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Guardian angels and a Saddlesore 1000 that just wasn't meant to be...


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[all pictures should link to larger ones]


This past week has not been an easy one for a number of members on this board - including myself. The tragic crash of Don (Kowboy) on his K1200RS and his passing was quite a shock. A good friend, and one of the few members on this board that lived relatively close to me is gone. Yes, this one really hit close to home.


Hearing news like this is shocking, it's scary, and, at least for me, it causes me to re-evaluate lots of things - including my choice to ride a motorcycle. But, at the same time, there are some words that David Baker (Recourses) said that continue to stick with me which are, "It makes me want to ride even more." After considering those words, I wholeheartedly agree.


A matter of days after Don's accident, I was scheduled to do a two-up Saddlesore 1000 with Kim as my passenger, and veteran long distance rider and good friend Steve Carr (Steves1150) accompanying us. This was my first attempt at an Iron Butt ride, and Kim wanted to do this one with me.


My plan was to complete this ride, and if my pace was good enough, then participate in a Bun Burner Gold (Solo) at the end of this month - for which Steve was using this ride as a warm-up for.


I have indeed been bit by the long distance bug.


We originally had planned on doing this ride a few weeks back, but ended up cancelling due to bad weather.


This past Friday was to be the day. Weather looked great. The pulled muscle in my back that happened during our ride home from Laughlin the weekend before wasn't bothering me anymore (I dropped the RT for the first time in a parking lot after it stalled and I tweaked my back trying to prevent it from falling - but to no avail. Thankfully no damage to the bike.)


Still though, I took a few vacation days and used this time to rest my back, and get the RT serviced and fitted with some new tires (went with Michelin Pilot Roads - thanks Russell B. and Sean for the insights on those - they're great so far).


Steve was to arrive at my place Thursday night, and we would leave around 6am Friday morning. Everything was set - myself, Kim and Steve were very excited and looking forward to a great ride.


The route would be due east - across the California desert, into Arizona and then New Mexico... with the turnaround point being Larksburg, New Mexico. About 1100 miles or so total.


After a lite breakfast Friday morning we were off to top off with gas and get our first receipt. I had a few butterflies that morning - and Steve was complaining of a slightly upset stomach. Probably just some nerves that would hopefully subside once we got underway.


It was an absolutely picture perfect morning in the desert. The sun was just coming up and with each passing minute - a different color and design would appear on the landscape. An awesome sight.


The first 150 miles went by in a blink. Then at about mile 171, that's when it all started.


Much to my surprise, my lower back began to spasm - in the same spot it did when I threw it out the week before. It had been fine all week, and now this. The pain wasn't bad, so I just did my best to apply Master Yoda's seating position principles which helped a great deal. Not wanting to make a big deal out of this, I didn't say anything to Kim.


Mile 180 came and the pain in my back was getting worse. I finally said to Kim "I've got to stop and stretch - ok?" "No problem, honey - are you ok?" "I'm fine... I just need to stretch."


I accellerated up to Steve who was leading - and Kim signalled to him that we were going to make our first stop. We didn't have bike-to-bike communication - so we had a rely on hand signals. Steve agreed and we stopped at the next gas station.


As I got off the bike to gas up I basically collapsed over my seat in pain. "Is your back bugging you, Tony?" Steve asked. "Yeah - it just started - must be from when I tweaked it last week - wow - I just need to stretch it out. It'll be ok." Kim and Steve were concerned. I was in denial.


After performing some stretches it felt better. I then purchased an cracked a bottle of what would be joining the day's supplementation program:




Back on the bikes we went and continued on towards Phoenix and beyond. We planned on making our next stop in Chandler or Tuscon. As we passed the 300 mile mark, the Motrin was having little effect, and the pain was getting worse. I found that if I bent up and down while doing other stretches, the discomfort would subside.


