TAT 2020 by a new ADVer

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by mallen416, Sep 5, 2020.

  1. mallen416

    mallen416 Adventurer Supporter

    Joined:
    Aug 17, 2020
    Oddometer:
    30
    Location:
    Central Washington
    *I'm currently 18 days into the trip, My goal is to catch up with my ride report before I finish. The first post is just background and gear, the actual ride report starts in post 2.

    BACKGROUND:

    I started riding on the street when I graduated high school about 2 years ago and have never even sat on a dirt bike or dual sport until 2 months before this trip. After riding street for about a year and a half I thought playing in the dirt would be pretty fun so I started looking at dual sports. I didn't want to have to deal with the maintenance of a dirt bike, I'm a huge fan of fuel injection, and also wanted to be able to ride from my house to the trails as I don't have a truck to haul the bike. Looking at these criteria it came down to either the WR250R, CRF250L, or the KLX250. Being a Yamaha fan and finding the best deal on it I ended up picking up a 2008 WR250R with only 3,000 miles on it. This led me to WR250R forms where I found mention of something called the TAT.

    After some research and finding out what the TAT was I thought that someday I would like to do that on my bike, never thought it would happen soon. Fast forward a couple of weeks and thanks to Covid I have the chance to take the time off to do this trip, I figure it's now or never. The next couple of weeks were spent only working part-time, getting the bike adventure ready (it was bone stock when I bought it), and doing research. I did the Washington BDR as a test run at the end of July. Took a couple tumbles due to inexperience, but the BDR otherwise went well.

    At this point I was locked in on doing the TAT this year. Based off of most people's recommendations I wanted to go east to west so that the trip would get progressively harder and my skills had time to progress. The only problem was no one could ship my bike to the East Coast in time (I'm from Washington). I looked at renting a truck, but it seemed expensive. I've been called crazy many times for the solution that I came up with... I threw on some Shinko 705 tires and rode my WR250R just over 3,000 mi from Washington to the North Carolina coast in four and a half days, camping the whole way. The bike did admirably, I cruised across multiple states around or above 80 mph through most of the state. Some people would call that trip and adventure in its own, but that was just the start for me.


    GEAR:

    I've been happy with what I've packed so far so I'll give a rundown of my gear and bike setup. I won't remember everything, but this is most of it. With my pack full of water, everything came in just under 50 lb. Most of my gear was stashed in Kriega's overlander luggage.

    Mapping - Using my phone in a LifeProof case loaded with both Sam's and Kevin's maps, have a Garmin inReach as a backup GPS, and Sam's paper maps as a last resort.

    Toolkit - Homemade tool tube with about all the tools I need to completely strip my bike down (maybe overkill, but feels like good insurance since I'm solo). Enduro star trail stand, chain lube, mini bike pump, tire pressure gauge, spare front tube, tube patch kit, JB Weld, and a plastic tank repair kit.

    3L Camelback MULE - Snacks, headlamp, Leatherman, charging cords, InReach, and lotion.

    Moto Gear - Fox Titan jacket, Fly Kinetic Mesh jersey, Revit Sand 3 gloves, A-star's Corozal gloves (for when it rains), Leatt knee guards, Klim Mojave pants, A-stars Corozal boots, AGV AX9 helmet, Oakley Airbrake goggles, and cheapish Nelson Rig rain jacket and pants. My idea was to make sure I didn't get too hot in the heat, and I could always layer when it was cold.

    Clothes - Tank top, t-shirt, long sleeve, down jacket, shorts, Long John's, 3 pairs of underwear, 4 pairs of wool socks. All synthetic for comfort, and to better deal with rain and cold.

    Other - Tent, sleeping pad, and sleeping bag in a dry bag. Canister stove, three dehydrated meals, instant oatmeal, first aid kit, winch rope, spare throttle/clutch cables, levers, and pedals.

