Sunday, July 15, 2018

The Mighty Mississippi - Gold

Headwaters Marker
Lake Itasca, MN
The Mississippi River flows from its headwaters at Lake Itasca, MN south to the Gulf of Mexico at Venice, LA.  And, you guessed it, the Iron Butt Association has a certified ride to celebrate the geography of the Mighty Mississippi.

The Mighty Mississippi has been on my ride list for some time. So, now that the spring floods have subsided, I'm going to scratch the Mighty Mississippi off my ride list.  I'll be going for the GOLD of course.

Mighty Mississippi - Time limit 36 hours
Mighty Mississippi GOLD - Time limit 24 hours

SpotWalla Map (click on link to see the full SpotWalla map)

I planned a 4am Tuesday, 7/17 departure from Lake Itasca to take full advantage of my circadian rhythm.  Garmin Basecamp calculates 1,520 miles and riding time of about 22 hours along the route I selected.

Staging for the Ride:  I arrived at Itasca State Park on Monday, 7/16, to visit the headwaters location and scout out the various items on my planning list.  Approaching the park from the south along MN 200 both my GPSs wanted to route me through the south entrance to the park.  The Mary Gibbs Visitor's Center is at the north end of the park so I ignored the GPSs suggested and entered from the north.  The visitor's center is very nice complete with a great cafe and free wifi.  It's just a short walk to the headwaters from there.  After getting my picture taken at the headwaters monument I had a lunch in the cafe and did some blogging.

There are two gas stations/convenience stores near the park.  One at the north entrance and the other at the intersection of US 71 and MN 200, neither are open at my 4 am start time.  The station at the north end does not have pay at the pump gas.  My intended start point is at the station on the west side of the park at the intersection of US 71 and MN 200.  It does have pay at the pump.  It was a good thing I scouted this out before arriving at the wee hours of the morning.  Their credit card pay at the pump system had been down for three days and was not working.  The next closest place to get a dated business receipt (DBR) at 4am was the small community of Park Rapids, some 25 miles south of my start point.

Clean & Comfortable
Since I was starting the ride at 4am I needed a place to stay.  My options were Mississippi Headwaters Hostel inside the park or the Lake George Pines Motel on US 71.  The hostel is deep inside the park and the Pines is 7 miles from my intended start point.  I chose the clean and cozy Pines Motel at $58.  The motel was recently acquired by Jeremy and Mel and they have been busy fixing it up.  The have 7 units that can accommodate up to 8 persons in the largest cabin.  There is a general store and cafe within walking distance from the Pines.  Since I had a 3 am wake up I got all my electronic gear on chargers, prepped my hydration and food stores and was in bed by 7pm.

Segment 1 - Start to St. Louis:  I departed the Pines Motel at 3:20 am and headed to the start point at the gas station on US 71 & MN 200.  The pumps still have tape on the credit card slots so no DBR here.  I am a IBA Premier Member so I a not required to get a starting witness form.  But I do have to prove I was at the start point by means of a photo of the DBR and motorcycle odometer.  The next best thing to a DBR is a satellite tracking marker, photo of GPS showing time/location and the starting odometer reading.  I stopped at the first gas station in Park Rapids, 25 miles south on US71, to get a supporting DBR.

Starting GPS & Odometer

US 71 is a wide and well maintained US Highway.  The brush is cleared well off the sides of the highway which was a good thing in the wee hours of the morning.  I was using my FLIR PathFindIR camera with display to the Garmin Dezl 770, but did not see a single warm blooded critter anywhere near the highway.  US 71 is two lane all the way to US 10 where it opens up to four lanes.  Both US 71 and US 10 have BBG friendly speed limits with the exceptions of transiting the small villages and towns.

By the time I got to the limited access stretches of US 10 it was well after sunrise.  Temperatures were still on the cool side but I was enjoy them as I knew soon enough I would be in the middle of July heat.  I hit the Minneapolis outskirts just in time for morning rush hour.  The Garmin Dezl is great with traffic notices as it updates ever 30 seconds.  Also, it displays the traffic delays in a side bar on the screen with very accurate depiction of the issues.  The Dezl would get me out of several traffic delays down the road.  Out of Minneapolis I was routed south along I-35 to near Clear Lake where I headed east along 4 lane US highways all the way to St. Louis, MO.  The many slowdowns through communities along these highways tended to reduce my ride pace.  My moving average during this segment was 70 mph.

