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Old 06-19-2011, 01:15 PM   #1
ReardenSteel OP
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Commitment to the Commitment: Riding the Eastern TAT

So I have largely been a lurker here on ADVRider... I love to read, but don't post much. Before last year, I had not ridden a bike since I was 13 years old, that's 25 years. My buddy Todd sends me an email last spring telling me about dual sporting and the TransAmerica Trail. I immediately committed to the trip.

But it wasn't until I came across Questor and MotoAdventureGal's trip report that I got truly fired up about making the trip. Their passion, great photography and excellent account of their trip reeled me in. I voraciously read every trip report I could.

Again, not having been on a bike in 25 years, I went out and bought a used KLR-250 to make sure I wouldn't kill myself. I took it back 6 days later and bought a new '09 Suzuki DR-Z400S. I immediately started to plan, research and think of very little else besides the TAT.

I quickly realized that I wouldn't be able to ride the entire TAT at once. At 39, married with two kids and a software engineering job, taking 30 days or more off at once wasn't in the cards. I know some guys do it and I envy you, but frankly, I wouldn't want to not see the fam for that long of a stretch.

I never started a TAT planning thread... I read a ton of them, though. I joined the DAMN Riders, a dual sport group here in Maryland full of talented and gracious riders. I've ridden a few times with them and learned a ton. But the fact is, I was a very new rider... In quick succession, I took the MSF Beginner's Rider course, got my license and started riding as much as I could.

So my buddy Todd and I left on May 27th from my place in Western Maryland, bound for Jellico. I'll talk too much in this thread... and post too many photos... and focus on all the wrong details. I'll reveal bad planning, some good luck and 12 days that I wouldn't give back for anything.

My goal before I left was 1/2 days' ride into Oklahoma. Todd's was the Mississippi... We had no idea how the spring floods would affect our ride.

Here is the trusty DRZ:





My travel companion, Todd on a '08 KLR-650. Todd has a lot more years of riding experience than me, but mostly on the road.





Gearing up and about to head out




Close monitoring by Charlie, my chocolate lab



And so we set out. We had planned an off-interstate route but horrible traffic in Northern Virginia on the surface roads drove us onto I-81 South for a bit.

At a rest stop along I-81:








We eventually got off the interstate. The DRZ is an amazing bike, but even with a Corbin seat, it's not the most pleasant bike to ride at 75 mph for extended periods of time. So we cut off the interstate and rode motly US routes down through Virginia and West Virginia.

Hinton, VA


We made a point of riding over and crossing the mountains on US-33 west of Harrisonburg... A great road to remind you why you love motorcycles. Todd's allergies were killing him by the time we got to the top, on Virginia/West Virginia border.



We kept heading interminably southwest. If you've never ridden western Virginia either on a dual sport or otherwise, do so... It's one of this country's truly beautiful places.



Falling Spring, VA






Just so you know.


Virginia


Then the skies opened up and we changed to wet suits. No more pictures from riding that day as it was primarily a monsoon the rest of the ride. We had gotten a late start to begin with. Throw in the traffic, the family goodbyes and the traffic and we made "Ok" progress down to Covington, Virginia where we found some meat.... and beer.





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'09 DR-Z400S
'10 Yamaha Grizzly 700 4x4
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Eastern TAT 2011

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Old 06-19-2011, 01:22 PM   #2
FatherX
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Good stuff man!

I umm errr borrowed your B&W fence/pasture pic for my desktop thanks

have a blast and keep the story rollin'
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Old 06-19-2011, 01:44 PM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by FatherX View Post
Good stuff man!

I umm errr borrowed your B&W fence/pasture pic for my desktop thanks

have a blast and keep the story rollin'

No worries, FatherX. I'll be looking for a check in the mail! Enjoy it.
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Old 06-19-2011, 01:47 PM   #4
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Photography Choices

Photography is my original passion. I read countless threads that addressed the question of whether to take the SLR or point-and-shoot. I eventually decided that given my limited trail-riding experience, I didn't want to risk the 5D Mark II to falls, river crossings or Lord knows what else.

So I shot primarily with a Canon S95 (in RAW) and Todd shot with a Canon SD1400IS (JPEG only).

Next year when I ride the western portion, I do not believe the photography Gods will allow a choice. It will be the 5D Mark II.

The really nice things about both point-and-shoots that we took is that they both shot HD video as well and we made the time to get some clips that I'll also try integrating into this trip report.

What's the easiest way to embed a video (either Vimeo or YouTube)?
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Old 06-19-2011, 02:56 PM   #5
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Journey There - May 28th

Day 2 - Getting to Jellico

First, the good news. After getting completely washed away in Virginia the very first day of the trip, we never saw another rain drop the entire trip. Given the severe storms that had battered Tennessee, Alabama and Missouri in recent weeks, this was an amazing blessing. But when we rolled out of Covington, VA on May 28th, we had no idea that we had seen the last of the precipitation.

