goal is all that kept me going to my next stop.  The thought of giving up and getting a room sprang up a number of times in the next 3 hours.  I wasn’t all that sleepy, and I had no problems maintaining wakefulness, but I was definitely beat from the many miles and hours on the road without a warm meal or long break.  I knew though, that I had to keep up the pace for a few more hours.  At least then I could then get some needed rest before starting the last half of my quest.  I tried to put the fact out of my mind that I would have to nearly duplicate today’s feat again tomorrow before I could rest again.


I-44 out of Oklahoma City becomes the Turner Turnpike in a few miles.  I soon found out that Turnpike means $$$.  The toll for me to continue my ride to sleep was $3.50.  I barely realized how much trouble these toll plazas would become as my ride unfolded into the EAST.  I’ll just say now that paying tolls from a motorcycle is a pain in the ass, at the very least, and a dangerous impediment to traffic flow under some circumstances.  Once on the “turnpike” I was able to make good time with virtually no traffic during the hours between 0200 and 0500.  This is the time of day I routinely enjoy traveling anyway, as most trucks are parked for the night in the rest stops and off/on ramps.  I revel in the freedom of having the road to myself. Sometime around 0400 CDT, I saw my GPS turn 1500 miles since starting my quest a little over 21 hours ago.  The first chance I had to get off the turnpike, now the Will Rogers Turnpike since Tulsa, OK, was in Afton, OK.  This is near the Oklahoma – Missouri border and close to Joplin, MO.  I paid the $2.25 toll for the ride from Tulsa.  A few miles from the Turnpike I found a quiet little mom & pop motel and checked in for a few hours of needed rest.


0504 CDT:  I checked into the Grand Lake Country Inn at 21751 S. hwy 69 in Afton, OK and collected a computer stamped and timed receipt to verify the end of my BBG.  I called Becci to let her know I was OK and had accomplished my first goal of a BBG.  She was elated.  She had also been awake since my start  over 21 hours ago!  She said she would call me in 4 hours to make sure I got up and going again.  I also set my Screamin’ Meanie trucker’s alarm for 4 hours.  We both caught a few hours of well-deserved and needed sleep.


ODO = 83548

Leg = 287 mi

Distance = 1542 mi

Time = 21:19

AVS = 72.34 mph


************** BBG1500 COMPLETED SUCCESSFULLY!!!!!!! *****************



10/10/02 Day two:

This day dawned early for me.  After a mere 3 ½ hours of sleep, I awoke before my Screamin’ Meanie alarm went off and showered.  After packing the bike, I made the short walk over to the café next to the motel and had a great hot breakfast of ham, eggs, hash browns, biscuits and gravy and hot coffee.  I also called Becci to let her know I was on the road again.  Total time for rest stop 5hr:45min.


0945 MDT:  I started the second day of my 50 CC quest refreshed and surprisingly well rested.  I had accomplished my first goal of the BBG and was ready to start working my next goal; the completion of the 50 CC.  I had 24 hours to complete the 1421 miles remaining to New York City.  The 5hr 45min rest period at 0 miles per hour had lowered my overall average to under the 60 mph I needed to meet my requirements, but I was sure I could bring the average back up in the next 24 hours.  One thing was sure; in 24 hours or less I would be finished with my quest, or I would take a good rest anyway.  I was much more secure in my capabilities and limitations than I was yesterday morning at the start of Day One.


Start ODO = 83548

Start Time = 0945 CDT


I re-entered the Will Rogers Turnpike and paid my $1.25 to continue on to Joplin.  Traffic was a bit heavier this time of day, but I still made fairly good time through Joplin, MO and Springfield, MO.  The scenery in this part of the country is beautiful during the daylight hours.  The terrain varies from hilly woods, to meadows and valleys of hardwoods.  The people appeared much friendlier and less stressed than those I encountered along the I-40 yesterday.  The drivers drove sensibly for the most part and pulled to the right in most situations.  The speed of average traffic was down a bit from the speeds I observed during daylight hours out West.  I again adjusted my speed to 3-5 mph over the average traffic and settled in for the long ride.  There was very little to distract me at the slower pace, so I enjoyed taking in the beautiful countryside and amused myself with math problems in my head to figure average speeds and rest periods possible to complete my goal for the day…. New York City.


