Iron Butt Association Membership # 8613
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Doug Woodall, a Gold Member of the Motorcycle Tourer's Forum had been discussing a possible new Iron Butt Association Ride which was originally given the nickname of "The Texas Rim Job". For obvious reasons it seemed that a more appropriate nickname might be considered so the nickname of the ride was changed to the RAT. This ride would require riders to travel the outline of Texas without leaving the state.
The Motorcycle Tourer's Forum, has an annual event they call the Poker Run From Hell (PRFH). Alan Leduc, Founder of the MTF, contacted Doug and ask if he would consider giving his idea for the RAT Ride to the MTF for use in it's 2005 PRFH with the idea that the ride would be developed to the Iron Butt Association Standards and then would be donated to the Iron Butt Association for all to enjoy. Doug agreed to both donate the ride and to serve as the Ride Manager for the 2005 PRFH.
Several months of planning went into development of the ride as it was important to have sufficient stops to ensure both that the corners of the route were marked and that the route stayed in Texas. It was planned that Doug Woodall, Jason Jonas (the MTF IBA Liaison), Alan Leduc, and a few other members would do a pre-PRFH ride to validate the route, work out issues with mandatory stops, determine whether the ideas with regard to RAT Insanity Gold, and RAT Insanity times for certification were appropriate. Life happens. Jason got a job, Doug came out of retirement and accepted a position in Arizona. So Alan agreed to do the pre-PRFH ride during his spring break in March 6-9, 2005.
This report describes the pre-PRFH RAT ride. The plan was to offer this ride will be offered to interested riders during the MTF's PRFH October 2-8, 2005. However, Hurricane Katrina caused that event to be cancelled. The inaugural RAT is now planned in conjunction with the Founders Feast in May of 2006. After this inaugural ride, the ride will be added to the IBA website and will be offered to all other riders for certification.
I was trying to work this ride into a one week Spring Break which was to include some bonus hunting in Southern Illinois and the IBA Party in Daytona, so I decided to start my ride in Texarkana, Texas. Part of my task was to make sure that I validated the availability of 24 hour gas at the prescribed stops. Microsoft Streets and Trips showed the route as 3157.4 miles and 2 days 22 hours (70 hours) using the default speed settings The MS&T time estimate is conservative as they are based upon 65 mph interstate speeds and 60 mph limited access highways while the speed limits on most Texas highways are 70 or 75 mph during daytime and 65 mph at night.
I had done the Trans-Canadian Ride in 2004. The TC is 3680 miles and the IBA allowable time is 75 hours for Gold (49 mph average) and 90 hours for Quest (41 mph average). We believed that the TC was the closest comparison to the RAT. Both would have several miles on non-interstate roads. Both would require travel in metropolitan cities which would present traffic issues and both would require travel directly through several smaller towns. Based upon the averages for the TC and 3158 miles for the RAT, it appeared as though 65 hours for RAT Insantity Gold and 80 hours for RAT Insanity. I was out to see if the 65 hour RAT Gold target was reasonable and to make mental notes as to how the RAT compared to the TC. (The final decision was to allow 70 hours for Rat Insanity Gold and 85 hours for the RAT Insanity.)
I finished my bonus hunting in Southern Illinois and headed directly to Texarkana, Texas which would be the start of the ride. Wait, there was that short stop in Memphis at Interstate BBQ. I arrived in Texarkana at about 8:00 p.m. My satellite radio had quit working so I picked up a new car mount at Walmart. I got back to the Motel 6 (Don Kime has influenced my decisions in hotels), 1924 Hampton Road, Texarkana, Texas and installed the new mount but the XM still was not working properly. I cut and audio cord and spliced on a new plug. Still no success. I guess this ride would have to be without satellite radio. I ordered a wake up call for 5:00 a.m. CST with a planned start of around 6:00 a.m.
I headed to the Diamond Shamrock which was the closest station to the motel. Filled up with gas and waited for the receipt. "Cashier has receipt" was the message. This was not the way to be starting a ride. I should have checked it out the night before. I go inside and get the receipt. Oops. This won't work it has no City, State. I asked if the regular cash register receipt had city and state? Nope. I guess my official start time will not be 5:39 a.m. CST. I head down the street to a Shell station vowing to only stop at Diamond Shamrock stations if there is no other choice. I go in and buy a bag of Beef Jerky and a bottle of water. Official start time: 5:44:56 a.m.
I jumped on Interstate 30 for the short 2 mile run to US59. US59 was a limited access divided highway and was good traveling. This portion of the route reminded me a lot of the non-interstate sections of the Trans-Canadian except that the speed limits were higher and there were a lot more towns and stop lights. This portion of the route was also highly patrolled in about all of the small towns on this quite Sunday morning.
