The Achievable Dream 5-part series - the definitive guide on DVD for planning your motorcycle adventure. Get Ready! covers planning, paperwork, medical and many other topics! "Inspirational and Awesome!" See the trailer here!
Gear Up! is a 2-DVD set, 6 hours! Which bike is right for me? How do I prepare the bike? What stuff do I need - riding gear, clothing, camping gear, first aid kit, tires, maps and GPS? What don't I need? How do I pack it all in? Lots of opinions from over 150 travellers! "This DVD will save you a fortune!"See the trailer here!
So you've done it - got inspired, planned your trip, packed your stuff and you're on the road! This section is about staying healthy, happy and secure on your motorcycle adventure. And crossing borders, war zones or oceans!
On the Road! is 5.5 hours of the tips and advice you need to cross borders, break down language barriers, overcome culture shock, ship the bike and deal with breakdowns and emergencies."Just makes me want to pack up and go!" See the trailer here!
Tire Changing!Grant demystifies the black art of Tire Changing and Repair to help you STAY on the road! "Very informative and practical." See the trailer here!
Ladies on the Loose! For the first time ever, a motorcycle travel DVD made for women, by women! These intrepid women share their tips to help you plan your own motorcycle adventure. They also answer the women-only questions, and entertain you with amazing tales from the road! Presented by Lois Pryce, veteran solo traveller through South America and Africa and author of 'Lois on the Loose', and 'Red Tape and White Knuckles.'
"It has me all fired up to go out on my own adventure!" See the trailer here!
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Ride TalesAn easy way to post your ride reports, whether it's a weekend ride or around the world.
Please make the first words of the title WHERE the ride is.
See the announcement in the forum for details on posting.
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I meant to begin this ride report much earlier, but was caught up in riding and having fun! Better late than never, right? At first I struggled with how I wanted present this ride report – the perfect sentence, the coolest picture, and so forth…way too exhausting, so please forgive my crappy writing and horrible pictures. No promises on posting frequency either.
For the longest time I didn’t want to do a ride report, I wanted this experience to be mine. I changed my mind because the ride reports on Horizon’s Unlimited and ADVRider were a source of inspiration and something that I could live through vicariously when a motorcycle trip was not an option. Hopefully this can repay some of the debt I owe all the riders that took the time to document their trips.
On 29 June 2011 I set off from Morgantown, West Virginia on my first bike, a 2006 Suzuki DR650. I don’t know how far or where I’ll go, but the basic plan is to do the Trans American Trail and then take a left and go south. When fun or money runs out, the trip will be over.
My bike has approximately 3k miles on the odometer. 1,100 of those miles were mine, with about 30 being off road. I needed miles under my belt. Off road riding is the quickest and most challenging way to build the technical riding skills I am going to need for a trip south – time to TAT it up!
NOTE!! I am writing this report while on the road, currently in Guanajuato, Mexico. I’ll try to give a rough route/schedule and would love to hear from other riders or individuals along the route. Next up is Guadalajara and then Mexico City.
Let's get the trip preparation out of the way so we can get to the fun stuff.
Parkinson's Law is true.
"Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion"
I suppose one could get ready in a week or so, but half the fun is reading trip reports and looking at photos - all for research of course.
I'm a minimalist by training, if not by nature. The Army taught me that. I hate carrying extra stuff and every time I repack my gear I look for ways to eliminate. Everything can be layered or has more than one use. Equipment is packed by frequency of use. The Sealine bag and my topcase are for things I need multiple times per day and the saddle bags are for items that may get pulled out if I have a need to use it - from top to bottom. Pack light and allow for serendipity.
The TAT was a great shakedown trip because I was able to buy stuff or send stuff home as needed. I don't care what anyone says, Walmart and McDonalds are America's gift to the world. Walmart has anything one could possibly need to buy and McDonalds always has Wifi and cheap coffee. By the time I finished the TAT, my equipment was streamlined and ready for the trip to South America.
I chose the DR because of it's reputation as being bulletproof. I can attest to that. I dropped the DR at least twice per day on the TAT. Thankfully it's a tank and fairly light to pick up. Looking back, it was pretty stupid of me to do the TAT alone with my level of riding experience...er, inexperience.
The DR is probably the only bike that is perfect for an overland motorcycle trip straight from the factory, but also has thousands of dollars of aftermarket products to make it better. Before purchasing anything, I looked at the price and thought 'How many days on the road is this going to cost me?". If I didn't see the cost benefit, I didn't purchase.
Budgeting for such a trip is a huge pain in the ass and the variance in budgets in other rider's reports is quite large. At the end I will post the details of exactly how much it cost me to purchase and equip the bike and myself from nothing (other than socks) and also how much I spent per day total & by country. I am not shoe stringing it by any means, but I do watch my budget carefully.
**If you want to blow your budget quick, fast, and in a hurry I have one word for you. Alcohol.
Every aftermarket part installed was aimed at decreasing risk or increasing the longevity of the bike. The only comfort items installed were heated hand trips and the beaded seat cover for the stock seat. I elected not to upgrade the headlight/tail light because I refuse to ride at night. Of course I broke that rule a few times so far.
- Pro Cycle Aluminum Skid Plate and Armor for Engine Case
- Acerbis Handguards
- Symtec Grip Warmers
- Bead Rider Beaded Seat Cover
- Pro Cycle Steel Braided Front and Rear Brake Lines
- Dual Star Stainless Steel Oil Filter
- Pro Cycle Magnetic Drain Plug
- Twin Air Airfilter
Luggage - lighter is better!
