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Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by stuntheavy, Apr 29, 2013.
Glad I found this!
New Sig line..
Great ride report! Keep up the good work.
On the backroads in the U.S. I found wifi is free at public libraries in most all the small towns. I would stop to update my ride report and charge up my laptop and batteries at small town libraries. The nice thing is that it is free and the librarians are usually very helpful setting you up in a chair or table out of the way with power outlets. Plus you don't have to worry about hanging out there. That's what it's for. Hanging out. Sometimes on couches or comfy overstuffed chairs with generally clean bathrooms. It's a nice quiet place to relax and update your ride report. And if the weather is crap it is a haven to wait out a thunderstorm or check freecampsites.net for a free camping spot nearby. As well as check wunderground.com for the latest satellite image of the weather in the area.
McDonalds is great as well. I had a top box and would just pull into the parking lot and flip up the rear box and use it as a standing desk to type up my ride reports and upload pics. You don't have to actually go into McDonalds. This worked all through out Central America as well. (in case you get the urge to head to South America)
For the first week or two it is like you're shot out of a cannon so it's harder to utilize the tentspace list since you don't have a clue where you'll be tomorrow much less three days from now. I would suggest stopping to visit fellow ADVriders who invite you for a meal or for a place to stay on this ride report. It was the highlight of my last trip. I know it's a bit of a hassle, and you have to email or PM people and wait to hear back from them. It doesn't always work out since they might be out riding. And some ADVriders can't really put you up for the night because their wives are worried about axe murderers on XRs. I stopped several times just for a meal and a beverage with a fellow ADVrider. But whether it was in the U.S. or Mexico, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Panama or Colombia, there are some GREAT folks that will be following your ride report. And believe me, people are glad to host fellow riders and hear your stories of the road and help you out with some shelter and food. They are just paying it forward for when they take off on their next adventure. I would suggest meeting as many ADVriders as possible.
After a while you'll understand how much it means to get support and advice from fellow riders when you're on the road wandering around. The best ideas for great roads, places to see, people to visit, and parts and ideas for fixing the bike came from feedback from fellow riders by keeping up a live ride report and posting pics and stories from the road. The locals know the good roads. They are better than a GPS.
Howdy all. Still alive and braapin'! Thanks for all the replies! Some great feedback.
Guess where I am?
It's been a wild couple days, to say the least. Day 3 was uneventful, just spent on the Natchez Trace. The orginal plan was to ride the Trace the entire length. As of last update, ya'll know I was having some issues with the rear sprocket. Somewhere along the line, it dawned on me as to why. I had bought the bike as a motard, and only recently had thrown on the dirt wheels. Looked briefly at the sprocket, and it had the same finish as every other el-cheap powdered steel sprocket I had ever seen... cool, right?
Wrong. Somewhere along the Trace, and in the blur of the trees, I got to thinking. Why hadn't the sprocket rusted in the morning dew? You got it... aluminum. And the hard annodize coating it has just made it *look* like a steel sprocket. Well at least I figured out why it was wearing. Whoever the previous owner was that had put an aluminum sprocket on an XRR is just foolish. Anyway, I decided to make camp at Jeff Burby (Busby? Bugsy? Who knows) Camprgound on the Trace. I noticed how bad of shape the sprocket was in and decided to make a decision.
I was A) losing interest in the Trace, and B) was going to be in a bad place, real soon had if I don't figure something out for a sprocket. I'm just over 400 miles from Tail of the Dragon. So the plan was made. I would limp it to the Dragon, and get stuck there for a few days while I wait for a new chainwheel. There are worse places to hang out and bum around.
Admittedly, I'm a bit stubborn, and a bit of an adrenaline junkie, if you haven't noticed by how I used to pay the bills. I had put it in my head that I would not use any interstates, major highways, or toll roads on this trip, and even in my current dilemma, I stuck to that notion. The Garmin Montana has so far been fantastic at obliging this, and tells me to follow the Trace down another few miles, and hop off onto some country road. When I get there, I realize there is no intersection. No exit. I'm 25 feet above the country road I need to be on.
Well, I decide it has been too long since the XRR has played in the dirt, so down the side of the overpass we go. It's extremely steep, and the grass is easily waist high. Near the bottom, I suddenly see gravel. Uhoh. There's only one reason there is gravel on the side of a overpass: Culvert. I lean back as far as I can, pressed against my dry bag, and in one fluid motion clutch it, and crack the throttle to intiate a wheelie. It was almost too little too late, as the front end had already gone off the culvert. The rear tire bit just enough to loft the front end slightly. Thankfully, the Richocet skidplate took a hit, but slid on over the concrete culvert. Once the spinning rear tire hit the concrete edge, it pivoted the front end skyward just enough to keep the bike from doing one massive endo.