Once we hit Tucson, I got off the bike, and again - as soon as I dismounted, the pain hit me like a freight train. It was at this point that I began to consider throwing in the towel. Clearly my back was injured the week before and it had not fully healed. Yet I didn't want to disappoint Kim - I didn't want to dissappoint Steve - and I really wasn't fatigued. It was just this pesky lower back. I was walking around in circles in the parking lot of this gas station - trying to loosen up - drinking water. Steve asked if I was ready to head out, and I asked if I could just have a few more minutes. "Sure" he gladly agreed. I walked over to a picnic table and discovered a new way to make things feel better.




10 minutes later, we could see on the tell-tale GPS that we were falling behind schedule. The writing was on the wall but I wasn't going to give it up yet. I was foolishly hoping that this feeling would go away.


After this extended stop, we continued on through Tucson and towards our halfway mark in Larksburg New Mexico. We weren't on the road for more than 15 minutes when the traffic on interstate 10 stopped. I'm not talking slowed down - I mean STOPPED. Something horrible had just happened not too far ahead of us, but we couldn't make it out. Suddenly we found ourselves in a traffic jam that went on as far as the eye could see.


Clearly, it was an accident, and they had shut down the highway. It was pushing 90 degrees outside - we were stuck, and losing more time. Steve's expression pretty much says it all:




We parked the bikes and waited almost an hour.... then the emergency vehicles arrived...




While we sat there roasting in our gear in the middle of the desert, Steve and I crossed the freeway to get a better view of the scene ahead. It was a very very bad multi-vehicle accident - borderline pileup. Steve then looks at me and calmly says, "Good thing you've got a hurt back, Tony." "Why?" I asked. "Because - remember at our last stop you asked for another 5 or 10 minutes? It was a good thing - because we could have easily been involved in that pileup up there. Kind of a guardian angel thing. Weird, huh?"


I sat there and stared for a moment - not sure what to say. Steve was right - if we had left a bit earlier, we could have easily be in that mess up ahead. I went and sat down along side the road and looked up. Crystal clear sunny sky. Under my breath I said "Don, if you had anything to do with that - thanks man. We owe you one."


More minutes passed by, and a trucker walked past us with the good news. "They're letting people through one at a time - shouldn't be much longer."


We fired up the bikes, and continued onward. As we passed the accident scene - they were still treating victims alongside the road. Cars were smashed, pickups were upside down, and Kim summed it up best over the intercom - "Oh my God." It was indeed ugly.


So at this point there was good and bad news. The good news was my back was feeling much better. The bad news was we were now almost two hours behind schedule. We agreed to continue onto our halfway point for Larksburg where we would stop for a light dinner - turn around and head back.


Passing the 490 mile mark we had just a little further to go before we stopped. As fate would have it my back decided to go south yet again - and this time it was the worst it had been all day. Same area in the lower portion - where I had thrown it out. But this time it was very bad. So bad, in fact, that it hurt to inhale and exhale.


As we were riding along, the music was playing and I was very quiet. Kim asked, "Are you OK?" I replied with a one word answer "No." I then paused and spoke again - "I'm sorry... let's just get to Larksburg and eat and go from there - could you please try and rub the lower part of my back?"


As Kim began to massage the effected area of my back I felt relief, but at the same time I was beginning to hold back tears in my helmet - almost whimpering. Part of it was due to the amount of discomfort I was in, part of it was I knew it was time to throw in the towel, and other part was that I was angry at myself for letting us get this far from home. If I was this bad off, how in the world were we going to get home? What about Steve?


We finally made it to Larksburg, topped off with gas, and sat down for dinner.


At one point, Kim left the table to freshen up and Steve and I had a heart to heart. He emphatically said that if he was in my shoes he would have bagged the ride a long time ago. I should get a room at a place with a hot tub... relax... and we would do the ride another day. I reluctantly agreed.


Steve's plan was to continue on and finish the ride that night, which he did.


When Kim returned to the table, I broke the news to her and she looked at me and gave me a hug. She said she had never seen me in this much discomfort - and agreed this was best. As the minutes passed, I agreed more and more, but my stubborn competitive nature kept me thinking twice about it.