1256 CDT:  I stopped in the small farming community of Lebanon, MO for gas and a few chews of my onboard beef jerky.


ODO = 83707

Leg = 159 mi

Gas = 9.5gal

Distance = 1701 mi

Time = 29:11

AVS = 58.29mph


I continued northeast on I-44 through Missouri, enjoying the exquisite weather and terrain until I reached the big city of Saint Louis, MO.  I hadn’t been to SLO since I traveled here with my dad, aunt, and kids Rick and Stephanie in dad’s motor home in 1985 to attend the Parker Family Reunion in Paris, Illinois.  We took 5 days to get this far.  I again took a quick look at the trademark Arch as I negotiated the afternoon traffic.  I relived the memory I had of the 5 of us riding the unique elevator to the peak of the Arch.  I also re-felt the uneasy feeling I had that first time looking out the windows at the top and seeing the ground so far below…directly below.  I was through Saint Louis all too soon and crossed the mighty Mississippi River without even realizing it.  I had planned on stopping to take a photo of the mighty Mississip’ after crossing for posterity’s sake.  Instead, I continued on through the endless cornfields of Illinois and Indiana on I-70.  Around Terre Haute, IN I saw a few traffic warning signs stating that there was heavy traffic on the I-70 before Indianapolis.  As I approached Cloverdale, IN the traffic came to a complete stop.  I maneuvered to the off ramp at Cloverdale and the intersection of hwy 231 to find a way around the jam and get some fuel.  I also had to finally empty that “gargantuan” bladder of mine.


1751 CDT:  I topped up the ST’s gas tank and emptied my own in Cloverdale, IN.  I also checked the GPS and found a way around the jam.  I also spotted a couple of petite Whitetail deer in the woods nearby.  This was a stern reminder to me that deer are a very real hazard on the back roads in this part of the country at this time of day (twilight).  I also noted that I had completed 2066 miles in 34hr:06min, including a sleep stop and a hot meal.  Not bad.  I noted that my overall average speed was back up to over 60 mph.  Now if I could only mitigate the damage this traffic jam detour was bound to cost me.  High speeds were not an option with the deer situation.  I also called Becci and let her know my plans.


ODO = 84072

Leg = 365.5 mi

Gas = 9.536 gal

Distance = 2066 mi

Time = 34:06

AVS = 60.59 mph


I detoured from my planned route onto IN-231 and on to the old IN-40 which paralleled the I-70 all of the way to Indianapolis.  The going was pretty good even though the speeds were way down through the several towns along the way.  Traffic was light and the few curves were a welcome change to the beeline straightness of the superslab.  I got turned around a few times and had to backtrack once to get back to the Interstate, but I did manage to get past whatever was jamming the traffic.  I cruised through Indianapolis after dark on the I-74 and I-465 south of downtown.  This sure is a beautiful city at night.


The ride east on the I-70 through Richmond, IN and into Ohio was mostly uneventful.  I entered Ohio with some trepidation, as I had never been to this state before, and I had heard the reputation of the Ohio State Police was one to be feared for the hapless out-of-stater.  I may have been lucky, but I had no LEO problems for my entire time in Ohio.  In fact I never saw one.  I passed through Springfield, OH and bypassed downtown Columbus, OH on the I-270 at around 2030.  There was very little traffic and the Columbus skyline was colorful and serine at this hour. 


