Just Ride

Just Ride

Tuesday, August 11, 2020

2020 TAT - Day 25 - 28

Day 25 - August 8th 

Day 26 - August 9th

Day 27 - August 10th

Day 28 - August 11th

Aug 9th - My Wife's Birthday!! Happy Birthday Honey, thank you for putting up with me and my motorcycle habits. I love you!!

Not much to report. Stayed local in Montrose recuperating since Poughkeepsie Gulch. 

We’ve let the bodies mend, we’ve rehydrated, but our bikes are still needing some service. There is a local shop here in Montrose that we visited with today - Highland Cycles - Morgan was helpful up to what he could do for us immediately. The local KTM dealer, Davis in Montrose, was pretty much useless. Their service guy wouldn't even attempt to talk to us due to their backlog of work. So we wait on parts... 

The plan is kinda stalled due to maintenance issues on the new KTM 790’s. We had the brakes on my bike bled - hopefully this solves my problems. Paul's issues are a bit more complicated. His clutch plates are burnt and need to be replaced. He's started leaking oil - not sure from what. We ordered a clutch kit from KTM today, should be here by Thursday (hopefully). If that comes in, on Friday, we've got a company that works on vintage motorcycles that is willing to do the work on Friday. If the clutch kit comes in Friday... well, we're going to be here the weekend because the two shops we know of in the area will not be available over the weekend.

I’ve spoken with Mark at Madstad, he has a windshield to replace Paul’s missing windshield. We will get it ordered and shipped out ASAP. (Paul's windshield broke in Mississippi in the powder silt).

We are currently at the Hampton Inn in Montrose for the next two nights. Yesterday we were in Ouray. 

All this downtime isn't easy - I want to get started again. But we can't ride these bikes as is... even though today we rode 35 miles from Ouray to Montrose and felt it was great to be back in the saddle. I miss it already. I've also noticed an interesting mode that one gets into while riding this type of adventure. The last four days have been 'different' in the sense that our daily process and rhythm is gone. It's missed already. I imagine the changeover from this trip back to normal life will not be taken lightly.

No major pictures to speak of lately - but I've uploaded videos to YouTube the other day because we had good internet. I've posted them on this post just to get caught up...







Saturday, August 8, 2020

2020 TAT - Day 24 - Aug 7th

Written on Saturday, August 8th (Day 25)

 This day started out great, woke up from camping in the wild. With the views of the sun-rise on the rocks

99 miles for the day - of which, 32 of them were us going from our actual objective to another city because hotels were sold out everywhere. (Friday/weekend in Colorado). 4,283 total for trip.

Breakfast with a new friend.

After breakfast, we hit the trail and we are immediately headed up Cinnamon Pass. Great ride, wonderful views. 12,640 feet above sea level! 

After coming 'down' Cinnamon Pass, we end up in "Animas Forks" - a Ghost Town from 1876 - mining town.


From there, we're headed to California Pass. Great views with one very evil corner. In a switchback that was steep, both Paul and I took the outside and ended up in deep gravel. I powered out of it after a considerable amount of effort and maybe a bike nap or two. I park up the road a ways waiting on Paul to get out of the "devil's Switchback" (aptly named by me). He doesn't get out, he goes down, so I leave my bike up on the road (highly trafficked by OHV / jeeps) and walk down to him to help out. We get his bike up and I offer to get it out of the deep gravel. I immediately notice that his clutch is slipping - badly. I power through and we get it out. I'm certain that his clutch is not doing well, even worse after trying to get out of that mess.

This picture below is taken from Paul’s perspective. If you look closely, you’ll see me up further from him  


This is resting because fatigue is setting in. Little did we know what the day had in store for us. 
This view below is my perspective on Paul’s location compared to mine. That corner he is in is evil. 

I ride his bike up to where mine is, which, by this time, I'm sure that all the Jeeps/Side-by-sides passing by are glad to see us moving our bikes out of the way. It probably took an hour or so to get through this corner. Sadly, I walked down to him to help, he had to walk UP to the bike's new position. Very arduous at this altitude. Shortness of breath is prevalent for us "Florida boys" (he has technically become a Florida boy recently - he is from Indiana).

