Victory Rider Dale Gero became the 74th rider in history (as of January 1, 2013) to complete a certified 48-10 Iron Butt ride by visiting all the Lower 48 states in under 10 days. He did it riding solo on his Cross Roads. It was his second Iron Butt, and his first on a Victory (he rode a BunBurner 1500 in 2009 on a Harley). From the sounds of it, it probably won’t be his final Iron Butt on the Cross Roads. His wife Judy should be ready to buy more champagne. Here is Dale’s 48-10 story.
Just before sunrise on June 1, 2012, I threw my 61-year-young right leg over my bike in Martin, Tennessee, and let out the clutch to begin an 8,036-mile Iron Butt journey. Nine days, 1 hour, and 30 minutes later, I pulled in for final fueling in Liberal, Kansas, with time-stamped gas receipts from all 48 lower states in my saddlebag.
Arriving home in Tulsa, Oklahoma, my wife Judy and daughter Hillary greeted me in the driveway with a bottle of cold champagne. Red, white and blue balloons floated above a hand-painted sign in the front yard, boldly declaring "48 States in 10 Days on a Victory!"
I have since received my official Iron Butt Association
"48 States Challenge" certificate.
[Here is the official listing of Dale’s ride on the Iron Butt Assn. website.]
First Try Was Almost a Worst-Case Ride
My long-distance touring pal, TD, opted out on this trip. In the fall of 2011, we had failed in our first attempt at the 48 State Challenge, also called a 48-10. It began ominously when TD's saddlebag lid blew open just 50 miles into the trip. His first gas receipt was swept away by the wind and we were forced to ride back to the starting point to get another receipt. Without all receipts as evidence, the Iron Butt Association will not certify the ride.
Long after dark that first night, we wandered, lost, somewhere in Colorado, Utah, Arizona, or New Mexico, around the famous "Four Corners" and we managed to find needed fuel only 10 minutes before the only gas station closed for the night. Horses and cattle grazing along the shoulders of the dark night Arizona roads threatened us to stay alert. A truck stop picnic table was the only lodging we could find to take a short nap before dawn.
The second day out, afternoon thunderstorms stalled us as we crossed the Nevada desert and TD dropped his bike trying to stop on a wet, oil-slicked, downhill exit ramp. Late into that night, a towering male elk and his harem blocked both lanes of the road in the Oregon wilderness and more than one gigantic white owl swooped in front of my windshield as if trying to commit murder-suicide.
In California, a police road block forced us to turn around due to a fatal wreck. Detouring backward over snow-covered mountains, we inched our way through little 25-mph villages for the best part of the day. Four days into the journey, we fought our way through the biting cold mountains of the Montana Rockies – only to be warned that the chilly rain in South Dakota had turned to ice just a few miles ahead.
After 3,000-plus miles and four days with little sleep, TD looked over his coffee cup at me across a café table and said, "Dawg, maybe we just ain't hardcore enough." The next morning we turned our handlebars south and aimed toward home in 50-degree rain. Nineteen hours and 945 miles later, we crawled into our Oklahoma beds, thoroughly beaten by the Iron Butt.
So, I wasn't surprised when TD told me that he was not going on this trip, but his "ain't hardcore enough" stuck in my gut and I was determined to prove him wrong. I knew that I would not be the oldest rider to attempt this certification. I planned my route carefully over the next winter. I knew that only weather, road construction, mechanical failure, illness, flat tires, police, traffic, or a thousand other unpredictable forces could stop me. Perfect!
A Second Try – With Victor & Jill
The day before starting the Challenge, I rode 545 miles to Martin, Tennessee, which I had chosen as my strategic starting point. I was accompanied only by my two travel companions: Victor, my 2011 Victory Cross Roads, and Jill, my Garmin GPS navigation voice.
