RATATAT (riding ancient trash across trans american trail)

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Day Trippin'' started by murfalert, Sep 18, 2017.

  1. murfalert

    murfalert Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Apr 28, 2007
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    near Birmingham, AL
    The plans for this began last October after the True Grits fun run in Georgia (do the Google, it's great fun when grown men act like children on minis). It may have been initiated after a large steak rinsed by an adult beverage- or two. The conversation went something to the effect of: We need to ride part of the TAT. But any pussy can do it on a dual sport or adventure bike. So let's make some rules that should ensure it's an epic (or disastrous) trip.
    The rules we settled on: bike older than 1979, not Japanese or BMW (if you rode a BMW there were special requirements mandated for each fuel stop that I'll not share here- something linked to gender), and no trucks. The no trucks rule eliminated a small dirt bike from pre-1979 because we'd all high tail it home from our end point on the slab since we actually have jobs to return to.
    The intent was to have about 4 guys, all who followed the rules. The actuality was three "guys", two of which followed the law, and one rebel. The lawless fellow rode his 75,000 mile 2000 VFR that he swears is the best bike God endowed man to build- though not all share his high opinion of the obese gear whining well rounded sow. The lawful men, yes men, rode a 1977 Moto Guzzi Lemans and a 1979 Harley Ironhead (isn't that fun to say?) Sportster- the Sportster made back when men didn't buy them for their ladies.
    [​IMG]

    We began from Andrews, NC the day after the eclipse. Which was good timing since the guy from Raleigh, and me from Birmingham would be there anyway. The poor slob from Ohio had to ride the Guzzi down against the mass traffic exodus after the lights turned back on post eclipse. In all fairness VFR and Ironhead guys used trucks to get to Andrews- a direct rule violation. But I'll be darned if i was going to follow my wife, in my truck, from B'ham to Andrews for some silly rule. And Mr. VFR felt the same about coming from Raleigh.
    We departed August 22 at about noon. I was ready at 7:00 am, but there seemed to be some phenomenon holding the other two in bed late into the morning. And then we had to address the Guzzi Gremlin that thrived on the nutrition provided by ignition coils zipped tied in places that got hotter than is healthy- evidently. First stop was in Andrews to install a new coil and to buy a spare. So it indeed began in epic fashion, 12 miles before the first repair.
    [​IMG]
    #1
  2. ridetheblock

    ridetheblock Adventurer

    Joined:
    Apr 17, 2012
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    20
    Actually it was negative miles before the first repair (or ok before the first break) - the Goose cooked a coil at the top of the hill on Deal's Gap and I had to limp it to the cabin in Andrews, 50 miles later, on 1 cylinder... Thankfully y'all had cold beer waiting!
    #2
  3. murfalert

    murfalert Been here awhile

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    near Birmingham, AL
    Now I should be clear that we never intended to run the entire route to the west coast. Our goal was to hit OK then head home, and to be gone no longer than two weeks. Prior to our departure I met a couple guys in the parking lot of the campground that were headed the whole way, and they gave themselves 35 days I believe. When they left they said they'd see us on the trail. To which I replied that they'd be having some serious issues if we caught them. They hit the trail a day ahead of us on fully equip 1200 GSs. They were prepared to the tune of spare tires and a camera drone! This was in stark contrast to our specially prepared bikes equipped with, wait for it, bungee cords. Although I did zip tie a truck mud flap to the frame of Ollie (the Ironhead) for rock protection. And we mounted more dirt worthy tires. But then the Goose rear didn't work so he put the hard and worn street tire back on to match the front dual sport that was made for a 250# bike as opposed to his 530# unit (the bike that is). The VFR was already blessed with not one but two USB ports for phone charging and GPS operations. That's why we let him cheat; he was the navigator and the only one with a clue where we were going.
    The "clue" in the previous paragraph turned out to be a stretch when 50 miles into our ride on highway the lights in our skulls started to dimly light that perhaps we missed something. After wandering around for hours, bothering a very helpful Sam on the phone, and generally wasting a lot of time we finally went to cell phone navigation and headed for the trail in earnest-er. We rode 170 miles that day and ended up late in Lafayette, GA I believe. We wimped out at a hotel, and since we're cheap one loser slept on the floor (no BMW riders among us ya knows).
    [​IMG]
    #3
  4. CrStep

