2017 KTM Rally - From Slowhio to Crested Butte VIA the TAT

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by Rassilon, Oct 3, 2017.

  1. Rassilon

    Rassilon Adventurer

    Joined:
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    Dublin, OH
    This is my first attempt at a ride report, so go easy on me, and I hope some of you find it enjoyable!
    I am writing this after the trip is copmlete, without any notes, and will give my best recollection of things.

    I was joined by Philip (MX Engineer), and I will add a link to his ride report as soon as he puts it up.

    Prologue:
    At the beginning of last year (JAN 2016), I came across a poor 2013 KTM 990 Adventure Baja, whos owner only put ~4k miles on it, and never took it off pavement (heresy!!).
    I negotiated a fair deal, and found myself the new owner of a cherry 990 ADV, which I could only stare at in the garage due to the copious amounts of snow on the ground at the time.
    This wasnt my first sip of the orange kool-aid, having owned a 690 SMC (2008) in the past, but while that purchase was rather a sudden impulse, the 990 ADV was deeply researched and highly anticipated.
    After a few short trips (solo and 2-up), the 990 ADV quickly became my favorite bike.

    I heard about the yearly KTM Adventure Rider Rally on ADVRider, and the 2016 event was held in the Black Hills of South Dakota.
    After checking my schedule, I quickly signed up to attend.
    At this point, I had close to zero experience riding off pavement (a few short waddles down gravel parking lots on a street bike dont count!)

    I had such a great time at the '16 KTM Rally, and met so many hoopy froods, that I signed up for the 2017 KTM rally on the spot, which would be held at Crested Butte Colorado.

    Planning:
    After signing up for the '17 Rally, I bandied about some grand schemes about riding the TAT across half the country to reach Colorado.
    I currently live in central ohio, and Philip, being in nearby Michigan, was interested in joining in on the trip.

    We decided to meet at/near Tellico Plains TN, and start our TAT trek from there. I scoured around for some GPS tracks, and ended up with a plan based on GPSKevin's TAT track.
    Unfortunately, I was only able to get ~2 weeks vacation from work, so we set a plan to take 7 days from Tellico Plains to Crested Butte.
    This was looking pretty tight, and made a few target points and contingincy plans, but not knowing what pace we would be setting I was mostly expecting to adjust on the fly.
    As we approched ~2 weeks to departure time, another inmate, KenCM, contacted me and asked if he could join us for our adventure.
    The more the merrier!

    As Ken had made some recent trips on the TAT, he had some valuable firsthand experience. Ken took some time and put together a new GPS track, based on Sam's TAT track, with some new daily targets.
    GPS tracks and daily campsites/waypoints fixed!

    Sadly, Ken's house was directly in the path of the hurricane, and he had to abandon his plan to join us..
    Big Thanks to Ken for his help in putting together the GPS track for us, and for his advice on pacing and daily goals!

    Now with the track fixed, campsites found, and schedule set, all that was left was some bike prep.

    The basics were done: oil and filter change, clean air filter, checked brakes and clutch, and fitted new tires.
    The tires I went with were the MotoZ Tractionator Adventure rear, and a Pirelli Scorpion Rally front.

    Beyond the basics, I added a unifilter prefilter to the airbox (replaced the snorkel), with a filter skin (and spares so I could change on the fly if needed).
    I also modified the rear wheel to be tubless, using an outex kit off ebay.
    Other mods on the bike are: Rade Garage LED headlight and rally faring, Wings exhaust, KTM rally footpegs, Perfect Squeeze phone mount for GPS (using a Sony xperia Z3+ waterproof phone)
    Luggage setup is Mosko Moto Reckless 80, and a giant loop diablo tank bag.

    My riding gear ended up working great, this is what I wore:
    Shoei Hornet Helmet
    Knox defender armored compression shirt (very breathable, with really good armor including chest plate, and a bomber back protector)
    Joe rocket atomic waterproof/vented jacket (armor removed) for cool/wet weather and a Klim tactical pro jersey for hot weather.
    Revit Poseidon GTX pants (suprisingly tolerable in hot weather with all vents open)
    Alpinestars Toucan boots
    Revit Defender GTX gloves for cool/wet, and Knox Orsa MX for warm weather.

