GNATSASSers on the western TAT
Like so many people, I'm not the best about documenting a good ride. I've had people ask me about our ride and I keep telling them to wait for the report. I'd like to sit down and put it all down in a couple of hours, but those couple of hours never happen. So I'll start here and try to do a little each day until it is done. Hopefully, my riding partners will offer some contributions to this ride report. This isn't supposed to be my ride report, but one for the group.
The one common thing that we all had on this ride was having attended GNATSASS each year. It is were we all got to know each other. GNATSASS has become one of the premier dual-sport riding events in North America. If Bert did not put this event on, then this ride would not have taken place as it did.
Sometime in the latter part of the last century, I'd heard people mention a rider in Utah who had come up with a way to ride his BMW motorcycle from the Utah/Colorado border, to the Pacific Ocean, primarily all on dirt. Ever since I'd started riding motorcycles a number of years previous, I'd always enjoyed getting from one place to another on back roads, preferably ones with a dirt surface instead of asphalt. The idea of traveling this distance on dirt really intrigued me. As I asked around about this dirt trail, there were a few others that had heard this legend, but there was nobody who could tell me any more about it.
Fast forward to the summer of 2000. I had been invited to go on the 2nd annual Big Cat ride. The ride was designed to encourage people who owned the larger dual-sport, enduro, adventure, or whatever you wanted to call them bikes, to get off of the tarmac and dirty their bikes a little. There was a requirement that all bike on the ride were to have a minimum displacement of 650 cc. My biggest bike was a Honda Transalp (600 cc). I figured that since my bike looked as big as the BMW Funduro 650 and not enough people even knew what a Transalp was, I'd be safe and not denied entry at the ride.
Everything was going fine and nobody had questioned my “small” bike, until one rider pulled my aside and asked how I got my 587 cc bike to pass the displacement rule. I couldn't believe it! Not only did this guy know what a Transalp was, he even knew the exact engine displacement. We talked for a while and this guy was full of knowledge about riding the dirt roads and trails of the west. Mention an area to him and he could tell you about riding there. He had probably been there and ridden it. I asked him if he had heard of this trail from the Colorado border to the ocean. Not only had he heard about it, he was the legendary person that I'd been hearing about who had linked this trail together! I couldn't believe that I was finally able to gain some real knowledge about this route. Dick Brass then invited me out to his camper and pulled out his filing system of maps and started sharing with me how he developed this route. I'd never seen such an extensive map collection, let alone one that traveled everywhere with its owner. We stayed up way past midnight looking at this maps and him relating his trail wisdom to me. Finally it hit me, this was the same Dick Brass who was responsible for what is undoubtedly one of the more famous off-road trails in the area, the 5 Miles of Hell trail. This guy was a serious rider and I might be able to learn a little from what he knew. Dick mentioned that he had given his maps and route knowledge to a guy who had put together a route that stuck mostly to dirt, that went from somewhere in Tennessee to the Moab, Utah area. With Dick's routing, the complete trail was now referred to as the Trans-America Trail.
Living and riding in Utah and the surrounding areas has never left me with a shortage of great places to explore on the bike. Now that I knew that I could purchase a map and roll chart to help me ride the route that I'd been hearing about for years, the sense of urgency just wasn't there. However the TAT stayed in my mind. It seemed as if every year at the big Moto Guzzi gathering in Baker, NV., I'd come into contact with a rider passing through on the TAT. In May 2008 at the same event, one of the TAT riders was an old acquainted from at least 10 years previous.
During the spring of 2009, BMW/Triumph Motorcycles of Salt Lake sent out an announcement that they were hosting a filmmaker who had ridden the TAT and had documented it with video and still photos. The dealership was hosting the filmmaker who would be presenting a slide show of his ride. I invited a few friends to meet me there and we had a nice evening of food, drink, motorcycle talk, and the TAT slide show Bob said that the riding documented in the slide show might be real interesting to a rider from New Jersey, but that we were used to riding terrain such as the TAT, every time we went riding. Good point. I guess we do have it pretty good around here. Again, the slide show was nice, but I didn't have a burning desire to ride the TAT.
