Prologue While SLAP is a single event in the ADV world, there are so many people involved that every ride is different for every group. With that in mind, I’ve decided to write my own for our group at SLAP. Our ride had been a long time in the making and we had to jump a few uncommon hurdles to make it happen. First, a little background. The 3 of us (Myself, CodyY, Jwduffin a.k.a. “j dub” have been drinking the orange Kool-Aid and riding dirt for several years. We’re no strangers to the fun to be had riding on trails mainly consisting of silicon dioxide, but mostly single track. After several trips to Talimena State Park riding the Indian/Choctaw Nations Trail and riding the county roads into Muse for lunch, we became interested in furthering our dual-sporting experiences. However, none of us had a road legal bike and there would be some challenges in making our bikes legal. CodyY introduced us to the idea of trying to make S.L.A.P. our first official dual sport trip. At the time, it was a little over 6 months away and seemed more like a pipe dream than a concrete plan. As 2009 approached, we started looking at what it would take to make this all happen and we identified our first milestone: Get a motorcycle endorsement on our licenses. On that note, in early February 2009, we all took the MSF course and became licensed riders of the two-wheeled persuasion. Here we are on the insufficiently powered mini-cruisers provided by the course: The next challenge was to get our bikes legal. Each one of us had a different situation. Cody bought his out of state with only an MSO in-hand. Jdubb ended up getting a bonded title. I, along with the seller of my bike, signed my title over a year ago and couldn’t contact the seller as he was now stationed in Italy. Somehow, the planets aligned, the seas were parted, and we all made it happen in time for the trip. The whole process definitely wasn’t cheap, but it was worth it. S.L.A.P. - Thursday night Finally, with the bikes and ourselves ready to go, we departed the DFW area around 5pm on Thursday. We had to make a few pit-stops for parts and a stop and Gander Mountain in Sherman to… take a gander at some outdoor schwag, but we finally made it to the lodge around 1:30am. If you’re keeping count, that means we spent almost 3 hours stopped, but that’s ok. We drove around what we assumed was camp and didn’t see the lodge, but we did find Edwin and Byron setting up their tents. After an exercise in futility trying to get a fire started (gasoline and a mattress inflator were involved), we decided to look for the lodge to see if it was open for the night. Taking a drive back to the circle we’d turned around in earlier didn’t yield much luck at first, then we noticed a sparkle of light reflecting off a window and drove down further. AHA!! There’s the lodge. In the darkness of a moon-less night, we hadn’t seen it earlier. A quick look around in the lodge and we realized only 1 or 2 people were in it so far, so we grabbed a spot in the big room. Then, we realized a big room = more snoring, so we chose one of small rooms. This ended up being a non-issue for me as I was apparently a loud snorer on this trip, so I couldn’t hear everyone else over myself. Great strategy, I thought. Friday We woke up around 7am and Chris (MiddleAgedMissile) was in the main room making coffee. I’m not normally a coffee drinker, but I will partake if there is some around. Luckily, I waited to get mine until after Chris realized he’d poured a considerable amount of SALT in the sugar bowl and in his own coffee. Unfortunately, I got my coffee after Cody dropped a mug and broke 1 of the 2 coffee pots. Clearly, none of us brought our “A” games, or B or C games for that matter. After a few more greetings, it was time to gear up and decide what we’d be riding. DrLewall volunteered to lead several of us out to breakfast in Mountainburg by way of Warloop Rd. He asked which of us wanted to go fast and apparently we were all way too humble… except Byron. He quickly raised his hand, Doc gave him a few directions and he took off. Myself, Cody, and J dub followed suit. At some point, we made a turn and reached a dead-end. We all had a “hmmm” moment and traced our steps back. We went one way… then the other, looking for other tracks besides our own, but never found any. In part of our side journey we even managed an unplanned trip through Bidville, which if you know where Mountainburg (our destination) and White Rock (our starting point) are, is nowhere near those two points, nor is it anywhere en-route. That’s ok though, ignorance is bliss… for now. The decision was made to just look at the GPS and get to Mountainburg. Doc knew his way around more than we did and we could probably meet them there, even if we took a different route. We finally ended up back on Hurricane Creek rd which we took to Old Locke road, down Hickory St and eventually popped out in Mountainburg where we rejoined Doc and the rest of the group for breakfast. After stuffing our gullets and refueling the bikes, we split up again for the trek back. Doc would lead a few guys back via road and us dirt folk (Myself, Cody, J dub, Byron) would ride UP Warloop Rd since we’d missed the chance to ride down it. Warloop was very scenic out of Mountainburg, following Warloop Creek the first mile or so. From there, it begins a steep(ish) ascent up another 800 