I have been drawn to and fascinated by exploring my endurance limits from an early age.
When I was 10 years old I road my single speed bike from my hometown of Buckhannon, West Virginia to Audra State Park near Belington. It was 46 miles round trip and took most of the day. It was 1968, a year filled with triumphs and tragedies, and I was feeling the need to sort through all that was happening in our country.
North Vietnam launched the Tet Offensive against the United States in South Vietnam. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy had both been assassinated within 2 months of one another and I was trying to figure out what was going on in the world.
Riding my bike provided the solace to reconcile the thoughts and emotions that were coursing within me. On a beautiful Saturday morning I embarked on this jouney just after breakfast, fueled more by anticipation and curiosity of whether I could actually complete this ride. I didn’t tell anyone, including my parents, that I was attempting this ride. It was a time when all kids left home just after breakfast and didn’t return until dinner or when the street lights came on.
I didn’t pack food and soon realized the benefits of proper nutrition and the challenges of hypoglycemia. Audra State Park is an absolutely beautiful destination and where I learned to swim in the deep pools of the Middle Fork River. I didn’t stay long when I arrived for fear I wouldn’t arrive home before dark.
The trip back seemed much longer than the first half and I arrived back in Buckhannon completely exhausted. I immediately went to the local IGA grocery store and purchased the largest package of cookies on the shelf. I was filled with an incredible sense of accomplishment and developed an appetitie for testing my limits.
Fast forward 45 years to the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings and the need for two wheeled adventure struck again. So many years later the need to reconcile the confusion of why something so tragic and unconscionable had occurred.
Following is an article that was written about my most recent adventure.
Muhr Travels 12,000 Miles in ‘Journey of a Lifetime’
By Tony Boiardi, Reporter
A Grafton man recently completed an amazing feat, circumnavigating the United States in just over two weeks on his 2002 BMW R1150R motorcycle.
Richard ‘Rick’ Muhr, a marathon training coach for the Boston Marathon, took it upon himself to test his physical and psychological limits in a 12,000 mile trip this past July.
“Testing my limits was definitely the primary reason for attempting this ride,” commented Muhr. “I have always been drawn to the extreme in any arena I enter.”
And testing his limits is exactly what Muhr did. Attempting a ride of such magnitude is an impressive feat in itself, but try riding 1500 miles in 23 hours as well as part of an attempt to ride coast to coast in less than 50 hours. Utilizing his physical aptitude from training runners for the Boston Marathon, Muhr logged over 1,000 miles almost every day.
Many endurance motorcyclists attempt this feat, but few accomplish it. Muhr said he reached the 1500 mile mark in 23 hours of the first 40 hours of a transcontinental trip from Jacksonville, Florida to San Ysidro, California.
“It took a lot out of me to push the limits to this extreme right out of the gate in Jacksonville.” He said, “I was in Texas when I surpassed the 1500 mile mark and it was 4:00 a.m..
Carrying nothing but a messenger back over his shoulder, Muhr left behind all luxuries, including rain gear. Of the 30 states Muhr passed through along his trip, he encountered rain in 21 of them.
Muhr, 55, says he has been riding motorcycles for 46 years, receiving his first motorcycle at the age of 9. Always a lover of movement and exploration, Muhr says motorcycling has allowed him to experience many new areas.
Muhr survived on Gatorade and energy bars for most of his ride. Time was crucial at each fuel stop, so he would eat while refueling his bike. Muhr lost 15 pounds during the excursion.
The trip included completing the coveted “Four Corners Tour,” where a rider is required to ride to the extreme four corners of the United States. Staring in Madawaska, Maine, Muhr traveled south to Key West, Florida, west to San Ysidro, California and then north to Blaine, Washington in just over 8 days.
Muhr rode 1100 miles from Grafton to Madawaska, Maine in 17 hours. Afterwards he rode from Grafton to Key West in 34 hours, stopping briefly in Christiansburg, Virginia due to inclement weather that prevented him from seeing the lines on the highway and forced him to stop. During his trip, Muhr was also attempting to ride coast to coast in less than 50 hours.
“I rode from Jacksonville, Florida to San Diego, California in just over 40 hours,” said Muhr. “ I didn’t sleep for 46 consecutive hours and only stopped to refuel my motorcycle 12 times.”
He then rode non-stop from San Diego to Blaine, Washington in 26 hours straight.
His entire ride was almost for naught when his bag of receipts, cash and credit cards almost fell off his bike. “Receipts are everything when completing a ride of this magnitude,” explained Muhr, as they provide proof of the time, location, and mileage on the motorcycle.
“I have heard horror stories of riders leaving their receipts at a fuel stop,” he said.
While riding through Texas, Muhr felt something hit his left foot. Reaching down, Muhr discovered that the bag containing the receipts had fallen out of a zippered pocket.
“My entire trip would not have counted because I didn’t have the required paperwork to provide the proof,” Muhr said.
“I continue to count my blessings for averting that disaster.”
Disaster almost struck for a second time while in Texas. Muhr stopped at a closed gas station and went through his normal refueling procedure. After completing refueling, he hit the receipt button and the message “SEE CASHIER” lit up.
“My heart sank because I desperately needed the receipt, it was 4:00 a.m., and the station didn’t open until 6:00 a.m.,” Muhr explained. “I moved to another pump and was only able to add 10 cents of fuel. Again I received the “SEE CASHIER” message.”
With time running out on his 24-hour deadline, Muhr rode to the next exit and refueled again. The station was closed but he was able to convince the attendant, who said she was running the morning books and would not be done for an hour, to provide a receipt.
Muhr waited anxiously for the next hour, fearing falling asleep as he might not have woken up. He eventually retrieved both receipts but lost the two precious hours that would have allowed him to break the 40-hour mark.
According to Muhr, things became incredibly challenging once he hit the desert and temperatures began surpassing 124 degrees.
“I was at the 33 hour point and I really had to dig deep to stay awake, tolerate the heat and make it to San Diego,” commented Muhr. “I was in an extremely altered state and feel extremely fortunate to have weathered that storm.”
Shortly after arriving home, Muhr said to his wife, Lori LeClaire Muhr, that he would never attempt something similar, not even for a million dollars.
“It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done…no exceptions,” he said.
Yet within two weeks of returning home, he began researching the 2014 Cannonball Run and the 2015 Iron Butt Rally. The rides include traveling from Key West to Seattle, Washington on a pre-1930 motorcycle and riding 11,000 miles in 11 days, respectively.
Completing the “Four Corners” journey was a monumentally emotional experience for Muhr.
“When I took the final exit in Blaine…I was extremely emotional,” explained Muhr. “I thought about all the people that I love who are no longer here. They taught me to enjoy the small things in life and to chase my dreams.”
He says circumstances are never likely to be perfect, so people much accept that and just get on with chasing their dreams. The whole experience left Muhr with feelings of pride, accomplishment and inspiration.
“When I am sitting in a nursing home later in life, I may not know my name but I will darn sure remember this ride!”