East Texas 500
This is my first multi-day adventure and first report. Thanks in advance to all of you who have helped me prepare--knowingly or not.
Counselor1 and I are both new to adventure riding and thought the East Texas 500 would be a perfect beginner adventure ride. The ET500 is a 500 mile one-way loop running on a combination of tarmac roads, unpaved county roads, and unimproved roads through eastern Texas. The route is designed to take three days to travel, though a few hardy souls (on lightly loaded dirt bikes) have done it in as little one day. Texas is 99% private property, so it can be difficult to find dirt roads and trails that aren't gated and locked. Many thanks to the Texas Trail Riders who research and test ride the trail every year.
My load out:
Counselor and I both ride WR250R's, which are great fun to ride but don't have much space for gear. I installed Wolfman side racks and Expedition saddlebags. I also installed an aluminum machined top-rear rack made by Jared Scaggs. Counselor ran a similar setup, but used Wolfman Teton bags. In addition, I wore a small, lightly packed, backpack. The GPS you see is a Garmin Montana, which I purchased primarily because it has a large screen. I know next to nothing about it's operation but hope to become a "power user" at some point in the future. :rofl
Helmet, Gloves, Boots,
Wool Socks, Jacket, underwear,
Tee Shirt, Long Underwear, Watch Cap,
Jersey, Baseball Cap, Sandals,
Camera, Ball Cap Light, Lip Balm,
Tent & Footprint, Sleeping Bag, Ground Pad,
Lighter, Fire Starter Sticks,
Knife, Flashlight, Cup,
Food, Water, Bug Spray,
Sunscreen, Axe, Pillow, Kindle, Trash Bag,
Waterproof Matches, Utensils, Toothbrush & Paste,
Toilet Paper, Compass, Lever Soap,
Towel, Scotch Pad, Deodorant
Tire Irons, Patch Kit, 21” Tube,
Tire Pump, Spare Batteries, Copies of Instructions,
Valve Stem Tool, Duct Tape, Lubricant,
Rope 100’, Towel , Pliers,
Quick Clot, Tourniquet, Cravats x2,
Sterile Gauze 4x4’s x8, Athletic Tape, Epi Pen,
Benadryl, Ibuprofin, Eye Drops
Spare Fuel, GPS, Maps,
At least that all what I meant to bring. I had purchased a 1.75 gallon Rotopax fuel container, but had failed to order the mount. Without it, I couldn't secure the thing to my bike. Since all the legs of the trip are less than 120 miles, I decided to skip the extra fuel. This was not a good decision.:fpalm
Friday - Day 0
I loaded my bike into the truck and took it to work so I could go straight to Counselor's when I was done. We loaded his bike and drove to Livingston Lake Campground where we would stay the night and begin our ride the next day.
Counselor's bike, which he named "Yoshi", is on the left. He's made some significant changes to the bike's look: Custom paint and loads of stickers. Mine is the much more sedate bike on the right.
We had plenty of time to set up our shelters:
I set up a 15-year old tent which I used to take hiking:
This used to be a good little tent. Time has begun to take it's toll; it has a couple holes and the zippers have become stubborn. In addition, modern tents have come a long way. This tent weighs almost 9 lbs...a porker by today's standards. I may need to upgrade before too long. My sleeping bag is a $35 Coleman from Target. I compression strapped it down to fit in a dry bag. I purchased a self-inflating Therma-rest sleeping pad for the trip.
Notice the other tents in the background. These were erected by a rather large scout troop AFTER Counselor and I had chosen our site. They were a good group of kids, led by long-suffering troop leaders. They didn't make as much noise as I feared, and even provided some comic relief. After dark, one lost scout wandered into our site and asked if either of us was his dad. I was tempted to ask whether his mom lived in Salt Lake City between 1991-1994, but decided a simple "no" would be more appropriate.
Counselor's set-up was more elaborate:
I don't know if I'm sold on the idea of hammocks. I've heard some people love them. I'm may be a bit old-school, but until I'm shaped like a banana, I think I'll stick to tents. On the plus side, his hammock packs very small and goes up in seconds (Counselor literally had his hammock set up before I'd managed to stake my ground cloth). I'm told you can set this contraption up on the ground if need be.