feet to the top, over the span of about 3 miles. On our smaller bikes (by comparison), it was a blast and we didn’t run into too much trouble, although J dub had an issue with his 400 (bored to 453) and couldn’t get it started again. Cody and I got to the top and after a few minutes, headed back down to see where the other 2 were. A few swift kicks of the 453 and it was up and running again and we all made it back to join the rest of the group at Warloop Rd and Old Locke Rd. The ride back to White Rock was uneventful, but fun. We chowed down whatever each of us had for lunch, talked about curious tattoos and their unspeakable locations, and Doc offered to show us the Mill Creek trailhead so we could explore some single track the next day. After lunch, Doc led the way to Mill Creek, where he set us free to explore the “single track”. I only put it in quotes because true single track is only about a foot wide. While the trails we rode were at least 4-wheeler wide, they were fun. Anywho, we rode a few miles, then realized we had no intention of riding an entire big loop, but just wanted a quick taste of the trails before tomorrow. We had no idea which trails led back, but we knew which direction we needed to go and picked a trail that went that way. It eventually worked out and we popped out at 1007 to begin the ride back. Somewhere on the way back, I ran up on Byron who was stopped, so I stopped to see what was the matter. He complained about being roosted and that his left shoulder hurt like hell. I doubted his assessment as he was wearing adequate (or so we thought) protection, but he insisted he’d been hit with a giant rock off of Cody’s rear wheel. Apparently, Byron had been hit with a rock roughly the size of a brick going at least 50mph. After more well-justified whining, we continued on and got back just in time for supper. The menu tonight was chicken tacos, prepped by the Gaines crew, Edwin, and probably a few others deserving of credit. In short, they were phenomenal. The Black beans, the Spanish rice, the chicken, the tortillas… ALL great, with 3 kegs of beer to wash it down. Some of us got drunk, some of us got sober, but all of us talked about the plans for tomorrow. Preston passed the kettle… Redone and Mr. Disaster: Saturday Saturday morning, we awakened to the smell of bacon, biscuits and gravy being cooked. Having grown up in the south, you never mistake that wonderful smell. Again, our hosts made sure we were well-fed and cared for. Kudos to all you guys (and girls)!! The original plan for us on Saturday was to go to Mill Creek and tackle the single track. We had a contact on the KTM forum who we loosely made arrangements with to show us around. For one reason or another, those plans really never got solidified, but that ended up being just fine. Cody wanted to try out Preston’s (Mr. Disaster) 1150 GS for a bit, Preston wanted to try Cody’s 525, and we all wanted to check out Mill Creek again for a more thorough look. One of Chris’ sons would also be joining us on a KTM 625. Combine all that and we have what eventually turned into a plan. We would all (Me, Cody, Preston, Byron, Jdub, Gaines jr.) head to Mill Creek. Cody and Preston would switch bikes for the journey down. Jdub and Preston would peel off at Mill Creek (although not the original plan for Jdub). We headed out and made it to the 2nd intersection, but I noticed I’d lost sight of Cody and Preston. I go back towards the previous intersection and find they’re not far behind me. Ok, cool. But wait, where’s Jdub? Byron and the young Gaines had gone ahead when I peeled off to find Cody and Preston, so Cody, Preston, and I all went ahead to the next intersection and waited for Jdub. We hadn’t seen any turnoffs and figured he’d eventually catch us. After a few minutes of waiting and not hearing any bikes, Cody finds a cell signal and calls Jdub: Apparently, there was a road that most of us didn’t notice, but Jdub did and he thought we’d gone down it, so he ventured that way. In reality, we’d buzzed right by it. In addition, the 453 stalled again and he had problems getting it started. This delayed him further, but we gave him direction to our spot and were able to regroup a few minutes later. When Jdub met us , and after having some problems on the 453 the day before, he expressed some doubt about whether he wanted to try the single track and decided to go with Preston on a more big-bike-friendly ride when we reached Mill Creek. So, 4 of us ventured into the trails at Mill Creek and we bid adieux (pardon my French) to Preston and Jdub… for now. I believe the final count of miles that we did at Mill Creek was somewhere around 15-20. We never saw another soul until about halfway through when we ran across a few gigantic quads riding with a few guys on CRF 230 Hondas. They were parked at the rocky bluff overlook (although I realize there might be more than 1 of these). Mill Creek was fun. It would be tight for a big bike, but it was wide enough for us to go at a pretty good clip the whole way. We crossed a powerline easement/road a few times and began wondering what our remaining plans were for the day. It was roughly noon and we were getting hungry. Oark was the closest stop for fuel and food, but we didn’t know how to get off the trail and onto the roads. Once again, the trusty GPS gave us enough of a clue to find where we needed to