Greg and Zach Tackle the TN and MS TAT

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by leahyz, Mar 21, 2008.

  1. leahyz

    leahyz Gigantic Tool

    Joined:
    Apr 24, 2006
    Oddometer:
    471
    Location:
    The Sucky Part of IN
    Background:
    Greg and I planned to do some kind of an early spring ride over the winter. We just left it as somewhere in <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:eek:ffice:smarttags" /><st1:State w:st="on"><st1:place w:st="on">Tennessee</st1:place></st1:State>. I think Greg planned heading for the Tellico Plains / Cheraola Skyway area, but I had a different idea. I ordered the TN Tran-Am-Trail maps and we decided this would be a fun ride. But the distance seemed too short, so I ordered the MS and AR sections as well, just to make sure we would not run out of roads. We worked it out to leave on the 12th of March, by all the reports we might be the first group to run the trail this year. We only had 6 days to ride, so we were going to just try and get as far as we could.
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    About the Trail:
    The Trans-Am-Trail is the work of Sam Correro. He linked together some of the best back roads across the country starting in Jellico, TN and running all the way through to Port Orford, OR. His attempt was to try and use as many unpaved routes as possible, and avoid any major cities or sites. The result is a set of back roads that is anything but straight and direct. Occasionally the turns come very fast, 1.3 miles on one road, 0.5 on the next, and so on. Rarely is a stretch more than a couple miles on any one road. Perhaps there were fewer paved roads when Sam first set up the trail, but now TN is about 75% pavement. Sam sells the maps and he uses the funds to continue working the trail toward the east coast. I’m not going to give away the routes, but I will point out some tough (fun) spots along the way. Buy the maps from Sam, they are not too expensive. It is great to ride back roads all day long and not have to do any routing or backtracking.

    About us:
    We’re idiots, plain and simple. We probably do things we shouldn’t on bikes that are too big. Greg has an 1150GS that is battle scarred and modified to his liking. He’s dropped it more times than he can count in the last 130k miles. I have a 1200GS that has a few mods and has been dropped only a couple times. We’ve ridden together a little bit, but never this long. Greg is a GPS nut who can run his 276c better than anyone I’ve met, and I just recently upgraded my old unit to a 2610, so this was its maiden voyage. The rate of road changes along this route make a GPS a near necessity, although the paper maps come with old-fashioned roll charts. You get to create your own GPS route.
    #1
  2. leahyz

    leahyz Gigantic Tool

    Joined:
    Apr 24, 2006
    Oddometer:
    471
    Location:
    The Sucky Part of IN
    Day 1: Wagons&#8230;.. South!

    Greg had come down the night before and we made some last minute tweaks to our routes and waypoints and we decided we had a good setup. I had the routed loaded in the 2610 in several parts for each state, about 100 miles each. Greg loaded larger sections, about 2 per state. This would come to play a role later in the ride. Packed up and ready to ride, we hit the sack the next morning.

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    Wednesday morning we rolled out of <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:eek:ffice:smarttags" /><st1:City w:st="on"><st1:place w:st="on">Fort Wayne</st1:place></st1:City>. I had planned a southeastern route basically along US 33 to get us to I75. I was trying to take some slower back roads to keep the wear on our TKCs. With only a 400 mile ride to Jellico we took our time since we had all day. The temperatures started pretty cold, around 30 but soon it rose up into the 40s. There was still a fair amount of snow out on the ground, but the roads were clear. We stopped by Grand Lake St. Mary coming through <st1:State w:st="on"><st1:place w:st="on">Ohio</st1:place></st1:State> and it was quite the scene completely frozen. I told you it was cold around here!
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    We hit the interstate and we were able to make some miles through <st1:City w:st="on">Dayton</st1:City> and <st1:City w:st="on"><st1:place w:st="on">Cincinnati</st1:place></st1:City>. We had a bit of a routing error as my 2610 route kept trying to disagree with the 276c of Greg&#8217;s. We finally just set them for fastest route to <st1:place w:st="on"><st1:City w:st="on">Jellico</st1:City>, <st1:State w:st="on">TN</st1:State></st1:place> and that kept us on the interstate. I was hoping this was not going to be the case the rest of the trip. As we neared <st1:place w:st="on"><st1:City w:st="on">Lexington</st1:City>, <st1:State w:st="on">KY</st1:State></st1:place> the last of the snow disappeared as the temps climbed up into the low 60s. A quick stop for lunch and gas along the way kept us and the bikes fueled. We stopped again about 35 miles short of Jellico and dumped out electrics and winter gloves. Spring had arrived in one day with temps in the mid to high 60s! The rest of the trip into Jellico went by in a few minutes.
    We set up camp at <st1:place w:st="on"><st1:placeName w:st="on">Indian</st1:placeName> <st1:placeType w:st="on">Mountain</st1:placeType> <st1:placeType w:st="on">State Park</st1:placeType></st1:place> in Jellico. It was a nice place, but being out of season it was a bit rough. The water was turned off for the season and the bathrooms shut down. So the cost was half of the normal at a whopping $7.50 for our site. The campground was pretty much desolate, just us and an RV. We had to find a park ranger to even pay for our site. The campsite is not on the Garmin maps, but I had added waypoints for all of the State parks in TN, northern MS, and <st1:State w:st="on"><st1:place w:st="on">Arkansas</st1:place></st1:State> that had camping marked on their websites. Overall it would be a really nice place if the bathrooms and water were available. It was built on an old strip mine and had a unique landscape because of it.