Leaving Columbus I had some brain dead cager (BDC) who shadowed me, or tried to, for about 30 miles.  A “cage” is motorcycle-speak for automobile/pickup/SUV/mini-van/etc. This guy was a good rabbit for a while, as he seemed to travel at a good clip, and I welcomed having someone “rabbit” for me in this strange land of M/C eating LEOs.  Unfortunately, my BDC rabbit kept losing his speed, and I had to pass him several times to keep above the speed of the truck traffic.  He would then speed up again and pass me for several miles then drop off his speed and I’d pass him again.  I got tired of this before long, as I don’t like people to keep passing me and mess up my pace.  I poured on the coal for a few miles and put him way behind me.  I then pulled off at a truckstop for a break and to get clear of the BDC.  It was almost 2100 and I hadn’t had a warm meal since breakfast in Oklahoma, over 12 hours before.  I didn’t need gas yet as I was getting excellent mileage at the lower speed averages east of the Mississippi.  So I ordered the largest Arby’s beef sandwich (1 lb) and “wolfed” it down.  I was on the road again in less than 10 minutes.

I left Ohio at around midnight and entered West Virginia at Wheeling.  It was a short but scenic ride through West Virginia; very mountainous and curvy.  I was starting to get a bit of “brain fade” but was still able to control the bike without any apparent impairment.  I should have studied the maps more closely before I left L.A. as I was not absolutely sure of my final route into NYC, nor was I sure how to approach the area.  I had ridden the entire distance from L.A. with little problem finding my turnoffs with the GPS.  However, with the onset of “Brain fade” I was not making good navigation decisions and the GPS was exceedingly difficult to read in the dark with all of the secondary roads that cram the Eastern U.S.  I may have to upgrade to the Garmin Color Street Pilot, because with my monochrome SPI, roads and rivers all look the same, especially at night.  Shortly after entering Pennsylvania, I stopped in Claysville to fuel up and scrutinize my final leg into NYC and the finish of my 50 CC quest.


0058 EDT:  I pulled into the truck stop at Claysville, PA to fuel up and plan my last leg.  I called Becci to let her know my plans.  She was worried that I sounded tired, but I assured her I would stop if I got sleepy.


ODO = 84453

Leg = 380.6 mi

Gas = 9.199 gal

Distance = 2447 mi

Time = 40:13

AVS = 60.84 mph


My overall average speed was still slightly above 60 mph, which was good.  What was not so good was that I talked myself into thinking I needed to be on the I-80 to get into NYC.  Continuing on the 70 looked like I would either have to go through Philadelphia, or I would have to take several toll roads to get to New Jersey and finally to NYC.  In my deteriorated state of mind I wanted the simplest possible route.  It looked to me like I SHOULD have veered off of the I-70 back in Columbus, OH to make a more direct route to I-80.  This further messed with my already mushed brain and had me thinking I might not make the deadline for my 50 CC.  My morale dropped into the dark depths of despair, as I started to believe I had little or no chance of completing my second goal after devoting all of these hours and thousands of miles of physical deprivation getting this far.  I plotted my route north to I-80 through Pittsburgh on I-76.  I SHOULD have spent a little more time and made more detailed route directions.  It would have kept me from getting on several wrong routes through Pittsburgh, which took me way out of my way, and caused me to waste about 1 ½ - 2 hours.  I also may have realized that I could have continued on the I-70 and I-76 east to Harrisburg, PA.  I then would have had a straight shot through Newark, NJ to the Holland Tunnel and into NYC.  As it was, I wandered in a confused and disoriented state until I finally got to the I-80 in Youngstown, OH.  I wasn’t the least bit sleepy, but I was running on pure adrenaline.


