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My first adventure ride - the TAT

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by PittsDriver, Jul 4, 2015.

  1. i4bikes

    i4bikes Been here awhile

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    I'm still in.
  2. LightChop

    LightChop Adventurer

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    Thoroughly enjoyed this RR; great pictures and videos, thanks for sharing!
  3. PittsDriver

    PittsDriver Fuse lit.... Supporter

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    Annapolis, MD
    Bellies and gas tanks full, we left the Dry Creek Store headed west continuing through just the kind of forest roads that you'd expect in Oregon - lush green, lots of terrain through the mountains, and mild temps.

    [​IMG]

    With only a day and a half left to Port Orford, we were all feeling a weird combination of anticipation, sadness, disbelief, and weariness. It was like all those emotions swirling around were overwhelming "the moment" of actually being in such an incredibly beautiful and different place than the over 4,000 miles of TAT behind us. And then something would happen that would be like a smack to the forehead to be mindful of what we were doing, such as: we were rambling down a road that looks pretty much exactly like that photo above when an elk about 3 times the size of me and my KLR jumped out of the woods on the left, crossed the road, and disappeared down the hill on the right. I hit the brakes and stopped when I noticed a few more on the left. While we sat there, an entire herd, we counted about 30 elk crossed the road not 100' in front of us. I didn't have my GoPro on at that point and frankly, just sat there with my jaw flopped open watching them. Someone later said it was hunting season and that they had probably been stirred to be on the move by hunters wandering through the woods looking for them. All those other feelings gone - just wow. We spent the rest of the day riding through some of the biggest trees we'd seen on the entire TAT:

    [​IMG]

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    and frequent views of the mountains stretching out toward the Pacific coast:

    [​IMG]

    We popped out of the forest into the small town of Canyonville and decided to treat ourselves to a hotel and a nice sit-down meal. I would highly recommend an Italian place there called Sarafino's. It's a small place with less than a dozen tables that was slammed with business when we got there. It took more than an hour to get our food but the owners were incredibly attentive and apologetic and we did not notice or care in the least as we were all full to the brim with the adventure behind us and the anticipation of doing donuts on the beach tomorrow.
    Mxcale likes this.
  4. PittsDriver

    PittsDriver Fuse lit.... Supporter

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    What would be our last day on the TAT, we left the hotel early and picked our way through town to were the trail started up a steep climb into the mountains again. It was a completely overcast, drizzling morning in town but the trail switched back steeply (a really fun ride) until we popped out on top of the clouds to this view:

    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    This view above the clouds was so striking that we took off up a side trail to see if we could reach the summit of the ridge we were riding and after a short, moderately technical climb reached a clearing where we parked the bikes for a selfie:

    [​IMG]

    Right after we crested this peak, we started down the backside and immediately came to a large, heavy locked gate. Fortunately there was a way around it that took some careful maneuvering up and over some large rocks and ruts and back down and out of a ditch on the other side. We helped each other, one at a time, work through it and the final day music continued from there.

    Yours truly on the ride off the top of that mountain ridge:

    [​IMG]
    KTM 500 EXC Six Dais and Mxcale like this.
  5. PittsDriver

    PittsDriver Fuse lit.... Supporter

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    After wandering around in the mountain forest roads for most of the day, we ended up on a nicely paved twisty road that descended from the hills down toward the ocean. I kept thinking any minute now we were going to crest over a rise and see the Pacific Ocean but it never happened. It's pretty hilly country here right up to within a few miles of the coast. We popped out of that road onto Highway 101 south into Port Orford.

    Now, before I finish the last few miles of this ride report to the beach, let me say that just intersecting with 101 here was a pretty powerful moment for our group. Five years earlier, we met for our first ride together in Seattle Washington and we rode from the Olympic Peninsula to LA as our first epic adventure. Riding south on 101 from here looks like pretty much anyplace on 101 and riding into Port Orford looks pretty much like dozens of small towns dotted along the coast - except for one thing. In the middle of the road, there's this big writing on the street that points to the beach. On that trip, we rolled up to the ocean overlook, parked our big rental Harley Ultra Classics and snapped a few photos before moving on:

    [​IMG]