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    We walked around town a bit and found that Jellico seems to be a dieing city. There were a lot of empty storefronts, sometimes five or six in a row. It seems this town was once a lot more popular than it is now. Perhaps it was fueled by mining which is gone now. After a bit of a walk we headed for the only local dinner place in town. The restaurant selections are basically all fast-food except for Heritage pizza, which served up a pretty good sausage and mushroom pie. We had a good conversation with the waitress since we were about the only people in the place. We were talking about her grandson learning to ride a bicycle without training wheels out in the parking lot that day. After dinner we grabbed a six pack, a tank of gas, and some water to be able to at least brush our teeth. We told stories and drank back at our tents and then hit the sack. It was a cold night; my mid-weight sleeping bag seemed inadequate. Thankfully the Aerostitch makes a handy blanket.
    #2
  3. leahyz

    leahyz Gigantic Tool

    Joined:
    Apr 24, 2006
    Oddometer:
    471
    Location:
    The Sucky Part of IN
    Day 2: Hitting the Trail &#8211; <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:eek:ffice:smarttags" /><st1:City w:st="on">Jellico</st1:City>, <st1:State w:st="on">TN</st1:State> to <st1:place w:st="on"><st1:City w:st="on">Sparta</st1:City>, <st1:State w:st="on">TN</st1:State></st1:place>
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    We had no alarm set but got up at a reasonable time. Packing went pretty quick for me, but it took Greg a bit longer. We got going and hit Arby&#8217;s for a cherry turnover to start the morning. The trail officially starts just across the street at the Days Inn, so we rolled out through town. Soon we were on back roads and in a few more minutes the pavement ended.
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    The surface here is pretty similar to unpaved roads back home. It was crushed limestone that packs down in the wheel tracks and it can be quite loose in the center and edges. Not a hard ride, but use caution when in the deeper gravel off the tracks. The neat addition is the large granite boulders sticking out of the road with the tops ground off. They are not always possible to dodge and every now and then you&#8217;ll run one down. The road climbs up and over some hills and has a fair number of switchbacks and steep sections. Some of the downhill sections could take some braking talent, but Greg and I are lazy &#8211; we leave the ABS on and let the electrons sort out the wheel slips. I didn&#8217;t really ever feel it kick in and the linked brakes on the 1200 made it pretty brainless, just apply the brakes &#8211; how lazy!
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    At the first stop we found an error in our plans. The routes I made up were in CityNav 2008 &#8211; Greg has 2007 but recalculated and verified the roads before loading. The real problem was that the route has a lot of via points in each segment. My 2610 had 100 mile segments loaded which worked pretty well. Greg had large sections of the route loaded on his 276c and it overran the maximum number of via points in a route. What it did was draw straight lines between each via point and then cut off the end. The number of via points though was high enough that Greg could easily interpret the route from the straight lines until the cutoff point.
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    The back roads were often paved, but even still they were scenic and twisty. The pavement was occasionally quite rough and it was nice to have some travel in our suspensions. The back roads had some nice views off to the side. I like weird old stuff, and there was a nice bulldozer parked in some guy&#8217;s front yard. The day was warming up nicely and we soon dumped our electrics

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    While we were waiting to make a quick jump on one of the larger roads we were greeted by a big wave from a local driving a pickup. He stopped and commented that he does not see many BMWs or Aerostiches in the area, only his. We told him about the trail and I think he was surprised to hear about it going through his neighborhood. Turns out we met Eric Faires &#8211; pronounced like the Ferris wheel - who is a two time Iron Butt Rally competitor (1993 and 1995). He has also completed most of the IBA rides. A nice guy in all and good to meet a fellow nut case while out for a ride. He said he had worked the bug out of his system now and didn&#8217;t really feel like competing anymore. I have thought about completing some of the basic IBA rides, but the interstate can get awfully boring after a while.
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    As we rode along we ran into our first road closure. The Catoosa Wildlife refuge is apparently closed to vehicle traffic from February 1st to April 1st. Probably not a big deal for most people who ride the TN route, but since we were so early in the season it was a locked gate. We didn't feel like risking a ticket by going past the gate so we worked out a go-around. The problem was that our go-around took us to another road that was closed to public travel. For future travelers, <st1:Street w:st="on"><st1:address w:st="on">French Hamby Road</st1:address></st1:Street> turns into a private road even though it is on CityNav 07 and 08. We didn&#8217;t go past the signs, and the folks down the street we talked to said they did not know if the property owner would be ok with it or not, so we made up a go-around of our go-around and caught highway 27 into Rockwood.

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    We ran up the hill to the <st1:place w:st="on"><st1:placeType w:st="on">Mt.</st1:placeType> <st1:placeName w:st="on">Roosevelt</st1:placeName></st1:place> summit to look for an ADVcache (very similar to normal geocache) but after 15-20 minutes of looking we gave up. We met a nice couple traveling on a Goldwing trike from the area that stopped to enjoy the view. It's a neat stop, and worth the slight detour if you are on the trail. We doubled a couple miles back into Rockwood and grabbed a sandwich for a late lunch before catching the trail again and heading west.

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    We continued on running down some nice gravel back roads through some popular ATV areas following the purple line on the GPS. Lots of folks out on ATVs in the area, so be aware, as they usually don't have mirrors and can&#8217;t see you behind them. We soon ran into our second gate of the day on Old Stevens Gap road. It was shut, locked, and there was a phone number listed on the no trespassing sign. We gave it a ring, but the line was disconnected. Again, not wanting to get shot we quickly put together a simple go-around on <st1:Street w:st="on"><st1:address w:st="on">Breckenridge Dr</st1:address></st1:Street>.