Doug had originally identified a mandatory stop at Three States. This is the corner of Texas, Arkansas and Louisiana. In the preliminary review of the route it appeared that this stop did nothing to contribute to the route. In fact, the only 24 hour gas required a trip outside of Texas. Doug decided this stop would not be necessary.
Doug identified Sabine Pass as the next mandatory stop. However, during our discussions we believed that there would not be 24 hour gas at Sabine Pass, so I decided that I would get gas in Port Arthur to document this corner. I had used Yahoo Yellow Pages and some of the station locators to validate as many 24 hours stations as possible. I had picked Alford's Chevron at 5099 Port Arthur Road for this stop. There was a sign outside saying that it was open 24 hours although it was a small station. They did not have pay at the pump. I filled up and went in to get my receipt and use the restroom. No Public Restrooms. I guess this was not such a good choice. The positive news is that their appeared to be several opportunities for 24 hour gas on the north side of town. Heck they even had a Walmart.
Sabine Pass has been eliminated as a mandatory stop on the final route. However, if you think you will have time I would encourage your to at least go down past the refineries. The route to Sabine Pass takes you through the middle of several large refineries. You will also likely see several large tankers at port.
Knowing that we had not been able to verify 24 hour gas I would be looking for some other means of documentation for this stop. The route to Sea Rim state park was closed and the Battleground State Park had limited hours. So I selected a historical marker at N29.73269 W93.89486.
There was a Chevron station next door but the clerk insured me that there was nothing in town that would be open 24 hours. He said there was a fire station but he didn't think they would want to be awakened at all hours of the night.
After Sabine Pass, Doug had originally planned a mandatory stop at Kopernik Shores. However, we were unable to verify any possibility of 24 hour gas in the area. After some discussion it was decided that South Padre Island would be a good alternative to Kopernik Shores. However, riders could jump up to I-10 after leaving Sabine Pass and ride the interstate through Houston and over to Interstate 35. This did not appear to be with the spirit of Doug's ideas as he had originally explained it. We decided that we would add a mandatory stop at Victoria. This would require riders hug the southeast coast and would shorten the Interstate miles. Doug discussed requiring a ferry ride between Sabine Pass and Galveston but has eliminated this requirement. I decided that the ferry ride was important and prepared a route that would take me to Port Bolivar and require a ferry over to Galveston. This route also would further reduce the number of Interstate miles. The ride from Sabine Pass to Fort Bolivar was enjoyable. There is some development but not like you would see along most coast lines. As I approached Port Bolivar, I was able to get a glimpse at the gulf beaches. I was still wearing my electrics so there was no distraction from girls in bikini's (Ladies, if I were a gal it would have said guys in speedos). As I approached the ferry two things became a concern: 1) about 2 miles from the ferry loading was a sign that said expect long waits (by the way there is a $500 fine for line jumping) and 2) a sign that said "No gasoline containers on ferry" (hmmm, will they have a problem with my fuel cell. The booths entering the ferry were closed so I expected that I would pay during the ride. Nope, this ride is paid for by the Texans. I got no hassles regarding the fuel cell and my lines were relatively short. I forgot to check the time when I arrived at the ferry but I suspect that I only waited 15-30 minutes before being boarded. While there is no requirement to take the ferry. Port Bolivar and Galveston are mandatory stops. Be sure to investigate your options.
I stopped in Galveston for gas. I stopped at the station right as you get off the ferry. This is not a 24 hour station but their appeared to be several other stations that are likely to be open 24 hours. This brings riders down along the gulf coast from Sabine Pass/ Port Arthur; makes the ferry ride a legitimate option; and include Galveston which is a place that I want to go back. There is a lot of old Texan architecture here and I imagine a lot of history. The element of having to plan for the ferry ride would add another element into the planning phase of this ride. Galveston is a reasonably large city so you can expect some traffic getting out of town.
There is no reasonable cross country cut from Galveston to Victoria so Houston here I come. Houston recently elected a new Mayor based upon the traffic congestion. I think they are one of the top 5 worst cities for traffic in the country. My original plan was to take the Sam Houston toll way. As I approached the city, I hit "Find Victoria" on the GPS and it took me right downtown. I had done this on the computer several times, solicited information from my friends, but was now again rethinking the toll way. I opted to go straight downtown to US59. After all, it was Sunday afternoon and traffic appeared light. I hit a couple of stops coming out of town. By Houston standards, I had done well. Never the less, this was a big time eater. I probably should have listened to my friends and taken the toll way. I was pleasantly surprised to find that US 59 was a limited access highway. This part of the route was very similar to my initial leg, south out or Texarkana. I had picked a Citgo travel center right right off of US59 at the intersection with Texas 185. My concern was whether or not the receipt would say Victoria. The receipt was ok and this was a nice 24 hour station.