That was exciting. A quick inspection of the skid plate, and away we go. It had been too long since I had an adrenaline rush, and it was much welcomed! Soon I found myself bee-lining toward the Dragon. I figured I would stop at any Honda shops or aftermarket bike shops along the way, and see if they had a sprocket. 4 or 5 stopes later: No bueno. About 110 Miles out I felt my first skip on the sprocket while trying to pass a car. All you dirt riders, or people who have had less than stellar bikes, know that feeling. I eased off. That was it. The speed limit or less would do, and I started taking off from
stoplights in a manner that even big rigs were pulling away from me. I think Miss Daisy may have even told me I was "Number 1" with a hand gesture.
I stumbled into Snead, Alabama, and decided it was time for food. I hadn't eaten since the previous night and found what seemed to be the only non-chain resturant in town, simply named "Cafe". As I walk in, I noticed two things. 1), It's a country buffest. Interesting concept. But it all looks good. 2), The place is packed. I could hear people carrying on before I even opened the door. Once inside, nearly every soul in the place stopped eating, turned, and looked to see who had come in. Looking something like a mix between G.I. Joe, and a lumpy red Power Ranger I guess I stood out a bit.
A couple of the old timers seemed to be more interested in the gear I was wearing than their lunch at this point, but the waitress was friendly enough, and the food was home cooked, so I had no problem getting my money's worth.
Back on the road, Next thing I know I'm about 125 miles out from the Dragon. Skip....skip...skip. More and more frequently, I'm noticing the chain is losing traction on the sprocket. Takeoffs, Steep uphill grades, and even engine braking will make it jump. Not good. Scenes of throwing the chain, and sending it through the engine case run through my mind (been there, done that).
110 Miles out it is skipping badly. 65mph is no longer possible. I tone it down to 35 and become a rolling traffic jam. I'm looking for Honda Dealerships. Clearly, I'm not making it to the Dragon. I find one, 8 miles away. One quick call, and they break my heart. The words "Special Order" are making me wonder is a KLR would have been a better choice. Remembrance of wheelies correct that thought in a hurry. Sadly, I put the phone away, and contemplate what I'm going to do. I decide I'll limp into town
and find a campground and overnight a sprocket. I go to take off. Zip. Zero. Nadda. It's that bad. Next option, I'm going to the Honda shop, and going to ask again, in person. I'm 8 miles away, and find that the bike can manage a GPS indicated 11mph, IF I basically let it idle along in 3rd. Each hill, or I should say knoll, since even a 1% grade would be too steep at this point, causes the bike to drop to 3 or 4mph. Finally, what seemed like hours later, I roll into the parkinglot. Walking inside, I
explain the situation, and the guy reiterates what he had told me on the phone, and walks off without further assistance. I get this attitude alot. I'm not sure if it's because I come across as an a-hole, or if they think I'm younger than I am, or what. After he helps another customer, and I'm still standing there, I ask this time to grab any Honda dirtbike sprocket he has. He comes back with 2 (clearly Rome, Alabama isn't a motorcycle area). The packaging looks about 100 years old, and it's 1 tooth the wrong way
from what I want, but one of the sprockets looks close. He states it is for a 1993 CR500, and his computer says it will not fit anything else. At this point, I hop eBay on my phone. Over the years, I've noticed that sellers on eBay tend to have a complete listing of makes/models whatever part they are selling will fit. A quick search for "93 CR500 sprocket" brings up a handful of results. Clicking on the first one, I notice that the eBay description states that their sprocket will fit not only the CR500 it is listed for,
but a plethora of other Honda's, including my XRR! Yatzee. We play the "No returns on used parts" game, and I get taken for a ride on the price, to the tune of a nice hotel stay. Still cheaper than overnighting one, so I take it and walk out the door. Man, the bolt holes sure look close. I'm gonna give this a shot. Wait... I forgot to build a trail stand before I left. MFer!
Looking around... No loading docks. No ditches. No large sticks. I guess I could ask them to change it. No, no. I have a thing against other people putting their tools and booger hooks to my bikes. Sit on it, ride it, fine I don't care. Just don't wrench on it.
