The Western Tattenback 2020

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by JMo (& piglet), Jun 24, 2020.

  1. Davidprej

    Davidprej Davidprej Supporter

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    I bought a merino wool t-shirt, but it said not to put in the dryer, if I remember correctly. Is that true? I throw all my clothes in the washer and then in the dryer. I'd rather not have to "special handle" items, but maybe on a trip like this, it would be worth it.
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  2. veriest1

    veriest1 Minimalist Gear Hoarder

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    That is correct. I believe it shrinks a lot... I'm not sure though. I've been using merino for well over a decade (and merino socks daily!) and don't dry them. Merino is natures performance fabric so it dries quickly when hung up or even just laid out. It's also "warm when wet" which means it will retain body heat a bit when wet unlike cotton and synthetics. That doesn't mean it won't feel cool when you put it on wet.... A pair of such garments is really all that's needed on travels and since it doesn't hold odor they're easy to wash out in a random sink or body of water.

    For underwear I actually prefer Exofficio anymore though. They last significantly longer than the thin merino boxers and briefs tend to be made out of. That wasn't an issue when hiking but an issue created by the nature of motorcycle seats. The Exofficio products I have also hold very very little odor and being a synthetic they dry faster too. Merino shirts and socks are great though. The elastic on the Exofficio products I have is actually wearing out some 7 years later. The rest of the product still looks almost new and I've worn them daily during that time. They're tough.
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  3. JMo (& piglet)

    JMo (& piglet) Unicorn breeder

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    Day 12: 3-Step Hideaway to Engineer Pass (wild camp) - 147 miles

    "Mountain High[est]"

    In 2017, during the return leg of my Northern eXposure ride [through western Canada and the boarding US states] to Toronto and back, on reaching Colorado Springs where a new rear tyre was now essential (for info. I'd actually managed to eek out 9,000 miles from a rear TKC80 on the CB500X) - I'd subsequently set myself the goal of plotting my own personal alternative to the TAT route west from Colorado Springs, all the way from the highest motor-able road to the lowest in the United States... before Google confirmed my ignorance - and that it's actually the road to the summit of Mt Evans (14,264ft) which is the highest in the US, and not the Pike's Peak after all - doh!

    Still, the basic principle still stood (and for info. Mt. Evans is not much further north anyway, should you also wish to ride up there and back), and fundamentally my route would still incorporate the highest unpaved road - over Imogene Pass - which while being a grand finale as you leave Colorado behind when heading west, would be an equally epic introduction for Juan - who you may recall had never ridden in Colorado at all before - when heading in this opposite direction, even if technically everything else Colorado had to offer us would subsequently be all downhill from there...

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    photo. leaving Utah behind and crossing into Colorado on a more direct off-road route between 3-Step Hideaway and Telluride.

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    photo. road to nowhere? I'd reccyed this trail while piecing together my 'highest to lowest' route in 2017, and hoped there would be a bridge (rather than a ford) across the Delores River... Thank goodness there was!

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    photo. I'd elected to streamline my 2017 route a little further here, to ensure we had maximum time to cross Imogene Pass, and potentially make a start on the next mountain range too.


    Imogene Pass is one of two (the other being Black Bear, which is one way - downhill, heading west) high altitude passes which lead directly into the high-roller ski resort town of Telluride - one of those brick-built former-mining camps which is now achingly fashionable and prohibitively expensive for most people to even park or dine in, let alone own actually a property - and during the summer months, the whole area has become a mecca for the well-heeled four-wheeler crowd in their shiny JK Jeeps - rented or otherwise, but certainly never the kind of off-road rig you'd need to trailer anywhere...

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    photo. Telluride (the most expensive town in all of Colorado?) is at the head of a valley - the only way out is either back the way you came, or over Imogene Pass.

    Indeed, it is interesting to note that OHVs - ie. non-street legal vehicles - are not allowed on Telluride city streets (they don't want those filthy cheapskate buggy dwellers here!), which means almost all of the traffic on Imogene Pass is larger 4x4s, although as it turns out there were still plenty of side-by-sides further up the pass - heading over from Ouray on the far side, before having to turn around at one of the mine ruin sites and return... To paraphrase that staunch and outspoken critic of the Polaris RZR Oscar Wilde*: "To pass one side-by-side is unfortunate, to have to pass it again is tedious..."

    *erm, citation required? Ed.


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    photo. be prepared (particularly on a weekend, or any day of the week in July and August) - you're likely to meet a lot of these, most often in a group too - on either side of Imogene Pass. Fortunately everyone for the most part is courteous and there are plenty of opportunities for bikes and cars to pass reasonably safely.


    It is worth noting that Telluride and Imogene Pass are not part of the official TAT route (which actually leaves the San Juan mountains behind a little further south of here, via Ophir Pass) - and while Imogene Pass is included as part of GPSKevin's route, do consider that when heading in the traditional TAT direction west which means uphill from the Ouray side, there is one particularly steep and tricky spot towards the top (which means already at around 13,000ft elevation) which has deteriorated over the years (much as some of those trails in the Moab area have due to a vast increase in the number of rental four wheelers using this trail) which is going to be particularly hard work on a larger 'adventure' bike with luggage; and in my opinion, is not really suitable for your average TAT rider these days unless they are very experienced in this kind of terrain and at altitude.

    It is a huge shame really as Imogene Pass is not only utterly epic from a scenic point of view, but also reasonably easy going for the most part with just the odd rocky and loose section (on the west side) which a degree of commitment and momentum should see most two-wheelers across. Ultimately I would suggest for any first-timers, that riding Imogene in the direction we were heading - ie. east, towards Ouray - is now the preferred and recommended way if you're on anything other than a lightweight enduro bike.

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    photo. the final ascent to the summit (from the Tellurite side) of Imogene Pass is, yeah, pretty epic...


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    photo. almost inevitably there was a line of 4x4 and SxS vehicles waiting to have their photo taken when we first arrived...


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    photo. Juan's 'Hero' pose! - there is even a 4G signal up here so people can update their social meeja the moment they arrive... and I admit we did, with a live stream video on Juan's YouTube channel!



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    photo. the sticker and bullet-ridden postbox at the summit. What kind of a cowboy brings a gun up here to shoot up the local landmarks?


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    photo. it was nice to see my CB500X sticker (well, most of it) was still here from 2017...


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    photo. another 'Hero' pose - this time from the Red Mountain overlook, which is even higher than the official pass - 13,222ft according to my GPS - and almost certainly the highest we'd be riding this trip!


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    photo. the descent east is no less impressive, and even though it was mid July, there was still snow on some of the north facing slopes.



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    photo. Juan was having a ball, although this is about as big a bike (and certainly luggage load) as you'd really want to take over this pass these days...


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    photo. Imogene Pass is a trail which just keeps on giving... once you've reached lower elevation, the route winds through more forested areas with a number of [reasonably shallow] creek crossings - and there is even one section which is essentially riding up a river bed depending on the time of year.

    Eventually the trail becomes well graded and exits onto hwy 550 (the Million Dollar Highway), a short way up the switchbacks south of Ouray - a hot-spring resort town self-proclaimed as the 'Switzerland of America'. I only suggest this is 'self-proclaimed' as having visited Switzerland myself, the actual similarities are, shall we say, superficial at best - although please understand that is not to undermine how delightfully ornate some of this town's architecture is, nor how utterly epic it's location - being nestled at the base of a deep and narrow lush green granite valley. Best of all the town is full of bars and restaurants and one particularly impressive ice-cream & coffee shop. Oh how we celebrated the day so far - with a double cone and a socially distanced seat at an outside table in the street of course.


    Alpine Loopy

    It was only 5pm, and while it might prove ambitious to try and reach Lake City (which is the next town when heading east over the next series of mountains), the balmy early evening, coupled with the fact that not only is overnight accommodation in Ouray only slightly less expensive than it is in Telluride but that the whole town was heaving with visitors, was all the incentive we needed to continue our journey off-road, and find somewhere suitable to camp at hopefully not too high an elevation.