Hotels. That was our choice for the trip. I love to camp and I think we could have done it alright, but the essence of our decision was that given our relative inexperience as trail riders (compared to others who have ridden the TAT), we knew we'd need the entire day to get to the daily stops.

Plus, we love our electronics. We had our laptops, digital cameras, GPS receivers, cell phones. I had originally planned on not bringing my laptop, but once I realized that the 60CSx has a maximum of 1,000 waypoints, I was left with no choice as the entire trip could not be loaded into the 60CSx.

So, we decided to follow Sam's general guidelines for stopping and hit the hotels that were near the trail.

We left Covington early and I learned one of the hard lessons of the TAT. Fill up early, fill up often. For some reason, I thought we'd see gas along the road... we didn't. So we were forced to make a slight detour to find gas, where we learned a second lesson: There are amazing places to be found even in negative circumstances.

This amazing place just happened to be Paint Bank, Virginia.









I found these local ladies selling raffle tickets to benefit the local fire company. After talking pleasantly to them for a few minutes, I decided to buy a ticket. They asked me which specific raffle I wanted to paricipate in, the one for the rifle (notice it's on the table) or the one for the quilt. Thinking I'd like to have both, I bought a ticket for both. I spent a few minutes talking to all the ladies - which was very enjoyable.





Scenes from the Paint Bank General Store











Having gotten fuel and some refreshments, we hit the road again. You see some very unexpected things riding the roads of America. I genuinely find humor and simple enjoyment from the unexpected... like the huge Ten Commandments plaque we saw in Virginia wide enough to stretch across a farm road entrance. Or the huge chicken in front of a.... ((wait for it)) .... a furniture store. These things simply require you to take notice.



If you have ever driven the entire length of Virginia from its northern stretches bordering Maryland down the entire length of the state heading southwest toward Cumberland Gap, then you already know... it's a very long road. I tried my hand at taking photographs while in the saddle, but found that I suck at it... and remembering my promises to family and friends to "be careful," I made limited use of this practice throughout the trip. Here's one:



Then we had our first bad news of the trip. At a gas stop, I happened to notice that the brand new D606's on Todd's bike were missing some knobs off his rear tire. I quickly saw he was missing three of the middle knobs. Todd wasn't too happy to find this out. Before we left, he had ensured he was at 28 psi for the trip to Jellico, but now it was inexplicably down to 10 psi. The Mystery of the Missing Knobbies was quickly solved, but raised all kinds of questions about his tube.



We filled with air, waited a few minutes to see if the tube would hold the higher pressure. (I realize 28 psi is a lot, but given the size of the bags Todd had on the KLR, it was warranted.) After a few minutes and a steady pressure in the rear tire, we agreed to ride 20 miles, stop and re-check the pressure.



Here's where our fairly predictable stretch of "good luck that seemed to follow bad luck" ensued. We had agreed to ride 20 miles and stop. After exactly 15 miles, we saw this...



How does that happen? There's never a bike shop exactly where you need one... is there? But there it was. It was rather late on a Saturday afternoon, but they were open, kind, helpful and not particularly busy. Are you kidding me? We were here for a while as we talked with them about what to do... eventually, Todd chose to have them swap the tube out with a new heavy duty tube, though he already had a Moose Racing HD tube in there. Once the suspect tube was out, we could find nothing wrong with it. We never could explain why his rear tire had dropped 18 psi in a day and a half.



Let me just say a word about these folks... They were FANTASTIC. I forget their names right now -- Todd knows them and may post them later in the thread. They were amazing. If you can ever patronize Mountain Suzuki in Rosedale, Virginia, do it... these are good people.



By the way, this is 4-wheeler and dirt bike country. Not too many dual sports.






After Todd's new tube, my new CamelBak and our first real delay, we resumed our trip, knowing we were pushing it now to get to Jellico before dark. We hauled arse, stopping regularly for fuel and to check air pressure. At one such stop, we were investigated. That face almost says "WTF is all the racket over here?"





Todd really likes to point in photographs...



After passing through Cumberland Gap, the road kicked us up into southern Kentucky for a while as we headed west toward Jellico. Finally, we passed into Tennessee for real.







Tennessee



Todd was stoked to finally be approaching Jellico...



As we moved away from the US highways and other major routes, the roads got a lot more fun to ride...





Finally, we're approaching the Days Inn in Jellico, the official start of the TAT and designated here as TN001 (I named all the waypoints in each state sequentially, which turned out to be a great system).



Are we there yet?







Tomorrow.... the TransAmerica Trail.
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Rearden Steel
'09 DR-Z400S
'10 Yamaha Grizzly 700 4x4
'10 Harley Fat Boy

Eastern TAT 2011

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Old 06-19-2011, 05:07 PM   #6
Ol Man
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You mentioned you were not happy with the cameras on your trip, but I think your pictures are really nice.

