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Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by JMo (& piglet), Apr 16, 2018.
And with Piglet on the tank. Love it!
Thanks for sharing
So glad I found this thread
This might be a dumb question, but I'm confused about the "previous original start point" for the TAT. Has the start point not always been...at the ocean? And where is it now? And when did that change? Apologies in advance
Hi BLucare - no, Sam has conceded unfortunately there is not really a dirt or even suitable [paved] backroad route all the way to the Virginia coast - due to so much private and developed land - although a lot of people make up their own* and typically include the Blue Ridge Parkway as a warm-up first.
*In 2015 on the Honda for example, I picked Virginia Beach as my east coastal start point.
For info. The original start point was Tellico Plains in Tennessee (at the western end of the Cherohala Skyway, which in turn allows you to link the Tail of the Dragon and the end of the BRP together on some fantastic paved roads); Sam extended the route east, with a new start in Andrews NC in 2015, and this year has included new sections in Virginia and North Carolina to link with the existing route. The current official start is now in Marlinton WV, with the first dirt section along the State line off hwy 39 there.
Just a quick update - I've so much to tell you, but it's going to take more time than I have at the moment to do the past couple of days justice, so please be patient for the full daily report/s...
In the meantime, today was the most epic so far - starting out on a lovely trail: Tatham Gap Rd, which is part of the Trail of Tears route; followed by absolutely slaying the Dragon both ways, with virtually no traffic - something to be said for riding it early on a weekday morning ;o)
For info. If you're scouting Killboy and the other Tail of the Dragon photo websites, I was there between 9.30 and 10.30 am this morning (2nd May 2018) - I'll be the one with the matching black and grey outfit and luggage ;o)
I then took the Cherohala Skyway to Tellico Plains, and picked up the original TAT again along Witt Rd (with those infamous slimy water crossings); followed by an epic ride across Southern Tennessee on a mix of backroads, highways and even a chunk of Interstate to get me round Chattanooga... in total I racked up over 420 miles today to arrive this evening in Counce TN.
On a 300cc bike!
Got it! Thanks for the info Safe travels for the rest of your journey. I'll be following closely! Hope to meet you and the infamous piglet in person someday
You're a machine!
@JMo (& piglet) so after a 420 mile day, how's the seat?
Looks like you got a little more lean on your wee bike than I did when I ran it for the first time in October. Funny the difference between what you feel and what the photos show..
According to Jenny's FB page she's eating pie in New Mexico...
A quote from Jenny's FB page-
"Jenny Morgan So in total I've ridden 1280 miles in just under 36 hours (including 8 hours in a motel), so not quite an IBA 'Bun- burner', but there you go..."
Been trying to lever in a clever Yuma reference for a write-up on our 310 ride in Morocco, but can't pull it off.
So your mission is to get a shot of the 310GS RR alongside a clock, a train and a Yuma sign.
Bloke with rifle, optional.
Only 320 miles from Flag and downhill all the way...
JMo, it's all yours ;-)
Failing that, head over to Winslow, AZ and look for a girl in flatbed Ford..
I would love to get an idea of how the BMW handles off road in comparison to the Honda. Especially loaded for overnight camping.
Keep those reports coming. This is great!
Hee hee, believe me that was just the warm up - stand by for some increasingly epic numbers as the story continues to unfold - including this marathon yesterday:
Which means I'm now back home in California, with an almost limitless supply of coffee... so let's see if we can't nail this report right up to date by the end of this afternoon eh?
Hi Jungle' - all these, and hopefully many other questions will be answered in due course, it's been quite the experience I can tell you!
Right, shall we 'crack-on' then Piglet?
Day 9: Tuesday 1st May 2018: Mars Hill NC to Andrews NC
197 miles (all new TAT)
So having comprehensively availed myself of the facilities at the Comfort Inn in Mars Hill (I note this primarily for anyone else wishing to ride the NC TAT sections, as it's really the only place in town - not cheap, but clean and comfortable, with a laundry plus the requisite waffle machine for breakfast too - of which I am a firm advocate of course), I hit the road again a little after 9am...
