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Old 07-22-2006, 07:26 PM   #1
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The Trans America Trail does me

I gave a reclusive government conspiracist a ride and when he climbed up he said, "This is the first time I've been on a motorcycle since 1968 when I was smuggling hashish from Istanbul to Berlin."

My boss told me I needed some time off. That's always a bad sign. I have a 2002 F650GS Dakar I bought last fall for a South America trip that fell apart. So I called Sam Correro and ordered maps. With typical precision planning, I had them rushed to a friend's in Colorado, then when the trip was delayed (three times) , she shipped them back to my Mom's in Tennessee.

I wrote a very wordy PDF with over 200 pictures for friends and family, then read BigDog and GasPipe's thread. This is my version. Believe it or not, this is much condensed. If you're bored, quit reading. Unlike them, I was alone, on a much heavier bike, woefully underprepared, sober, no sidekick with a funny name, rode in jeans, tee shirt and hiking boots (no ATGATT PC for me), and freely wandered on and off the trail. Oh, and I was on the trail 32 days in June (more or less), less snow and drier. Like them, I'm a West Tenn redneck (just working in Ohio for the last 10 years), and I enjoyed the trail also.

I didn't like the bike. Compared to my street bike it was tall, too lightly sprung, had a miserable windshield, had half the horsepower and worst of all, it sounded like a lawn mower. Oh, and the seating position looked like a librarian. Compared to my dirt bike, it would barely loft the front wheel with the throttle (but it was easy to walk a wheelie if you started with the clutch), it had an odd sized rear tire—17 inches, weighed more that twice as much unloaded, geared too high for the trail, and had lots of breakable stuff like windshield, turn signals, electrical stuff, a battery, ABS, etc. I took it on the interstate a few days before I left and the windshield I didn't like already put off such strong turbulence that I couldn't read the exit signs at 75mph. I ordered an Aeromax from Frog Specialties and it was better than stock, some, and actually looked real nice. I put on a set of Jesses. Later I found they liked my legs, but my legs and feet didn't like them. The single cylinder put some mild vibrations into the bike making the mirrors useless under throttle. It will cruise at 80mph all day but there isn't much left after that.

Left on Thursday before Memorial Day for Paris and Palmersville TN to visit folks. Then to my sister's lake house in Table Rock Lake in Missouri to see her family. Then highway across Oklahoma to the east edge of the panhandle. But starting at the panhandle, I took the first gravel road, from Hooker to Hough (real names!). Stayed on the gravel until I was on 545 in New Mexico. Started my hate/hate relationship with sand here.

Sister's house on Table Rock Lake

Oklahome antelope butts, I'm slow on the draw

Lost in NW New Mexico, late in the day
Bill The Duck, of me: I admire the way that you collect life's lessons, and then, when things start to go bad, you find the strength to ignore them.
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Old 07-22-2006, 07:32 PM   #2
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Old 07-22-2006, 08:09 PM   #3
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I just had the CO, UT, NV, and OR maps so I found the road that the trail must take from NM into CO, got lost, lost my GPS. Found it! Lost it again! Looked for a couple hours, idling with lights and fan on, killed the bike. Starter chattered, then barely growled. Tried again and it caught. Now I'm paranoid about the bike not starting. Last light, decide to go to Raton but I don't have enough gas. Asked a rancher that was walking across the road and he gave me some gas. Was talking with them when a cow comes wandering up to the barnyard. One brother asked what the other saw. He said it was a Brahma Angus mix, three times as smart as an English bred cow. Smartass, I said does that give it an IQ of 12. Wrong move, he was proud of that cow and was curious what she knew that brought her to the barnyard. I meant nothing by it but really stepped in it, thanked them and went to Raton.

Came back and kept looking for the GPS but never found it. New Mexico was beautiful, mesas, elk, deer, and antelope. Switchbacks into boring flat southern Colorado, through Branson to Trinidad.

NW New Mexico

Southern Colorado

In Trinidad, a guy at a gas station asks if I work on my own bike. Sure. Why'd he ask. Oh yeah, the K760s strapped on the back. He say's he'll change them for me, he has a shop. Hmm. How far? About a mile. I'll follow you. Several miles out a dirt road, he pulls into a tall cyclone fence around a very lonely trailer. Trust him? Adventure time? Pull in and there's a shop. His Dad rode in a Triumph gang in the '60s and is doing a frame off on an old Bonneville. I have one like it in my garage. Tire changed, good company.