- Wolfman Expedition Saddlebags
- Wolfman Side Racks
- Pro-Moto Billet Rear Rack
- Pelican 1490 laptop case
- SeaLine 30L Dry Bag
Personal Protection Equipment - I didn't skimp on PPE, this was the most expensive category of equipment after purchasing the bike. One item I wish I would have purchased was a neck brace. I'll give a review on all my PPE later.
- Helmet: Flip Face
- Cortech GX Sport Series 2 Jacket
- Acerbis Koerta Naked Chest/Back Protector (sent home b/c cortech jacket included armor and served it's purpose)
- Rev'it Cayenne Pro Pants
- Cortech Vice Gloves
- TCX Infinity Gore-tex riding boots
- Etymotic mc5 Ear phones
Spare Parts - Everything can be bought on the road, so I didn't pack much in spare parts.
- Front and Rear Wheel Bearings
- 525 Clip type master links
- Spare 21" tube
- Various metric fasteners
Hopefully some of you all can use this list for planning.
I wanted to go light as possible but have clothes for all weather conditions and to be able to self rescue my bike as much as possible. If a truck day is needed b/c I don't have the right spare part or tool...so be it.
This is the moment for which I spent three years planning and saving. This is the reason I resigned my commission as an Officer in the US Army. I set off from Morgantown, West Virginia to conquer the Trans-American Trail...and only left 2 days behind schedule!
Has anyone on a long distance multi-year ride, with no support crew, ever departed on time?
I had breakfast with the family that morning and planned to set off at 9AM. 1PM rolled around and I was finally on the road. My Mom was making fun of me saying I would never leave, and secretly hoping I wouldn't.
Leaving was the hardest part of the trip. I was ready to go, but there was a fear of this being a mistake. Of the trip not living up to the expectations I had built up in my mind. The bike is sounds and feels great. Better to get on the road and start moving, because nothing will ever be perfect.
300+ mile days on the bike are not something I enjoy. I contacted a fellow rider, AllenTC2, through the ADV Tent Space list for a place to crash about halfway to Jellico, TN. He offered to meet me at the Foodland near his place and lead me the rest of the way.
I park in the Foodland parking lot and call Allen. He arrives on a V-Strom. Suzuki all the way! I turn the key and press the starter...and the bike doesn't start. Doesn't even attempt to turn over. A short troubleshooting session later identifies the culprit. The negative lead on the power cable to the battery snapped. Easy fix - just shove the remaining flat piece of metal in between the nut and the terminal and problem fixed.
Thanks Allen for the great spaghetti dinner and letting me crash at your place!
Onward and upward - Jellico, TN.
I camped at the local camp ground so as to have a fresh start the next morning.
On top of being a green, little off-road time, and going solo, I decided to add an additional challenge. Do the TAT using only the roll charts and topo maps. I have a GPS to track my route, but no maps are loaded.
Let's just say the first day had a steep learning curve. After getting lost and refusing to backtrack, the mileage on my odometer was way off compared to the total mileage on the TAT Maps. Now I had to do quick mental addition to figure out where to turn next.
I completed about half of the route laid out on Day 1. Got lost in some National Forest and it was getting dark so I backtracked to the camp ground. Can't tell you how relieved I was when I passed by the old iron bridge that other TAT riders posted pictures of in their ride reports.
Locals cooling off.
Rails to Trail.
First bit of Ass I saw on the trail
TN still had substantial hurricane damage
After loosing it at the first stream crossing, I decided to walk my bike across the notoriously slick crossing.
About the TAT Maps - I had a mixture of old and updated maps. I got lost 3 times in TN, all three times it was my fault. The TN was mostly paved with a little bit of gravel. It was a great introduction for me. The terrain was increasingly challenging for me, and a great way to build experience.
Let me backtrack a bit - this takes place in Tennessee.
It's beautiful outside, clear skies and sunny...3 miles later and it's pissing rain. No shelter anywhere, I can barely see through my face shield - riding blind. Even the farmers had enough, their tractors were in 5th and high tailing it to Olive Branch, TN.
You never know who you are going to meet on the road. The little convenience store where I took shelter had some other bikers - two couples on Goldwings (pulling trailers!). One of the couples was none other than Jimmy and Connie Reed. They own the print company that prints the old TAT topo maps. I wasn't sure if they printed off the new ones, so I didn't mention those. Small world, huh?
Following the storm I rode into the Twilight Zone. There was an intersection with 4 roads leading out and no matter which one I took, I ended up back at the same intersection! This went on for like two hours. I'm not an expert at orienteering, but I'm pretty damn good. A variance of +/- a tenth of a mile is no big deal, but I found a few turns that were off by a third to a half mile +. Eventually I found the right turn which was about a third of a mile before the Twilight Zone intersection.
My first taste of sand.
The bike was a little squirrelly, but I didn't have any trouble. No drops, no near drops. Nada. After I made it through, I stopped to pat myself on the back and take a picture. It also built up a bit of false confidence for later in the trail. An older gentleman and his grandson (riding quads) had passed me before the sand section and as I stood there they came back around to check if I was ok getting through the sand. Nice people.
Heading in to Mississippi. The clay in Mississippi started to turn red.
I'm not sure what this vine is, but it covered everything in MS.
Meet Kevin (DR650) and Chris (Honda).** The first riders I met on the TAT. Kevin took a spill on one of the TN water crossings. The shifter lever on his DR punched through his engine case and left a nice little hole. One can read about how slick those water crossings are, but until you do it you have no idea. The Pro-Cycle engine case armor saved my ass several times. I highly recommend it.
Mississippi has some treacherous gravel. It's very round river stone and deep. Now I would have no problem, but then it messed me up. I hit a deep patch and lost it. As I was picking up the bike and straightening out the shifter lever, a local Mississippi redneck came by on his quad.