go. After heading down the easement for a while, then down what looked like a logging road, we met back up with Photojojo, Jdub, Preston, and a few others. We were all going to Oark, but, there were more in their group that they couldn’t locate, so most of them stayed behind and we followed a guy (didn’t get the name) down 23 and into Oark for lunch. I had the catfish dinner which was WAY too much food. I should’ve had a sandwich or something that would’ve left me with room for dessert. Sure, I could’ve exercised a little self control and just not eaten as much catfish, but let’s be realistic. One of my favorite things about that little store is you can apparently “order” anything over in the general store area while you sit there and eat, and the nice waitresses will bring it to you and add it to your tab. Just ask Byron. He had a Gatorade, a Dr. Pepper, a bottle of WD-40, and Listerine with his meal. Personally, I stuck to some iced tea and a bottle of 2-stroke oil. We finished eating and waited around for Jdub, Photojojo, and a few others to show up and eat. They weren’t too far behind, but when they all showed up, that’s when we received word about Newner’s attempt at cartwheeling a V-Strom. It sounded like a pretty nasty get-off, but glad to read he’s more or less OK at this point, minus a fractured vertebrae. The unfortunate fact on rides of this magnitude is that someone is probably going to get hurt (at least, that’s my experience), but luckily this was 1 of only 2 injuries worth mentioning. The other was a broken wrist. After lunch, a bunch of us headed out and made our way back to White Rock Mountain as we had at least a few hours of riding left and wanted to be sure to be back in time for dinner, giving ourselves enough cushion for some adversity. I pulled over for a quick snapshot of Byron, Chris’ older son, and Edwin passing by: …and a little adversity is exactly what we got. More specifically, that is what Edwin got on his Triumph Tiger. About halfway back to camp, he hit a sharp rock, which resulted in a hull breech of his front tire. I was right behind him at that point, and became suspicious when I noticed him slow down and look down at the wheel. It was pretty obvious at that point what happened. I pulled behind him and the rest of the crew gradually came back to us as we were preparing to repair the flat. Fortunately, there were plenty of supervisors (including Edwin) to look over the changing of Edwin’s tire. In record time (about 30 minutes), we’d taken the wheel off, put a 21” tube in, and put the wheel back on. It’s amazing how efficient this process becomes when you’re in fear of a hillbilly popping out of the woods with a banjo (and maybe a gun), Deliverance style. The rest of the trip back went without issue and we were able to take in the scenery and enjoy the flow of the gravel forest roads. Well, except for Cody, whose flow didn’t quite match that of the road. The odd thing is RIGHT before Cody's snafu, I backed off to take a picture of the sun shining through the dust in between the thick trees, not knowing he was just on the other side. No damage except a broken GPS mount and some cranial deflation. Once everyone caught up and we’d extinguished our laughs, we continued on to White Rock Mountain. At comfortable cruising speed (40mph I’d guess on those roads, slower in the blind corners) , I came up on Jdub who was stopped and holding out his hand in a “stop” motion. The guy in front of me didn’t stop, so I figure I might as well. I pull off and he points forward and says “rattlesnake!”. Saweeet!!! I get out the phone to take a picture: That’s the first rattlesnake I’d seen in person in the wild. A Timber Rattler I’m told. I wasn’t too concerned with getting too close as I know they have a tendency to coil up before striking (to maximize range), but I did keep a comfortable distance for us both (about twice his length). He looked to be a bit over 3 feet. Good size. I asked a few of the guys when we got back if anyone else saw it and I think Cody was the only other to see it. I pointed to it as Preston went by, but he didn’t catch it either. Apparently those things are well-camouflaged to match forest service roads. Meanwhile, back at the lodge, everyone was getting in from the day’s ride. Another 120+ mile day for us. Not bad for a bunch of dirtbikes. Dinner, again, was spectacular. BBQ grilled chicken breast, brats, corn on the cob, salad, biscuits, and all the beer you could stomach. I turned in earlier that night and missed most of the shenanigans I heard about, although judging by the ease at which I was able to get to sleep, it wasn’t quite as festive as the night before. Sunday Sunday morning, we’d planned on doing a short ride before heading home. At least, that was the plan BEFORE Sunday morning. As it turns out, we felt pretty good about the riding we’d done and were anxious to get a head start on the 6 hour drive back home. Also, Cody apparently got in a fight with a shot of tequila and the tequila won. We got the bikes loaded, packed a few freebies of leftover supplies and started the journey back. Another epic weekend for the books. Thanks to Doc for leading the groups, the Gaines bunch for the hospitality and anyone else who helped out. It was great meeting everyone and great riding w/Preston, Edwin, Byron, Photojojo, and the usual crowd. Can’t wait to do it again!!