Just Ride

Just Ride
Showing posts with label Trans America trail. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Trans America trail. Show all posts

Sunday, July 19, 2020

2020 TAT - Day 5

Day 5... Well.. let's get started.

We only completed 171 miles today. Both Paul and I had some work to do, so we took an early exit and got a hotel tonight. All-in, we've completed 1,076 miles of the TAT (approximately 1/6 [16.666%] of the way complete! the optimist and data-focus in me likes thinking in those terms)

Breakfast - Horrible place in Boone - I won't give their name.. but literally the worst biscuits and gravy ever. Also, they were keeping the front door locked. I'm sometimes passive aggressive... so I made multiple comments about the fact that locking the front door is actually illegal. But Covid.

The morning was spent mostly off-road - one or two of the legs through NC was quite a long ride... I swear maybe two hours or more straight of mountain/gravel/dirt roads. We enjoyed it. We even commented on how we started feeling a sense of rhythm to the road. I turned on the GoPro and recorded a small five minute section - but I can't upload yet... wifi in this hotel sucks.

Hotel / Camping Ratio - 3 Hotels, 2 Camping nights. I'll try and keep up with this ratio - not sure I'll be able to remember. Keep me honest. The wine drinking nights will be easier for me to count :)

Later in the afternoon, we ran into Josh Harrington on tablerock mountain. Stopped right there in the middle of the forest on a "high traffic area" (more on that later) to chat - it was great. He said he lived within 45 minutes of the area we were riding and that he didn't know that the road we were on was part of the "TAT" - I of course explained that it is within Sam's routes - I don't know about GPS Kevin's. Josh wished us well on our travels and he parted ways - great chatting with him. The camaraderie on a dirt road is classic. Josh - if you read this, pleasure meeting you sir! (dammit, should've gotten a picture of the three of us together.)

Traffic on forest roads - I surmised early in the day that we'd see heavy traffic off-road today. It was a Sunday. People need to get out and covid is a bummer on the summer (don't quote me, but doesn't Lana del ray sing a song about that??) [some of my friends will understand]

Traffic on Forest Roads today consisted of the following:
Dirt Bikes
Dog Walkers
Golf Carts
and most importantly, The Rule Breakers,The Risk Takers, PAUL AND ME! (or is that Paul and I... dammit, Mrs. Ellis would be very unhappy with me right now - I'll blame the fact that it is 10:15pm and I'm exhausted)

(I swear this will all make sense...maybe)

Road Closed - Pisgah National Forest - Black Mountain Campground: 
35° 45’ 3.378” N
82° 13’ 15.030” W

There were many onlookers and some naysayers (old people in golf carts on a forest road???) as Paul and I pulled up to the sign - bunch a lookey-loos providing useless banter to the likes of Paul and I, the rule breakers, the risk takers, the... um... well, we-crossed-the-line-and-hoped-we-didn't-find-anything-that-would-make-us-turn-around guys. men of steel. or um, of steel, rubber, and gasoline? um... anyways.

The good news, there is nothing on this road that keeps an adventure motorcyclist from continuing beyond the "road closed sign". As I passed what appeared to be a 'damaged power line' - possibly downed power line, I said to Paul: "that is probably the reason for the road closure". So there you have it. KEEP GOING!!! Despite the negative-nannies standing around or sitting on the golf carts. You show them you're the man/woman and that you don't color in the lines. you make your own lines! :)

and at the exit of this closed road for the win! (the exit was a little risky - pole, ledge, tree. we owned it)

Animal Sightings - Practically none - too much traffic on the forest roads. Animals probably knew it was Sunday and everyone was out having covid-free fun with built-in social distancing.

Not too many pictures, mostly because we kept a good pace and didn't stop much, despite the low miles.

Lunch was pretty good @ Famous Louise's Rock House in Newland (near linville falls) - my arteries were satisfied with the grease level from my bacon cheeseburger.