The first thing he said wasn't "Are you ok?" or "Do you need anything?" Nope it was "Why are you boys are out here snooping around my backyard." Kevin did the responsible thing and told the guy we were just following a trail that took us on a country road by his house.
Inward I'm thinking "Unless you have a hot daughter, I doubt you have anything I want in your POS house". Then he said he was going to wait here and follow us out to make sure we weren't going to mess with his house. Looking back he was probably growing weed or had a meth lab set up.
*In Xela, Guatemala taking a Spanish immersion course.
**If you guys are reading this and I messed up your names, please correct me.
After crossing the Mississippi, the TAT leads one into Marvell, AR. Yes, I was a green rider on a cross country trip by myself but the most uncomfortable I ever felt was riding through (and getting lost) in Marvell, AR. I would have taken pictures...but that would have probably ended with me getting knifed.
AR was muggy with mucho gravel. The gravel in Arkansas was rough crush limestone, not nearly as treacherous as the gravel in Mississippi. It had rained a day or so prior to when I arrived and I found many parts of the trail like this.
The DR handled it, even with 'Deathwings' for tires. I also managed my first bit of deep mud on some farm roads. I don't know which I dislike more, deep mud or deep sand. At this point, mud I think, simply because it's a lot of work and AR is humid as ****.
The South has a reputation to uphold...best ass in the South.
Also in Arkansas is the most difficult hill climb one will face east of Colorado, maybe even east of UT. About 3/4ths of the way up I met up with some Swiss. BMW R80GS, BMW 1200GS, and a KTM 660 (female). The gentleman on the R80 had dirt experience but the other two were having some trouble, especially the 1200GS - it is so damn heavy!
They had shipped their bikes over from Switzerland to do the TAT. Unfortunately with their limited time they were going to skip the rest of AR, OK, and NM and ride straight to CO.
After the Swiss and I parted, I took a small side trail that went up. I don't know if it was the highest point in AR, but it had a great view.
The Ozark Cafe is every bit as good as everyone says. Breakfast is my favourite meal of the day, it's cheap and comes with lots of food.
I brought cooking gear with me on the TAT, but found that it didn't save me much more money than eating out.
A breakfast special and late lunch special allowed me to eat much better than I could have cooked on the trail. It was also less of a pain in the ass. I could break camp in about 10 minutes and be on the road when I didn't mess with cooking in the morning.
Stop in the Ozark Cafe, grab some food and sign their traveller's book.
The third 'Road Closed' that stopped me.
No more! I wasn't going to miss another section. The first was a matter of National Security - got it. The second was because a bridge was blown up - no problem, I'm not going to try and jump it like Evel Knievel.
This road was closed because of a little mudslide - No Go. This is a perfectly acceptable road in Central America.
Warloop Road. A reversal of the March cliché 'In like lion and out like a lamb' fits. It's the nastiest down hill trail one will face on the TAT...unless you get lost in NV like I did.
The end of the AR TAT. I like the lone tree or group of trees in a field.
Next up Oklahoma.
**I'm in Guatemala. Due to not managing my time in Mexico, I have to blow through the rest of Central America in order to be on the 22nd sailing of the Stahlratte.
The temperature was about the same as AR, with far less tree cover. The intensity of the sun beating down was wearing. I carried four liters of water with me spread across a 3 liter Army (Skillcraft) camelback and a 1 liter Nalgene bottle. NEVER put anything in your camel back other than water. Also be careful to not touch inside of the bladder while refilling or to backwash when drinking. In four years I've never had a problem with mold or anything of the sort. Oh, yeah...Underarmor underwear is worth it's weight.
How long has this tree been blocking a county road? No clue, but I can say the DR chewed it up.
By OK I had maybe 1,000 miles on the TAT. I was comfortable on my bike and greatly enjoying myself. A false sense of confidence? We shall see...
OK soon flattened out. The farms were MASSIVE. Maybe the land fell under BLM? No clue. One can see so far that distances are deceiving. Several times I could see storms developing in the distance. That sort of worried me, being on a metal object on a flat plain. Thankfully, I managed to dodge the storms. It was pretty cool watching the clouds and seeing rain in the distance.
A farmer told me that if I needed water, I could just stop at a windmill and fill up from the water it drew out of the ground. I never did try it.
As one rides west, the terrain and land management changes quite a bit. Just from my observation, there are farms in the east and cattle ranches in the west.
The hardest day in Oklahoma began about 50 miles east of Alva, OK. There are lots of oil and natural gas stations in this area. The big rigs used for transportation create nasty corrugations in the road. Washboard is an understatement. The normal way to stop washboard roads from beating the hell out of you and the bike is to accelerate.
Near Alva this is a bad idea. In addition to the washboard are deep rutted holes full of fly sand. You cannot see the ruts because of the sand which is not thick/heavy enough to stop you from sinking and catching some unseen obstacle. I wrecked four or five times because of damn sand traps. It was a tough end to the day and I felt like I was screwing everything up.
What can one do? Drive on!
This is where tires are raised. These are about ready to be rounded up and sold.
The runt tires end up as No Hunting signs. Sort of shame because I saw hundreds of two prongs in this area.
Western Oklahoma was desert. In country music, country living is pretty awesome. This place is desolate! Some of the towns I stopped in had a population of maybe 200 people. They had to travel 2 hrs one way just to go to the grocery store. Many of the farmers didn't know what was going to happen to their farm when they no longer worked it. Their kids sure as heck didn't want the farm. I guess they end up as tractor graveyards.
This lonely tree fascinated me. It's quite large. There were neither any other trees in the area, nor was there any visible water. How old was it, how long did it take to grow this large, how long ago did it die?
Big country...Camera lens is spotted up. Dust, water, wrecking, who knows?
