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Girl and Ducati Monster Ride Coast to Coast in Under 50 Hours!

By Sean Alexander, Jul. 07, 2004
This was an anon post in our daily news "IN" box. After reading it I figured you all might like to give it a gander -Sean

The tears came hard and strong. I didnt think the news would have such an effect on me, but when the note came telling me I had not made the cut for the 2005 Iron Butt Rally it cut to the bone. I had not let up on my training thinking that maybe just maybe I would get in again, so I was ready when the news came to set my sights on another 50cc attempt. Here is the tale as best as I can tell it as this ride was probably the hardest ride I have ever done.

May 19th
I arrived at Ducati Seattle at about 2 pm. Kevin, Service Manager, and Randy, Head Tech, were all ready to sign me out. They also confirmed that my chain tension was good and the oil level was all set. I then rode one block to the hotel I would be spending the night in so that I would officially start on the Pacific ocean, or as close as possible.

I scavenged my last meal at a local gas station, eating it quietly in thought in my hotel room. This will be the third time I have tried to do a 50cc (Coast to Coast in 50 total hours the official rules can be found at www.ironbutt.com), unfortunately the first time was hampered by a fluke snowstorm in one of the higher passes in Montana and the second time by bike problems coupled with bad weather. This time I was determined to finish; I had been working out diligently two to three times a day in preparation for the sheer physical strain this would put on my body. The mental strain would be comparable to running a marathon, so though it would be harsh it was nothing I hadnt been through before.

Most people probably would have determined after two tries that perhaps this wasnt quite the ride for them. But when the news came that I did not qualify for the 2005 Iron Butt Rally I was determined to do a distance ride though this one had bitten my butt twice it made it that much more an enticing challenge as I truly dislike the idea that perhaps I cant do something. I suppose I also wanted to prove, as I have done so many times before, much to everyones amazement that a Ducati Monster can be a touring bike and that small diminutive women are truly strong.

I made a few last calls to loved ones reminding them there would be no further calls or communication until either I got to Annapolis or I stopped for some other reason. I knew this would be probably the hardest ride they had ever experienced with me as this would be the first time I would be unable to make any calls until I was done as wasted time meant less time to rest.

May 20th
2 am I can no longer sleep; it is time and I am ready. I enjoy the last shower I will have for at least 50 hours, a good breakfast without my helmet on, and the donning of clean clothes. My official start time is noted clearly on the gas station receipt as 2:37 am May 20, 2004, now I am punched in and the clock has started ticking I have but 50 hours to make it to Annapolis.

I have been closely monitoring the weather channel, so I know only too well some of my riding will be done in the rain but the temps are maintaining at 50 or above all the way across the country, thereby I am not too concerned. My ride will be straight out I-90 to Billings, Montana, where I will hook up with I-94 until I reach I-80 then I-76 and finally I-70 in Maryland. I will be taking a few detours to avoid traffic through St Paul and Chicago but basically my route is as noted.

The first few hours are uneventful, the section of I-90 through Washington, Idaho and Montana I know much too well. I know every stop I will make by heart, every gas station with a clean bathroom and how far I will have to veer off the freeway to get to it. In Rocker, Montana, I take a little longer to get some coffee and eat a little something more than what I can shove up under my face shield. Most of my eating, drinking and sleeping will be done with my helmet on as taking it on and off wastes time. My meals may not sound overly enticing and they will be far from gourmet but after years of traveling this way I know exactly what I need to eat to keep my energy up; Balance bars, Advantage Edge Protein bars, dried fruit, beef and turkey jerky, chocolate almond bark and fruit chew candies. My fluids will be water from my camelback coupled with coffee when I need it and only when I need it as it will require the removal of my helmet.

The weather is clear and calm so I can enjoy the scenery which is a joy once I get past Spokane and into the passes of Idaho and Montana. The speed limit too is much higher in Montana so I can keep up a pretty good pace. The only thing slowing me down at times was the construction. I would somehow, over the course of this ride, encounter every major construction project in every state from the west coast to the east coast.

It is not until late in the afternoon when I reach Billings, Montana, that the weather starts to get rough. The winds are picking up and I can see I am in for some rough riding, but I am determined that no matter what, I will do this; I know deep down that I can. Pulling into Forsyth, Montana, the rain has started and the temperatures have dropped but this is what I had expected so I ride on.

I have ridden through various stormy situations for so long I do not realize sometimes how the bike and I must look to others. I receive quite a reality check when I arrive at my schedule gas stop in Glendive, Montana. A man jumped from his car and excitedly approached me to relay his story; When you passed me I thought to myself that is one tough dude! He was now gesturing wildly You were leaned over like this against the wind! Then I realized thats not a dude its a girl! I laughed and said Yep I am either one tough girl or one really insane one. I dont know what the wind was blowing at but I do know it was sapping much of my strength to keep the bike on the road and the rain was blowing sideways. I could see the storm for miles in the distance but I wasnt ready to give up just yet.

I would continue riding through stormy weather on and off until I took the one official rest I had allocated for myself. I had hoped to make it to Minnesota before I needed to rest but I realized outside of Bismarck, North Dakota, my time had come. I pulled into a hotel as it was too cold and rainy for me to chance a outdoor rest break and had the pleasure of a two hour nap, in the same clothes I had been riding in all day. I had been tempted to not remove my riding jacket and pants but thought better of it as they were both damp, and after jacking up the heat to full I fell asleep until about 2:30 am.