Segment 2 - St. Louis to Memphis:  It was mid afternoon by the time I reach St. Louis.  From here I was on I-55, the primary route all the way to just north of New Orleans.  The ride pace would pick up to normal interstate speeds without the periodic community slowdowns and traffic lights.  The temperatures with in the low 90s.  I was hydrating from my insulated 24oz. Under Armor stainless steel drink bottle filled with Powerade Zero sports drink and water from my milspec CamelBak 3 litre short bladder insulated backpack mounted to the motorcycle.  I left home with 4 bottles of Zero that I picked up at my local Walmart for $0.68 a bottle.  They typically sell for $1.89 or more on the road.  This would sever me several minutes along the road as it is quicker to get gas than it is to get drinks at stops.  Thanks for that tip, Will Barkley!

The temperatures were still in the mid 90s and the humidity was on the rise.  About half way between St. Louis and Memphis I could see showers along my route.  I scanned the weather radar on my Zumo 665 and is showed light showers but no thunderstorms.  I welcomed riding through these refreshing showers.  There were two of them, each about 5 miles long.  By the time I reached Memphis around 6:30 pm I had reached cooler air.  Seemed to me like a I was on the cool side of a weather front.  That and the showers were a refreshing change from the hot riding.  The ride pace had improved after reaching I-55.  My GPS indicated moving average was 74 mph.

I want to give a shout-out to LDComfort.  Not only does the system work as advertised, but I have honed the function of the cooling technique.  During my Death Valley 1,000 Insanity ride last year I was able to ride with relative comfort in 110f+ temperatures all day long.  On the Mighty Mississippi BBG I was wearing a pair of LDComfort's new men's shorts on this ride.  WOW!  What a difference the new front panel design has made.  LDComfort enhanced the shorts by adding what I call the 'Zohan' pouch in the front.  No more 'equipment' adjustments necessary.  Everything stays put.  The results is less comfort distractions in the crotch.  I'm scrapping all my old shorts and replace them with the new design. 

Segment 3 - Memphis to Venice:  Just prior to Memphis the Dezl 770 warned me that the section of I-55 along the south west side of Memphis was at a dead stop.  It routed me to I-40 then I-240 south to avoid the closure.  By 6;30 in the evening traffic was flowing very nicely.  It wasn't too long and I was at BBG friendly ride pace all the way to New Orleans.  The stretch of I-55 between Jackson and just north of New Orleans was like riding through a tunnel of trees.  I had turned on my FLIR PathFindIR camera and was monitoring it for heat signatures of warm blooded animals.  I saw none.

I arrived in the New Orleans metro area at midnight.  The Dezl did a great job of routeing me through to the Belle Chase highway leading down the delta to Venice.  After leaving the city, LA 23 opens up to 4 lanes and speed limits of 55 and 65 mph.  It was 1:29 when I arrived at my stopping destination in Venice.  I chose the Venice Inn motel as at that time of night it and the other hotel are the only places where I was assured of getting a finishing dated business receipt.  I had called ahead to inquire about availability.

Finish GPS & Odometer
Ride Summary & Statistics:  I had achieved my goal of riding from the headwaters of the Mississippi River to the delta in under 24 hours.  This hard riding adventure was sweetened by the Mighty Mississippi themed certification opportunity.  Accomplishing the ride under the Bun Burner Gold certification standards was especially rewarding given it had been 4 years since my last BBG during the 'Earth to Moon' ride in July, 2014.  Also, I did not have any 'close calls' during this BBG.  I was able to keep non moving time to a minimum.  The total time 21:44 from start to finish was as 0:17 minutes shorter than the BaseCamp projected riding time of 22:01.

  • Start Time:  3:45, 7/17/18
  • Finish Time:  1:29, 7/18/18
  • Total Time:  21:44
  • Total Stop Time: 0:38 for 5 fuel stops
  • Total Moving Time:  21:06
  • Total Miles:  1,523 GPS, 1,508 MC Odometer
  • Moving Average:  72 MPH
  • Overall Average:  70 MPH
  • Fuel Used:  38.8 Gallons, 39.35 MPG