    Not only is Ouray the perfect jumping off spot for anyone wishing to ride/drive a loop to Telluride and back (typically going west from Black Bear Pass down the one-way switchbacks towards Telluride, then back east up and over Imogene Pass - the way we'd just come), but it also forms the north west corner of the 'Alpine Loop' which is a similar and yet far more extensive network of trails and high altitude pass which in turn links Ouray itself to Lake City to the east, together with Silverton in the south. This means there are also a good number of both formal and dispersed camp grounds throughout the surrounding mountains, we'd just need to find somewhere that wasn't completely full already.

    The initial plan was to just ride a few miles up the Engineer Mountain Rd. (a rough and rocky narrow shelf road, albeit still with a reasonable 'bike line' as long as you continue to pay attention) to dispersed camping spot under the trees I'd made a mental note of the last time I was here. Unfortunately, on our approach it was clear that a large group of 4x4s were already eyeing up the same spot, and since they'd got there first, we left them to their deliberations and carried on up the narrow trail to where there ought to be further opportunities, albeit at appreciably higher altitude.

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    photo. Engineer Mountain Road eventually levels out and leaves the narrow forest trail behind, opening up onto this huge alpine meadow.

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    photo. continuing up to Engineer Pass in the early evening sun - the perfect time of day to be trail riding at 12,000+ft!

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    photo. the scenery here is exceptional, and the feeling far more remote (particularly in the early evening with much less cross-country traffic around).

    Since neither of us much fancied camping at above 10,000ft (never mind 11 or 12,000ft!), we elected to make the most of the golden hour, and continue all the way up to and over Engineer Pass, confident we'd find somewhere further down on the far side that was hopefully not too chilly...

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    photo. we'd been fortunate to avoid the storms which had been circling around all afternoon at these higher elevations over the surrounding peaks, and hoped our luck would hold out overnight...

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    photo. heading downhill towards Lake City - anyone who has been over Engineer Pass will recall this crazy cabin at the side of the trail - which can only reached by a suspension footbridge over the ravine! btw. it's currently for sale if you've got $700,000!

    Ultimately our optimism was rewarded, and just a few miles outside of Lake City we found the perfect camping spot - just a short way off the road, alongside a creek, and mercifully out of the wind. I then proceeded to do my best Bill Murray impression as my bike succumbed to the ravages of the local gopher contingent:

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    photo. It's in the hole! (little bastards!) - yep, I found the one sodding soft spot in the whole camp!

    Once the sun had set, Juan cracked open another tin of something that presumably used to live in water?, and we huddled round the Solo stove to congratulate ourselves on the successful crossing of the San Juan mountains - setting us up perfectly to rejoin the TAT once again the following day.

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    photo. I'm not sure he's debating whether to eat the contents, or about to read it's last rights...

    More soon!

    Jenny x
  4. RockyDS

    RockyDS Lost in the wilderness

    Joined:
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    I've ridden in Utah and Colorado with numerous of our American friends and I think most people from other parts of the world would be surprised (if not shocked) by how many riders are 'carrying'. But I'm sure most of them don't shoot up the landmarks to be fair.
    visualizerent and squadraquota like this.
  5. JMo (& piglet)

    JMo (& piglet) Unicorn breeder

    Joined:
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    9,147
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    Day 13: Lake City to Sargents CO - 150 miles

    "None Shall Pass (well, not today anyway...)"

    One of the most frequently asked questions on the various TAT (Trans-America Trail) social media pages is: "How long does it take" and it's equally ambiguous relation: "So how many miles do you average each day?"... As you might imagine, the answer is likely to be as varied as the background and circumstances of the individual person doing it, particularly when embarking on a trip as long and varied as crossing the whole country using dirt-roads and trails - hence the universally adopted acronym: YMMV often used as a sign-off in response to questions like this.

    However, I can appreciate it can be useful (especially during your initial planning stages) to have a rough idea of what is a realistic daily distance on a typical TAT bike - if only in an effort to help pace yourself and coincide with suitable places to stop for food fuel and accommodation; and generally speaking once the trip is over, most people seem to have averaged around 200 miles per day... in other words, taking a full month/30 days to ride the 6000 miles or so of the current TAT route from coast to coast.

    Do keep in mind though that this is very much an average however, taking into account that initially you'll be riding in typically flatter and more direct eastern half of the country, including a mix of paved roads - then it is perfectly feasible to cover between 200-300 miles during the longer summer days if you suffer no mishaps and that you and your bike is capable of that sort of sustained pace on rougher roads.
    However, once you get west, and the route and terrain more technical, you'd be hard pushed to maintain that average - and equally once you've crossed the Rockies and through eastern Utah especially, you'll inevitably be feeling increasingly tired and weary - and it's no surprise that it's here that the majority of attempts which get cut short for one reason or another tend to happen.

    Certainly the past couple of days had already shown that the distance that you can realistically cover in a day is significantly reduced once you reach the Rocky Mountains - even when we'd made the most of the available daylight hours as we'd done yesterday, riding until almost dark and camping right at the side of the trail, we'd not managed more than 150 miles the past couple of days, and that was unlikely to change today either.

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    photo. "Jump, you f***er, jump..." to paraphrase Derek & Clive.

    Since we'd camped only a few miles outside of Lake City after crossing Engineer Pass the previous evening, it wasn't long before we were enjoying breakfast sandwich and complimentary wifi at a local cafe, and plotting our day ahead. We'd initially pick up the TAT route out of town - in fact it's not surprising that both Sam and that other fellow* follow the same route here, as not only is it the most obvious and direct dirt road way north east to the next range of mountains, but fortunately is also a very scenic and well-graded all-weather road too - so would be a welcome relief from the two days of rock-hopping we'd just endured, and equally would be for anyone riding in the opposite direction from the San Isabel National Forest and the myriad of OHV trails available there too of course.

    A quick noodle online (and cross-reference with my own paper maps before we left) had revealed GPSKevin also offers an optional 'red route' off the main trail here - which we'd also aim to explore as it wasn't much of a detour, and being especially familiar with this 'middle' section myself, I welcomed the opportunity to see what else the area had to offer en route...

    Suffice to say that while GPSKevin does come in for a lot of criticism regarding how 'ambitious' some of his red-route alternative suggestions are (particularly for average riders on larger/typical TAT bikes loaded with luggage) - in this instance this wasn't the gnarly single track that some of his routes follow in Colorado, rather an entertaining two-track up into the forest and back, with a few whoops and berms for fun, but nothing overly challenging. However, there was a handful of wire cattle gates to undo and reinstate during the few miles we rode, which broke the flow (and in poor light can be potentially dangerous if you're not paying attention), which is something that Sam's official TAT route tries very had to avoid.

    We were making good progress this morning (as the photo of Juan above suggests), and having taken what I consider my own 'detour' off the main all-weather road, waved to a couple of [what were clearly] other TAT riders - both on the ubiquitous KLR650 I noticed - heading in the opposite direction... Before long came across a third rider who was looking somewhat lost. It's worth noting that I originally found this particular trail 'by accident' too when I was riding the TAT in 2015 in the westerly direction, as the GPS breadcrumb track is slightly ambiguous here, and suggests you take one trail, when these days you are meant to simply stay on the wide all-weather road. Before long the two other riders returned to their bemused friend, presumably thinking that Juan and I must have gone the wrong way beforehand too and were on our way back... I explained it was a perfectly legitimate through route and rejoined the main road a few miles further on (for where we'd just come of course), and encouraged them to simply follow the trail on their GPS screen.

    On reaching highway 50, rather than continue on the official TAT route - which these days follows a short loop just to the north via Waunita Hot Springs and Black Sage Pass, before heading south again back across hwy 50 at Sargents - I suggested we attempt, and I do mean attempt, to ride part of the the original TAT route in this area which incorporated the dramatic Tomichi Pass (11,979ft)...

    I have ridden this pass twice over the years (on my XT660Z back in 2008, and my current CB500X in 2017), but only ever heading north - which means going up what feels like an endless road of baby-head rocks to reach the summit, before inching down the north side across a narrow tailing slope into the forest basin below. From there you can either continue north over Hancock Pass (another rocky gnarly climb, heading in either direction), or return to a modicum of civilisation along the abandoned [Alpine Tunnel] railway bed with leads west towards the town of Pitkin - one of the few places you can find food, fuel and accommodation in what is now the epicentre trailhead for OHVs in this region.

