2012 was definately going to be my year for the TAT. I soaked up a bunch of time off due to my surgery plus I gained a whole extra week for a work anniversary. I had 12 days off planned around the Indepence day holiday and wanted to finish my Oklahoma part and ride Colorado through to NM then drop south and visit Mesa Verde (have been wanting to see this since I was in 4th grade) and Great Sand Dunes NF.
Things do change though, the 690 started smoking. I got it apart and discovered that the piston and rings were worn almost certainly due to dust getting past the paper filter. I wouldn't be able to get it back together for the trip so I decided to skip it for yet another year. We had another vacation to Disney planned then my daughter would be back in school and cheerleading and all the crap and riding around that is involved with that.
But Adam was planning a trip with a friend of his to ride from Arkansas all the way to the coast. Their schedule was loose but if things went right and with some Marathon driving, I thought I could ride with them and slip Oklahoma and Colorado into a long Labor day weekend.
I put a new piston and rings in the 690 and took it for a test drive in anticipation of the trip, but it broke again. This time a failure of the intake rocker arm. When she had to come to my rescue, my wife was a bit perturbed that the $10,000 motorcyle that I bought just so I would have something reliable was fucking up a third trip in 7000 miles. Plus she had to help push it up a huge hill to get to the truck.
I too was a bit set back but I had already gotten the permissions to take the trip. I weighed my options. The parts weren't available and I couldn't trust the 690. I still had the 450 but it would probably go through another set of wheel bearings and God knows what else. But, as a great puppet once said, "there is another".
I bought this Xt225 for my wife with just 600 miles on it. She rode it some in Pensacola two years ago and all over at Bike week this past March but it has mostly been a dinghy for the motorhome as pictured. It is bone stock except for the S-12 takeoff tires and an extra link in the chain to clear the bigger tire. I had just a couple of days to get it ready for the trip and I wouldn't have time to build a rack for the backpack that is my normal tail bag so we dropped by Cycle Gear and purchased some cheap saddle bags that are just big enough for my tent and sleeping bag and also a tank bag.
Here it is all loaded up, I am carrying most of my clothes and prvisions in a larger backpack.
Waiting was hard, Adam has a Spot tracker device and I went to work on Tuesday and Wednesday tracking their progress. I was hoping they would get a slow start and I would catch them before they got to the Ozarks but on Tuesday they managed almost 300 TAT miles. I didn't know it at the time but they skipped the MS portion all together and started the trail in AR. It was still pretty good time. Wednesday they made it almost another 300 miles into OK riding late into the afternoon. I calculated that they would make it to Newkirk, OK (exactly where I ended my last attempt) around noon on Thursday and I could meet them there so long as I left around 3:00am.
So that's what I did. I hauled ass accross three states with just a hiccup in Tulsa. I sent Adam a text that I would buy him lunch at the Sonic in Newkirk.
I went right back to the Napa parts store that had been so helpful before and directly accross the highway from the Sonic. The same guys were there as the last trip, the manager (owner?) and a man visiting sitting on one of the stools at the counter. I never saw the cat but he promised me it was there. They were just as helpful giving me a place to park the truck for a few days (he even offered me an indoor spot), the computer to look at Adam's progress on the Spot and they told me stories of other TAT travellers who had passed through since we were last there.
The Grenada out front is the visitor's car and the red truck on the right of the building is mine.
I unloaded the bike, topped off the oil in the Big Red Truck and had barely started waiting when the boys pulled into the gas station accross the street. I hollered out to Adam who was very surprised to see someone he knew in bucktussle, OK. He had never read my text and they hadn't even planned to stop there but were low on gas. The guys at the Napa said everyone stops there eats at the Sonic and has gastro issues later.
Then this happened.
Justin had a flat on the rear of his DR 650 so he set out working on it. I got snacks from the Sonic and talked to my wife.
Photo courtesy of Trials Bike Adam
Justin only had a 21" tube and I couldn't talk him into using it in the rear. He found a bike shop and used my truck to retrieve a 17" tube while Adam and I cooled our heels. We finally left the Sonic about 3 hours after I started waiting meaning I could have slept until 6:00am, but I was happy to be on the trail finally.
I had been plannning to sell the 225 and get a street bike for my wife and was trying to keep the mileage under 1000.
My old OK maps were slightly different than Justin's new ones and I lost them for a while and almost couldn't catch up.
We rode on to the next Gas stop at Alva through incredibly dusty farm roads following Giant Tractors and oil field service vehicles. It was hot, dusty, miserable and slow. It was the first riding I had done on the trip but Justin and Adam were ready to get out of OK. So the next 100 miles were all highway.
Seriously we met 3 cars in 100 miles except when in the tiny towns through which we passed that didn't have gas stations.
Not having any idea what my range was and since it was getting late I persuaded the guys to stop for gas in Liberal, KS. It was probably the first time in KS for at least two of us. It really smells bad in Liberal, KS. Having grown up around and occasionally living on cattle farms, I am familliar with all of the smells from hay barns to cow pattied pastures to sour grass. Liberal, KS smells like the part of the farm that is 6" from a cow's asshole. Not just where we were but everwhere we went. We bought gas at a Sinclair station and I picked up some Chesterfield cigarettes and Falstaff beer. Seriously I had no idea there were still Sinclair stations.
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I wanted to get a pic of me on the dinosaur (I swear there was a dinosaur) but it was getting dark and I really wanted to get to the other attraction in town. I can't believe this isn't in every TAT ride report.
There was a couple "coupling" in a porch swing so I didn't get to ride the entire yellow brick road. I did get to balance on the biggest wave.
Photo courtesy of Trials Bike Adam
Wow that pic is creepy. Still they need a fence that you can walk on for photo ops.
It got dark fast. Unlike me, Justin is fearless about pulling off the highway and flopping. I talked him into easing down this side road instead and we sacked out next to a gas powered water pump or something near a corn field.
Photo courtesy of Trials Bike Adam
I had been listening almost all day to the Republican Nation Convention and heard the Clint Eastwood bit over the radio without the visual to figure out what the hell was going on. Meanwhile Justin cooked an MRE on a rock or something.
That's my Kelty on the right, Justin brought the Bivy thing that Adam is sleeping in. Justin liberated it from the USMC and it rocks. You just throw it on the ground and it unfolds itself and sets right up. Justin slept every night in a sleeping bag out in the open where dogs could lick his face.
Some city on the horizon. We are still only 1/2 mile from the main highway.