Lunch Ride to Pensacola – The Ride Back!

Pensacola, FL to Hammond, LA
3:15 PM to 6:05 PM
208 miles (753 running total)
Fuel Used: 4.24
MPG: 49.0

After having lucked out with the morning sun, I fully expected my eyes to be tortured by the setting sun. Happily, a haze once again took the sky and I managed to avoid dealing with glare.

Just west of Mobile, my mother called to check on my progress. She gave me a weather update for Houston and reminded me to be careful as darkness fell.

I played hopscotch with a fellow motorcyclist for a short time on I-12. He followed me briefly and then with a final wave, roared down the road at a faster pace than I was willing to sustain.

With the air threatening to turn damp, I pulled over to put my camera away as the sun finally dipped below the horizon.

I was shocked at how well the R1200ST was doing MPG-wise during this segment of the trip. My fuel countdown began very late, so I was able to get pretty far into Louisiana before finding a busy interstate exit in Hammond, LA.

Hammond, LA to Sulphur, LA
6:05 PM to 8:45 PM
176 miles (929 running total)
Fuel Used: 3.54
MPG: 49.7

This time of day has always been a challenge for me. With poor night vision, the transition between light and darkness makes my headlights less effective when they are needed most. I was overjoyed to find that my new HID bulb replacement kit really helped out, sending lots of very bright light down the road.

A call from Rebecca at some point during this segment also helped keep me motivated.

At the 900 mile mark, and with the homestretch in sight, I realized that once again I was starting to feel hungry. My earlier (satisfied) craving for seafood gave way to desire for a yummy honey-mustard chicken salad. Just past Lake Charles, I saw a sign advertising a Cracker Barrel.

Sulphur, LA to Cypress, TX
10:04 PM to 12:53 AM
154 miles (1083 running total)
Fuel Used: 3.21
MPG: 47.9

My mother called just after I ordered my dinner. The weather update wasn’t looking so good. A storm system was lingering over Houston, dumping some light rain. Mom estimated that I would hit the outskirts of it about 40 minutes from Houston.

I didn’t really want to get back on the bike. I wasn’t particularly sore, but a tiredness had settled in. I had already ridden 200 miles further than my longest previous day. It was getting late and all I had to look forward to was a storm system and bad visibility.

Despite these thoughts, I never considered calling it a day. I kept telling myself that I only had to ride 1000 in 24 ONCE to achieve my goal. I had plenty of time in reserve if I needed to stop on the side of the road (or even get a cheap motel room!) for a nap. There was no real need to push myself.

Once I started moving, I was too busy to spare energy to focus on my doubts. There were still lots of cars on the road, providing extra light. Lots of construction between the Louisiana border and Beaumont meant that I had my hands full picking a line to avoid seams in the pavement.

The road shone wetly in my headlights as I approached Baytown, TX. The few showers I passed through were mild and I had no visibility problems.

The temperature dropped twenty degrees when I got on I-610, the Houston inner loop. I turned on my grip warmers and was glad that I had never gotten around to taking my liner out of my jacket. My new Underarmour ColdGear shirt also helped.

Dodging heavy raindrops, my body didn’t dare feel tired as I rode north on US290 toward my final gas stop of the day. In the end, I think the adverse weather was probably a good thing. It kept me on my toes at a time when I might normally relax and go complacent.

All four of the entrances to the gas station were flooded, so I ended up going through a neighboring fast food parking lot. My foot slipped a little on the slick concrete and a sick feeling flashed in my stomach. I kept the bike upright and managed to get the kickstand down after several tries. The fuel pump disgorged my final receipt. Success!

I spent a few minutes documenting the trip stats before wearily mounting back up to travel the additional 10 miles to home where my mom was still awake waiting for me to get home so she could do my witness form. My bed was a welcome sight.

Final Thoughts:

Wasn’t it boring?

Not really. I was fully occupied the entire time: from singing along to my music, fiddling with the camera, composing this report in my head, wondering when a friend would call (and hoping they wouldn’t catch me belting out something embarrassing, like Celine Dion), or just contemplating some aspect of my life and travels.

How has my outlook changed?

It’s shocking to look back at when 20 miles to the beach was a long ride, or when 150 miles between my college town and home was a major undertaking. It’s even strange to look at these last few years, when a normal day might be 400 to 500 miles and 600 was not out of the question. That’s HALF what I rode on that one January day.

The country is now just a little bit smaller and more accessible. No, I won’t plan to ride this pace frequently, but it’s good to know that my options are open.

Final Stats:

Miles Odometer: 1083
Miles GPS: 1120

Overall Average Speed: 60.4 mph
Moving Average Speed: 73.9 mph

Total Time: 18:34
Moving Time: 15:10
Stopped Time: 3:24

And yeah. The truth? I did it all for the license plate back.

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