He opted for a duvet-style down quilt instead of a traditional sleeping bag. He was a bit concerned since he hadn't yet picked up an "under quilt," and worried that he might not be warm enough (the forecast called for a nightly low of 36 degrees F). He was already struggling with a cold and didn't want it to get worse.
Should we eat twigs and berries gathered from the forest? Hell no! This is an adventure, not a health spa.
The fajita portions were huge and they sold Mexican Coke in the bottle (sweetened with sugar, not corn syrup). We were an odd looking couple; I wore jeans and the button-down oxford shirt I'd worn to work, Counselor was decked out in his bright red Klim adventure ensemble. To the good people of Livingston, TX, we may as well have been Martians.
Our bikes are still so clean!
Duly stuffed, we returned to camp, fiddled with our superfluous fire (which Counselor lit with a flint rather than with my fuel sticks--some things are a matter of form), and retired for the night.
I was anxious to begin the next day, so I popped an Ambien and read my kindle till my eyes crossed. Ah, blessed sleep! Not even bickering Boy Scouts could penetrate my chemically induced coma.
Sounds like a pretty cool ride. If I may ask, where did you get the route from? Did you map it out yourself or did you get it from TTRs? If you got it from TTRs, can you send me the website so I can look it up.
Thanks for the pm. Might have to do this in the fall.
Now we just need the rest of your ride report.
After what seemed like months of diligent planning. Friday was finally here. This was the day that we would set the world on fire and conquer the most grueling adventure known to man. Heck, the ET 500 was reported to be 90% off paved roads.
4/19 2:30 pm - Phone Rings - Shovel says, "Um, is their an alternate way to your house? I'm stuck on 45 N." "Yeah Man" I say, "Exit here, turn left there, right near the 1 eyed turtle, and you'll be here shortly."
About 3:00 Shovel shows up and we load up the rigs.
As Shovel noted, my bike is the fully sponsored rig on the left, and his is the boring, plain ordinary ride on the right.
We have essentially the same mods. Ultimate Air box, Header, Pipe, Racks, etc etc. You can see more about my bike and future adventures by checking out my website: www.adventuresofathumper.com
So, we get to our camp, set up the hammock and tent and begin our first journey. Of course, the new trusty Garmin sends us 30 miles out of the way to the fine Mexican establishment.
Once we arrived, LuLu served us well:
We ordered a mixed plate of fajitas, chicken and beef. I only had the chicken and they were damn good!
Shovel had a mexican coke, which he was really proud of
and i spilled queso on my shirt
As Shovel found out, i have a bad habit of not carrying cash on me. So he covered the campground fee's (while calling me Aligator Arms) and I picked up the tab for dinner.
Drove back to the camp ground and began to play with fire. I showed Shovel how you could light a match off your engine case - he wasn't too impressed. We fiddled around a bit and then called it a night.
It wasn't a very good night in my hammock. I wasn't really cold or hot. I just couldn't sleep. I twisted and turned, pee'd a couple of times and just laid there.
Is it tomorrow yet!
Where can I get route information for the East Texas 500?
Day 2 - Saturday
Day 1 - Saturday (whoops, I said day 2 in the title. I can't change it, so deal.)
**For those looking for gpx files for the ride, look here.
The day of our big adventure had come! I celebrated by sleeping well past day break. No alarms for me, I'm on vacation! I rolled out of my tent around 8a and found Counselor was nearly packed. He hadn't slept well in the hammock and decided to chuck it in my truck and take a tent instead. (Yes, he had both.)
To make matters worse, not sleeping well (or at all) had exacerbated his cold. He was suffering a bit and looked tired.
We took our time loading the bikes. Okay, I might have taken a bit more time, but again, I'm on vacation...
After arranging to leave the truck at Livingston Camp Ground, we headed to the place where all great adventures begin: Wal-Mart. I needed a headlamp anyway, and it's the traditional mustering area for the organized Texas Trail Riders event.
From Wal-Mart we drove a short stretch of highway 59 toward Moscow, TX, take a right on CR 62, then a dogleg right onto McSpadden Road, our first dirt road of the day. It was 11a or so. Kinda late start, but there's a learning curve to this stuff.
The weather couldn't be more perfect; low 70's and only a few wispy clouds. After several miles of dirt roads, no other vehicles, and rolling hills, we were in good spirits.
As we rode further into the back country, we came across many, many little bridges.