    Riding gear ready, camping gear packed, bike is set, lets go!
    (pic is not related but didnt take a pic of the bike before going..)
    fall tree.JPG


    DAY 0:
    Thursday September 7th
    I packed up the bike Wednesday night, and had to work on Thursday.
    I skipped out of work as early as I could in the afternoon, and rode from Columbus OH to Etowah TN, to meet Philip at the red roof inn.
    This was about 420 miles (avoiding freeways), and was a mostly enjoyable ride.
    I arrived at the hotel around 9PM, Philip having arrived slightly before me.
    Nothing really exciting, but the trip has begun!


    More to come soon, with our actual start of the TAT, and some pictures and videos!
    #1
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  2. Bultaco206

    Bultaco206 Back-to-back motos suck

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    :lurk
    #2
  3. powderzone

    powderzone Been here awhile

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    Awesome! Always in for an aggressive TAT run.
    #3
  4. cmcteir

    cmcteir Adventurer

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    In!

    Sent from my SM-G930F using Tapatalk
    #4
  5. Rassilon

    Rassilon Adventurer

    Joined:
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    Dublin, OH
    Sorry for the delay!

    Now we start the real trip!

    DAY 1:
    Friday September 8th
    Etowah, TN -> Scottsboro, AL

    I should mention again here that I was very much a novice off road rider at the beginning of this trip. This will soon become apparent..

    We woke up early Friday morning, ready to hit the trails.
    When I say "ready" its more mental than actual, as we ended up spending a bit of time dicking around with the communications systems..
    I have a Cardo Packtalk, and Philip has a Sena 20s. We did some reseach ahead of time, and found that, theoretically, it is possible to connect the two competing devices for intercom.
    And, eventually, this is the case, but it was not straightforward, and resulted in an open mic all the time.
    But, we had comms, and could thus berate and insult each other while riding!

    Now that we hit the road, I discovered that a new farkle I added was immediately useful: the Cyclops TPMS (tire pressure monitor).
    As soon as we pulled out of the hotel, it let me know my rear tire was very low.
    This will turn out to be a theme for my trip..

    2 weeks prior to leaving, when I put on new tires, I converted the rear wheel to be tubless. I bought an "Outex" kit off ebay, and followed some advice here regarding sealing the spoke nipples with various glues and goops.
    The rear tire held air perfectly, not losing any PSI for the nearly 2 weeks before the trip, and all looked good.

    When we pulled into a gas station to gas up, and check my tire, it seemed like just the valve stem was loose. Tightened up the valve stem, made sure the lock nut was good and snug, and aired up.
    No problem! (not the case unfortunately..)

    Finally, off we go!

    The first part of the day was to head from Etowah to Tellico Plains, to get on the "official/original" start point of the TAT.
    This turned out to be a very enjoyable winding mountain road, with a great view of the Smokey Mountains. (complete with the the "smokey" fog in the hills!)

    Hitting Tellico Plains, we turned off onto a small gravel road. Witt road?! Look Ma, I'm on the TAT!
    I still dont have my "dirt legs", so I'm riding a bit slow, and we soon start coming up to some water crossings.
    Water crossings held (and still hold) a certain amount of trepidation for me..

    The first water crossing turned out be be a non-event. Short and shallow, you almost dont even notice it.
    The 2nd crossing was a bit more "serious". A fairly sharp drop down into it, and it is fairly deep and long. The drop down was a bit unnerving, but I forged on, and made it through with only a bit of shouting.
    We remarked that the 3rd crossing was "mom's minivan" spec!

    On to the 4th crossing.
    I had taken a look at a video or two at this crossing, and saw some suggestions to keep to the right. Now, the right side has some deep rutted looking rocks. The left side looks clear.
    Philip charged ahead, and took the left side. All looked good, until the end, where he hit a large deep hole. But Philip is a pro, and he throttled up and out without much to-do.
    I decided to try the right side, and follow the rut in the rock across.. Was going fine until about 2/3 of the way across. Apparently that rock is realllllyy slippery, and my rear wheel slipped out and jumped out of the rut. I went down quickly, and fairly hard. Thankfully no injury (going slow, and good gear!).
    Philip helped me right the bike, and we pushed/powered out through the last bit of water and slippery rocks.
    Checking the bike out, everything seemed OK except that the right side crash bar was bent, and pushed back towards the rear of the bike. This initially seemed like no big deal, but my shin would hit the bar when using the rear brake.. Gotta do something about that...
    - This is at about 0:50 sec in the below video -

    So I picked my self up, and jumped back on.
    From here out, we were on some great forest service roads. Lots of climbing, decending, and winding dirt/gravel roads.
    I was still feeling a bit hesitant, particularly in the sharper turns and switchbacks, but was loosening up and having fun.