I have never done a big adventure on a bike, but we spent four months going around the outside of the US two years ago in our motorhome and I always tell folk that we found interesting things and surprises with each stop we made. All of the reports on Adv Rider continue to support that observation. Have a great adventure.
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Old 06-19-2011, 05:08 PM   #7
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TAT Day 1

TAT Day 1 - May 29, 2011 - Jellico, Tennessee

So today would be the day that we would start riding the TransAmerica Trail. For me, it was definitely a moment... something I had been working toward.

We got up, geared up, lubed the chains, checked the oil and tire pressure and hit Hardee's for a quick breakfast before the start.

Ready!




By the way, here's a tip to anyone thinking of buying a new GPS to go ride a trail. Use it. A lot. And.... I did. For months, I have taken my Garmin 60CSx with me everywhere, used it, read all the forums, even joined the Yahoo 60CSx Users Group. But somewhere along the way, I missed something... or something failed to register, because...

I walk out of Hardee's, I'm geared up, fed, fueled up, the DRZ is ready to go, I'm ready to go. I punch in the route for the first day's TAT ride... It has 101 way points coded in for the complete day's ride. What I had never actually done is hit "Navigate." TAKE ME TO THE TAT!

So I did. And here's what Garmin told me.



So the 60CSx will let you load a route with more than 50 points, just don't try to navigate one (via follow-the-road) with more than 50 points. I dropped some language, then proceeded to open my luggage right there in the parking lot of Hardee's to fish my laptop out of its ueber-padded spot inside of a waterproof bag. It was not an overly simple extraction, but it had to be done.



It was actually really nice to have the laptop with BaseCamp loaded. I modified the routes, cut them down to about 40 waypoints each, re-loaded them into the receiver and the snafu cost us a grand-total of 22 minutes. Not bad. "Everything" back on the bike.... Load up the route, hit navigate, no further criticism from Garmin and we were off.

I say "everything" back on the bike because this morning at Hardee's was the last time I ever saw my rain suit. I had researched rain suits here on ADVRider, went to a BMW shop and bought their one-piece ProRain3 suit. It had served me extremely well in the rain on the trip down to Jellico, but when I re-packed the next morning at the hotel, I realized it was gone. Later, I went back through the day's photos and realized that it was gone and the last time I had seen it was right here... at Hardee's. A call to the Hardee's manager the next morning made no difference. They hadn't seen it. Sucks.

Ok, first problem presented and solved with the GPS. So we finally hit the trail. The first day in Tennessee is actually really good. There is a fair amount of dirt and it's nice to get the feel of gravel and sliding tires under you after being on slab for so long.



It was cool to start seeing places I had seen in so many other TAT ride reports.




We had stopped for a second to catch our bearings when we heard this guy coming up behind us. I might put some ape hangers on the DRZ.


And we pushed on into the forest again.




These images speak for themselves. Over the next few days, I fell in love with rural Tennessee.






Sunbright, TN


And we came to the landmark "two bridges."










Bridge detail


Todd




A word about the people of Tennessee. Everywhere we went this first Sunday on the TAT, people were outside and always as a family. We crossed dozens of creeks, river and streams and it was very hot. Families were gathered along the water cooking out, swimming, spending the days together. Sometimes the groups were rather large (the larger the group, the stranger I felt taking photos). We met 4-wheelers on even the most remotest sections of trail... normally not just one, but the first one with the kids, then Mom & Dad on a 4-wheeler trailing them. If you've ever wondered where all the 4-wheelers are, they are in Tennessee and Arkansas.... These folks live outside. And they do it as a family. I can't tell you how I envied their lifestyle of having so much nature at their immediate disposal; and a climate that allows them to take advantage of it for so much of the year!

A very common scene:




Now the trail winded back into the vast forest of eastern Tennessee, often taking us farther away from homes and towns.


I literally lost count of how many times we saw streams that looks like this.






Then we would break out into sunshine and ride stretches of pavement to the next dirt section. Again, this first day, there were fair stretches of dirt.


We came across this lake and decided to pull in to take a break.






Back into the forest to ride some logging roads -- which were among the funnest routes in Tennessee.







Even though much of the trail is paved in Tennessee, there are still some great stretches of country to see.


We arrived at the prescribed stop for the night, the Royal Inn in Sparta, TN. We had some Chinese, found a Wal-Mart for some supplies...


...and Todd did some maintenance on his KLR. We had no idea how common this sight would become.
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Rearden Steel
'09 DR-Z400S
'10 Yamaha Grizzly 700 4x4
'10 Harley Fat Boy

Eastern TAT 2011

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Old 06-19-2011, 05:13 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ol Man View Post
You mentioned you were not happy with the cameras on your trip, but I think your pictures are really nice.

I have never done a big adventure on a bike, but we spent four months going around the outside of the US two years ago in our motorhome and I always tell folk that we found interesting things and surprises with each stop we made. All of the reports on Adv Rider continue to support that observation. Have a great adventure.
Ol Man, I didn't mean to imply that I wasn't happy wtih the cameras -- actually, the S95 turned out some really great photographs and I couldn't be happier with them.

