If you're here for beta on the condition of the MABDR, let's just get that out of the way so you don't have to read about my dumb feelings. Other than the following notes, I rode sections 6-9 on May 5th-7th and the route was fine. Section 6: Kansas Valley Road is closed at the intersection with Loop Road. Section 7: The expert section on Flat Hollow Road and Longwell Draft road is in good shape; lots of rocks and puddles but not much mud. Section 8: The expert section on Red Tongue Trail is basically 100% mud. Section 9: Just north of Colton Point State Park there is a bridge out on Deadman Hallow Road between the intersections with Painter Leetonia Road and Painter Run road. Now let's get to the real story. At the end of the last motorcycle season I had the realization that I wasn’t riding very much because I wanted to be riding dirt and I didn’t care at all about covering long distances on the highway. My V-strom was the ideal bike for doing the kind of riding that I did NOT want to do. I impulsively bought a DR650 and spent the winter setting it up for touring. Going to my friend’s wedding in Virginia seems like the perfect time to put this new bike, and my new attitude, to the test. I can take two days to get there and five days to get back, leaving plenty of time to get off the beaten path and no need to crush miles on the interstate. The Mid-Atlantic Backcountry Discovery Route passes close to the wedding and heads in the right direction to take me home, so that seems like the most logical route. I honestly prefer to ride alone, but I know that riding a bunch of not-well-traveled roads by myself is probably a poor idea so I’m linking up with a total stranger from ADVrider for the trip north. Will this ride rekindle my love of motorcycle touring? Will it make me regret my decision to tour on a dirt bike instead of riding dirt on a touring bike? Will meeting up with a total stranger from the internet for a four-day motorcycle tour be the plot inspiration for next year’s horror blockbuster, or next year’s inspirational best-seller? Read on to find out. -5 days out, 0 miles: I’m sitting at work with a handful of printed paper maps and a highlighter, trying to transfer the Pennsylvania sections of the MABDR to four public use maps of the Pennsylvania State Forest. The reason is that I’m a cheap-ass, and I don’t want to pay for camping. Most of the PA State Forest allows for free “primitive backpack” camping. My only questions are if I sling my soft panniers over my shoulders do they count as backpacks, and how far do I have to walk from my bike before I’m not “vehicle camping”? I could avoid these questions if I just called for a “vehicle camping” permit every night, but that would require pre-planning where I am going to stop and that’s just silly… Three years ago I did a ski trip in Iceland where we drove around the country, skiing whatever tasty lines we could see and camping on the side of the road. Iceland, like some other European countries, has “freedom to roam”. This allows for a traveler like myself to hike and camp on private lands. The freedom we experienced by being able to pull off the side of the road at nearly any point and pitch a tent, or climb a mountain, was amazing. Ever since, I’ve been trying to recreate that experience in the US and Canada, where it is (as in this case) quasi-legal at best. I suppose you could call it a “better to ask for forgiveness than permission” mentality, but so far it has worked out. I’m planning to try it again in Pennsylvania. The weather, of course, looks like shit. I realize that over the course of a seven day trip, it is almost inevitable that I am going to have to ride in the rain, but that doesn’t mean I have to like it. I think about the inch of snow I got last night at my house, and how miserable it will be to ride if it’s wet and cold. I question my decision to ride what is more or less a giant dirt bike to Virginia and back. I tell myself to quit being such a baby; this is an Adventure after all, it can’t be Type 1 Fun all the time. -3 days out, 0 miles: Packing for a trip is a never-ending process for me. I do my best to assemble a list of what I think I need, which is inevitably very basic. The list for this trip started with: Tent Tent poles Pad/Pillow Camp kitchen Coffee Sleeping bag That doesn’t seem like much. I have a pretty nice selection of small and lightweight backpacking gear, so my quasi-minimalist kit shouldn’t take up a lot of space. My two soft panniers should do the trick nicely. But as I start digging through my gear room, I find more and more stuff that I need. Solar lantern: yeah, I guess I would like some light once the sun goes down. Water filter: kind of important. First aid kit: Yep. Gonna need that too. Repeat that process another 20 times, and all of a sudden my two panniers are looking pretty full. Where am I going to put this rain gear? Shit. I can use a small dry bag for the rain gear. It’s probably better to do that anyways, so I’m not packing wet gear on top of my warm and cozy sleeping bag. That also gives me some expandable storage for