Something had been bugging me since my first [600 mile] service - I'd taken what the dealer said with regard to the oil capacity [1.9L] as read, rather than actually read the manual - and was concerned my sight-glass was full to the top. Sure enough, the actual capacity for this engine is only 1.65L - so basically I had a whole can of Redbull extra oil in there, not ideal - as it could potentially start to damage the oil seals under pressure.
photo. yet another abandoned house in this part of the country...
So I took the opportunity once I hit the first dirt section after Mars Hill (which I have to say is around 40 miles into the day's route, after some utterly epic Supermoto style paved back roads - a luverly way to warm up for the day ahead!), and effected a ghetto oil-tapping, in true 'Mondo Enduro' style:
photo. I used a trash bag (always carry a roll of them in my back-pack for cleanliness around camp and/or as a emergency rain-cover, or simply an impromptu trail-side clean-up if I'm feeling particularly socially minded...), plus a stack of leaves to soak up the extra oil I was about to drain.
With my trailside 'workshop' set-up, I brewed a quick cup of coffee in my Jetboil, in an attempt to allow the now hot engine oil to cool a little at least... unfortunately, it wasn't quite cool enough, and while I was able to restrict the initial flow of oil reasonably carefully, the hot oil glugged over my hand causing me to flinch and drop the drain plug from the end of my socket wrench - so the only option was to lean the bike away from me to stop too much oil pouring out... Of course the bike was parked pointing ever so slightly downhill at this point, and I'd [stupidly] forgotten to put the bike in gear - so the result was the bike now rolled forward a few inches, enough to give me no option but to lay it right down on it's far side to stop an otherwise environmental disaster* from befalling rural North Carolina that morning...
*If I'm honest, it was more to stop any more/too much oil from draining out, having none with me to top up again - and let's face it, there is enough trash and general junk road and trailside in this part of the country that a splash of two of used engine oil isn't exactly going to cause any major concern to anyone, sadly. Hell, I'd actually be doing my bit to return the processed dinosaurs back to whence they came ;o)
With the mess cleaned up and contained in the trash bag and leaf/dirt combo, I packed up and continued on to where I could refuel and dispose of the waste safely.
Again, for those particularly interested in these new sections of the Trans-America Trail, it's worth noting that with regard to the [numerous] paved sections here in Virginia and North Carolina, that there simply isn't clearly isn't an obvious and direct 'dirt' route though these states, so instead Sam has chosen to incorporate some of the finest and most remote/lightly-traffic'd paved roads as part of his odyssey west.
Now this ought to be considered nothing new of course - the whole purpose of the TAT was never to simply to offer a [direct] dirt route from one side of the country to the other, but more the opportunity to see some corners of the USA that you might otherwise never have reason to ride/drive - and that fundamentally, if you're on the right bike - ie. a genuine dual-sport or 'Adventure' bike, rather than think you're going to need a dedicated 'dirt bike' for those few technical off-road sections that you might/will come across - then and from a personal perspective, then mix of back roads and dirt roads/trails is wholly welcomed - "it's all good" as the saying goes.
However, I would counter that with the suggestion that if you're ultimately going to be limited by a time constraint (as most people tend to be of course), then you may need to take some time before you start the TAT and consider where you might streamline your own personal attempt - fortunately there a good number of opportunities to bypass certain sections if needs must, although I'd ultimately end by suggesting it would be a huge shame if you did, as you're more often than not going to miss a visual and/or visceral treat if you do end up cutting the route simply because of time... the moral of this story being that if you intend to ride the current TAT in it's entirety, then you really need to allow an extra week (ie. a good 5 weeks in total) to really do it justice.
Certainly, although I was aware of personal commitments right across the country this coming weekend, I was not planning on forfeiting any of the current new route on my way to join the previous start point in Andrews NC.