What I was trying to say was that for the western TAT, I would like the really wide angles that I couldn't get with the smaller point-and-shoots, greater flexibility in focal length and composition choices.

I couldn't agree with you more about finding interesting places and especially people at every turn... That was the best part of the trip (besides the riding)!
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'09 DR-Z400S
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'10 Harley Fat Boy

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Old 06-19-2011, 05:37 PM   #9
FatherX
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i'm in

Well first off, I'm not a subscribe kinda guy and I'm not a TAT junkie, but your photos and honest dialogue are getting me through a glum father's day weekend.

Thank you.

Ride on.

AND

I'm a sucker for those B&Ws. Where does that check go BTW?
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Old 06-19-2011, 06:29 PM   #10
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TAT Day 2

TAT Day 2 - May 30, 2011 - Sparta, Tennessee

Do you know that feeling when you're riding trails far away from home, you drive away from your hotel and realize you haven't seen your wallet in a long time? I had that exact feeling this morning as I reached down to check my cargo pocket where I always kept my wallet very securely (thanks, Klim) and it wasn't there.

So I enjoyed, for the second time in two days, opening my luggage in public; this time to find my wallet in my shorts from last night. Luckily, all was secured rather quickly and we got back on the trail. Tragedy averted.

Day 2 on the TAT was... how do I put this... my least favorite day of the trail. If you've read more than 2 of these reports, then you've read about how "90% of Tennessee is paved." Well, it's not 90%, it's closer to 70%. But don't mis-read me... the least of days on the TransAmerica Trail is still a pretty damn good day!

This Memorial Day, we saw a lot of pavement, precious little dirt and a mid-spring heat wave gripped Tennessee like fat woman holding onto the last doughnut.

Hot pavement - the story of Day 2 on the TAT


Much of today's route took us through farm communities. You can tell that most of the roads we rode today used to be dirt roads.



A word about hydration. Before this ride, I had guys in the DAMN Riders tell me that CamelBaks are "essential." And to be clear, I believed them enough to buy one and use it... But it was today that I was convinced of it. Todd had bought an off-brand one last night in Sparta at Wal-Mart... and he was loving the convenience. In heat like this, wearing gear like this... I finally agree... Hydration packs are absolutely essential.


We came across the first closed road of the trip, though I knew this one was coming. Still, I found myself mildly pissed off as this would be the first time we had to depart from Sam's original route.


Burn in hell, Osama... You're the reason I can't drive across this dam anymore.


Our detour took us right to the other side.


I poked my lens through the chain link fence to catch a shot of the road surface. I would like to have ridden that and seen the view from atop the dam. DAMN!


All across Virginia and Tennesee, the farmers have been cutting and bailing the first hay cut of the year. We saw endless stretches of pastures that have been cut and rolled and nearby barns were beginning to fill with the iconic cylinders.


There were some dirt roads today... We relished them.




We stopped in the forest when I saw something unique. From what I can tell, it's someone's party shack. It was probably a hunting lodge, stable or maybe a home at one time. Now it's nothing much more than a shelter with some chairs pulled up, ready for some friends, a few beers and a fire.










It was at this point in the forest that we were made aware of the deafening power of cicadas. As we made this stop and I took off my helmet, I was caught very much off-guard by the deafening sound of the cicadas. I've heard them before (being a Carolina boy myself) and we get the "once every 17 years plague" in Maryland. But I've never heard them as they were here. I took a short video clip... I'll include that later after I determine the easiest way to integrate the video clips into the thread. Obviously this is just a discarded exoskeleton, but I have no doubt this guy was up in the canopy, screaming his little insect head off at me.


Classic Tennessee scene




Bringing in the hay:


Eventually we arrived in Bell Buckle, Tennessee. Folks, it was hot and I needed to just get off the bike for a bit. We decided to get a little lunch... that's when we learned that Bell Buckle had it in for us.

It was about 2:45 when we spotted this good-looking cafe and decided to try it even though it looked a bit like a tourist trap. As we were walking up, a train started passing by.


So we stroll in and are told immediately that they closed at 2. Who closes a cafe at 2pm? So we asked where else in town we could get something to eat.

"Across the tracks at the gas station."

No problem, so we stroll back out of the cafe, slightly disappointed. The problem is that the train had hit something further up the tracks and had come to a complete stop, right astride the road to the gas station (and the TAT itself). We were stuck...



Now what to do... May as well look around. Besides, I was looking for something I had seen in other trip reports...








We wandered into the General Store that advertised themselves as having "RC Cola and Moon Pies." Maybe they also have some food. Nope, they had lots of antiques, tons of moon pies and RC Cola...





...and a few other interesting things. I momentarily considered buying this for the Mrs, but I don't think I would have survived the sh*t storm that would have generated.