Patrol Dog had evidently felt differently and was feeling a sense of urgency to ride part of the TAT. I soon had an email from him wanting to know when I would do part of the ride with him. I hadn't even given much thought to riding a section of the trail this year, but if Patrol Dog needed someone to ride with him, I guess I could give it a try. Getting away for a few weeks to ride the entire length of the TAT was not a possibility for me this year. We decided on riding the Utah and Nevada section of the trail. A departure date of 15 July was decided upon. Maps and roll charts were ordered. Patrol Dog would be riding a Suzuki DR650 and I decided to ride a Suzuki DRZ400E that had been converted to street legal.
There wasn't too much to do to get the DRZ ready. New rear tire, oil and filter change, valve check and adjustment and a few other minor maintenance tasks were taken care of. We had some discussion on getting a motel room each night or camping. There were pros and cons to each. A motel room would allow us to carry less gear and maybe ride a little easier and faster. It would obviously cost a little more. Camping would be cheap or free but we would be packing more gear. The biggest advantage to camping was that we would have more flexibility. We wouldn't have the constraints of stopping only where there was a motel. We decided to pack our camping gear so we would have this flexibility Even though I had a hard luggage option already for the bike as well as a pair of Ortlieb dry bag soft luggage, I opted for one of the Giant Loop bag systems. I didn't have the time to fabricate something to hold the Ortlieb system off of the exhaust. The Giant Loop system went on well and held everything perfectly.
We departed northern Utah in the early afternoon headed for Monticello, UT. and the start of the Utah roll chart for the TAT. For those not knowing what a roll chart is, it is a turn by turn mileage guide. “Go 2.3 miles and turn left at the intersection”. You get the idea. I was looking at about 310 miles of highway from my home to Monticello. The DRZ400 wasn't my first choice of bike for this stretch of pavement. The Transalp or Moto Guzzi Quota would have been better choices, but once in the dirt, I'd rather be on something smaller. I'd ridden a little highway on the DRZ but usually stuck to the dirt. Everything worked great for the ride east on Highway 40 to Duchesne, UT. I had a piece of sheep skin that I placed between me and the saddle of the Suzuki, to hopefully make things a little more comfortable. After a little lunch, we headed south on Hwy. 191 where we bought more food and fuel in Green River, UT. Further south on 191, we took a little break in Moab, UT. before continuing on
and arriving in Monticello just before dark. The 310 miles on the dirt bike had gone surprisingly well.
A web search had shown a campground/RV park in downtown Monticello that looked nice. Bar-TN is the name of the place. We were surprised when we arrived. It looked nothing like that web site. The place left a lot to be desired, but it was only one night and there was a cafe next door that was still serving. Whatever the name of the cafe was, it was a good choice.
There was a lack of trees at the campground so I set up my Hennessy Hammock using a fence post as a support on one end. The fence post wouldn't support my weight so the hammock was set up more in the style of a bivy sack.
Patrol Dog's accomodations
Campground in daylight
Breakfast the next morning was at PJ's. Another decent dining choice. After filling the fuel tanks, we started on the Utah section of the TAT.
We took a small detour to the Colorado border so we could officially be riding the width of the entire state of Utah. We didn't want to shortchange ourselves by just a mile or two.
Colorado/Utah border. My Suzuki DRZ400E and Patrol Dog's Suzuki DR650
Temperatures were warming quickly so we stopped in LaSal, Utah to hydrate. While we were there, we met a nice couple who were touring on their Suzuki Burgman 400.
They had left Virginia, ridden to San Francisco, and were now working their way back home, camping as they went.
Temperatures cooled as we left LaSal and climbed north into the LaSal mountains, the second highest range in Utah.
Here, you can barely see Patrol Dog down below.
Dropping in Moab and we were hungry for lunch and thirsty. We stopped at the Moab Diner before leaving town. Green River, Utah would be the next stop.
Shade was precious in Moab with temperatures over 100*F.
As I'd looked at the maps of the TAT, I figured that I'd ridden 60-70% of the Utah TAT section before. Never all at once, just some sections here and there. This was one of those familiar sections and it was nice to just ride without having to keep checking maps or roll charts.
We arrived in Green River around 1600 and it was hot. Probably over 100°F. I was making it a point to not check thermometers so I'd not be torturing myself with a high reading. The campground at Green River State Park was not crowded, had nice shade, great tree placement for hanging my hammock, and showers were included. Not a bad deal for $15 for both of us. The biggest surprise was looking over and seeing a couple of workers fixing a water leak. One of them looked familiar. I walked over and sure enough, it was Eugene. Eugene and I shared a couple of classes in college. He is now the Park Manager here.