From Victoria, I would be traveling to South Padre Island. I had been wearing my electric jacket and fleece liner all day although I had not turned the electrics on, so I didn't expect to see a lot of half naked girls in South Padre Island, but since this was Spring Break, there was always hope (gals, you can think guys in speedos). US59 was a good road and traffic was flowing at a reasonable pace. Somewhere just south of Victoria, US59 turned to US77. Like the limited access roads in the trip to this point there was the occasional small town to put a dent in your average mph. US77 intersects US83 at Harlingen. There is about a 30 mile down and 30 mile back from here to South Padre Island. The traffic was slow for this portion of the ride, particularly from Port Isabel to South Padre Island. South Padre Island was pretty at night, looking at that long narrow string of lights going down the island. I had picked a Circle K for this stop. It was right at the end of 100 as you entered South Padre Island. Good choice, except the restrooms were port-a-pots. I assume this was because of all the spring breakers. I gassed up downed a hot dog and admired the sunburn on one of the young spring breakers who was thrilled because she was 21 and 1 day and had just purchased her first fifth. As I was about to leave another young lady noticed my GPS and ask if I could help her find her hotel. I was more than willing to help and it wasn't just the mini skirt and stretched out top that influenced me.
I had expected the leg from Texarkana to South Padre Island to be the slowest portion of the RAT. I have no basis for my expectations, but it just seemed the coast would likely be slow. My mind wanted me to be able to make Del Rio (1200 miles) on the first day but realizing that this might be unrealistic I had planned for a possible stop in Laredo (1019 miles). So my next goal was to find my way through the slow traffic out of South Padre Island to Laredo. My mind expected things to open up as I headed west out of Harlingen. Was I in for a surprise. The traffic from Harlingen to Laredo was terrible. All the way from Haringen to Roma Los Saeng was like traveling through one large city with only an occasional break. When I got to Roma, I was just in time to hit the cruisers, so stop and go traffic caused quite a delay. When I got to Laredo it seemed too early to stop. I had only planned on 4 hours sleep per night so I really wanted to push on until 2:00 a.m. It came down to a choice of stopping and leaving early or stopping and leaving late. I felt good so opted to push on to the next mandatory stop at Del Rio. I had gassed up on the south east side of town but as might be expected from a reasonable large city, there are plenty of opportunities for gas.
I was pleased to see that after leaving Laredo that the heavy traffic had diminished. I could even run my HID lights for added visibility. However, what I was soon to see was about to squelch my enthusiasm. DEER. Is that plural? If not, it should be. This stretch of road was competing for 212 northwest of Sturgis for the most deer I had seen along one stretch. Hmmm. Should I use the Andy Simons' method and just turn off the HID's so I can't see them? Normally you see doe, but I soon spot a very large buck standing perpendicular to the road looking right at me. It was like he was saying, "You want to take me on?" Hell no! I slowed and pulled into the opposing lane. A short time later, I spooked two does and they began to run, I slowed again just in case they decided to come my way. No other really close calls but there were deer all the way to Del Rio, so this really cranked down my speeds to well below the posted limit of 65. Soon after entering town I found a cheap locally owned hotel. The lady didn't seem to mind that I had awakened her in the early morning hours so that she could rent one of her $30 rooms. I was on the cheap. If the hotel was too nasty I would just save some time and leave my clothes on. Fortunately, leaving my clothes on was not necessary. I learned long ago on these kinds of rides to immediately hit the bed and not to turn the TV on. I was soon sound asleep and rested well until my 7:30 a.m. wake up call (remember it was get in late and wake up late; 7:30 is late on an endurance ride). I won't tell you what time I got in.
The next mandatory stop in Doug's instructions was Lajitas and their famous mayor. The mayor is a goat who loves beer. I wouldn't take time to buy the mayor a beer this time as I had done that earlier during the Texas D-Tour. Doug did not stipulate that you would have to ride through Big Bend National Park. Like the ferry at Galveston, I thought Big Bend should be a part of the ride. So I decided to make the stop. Doug did not include Big Bend as part of the ride in part because the speed limit is 45 mph and is strictly enforced. Doug was right both on the speed limit and the enforcement. However, I hope that he and Jason would decide to make it a part of the official ride. Who wants to get down in that part of the country and miss the beauty of Big Bend. Your lucky. Panther Junction will be a mandatory stop.