    Just down the trail another 10-15 miles we ran into our THIRD closure. According to my route we should have ridden along on Old Ross road, but it was double gated and looks like it has been for quite some time. It was a no-brainer go-around, just stay on the main road there and you'll be around the closure in a mile or so.
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    We racked up a lot of miles on back roads, many of them paved. I kept in mind the water crossings I had seen pictures of in <st1:State w:st="on"><st1:place w:st="on">Tennessee</st1:place></st1:State>, but we never encountered them that day. As we neared <st1:place w:st="on"><st1:City w:st="on">Sparta</st1:City> <st1:State w:st="on">TN</st1:State></st1:place>, where the trail used to start, we rode along an old railroad grade that was pretty well pock-marked in holes, but a fun ride. We pulled off for gas as we were nearly out when we hit the next station on the main road just after the rail grade. The 1200 seems to be doing better on mileage than Greg&#8217;s 1150, but it could be the big cargo box on the back of his bike. We tanked up and talked to the locals about where to stop for the night. No one had any good advice on camping, but there were several hotels down the road in <st1:place w:st="on"><st1:City w:st="on">Sparta</st1:City></st1:place>, so we headed that way and with a few phone calls located a room for $45.
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    We observed a few things that day. First off, there are a lot of dogs. It seems a many people in the country have unleashed dogs that just love to chase bikes. Often they are just standing in the road waiting to chase you. If you are on the lead bike it&#8217;s not too bad, but if you are following a few minutes behind they are all still in the road from chasing the lead bike and it&#8217;s a challenge to dodge them all as they start chasing you! It&#8217;s never just one either, usually 3 to 5 at any given time.
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    Second, there&#8217;s a lot of other wildlife to watch for. It is common to see whitetail deer jump across the road, and there are all sorts of farm animals around. I&#8217;ve never seen so many chickens in the road before. Also watch out for goats, cows, and other critters. Squirrels dash in and out of the underbrush, but they are squishables. Mostly the lead rider will have to deal with the most random wildlife.
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    Third, back roads residents don&#8217;t seem to understand how to do anything with trash but throw it out their windows. It&#8217;s not just bottles, cans, and cups, but bags of trashed dumped, appliances and just general rubbish that has been building up for probably the last 50 years. Greg jokes that at a young age parents take their children out to the woods and teach them to throw trash on the ground. He being from MI &#8211; a state with bottle and can returns &#8211; commented several times that the amount of trash would be reduced by a huge amount if the state implemented a return on bottles and cans. I hate returns &#8211; I lived in <st1:place w:st="on">Europe</st1:place> for a year where everything has a return, but I think he&#8217;s probably right. I&#8217;ve never seen trash dumped this badly in rural <st1:place w:st="on"><st1:State w:st="on">Indiana</st1:State></st1:place>, and we don&#8217;t have any returns.
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    Finally is the dust. There was plenty today on the unpaved roads and riders need to be spaced apart by about a mile to really let it settle. If each person has a GPS route of the trail, then it&#8217;s easy.
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    We unloaded the bikes into our hotel room and grabbed showers since there were none the night before. We took a walk around town and checked it out. There is not really a lot going on in <st1:City w:st="on"><st1:place w:st="on">Sparta</st1:place></st1:City> and we walked nearly all the war out of town before doubling back. We admired the court square which has been modified to improve traffic flow on the main streets. Finally we got back to the hotel and punched up the Mexican restaurant down the street. A 0.5 mile walk and we had some great burritos and Horchata for cheap. We walked back to the hotel and turned in for the night.
    #3
  4. GB

    GB . Administrator

    Joined:
    Aug 16, 2002
    Oddometer:
    63,642
    Sounds good :thumb

    What's with the turn signal stalks on the 1150?? :huh

    :lurk
    #4
  5. Groomez

    Groomez Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Aug 10, 2006
    Oddometer:
    528
    Location:
    Greenville, SC
    +1 :thumb:huh:lurk
    #5
  6. leahyz

    leahyz Gigantic Tool

    Joined:
    Apr 24, 2006
    Oddometer:
    471
    Location:
    The Sucky Part of IN
    Greg got sick of breaking his front signals off in falls and put the LED lights on a long bar. That bar is magnetically mounted to the bottom of the beak using some old hard drive magnets. So now if he falls, it just pops off the entire bar. He ditched the rear signals as well and uses 2"x6" LED lamps on the saddlebags for turn signals and brake lamps. It makes his bike very easy to see.
    #6
  7. leahyz

    leahyz Gigantic Tool

    Joined:
    Apr 24, 2006
    Oddometer:
    471
    Location:
    The Sucky Part of IN
    Day 3 - Onward down the trail! <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:eek:ffice:smarttags" /><st1:City w:st="on">Sparta</st1:City>, <st1:State w:st="on">TN</st1:State> to <st1:place w:st="on"><st1:City w:st="on">Saltillo</st1:City>, <st1:State w:st="on">TN</st1:State></st1:place>

    When the sun got up I don't know, but I did know that having an actual bed was really nice. The real problem was that all the curtains in the room were drawn over the few small windows, and that made for no real determination of time. I finally got up and grabbed a morning shower and that got Greg up and going. I had carried my Zega cases inside for the night before which turned out to be a good idea as it was raining out. We had hung out tent parts all around the room to allow them to dry the previous morning's dew off, and so the morning required a little packing. I got done in pretty good time and snapped the bags back on the bike, but Greg was having a hard time finding the bag for his tent poles. Eventually he found it and finished packing, we munched on granola bars, and off we went. We got a surprisingly late start that morning.