We saw this mural on the back of the general store and found it rather fitting.


I turned around found what I had been looking for. The mural. It's easy to resent the train for the delay, but I would have missed this mini TAT landmark otherwise.






Whatever the train smacked into, we heard an ambulance up the track, they moved whatever they needed to and we were back on the trail after about 45 minutes delay. The rest of the day was among the hottest periods of the trip.


We stopped along some tracks to snap a couple of photos... But we couldn't wait to get moving again. Even at 100 degrees, moving even 35 mph is a great relief.


We arrived in Columbia, TN at a fairly decent hour. Found a laundromat and a Japanese eatery to take care of the last of the day's necessities.




We know that tomorrow will require a little time in the morning because the DRZ is due for an oil change and the KLR is running low.
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Rearden Steel
'09 DR-Z400S
'10 Yamaha Grizzly 700 4x4
'10 Harley Fat Boy

Eastern TAT 2011

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Old 06-19-2011, 08:10 PM   #11
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TAT Day 3

TAT Day 3 - May 31, 2011 - Columbia, Tennssee

I was keenly aware that today was an important day, but there was work to be done first. A trip to Wal-Mart to buy an oil change kit for the DRZ... and Todd needed some Rotella to fill up the KLR as well. First things first, I stopped at a garage to see if they would take the old oil out of the DRZ. No problem, so off to get supplies. I refused to buy an oil pan that I would only use once for $8, so I got a turkey baster for $2.50. Call me cheap, but the truth is it felt like less of a waste using a product that was originally intended to only be used once.



Got the oil changed and we hit Waffle House for a proper breakfast. We were getting a very late start and I feel like I am primarily to blame. Just... couldn't... get... in... gear... today.

But this was calling:


Some days on the trail are longer than others (meaning miles... and time). Today was not a day you wanted to get a late start. But once we were out there on the trails... what a day!





If you've heard that Tennessee is paving the TAT, you can believe it. We caught them in the act.


We had to stop and eye this for a couple of minutes. Thought about it, but given the weight of our luggage (and two healthy boys), we were pretty sure we would have blown our suspension.




As we moved away from Columbia, we moved into Amish country. The wheat was just about ready to be harvested and everywhere you saw the tell-tale signs of the Amish.




Again, the weather was hot, so we stopped for a breather. I didn't do it consciously, but I braked and cut the engine right in front of an Amish farm. No big deal until I realized that a barn about 30 yards from where we were had some teenage boys in there working... and you could hear that we were the topic of conversation. Not the words, but the tone and the silhouetted looks out from the barn. Still, it was a great spot to take a break.

Todd, soaking up the sun.




The Amish farms universally advertised what each farm provides to the community by way of commerce. Each farm had some variant of these simple signs posted at the end of the lane letting the world know what they can provide. I loved the simplicity. No graphics, limited color, plain boards.




The obligatory photograph of a buggy. What made this photograph interesting was that the horse insisted on making eye contact on the first exposure. As I threw the camera in my tank bag and turned to go, the owner of the buggy was emerging from a seed store and gave me the evil eye and didn't seem too pleased with my attentions to his property. But I twisted the throtle and took some satisfaction in the fact that he couldn't catch me.


Amish farm away from the main roads




Our first water crossing. If it looks like we're being particularly cautious for a rather small crossing, you are correct. I had read extensively about the "snot-slick" bottoms of these crossings. This one was rather easy as we chose to cross on the river stones to the right. No problem.






Today was the first time that Todd broke out his helmet cam. He recorded video and stills for part of the day each day... At first, I thought I wouldn't want one, but by the time we got to Arkansas, I would have given a toe to have one. If you ride the TAT... get one... a large memory card and an extra battery or two. Period.


We saw intermittent damge from the recent tornadoes.


This was a great day on the TAT... There were some great trails today as the roads got a tad rougher with more uphill sections.













How to put this?

There..... was an incident. The day was extremely hot and we were tearing down dirt roads in a wildlife preserve. The forest was close in on both sides, but we had seen interesting dirt formations to each side. I decided I wanted a photo in front of one of them. At this point in Tennessee, the soil in most places was a reddish orange. So I veered to the right when I saw an opening and drove through this tall grass.


Problem was... that in that tall grass was a deep rut. Some folks might call it a ditch.


The good news is that I was braking and had slowed to probably 5 mph. But at some point, physics took over and Tennessee put me down.


The very best part (if you want to use that term) is that Todd was trailing me and he just happened to have his helmet cam on recording video, so we have the entire event on video. Again - it's coming. Actually, I was lucky and I knew it. Driving through tall grass was not on my list of things "not to do," but you can be assured that I won't do it again.


After we carefully inspected the wheels and controls for damage, I'll put in just a word or two about the Suzuki DR-Z400S. It's an indestructible tank. No damage. Re-adjusted the mirrors and eventually rode off.