Spent the night in La Veda in a great but pricey gentrified inn. Next day to Salida, around Spanish Peaks and the Sand Dunes Monument. Scenery improving.

Spanish Peaks (or Dolly Parton National Monuments)

On a bad sand road, about three turns lost, about to take faint trail to right. Stopped to stare dumbfounded at the map and roll chart. Not a house in 5 miles, middle of nowhere. A tap on the shoulder. That'll clear the arteries.

A friend from Parachute CO, we used to date, met me in Salida and again in Ouray. In Salida was an old inn of small log cabins on the Arkansas River just south of downtown. Left late and took the dual sport bypass because I was on a heavy bike, had a late departure, and was meeting my friend in Ouray for supper. Oh hell, who am I kidding, it was Potentially UnSafe for Sedentiary YankeeS. Slipped into a sun dress and skipped Tomichi and Hancock passes. Probably snowed in anyway.

Improving scenery

Over Marshall Pass. First snow, first flat.

Wonder why it's flat? (Tool shows up in the story later)

La Pena Pass. First getting lost when actually on the trail. Crested it three times.

Bill The Duck, of me: I admire the way that you collect life's lessons, and then, when things start to go bad, you find the strength to ignore them.

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Old 07-22-2006, 08:26 PM   #4
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After the late start, snow, flat tire, being lost around La Pena Pass, got to Lake City about dark. Then at last light headed up to cross Engineer Pass to Ouray. Fortunately I was stupid enough to get lost about 20 miles west of Lake City right at dark to run into a river high and fast enough I couldn't cross it and snow I couldn't get through. I turned back and rode in the cold and dark through Gunnison and Montrose to Ouray. If I hadn't got lost, I would have probably gotten hurt, going down the west side to 550 is a truly rough road in the daytime. My Kenda 760's went knobs to nubs on the asphalt.

Spent the day with my friend in Ouray and Silverton. Passing the road up to Engineer Pass, two up, I rode maybe 2 miles up on a whim. I'm real glad I didn't do that downhill in the dark last night. Took the tube I swapped yesterday to service station, told owner about getting snowed out at that river, he said I must have been lost, Engineer is already open. Doh!

Scenery around Ouray

Only intact picture of me on the entire trip

Next morning, late start, heading up 550 for Ophir pass and west to Monticello. Again, on a whim, fully loaded at 750 pounds, I head up toward Engineer Pass. Beautiful day, rough road, great ride. Rode over to Lake City, then down south of Animas Forks, then back to Ouray to thank service station owner for the tip about Engineer.

Camera went screwy for some 70 pictures. Sorry, I'll only post a few.

Back at the pump, a 60'ish guy was checking out my filthy heavily loaded bike. Turns out he lives in Ouray during the summer riding a KTM 525 up around the old mines in the area. Led a group at the KTM rally there last year(?). Rode flat track in the 60s. Then six day events. Tough guy. Lives in a motor home with his dog now, riding around Ouray in the summer and warmer in the winter. He designed several multipurpose tools, homemade looking for the six days 35 years ago, now Motion Pro makes some of his. My tire spoon/axle wrench is one of his.

Larry's original six days multipurpose tool and his current toolkit

Larry and his dog, last purple photo

Very, very late start (maybe 4:00) up 550 to Ophir, Lizard Head, and Monticello UT. Got there after dark.
Bill The Duck, of me: I admire the way that you collect life's lessons, and then, when things start to go bad, you find the strength to ignore them.

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Old 07-22-2006, 08:47 PM   #5
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Next day is short, to Moab over the La Sal mountains. Stuck in snow then 45 minutes and 7,000 feet later 105 degrees in Moab. Next day was 108.

Climbing La Sal's

Road narrows

Then almost disappears

Who didn't see this coming?

Take of bags, dig elbows and axles, get bike through, carry bags, put bags back on, repeat next drift:

Hot dry desert just below cool watered mountains

Through slickrock area before Moab

Did I mention I dropped my bke above Ouray yesterday? Now why do some of y'all use soft bags?

