Marilyn Across America

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by fletcherguitar, Dec 6, 2019.

  1. fletcherguitar

    fletcherguitar Marilyn Across America

    Joined:
    Apr 15, 2014
    Oddometer:
    92
    Location:
    Arizona
    Day 5

    upload_2019-12-21_3-29-3.png


    Marilyn was enjoying Arkansas. Me, not so much. It was wearing on me like a bad dream.


    Most of the roads in this section of the T.A.T. were smooth and the scenery was kind, but I wasn’t making enough miles in a westward direction. The weather window time clock was ticking.


    Just as I was about to exit Arkansas, that natural state, which I had insulted previously, took its revenge.


    Much of life is an equation. Experience equals wisdom. Practice and learning proper technique can add up to proficiency. While gaining that proficiency, it’s best to keep one’s eyes far down the road and ones mind on the task at hand.


    Then, out of the blue, as my own mind took to wandering, it happened.


    Downhill left-hand curve on a gravel road. Too much speed. Not enough skill. I have two choices, run into the ditch on the right side of the road, or try to lean the bike and make the turn. My on-road riding instincts took over. I leaned the bike and weighted the inside foot peg.


    Bad idea.


    The front tire quickly slid sideways, to the right, and.......CRASH!


    My pride took a hit. The protective body amour took a hit. The port side of large plastic gas tank now wears a small battle scar. I was traveling at maybe twenty miles an hour, max. Why so slow? Can you imagine me wrongly weighting that inside peg going faster?

    There is a great line in an old Clint Eastwood movie:

    “A man’s gotta know his limitations.”


    I did. And I do.


    And the bike was barely scratched. It didn’t care one wit. Its engineers had worked out slow speed slide equations long ago.


    Without my own body amour, this ride would have either ended or been delayed while dealing with elbow and shoulder injury.


    I dust myself off and ride on. Because what else is there to do.

    I am reminded of the first day of the ride, where I almost fell during a water crossing, but a quick lucky dab with my right foot saved the balance and saved me from getting wet.

    upload_2019-12-21_3-32-54.png



    With day one memories dancing in my helmet, the bike gently growls and captures westward mile after westward mile. Soon, Arkansas is behind and the border of Oklahoma surrenders.

    I pull over, take out the map and see the scope of this little adventure coming into full focus. New equations. Horizontal lines on a page.


    The northern section of Oklahoma is longer than your high school history teacher’s memory. Six-hundred miles of dirt road lie before me, just to reach Colorado. I can only hope there are no suicidal wild turkeys along the way.


    I turn the key and hear those 250 cubic centimeters of smooth transport fire to life.

    Westward. Ever westward. The turkeys, both the feathered variety and the ex's variety can kiss my blue and white Yamaha booty.
    #21
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  2. wadethewanderer

    wadethewanderer To infinity and beyond. Supporter

    Joined:
    Sep 12, 2017
    Oddometer:
    281
    Location:
    West of Wilmington, north of Myrtle Beach
    Witt Rd! Gotta be the most photographed water crossing on the TAT! My bass is tuned and I'm in. Great writing style.
    #22
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  3. fletcherguitar

    fletcherguitar Marilyn Across America

    Joined:
    Apr 15, 2014
    Oddometer:
    92
    Location:
    Arizona
    Day 6


    It’s my sixth day on the T.A.T. and I gaze into a river where the trout are as long as your leg, which so happens to be the title of an excellent John Gierach book on the subject of fly fishing. Fishing has little to do with riding a motorcycle westward bound, but one’s mind tends to wander after six hours rolling along back roads.

    upload_2019-12-21_21-6-11.png

    I was sorely tempted to stop, buy a fly rod and fish the scenic Dog River. What appeared to be large trout were visible in its shallow runs, facing upstream, awaiting on the current to deliver lunch. Could this river be that cold? Trout need cold pure water. Naw, can’t be.


    Note to self. Look this up when internet is available.


    The constant beauty of this ride is on such a scale as to render one’s mind almost numb to the passing landscape. Almost.

    upload_2019-12-21_21-7-30.png

    There are moments I simply must pull over to take in the view. More often than not, it’s a view I have completely to myself.