May 21st
On the road again I would hit everything from sunny skies to pouring rain and blowing winds. The horrendous weather I would encounter just made the ridiculous number of construction projects I ran into almost a cruel joke. The various sights and gorgeous vistas helped to squelch the awful joke as I had forgotten how different the Midwest was from the West and then on to the East. I love experiencing the geographical and architectural differences every section of the country has to offer, and sometimes even just one state; like Montana, which is so large, you can go from one extreme to another before leaving the state. Though I will admit I truly dislike the tedious monotony of the mid-west and central states where there is nothing but straight flat road for miles and miles.

I am not fond of to Minneapolis-St Paul, for some reason I just dont find these sister cities particularly fascinating. But deeper into Wisconsin I am temporarily treated to dry roads and sunshine along with nice rolling lush greenery. I am now finding myself struggling to maintain my zone, I start counting states I need to get through to finish up. One of the hardest challenges was yet to come and I was in no way prepared for it.

I thought the best solution to the traffic issues I had run into in Chicago last year on the Iron Butt Rally was to go around, so outside of Madison, Wisconsin, I had hooked up to Route 39/I-90 which would intersect with I-294 around the city. What I didnt know was that every 10 miles there would be a toll of booth and that there was a major accident on the east side of town where a huge construction project had already hampered traffic flow, what should have taken but an hour took several.

The temperatures had now risen and the humidity of the east had joined them, so I started to gear down. I also realized that my face was suffering from the sun as though I had lathered on the suntan lotion in Jamestown, North Dakota, before leaving the hotel I had now been on the road for hours.

Now too I was not just counting states but was telling myself to just get to the next gas stop. I do not have a fuel cell on my bike so my gas stops were between 100 and 130 miles apart depending on how easy it was for me to get gas. I started to sing anything that came into my head; the Oscar Mayer bologna jingle, the Star Spangled Banner, and on and on. My mind wandered to thoughts of childhood experiences, from weekends at the beach to Shakeys pizza parties. It is amazing what comes into your mind when you start reaching the limits of your physical and mental strength.

It was now starting to get dark and I knew this night I would not be resting in a hotel as I was quickly running out of time. I had never ridden this late at night before and I was not really prepared for the drunk drivers mixed with drowsy drivers. Now I was having to be doubly careful of not only the prospect of deer running out into the road, bad road conditions and my own weariness, but the condition of those around me as well.
May 22nd
Somewhere north of Youngstown, Ohio, I was truly going to give up. I did not think I could eat another piece of beef jerky or nutrition bar. All I could think about was a nice warm bed with my kitty curled up next to me. I was not sure I could physically go on and the lightening and thunderstorm raging around me was truly putting the fear of God in me. I pulled into a service area and tried to nap but could not, so I called Ric and he did exactly the right thing (perhaps not what my mother would have wanted but what I needed). He first asked if I was ok; when I confirmed I was fine but I was tired he asked how far I was from my destination I said I thought I was 250 miles, his response was That is not that far and you have plenty of time. Call me when you finish. Unfortunately what neither of us realized at the time is I had not opened the map entirely and I was really almost 500 miles from Annapolis.

I remounted the bike forcing myself on. By now the roads had reached awful rutted proportions, a dense fog had settled in and a storm was reverberating all around me. For some unknown reason the storm was ragging all around me but I was not encountering it, so I continued. I realized finally that I needed to rest. I had no idea I could get this tired but be so wound up at the same time; I was so close and yet so far at the same time. It was incredibly hard for me to stop as it was already 2 am and I was still in Pennsylvania but I knew if I didnt rest I wouldnt make it to Annapolis.

I found a gas station that also had parking for truckers and cars to rest. I laid my helmeted head down on my tank bag and then next thing I knew it was 2:30 am and I was raring to go again. Now dawn was approaching which I knew would make the riding that much easier, but I also knew my deadline was fast approaching and I still had no clue as to how much further I had to go. Now I began to think about the possibility of getting there just minutes over my deadline, how horrible that would be.

I was back on the main road lickety-split and I was hoping that there would be no traffic issues or any working construction sites as this was a Saturday morning. But not having lucked out so far I was not about to count my chickens before they hatched and once again set my mind to achieving little goals; one more gas stop, or the next town on the map. I was not in any physical pain having worked so hard to avoid that, but mentally this was taking every ounce of willpower I had, the only thing I could compare it to is putting me in a room filled with chocolate cake and steak and telling me I couldnt have any!

Finally, I arrived in Annapolis and pulled into a Texaco to get my last gas receipt. It is 4:04 am and I am almost done, I only had to find three witness who could verify that I truly arrived at my destination within my 50 hours. My first witness was a woman I approached when I could not find my hotel. She was sporting a Harley t-shirt so I figured who better and when I told her what I had just done she was thrilled to sign my witness form and wanted my website address as well.

I arrived at the hotel and was lucky enough to be given a room though I had arrived well in advance of the normal check in time. I was also greeted by several hotel staff who were more than willing to sign me in. One of the hotel staff was an older gentleman who then would reprimand me several times when he saw me up and around and not sleeping, unfortunately the amount of caffeine I had ingested coupled with my excitement of completing this incredible ride at first prevented me from sleeping.

As soon as I was in the room I called Ric first, then my parents, explaining I really didnt want to talk in length that I had not showered or changed my clothes since Thursday at 2 am and as soon as I had done that, found food and was resting comfortably in my room I would definitely call them back to talk in length.

Even as I sit here I can not believe what I have done, it is not quite that I cant believe I could do it but that I did. Those that I encountered on my ride home, my friends and my family too have expressed awe much greater than that of even completing the Iron Butt Rally last year. I am not sure why but I too feel as if this was the hardest ride I have ever done. Now Ric is asking the same question I am asking myself What is next? Well one thing is for certain not retirement which one my mothers friends asked her the other day When will she out grow this? I hope never as every time I set out to accomplish something that challenges me mentally and physically it brings me such joy I cant imagine ever stopping.
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