Dinner was regretful - It is Sunday, things are closed. Hotels are 50% capacity. So I booked a hotel while we were sitting at lunch. Didn't know the town, but it near/outside of Asheville, so I figured it couldn't be that bad. Got here to the Mars Hills area / checked in. Got the lay of the land related to dinner options. Decided we wanted either Mexican or Japanese. The burrito joint was closed due to Sunday and/or Covid. The Japanese restaurant was open. WOOHOO! or so we thought. pull up, lady immediately comes outside and asks if we're picking up. um...no. I'd like to come inside and eat like a normal human being. Um... Covid, so no. "We've decided to close our restaurant seating until Covid disappears" (or something like that was said to me). Yeah, good luck with that. Anyways, we order dinner BY PHONE (she wouldn't take our order in person), we pay in the parking lot, and eventually we somehow stack/tie down our dinner to our motorcycles (should win awards for this) and then we went back to the hotel room to eat.

More pictures
Blue Ridge Parkway

We are the little green motorcycle... 
(men of steel, rubber, and gasoline)


Saturday, July 18, 2020

2020 TAT - Day 4

217 Miles - States Visited, VA, TN, NC - Ended the day in Boone, NC. Highest elevation of the day was 4001.

Met Hector from Venezuela - he's riding GPS Kevin (we're riding Sam's version), had lunch with him in Damascus at the Wild Chicken - live music, lots of bicyclists/hikers! (Appalachian Trail very close to this location). Overall, great location, great atmosphere, ok food, slow slow slow service. talking to people on the TAT is awesome - sharing the experience, the background, and "the why". It was a pleasure having lunch and eating up some miles with Hector today!

Overarching thoughts on the TAT at this time: There are moments where the view in front of you is inspiring... and then there are other feelings like, damn another gravel-laden switchback???

what is working well:
Garmin Zumo XT running what it can (a single track and routing way points) paired with my phone running GAIA GPS, and all the tracks/waypoints at my fingertips. Really makes navigating very very easy.

What's hurting: My Ass! Riding 8+ hours per day is chaffing my ass.

Critters: bunny, snakes, tons of deer in the road, beaver ran across the road

Let's discuss last night in the primitive camping site:

It has been a few years since I camped in a primitive site with very few people around me. Last night was interesting in that it was completely dark (minus some lightening flashes in the distance). So dark, you can't see your hand in front of your face. I fell asleep pretty early, maybe around 8 or 9pm, then around 10:45, some loud noises startle me awake. I look up and see a truck stopped at our campsite and they're making loud noises and yelling. This is a very remote location and it immediately dawned on me that I could be in serious trouble (obviously these people were attempting to be annoying - possibly worse). I called out to Paul, he tent had moved (not a surprise, he told me he'd move as soon as I went to sleep so he could gauge how far he needed to be to avoid my snoring... 😇)

So there I am, all alone on the campsite, with people coming by late in the evening - many thoughts cross my mind at this point - no cell reception, there could be many of them, etc etc. Those of you that know me, know I carry a gun... but, hell, they could've done something while I was sleeping. Anyways, my point to all this, paranoia struck hard at this point. I laid awake for several hours, entangling myself in the noises of the forest, entrenching myself in my own paranoia.

Finally sleep deprivation hits and I pass out. Then I wake up about 7:10am and I'm still alive. Damned Paranoia.

All Alone.

My Trusty Glock.

Back to riding...

Got the chance to ride the "back of the dragon" in virginia - had never heard of it before, nice ride... thanks to Sam for pointing it out. however, he tricked me, because I kept on riding and missed the turn for the Gravel Switchback road... then went and turned around and rode the back of the dragon again and almost missed the Gravel Switchback Road (GSBR) AGAIN! (ok, I did in fact eventually ride the GSBR)

End of the day:

Not sure if this is COVID related or not - but once we arrived in Boone, NC and identified a hotel that would accept us (50% occupancy - when will the government stop???) - we showered and wanted to go out to dinner. because we wanted some 'adult drinks' we thought it best to uber over to the local tavern.

nope. no Ubers. no Lyfts. so ended up going to a local wine store on my KTM, picking up a couple reds and ordered some pizza back in the hotel room. Would've much rather went to a local bar/restaurant.