Back on the dirt, I came to 4-way track junction high in a forest, and noticed on my GPS that Sam had included an alternative 'hard' route to the main gravel forestry road. As I considered the option, I heard a pair of trail bikes climbing up the hill from below, and they emerged from what would be the hard route down hill via Hurricane Creek Rd. That was all the incentive I needed to take it myself of course!
I chatted with the two riders for a while (one was from the UK!) - who actually work at the Wheels Through Time motorcycle museum in Maggie Valley NC (located a few miles south of where I currently was), which, as it turns out, is also on Sam's new TAT route of course!
I have to say Hurricane Creek is really the first really 'technical' trail section you encounter on this new TAT route - in that it is a dedicated 'jeep road' with numerous creek crossings (some of the muddy) and some rocky terrain to navigate - nothing impossible, but on a larger Adventure bike especially laden with luggage, you might start to sweat. As it was, since it was in the 80°s already, I freely admit to perspiring myself even on a smaller and lighter machine!
A couple of notes I made with regard to the bike at this point: the first is the stock pegs are truly atrocious to try and stand on for any length of time - certainly in the boots I was wearing - not only were they painfully thin, but also so short that my feet were hanging uncomfortably over the ends too.
The second thing I noticed was that the tank side covers (the grey plastic parts on the 310GS) actually splay your knees rather wide and awkwardly when standing up - certainly more so that the comparatively narrow [and yet significantly more capacious] tank on my CB500X for example. This wouldn't be so bad if BMW had actually chosen to fill those voids with actual fuel tank, rather than only looking like it has a 5 gallon capacity!
photo. I recall I crossed this bridge (in the opposite direction) many years ago on my XT660Z when I was exploring this part of the country en route to the Tail of the Dragon and the original start of the TAT in Tennessee!
The trail sections came thick and fast now on my way south through the eastern end of the Great Smoky Mountains NP, and I bopped out in Maggie Valley, albeit with not enough time (or admittedly inclination) to visit the museum after all; instead I was eager to try and complete the rest of the North Carolina TAT to Andrews by nightfall...
After an entertaining climb past the North Carolina Ski resort of Cataloochee, the TAT ultimately rejoins the Blue Ridge Parkway for another particularly entertaining and scenic section (it's all pretty entertaining and scenic of course!), although once again, it turned out that a side spur that forms [a loop] part of the new TAT was currently closed with a seasonal gate:
Still, the main BRP is more than enough compensation, and I was able to rejoin the TAT route at an underpass a few miles further south west, where again I recognised the junction (and trail number, which I'd previously logged in my GPS as a waypoint) from when I rode though here with some ADVrider inmates as part of the Trans-Am 500 ride in 2015 - as with the Old Cataloochee Turnpike through the east side of the Great Smoky Mountains NP that I'd ridden both previously and earlier in the day, it turns out this particular trail is now part of the official new TAT route too!
As the TAT finally left the Blue Ridge Parkway behind and headed further south (and west) towards Andrews NC, it encompassed a particularly entertaining climb up a huge powerline cutting, and crossed over the Appalachian Trail:
...and followed this surreal pipeline for a good few miles on fast and easy gravel roads before finally giving way to tarmac again for the final stretch into Andrews:
photo. I always like riding in the late afternoon/early evening (although you do have to watch for deer of course!) - and this final stretch of the new TAT was a delight to encounter at this time of day.
photo. Piglet emerged to make sure we had actually joined up with the previous TAT start point on Locust St. Andrews NC.
It was now getting dark, and having grabbed a burger at a local stand (I subsequently heard via the internet that there is a great bar/restaurant at the other end of town - the Hoppy Trout), I considered my accommodation options...
Having only Sam's GPS tracks, not his full maps and roll-charts that offer a wealth of additional information, I did not realise there was a proper hotel in town [I previously had elected to stay a further 15 miles away in Murphy] - turns out the Comfort Inn (yes, another one) has been there for 25 years, right on the edge of main highway, where Locust St/ crosses over to begin the TAT. I felt like such a fool for not making a note of this the last time I was here!
