by Victor Wanchena
They said it was impossible. It wasn’t flying pigs impossible; more of a “Why would anyone in their right mind even try that?” kind of impossible. That bolstered our resolve even more. There’s nothing like someone telling me that I can’t to motivate me. The “impossible” task before us was to ride a pair of 250cc single cylinder motorcycles 1000 miles in 24 hours or less during the Minnesota 1000 (MN1K), a 24-hour endurance rally.
The challenge began like many ill-conceived ideas, late one evening after a few cocktails. A friend, known high-miler E. James, had successfully ridden a Yamaha 400 Special over 1000 miles during the MN1K the previous year. He wondered about upping the ante this year on a 250. There, parked against the back wall of my garage, was the perfect bike for him; a 1980 Yamaha 250 Exciter; a bike described by some as the slowest 250 ever made. In a moment of bourbon-induced bravado, I declared I would match him, mile for mile, on another 250 single. A quick survey of the garage left 2 choices. A KLR 250 with an iffy motor, or the better half’s Kymco People 250 scooter. The scooter was the obvious choice as it was proven over the long haul, having been successfully flogged by MMM for 24-hours straight (see MMM #69). So the dare was on. I was signed on for this madness and my foolish pride wouldn’t let me back out.
As we pulled to the start line, the numbers weren’t in our favor. Two 300-pound guys, two 250cc single cylinder motorcycles, and 1000 miles of road stretched out before us. We had left both machines virtually stock; each machine featured only a GPS, nice for keeping track of just how slow we were going, and a sheep skin seat cover. No extra fuel, no big driving lights, just two large men on little machines. Our plan was simple; keep the machines moving. We wouldn’t waste time chasing bonus points down obscure roads. We’d stick to main roads in a to attempt maximize our time.
As the clock struck 8 am we rolled away from the start line in Lakeville. First stop was to be Duluth, MN. Problem was the fuel didn’t last that long. At mile 105 I coasted into a gas station on empty. The Kymco carried only 2.25 gallons and the Exciter roughly a half-gallon more. This is where Eddie pointed out his first mechanical issue. The Exciter was leaking oil at a rate that would drain it’s 1.3 quarts rather quickly. This was traced back to some ham-fisted bolt tightening on my part of the valve cover. No time to waste fixing it; just add more oil. We turned South at Duluth, headed for Chippewa Falls, WI and from there down to Tomah, WI. The Exciter was now trailing a fine ribbon of oil smoke. In Tomah, we turned west heading for Rochester and then we continued West across southern Minnesota to Granite Falls, MN. Through the evening and into the inky night the bikes soldiered on. In Granite Falls we wasted an hour trying to find fuel. We were out and nothing was open. Damn our tiny gas tanks! The night continued to deepen as we headed North towards Alexandria, MN. There we turned South for home. It was a quick run down the interstate and we reached our home base around 4 am, with enough time for a three-hour nap. A little rest did us wonders and we headed out for the finish.
The finish line was crossed in grand style; Eddie’s bike was smoking like a BBQ joint, thanks to the total loss oiling system, but the naysayers were quiet. We had covered 1018 miles in the space of 24 hours. The scooter, on the other hand, was unphased. Just another ride. Big men, big miles, little bikes; never say impossible.