food, beer, or whatever other garbage I decide I “need”. I hope I can get it strapped down with a voile strap! I guess I should have some hydration available while I ride, and a place for the map, so I should bring the tank bag. Besides, that makes for a good camera storage location, so I can take some awesome pictures for this trip report and become a famous internet photographer. Front page of ADVRider.com here I come! Oh, wait… My “minimalist” kit has now turned into 50+ lbs and 100 liters worth of bags. It won’t be full-on Beverly Hillbillies, but I don’t think I can claim minimalist status anymore. So much for traveling light! This will be a joy to haul far enough into the woods to achieve “primitive backpacker” status. My packing list still has a few things that need to be added to the bags, so hopefully I’m not bursting any seams by the time I get out of here on Friday morning. -1 day out, 0 miles: I am sitting on my couch, simultaneously trying to talk myself out of going on this trip, and also trying to not talk myself out of going on this trip. This is typical for me; I wouldn’t exactly call myself a homebody, but I like where I live and I like sleeping in my own bed at night. Faced with any kind of adversity at all (like riding all day in the rain, for instance, which I will be doing tomorrow if the forecast pans out) I have a strong desire to just stay home. Once I’m out there I am fine, but it can be hard for me to knowingly set off for some Type 2 Fun. Balancing my desire to take the comfortable path is the fact that I spent all winter setting up my bike to do exactly this kind of trip and I’m never going to get a completely perfect seven-day weather window. If I’m not willing to deal with a little bit of rain, this whole “adventure” thing probably isn’t for me. My dog is also here, sleeping comfortably and making me feel guilty. I’ve been procrastinating taking him to the kennel all day. This will be his first time there, and he has a bit of a “stranger danger” issue. He’ll be happy about playing with other dogs all day, but I know he won’t like dealing with strangers taking him in and out and I feel bad for subjecting him to that. All so I can go ride around in the rain, right? I’m sure you can see how my brain is working at this point. At least my bike is packed. My pile of bags was looking a little large, but with everything on the bike doesn’t seem that bad. It’s certainly no minimalist, adjustafork camping kit, but I don’t have a tower of dry bags behind my seat either. I should probably set up my fork and shock preload for the extra weight, but somehow I don’t see myself doing that between now and when I need to head to work tonight. I can always adjust it out on the road. I have the tools that I need, in my cool, minimalist-but-somewhat-comprehensive tool kit that I put together. That was one of the many things I did this winter while I was preparing the bike for a summer of adventures. More tools, more spare parts, more storage, more gas, more comfort… I spent a lot of time, money, and energy getting that bike ready for anything. What I’m realizing now is that the biggest shortcoming of the whole system is not bolted to the bike, it is the meat popsicle that will sit on top of it. Day 1, 0 miles: I’ve woken up to every motorcyclist’s dream: a cold, damp, dreary day. In contrast to yesterday’s negativity, today I’m actually excited for this ride. The prospect of actually getting a few hours of riding in before the rain hits is really a boon for my enthusiasm. I’m doing a quick route plan on Google Maps before I set off. For this kind of riding, I like to just put in my start point, destination, and check “avoid highways”. Google says it’ll take me almost 14 hours to get to Luray, Virginia, but what is between here and there? I have no idea. I’ll just follow the turns, look at the scenery, and see how far I can get before I decide to turn in for the night. Time to drink a cup of coffee, put on every layer I have, and hit the road. 75 miles: I'm stopped at a diner in Fair Haven, VT for some breakfast and warmth. Today's ride is firmly into Type 2 Fun territory. When I left my house, I had a brief moment of elation when Google immediately turned me onto a dirt road. The rain hadn't started, and as I weaved my way through the foothills of the Green Mountains I was loving the scenery. Yesterday's rain left the ridges shrouded in mist, which was a counterpoint to the hayfields that are just turning a vibrant green. Unfortunately that elation was short lived; I was quickly back on pavement, the rain started up, and my visor started fogging. Visor fog is going to be a serious issue. My options are to ride with the visor open getting blasted in the face with rain, or ride with it closed with some seriously reduced visibility. For the moment, my coffee is hot and this omelette is pretty good, so I'm just going to enjoy it. 229 miles: The rain got worse after breakfast. A lot worse. I was fully miserable for a while; freezing cold, my "waterproof" gloves were soaked through, and I could barely see through my visor. And then after hours of misery, the rain stopped, the sun poked through, and Sheila turned me down a dirt road in New York. All is right with the world. 