Finally, here's the damn picture all that trouble was endured to get. Being behind schedule as we were, this was another instance where I felt like I was keeping us from making good time. If it looks hot in this photograph, that's because the atmosphere was exploding.


Todd likes to point in photographs.


It was warm.


A second, slightly more challenging water crossing. It was wider and as slick as baby whale snot.




We got off to scout the best route across.




We eventually found a ridge to follow across just below the water surface.




Todd had a little trouble staying on the ridge and got his rear wheel caught in a stone crevice, but he eventually throttled his way out and off we went.

Late afternoon started to settle over the trail, which made for some great photographs... But don't let these peaceful scenes mislead you, we were pushing hard to get to the scheduled stop in Selmer, TN.




Any other time, we would have relished these water crossings. But as soon as I rounded the corner, I recognized this scene from countless ride reports. We needed to be very careful here... This was the worst of the snot-slick crossings.




And sure enough, out there in the middle, the stone bottom is as slick as wet glass.


While we were standing there developing a plan to get across without putting rubber skyward, these nice folks drove up. They live in the first house past the water crossing and stopped to chat with us for a few minutes. They went on and on about how they "see all you guys come through here." They couldn't help but laugh out loud as they've recounted how many people they've found fallen in this creek and the smaller one further down by their house. We asked if they had any advice for getting over it. They recommended picking the narrowest spot (a strategy we had already decided on) and then kick some gravel out in the stream to give yourself more traction. They wanted us to pass along to everyone to throw a hand up as you go by their house.
Super nice folks. We made it across just fine - and rather anti-climactically.


Late afternoon in rural Tennessee. Not bad at all.


A man with a drinking problem.


Running way behind, I think we knew that Selmer was out of the question and as the sun dipped lower, we became more willing to stop when we saw a peaceful spot here and there. I had simply let us get too far behind with the oil change and the untimely crash.




He's fine... but I like to say that here, the heat was finally getting to Todd.


I brought a small tripod from my daughter's Flip video camera to compose some simple shots on the trail.


That's a man who is just about tired.


Best shot of Todd that I've seen from our trip.


We pushed on and started thinking about stopping.


We happened to cross the Tennessee River, then back-tracked when we found a hotel on the GPS. We ended up stopping in Savannah, TN...


... and found a Mexican place for dinner.


Maybe we'll make up some time tomorrow as we cross into Mississippi.
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Old 06-19-2011, 10:59 PM   #12
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TAT Day 4

TAT Day 4 - June 1, 2011 - Savannah, TN

Our fourth day on the TAT was met with some consternation about our tread. We had noticed on the ride down from Maryland that you could almost see the tread melting away daily, if not hourly. We were probably fine for the meantime, but we were worried about Arkansas and the Ozarks. Would be we be alright? Probably. But I started calling around to see if I could lay my hands on new D606 rears for the both the DRZ and the KLR.



Meanwhile, we re-crossed the Tennessee River this morning... It was already getting hot.







Up on the bluff overlooking the river, we came across a little resort with homes lined up.


As soon as we crossed the Tennessee, we started seeing this style of bridge in some very remote areas. You have to be careful with bridges like this as the wheel planks sit higher than the rest of the bridge deck; you don't want to catch a tire on the lip.


We came across a Road Closed section, so of course we had to go in and investigate to see if we could get through.





Even here, I think we could have gotten through until the foreman told me that the state of Tennessee made them put up the washout fence all the way across the work site.


Note the washout fence that runs all the way across. That was the only reason we couldn't skip right over.


Dejected, I rolled out and routed a short detour.


Todd, riding the TAT.


Here in western Tennessee, the road is often sunk below the surrounding ground, resulting in these sometimes tall embankments of red earth.






There is striking beauty all along the trail.


A proud Southern home.


Todd sets up the helmet cam for the day.


Our last stop in Tennessee was on a bridge over a little brown creek full of cypress trees.




Last stop in Tennessee


"We're heading to Mississippi..."




What you see here is a U-turn... And we found them to be fairly common the first couple of days. The two primary issues were that a lot of roads are very small and hard to see until you're on top of them. The other issue is with the GPS coordinates themselves. I used Sam's maps to create routes from all the waypoint coordinates given in the maps (where available). The problem is that the coordinates (or the measurements given by the receiver on the ground) are not exact. Often times, the receiver would approach an intersection and the current waypoint may be 25 feet to your left, but the next waypoint is to the right. The routing software will often instruct you to turn left, go down 25 feet and pull a U-turn. It took a day or so for us to nail down the best solution to this problem. The solution is a combination of the right zoom level so that you can tell the "general direction" of the trail (not just the next waypoint) combined with a more diligent observance of your position. By the time we got through Mississippi, I think we largely had this problem solved.


Tennessee


When we crossed the line into Mississippi, there was an immediate and unmistakable change in the road surface.


Trail riding got a lot more fun in a hurry.