Meant to ride the White Rim Trail but went up the Shafer Trail to the visitor station at Canyonlands first, then back to the White Rim Trail, realized I might not have enough gas (100 miles with no turnoff), decided to do 30 miles in and back but come back tomorrow better prepared and do the whole thing. Road is on cap rock most of the time. Rough rock. With sand traps in between. Scenery good but slow changing. Beat the crap out of me. By 30 miles in, I didn't even want to think about coming back. My buddy who got me jacked up about the White Rim Trail, after heaing about this: "That's what some of the guys I ride trials with said about it, but I just figured they were old." Them old? What about me? Wish he'd shared that little tidbit with me before I left. Arrowhead Fred replaced my well worn K760's with some Dunlop 606s. Now on my third set of tires for the trip. There'll be a fourth.

Road Runner style rocks

Road Runner style switchbacks and road

It's much higher and steeper than it looks, or maybe I was wearing a sun skirt.

Musselman arch

Typical cap rock road

This IS the road

Back in Moab, I tore up a slickrock type trail, until my nemsis, Captain Sand ate my front tire in a berm.

Bill The Duck, of me: I admire the way that you collect life's lessons, and then, when things start to go bad, you find the strength to ignore them.
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Old 07-22-2006, 09:42 PM   #6
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Ummm! Good! Please sir, may we have some more.
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Old 07-23-2006, 05:22 AM   #7
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Yeh---you've got my attention. Can't wait to see what happens next. I guess you didn't die out there all by yourself or you wouldn't be writing this.

I applaud you for doing it alone.

Yeh--those hard panniers will get you---me and GasPipe have said we would never ride with hard panniers again. In the last 10 years i've been lucky and have only been injured once-----the panniers got me.

So lets' hear more
2008 Yamaha WR250R/2006 KTM 450EXC/2014 KTM690/2013 Husky 650 TR650
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Old 07-23-2006, 06:22 AM   #8
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Old 07-23-2006, 07:18 AM   #9
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Off to Green River and Richfield. Started beautiful, Gemini Arches and dramatic Moab topography, went through open desert, then into Green River. Out of Green River, took a sand wash under a railroad that literally ate my bike. But the trail turned beautiful by an unofficial exit off of I-70 (barb wire gap) into an almost scary, narrow, high sided canyon. Sam can really pick the scenery, but in fairness scenery is almost everywhere in Utah. There was another "Dual Sport Bypass" which stated it avoided deep sand and a steep hill climb. Avoid sand? I'm in. I avoided some Pretty but Unusually Steep SandY Situations by wearing another skirt. Great day though. Another late night, ending with a turnoff up some apparently no longer existing powerlines (or I was lost in the dark). Rode about 7 miles down the interstate instead of finding that last trail segment.

Gemini Arches

View looking down from the arches

Onto empty desert

Sandy wash under railroad tracks

Entrance to Black Dragon Canyon

Inside the canyon

Typical UDOT efficiency

The decorator's been playing with the rocks again

HUD's been here, Utah projects
Bill The Duck, of me: I admire the way that you collect life's lessons, and then, when things start to go bad, you find the strength to ignore them.
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Old 07-23-2006, 07:40 AM   #10
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Next day was one of my favorite trails, the Paiute Trail from Richfield to Kanosh UT. Some washed out areas, just enough to make you feel manly on a Dakar after the Dual Sport ByPass sundress yesterday. Got lost and crossed and recrossed a soft bottom creek that wasn't even on the trail, DOH! In Kanosh, there were three old men jawing with the service station owner. I bought a Coke and jawed with them for an hour or so. Before you think it's hypocritical for a 50 year old to call someone else old, the youngest was 82, the oldest 92. I mentioned I was headed to Baker, NV about 80 miles of open desert, through Sevier Lake on gravel. The older guy said "If I was going to Baker, I'd go on the oil." I'd never heard an asphalt road referred to as "on the oil". That's the way I say it now. Newest favorite expression.

After desert yesterday, mountains west of Richfield are cool and green

Great trail, just a few washed spots. Note laundry drying in the bungees.

Trail is steep in places. Poser butterfly.

Cool and watered never lasts long in Utah, back to hot, dry, barb wire gaps, and cow patties.

Well, Sam never takes you on the oil, but always shows you something even in the most desolate places. On to Baker, NV.

Crossed the desert bare, man.

