Two bikes, one jug, Zero DSR - 2ERide the 2021 TAT with an electric moto coast to coast

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by Am.E, Aug 8, 2021.

  1. Am.E

    Am.E Been here awhile

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    2021 TAT on a Nerd Bike is back on the road for the main event. The adventure begins. :clap Ride report to be updated when I get to it.

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    #21
  2. Motochimp

    Motochimp Been here awhile Supporter

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    So damn cool:rilla
    #22
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  3. rockydog

    rockydog just a guy

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    Have big fun out there
    #23
  4. jdw4748

    jdw4748 Been here awhile

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    For the life of me I cannot understand why the other manufacturers are going nowhere with electric motorcycles. The electric bicycle industry is growing at an astounding rate. To me its not inconceivable that electric bicycles may start to take a huge bite out of the motorcycle industry in the very near future. I personally don't own any electric bikes but I am an avid bicyclist and the range and fun of electric bikes is becoming very tempting. Its hard to believe that even hardcore dirt bikers aren't going to start looking at the insane capabilities of these hardcore electric mountain bikes and start to figure whats the point of a gas motor.
    Enjoy your journey.
    #24
  5. Am.E

    Am.E Been here awhile

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    2021 TAT – Part 2 – NC heading west

    And now for the main event. 2021 TAT on a nerd bike is back on the road in NC, headed for Oregon.

    The faulty power tank on the DSR was easily remedied in short order over the summer after we returned home from our initial “test” ride on the TAT in May. By mid-August, both bikes were ready to go, and we were counting the days (and tasks to complete) before we could leave on our cross country adventure. The excitement and anticipation level are off the charts.

    We took paved roads west and picked up the TAT route where we left off in May near the border of VA and NC. By mid-afternoon, we were enjoying the mix of curvy back roads and a few gravel roads on the TAT route in western NC.

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    As an aside, I don’t understand why we’re so obsessed with adventure riding. Over the years I’ve determined that touring by motorcycle is ridiculous. Everything about it is inconvenient. You are always fussing with gear, constantly packing and unpacking your stuff, and it takes forever to accomplish normal tasks like eating and using the bathroom. Bikes and gear are expensive. The bikes need a lot more maintenance than a car, and sometimes break down. Flat tires happen. You are almost constantly hot, or cold, or wet, or tired, or sore, or hungry, or thirsty, or some combination thereof. It’s sometimes difficult, and occasionally dangerous. Frequently uncomfortable. Often challenging. We hardly bother to make specific plans to be anywhere at particular times, because very little ever actually goes to plan. You just never know how the day is going to go. And yet, we CANNOT GET ENOUGH. The thing that motivates me the most to get out of bed in the morning is planning the next motorcycle trip, or actually leaving on a motorcycle trip. Go figure.

    The forecast for the upcoming days called for the sometimes common summer pattern of afternoon storms, but we lucked out with the first three days of our trip being mostly dry. Low elevations were hot and muggy, with the kind of summer in the southeast humidity that makes sweating pointless. Nothing ever dries out. Its suffocating, but we often got glorious relief as the TAT route climbs up and down, and spends significant time over 3000ft of elevation in the mountains of western NC, where the weather was fantastic.

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    We don’t schedule our overnight lodging ahead of time, as we never know how far we’re going to go in any given day. By early to mid-afternoon, we simply start looking for a place to land for the night. The default choice is to camp, but if the weather calls for it, we’ll try to find somewhere inside.

    We rolled into Linville Falls in the evening after a long class 1* gravel road a bit later than hoped. (I think it only felt long because we were hungry and tired). It was a Friday night, and the only restaurant was packed. We waited 15 minutes without even being acknowledged by any staff, much less getting a menu or drinks, so we gave up, and I got a crappy pizza from the place across the road. I didn’t think I could like my tail pack any more than I already do, except on this night I learned I can strap an entire pizza box on top and carry it to the campground.

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    (*We use this road rating system for unpaved roads. It’s convenient shorthand for communication of the riding experience. Class 1 is very easy riding, passable by most passenger cars. Class 2 takes more attention and focus. Class 3 is rougher than what a lot of adventure riders want to tackle, at least on big bikes.)