    BUT, we were in the middle of nowhere, and getting hungry.
    We kept moving, but started looking out for potential places to get some food. We came across a likely spot that was advertising "hot beer and bad service". Perfect!
    Pulling up the front of the building, we parked our bikes and were climing off when a cute young woman poked her head out the window and shouted "dont block my drivethrough!"
    hah. We moved the bikes down a bit, and wandered into the place. "what do you have thats edible?" we asked. And got a kind of blank stare..
    "some snacks and chips" was all they had. no actual food..
    Oh well, theres another place just up the road, so we head that way and grab some BBQ sandwiches.

    It is here that Philip remarks on how crappy his "stepped" rear brake tip is. I suggest augmenting it with some local materials, and off he goes with a few flat rocks and my roll of duck tape.
    The end result is some excellent ghetto engineering, which lasted the entirety of our trip and was by all reports a great success.

    It is also here that I notice my tire is leaking air again. After some examination, there is a small leak from one of the spoke nipples. The one at the gap/join of the sealing tape. Clearly the added glue/goop was not sufficient.
    Well, its slow enough I can keep going for the day and see if I cant repair it at camp tonight..

    While I'm messing with my tire, Philip realizes his rear tire is low as well. Puncture! A tiny pointy rock somehow managed to dodge all the knobs on his rear tire and punch right through the carcass.
    Out comes the plug kit, and a short time later we are back on the trail.

    The reset of the day is more winding forest service roads, with a great view of a great many trees.

    Here is a video of the day's highlights:


    Some time later, as our gas levels steadily dwindle, and no sign of civilization, we jump off the trail and head for a town for gas.
    It ends up being a fair bit off the track, and to make up time we hit some pavement to get back to where we need to be for the day.

    Rolling up into Scottsboro, Alabama, we find a camp site. It was rather ridiculously expensive, at $40 for the night.. It was an RV site, so had all the hook ups we didnt need, but the "tent" sites were $17 PER TENT, so it was a bit of a wash.
    Oh well, we had a nice view of the lake so we took it and got set up.

    Campsite:
    IMG_0529.JPG

    After getting camp setup, I went to take a look at my crashbar and leaking rear tire.
    The crash bar was bent enough that the front of it was hitting the fairing above the gas tank on the 990, so we used some precision instruments (the open end of the steel tubes/pipes on the picnic table) to bend it back into shape.
    Not perfect, but we got it back on, and my shin no longer hit the bar when going for the rear brake. Success!

    Less successful was my rear wheel.
    I reconfirmed the spot of the leak, cleaned it up, and tried to seal the spoke nipple with JB weld. I think it helped, but I still had a slow leak from that spot that plagued the rest of our trip. It was manageable though, as I only needed to fill up a few times per day (after lunch and at each gas stop). I was very happy to have the TPMS to keep a close eye on this!

    After a nice fire and dinner, it was off to bed, looking forward to the next day!
    #5
  6. Rassilon

    Rassilon Adventurer

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    Aspect ratio for the video is a bit messed up..
    I just got a new gopro session 5, and this was the first time using it.. I thought "auto orientation" setting meant i could rotate 90 deg, but turns out its only up/down.. I cropped and rotated it make it better, but im a novice at video editing too. Let me know how it looks, as i still have to finish editing the rest of the days videos.
    #6
  7. bobw

    bobw Harden the phuck up

    Joined:
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    This is an impressive ride and more so as your first off road experience. Video is fine, don't take the fun out of it by trying too hard to make it "acceptable", I'm a total Luddite so you're light years ahead of my old hide.

