Saturday, June 4, 2011

USA 4 Corners Tour Ride Report: May 25-June 10, 2010

I hope this USA 4 Corners Tour Update, from my May 25-June 10, 2010 ride, helps, or at least amuses, someone.

The USA 4 Corners ride is is a motorcycle tour and the entire distance must be ridden on your motorcycle; M/C with side cars and Trikes are considered motorcycles for this event. See

Sponsored by the Southern California Motorcycling Association.

The four (4) official checkpoints are:

1. San Ysidro, California;
2. Blaine, Washington;
3. Madawaska, Maine;
4. Key West, Florida.

There are no other checkpoints. SUBSTITUTES ARE NOT ACCEPTABLE.

You may visit the four checkpoints in any sequence and by any route that you desire. You do not have to return to the first checkpoint to finish this event.

You start the event by visiting the first checkpoint of your choice and by mailing the required proof of visit information in the stamped, pre-addressed envelope provided.

You are allowed Twenty-One (21) days total time to complete this event. Time will be measured on the postmarked dates on the checkpoint envelopes mailed by you. The first day is the date of the postmark on the envelope you mail from the first checkpoint. There are no time extensions given to anyone for repairs, flat tires, rain, cold, illness, etc.

You must take a photo of your motorcycle at each checkpoint, parked next to a building or marker; such as a police station, post office, public library, city limits sign, monument or landmark that clearly shows the checkpoint city name.

You will be declared a finisher of this event after the committee has received, reviewed, and accepted your photos and proof of visit information for all four checkpoints. The decision of the committee is final.

I completed the USA 4 Corners Tour on Monday, June 6, 2010, when I rolled into Key West, Florida, 7,000 miles after I left home at Midnight on May 25.

Staying with friends and family, and at roadside hotels and campsites along the way, I was on the road since midnight on May 25, when I departed San Ysidro. After completing a 1,000-mile ride the first day (to Albany, OR, in 18 hours -- my first Iron Butt ride), I stopped by the other three corners, averaging about 500 miles a day.

Typical for this time of year, I encountered a "little weather” along the way. I ran into rain in the Pacific Northwest and New England, and heat in the Southeast and Southwest. The weather varied between sweltering and chilly as I went through Idaho, Montana, North Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan to reach Sault Sainte Marie where I crossed into Canada. The fine Customs and Border Protection folks at the SSM port of entry offered me a VIP tour of their POE when I arrived.

I rode almost 1,000 miles though Canada, stopping overnight in Montreal. Brushing up on French terms definitely came in handy. I met some nice Canadians (self-described as "a couple idiots in a bar") who explained in clear, beer-fueled French Canadian, the differences between Americans and Canadians. Bottom line: Not much.

I crossed back into the US at Ft. Kent, Maine, where US Highway 1 begins. I arrived to Madawaska – my 3rd corner – just a few minutes later where I joined my friend and fellow Southern California rider, Steve; having left San Ysidro 8 hours before I did, he had arrived in Madawaska via Canada just 2 hours before me. Talk about great timing!

We checked into Madawaska's finest motel (Martin’s) then hit the only bar in town. “Chug a Mug” is the last of 27 bars standing after the economy devastated local businesses.
There was no shortage of characters there. Bartender Lana, professional barfly “Bucket” and local pool hustlers Jamie and Amy were all Acadians — a French/ Indian mix that resides along the St. Johns River. These warm, wonderful people impressed me as excellent representatives of Madawaskans, Mainers, Acadians and Americans in general.

Note to self 1: Do NOT drink whatever the locals put in front of you — even if it's free — if you have an early day and a long ride ahead of you the next day. The salted shallots and specialty drinks were tasty, but yikes!

Note 2: The 4 Corners Tour is a big part of Madawaska and the locals have gone all out in putting together a really beautiful memorial for the riders who have undertaken this ride. Jamie from the pub was proud to tell me that his father, James Morneault, successfully completed the USA 4 Corners Tour in 2005.

On June 1st, Steve and I stopped by Houlton, Maine, to see a friend on our way to Augusta. It rained on us gently for the next 2 days. I stayed with friends in Augusta as my bike was serviced (tires and an oil change) at the Triumph dealer. Blue Knights folks supported me along the way—in Michigan, Maine and Florida.

We left the next day for a short ride to the Foxwoods Resort and Casino near Norwich, CT, where Steve took almost $500 off their poker tables (that’s OK—they got it back at the dinner table). Passing through New Hampshire and Massachusetts, we learned what Mass drivers are called — and why.

The next day I accompanied Steve to an exit in New York where we parted ways: He stopped to see Orange County Choppers on his way to visit family in Pennsylvania as I headed to Raleigh, NC, 650 miles away. A series of questionable routes turned a 650-mile 10-hour day into an 820-mile 14-hour day! I rolled into Raleigh after 11 PM on June 3rd and stayed with a good friend (see a pattern here?).

An easy 700-mile ride landed me at my mother-in-law's house in Tampa, FL, late on June 4th. I stayed an extra day to recuperate, leaving for Key West on the morning of Sunday, June 6th.

A leisurely 450-mile ride brought me to Key West by 1 PM. I was fortunate to enjoy nice weather while in Florida. By nice, I mean it was sweltering, buggy, hot and humid — but no lightening or thunder showers. I snapped the obligatory "southernmost point" photo,

thus completing my USA 4 Corners ride. Coincidentally, US Highway 1 ends in Key West, 2,390 miles after its start in Ft. Kent, Maine. I stayed as a guest of the US Government at NAS Key West’s Basic Officer’s Quarters, just a short distance from Duval Street.