Overall, it was a Great Day of Riding today. 217 Miles today, but since we started in Nags Head, NC, we've already ridden 902 miles in four days.

Wine Consumed Today: 

Here are the pictures:

2020 TAT - Day 3

Didn't have internet in the remote / primitive camp spot we chose... heck, we didn't have water. But, anyways, this post is for Day 3, and was written on July 17, 2020 @ 7:22 PM

It has been a day! Let’s start with the easy stuff…


Many Deer - Mostly running right in front of me.

Black Bear Cub / Mama - Riding in the middle of a forest on gravel/dirt roads. Running about 35 around a corner when I spot a cub in the middle of the road. I slam on the brakes and immediately tell Paul over our Comms what I’m seeing. The cub immediately runs for the nearest tree and starts climbing. I’m sitting there on my bike watching the cub and then scanning the area because I know mama is near by. After about 20 seconds of watching the cub and scanning, I see mama coming down the hill above me at full speed. I tell Paul as I rev up and release the clutch to get the hell out of there cause mama is coming and she’s pissed. We escaped, but enjoyed the sighting.

Bunny Rabbits.

Many different farm animals.

The morning was uneventful - with some good forest roads and good backcountry farm roads. Enjoyed them all… until I swear we were running about 25 miles of switchbacks and mud. I almost had a couple spills. Managed to keep the wheels on the ground and power out.

Issue #1: Mechanical

Around lunch, we starting looking for a place to eat. As we are pulling up to the exit where Virginia Tech is in Blacksburg, VA, Paul tells me that his gear shifter is broken - won’t go up, won’t go down. I immediately expect the worst - we don’t have many miles on these bikes and the early hard riding has screwed up the gears or something. So we pull over into the median cause he can’t do anything else.

I tell him through comms to get off the bike so I can inspect the bike. Immediately notice that the linkage is missing a bolt and is just dangling there. (Sigh of relief) I start playing with ideas on how to get it back up and running temporarily so we can get to a hardware store (also, I wanted lunch badly…)

Zip ties and one of my Allen wrenches to the rescue. I put the Allen wrench in the gear linkage and zip tie the whole ordeal together. YEAH!! It Works. We roll over to the Firehouse subs for lunch. While in there, I make a call to my KTM dealer and ask for size information for the missing bolt. They provide very little in the way of assistance. Paul finds an Ace Hardware and we head on over there. I actually take off my bolt for the gear linkage and take it inside with us. We find a similar sized bolt and purchase a couple of other necessities (lock tight included).

Repair in the parking lot. Check other bolts in the same vicinity - blue lock tight everything. 

On the road again.

Issue #2: Lodging

It is now about 2:40pm - the day has been screwed royally - so we decide to find the TAT again and line ourselves up for tomorrow while we find a camping spot for the night. Nothing much around except a couple Bureau of Land Management primitive sites. So we purchase some food at a very small market and make our way out to the first of the two that we are aware of… sign says “due to covid..” (Gate locked)

We are pretty good at not following rules so we ride around the gate and find that we aren’t the only ones “breaking the law” - no one is around, but every camp site is full… also - we ask each other, how the hell did they get that car in here??? We let it pass without another thought as we identify a spot we could use for the night. Start unpacking and all the sudden, a truck pulls in. Now, how the hell did he get in here? Three young guys get out and two of them walk towards their AO (area of operations) and one starts walking our way. He says that this area is closed and we’re like, yeah it is. He then proceeds to explain that they’re with the forestry service and camping out there because they’re working on stuff in the forest. GOT IT. Anyways, we can’t stay… so Paul and I are pretty frustrated because the only other camping site out here in the woods is not for tent campers, but specifically for camping with a camper and horses. With very little in the way of choices, we opt for breaking more rules. Roll over to the horse camp and pick a spot. Good thing, there are only one other set of campers with horses and they’re on the far side. 

We immediately make a camp fire and start cooking ramen noodles. Yep, what a meal. Anyways, there is no water at camp, so after we eat, I shoot back over to the small market and buy more water, beef jerky, and a tall bud light beer.

Day 3 is a success.