I decided to use this pre-trip to test the actual capacity of my 5.8-gallon rated gas tank. Approaching the I-40 exit ramp at Russellville, Arkansas, Victor sputtered for gas and continued spitting and balking up the hill to the stop sign where he took his last breath. I laughed as I saw the fuel pumps at a gas station waiting just 200 feet downhill from me. Topping off the dry tank with 5.8 gallons of fuel and chuckling at my good fortune, I continued on toward Tennessee.
Dark rain clouds loomed ahead and behind me, but warm sunshine guided me to my motel in Martin for the last 8-hour sleep that I would get for many days.
The morning of Day 1, I explained my 10-day plan to the motel desk clerk and to the gas station attendant across the street. The IBA requires two witness signatures to certify the start and the end of challenge rides. I am always surprised at how helpful and willing folks are to sign a witness statement for a lunatic stranger who is claiming that he is going to ride thousands of miles in a very short time.
Thank you, P.P. Mani at the Days Inn and Jeff Burton at the Shell Station, for being my starting witnesses. With a smile on my face and a bit of apprehension in my belly, I was on my way.
When the sun rose over the Tennessee treetops, dark clouds and the threat of imminent rain wiped the smile from my face. It was much too early in my trip to be slowed by storms. Knowing that I had to average 800 miles a day, I considered the first day to be an all-important trial. I could not afford to get behind schedule. I had booked nine motels rooms at 800-mile intervals along the entire route as a means of tracking whether I was on schedule, even if I became too tired to calculate time and mileage.
As I shifted through the gears, I thanked God for the opportunity of this challenge, for the support of my family, and for this incredible machine named Victor. I asked Him to clear the skies and the roads, to surround me with careful drivers, and to guide me safely to my motel. I was to repeat this prayer at the start of each day.
The sky soon cleared and I rode on through a glorious clear sky to Kentucky, Missouri, Arkansas, Louisiana, Florida, and Alabama. Day 1 was in the record book with gas receipts in my saddlebag. I felt invincible. After a quick bite to eat, a prayer for sweet rest, and a dreamless sleep, the alarm clock soon sang out that it was time to hit the road again.
Day 2 brought more sunshine and clear roads as I passed into Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, and Virginia. Jill failed to steer me quickly enough at a V in downtown Atlanta and I scolded her for not paying closer attention. She corrected herself quickly at the next intersection, so I forgave her.
When I arrived at my northern Virginia hotel room just before sundown, I found myself thinking that I should push on to West Virginia. A more conservative voice in my head told me, "Hey, smarty-pants, don't get cocky. You're only two days into this thing. Stick to the plan, Sam." I ate and went to bed.
The morning of Day 3 brought a beautiful, blue sky and sunrise over the spectacular countryside of West Virginia. I could spend weeks exploring these hills and curving roads, but not today. This Sunday morning was planned as the most likely time for light traffic in New Jersey and New York. Passing through Maryland and Delaware, the weather was perfect and the traffic was sparse.
By New Jersey, however, church must have let out as traffic thickened and speeding SUVs surrounded me. By the time I forked over the $11 highway-robbery toll to cross the George Washington Bridge, New York traffic was fast and furious. I jumped into the left lane and didn't let off until I saw the Connecticut border.
As I celebrated the relief of leaving New York behind, Connecticut welcomed me with a downpour, leaving me standing under an overpass on I-95. A few minutes later, the clouds passed and I was on my way through Rhode Island. Just a few moments later, I realized just how little the littlest state is when I unexpectedly saw the "Entering Massachusetts" sign. Slipping quickly off at the next exit, I turned back to grab a gas slip in Rhode Island before turning north toward Boston. Traffic was bumper to bumper at 80 mph on a Sunday evening as Bostonians were returning home from their weekend at the southern beach.
Half-way to New Hampshire, dark clouds threatened above. Suddenly, Jill ordered me to take the next exit. Although I thought she was nuts to leave the clear interstate route, something told me to comply and I headed down the ramp. At the first stoplight, a heavy, cold rain began to fall and I thanked Jill for her foresight of not letting me get caught out on the shoulder with heavy traffic. I pulled out my rain gear and remounted. Jill instructed me to make a U-turn and get back on the interstate. You may think I am making this up. I am not. Thank you, Jill. I don't care what others think about us.
