7 days, 8 states, 3800 miles - My Solo TAT ADV.
This is my 2009 Trans America Trail report.
In true fashion, I was up late finalizing the bike for the trip Monday night. I got everything ready and could not sleep. I tried but to no avail, so around 4:00 am I set out with plans of making Jellico, TN, 1100 miles, late the next evening. I got about 40 miles down the road and realized I left my cell phone at home. CRAP! I had to go back for it.
The weather started out ok but soon turned very bad. It slowed me down big time. The sun started to rise as I passed through St. Joe, TX. This is what I was riding through:
The rain turned to a fine mist and fog:
I had some serious regrets about now.
But not because of the weather. Every mile I headed east, I realized I was further away from my 19 month old daughter. It was the hardest thing I have every done. I was in pretty low spirits. It was too early to call home, so I tapped out an email to my wife about how I missed them which seemed to help and I pressed on.
A shot of the bike before I rode on.
Daylight and my first gas stop. There was a break in the rain before I made it to East Texas.
As I continued on, I noticed my GPS was switching to battery power from time-to-time. Since I wired the Zumo to bike switched power, this told me that there was a problem somewhere with the splice.
The previous owner wired in a Sho-Me blinking light system that is used with first responders. He was a police officer which is why he used that light system. I spliced into his power behind where he spliced into bike power.
I pulled over in a sprinkle and parked under an old strip mall sidewalk to investigate.
He used one of these:
I considered replacing this before I left b/c I smelled trouble, but time was against me.
It was losing connection causing both the LED light and my Zumo power to go out.
I removed his crappy connector, stripped the wires, and respliced them together using electrical tape. I will be soldering them together later.
Content now that things would hold together for the trip: (which they did)
Next fuel stop, I decided to eat some lunch.
I was getting REAL tired. That 7 hour Redline does NOT work either!
The rain picked back up and really poured on me as I made it to Texarkana. I decided then that I would lay over in Little Rock with my Dad. I was exhausted and was falling asleep on the bike. NOT A GOOD THING!
I stopped to eat an early dinner since I knew I would be staying over in Little Rock.
This was the second and third time I had to explain what the hell I was doing. Those of you who have ridden the TAT know that you get asked all the time what you are doing. We must look really strange on these 'dirt bikes' loaded with gear, muddy, etc... This one guy even followed me out and said how much he admired me for taking out on an adventure like this solo. He was a biker... owned a harley but was down on his luck like many of us these days. I will admit I was a bit taken back by his kind words. But this was to be the beginning of meeting many great people during my trip.
Once I got to my Dad's, we visited a little while and I went to bed... tired and defeated! This is not how I wanted my first day to go. Weather, fatigue, and electrical problems... uggg. But thankfully, I got all that out of the way the very first day! :)
It gets better... much better.
Jellico, TN was my next destination. 640 miles.
:clapLooking forward to my own TAT ride sometime. Keep it coming!
Ready for more. :clap Always enjoy the T.A.T. reports.
Some of us a little south of you will be doing the same TAT thing in September. Looking forward to reading about your ride. There are three of is going. Thats about all the people we want on our ride. I would really like to do a solo ride someday. but for now three will be enough.
We'd go sooner but my riding part partners just got back from Moab. And I didn't even get e "T" shirt!
Now, where's that popcorn?
Sounds like a great trip is planned! Thanks for the intro :thumb
Day 2 - another travel day and 640 miles I end up at Indian Head State Park in Jellico, TN.
My day starts in the rain but nothing like I saw yesterday and within a few minutes it was sunshine and dry roads. This was a nice change of pace.
I was on the road by 8 this morning... I overslept. Which is going to be a recurring event for me on this trip. I just love sleep. I can't help it. And after yesterdays lack of sleep and battling the elements, I really needed the Zzzs.
A quick shower, bowl of cereal my Dad set out for me, and 'preflight' of the bike and I was back in the saddle. I did take a moment and scrounge for some zip ties and duck tape in Dad's garage. I realized I had left that stuff on my work bench back home.
I traveled from Little Rock to Memphis TN. I stopped at the BMW dealership there. At some point earlier, I checked my oil and it looked low. The site glass was half full where before it was near the top. Turns out, I had it a little overfilled and hours of high RPMs the 650 relieved itself of the excess fluid via the crankcase valve. (according the BMW tech.) Just to be safe, I got a quart of 'Zuk oil and packed it away. The oil level never changed after this as my oil level stayed the same the rest of the trip.