    Now, five years later, the same four guys are standing here at the end of the TAT snapping photos again:

    [​IMG]

    We're standing around here, more than a bit in a daze feeling like I need someone to pinch me and wake me up. We just sat here for a while soaking it all in:

    [​IMG]

    When I suddenly realized that this spot is not the end of the TAT. The tracks continue down around the corner behind The Crazy Norwegians Fish and Chips and down onto the beach. Of course, there are signs that warn you that motorized vehicles are prohibited on the beach and the descent down a steep walkway ends in a muddy sloppy mess of driftwood and deep wet sand. Screw it, I didn't come this far to stop a few hundred yards short of the official end of the TAT and I wanted to be able to say that I put my tires in the Pacific Ocean. A debate ensues about things like making all this way to get stuck or arrested a few hundred feet from the end. While the guys are going back and forth with that, I've got my helmet on and jumped off down the hill:

    [​IMG]

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    And the money shot with my TAT assault vehicle photo bombing the Pacific Coast of Oregon:
    [​IMG]

    No one was arrested and as for any other mischief or mis-adventure that happened in that vicinity, "what happens on the TAT, stays on the TAT - unless it's really embarrassing and someone gets it on video and then it's posted and viral immediately." Fortunately, no one got the video so it'll remain "on the TAT."
    Mxcale and slime like this.
  6. PittsDriver

    PittsDriver Fuse lit.... Supporter

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    We all felt pretty strongly that we needed to camp our last night on the TAT so we went exploring places to stay. First we went north up to a lovely place call Cape Blanco State Park - which was absolutely slammed full. We talked to the rangers there about finding a place on the beach and were told it was prohibited in Oregon to camp on the beaches other than approved areas. It was getting late in the day so we rolled back into town and figured out that there was a park near the coast south of town called Humbug Mountain State Park. It was also pretty crowded but there were a couple of secluded campsites right on a stream and when things quieted down, we could still hear the sound of the ocean less than 1/2 mile away. We popped our tents down and got settled and then rode back into town for dinner at a very trendy nice place right on the ocean. We ended up rolling back south toward camp just as the sun was setting on the day and our adventure - or so we thought:

    [​IMG]
  7. Hog1450

    Hog1450 I use the oil you hate Supporter

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    What a great read... Couple of buddies and I are looking to do this too. Your adventure, and others, has convinced me that the GSA may not be the bike for it?
  8. PittsDriver

    PittsDriver Fuse lit.... Supporter

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    Hog1450, it's my opinion that a GS or GS Adventure would be a great bike for about 85% of the TAT. There are people that ride them in the most technical and challenging areas but just because some people have the skill and do it doesn't even mean that they are having as much fun as they might on a smaller bike. But even in those areas it can be done especially if you have someone along with you that can help you pick it back up. In our group of four, we had one guy without a single drop; two of us had only one drop (one of which was video'd in all it's glory in this thread - in a creek); and one guy that had more drops - mostly in the soft sand out west. Some of those places a bigger bike would be more stable and maybe less likely to get dropped. Some places, like the most challenging high passes in Colorado and Black Dragon Canyon in Utah, a big bike might require some trail construction along the way to get the bike through. Conversely, there are places on the TAT where you might be droning out a hundred of miles of smooth road. A 250 enduro would suck for that where the KLR hummed along nicely at 80 mph all day long and a GS would have the cruise control set :)

    I kind of look at this two ways. There are people who want the experience of going on a 4,500 mile romp on a dirt bike. Those people are happiest on a 250 to 400 dual sport. Then there are people for whom that is only part of the adventure and the rest is being equipped to camp, do bike repairs, and travel with some level of equipment and comfort that isn't as feasible on a light dual sport. Those people ride anything from KLRs to GSes.

    Moral: if you want to pump your chest out and say you rode the most challenging sections of the TAT, you'll probably enjoy it more on something smaller than a GS. If you want to pump your chest out and pound on it while yelling "I'm the MAN!" then take a GSA and ride the most challenging sections. There are ride reports on here of people that have done just that.

