Lawyer follows Iron Butt rules
Jay Bender likes motorcycles... a lot. The Columbia media lawyer grew up racing the bikes in the deserts of New Mexico and only retired from the sport a few years ago after he seriously injured himself in a competition. His injuries didn't squelch his enthusiasm for riding, though, and last summer, he decided to embark on the ultimate motorcycle adventure: a cross-country ride from FL to AL.
To make it more challenging, Bender decided to complete the trip under the guidelines of The Iron Butt Association, an organization that promotes long-distance motorcycle trips. The IBA boasts the world's toughest riders, and in order to gain membership, one must follow strenuous guidelines.
For instance, Bender had to complete the trip in less than 30 days. He was also required to take a picture of himself at his starting point in Key West, FL, obtain signatures from a Florida police station, and collect a receipt from a gas station. He also had to obtain a gas station receipt every 400 miles to document his progress.
Bender left Columbia June 3 and immediately hit a bump in the road. He lost his wallet, driver's license, and credit card after stopping for coffee; therefore, he had to meet his wife, Ann, in Atlanta to get replacements before continuing his trip.
However, his bumpy beginning was only one of the challenges Bender faced throughout the trip. The weather was constantly a problem. In fact, it rained 16 of the 17 days he was on the road.
"The only day it didn't rain was the day I left Seattle," said Bender.
Bender also had to put in long hours on the bike in order to complete two other IBA challenges. He rode the 1000 miles from St. Louis, MS to Minot, ND, in 24 hours, and the 1500 miles to Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, in a day and a half, stopping only for brief power naps in rest areas.
But the hardest part of the trip was yet to come. Once he reached Fairbanks, AK, Bender had to travel to Coldfoot, the northernmost truck stop, in the Arctic Circle. From there, he crossed the Brooks mountain range amidst a thunder and sleet storm before reaching his final destination in Prudhoe Bay. Along the way, he had to navigate a road made of packed down gravel while keeping a constant look out for polar bears.
"I was actually quite excited to get back to Coldfoot alive," Bender said.
Bender's return trip was a bit less stressful. He met his wife in Haines, AK and took a ferry down the Inside Passage. After reaching Seattle, Ann flew home while Bender rode back to Columbia in five days. In the end, Bender had traveled 12,000 miles in 17 days.
Somewhere along the way, Bender decided that the IBA certification wasn't the most important thing.
"I was out there to have fun," he said. "It was more about exploring my inner self."