"Not an option, Tony - it isn't worth getting hurt or even killed over." Steve emphatically said. At that point I stopped and thought about what he had just said. He was right, and I wasn't going anywhere. I was done.


As Steve headed off to complete the second part of the ride, Kim and myself headed for a motel.


Next morning, it was time to head back. We agreed that we wouldn't rush the ride home, and would go as far as we could before my back started to give out again. Turned out to be 50 to 100 miles, then a stop. Over and over again.


We made it as far as Phoenix and decided to stop for the night. This would leave us with about 275 miles to do on Sunday.


Sunday came it it was 50 miles on the bike - 50 miles off. All the way back to the desert. It was slow going - but the grand irony, was we really had a nice time - and found ourselves laughing at the entire situation.


My back ached, but it wasn't anywhere near as bad as it was the day before. Very ironically, we enountered another closed portion of the 10 freeway on the way home - with another accident - this one with a fatality. Once again it happened about 5 minutes before we got there - or so we were told by another driver.


Clearly, someone or something was watching over us on this ride. Pretty crazy - and whoever or whatever is responsible - I am very thankful.


On a lighter note, we got to know the rest areas pretty well. Here is a shot of my favorite - nestled in an area called Texas Canyon:




Sunday afternoon... over 1100 miles later... we finally made it home safe and sound.


With the exception of the right half of my lower back I was fine. The RT performed flawlessly. Kim was sore - which was expected - she isn't totally comfortable on the RT on longer trips... and the jury is still out on whether or not an LT is in our future.


This journey - as miserable as it was in parts - is something I wouldn't trade for the world. I got to know some things about myself, it brought myself and my passenger even closer, and it brought to light how blessed I am to have such a great friend in Steve Carr. Thanks Steve - you set me straight when I didn't want to quit.


While we didn't do it in the required 24 hours, we at least finished it. I guess sometimes the JOURNEY is the reward - and in this case it most certainly was.


I also was reminded that if there is ANY doubt about your physical condition before tackling a ride of this sort - for gosh sakes put it off for another day! smile.gif


Today (Monday) I paid a visit to my doctor to have my back looked at. As it turns out, I did injure it pretty severely that day on the way home from Laughlin when I tried to keep my dropped bike from falling.


The injury is a badly torn muscle in my lower back - which is actually a re-tear of a muscle I injured when I played college hockey.


As of now, it's wrapped, I will begin some physical therapy, and hopefully it will heal as best it can. The bad news is I need to stay away from extended motorcycle rides (and other physical activities) for an undetermined amount of time. This means I will likely not be able to ride to Torrey and experience what everyone has been raving about on those roads. frown.gif


Even if I have to drive - we're not missing Torrey in May - it will be fun to at least hang out with everyone. Come Fall, we'll ride there.


I'd like to dedicate this ride and tale to a good friend who left us way too soon - Don Keil - (Kowboy). Thanks for watching over us, friend.

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Tony, thanks for sharing your ride tale with us. It makes me smile to think of how tough it must have been to stop your adventure but I'm surely glad you did.


Here's hoping your back feels better soon.



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That's tough, buddy. But you definitely did the right thing by stopping.


I love Sunrise over the desert. My favorites were watching the sun come up from Zabriskie Point at DVD 7, and sunrise over the Anza Borrego Mountains back in October 2001 during my SS1K. Just awesome.


Lower back problems can really be ugly. I did something nasty on a dirtbike back when I was 15 or so...Chiropractor straightened me out, but I still have to be careful with it...especially when I'm fatigued. Something so simple as leaning across the desk to grab a pen can throw it out and I'm on the floor for a couple of days. Definitely take it easy and do what needs to be done to get back in proper shape.


And there are worse places in the world to be than Torrey in a car. smile.gif

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Nice write up, Tony. On the plus side, a ride like this one's gotta help teach you lessons for future rides. Right?


I have indeed been bit by the long distance bug.