    Thanks for the kind words!
  9. PittsDriver

    PittsDriver Fuse lit.... Supporter

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    We're all from the right coast of the USA. Three of the group hail from the Atlanta Georgia area and while I'm from there, I've lived in Annapolis MD for the last 20 years. So here we are on the left coast on Saturday with 4 KLRs, worn out tires, and people that have to be at work on Monday. We had researched a number of options including shipping the bikes home with a transport company; riding them home either on the TAT in reverse (not likely without a break); riding them home on the road (which would have required some maintenance and new road tires); and finally, the option we selected which was to rent a Penske 16' box truck one way from Oregon to Atlanta. We had to pick up the truck in Roseburg Oregon which was about 120 miles from Port Orford so we hit the road early and got on our way inland and northward. About 35 miles later, on a twisty road with no shoulders, I started getting that squirmy feeling like something's just not right with the world. There's no place to get off this narrow road so I pulled into a driveway and checked the tires. My front was going down fast - the first flat of the entire trip. It was my fault because I neglected to replace my front tire in Moab thinking it would go the distance. It didn't.

    So we're all standing here in this short driveway that ends in a very tall fence/gate with a large "Keep Out" sign on it and I'm thinking, this looks like a fine place to pull the tire and replace the tube. About that time we hear from the other side of the fence multiple very large and mean sounding dogs start barking and snarling through the solid gate. A voice from the other side yells over at us "Get the hell out of my driveway before I set the dogs on you!" Huh? I walk over near the gate and start explaining to the kind gentleman that I've got a flat and there's nowhere else for me to go with it right now. His response: "I don't give a f%$# what your problem is! In 15 seconds my dogs are coming through this gate at you!" Nice folks these Oregonians - especially the ones that have a grow patch hiding behind their tall fences. I tell the guy we're leaving and I go pushing my heavily ladened bike a few hundred yards down the road to a place where it widens just slightly enough for me to not get run over as I'm attending to the bike.

    [​IMG]

    We had a deadline in Roseburg for picking up the truck and a rental car - a hard stop at about noon. So one bud high-tailed it off the last 85 miles to take care of business there while the other three of us stayed behind to reckon with my bike. Rather than replace the tube in a tire that was nearly down to the cords, I decided to shoot some fix-a-flat in it. That got it pumped back up and looked like it would hold so I loaded the bike and off we went, about an hour behind.

    After a brief fuel and snack stop at the Ten Mile Store we motored on to Roseburg where we loaded the bikes and prepped for going our separate ways:

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    By the way, this truck was a steal. $300 for a ten day one way rental plus another $240 for walk away insurance - to haul 4 KLRs 3,000 miles of highway home.
  10. PittsDriver

    PittsDriver Fuse lit.... Supporter

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    Two of the guys took a rental car from Roseburg to Portland for a swift and convenient flight home content in the knowledge that their bikes were entrusted to us for the ride home. The other two of us started plotting how much mischief we could get in to on their bikes, say, passing through Colorado and took note of the fact that neither of the flyers took down their ODO reading before departing. With that in mind, we hit the road in the truck headed east.

    As we rolled out of Roseburg, I started looking at our route and, whadda ya know, we could easily pass within a few miles of Crater Lake. With that bucket list item left previously unchecked, we proceeded to spend the afternoon leisurely taking in the spectacular vistas of this natural wonder - with a Penske truck photo bombing the images:

    [​IMG]

    Of course we texted along the photos to our lame friends who flew home to rub in what they were missing. It really was a spectacular afternoon/evening for watching the sun set over Crater Lake:

    [​IMG]

    With the sun going down fast, we hit the road and started out across the barren eastern portion of Oregon. We drove on until about 1am and decided we'd had enough at a place with no hotels anywhere for miles. We pulled in a rest area and turned our Penske truck into what we came to lovingly call our "Hillbilly RV". We had camping stuff and an enclosed space to flop a bag so yep, we camped out between the bikes in the back of the truck and slept very well thank you very much:

    [​IMG]

    The next stop was Cheyenne Wyoming where we got a hotel on a Sunday night. I started thinking about how I was going to get home on my dead front tire while there. The plan was to stay with the truck until we got to a convenient departure point in Tennessee where I'd bail out on my KLR and ride it home to Annapolis while my friend continued on to the Atlanta area with the other three bikes. Well, it turns out that there's a very well equipped performance cycle shop that caters to the off-road guys just a few blocks from our hotel. Better yet, it's open on a Monday and they've got a tube and tire for my KLR.