355 miles: It's 5:30, and I'm stopped at a gas station somewhere in PA. It’s time to start thinking about where I am going to sleep tonight. I'm hoping to do another 100 miles today, and there is some promising looking state forest within that range, so plan A is going to be bandit camping. I picked up some chips and a cup-o-noodles for dinner supplies, just in case I don't see any worthwhile food between here and wherever I stop. That's not exactly the dinner I was hoping for, but it has been a long day and I don't want to be hungry tonight! 414 miles: It's a good thing I picked up that food at my last stop. As I turned off the route towards my potential campsite, I was barrelling into a thunderstorm. I realized that the window to get my tent up before the storm hit was very narrow, and there was no time for a food or beer stop. Within a mile of riding into the state forest I found exactly what I was looking for: a little side path, not blocked or signed for no motor vehicles, and no mud. It took me just out of sight of the road and dead-ended at a reasonably level, reasonably smooth spot. I was seeing lightning, and I knew that I was either camping there or riding some more in the rain, so there it was. I put the tent up, put the rain fly on, threw my bags inside, and dived through the door as the skies opened up. It's been raining ever since. Because the inside of my tent is dry and civilized, and it sounds nasty outside, I'm doing the thing that we all know not to do and yet we all do: cooking in the vestibule. I may die in a fiery ball of melted nylon, but at least I'll be dry. Tonight's culinary delights will be a first course of salt and vinegar Pringles, followed by a "Very Veggie" soy sauce flavored cup of noodles, garnished with beef jerky, rounded out with an aperitif of sink water from a gas station. It may not be a gastronomique masterpiece, but I'm warm and dry and that's all I care about at the moment. … and I just spilled my cup of noodles inside the tent. Fuck. Day 2, 414 miles: The gravel road that I'm camped next to has a lot more traffic than I thought! It's only 6 AM and I've already heard several cars pass by. One actually stopped and parked in the side road leading to my campsite. When I heard the car doors close I thought I was made for sure. They left after a few minutes, but I'm getting the impression that this spot is not as secluded as I thought. I brought oatmeal and coffee, but there is no way I'm going to be able to relax and enjoy it. Time to pack up and head out. It's wet and foggy outside the tent, and the NWS says it'll be another day of riding in the rain. 430 miles: Mercifully I found a country diner close to the campsite. I am definitely ready for some breakfast and coffee. I don't know if it's the Yankee accent or the motorcycle gear, but I'm getting a lot of side-eye in here. There are also significantly more Confederate flags than the last time I passed through. Pennsylvania is above the Mason-Dixon Line, isn't it? 615 miles: I made it to Luray, and my bed for the night: the Open Arms Hostel. I thought I should be nice enough to show up to the wedding showered. I've stayed in hostels before, but I think this is the first time I've ever had to share a room. I guess we'll see which is more important in the long run: saving $40 by not springing for a proper hotel room, or not listening to strangers snore all night. It looks like these folks are AT thru-hikers, so maybe they'll have some cool stories. Time for a bite, a shower, and a party. Day 3, 615 miles: Last night wasn't exactly a rager, but I'm not a party guy either so I am definitely moving slow this morning. I took some Tylenol and drank a bunch of water to ward off the evil hangover demons. Overall my hostel experience was pretty good. There was plenty of interesting conversation with the proprietor and the other patrons. One of my roommates is actually another inmate who rode part of the MABDR last year. We chatted this morning about Chinese motorcycles (he has a CSC) and the benefits of owning a simple bike like the DR that has existed in a technology time capsule for 23 years. Everything is wet this morning, but it looks like the worst of the rain has already passed through and I should be able to stay on the back side of the front. I'm sure I'll hit some rain eventually (I always do) but at least it won't be an all-day affair. Now that I'm as far from home as I'll get on this trip, my attitude towards the rain has changed. Turning around is no longer an option, and resigning myself to riding in the rain brings a bit of inner peace. I'm headed to Mt. Holly Springs this morning to meet up with my riding partner. He keeps his location private, so for this trip report we will call him Mr. X. From our correspondence, it seems like Mr. X has his shit together. If there is a weak link in the team, I'm pretty sure it's me. I hope we get along, and I hope he's not a serial killer! He won't even have to drag my body to the woods to bury it; we'll be there already. On the topic of meeting strangers from the internet, I had an interesting conversation last night on the subject. Two of my table-mates at dinner had never met anyone at the wedding before, including both the bride and groom. It turns out one of the couple is "internet friends" with the bride; close enough to be invited to her wedding, and to drive all the way from Canada to attend. Ten years ago I would have been embarrassed to tell anyone that I was meeting up with a total stranger for a four day motorcycle trip. Now it has become so normal that we're driving across borders to each other's weddings. 