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    photo. the first time I rode Tomichi Pass was at the beginning of October in 2008 - there had already been plenty of snowfall, and I ended up having to inch the bike past on the very edge of this shelf road to reach more solid ground, which was frozen solid - and also sheet ice in places.

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    photo. The north side of Tomichi Pass is bleak.

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    photo. the trail was so icy here that I had to use a strap to pull my bike to the side of the trail, to get enough purchase with my feet to be able to lift it up again!


    Fortunately, I have also ridden this trail (in the same direction) far more recently and in far more clement weather on my current bike, so was confident we'd both be able to navigate it on the CBs in the opposite direction too - well, that is what I told Juan anyway...

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    photo. even though this was 2017, the continuity remains - my paintwork is the same colour, I have a white Coyote bag, and still have the same tent too!

    What I may have neglected to explain in any great detail was that Tomichi Pass is no longer a county-maintained road, and that typically every spring suffers from a huge landslide which wipes out the tailing shelf-road... indeed, when I was here in 2018, it was indefinitely closed:

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    photo. denied...

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    photo. ...although as compensation I still managed to get that lil' bastard up and over Hancock Pass as the alternative to retracing my steps!

    Fortunately the popularity of the area with OHV, Jeep and trail riders in general means local clubs tend to take it on themselves to repair any trail damage if possible, and so I was confident that two years on from when I was last here, we ought to now have little trouble riding what used to be the original TAT route south - which in this direction would mean going up the tailing slope side, and then essentially just rolling down all those baby-head rocks on the south side... that was the plan anyway.

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    photo. It looks like nothing here, but trust me it was all but impossible - the slope was so steep and loose the rear wheel would just spin up and sink in.

    Having stopped off for a lazy lunch in Pitkin, we elected not to refuel our bikes (which turned out to be a good thing in the interim) and headed up the old railway bed trail, behind the almost inevitable procession of bloody UTVs these days of course...

    On reaching the Y split in the trail for Hancock and Tomichi Passes, the trail becomes more narrow and appreciably rougher, and switchbacks up a series of climbs through the forest before opening up at the base of the tailing slope. And there is was... a huge bank of loose dirt. Rather than someone bring a proper machine up and level it (which admitted would be difficult these days without convincing the county maintenance crews to get re-involved) it appeared that since the snow-melt this year, a succession of UTVs has simply just driven up and over it as required, rather than make a concerted effort to properly tamp it down. I'm sure with four driven wheels it's perfectly navigable, but on a bike it's going to be almost impossible without a lot of speed and momentum (and far gnarly tyres than either of us were sporting), and really not prudent to try and attempt on a bike the size and weight of which we were riding, particularly when we were in the middle of a cross-country trip. I even had a go with no luggage at all, but it was ultimately all in vain.

    I never like to retreat, but factoring in that Hancock Pass was also likely to be just as challenging, and also not really in the direction we wanted to be heading at this juncture anyway (especially as we'd be coming back this way again on our return leg too don't forget), we elected to lick our metaphorical wounds on the porch of the general store back in Pitkin, before taking the alternative route (Waunita Pass) to join the TAT route over Black Sage and ultimately end up in Sargents as we would have done had we managed to cross Tomichi Pass in the first place.

    This humble retreat coincided with our first real rainstorm of the trip - proper thunder and lightening stuff - so on reaching the Tomichi Creek Trading Post (a camping/cabin and RV park on hwy 50 near Sargents, which is perfectly situated for OHV staging too), we decided it far more prudent to snaffle the last of their three modestly priced cabins, and tucked into a tasty diner dinner before showering and getting a good night's sleep.

    cont.
  6. squadraquota

    squadraquota mostly harmless

    Joined:
    Oct 23, 2007
    Oddometer:
    849
    Location:
    Lowlands
    Hi Jenny, the sight of that 4x4 convoy going up the pass makes me a bit sad. Of course these people have every right to enjoy the natural beauty of the place, and the guides and rental places have every right to make a living.
    But personally I don’t feel well about this whole consumerism thing, the idea that you can get anything and everything by just paying for it, rather than put in a personal effort.

    I believe that the harder the ride, the more you curse the weight of your bike, the darn rocks and roots and whatever, not to mention your personal lack of talent, the more one will appreciate and respect one’s surroundings. Of course driving (or being driven in) a 4x4 to a summit will give the exact same view, but does it amount to the same experience?

    As Confucius said, everything obtained without effort, will turn out to be of little value.

    Anyway, please pardon my ramblings. Still very much enjoying your tales and pictures, and Juan’s videos. :-)
  7. HandCanonShootr

    HandCanonShootr Been here awhile Supporter

    Joined:
    May 17, 2013
    Oddometer:
    530
    Location:
    So. California
    CA riders also, my load-out contains many tools to help my bike & myself survive, and overcome. At a ride & camp (Big Bear) a year or two ago, about 12-15 of us were jawing around the campfire after a day of dual-sporting. Our group site was at the end of a couple mile dead end FS road. A 4X4 with lights blazing came hauling down the road that ended with us, he skidded to a stop at our vehicles, as the road ended at our camp. My compact .45 was in hand, and as I looked around 8-9 of us had a semi-auto in hand (or hand on in pocket). No shooting (target, landmarks, defensive) took place during this, or any of my trips. My bigger concern in the West, is Blk-Bears, even a .45ACP is pretty much, just a noise-maker. (10mm Glock, the solution)

    YMMV; My freedom(s) I take seriously, and exercise them whenever possible. But does not include shooting signs or landmarks, ever.

    Mike B
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  8. JMo (& piglet)

    JMo (& piglet) Unicorn breeder

    Joined:
    Apr 1, 2007
    Oddometer:
    9,147
    Location:
    California
    Day 14: Sargents to Pueblo CO - 151 miles

    "Haden Hell"

    While Sargents to Pueblo is not a huge distance as the crow flies (and typically less than three hours if you stay on highway 50 the whole way), today would be another full day of all-terrain riding here in Colorado - straight out of the door in this instance, as the Tomichi Creek Trading Post is right on the TAT route itself.

    As I've already touched on in previous posts, over the year's the official Trans-America Trail route has evolved and rerouted to take into account the changing nature of the terrain - typically due to weather erosion and overall usage, and changes in [private] property boundaries - in an effort to continually satisfy the increasing and more diverse number of riders who wish to embark on the route itself.

    That is not to dismiss the current route as 'easier' than it may have been in the past - and certainly if you're up for a more technical challenge on a lightweight dual-sport enduro bike, then all those original trails like Tomichi Pass are still there if you want to create your own extension to the main through-route... however, the vast majority of people who embark on the specific Trans-America Trail choose it as a predetermined way to cross the whole country and get a taste (and to explore further if they have more time) in those areas they may not have visited before.

    In that regard, Sam Correro is mindful that for the majority of TAT riders, they want to minimise the need to reroute due to the inevitable changing weather conditions you are likely to experience as you traverse the continent (in a nutshell: rain in the east, snow and cold in the middle, and desert heat in the west), never mind the enforced rerouting or even abandonment should increasingly weary riders take on too difficult terrain for their experience or the typical bike (and luggage load) they have chosen to ride, and end up damaging themselves or their machines.

    The current sector we find ourselves in is the perfect illustration of this evolution, in that Marshall Pass is not only a well maintained and wide all-weather road on either side of the summit (indeed like a number of country roads in this region, it essentially follows the path of an abandoned railway bed), but it's more modest elevation (10,824ft) means it is likely to be clear of snow sooner each year that it's higher elevation sisters further north along the Continental Divide. Similarly Black Sage Pass (9,735ft) which we crossed yesterday just to the north of here, is also appreciably lower and less challenging than the more rugged and remote passes in the surrounding area, and should therefore extend the 'weather window' in which you can successfully navigate them - ie. a little earlier in the spring or later in the fall - and if they do happen to be snow bound, they are only a short distance of the paved highway 50 which can be used as an alternative since it is kept open in all but the most severe winter storms.

    However, while Juan and I were mindful of our commitment in Kansas at the end of the week, we were keen to explore some of those alternative trails either side of the main TAT through-route on our way east; and since we'd also be coming back through this area in a little over a week's time too - planned to use some further alternatives which meant we ought not to retrace our steps unnecessarily.