I booked in and bedded down. There was a Dragon that needed slaying in the morning before I could start to finally head resolutely west.
Day 10: Wednesday 2nd May 2018: Andrews NC to Counce TN
"Dragon my heels"
photo. The TAT route out of Andrews heads north/north west towards the Cherohala Skyway (hwy 143), but I wanted to ride the Tail of the Dragon (hwy 129) first, so headed north east to Robbinsville on this alternative dirt-road/trail instead...
My mission today was twofold - first of all, to ride the Tail of Dragon (Deal's Gap, hwy 129) in both directions because, well, just because... I've said it before (as part of my Trans-Am 500 report), but the internet loves to criticise the Dragon as being 'crap', more often without much quantification... it's true that the popularity of the road (due to Youtube and like) means it is an utter bun-fight on a sunny Sunday afternoon, littered with screaming street-bikes and cumbersome cruisers, or a procession of four-wheelers - usually lead by either the inept or someone who just scared themselves, and a magnate for easy pickings by the local constabulary (it's a 35mph limit, and solid double yellows the whole way other than a couple of hundred yards where you'd get the opportunity to overtake legally, ahem.) - the point being, this road has the reputation it does for good reason - 318 bends in 11 miles - mental!
Fortunately today was a Wednesday, early morning (well, early for me - ie. before 10am), and I was blessed with a clear run both ways - save for one small convertible who was slowing specifically for one of the numerous roadside photographers, giving me ample opportunity to overtake and be in perfect focus for my Killboy close-up ;o)
photo/s. yep, I even paid for a trio of photos from Killboy, although there were some equally nice ones from the alternative photographers/locations too.
Deal's Gap itself (the 'motorcycle resort' with a motel, restaurant, fuel and now a dedicated photographers merchandise store on the opposite side of the road) was already awash with action - it would appear that a vintage Japanese 2-stoke club had taken over all the motel rooms, and erected their easy-ups to embark on their tune-ups, out of the increasingly fierce spring sunshine:
The ever present Tree of Shame was loaded with the latest debris:
While a quick walk-around had me smiling for different reasons:
photo. A 170cc Grom - nice!
photo. A shed-built hard-tail Kawasaki - interesting! (note the hand gear shifter!)
photo. The Killboy metal dragon (with details made from various old motorcycle parts).
photo. This made me laugh - the main store sold any number of different design T-shirts and stickers as souviners, but most telling was the rack with zip-ties and webbing tie-down straps - presumably to bodge back-together and/or drag your broken bikes home with ;o)
photo. I thought this was fun!
photo. Killboy is the most well-known of the the Dragon photography agencies, and in recent years they have built a dedicated store where you can order pre-printed and personalised merchandise.
As I say, I can't hate it - because each time I've been here I've enjoyed myself, and had a nice clean run of the road.
However, it really was time now to stop messing around, and start to head for Cottonwood AZ - yes, Arizona, to which I'd committed to meeting friends by Saturday, for some trail-riding together over a long weekend.
I also wanted to pop by and say hello to Sam Correro (originator of the Trans-Am Trail of course), who had recently moved from Corinth MS just north of the state-line into Counce TN, which is another location right on the TAT route itself. It would be some task to try and get there in time for dinner this evening (as it transpired he was busy that evening anyway, so we elected to meet for Breakfast the following morning instead), and at the same time - I already felt that I'd blasted though the new sections of TAT more quickly that I might otherwise have liked to - although at least I was able to commit some key highlights to both camera and my notebook before they slipped my memory into what was now fast becoming a bit of a blur...
So I decided to late fate decide my schedule and plotted a route into the GPS that would be both fulfilling, and also fulfil the need to get significantly further west by the end of the afternoon.
My route south and west from Deal's Gap was around the delightful Lake Santeetlah (plenty of camping here if you're ever in the area), before picking up the epic Cherohala Skyway (hwy 143) that crosses into Tennessee just east of Tellico Plains - which until 2015 was always the official starting point of the Trans America Trail.