756 miles: I'm rolling into Mt. Holly Springs completely soaked. The ride up from Virginia to meet Mr. X has been the rainiest stretch so far. Several of the roads in West Virginia were flooded, so I got started on my water crossing technique a little early. Mr. X has been waiting here for half an hour, but he will have to wait a little longer because I need a cup of coffee and a break. 794 miles: We stop somewhere in the Tuscarora State Forest to confer about where we are going to sleep tonight. Mr. X suggests a motel, so we can dry out our gear. It has rained non-stop since we left Mt. Holly Springs, and our rain gear is soaked through. When we hit the next paved road, I did a quick map check and decided that we should head southwest toward the interstate, where (in my mind) a motel would be located. Indeed, Mr. X's GPS is showing a motel just down the road. Unfortunately when we get there any signs of ownership or management are nonexistent. A quick call to the next stop down the road tells us that they are full, so we go for the next, next closest option. Which ends up being another 25 miles away. By the time we get there my right boot has begun to fill with water, I can no longer ride with my visor down because of fog, and water is pooling inside of my pants. The motel is a moderate shithole, but it's warm and dry and that is all we care about. Peeking at the map, I can now see that we've gone so far off the route that we are actually further south than where we started in Mt. Holly Springs. Whoops! Sometimes you just have to have a dry place to sleep, no matter what it takes. Day 4, 846 miles: Mr. X just told me that he's going to bail. His voltmeter was acting crazy yesterday while we were riding in the rain, and he's concerned that his charging system is going to die when we are in the middle of nowhere. I can understand that; I was once stranded four hours from home when the regulator/rectifier on my bike died. It was a long day. I don't mind riding solo. In fact, I prefer it. It's nice to just go at my own pace, where I can stop whenever I want, ride as long as I want, and I don't have to keep checking my mirrors or trying keep up with someone else. I mostly wanted a riding partner for safety, but I'll just have to ride by myself and take it easy. 883 miles: I'm cruising along a paved road, almost to the point where Mr. X and I left the MABDR in search of dry beds, when a horrible noise comes from my back tire and the bike loses power. I pull the clutch in and coast to a stop, thinking that my chain probably just broke. Instead, I find that my camp chair has come loose and found its way in between my tire and my swingarm. Not only that, but pieces of it have been sucked into my chain guide, and they are jammed in there good and tight. It takes me almost 15 minutes to get everything out of the swingarm and chain guide, including disassembling the chain guide on the side of the road. What's left of the chair is seriously mangled, but the bike seems to be fine. I'm glad it was the chair and not my chain! 1023 miles: I just finished the optional hero section on Flat Hollow Road and Longwell Draft Road. I wasn't planning to do it, but while I was looking at the map at the split in the route a Pennsylvania Forestry guy stopped to see if I was ok. I asked him how Flat Hollow Road was, and he said "it's rough, but on that thing you'll be fine." He was right! The bike made it through no sweat, climbing a hill of babyhead rocks like a champ. I, on the other hand, was sweating profusely. All the body english required to weave the loaded DR up and down that trail really gave me a workout. It feels great to finally get off-road. I love all the dirt-surfing I've been doing on these Pennsylvania gravel roads, but after 100 miles of it I was ready for more of a challenge. Routes like this hero section are exactly why bought the DR and sold the V-strom, and I'm glad that the DR is as capable as I had hoped. From 70 mph highway cruising to rock crawling, this bike has done it all and hasn't skipped a beat. Except for when it ate my chair… but I think we can all agree that was my fault. 