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