Story by:Keith TaylorKeith
It all started with a review of the IBA website (www.ironbutt.com) in 2007 under the events tab where I discovered a coast to coast ride from Jacksonville to San Diego. As fate would have it, mainly due to work availability, I was unable to attend. But I was able to review the Hoagy’s Heroes website (www.hoagysheroes.org) and find out about the group that does only charity events to sponsor several charities: A Special Wish Foundation (www.spwish.org), Children of Fallen Soldiers Relief Fund (www.cfsrf.org), and NHS Human Service Autism Schools (www.nhsonline.org). While I really appreciate long distance riding, I think that it’s also important to remember those who can’t or may never be able to complete one. So, the hook was set, and somehow I would do a ride with the group. I also reviewed the history of the group and saw how much money that they had previously raised in past years.
Fast forward to the IBA Bike Week Party in Jacksonville, FL in March 2008. During one of the get-together's, I spied a fellow wearing a bright iridescent lime green t-shirt with Hoagy’s Heroes Charity Rides who was talking to some folks outside the hotel. So this appeared to be my opportunity, quite serendipitously, to find out more about the organization. I walked up and basically described my interest as mentioned above and, as it turned out, shook the hand of Hoagy himself. Some good conversation, interesting introductions, and a lunch the following day only enhanced my desire to participate.
Two weeks’ vacation per year and the inability to rollover any of it from previous years was going to make any ride participation a challenge. There were two good opportunities for me: the Keystone 1000 Saddle Sore in June and the 2000 Back to Back Saddle Sore in September. The June ride at the time appears more probable due to the date, but, honestly, my preference was for the September run, having never attempted the 2000.
Preparation began for how I was going to collect some monies for these causes. Being more theoretical than practical, I thought to create a collection box that I could put in a dealership or two where people could put some pocket change if they felt a calling to contribute. My wife completed construction out of a shoe-box appropriately decorated that is seen below.
First shop and first stop was at my local and preferred Honda dealership. After discussion with the manager, he suggested that they would prefer to advertise more local area charities and runs and that a run in Pennsylvania was a little far for Orlando, FL residents. This seemed perfectly plausible explanation to me even though I didn't buy it. So I reasoned that I’d better hit the local Harley dealership due to its monstrous size, foot traffic, and potential donor base. Some days later with box in hand, I rode my Goldwing to the Harley dealership in my colors (hi-viz Darien Jacket with excessive road grime). Arriving at the information booth, I asked to speak to the marketing manager and was told that appointments were necessary. After obtaining email address and phone number, I vowed to continue the quest. Emails returned as undelivered as well as phone calls unreturned sealed the response: I wouldn't get to speak with anyone about this.
One can imagine, perhaps, my overall disappointment of my fund raising attempts, as I had thought the idea was terrific. Helas, turning to non-biker friends and family I raised some money but was still disappointed in the outcome.
The next important task was to secure the time off from work. Without providing too much personal detail, it is sometimes a challenge to take vacation during certain times of the month. There were some discussions, and it still appeared that the June time-frame would work. At this writing, I don’t remember what exactly happened, but June would not work out. Meanwhile, I was speaking to Hoagy on the phone, and he had put me in contact with some local FL folks who might be riding up to WV. One week it seemed that I was going in June, and the next week not. In the end, my contact ‘yes’, and I, ‘no’.
The ‘no’ outcome turned out to be fortuitous. With some additional discussion, success in cross-training, and the willingness of a particular colleague to do my work during that particular part of the month made my participation in the run possible. To her goes a big thank you. Now, I'm headed to WV after Labor Day to participate in my preferential ride. Originally, I didn't think that the possibility existed in March, and now, in July, it was possible.
I enjoyed the Labor Day week-end while preparing to leave early Tuesday morning for a ride directly to WV. Using Google maps, I found several routes to WV and return that would also quality as SS 1000. As usual my concern turned to the weather. Fortunately for my family, some normal Florida severe summer weather had given us a preview of a small roof leak that was repaired in August. We had repairs done just before Hurricane Fay rolled in during that month. A week of heavy rain is not preferable anywhere. Orlando was on the ‘good’ side – we didn't get the 2 feet of rain that Melbourne did 30 miles away. Then there was the uncertainty of possible tracks for hurricanes Gustav and Hanna which begged the question: if I got to WV, could I get back to FL in time for work?