    Bike:
    Moose Skid Plate
    Zeta Hardguards
    Rear Disc Guard
    Double Take Mirrors
    Spitfire Windshield
    Rim locks
    Steering Damper (got an awesome deal on a GPR, was glad to have it during my long highway run)
    IMS 4.7 Gallon Gas Tank
    FMF Exhaust and Tuner
    Dunlop D606 rear, Pirelli MT21 front tires
    Heavy duty tubes
    #1
    td63, Dan Diego, juno and 15 others like this.
  2. DualDawg

    DualDawg Been here a while Supporter

    Joined:
    Mar 18, 2015
    Oddometer:
    292
    Location:
    El Dorado County, CA
    Wow! Love it! Wish I started riding when I was 20! Great story of your start into the dual sport travel world. Stay safe, pace yourself. Better to finish late than to not finish. Rubber side down and have a trip (1st of many, I bet) of a lifetime! CHEERS!
    #2
  3. Jedi2Rider

    Jedi2Rider Been here awhile

    Joined:
    May 19, 2014
    Oddometer:
    360
    Location:
    Hokkaido, Japan
    Subscribed! Have fun. Thanks for bike prep list. Looks good!
    #3
  4. mallen416

    mallen416 Adventurer Supporter

    Joined:
    Aug 17, 2020
    Oddometer:
    30
    Location:
    Central Washington
    DAY 1:

    I arrived at Atlantic Beach, NC the day before and my bike needed some maintenance before I started the TAT. I brought my bike into a local shop and got my tires put on, new tubes, and an oil and filter change. I probably could have done all this myself but was already a little wore out from the trip and it was much easier to have a shop do it. The shop wasn't able to get started on the bike until about 12:30, they finished up around 3:30 and I was on my way.

    I decided to follow Kevin's route from the coast in North Carolina until it intersected with Sam's farther inland in North Carolina. Kevin's route has you going along the outer Banks but from everything I could find they are closed to motorcycles, and only for four-wheel vehicles. Since I couldn't follow that portion, Fort Macon was only about 30 minutes away from the shop and seemed like a good place to start.

    IMG_20200818_161453.jpg
    I snagged this picture in the Fort Macon parking lot, but my bike needed to hit an Atlantic Beach and not just a parking lot next to one. I found a place I could ride out to the sand, but there were a few too many people to stop and snag a picture, so I turned around and got on my way.

    The rest of the day was pretty unremarkable, it was a lot of paved back roads with small stretches of fast, easy gravel mixed in. I made it to Mount Olive by the time it started to get dark. I decided for my first night on the TAT I would stay in hotel to ease into it. Little did I know until this point that most hotels won't let you check into a room unless you are 21, and I'm only 20. My $45 hotel turned into a $95 hotel in order to find one that would let me get a room. Overall very easy start to the journey.

    140 Miles


    DAY 2:

    The second day of my trip was only slightly more TATish then the first. Most of the day was still paved back roads, however there were a few forest roads but they were all pretty easy. Day two however did set a trend of rain that would last for the better part of a week. The skies we're all clear until about noon, and then it rained most of the day after that.

    Once it started to get into the evening, I found a decent campground just off of the Blue Ridge Parkway (I was hoping to ride some of the parkway the following day). The rain let up just before I rolled into camp, I took this opportunity to look over my bike. The shop told me they adjusted my chain, when I checked it had way more slack than I wanted. While adjusting my chain slack I found my rear axle nut was about half the factory torque spec. After this finding I went over all the bolts the shop would have touched and tightened them down. I'm glad I caught this before it caused any problems, all good now.

    297 miles
    #4
    TaZ9, yokesman, Dan Diego and 14 others like this.
  5. BadgerND

    BadgerND Adventurer

    Joined:
    Jul 17, 2020
    Oddometer:
    14
    Location:
    Bismarck, ND
    Good job checking out the shop stuff.
    #5
    T-34 likes this.
  6. mallen416

    mallen416 Adventurer Supporter

    Joined:
    Aug 17, 2020
    Oddometer:
    30
    Location:
    Central Washington
    I'm trying to follow some advice that my dad gave me... Stay safe, but not to safe. Part of the fun to me is going fast so I found a balance between fast and safe that works for me.
    #6
    yokesman, Ginger Beard and mikegc like this.
  7. BLucare

    BLucare What could possibly go wrong?

    Joined:
    Oct 6, 2016
    Oddometer:
    3,073
    Location:
    Green Bay, Wisconsin
    Dude! 20 years' old, brand new to ADV riding, and off on the TAT? You're the man!