Below picture is Paul attempting to climb the road back up to where I parked his bike and mine.

Once at the top, we're delighted to reach "California Pass"!

After the frustration of "Devil's Switchback", we were both tired and interested in getting to Ouray. We could have kept going the route of the TAT or we could find an alternate path. Critical Decision Point (CDP). This decision will haunt us the rest of the day - and likely be remembered forever.

I'll remind you, we're amateur off-road at best. We didn't grow up on dirt bikes. 

The story goes... sitting on top of California Pass, we look at the map and realize there is a shortcut to Ouray. 10 miles, straight down the valley. Our experience with valleys are 'that can't be too difficult'. So we decide that we don't want any more "Devil Switchbacks", we're tired, we're hungry, and we're thirsty.

Let's talk about the water situation for a minute... remember from Day 23, we camped. Which means, we cooked and drank water. No wine, no Jack Daniels, just water. Next day, we start off pretty quickly and fuel up. But we knew it would be a short day, so we kinda felt like the water in our hydration packs would be enough. This is a lesson to all those in the future riding the TAT - Always Get Water (AGW) (should be part of ATGATT&AGW).

We start down a pretty treacherous hill with large rocks - no dirt. They’re stacked on top of themselves. It is slippery due to the rocks moving under your tires. Front brakes will lock up going down this hill and it'll send you down. Rear brakes lock up and you slide out of control. Pretty steep. This is a start of a really bad decision.

A good friend of mine once said, Bad Decisions, Make Good Stories. (he actually said it many times...)

We get to the bottom of this hill, not without incident. Paul is down in the corner, side-by-sides are coming up and causing us grief. We eventually get down, we are elated. We pull over to drink some water and have a chat with a group of Jeep People. They were having a grand ol' time there by this lake (Lake Como). Grilling, hanging out, joking. They all have lifted Jeeps, lockers, etc etc. 

The Jeep People invite us to have a hot dog or hamburger with them. They just watched us struggle to get down that hill just above them, just after California Pass. Yeah, it was that bad. They offered us a bottle of water, etc. They listened to us explain that we were on the "Trans America Trail" and that we wanted to go to Ouray. They asked if we knew about this road that we were headed towards. We said we took a shortcut off of the TAT so we could get to Ouray. 10 miles seemed easy versus the probably 50 around the mountain and possibly through more "Devil's Switchbacks".

They were a little hesitant - but they started hinting at the fact that the roads in front of us were difficult. One gentleman went so far as to pull out his phone and GAIA GPS app to show us the two routes that are possible. He explained that once we get going, there is a fork that we will come to pretty quickly. Going left was probably a bad idea. Something about "The Wall". He said, he wasn't sure where the fork was, but to be on the lookout and take the right. Don't go towards "The Wall".

Of course, the first thing we are looking at is this major incline. I even walk up it before we attempt. I wanted to make sure we had a good line. It was steep enough that if you stopped, you'd likely slide all the way back down the hill. No stopping is the rule. Forward Momentum is the goal. As you can see in the picture below, there were two paths, left and right. both go up the hill. I discern after much study that it would be best to take the left side. 

Please note, this picture above, does this hill no justice. It is much steeper than it looks and for an old and inexperienced rider like me, I was a bit scared of what the outcome might be.

I look back and forth between this hill and the hill we came down to get to the Lake Como area. "Should we just go back up and complete the TAT track?" - we answer by stating that we don't think we could get up that hill if we tried. not enough traction on our "one wheeler" - we watched many four wheelers with lockers go up it and it was a task. So, reluctantly, we decide that 6.4 miles of Poughkeepsie Gulch (click to learn more about this "road") can't be that bad, as long as we avoid "The Wall" (please, click the link to better understand what the nice Jeep people helped us avoid). By the way, did I say that Poughkeepsie Gulch is a favorite amongst four wheel off-road vehicle enthusiasts? Note four wheels.

I will say that there were dirt bikes riding Poughkeepsie Gulch - though, none had luggage, all were on dirt bikes. None of them were like us.

I go first up the hill, taking the left, the line I chose. Went up with no problem. Paul followed my line and he made it with no problem. I'm certain the Jeep crew thought, "they'll be ok if they can make that".

