That spot several hundred miles from home was by far the toughest part of the ride. It drove home just how dangerous it is to be on two wheels when you don't have your wits about you. In a car when you're tired you might drift around a bit on the road, maybe hit the rumble strip along the side, but unless you ram head-on into something you're not apt to die. On a scooter it wouldn't take much of a mistake to put you on the tarmac or into the guardrail. I would have liked it if that awareness of danger could have snapped me to attention but mostly I was left feeling pretty vulnerable.
We pulled off for a fuel stop and took a 15+ minute rest stop. Just being able to walk around, drink some Gatorade and talk with the others did the trick and when we got back on the road I was fine again. I even got a bit of a second wind when I realized I'd beaten back the fatigue. I also knew we were essentially one Cannonball day's ride (300 or so miles) from the end and I knew I could pull that off.
The ride east through West Virginia was the scenic highpoint of the trip. We had miles of long, twisty descent through the mountains. It's nice to be able to sail along at 75+ mph on a big, wide interstate, although there were some turns where the surface was a bit hacked up and tough to hold traction on.
It got dark with several hours of riding left ahead of us. I don't care much for riding in the dark. I also kept thinking about not having a low beam and what I might have to do if the high also failed me. It turned out not to be a problem but one of the things this ride impressed upon me is that you want to keep things as simple and effortless as possible, and that includes reducing the need to think about anything other than the task at hand.
Roughly 100 miles from the end we rode through a lengthy construction zone on the highway. It must have just rained since the road surface was wet and it was very dark. The road was a blur of flashing lights and hi-viz lines and barrels and cones. They were whizzing by on either side of me and it felt like I was in the movie Tron or hurtling down some intergalactic landing strip. It was mesmerizing and kind of cool but it also felt a bit dangerous. It was surreal and I felt more like I was flying than riding. We got through it just about the time that I was starting to get sort of freaked out by it.
70-80 miles from home...our last fuel stop. As we got onto the exit ramp I felt like I was riding drunk. I slowed way down to negotiate the turn and felt wobbly and barely in control of the scooter. When we got to the gas station I realized just how exhausted I was. If we could have gassed up and ridden right out we would have had a chance of getting home at or before midnight, which would have put us at sub-20 hours of riding. A good sign of how wiped we all were is that no one was urging us to hurry up and keep moving.
The last part wasn't bad because I knew just how close we were to getting it done. Since our route totaled 1,050 miles we passed the end well before the finish line, which meant that the rest of the way was icing on the cake. Even if I had a mechanical and ended up on the side of the road I still had my 1,000 miles in. We were also on road at that point that I travel frequently. Each mile marker and exit sign was familiar. Even so, this stretch wasn't without incident. It's a very rural stretch of highway so it's pitch black. There's also heavy deer population so I was back to worrying about that again. I was riding along just sort of spacing out when suddenly one of the white lines on the road jumped up off the road next to my scooter. I don't think it was a trick of the lighting or a poorly painted line - I actually saw it jump off the road. It's good we were only 15 minutes from the end.
As we pulled into my driveway my wife came out of the house to snap a photo of us. She'd been following our progress online and decided to wait up instead of going to bed. It was a very nice greeting.
That was it. We went inside, stripped off our gear, sat around for a little while in a bit of a daze and then went to bed. 20 hours and 15 minutes of riding, nearly all uneventful. No drama, no problems. There were no issues between the three of us on the road, no times when one person wanted to stop while the others wanted to keep going (probably my biggest pre-ride concern).
Immediately after the ride I decided I could check this off my list and have no need to ever do it again. Now that a little time has elapsed I've begun to think about not only doing it again, but doing the next step up - the "Bun Burner 1500" - 1,500 miles in 36 hours. I don't know if I ever will but I can't say never.