I spent the last night in Black Mesa State Park. It's a great little park worth checking out. The care taker said that the gas station listed on the TAT map in Kenton had shut down. There was no way I was going to make it to the next station listed so I had to find an alternate. That's for the New Mexico post...
Last report ended at Black Mesa State Park in Western Oklahoma. The TAT runs through a small portion of the far Northeastern corner of New Mexico. Here is where I voluntarily skipped part of the TAT for the first time.
The main reason for that decision was to visit family friends north of Espanola, NM. Fun fact - Espanola is the low rider capital of the US (and probably the entire world). I also had new Dunlop 606s waiting for me at their place. It was past time to replace my stock Trail Wings with ~7000 miles and I needed some more aggressive tires for the 2nd half of the TAT. Thirdly, a buddy was going to join me, but he was in Washington DC and had to drive his KLR out West to meet me.
This presented a perfect time to check out Capulin, Taos, and the Enchanted Loop (Cimarron to Angel Fire to Taos to Red River to Cimarron). My passion, more than motorcycles, more than traveling, is skiing. Taos wasn't open, but I could get a look at the mountain and a feel for the area.
The TAT has Kenton as the next gas stop after Black Mesa State Park, but the park volunteer said it was closed. I decided to follow Highway 64 to Clayton for gas and it was a good jump off point for Capulin. I gassed up and had breakfast at a cool little coffee shop. Clayton is home to a prison and across the street from the coffee shop was inmates working on something. They were wheelbarrowing loads of debris out from under the town theater, while the prison guards and cops sat inside and drank coffee.
Capulin is an extinct cinder cone volcano about 8,100 feet high. It erupted once about 60,000 years ago and then went dormant.
As I drove to Capulin and up the side of the volcano I noticed that the bike was sputtering and wouldn't go faster than about 50mph. I thought something was seriously wrong - turned out it was here I first experienced the effects of altitude (and wind) on the DR. The down side of a carb.
As you drive West from Raton, one will pass the NRA Headquarters and a HUGE firing range. I've heard that it is one of the most advanced ranges in the world. I didn't have any firearms with me, so I didn't stop.
The entire Cimarron Park was under a severe forest fire warning, so no camping was allowed. Sort of odd because as I rode in I got hit with a massive storm.
I planned on camping at the Eagle Nest, but because of the forest fire closures I continued on to Taos in the hopes of finding an RV park or some sort of cheap lodging. By chance, I drove past The Abominable Snow Mansion Hostel, which was also a place for WWOOFers. The owner's son runs the hostel and his imported Thai wife does the cooking. It's all organic - I had some great bean noodles there.
Who is a fan of Easy Rider? Supposedly the movie is based off of the Telluride Connection. The road from Taos to Telluride is known as heroin highway. To this day there is a heavy drug culture in Taos and Espanola is the heroin capital of the United States. I was there for maybe an hour before being offered pretty much any substance I wanted.
From Taos I left for Medanales and did something stupid. Totally forgot to fuel up. Altitude greatly affects my mpg and I ran out of gas. I tried the trick of leaning the bike over to get gas from the right side of the tank to the left and it worked for about 20 miles...but still no gas station. I was only there for about 5 mins before a guy gave me a lift to the gas station down the road.
My friend, Dan, is a retired Tennis Pro (still gives private lessons) and now runs http://newmexicooutdoors.com/. If you find yourself out that way, look Dan up. He and his wife, Gabriele, can help plan a variety of excursions in the NM area and play a mean game of Tennis.
I hung out with Dan, Gabriele, and their dogs for a few days.
New Mexico is beautiful. Georgia O'Keeffe said 'the cliffs over there are almost painted for you -- you think -- until you try to paint them.' I would sit on back patio and watch the sunrise and sunset - it was like seeing them for the first time each morning and evening. The smoke from the forest fires made the sunrises and sunsets particularly gorgeous. This was the perfect place to relax and recharge for the 2nd half of the TAT.
Looks like Neapolitan ice cream.
On the surface this area of New Mexico looks desolate. That's not the case, in valleys and hidden areas on the mountains are pockets of life - some great trout fishing in this area.
I didn't get to do any fishing, but I was able to visit a Benedictine Abbey of Christ in the Desert. It's a relatively young monastery, very healthy, and they make their own .
After a recharge I was ready to destroy the rest of the TAT. I stopped in Raton, NM to change my tires at R&D Honda.
I highly recommend them. Great job and quick work. From there it was off to Branson, CO to meed my buddy on his brand new 2011 KLR. The route I took to Branson, Highway 72, was particularly awesome.
*Currently in Panama and will load my bike on the Stahlratte on the 21st. Won't have internet access, but once in Colombia I hope to have a few more ride reports ready.
**For anyone interested, I want to sell my DR in South America around the end of April. I will be in the Argentina - Uruguay area so please PM me if interested and we can work something out.
I picked Jack up from the Branson, CO jail. We served together in the Army and travelled the shadiest areas we could find in Eastern Europe. I was excited to ride with buddy and to have someone there to help in case of any problems, particularly on the challenging sections in Utah and Nevada. Jack bought a 2011 KLR to celebrate his release - we will see how it holds up against the DR.
This was my first time out West. Our path from Branson to Trinidad was rather flat. We could see the mountains in front of us, but still a long distance away.
I expected the Rockies to be more 'Alp' like. Tight jagged snow capped mountains with narrow valleys. There was a lot of anticipation of climbing trails and going over passes.
The first day was rather uneventful other than how expensive camping was in CO. I paid more to primitive camp (no bathrooms, electric, or water) in CO than I paid to stay in some hotels along the TAT.