A Couple Quick Rants
Now the wet sky turned black and cold as we crossed into New Hampshire. Victor and I came to a stop at the toll booth to cross the bridge into Maine. Faced with a $1 toll, I found it amusing that this bridge was far nicer than the old bridge in New York that demanded $11. I shut off Victor and began the task of unsnapping, unzipping, and undoing my gloves, pants and coats to retrieve a wet one-dollar bill as the line of traffic waited behind me. I can't help wondering at times like those why they don't just waive the tolls for motorcycles. Is my dollar really worth the inconvenience it causes those in cars?
And as long as I'm ranting, why are 2-wheelers charged the same tolls as 4-wheelers? If everyone rode bikes, the roads would last forever and a day. Can the authorities not see that? Do they not see the injustice? Let the bikes through, people! Have you ever tried to pull a quarter out of a thermal suit pocket while wearing winter gloves? Do you not see the traffic piling up, honking their horns behind us?
There’s Rain in Maine
The rain continued through Maine, back across the $1 bridge into New Hampshire, west through central Massachusetts and north on I-91 across the Vermont border. It was nearly midnight as I dragged my soggy body into the motel room and collapsed on the bed. I expected Day 3 to be the most difficult and I had not been disappointed. But it was in the record book and I was still on schedule.
On the morning of Day 4, I awoke to more rain. Backtracking into Massachusetts and turning west to the New York thruway, a blue sky on the west horizon teased me on, only to continuously recede into the distance as I rode on in the rain. Not until Erie, Pennsylvania, did the rain stop. Quickly through Ohio, I found my motel barely across the border in Cold Water, Michigan. Day 4 had been cool and wet, but the gas slips were in my bag and I was nearing the half way point. I was gaining confidence but still hearing the clear voice that said, "Stick to the plan."
Day 5 began cold and dark, but broke warm and bright as I retraced the route back into Ohio, crossed over Indiana and headed into Chicago early Tuesday morning. As the highway grew wider and more lanes of traffic congested into the downtown area, I realized that my focus on avoiding New York traffic had kept me from realizing that Chicago was nowhere to be during rush hour. Sitting in five lanes of stalled traffic for what seemed like two hours, I suddenly faced a "Man, I have absolutely got to pee" burning bladder moment. When it grew to a “now or never moment,” I sped down the next exit ramp, telling Jill that she would have to recalculate us back on route.
On the ramp, I spotted a large bush high on the adjacent hillside. Victor immediately jumped the curb and parked on the sidewalk. I did what any good country boy would do – water the shrubs and hope that no zealous police officer was within sight. Most everyone can say that they have not publicly peed in downtown Chicago. I am no longer one of them.
Hopping back on Victor, Jill led me directly back on route and we continued across the northern border to claim a Wisconsin receipt. Turning back again into Illinois, we entered and crossed Victor's Iowa birth land. By early evening, we crossed the river into the helmet state of Nebraska. It struck me odd that our national geography and politics required me to stop two miles from the end of an all-day ride to strap on a helmet. Day 5 ended as planned in South Sioux City, Nebraska. My time was half expired.
Who You Calling ‘Old’?
Day 6 led to Minnesota, then west across the open plains of South Dakota. At my first stop, I was approached by a young man asking questions about Victor. He was amazed when I told him about the Iron Butt Challenge. "You're all alone?" he asked. When I shook my head yes, he looked me up and down and said, "But… But you're kinda… OLD!"
I laughed and agreed with him. "Wow," he said. "I've heard about you Iron Butter guys, but I've never met one. Now that I see you're riding a Victory, I'm going to go check them out at the dealer."
Later that morning, I met four Louisiana bikers who warned me that the pavement and wind ahead was the worst they had ever encountered. Mile after mile, the hot wind pummeled Victor and me. Stopping in a small South Dakota village, I grabbed a large bottle of cold water and stood on the sidewalk in front of the store. A short, elderly local man walked up with his cane and stopped to stare at me as I chugged down a long, refreshing swallow.