Turns out that Eugene and Patrol Dog had a few common acquaintances.
Most people who are passing through Green River seem to eat at Ray's. We were no different. Good burger and cold drinks after a hot day. Upon returning to our camp, one of our camping neighbors brought us over some left over dinner that he had cooked for his family. A nice chicken dish with pineapple. I was already stuffed, but it looked good enough that I ate it. One never knows when his next decent meal could happen out here. Our neighbor was pretty proud of his cooking and told us that we were missing out by not being around the following evening. He and Patrol Dog really hit it off, and while I was enjoying the food, Patrol Dog was talking the guys ear off. All we got out of our new friend was that he drove a lawnmower for the city of Provo, UT. He knew all the specs of his lawnmower and could even tell you how much Armor-all he went through in a week polishing his mower.
With the high temperatures expected the next day again, and not a lot of shade trees or water where we would be, we got an early start.
Riding through Black Dragon canyon is always a great way to begin a day.
The wetter than normal June had left the landscape greener than it should be in July. San Rafael Swell.
Our first antelope sighting of the ride.
The DR650 feeling right at home.
We made the decision not to take any of the bypass routes in this area. It was the right thing for us and our bikes.
Obligatory shot of the Eagle Canyon bridges.
And another way to pass under Interstate 70.
A small stretch of deep sand in the San Rafael swell area that resulted in a low speed tip over was about as exciting as it got. Until I noticed that my high beam indicator light had rattled loose. No problem. I'll fix it later. A few miles later and I notice that one of the bolts holding the handlebar clamps is loose. Better stop to fix that. Good thing we did. Three of the four bolts had backed out all the way due to vibration.
This was the shadiest spot I could find to snug down loose fasteners.
Patrol Dog said he had been seeing things funny. This explained it.
Just one of many old cabins on the trail.
Fortunately, there was a little shade a few miles later when another fastener needed tightening.
Lunch in Salina, UT. at Moms Cafe. My 100 oz. water bladder was empty. I asked the waitress for a pitcher of water and she brought a small one. I dumped it into the bladder. After 3-4 pitchers of water, she was starting to question how I could be so thirsty. She really thought I was drinking it as fast as she brought it out.
We even found shade for the bikes while we dined.
Next stop, Richfield, UT. The maps and charts suggest this as a good stopping place for the day. But first, we had to find an auto parts store for spare fasteners. While I shopped in the screw and nut department, Patrol Dog was trying on hats.
Bruce is in on the report!
Mike got a little ahead of me on the report so I will try and catch up.
For those who don't know what the Gnatsass is, even though some say we are legendary, it is the Greater Nevada AdventureTouring Society Around the Silver State. The founder, Bert Fox, wanted to call attention to all the great riding possibilities around and in Nevada, so he says. I think he was just looking for excuses to go riding and lure some of his buddies in. Thanks Bert!
I need to explain about Mike. He is quick to invite people to all kinds of fun stuff. And most of the time few respond. He invited me to the Beamer dealership to see this presentation of "The Road Less Traveled."
Well I was hot to go! Then it took quite a bit to get Mike jump started. This ride was the best ride I've been on, period.
For those of you thinking of going, the anticipation and preparation are part of the fun so enjoy it.
Ok, bactracking a little to the Lasal Mountains, I knew they were there but had never been through them. I had no idea that they were basically right in the middle of the Utah desert. A cool refreshing scenic ride. If you are going to ride the TAT or a portion of it you can't go wrong riding the Utah portion.
We only stopped for lunch in Moab because we were just getting started, but this is a good place if you need tires or maintainence for your bike.
We arrived in Green River by 3:00 PM. We thought about going on further but wasn't sure where we would stay along the trail. It turned out there was a campground a few miles past Black Dragon Canyon. You would need food and water though. The mosquitoes were bad around sundown in Green River. That is probably because we were camped right on the Green River. Bug spray is a must for the trip.
Mike keeps making references to how hot is was, and it was, but is was not really noticeable while we were riding. The weather was perfect at higher evelations and just a touch warm in the lower ones. I was a little nervous when July was the only time we could get schedules to meet for the ride. After two July rides it is now my preference for the best time to go. Don't be scared of a July ride. There is not as much mud and the moon dust hasn't had a lot of time to develop.