Our first full day in Colorado was great! We had a huge breakfast at a little café. A group of riders (riding Harley's) happened to stop in. They were all retirees and on their way from Florida to San Diego. They had a wistful look in their eyes when they heard we were doing an off road trail across the US with no real schedule.
The only downside was that this is when the rain started. It rained damn near every day for the rest of my trip west. The first day was a warning, we got rather lucky.
As we were riding we could see a storm developing in the distance. I thought we would beat it...but not so. The storm, excuse me, lightening storm began dumping water on us as we were in the middle of a rather large rolling plain.
Here we were, the tallest objects around and riding moving lightening rods without the benefit of a Faraday Cage. Our luck held out...until about 30 yards from shelter. A lightening bolt struck rather close and both of us received a large jolt through our clutch levers.
Thankfully it was not a direct hit. When we pulled inside of the barn neither one of us brought up the jolt until after the storm was over.
The storm was over pretty quick and we continued on to Westcliffe. We topped one pass that was over 10,000 feet, the highest I've taken my bike yet. Jack wrecked once and then accused the cows of looking at him funny...sort of hungry like.
The trail in to Westcliffe is gorgeous. It doesn't look real - it feels like you are driving into a painting.
Colorado was my favorite part of the TAT. Every mile of the trail was gorgeous and for me it was just challenging enough to stay interesting, but not so challenging to require all my concentration.
The landscape was not as lush as expected. The mountains were every bit as rugged as the Alps and often far larger, but more spread out.
There were some great spots for fly fishing, if you can deal with other anglers every 10 ft.
The day following Redcliffe, Jack got bored and jetted off to Aspen - city boy. Too bad, because he left just before the fun started!
A bunch of riders met up and took a break at Cinnamon Pass. My DR was by far the smallest bike there.
Some of the trails were decieving. I went in not expecting much, but ended up being pleasantly surprised at the end.
Somewhere before Rico, the trail got pretty rough. Lots of water and mud. I saw an animal, I think it was a wolf, dart across the trail about 15 meters in front of me, and I lost my tent. I hit some of those mud holes pretty hard.
If you get a chance, stop in Rico and have lunch at 'Anne's High Ground Coffee' stand. Great food and a very funny lady.
The next morning I woke up extra early because I had to buy a new tent on account of losing mine in the mountains of Colorado. Dove Creek didn't have a store that sold tents. The closest store to sell tents was, of course, Walmart. Next to McDonalds with Wifi, Walmart has been the most useful store on the road.
I picked up the TAT at Monticello, UT. The first 50 or so miles north of Monticello, UT was pretty boring. Straight flat dirt/gravel roads. Brutally hot. Not much going on.
Then this appeared.
Sand Flats Road led me to the eastern side of Moab. Rock formations and colors give the area an alien like landscape - totally unlike anything I ever experienced before.
I arrived in Moab during the tourist high season. Hotels were booked (and expensive) and it was difficult to find camping. The first three campgrounds I checked were full. By the time I found a campground it was pitch black and I could not see the surrounding scenery. I did get to listen to a bunch of Mexican guys talk about which male rock star they would have sex with if...you know...YOU HAD TO DO IT. I think Mick Jagger won.
The next morning, I saw this as I unzipped my tent.
DRs make their own parking. I almost felt bad for the cagers driving in circles trying to find a spot to park.
The route out of Utah was DESOLATE, but only a taste of what was to come. Hopefully this next picture can give a little bit of a perspective of how high in the mountains the TAT takes you.
This was lush for the region.
Some cool jagged mountains before Black Dragon.
Black Dragon Wash. We have all been warned. I knew it was going to be tough...but I was NOT prepared.
The mud was deep, it would have swallowed my bike. There were motorcycle tracks to my left on a pretty steep slope of loose rock/dirt, I attempted to follow. Here is where my inexperience showed. The bike and I slide sideways down the slope into the swamp 30ft or so in. Muscle and stubbornness eventually got me through - but I was nearing a heat injury. Sweating, dizziness, unable to cool down.
I determined to press on. Until the next swamp, which had mud just as deep and two fee of standing water. There I was trapped both forward and backward by swamp that was outside of my riding ability. Oh, did I mention that I had drank all 5 liters of water I had with me by this time?
I saw a slight trail to my left and up a hill that looked as if it was going in the direction of the main road. A second stupid decision - ricing cross country in unknown territory.
My third bad decision (and one that I repeated in the future) was riding down a hill that I couldn't ride up if I had to return. This hill put me on a outcropping with a sandy wash below. The first 12 feet was steep, with the last 4 or so feet completely vertical. No way to go back up and the area below was full of Juniper bushes (I think) - they looked soft enough for a hard landing. I went for it...and somehow stayed up right.
I was pretty lucky that the wash did lead to a 4x4 trail and then to the main road. I was pissed off at myself for admitting defeat and turning around. Before I had time to think, I turned away from the main road and went back to the 4x4 trail. This trail does take one directly to the Dragon.
I did NOT ride the Dragon. As I pulled up to the entrance, I had a moment of lucidity. I had no water, limited fuel, and I was dehydrated. I was so frustrated that I said 'screw it' and took the main road until I could re-join the TAT at a later point. What I should have done is returned to Green River, had lunch, and resupplied. Then I could have given it another shot without dealing with the swamps.
Reason enough to do the TAT again in the future.
I rejoined the TAT before Salina The trail was fun, it was an reclaimed railroad track, I think.
Then I ran out of gas...and it started to rain. I had planned ahead and had an extra 1 gallon can with me, which was enough to get me to Salina.
I waited for the rain to stop and though about getting a hotel...but I was so disappointed in myself over the Black Dragon Wash failure that I decided to press on for some type of (in my mind) redemption.