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    photo. we found this excellent alternative to the main Marshall Pass Road (in the valley below) quite by accident... that is the joy of having detailed maps in your GPS!


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    photo. Marshall Pass is one of many crossings of the Continental Divide, the backbone of the Rocky Mountains... any rain which falls to the west of here drains to the Sea of Cortez and the Pacific Ocean, while all the rain to the east via the Mississippi River/Gulf of Mexico to the Atlantic.

    Marshall Pass is also one of the few points of access to a short section of the Continental Divide Trail, which along with hikers, cyclists and equestrians, is actually open to motorcycles too - although being single track, and at times traversing a steep hillside, or picking your way through a forest over roots and rocks, it is not for the faint of heart nor your typical large capacity 'adventure' bikes loaded with luggage. We however, would aim to come back this way next week for sure!

    While the main unpaved road on either side of Marshall Pass is suitable for even the most low-slung SUV to navigate, the actual TAT route deviates here and takes the alternative county road #203 down the eastern side - aka. the Poncha Creek Trail.

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    photo. Poncha Creek (trail #203) actually follows the creek itself for a short distance... or is that the creek following the trail route, it's sometimes hard to tell!

    It is not especially technical - not in the downhill direction we were heading at least - but like many County Roads which are also shared OHV trails, increasing use (by recreational UTV and ATV vehicles particularly) has seen the surface get rougher and more rocky in places over the years. note. it is perfectly feasible for those on less appropriate bikes or who may be nursing an injury to themselves or their machine to take the main Marshall Pass Rd (#200) here to bypass this section of course - both are clearly marked on a Garmin GPS or paper map.

    On reaching the large dispersed camping and OHV trailhead parking at Poncha Creek, the TAT route continues on pavement here towards Salida - however, much as with the Continental Divide Trail earlier, my return route planned to incorporate that part of the TAT; so we turned south here for what is one of my favourite trails in the whole of Colorado - the Otto Mears Toll Road [Gulch].

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    photo. heading [south] up the Toll Road Gulch trail - I love forest trails when they are punctuated with creek crossings!


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    photo. once out the forest, the views along the ridge are magnificent.

    There is no official pass on this trail, but it tops out a little over 11,000ft, before winding it's way back down through the forest to the remote settlement and ex-mining town of Bonanza, and from here there is just one long dirt road out to highway 285 at Villa Grove. For most vehicles, and certainly anyone who chooses to live in Bonanza itself, it really is a one-road-in-and-out kind of a place - although if you study a more detailed map of this area there are a number of other 4WD roads which access various abandoned mines in this small range of mountains, which appear to also exit on to the main highway to the east... However, since we were aiming to follow my own version of a consecutive through-route, that would have to remain something for another day.

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    photo. Damn it, it was Tuesday.

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    photo. nothing was available here either - denied!

    The whole town of Villa Grove appeared to be permanently closed. Whether this was due to covid restrictions, the general economic climate in the area, or simply because it was midday on a Tuesday and the weather was cloudy so no-one fancied opening, who knows... But we didn't get any lunch.

    Instead we elected to press on over the next mountain range (the Sangre De Cristo Mountains) to the east, where we'd be certain to find something to eat and drink, and the opportunity to refuel our bikes too, at the general store in Cotopaxi - which is another stop on the official TAT route when heading up from the south.

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    photo. Heading up Haden Pass, the hard way.

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    photo. it might not look all that steep, but trust me, it is!

    I've only ever ridden Haden Pass once before, and that was in the opposite direction - although that was reasonably recently (that same trip as Tomichi Pass on my CB back in 2017) so felt it was fresh enough in my memory to not cause us too much bother, and while I recalled it was pretty steep and loose on the west side, factored we just take a run at it and we'd be ok...

    Funny how your memory plays tricks on you isn't it? The steep loose section is not just steep and loose, it is also heading directly downhill on this west side - there are no switchbacks to lessen the severity or offer any respite, you are basically just heading straight down the fall-line the whole way. It was also a lot longer than I recalled too - the reason I thought the steepest part was short was probably because I was careering down it with my rear wheel locked, desperately trying to keep the bike pointing downhill and not sliding off the side of the trail and into the ravine.

    Basically if you're on a loaded adventure bike you have two choices if you want to cross Haden Pass - you either suffer five minutes of terror skidding downhill when heading west towards Villa Grove, or endure two and a half hours dragging your sorry arse up the hill heading east - often just a few dozen yards at time since the loose rock surface has spat you off your intended line and sideways across the trail.

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    photo. how much more? - seriously, HOW MUCH MORE of this?

    Occasionally you could get a spurt on, and make it a reasonably distance once you'd got some momentum, but all the time you were struggling to maintain grip and traction on a bike this size and weight, exacerbated by being at an elevation of 10,000ft. Oh yes, and it started raining again didn't it.

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    photo. Proof we made it!

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    photo. heading downhill - the east side of the pass has a far more gentle gradient and is much easier going, although it still has the odd rocky and rough spot in places too - fortunately there is much more grip and a pretty obvious 'bike line' if you decide to go uphill on this side.

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    photo. this was a welcome relief - the Cotopaxi Store offers plenty to eat and drink, and fuel if required.

    Rejoining highway 50 would also mark the end of our Colorado off-road sections during this eastern leg, and we paused to recover at the Cotopaxi Store and consider our options. Although I've had a more than reasonable deli sandwich here before now, both of us agreed we were long past missing lunch, and our bellies were now firmly focused on finding a much more substantial meal somewhere.

    While the official TAT route crosses hwy 50 at this point in a north-south direction, it's actually kind of a shame, since one of the most scenic sections of highway 50 is just east of here, right alongside the Akansas River (note. that's Arkan-saw here for future reference); and we enjoyed a spirited blast along this sweeping canyon highway all the way to Canon City, where there are any number of restaurants and indeed hotels as required.

    However, suitably sated at the Big Daddy's Diner (recommended for their two pint milkshakes!), we felt it most prudent to keep heading east a while longer this evening - since we still had over 500 miles to go before we'd reach our final destination of Benton KS, which in turn would mean two days of essentially slabbing it through 100°F heat.

    cont.
  9. JMo (& piglet)

    JMo (& piglet) Unicorn breeder

    Joined:
    Apr 1, 2007
    Oddometer:
    9,147
    Location:
    California
    Day 15: Pueblo CO to Dodge City KS - 308 miles

    "Dodge ball"

    7am and we're both packed and ready to leave the hotel - and not a moment too soon in this instance... yes, my long-term love affair with Motel 6 is officially over I'm afraid - increasingly the properties are shabby and dirty, and that wouldn't be so bad I suppose if they were still $40 or less, but when you're typically paying $75 or more per room these days, I don't expect to find sticky stairwells and trash cans to be overflowing the walkways. Now it might have just been this particular location (right next to I25 in the arse-end of town), but still, the increasing conglomeration of chain hotels across the USA means that even these 'budget' chains are now only a few dollars less than their mid-priced alternatives - the traveller on the road being increasingly squeezed by corporate greed, fuelled by those travelling for business on expenses.

    Indeed, Juan was similarly disappointed with last night's accommodation, so much so that he refused to entertain Motel 6 any more - instead he proposed that for the remainder of this trip, if we did need to stay in another bricks-and-mortar establishment at any point, then we share a larger twin-bedded room in a [much] better quality hotel, which more often than not would work out cheaper anyway. Can't argue with that. A Best Western loyalty card does have it's benefits.

    This was going to be particularly important this evening, as we'd scheduled a 'YouTube Live' interview with Harold from Giant Loop to coincide with his monthly Garage Night event (which currently is a virtual online event rather than in person at their shop in Bend, due to the Covid restrictions), so we'd really need somewhere suitable to freshen up, and with a good wifi signal for connection. Be nice if they had a breakfast waffle machine too of course.

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    photo. I can recommend this joint in Ordway CO - we found it quite by accident, although my spidey-sense can sniff out a blueberry scone from a dozen miles away or more of course.

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    photo. life in small-town America seemed to be carrying on as normal...