    Sometimes the scene offers a photo opportunity and also begs a question. Who carved these road side markers? Why? Were they inspired by their own journey to faraway lands? Or did the migrate here and feel a need to mark their new home with a past memory?

    upload_2019-12-21_21-8-14.png


    upload_2019-12-21_21-8-42.png







    Merle would be proud. An okie from Muskogee.

    upload_2019-12-21_21-9-3.png



    There are times when I’m convinced that all of life is a song. Approaching the smooth roads of Oklahoma, I’m reminded of one.


    “You're the reason God made Oklahoma, and I’m sure missing you.”


    When Lefty Frizzell sang the above lyrics, he was singing to a girl. Today, those lyrics come to mind, except I’m not thinking of a girl. I am thinking of dirt roads. Blessed, straight, semi smooth, hard packed gravel and dirt. If the next four-hundred-fifty miles of this state’s back roads are as reliable as the first one-fifty, I’m gonna miss ‘em as much as Lefty missed that girl.


    Life was good. The miles were adding up. The sky was clear and the temperature was fine. I was getting into a rhythm.


    Then it happened.


    Within three miles of civilization, the side wall of the rear tire separated. No ordinary flat tire. A complete separation. It would have really sucked in the boonies. No inner tube would have held air. A new tire was needed. I do not have a tire strapped to the bike. The WR250R was a 2008. I purchased it in 2015. It had been sitting for six years. It had its original tires. Did I mention that it had been sitting in a garage in Phoenix, Arizona? Where the air is dryer than the inside of your oven set to a slow bake. In my hurry to depart, I didn’t install new tires.


    What could go wrong?

    upload_2019-12-21_21-9-51.png
    The obvious occurred. It occurred thankfully within three miles of a hotel, near the end of the day. I should have bought a lottery ticket. I was that lucky.


    Twice, in six days, I have had a flat. First the front. Now, the rear. The front inner tube blew on day two. It blew exactly one mile from an Arby's. It had been late in the afternoon of day two. I had just happened to be heading towards the nearest town to grab an early dinner. The setting sun creating shade onto the outdoor seating. Shade I had put to good use installing a new tube.


    Now here I am on day six, early afternoon. I decide to take a detour for a snack. I’d ridden about two hundred miles of those lovely Oklahoma back roads.


    Three miles from my desired snack shop and across the street from a hotel, the rear tire decides to separate, along its sidewalls. So, I limp the bike in the grass. Slow and slower, to avoid rim damage. The tire was already toast, so tire damage from riding it after it’s gone flat is irrelevant. If this had occurred in the boonies, I’d be walking. A tube would not have held. The tire broke apart. Did I mention to install new tires before you set out?


    Now, more luck. No one in the little town has tires. But the google phone map app finds a dealer an hour away. Turns out the owner, Elden, has exactly what I need and will deliver; right to the front door of my hotel room as he happens to be heading nearby. Elden is a fellow long-distance motorcycle nut. He has ridden to Alaska. As have I. He has ridden to Key West, Florida, as have I. He has ridden places I have never heard of, nor ever will again. The tire and delivery were worth every penny.


    I like to think that I too would have also delivered tires to a stranded motorcycle rider. Elden didn’t think twice about it. My inner tension may need more grinding from the gristmill of the T.A.T. Ride on.


    But first, it’s time to get greasy and install some tires.
    #23
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  4. overlander

    overlander Gravel Travel Tours Supporter

    Joined:
    Apr 25, 2003
    Oddometer:
    807
    Location:
    Wicheetaw, KS but longing for Texas
    Really enjoying this! Like your style and your self deprication is quite humorous and refreshing. Planning my own TAT trip and then on to AK . Subscribed
    #24
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  5. wadethewanderer

    wadethewanderer To infinity and beyond. Supporter

    Joined:
    Sep 12, 2017
    Oddometer:
    281
    Location:
    West of Wilmington, north of Myrtle Beach
    Sometimes reality has a way of biting you when you least expect it. I was on the TAT at the Mississippi River when technical difficulties reared their ugly head. I'll be doing the Mississippi River to Western OK section this spring. Great RR.
    #25
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  6. i4bikes

    i4bikes Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Apr 16, 2007
    Oddometer:
    629
    When I worked at a bike shop I would try to tell customers that wearing the tread off a tire was not the only reason tires should be changed. As an example a woman brought her bike in because her boy friend said her bike needed a chain. The chain didn't show any wear but her tires were dry rotted and cracked. I sold her a set of tires. A short time later he came in pissed saying she didn't need tires because they had tubes and wouldn't leak the air out. Glad it worked out for you.
    Great RR, I look for it every day.
    #26
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  7. fletcherguitar

