Proceeding Home

At an overlook somewhere between Roanoke, VA and Sweet Springs, WV.

On Sunday of last week I I discovered in the parking lot of my hotel in Florence, Alabama that I had a leaky seal on one of my motorcycle fork legs with fluid seeping out.  I was in the middle of a 3,500-mile vacation ride with the leak starting the weekend before the Fourth of July when there was no place to go for help… Other than fellow members of the Iron Butt Association (IBA), an organization devoted to to safe long distance motorcycle riding.

I went online to ask for advice on a member forum and got good information about my problem (keep riding but get fixed ASAP).

But Scott Newlin, when he found out I was looking to get repairs in Roanoke, VA stepped in and really saved the day for me.  He’s the former GM of Star City PowerSports in Roanoke, the local Yamaha dealer which would likely be the first place I could get help.  Scott got ahold of the current management of the store, got them to order my parts by next-day mail when business restarted on the 5th, and got the already overbooked shop to book me first thing Thursday morning.

By three that afternoon I had repairs completed. And as a bonus, the shop loaned me a Triumph Tiger 800 to ride for the day with the Biker Bishop while they worked on my bike.

Triumph Tiger 800

My loaner Triumph Tiger 800. Thanks, Star City Power Sports!

When I wrote the original draft of this last Thursday, I was taking a break on my way back north and west, but I just wanted to take a moment to thank Scott, as well as Doug and Matt at Star City Power Sports.  They all went out of their way to help someone they didn’t know before. And I really appreciate it.

While there, I was also privileged to meet four-time Iron Butt Rally finisher Peter Withers, who was at the shop with the Yamaha demo rides team.   He asked me some questions about my bike and my involvement with the IBA.  Not knowing who he was, I gave some basic answers and then asked him if he had done any IBA rides…  Anyway, in addition to feeling kind of stupid, it was really cool to meet one of the really Big Dogs of long distance riding.

Much of my ride to the southeast took place while the biannual Iron Butt Rally was taking place.  The IBR is sort of a nationwide motorcycle scavenger hunt that takes place over 11 days where competitors travel somewhere between 8,000 and 12,000 miles collecting photos of statues and other artwork depicting all manner of animals.

Earlier in the week I paced IBR competitor Andy Hall for about 20 minutes in central Arkansas while he was riding his heart out to a gold-medal finish in the rally. It was surprisingly easy to pick out Andy as a competitor on the road – he was on a Gold Wing with lots of extra lights, an auxiliary fuel cell, full electronics in the cockpit, and full gear despite the brutal heat. It was really fun to encounter one of the 100+ riders out in the wild.

I ended my trip with a stop in central Iowa to visit my dad, as well as my brother and his dear wife for day, and then the final run home.  My total mileage for the trip was just shy of 3,500 miles, not counting the 100 or so on the Triumph. It was a great time.

Blue Ridge Parkway Trip

My SPOT track from my 2017 summer motorcycle ride to the southeast United States. Click on the map to see an interactive version of it at the amazing website Spotwalla.

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2 Responses to Proceeding Home

  1. Phil Tarman says:

    Ralph, I’ve never looked at the IBA Facebook area before today and when I did, I found your blog about your ride this year. I still remember having dinner with you here in Greeley (even if I can’t remember when that was!).

    I’ll be bookmarking your blog!

    • admin says:

      I came through Greeley for dinner back during the Team Strange Whispering Giants Grand Tour. It was fun to get together then! I had hoped to get out to Ogden, Utah this summer to get the Merci Train out there, but I don’t think it’s going to happen.

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