It's an evil bug. I wish it didn't nibble away at the roundness of my tires.


We originally had planned on doing this ride a few weeks back, but ended up cancelling due to bad weather.


That's too bad. Imagine how much better this story could have been if properly framed by foul weather. laugh.gif


Glad you called it quits when you needed to. Overextending is never good. For better or worse, I've been there once or twice. I'm never good about stopping, either.


There's lots of time to get an SS1K in... A few more aborted attempts will make the lead up to that story much better. Or, I suppose, you could just knock it out the next time. Your call.


From the subject, I thought we were going to have a little urban warfare mixed in, but I like the real meaning better.



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What a bummer! But the good news is you are still here to try again another time. You have a whole summer to figure out when and where to try again. Even if you had made it most likely it would be 1 of many iron butt rides you will do in the future.


Don't worry about it, opportunity will present itself again.

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Excellent write up. Riding, just like life has it's ups and downs. You touched on both - which were a big part of this ride. The best thing is that you did see some postives out of all of this. And that's what we all need to do with life. Yeah, things can seem really bad, but you know what - they could be a whole lot worse.


Sorry to hear about Kowboy frown.gif But I'm glad that through it you gathered some positives and maybe even some direction. That tells me he had a positive impact - that's all we can hope for out of life.


I have no doubt that the day will come when you do the 1000 w/Kim and the both of you will sit and talk for hours about the time you didn't make it because of your back. She sounds like a great riding companion - hold on to her!

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A great write up, sorry to hear of your discomfort with the back problem frown.gif But one must always consider when pushing it to the limits, it is better to arrive late than not to arrive at all. The stubborn streak is in all of us, especially when YOU think you are letting others down. Be safe smile.gif

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Great story. So you missed getting a piece of paper - IT'S JUST A PIECE OF PAPER!. In the meantime, you had a great ride, enjoyed the time on the road, took some great pics and figured out what to expect next time you give the old paper thing a try.


Hope your back heals up quick!


Ride Safe.



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Great ride report! In reading it, I felt like I was there! grin.gif


Steve in So Cal

ps-Texas Canyon is way cool, isn't it??

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Great ride report Tony. I'm sure I would have quit much earlier given your level of discomfort. Back pain is a nasty bear - take it easy and heal quickly. Torrey is still a month away so it may work out for you.

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Wow! It could've been any of us in your position. You were smart. If you hadn't gone at your own pace you might have been hurting so bad after the trip you would not have been able to ride back home. I've had those back spasms and they just take your breath away they hurt so bad. Sitting on a motorcycle in that kind of pain is enough to make a grown person cry.


I do think your friend was watching over you....absolutely!


Thanks for sharing your story with us.


When your back heals (all the way) I'm sure you'll plan another ride and it will be a ride "that's meant to be".


Good luck with your PT and healing!


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Wonderful write up! Sorry about the back.


Riding with a torn back muscle in spasm is next to impossible, surprised you went as far as you did.


I did same to my back training for a kayak race three years ago and it took two years for my back to get right.


The good news is that it's now stronger than before because of the rehab.


Against the common wisdom, I feel the forward lean position, like with my Busa, is better for your back than the RT upright position as it puts your back in the more protected "perch" position, involving more muscle groups. At the same time, holding the forward lean acts as a back exercise in its own right , strengthening and lengthening the muscles. While my hamstrings were screaming during my 100ccc, my back never gave a twitch.


Don't know your doctor, but most orthopedic specialists know squat about back rehab except how to cut it open and operate which is almost never the right solution.


Find a good physical therapist--do some yoga--or better yet, take lessons from an Alexander teacher in your area who will show you how to use your back, including sitting on a motorcycle, as nature intended us to. You may find yourself back on your bike a lot sooner than your doctor suggests. Hope you feel better soon. Say hi to Kim.

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Thanks for the kind words, everyone- it will no doubt take time to mend - but like Michael said, it will hopefully be stronger in the end.