It just after 3:00 PM when we got to Richfield. We stopped at the auto parts store for the fasteners. The hat intrigued me. (see picture above) Mike said he thought the heat was getting to me but I told him my favorite movie as a kid was the Wizard of Oz and I always liked the Tin Man.
We then stopped at a convience store and were enjoying some Gatorade. Richfield is a motel stop on the TAT. We were discussing whether to stay or continue on when this old guy with a cane came in and starting laughing at us. The guy said: "Don't you know it is 103 degrees out there?" Mike quickly repied; "Gees dude, we didn't need to know that." We decided not to stay in a place that hot and hit the trail.
I was mainly interested in riding and having fun. Mike wisely took a lot of picutures. I took a few and will get them to him so he can post a few.
I think we are caught up!
As was mentioned, the old timer told us how hot it was, and we decided to leave.
We hit a section of the Paiute ATV trail that was familiar to me.
A little water and shade felt good.
We arrived in Kanosh at just past 1800. The first stop was the Bob Nafus Sinclair station for fuel.
We decided that it was late enough in the day, that we shouldn't push on to Baker, NV. As warm as it still was, camping in Kanosh might be a better option that out in the desert where shade is much less. We asked Bob if he could suggest a place to camp. He offered his backyard. We thought that was rather generous, but didn't want to impose. He then suggested the city park. Some cities frown upon this. Bob didn't know if Kanosh would or not, but to just tell anyone that may bother us, that Bob said it was fine. Just then, the young son of the local mayor walked in. Bob tried to get permission from the mayor's son. The mayor's son said that he really didn't care where we camped. Patrol Dog and I kept eying the small motel next door. Bob claimed to be the assistant to the assistant of the assistant manager and said he could rent us a room. Another shower sounded nice so we sprung for a room. A room with one bed was $5 less than one with two beds, so I rolled my sleeping bag out on the floor to save $5.
Next, we needed food. Bob asked the next customer who walked in, how late the grocery store was open. 1830 was the answer. It was now 1840. There was a gas station that had fried chicken in Meadow, about 7 miles away. We were contemplating what to do when Bob mentioned that he had some burritos in a freezer out in the shop. Upon checking out the assortment of freezers and coolers, we found this place to be a culinary delight. I immediately picked a frozen burrito as well as a personal size frozen pizza. Some cold drinks and an ice cream. This was all we needed.
Bob and Patrol Dog making dinner plans.
Bob shared stories of some of the many TAT riders that he sees. Most riders have to stop here since there is not gas until Baker, NV.
Notice the bag of Cheetos on the counter.
As we would find out later in the ride, some people can live off of Cheetos and Diet Coke.
Keep it coming :D
Looking good...and looking forward to more!
Thanks for taking the time to take us along:deal
Enjoying the rr so far
Keep it coming. I am planning on possibly doing the western tat from Moab on
West with a xr600r I have staged in Colorado. I'm looking forward to a recent accounting of your experiences on that section of the trail. Myself and two buddies did Memphis to Moab last August/sept and it was a blast.
Am I going to have to defend myself about the Cheetos?
All right.... now I know someone is following this ride besides Quota and myself. Sounds like someone would like a little information and inspiration about riding the trail.....not reading for the pure entertainment.
I would like to back up just a bit. A ways back Quota talked about a tip over. "A small stretch of sand in the San Rafel Swell area that resulted in a low speed tip over was about as exciting as it gets." So... gun 4 hire.... get out your TAT map # 5 for Utah. This small stretch of sand is about one mile in length. It is located in the middle of the Dual Sport Bypass. I quote the map. "If you are on a big heavy bike you should take this bypass. This will avoid very deep sand, big rocks, and a nasty uphill climb. Get on I-70 and head west."
The thought of getting on the interstate just doesn't sound good. I remember pressing Quota for a conversation about the bypass. He said; "I don't see any reason to take the bypass, do you?" Well, as you can see by the pictures, I am not a young man. I didn't want to be a Wuss. There are no Wusseys allowed on the trail. I had to think quick. "No, I don't have any reason. I just wanted to give you a chance to back out."
The reality is Quota and I are both the kind of riders that if you tell us we probably shouldn't go there we want to go and find out why. I can almost feel your smiles as you read this because many of you are the same way. It has probably got you into some trouble over the years.