    We decided not to double back the 15 miles to where we got off the trail last night, rather just picked it up going west out of Jellico TN. It's just a gap we will have to pick up some time in the future. We rode along in a light but steady rain that got our gear wet, but didn't dampen our spirits much. Our electrics were nice to keep the chill off as we headed out into the countryside. The mix was turning out to be about 20% gravel in this area, and it was honestly not the most spectacular ride for a while. The drizzle continued and we added some wet road filth to the bikes to replace the dust coating the rain had washed off overnight.
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    Soon we ran into our first road closure of the day. Not a big ordeal, but the dam road (officially <st1:Street w:st="on"><st1:address w:st="on">Great Falls Road</st1:address></st1:Street>) was closed. The sign says it is part of a reconstruction project and it will re-open in 2009, but Greg and I have our doubt and speculate it is fear of some terrorist activity that was keeping us off the top of the dam. An easy go around on 136 and 287 gave us a great view of the railroad passing through a tunnel under the road and then across the river on a bridge. Greg's a fan of railroad corridors, so I stopped and grabbed a couple pictures. He had some comments then about wet socks that would become a theme later on.

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    The rain came and went, and since we had a late start and no breakfast it was soon afternoon and we were getting hungry. I took a look at the GPS and found <st1:place w:st="on"><st1:placeName w:st="on">Lakewood</st1:placeName> <st1:placeType w:st="on">Park</st1:placeType></st1:place> was on our way, and there was a cafe listed there. So we headed for the cafe but it turned out to be a smoky bar, so we hit the convenience store for an ADV lunch. Cookies, Combos, and Mountain Dew were what we managed to scrounge up. We met a guy riding an old GL500 and he has telling us about how he traded another bike for that one and was going to trade that one for a truck. It was an interesting conversation, and he really seemed to like our bikes, but on the whole it seemed odd. <st1:place w:st="on"><st1:placeName w:st="on">Lakewood</st1:placeName> <st1:placeType w:st="on">Park</st1:placeType></st1:place> is a protected community &#8211; whatever that means. It didn&#8217;t seem like an all-too-friendly place. We got going before they threw us out.

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    As the day continued on the rain diminished and the temperatures rose. Finally we put away our electric gear at a rest stop in a church parking lot. The day was getting nice, but did we mention there are a lot of dogs? We had came across a few little stream crossings on some gravel sections. Those were nice and easy, not much more than hitting a good sized puddle on your bike. But then we ran into the first of what the TN section of the TAT is well known for &#8211; slick water crossings. It wasn&#8217;t that it was particularly deep, maybe about 6 inches, but it&#8217;s the green slime that grows on the bottom that makes them treacherous. I stopped and warned Greg about how slick the crossings were, and while he was marking it in his GPS I rode slowly across and out the other side. I gave the bike the tiniest bit of throttle and spun up the rear tire &#8211; yup it&#8217;s slick. I was digging out the camera as Greg started across, and I heard a heard a crunch and looked up to see Greg&#8217;s bike on its side in the crossing and him laughing about it all. I caught a picture of him attempting to lift his bike back up, but it just slid across the slimy surface. I walked out into the water and put my foot down as a stop for the front wheel and Greg was able to right his bike. He has a 4&#8221; limb caught between the front and rear wheels so to make it more difficult he had to get the back end over that before being able to ride out. We stopped at the end and laughed about the experience as Greg changed his socks&#8230;. Again. My Redwings we&#8217;re doing pretty well keeping the water out.

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    We were getting close to the Natchez Trace which is a road Greg and I both have experience with as the afternoon shadows lengthened. The trail started to take us off of pavement more and the road surface was changing from the eastern section quite a bit. There surface was looser stone, but still a nice ride. Often they mixed in the sandy soil to bind it together.

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    A few more small water crossings, but they were a lot less slick. I always went first and once I found out if it was slick or not Greg would come blasting through after. Well I wasn&#8217;t going to let him have all the fun, so once I determined this one wasn&#8217;t slick in the first video, I doubled back to go through with a bigger splash. One tip &#8211; close your visor &#8211; the creek water tastes awful!

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    We rode right up until sunset, which may not have been the wisest idea. We punched up lodgings on our GPS &#8211; with our preference being campgrounds. The only one that wasn&#8217;t a real backtrack was in <st1:place w:st="on"><st1:City w:st="on">Saltillo</st1:City> <st1:State w:st="on">TN.</st1:State></st1:place> It was just off the trail and we decided to make the jump ahead to it even though it meant we missed some of TN (maybe 50 miles of the route). I plotted the fastest route and then searched for food along the way. There was a combination gas station and Subway where we stopped for a sandwich. We had some good conversation with one of the workers there who rides a little. She was very friendly and nice. We had called ahead to the campground and told the owner we would be coming so she left the light on at the pavilion and recommended we camp there as it was supposed to rain overnight.

    We clipped off the last miles in the dark being very cautions and going slow in the dark. I was glad I had the extra driving lights to help identify the critters. We pulled into he campground and after a bit of confusion set up camp under the &#8220;pavilion&#8221;. It was near the bathrooms, but the water and power were shut off to them as well, so once again it was a bit rustic. We were on a wood deck, and that precluded us from staking down our tents. We were both tired, and after I called home to let my wife know I was ok, we hit the sack.

    That night the storms came. I was pretty sheltered form the rain, and only one side of Greg&#8217;s tent got rained on. But the wind was the worst as it was funneled under our pavilion structure. It also had a metal roof so it was quite noisy as well. In the middle of the night I was getting quite a bit of shaking in my tent and I remembered it was completely free standing and not tied down at all. I hopped out and tied to a picnic table and convenient porch swing. Greg hopped out as well since he was up, and then we watched as part of his tent collapsed in on itself. We managed to get both tents buttoned down and surprisingly slept until morning even with the thunder, lightning, and roar of the rain hitting the metal roof above us.
    #7
  8. blackbirdzach

    blackbirdzach Daily Adventurer

    Joined:
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    3,430
    Location:
    15 mintues West of Atlanta
    Excellent so far!

    My favorite two pics.


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    Don't know why this one struck such a cord with me. Just one of those shots, I guess. Great picture.