    Cheers
    #7
  8. kirk824

    kirk824 Adventurer

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    looking good so far! I'm always in for a ride report from a fellow central Ohioan. :clap
    #8
  9. MX Engineer

    MX Engineer MX Racer

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    Rassilon is doing his report day-by-day. I am going to wait with my lumped up version until he finishes, else it is going to spoil his story. :-)
    #9
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  10. Rassilon

    Rassilon Adventurer

    Joined:
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    77
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    Dublin, OH
    Thanks for the comments guys!
    This trip isnt strictly my "first" off road experience. I went on a few day trips last year on gravel forest service roads, and joined the off-road class sessions at the KTM rally in south dakota.
    But this is certainly my most significant trip, and increased my experience more than 10 fold!
    #10
  11. Rassilon

    Rassilon Adventurer

    Joined:
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    DAY 2:
    Saturday September 9th
    Scottsboro, AL -> West Helena, AR

    Woke up at around 6AM with the coming of dawn, and started to break down camp.
    With everything packed away, time to take a look at my rear wheel and get aired up and ready to go.
    Sadly it was clear that there was still a small leak at the same spoke nipple, even with a coating of JB weld. Pressurized air can be persistent and pesky, and will find any pathway to escape..

    After airing up the tire, I prepared my gourmet breakfast (instant oatmeal), and finished getting ready to go. Day 2 of the TAT, here we come!

    Except, wait.. Now Philip has noticed something amiss on his 1190.. The chain seems extremely loose..
    Simple fix, right! We are both well prepared with tools to do all but the most major work on our bikes, so out comes the tool bag, and chain is adjusted! No problem!
    (foreshadowing for: "big problem")

    We get on the road a bit later than we hoped, but we're moving now.
    Today's track has a lot more pavement than the first day, but it is all back roads, and quite enjoyable.
    Our path for the day has us going through/between Alabama, Tennessee, Mississippi, and finally Arkansas.

    Other than my need to top off the tire a few times throughout the day, and a few side-eyed looks at Philip's chain, everything is working well!

    Most of the morning is a series of paved winding back roads. Scenery is nice, and the roads are fun! Along one road, the GPS tracks show a turn to the left, but we miss it, as it looked like a private subdivision..
    Curiosity something something something... So we turn back to check it out. Turns out to be a public road, winding through a subdivision for the filthy rich. Mansions in the middle of nowhere for that breed of wealth that needs to have neighbors?

    A short time later, we come to some more dirt. Alright, thats more like it! Its a wide road made of hard packed red dirt, and goes up and down over some big hills, but is mostly straight.
    After a while, the dirt road dumps us out onto some more pavement, and we head through a small town along a river.

    Going through the town, as we approach the west side, we hit one of the most unusual and interesting roads of the trip.
    The road starts out paved, and as we go around a turn it is like we took a detour onto Laguna Seca.
    Coming around the corner, the road suddenly and steeply drops down a hill, and has a sharp right hand turn at the bottom, rather like the famed corkscrew.
    After this surprising bit of fun, the pavement ends and we are back on the dirt. But the fun isnt over!
    The road snakes around, going from steep uphill climb, to sharp turn, to another steep dropoff with a sharp turn at the bottom.
    As these continued, I hit record on the gopro:


    The video doesnt capture the height and steepness of these hills, but they were impressive.
    Somehow, there seemed to be houses here. people actually live here? Can they get out if it snows??

    Once we get out of the corkscrews, we are back on some flowing gravel roads. I see a fox lurking at the side of the road, but thankfully she decides not to jump out in front.
    I recall the rule when an animal jumps in your path: "if you can eat it in one sitting, dont try to avoid it". I didnt have to find out what fox tastes like this time.

    Back onto the pavement, and I have a closer encounter with the local fauna. A deer, and this one jumps across the road! Cant eat this one in one go, but had enough room to brake and avoid. Closer than I would have liked though!

    All the excitement seems to have passed, and we roll on towards our target for the night.
    Pulling into a national forest near West Helena, AR, we find a nice secluded camp site and settled in.
    #11
  12. Rips Millar

    Rips Millar capt. mediocre

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    Im in
    #12
  13. Rassilon

    Rassilon Adventurer

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    DAY 3:
    Sunday September 10th
    West Helena AR -> TAT Shak, AR

    Today sees us up around dawn again, and I follow a routine which is becoming familiar (yet no less annoying): Pack up camp, munch on some breakfast, then fill the rear tire with air before setting off.
    The road back out of the national forest is paved, but nice and curvy. Once we get through town, we are back out on dirt and gravel roads.
    Conditions are good, roads are dry, sky is clear. This is fun! After a short time, we come across one of the famous TAT landmarks: the sign in book in Trenton AR! We really are on the TAT!