But we were both worried about our rear tires. So we decided to ride into Corinth where we had located at least one D606. We arrived at Lakehill Motors to find that the young man who had told us he had D606's in stock was on his second day of employment. No, there are no D606's. We had driven 20 miles off the trail to get here.

Plotting a route and slabbing it to Corinth




But after a talk with the parts guy, it turns out that he had ridden the TAT or portions of it five separate times. I told him our concerns and he showed me a off-brand tire. It was more of a 50/50 tire than the D606, but at this point, I was more concerned with getting a new tire with fresh tread than having the perfect tire. They had the right size for the KLR as well, so we both went ahead and put the new tires on.


It turns out the decision was fortuitous as the DRZ had picked up a nail that I hadn't spotted yet... It was just a matter of time until it inevitably would have been shoved into the tube and I would have been on the side of the trail. Did we have tread left? Sure. If I had more experience, I probably would have pushed on into Mississippi and Arkansas with the tire I had. But here's where my inexperience caught me out a little. I learned.

In the meantime, Lakehill Motors had a museum with a collection of old bikes. I was checking them out...


...when we had the pleasure of meeting this man, the president of Lakehill Motors who pulled us aside and gave us one of the most animated, excited recountings of his TAT trip that I've ever heard. He had apparently ridden the TAT last year in 2010 within a group of four riders.


But the most amazing thing was the fact that he rode most of the TAT on this machine... a 1965 Honda Dream 305... on THOSE tires. I wouldn't have believed it if I hadn't seen the YouTube video myself.




After we got the new tires, it was getting pretty late, so we decided to stop in Corinth. But the talk with the guys at Lake Hill really gave us a shot in the arm and we realized that we need get up earlier, ride harder and ride longer. So that's the plan for tomorrow! We kicked around the idea of getting across Mississippi in one day. We'll see.
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'09 DR-Z400S
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Eastern TAT 2011

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Old 06-19-2011, 11:20 PM   #13
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Great ride report, Im really enjoying the photos! I am in the planning stages of my TAT ride, and had made the decision to skip the Tenn portion because of all the pavement. What a mistake that would have been! Thanks for showing me what I would have missed! Ill be starting in Jellico for sure!

Brad
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Old 06-20-2011, 07:55 AM   #14
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Hi!

Great RR so far. Love the pics!

Just fyi. You do not need to use waypoints to set your track and you can put the whole TAT down....

I used this method see post #71 http://www.advrider.com/forums/showt...=225458&page=5

It does not take long to set the track and you just follow the line! Note when you open the tracks the 60CSX will ask "Follow Road?" - you actually say NO! The track is highlighted and you just follow the line If you need to detour you just aim back towards to the track

Something for the next venture

I set off mid July. Thanks for all the tips to date!
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Old 06-20-2011, 07:56 AM   #15
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TAT Day 5

TAT Day 5 - June 2, 2011 - Corinth, Mississippi

The Epic Day Across Mississippi

We decided to get an early start. The alarm went off at 5:30, we hit the Waffle House, checked oil and air pressure and slabbed it back from Corinth the 15 miles or so to the trails. We were only about 10 waypoints into Mississippi yesterday when we peeled off to go get new tires.

When we returned to the trail, it did not disappoint.


Even at this early hour, the heat settled in quickly. But no sign of rain, thank the Lord.


Once in Mississippi, you also quickly see long stretches of trail where the landscape has been devoured by kudzu.


And the earth turned an even richer shade of red.


Self portrait




It's difficult to stress how the trail changed between Tennessee and Mississippi. In TN, even the dirt roads are fairly nicely graded. Not so in MS... this is more like it!


It wasn't all rough.


What was particularly rough was the deep sand. We had seen hardly any sand in Tennessee, but now in Mississippi, you begin to encounter it here and there. I could keep up a steady 40-45 mph on the gravel. Then you would see a sand pile in the middle of the road and downshift/brake in time to not wipe out. This was the worst stretch of sand we hit; luckily, we both kept the rubber sides down.




Another road closure due to bridge replacement. This was getting annoying.




Plotting another detour.


If you don't go to church in Mississippi, you can't use the excuse that you couldn't fine one.




Todd likes to point in photographs.


Oh, here's me doing the same thing... sort of.


This was a classic "Here, hold my beer for a second..." moment.






Then we arrived in Paris and stopped at the General Store for lunch and water. As we watched the news at night, all the broadcasts were going on about "the heat wave," but when we talked to locals, they shook their head and said it wasn't anything out of the ordinary. One 7-day forecast I saw on the news had the predicted daytime highs as 99, 96, 97, 98, 98, 95, etc... you get the point. By this point in the afternoon, it had to be well over 100 degrees...




After we ate, this old girl showed a lot of interest in us. It was hot, so I offered her some water to drink out of my hand... she wasn't interested. She looked hungry, so I offered her some cheese crackers I had bought for my tank bag.


...And now I have at least one friend in Mississippi for life.


