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Trans-America Trail

Discussion in 'Ride Reports' started by abumuchck, Oct 24, 2012.

  1. VIDEOS of days 1-8 at bottom of post.

    Hey so I posted a for sale thread a couple months back after finishing the TAT (Trans-America Trail) and people over there wanted me to post a RR. Unfortunately, I'm lazy and too much happened to go day by day so I'm going to list some of the details that I think are important and supplement it with video.

    First off, I'm Jack, and I rode with my two buddy's from college, Ezra and Rob. Rob has lots of off-road experience (has been riding since he was little) and rode a 2011 KTM 530EXC. I had ridden on the street for five years but had pretty much no off-road experience. Last winter I went out to Brown's Camp a few times and rode my friend's KDX 200, but that's it. Ezra had ridden on the street for awhile but had never ridden off-road. Ezra and I both rode DR-Z 400Ss. Mine was an '03 and his was an '02. We were both buying bikes specifically for this trip so we figured we should get the same bike to share spares.

    We picked a somewhat arbitrary departure date of July 15th and gave ourselves 28 days to ride the whole TAT from Tellico Plains, TN to Port Orford, OR. I was pushing us to get back sooner though because I was in the middle of an engineering class and wanted to have some extra time to study for the final when we got to Portland. (I ended up with a B- after missing 3.5 weeks out of a 7 week class). Anyway, we finished the TAT in 22 days.

    On July 13th we all met at Rob's parents' house in St. Louis, MO. It was the best 'base-camp' due to Rob's dad's tool selection and it's proximity to the TAT starting point in TN. I sent my bike from Portland to St. Louis in the back of an E-350 cargo van driven by two native Portlanders heading to Kansas City to finish a PhD program in some sort of chemical engineering or something. Anyway, I found them on craigslist and paid $150. That was in the last week of June. Three weeks later, I flew to STL. Ezra was living in Denver at the time and also found a ride for his DRZ in an E series van heading to STL. He rode with his bike in the van and paid about $200. One of the biggest logistical and monetary hurdles of the TAT is getting you and your bike to the start (or home if you're not from the PNW). That's why I'm including this info.

    We spent one long and hot day finishing the prep work on the bikes then trailered them behind Rob's parents' Honda Odyssey to Tellico Plains, TN. M and C: Thanks for the garage space/tools and for driving us the 10hrs to TN!

    The TAT started off great. We took off around 9am and hit four or five water crossings by mid afternoon. It was a good warm-up day. Mostly gravel, with one 50ft section of deep sand that caught all of us off guard. But we made it through. After that first day/morning it got really boring. Tennessee and Mississippi suck. It's 80-90% pavement. I wasn't expecting that at all. Western Mississippi and Eastern Arkansas were pretty great, especially the Ozarks in Arkansas. If we had more time I would have liked to spend a day or two exploring the single track in the Ozarks. But we didn't so we stuck to the TAT which was mostly gravel forest service road. Oh, I forgot to mention this: I had a Garmin GPSMAP 76 CSX. I spent a couple weeks plotting the whole route in Basecamp. Rob and Ezra had roll chart holders. So we were going off of GPS and roll charts. Although Ezra's roll chart holder rattled apart on day 2 so it was Rob and me navigating. GPS was better than roll chart but we would have been slowed down a lot and possibly lost if we didn't have the roll charts (partly due to my lazy plotting). *Note: If you're going to plot the TAT on GPS there are a few things you should know that will save you a lot of time both on the computer and on the trail. Post if you want some tips and I can write them out later.

    Western Arkansas and Oklahoma are terrible. Hundreds of miles of dead straight gravel through corn. And it was about 105*F when we were there and there was no shade. It was hot!

    I think we made it to NM on day 8. I could be off by a day. If I were to do the TAT again I would start in New Mexico or Colorado. BUT, if I were to do the TAT for the first time, I would start at the beginning. Partly just to say you did it. We all agree on this. If you can, do the TAT from the beginning. It was boring at times, but I'm really glad we didn't skip anything. Oh, random fact: we skipped about 10mi of paved TAT to get to and from a motel but that's it. Other than those 10mi we did every mile of the trail.