We came across so many bridges, in fact, that if we'd stopped to take pictures of them all, we'd still be there.
One word of caution about the bridges: You see the vertical planks running lengthwise along the bridge?
Sometimes those planks are damaged or missing altogether, creating an extremely narrow trap for your front tire. I nearly spilled it while going too fast over a bridge on day 3. Slow down for the bridges until you're sure they're in good repair.
Okay, one last bridge pic
In addition to bridges, you will see plenty of these:
But while you may have seen plenty of cows, the cows did not appear to have seen many motorcycles. Counselor and I tried not to spook the animals, but we clearly made them very nervous. At one point, we caused a mini-stampede. I've never seen a herd of cows run before.
After a run down some dirt roads, the route ran us along a stretch of paved farm road. The smooth tarmac allowed us to move at a little faster clip until...uh oh...
My "check engine" light turns on. I'm not a mechanic, what should I check? I still don't know why the light came on. I was purring along at a low rpm when it happened. Counselor had given me his old skid plate before we left on our trip. He had lined the inside of the plate with sound deadening material. The material was blocking the air holes on the front of the plate, so I used my key to punch them out.
In retrospect, I don't think that was the problem at all. If the bike was overheating, wouldn't the "engine temp" light have come instead? I think that, perhaps, with the heavy load on the bike, the engine didn't like being lugged along at 60mph in 6th gear. Perhaps I'll never really know because I turned the key and, hallelujah, no engine light--we're back in business.
As an aside, check out what Counselor found in his radiator guard:
It looked like an Egyptian Scarab! The picture doesn't do it justice; it was a beautiful shiny green little beetle. Wait, did I say little? Obviously, there are bigger beetles out there, but I'm glad I didn't take this one in the throat.
After a bit of road droning, we took a right into the Angelina National Forest.
Alright, now we're getting somewhere! Tall pines, no cars, and as an added bonus, the forest was on fire!
Not a raging forest fire, this was a controlled burn conducted by the Forest Service. It may not have been dangerous, but the smoking black forest was a striking counterpoint to the bright green ferns on the other side of the road.
Beyond the forest, we intersected the blink town (if you blink, you miss it) town of Colmesneil. On the outskirts of town (and by "outskirts" I mean "one half block from Main St) there were a few neat abandoned vehicles.
I liked how the coloring on this tractor so closely imitated my bike.
This abandoned old rig was just cool. Notice that Counselor is risking tetanus within the vehicle.
On a navigational note, those of you who download the GPX file will notice that it's broken into nine legs, three per day (1-1,1-2,1-3 and 2-1, 2-2, 2-3 and 3-1, 3-2, 3-3). I don't know what rationale was used to determine how long each leg of the journey would be. But you should know one thing: Section 1-1 is the longest section by far. It runs about 125 miles. The next longest section only runs about 70 miles. Don't think that the sections are broken down by convenience to gas, food, etc--there is clearly no correlation. They are simply chunks of the total trail-some as short as 33 miles. The only convenience stop listed in the GPX file is "Rays Pizza." I went to that waypoint. There is no such thing as Ray's Pizza, unless of course, you happen to be in Manhattan.
Not far from Colmesneil, your GPS will tell you to turn up Sandhill Road.
This is where they bury the motorcyclists who ride Sand Hill Road with 50/50 tires. I was glad to have a light bike and 90/10 tires! After a while, I kinda enjoyed the craziness of riding sand. The counterintuitive lunacy of punching it as soon as I feel out of control is exhilarating!
At Sam Rayburn Reservoir, Counselor decided to go off-roading though a public park. We left just as the sherifs arrived.
It was about 2p and we were starving. We both wanted to go to some cool hole-in-the-wall joint, but with our options limited we ended up at a Dairy Queen in Hemphill (I think).
What I do distinctly remember is that my hamburger had something inexplicably hard within the meat. So hard, in fact, that I chipped my front tooth.
The piece of front tooth. My first adventure-related injury.:clap
In the late afternoon we came upon the last section of the day, 1-3, which includes Nine Mile Road. This unimproved stretch of road was easily the most technical of the trip. It ran along the banks of the Toledo Bend Reservoir in the Sabine National Forest. The "road" was narrow an pocked with deep mud sections and standing water. Counselor and I were having such fun that we almost didn't notice the stretch of barbed wire running directly across the path.