    CrStep Been here awhile

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    Sep 18, 2016
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    Nashville, TN
    :lurk
    #4
  5. murfalert

    murfalert Been here awhile

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    near Birmingham, AL
    Day two we actually managed to be on the road by 9:30 like real adventurers, adventurers that had to stop at Walmart first for a new air mattress. This day was spent mostly in north Georgia actually on the route. It zig zags up and down in the NW corner through some really pretty country I'd never seen before, despite spending a bit of time in that corner of the state prior. Still mostly asphalt early but then the gravel and some dirt showed up, which was welcome since it's what we signed up for in the first place.
    Ran across a couple guys from the northeast that were on actual dual sport type motorbikes. [​IMG] It seemed odd given the area was really remote. I should mention their Jap bike was being worked on when we pulled up- go figure. We left them there since they had things under control and headed out. Only to have them smoke, or rather dust, past us shortly thereafter. It seems modern dual sports can actually go faster in the dirt/ gravel than 550# street machines ridden by old men. The dust started to show quite a bit on this day, but since we were still all geeked up about riding off road it wasn't a problem, it just made us feel like we were really on a trip of sorts. Goose rider lost some luggage somewhere along the way and had to back track at least 10 miles of dusty gravel to find the pieces. During this we learned that splitting up without specific directions and meeting instructions isn't wise. It's too hard to remember all the turns and too easy to get lost where cell signals are weak or gone.
    We again did about 170 miles after losing a lot of time to navigational issues. Following tracks on a small cell phone while riding has it's challenges. Eventually we made it to a nice campground in TN.
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG] Now if this isn't a 'good morning' scene as you open your tent door you're jaded beyond repair.
    #5
  6. ADVATT

    ADVATT f/k/a "Heavy Cy"

    Joined:
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    Illinoise.Flat as a pool table.Crooked as a snake.
    Digging this. Glad to be in on this one early! Not much of a Hardley fan but that is one handsome brute from back when they were CHAIN driven. Party on Murf...
    #6
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  7. murfalert

    murfalert Been here awhile

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    near Birmingham, AL
    The next morning we were actually up fairly early. That, however, didn't translate to hitting the road/ trail early. Mr. Goose felt that his slow baked coil should be relocated from just over the burner to somewhere out into some clean air. So off came the tank and other peripherals and out came the zip ties, wire, and electrical tape. Having owned numerous (as in over 100) bikes I can't recall another that had ignition coils mounted to the frame with zip ties. But then I've only owned one Guzzi so they apparently are different (today's top understatement). Once the half baked coil was remounted by half baked operator we loaded up and headed out.
    We routed up, down, back and forth through NW GA, into TN, and through the NE corner of my home state of Alabama. Personally I never really knew where we were, I just followed the dust cloud in front of me and didn't really care our location. See, that's the beauty of this trip, not caring where we were, what time it was, or where exactly we were going. It was wonderfully casual, a terrific contrast to the 'up before dawn, work all day, take care of home and family- repeat' pace that necessarily comprises the vast majority of our meager existence. Negotiations of where to eat, where to sleep, when to break were all handled with obligatory sarcasm, ridicule, and refreshing care-less-ness. Even bike break downs, which to this point focused only on a single moniker, were low stress casual breaks.
    After climbing a long tow up some mountain in some state around the triad of GA, TN, and AL one bike was again running as a single instead of a twin. Take a guess, any guess; correct! At the very top after I noticed Ollie was out-pulling the hopped up Lemans we were flagged over by Mr. Goose. Actually I don't recall what caused one cylinder to stop helping, maybe it was an Italian holiday or some such thing. If memory serves he snooped around, wiggled some stuff (probably zip ties), and it began working just fine again. And as we departed the unexpected totally shocked us, having known full well that 'Merican motorbikes are flawlessly dependable- the Harley wouldn't 'crank'. Permit me to digress a moment. "Crank" in the south can mean a couple things; an engine won't "say nuthin", as in not even engage the starter, or it can mean the engine rotates but not without the starter helping. In Ollie's case it meant it didn't say nuthin when the button was 'mashed' (continuing with our geographical nomenclature). This was an issue, and not only because we had just spent 15 minutes badgering the Guzzi rider, but because it was well over 90 out and we were all geared up with the other bikes running (on all intended cylinders even). Now we were on the pinnacle of a small mountain so bump starting wouldn't be a problem, but this particular section of road had very heavy traffic. Not a great place to roll down trying to fire a bike that may or may not go under it's own power. Not to fear; the Leatherman Skeletool came out (it had been out every day so far at least once to fix something). I laid it across the solenoid terminals, and bingo- we had ignition (it cranked). Never mind that I also laid the tool on the master cylinder for the rear brake at the same time it contacted the battery lead which instantly made it hot enough to actually burn my hand. But we were off.
    [​IMG]
    The balance of the day was delightful. A good combination of poor asphalt and gravel with beautiful sights most of the route. We ended up in Collinswood, TN at a fantastic place to spend the night. Hopefully VFR has the details because this couple rented us three spotless bedrooms with a kitchenette, huge bathroom, nice porch, and overhang to park the bikes for $80. Larry, the host, even ran me to the local auto parts store the next morning on his golf cart to buy a couple nuts and bolts along with some duct tape that was used to rebuild the failing footpeg rubber on the Ironhead.
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    #7
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  8. ridetheblock