    Rather than simply blast along the continuation of highway 50 though eastern Colorado (and for those unaware, if you look at a map of the state, it's like someone started drawing and colouring-in all these mountains on the left side of the page, then simply got bored and stopped once they got to I25 - there is nothing but a haphazard grid of farm roads east of here), we elected to take more minor roads - still heading in the general direction east of course, in an effort to preserve our sanity and fuel consumption, which over these past few days at trail riding speeds had been in the region of 80 miles to the gallon - seriously!

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    photo. huge farms end up using a lot of water at this time of year.


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    photo. crossing into Kansas early afternoon... these grain stores are typically the only major landmarks for miles around.

    By sticking to a steady 55mph on the pavement, and indeed not much less on those few gravel roads we did encounter (in a effort to straight line as much as possible, mainly for our own amusement) - we were able to cover plenty of ground, enjoy the scenery, and most importantly keep relatively cool as the temperature hovered in the high 90s all afternoon.

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    photo. every so often we'd come across a short flooded section, typically from overnight rain.

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    photo. while the trail may have been flooded, the rivers certainly weren't - this is the Arkansas River, yes the continuation of that huge wide river that the Royal Gorge bridge spans in Colorado! (note. it's known as the Ar-Kansas River here, Kansas are fiercely territorial as we later found out!) It is completely dry here during the summer - the surrounding farmland having sucked every ounce of moisture from the ground - it looks more like part of the Baja 1000 course!

    On reaching Dodge City - having covered a little more than 300 miles since Pueblo this morning - we felt we'd not only broken the back of this final two-day stretch to our destination, but deserved a well earned rest in a decent hotel (it even had a bar!) and enjoyed a meal in a nearby Mexican restaurant before our live YouTube TV debut later that evening, complete with 'studio lighting' from outside the hotel foyer:



    [​IMG]
    photo. initially we were concerned about the size of our assembled audience for this evening's Q&A. We needn't have worried ;o)

    cont.
    visualizerent, catfish, NSFW and 7 others like this.
  10. JMo (& piglet)

    JMo (& piglet) Unicorn breeder

    Joined:
    Apr 1, 2007
    Oddometer:
    9,147
    Location:
    California
    Day 16: Dodge City to Benton (Stearman Field) KS - 203 miles.

    "Final Approach..."

    It had been a lot of fun yesterday. Neither of us had expected much from eastern Colorado - itself pretty indistinguishable from the rest of the agricultural mid-west, and indeed the whole afternoon had been particularly reminiscent of the TAT route though the neighbouring Oklahoma panhandle a hundred miles or so to the south... mile upon mile of county roads, some paved, others all-weather, depending on which line of latitude you chose on the grid. However, at the same time there is almost a trance-like peacefulness about riding across open country like this.

    Similarly today would offer more of the same, and so once again, if only to keep us on our toes a little and relieve the potential boredom of a monotonous highway, I plotted what was essentially a horizontal line on the map all the way to Benton, be it dirt or otherwise - and where we did have to deviate, did our best to stick within a few miles either north or south.

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    photo. rolling out of Dodge City along the main highway though town, we stopped to take a few photos at the Boot Hill visitor centre and museum complex.

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    photo. restored original buildings - this one had actually been moved to it's current location from elsewhere in town.

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    photo. I do like a steam-train.

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    photo. downtown Dodge City, how urbane these days...


    It wasn't long before my bee-line route took us away from highway 50 and onto a paved farm road, which in turn petered out into a smooth gravel access road, heading for what appeared to be the only crossing point of - yes, you guessed it - that darn Ar-Kansas River again! The trail ahead looked promising, and indeed, did cross the river bed - which again was bone dry in this part of the country - before climbing up the far bank and straight into a gated fence:

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    photo. is it art or is it trash? You have got to wonder who hauled a old TV all the way out here just to dump it!

    It was so frustrating, as the country road we wanted was barely thirty yards away on the far side of the fence, but there was simply no way though - and yes, I did ride a good way in each direction along the fence-line to see if there was another [unlocked] gate.

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    photo. with no option but to retrace our steps a short distance, we picked up the grid network of farm roads and headed north for highway 50 again, which coincided with the seemingly nondescript town of Kinsley KS.

    Dipping into town to grab some lunch - the jolly ladies who ran the local cafe soon opened our eyes to the epicentre of cross-country culture that was their home town, into which we'd stumbled - turns out Kinsley is the exact half-way point across the continental United States!

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    photo. the local museum turned out to be a treasure trove of interesting artefacts.


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    photo. Farm-nerds delight - this was just one of five - yes FIVE - separate panels which featured the various individual designs of barbed wire used over the years.


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    photo. the museum even had a replica of a traditional Sod house, which more recently had been enclosed inside it's own building to help preserve it... a house built inside another building you say?, what an absurd idea*

    *and a strange foreshadowing of what was to ultimately come later this evening!



    [​IMG]
    photo. Kinsley is a small town - this is a cafe, hair-dresser and gift-shop all in one. You can even rent a tuxedo should the feasible need ever arise.


    We'd really enjoyed our extended time-out in Kinsley - it's these unexpected interludes which really make a cross-country trip entertaining I find - the things you see, the people you talk to... plus I got the chance to climb on another steam-train and eat a huge ice cream, which sated the big kid in me on both counts! - but we needed to press on now...

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    photo. we picked up our previously plotted rural route and continued due east, using a series of farm access tracks and minor paved roads...


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    photo. this bayou was reminiscent of the TAT in Mississippi - turns out you don't actually have to go all the way across the country to get the full TAT experience ;o)


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    photo. as the afternoon wore on, the heat and humidity started to wear us out...

    Fortunately our remote cross-country route happened to take us through the small and almost deserted town of Turon, and I spied a pair of drink vending machines against an abandoned building at the side of the road. Juan was sceptical and thought I'd be wasting a dollar trying them out - but to both our surprise, not only did I get a cold can of Pepsi, but I also got change! Turns out the sixty-cent soda is alive and well in rural Kansas!

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    photo. Juan was dubious, and perhaps rightly so - but despite someone having put the boot in at some point, these were well-stocked with both drinks and change!


    [​IMG]
    photo. we also took the opportunity to clean two-weeks of consolidated filth from our bikes - before the final push east towards Benton.


    [​IMG]
    photo. "The flight now arriving at Stearman Field is the CB500X from California..."


    [​IMG]
    photo. private pilots and some rare vintage planes arrived during the evening, and would continue to do so tomorrow...



    I'll save my personal highlights from the weekend at Stearman Field for a separate post, but in the meantime I'll leave you with this...

    [​IMG]
    photo. this is just one of a number of private hangers which have whole houses built inside!

    With our hotel reservation not ready until tomorrow (Friday night) we were all set to pitch our tents in a quiet corner of the airfield, when we were offered the opportunity to bunk in a hanger which belonged to the air-field owner instead... Turns out there was also a complete five bedroom air-conditioned house built inside this particular hanger, complete with mezzanine deck and french doors from the kitchen so you can look at your private jet while drinking your morning coffee.

    This was going to be fun!

    More soon!

    Jenny x
  11. visualizerent

    visualizerent Raconteur

    Joined:
    Mar 26, 2013
    Oddometer:
    727
    Location:
    Nevada City, CA.
    Epic Content!....(And pictures of meee...lol)
    catfish, veriest1 and JMo (& piglet) like this.
  12. fletcherguitar

    fletcherguitar Marilyn Across America

    Joined:
    Apr 15, 2014
    Oddometer:
    174
    Location:
    Arizona

    Well done, well written, well photographed and well,,,,,,,,,,im enjoying it.

    P.S. Brevity is over rated.

    Jeff
    Author of "Marilyn Across America" on Amazon
  13. JMo (& piglet)

    JMo (& piglet) Unicorn breeder

    Joined:
    Apr 1, 2007
    Oddometer:
    9,147
    Location:
    California
    Day 17 & 18: Stearman Field, Benton KS - (40 miles round trip to Wichita and back).

    "High Life"

    I'm more than happy jumping on my bike day after day and riding somewhere - it's a rhythm you soon get used to. Equally though, it's nice to a have some time off away from the bike occasionally - not least that after the best part of three and a half thousand miles already this trip, it had been a pretty intense couple of weeks!

    Juan was going to be busy all day - filming and flying and interviewing and being interviewed...