Leaving from Del Rio, you can expect to pick up the pace. There was very little traffic and the roads were in good shape. This part of the ride was unremarkable except that I was relieved that I was not having to deal with the traffic. I decided to stop in Marathon. This the entrance to Big Bend National Park. There was a Shell Station and I thought I would check to see if it was 24 hour. Nope. They close at 9:00 p.m. or earlier if they have something to do. They do leave the pumps on so you can pay with a credit card 24 hours. I highly recommend the meat burritos with green chilies. There is a visitor center at Persimmon Gap. I stopped here to buy yet another National Park Pass as I had left mine at home and to buy Brenda and I a clean Passport books. I stopped again at Panther Junction to pick up another stamp.
After leaving the slow but enjoyable (I even stopped to take some pictures) pace through Big Bend, it was time to head for Lajitas. What I remembered as a fun spirited ride would be a slow tedious ride over hard pack and oil. The road was under construction and will hopefully be completed before the inagural ride. Lajitas is undergoing major improvements. They have built a new boardwalk and there were several small stores. The hotel is very nice and will be used as a means for a receipt in the event one arrives after the station closes. There may be a $5.00 minimum, so this could be your opportunity to stock up on Lajitas post cards.
Hold on to your hat. The ride from Lajitas to Presideo is just plain fun. I wouldn't recommend this for a night ride. One because you will miss some great views and two because this road is like a rollercoaster. You never quite know what to expect. This is also a very scenic portion of the ride so you have to decide if you are going to have fun in the twisties or enjoy the view. I did a little of both.
There are couple of service stations in Precideo. However there is nothing there that is staffed 24 hours. You can buy 24 hours with a credit card. They call this Old Texas. Let's just say that you will prefer the new Texas. Unlike Galveston, you won't find any beautiful architecture here. You might find some sage brush.
You are now in west Texas. There is not much out in this area so gas planning is important. West Texas does bring 75 mph speed limits on state highways and there is very little traffic so rock and roll. Passing by Marfa, I recalled our experience on the Texas D-Tour of going out to watch the Marfa Lights. They are quite the phenomenon. Never heard of the Marfa Lights? Do a web search or better yet go check them out. I also discovered a tethered radar site on the west side of town. I think I remember seeing this on the Texas D-Tour but had forgotten. It looks like a miniature blimp from a distance.
At the Northwest Corner of Texas, you will be stopping at Anthony which is at the Texas/New Mexico border. There was a Flying J and Pilot Truck Stop. I picked the Flying J but had to manually log the time on the receipt. What is important about Anthony with regard to planning is that it is just west of El Paso. This means that you are going to go through El Paso twice. I thought I was going to hit late rush hour traffic but failed to realize that the extreme western part of Texas is on Mountain Time. So I had to deal with a good bit of traffic.
After leaving Anthony you will head back through El Paso on your way to Guadalupe National Park. I got off at Exit 23 onto Montana Avenue (US62). I hope for those that follow me that there is a better route, as Montana Avenue leads you right through an area with lots of stop lights and shopping. We were having trouble setting mandatory stops in this area that would require the rider to ride the border instead of heading south on the super slab, so I was to look for a possible documentation stop between Anthony and Kermit that would be an option to Guadalupe National Park. My ride to Guadalupe National Park was in the dark and the temperatures dropped to 30 degrees. I'm sure this was be a pretty ride during the day but I was not able to enjoy that. There were several signs warning of deer but I didn't see any. I got a picture at Guadalupe National Park and then proceeded to Kermit looking for an optional stop.
The only possible bonus is Truck Stop (well, that is what they call it) at Dell Junction Highway 62/180, Salt Flat, Texas. They are only open 7:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. However, the owners live in a fifth wheel on the property and said if you were in need of gas, you could knock on the trailer for help. This is one of a few areas that simply are not going to allow 24 hour receipts for documentation. Doug and Jason will have to decide how these stops will be documented.
There was very little traffic so I was running my HID lights most of the time. This allowed me to keep my speed up and still feel safe. At night the speed limit in this area is 65 mph and 75 mph in the day. There's lots of oil in this area. These areas are brightly lit and provide an interesting contrast to the quite night. I arrived in Kermit to not only find 24 hour gas at the Town and Country that I had picked but also a 24 hour Subway. I had planned on sleeping in Kermit as Doug had warned that there were few hotels in this area. However, it was too early to stop, so I had a Subway sandwich and then continued on toward Texline which is at the Texas/New Mexico/Oklahoma border.