"Hey there, Sonny, you're hittin' that bottle kinda hard, aren't you?" he joked.
"Well, I'm trying to ride forty-eight states in ten days," I replied, "and I'm kinda thirsty."
"FORTY-EIGHT STATES IN TEN DAYS!" he exclaimed. "Man, what are
you drinking?" He shook his head in disbelief and walked away.
I headed on to North Dakota, then swung northwest into Montana and found my motel in Billings. I chuckled as I fell into sleep, remembering the look of disbelief on the old man's face.
Day 7 remains clear in my memory. As I approached Victor in the parking lot, I saw a brightly lighted sign proclaiming that the temperature was 35 degrees. Driving up the entrance ramp to I-94, I saw the snow-covered Rockies shining far in the distance and suddenly realized that I may not have adequately prepared for a June ride in Montana. What a fool I had been not to pack my Freeze-Out thermal wear! I took some comfort in knowing that Victor's grips and seat were heated. I wrapped my face and donned my new, heavy gloves. Within 20 miles, however, the cold bit through the top side of my gloves and my body shivered. Victor was the only bike on the road.
As the sun peeked at the horizon behind me, I saw shiny wet spots on the curved mountain highway ahead and carefully steered around them, knowing they were likely to be ice. Within the first hour I realized that no amount of will power was enough to ignore the pain in my hands. I locked the cruise control [and warmed my hands as well as possible].
A Scare at a Gas Stop
After two hours of trembling, I pulled in for gas, grateful for the stop. I took shelter in the convenience store and downed a hot coffee and an egg sandwich. When I returned to the parking lot, my gut cramped as I realized that I had lost my ignition key. Spinning around to rush back into the store, I met a grinning cashier at the door. My key dangled from his fingertips as he smiled, "Well, well… It looks like I own a real pretty bike. Too bad for the guy who left his key in the men's room." I thanked him for his kindness and hit the road.
Montana proved to be cold and long. Northern Idaho showed itself to be cold and short. Snow-covered mountains still surrounded me, but eventually the road wound down the mountains into Washington. The temperature finally rose as I entered Spokane, but a steady rain soon began to fall as I turned southward. Two-hundred-fifty miles later, it was still raining and I was still cold when I stopped for the night in LaGrande, Oregon.
On the morning of Day 8, I saddled up under light 40-degree rain and left Oregon to reenter southern Idaho. By noon, the sun showed mercy upon me and I was finally able to escape heavy clothes and rain gear. I-84 took me into Utah, where I knew that I had to take a side journey east to gather a Wyoming receipt.
Great Victory Team in Evanston, Wyoming
Stopping for gas in Evanston, I was hungry – and disappointed to find no cheeseburgers around me. I asked Jill to find the closest burger joint and she guided me to drive a bit further off route to the east. Pulling into Wally's Burgers, I was surprised to see a Victory dealer right next door.
My brain spun an instant plan. I walked into Morgan Valley Polaris
and Kami Hopkinson greeted me with a warm welcome at the front desk. I explained that I was on a 48-state Iron Butt Challenge and badly needed an oil change. Politely, I pleaded for while-I-wait service. Kami directed me to the service area, where Keith Naom and Cameron Wineburg were busy on other bikes. When I explained my situation, they replied, "That's all you need? An oil change? Sure, we can help. Pull her in."
As my new, best Victory mechanics drained Victor's tired blood, I went next door and ordered a large cheeseburger and fries. The hot, juicy, homemade burger filled my belly with pleasure. Don't miss this place when you are in Evanston.
By the time I had finished my burger, Keith and Cameron had finished servicing Victor and paying the bill was the only unfinished business. I was beyond impressed when Kami told me that I would only be charged for parts because Keith and Cameron were donating their labor to my Iron Butt cause. Then she handed me a complimentary Victory of Wyoming T-shirt and bandana as a gift. I can't say enough good things about the employees at this dealership.