I get the idea that my drybag is awfully rigid. I put the bike on the kickstand, lean it over, and stuff the drybag under the skidplate. It's wonky at best, but the rear is off the ground. I pull the axle out quickly, and have the sprocket off, the new one on, and adjusting the chain when the parts guy comes back out.
He's surprised to see it fits, and even more surprised to see it already on the bike. He asks if I'm some kinda mechanic. 100 years ago, in another life I wrenched for an MX team. Suddenly, now that I may not be a complete chump, he's my best friend. Where am I from, where am I headed, how did I plate the XRR, so on and so forth.
Leaving, I clutch up a healthy wheelie, just in reassurance of my new found driveline parts. It's good to be able to do the speed limit again!
It's about 6:00, but I insist I'm getting to Robinsville tonight. Period. I find myself on some of the most beautiful, winding roads I've ever been on. I guess I never realized Bama could be so country, so beautiful. Single lane country roads, with fields of grass on each side, hills, turns. I find myself getting the bike over as far as I dare, dodging the occasional cow patty.
I come around a corner and see a bull standing chest deep in a pond. Odd, being around farms before, I have never seen a bull go mudding.
Finally I cross the NC border. The GPS tells me to go this way, and that. I'm 11 miles out from Robinsville. This is gonna happen, I'm going to be at the Dragon tonight!
Next thing I know, I find myself pointed toward a road called Tatham Gap. Looks windy on the GPS. Cool. Next thing I know, the pavement is suddenly gone, and I'm chugging up a gravel road. The sign states "No commercial vehicles No turn-arounds past this point". Good, nothing to slow down my offroad excursion.
A dozen corners in, and I'm enjoying sliding the rear end out. Each turn results in a little later braking, and a little healthier dose of throttle upon exit. It's beautiful. The sun is just setting as I climb the mountainside, and the most gorgeous amber light shines through gaps in between the emerald green trees. This is America. How it should be. How it was, once.
I lose myself in a trancelike state, and couldn't even begin to tell you how many corners or switchbacks there were. Surreal, tunnel-vision is the only explanation I have. Suddenly, I'm blindsided by a day-glo orange sign. "Road Closed Ahead".... Great.
Did I mention, that since before the sprocket escapade, I had only ran the bike to 160 miles before filling up? In the bore of the Trace, and the sprocket ordeal, I had decided to see how far I could go before hitting reserve. Suddenly I realize that I'm creeping up on 200miles since last fill up, I haven't seen a gas station in the past 35 miles at least, and now the road ahead of me, is closed? Lucky me. I'm going to run out, on the Tatham Gap (apparently part of the Trail of Tears), at night,
and if some ticked off Indian Spirit doesn't get me, an upset 'shiner or predatory animal surely will.
Screw it. Robinsville is only 7 miles out. I'm going for it. How bad could it be? Soon I come across a gate. Closed. Locked. I circle around for a while, and finally, decide the same. I'm going around. About another mile down, I come to Caution tape strung across the trail. I go under, and then stop dead in my tracks. The only way I can
describe what I see, is simple. Two words. Holy. Shit.
For a span of maybe 150 feet, 3/4 of the road is gone. Just gone. and so is everything below it. You know those landslides you've seen on TV, in Komifornia, where a house gets swept away? Those have nothing on this. This land slide is easily the largest act of nature I have ever seen in person, other than the Grand Canyon.
Everything has just dropped out. A slot 150feet wide, and if it wasnt 1500 feet down, it wasn't a foot. One giant cliff. It turns near the 'bottom' and I can't actually see the end of the carnage. All I can see is trees, some tens and tens of feet tall, just thrown down the mountainside by the dozens.
Crap. What to do? I'm not a huge fan of heights. That is to say, I dont go hang out on skyscrapers and throw myself against the glass for fun. I don't mind ladders, or roofing, or bridges, but I don't get a kick out of it either. Standing here, looking at this giant ass cliff has my stomach getting the queebles. Yes, the queebles. You know what I'm talking about.
Finally after walking it half a dozen times, throwing rocks, and looking in my gas tank 3 seperate times, I decide that the Indian Spirits are not going to replenish my tank, and it's either camp here, or go for it. I hug the edge, and with a dose of throttle, scoot on by without issue. 3 feet of road never felt so narrow. Now that I screwed around for half an hour, it's really getting dark.
I click it up a few gears, and find myself on the downward slope of the mountain. Trail braking, I think I spent more time sideways with the bars crossed up, than I did straight. It's dark by the time I get out of the trees, but I'm happy to be done with that adventure. I make it to Robinsville, and the GPS is kind enough to route me through downtown. Perfect. So I cruise through a residential area, come to a stopsign, and a little mutt, and a Lab mix come out of a yard.