Departure from FL was about 5:00. I had scheduled the route to arrive in the WV hotel before the night person left at 23:30 to avoid making arrangements to leave a key somewhere on property. Rain was in the forecast and didn't disappoint – I scheduled my departure to arrive after the Jacksonville rush hour, and while missing the rush hour, I arrived with the rain. Eventually the rain stopped at an unremembered ‘northern’ location, and what an enjoyable ride that followed. The VA/WV mountain views, the climbs, descents, and curves were especially exciting after longer flat interstates. These views are unseen in FL and reminded me of trips gone by (contrary to popular opinion, there are no ski slopes in Mt. Dora, FL). As it turned out, it seemed that the most difficult part of the ride was Ohio 7 late on Tuesday – feeling the pressure to get there and typical anxiety of being lost. Great deer country, many towns, slow going – not my preference for a late night and tired rider – no CB chatter either. My ‘local information’ question about which route was preferable – OH 7 or WV 2 to Moundsville went unanswered as the radio squawked after the bike hit another pothole.
Room secured, witness obtained – the night clerk, gas obtained, and now I had a new home base. I especially appreciate having a home base – always a place to call ‘home’. As I unpacked my gear, a nod went to a construction group having a beer at a room at the end of the hotel. Mental note during the unpacking process– the probability of always bringing too much stuff is at its highest with the length of time away before leaving on a ride – ends up as a burden upon arrival, unless the gear was needed. Our SS 2000 run didn't start until Thursday night. Arriving on Tuesday night, Wednesday morning allowed me one day of tourism. As a bike commuter, I like riding, getting there, having a base, and then being a tourist. Got married that way, taken vacations that way, it’s just a preference. My wife, who hasn't gotten on a bike since my lone wreck in 2006, had determined some points of interest that I should take in. Hoagy was busy working, and I reasoned that I was arriving before anyone else. She had determined that I should at least visit the State Penitentiary.
As it turned out, the hotel was family owned, and they also owned the restaurant across the parking lot. Hours were 8:00 to 20:00 including a lounge that was open late. As a rule, I try to take advantage of trying every omelet possible across the USA, and this excursion would be no exception. When I ordered the potatoes with the omelets, the waitress asked me if I wanted some ketchup. After tasting the fair, this was a ‘no ketchup necessary’ restaurant and perhaps should make Frommer's list.
The folks at the hotel also helped me be well prepared for all the runs – the 2000 and the ride back. Small things like putting my blue ice in the freezer to keep it cold, preparing some great to-go sandwiches for something better than beef jerky and fast food on the run, allowing a later checkout due to my slow packing ability, was, in my opinion, a gold mine. The Moundsville hospitality is not one to be underestimated. I mentioned the prison to the waitresses and asked about areas to visit – the penitentiary was right next to the Moundsville museum, an Indian mound dating from 1000 C.E. After breakfast, I had two places to visit within a couple of miles.
The State Penitentiary was not something to be missed. Arriving after Labor Day and being a Florida resident, I know that tourism drops once the kids are back in school. Today would be no exception whether one was in Moundsville or Orlando. I arrived between the hourly tours, so a guide suggested a visit to the Mound museum and to be back for the tour within an hour. Arriving back for the tour, I found out that I was the only guest scheduled. This was a boon to someone like me who likes to ask a lot of questions and take many pictures. I'll include only two here. Note what is also visible in the second, the PT cruiser and my bike.
After the prison tour, I headed back to the museum for additional information on the Mound.
These are views of the Mound and from the Mound to the museum. Anyone who enjoys learning about early US history and Native American history would appreciate this destination.
I mentioned the PT cruiser because I had a chance to talk with ‘Boss Boo’, his WV license plate. What I didn't know was that the prison does a haunted house for Halloween every year as a fund raiser. After speaking with the guides and picking up a couple of brochures, the haunted house appeared to me as a must do. As an ex-Universal Studios employee, and one who has participated in many Halloween Horror Nights, the description provided would be one that I’d want to see. Boss was checking out the view of the 13’ hydraulic monster that he was putting up on the prison roof – this is something that I would want to see.