    fletcherguitar Marilyn Across America

    Joined:
    Apr 15, 2014
    Oddometer:
    92
    Location:
    Arizona

    Take that long ride. The giant clock in the sky ticks and tocks. On a ride such as these, that clock slows and the purity of scene and purpose rise like the sun on a foggy morning, burning off years and years of Thoreau's quiet desperation.
    #27
  8. eaglescan

    eaglescan Borrego rocks Supporter

    Joined:
    Jun 17, 2009
    Oddometer:
    582
    Location:
    Langley,B C
    A fine story, great to be reading as I sit here in soggy BC. Lucky you ,sitting in AZ. I love anywhere there this time of year. Gold Canyon was the last trip. Do you have a motorcycle as well as golf clubs? It's all good. Steve
    #28
  9. fletcherguitar

    fletcherguitar Marilyn Across America

    Joined:
    Apr 15, 2014
    Oddometer:
    92
    Location:
    Arizona
    Hello Steve.


    Hello Steve,

    B.C. is so danged nice in summer amd your skiing is way better than Arizona.

    Marilyn has morphed into a honda xr650r. She has been neglected of late, replaced by the Mizunos. But next summer she will once again strut her stuff.
    #29
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  10. fletcherguitar

    fletcherguitar Marilyn Across America

    Joined:
    Apr 15, 2014
    Oddometer:
    92
    Location:
    Arizona
    Day 7

    Today I ride roads straighter than a Puritans upbringing. Mostly they were well maintained and fairly firm. Some, had a layer of sand on top just waiting to suck my front wheel sideways. The scale of crossing Oklahoma, including its pan handle, on dirt, is enormous. Six hundred miles. That’s the distance from Atlanta, Georgia to Washington, D.C. Except all in the same danged state, with a thousand stop signs.


    The first two hundred miles of Oklahoma were a joy. The route was fairly scenic, and after the deep gravel of Arkansas, I was ecstatic to ride on dirt. Just dirt. No heaping piles of G. R. A. V. E. L.


    Marilyn is starting to get a tad testy. To make matters worse, periodically, as one rides along the T.A.T. in beautiful Oklahoma, coming to stop sign after stop sign, one can gaze left and see a perfectly good paved road, with a fifty-five mile per hour speed limit and far fewer stop signs. Temptation, thy name is tarmac.

    upload_2019-12-22_20-19-19.png

    Time for a confession. I cheated. I was lured by the purity of pavement. And, I was dying for a diet coke. I side tracked to one of those paved jewels and cruised a good fifty-miles due west on before guilt took over and I hung a ninety-degree right-hand turn and re-joined the damn stop sign filled dirt.


    At days end, I was more than a little beat. All of my previous experience with long distance riding had been on very comfy road bikes. One previous bike had touted an electric windshield. All were plush and heavier than this dual sport Yamaha. The miles were taking a toll. I longed for a comfier bike. Then it hit me. What the heck was I rushing towards? I had convinced myself that I was likely too late to make it over the Rockies without freezing. But I was still in a huge hurry to get over that mountain range. I needed to slow down and put an end to this self-induced stress. And, so I did. I pulled into the first hotel I saw, and ran right into a long-distance reunion.


    In Newkirk, Oklahoma, reunions come in unexpected ways.


    Newkirk is mile 278 of the Oklahoma section of the T.A.T. and is surrounded by vast prairie lands reminiscent of every movie one has ever seen capturing the tall grass days of Buffalo herds and wagon trains.

    upload_2019-12-22_20-8-36.png


    When Sam created the T.A.T. and connected the dots of dirt road to dirt road coast to coast, he probably didn't have reunions in mind. But for “Ace” and Susie, proprietors of the Golden Acres Motel in Newkirk, Oklahoma, reunion was a result.


    Ace checked me into his well-kept motel. He noticed the motorcycle and it became apparent that I wasn’t the first T.A.T. traveler he had met.

    "you must be traveling on that trail I hear so much about." Ace says

    "I am, but I'm not sure if I'm traveling it, or it's traveling me." Says I.