    I wish I were capable of capturing the experience of the riding and scenery around the Little Switzerland area in photos or video, but we loved this part of the TAT route. It’s a great mix of stunning scenery, excellent curvy paved roads, and gravel roads that are constantly ascending and descending their way through the mountains. It was outstanding.

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    The TAT on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Its also takes part of 226 A, which is a favorite curvy road.
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    Tea break

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    Quintessential TAT in the eastern US
    Black Mountain Campground near the base of Mt. Mitchell, given its location, inexplicably has 50A power. When we asked if we could plug in, we were initially told we’d have to pay $25 for a site by a somewhat grumpy camp host. That’s pretty steep considering we’d be there about an hour, and use less than $2 worth of power. My negotiating skills aren’t great, so I was surprised when the final result, after offering to pay an amount less than $25, was making a new friend and an invitation to charge for free at the camp host’s site and use their picnic table to make breakfast while he asked if we needed anything and showed us pictures of his Harley. I think the turnaround made everyone’s day a bit better.

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    Our first closed road and detour was just after our breakfast stop. One of the concerns with the limited range of the Zero is that we’ll end up having to detour farther than the range available. This one was easy, only added a few miles, and we had plenty of margin on this leg. The forest road we took up to the Blue Ridge Parkway was only a few miles back, was lovely, and the route could have easily gone that way instead.

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    The lunch stop in Hot Springs NC was just a few miles off the TAT route, and at too low an elevation. It was hot and muggy, and it was already time to re-fill the Camelbaks and all of the water bottles with ice water. People were still soaking in the hot springs, which baffled me.

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    Bactrian not Dromedary

    A Zero DSR on Hurricane Creek “Rd”


    We had a choice to make, and debated what to do all the way to our arrival at the trail head. Should we attempt to ride Hurricane Creek, a Jeep trail that is notably more technical than most of the rest of the TAT, or take the easy bypass around.

    A guy on an XR650 was at the top of trail when we arrived, having just ridden through. He said we’d be fine, there were no trees down or any obstacles that our bikes could not handle, and that he’d be happy to ride with us and help if needed. Ok then, obviously the random guy we just met on the side of the road is going to tip the balance on our decision of which way to go. A non-player character had just entered the game at just the right time to guide us through this quest, how could we not take him up on the offer?

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    Y’all, Hurricane Creek is probably the most difficult riding I have ever attempted on my WR with full luggage. Our new friend J is 6’4” tall, which makes him on his XR650 about like all 5’4” of me on my 140 dirt bike. He rode the entire thing mostly sitting down like it was nothing. On my small dirt bike, I probably would have giggled my way through the entire 6 miles. (I know a WR250R sounds small to a lot of you, but remember, me on my WR is proportionally like an average size guy on a mid-size adventure bike. Picture yourself on a BMW850GS with full luggage, and then decide what you want to ride. )

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    Kevin negotiated the Zero through like a champ. He frequently found the limits of the front forks, despite his best attempts to ride smoothly, and the skid plate definitely looks used now, but all 550 lbs of motorcycle and luggage made it through with the rubber side down.

    There was some minor carnage. One section had some slippery, muddy, and very deep jeep ruts on a steep uphill climb; the ruts were so deep, I don’t know how a wider motorcycle could have made it through. He slipped a bit and bashed a saddle bag on a boulder. The charger box/pannier rack mount deformed inward a little bit, but he was able to pry it back out into place.



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    pictures never do it justice. photos and video make everything look easy.
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    This guy is an absolute legend. Our trip through was definitely better with his positive attitude, and showing us all the good lines. He was absurdly patient and encouraging with all the times I had to stop and consider how to get through a section. He’s part of the reason we were smiling when we got to the end. Thanks again J, riding with you made our day. (Also, kudos to all the Jeeps who parked themselves on precarious angles trail side to make room for us to go through. Everyone was super cool and had good trail etiquette on this busy Saturday afternoon).

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    The Hero of Hurricane Creek


    The rain had started on Hurricane creek, but it seemed like passing showers. It didn’t matter; we spent the next two hours looking for a legal place to tent camp. We hadn’t realized we’d be inside the boundary of the Great Smokey Mountains National park, and there’d be no dispersed camping. The campgrounds, naturally, were completely full, and apparently reservation only. You can’t just show up, even if there was room, you have to reserve online, which is not helpful when there is no reception. We ended up riding into Maggie Valley; late, tired, hungry, and in the rain. Tourist price hotel it is, and it took several tries to find a vacancy. We almost never have trouble finding lodging, but it’s bound to happen sometimes.