Following Salina the TAT takes you into Fishlake National Forest. Here is one of the spots that the TAT rollcharts are off. I missed a turn and got lost. I should have turned back, but subsequent turns almost aligned with the rollcharts, so I thought I was still on track. It was pitch black and storming before I admitted to myself that I was lost.
My choice was to set up camp on top of a mountain with no protection from the elements or further down the mountain where I could hear branches and trees coming down from the storm. I waited a bit and found a relatively open spot halfway down a mountain and set up camp. The end to a long shitty hot and then cold&wet day.
It's amazing how morning makes everything better! I quickly drove back to Richfield and found the navigation error.
The last section of Utah is intimidating. It's around 70 miles of nothing.
As I neared the NV border storm clouds begin to sweep in. The sky was so open I could see them form and what direction they were heading. One to my 9, one to my 12, and one to my 4.
The lightening was making me nervous after my experience in Colorado. I could see it hitting close. I've never ridden as fast as I did that day on gravel. By some stroke of luck the TAT took me around or between all three storm banks.
Utah ended with me getting a and a burger at The Border Inn, and enjoying a beautiful sunset.
Nevada has the reputation of being the most difficult section of the TAT. The riding is tough, the distances are vast, and the trail is remote.
I spent most of my time here stressed and on full alert. It is exhausting to keep your antenna up ALL the time. To be honest, I didn't enjoy this section much. It was challenging and the only thing that kept me going was the satisfaction of overcoming the TAT.
It didn't help that it rained everyday while I was in NV. The streams were high and water was flowing fast. The dirt/sand mixture is odd. There was mud on the surface of the ground down to an inch or so of depth, under that it is bone dry. The mud stuck to everything.
There were days when I would not see another person except when I pulled into a gas station. If you or the bike get messed up, no one is around to help. You better hope that another TAT rider is close behind you...and that you are on the TAT and not lost.
A few miles after crossing into Nevada, I came to my first legitimate water obstacle. The creek was swollen from the rain over the past few days. I did the smart thing and walked it first, the bed was solid. I successfully crossed and gained some (false) confidence.
Get used to cattle gates. You have to get off the bike, open the gate, ride through, and then close the gate. It gets to be a real pain in the ass after the 100th damn gate. Be careful to not park too close. On one occasion poles and barbwire caught the front tire of my bike and pulled the damn thing over.
Maybe some of you other TATers remember this place. A little bit of green in the plains with two tall trees and an old farmhouse. At The Border Inn I ran into some geologist that was working in the area. The trees are native to Italy - someone brought them over a long ago. Also, there is a well with some rare snail. It's a protected area.
I did not take the 'Big Bike' bypass before Lund. Thanks to whoever tied the ribbon along the wash. It was difficult to pick out the trail. Thankfully the rain held off until I was about a mile from pavement.
I had to stop and dig out this shit by hand at least 6 times. It would build up until my back tire wouldn't spin. If I went fast enough the knobbies would self-clean...but soon as I hit deep mud it would grind to a halt, and I would fall over because I would slip in the mud.
The mud also built up so that my rear brake line was pushed against my tire. Bye-bye rear brake, didn't have one until Seattle. Going downhill in sandy and rocky terrain with only a front brake is a learning experience.
The first day in NV turned out to be the most difficult day of the entire trip. Following the 'Big Bike' bypass and before Lund, one follows a dirt track through the mountains. The rain had everything slick and muddy.
It was here that I thought I broke my neck.
The path was a two rack dirt road with grass in the middle. Overconfidence...I was riding along and hit a tiny patch of mud with maybe a cup of standing water in the center. Before I knew it my front tire cut hard to the left. I was so surprised that I gripped hard on my right grip (I didn't hit the throttle) and was slung head first onto the ground.
I didn't lose consciousness or feel any immediate pain, but just because you don't feel injured doesn't mean you don't have a neck or spinal cord injury. I laid there for a moment with the bike on its side with the throttle pinned thinking what to do. Risk further injury or wait for help. No one was going to find me, and I could move fingers and toes.
The adrenaline was wearing off, a splitting headache approached, and my neck was already stiff enough I couldn't move my head. Picking the bike up was a bitch.
The trail became extremely difficult to navigate - many tracks, and damn confusing directions. Naturally enough I got lost. I again ran into a situation where the trail on the ground 'almost' matched up with the TAT roll chart. Also, I didn't learn my lesson the first time about going down hills I couldn't climb back up - so I repeated that mistake. After going downhill, I hoped the next rise was easy. It wasn't.
Muddy, rutted, and steeply cantered downhill, I tried to make it up several times but couldn't. I took all my luggage off and basically manhandled the bike to the top. The next climb I came to was substantially more difficult. No way in hell I was getting up it. Oh yeah, I could see a nasty thunderstorm rolling in...and it was dusk.
I considered just setting up camp and waiting for morning, but I was determined to make it to Lund. I was able to make it back out, but not before losing my expensive Ray Ban sunglasses.
The TAT maps (the old ones) came in handy and I was able to find a route through the mountains and into Lund. I think I rolled in about 2am. The only hotel in Lund didn't have any rooms; they directed me to Ely - about 70 miles away. After some convincing, the lady that ran the place (and her drunk as hell son) let me camp out back. Worst. Day. Yet.
The next morning I was a mass of pains and aches, but stretched it out and drove on.
Day two was relatively easy.
Cows gossiping at the water point. I've read that more people are killed by cows than by sharks each year.
Some hard to find tracks.
Lots of sand
Traces of hungry bikers.
Before descending into Battle Mountain there is a track that someone doesn't want us to use anymore. They blocked it with huge boulders. The rain made passing to either side impossible. For the 2nd time I left the TAT and found an alternate route.
The alternate turned out to be fun.