    Highlights from TN to NM:

    Ezra went down a few times in the first few days. Once braking into an intersection on steep gravel, once getting caught up in the ruts on a bridge, and once into a ditch around a gravel turn. The last one was pretty deep in the MS country and some guy who was impossible to understand and with about three teeth came out of nowhere to help us pull the bike out. All three of us had hands on the bike, but we're all pretty sure we didn't do anything; the toothless guy in overalls singlehandedly lifted the 300# bike up and out of the ditch. I went down on day seven or eight. Lost the front end around a turn on gravel and low sided. No injuries for Ezra or me.

    In Western Tennessee we ended up sleeping on the picnic benches behind a church.

    We hit the worst thunder storm I have ever experienced in Eastern MS. It was dumping rain for about 6 hours, and I mean dumping. It was a wall of rain. I watched a bolt of lightning hit the pavement about ten feet from Ezra. That was pretty crazy. I thought we were somewhat protected from lighting being insulated from the bike which is a better target than a person but I was EXTREMELY wrong. We googled it the next day when we had internet and found out that rider+bike are an excellent lighting target together and that you are not insulated from the motorcycle. FYI: if there's lighting close to you, stop, squat in lightning position away from your motorcycle and wait until it passes. After 3hrs of trying to ride out the storm it was getting dark, we were cold and soaked so we decided to stop at the next town we came across. Two hours later we rode past four houses, the most we'd seen in a long time. We stopped to ask for a motel (needless to say we did not feel like camping). We knock on the first door and a late-middle aged guy opens it up, looks at the three of us soaked to the bone in full rain/riding gear, and starts uncontrollably laughing. After he brought his wife over to laugh at us with him he invited us in, threw all our wet gear in his dryer, gave us a spare change of clothes, and made us hot chocolate. Bobby and his wife ended up being incredibly hospitable and we spent the rest of the evening with them looking at pictures of Bobby noodling (catching catfish with his hands).

    Rob rode though the river bed in OK when we ran into a missing bridge. (Ezra and I went around after watching Rob struggle).

    I got the first flat of the trip on day 5 (my only flat!). Rob got a flat on day 6).

    I know the above wasn't very organized. Sorry about that. I'm going to stop writing here for now. Got to get back to homework and real work.

    Here are some highlights in video form from the first week:
    Last edited: Oct 24, 2012

    TRAIL BOSS Defiler of Threads

    Sounds pretty awesome so far...

  3. james1300

    james1300 Track School Dazed

    Excellant Post! Please tell us more!
  4. Entertaining story. Please tell us more when you have the time. The videos were worth watching as well.
  5. Can you give us more info on the missing bridge? That was kinda unexpected :p
  6. Thanks everyone. I'll keep going when I have some time.

    The missing bridge was missing. It was in the middle of OK. The entire state looks the same so I couldn't tell you where. I think we marked it on GPS but I'm way way too lazy to pull out the Garmin and find the point. But ya, we thought it would be a 30min detour which is why Rob guinea pigged it. Once he made it across and broke two spokes on an I beam the construction workers told us it was only a 3mi detour. The OK farmland (and I assume most land) is gridded in 1mi squares. We knew that but weren't thinking. So while Rob fixed his spoke on the far side of the stream Ezra and I hauled ass back to the nearest intersection and did a one mile square route (pun intended!) back to Rob on the far side. If it wasn't over 100*F we probably would have tried it with Rob but it was just too hot and Ezra and I sucked too much.

    Over the course of the trip we ran into a few road closures:

    -one downed tree in AR (that we walked under in the video)

    -one missing bridge (OK)

    -two paved roads closed due to landslides (we rode around the signs and shredded the construction)

    -one closed trail due to downed trees that we tried to ride through until I got closelined by some tree branches that were bigger and stronger than I thought. I thought I could just power through them. I was wrong. We turned around and rerouted via GPS (not a GPS guided reroute, but looking at the GPS map and routing back ourselves).

    -one closed trail that we think the forest service permanently closed and was trying to regrow. We tried to ride though the trees but it got way way too dense after about 500ft so we turned around. We know we were on the right trail but the trail must have been closed for at least two years judging by the size/extent of the regrowth.

    Does anyone know how to embed vimeo in a post?
  7. Rodeojones

    Rodeojones (Washington) City

    Great post Jack and even better videos!! Thanks for taking the time to post your ride report and can't wait for the ones to follow.

    I had to rewind the second video twice to make sure it was a cow I saw hurdling a fence...that was awesome!
  8. Looks terrific so far. Ride on...