    So this meant I'd have plenty of time to take it easy and mosey around the ever increasing collection of interesting planes assembling, plus run a couple of errands at some point too - particularly since I'd noticed my front brake was now significantly less effective than it had been before we'd arrived in Colorado... It turns out I'd worn the pads pretty much down to the metal during this past week on all those high passes, so nipped into Wichita to a local dealer for some replacements; plus bought a pair of regular jeans to continue riding in so that I could now post my damaged riding pants back to Alpinestars for repair.

    I confess to knowing very little about light and vintage aircraft - well, any aircraft really - but I know what I like, so I'll let a few pictures tell the story instead:

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]


    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]


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    photo. the private airfield was the perfect location to host this nationwide event. Pilots (and presenters) could fly in from all over the US to meet one another, share stories, and offer rides - or as appropriate, for you to even take the controls [if you were suitably qualified of course] throughout the weekend.

    The Friday evening featured an informal dinner at the on-site bar & grille, followed by live entertainment from a sort of jazz-blues-country fusion ensemble band, consisting of the event host and a handful of other attendees, including our very own Juan Browne on the upright bass!

    [​IMG]
    photo. for a bunch of musicians who had never even met until 24 hours previously, let alone ever played together before, they weren't half bad!


    We'd decided to forfeit the organisers original offer of a local hotel over the weekend, and instead continue to bunk-down in a spare room of the hanger house and enjoy the freedom staying on site would allow (and by that I mean Juan now had the opportunity to have a few drinks with the band after the gig last night ;o) - while the hanger itself offered plenty of space out of the sun to sort out our gear and work on the bikes, and the opportunity to take a closer look at some of the contents:

    [​IMG]
    photo. I've been fortunate to have flown in helicopters and light aircraft over the years (along with the usual commercial airliners of course), but had never stepped inside a private jet before now... I felt like a rock star!

    [​IMG]
    photo. Similar in size and design to the ubiquitous LearJet, the Beechcraft 400A is also a popular private jet... well popular amongst those who can afford to run this sort of thing of course!

    [​IMG]
    photo. the house inside the hanger also has it's own garage/workshop - where the owner was busy assembling two brand-new kit planes.

    [​IMG]
    photo. with the advent of smartphone GPS navigation, people seem to want to crap on traditional Garmin units these days - however, they still lead the field in consumer level Maritime and Aeronautical navigation products (this is part of an autopilot system being installed), which is also why I continue to trust their devices for land-based GPS navigation duties as well.


    [​IMG]
    photo. as the sun set on another action packed day, it was time for the ACCA (Aviation Content Creator's Awards) ceremony to begin...

    [​IMG]
    photo. the assembled nominees and prize winners.

    [​IMG]
    photo. Saturday evening featured a proper band to entertain us all.

    As I was able to reveal at the time back on page 6 of this thread, Juan was delighted to receive awards in two categories - which particularly focused on his personal audience engagement with subscribers and commenters.

    cont.




  14. JMo (& piglet)

    JMo (& piglet) Unicorn breeder

    Joined:
    Apr 1, 2007
    Oddometer:
    9,147
    Location:
    California
    Day 19: Benton to Liberal KS (via a bit of Oklahoma) - 285 miles.

    "Great Planes..."

    I'd had a really interesting weekend so far - this was all new to me of course, and I'd tried to pick up as much information as I could about the planes themselves and the kind of people who flew/owned them.

    Obviously there was some serious money here - SERIOUS money if you're going to run your own jet plane for sure; but equally, the overwhelming impression is that private pilots and light aircraft owners simply view this as their hobby - a life-long passion - whether that be restoring a vintage plane, or building their own from a commercially available kit. There are even some crazy engineering types who fly the 'experimental' class - designing and building and modifying their own creations into something truly unique - that typically transcends any traditional monetary value.

    In that regard, it would appear that the sort of people who own and fly light aircraft seem to share a similar mindset to those who choose to own and sail an ocean-going yacht for example - in that yes the price of entry (and indeed the ongoing maintenance required) means there is a sizeable financial investment to be made in the hobby; but that fundamentally they do so because they are enthusiasts for what their machines allow them to do - a way to interact with the natural world beyond simply rolling around on wheels - certainly you cannot begin to fly a plane or sail a boat successfully without a great deal of understanding about your machine or the environment you are piloting though. I like that.

    What I found most refreshing of all was the fact that while some of these people must clearly be very wealthy indeed, at no point during the whole weekend did I even get the impression they were there for any other reason than simply the joy of flying... and if you'll allow me to dress up somewhat trite generalisation as more of an astute observation - I would suggest that while the vast majority of supercars are bought by rich people primarily as a status symbol, planes are far more likely to attract the more humble and modest. I like that too.


    This generosity of spirit was exemplified on this sunny Sunday morning, when, having forfeit any opportunity to take a ride in any of the vintage planes over the past two days (to allow those with their dedicated Aviation YouTube channels maximum seat time), I was not only offered a passenger seat in the stunning 1936 Lockheed 12A which was a massive treat in itself (the Lockheed 12 being the slightly younger sibling to the Lockheed 10 in which Amelia Earhart attempted her round-the-world navigation), but was subsequently encouraged by the pilot and owner Glenn to join him up front - and even take the controls myself for a few minutes - including a couple of nerve-wracking turns!

    [​IMG]
    photo. the cockpit of the restored and updated vintage Lockheed 12A - looks pretty daunting doesn't it?!

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    photo. initially I was consigned to one of the passenger seats...

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    photo. before being actually allowed to fly the plane for a few miles myself!

    I must admit this was not an opportunity I wanted to turn down, not least as it would be unlikely I would ever get the chance to even sit in one of these beautiful planes again... however, at the same time it considered it would be an enormous responsibility since not only was this meticulously restored example one of only around a dozen in the world still air-worthy, but it wasn't just the pilot on board with me - there were four other passengers to consider too! I explained to Glenn that I was in no way a pilot, and indeed had only ever taken the helm of a plane once before (in Juan's Mighty Luscombe), but he reassured me he'd be there to take over if required, and even talked me though a couple of turns to make sure I got the full experience. Utterly awesome.

    While I'm sure I could have spent all day buzzing around with anyone else who would let me, to be honest there was only one other flight I really wanted to take before we absolutely had to leave this morning - and that was with the 17 year old pilot (and son of the airfield owner) Austin Clemens, who had been tirelessly taking the YouTube punters up all weekend in his 1941 Stearman biplane, and also performing a series of acrobatics for the assembled crowd.

    While most kids are busy getting their kicks by doing jumps and wheelies on their BMX bike in front of their mates, Austin has actually been flying ever since he could reach the controls, and was the consummate professional in every regard - it was an utter joy to take a short ride with him before Juan and I finally had to load up our bikes and head back west...

    [​IMG]
    photo. open-cockpit flying is even more intense!

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    photo. a low pass over the airfield - the huge houses on the far side of the runway also have their own hanger-garages, it's like a marina, for planes.

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    photo. the Stearman is equipped with a smoke generator for skywriting and suchlike.

    [​IMG]
    photo. final approach back to Stearman Field - Austin's party trick here is to slow the plane to almost a stall, before diving down and landing - it's impressive from the ground or the air!

    [​IMG]
    photo. this plane is the bomb!

    [​IMG]
    photo. seven pot radial engine - makes an awesome sound!



    With a cheery goodbye and profound thanks to all involved, it was time once more for Juan and I to hit the road...

    The route was defined, but the destination unknown - although we did hope to get as far as Liberal on the Oklahoma/Kansas border (approximately 250 miles away) - which is a popular stop-over town on the TAT route through the Oklahoma panhandle, and also coincides with being just another day's ride to where the really good stuff begins in Colorado again.

    [​IMG]
    photo. we're not in Kansas anymore... (well I still was, Juan in the other rut was not) - plotting our own route along the state-line to dove-tail in with the Oklahoma TAT...

    [​IMG]
    photo. one of these things in not like the others... back on the TAT in Oklahoma.