1059 miles: I'm surfing along, coming around a corner on top of a ridge, and bam: this is my view. This is why I love my motorcycle. This exact moment, and moments like it. It's not that I can't get to a place like this by car; it's that I won't. The car is about getting from point A to point B as efficiently as possible. But on the bike, I don't mind taking four days to ride what I can do in one, and this is the byproduct. I would never have had the opportunity to sit here and bask in the majesty of mother nature if I had driven my car to Virginia and back. It makes me want to hug my motorcycle. Life is good. 1097 miles: I was finally humbled by the trail. After I had so much fun on the first hero section, I decided to do the next one. Big mistake; it was all mud: several miles of mud, or sometimes a mix of mud, muddy rocks, and muddy roots. I went down twice, hard enough that when I got to my campsite I had to straighten my forks out. It also looks like I tore a small hole in my pannier. Do you think Nelson Rigg will warranty a pannier that's been crashed into rocks? After my mud excursion I was exhausted, but I found a killer campsite right at the end of the trail. I made a tasty dinner and watched the rabbits chase each other around before turning in. It sure feels like I rode more than 240 miles today. Definitely the best day of the trip so far. I'm going to bed tired and happy. Day 5, 1097 miles: I patched up my torn pannier with duct tape. It turns out that it was torn in two places! There is some rain in the forecast for this afternoon, and that pannier holds my sleeping bag, so I thought I should do my best to keep the water out. I'm skeptical about the patches holding, but that's what I thought about the duct tape on my down jacket and that stuff has been there for years now. 1154 miles: I'm stopped next to a stream to tank up on water and eat some lunch. Like much of this ride, it is a ridiculously scenic spot. I am continually amazed by how beautiful the scenery is, and how nice the roads are. The pavement is smooth and twisty, and the dirt is fast and flowy with a little tech mixed in. You can tell that it’s a route made by motorcyclists, for motorcyclists. I'm already on my last map. It seems likely that I'll be finishing up the MABDR today instead of tomorrow. That is fine with me, because I'd much rather do the long return run back to Vermont with tomorrow's 20-percent-chance-of-showers forecast. The next day is looking much, much wetter. 1243 miles: I'm done… sort of. I made it to the end of the MABDR by mid-afternoon. Now that I've ridden what I wanted to ride, that whole take-it-easy Zen attitude is gone. Even though I still have two days before I need to be home, I want to be home now. Instead of relaxing and staying in Lawrenceville, I decide to get some miles under my belt before dark. There is also a massive band of rain to the north, so I decide to head due east. The other thing that seems to have disappeared at the end of the MABDR is my energy. I was being fuelled by the scenery and the fun riding, but crushing pavement isn't doing anything to get me fired up. I only made it 30 miles before I had to stop for a coffee break. It's just starting to rain, so I'm calling it for the day. I can't find an open campground close by, so I'm headed for a cheap hotel. I don't have the energy to find a bandit campsite for the night, and I'm not sure that's something I want to do in New York anyways. Day 6, 1388 miles: While lubing my chain this morning, I discovered that my rear wheel bearings have developed some play. I guess the source of the new vibration I noticed yesterday. It's not so bad that it needs to be addressed immediately, but that could also be my get-home-itis pulling strings in my brain. The ride so far this morning has been cold, much colder than I had anticipated. After an hour my hands were numb and I had to stop for some coffee at a conveniently placed gas station in the middle of nowhere. The sun is out, and the scenery is epic, but between the cold and the ticking time bomb in my rear hub I don't think I'll be able to enjoy it. 1581 miles: Phew. It feels good to be back in my home state! It did warm up, eventually, and the riding through the southern Adirondacks was pretty nice. I didn't stop for any pictures because I only had one thing on my mind: getting home. The general store across the NY-VT border has fresh cider donuts, so I'm stopping for a coffee-and-donuts break before I finish the run home. 1621 miles: I’m home and happy, sitting outside in the sun drinking a beer with our pooch. Reflecting back over the last six days, it’s been just the right amount of Adventure. A little bliss, a little adversity, and a lot of miles under my tires. This trip has also given me some perspective on what I want out of motorcycling. Like many of us, I’ve read the stories of intercontinental adventure and thought “I want that”. My new perspective, however, is that I don’t want that. It’s not that I don’t want it at all, but I want it in small doses. My day-to-day life isn’t a grind, it’s a joy, and when I’m separated from it I miss it greatly. I think six days of Adventure was just the right amount for me; enough to satisfy my wanderlust for a little while. I hope that the next time it hits me I can remember what I’ve learned: that I do Adventure best in small bites.