    ridetheblock Adventurer

    Joined:
    Apr 17, 2012
    Oddometer:
    20
    The issue with the Goose this day was simple - some piece of dirt had clogged a main jet. When we pulled over all we did was remove the drains from the float bowls, watch gas pour out each carb, reinstall and all was well. But to do that meant accessing the tools, which meant unwrapping the bungees and dumping entire contents of dry bag onto the ground to get to the strategically packed tool kit.

    Also, before the Guzzi bashing begins: the cooked coil issue which entertained us this trip wasn't the fault of the vaunted Mandello del Lario brand. No, the ignition system on this particular LeMans is a bastardized hodge podge of Harley coils, VW electronic pickups and other assorted homebrew parts to support the dual plug heads and eliminate points. It seems the designer of said abortion miscalculated the required resistance for the coils causing too much current and therefore heat. The upside of this design flaw is it allowed us to meet several inneresting (sticking with Alabama lingo here) independent Harley dealers, buying coils and hearing stories from grizzled old Loud Pipes Make Noise proponents along the way. I will say, this made an otherwise Harley basher like myself admit there are definite advantages to road tripping on a Hog (in addition to pulling more chicks than one might on something as ugly as an R12GS): there are more Harley shops (maybe not official dealers but independent "v-twin" specialists) per mile than any other brand, which of course is as it should be here in 'Merica. If I wanted to wander this great country of ours at a leisurely pace, I'd probably get myself a Softail and give in to the dark side. There, I said it.
    #8
  9. ONE2NINE

    ONE2NINE Adventurer

    Joined:
    Jul 14, 2016
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    Location:
    Corning, NY
    :lurk Diggin this TAT ride
    #9
  10. NxtGoRnd

    NxtGoRnd This Time Around, Wearing Out Tires

    Joined:
    Sep 22, 2014
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    1,339
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    South of Atlanta, North of Macon
    Excellent looking forward to more!
    #10
  11. murfalert

    murfalert Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Apr 28, 2007
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    Location:
    near Birmingham, AL
    Thought I should toss in a few glamour shots from day three.
    Sometimes the Guzzi actually brought joy: [​IMG]
    Some things are just nice to look at: [​IMG]
    And sometimes we just wanted to pretend we were riding BMWs: [​IMG]
    #11
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  12. Unstable Rider

    Unstable Rider Farto Motografist

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    Twin Cities, Minnesota USA
    I get a bigger kick out of RR's of people doing things like this,
    vs. reading about riders with $20,000 bikes just sitting at Starbucks that rely on 'service plans' every time a fuse blows.

    more or less.jpg
    #12
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  13. murfalert

    murfalert Been here awhile

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    Apr 28, 2007
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    Location:
    near Birmingham, AL
    I'd be remiss for not clarifying why we're on these bike- for fun. That's right, for fun. We all realized years ago that we had more fun on slow or odd bikes than on our stuff that is modern. VFR guy has a street legal and really nice WRF250R (or some such combination of consonants and numbers). Guzzi guy has not one, but two barns full of bikes (most in some partial state of stagnant yet hopeful refurbishment), with a decent Husky 610 dual sport among them. And I have a street legal XCW250F and Tiger Explorer- at home and not on the TAT. We could have each been riding something more appropriate. I would have also said we could have ridden something more dependable too, but the VFR is a Honda. And the Husky, KTM, and Triumph are Euro-trash so they actually may not be more dependable, so there is that. I think we've modernized ourselves into boredom in some cases. Not that I always enjoy being stranded in the cold rain somewhere in the dark mind you. But having to actually learn to work on my junk, and to attempt proper preparations has merit along with a satisfaction that adds another dimension of pleasure to the whole ordeal. As an example; we all used to take our minis to the True Grits (did you do your research?), then on the adjoining days ride our modern super fast street bikes and scare ourselves silly while worrying about buying an expensive set of locking bracelets provided by GA or NC law enforcement. But back about 6 years ago we started just riding our minis all over north Georgia before and after the organized ride- and found it was much more satisfying. Trying to draft up a hill at 25mph then running the poor thing well past it's limit down hill for momentum to climb the next is just plain- fun. Not to mention tagging a tow from grabbing a fender up hill, or hitting a kill switch while passing at 30mph.
    Back to day 4. This day had to be one of the prettiest days of the trip. Wherever we were in southern TN was gorgeous and peaceful, with very few other vehicles the whole day. I think it was today (maybe the day before?) that we went through Rising Fawn, GA. This is worth noting because as the route crosses into that little town there is a small restaurant on the right that is fantastic- don't miss it. We also went through Waterloo, AL that day- a town with some significant Trail of Tears history that sits on a beautiful lake. From there the route takes on some rough, hilly, and red gravel that required us to actually pay attention.
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    We camped that night in some ratty campground that hadn't mowed all summer. We did manage a fire and some sleep which was the goal.
    #13
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  14. ridetheblock

