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Old 07-30-2010, 10:49 PM   #1
DirtyDog OP
Lust for dust.
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Joined: Apr 2007
Location: Tulsa... it's OK
Oddometer: 8,013
Eh? Dirty Butt Challenge - OK TAT Solo in 16 hrs or less

The Trans America Trail is a wonderful thing. For the uneducated, it is a multi-surface, 4,800 mile ride across most of the United States. It begins in TN and travels West through MS, AR, OK, NM, CO, UT, NV, CA, and finally terminates in OR.

Oklahoma contains the second-most miles of TAT (claimed- 750 mi) when compared to other states. While those other states have epic twisties, mountain passes, amazing geology, and old-growth forests, sadly- the Oklahoma section consists mostly of farm roads and 90-degree turns. I don't want to sell my state too short here- many, such as I, find the plains to be quite scenic. I had a blast on this ride and that's what kept me going. Now for the details.

Many DS riders take on the TAT every year and it is certainly a must-do, at least in part, as a rite of passage. I've had OK TAT maps in my computer for over a year and have been meaning to do it. I planned a 4-day weekend and hoped to ride out to CO since my last trip out there to ride was sort of a bust, resulting in a 12-mile survival hike and a bike extraction. Well, my schedule changed, leaving me with only 2.5 days. What to do? Time to knock the dust off the OK TAT maps? Well, it's now the dog days of summer. In OK, that means dry and hot with highs at or near 100 F. Well, if I'm gonna be miserable, I might as well be hauling ass.

How quickly can I complete the OK portion of the TAT? I've seen reports of 1.5 - 2 days, which certainly seemed easy enough. Has anyone done it in one day?

I apparently live exactly 100 miles W of the OK/AR TAT junction point near Westville, OK, so I busted ass over there after getting fuel at 5:12 am. The ride to Westville was uneventful. Scenic highway in the dark. Fueled in Westville and headed to the border a few blocks away. At 7:02 am it was officially on...

The very first bit of the OK TAT.

The eastern-most 70 mile portion of the OK TAT harkens to the AR TAT and has some pretty good curves in a labirynth of roads. It was a tough balancing game of twisting the throttle and slamming on the brakes all while staring at the GPS route. Intersections / turns (what seemed like hundreds of them) were rarely separated by more than a mile. There was a lot of vegetation overgrowth on the shoulders making the narrow dirt roads a bit treacherous for the speed I was carrying. This fact was proven almost immediately. Only 6.5 miles into my voyage, at the end of a quick straight, was a slight S-bend in the road. A Chevy Silverado pulled out of a blind driveway right in front of me. "This is gonna hurt," I said- waiting for the sound of metal on metal. I shat my drawers, braked, swerved, skidded, bucked and somehow narrowly missed being t-boned by the truck. I have no idea how I missed the truck. Had I been wearing panniers, it would have been a trip-ending disaster. I kept it upright and continued on as my heart pounded. This was the only really scary moment of the trip, luckily.

The remaining ~640 miles are mostly assembled via straight roads with occasional right or left turns. Lots of stop signs. This is how I was able to haul ass.

Here are some pics and details to prove I did it.

Along the way.

Someone decided to leave a huge pile of gravel in the road. Nice surprise at 66 mph. Sent the bike skyward.

Supposed to be graded flat like this:

But it wasnt. Just dumped there.

Lots of nice bridges. Here's one.

When planning my trip, I realized that my boss has property on the OK TAT. Here is Gordonia.

Not sure when the damages happened, but at 5 pm I noticed some needed repairs.

Watched the sun set on the TAT in western OK.

Rest of the way was in the dark illuminated by the finest 1973 Honda headlight technology. My flood light apparently had the day off, so it was a bit tough to see. I was forced to ratchet down the speed. It was without event until one of the 2-track farm roads took a little jog around a huge mud hole. Of course the farmers weren't there, so I hit it head-on and went splat. Fortunately I didn't get stuck.

Made it. Reached the OK/NM TAT junction at 11:12 pm clocking the entire 709 miles in 16 hrs 10 min including fuel detours and all stops.

(Sixteen miles to my campground at Black Mesa State Park. These stats also include my mileage to Westville from home.)


Camp was uneventful. Pics from the next day.

Boise City's A-Rock Cafe has GREAT bacon.

Plotted a course for home. 400 miles on state highways. Gonna be hotter today than yesterday. At about Ft. Supply, I noticed a bit more underseat warmth than expected and my exhaust note was blasting through my earplugs. This is why.

Front cap of the Big Gun blew off. All four bolts cut through the aluminum shell like butter. Stainless packing was spilling out. Maybe a bit too much back pressure.

A nice old local man overheard me asking for a hardware store and offered assistance. He led me to his shop down the road where I used, you guessed it, bailing wire to fix the exhaust.

Back on the road with my KLR repaired properly, I was sweating and making up time. The ass-shift-a-thon was in full swing and I was getting impatient. Got pinched doing 78 in a 65. My first moto-ticket in 5 years of street riding. Officer graciously reduced the infraction to 75 mph and I got a fat $188 invoice and no points. Damn.

I'm certainly not the best rider. I'm no pro and couldn't have gotten near this without the GPS tracks. I think I only missed one waypoint and made about 10 wrong turns (each of which I noticed immediately). Had I stopped at every stopsign, I never would have made this time. Same goes if I had a flat or any real delays. Otherwise, I was basically traveling as fast as the terrain and my skills allowed. Seventy mph on dirt was a common goal, and 85 was my max on dirt. Had it rained or not rained before my trip, the sand would have been in worse shape, slowing me down. I hit 4 doves and a grouse. I was chased by dozens of dogs and saw 2 coyotes, 4 deer, 2 antelope, lots of turtles, a snake, and numerous other wildlife- especially after sunset. Better lighting would be a plus and much safer.

I was traveling with 16/47T sprocket setup (stock is 15/43T), so I was slightly limited on top speeds. Surprisingly, I was energized all day. I was drinking lots of water and made it a point to keep drinking till I had to whiz. I think I drank about 7L of water plus some gatorade and about five 5-hr energy shots! I took breaks in the shade and ate gas station food. I packed like a coyote and left lots of stuff at home, including my tent, contact lense case (oops), sleeping bag, and panniers (whew). Since I was solo, I had lots of emergency stuff like mucho water, food, tow line, first aid, tubes, basic tools, etc. My pack was pretty heavy, but manageable.

Overall, my OK TAT run was probably the best solo ride I've taken in a while. Felt great to push the limits and succeed unscathed. Except for my ticket. Oh yeah, and my ass hurts... 1250 miles in 2 days on a stock seat.

Anybody care to make a better run at it? I'm thinking 16 hrs is tough to beat.
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