True Story: I Drove My Motorcycle 1,000 miles in 24 hours

Have you ever wanted to take a cross-country motorcycle trip? That's exactly what this guy did - IN 24 HOURS. Click through to read his story! >>

I’m a pretty experienced roadtripper. I’ve driven over 15,000 miles … but that was in a car. Over the course of many, many weeks. Can you imagine making a cross-country motorcycle trip in just 24 hours? Well, that’s exactly what Ryan did.

Editor’s note: Don’t try this at home, kids. Like, really. Driving this long without sleep is incredibly dangerous

Tell us a bit about yourself!

I grew up in Poughkeepsie, NY, though I’ve lived in four states and two countries. Right now, you’ll find me living just outside of Chicago.

I’m a 40-year-old husband and dad to two kids. Mostly I work … a lot. I’m currently VP of Engineering at a start-up in Chicago. When I’m not there I’m bringing home more animals to take care of – most recently this included half a dozen chicken and some ducks.

How long have you been riding motorcycles? What do you like about it?

Since I was 13. What doesn’t get you excited about riding? That question could only come from a someone who doesn’t ride motorcycles!

How did this trip come about?

There was a National Masonic Motorcycle Club event taking place in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. This event is in a different location around the US every year. Some friends of mine also had bikes and were up for an adventure. With nothing else on the calendar that weekend and permission from my wife, I thought “why not?”

Portsmouth is just over 1,000 miles away from Chicago. If you ride your bike 1,000 miles in 24 hours or less you earn the Iron Butt Patch and some good stories. To get the patch you need to document your mileage on each gas stop receipt. 

What was your route?

We left Chicago at 3:30 am and headed east bound on I-80, traveling through Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, Massachusetts, before finally landing in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. We got in at 3:20am the next day with 10 minutes to spare.

We made it in just under the 24-hour mark and having found Jesus somewhere along the way on Route 90 in central New York in the dark.

How did you prepare for it – physically, financially, psychologically, logistically?  

The only preparations we made were logistics. We plotted our route, checked the weather a few days in advance (because rain will really slow you down). There really isn’t much you can do to prepare yourself for a ride like this – you just go out and do it. The two buddies who I rode out with had done long trips like this before. They didn’t really say much about preparations – except that we’d be making memories.

Tell us about your departure.

We left Chicago at 3:30 am on a Friday morning in September. It was dark, foggy, damp, and cool. All the things that make riding uncomfortable. Thankfully, it wasn’t raining – actually the trip out there was perfectly clear. The ride back, however, we weren’t so lucky.

Being the middle of the night, I was tired when we left, but not emotional – at least not yet.

Can you share some of the more memorable moments of the trip?

To be honest, when you are on a bike for 23 hours and 20 minutes straight there are no defining moments. Well, I did I break down emotionally at a rest stop in Massachusetts because I  felt like I couldn’t ride a mile further. My two friends pulled me back from the edge to finish the 90 miles we had left.

1,000 miles in 24 hours is a looooot of driving. How did you manage sleep, bathroom and food stops, keeping a good pace?

There’s no time for sleep. You try not to shit yourself and sometimes you pee a little. It’s a good thing bikers don’t worry about aesthetics or smell!  In fact, most of the others didn’t shower all weekend until we arrived back in Chicago three days later.

You time all your bathroom and food breaks with your gas breaks – which depending on the size of the gas tank on your bike, can vary from rider to rider. I’d also use some of the food breaks to quickly call and say hi to my wife and kids.

We mostly ate fast food, Slim Jims, nuts, and Clif bars. And of course, coffee.

Were there every any moments when you questioned your decision?

Yes, shortly after pulling out of gas station number one at 3:30am in the fog day one, minute one – it seemed like a really stupid idea. Also that breakdown I had in Massachusetts when I was ready to give up.

How did the people in your life react to your ride?