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    #8
  9. MeefZah

    MeefZah Curmudgeonly

    Joined:
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    Location:
    Lost Coast, Cali
    Looking good so far. Those are some biiiiig bikes to be on the TAT! :clap
    #9
  10. leahyz

    leahyz Gigantic Tool

    Joined:
    Apr 24, 2006
    Oddometer:
    471
    Location:
    The Sucky Part of IN
    Actually for the parts we rode they never seemed really too bad. I still think you could get a BMW RT through most of TN without a problem and have a good time to boot!
    #10
  11. Colemanfu

    Colemanfu King of all manfu

    Joined:
    Jan 27, 2006
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    DAYTONA USA
    Very good. I see a ton of trash up in VA when I visit. At this place they just push it down the hill into the creek?

    The last part of the sign says "will shoot twice" it also looked like someone lived in the bus.
    #11
  12. leahyz

    leahyz Gigantic Tool

    Joined:
    Apr 24, 2006
    Oddometer:
    471
    Location:
    The Sucky Part of IN
    Day 4: Rain, Thunder and Hail - <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:eek:ffice:smarttags" /><st1:place w:st="on"><st1:City w:st="on">Saltillo</st1:City> <st1:State w:st="on">TN</st1:State></st1:place> to Holly Springs, MS

    I got up and there were still thunderstorms going on, and the rain kept coming down, so we slept in late. Finally the thunder and lightning subsided and soon even the rain slacked off. We packed up in the break and had a breakfast of Moon Pies, cookies, and Gatorade. We could not find the site manager and we had a hard time squaring up our cost for the night&#8217;s stay. We finally found someone who worked for the campground at the little gas station on the corner where we filled up our tanks.

    [​IMG]

    We set off after getting a few pictures of the river and the barges on it and we jumped back on the trail. A lot of rain had fallen overnight and it was really making the unpaved sections muddy. For a little while I kept getting a fuel smell and I really could not think of why. I hadn&#8217;t spilled any but I could not think of a likely source. Finally while waiting for Greg to catch up at one point I pulled my tank bag back and found that the filler cap was not quite fully snapped down. Ah good, at least it&#8217;s not a leaky line somewhere.

    [​IMG]

    We clipped along for an hour or so and then the skies darkened once more. Rain began to fall, then the thunder and lightning came back. I don&#8217;t like to ride in lightning, but we had no where to stop. Our visors were fogging and had a lot of water on them, so the visibility had gone to nearly nothing. We had the electrics cranked up pretty high to compete with the wetness. It was pouring mercilessly and then I noticed the rain was beginning to bounce. No the rain wasn&#8217;t actually bouncing, but the hail was bouncing off me, the bike, and my helmet. It wasn&#8217;t large enough to hurt much through the stitch, but I really hate hail. Last time I was hailed on it WAS big, and it DID hurt. It was coming down in buckets, but we had no place to stop so we just motored on at very slow speeds.
    Eventually it started let up, thankfully before we hit any more dirt sections. When we did get to those they were quite wet and threw a lot of filth around. I had just decided we getting clear of the rain when we crossed from TN into MS. As a celebration we stopped for a granola bar and a drink before continuing on.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    <st1:State w:st="on"><st1:place w:st="on">Mississippi</st1:place></st1:State> road surfaces contain a lot of round river stone. It&#8217;s usually mixed with the reddish sandy soil to give a fairly solid footing, but sometimes the surface is just stones, and it&#8217;s like riding in pea gravel. Sometimes there are no stones and it&#8217;s just red sandy mud. We stopped at an intersection of some county roads once the sun came back out and took the opportunity to change clothes. There is nothing quite like looking both ways on the road for traffic and then putting on dry knickers. I took a few pictures of the buildup of dirt on my bike. They were a lot cleaner when we started. A slight weep of oil around my final drive has me worried, although it never got any worse all the way home.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    We crossed a road and got into a particularly loose area. The road started out looking firm, but you could feel the front end wobble as you road around a corner. It seemed like the surface was sandy, and wet underneath and that made it a bit unstable. It didn&#8217;t last for too long though as it soon turned into mud. There were not too many tracks on these roads, some ATVs and a truck some places, but no bikes that we could see.

    The farther we got the thicker the mud got, and then combine that with washouts on the road from the rain and we were going slow. Where the trucks had passed you could see where the really soft mud was, and we did ok through there. At least the mud was not really sticky, but pretty sandy and the knobbies didn&#8217;t pack up with it, so traction was passable. I stopped at the top of this particularly muddy downhill stretch and waited for Greg. My comment was &#8220;I hope we don&#8217;t have to ride up this!&#8221;

    [​IMG]

    We made our way down slowly without too much of a problem and rounded a corner to see this:
    <?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:eek:ffice:eek:ffice" /><o:p></o:p>
    <o:p>[​IMG]</o:p>
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    I had seen pictures of this crossing before. The added rains made it particularly deep, and I took off my gear and walked out on the highest part. It was pretty obvious we were not getting through this part as it was about 3&#8217; deep at the center. The 4x4 trucks had dug a deep set of wheel track in the crossing, so the only chance we maybe had was to keep the bikes down the middle of that &#8211; But you couldn&#8217;t see the bottom to know.
    <o:p></o:p>
    <o:p>[​IMG]</o:p>
    <o:p></o:p>
    In the end we decided it wasn&#8217;t worth the chances and doubled back up the muddy slope on a go-around. We made it back up but in another particularly muddy stretch Greg dumped his 1150. No damage to him or bike, but his ego was hurting &#8211; we were 2-0 now and he was anxious for my first drop. I think his cow box just wanted a roll in the mud. I was too far behind to get a picture though, sorry.