    [​IMG]

    Less than an hour of down time and our Hillbilly RV is back on the road again with my scooter shod with fresh rubber.
  11. PittsDriver

    PittsDriver Fuse lit.... Supporter

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    We proceeded along our way, camping in rest areas and driving about 18 hours a day and sending photographic updates to our buds and families along the way:

    [​IMG]

    I decided to stay with the truck until just outside of Chattanooga. There was a hundred miles or so where I didn't get any closer to Annapolis but wasn't getting farther away either so we pulled off late in the 3 day on the road and unloaded me and my faithful steed:

    [​IMG]

    And then there was one. Scott continued with the bikes in the truck and made it home that evening. I had about 700 miles to get home and it was about 8pm. I hit the expressway and pinned it until about 1:30a and made it nearly to Virginia. That was an interesting ride late in the night with no one on the road but me and my fully loaded, completely filthy KLR going about 90 mph. What made it interesting is when you're running that fast on a KLR with an air filter that's almost completely clogged with dust, you run the tank dry at about 140 miles from the last fill up. So out in the middle of an inky black stretch of interstate it quit on me. Because running out of gas at 140 miles from my last fill didn't make any sense to me I pulled off the highway and started thinking about popping my tent open to get some sleep. Before I unpacked, the light went on in my head and I switched it to reserve and it fired right back up. Doh! I used the economy setting on the KLR's throttle for a while until I saw a Love's sign beckoning me in the distance. Saved. Shortly after that I tucked into a hotel about 2am and slept until about 9a the next morning.

    The last 400 miles or so was pretty uneventful after cleaning my air filter in the hotel parking lot and I rolled in to home the next afternoon to my loving wife and daughter that I hadn't seen in over two weeks:

    [​IMG]
    ilten, Boxall, Sneeze Juice and 6 others like this.
  12. juno

    juno Long timer

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    Thanks for finishing this up PD!!! Awesome trip. I did the eastern half last fall and I am hoping to do the west this fall!!
  13. Bob

    Bob Formerly H20Pumper Supporter

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    Great ride, thanks for finishing it!
    The last pic is cool.
  14. joenuclear

    joenuclear Still here....

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    Wonderful!
  15. Irons593

    Irons593 Adventurer

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    Thanks for sharing, what a great RR! I'm curious about the Penske....How was it securing your bikes? Some buddies and I are kicking around the same scenario but from IL to WA on our way to AK just to save some miles and time.
  16. Vic5491

    Vic5491 Been here awhile

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    Yeah and while you are at it, what did the Penske cost to rent from Oregon to Atlanta including the one way drop fee? What size was it and was it a gas or diesel? What kind of MPG did it get?
  17. PittsDriver

    PittsDriver Fuse lit.... Supporter

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    The truck worked great for us. It was very easy to load/unload the bikes. We hit up a Home Depot and bought the straps we used putting 3 or 4 on each bike and attaching them to the side rails in the truck. The bikes didn't budge at all and no casualties of any kind. We put 4 bikes in a 16' truck and there was plenty of room to spare. Putting more bikes in would have been harder but possible with no space left for the sleeping bags.
    KTM 500 EXC Six Dais likes this.
  18. PittsDriver

    PittsDriver Fuse lit.... Supporter

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    OK, here's the portage costs all broken down:

    $539.96 Penske 16' Box rental, 10 days, unlimited miles, zero deduct insurance and additional driver added
    $755.57 fuel cost for the 2,800 mile return trip. We averaged about 9 mpg running the truck up near the limiter most of the way (75 mph)

    $1295.53 plus any meals and lodgings on the portage. We minimized this by sleeping in the back of the truck which was it's own adventure :)

    The truck was gas engine and very comfortable and roomy. I'm told by Penske that the rates can vary from as low as what we got to as much as more than a $1,000 more depending on when you book and the availability of the trucks.