I snaffled down a burger and iced tea at an independent cafe in the town square, then made a bee-line for a familiar and fun trail that forms the first dirt section of the Tennessee TAT - Witt Rd - which I imagine for many of you who have either ridden the TAT, or simply watched a video clip or read a report, will be immediately recognisable by the series of creek crossings, photos of which are almost always included in any ride report, including this one of course ;o)
photo. this crossing in particular is notorious in having riders on their arses - the water upstream being deceptively deep, while the rock ribs are covered in slimy algae. Cross with care!
Ultimately I broke from the TAT route a little way north of Lake Ocoee (another scenic highway 74/64 runs around the north shore here), and had no real choice but to endure the interstate network south of Chattanooga to get around that urban sprawl, before heading west on the continuation of hwy 64, and ultimately tip-tapping a series of intermediate waypoints that would direct me along much more minor roads, to ultimately dove-tail with the final few miles of the TAT route across Pickwick Dam and into Counce itself.
That evening I elected to bed down right on the TAT route at Little Andy's motel - something of an institution amongst the TAT aficionados I'd been led to believe, although I initially baulked when I squinted through the lobby window at the pricing board - fortunately it turns out the "80" was actually just cents, and the room was a little over $45 with all taxes included! It's not the most modern joint I have to say, but quiet and comfortable and right next door to a BBQ and breakfast restaurant - what more* do you need?
*Turns out what you need is a wider choice of beer at the RnB diner - sure, they have both kinds: regular, and Lite.
As I supped a glass of their least insipid pale yellow liquid and licked barbecue sauce from my fingers, I totted up the miles (420.7 door to door today), and factored with the time change that I had actually been riding for over 12 hours pretty much straight - including a number of great trails, the Tail of the Dragon (both ways), the sweeping scenic Cherohala, interstate, highways, back-roads and byways - and this little GS was proving to be pretty adept at all of it so far - I was impressed!
Day 11: Thursday 3rd May 2018: Counce TN to Oklahoma City OK - yes, really!
649.7 miles. (that's 1045 kilometres in metric!)
I'd arranged to meet with Sam for breakfast at the Outpost Cafe north of Pickwick Dam, so was showered, packed and ready to roll out of the motel carpark by 7.20am - a good thing, since although I didn't know it at the time, today was going to be the longest so far, by quite some margin!
photo. Trans-America Trail originator: Sam Correro - 78 years young!
We chewed the fat about the trail in general, discussed the new additions, and when I mentioned it was my intention to ride some of the initial Mississippi sections again as part of my morning ride west, Sam warned me that he'd had to reroute around what had been one of my most favourite sectors right out of Counce itself:
photo. 2015 on the CB500X - I love these old railway bridges (you might notice a TA500 sticker here ;o), but this trail has since been closed just a few hundred yards further on...
It turns out that the road [trail] bridge over the river just after the railway bridge has been partially dismantled to deter hunters from using this trail:
photo. now it's more like something you might find on the Road of Bones...
photo. I suppose if you were brave, you could try to cross the river itself though the shallow section seen here, but it is soft and sandy underneath... (note also that the water level was currently much lower than it was in 2015 when the whole basin was full of water).
For info. I'd taken the suggested detour, but then rode back along the original route for a mile or so just to check it out for myself:
photo. sure enough, the armco barriers means it doesn't look like this crossing is going to be reinstated any time soon.
I rode a few more miles of the Mississippi TAT route, and again happened on a Closed Road sign:
However, in this instance, I can confirm that this one is still perfectly navigable by motorcycle ;o)
From here, I left the TAT route in an effort to plot a straight route across northern Mississippi, electing to use highway 310 (of course ;o) which happened to run almost directly east west towards my intended crossing of the Mississippi river in to Arkansas over the Helena Bridge (hwy 49) - again, picking up the TAT route fore final few miles in Mississippi, and continuing on the TAT though eastern Arkansas, until it crosses Interstate I70, where I'd absolutely have to leave the dirt behind if I would have any chance of making my Arizona rendezvous on time.