After less than an hour for lunch and fresh oil, Victor and I were back on the road.
Retracing the route back west to Utah, we immediately ran into a new obstacle. The wind had become hot, dry and violently gusty. My hope that it would settle down when I turned south toward Nevada would be unrealized. Instead of driving into the wind, I was confronted by steady cross-winds in excess of 40 mph, with gusts of 50 and more.
Leaving Provo, the only thing that changed was the direction of the road, from south to southwest. For the next 350 miles, the violent southwest wind continued to punish and discourage me. It did not relent until I bedded down that evening in St. George. But Day 8 was in the books and I sensed that I was on the homestretch.
The morning of Day 9, I felt confident but still humble. As I pushed on and through Las Vegas toward Needles, California, I was grateful that the wind had settled to less than 40 mph and the sky was sunny. By the time I gassed up in Needles, the temperature was over 100 degrees and I made the final eastern turn toward home in Oklahoma. It was odd to feel that several hundreds of miles ahead could feel so close.
Headed for Home
Arizona was just as hot as California and a strong southern wind continued to keep my attention. I-40, as always, was a steady parade of big-wheeler trucks serving only to magnify the strong wind as I passed them one by one.
My original plan called for a stop in Grants, New Mexico, but by mid-afternoon I decided that the day was still young and I was too strong to settle in when I was just one more day from achieving my goal. I called ahead, canceled my motel reservation, and grinned as I passed by the motel in the late afternoon. I began to fantasize about finishing the trip non-stop.
I laughed when I saw a text message, "Don't stop now," from my buddy, TD, who was comfortably back home. "Easy for you to say," I texted back. I'd already been on the road over 800 miles.
Somewhere in mid-New Mexico, I came up on a pack of four middle-aged riders, roaring along loudly on that other brand of American motorcycle. As I quickly passed them, I noticed their t-shirts had matching words on their backs. When I realized that it said something about States and Days, I wondered if they, too, were Iron Butters. I wished that I had paid more attention as I zoomed past them, but I didn't want to waste time going back to look.
After my next gas stop, I hopped back on I-40 and found the same group a little further down the road. This time, I pulled in behind them and read their shirts. "Forty
States in Ten Days" was boldly written across their backs.
! Are you kidding me?" I laughed out loud. I considered waving these guys over to tell them that they had missed EIGHT states, but I decided that would only be rude. Besides, I still had four states ahead of me. Taking into account that they were all riding that other American motorcycle, I decided to let them enjoy their shirts.
I remember clearly the days that I rode one of those bikes and I remember, too well, the sound of parts falling off onto the road. If they had been lucky enough to ride a Victory, perhaps they would have made it to all 48 states.
It turned dark before I reached Tucumcari, and I pulled in for gas only to find a power outage left the station high, dry, and locked up. Fatigue was setting in as I considered the geography ahead. From here I needed to leave the interstate, head northeast to the Texas panhandle, northwest to the Oklahoma panhandle, north to Colorado, and back track south and east into Kansas, all on state highways. It would be on unfamiliar, two-lane roads through a dark night in deer country.
Just as I began to consider grabbing a room until daylight, a man about my age, with long gray hair and beard, walked up and, as so often happens, complimented Victor's good looks. We swapped stories about the good old days of motorcycling when we were kids. He listened to my story about the Iron Butt Challenge and gave me fresh life by encouraging me to "Go for it, man! You can do it!" He pointed me to the nearest open gas station and I was off again. Thank you for your kindness, my friend.
The road was narrow and dark from Tucumcari to the Texas panhandle. My eyes scanned the shoulders for deer and the darkness was only broken by the blinding headlights of oncoming truckers. There was no doubt that I was tired now, but there was no civilization to offer refuge. It was time to sing out loud, keep cool, and concentrate on staying focused.