    There's no one-way drop fee and the rental was for 10 days though we only needed it for about 4 days. In fact, my buddy kept the truck for a few extra days in Georgia and did some personal moving in it with his only cost being the fuel.
  19. PittsDriver

    PittsDriver Fuse lit.... Supporter

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    I'm going to try to write up an epilog to this big adventure including lessons learned, what we did right, and what we'd do differently knowing what we know now. For example, I can't tell you how many times I've been asked how in the world did you get four guys to line up and make time to do this? I think we did this experience in a way that most anyone could do it. I'll try to circle back here for that in the next few days.
    i4bikes likes this.
  20. PittsDriver

    PittsDriver Fuse lit.... Supporter

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    I read a lot of solo TAT reports on here and a few with a a couple of people that catch up for a spell and then parts ways. It seems like if it's a couple, they're either married or a father/son scenario. Not that there aren't small groups that do it but it's rare and that's a pity. And I say that as someone that is perfectly happy keeping myself company and will gladly run off for a few days all by myself on a challenging ride. But it's something else entirely to share it and to build some memories with some close friends. The problem for something as epic as the TAT, it's near impossible to get schedules to line up for an adventure that could run from 3 to 5 weeks. The four of us on this trip all have serious responsibilities. We own small to medium sized businesses, have families, volunteer commitments, family vacations - all the normal stuff that prodigious achievers do in life. But 3 to 5 weeks away from home?!? Not going to happen.

    So right up front we decided that we'd break the trip up into multiple sections but our goal was to ride it all in one season. We would stop somewhere along the TAT and store the bikes for a few months and then return to them after the heat of the summer wore off and finish the trip. But when we started the TAT ride back in June, we had no clue really how far we were going to make it before we'd have to store the bikes and make our way back home. None of us had ever attempted anything like this before. We sat out thinking that we could be looking for some place to store the bikes anywhere from Arkansas to Colorado with our stretch goal being Utah where we had some family assistance. Our Plan A was to just to wait and see how it turned out and wing it. We figured we'd find a U-Store-It type place and roll the bikes in and take a cab to the airport somewhere and that was our Plan A.

    As it turned out, we made great progress and camping made us get along even better. However, I would say that the one thing that we did that helped tighten up the schedule was that we developed a flexible attitude about "gratuitous gravel." See this post here:

    http://advrider.com/index.php?threads/my-first-adventure-ride-the-tat.1077645/page-2#post-27158698

    Keeping fully in mind that the journey is the reward, there are still realities of schedule that keep a lot of people from doing the TAT. I'm hear to tell you that you can wring every drop of TAT essence out of this ride and still skip parts of it to keep yourself on a schedule. One of the amazing characteristics of this TAT ride is just how distinctly different each state can be as you move your scooter across our nation. There's something awesome and interesting in every state. But if you pay close attention to the route as it's about to unfold in front of you, you'll sometimes see that it just meanders around aimlessly for miles just to dump you back out a few miles from where you last crossed that highway - nothing new to be seen, experienced, or gained other than adding dirt road miles to the trip. I totally get why Sam routed it the way he did - to maximize the off-pavement time on the trip. We started skipping some of these small loops when we noticed them and developed some skill at this along the way. Ultimately, this definitely saved us 2 -3 days of riding, maybe more. I'm not going to lie - we did skip a few stretches that I would have loved to have ridden if time wasn't a factor. But it was so we skipped them to make the trip work for us. And, if it's a choice between making the trip work and actually taking it; or, not doing it until maybe someday when there's no time constraints; well, I'm very happy we took the trip and I hope that came through in my ride report here.

    We managed to ride what I'll call our "efficient TAT" in 17 days of riding plus various logistical and portage days on the frontend, backend, and middle break. We took a day on the front end to get staged and get tires on the bikes. Then we hit the trail in mid-June from Mile 0 at Andrews and rode nine days to get to Moab, then another day to SLC to store the bike and come home. Call it eleven days total with logistical tasks. Then we met back up in SLC in and took a day to prep the bikes and get relocated back down to Moab before we hit the trail again in September. We rode 8 more days from Moab to Port Orford and then another day to get the bike staged back on the truck. Call that ten more days including logistics. It was still 21 days out of our year but by breaking it up into two sections, it made it much easier to plan and accomplish.