Once on the I-80, at least I knew that I could get to NYC on this Interstate.  I didn’t know how long it would take me, and unbeknownst to me, I had been running on the wrong assumption that I had less time to complete my mission than I actually did.  I knew I had 50 hours to do the CC, and I set my dual countdown timer on my Mark Reis shelf to 50 hours when I started back in Marina Del Rey, CA.  I had been using the time on the timer to calculate in my mind and keep on schedule during the day.  However, the timer is not illuminated at night, and somehow my mental calculations with mush mind after 40 hours on the road, left me calculating based on 48 hours instead of 50.  On top of all of that, it started to rain as soon as I got to Pennsylvania.  It sprinkled at first, and then became a steady downpour.  The spray off of the trucks was causing white out conditions and resulted in a much reduced pace.  The bow waves off of the big rigs were soaking me and my gear, even through the rain covers on my RKA tankbag and Rev-Pak Expedition seatbag.  The Darien was doing its job, but water was creeping in via the neck, sleeve, and cuff openings.  It wasn’t meant to be submerged like a scuba diver’s wet suit.  That is exactly what the conditions were like that stormy night.  Later I found out that this storm had dropped 4 inches of rain in that area during that 24-hour period.   I was soaking wet, fighting hypothermia, sleep deprivation and lack of proper nutrition.  My spirits were very low, added to that I was operating under the erroneous belief that I had only about 2 ½ hours to complete almost 200 miles in terrible conditions.  As I came upon a Petro Truckstop in Milton, PA, I was all set to call off the 50 CC quest and check into a motel room to wait out the rain and get some well needed sleep.


0610 EDT:  I pulled off of the I-80 in Milton, PA and gassed up.  I called Becci (it was 3:20 a.m. at her location) and told her of my plans.  We tried to figure how far it was to NYC, but we were both “brain dead” at that point and didn’t come up with a very good estimate.  We discussed the probability of failure on this leg of the Quest and the possibility of needing a motel.  She was looking on the Internet for suitable places near me.  While trying to decide which motel to check into, I happened to glance at my countdown timer; now illuminated by the overhead lights at the gas pumps.  To my surprise, it showed 4hr 30min left rather than the 2hr 30min I had calculated in my “burnt meat on a stick” mind.  Hummm, a little recalculating showed that I had nearly 4 ½ hours left to go 190 miles.  THAT WAS DOABLE!  I told Becci that I was back on track and intended to try to complete my mission.  I could tell she was worried about my condition and the poor weather, but she encouraged me anyway.  I spent about 30 minutes getting as well water proofed as I could.


ODO = 84793

Leg = 340 mi

Gas = 9.576 gal

Distance = 2787 mi

Time = 45:25

AVS = 61.36mph


My spirits were MUCH higher now.  I was wet, tired, and hungry, but I now had 4 hours to ride less than 200 miles.  That was less than a 50 mph average.  I had maintained more than 60 mph for the last 19 hours.  I was sure I had a chance now.  All I had to do was keep going and not stop.  I re-entered I-80 after nearly 40 minutes at the truckstop.  Traffic was flowing about 60 mph, and the rain was still coming down in buckets.  Dawn was breaking, however, and that always makes things seem better.  The temperature was in the high 40’s.  My Gerbing jacket liner was only heating the left side.  My Heat-Trollers were intermediately functioning due to the rain soaking.  My Heated grips were only working in the left grip. Right grip was cold and sopping wet.  I had changed from my Gerbing heated gloves to a pair of rubber dishwashing gloves with Thermolactel liners because the Gerbings were soaked through and through from the previous hours of rain.  My hands, especially the right one, would be numb for the rest of the ride today.  The I-80 through most of Pennsylvania is mountainous and curvey.  This is not the best terrain for making good time on the road, even in excellent weather.  I kept moving, and the towns kept coming and going on the road signs.  The distance to NYC decreased slowly but steadily.  Autos and trucks stacked up as BDC’s and BDT’s pass each other at painfully slow rates.  Trucks were running in the left lane and blocking me from passing on the right.  But I was still keeping up my 60 mph overall average.  Several accidents had to be cleared and maneuvered around.  Then just 100 miles from my destination, both lanes came to a complete stop. “Another accident?” I said to myself.   It was obvious after 10 – 15 miles that this was not going to get any better.  At about 80 miles out I was stuck in rush hour traffic (I later came to believe it was really all of the firemen coming into NYC for Saturday’s {tomorrow’s} memorial).  It had become apparent that even though I was only 80 miles from completing my 50 CC Quest, I wouldn’t make it at this pace.  Lane splitting is illegal in New Jersey and New York.  However, in that pouring rain it was a sure thing that no LEO was going to stop me from splitting lanes.  So, I went into “California Freeway Rush Hour” mode and began “filtering” through the stopped traffic at a reasonably safe pace.  My only concern was the other drivers, who might not take kindly to this motorcycle “cheating” and passing them in the same lane.  Amazingly, I had only a few drivers who looked like they were attempting to block my progress.  I get more than that number on a similar drive in L.A. where lane splitting is legal!