    [​IMG]
    photo. we managed to dodge the rain for most of the afternoon, however, things looked sketchy as we stopped for fuel in Buffalo OK, so we stuck to pavement from there to Liberal KS... and if you saw the video from today (below), it was a good job we did!




    cont.
  15. JMo (& piglet)

    JMo (& piglet) Unicorn breeder

    Joined:
    Apr 1, 2007
    Oddometer:
    9,147
    Location:
    California
    Day 20: Liberal KS to Trinidad CO - 250 miles

    "...Great Plains"

    After the Motel-6 debacle in Pueblo (on our way east) Juan insisted we stay in a Best Western again in Liberal, and I was particularly impressed with their $1 laundry charge - result! However, I was not so enamoured by the lack of breakfast (I'd had bloody pancakes in the Dodge City location don'tcha know!), so we hunted through town for something better than McDonalds, and ended up in... McDonalds - the "Open Seven Days" sign on a cute little independent coffee shop we rode by presumably referring to days per month, rather than days per week.

    I also managed to post my damaged Alpinestars pants at the local post office when they opened at 9am. I've not really mentioned my riding gear much this trip so far, so to summarise - rather than wear my usual ICON Raiden DKR jacket that features a waterproof outer shell (together with a series of zippered vents for warmer weather, plus loads of pockets, while remaining less bulky and fussy than a lot of 'adventure' gear from some other manufacturers who have erm, 'climbed' on the bandwagon these days shall we say ;o) - due to the inevitable hot weather we'd experience at the height of summer this trip, I'd elected to buy a mesh jacket and pants, and would supplement those with a pull-over rain smock and pants if and when required. Indeed, while previously I've always chosen the convenience of a single layer waterproof jacket for long distance travelling, I do tend to prefer a lighter-weight (ie non waterproof) pant - even to the extent of simply wearing regular jeans for comfort both on and off the bike, so would tend to carry a lightweight roll-up pair of waterproof over-pants in the back pocket of my Icon jacket anyway...

    Certainly the mesh jacket and pant combo had been a revelation this trip so far. Unfortunately, while Alpinestars gear is usually very good quality (and has always been my go-to brand in the past for MX and enduro/rally gear especially) - this particular pair of mesh pants had the fly zipper fail just a few days into the trip which was really disappointing, and somewhat embarrassing too - particularly when you'd walk out of a restroom and people might think you'd not bothered to do your trousers up properly!

    To go with this light-weight summer outfit, I continued the minimalist theme with my trusty open-face Arai helmet (it's the now discontinued 'Classic M' model if anyone was wondering), which is very comfortable and well-vented, and not too noisy when you consider this sort of design, although for any higher speed road riding, I do need to wear earplugs (as one should anyway of course... whatsthat?). Generally for trail riding, and especially in more technical terrain, I much prefer the visibility and airflow you get with an open-face helmet. Now if you were planning on ragging along at higher speeds off-road, then obviously a full-face MX style helmet offers significantly more face protection of course, but like all these things, it's about balance... and not wanting to get into the ATGATT argument here, but there are two schools of thought: you can dress for the accident, sure... but equally, you can dress to try and avoid an accident in the first place - and personally I subscribe to the latter.

    Certainly in hot weather (and I'm talking about temperatures in the high 90s and even 100+°F which we'd regularly experienced in Idaho, Utah and Kansas already), if you're riding trails all trussed up in heavyweight clothing, base-layers, body-armour, braces, and heavy duty MX style boots, you are soon going to start suffering for heat exhaustion, particularly if you are riding technical terrain. Do that for more than few hours, never mind day after day for month or more, and there is every chance that the discomfort you start to suffer will become distracting to the point of you making a mistake which ironically can actually lead to an accident you'll be needing all that gear to protect you from!

    Of course accidents can still happen, and after breaking my foot last summer (in a stupid low-side slide when my bike landed full-square on my foot and unfortunately I was wearing softer 'touring' boots than usual), I made sure I was wearing my Alpinstars [Belize] 'adventure' boots these time round. I would also qualify my decision in that this trip would be very much a mix of less busy paved roads and a lot of trail riding - there is no doubt that at higher speeds, and in a more busy highway environment there are going to be certain factors which could lead to an accident that are out of your control, so I would never suggest you forfeit safety equipment there.

    Anyway, enough rambling for today, we need to get back on the TAT!

    [​IMG]
    photo. Liberal KS is really only famous (or should that be infamous?) for one thing - it's where Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz hailed from... there is even a 'museum' in town, complete with a bronze statue... of a fictional character.

    Although the TAT route is actually a few miles south of here (it stays in Oklahoma the whole way west), Liberal really is the most obvious stop-over point, being just over the state-line in Kansas. The vast majority of the TAT route through the Oklahoma panhandle is arrow-straight - indeed I recall from previous trip/s how you'd see a road sign in the middle of nowhere (for info. the farm roads in this are a huge grid network of square miles - the horizontal roads are named, while the vertical roads have numbers), only to see exactly the same road name a hundred miles further west too!

    To break things up a bit from time to time (primarily to avoid the few non-through routes onto private property and/or past busy farm buildings), the TAT route deviates north or south for a mile or two, before picking up a parallel road west again - and indeed it is this grid system which allows the canny to avoid the worst of the mud should the weather be inclement, as it often is this time of year. Fortunately, even if it does utterly dump with rain like it did on us yesterday evening, it soon dries again - and overnight or even half a day later, you can usually pick up the official route again should you wish.

    [​IMG]
    photo. yes, that is the official route... I liken the TAT in Oklahoma to the stages of an endlessly looping video game - each arrow straight mile [of the grid] is potentially different: gravel, mud, sand, grass, mud, gravel, paved, sand... like Forrest and his box of chocolates, you're never quite sure what you're going to get next.

    [​IMG]
    photo. we spotted this little 'oasis' at the side of the TAT - an irrigation pond surrounded by trees, offering some welcome shade should you require.

    [​IMG]
    photo. a good idea. It was already really warm, and almost lunchtime too. Although the TAT is pretty straight-line here, we elected to streamline further where prudent, and save our time and effort so we might concentrate on the highlights en route - since we really wanted to be in Colorado by this evening.

    We rolled into Boise City - which, if you are planning on streamlining any of the Oklahoma TAT for whatever reason, then this is where I recommend you pick up the official route again, as just west of here is when it starts to get interesting again!

    [​IMG]
    photo. as I pulled out of the gas station on our way into town, I felt the back of my bike was a little lower that usual, and immediately on turning the corner felt the back end wobble. Bugger. Fortunately, I had replaced my original rear Rally-Raid wheel with the latest BARTubeless version a while ago now, so I could simply plug it with a sticky worm and re-inflate it at the side of the road, in less time that it took Juan to go and fetch us a couple of cold cokes - result!

    [​IMG]
    photo. the Great Plains Bunk House (a few miles west of Boise City) is another of the increasing number of 'unofficial' stop-over points on the TAT route right the way across the country - which is set-up specifically to provide shelter/accommodation and often other services (such as food, cold drinks, even workshop space - depending on the individual location), for those embarking on the journey each year.

    [​IMG]
    photo. If you've read many other TAT ride-reports over the years, then you might recognise this very popular spot for photos - The TAT route cuts through a huge valley in the north east corner of New Mexico, and starts to climb towards the Colorado border.

    We rolled into Trinidad in the early evening, somewhat tired, and contented we'd covered more than enough ground for one day today. The aim was to try and get some fresh tyres the following morning, and indeed it is no coincidence that Sam's TAT route passes though Trinidad - which offers plenty of food, fuel and accommodation options, also has a motorcycle and engineering dealer [Topar Racing] right on the official route out of town, who are very much geared up to help service TAT riders as required. Generally speaking, Trinidad is also considered to be the 'half-way' point for those riding the whole route coast-to-coast - and so is typically where you would want to replace your worn tyres anyway (if you haven't needed to already), particularly as the next few days through Colorado and subsequently into Utah is arguably the most challenging terrain of all, and where you're going to benefit from some fresh meat.

    cont.
  16. JMo (& piglet)

    JMo (& piglet) Unicorn breeder

    Joined:
    Apr 1, 2007
    Oddometer:
    9,147
    Location:
    California
    Day 21: Trindad to Colorado Springs CO - 277 miles.

    "[Colorado] Spring time"

    We'd got away in good time this morning for our first stop of the day - Topar Racing - to try and sort some tyres for us both. Juan had fitted a fresh pair of Continental TKC80s before we left, but having rolled over the 4,500 mile mark yesterday, his rear particularly was now starting to look pretty shaggy, while my pair had a further 2000 miles on them from last year - and the front especially was now ramped and vibrated quite badly at slower speeds on paved roads particularly.