This was in the yard across the street from the Paris General Store


Back on the trail... Today was the longest ride of the trip. Before the day was over, we would cover 296 miles total, mostly on roads that looked like this... DAMN, it was fun!










Not everyone was enjoying the heat. I found this ol' boy and his herd suffering under a shade tree.


As we were tearing through the forest, we found the infamous Klim Ranch, apparently where the founders of the Klim folks keep their winter home.




The heat was starting to get to me. Actually, I was focused on a single goal... get to the Mississippi River by dark.


You don't see this in Tennessee. Mississippi ruts are not something you want to play with.






And everywhere, the kudzu dominated the landscape for long stretches.






When we hit Tillatoba, Mississippi, the trail took us right by the post office. We had been talking about posting our riding jackets and other unneeded items back to Maryland. We had worn them on the slab ride down to Jellico, but they were just being packed out every day now and served no purpose. It wasn't much, but freeing up space on the bike was a good feeling.


Funny story about this little stop. Over and over again on this trip we had people look at us, look at the bikes and walk around the back to look for a license plate. Invariably, we were asked the same question, "You didn't ride those dirt bikes all the way down here from Maryland, did you?" No less than 20 times on our trip, I started the answer the same way - "Sure did." "Where you headed?" "Oklahoma." "What the hell for?" This was followed by a description of the TransAmerica Trail, what it is and I even gave a couple people the web site URL from the sticker on the side of the DRZ.

So we had a similar exchange in the parking lot with the man who owns that white truck. By the time we had fueled up the bikes, he's been in the store and back out. So I stroll into this store. Behind the counter is a sassy 20-something obese woman with an equally obese man leaning on the counter to her right. In her most sarcastic voice and with a touch of meanness, she asks "You rode those bikes all the way from where?" Me: "Maryland." "What in the hell are you doing in Mississippi?" Her companion was staring at me in a half grin, half smirk, clearly enjoying this. Not knowing entirely what to say to smooth this out, I just smiled as big as I could, looked right at her and came back, "Well, to see you, Darlin'! How are you? See, now I can turn around and head back!" She and her companion both laughed and every hint of nastiness melted away. I told her I at least needed to know her name after coming all that way just to see her. So I paid for 4 bottles of water, re-filled my CamelBak and rode away from my Jackie forever.






As we moved further west, the change in the land was unmistakable. For days, we had seen stretches of road between mountains and hills where the stretches were longer and flatter. Now, the mountains and hills literally melted away and the farmland opened up into great, wide plains. I knew we were in the Mississippi River valley.






Then we came to a part of the ride I had been looking forward to: riding on the levees. I had never actually seen a levee and here we are pulling onto the first one of the TAT.




One failing of point-and-shoot cameras is that they don't capture depth as well as a wide angle lens on a SLR. The levee is probably 25-30 feet higher than the surrounding fields.


Being so much farther south, I noticed that the crops, particularly the corn, are a lot higher than they are farther north.


Then there was another incident..
Clicking down this dirt road in the late afternoon, I saw the sand ahead and couldn't slow down fast enough. The deep sand grabbed my front tire, turned it sharply to the left, which caused me to pull it back and attempt to correct it. That put me in wobble which was a blessing because I was able to get my speed way down before gravity put me down on the soft sand. If you're going to crash, this is the correct procedure. I laid the bike down at maybe 3 mph and the sand was so soft, it literally took me a second to realize I was on the ground. Todd rode up and asked if all was Ok and I was just laughing and told him to get out his camera and record the moment. I definitely need to improve my riding skills on sand.




Conditions at the scene of the crime.






Moving ever west, we came across the first of the rice fields. I had no idea that rice farming in Mississippi was done on such a large scale and seeing the extensive use of water was something that threw me. Everywhere are these massive rice fields with pumps constantly flooding the entire fields. The amount of water used for this type of farming is staggering to consider.




Flooded rice fields, Mississippi




Back on the levees, we were making excellent speeds and time. I could tell from the routes in the Garmin that we were getting close to the Mississippi River.




Many of the smaller rivers we were crossing in the late afternoon were clearly tributaries to Old Man River and we saw the remnants of recent floods that were now receding.




We finally came out to a main road and off to our right, we could see an elevated bridge. The Mississippi River was there and we had made plans to stop and take some photos of the river and perhaps a sign. But there were absolutely no shoulders and the jersey walls made it impossible to stop in front of a caravan of tractor trailers.

We crossed into Arkansas having missed the opportunity to record the moment - something I'm still rather bummed about. But the heat and exhaustion of the day were temporarily replaced with the exhilaration of knowing we had just ridden across the entire state of Mississippi on the TAT in a single day. By the time we arrived at our hotel in West Helena, Arkansas, we were ready for showers, some Mexican food and a cerveza.
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'09 DR-Z400S
'10 Yamaha Grizzly 700 4x4
'10 Harley Fat Boy

Eastern TAT 2011

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