Here is the rest area I noticed the oil level had changed.
A little further into TN, I stopped for some fuel.
Just as I was topping off and going through my premount routine... music buds (etymotic ER6i), cord routing, helmet, sunglasses, and gloves... this character comes rolling up.
He is riding in a cross country rally on this old HD. Says he started in California. At this time, he has blown a seal (he thinks) and the Harley was leaking a fair amount of oil. Or as some would say, "marking its territory".
I don't care what you say, to ride that old shovel cross country takes an iron ass and a leather face.
He bought some thick Lucas oil hoping that would get him to his destination.
The bike was interesting. jockey shifter, kick start, dry belt....
He asked me to open his oil for him as he did not have a knife, which I kindly did as he pumped some gas.
We chatted for a bit and he was off nearly as quickly as he arrived.
This is another example of the friendly folks you would never meet unless you were traveling.
He was headed east and I caught up to him and passed him on the interstate. We exchanged 'glove checks' and I never saw him again.
I made good time heading east and began to see some nice scenery.
Notice one of my ADV decals there in that photo. I put it there to serve as a constant reminder to always look for the next ride. The next adventure to be had on a motorcycle. It is so easy for life to get in the way of getting out on the bike and going places you have never been. With a small child and another on the way, I knew it was time for me to 'ride the world'... or at least what little bit of it I could because soon the chance for me to get away would not come around for a while.
Somewhere in TN. I can't remember.
The sky darkened up a bit but this picture looks a little worse than it really was. The weather was very nice save the wind. I was getting a little punch drunk by now. The wind started hitting me crossways the moment I headed east on I-40 out of Little Rock and did not let up all day. It was one of the toughest wind conditions I had ridden distance in. And living in North West Texas, we see our share of wind.
As the day was ending, 6 o'clock or so, I found myself needing gas again and pulled off the interstate to this little shanty of a gas station. It was a welcomed change from the truck stops I had been stopping at for miles and miles.
I soon realized that I needed to make a decision concerning my tires. I had been toting my D606s with me this entire time. My choices were:
1. Change them when I got to Jellico which would have given me almost no daylight to work in.
2. Have them changed at a little shop that was recommended to me by a fellow rider on ADV.
3. Change them here while I had plenty of daylight and good weather.
After fueling, I decided to grab a cold one and think about it.
Yes, this is my 'think about it' face. :evil If it looks like it hurts, it does. :D
I opted to change them here.
After all, I had plenty of room to work, the cute girl working the gas station counter had windex for me to use on the beads and honeysuckle was growing right next to me giving the air that sweet smell we all know.
Time to get to work.
Where I was at:
I found a big rock that was enough to weight down the ass end of the bike and pick up the front tire off the ground. It was small but heavy. To small to prop up under the skid plate.
I got out my tools and the tool kit that comes with the bike. Which by the way is a great kit. It has all the necessary tools to remove the front and rear wheels and fits nicely under the seat.
The one thing it was missing was a cheater pipe big enough to break the front axle loose. Oops. I guess I put it on too tight last time. Crap. :eek1 There is an old garbage truck near by so I peek around inside of it looking for something that would work. No luck. Just then this fella shows up.
He is a road side mechanic for 18 wheelers that break down. He tells me that business has been bad this year but he manages to keep a smile on his face and is more than willing to help when can. A very nice guy.
He digs around in his van and produces a small piece of pipe that saves the day. :clap
Soon the front wheel was off. The front tire change went really smooth and surprisingly fast! I am not the best pit crew member around but the new rubber was on and front wheel on the bike in less than 30 minutes.
I found some old 1x4s to use as a makeshift work table.
Can you guess what the needle nose pliers where for?? :deal Don't say to pull my head out of my ass, that is what the vice grips are for. :lol3
Now for the rear. Again, the cheater pipe came in handy!
The rear tire off and in record time! It pays to have done this a time or two previously! I am really knocking this out. I was dreading changing shoes, but whats to dread?