From there, our ride continuously got worse. So worse, that at times, we worked together to walk bikes down the massive boulders / steep declines. We would try and get on, ride a couple feet and crash. Albeit slow, there was still damage being done to both our bikes and us. Nothing serious on either part, bruises, cuts, and most importantly, fatigue. All the while, we're above 12,000 feet and descending. Can't breathe, need water.

There were many times that I would ride down a small section. Park my bike and wait for Paul. Helping him understand the line that I may have successfully or unsuccessfully used to get to my position. The unfortunate part about a road like this, you don't get to walk it like I walked that hill. You have to make decisions on the fly as you're riding. Most of the decisions I made on this road were wrong or at least, there was not a good decision to be made. So as I would wait, Paul would crash, I would attempt to go up the hill I just came down on foot. I would tell, it is going to take me a while. Thin Air, Heart Racing. Pain and Fatigue. Legs like Jello.

There were many vehicles (Jeeps and side-by-sides) going up where we were coming down. They'd see us struggling, they'd ask us if we needed help. Sometimes, we'd say yes. Help us lift our bikes. Fatigue. Every time we would lift a bike, it would make it that much harder the next time.

There were sections of PG (Poughkeepsie Gulch) that we thought, oh, the pain is over, this nice little section means it'll be easy from here on out. No, because just around the corner was another disheartening realization that the pain does continue and it does get worse. (PG, maybe it should be rated R... Restriction: No old guys on adventure touring bikes allowed)

We continue to struggle. My water in my hydration pack is almost empty. All the water I had is now sweat in my jacket (which now weighs five-ten pounds more than when we started the day). We'd sit for 10-15 minutes and rest. Anywhere. sometimes, when our bike went down, that was the time to rest.

I can remember (and it was only yesterday that we went through this) that we started with 10 miles on the GPS to get to Ouray. There was a point early in the day after the initial hill ascent (Lake Como) that the GPS said we had 7.2 miles remaining. It took about two hours to go those grueling 2.8 miles.

It didn't get better.

There were times when my mind was yelling at me - how are you going to get out of this? There is no way out. You have to keep going. You're far too deep, going back is not an option! There were other thoughts too - can we just camp here and finish it tomorrow? I would say to myself, no, not an option. You don't have water. No resources. Bad Place. Get Going!

There are not many pictures from this section - due mostly to the fact that we were in survival mode.

We keep going. I've mentioned my fear of heights before. We come to a section of PG that is so frightening to me that I tell Paul that I'm going to crab-walk my bike up against the wall because I can't look over the edge or I'll simply die. It was that steep. It was that scary. I wish I had a picture to show you.

We keep going. We ask some people going up their thoughts on 'how much left' - "uh, it is all gravel and rocks". I was hoping for light at the end of the tunnel. They provided none.

4.5ish hours into this descent, we traverse the 6.4 miles and come to pavement. Happiness for pavement. Happiness that we're almost in Ouray. Happiness that we'll get water.

There is a sign down at the bottom of this monster called Poughkeepsie Gulch that says Engineer Mountain Road 4x4 Vehicles Only. I wish that sign was up at the top where you can decide to go LEFT and stay on the regular route or go RIGHT into hell's abyss.



Then we hop on the Million Dollar Highway - WOW. Any other time and I would be enjoying every second of it. Not this time, I'm too tired to recognize the amazing scenery and the magical work that it must've taken to create this road on the side of the mountain. Also, I have no front brake.

Story doesn't end there. We just had the most grueling day on our motorcycles. I'm looking forward to a nice hotel. We stop by a gas station to get gatorades and gas. I start calling all the local hotels/motels/cabins/etc for lodging. Everything is booked. Solid. Only place that has any availability is 32 miles away in Montrose, CO. So, despite what my body was telling me, the fatigue, the dehydration, the mind that is not entirely sharp, we go the 32 miles. Checkin to the hotel. Shower. Go next door to a steak restaurant. Drink copious amounts of water - I even tell the bartender, give us the pitcher. I eat my steak. I eat my potato and my Brussel sprouts. I need this food and water in my body asap. My hands are cramping, My feet are cramping. All my muscles are now tightening. Paul suffers less than I do, he is in much better shape and he is younger. But... he is still suffering.