I arrived in Battle Mountain about 5PM and wanted to make up some distance. This is where one picks up the famous NV single track.
Not content with the navigation challenge of the single track during daylight, I continued on at night.
It was all fine until a water crossing. The stream was deep, wide, and running fast. The opposite bank was pretty damn steep as well. I elected to set up my tent and wait until morning.
What looked difficult the night before turned out to be a very easy water crossing. It's amazing how nighttime makes things seem so much more difficult. My confidence was up. I thought that this was the water crossing in NV that everyone talks about.
It wasn't. Smiley>
When I finally approached the Smith Ranch, I didn't recognize it for what it was and screwed up - I didn't recon the stream. I was confident from the stream crossing earlier and just went for it.
I chose my line and started down the rather steep embankment. That is when I realized where I was. As I entered the stream, my front tire promptly disappeared. I still thought I could get through and gave the throttle a twist. I moved forward maybe 8 inches before my bash plate got hung up. That turned out to be extraordinarily lucky. The back tire was barely touching the ground and the front tire was underwater.
I worked my way around to the front of the bike to see what I could do and it became apparent how lucky I was. I was still in the shallow part of the creek. The front tire was embedded in mud a few inches to the left of a waterhole. I'm 6ft and the water hole was halway up my torso. If the bike hadn't gotten hung up, I would be trying to haul a 360lb bike out of deep water and up a bank by myself. Yeah right...
Well shit...what now? Wait for someone to come by? Realistically, only another TATer would find me. How many days would I wait, waist deep in water holding this stupid bike so it wouldn't be at the bottom of a stream?
Fate has a way of looking out for the brave and the stupid. I am quite certain which catagory I fell into. I took the velcro band from the Enduro Stand kit and engaged the front brake and then put the bike in neutral. From there I got in front of the bike and basically overhead pressed the bike backwards. Not easy considering the angle the bike was resting and that I had to push it backwards up a steep embankment.
I made some progress, maybe a foot or so and then I lost it. It was like slow motion and all I could imagine was it falling upside down into the pool of water.
Another stroke of luck! The bike fell to the other side at which point I could spin it on its side. Thanks to previous TATers I could push it backwards across a path/bridge make it to the other side.
No point in waiting around. My boots and pants would dry out soon enough on the trail. There are many, many gold mining exploration rigs out this way. I stopped at one because they were blocking the road with some equipment. They were NOT happy to see me. When the man in charge came over to talk to me he brought his 'muscle'. They thought I was a competitor from Germany (from my West Virginian accent?) scoping out their territory.
I eventually made it to the top of Coyote Mountain.
And got lost in the NV Hills. There are lots of new mining roads and it is tough to distinguish between them and the TAT route.
Finally I made it to Miller's Cabin. I don't know who maintains this place, but I'm glad they do. It's full of fleas, though there is a book for visiters to sign inside.
The charts do not do a good job of directing one through this area. I spend hours going in circles, trying to find the route through this area. The trails were cantered, rocky, and barely cut into a steep slope. Supposedly there is a trail that takes one from over a pass to Denio. I never could find the pass and got hit by two nasty thunderstorms during the several hours I rode around. What should have been a 20 mile route ended up turning into a 100 mile detour where I slept on the side of the highway.
After a huge breakfast a the Denio Restaurant, I continued on. I was exhausted at this time from the trail conditions and constantly being on alert.
Last group of ass I saw on the trip West.
Following Denio, the trail passes through swampland. Maybe it's not normally swampland, but now it was because it had been raining everyday for...well, a long time now.
I rode through several progressively deeper water crossings. I called it when I walked through one and it was balls deep. Enough. I jumped on the highway and meet up with the TAT at the next feasible spot in Oregon.
Home Stretch! I entered Oregon on 2 Aug. 2011 and had to no-shit make it to Seattle by 7PM Friday, 5 Aug. 2011. My good friend with whom I served with in Germany and Iraq had received a Company Command. I couldn't make his Change of Command Ceremony, but I wanted to make his BBQ and throw back a few s. Plus his father is a rancher in South Dakota and brought an entire cow to eat!
The first night in Oregon I stayed in a small town called Lakeview. I liked Lakeview, they had a fantastic burger joint and a dirt cheap hotel. $30 for the night, that's cheaper than some primitive camp grounds in Colorado!
Following Lakeview, the TAT takes you through nice forests and mountains. Some nasty forest fires had ravaged the area. There was much timber down and I later learned that the environmentalists wouldn't let a logging company timber the felled or dead trees. It was stacked neatly, but left to rot...
The next place to stop and get gas is Silver Lake, OR. Silver Lake has one tiny gas station that closes early. The lady that owns it will direct you to a great diner down the road...owned by her daughter. haha. The burgers there are good and I met some old Army vets with whom I exchanged war stories.
I became lost as hell after leaving Silver City. Sparse, sandy tracks with multiple branches. There are lots of ATV and bike tracks, but I couldn't figure out the correct path by looking at tire marks.
I stumbled forward until dark and then camped in a National Forest before Gilchrist. The mosquitoes almost carried me away.
I missed the world's tallest Sugar Pine somehow. I'll chalk that up as another reason I need to ride the TAT again in the future. This area was like driving through a fairy tale's enchanted forest.
Tiller was a trip. The Germany lady that owns the gas station is awesome. I arrived barely two minutes before the station closed, but we got to talking and ended up chatting for about an hour. She will be very happy to tell you all about the state of Oregon, the US, Germany, and the world.
The last day in Oregon and the last nasty hill climb. The trail in to the last hill climb looked like a game trail and I was questioning if I was on the right path. Thankfully when I started an uphill section and took a dive after a sharp uphill turn I realized I was in the right place. Steep, rock, and sandy.
