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Charley Barnes Recounts His 10,000 Mile Honor Flight Northern Colorado Endurance Ride – Leg 9

Fueling up in no-man’s land somewhere in North Dakota/Minnesota. Charley Barnes, Roger Bissen, Dennis Bissen and Mike Neuerburg.

Today’s story is Leg 9, on my 10,000 mile Honor Flight Northern Colorado Endurance Ride. This was the final push home that went from bad to worse about half way through and the reality that pulling off the 10/10ths would take a miracle. Mike and I were up bright and early after about a 4 hour nap to hit the road and try and push the last 1500+ out of the way in 24 hours and be home in time for breakfast. The original plan was to be back for the Honor Flight Northern Colorado breakfast at the airport where I was promised unlimited bacon and seconds on pancakes; was good enough for me. The new route would take us North towards the Twin Cities where we would hook up with Dennis and Roger Bissen from Kimballton, Iowa, who had spent the night in La Crosse, Wisconsin.

We headed up the interstate towards Minneapolis and there on the on-ramp we saw Dennis and Roger who quickly jumped on their iron sleds and caught up with Mike and I to make it a four-some. We continued North and battled the traffic of Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minnesota which surprised me. I had no idea there were so many people living in Minnesota but yet there they were…in droves. Most with boats, in the left lane, going who knows where.

We continued on through St. Cloud and into Fargo, North Dakota where the ride would head due South into Omaha, Nebraska and then West towards the Rocky Mountains. The ride was going smoothly, so smooth that at one point Mike came on the radio to inform me we had done 110 miles in the last hour and at that pace, I would also crush the 10/10th and go 3 for 3 on this ride. Yes, I set a blistering pace!

We hit Fargo, North Dakota and grabbed a fresh tank of gas and motored South. As the sun went down, we decided to hit a gas stop in Sioux Falls, South Dakotawhen the unthinkable happened. A breakdown. Not any breakdown but a breakdown that couldn’t have happened at a worse time but in the best place possible. As we rolled off the throttles to hit the off ramp, the throttle cable on Mike’s bike gave out and left us stranded there on the off ramp. After a quick glance it was obvious we weren’t going to fix it and a bike surgeon would have to be called in.

Mike Neuerburg and Dennis Bissen in Sioux Falls, SD

It was decided that the ride would have to go on and Roger Bissen actually told Mike that he would give him his bike, stay with his till the tow truck showed up and would get it into the shop to get it fixed. Once fixed, Roger would ride it home to Iowa and then back to Colorado since they were coming in for the Sleigh Riders Toy Run on Saturday, June 28.

So we switched out all of Mike’s gear and put it on Dennis’s bike and went up to get gas. During the gas stop, Mike felt so bad about leaving Roger and Dennis with his bike on the side of the road that we made a group decision that Mike would stay behind with his bike and the Bissen brother’s and I would roll on solo once again.

As it turned out, there was a Harley-Davidson dealer right off that very same exit so a breakdown couldn’t have happened in a better place. I can’t tell you how bad I felt as I hit the interstate and watched those guys fade off in the distance of my rear view mirror.

It was back to a solo ride and the clock was ticking. It would take a miracle to pull this off and I wasn’t sure if I had any left. It was shortly after that, somewhere in Iowa, that I finally got pulled over. Hey, I can’t complain. I’m sure I was given a couple dozen “passes” along the way in the previous days. The officer asked where I was going in such a hurry and I replied with, “Have you ever heard of Honor Flight.?”  He hadn’t, so I showed him a flyer and then said, “I was only dong 82.”  He replied with, “I know (chuckles), speed limit here in Iowa is 70.”

Like I didn’t know! : }

After a good stern talking to, and a handshake, he sent me on my way with a verbal warning and a thank you for doing what I was doing for our local Veterans. I finally hit Nebraska which was good and bad. Good in the fact that I was one state away from home but bad in the fact that I was fading and fading fast.

I was supposed to stop in Omaha off of I-680 to meet Lesli for a quick bite and some rest but I hadn’t checked my phone in awhile and kept going through Omaha and into Lincoln where I had to stop. I was shaking from who knows what and thought I might get sick. I had to eat and take a break and would push on when I could. I called Lesli to check in and while I was sitting at a table in side hammering down a sandwich and an orange juice, she said “Look out the window.”  I turned around and there she was. She had been in Omaha waiting for me to stop but heard me just roll on by about 2:00 a.m. and followed me into Lincoln. We had a nice visit and after about a half hour I saddled up to make the final push home.

Kenny Love and Charley Barnes just East of Big Springs, Nebraska – Photo by Mary Love

By this time I was running on a prayer. I had done about 1200 miles at this point and as I left Lincoln I realized for the first time that I was probably not going to make the 10,000 miles in 240 hours but I would still do the 10,000 in 10 days. I had hoped when the sun came up it would give me that burst of energy I needed badly; that didn’t happen. Instead of riding out gas tanks like I had done 79 times before, it was all I could do just to get to the next town or rest stop and I hit every one of them…safety first. I have never been more exhausted and I knew that Brian Gary, Steve Bourassa and Roger Schmidt were planning on bringing out a group of riders from Greeley, Colorado to meet me in Sterling around 6:00 a.m. I knew that would never happen and sent messages to the key players to go home and enjoy the day.  I told them I would be home and was fine but was going to be late, real late and waiting was something they didn’t need to do.

Have you ever talked to a brick wall?

They are a brick wall and would have nothing of it. 30-40 of my friends waited in Sterling starting about 6:00 a.m. and were not going to leave until I was within their group to make sure I got home. It was in Big Springs, Nebraska I received a message that said bikes were on the way out and to keep an eye out for them. The next thing I remembered while eating a bisquit is seeing Kenny Love racing East, without a helmet.  I pulled over to she shoulder and waiting for him to turn around and right behind him were 4 others who missed me at Big Springs. What an adrenaline rush!  I was wide awake, sort of, and we rode to the State line where another group of riders waited.

We took a quick picture there and then it was off to the Sterling visitors center where another 20+ bikes were waiting. I have never been more humbled to see all those people come out to escort me home and the hours I made them all wait. I will never shed that guilt! After shaking hands and exchanging a few hugs here and there we headed out of Sterling with a planned stop in Briggsdale, why, I had no idea.

After a small mishap of someone running out of gas (Matt Voris) who shall remain nameless, we finally made it to Briggsdale where Rod and Karen Steely of Colorado Crude Carriers had one of their trucks all decked out in flags and they would lead the escort home from there. All the way home, like right to my driveway.

I was home but had missed the 10/10ths by only 136 miles when my 240 hour mark rolled around. That is hard to swallow considering all the miles I had just done and to miss it by that little is still hard to deal with. But, I was HOME!  10,000 miles in 10 days, 3 countries, 30+ states visited and 81 gas stops. It was one hell of a ride to say the least.

Would I do it again!  In a heartbeat and in fact have already started making plans for 2015. I learned a lot from this trip and to do just a 1000 a day for 10 days is really no big deal. To add the Border-to-Border followed by the Coast-to-Coast though made it almost impossible as I never really fully recovered from the Canada to Mexico run and now that I look back at all this, I’m not sure how I finished it period.

I have many more to thank but this will conclude the daily log journals and will give my final thoughts on Monday. I have also started to revise the other stories as I keep remembering things and want to remember this all someday. So if you’re bored in a week or two, you can re-read the series for additional information.

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