    We pull off to check it out, sign the book, and take a few memorial snaps:
    IMG_0531.JPG

    IMG_0530.JPG
    I think Philip is trying to avoid the jail... :D

    We hit the road again, and are on dirt farm roads going across Arkansas. We ride for a few more hours, and time for some more "adventure"!
    The road we are rolling down is generally good condition. Hard pack dirt with some gravel over top. But it is clear that these roads go through some areas of wetlands.
    At a few occasions, the otherwise dry road has some large muddy pools of water stretching across. Most of them have plenty of dry space on either side that we are able to easily circumvent the mud puddles.

    And then.. The next mud puddle is much larger than any of the previous, and spans the entire road. Being very muddy, its hard to tell how deep it may be, or whether there are any serious ruts under the brown water and mud.
    Before I tell you what happens next, I should preface this with an experience I had about a year ago.

    At last year's (2016) KTM Rally, in South Dakota, I joined the off road riding classroom sessions, taught by Llewelyn Pavey (smashing chap!).
    On the third and final class, the "advanced" session, young Mr. Pavey took us on a quite challenging (by my inexperienced standards) group ride, to put into practice some of the skills we had been learning.
    At one point, our trail came to some large muddy puddles across the path. At one, which was big enough that there was not much room to go around, I made the decision to go straight through it.
    There was a tire track going in, and a tire track coming out, so it has to be possible, right??
    I stood up on the pegs, gave a bit of gas, and plowed right in. No problem!
    Er, wait. Problem.
    About halfway in, invisible under the muddy water, there was a large deep hole. so deep the front wheel of my 990 went straight into it, and then stopped. Physics being a bitch and all meant that I kept going over the front of the bike into the mud.

    This experience was vivid in my mind as I considered today's large muddy pool of water.

    There was a bit of a path off to the left, and Philip when for it. He made it! No problem!
    I followed after Philip, and tried to take the same line, but something kicked my bike to the side just a bit. Maybe a rock or rut or deeper bit of gravel.. Ordinarily this would be no problem. I may be a novice off road rider, but I feel I am improving steadily.
    The new line I found myself on aimed straight at a fairly deep muddy rut. Not enough time/space or traction to avoid it, so I shifted my weight to the back of the bike, rolled on the throttle and rode it out.
    Great success! (as long as the measure of success is in milliseconds...)
    I cleared the deep rut and was eying my line to clear the mud puddle and get back towards the middle/right of the road.
    Unfortunately, upon clearing the deep rut, the ground beneath me suddenly became DEEP SWAMP. My heavy, loaded, 990 promptly sunk and pitched me off the side.

    IMG_0532.JPG

    IMG_0533.JPG
    Yeah, thats no good, and is gonna be a pain in the a** to get out....


    We dug out a tow rope, and were getting prepared to try and extract my bike from its swampy resting place, when a couple in a pickup truck drove by. "You boys alright?" they asked.
    I was entirely unhurt, so in that sense, yes, we were alright.
    They offered their help, and we tied the tow rope from the front wheel of my 990 to the tow hook on the front of their pickup.
    With the truck providing some pulling power, Philip and I got along side the bike and steadied it as we pulled her out of the mud.
    That would have been hard work with only 2 people-power, instead of several hundred horse-power.

    Bike is clear and back on dry land, muddy as hell, but otherwise none the worse for wear.
    I took a few minutes to remove the weeds and twigs and such, scrape off as much mud as I could, and checked the bike over. A short time later and we were back on the road.

    I think the ADV flow chart goes something like this: Did something go wrong? YES. Did you die? NO. = You had a good adventure!