This hill was as challenging as any climb on the entire TAT. I bent my shifter lever (again) and torqued the handle bars/Acerbis hand guards to bad that I had to cut the ends off of my clutch/brake lever so they were functional.
I'm very thankful for the Case Armor. I have no doubt I would have punctured the engine case a number of times by now without it.
Looking out over Oregon.
The last 30 miles or so of the TAT uses some old logging trails. There were many downed trees that someone had cut a path through. Thanks One Less Harley. I continue on until I saw no more signs of anyone passing through and came to a huge tree across the trail with no way to cross - not under, not over. I of course did not have a saw and had to back track...a long freakin way.
This just a sample of the downed trees. An introduction...
I didn't think I was going to make it to Port Orford that day, and indeed I did not. I rolled in around 2am in the fog and cold. Got a at the gas station and drove down to the Port and set up camp and then celebrated.
I was happy to have completed the TAT, but it was sort of anti-climatic when I finished. It feels like there should be a welcoming party, a BBQ, and ...I woke up around 5am and started on the road to Seattle.
After 5,000 miles of the TAT east to west, where does one go next?
Alaska or Tierra del Fuego?
I decided to hook a left. Alaska will be left for another day - I like to leave roads untraveled and sites unseen. Gives me a reason to go back one day.
Ok, so I didn't immediately head south. A few of my Army buddies were transferred to Ft. Lewis (Seattle) and I wanted to visit/mooch off of them. The drive from Port Orford to Seattle in one day was a killer. I started riding North on Highway 1, but wasn't making great time. I cut inland to Highway 5 and split every lane where my bike could fit. Definitely pissed off a few people, but they'll get over it.
Finally rolled in to Seattle just as the first steaks and brats were coming off the grill. I was such a grungy dirtbag that I was embarrassed to be walking around in 'polite' company. Then I thought 'Wait, these are mostly military vets and spouses'. Stinking and dirty ain't nothing new.
I spent the next two and a half weeks crashing at my friend's house, drinking all his and eating his food. It was great! Clint (or as we refer to him Clintoris) had to wake up for physical training every day at 5am. I sure as hell don't miss those days. Meanwhile, I would wake up around the crack of noon, make coffee, and meet up with friends.
The DR could not have performed better on the TAT. The only maintenance I had to perform was to change the front brake pads, oil change, clean the air filter, and install a new rear brake line. I also locktitted the NSU screws.
The rear brake line got jacked up in Nevada. Some clumped mud jammed it against my tire and eventually it wore through.
After I bought my DR650 in Germany, all my buddies started getting in to bikes. Clint had just purchased a BMW 1200GS. It is a beautiful bike...but he talked non-stop shit on the DR. I suggested that we go do some 'off' pavement riding.
I felt sort of bad. The track we took was pretty rough, even for me on my bike. After the first 100 or so yards and him dropping it 3 times, I thought we should turn back. Clint wasn't having any of it and kept trying to go further. Eventually a dented pannier and oil leaking from one of the jugs convinced him to call it.
We spent the rest of the time messing around Mount Rainier.
Overall, I like the Seattle area a lot. It has everything whether you are a city person or an outdoors person. Sailing, mountaineering, skiing, climbing, a large city with all the amenities one of those provide. I am seriously considiering moving there after this trip. After about 30 cases of Pilsner Urquell and 100 lbs of beef, I decided to head to Las Vegas for fraternity brother's birthday.
Like the start of any journey, it was raining the day I left.
As the day wore on, the rain became more intense. Eventually I called it and stopped at some random campsite on the coast and set up camp. I can deal with cold, I can deal with wet. Being cold and wet just ruins it for me.
The Oregon coast.
This is Redwood country and I wanted to see the Giant Redwoods. One of the most famous roads to see the trees is called the Avenue of Giants. The Redwoods are massive! I wonder what the first settlers that pushed west thought when they saw these trees. If the trees here are so large, what are the animals like? Clearly Bigfoot lives in this area.
Just before Westcliff I found an amazing little campground. Usually a motorcyclist has to pay the same price as a vehicle to camp, but cyclists pay the base fee to camp. The ranger there told me to pay the same as the cyclists. Then when I asked him how far it was to the gas station, he was so concerned I wouldn't make it that he gave me two gallons. It turned out that Westcliff was about a mile south of my campground and it had a fuel station. They make some mean breakfast sandwiches there.
West cliff Camp Ground
I didn't follow 1 all the way south because I wanted to check out Napa Valley. Dumb idea. I pictured something like the Rhine River Valley. Many smallish vineyards, guest houses, cafes/restaurants/wine tastings everywhere. Napa is probably not a place I will return. Overpriced, crowded, traffic...
Several of my fraternity brothers had moved out west and I wanted to mooch off them on my way to Vegas. I spent a few days in Monterrey trying to surf and a day in Bakersfield. Great place to make money, but not much else...
Driving inland from the CA coast.
Still plenty of oil in CA.
Las Vegas. To protect the innocent (or not so innocent) I don't want to elaborate much. My fraternity brother was turning 30 and wanted to go balls out. It's amazing how much fun one can have in Vegas with no spending limit. I meant to spend 3 days in Vegas, 10 days later I finally left. Time well spent.
San Diego was the last stop off point in the US. A fellow rider and I (we initially met on the HUBB) decided to ride Mexico together and used San Diego as the meeting point. He was a few days behind, so a lady friend flew in from the East Coast and we explored the city.
I foresee one of these in my future.
It just so happened we were there on the 10 year anniversary of September 11th. There was a huge military presence and a memorial on the USS Midway in the San Diego harbor.
Statues of my favorite picture ever.
David and I met up and spent a few days on logistics in San Diego and then crossed to the Baja...
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