    I'm in :thumb Thanks for bringing us along!
    #7
    Jedi2Rider likes this.
  8. mallen416

    mallen416 Adventurer Supporter

    Joined:
    Aug 17, 2020
    Oddometer:
    30
    Location:
    Central Washington
    I'm sitting in Eureka doing laundry right now so I'll take the opportunity to hammer out some more of my ride report.

    DAY 3:

    I got my wish and was able to ride on the Blue Ridge Parkway for a good bit. Unfortunately the rain was back, and the fog was so bad I was going about half the speed limit and most of what I figured were great views couldn't be seen.

    IMG_20200820_080311.jpg
    I did manage to find a hole in the fog and the view was amazing.

    After riding the Parkway for a bit, it was back to more forest roads. Not quite as fast as yesterday's roads, but still easy. About halfway through the day I hit this awesome paved road with tons of super tight twisties down the side of the hill, the rain even stopped for a bit so I could enjoy it. This road had viney plants completely encompassing The hillside next to you for miles. There's no roads like this where I'm from and it was the most enjoyable part of the trip yet.

    The fun wasn't over for the day yet, later in the day I hit Hurricane Creek road. Sam has a warning in his tracks for mud holes on this road, I'd never ridden in mud before but wanted to test it out. I learned pretty fast to stay in the ruts, if you try to stay out you just slide right in and it's worse than being in them purposefully. After the mud I hit the water crossings (which I'd also never done before), I had read crazy things about Hurricane Creek water crossings but was surprised at how easy they were.

    MVIMG_20200820_141237.jpg
    This was one of the worst spots, there was only one spot worse and I didn't stop to take a picture.

    IMG_20200820_152624.jpg
    I managed to make it through hurricane Creek road unscathed, but learned how slick wooden bridges can be and judging by the marks on the wood I wasn't the first. I should have just went through the water below ;). This tumble also poked a couple holes in my rain pants that by the end of the day turned into two big rips by my thigh.

    I didn't feel like camping in the rain again, so I snagged a motel room in Cherokee, and called it a day.

    239 Miles


    DAY 4:

    More easy forest roads winding through the mountains of North Carolina. I'm definitely not the fastest, especially around the corners but still made pretty good time through here. About midday I passed the highway that would lead me to the Tail of Dragon and wasn't going to check it out. About a mile down the road after thinking it through I realized I'm 2,500 miles away from home and might never get the chance to ride the tail again so I flipped a u-turn and headed to see all the hype was about.

    About 2 miles before the tail of the dragon officially started, I was going through some pretty good curves and almost had my rear tire slide out from under me. I'm used to street tires, I didn't even feel like I was pushing my grip much but from here on out was much more careful with knobby tires. I was kind of disappointed by the tail, but still glad I could say that I rode it.

    About 20 miles before I got to Tellico Plains I came across a sign that said road closed 6.5 miles ahead. By this point I'd already made it through enough roads that had signs like this that I was going to keep on going, then I noticed the sign also said TAT closed. As I was going to turn around a Jeep rolled through and said he just made it through that road so I went on ahead. There's about a half mile where the road was slightly washed out, but easily doable.

    It rained most of the day, except when I took my detour to ride the tail of the dragon. I sucked it up and camped that night at Hunt's Motorcycle Lodge and stayed up way too late talking to some other TATers.

    240 Miles


    DAY 5:

    I got a late start since I stayed up so late the night before, but there was plenty of excitement early in the day. Just a few miles outside of camp I came across my first Tennessee water crossing.

    IMG_20200822_092020.jpg
    This is a lot deeper than it looks, the water was up towards the top of my engine on the far side.

    IMG_20200822_092709.jpg
    Another water crossing with lots of ruts beneath... Choose your line carefully

    I lost track of how many road closed signs I passed this day. There was only one road that was actually closed and it was a super easy reroute about a quarter mile or down the trail. I was pretty proud of myself not having done any water crossings before this trip and making it through all of them just fine. After these water crossings, plus numerous other non-picture worthy ones I was really starting to love them. I remember reading something about not going too fast or you wouldn't be able to see through your wake, but I stopped listening to that advice after I realized how cool it was to make a big wake.

    I stopped a little early at A-OK campground in Calhoun, GA to do some laundry and take a shower. Unfortunately their laundry room was out of service, but I still got my shower. The rain continued, it was clear skies until about 3:00, and then it poured until about half an hour before I stopped for the night.