My Orthopedic Doc. has me working with a Sports Rehabilitation clinic here in the desert. I met with my physical therapist this afternoon and apparently he does much work with professional athletes on various CA sports teams recovering from these types of injuries. Overall, I got a good vibe and feel I'm in good hands.


No surgery needed and no problems with discs, etc... thankfully.


Michael- it's ironic that you mention Yoga. My boss (of all people) before she was an actress, and before she owned the production company I work for, she owned her own Yoga studio in Los Angeles. As a result, a few years ago she had a Yoga studio built in our building (of all things).


Three times a week she holds classes after work for anyone on the staff that wants to partake. (Only in Palm Springs smile.gif)


I have done it periodically, but yesterday, the first words out of her mouth were, "Tony, you're coming to Yoga starting this week. If you don't, you're fired." (Joking, of course) I will no doubt be there with bells on.


Regarding seating positions, I am in agreement with you, Michael. Since day one, I've found my K1200RS and it's more 'agressive' ergos just as comfortable, if not more comfortable than the RT. Go figure.


Applying the 'seating suggestions' suggested by Dick Frantz on both bikes has largely contributed to that comfort. His approach no doubt made it possible for me to make the trip back home.



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I've found my K1200RS and it's more 'agressive' ergos just as comfortable, if not more comfortable than the RT. Go figure.


The upright seating position -- no matter what kind of aftermarket seat you use -- compresses the spine by the very nature of how you sit. As you get older, this is exactly what you don't want to happen, especially for long periods of time.


On the other hand, a forward lean bike, like the RS --with proper body ergs -- actually can lenghten the spine as you perch in a dynamic stretched position.


Sounds like your physical therapy, combined with Yoga is a good combination. Just be careful of some of the postures in the beginning and go over all of them with your physical therapist beforehand. After a injury like yours, if the stretch hurts that means your muscles aren't ready for it yet. I found the best back exercises are the ones that involved some sort of isometric contraction along with the stretch. The contraction not only builds muscle but helps keep the back in a protected position while you go through the movement.


BTW you don't need a forward lean bike to forward lean while riding. I started doing it naturally on the RT, by bending my arms more. Then one day I thought, "hey...as long as I'm riding in sort of a sport position anyway...might as well get more of a sport bike"..hence the Busa.

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I was very comfortable on my K12RS, and I'm now very comfortable on my R1150RT WITH barbacks! Go figure...


Steve in So Cal

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For the lower back pain, try one of those

boot warmers. The ones you open to activate.

I suggest the boot warmers because they have

a sticky side to keep them in place. Works

better than the heating pad!



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Glad you called it off. There's wisdom in knowing when to change plans and it sounds like you and Kim made the best of it.


As for I-10, it seems to have more than it's fair share of nasty wrecks. Something about speed in the desert for miles and miles.

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I know how that little LD bug bites. It bites hard! I can't get enough. I am sorry that you didn't finish in the required time for the "paper trophy". What you got instead is a wonderful experience shared with an incredible woman who loves you vey much! I know that anyone of us would rather have that.


You did the smart thing and will heal in time. Great story of personal committment. Hats off to you and Kim.



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I can only hope to accomplish what you have one day long-distance wise. That is truly an amazing list of accomplishments in your signature. Incredible.


Thanks for the continued kind words everyone.

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Again, sorry to hear of the injury and the lengthened ride. You and Kim were missed at the Fish Fry. But we stopped on the 243 where Don crashed and had a little moment of silence for him. I shudder to think what could have happened if you had not had the good sense to make the painful decision to call it off. There will almost always be other, even nicer days to go for a ride!



. . . and Mr Hebert:



Dude! (assuming the prostrate, groveling, kowtowing position) [salaam] "We're not worthy!" [/salaam]



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Dude! (assuming the prostrate, groveling, kowtowing position) [salaam] "We're not worthy!" [/salaam]




Tony and Jamie,


Thanks for the praise, although not deserved. I am just getting ready for the Iron Butt Rally/05. Wasn't lucky enough to get a spot this year.



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