    We got back out to a main road intersection and took a look at our go-around options on the GPS. It looked pretty easy and just as we were getting close to leave a pickup truck turned in front of us, rolls past and stops behind us. He was headed for the house on the corner but was eyeing us suspiciously. He rolled down his window, looked at my boxes and said &#8220;Ya&#8217;ll smugglin&#8217; drugs.&#8221; Not a question, a statement.

    It seemed like an innocent and funny comment &#8211; we though he was just joking so Greg throws out &#8220;Yeah our stash is back in there hidden in the trees&#8221;. Well the guy continues on about how he&#8217;s seen us here before (never been there before today see our plates &#8211; we&#8217;re &#8220;furriners&#8221;) and how he&#8217;s going to call he cops and the DEA. He pulls into his driveway as we put in earplugs and put on our helmets. He shouts something we can&#8217;t hear and gives us the finger as we leave. All just because we look odd, are not from the area, and were stopped on the shoulder. Paranoia? You Bet! Don&#8217;t worry, I didn&#8217;t let him in on the trail, but if you stop on that corner &#8211; Black Jack Rd and Tubby Bottom Rd - just watch out for the guy that lives there.

    We stopped for fuel during our go-around as it was available in Ashland and we&#8217;d had a close call already on fuel mileage on Greg&#8217;s 1150. The rest of the afternoon went by without any notes of great importance. Just mile after mile of great dirt and back roads with nothing but fun times. A few tough bits thrown in here and there, but overall pretty nice gravel. Very little traffic was out, even for a Saturday. As we neared Holly Springs MS we decided not to do the same as last night and we called it a day about an hour before sunset. The nearest lodgings were in <st1:place w:st="on"><st1:placeName w:st="on">Holly</st1:placeName> <st1:placeName w:st="on">Springs</st1:placeName></st1:place>, so we marked our stopping point and took main roads into town. We called and stopped by all the motels, but no one had any decent prices. After our very wet night and day a warm shower and a dry bed was what we really wanted.

    However, I had loaded the MS State Parks that had camping as waypoints on the GPS and I was grateful to have them. We located <st1:place w:st="on"><st1:placeName w:st="on">Wall</st1:placeName> <st1:placeName w:st="on">Doxey</st1:placeName> <st1:placeType w:st="on">State Park</st1:placeType></st1:place> about 7 miles south of town where we stopped for the night. The park ranger recommended agains the Chewalla National Forest site as it was a really roudy area and potentially unsafe. But it's another option in the area.

    Our site cost us $11 and we got in the modern area along the side because it was out-of season. That put us nicely close to the showers, and we had running water. We went back into town and had dinner at the local Mexican place. We enjoyed some good burritos and Dr. Pepper and called our respective girls to let them know we were at least ok. Back at the park I got a shower and felt much better afterward. Clean and happy I came back to my tent and eventually turned in for the night.

    We were warned that the Jack Russell Terrier club was there this weekend, but when we headed to bed, there wasn&#8217;t a peep.
    #12
  13. BlueLghtning

    BlueLghtning Riding is my passion

    Joined:
    Feb 16, 2004
    Oddometer:
    6,109
    Location:
    Newnan, GA
    Great report so far! I'm looking forward to doing this section sometime this year hopefully.
    #13
  14. Sanam

    Sanam Dare to Win Well

    Joined:
    Aug 31, 2004
    Oddometer:
    5,022
    Location:
    nowhere land
    :thumb



    :lurk
    #14
  15. Cannonshot

    Cannonshot Having a Nice Time Super Moderator

    Joined:
    Jul 10, 2005
    Oddometer:
    25,230
    Location:
    SE Wisconsin
    Nice ride! Early season is nice - except it looks like you guys got more than your share of rain. I went around Tubby too . . . :thumb
    #15
  16. leahyz

    leahyz Gigantic Tool

    Joined:
    Apr 24, 2006
    Oddometer:
    471
    Location:
    The Sucky Part of IN
    Oh just wait until I get the next day posted! :deal
    #16
  17. leahyz

    leahyz Gigantic Tool

    Joined:
    Apr 24, 2006
    Oddometer:
    471
    Location:
    The Sucky Part of IN
    Day 5: Last Day and Best Day on the Trail - <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:eek:ffice:smarttags" /><st1:placeName w:st="on">Holly</st1:placeName> <st1:placeName w:st="on">Springs</st1:placeName>, MS to <st1:place w:st="on"><st1:City w:st="on">Helena</st1:City>, <st1:State w:st="on">AR</st1:State></st1:place>
    <st1:place w:st="on"><st1:State w:st="on"></st1:State></st1:place>
    <st1:place w:st="on"><st1:State w:st="on"></st1:State></st1:place>
    Greg and I had determined to set an alarm the night before to try and break our habit of late starts. It wasn&#8217;t needed because by daybreak the barking of dogs was so constant there was no way to sleep. I got a wake-up shower and packed up. I took nearly as long as Greg because I could not find the bag for my tent or poles. I tore through all of my stuff but I could not find it, so I just packed the tent into the saddle bag as it was. It wasn&#8217;t on the ground, so it had to be mixed up with something.

    We headed back up into <st1:place w:st="on"><st1:placeName w:st="on">Holly</st1:placeName> <st1:placeName w:st="on">Springs</st1:placeName></st1:place> and had breakfast at the Huddle House. Sure it is common in the south, but non-existent around us. We talked to a guy next to us who owned an F650 and had a lot of comments. Greg and I both have experience with them &#8211; since I bought his wife&#8217;s F650 for my wife. We grabbed snacks and fuel for the day and planned to make lunch out of them (the snacks not the gasoline!).