Almost every spring had a ranch parked on it

At times the trail grows faint, topo maps on the GPS are a lifesaver. I bought a new GPS in Moab, loaded topo maps on it at a Radio Shack there, keyed in waypoints from Sam's maps every night. Even this faint trail was on the topo map.

And this one

Rain (at least virga) over the desert

Only Utah could make Nevada look welcoming

Duststorm that left sand in my Jesse's and socks at The Border Inn.

Two views after storm blew past

Notice low layer of clouds conforming to the mountains
Bill The Duck, of me: I admire the way that you collect life's lessons, and then, when things start to go bad, you find the strength to ignore them.
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Old 07-23-2006, 08:25 AM   #11
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More, please!
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Old 07-23-2006, 09:01 AM   #12
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With sand in my bags and socks from the duststorm the night before, I headed southwest out of Baker. There are inviting looking mountains just a few miles west, but Sam apparently has a thing for sage flats.

When good irrigation ditches go bad

What, you can't make out the trail. Right there, on the NV side of the fence.

I worried before I left that the trail would be all well graded roads and boring.

Big Spring, well that's the name anyway

That little spring watered maybe 10 sections

Even had a little line shack

Finally rode the trail instead of taking a bypass because it said single track. It even mentioned deep sand. Maybe I was missing Ohio's great single track or was just tired of wearing a sundress.

I always get pictures of the easy parts because I'm busy during the rough ones.

But it was sandy, did I mention I hate sand?

On a small two track literally in the middle of nowhere, I dropped the bike at maybe 30mph. Not much excuse, riding the middle to keep the sage off my legs, distracted by a wash ahead, drifted left, it sloughed off and dropped me. Hurt my foot, bent the brake pedal up over the peg, broke off the brake lever at the hinge, broke off the front mount of the Jesse bag (damn thing kept eating my leg anyway). Declared myself unfit to ride, decided I'd die since I couldn't walk, so I lashed up the bags, straightened the brake pedal (kinda), and rode on.

Still can't believe I biffed it here, of all places.

That's going to be expensive, but I can use those straps for now

That'll probably break off when I bend it back (it didn't, just too high and too far back after)

When superglue and JBWeld don't do it, you're screwed. No front brake.

This is ahead of me, but the ignorant are the lucky ones. Would've turned back if I'd known.

And this. Throbbing foot, no front brake.

But after a while the road comes back and it's this (notice the next switchback in to lower right side, it's steep)

Came out of hills maybe 5 miles east and 500 feet above Preston. Had cell service but couldn't get a brake lever delivered to Eureka until Monday. Tried every west coast BMW dealer. That was late Thursday afternoon and I'd be down until Monday. Screw that, I'm going to Vegas where I can get one on Saturday and get my foot Xray'ed. Truck stop in Preston is closed and for sale. Store with pumps in Lund closed for the evening. Head south on 318. Maybe 10 miles later a sign says next gas 105 miles. No problem. 98 on roll chart 105 to go, just ride 55mph or so. About 20 miles later, almost dark, it occurs to me that it was several miles to where the trail started that morning, then I quit using the roll chart when I wrecked maybe 20 miles, then it was 15 miles from Preston to the sign. Shit. I wasn't going to make it. Compressor out, 50 psi front and rear, lube chain, ride 40mph on the shoulder.

So putting along on the shoulder, which wasn't necessary because there was absolutely no traffic, I crossed a small pass and a headwind that wasn't there before cropped up. Crap. Riding into a headwind is bad but worse, I don't know what speed to attack a headwind with. And I don't have the specific fuel curves and equivalent square plate area to figure it out (I used to fly and toyed with building an experimental plane). So while I'm pondering how to attack a headwind and try to guess how far I'll be limping tonight, a semi with a load of 2x6s goes by. As the taillights fade into the twilight, it hits me that I should have drafted it. That would take care of the headwind problem. About that time the low fuel light comes on a 43 miles on my trip odometer. From experience, it very reliably comes on with 6/10s of a gallon left in a 4 gallon tank. Several times I had gotten gas shortly after it came on and it was always 3.4 or 3.5 gallons. Now I don't stand a chance. That should get me about 40 miles at 50mph and no headwind and I had some 75 miles to go. Okay, time to abandon hope. Spent several minutes contemplating walking tonight or camping tonight and walking tomorrow. On a foot that hurt like it was broken. Hmmm, this adventure thing was losing some of its luster.