Wednesday afternoon, I made contact with Hoagy who invited me over to view the famous Irish Pub, a stop on the IBR Rally from 2007. I can only say one picture does not do it justice and to best appreciate it, one must be a guest. A superb evening…
Sandwiches secured, bags packed, and time underestimated made me the last arrival for the departure at 20:00. Everyone departs at 20:00 but I decide to depart at 20:05 to follow the ‘ride at our own pace’ IBA advisory rule. Blessing given by Bill that everyone would be safe and would arrive back as they started. We were off from exit 208 on I-70 in OH to Russell, KS and back through OH, IL, IN, MO, KS. It was a pre-approved route with 3 gas stops required at the 1000 mile mark, at the 1500 mile mark, and the finish.
Ride, ride, and ride, and even through remnants of Fay. I think it was the stop at in Martinsville, IL where I encountered ‘the’ trucker pep talk in the wee morning hours. One knows those early morning stops where no one else is on the road – had to wait in line to get a rest room break. Advice like: ‘it’s raining up ahead’, ‘big gusts all the way to KS’, ‘roads are flooded’, ‘better stop and get a motel’ conversations. I ate one of my home made sandwiches at the truck stop table, had a nice chat with the two clerks of the store. When I asked one of them exactly where I was, one replied “you’re nowhere”. To this I responded, “I can’t be nowhere because you live here”. Their coffee was good as I donned my ‘cold weather’ gear and additional rain protection.
As suspected, the trucker weather reports were either exaggerated or old news. However, I did get confused with the directions in those wee hours as I was seeing two signs pointing in the same direction to the same place. To avoid making an additional navigation error (the one made earlier by choosing a ‘loop’ where I took the long way round), I stopped in the median to review a map. As I'm trying to figure out the correct direction, up rides a fellow Hoagy rider, Aaron from OH. We have a middle of the night discussion about where we were, are, going, etc., and decide to stick together. Please understand that I was so sure at the last ‘loop’ that I was going the correct way, that I didn't follow two other riders that actually took the prescribed route. So this time I was going to check it out and save myself a detour.
Thankfully, dawn finally arrived as we cruised into Kansas City only to encounter dense morning fog and the rush hour traffic. Riding in to Kansas City, we could hear the CB chatter of fog, traffic reports, and other incidents along the route. The fog disappeared only to be replaced by lines of cars that might have affected my riding partners air-cooled engine. Nothing lost and traffic negotiated, we ventured into the long KS stretch, giving us views of distant horizons, windmills, and rainstorms of things to come.
Sporadic rain followed us all the way to Russell. I hadn't seen so many windmills since the Sweetwater, TX area. Long horizons allowed what seemed to be a view of the curvature of the Earth – entirely cloud filled which had at least one of us wishing for the sun. We noticed that the availability of road side gas stations lengthened, so we made more frequent stops before reserves were hit. Finally arriving in Russell for the turnaround point was a great relief. Signature required by the station manager because our receipts weren't printing out time stamps. We weren't the first to arrive as we had passed Hoagy’s group an hour before on their return trip. In the flat terrain he wasn't too hard to spot – the multicolored wig attached to the half helmet of the HH president.
Another encouraging comment from a woman at the gas station to Aaron – ‘we don’t ride in the rain from where I'm from due to the slickness of the tarmac’ or some such thing. We also met some riders continuing West and some continuing North and going a ‘fer piece’. I had my stock sandwich and jerky, Aaron his energy bars. I thought too to purchase a shot glass for my daughter who is too young to drink but not too young to collect them. (Please note all the 2’s in the previous sentence).
Sometimes on a trip it seems like the getting back part goes faster than the arriving part. It did feel good to reach the 1000+ mark and to know that there was only one-half to go. We got on the road coming back already with an idea of where we would be making some gas stops. However, despite what I had hoped, the ride back to St. Louis seemed as least as long as the arrival. Usually there are certain times of day when the fatigue sets in. I found that singing really loudly into my full-face helmet does not help too much, so, despite this fact, I regaled myself with a performance that certainly would have lasted at most 15 seconds on the Gong Show.
