Ride for the Heart 1000

Ride for the Heart 1000, May 6-7 2006

The Ride For the Heart 1000 is an Iron Butt Association Saddle Sore ride -- 1000 miles or more that must be completed in less than 24 hours.  Sól Sisters members Sachi and K.Lee had completed the Ride for the Heart 1000 last year, and had become two of only about 1850 women Iron Butt Association members (out of around 24,000 total members).  This year, Sachi and K.Lee encouraged Anita, Jett, and Lilia, three other Women in the Wind members, to join them.  Also riding with them was Paul, a friend of Lilia's.  Jett and Paul had ridden for many years but neither had done more than 500 or 600 miles in a day.  Lilia and Anita were relatively new riders, so this was going to be quite a test for them.  

Sachi had prepared the group for this ride, by trying to understand what each rider needed and what the bikes were capable of.  The group even went out on a 400-mile practice ride, which was very helpful for understanding how to ride together as a group over long distances.  Riding in a group for a club ride is one thing; riding in a group when you are trying to make time, and deal efficiently with traffic obstructions and gas stops, is quite another.   The ride was more aggressive and required much more effort by the riders to stay together as a group.

The start of the ride was not auspicious. We were flagged off from the start location at 5:35 AM on the dot.  Sachi was leading but lost her companions in the two blocks between the start and the freeway (except for K.Lee, who as always was bungeed to her hip).  In her defense, it was dark, we started at the same time as several other riders, and one motorcycle headlight looks the same as others . . . but once they realized the other riders were not behind them, K.Lee and Sachi pulled over and waited.  Anita, Jett, Lilia, and Paul came along in a minute and from then on, we were able to hang together for the rest of the ride.  Pretty amazing for five women and one guy who have very different riding styles, but we all managed to accommodate each other.

The route covered parts of California, Nevada, and Arizona that K.Lee and Sachi had ridden before, so Sachi knew where she was going much of the time without using the maps.  From San Diego, we went north on I-15.  We sailed into the first checkpoint in Ontario (east of LA, not Canada), and right out again without getting gas.  We had some nasty practical issues with gas - two of the women were concerned about their gas mileage, so we planned to stop for gas every 130 miles at the outside.  Out in the desert, with gas stations spaced 50 or 60 miles apart, that meant we had to plan our stops carefully.  A few times we had to stop at very close intervals to be sure we could make it to the next gas station without running out on one of those low-mileage bikes.

Because of the distances between stops on the first stretch, we had planned to get gas about 20 miles past Ontario, then at Baker where we turned off the 15 to head north toward Death Valley.  The country north of Baker is astonishingly gorgeous!  It was one of many places on the ride where we could have gotten off the bikes and spent half a day looking around.  Our destination, however, was Pahrump, where we all needed to get a gas receipt to satisfy the requirements for the SaddleSore certificate.

After Pahrump, we headed through the mountains (also gorgeous) towards Las Vegas and Henderson Harley-Davidson, where the second checkpoint awaited us.   To Sachi's surprise, Mike Kneebone, the president of the Iron Butt Association, was at Henderson!  Mike had met Sachi and K.Lee at one of the checkpoints during the previous year's ride.  Mike and Sachi talked a bit about the ride.  The other women took a break and had hot dogs that the dealer had cooking on a barbecue for the rally participants. 

We gassed up again and headed out into the desert, going down the dullest road known to woman (and man, we presume) - 95 from Henderson to Needles. ::snore::  We pulled over at one point to check on a rider standing next to his bike, but after thanking us for stopping, he said that he had run out of gas and that his friend was getting more fuel for him.  So we pressed on.  Not a good place to be caught with a problem.

We finally escaped the 95 by going east on the Laughlin Cutoff, which ran across the hills and was very pretty.  Laughlin was the first HOT place of the trip, down in its little oven of a valley.  Fortunately, we left the heat behind as we climbed out again toward Kingman.  

Kingman was another gas stop.  Anita, Lilia, and Jett were starting to understand what they were in for by now, around 500 miles into the trip.  :-)  After a quick stop, just gas, a snack, and water, onward we rode toward Wickenburg and Phoenix. Beautiful country . . . We saw a vulture soaring over our bikes but we were not his bait that day.  

We came across other riders in the Ride for the Heart at times, sometimes at the gas stops, sometimes on the road.  We would pass or re-pass each other with a wave and a smile.  Gas again in Wickenburg . . . getting late!  Well, on to Phoenix and the last checkpoint before we pointed to home.

We made it through Phoenix's freeways to Apache Junction Harley for the last checkpoint.  We were doing pretty well by that time, and although Sachi knew we'd still have to push it going back, our newbies had been doing a great job and deserved a break.  So we all had a sandwich and sat for a bit -- K.Lee did some yoga and meditated near her beautiful Indian -- before saddling up and getting gas for the next stretch of highway.  

Our next stop was Gila Bend, down on highway 8.  On the way, we saw a very brilliant shooting star disappear over New Mexico - wow!  Down on earth, a little bunny scurried out from under our headlights.  Sachi needed a coke badly when she got to Gila Bend - She said she was getting highway hypnosis and the caffiene helped quite a bit.  Some of the other women had coffee as well.

On through the dark desert to Yuma.  By that time that's all that was left for us to think about . . . getting gas and getting home. Our bikes ran steadily down the straight roads in the warm night air, but we were tired . . . It was 12:15 AM by the time we pulled into Yuma.  Way late.  We had hoped to make better time, but it was not much of a surprise given the number of gas stops we had to make to fill the poor-mileage cruisers.

We made another quick gas stop in El Centro, just 60 miles down the 8, because it is very common to have severe, mileage-robbing headwinds as you ride toward the Tecate mountains.  This time, though, we had smooth sailing.  We still got gas, but were able to ride comfortably to Ocotillo and the mountains without any wind at all.

To the mountains, but not into.  :-)  As is so often the case, the gusts hit when we began riding up into the hills, and started blowing us around the road.  They were not quite as bad as last year's winds, though, when Sachi actually got off her bike and hid behind a rock until she could get the nerve to continue!

The mountains were not through with us, though.  Just as we reached the first crest (there are three), the fog hit.  REALLY bad fog.  Ugly thick coverbothsidesofyourshieldandyourglassesallatoncefog.  Sigh.  All we could do was slow down to about twenty and even ten miles per hour, and put our blinkers on for some attempt at safety.  It did not lift completely until we were past the mountains and near Alpine, on the way down to San Diego.  

Well, that's the story.  Jett, Lilia, and Anita stuck with K.Lee and Sachi for 1125 miles of focused riding.  They pushed themselves farther than they ever had, and in more ways than simply distance travelled in 24 hours.  We rode at a safe speed at every stage of this ride - we never felt as though we were riding at a speed too fast or -- something that can be every bit as dangerous -- too slow for the traffic, which had concerned us (especially on the 15 between Ontario and Barstow, which is known to be dangerous.)   

It was a little hard to keep the group together at times (especially after it got dark again), but worth the effort.  It was SO COOL for all five Women in the Wind to roll into the final checkpoint as a team!  :-)  We're just really proud of that, and the Sól Sisters are tremendously proud of Anita, Lilia, and Jett for pushing through for their first Iron Butt ride!  

Will we do it again?  Of course!  The Ride for the Heart not only supports a worthwhile cause, but runs a rally that makes it possible for even a relatively new rider who is committed and gutsy to finish an Iron Butt certified ride.  We hope that our success will encourage even more of the Women in the Wind from the chapters scattered throughout the desert to join in and try the ride next year!  We'd love to see you on the road!