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    Or frying pan was a casualty from Hurricane creek. Easily straightened back out well enough. Delightfully, the raw eggs, which were in the same bag, were fine.

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    Trail carnage. Eggs were ok though.
    After Maggie Valley, the TAT goes out of its way to take the Heintooga Round Bottom Road in the GSM Nat’l Park, a Blue Ridge Parkway like road that turns into a lovely one-way gravel road that descends into the valley. I’m glad we didn’t skip it.

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    Our trip nearly ended before Andrews NC, on a single lane gravel road with tight, blind turns just before the route crosses the AT. We didn’t catch it on camera, but a sedan driver was apparently treating the road like his own personal rally course. He came around a blind turn heading towards us and fully on our side of the road. We think he had early apexed, and was locked up and already over cooking that corner before he even rounded the bend and saw Kevin. Six tires locked up, and the sedan nearly went over the edge on the outside of the turn before coming to a stop, barely missing contact with Kevin’s bike. Kevin could barely gesture with anger before he took off again, not even stopping to ask if Kevin was ok. Save lives, ride right. Had Kevin been in the left track, he would have collided. The evidence of this driver’s exuberant and apparently not very talented driving was evident in the gravel tracks for several miles after the near miss.



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    The Simple Life Campground in Robbinsville NC is an A+ place for motorcyclists. We were hoping to get in one more night of camping before Tropical Depression Fred arrived and rained on our parade. It ended up raining on us all night, but mercifully stopped in the morning so we could pack up. We could have set up under one of several carports on the concrete and stayed dry, or gotten a cabin, but the forecast had only said 20% chance of rain. Oh well, at least we know our tent is still waterproof.

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    Simple Life Campground Robbinsville NC is A+
    And thus I have time to catch up on my journaling and update the ride report. We’ve decided to take a rest day to wait out the weather system. We took some time to ride a bit of the Cherohala Skyway and the Tail of the Dragon (both of which we’ve ridden multiple times before), before retreating to inside lodging with a kitchen, internet, and a washer and dryer in the Robbinsville area for a couple of nights.

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    Tail of the Dragon has EV charging now

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    Fred is currently dumping rain all over the region, and the route ahead of us. Hopefully the creek crossings will go back down quickly when we get going again. We’re ready, this trip is just getting going, and it’s already GREAT.

    Cross posted from here.
    #25
  6. Motochimp

    Motochimp Been here awhile Supporter

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    So stoked to hear you guys have launched! I finished the TAT solo a month ago and your pics and observations are bringing back some great memories. Great job conquering Hurricane Creek RD, when I rolled thru it was moist to slightly dry, I kept thinking to myself "thank god it's not raining and wet."
    #26
  7. Wild Juliana

    Wild Juliana Yes we can

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    I haven't been glued to this thread at all I'm glad to hear you're dry. There are days that are well, completely awesome also filled with cool coincidence and this day has a few. Grab this pic on the way up Just around the corner is the bag buster. 20210814_141707.jpg Another being the BRP was acting weak near the top just before Kevin rolls up and asked CAN WE MAKE IT? I've had many great days on the trail and this is Tops. I may have not realized the gravity of the answer but doubt never entered my mind when you all crested the hill. You all are an excellent example of what one might call a perfect team. Again thank you so much for letting me ride with you all.
    #27
  8. iatethepeach

    iatethepeach Been here awhile

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    There's always room for one more pizza.
    #28
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  9. Am.E

    Am.E Been here awhile

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    You found the report! Awesome :clap ...I'm sure you noticed Kevin is a decent enough rider to get the job done. Me? well, I'm getting better :lol3 It's always good to ride with a friend (especially a stronger one who can help pick up heavy bikes :rofl) We're still can't believe you just happened to show up at just the right time. Definitely a fun coincidence. We had a blast:)
    #29
  10. Wild Juliana

    Wild Juliana Yes we can

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    I'm hooked I'll be keeping up and quietly obsessing on the advantages EV will bring to the nature experience.
    #30
  11. John Smallberries

    John Smallberries Long timer Super Supporter Supporter

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    My crew and I went through Hurricane Creek on "big bikes" (me on F850GSA, others on 1200s) recently. Thankfully, it was dry. It would have been a nightmare in the mud you saw!