    Ace laughed. Then he pointed to his hotel sign. "When we bought this place, we didn't expect to have so many motorcycle customers. We have seen motorcycle license plates from almost every state, and many from Europe."

    That's when he told me about meeting strangers, new friends and old neighbors.

    Ace and Susie moved from Melton Mowbray, a borough of Leicestershire, England, in 1980. Six time zones and forty-five hundred miles from Newkirk and approximately one thousand miles from the Tennessee beginning of the T.A.T.


    Years later, after they purchased the motel, dust covered motorcyclists begin appearing at their doorstep. Two of those riders were a couple from; you guessed it, Leicestershire, England. The couple had read of the Trans-America Trail in a local British motorcycle magazine, and were keen for the challenge. So, they shipped their bikes and embarked on a leisurely journey across America, where they just happened to check into the Golden Acres Motel.

    " It's a crazy world. " Ace said.

    "You can say that again" I replied.

    And so he did. "Crazy man. Just crazy."

    Several days later, in Oregon, I was to experience a meeting just as brilliantly bizarre as Ace's. The Trans-America Trail has a way of bringing people together that would other wise never meet. I suppose that is a nice trade off for all the dang Oklahoma stop signs.
    #30
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  11. suber1959

    suber1959 Adventurer

    Joined:
    Nov 13, 2019
    Oddometer:
    24
    Location:
    Liverpool
    Staying glued to this trip, keenly following, keep updating.
    #31
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  12. fletcherguitar

    fletcherguitar Marilyn Across America

    Joined:
    Apr 15, 2014
    Oddometer:
    92
    Location:
    Arizona
    Day 8

    Sometimes you win. Sometimes you lose.


    In 1541, the Spanish explorer, misguided plunderer, and dreamer of golden riches, Coronado, began a journey which would ultimately take he and his men, north from Mexico, through what is now, New Mexico, Texas and into the section of Oklahoma through which the T.A.T runs.


    Financed by his wealthy wife, and another investor, Coronado, was seeking to make his own fortune and multiply that of his benefactors. He would have been better served to simply enjoy the ride. He found no gold.


    I avoided any urge to plunder the wind farms, corn fields and cattle farms of northern Oklahoma. Unlike Coronado I did find gold, blowing in the ceaseless expanse of prarie, and jewels, growing alongside six hundred miles of one lane westward gravel roads, surveyed straight and true.

    upload_2019-12-23_20-29-12.png




    After eight days of movement one fact has become clear. Two actually. First, I’m a late riser. Always have been. Still am. Which leads to factor number two. Rising late tends to have one riding westward into the evening, right smack into the setting sun. In a car, there is a sun visor. Some motorcycle helmets have a forward facing bill, like a baseball hat. Mine does not. Which leads me to this.


    There is a book called a thousand and one uses for duct tape.

    They missed one.

    upload_2019-12-23_20-30-53.png
    Stick a swath across the top of the helmet face shield. Then, in late afternoon, just lower you head slightly. One thousand and two.


    The duct tape visor came in handy to spot the white buffalo grazing on the Buffalo, Oklahoma city hall front lawn. He was in a patriotic mood.

    upload_2019-12-23_20-30-18.png
    #32
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  13. chudzikb

    chudzikb Long timer Supporter

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    Jul 17, 2016
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    1,089
    Necessity, the mother of invention, strikes again!
    #33
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  14. BigDogAdventures

    BigDogAdventures Fart Letter Supporter

    Joined:
    Sep 13, 2003
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    6,861
    Location:
    Mt. Vernon, Illinois
    Look what my son got me for Xmas........he’s such a good boy!!!!





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    #34
  15. wadethewanderer

    wadethewanderer To infinity and beyond. Supporter

    Joined:
    Sep 12, 2017
    Oddometer:
    281
    Location:
    West of Wilmington, north of Myrtle Beach
    Fletch, Big Dog, Tim, Cannon and many others.......Great group of potential authors who we all take away a wealth of info and enjoy their writing style and photography. That said, ADVrider has no equal when it comes to our passion. That's why it's an honor to be a supporter! Now that this shameless plug is over, I'm going for a ride, which is what a good RR does........motivate!!!!! Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays! Thanks Fletch!
    #35
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  16. fletcherguitar

    fletcherguitar Marilyn Across America

    Joined:
    Apr 15, 2014
    Oddometer:
    92
    Location:
    Arizona

    Well, I'll be danged. Merry Christmas!