    ridetheblock Adventurer

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    Apr 17, 2012
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    20
    And a bottle of Fighting Cock bourbon and several local brews met their demise at that crappy campground. You see, we always made an effort to keep well hydrated with bourbon, vodka and beer each evening so we'd look and feel our best the next morning. No rookies on this ride.
    #14
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  15. murfalert

    murfalert Been here awhile

    Joined:
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    near Birmingham, AL
    The next day we got going as soon as we arose. No sense hanging around where there wasn't coffee. We did manage a shower, and since we're real men and packed light, we were again drying ourselves with the previous day's tshirt. We rode back to town (that is used loosely, I can't imagine living there with one restaurant and everyone knowing everyone's business) where we went the prior night to eat dinner. Some of the same people were there for breakfast as were there for dinner- but then so were we. It took some asphalt to get to the route where dusty gravel awaited. When I say "dusty" I mean the dust hung in the still air just as thick a full minute after a bike passed as it did right after. We'd leave a 1/4 to 1/2 mile gap but it was no use- that stuff defied gravity. Eventually we decided to get to some back paved roads and head to Corinth, MS to get another back up coil for the Goose. By this time it had one Harley coil and one Chinese. The Harley one was fine so we wanted another- you know, if for no other reason than it had been over a day since we fussed with a Guzzi coil.
    Guzzi boy had been whining about loose steering head bearings most of the day. It seems there are two ways to seat those bearings. One way is to tighten them tight upon installation then back off so they're not too tight. The second method, used in this case because he let a friend (who is a mechanical artist of sorts) assemble who's blood is 35% bourbon, is to let the potholes in dirt roads hammer them to their seat until the steering stem flops around like it's 4 hour Viagra limit has expired long ago.
    [​IMG]
    Style points for the grin. Tool selection- not so much.
    Sometime during this day we did the stream crossing. This was a highlight, just because.
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    #15
  16. Duanob

    Duanob Adventurer

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    Seattle
    Older than 1979 and no Japanese or BMWs? Doesn't that eliminate 99.9% of the bikes on the planet? ;)

    I've always said riding vintage bikes puts the adventure in ADVRIDER. Have a good time dudes!
    #16
  17. ridetheblock

    ridetheblock Adventurer

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    Apr 17, 2012
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    20
    In the picture of Ollie pulling out of the stream, Murf makes Ollie look like a mini bike. Its amazing to me how big modern bikes are in comparison to older bikes. Maybe this is one reason that back in the day guys rode their streetbikes off road no problems. Today.... not many people do this, aside from VFR owners, who are a hearty bunch.
    #17
  18. murfalert

    murfalert Been here awhile

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    near Birmingham, AL
    We headed again for Corinth. Original plans were to put a real rear tire on the Guzzi. But since the street rubber was working on the dry stuff we just wanted a coil. At the local Jap shop they didn't have a coil but recommended seeing Dennis- "but he might be dead", was the response. They called and alas Dennis lived on, so off we went.
    This guy has been fixing and selling parts for Harleys since '81. And he had a coil! Great guy in an interesting place. He also sold me some jets for Ollie and some obligatory stickers.
    [​IMG]
    Then it was time for more dirt. Real dirt with real bumps and mild hills. And gravel- with the stagnet dust.
    [​IMG]
    #18
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  19. sangfroid

    sangfroid Long timer

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    the south: south Ohio, that is
    Great ride report!
    #19
  20. threewinmag

    threewinmag Happily Lost

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    Jun 22, 2008
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    Rockies!
    More, please.
    #20