    I LOVE THIS THREAD. DIY Electric Engineering + Adventure Bikes + Great Attitude + Great documentation! You are plowing the ground. I hope to follow your example one day. True - the technical and infrastructure barriers are huge - and will be for some time. But - what an adventure!

    Thanks for documenting this. I'm looking forward to the rest.
    #31
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  12. John Smallberries

    John Smallberries Long timer Super Supporter Supporter

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    There is hope for the future of electric bikes: 1) SiC-based inverters, 2) 800-volt batteries and charging stations, 3) "your bet here" advanced battery technology, 4) tiny, high-rpm motors. One day.....
    #32
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  13. Am.E

    Am.E Been here awhile

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    This, right here, I think is right on the money. Surely its coming. But then it'll be too easy, and where's the fun in that? (j/k, it'll be more fun)
    #33
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  14. Am.E

    Am.E Been here awhile

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    2021 TAT – TN GA AL

    “If the good Lord’s willing and the creeks don’t rise”

    Tropical Depression Fred was a proper weather event, with pockets of severe storms, and lots of rain. We left in the morning after our rest day in overcast but dry weather, but still under a flash flood watch for the region. There was severe flooding in many places; even some paved roads had washed out. The trees would be down, the creeks would be up, and we had our doubts as to how much of the TAT route would be passable.

    There were two options: 1) wait a bit and see if conditions improve so we would not have to bypass much of the route, or 2) ride what we could, bypass what we needed to, and hope for the best. We chose option 2. We have more time than most to complete the TAT, but with more rain forecast, better conditions could be more than a week away. Time to ride west and see if we can get away from the rain.

    The “gravel Cherohala” riding into TN was in surprisingly good condition. Not even muddy. We rode over, under, and around a few small trees in the road.

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    This was our first big obstacle:

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    It seemed possible to get over a 6-in branch on the ground and still fit under the main trunk, but getting enough room required riding in the ditch where the sloppy mud stole all the traction required to get that done.

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    We could not believe our luck. We’d seen no one thus far, but right on the other side of the tree were two women and a dog in a side by side who just happened to be turning around as we pulled up. One minute sooner or later and we would have missed each other. They had a mini electric chain saw with them.

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    (Seriously it was a really tiny chainsaw, I’d never seen one that small, the bar was like 8” long).

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    notably pleasant lunch spot

    We rode as far as we could on Witt Rd going south out of Tellico Plains TN, but the water was just too high. It wasn’t passable. The pic below looks tame enough (the water looks still, but it was definitely moving). In person it was possible to tell that the middle bit beyond Kevin was definitely over front wheel height.

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    The middle bit was definitely at least 2ft deep

    I’m a little disappointed at being denied a chance to see the infamous Witt Rd crossing that dumps so many riders, not once, but twice. We inadvertently skipped it when riding the SM500 last year, so I was looking forward to getting a second chance this year.

    Our goal for the Zero is to ride as much of the TAT as faithfully as possible, without skipping or bypassing any of the route. Naturally, weather, road closures and other things outside of our control make it impossible to ride 100% of the route as published. As long as we’re not bypassing due to limitations of the electric bike, it still counts:)

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    Ducktown Shell Station. Both bikes got to fill up.

    Progress was slow today, with trees down, and some backtracking required.
    We also spent some time and effort getting past this low water bridge. We had to prop a log out of the way to make enough room to get by.

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    It was hot and humid, and the water felt nice and cool, until it over-topped and filled our boots. Our gloves, boots, and jackets were wet for the next several days.


    Slow mo is funnier and more dramatic:



    The weather forecast called for only 20% chance of rain, so camp was a dispersed site along a section of the track shared with the SM500.

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    The sign is a lie. We rode through this part just fine.
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    As I left the tent one last time in the evening at dusk, I walked towards my bike, looked up, and SHRIEKED extremely loudly with surprise and fear. (I am not good in panic situations)

    The bear, who was about 75 ft in front of me, and who I think was equally surprised, grunted, and ran off into the brush.