A few photos to illustrate the rest of the day:
photo. The ubiquitous crossing an abandoned railway line picture...
photo. the start of hwy 310 near Sardis Lake.
photo. an abandoned car at an abandoned gas station... you do wonder which happened first?!
photo. I'm not sure if this was a flood, or just a joker had put the street sign in there!
photo. I love this sort of scenery that you get in Mississippi.
photo. down on the Bayou, back on the TAT...
photo. having crossed into Arkansas at Helena West Helena (crazy name, crazy gal!), I continued west on the TAT route, and was disappointed to see the amount of trash and fly-tipping that had gone on along this particular rural road.
photo. Familiar territory - as the Trail turned to dirt, this was my first TA500 sticker in Arkansas.
photo. At the TAT Stop - you've got to stop at the TAT Stop!
photo. Just a reminder that there is still a long way to go if you intend to ride the whole TAT!
This time around I got to meet the owner Percy (who offered me a welcome ice-cold coke!) and signed their 2018 yearbook - it would appear I'm only the 6th rider to pass though this season! I also met Al who then took my photo for their annual photo compilation book too.
It was now after 3pm and I'd already ridden nearly 250 miles (yep, I'd been on a mission all day), and I debated just what to do next.
The TAT route crosses over I70 near to Brinkley AK, which my Garmin Montana had calculated was 1014 miles from Grants NM - in other words, the perfect way to knock out an Iron-butt Saddle-Sore ride (that is 1000 miles in less than 24 hours) while crossing the country in the most direct way possible...
Hmmmmm. I gassed up the bike on ethanol mix regular at exactly 4pm, and contemplated the next 24 hours over some equally poor quality human fuel:
photo. Shameful I know.
As I chewed my way though a rubbery quarter pounder with cheese and an equally rubbery 'Americano', I considered it was certainly unrealistic to try and ride another 1000 miles in 24 hours now, starting at 4pm - and even though I'd already amassed 250 since leaving Counce this morning at 9am, I'd not averaged anything like enough to make those miles count towards the total (which btw. I'd calculated would need to see me in Tucumcari NM before 9am tomorrow to make it count).
However, regardless of how I ultimately managed to break up the next stage of the journey, I was conscious that I really needed to be in Grant's NM by Friday night if I'd have any chance of getting to meet up with my friends in Cottonwood the following day - especially as after two full days on the interstate, I was going to want to take a more gentle and scenic route from New Mexico into Arizona, one that would ideally result in the ingestion of pie en route (as Juan/Visualizerent has already alluded to above ;o)
So I rolled onto I70 at approximately 4.30pm that evening, with the intention of riding until I was tired, and see how the trip unfolded from there...
As it was, I arrived on the outskirts of Oklahoma City a little before midnight, having ridden another 400+ miles since that McDonalds. I was beat.
649.7 miles since Breakfast with Sam that morning - it felt like at least a whole other day away by now!
notes. The fuel economy does start to suffer at higher speeds on this bike (at least with TKC80 tyres fitted) - I was only getting around 49mpg at 70mph this evening, into a headwind admittedly. I also notice that the bike does have a vibration between 5000-6000rpm - it's not overly intrusive, and something that a lot of singles tend to suffer from... once you get over 6750rpm it smoothes out again appreciably, and I'm amazed how refined it feels at 70, even 80, mph when you consider it is such a small capacity single cylinder engine. The gearbox is also very slick and smooth - so I'd suggest that's two fingers up to all those internet critics who think the Chinese can't assemble an engine ;o)
I was also impressed with the low-beam of the headlight, a nice broad spread and good penetration I thought... however, conversely the high-beam is absolutely rubbish - you loose all of the foreground, and get no real penetration to compensate either... I think a trip to Motominded might be in order in future ;o)