My family and friends either thought it was cool … or nuts. They’re both right. I posted updates on Instagram during our stops along the way so friends and family could follow along, and so my wife could make sure I wasn’t in a ditch. People would ask me why I was doing that, to which what else can you answer but “Why not?”

How did you feel when you pulled into your final destination? 

I was delirious, sleep deprived, weepy, and not elated like you might think, and my ass hurt… a lot. It was 3:30 am so I went right to bed.

What’s something you learned from this that any of us could apply to our daily lives? 

Suck it up.  Sometimes the things you want hurt. You’ll get to the end.

Thanks for sharing your story, Ryan! Do you guys have any questions for him?

P.S. Other feats of perseverance: True Story: I’m an Ultra-marathoner and True Story: I Didn’t Buy Anything New For One Year

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  1. Sam

    I’ve done a lot of stupid things in my life, but none were validated with articles on the internet.

    Driving for that long is dangerous and you could have killed someone. Studies have shown that driving without sleep is more likely to cause an accident than while drunk. You were impaired. NOT COOL.

    Risk your own life, not everyone else’s on the road.

    Not that you can’t write about controversial topics, but would you have posted an interview “I Drove Drunk across the Country” and not addressed how irresponsible it was? You framed this as an achievement rather than a dumb, dangerous stunt.

    • Sarah Von Bargen

      Sam, you’re totally right! I can’t believe I missed that. Thanks for the reality check.

  2. Jacqueline Fisch

    Good point. This is my husband, and I’m glad he got to have this experience and come home to tell us about it. Had he (and the other riders) been inexperienced, I would have had some reservations 🙂 You didn’t miss anything though Sarah – a nod to ride safe of course is always a good idea – these riders each have more than 20+ years riding experience, traveling in groups when riding a motorcycle is always a good idea.

    These guys are all husbands and fathers and I can assure you, would never do anything to put anyone’s lives at risk.

    You take breaks, stay fueled and focused, inspect your vehicle, and look out for each other, and enjoy the adventure. And how many of us can say they check out their vehicles before getting in? Keeping tire pressure at the recommended psi to avoid a dangerous blowout? Look at our phones? Ride with an inexperienced driver? Distracted by kids in the back, changing the radio station? Etc. etc.

    • Sam

      You can be the most experienced driver on the road (and thank god he probably was) but if you’re driving without sleep- you are driving impaired- full stop.

      There are folks out there who are convinced that they drive “better” when drunk because they’re so careful! They drive the limit, they’re extra cautious to compensate! We all know this is ridiculous. Oh course they wouldn’t intentionally take a crazy risk- but that’s the thing, until something horrible happens they think “oh I’m fine” or “it couldn’t happen to me”

      It can happen to you. Great husbands and fathers make mistake all the time. Hopefully mistakes that don’t kill anyone.

      No matter how many breaks he took, inspections he carried out and experienced friends he had on the road with him- it was still irresponsible and wrong.

  3. Ayden Kevin

    Thanks for sharing this so interesting post! I really want to be thankful for the way you have putted it here. Good Luck!

  4. David Reams

    I completed a Saddle Sore 1000 (the ride mentioned in the article) a few weeks ago riding from Seattle, WA to Grenada, CA and return for a distance of 1039 miles in 18 hours and 45 minutes. The stated purpose of the Iron Butt Association is to promote SAFE long distance motorcycle riding.
    My ride consisted of 15 hours and 17 minutes of moving time (on the road) and 3 hours 26 minutes of fuel, rest and food stops. There was no time when I was overly tired or drowsy and ZERO close calls or dangerous situations. When I got home I was comfortable and rested enough to catch 6 hours of sleep (my normal) and go for another 100 mile ride the next day just for fun. Anyone condemning these types of rides doesn’t know what they’re talking about.

    • Anonymous

      That sounds way more reasonable but the article states he was on his bike for 23 hours and 20 minutes strait. That’s unreasonable

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