    A late start and early end to the day meant only 184 miles
    #8
    TaZ9, T-34, Dan Diego and 15 others like this.
  9. Jedi2Rider

    Jedi2Rider Been here awhile

    Joined:
    May 19, 2014
    Oddometer:
    360
    Location:
    Hokkaido, Japan
    Man, this guy is great, ain't he? :super

    Loving the report so far. Nice pics and great descriptions of terrain, your mood, etc. Keep up the good work!

    For those of us following along at home and planning for our trip next year, could you add the approximate locations where you are stopping each day?

    Also, where in vast Central Warshington are you from? Last stint in the States, I lived in Cheney. Practically neighbors!
    #9
    Dan Diego likes this.
  10. nvklr

    nvklr Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Jul 11, 2008
    Oddometer:
    748
    Location:
    Carson City
    Following, thank you for sharing your adventures!
    #10
  11. RacingBlue

    RacingBlue Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Jul 10, 2019
    Oddometer:
    131
    Location:
    Austin, Texas
    You're trip sounds eerily similar to mine! Same age range, same bike, same sort of situation.

    The WR250 is a great bike to do the trip on, and if you're 18 days in then you must be chugging along smoothly.

    Consider me in on this RR!
    #11
    nutmagnet likes this.
  12. mallen416

    mallen416 Adventurer Supporter

    Joined:
    Aug 17, 2020
    Oddometer:
    30
    Location:
    Central Washington
    Towards the end of each day I'm trying to mention where I either camped or got a hotel, I know it helped me a lot to see what kind of progress other people were making in their ride reports. I'm from Yakima, about two and a half hours west of Cheney.
    #12
  13. mallen416

    mallen416 Adventurer Supporter

    Joined:
    Aug 17, 2020
    Oddometer:
    30
    Location:
    Central Washington
    Awesome to have you along RacingBlue! I read your ride report and it was a lot of help to get some of the 2020 updates. One big difference is even though I followed Sam's route most of the way, I'm taking Kevin's through Nevada rather than going up through Idaho. I'm in the middle of Nevada now,
    #13
  14. RacingBlue

    RacingBlue Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Jul 10, 2019
    Oddometer:
    131
    Location:
    Austin, Texas
    Having driven through Nevada on the way home from Port Orford, I really want to get out and either do the Nevada BDR or GPSKevin's section of the TAT. It's such a unique part of the country that continues to draw me in with its solitude. I'll be very interested to see your RR from that section.

    Also I'm glad to hear that the RR helped you out. On top of road conditions, I made a lot of stupid decisions and was pretty honest about what went wrong, and I'm hoping that people can learn from those mistakes without actually having to experience them themselves.
    #14
  15. mallen416

    mallen416 Adventurer Supporter

    Joined:
    Aug 17, 2020
    Oddometer:
    30
    Location:
    Central Washington
    You mentioned one of the main reasons I decided to take this way, the uniqueness. I figured that the rest of Utah and Idaho were a lot closer to the type of riding I can do around where I live. I'm also more likely to head down to Utah or Idaho for some riding than Nevada. One piece of advice from my limited experience, if you hate sand run away from Nevada.
    #15
  16. Jedi2Rider

    Jedi2Rider Been here awhile

    Joined:
    May 19, 2014
    Oddometer:
    360
    Location:
    Hokkaido, Japan
    Good call on going through Nevada. I used to drive thru Lakeview to Winnemucca -- super desolate! Looking forward to doing it on bike. I've read several older TAT reports when Sam's route went through there, and several people commented that that portion was their favorite on the trip, so should be good!
    #16
  17. mallen416

    mallen416 Adventurer Supporter

    Joined:
    Aug 17, 2020
    Oddometer:
    30
    Location:
    Central Washington
    I'll count today as a recuperating day, only made it to Battle Mountain and stopped riding about 4:30. The smoke from the California wildfires is coming up this way and I didn't want to camp in it but the next hotel isn't for 150 miles. At least this gives me a chance to catch up on my ride report.

    DAY 6:

    Pretty uninteresting day, most of the day was on paved back roads again. There were a few dirt roads mixed in that made me glad it was dry today or else they would have been nasty mud. I didn't stop to take any pictures but there were deep ruts in a lot of the roads from four-wheel drive vehicles trying to get through when it was wet.