So with a bit of luck and daring-do at the last minute, including busting the Fast Pay lane at the Lincoln Tunnel, I pulled onto Manhattan Island, New York City, NY.  Now I just had to find a gas station and get a computer receipt to validate the end time of my 50 CC.  This was easier said than done!  NYC streets are not the place for a lost out-of-towner.  I learned very quickly that when the car in front of you moves, you had better move with it or risk being run over, cut off, honked at, or yelled at…or all at once.  I finally spotted a UPS truck ahead and used the ST’s superior (compared to a 4-wheeler) maneuverability to get along side the driver and ask for directions to the nearest gas station.  A little more “creative” driving, and I was at the pump of the BP Coco station on 10th Ave.


0946 EDT:  I found a gas station in New York City, NY and took a quick load of gas (partial fill) and got my time stamped computer receipt.  I double checked the date, time, and location and saw “Oct 11, 2002 09:46” at the bottom of the receipt, and “New York, NY” at the top.  YAHOO!!!  EUREKA!!!  I had finished my 50 CC from Los Angeles to New York City in less than the allotted 50 hours.


ODO = 84963

Leg = 170 mi

Gas = 3.436 gal (partial)

Distance = 2957 mi

Time = 49:01

AVS = 60.33 mph


GPS: **Note: GPS measurements differ from actual due to loss of satellite reception during travel in heavy trees, deep caynons, and tunnels.

Distance = 2932.9

AVS Driving = 75.3 mph

AVS Overall = 60.2 mph

Driving time = 38:57

Stopped = 9:46

Total time = 48:43


My next obligation to fulfill the requirements of the Iron Butt Association was to get a witness to sign my finish witness form.  This proved to be a bit of a problem, as it was still pouring down rain, so I needed some indoor location to fill out the form.  I called Becci and let her know I had accomplished my second goal of finishing the 50CC successfully.  She was elated.  She hadn’t gotten much more sleep than I since I left 49 hours ago.  I told her my need to find a witness for the finish form, and she set out to locate one using the Internet and computer mapping programs.  After driving around Manhattan traffic for about an hour looking for a fire station or police station, I found BMW of New York on West Side Drive.  Inside two very friendly shop employees put up with the gallons of rain water I dripped on their floor, listened to my “amazing” tale, and filled me with hot coffee while they verified my ODO and signed the Finish witness form. 


************** L.A. to NYC 50CC COMPLETED SUCCESSFULLY!!!!!!! *****************


They also gave me some good advice on getting to New Jersey, where I hoped to find a room to dry out and catch some sleep before the FDNY Memorial the next day.  Eventually, I left as they were closing for the weekend, and set out to get my sample of Atlantic Ocean water and sand, and then find a room for the weekend.  Since there is NO sandy beach on Manhattan Island, I went to New Jersey and filled my sample bottle with water and sand from the Atlantic Ocean.  The “spiritual” end to my Coast-to-Coast ride was now complete.  I had kept the “spirit of the ride” intact, as Ron had described to me so many years ago.  I checked into the Days Inn at the Newark International Airport for a well needed and deserved sleep. 


An account of my leisurely (5 days) return to California including the FDNY Memorial service , Skyline Drive (105 mi), Blue Ridge Parkway (470 mi), Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Deals Gap, and my battle with the “infamous” Dragon (318 turns in 11 miles) can be found at the above links.


Ride safe…John