    Unfortunately, while Topar do stock a wide range of all-terrain tyres in typical 'dual-sport' sizes of 21/18", their 17" tyres were very much the pseudo-trail tread (ie. road tyres with some extra grooves), and they were out of stock of 19" fronts... bugger.

    Still, neither of our bikes were terminal just yet, and since we had no fixed agenda for the next few days, I quickly rerouted our plans to go via Colorado Springs (which is around 130 miles north of here directly if you're in an emergency, and a worthwhile detour from the TAT route anyway once you get further north - not least for Pikes Peak should you wish to ride up there) where there are a number of motorcycle dealers, including one [Apex Sports] which almost certainly would have what we wanted in stock. And yes, we did subsequently give them a call to check, and hold some for us ;o)

    It was fun to chat with the guys at Topar Racing for a while, and we left with some stickers, plus a very handy map of the local area:

    [​IMG]
    photo. Topar Racing are enthusiasts for trail and adventure riding in the area, and have a number of suggestions for local routes.

    Now I am pretty familiar with this part of Colorado already, but these alternatives to the TAT route would be a welcome addition. On the map above, the blue line is the official TAT, although what is not shown is that it turns right before Guinare and continues north at lower elevation towards La Veta, rather than due west and over Cordova Pass (11,248ft) - the red line on the map.

    However, Henry at Topar Racing actually recommended we take the more southern option via Bon Carbo and highway 12, which is very scenic the 'Highway of Legends' no less, and G2 (red) rated on the Butler Maps. Should be worth a punt we reckoned!

    [​IMG]
    photo. the initial trail sections were fun - easy and scenic - just right for an early morning ride...


    Certainly the mountain highway over Cucharas Pass (9941ft) was pretty epic, right up until the point this happened:

    [​IMG]
    photo. this kind of rain is miserable in an open face helmet, there was even hail at one point!

    Fortunately it was only a high elevation storm, and once we rolled into La Veta, we soon dried out again sitting in the sun outside the recommended Ryus Ave. Bakery (take-out only in this current climate of course), and plotted the rest of the day ahead on the trails...


    Now I have to confess to taking very few photos during the rest of today - my excuse was I was too busy winging it with the navigation - trying to follow what I'd plotted via a series of waypoints, as GPSKevin's 'medium' route - together with avoiding the rain clouds which seemed to be chasing us around all day today.

    Should you be one of those people who are trying to follow the route we took in some detail, then suffice to say we continued north on the TAT out of La Veta, before streamlining the official route (the dog leg which goes past that wooden church everyone takes a photo of*) and plotting our own way north on an alternative trail to join with what I figured was Kevin's 'Blue' route... but importantly not his 'Red' route, which here is a proper OHV single track trail which features a gnarly narrow set of switchbacks, and which we'd read about online recently - where a pair of riders got in way over their heads and had to hike out to get help... you have been warned!

    [​IMG]
    photo. *you know, this one. (my photo from 2015).

    Once back on the highway (scenic hwy 165 which is part of the TAT for a short distance, and again highlighted on the Butler Map as a G2 'red' section) we again deviated from the official TAT route, and instead headed north for Canon City through the mountains on what I consider is a far more scenic and preferable route* compared to the current TAT here - which for info. simply uses gravel farm roads to arse about around Westcliffe, before heading up to Cotopaxi on pavement anyway...

    *Personally I would recommend this dirt road (#271 & 143) alternative which follows Oak Creek north all the way into Canon City - where you can then take hwy 50 west along the Arkansas River (the section we rode east during our outbound leg on day 14) to rejoin the TAT at Cotopaxi; or if you do want to explore further and/or visit Colorado Springs (as we were planning on doing this afternoon) - then either take dirt roads north via Cripple Creek and over the mountains, or if you're time limited - highway 115 instead.

    [​IMG]
    photo. heading north away from TAT and towards another burger and huge milkshake at the Big Daddy Diner in Canon City.

    [​IMG]
    photo. due to time constraints (note. it is going to take at least three hours to get from Canon City to Colorado Springs via Cripple Creek), we elected to take the highway to Colorado Springs after all that evening, as again we wanted to be at the tyre dealer first thing the following morning.

    cont.
  17. Hello David, in my experience dryers are only used in the US and some European countries, I would not put merino in a dryer. It dries quickly. A good tip if you wash it in the sink is to put it on a towel after you have washed it and wring it dry inside a towel. Old Chinese army/air force trick, the towel absorbs a lot of the moisture. Leave it to dry overnight and it will be fine next day. Also, if no water just leave it in the air, it doesnt smell bad.
    NSFW and Davidprej like this.
  18. catfish

    catfish Squidicus Adventurous Supporter

    Joined:
    Apr 5, 2002
    Oddometer:
    1,111
    Location:
    Morgan Territory, CA
    What tires & pressures were y'all running for the ride? Did someone mention Anakee Wilds? Do you air down for steep tech or loose?

    I've put Wilds on my Beta 520RS & love 'em. Considering them for my cb500x also.

    Thanks,

    Catfish ...
  19. JMo (& piglet)

    JMo (& piglet) Unicorn breeder

    Joined:
    Apr 1, 2007
    Oddometer:
    9,147
    Location:
    California
    Just a quick heads-up for anyone who's been missing last month's Juan & Jenny [almost] Daily Show...

    We'll be taking part in another YouTube Live video broadcast this coming Thursday (3rd September) at 5pm PST/8pm EST with ADVmoto editor and channel host Carl Parker, and coming to you live from the Blancolirio HQ toy-box department...

    Feel free to ask any questions you have via the live stream during the broadcast, or just sit back and enjoy us rambling on in our usual manner... in all seriousness though, now we've safely returned from our epic ride from the Pacific Coast to central Kansas and back again - at the very least we will endeavour to offer some handy hints and tips regarding route planning, bike packing, and other considerations should you also wish to embark on a similar multi-day all-terrain adventure ride across the western USA.


    The youtube link is here:



    ...and will be going live just before 5pm on Thursday.

    As Paul McCartney once said: See you here - there - and everywhere!

    Jenny x
  20. JMo (& piglet)

    JMo (& piglet) Unicorn breeder

    Joined:
    Apr 1, 2007
    Oddometer:
    9,147
    Location:
    California
    Hi Catfish - generally speaking on my CB500X I run 28psi front and rear (that is with all-terrain tyres, usually the TKC80 is what I use) all the time, since I tend to ride a mix of terrain each day.

    note. If you were faced with a long haul section on the highway, I might bump this up to 30psi front and rear, but I find much more than that makes tyres like the TKC80 feel skittish, particularly in wet or cold weather.

    As you probably appreciate, the 'correct' tyre pressure depends on a number of variables, but essentially the idea is to optimise the tyre profile and resultant contact patch for the conditions you're facing, based on the load (weight) of the bike and rider/luggage etc. So that the tyre can work as the manufacturer intended it to - and in mixed terrain such as we were experiencing every day on this trip, you need to pick a compromise pressure and just roll with it.

    Certainly for general all-terrain travel at a mix of speeds, somewhere between 25-28psi is what I would recommend - softer (to slightly elongate the footprint) if you require more traction in more technical going; but equally the slightly higher pressure is going to be more resistant to impacts at higher speeds - and potential pinch-flats if you are running tubes, as I do in the front wheel of my bike for example.

    It is also worth noting that anything much less than 20psi in a tubeless tyre (as my rear is) and you run the risk of the tyre burping air during a heavy impact too.

    Hope that helps... and yes, half way through the trip (indeed, it happens in the very next diary entry - Day 22, see below!) I did swap my worn Continental TKC80s for a pair of Michelin Anakee Wilds, and so far have been very impressed with them off-road particularly - although there is an appreciable road hum/roar once you hit 30mph or so I've noticed compared to the TKCs, and initially they did not feel quite as sure-footed as the TKCs on really twisty tarmac either. So in that regard I would say they are slightly better off-road than they are on-road, while the TKC80s are equally good at both - and still my favourite tyres for this particular bike.

    Jenny x