171 Miles complete - very little FORWARD progress… 

I believe our total miles for the 3 days on the TAT is 686.

Here are the pictures.

Great View from Inside my Tent

Grabbed this from a local "we have everything" stores.

Animal is suffering...

Necessities in the Tent.

We signed the guest book - TAT 2020!!

Ramen noodles for Dinner. (not many choices...)

I definitely suggest getting a battery pack like this one if you're camping. Charges everything!!

Thursday, July 16, 2020

2020 TAT - Day 2

Day 2 is in the books... a whopping 217 miles were completed. (yes, we know, need more daily miles). It was grueling at times due to the loose gravel... always trying to keep the bike upright. Average speed today, only about 28 mph. (damn gravel - practice makes perfect.... I know there will be more gravel to come)

Not sure if you know this or not, the TAT (Trans America Trail) was created (or at least this version) by Sam Correro - he lives in TN. We'll be stopping by his house to say hello and thank him for his hard work. 

Yes, I did in fact pay for the rights to access his work for our trip - get your copy at transamtrail.com

Anyways, Sam and the TAT have been a work in progress for many years.

Direct from wikipedia:

The Trans America Trail or TAT is a roughly 5,000-mile (8,000 km) cross continent vehicular route, intended to be a way to cross the United States using a minimum of paved roads for leisure, traveled by dual-sport motorcyclesoff-road vehicle, or touring bicycle.

The trail was initially scouted by Sam Correro in 1984 who spent 12 years to assemble the route and maintains the legality of the route by only using publicly accessible roads and trails.

OK, so now you know what it is we're up to... let's get down to the D2 Details.

Our morning was filled with two things: Rain & Gravel. I guess you could mix the two and come up with something like concrete - but when you mix in motorcycles... ugh. Not as much fun. There were several  moments worth describing:
1. "Oh Shit, I can't see" - it was raining hard and we were in the clouds (mountain tops) and of course, our face shield for our helmets were constantly fogging up.
2. Riding through the farms - big and beautiful landscapes. Both Paul and I realized that we will probably describe our surroundings as 'beautiful' and 'amazing' many more times. It happened multiple times today. The last moment of the day was when we passed by Bath Alum. Just amazing. 
3. Gravel isn't really friendly to motorcycles. It takes your front tire and does whatever it wants. you need to counteract those actions or you'll be eating gravel.
4. I've been enjoying seeing/talking/waving to people. Everywhere we've been so far, people want to know what we're up to and everyone waves as we roll by. Refreshing and enjoyable to the heart.
5. CIVIL WAR - no, I'm not asking for a civil war... but we went through many many famous areas here in Virginia related to the Civil War. LOVE IT.
6. Dust.
7. Undulating & Curvy Farm Roads. I can't get enough of them.

Lunch today was at BG’s Family Restaurant. Double Bacon Cheeseburger with all the fixings. I heard my arteries scream. I ignored them as they sometimes deserve the punishment.

Great part about not having a plan - it was time to find a place to stay for the night and we got an all-in-one treat when we rode directly by The Inn at Warm Springs - Historic, Great Staff (let us wash our clothes), Great Food! Minutes away from the TAT!!! Which brings me to Dinner, Couple Bottles of Wine, Chicken Schnitzel Cordon Bleu (mouth full) with Mashed Potatoes, and Vanilla Ice Cream.

Animals and other furry creatures:
1. Many turkey vultures
2. Many doe and several baby deer literally running in front of my motorcycle
3. Dogs - Even saw a Great Pyrenees - made me miss mine... (BEST DOGS EVER)
4. One Snake (black. dead. I didn't kill it.)
5. Many Many Cows. 
6. Boer Goats
7. Horses

Something else I wanted to bring up that was the very awesome... Mountain tops and ridge lines that we were riding. Especially at the highest point today - 3,154 Feet. In the clouds, could barely see.

