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Two Wheel Tuesday: The “Smackdab” Summer Solstice Ride

Peter Tanshanomi December 2, 2014 Two-Wheel Tuesday 5 Comments


You have to be a bit crazy to ride a motorcycle. So it’s sort of expected when riders do nutty things on their motorcycles. There are countless stories of riding crossing the country off-road on the , riding , single-day Five State and rides, or . These are collectively referred to as “challenge rides”: dream up a route with some sort of goal (or gimmick) and then ride it purely for the feeling of adventure and accomplishment it brings. There are a variety of organized ” just for the hell of it” annual events, from New Year’s Day club rides, snow-covered Halloween Rides in the Northeast, Three-Flags rallies, and over in the UK,  rides.

And starting next June, there will be one more: The Smackdab Summer Solstice Run.

I’ve had a taste of these challenges, and they’re fun, even if they present a risk without a tangible reward. For example, I can brag about being the first motorcycle over a mountain pass the morning it opened in the spring, a feat that got my . I successfully attempted a in college but — full disclosure — that was in a 1981 Toyota Tercel, not a motorcycle, and was mostly about getting away from my annoying roommate for the better part of a weekend. I’ve always wanted to do one of those organized challenge rides, but none of them are held close enough to where I live now for to participate in. Therefore, I’ve thought about organizing something in the Midwest myself for many years. And, starting this year, I am.

I’d long known about the monument outside Lebanon, Kansas that marks (with dubious accuracy) the geographic center of the contiguous “Lower Forty-Eight” United States, and I thought it would make a good travel destination excuse for a ride. But then I discovered that there was a very similar stone marker in Rugby, North Dakota that marks the geographic center of the continent of North America. The two monuments are located almost directly north/south of each other, with U.S. Highway 281 conveniently running almost straight between them. If I wanted a ride in the middle of the country, this was as smack-dab in the center as I could get. I had my gimmick. I had my challenge ride.

A little mapping and calculating revealed the on-road trip distance is 675 miles. That’s a fairly long distance to cover in one day on a motorcycle, even a three-wheeled one, so I thought it would be smart (and an additional gimmick clever feature) to hold it on the longest day of the year, the summer solstice—or at least the Saturday closest to it.Thus the Smackdab Summer Solstice Run was born:

DATE: Saturday, June 20, 2015
DEPART Lebanon, KS between Dawn (5:33 AM) and Sunrise: (6:06 AM)
ARRIVE in Rugby, ND between Sunset (9:44 PM) and Dusk (10:26 PM)
MILEAGE: 675 miles
TOTAL TIME: 16:53:00 (Dawn to Dusk)

Remarkably, and without really planning it, the time period and mileage make this almost perfectly 2/3rds of a 1000 mile day. Also, the monument in Rugby is in the parking lot of a motel, so you can simply park your bike and fall into bed at the conclusion of the ride if you wish. It all seemed to be coming together, but would people think I was off my rocker?

I first mentioned my idea to my wife and our traveling partner/accomplice Rusty, an inveterate barnstormer who has traveled around Kansas with us in the past. They were both game to try it, so I posted a message on the web forum, asking who else might be interested. So far, the response has been positive and the rider count is at seven, with a few other meatspace friends considering it. If you are willing to help me spread the word, you can download .

In order to keep it simple, there’s no fees, no registration; sign up at the departure point between dawn and sunrise, sign in again at the destination between sunset and dusk. That’s it. I’ve drawn up a patch design that finishers can purchase for $12, to commemorate their accomplishment.

There’s not much of a budget for this, and nobody is going to make money of it except a couple of hoteliers who don’t even know it’s happening yet. The only real point is to have fun riding motorcycles and have a silly little adventure that’s still relatively safe, practical and attainable for folks who aren’t quite ready to take up extreme sports of quit their 9-to-5 jobs. Let’s ride!

[Hey, , you said you were upset I didn’t bring you along on the Kinsley trip. Well, you have no excuse this time; now’s your chance.]

  • Number_Six

    Hey, I could be at Rugby, ND 13 agonizingly flat straight hours (or 760 miles) after leaving Calgary. Plan gestating…

    • On Sunday, a couple of us are riding up to the International Peace Park at the border.

  • Rover_1

    I f you made the hoteliers pre-aware, you might get a discount? Worth a thought?

  • Williamson

    I thank it would be a H E double hocky stick of a good time, I might even get my brother and our cousin to come up from arkansas and go.

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