    All this adventuring makes a man hungry. Slim pickings out here, so we eyed some gas stations at a small town for food.
    Philip has been obsessing over "Doller General", having never encounted (or at least never entered) them before, and decides that they must have something to eat.
    I'm pretty skeptical about this, having a good idea of what they may have, so I wait in the parking lot while he scouts it out.
    He returns shortly sounding and looking disappointed and disgusted. Off to the gas station for their gourmet eats!
    #13
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  14. Rassilon

    Rassilon Adventurer

    Joined:
    Sep 21, 2015
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    Dublin, OH
    DAY 3 Continued:

    I have to share a brief encounters we had with one of the locals:

    At the gas station, after finishing "lunch", I start my "top off the rear tire" dance.
    An old guy in a truck pulls in for gas, and sees me messing around. He wanders over and remarks that he used to have a dirt bike, an old Honda 300cc. He says he got rid of it 'cause it got too heavy to pick up..
    I kinda looked at my 990, thought about my recent trip through the swamp, and kind of laughed. We chatted for a while, and he told us a bunch of stories. Really jolly, nice old guy.
    After he finishes, and wishes us good travels, he stops and comes back over. He pulled out a $20 bill, and gave it to us in thanks for listening to his stories!

    old guy in AR.JPG

    The rest of the day has us following dirt and gravel farm roads and national park and wildlife preserve roads.
    Some of the gravel is getting very deep, and I have a few "oh shit!" moments as the bike wobbles around at some particularly deep and/or rutted gravel.
    I manage to keep calm, and ride through them OK.
    (When I say "keep calm", I really mean that I keep my reactions calm.. Inside my mind is somewhat less calm.)

    The majority of the day was on dirt, but as evening approaches we are kicked out onto some pavement. A short time later, and what do we see?

    Its the TAT Shak! Yay!
    We pull in to the TAT Shak's covered bike parking. This is better than a hotel! Pete, the owner, saw our headlights and he popped down on his dirt bike to say "hi".
    Pete is a great guy, and its awesome that he provides and maintains the Shak.

    IMG_0534.JPG

    IMG_0539.JPG
    Gotta mind the Rules!

    After dinner and a well needed shower, we hit the sack.
    #14
  15. MX Engineer

    MX Engineer MX Racer

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    The white bearded guy at the gas station handed us the $20 and said something like: "Here, have a nice dinner tonight on this old Arkansas boy".

    We accepted, but with the limited choice of TAT restaurants, and with us planning to eat our campers' food at the TAT Shak, we ended up adding the $20 to the donation jar at the TAT Shak. Pete, the TAT Shak owner, will have that gourmet dinner instead.
    #15
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  16. motosx

    motosx n00b

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    7
    great start..enjoy and be safe
    #16
  17. BLucare

    BLucare Ambitious, but rubbish

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    Good stuff so far :thumb I'm curious about your GPS setup. Which mapping app are you using?
    #17
  18. Rassilon

    Rassilon Adventurer

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    Thanks!

    I’m using osmand+, with offline maps downloaded for all the states we would be going through.
    I also have Locus maps, but havent really gotten to grips with it.
    For point to point guidance (on road, such as finding a nearby gas station or etc) i use “here we go” app. I don’t like its route generation algorithm as much as google sometimes though..

    The phone is a Sony Xperia z3+, with no SIM card. (Everything is offline)
    It is IP67 (or 68?) dust and water resistant rated, so I don’t need to worry about water. It can pick up false inputs when there is a large drop of water on the screen, but it seems better than many other phones..
    #18
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  19. BLucare

    BLucare Ambitious, but rubbish

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    I was hoping you'd say that! I also use OsmAnd+ with a Kyocera Brigadier (a similar indestructible phone) for navigating roads and GPX tracks.

    How has OsmAnd worked for the TAT? Pretty well, I'm guessing, if you're still using it?
    #19
  20. Rassilon

    Rassilon Adventurer

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    Location:
    Dublin, OH
    osmand is great for following a gpx track (as long as the track is good!), and worked perfectly on the TAT for us. Any wrong turns were purely our fault :p

    The biggest issue ive had in the past is when making a track in furkot, and not checking the track closely before exporting.
    I've found in furkot, it will only put down a relatively few points along the roads, and then straight-line between those points.. For a full days ride in one track, this can lead to the gpx track departing pretty far from the actual roads, and osmand does some weird crap to "reroute" to it..
    (maybe this is user error, but ive found i need to go through the entire route in furkot and snap it back to the roads where it goes astray before saving it..)
    #20
    BLucare likes this.