I am riding a Suzuki DR 650. This is not a light bike by any stretch of the imagination, especially after the gear is loaded. I call the sand "Sugar Sand." It makes me think of what it would be like to ride through just really deep sugar...sugar with no bottom. I made it through here fine. I didn't go down until we got to the Nevada bypass. I've hear stories about KLR's making it through so an XR 600 R would be a great machine.
The Dual Sport Bypass and the Black Dragon Canyon are the only truly technical portions of the Utah TAT. If you have never ridden sand, you could have some trouble. If you have never ridden rocks, you for sure will have some trouble. I give this analogy. Rate yourself on a scale of one to ten, one being a beginner rider and ten being the rider that you would hope to become. If you are a five or above, go for it. If you don't try the sand, you may never know what it was like.
Now this is just one rider's opinion. This is an open forum so if you agree or disagree feel free to chime in.
Ok... so we arrived early in Richfield. Since it is July and the days are long we had plenty of time to ride on. The TAT shares the Paiute ATV Trail up over the mountain and down into Kanosh. The Paiute Trail is a network of trails a couple of hundred miles long. People come from all over the west to ride it. You can ride from town to different town for a week getting food gas and motel along the way. You can even ride in the towns down the back streets and not need a street legal machine.
So anyway.... the atvs berm up much of the trail. This makes it so you can take a motorcycle fast through the corners without much worry about sliding off. It is twisty, and there is enough water and washout ruts to make it fun. If you are sitting at home and reading this and haven't been riding for a while just remember... if you start riding again you might reverse that aging process.
Now Kanosh is not the designated stop for a motel but we were ahead of schedule and it worked out well. You have read ride reports so know by now that part of the fun is meeting people along the trail. Bob Nafus is one of those people. He is just an interesting great guy. We got everything we needed from him (including Cheetos, the universal food) at a reasonable price and really enjoyed the conversations. When you pass through stop and meet him and say hi. Just tell him you are a TAT rider and he will already know a lot about you.
Quota is a shutterbug. I have to remember not to take any clothes off around him. A couple of pictures back there is one not so flattering.... sorry... Quota is posting the pictures....Would it help to say I have lost 15 pounds since that picture?
Hang in there to learn more about the Cheetos and Diet Coke. Two more buddies join us in Nevada.
Klim riding gear, but too cheap to spring for your own bed at $5 ??:hack
Now wait a minute slim...
That's me.... Patrol Dog with the Klim stuff on... Quota is pictured on about the third picture of this thread with me at the Colorado border.
Quota is the one that didn't want to spring for the extra five bucks. Turns out he sleeps just as well on the cold hard ground as in a bed.
The best way to describe my cheapness is I will usually go for the bigger bag of Cheetos because it is a much better buy.
I bought the Klim gear just for this trip. I was worried about the heat. The gear is called the Mojave. The shirt and pants are vented quite well. I am happy with them so far. :jkam
Good thing I saved the $5. I'd really be needing it later.
Great RR! Thanks!
When we woke the next morning, we were ready for breakfast. Since Bob's Sinclair was not open yet, we figured we would ride to Baker for breakfast at the SilverJack Inn/Electrolux Cafe.
I'd dined here many times before, and knew that the owner, Terry, quit serving breakfast at 1000. Since we would be crossing into a new time zone, we would add an hour in our favor of getting a real breakfast.
Across the Utah desert we went. As fast as the bike would go. This is where a big bike could be fun. Something capable of running down the dirt at considerably faster than 70mph. We stopped for the obligatory photo of Crystal Peak, but kept moving. There wasn't much to see that I hadn't seen before.
My little 400 cc bike didn't have a chance of keeping up with Patrol Dog. At least I wasn't in his dust.
Western Utah photos:
Another 30-40 miles per hour would have been fun here.
We rolled into downtown Baker with less than 5 minutes to spare before there would have been no breakfast. I'm not sure why riders spend their time eating and sleeping a few miles away in Border. Baker has so much more character. The food in Border is OK, but I've always had better in Baker. Both have 24 hour gasoline. Both have lodging. The SilverJack Inn/Electrolux Cafe has a great beverage selection. Only Baker has shade trees...
One of my favorite ride destinations. Seems like I end up here 1-2 times/every year.
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