By Gregor Moe
For 10 days I dreamt of eating a meal with a fork. I finally got to do so in Hyder, Alaska.
That’s where Dan Larson and I completed our “48 Plus!” Iron Butt ride, a journey that took us to all of the Lower 48 states and then up to Alaska in less than 10 days. We were both on Victory motorcycles. “Happy Dan” was on his Cross Country and I was on my 10th Anniversary Victory Vision.
For 10 days we whipped through every state on the continent, and for 10 days many of our meals were “Roller Dogs,” those perpetually rotating hot dogs at truck stops.
When we reached Hyder, I celebrated with a big slab of salmon – that I got to eat with a fork.
We’re members of the Iron Butt Association (IBA), a loose knit organization that welcomes riders who have completed one of several such long-distance journeys. To get IBA certification for completing a 48 Plus! you have to visit all 49 continental states long enough to gather documentation in each state, typically a gas receipt, and you have to complete the ride in under 10 days.
We made our 48 Plus! run in late June and the first few days of July. Iron Butt veteran Steve “Rollin’” Rolland, the first Victory rider to complete a 48-10 (the lower 48 in under 10 days) and a 48 Plus!, provided us with his route map, which was excellent. In a nutshell, you want to start this ride with a strong first few days and log as many miles as possible while you’re fresh. You also want to zip through the eastern seaboard on a weekend if possible so you encounter the least amount of traffic around the major metro areas.
Our route took us on a clockwise loop around the country. We started in Sisseton, S.D., right near the North Dakota and Minnesota borders, so we had checked off three states in less than an hour. We then headed under the Great Lakes to Maine, down the east coast and across the southern half of the country. We rode north as necessary to visit states in the nation’s heartland before ending up near southern California. From there, we knew we had a relatively straight shot north to visit the final western states before crossing into Canada for the final sprint to Hyder, the southernmost point in Alaska accessible by road.
We covered 8,672 miles (according to my bike’s odometer) in 9 days, 9 hours and 39 minutes. That tells you the trip went pretty well – we finished with time to spare – but there were challenges, and highlights, along the way. Some of my observations follow.
1. It didn’t rain much. A drought was beginning in a lot of the country, so we didn’t get very wet.
2. It was hot. It was 100° plus for around 5,000 miles, with a max temp of 116° in Kansas. It was so hot one day that we shut it down at 5 p.m., got a hotel room, cooled off and rested. Then we got up at 11 p.m. and rode through the night.
3. The bikes ran great, even running at 85 mph for thousands of miles in 100° F. The Vic motors are solid. Thank you Vic engineering.
4. We tried to roll through the Northeast over a weekend, but 100 million people live in that part of the U.S. and it seems many were traveling.
5. Everyone says that New York City is the most expensive place to park in the nation. But a couple of corn-fed Minnesota boys found a free spot on the George Washington Bridge for one long, slow hour.
6. Most big rig drivers are good drivers. Treat ‘em right, give ‘em a break or a chance to change lanes once in a while and they’ll treat you right, too.
7. Whataburger fast food restaurants are great at midnight – especially if they include a receipt. We got to the very northwestern corner of the Florida panhandle late one night. We needed a receipt to document we were in Florida, but none of the gas pumps we tried in Century, Fla., would pump any gas. So we ran to Whataburger (store No. 954) in Century, bought a couple burgers and got the detailed receipts we needed. Saved the day.
8. Happy Dan is always happy. Even though we were obviously alone on our individual bikes, we spent a lot of time together, had to make decisions on the fly together and roomed together each night. On a trip like this, a compatible riding partner is as important as a reliable bike, and we got along great.
9. The jackrabbits in Kansas looked 3 feet tall and there are lots of them. I’m glad we never met any up close because in our headlights they looked big enough to drop a bike.
10. It was 109° F in Needles, California, at midnight. Why do people live there?
11. RideNow Powersports on Rancho, a Victory dealership in Las Vegas, is excellent-plus. The service team at RideNow opened early one morning to get our bikes in the shop, where they did oil changes on both bikes to keep us moving.
12. It is difficult to get a room in Oroville, Wash., during the Cherry Festival on Canada Day weekend when it is raining hard at midnight.
The roads in British Columbia are great. They have winter like we do – if not worse. Why are the roads in Minnesota junk?
14. Why did the chicken cross the road? No one knows. Why did the bear cross the road? No one knows. Why did the bear cross the road twice? No one knows. This actually happened in B.C.
15. Lee Pomeroy, a Victory-riding friend from Minnesota, signed our paperwork as a witness at the start AND finish. That’s cool! (After we started our ride, Lee and a friend, “Mr. Expert,” took a more direct route to Hyder on a western riding vacation and met us in Alaska.)
16. The U.S.A. is one awesome country.
Thanks to everyone who helped and followed our 48 Plus! ride.
Gregor Moe lives west of the Twin Cities metro. He has completed over 20 Iron Butt rides on a variety of Victory motorcycles he has owned during the past 15 years. He annually helps plan and leads an All-Victory Iron Butt Ride.