Chris O’Neal, of Hernando, is officially designated an Iron Butt after a 1000-mile motorcycle ride with fellow biker Mark Campbell, to sample the top barbecue spots in Middle America.

Starting in Horn Lake to Kansas City, St. Louis and ending in Hernando all in a 24-hour timeline, the pair made the trek in 18 hours on September 11. 

O’Neal made his inaugural trip with Campbell to become a part of the Iron Butt Association. The IBA is an organization dedicated to long distance motorcycle riding and offers options for different long-distance challenges for bikers.

This ride celebrates the long- distance rider’s favorite RTE (Ride To Eat) theme. 

“All rides must start and end at a non-national chain restaurant with the word ‘Barbeque’ or ‘B-B-Q’ or ‘Bar-b-que’ or some other spelling of the word. Bar-be-Quest 1000 SILVER - Eat at four barbeque restaurants - 24 hours,” according to IBA’s rules.

Campbell, also from Hernando, works in aircraft quality assurance for FedEx. He met O’Neal at Uncle Bubba’s in Hernando during a “Bike Night” and shared his interest in the ride. 

Mark Campbell, has lived in Hernando for the past ten years. He’s been riding motorcycles for the past 50 years since the age of 10.

“I got involved in this long distance riding in 2004,” said Campbell. “Since then I’ve been all over the country doing it. This last ride came up through a communication from IBA. I thought ‘What more perfect to live in the Memphis area and to go to Kansas City and St. Louis?’”

The 1,000 miles in 24 hours is only the minimum to participate in any ride challenge of the IBA. 

“In 2007 I did a challenge where I rode through all 49 states in eight and a half days,” said Campbell. “That was 1,000 miles a day. There’s a whole lot of different challenges they offer.”

Campbell, who’s completed over 40 trips, rides a 2019 BMW 1250 GS Adventure bike and O’Neal rides a 2020 Harley Davidson Road Glide, which he’s named Scarlett. Campbell considers ergonomics, high efficiency and high performance as features for selecting a hog.

The September 11 challenge required the pair to start at a barbecue restaurant and end at a barbecue restaurant. 

“We started at Memphis Barbecue Company in Horn Lake,” said Campbell. “During the 24-hour period, riders are allowed one wild card stop, in case a restaurant is closed. Instead of eating and getting a picture of the food, you can park your motorcycle in front of the building and get a picture. We did that at 3 a.m.”

The pair then made it to Joe’s Kansas City Bar-B-Que, but at 10 a.m. no sauce slathered meat was being served.

“The second choice was Arthur Bryant’s,” said Campbell who enjoyed burnt ends. “We walked in at 10:36 am. We ordered our meal at the counter and sat down, then took the required photos of us with our barbecue meals before eating. Chris enjoyed his 3B sandwich of brisket, burnt ends and onion rings.”

Four hours later the pair crossed into St. Louis around 3:30 p.m. heading to the BBQ Saloon.

“The bar was open, but food wouldn’t be served until 4:30 pm.,” said Campbell. “I was prepared with a couple other backups! Smoking Barrels BBQ was the next choice. Like before, the next location was only a few miles away.”

The duo headed south toward Hernando to meet their wives. Campbell’s wife, Karen, and O’Neal’s wife, Kathy, meet the two at Uncle Bubba’s. The last barbecue meal was chicken and a sampler of burnt ends, rib tips and chicken wings.

O’Neal said his 24-hour journey was very enjoyable and relished the challenge of 1000 miles in one day.

“Have you ever been to Hardy, Arkansas?” asked O’Neal. “When you get through there it’s curvy, on a two lane road. With it being dark, not really knowing where I was going was the biggest challenge for me.”

O’Neal said his family was excited for the trip but his wife Kathy wanted him to travel the journey before she made any commitments. 

Official end time was 8:53 p.m. for a total of 1,013 miles (according to Google Maps) in 17 hours and 56 minutes.

“I’m ready to go back now!” laughed O’Neal, who is now a certified Iron Butt. “You get a pin and a little thing that goes around your license plate on your motorcycle.”

Campbell said he’s planning for his next trip near the end of October to travel around the border of Texas, around 3,000 miles in three days.

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