Ten days, 48 states
This was no ordinary cruise when four motorcycle riders revved their engines and left Bella Vista long before sunrise on June 8.
The men were on a mission — a quest to ride through all lower 48 states in 10 days. Mission accomplished when they rolled back home on June 17, greeted by whoops, hollers and applause from about 50 of their family and friends.
The self-described “four youngins” on two wheels were David Patterson of Bella Vista, Gary Ivey of Rogers, Glen Heron of Cave Springs and Keith Conway of Bella Vista.
Three are in their mid-60s. Heron is the youngster in his middle 50s. They left Bella Vista at 5 a.m. on June 8. Forty-eight states later they rolled into Rogers at 3:15 p.m. on June 17.
The motorcycle adventure was Ivey’s idea. Two years ago, after attending the annual motorcycle rally in Sturgis, S.D., Ivey got the bug to tackle a long trip, but he wanted a challenge.
Riding through all lower 48 states would be one heck of a journey. A 10-day window would be the challenge. Ten is just a number Ivey pulled out of the air.
He nonchalantly started asking buddies if anyone wanted to go. It had to be riders he could trust.
“You have to stay together. You can’t have one a mile ahead or back,” Ivey said. He decided to limit the number to four riders.
Patterson did some pondering after Ivey approached him about the trip.
“I told Gary, if he’d get the mapping and route together I’d go,” Patterson said.
Ivey started his research and came up with a rough draft of the route. Heron is the tech wizard of the four. He refined the route to the smallest detail.
“By the time he finished,” Ivey said, “he had every gas station, every motel figured out for the trip.”
For 10 days the riders toured the nation state by state. From Bella Vista they headed into Missouri, then shot west on their Harley-Davidson motorcycles. By the end of day one they’d ridden 1,000 miles and stopped for the night in Farmington, N.M.
Each day they were on their motorcycles by 5 a.m. Their mantra was “kick stands up at 5,” Patterson said. They’d ride 14 to 16 hours each day, finishing after dark most days. Five in the morning until eight in the evening was a typical day’s ride.
“We stopped at every sign when we entered each state and took a picture of the sign, just to prove we’d done it,” said Ivey, the designated photographer.
Some states they’d ride across the whole thing. At others they’d nick a corner and cross it off. A time or two they’d ride into a state a little way, then turn around and ride out. One day, out east, they rode through nine states — Tennessee, Kentucky, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Alabama and Mississippi.
They cruised along country roads, the occasional dirt road and over freshly laid asphalt. They rode through big cities. Out West in the desert they traveled 300 miles and saw two cars.
The whole trip covered 7,942 miles in every kind of weather and road condition, with every type of hazard thrown at them. Temperatures ranged from 37 to 97 degrees.
“One night we rode 300 miles in a hard rain,” Ivey recalled. “We call that pressure-wash rain. We were supposed to get to our motel at 6:30, but we didn’t arrive until 10:30.”
Patterson got hit by a duck one day. Another time he came within a whisker of hitting a deer. Potholes were a big issue on the highways of New England, perhaps because of so much snowfall and cold.
Through every state they dodged things like scraps of tire tread or junk in the road, “stuff that all motorcycle riders experience every day,” Ivey said.
At one planned stop for gas on an isolated byway, they found the station had gone out of business. Each rider carried a one-gallon container of gasoline for such a hiccup. They made it to another fuel stop.
Each of their motorcycles is equipped with a six-gallon tank and typically gets 45-50 miles per gallon.
Fuel stops are where they took a lot of their meals. “We’d eat whatever kind of food you can get at a gas station,” Ivey said. “You’d gas up, go to the bathroom and go.”
The men did try to eat a good sit-down supper each night after their ride, but it didn’t always happen. They drank plenty of water.
The journey was a personal challenge for all, but also a fundraiser for Patterson. He’s assistant director of Northwest Arkansas Veterans Treatment Court Mentor Program. The group helps veterans get into programs they need for depression, drug or alcohol problems or post-traumatic stress.
Patterson, a former courtroom judge, said the effort raised $4,600, mostly from riders in Northwest Arkansas.
The 10-day ride was a marathon on wheels. Like a running marathon, hitting the wall was an issue about eight days into the trip. Thousands of motorcycle miles had taken their toll.
“You have to be so alert all the time. You have to keep your head on a swivel all day,” Patterson said. “You daydream, start to get hypnotic and that’s not good.”
Talk arose about quitting. The riders encouraged and supported each other. If one didn’t want to raise his kickstand that morning, another might say, “let’s just ride 45 minutes and see how you feel.”
That worked. The four rode into Louisiana to write off state No. 48. With their goal accomplished, they roared north toward home.
The cheering crowd of their friends and family washed away fatigue.
“It was a mission,” Patterson said. “A challenge to ourselves, our motorcycles and for us to support each other.”
Their friends drew up personal parking places for each rider’s motorcycle. Raising glasses and toasts of congratulations were in order. “After that,” Patterson said, “we weren’t tired no more.”