    I ran back into the tent (obvious safety from a bear). (Again, not good in panic situations)

    Ok great. This campsite is not exactly inherently bear safe, previous occupants had left orange peels, beer cans, and other trash in the fire pit not far from our tent, and there are no bear lockers. We spent a few minutes re-arranging our camp to move the smelly stuff away from us (which we should have done earlier), and crawled back into our tent and hoped for the best.

    A thunderstorm passed through overnight and dumped rain on us.

    I must have done a good job scaring the bear off, as we never saw it again.

    Lots of pretty forest roads followed, all passable, and mostly class 1, but sometimes slow, with a few downed trees. I remember an overgrown 2 track section that was definitely class 2, but didn’t get any pics. We liked the variety from the sometimes endless tunnel of trees.

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    riding up into the clouds. no view this time

    What, you don’t keep snacks in your swing-arm cross tube? It works great; that pack has been there for 1000 TAT miles.



    Slow progress today. Went into Fort Mountain State Park east of the route near Chatsworth GA to charge the Zero. It turns out their 50A is 208V, not 240V, and on the same breaker as the 120V, so you can’t use both at once.

    We figured it out when we tripped the breaker and had to move sites. 208 is noticeably slower, especially when you can’t plug in the TT-30 socket at the same time. Between the diversion off route, getting groceries, and gas for my bike, we fussed around too much and were generally inefficient with time.

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    Charging, and adjusting the chain

    More rain is coming, so we grabbed a tiny cabin at an RV park. I’ve been telling Kevin that I want to stay in one of these tiny cabins for years at this point, and I think I finally wore him down.

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    The electrical wiring in the cabin was SO SKETCHY
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    I try not to over-research our trips before we go. The goal is to strike the balance of making sure we know the important stuff, and don’t miss anything good, while still leaving room for surprise. We didn’t know this overlook was coming, and it was a wonderful discovery:

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    We really lucked out with fast charging at Mountain Cove Farms resort in Chickamauga, GA. We didn’t call ahead, and got a bit worried when we arrived and it looked practically abandoned. No activity. We stopped in at the store/office, and the woman gave us that quizzical look everyone makes when we explain that we want to charge the motorcycle. She said she wasn’t sure if the power was still on at the RV campground, but we could use it if it was. Fast 50A charging in the totally empty and abandoned RV campground was a little eerie. The setting was very pretty, but it felt like a scene out of (insert favorite zombie/dystopian end of world flick here).

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    The pavement ended at the GA/AL line. AL apparently doesn’t believe in gravel either, as it was all red, hard packed dirt. Thankfully, it was mostly dry, and surprisingly fast and smooth.

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    Back in TN, the rain found us again. We’ve been rained on a least a little bit every day of this trip so far. On this morning, we rode in it for hours. I don’t melt, but I have to say, the rain is starting to get me down.

    Going around the closed bridge barriers was probably bad behavior. In our defense, we were just following some tracks in the mud clearly left by a large adventure bike. They may have even moved some rocks for us, so thanks for that.

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    waiting out the mid day thunderstorm. that is my unimpressed and cold and wet face.
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    this is not a low water bridge. there’s just that much water (this was easily ride-able)

    More re-routing around high water today. We even saw some other riders for once on the other side of this creek that was absolutely overflowing its banks.

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    Hi guys!

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    nope
    One the plus side, the sun was out and it was really nice for a few hours before the rain came back. On the minus side, the low water bridges in the area were definitely not passable. The photos don’t really do it justice; the water was “sweep your bike away” fast and deep.

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    Despite needing to backtrack and re-route a few small sections, we’ve been pleased with how much of the route we’ve been able to follow. Almost all of it has been passable; we’ve missed very little in NC, TN, and GA considering the storms and rainfall.

    I love eastern TN by the way, it’s really beautiful. As we get ready to depart the central part of the state, the land is getting noticeably flatter. Now that we’ve left our “home territory” in the southern Appalachians, we’re excited to be traveling into more “unknown” parts of the country.