    It's guaranteed to make hair grow thicker, sideburns longer and your shoes two sizes larger.
    #36
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  17. fletcherguitar

    fletcherguitar Marilyn Across America

    Joined:
    Apr 15, 2014
    Oddometer:
    92
    Location:
    Arizona
    Day 9 on the T.A.T.


    This morning it's day nine on the Trans America Trail. As I check out of the hotel, standing in the lobby, a song comes through the speakers behind the front desk. It's a Jimmy Buffet tune, "Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes", nothing remains quite the same.

    Instantly I'm taken back two years, to my own different latitude. It was the year 2013 and my home was a marina in Charleston, South Carolina. A sailboat named "Rose of Avalon" kept the rain off my head and was just large enough for the necessities; a change of clothes, a guitar and a small performance amp.

    upload_2019-12-28_15-31-47.png

    The boat, a Dockrell 27, was a suitable blend of strength and fine lines, sort of like the blue and white Yamaha WR250R that has so capably taken me along the Trans America Trail.

    upload_2019-12-28_15-33-55.png


    Buffet had it right, nothing remains quite the same. I've traded sails and tiller for wheels and handlebars. One sea to another. This one with it's waves rippled into dirt roads, of less height and far less threat than the storm blown breaking waves at sea. I don't miss them. Those swathes of etched red sky evenings at anchor, I do miss, just not enough to endure what it takes to earn their reward.

    With my minds eye in a fine marina, and my riding boots in Trinidad, Colorado, I walk outside to begin another day on the T.A.T.

    Tennessee was nine days ago. Nine days of hard riding, and approximately 2200 off road miles traversed. Anyone reading these words might notice that 9 days of riding and only covering 2200 miles isn't exactly setting off road riding records. Slow riding aside, I'm still tired.


    But worry not. I slowed down even more.


    The T.A.T. is laid out so that approximately 200 miles per day will ensure relative proximity to lodging.


    Those 200 miles could be tough going, or a breeze, depending on road and weather conditions. Due to passing showers, the last four-hundred-fifty miles of western Oklahoma were quite a challenge. Constantly scanning ahead for sand and, or, thin mud is mentally wearing.


    I’m looking forward to scenic Colorado and dry weather. If I reach Ouray, the hot springs there will be a great place to take a day off. Or two.


    The bike has been running well. It was substantially more capable than its pilot. I still hadn’t gotten my road bike instincts out of my stubborn head, but at slow speeds, the dirt was becoming manageable. However, more than a few times I found myself putting weight where it should not go and I was fighting the bike rather than doing what I should have done, which was to use nightly hotel wi-fi to look up off road riding technique.


    Hotel wi-fi isn’t that speedy most times anyway. One evening, as usual, as I checked into a small hotel, I looked for the sign to make sure internet was offered. There was no sign, so I asked the polite man at desk if they had wi-fi.


    “Yes, we do and it’s fweee.” He says as he smiles.


    I was glad to hear this, so I checked in.


    And, ‘fwee’ is good, right? I think it’s even as good as free, but I’m not one-hundred percent sure. Once in the room, I am unable to connect to the internet. I make a call to the front desk.


    “I can’t connect to the internet.” Say’s I.


    “The internet may be down right now, sir.” Says he.


    “I thought you said you have internet and that it was free.” Says I.


    “It’s fwee when it works.” came the reply.


    The paperback book I had in my tank bag was a good read. It wasn’t fwee, but it worked.
    #37
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  18. B.Bart

    B.Bart Just Ride

    Joined:
    Jul 1, 2018
    Oddometer:
    20
    Location:
    USA
    Enjoying the story. Life woven into, around and through a Moto journey. Good stuff, thanks.
    #38
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  19. Pete Pilot

    Pete Pilot Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Jul 17, 2015
    Oddometer:
    147
    Location:
    Prince Edward Island. Canada
    Enjoying the read from the far NE. Likely to hit scorching high temp here today of - 2 C.
    #39
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  20. MrBob

    MrBob In the Pines. Supporter

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    Oct 27, 2005
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    Location:
    Boulder CO and Tallahassee, FL
    With an iPad or Kindle, a library card, and access to the Overdrive app, you will always have something to read.
    #40