Then came breaking the final bead. I must have worked on this 15 minutes. The first bead broke right away, but it took much cussing and spitting to get the rear. Typically we use the 'buddy's bike' method using the kick stand of the second bike to break the bead but there was no second bike and I did not think of that before hand! :ear
Basically it took liberal amounts of windex and bounding on my knees on the tire to break it loose. I actually reinjured my knee doing this because once my right knee slipped off the tire and onto the ground. OUCH.
Once I got the bead broke, the rest was cake. Both tubes in and aired up. And the best part??? NO LEAKS! I have pinched a tube in my time and was trying to be extra careful with these. I chose to use a new front tube and reuse my rear tube. It worked out fine. I had already reused the front once before.
No wonder my garage is in shambles. It looks like an Oklahoma twister blew through here. :huh
Another view of my 'work area':
I got a lot of strange looks from folks buying gas... which is to be expected. Another fella showed up to check on me. He was so surprised that folks like us not only ride the bikes we ride and ride them the places we ride, but that we do our own work along the way. Turns out he owned the garbage truck over there and told him I peeked inside for a pipe. He was not upset at all and was sorry there was nothing I could have used.
I returned the windex and went about cleaning up. The girl behind the counter swore to me that ketchup would take that grease off. I am like the one out of ten people that hate ketchup, but I decided to give it a shot.
That is ketchup, not blood. :eek1
If ketchup is good at cleaning your hands, it is not good at taking off axle grease.
I politely asked for the windex again which did a good job at cutting most of the grime away.
So during this stop three friendly folks helped me along the way strengthening my confidence in the human race.
Here is a pic of the 'gas station girl'. :evil
I left two AT tires there for another dual sporter and mentioned this to the girl inside. I said that they are free to the taker. She said she would mention that to anyone she saw ride up.
A little road side paying it forward. :D
It took me all-in-all about one hour and forty five minutes from stop to go with new rubber. That includes gas and refreshments. THIS HAS to be a new record for me. But I can say this... without the windex and cheater pipe, my job would have been much MUCH tougher. Thanks to my new friends! :freaky
Later, the sun began to set on me as I pulled off the interstate towards Jellico.
The rest of my ride consisted of what must have been a very scenic ride through the hills up to Jellico. The curves were fantastic but numerous deer and the mention of bears roaming around had me taking it pretty easy. Thankfully the fog had moved out of the area according to this nice lady at a mom and pop mercantile I stopped at. They were closing shop but she let me come in and get a six pack of cold ones. I learned from previous TAT'ing in Arkansas that you buy beer when you can. Dry counties crop and can leave you very thirsty. I stopped at this place because it reminded me of my old family feed store my Mom kept in business over 20 years. Wooden floors, people visiting on the porch outside. It was these folks that warned me of the bear activity of recent.
I rolled into Jellico just before midnight. I topped off my fuel and headed to Indian Head camp ground. I was glad there was a State Park here. I made it somewhat of a point to not 'plan' this trip per say. I am a planner. When my wife and I went on our honeymoon, I had the days planned down to where ate dinner each night, the time we awoke each day, and places we would go. Everything was planned from putt-putt golf to Ebcott. There were no surprises.
This was an exercise at breaking away from my normal 'habits'. No plans. Ride to I stopped and worked it out as I went. I tried to be prepared mechanically but logistically, it was seat of the pants. Arriving so late in Jellico would have made it difficult to find suitable camping if it had not been for the camp ground.
I route to the state park and the gate was closed. The local sheriff told me earlier to just ride around the gate so I did. Turns out it is only 'fake locked' at night. But the offroad downhill and climb back up to road was more fun anyway.
I setup camp and broke out some cold ones and a MRE for dinner.
Yes, the M&Ms were included with the MRE. But the Tecate was not. :deal
No rules against a candle lit dinner for one right? I am trying to stay in touch with my effeminate side. :ear
I awoke early and found the camp hosts to pay my bill. This was the most expensive tent camping I have done. $18! This was after I talked them down from $20. Sure I was at an RV spot but it was late when I showed up and the park had plenty of vacancies. I asked him to charge me for just a tent since I did not use power and said he would... at $18. Ouch. :huh
He said the state of TN had raised the rates for tent campers and that $18 was state wide. I paid him and went on my way... only to learn later at David Crockett SP, it was $8. And yes, I was at an RV spot there as well. I got the shaft in Jellico. The park was nice though. The showers were filthy but the water was nice.
Here are a couple pics from the next morning.