Suddenly I have flashbacks of that Texas dirt road. The mutt runs along side the bike, yipping and wagging his tail. Seems friendly enough. The bigger Lab mix decides I'm a threat, and the hair on his spine stands skyward, and the ears go back. You don't have to do Rocket Surgery to know thats probably not good. He tries to Kamikaze himself under my front wheel. I stab the brakes, and regretfully save his wellbeing (Yeah, I'm a dog person... even to the little a-hole ones that don't like me)
We play this game a couple more times, each time he gets closer and closer to grabbing my boot. This wouldn't have been an issue, but I have a feeling if I had a 35lbs Lab hanging from my boot, I'd probably yard-sale the bike, and all my gear all over the place.
I U-turn, and the dog takes off in an all out sprint in pursuit. I click into second, and he's still there! Impressive, he tops out at just over 25mph. He slinks back off, and I U-turn again, back toward him, trying to make a run for it past him. Did I mention I really need gas? There is one on the GPS, only 100yards around a bend. Just as I intend to run the stopsign, a Jeep Cherokee pulls up, and I have to put on the binders. The Lab comes back out, and round and round we go, same ol game. Once the teenage girl in the Jeep has
had enough of a laugh at my expensive, she guns it for the dog, lays on the horn, and brakes just in time. It's enough to distract the dog, that I manage a "Thank You!!!!" as I blast on by. All I can think of, is I nearly ran my bike off the side of a mountain in a landslide, and here I am, going to get eaten by a 35lbs mutt.
I make it into town, fill up, and am getting ready to wander into a McDonalds for wifi to find a campground. As I'm unbuckling my pannier, theres that goddamn dog again! Sure enough, he locks eyes with me and runs directly over to me. As I contemplate whether a helmet, or an Alpinestar Tech 3 would do more damage, he starts wagging his tail, ears are up, and next thing I know we are the best of friends. All that, for a little attention and an ear scratching.
I set off for a campground, can't find it, I'm about to give up, when I get passed by an SV with panniers on it. He has a real headlight, and maybe he knows where he's going. I'm not particularly tired, so I figure, screw it. I catch up, and next thing I know we're railing corners on some road called "129". Man, these knobbies sure feel greasy when you start leaning the bike over. He pulls into a closed gas station, and I follow. Turns out he is trying to find a buddy, who has his truck (he had just crashed his 600RR earlier apparently and was supposed to be en route back from hospital).
The gas station ends up being Deal's Gap Motorcycle Resort. It's closed, but theres plenty of space in the camping area, so I setup and figure I will make it right with them in the morning. As I unpack, two guys wander over. Mark and Bill are from Houston and New Orleans. Odd that I meet someone from 'across town' all the way out here. I've been on the bike since 6am, and it's now nearly 10pm, so at the offer of a cold one, I obliged quickly. We chat, turns out Mark has a Yamaha 1600, which I just went through the nightmare of dealing with a buddies who grenaded the trans. After an hour or so of smalltalk, and traveling stories
I call it a night. There is a babbling brook that runs right near the tents, and I have never slept so soundly.
Sunrise comes. Yup, that ain't happenin'. For the first time in a week, I sleep in til almost 730. Finally, I crawl out of bed, and wander down to the store to make right on my sleeping arrangements. They give me the run down of the place, and off I go for a much needed shower.
Since I'm at the Dragon, I've got to go experience it. I rode the Texas Hill Country (Three Sisters), and loved it. But I was also on 17" wheels and street tires. A few corners into the Dragon, and I get passed by some sport tourer. Being the competitive nut I am, I try to keep pace the best I can. Soon I abandon the 'foot out' approach, and start hanging knees out there. Given, I'm miles away from scraping knee, but the farther off the bike I can get, and the more vertical I can keep it, the more predictable it seems to be when it does start to slide.
Next thing I know, nearly ever turn is resulting in an all out drift. This is fun! Other than the fact I can't brake for crap, I'm enjoying sliding around. I notice a couple of the guys on the corners taking pictures are even laughing and giving a thumbs up to the crazed yahoo on the enduro with bright yellow panniers sliding around the corners.
Ever seen a knobby tire blister? I hadn't, before today. This tire WAS in good shape. One trip, down and back on the Dragon, and this is what I'm left with. Screw it, I'm taking it down the TAT anyway.