Mosko Moto. Quick plug - you may have noticed, both Paul and I are running Mosko Moto's luggage on our bikes. Well... literally one day before we start to ride the TAT, I noticed a tear in my right side backcountry panier. Bad Bad News for a trip like this one. I sent an email to Support at Mosko Moto. They got back to me today and are shipping my wife a new bag for me to install onto the hardware I already have. My wife is going to be meeting me in Oklahoma when we get there... so I won't have to worry anymore about this bag/tear. They've already shipped the replacement! Shout out to Mosko Moto for the great customer service! (Please note, the tear is not related to any wrecks or misuse)

More Pictures from D2:

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

2020 TAT - Day 1

Paul and I at the Start of the TAT

I can’t believe this trip has actually started. We took off from the sand in NC with the vision of landing in the sand in Oregon!!

We know that there will be challenges presented to us on a daily basis. Today's immediate challenge occurred at MILE ZERO! We wanted to put the bikes in the sand at the start of the TAT to take a picture. Well, that didn't go quite as planned. In fact, my rear tire buried itself so deep that the bike was able to stand straight up without using the kickstand. So we had to push his bike back out and then go get mine, I went in first of course... so I was further. and deeper. 

Thinking about the trip, normally you plan every step of the way (OK. That’s what I do). I don’t leave things to chance... normally. But in this case, you don’t have a choice. No plan, go with the flow. 

Some friends and I rode from tellico plains tn through the ozark mountains in Arkansas back in 2013. Essentially the first three states on the TAT (2013 version). Now it is truly a Coast to Coast adventure. Since then, I’ve switched from the KLR 650 to the venerable KTM 790 adventure R. Quite the difference! 

One should ask: why would anyone want to subject themselves to the torture and elements that an off-road, cross country motorcycle adventure would entail? 

For me, it’s simple. It’s the adventure. Yes, there will be challenges. It won’t be easy. There are certainly opportunities to injure oneself. I’ve watched many YouTube videos of the worst case scenarios. So, skills, instinct, and some luck will hopefully take me from the East Coast to the west coast. 

We had breakfast today at Bojangles - most everyone knows that we don't have Bojangles where I live, so if I get near one, I'm having a Cajun Filet Biscuit Combo with Large Sweet Tea. Lunch was at Ray Ray's Diner - which was GREAT - literally, just off the TAT. We arrived around 1:30pm, they were happy to see us and we left a big tip because COVID is ruining small businesses.

At around 3:30, we decided to pull over and find a place to rest for the evening. Camping was the goal, so I looked through multiple phone apps for local campgrounds. Found one about 45 miles away from the position we were in - there was also a Wal-Mart within 8 miles of the campground - so I gave them a call to check availability for tent campers. Fortunately, the lady from Paradise Family Campground decided to make an exception to the 'COVID laws' or whatever... she gave us a spot. So we went to Walmart, picked up some steaks, potatoes, and some seasoning.... then headed to the campground.

The decision to pull over at 3:30 was a very good one - it gave us enough time to locate/reserve spot for camping, get food, check into the campground before they closed, hop in their pool, put up tents, and cook. By the time we cleaned the dishes, it was already 8pm. It is now 9:58 - I had some work to do and I wanted to post my daily diary.

Animals and such that we had seen today: Possible Muskrat. Very tiny doe (baby) - so tiny, I thought it was a rabbit. Geese. Ducks. Fire Flies (looking at them right now through my tent).

Dinner was a bit of a challenge because we're 'getting used to the routine' and we've got equipment we haven't used before. Specifically my cooking equipment... I kept catching the picnic table on fire :)

Note the black smudge on my face from dealing with the various fire issues I was having... hahahahah.

We did end up having four great filet mignon steaks that we had to butterfly because our pan was too hot for the steaks to cook thoroughly. One major screwup - we had camp soap for cleaning the dishes, we did not have anything to scrub the dishes... so Paul decided we could use dirt as an abrasive to wash the dishes. it worked.

We completed 298 Miles today... our butts were definitely sore. Guess it'll take some getting used to. We've still got about 5,500 miles to go??

Here are some more pictures from Day One. 

Made it to the Virginia Line!

Our Campsite

The View from above our campsite (taken with a drone)

We went from the east coast in Nags Head, NC to Spout Spring, VA