With our perfect timing we arrived back in Kansas City to evening rush hour traffic after encountering the morning rush. Things were in balance in the universe. The weather had improved which was a welcomed relief from the day. We encountered something in the air which actually made me pull over. My tear ducts were putting out especially salty tears to try to counter act whatever it was, but my eyes were burning enough that I needed keep them closed for a bit. Of course, pulling over on any interstate is dangerous, and, as expected, we had all of two feet of shoulder to accommodate an emergency stop. I reckon one can never drink too much water.
It was St. Louis by night, and I was personally discussing amongst myself the engineers who had designed the highway lighting. The Friday night partiers were already on the road making their infamous multi-lane maneuvers at high speeds followed by excessive braking. The highway lighting design seemed to be “we'll light the highway from the access road by pointing the overhead lights into the drivers’ eyes” methodology – and I mean that will all due respect. My unsuccessful Google search later was unable to find this theory in any text, but I believe that it has been successfully accomplished there – and I mean that with all due respect. I finally had to do the unthinkable, most unfriendly driving maneuver on the trip: get in the fast lane and hit the PIAA HID 100 advertised watt high beams that are actually 50. I'm sure to not have made any friends that night, ones that were ahead of me anyway, but at least one person and everyone behind me could see on the road.
Thankfully out of that metro area, our 1500 mile stopping point would be where we would get some much needed rest. That destination would be Maryville, IL. The gas receipt was at the Shell station, and the informal rendezvous point was at the Hampton Inn. We never found either: our Maryville gas stop was the One Stop Shop. A cell phone check had Hoagy’s group some miles up the road at a different hotel with a rendezvous time at 8:00am. However, we weren't sure which time zone that would be – we’re in Central but left in Eastern. As we pulled into an insurance agent company parking lot to make a plan, we accosted a passing jogger for some local information. He gave us the local hotel scoop, and so it was off to the Econolodge.
Checked in, unloaded some gear, had a shower, a view of the weather channel (had to check on where any hurricanes were), and the next moment was the wake-up call.
Our incorrect guess as to the time of the rendezvous, CST, was of course incorrect because the obvious answer was EST, so we arrived as everyone was gearing up to leave. We had missed the breakfast appointment. But, I did have time to get the most wonderful to-go egg/ham/thing on a bagel at the ‘sorry I didn't write it down restaurant and hotel’. It was a marvel. So please contact Hoagy for further information.
Yes, we had decided to meet and ride the last 500 miles together. Other than the initial morning fog, the weather was clear and beautiful. The CB chatter was worth the entire trip – as the truckers saw Hoagy in the lead with his aforementioned multi-colored hair/helmet. I'll leave the commentary that they made to the readers’ imagination – and yes, any idea that comes into your mind was probably spoken over the airwaves – some questionable to FCC regulations. Hoagy had the opportunity to explain the purpose of the ride to his callers and only received additional encouragement from them. A few pictures taken on the ride back included some ‘riding’ shots – which are all available on the HH website.
Additional shot glasses purchased at a couple of stops, we rolled in to OH to the police headquarters to get the final receipt and witness statements. Papers signed and motorcycle fatalities discussed with the nicest dispatchers in WV, we arrived safely at the Irish Pub (aka Hoagy’s garage). I did make a stop at the hotel to unload the bike, grab a quick shower, and talk to my ‘better half’ who still thinks that I'm quite eccentric.
The welcome at the Irish Pub was extraordinary. One last rider pulled up about 30 minutes before the deadline. Hoagy had a passel of volunteers to help him on the return. A special thanks to Hoagy’s mother who worked tirelessly to prepare a multitude of tasks, Jeff who cooked some mean steaks with the infamous Butt Rub spices, these were 5-star quality steaks, Kay, a great bartender, Carol for checking in my ride, and many others whose names I will forget due to my age.
Appropriately, this would be where I would like to end my essay – the extraordinary hospitality and camaraderie at the Irish Pub and the volunteers and riders of the Hoagy’s Heroes runs of 2008.
Of course and thankfully, I made it back to FL on the same route – nature and providence had allowed a clear run back – no hurricanes in FL yet. The entire trip has only increased my desire to participate next year. 2009 promises a SS 1000 in June and a Coast-to-Coast (San Diego to Jacksonville) in September. If you have made it this far in the 3,500 word essay, I truly hope that you'll contact Hoagy and participate next year in the runs.
Long Distance riding is fun – riding in Hoagy’s run is ‘funner’. Thanks again to all