After I had my fun, I headed into town, and picked up some boxes. Like everyone that is new to this traveling gig, I packed far too much, multiples, and decided to mail some stuff home. I dropped nearly 10lbs of gear off my kit, and sent it on home. Maybe I'll regret some of it, but I'm still concerned about my left pannier bracket, and weight. I may have to hit up a fellow Inmate to use his/her drill and some bits for an hour and make another bracket to brace that side up better to endure the offroad rigors of the TAT.
I did some sight seeing, and now I'm just enjoying the night. Going to read a bit, and head off to bed. I may spend a couple more days here. I've got 9 days before I really need to be anywhere, so perhaps I'll spend the majority of it around here. I never realized this area was so beautiful.
And now what ya'll are here for...
Welcome to my abode, night 3, on the Trace.
The Trace at 6am
This is about the time I knew I was gonna be in trouble...
Some random background, I found a sign that said "Longest Natural Bridge east of the Rockies" So I had to go check it out.
This lil fella showed me around the place.
It really was quite impressive
One of those fields, on a winding country road, somewhere in 'bama
This is when I couldn't take off, after calling the Honda shop.
Heck of a bike stand...
As you can see, bikes aren't really their thing.... The tech even said "What the hell is a XR650R"
The slide.... pictures don't do it justice. Easily the most powerful thing I've ever seen...
The biker eating dog, tail going a million mph
My neighbors, night 4
Dragon Breath knobbies...or whats left after one trip down and back. Feel the heat.
ATGATT or whatever... shut it
Beautiful view...just amazing watching the moisture burn off the mountainsides
To the best corners on the east coast, or to the TAT.... tis the question.
No wheelies? That's it.. I'm going home.
Which one of you crazie's is this?
And finally, I leave you guys with this picture... just thought it came out nice...
Well You just help make up my mind. I am isolated in beautiful south east idaho and was going to make a fall ride with friends from alabama directly to key west florida. I think I will make a quick vector and do the dragon and kill two birds with one stone. Most excellent ride report, keep it up.
As im reading your sprocket delima im thinking how bad can it be. Lol holy crap that was bad. Heep on shredding
Lots of good trails and roads up there. TET, cherohala, wayah road
I have a great wife, great job, and great place to live, but still I'm jealous of all you people that aren't tied down to anything!
A tip for your MSR pocket rocket...you can fold up a long piece of foil and fit it into the plastic triangular case the stove goes into. Wrap the foil around the stove in a cylinder, and it'll keep out the wind on windy days, and cook/boil everything MUCH faster and save you a lot of fuel. There, now your cheapo stove is a much simpler, much cheaper jet boil!
Damn, man, that rear sprocket wasn't even worthy of the name by the end. I can't believe the chain didn't fall off.
I'll be following the rest of the trip man. If you need a hand with some tools in CO ever hit me up.
Fantastic entry. Glad to see you're having a great time. That sprocket was impressively bad. I haven't seen anything match it.
Sitting here grinning at memories due to the picture of your sprocket! Only once have I ever seen one as worn at that one was when I was working for a Yamaha/Kawasaki Shop and two German guys pulled in on KLRs. One had his chain adjusted as tight as he could just to get to us. As usual, parts had none in stock. I had a '92 KLR at the time , same as his was, so pulled the sprockets off my bike to get him down the road.
Keep it coming, love reading about the trip.
Love the reports and the pics, makes us feel like we are along for the ride with you!
You've re-established my faith in our youth in America. I thought younger folk had pretty much abandoned the english language in favor of LOL, WTF, and...............to limiting a message to 140 characters.
Your last post proved me wrong! Maybe I am just old school (still appreciate an air-cooled / carbed engine), but when an author writes in such a way that the reader is feeling that they're living the experience too? Bravo.
I wouldn't go that far. I'm sure I'm making tons of typos and whatnot. But I'm glad you guys enjoy this. Reading your guys posts, even a line or two gives me inspiration to make the trek into towns to find wifi.
Glad to have you guys tagging along!
Great report! Thanks for sharing.
Nice report and inspiring stuff. Might even take the Tiger out and try a small jump in the name of adrenaline!
Keep going and safe travels.
Dude if you ever find your self in a similar situation with a sprocket just take it off and flip it over. May get you where you need to go. That Sunstar looked just fine
Oh by the way thanks for a few pictures of the Trace, looks like a nice quiet ride...
Nice ride report on he trace.
Very nice! We locals have wondered what Tatum trail looked like afterthevrain and slide.
Keep posting and have a BIG time! I have made it to Moab on the TAT and things will get better the further you go.
In, keep it coming...