    We jumped on US76 a bit to get back to our starting point. We were just poking along and got passed by a fellow riding a nice looking KTM ADV. We got off the main roads and finally arrived at our starting point. The trails started out fun, not nearly as muddy and rockier than yesterday. But as we came down a road I saw this in front of me:

    <?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:eek:ffice:eek:ffice" /><o:p></o:p>
    <o:p>[​IMG]</o:p>
    <o:p></o:p>

    I had my feelings about the road around the corner, and this is what I found:

    <o:p></o:p>
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    I stopped and looked at the water. There are weeds along the left hand side, so it couldn&#8217;t be all that deep. I&#8217;d guess in at about 8 inches or so. After a brief chat with Greg I decided I was going for it. Greg took the camera and captured the video, and some colorful comments:

    <o:p></o:p>

    <o:p></o:p><OBJECT height=355 width=425>
    &nbsp
    <embed src="http://www.youtube.com/v/i9D3Tj9Ikwk&hl=en" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" wmode="transparent" width="425" height="355"></embed></OBJECT>

    <o:p></o:p>
    I&#8217;m not really sure if Greg was mad that I made it without falling, or if he was upset that it was now his turn. If I didn&#8217;t make it he would have gone around, but now he had to ante up. I was surprised how deep it was, it was pushing the deepest you should ride a GS. Actually &#8211; it was deeper than you should ride. The water had washed over the jugs at one point and that pretty much means the air intake was collecting water. I didn&#8217;t get a single stumble out of the motor the whole way. 2 lessons, one I&#8217;ve already covered: 1) CLOSE YOUR VISOR!!!! 2) Zip up your tankbag! All-in-all I was soaked, my boots were full of water, and I was dripping wet, but I had a grin to beat all.

    <o:p></o:p>
    Greg started across, no pictures though as he had my camera. He made it, but not without some drama. About 2/3 of the way across I could hear his 1150 start to miss as it was drawing in water. He upped the throttle and made it, but not by much. We both were laughing and commenting about it on the far side. He was letting his bike run a bit to let the water in the exhaust boil off, and eventually shut it down. I captured this picture of Greg draining the water out of his airbox. He then proceeded to drain the water out of his boots and commented about the lack of dry socks again. Some talk about how the water just forms a sheer wall in front of you and this being the longest deepest crossing we had ever done ensued. Greg got mad when I pulled out a dry pair of socks (not really).

    [​IMG]

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    <o:p></o:p>
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    [​IMG]

    We finally pulled away, but within 30 seconds there were problems. I made it out to the main road and the red ACHTUNG!!! triangle started to flash, and the LCD popped up an oil pressure warning. I hit the kill switch and coasted to the next turn where Greg was waiting. I told him the news. He said he had a similar experience on his 1200 after a crossing as well. It turns out that the reason the 1200GS does not have an airbox drain is that the crankcase breather is on the bottom of the airbox. So any water entering in runs into the engine oil. Solved one problem, created a new one.

    <o:p></o:p>
    I popped the bike up on the center stand and was befuddled &#8211; there was no visible oil in the sight glass. Now I didn&#8217;t check it that morning, but I had the day before and it was ¾ up on the sight glass. My GS has never burned an appreciable amount of oil in its life and I was confused. When on the side stand there was oil in the sight glass, nice and black &#8211; not milky at all.

    <o:p></o:p>
    We decided the prudent thing to do would be to drain the oil on the bike and put in fresh. Greg volunteered to make the run into the nearest town and find some oil. I dropped the bash guard and got ready to drain the oil. I found out a flaw in my toolkit that day. I wasn&#8217;t carrying a Torx large enough for the drain plug. I called Greg, and left a message on his phone. He was back in about another 10 minutes with 4 quarts of Castrol GTX. But he had not gotten my message.

    <o:p></o:p>
    We were able to use the largest allen wrench in the 1150 toolkit to get the drain plug out &#8211; in fact it&#8217;s a pretty good fit!. I tried as best as I could to drain the oil into a gatorade bottle and then pour it into a milk jug. It took a few cycles as the bottle only held a quart. It was all drained and I refilled it to about ¾ on the window &#8211; which took about 3.5 quarts. It looked like a little less had come out though. I also noted maybe only a couple beads of water the size of a BB in the oil. It wasn&#8217;t milky, and it didn&#8217;t drain out a bunch of water to start with.

    <o:p></o:p>
    We cleaned up and buttoned it all up. Other than a little spill we did not want to add any mess to the environment so we ran into <st1:place w:st="on"><st1:placeName w:st="on">Holly</st1:placeName> <st1:placeName w:st="on">Springs</st1:placeName></st1:place> and took the used oil to the Autozone there and recycled it. We doubled back and got back on the trail &#8211; no more warning lights all seemed to be ok again.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    <o:p></o:p>
    We continued on along the back roads, spaced out by up to a mile to mitigate any dust kicked up, not that there was much with all the rain. The roads in MS just continued to be a great ride and there seemed to be a little bit less trash here - Less, but not a whole lot less. Eventually I stopped to drain the bladder at a little bride and had a senior moment. I managed to not *quite* get the sidestand down and after a moment of leaning the bike over found out my error. I let it down into the soft sandy gravel and grabbed the camera:

    [​IMG]

    <o:p></o:p>
    Greg eventually caught up and he said it didn&#8217;t count as a drop since the engine was off and the bike was not moving &#8211; just an act of stupidity on my part. As we continued along I kept noting the invasive Kudzu. In places it had completely overgrown fields, fences, trees, signs, everything! It&#8217;ll grow over you while you&#8217;re stopping for a picture if you&#8217;re not careful! I captured this picture of a field covered in the vines. I think since it was so early it had not turned green and was dormant for the season. In some places they had cleaned it up a bit, but the only way they could get rid of it was with a bulldozer.