    I dipped down into Georgia and had some amazing authentic Cuban food from some very nice people at a family run restaurant. I wasn't in Georgia for very long, but still made it to the state. After I'm finished with this trip I'm going to have to see how many states this little 250's made it to.

    IMG_20200823_192004.jpg
    I got my last big water crossing in Tennessee, the longest yet but otherwise easy.

    I finally got another relatively dry day, it only sprinkled for about an hour midday. I took the opportunity while I wasn't in the rain to camp again. I found a nice little spot just off the road about half a mile past the Knob Creek crossing near Lawrenceburg Tennessee (have I mentioned how much I love free camping?)

    GPS track recording was acting up, guessing 300+ miles


    DAY 7:

    Hit a good bit of smooth gravel roads through lots of farmland through the last bit of Tennessee and into Mississippi. Not the most exciting roads, but better than the pavement that I was riding on farther east. I find that as long as you're looking for it you can find beauty and enjoyment through all parts of the TAT. I took this as an opportunity to pound out some miles and get used to the slight wobble of the bike on gravel.

    There were many short sections scattered throughout the day where I would come across very large ruts in the road from when it was wet and muddy. Looking at the weather I should be able to avoid most of the rain and these wet muddy roads from here on out. The only challenge to do this would be to make it through Arkansas before the outskirts of tropical storm Laura passed through.

    If you ever pass through Counce just before you cross over into Mississippi Jane's Diner has a great lunch and dinner buffet. It was under $10 for my choice of meat and an unlimited buffet bar... I probably ate a little too much but enjoyed it while I was there, just regretted it later.

    Found another free spot camp not far from Paris but the mud to get there really packed into my tires and around my swingarm. IMG_20200824_204651.jpg

    323 miles


    DAY 8:

    More gravel roads through Mississippi. Everyone talks about how Oklahoma is straight, dusty roads through fields, but a lot of Mississippi is like that as well. It seems like Mississippi is skipped over in a lot of ride reports and I can see why. It's not that there's anything bad about it, just unremarkable.

    IMG_20200825_105433.jpg
    This is what a lot of Mississippi looked like.

    Throughout the day as I was riding past fields I kept on wondering what all the different crops were. I come from around a lot of farms, but these were different crops that I'm used to. It just so happened while I was grabbing lunch I ran into a farmer and after talking for a little bit he offered to show me around his farm and point out the different crops. Turns out it was mostly cotton, just not blooming yet, and soybean plants.

    A little after noon I passed into Arkansas and stopped by the TAT check-in, even got myself a free Redneckistan, AR sticker. While I was there he told me two people came through just a couple hours ahead of me, I was hoping to catch up to them within the next couple of days. I kept my eyes peeled for other riders, but never came across them.
    IMG_20200825_125158.jpg

    The last part of the day consisted of a fair amount of pavement. Unfortunately one of the few spots that wasn't pavement was a freshly oiled gravel road. There were no signs saying freshly oiled and by the time I realized and slowed down it was already all over in my wheel wells and on my tail light. If anyone has any tips on how to get this off, it would be very much appreciated.

    Most of the day was dry, but it was supposed to rain overnight so I stayed in a hotel in Quitman. Most of the nights that I camped it was either raining when I stopped, during the night, or in the morning and I just didn't feel like having to deal with wet gear again.

    336 miles
    #17
    T-34, Dan Diego, juno and 8 others like this.
  18. nvklr

    nvklr Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Jul 11, 2008
    Oddometer:
    748
    Location:
    Carson City
    WD-40 will sometimes loosen the tar.
    #18
  19. mallen416

    mallen416 Adventurer Supporter

    Joined:
    Aug 17, 2020
    Oddometer:
    30
    Location:
    Central Washington
    The first ride report I read included Sam's old route through Nevada. That's another reason why I decided to go through there, that was my first idea of what the TAT was and what I wanted to do. So far I doubt it's going to be my favorite, but still glad with my decision.
    #19
    Critic and Jedi2Rider like this.
  20. mallen416

    mallen416 Adventurer Supporter

    Joined:
    Aug 17, 2020
    Oddometer:
    30
    Location:
    Central Washington
    Thanks for the tip, I'll have to test it out.
    #20
    nvklr likes this.