Finally the lights of Dalhart, Texas, appeared and I claimed my 45th state. Next, I entered the Oklahoma panhandle, and, although this was my home state, I needed to pass through it to claim Colorado. I had not planned to arrive in Colorado in the wee morning hours, and I found that the little border town of Campo was asleep for the night as I drove through. Springfield was another long 20 miles north, but fortunately I found gas there. Only one state was left and I had four hours to make Kansas to finish in less than NINE days! With refreshed inspiration, I asked Jill to guide me by the quickest route to Kansas.
Fatigue Proves Costly
Fatigue makes mistakes. I forgot to tell Jill to keep me on paved
highways. First the road turned small, then smaller, then bumpy, then broken, and finally dirt. Loose dirt. Sandy, front wheel pulling, knock you down in a weak moment dirt.
At 3 o'clock in the morning with 20-plus hours on the road, Victor and I found ourselves alone surrounded by cornfields. I couldn't tell north from south and, more than once, the fluffy, loose roadway nearly took me down. Exhausted, I stopped… and explained to Jill that this was not acceptable. In fact, it was downright stupid.
Victor and I turned around and headed back to the broken pavement, the bumpy pavement and the small road we had left somewhere in Colorado. As we passed each little tractor path into the cornfields along the way, Jill nagged me to “TURN NOW.” Into a cornfield? Really? Jill, you have got to be crazy. Each time that I declined to enter a cornfield, she moaned, “RECALCULATING.”
Finishing the Final Leg
I am here today to testify that there is no good way to drive from Colorado to Kansas. After hours of tiny paved roads through dark cornfields, Victor and I finally dragged ourselves into the little town of Elkhart, Kansas, just before my ninth day expired. This was, however, to remain an official secret between me and Victor because there was only one gas station and it was closed. We had made the 48 State 10 Day Challenge in less than nine days, but only we would know it.
Liberal, Kansas, the only city where I could count on an open gas station, was still over 60 miles away.
I laughed at the irony of getting lost so close to home after such an incredible final day of riding. I laughed because there was nothing else to do, except to remount and head to Liberal. By the time we obtained our final gas receipt, the sun was up and our official finishing time was 9 days, 1 hour, and 30 minutes. In the final 29 hours, we travelled 1,744 miles. At Hutch's Gas Station, I told our story to customer LeaAnn Griblin and manager Tina Vangensen and they graciously signed as my ending witnesses. Many thanks for their help.
Well, the Challenge was over. I prayed that I had not somehow missed or lost one of the required 48 receipts. Now, all I had to do was ride the 350-some miles from Kansas back to my Tulsa home. There didn't seem to be any sense in stopping now, so I simply climbed on and asked Victor to take us home. At least it was now daylight. After so many miles, a few hundred more seemed simple enough.
Oklahoma welcomed me home with battering, south winds gusting steadily at 40-55 mph for the entire last leg of the journey. The battering my body took by those winds was such a fitting end to a marvelous journey and the thrashing left no doubt that I would not be allowed to fall asleep.
As I approached my driveway, I saw the handwritten yard sign with red, white and blue balloons: "48 STATES IN 10 DAYS ON A VICTORY!"
Judy and Hillary ran to greet me with a cold bottle of champagne, a camera, hugs, and kisses. Thank you, God, for the support of my family. It was great to be home. It is great to be an official Iron Butter. And it is great to own a Victory.
Victor is now sitting, rather impatiently, in the garage as a 2011 Cross Roads with well over 29,000 miles on his odometer. What's next, Vic? Did you say "48 Plus Alaska?" Are you crazy? Yeah, I know, pal. I love a challenge, too. Thank you, Vic. And you, too, Jill. No cornfields next time. Please.
The custom-painted fuel tank on “Victor,” Dale’s Cross Roads.
Dale Gero celebrates the completion of his 48 States Challenge after returning home to Oklahoma.
Dale was greeted by his wife Judy (shown with him here) and daughter Hillary (not pictured) when he returned home after his extreme Iron Butt ride. They posted the sign (inset) in their front yard to celebrate his feat.