More pictures from our misadventure:








Today, we're sore. We are resting. Our bikes are resting.

I didn't mention this - but let's talk about the other challenges of the day. Our motorcycles. His clutch is going bad, his clutch handle is broken because of a crash. My brakes (front and rear) kept going in and out all day. Imagine going down a hill and realizing your front brake is out or your rear brake is out. If you've never ridden motorcycles, this is frightening on just a regular road. Now do it on a rocky steep road created by the devil himself.

For those that are going to ride the TAT - this is mostly all CO-04 tracks from Sam. Unless you're a VERY experienced rider, do not take the "short-cut" (PG) to Ouray.

Lessons learned... the hardway.

Life is still good.

From Jenny Morgan on the TAT Facebook page:

For anyone else reading, if you want to go to Ouray from Animas Forks, take Engineer Mountain Road towards Engineer Pass, then head downhill - don't go via California Pass and Poughkeepsie Gulch (well, unless you are on a smaller bike and are a confident rider) - there is a reason Sam continues his official TAT from California Pass via Hurricane and Corkscrew Passes to hwy 550; where you can always head down hwy 550 to Ouray if you do want to visit that town. 

Oh, and if you struggle on California Pass, don’t even think about Imogene as part of the TAT, nor Black Bear - again, the reason Sam sends you over Ophir is because it is gentle on both sides, even though there is a lot of flat rocks on the west (downhill) side.

note. There is an alternative pass much further south still - Bolam Pass (out of the Purgatory ski resort), which connects to the TAT route just north of Rico on hwy 145. That is easy in good weather, not so much in the rain. You also get to ride pretty much all of hwy 550, and visit Silverton too if you wish.

2020 TAT - Day 23 - Aug 6th

Written on Saturday, August 8th (Day 25)

Interestingly enough, MANY people have texted me, including my mom - why no posts? You ok? We're good - Day 23 we camped without Internet and Day 24... you'll just have to read to understand.

Ahh, another late start. Had a few meetings to deal with - then on the Trail!


I won't have any videos to this post because we have bad internet right now...


It was a good day overall, we knew we wanted to camp, so we kept that in mind all day. Our goal - camp by a river/creek/some sort of water. We also got to ride our very first 'pass' in Colorado.


140 miles for the day, 4,183 total.


I’m writing this a couple days behind because 1. No internet where we camped (ahh… relax, no connection) 2. Day 24 was a mess.


Ok, now onto the important stuff. This was the first day of some challenging riding (for us). There was one section that was quite rocky - boulders and such that we both agreed it was great to complete. But we should’ve practiced on Hurricane Road earlier in TN or MS or wherever it was :)




Riding across the tops of mountains in Colorado is quite breathtaking. The views are something that we’ll keep with us through our memories and our pictures forever. Everyone should visit Colorado…



More riding: Our very first “pass” - Marshall Pass was completed today! Anyone know what Marshall Pass represents? The Continental Divide! 10,842 feet above sea level at the sign. I remember seeing 10,900 on my GPS.


A very cool thing happened sometime after Marshall Pass, as we were coming down the mountain - which in itself was a great ride. We ran into a Cattle Drive by two Cowboys and approximately 30-40 head of cattle. The cowboys, were a sight to see, the two of them and one dog did an amazing job getting the herd to go up the hill and out of our way so we could pass by them. We of course waited patiently with our motors off so as to not disturb their organized efforts. As the cowboys started pushing the cattle up the hill, we started up and ‘helped’ the drive by pushing some of the cattle in the right direction.



For lunch… UGH, we decided to go to Lake City. Unfortunately, we got caught in a one lane traffic jam. They were spreading tar and gravel on paved roads. Uh… ok. We gas up and grab four big waters for drinking and cooking - we had some water left in our hydration packs and my hiking bottle. Note, this will be important for Day 24 as well. 



As we entered Gunnison National Forest, we were looking for a spot to end our day. On my GPS showed a “picnic table” symbol just ahead of us - wasn’t sure what it meant, but figured we would check it out as it was around 3:30 or 4pm. Roll up, no one there, it is labeled “day use”, but was a perfect spot for some primitive camping. There were signs in several spots stating "Pack In, Pack Out" - It is sad that people need to be reminded.