    [​IMG]

    <o:p></o:p>
    An hour later we headed off route a bit to look for a second ADVcache. It was supposedly just down the hill the left of our bikes, but even after some significant searching I turned up nothing. We snacked, and at that point in time I noticed my second problem of the day. My right foot had oil on it. I had this happen once before and it was when I had mistakenly over-filled the oil. I popped the bike up on the center stand and found that the sight glass was now completely full! Even rocking the bike I could not get it to read anything but full. I figures that since my motor was over full it was now leaking on my relatively new boots.

    [​IMG]

    <o:p></o:p>
    Greg and I tossed around ideas, he couldn&#8217;t believe that my bike was leaking because it was too full. I surmised that somehow during the water crossing the oil managed to get stuck up in the oil cooler and that is why the level was so low. Noting also I really didn&#8217;t seem to have any large amount of water in the oil when I drained it, that is the best I could come up with. But for sure it was now overfilled. I decided than try and drain it now, I would wait until the evening and let a bit out.

    <o:p></o:p>
    We rode on and I was noticing more and more drips on my boots. I stopped along the road after a nice fast gravel section and slathered some mud over the front of my boot to keep the oil from damaging them. Simple solution and somewhat effective.

    <o:p></o:p>
    Eventually we came down a road that looked like it was not used very often. We soon found out why. Some large structural steel lay in the gravel, and a big mound of gravel was in front of the bridge. The bridge itself was missing about 6 feet of decking and seemed impassable. But Greg and I went to the task of putting together a repair to get across. We dug some old boards out of the weeds and laid them across the gap. We supported it in the middle and we tested it by standing on it together. Our combined weight is probably most of a GS.

    <o:p></o:p>
    Since we had been stopped for a few minutes and the bikes were cooling I decided to drain a little oil out of the bike. I dropped the bash guard again and broke the drain plug free. This was going to be a tricky maneuver to drain out some oil, but not all of it! It didn&#8217;t help that the motor was still quite hot. I got my catch bottle positioned and eased the plug out. The hot oil was burning my fingers. I drained out perhaps half a quart, and got some burns. I fought with the drain plug putting it back in, but managed it with some pretty good pain from the hot oil. I had a choice: deal with the pain, or let the bike dump all the oil on the ground. I went for the pain.

    [​IMG]

    <o:p></o:p>
    Greg snapped a few pictures, while I put the bash guard back on. I marked the spot for future ADVriders. I figure that&#8217;ll only last until the next rain. But the bridge was repaired and ready for others to use.

    <o:p></o:p>
    You&#8217;re welcome.

    [​IMG]

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    Now the really crazy part was that there were tracks from another bike in front of us. They did not have our boards, but by the tracks had ridden right across one of the 4&#8221; beams to get to the other side. Whoever it was has big cahones. We walked the GS&#8217;s across our fix, grabbed a few more pictures and celebrated by riding over the smaller gravel pile on the other end.
    <o:p></o:p>
    The shadows were getting long and we were running along at a quick pace now. My oil leak had stopped now and we clipped along. We finally made it to some small town where we ended up on a parade through it. I have not seen anything like it but all the locals were out walking along the street we were riding on. It was almost like some sort of festival. Perhaps it was a Sunday afternoon thing? We were subjected to about a walking pace the kids kept asking us to rev the engines. So we did, and it put a grin on our faces and theirs. We cleared town and made it out to the <st1:place w:st="on">Mississippi river</st1:place> levee. The day was nearly out as we went bounding along the levee. Altogether it was an uncommon ride, but a fun one as well.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    We stopped at the end and I fired up our final route. We had 31 miles of route left to get to AR. Greg&#8217;s fuel window showed about 35-40 miles. We had a bit of spare fuel so we decided to go for it. It also showed us crossing into AR just at sunset according to the GPS. We rode quick, and took a quick stop to throw the electric jackets back on. Just as forecast, we hit the bridge to AR at sunset. We rolled off into AR and hit the very first gas station. There Greg found a USFS campground north of town on the topographical maps we had loaded. It&#8217;s not in citynav though! We put in the waypoint and routed there. Only Garmin will take you for a ride through the worst part of town, and then down 5 or more miles of gravel to a campsite. I figured it would be closed when we got there, but surprisingly it was not. Four bucks for a cheap nights stay.

    We headed into town, I followed Betty (my GPS) to a Chinese restraint. It didn&#8217;t exist. Then I followed it to Burger King, which also didn&#8217;t exist. Finally I just used my eyes and we pulled into MCDs and had a sandwich and called home. We told them we would be home tomorrow. After food we headed back to camp and quickly turned in for the night. We compared routes and it looked like it was going to be a long day home &#8211; 640 miles.

    Greg pulled off his senior moment for the trip. His bike was on the centerstand as he leaned against it. One foot sank into the ground and it fell all the way over (handlebars on the ground). We called it a night after he got it upright and hit the sack.

    [​IMG]
    #17
  18. DC950

    DC950 Microadventurer

    Joined:
    Mar 1, 2004
    Oddometer:
    3,075
    Location:
    Las Cruces, NM
    I really enjoyed this and it made me realize I need to hook up with Gaspipe and ride in our own backyards again soon.
    #18
  19. Cannonshot

    Cannonshot Having a Nice Time Super Moderator

    Joined:
    Jul 10, 2005
    Oddometer:
    25,230
    Location:
    SE Wisconsin
    Neat stuff! Nice to see people enjoying eastern portions of the TAT on big bikes. What a great ride! I wasn't sure how much water my DL1000 could take so I avoided anything deep myself. Looking at the (minor) difficulties you had I'm glad I did. What kind of daytime temperatures did you guys have?
    #19
  20. BlueLghtning

    BlueLghtning Riding is my passion

    Joined:
    Feb 16, 2004
    Oddometer:
    6,109
    Location:
    Newnan, GA
    Very nice report! Gonna have to get out there and run that section myself this year.
    #20