Next up... TAT TIME!!! Starting in TN and CO, here I come!!!
Off to a great start. I'll be following this one. :thumb
Day 3 and finally TAT'ing!
Living so far away from the beginning of the trailhead just sucks. It was a bold plan to try to make that trip in less than 24 hours. I have ridden 1000 miles in less than 24 hours (referred to a saddle sore 1000 by the true long distance riders - though my trip was too spontaneous due to a death in the family to really plan for the paper work to make it a real official ride and call it a SS1000), on my touring bike but that is just different. I will freely admit that 640 miles is the most I have in one day on my 650. I think I could 1000 but not in the conditions I was in and as fatigued as I was. That was just foolish...
So, right... on with the story. :o
After the Camp Host thumb screw, knee breaker experience, I was on the TAT within minutes. Jellico is a neat little town. I took a moment to cross the border into Kentucky just to say I have ridden there but did not count that in my "number of states" in the title of this thread. That would have made nine.
Even with my slight detour, I was on the TAT soon. It starts out with a nice paved section very suitable for most any vehicle.
I notice a mountain off to my right and think to myself... I bet my last spare tube that Sam will point me to the top of that thing if there is a way.... sure 'nuff, soon I was on some very nice gravel and tight switchbacks headed up this thing. Lucky for me, the recent rains had really washed the road out in places... it made things more technical and exciting. The county had patched some places with fresh gravel which reminds me of just larger bits of sand as the bike still gets very "soggy" in this stuff.
Not much you can do when you are staring up and left at a switchback, but twist the throttle. :D
Here is the TAT beginnings and a pic of the mountain off in the distance I was referring to:
A nice section of the early gravel:
A patched section that is already starting to wear away from weather and traffic:
Tribute to The Darth Peach
Quick and blurry bike shot. I love bike pics - mine, yours, all... so expect more.
I really like Sam's idea of "pavement". TN has some of the most interesting paved roads. Some are actually more narrow than gravel roads.
I don't get this.... what you see here is a house built out into a pond. You are seeing the majority of the pond in this pic. They get high marks for creativity, but I don't get it still... why build the front of your house out over a pond?
But you know what.. who cares. They like it I am sure... It made for a cool pic.. and the homestead is stunning.... so GOOD ON THEM!
More of the same valley:
The mirror shot.... everybody's doing it!
Could not have asked for better weather.
This goes on for miles.
The first 100 miles or so is actually a lot of gravel is memory serves. The first part and last parts of TN, to me, were the best.
Good ole southern' jungle.
I come around the corner and see this. The elderly fella in the back of the picture invited me to the party, but it was a cock fest. :rolleyes:
Wow... look at those colors...
TN's idea of pavement
I know I have seen this underpass in other reports.
Some forgotten little TN town:
This kind of tarmac made me wish I was on a sport tourer like a ST1300.
TN has it's share of rivers! AND bridges... And it seems no two TN bridges are the same.
Too bad this came out blurry.
Let me interrupt this program with a Lesson's Learned Moment: Things I would do differently. -- Installment ONE:
CAMERA: Just go buy or save up for a GOOD camera. I did not want to take our family camera on this trip, so I bought a $99 compact from walmart. Small... 8 Megapixles..(woohoooo! - that was meant facetiously). I thought this would work out. WRONG. The pictures already suck and the fact they are 5-8 MPs only makes it worse, b/c I have compress the pics to make the load faster. This makes a bad picture worse. So... take it from me. Bring a good camera. In the end, all you will have is your pictures to remember your trip. The real details of your trip that is. And get one that uses batteries and not some stupid rechargeable battery - even if you don't plan on camping any. Trust me on this.
...back to regularly scheduled programming...
I took a break and hiked down to this little creek. The water was sooooo clear. This particular part was very deep. I have a video of this creek I will upload later.
One of many variations of TN bridges:
Things start to get hairy here. Some of it my fault. Some of it my GPS' fault. (bad routing) Some of it, very manageable, some of it, near panic state. But I'll leave you with this teaser:
(edited to remove the idea that I have officially completed a Saddle Sore 1000)
I'm in! :lurk
That looks like the gas station in Hwy. 82 in Gainsville, tx. :deal
TAT! Gonna do it one day on the Ural!
Great report, were did you get the seat pad ?
Great Report keep the pic's & ride info. coming..Ride On..:lurk
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