We setup camp and begin the cooking process. This time… I DIDN’T CATCH THE PICNIC TABLE ON FIRE!!! :) Ramen noodles for dinner - we picked them up the day before at a gas station / market in a small town. We also had a couple cans of tuna, beef jerky, and some fig newton cookies. After dinner, we listened to some music and checked out our surroundings. The river and the wall of rocks surrounding us really gave us a good feeling about the spot we had chosen. 


We were harassed a little by a Forestry ranger because of how we parked our bikes - which was close to our tents in a ‘non-parking’ area. When we explained that parking them over in the ‘parking area’ (I say that in quotes because there wasn’t a parking area, just an area you could tell by the felled / carefully placed trees they didn’t want people to park) - that our bikes could be at risk for theft. He looked at us and I could tell he understood the logic. He then made the statement “only ride the bikes on the dirt”. Both Paul and I had a good chuckle at that as he left. “It is all dirt - where else would we ride?” Anyways… great evening. 


It did get quite cold - somewhere in the mid-30’s. My Big Agnes sleeping bag with down in it was PERFECT. I stayed warm all night - with one caveat. As long as my body parts stayed on my blow up therms-rest backpacking mattress, i was warm. Every couple hours, I would awake to a body part (arms mostly) that had some how come off the mattress and ended up on the ground. Gotta understand how down sleeping bags work - they build warmth because of the ‘layers’. However, if you’re laying on the down directly and you compress it, it will not provide warmth. That is why the air mattress is a necessity. 


I woke up around 7am, starting taking apart my part of the camp. Was so cold, I put on my motorcycle jacket, gloves, and wore my neck gaiter around my ears (yes, I’m a Floridian). 


Sunrise on the mountains. 


Pack In, Pack Out.


Life is good.



Wednesday, August 5, 2020

2020 TAT - Day 22

218 Miles for the day, 4,042 for the trip. Milestones... over 4,000 miles ridden since day 1, we also went over 10,000 feet above sea level today!

Paul and I discussed the day as it was winding down - riding was pretty easy overall. nothing too technical, nothing too challenging, and none of it hit on any major phobias. 

We left from Trinidad, CO and immediately stopped by Topar Racing to fix my left-handed mirror. Within 45 minutes, they had a new attachment fab'd and ready for my mirror. After-which, straight to the trail. Topar is literally on the trail, just on the outskirts of Trinidad. Call them in advance and they'll have anything you need! Paul and I took a nap in the cool shade while we waited on the fabrication of my new mount. My helmet made for a good pillow... 


After the maintenance work, we started hitting dirt. fast and dry with minimal "gravel-sway". Easy riding... 


We visited another National Forest - San Isabel. 

We did do a little slabbing today - there were about 60 miles that we should've been on the TAT that we skipped because we needed to get to the hotel so I could complete some work. But even that ride ended up being awesome. 



For the first time during this trip, we surpassed 10,000 feet above sea level - we stopped to commemorate it with this picture: (38.001167, -105.198233)

Dinner at "Quincy's" (I think) in Salida, Colorado - when we asked about their wine selection, they told us they sell one red wine from a local winery, the price was $15.00 a bottle. We asked for Vodka and Jack Daniels (not mixed together!)

More pictures from the day - I'm pretty exhausted... 






Life is good.

2020 TAT - Day 21

Another Late start. Necessary, but good, meetings.

The pinnacle of today was through the culmination of transition. Earlier this trip, Paul and I in one of our many different and varied conversations while passing time riding discussed 'how states got their borders'. No definitive answer, though he did mention he once watched a documentary on the subject. We surmise that terrain is more likely responsible for borders than any other reason. It is this transition between terrain that defined today's ride. 

Starting near the end of Oklahoma (Boise City), flat and beautiful, built with an ingrained monotony. To a slow and building undulation of hills and scattered but abrupt breaks in terrain, New Mexico defines itself through a subtle crescendo of change. The culmination is that of the rockies in Colorado, the truly awe-inspiring landscape that delivers a deeper connection with change through palatial-like tectonic explosions of terrain.