I had travelled 7,032 miles in 12 days. It was then just a matter of "several" margaritas and 3,000 miles back to San Diego via the American Southwest — piece of cake. That got me to contemplating an interesting return home. I settled on an Iron Butt Saddle Sore 2000—two consecutive 1,000-mile days sounded fun…at the time.

After a brief rest, I was ready for the trip home. Leaving Tampa at 7 AM on June 8, I enjoyed an easy ride to Houston, Texas, in about 15 hours. The weather cooperated and the I-10 Westbound was like an old friend — familiar and easy-going. In Houston, I rested overnight while it stormed outside. I started off the second 1,000-mile ride at 8 AM the next day. That’s when the weather changed.

I encountered rain, wind, thunder, lightning — and more rain — between Houston and San Antonio. I’m used to riding in difficult weather and rain rarely if ever stops me from making forward progress. This time, however, good sense prevailed over a need for speed and I hunkered down at a small gas station with several other motorists while the storm passed. The travel gods seemed determined to foil my plans as wind gusts, heavy traffic, construction and more weather conspired to keep me in Texas. Passing through another time zone, I stopped briefly for a Whataburger in El Paso before continuing on to Tucson. I was drowsy and tried all the tricks I knew to remain alert. Singing loudly to myself did little to keep me awake as I rode through long stretches of desert highway in the warm night air and into the midnight hour. Unlucky lizards and an occasional cactus were the only witnesses to how bad a full-volume, off-key “Louie, Louie” sounded at 1 AM.

I rolled into a Chevron station at 1:08 AM where the clerk witnessed the necessary forms and pointed me to a nearby resting place. I caught 4 hours of much-needed sleep on the parking lot next to my bike before pushing on to San Diego. By noon on June 10, I arrived home to waving flags, signs, banners and video cameras courtesy of my wife and well-wishing neighbors. I was tired but in high spirits, pleased to have completed such and enjoyable ride. I’d seen some beautiful parts of the country and met the good folks, described as the fabric of America, from the back of a steel horse. Hmm. Where shall I ride next year?

The Good, the Bad and the Unleaded:


· 9,864: # of miles completed from start to finish.
· 7,032: # of miles specifically ridden during the USA 4 Corners Tour.
· 27: # of US states passed through during ride.
· 2: # of Canadian provinces passed through during ride.
· 956: # of miles ridden through Canada.
· 3: # of 1,000+mile days.
· 3: # of law enforcement encounters.
· 0: # of speeding tickets.
· 0: # of accidents.
· 6+: # of “close calls.”
· $2.54 Average cost of a gallon of gas.
· $690: Cost of fuel.
· $665: Cost of bike maintenance.
· 29: # of signs (in 80+ degree weather) warning of the possibility of icy bridges.
· 1: # of times I ran out of gas at 80 MPH and coasted to a gas station conveniently off the I-10.
· 15+: # of guys who told me during roadside exchanges that they wished they were doing this ride.
· 7: # of times my Grateful Dead “Steal Your Face” patch elicited nice comments or “thumbs up.”
· 20+: # of times a large bug smashed into my windshield moments after I’d cleaned it.
· 1: # of times I used my tent.
· 1: # of times my wife predicted I’d use my tent.
· 5+: # of times my wife told me, prior to the ride, that I was too old to sleep on the ground in a tent.

The Gear (in order of usefulness):

· 2009 Triumph Rocket III Touring: 2294 cc’s/140 cubic inches of good-looking, road-eating motorcycle.
· Aerostich RoadCrafter riding suit: The “Stich” is costly but worth every penny. It was little hot in Florida and Texas and not quite warm enough in Michigan and Montana, but a necessary piece of riding gear.
· Sidi Canyon Gore-Tex boots: Again, costly but well worth it. My feet were comfortable and dry the entire time. Never too hot or too cold. Great gear for the serious rider.
· Custom-made saddle. A local upholster made this for me before I left. A little costly, and it looks like a large blue marshmallow, but this is why my butt never ached during the ride.
· Garmin StreetPilot 2650 GPS unit with RAM motorcycle mount: This older GPS unit did the trick, although I plan to upgrade to a Garmin Zumo soon (mainly for the BlueTooth capability).
· Cardo-Scala Q2 helmet BlueTooth set: Allows the rider to answer phone calls and listen to music while rolling down the road at…a reasonable rate of speed. One of my favorite pieces of riding equipment.
· Bobster sunglasses with prescription inserts and interchangeable lenses: These sunglasses have worked well for over 15,000 miles, since I purchased them in Yellowstone in 2008.
· Microsoft Zune 120 GB digital media player: With 10,482 songs loaded in my MP3 player, I didn’t hear any songs twice. I prefer this to the iPod.
· Military Gore-Tex rain gear: This lightweight Marine Corps camo rain gear has always worked for me.
· Woodblaster protective bike shorts: The gel-padded shorts were cool and comfortable under my Stich.
· Kruzer Kaddy handlebar-mounted cup holder: Allowed me to safely and easily hydrate while riding.
· Custom Accessories deer alert whistles (2): Maybe nothing more than superstition, but I hit none of the many, many deer I passed along the way. Plus, they were “chrome.”
· Aerostich Elk skin gloves: These were terrible in cold and wet weather. I wanted to toss these $120 gloves in the garbage, but then how would I have sent them back to Aerostich? Too bad, Aerostich usually puts out better quality products.


  1. Thanks for the post. You should take part in a contest for one of the best blogs on the web. I will recommend this site!
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  2. Thanks for your comment, Stevan. If you're considering the USA 4 Corners Tour, I wholeheartedly endorse it as a very fun, semi-challenging and extremely fulfilling ride.