I decided to stop for the night at Dimmitt, Texas. While there are not hotel chains in this area there seemed to be at least one mom and pop motel in about every town.
Leaving Dimmitt, Texas and heading toward Texline, I soon discovered that this was farming and ranching country. I had discovered yet another element of Texas. This ride had really exposed the diversity of Texas. I found a 24 Hour Allssup's at Texline and decided to take some time to enjoy a couple of beef burritos. When in Texas do what the Texans do.
From Texline, I would have to backtrack to Dalhart and then shoot across the upper section of Texas to Follett. This area too was mostly farming and ranching. Follett is a very small town. I found gas at Follett Oil on Main Street this is a Full Service Station (they pump your gas if you want or you can pump it for the same price which was about 15 cents higher than I had been paying.) The young owner was a cute blond if that helps. They are not open 24 hours and there is nothing in town that is open 24 hours.
The next mandatory stop was Childress. This would be my last mandatory stop before heading back to Texarkana (Note: Paris has been added to make sure you follow the upper route). There was a nice Shell Station right as I entered town. I filled up and decided to stop at the public library to check some email. The mapping software will route you down toward I-10 for a speed shot across this area. I elected to stay up close to the border on US82. I passed through Wichita Falls and was reminded of my friend Jim Cottingham who is hosting an MTF Regional SS1000. As I approached Dallas, I was tempted to shoot down to the Interstate but that just didn't seem right. I also realized that I was not that far from Burleson, home of my friend Don Braziel. I had wanted to meet Don on this trip and I now wished I had planned a little better but it was now too late to call. Hopefully, I will see him soon. I focused on wrapping up the ride.
I was going to have to make one more gas stop between Childress and Texarkana. I made this stop in Muenster. This must be a German town as there were several German restaurants. I love German food but didn't want to take the time for this at this point. However, when I went into the restroom at D.I. One Stop, the smell of hamburgers could not be resisted. I ordered a burger on the way to the restroom. I had been on the road for nearly three days, eating whatever was available at the closest service station. This was a great burger or maybe it was just great because I was in need of some decent food.
I arrived back at the Shell station in Texarkana and had an ending receipt time of 22:17. My total time was 64.53 hours.
The 50CC is roughly 2362 miles and allows 50 hours (47.24 mph average)
The Trans- Canadian is roughly 3680 miles and allows 75 hours for Gold (49.07 mph average) and 90 hours for the Quest (40.89 mph average)
The Great Lake Challenge is roughly 2424 miles and allows 50 hours for Gold (48.48 mph average) and 100 hours for the Challenge (24.24 miles).
The RAT is roughly 3158 miles based upon the above rides suggested times for this ride would be:
50CC ==> 66.8 hours
TC Gold ==> 64.3 hours
TC Quest ==> 77.2 hours
GL Gold ==> 65.1 hours
GL Challenge ==> 130 hours
The 50CC is just simply a turn and burn across the Interstate roads with high speed limits in the west. There is very little comparison between the 50CC and the RAT.
The TC is a reasonable comparison. I was surprised by how much limited access highway there was on the RAT. The TC requires you to deal with Montreal, Winnipeg, and Calgary in terms of big cities. The RAT requires you to deal with Houston and El Paso. Both the TC and Rat require you to deal with small towns. However, the RAT requires a big penalty in terms of small town traffic on the east coast and the slow stretch from South Padre Island to Laredo. The River Road from Lajitas to Presideo is a good trade off for the Canadian Rockies from Calgary to Vancouver in terms of technical riding. The RAT has the advantage of higher speed limits. Particularly in Western Texas where the speed limits are 75 during the day on State roads. The RAT has three other big penalties. The ferry crossing at Galveston; the 45 mph speed limit through Big Bend National Park; and the number of mandatory stops required to document the route.. Using the TC as a basis for calculating RAT Gold would yield a 65 hour time requirement. It can be done. My time was below 65 hours and I spent some time checking out information that I would not have to do on a regular ride. I also slept 4 hours each night in a motel. However, overall I had very few problems. I personally feel that 65 hours is a little tight and would think 70 hours would be more reasonable. This would allow the Galveston Ferry and Big Bend to be included in the ride. Likewise, I would think a time of 85 hours would be a reasonable time for the RAT Insanity. 70 and 85 hours are the times that were decided upon and should provide a challenge.
This will give you an idea about segment times. 1.0 being average. Therefore 0.9 means that travel was a little below average and 1.1 was a little above average.
|South Padre Island||1.3|
|Big Bend Persimmon Gap||0.5|