154 splendid yet metamorphic miles today. 3,824 miles since Nags Head, NC.

After our meetings, breakfast at the Blue Bonnet Cafe in Boise City Oklahoma. Recognizing that we didn't fit in with the "regulars", our waitress asked us if we'd sign their TAT book. She knew immediately by our choice of attire and our 'steel horses' that we were TATers.


I was glad to sign the book, which has a map of the TAT for this part of Oklahoma as the cover. I opened the book, earliest signatures date back to 2014. Six years of TATers eating breakfast, lunch, and possibly dinner at this little Cafe. Then, the signatures start a steady decline around 2016, with a very empty space for 2018, 19, and 20. Not sure of the cause, but a very recognizable gap. 

After visiting the Bunk House, Paul suggests that maybe when the Bunk House recognized the increase in motorcycles back 4-5 years ago, they started catering more to TATers than the little cafe and word spread - this is the stop. So, the lovely people at the Bunk House won a battle that they may not have known existed. The battle for attention through good marketing and great customer service.

Paul and I stopped in to introduce ourselves and say hello to the Bunk House. Then we continued on to the end of Oklahoma.


You can't tell it, but this picture below represents the end of Oklahoma and the beginning of New Mexico. I say that because there are no signs, there are no specific borders, there is simply an imaginary line and a soft transition of landscape that delineates Oklahoma to New Mexico.


Here are a few more shots from New Mexico, where not only the landscape changed, we immediately witnessed a small family/herd of antelope's running across the plains of north-eastern New Mexico.






As we continued riding through people's property by way of a public transit system called dirt roads, we both couldn't help but think what it must be like living out in the plains. There is minimal in the way of support, grocery stores are miles and miles away, supplies and food must be stored and prepared for as you can't just drive 10 minutes to the local hardware store. Both Paul and I said that we could spend winters out here for a couple months - this came about because we found 8,000 acres for sale in the valley. 


Bring out the "Mountain Goat"


As we drew closer to the border of Colorado (by our route, we only spend about 70 miles or so in New Mexico) the transition is easily marked by the climbing of a rocky, tempestuous mountainside. We both do fine, but in my mind, this road, this mountain, this climb represents a change in our ride and in the TAT. We're both novice off-road motorcycle enthusiasts, but we use the skills we've built and we conquer the climb - but not without lingering thoughts. 

Part 1 - Rocky Climb

After taking a break, we complete the climb with Part 2

During the break, I see some sort of a cat walk out right in front of me. As I was pulling up, it slowly creeps out of the crevice it is hiding in. Pauses and looks at me. Doesn't appear to have any confusion to the current situation. He starts to slowly move up the hill and away from me. But continuously looking back at me. I'm speechless as I know it is considering the two options in life that most wild animals have. It isn't close enough for me to completely identify my feline friend, though I narrow it down in my mind to one of two things - Lynx or Bobcat. Though, after further consideration, I lean towards Lynx.

We come across yet more and more cows on our trusty trail. This of course, continues to bring great enjoyment for me as cows are truly interesting animals (you only know this if you spend time with them, instead of just eating them - which I also enjoy).


Other animals encountered in today's eventful 150ish miles: Multiple deer, a prairie dog, and many turkey vultures.

Pause for effect. Another State-line Crossing - NM to CO Complete!


Something to bring up related to maintenance of the motorcycle - Prior to the trip, I upgraded my mirror to the nice breakaway mirrors that provide better configurability and visibility. Yesterday, my left mirror broke off at the base - not sure how as there was no accident etc. Just the use of cheap aluminum where steel would have probably been the better choice for longevity of an adventure aftermarket mirror. I've spoken with Topar Racing here in Trinidad, CO - I'm to come by at 8am and they'll see what they can fab up to support my need for extended-rear-facing visibility.

Let's go back to the mountain climb. A couple things: I'm a novice off-road motorcyclist - I've made this abundantly clear. But, I also have a ridiculous fear of heights. Both things like this mountain climb tests to no end. I also know that there are many many more of these in the upcoming days. We will cross some of the highest passes in the United States - off-road. With continued deprecation and diminishment for deep feelings for heights, we will overcome. 

More pictures from the day:




Remember, life is all about perspective.


Life is good.