Sorry, we didn't take a picture. We ended up driving along the fence line until we found a break. We drove across a field to rejoin Nine Mile Road. Before long, however, we were forced into a confrontation with a local landowner/foreman. The area was clearly being developed for housing and the developer didn't want folks driving through his land. He claimed the road was closed since he owned all the land abutting the national forest road.
I didn't argue with him. I played nice and dumb until he allowed us to continue to our destination. I don't know that I agree with his logic of the legality of closing a public roadway simply because he owns the land on both sides. I may have to call the Sabine County office and find out whether his closing the road was done legally. If not, my next trip loadout will include a letter from the county commissioner and some wire cutters. :evil
Bean's VIP campground is not where the GPS waypoint says it is. It's close, but no cigar. You'll have to drive around a bit. The peninsula is small, so you'll find it eventually.
My setup. Notice the beautiful reservoir beyond.
Counselor went with a tent this time, though a really small one.
Counselor's cold was really catching up with him at this point and he didn't feel like riding twelve miles to go out to dinner. Instead, he downed a NyQuil cocktail and shoe-horned himself into his mini-tent.
I really didn't feel like going out either, so I boiled a cup of water on the fire and prepared a Mountain Home freeze dried meal. Spaghetti. After ten minutes of soaking, it didn't look like spaghetti. It tasted almost, but not quite, entirely unlike spaghetti. I decided at last that it wasn't spaghetti, it was soup. Soup that was inspired by spaghetti. It turned out to be the best damned spaghetti soup I'd ever eaten.
One Ambien later I was sleeping like a man with a clear conscious.
**END of Day One**
Coming Soon - Day Two
Great report. I've ridden it twice and can't wait to do it again. I can't believe Nine Mile Road is closed, it was the highlight of the route for me. Did the folks at Bean's know of it?
Excellent report! Keep it up. :lurk
((Oh yeah, FWIW that old tractor is a Long (Romanian made) model 610 ... I spent many hours sitting on one of those growing up in East Tx. I wonder if it's the same one!))
Excellent report! Glad to see East Texas covered. :thumb
They can however, put up a NON-LOCKED fence or place a cattle guard over the road to keep livestock from getting loose. I forget the %, but if the road is traveled enough, they are not allowed to put up a fence or a cattle guard.
I wouldn't have argued with the guy either. If he kept insisting however, I would have simply told him to call the cops and then got on my bike and proceeded on my way. I would have even written down my plate number for him to give the cops. Always be very PC about everything and don't lose your cool. I have done this before, 9 - 10 times the owner does nothing and leaves you alone. 1 - 10 they call the cops, but I have never had any issues with the cops. After I tell them what I'm doing they normally start asking me questions about the trip and bike and the topic about the land owner is forgotten. So no worries.
RR is awesome. Can't wait to do this ride when I finish up this project I'm working on.
The ride begins
So the hammock wasn't working for me. I don't know why, but I didn't sleep a wink. I was out of the hammock around 7 am and promptly began to play with fire.
We weren't able to leave the camp until 9am, as we had to make arrangements for the support truck.
RustyShovel finally crawled out of his tent after 8am and slowly (i mean Slowly) began to prep for the day. I think we finally left the campground around 10.
Headed to Walmart to get a headlamp and breakfast and we were on the trail around 11-1130.
So the first leg is forever long. 100+ miles.
First we encountered the cows. They were crazy. The followed us and then ran away, then followed. The even tried to run across the field to stay with us.
Click picture for video
<a href="http://s953.photobucket.com/user/Whec716/media/ET%20500/MVI_1646_zpsf82df93f.mp4.html" target="_blank"><img src="http://i953.photobucket.com/albums/ae16/Whec716/ET%20500/th_MVI_1646_zpsf82df93f.jpg" border="0" alt=" video MVI_1646_zpsf82df93f.mp4"></a>
Then came the bridges:
The Sabine national forest was up next and as Shovel said, it was very much a contrast of life and color:
Ahhh . . . pee time:
AH, the best part of the trip. 9 mile road. Sorry I suck with the gopro, i think i only used it for 3 minutes the entire trip.
Click picture for video
Finally, the day comes to an end and it's time for this sick guy to hit the sack
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