About that time some headlights hit the mirror, in which you can't make out anything in even at 40 on a single cylinder bike. It got closer and was a semi. I was doing 40 on the shoulder, he was doing 70. I downshifted 3 times and as he got close I hammered it. Fell in about 200 yards behind in light turbulence. As I got closer the turbulence was worse and worse. At 100 feet, you could feel short bursts of still air with very heavy buffeting from one side then the other. This continued until about 10 feet from the truck when I would feel heavy side buffets from one side and then the other but a second or so between them. At 6 feet to the front wheel, there were occasional light buffets on the bags and at about 4 feet it was dead quiet. I could hear his trailer tires, my tires (50psi in D606s), my engine reving high but unloaded. And no gas robbing wind whatsoever.

I don't know if I would be tense if I were healthy, in daylight, if I had a front brake, and if my back brake pedal weren't about an inch too high and an inch to far back toward the pedal. I'll probably never know because I'll never do that again. I don't know if the driver knew I was back there, I fell into his blind spot almost immediately after he passed and he probably forgot all about me. At least he never touched his brakes or flashed his brake lights. Thank goodness. And an antelope or coyote never crossed the road in front of him. And he never sneezed. As for me, there was a 2x6 about 5 rows up from the bottom, second one from the middle on the right stack, that was snaggletoothed where the wedge to fell the tree had pulled fibers up from the stump. I grew up around a sawmill. Anyway I focused all my intensity on the red glow of that fiber hanging back far enough to catch the taillights. Over two small hills, slowing on the climb and speeding up on the descent. For about 25 miles, I never even glanced away from that fiber. A truck passed the other way and I wondered if he would see me and CB my driver that a maniac was playing NASCAR on his tail and might try to get under him, get him loose, and drive him into the wall. But apparently he didn't. I could see the amber glow of the low fuel light in my peripheral vision.

After about 25 miles, another light came on my dash. I didn't dare look at it, I was way too busy concentrating on that 2x6. All I knew is it was to the right of the low fuel light and was red. Hmmm, was there a double secret probation low fuel light I didn't know about? What the... oh crap, no air through the radiator. Not much load but high RPMs. Must be the overtemp light. Crap again, no telling what mileage I was getting drafting, wasted by a high temp. I let off the throttle, fell back out the buffeting and turbulence and in a half mile or so the overtemp light went out. I fell back into my mildly depressing 40mph on the shoulder. Which again was probably unnecessary because I never saw another car.

Miraculously Hiko, the first town came into view maybe 10 miles ahead and a 1000 feet below me. Elated, I cut the ignition and coasted. I did coast but slowed to about 15mph and I thought who cares if I run out now, I can coast in after I do. Speed along at 40 and enjoy the night breeze. Hiko had no gas station, no store, just 5 miles or so of scattered ranches. Elation melts in the desert air. There is a long closed store or gas station where Hwy 318 joins Hwy 93. Depression deepens. Then about 4 miles later there's a Shell station! I expect to wake up to a rattlesnake while shaking off a dream, but no, I even smell diesel. Pull into the pump and drop the bike when my right foot doesn't work. Look around to see if anyone saw it. No, pick it up quick and limp around whimpering for a minute. With 108 on the trip odometer, I put 4.06 gallons in a 4 gallon tank. 65 miles on .6 gallons, that's almost 110mpg! I'm liking this bike better and better. Even with my overinflating the tires, lubing the chain, driving slow, slinking behind the puny windshield, and drafting a truck at 4 feet for 25 miles, that's still impressive.

Got to east side of Las Vegas around midnight and treated myself to a Hampton Inn and talk the clerk into a bottom floor room. Leave everything but the tankbag on the bike because it would hurt too much to carry it in.
Bill The Duck, of me: I admire the way that you collect life's lessons, and then, when things start to go bad, you find the strength to ignore them.
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Old 07-23-2006, 09:03 AM   #13
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Old 07-23-2006, 09:16 AM   #14
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I thought those tanks were 4.6 gallons. Good read.
Let’s not reinvent the wheel, let’s wear it out.
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Old 07-23-2006, 09:42 AM   #15
I just tweeted it
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good report man. I was hanging on every word wondering if you'd make it to gas. That's your lucky 2x6!

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