    Cross posted from here.
    #34
  15. drdubb

    drdubb OFWG Supporter

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    I'm impressed. Riding through a tropical storm! I would have high tailed home.
    #35
  16. Am.E

    Am.E Been here awhile

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    Oh no, we waited it out with a rest day in Robbinsville NC. This was just the aftermath, and follow up rain...I think we're finally out of the rain for awhile though!!
    #36
  17. Wild Juliana

    Wild Juliana Yes we can

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    I knew this was gonna be good and I am not disappointed.
    #37
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  18. NinjaRider

    NinjaRider Been here awhile

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    Yes, great ride and report! I am hooked!!!
    #38
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  19. Am.E

    Am.E Been here awhile

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    2021 TAT – TN AL MS

    There was apparently a farm show in town close to our hotel in Lawrenceville TN (more thunder storms with heavy rain sent us inside again, we’re camping far less than normal. The flooding is terrible further north in TN, with up to 17 inches of rain!!!). We overheard a conversation about an impulse colt purchase at breakfast in the hotel lobby, which is not a normal thing to have happen in our typical circles. Also, there was an 8 week old blue heeler puppy a few rooms down from us, and I have strong regrets for not getting pictures. That pup was already the highlight of my morning as we packed up to leave.

    The first significant water crossing was of course too high, but we were again able to route around without skipping too much of the route.

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    Arriving on the back side of this locked gate where the TAT crosses the Natchez Trace was a surprise. We had not passed any other gates, closed or open, on the way in. We had definitely been on logging roads, having passed parked logging equipment through pine plantation for the last several miles, and it seems that this was probably the main access to that area.

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    Collinwood, TN also surprised us with unexpected fast charging at an RV park that had not come up in any of our searches. The town has a park with four RV spots with 50A service that is within sight of the TAT route. Our luck was up this time, the distance between the original planned charging locations was pushing our comfort level at over 120 mi, and required keeping the speed down to make sure we’d have enough range. An unexpected ½ hr. boost while we ate lunch meant carefree riding the rest of the day.

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    We’ve traded our overcast and rainy weather for hot, sunny, and muggy, with highs in the mid-90s. The riding was was a lot of fast, hard pack gravel and dirt as we dipped back down into AL again briefly for a short break in Waterloo.

    The RV park in Waterloo, AL is not recommended. It’s very…..residential. The electrical “infrastructure” was the sketchiest yet, including RV services mounted on trees. I know electrons are technically undifferentiated, but these somehow just felt dirty. I’m a little surprised we haven’t set anything on fire yet this trip.

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    The road north out of Waterloo en route to Savannah TN had curvy gravel switchbacks that went up and down and around over and over again along the shore. The gravel was often round, small river rock, and sometimes made deep piles, along with puddles, ruts, and washing from all the recent rain. It was sometimes not easy to ride, and going uphill definitely required momentum where the gravel was deep.

    After running errands in Savannah, we followed the route south to Pickwick Landing State Park near the border of TN and MS. Rather than take the main roads, the TAT winds through some farm fields obviously owned by a major agro business. We have no idea why those roads are public. This is large scale, industrial monoculture. We must have ridden 10 or 15 miles through thousands of acres of soybeans, and the occasional field of corn.

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    It’s really hot and muggy, and we rolled into the campground in the evening drenched in sweat. Thankfully, the camp bath house at the state park is nice and clean, has showers, and is blessedly and unexpectedly air conditioned.

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    essential supplies
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    Showing the Zero where its food comes from

    Late the next morning, we had the complete privilege of getting to meet the famous Sam Correro, creator of the TAT. What a treat, this man is a delight.


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    Thanks Sam for the route across this fantastic country, your time, advice, ice water, and the TAT stickers!

    Just a few minutes after leaving Sam’s house, we said goodbye to TN for the final time, and hello to Mississippi.



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    Lots of hard pack dirt roads that are occasionally rutted and slow.

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    The heat and humidity are brutal, with a heat index of 105F. I’m beginning to question my previously certain belief that it’s not possible for me to melt.

    Our first attempt at charging in New Albany, MS didn’t work. Occasionally there is an incompatibility with the aftermarket chargers. We have found that Schneider brand charge stations in particular are really picky about giving the green light to power on. We found another public charger at a hotel by the interstate, and headed over. The bike would not charge there either.

    Huh. Is the bike just really hot? It was about four PM at this point, so we decided to just get some air conditioning at the hotel and grabbed a room, thinking maybe the bike would cool down a bit and would start charging.

    Nope. Heat wasn’t the problem. By 5pm, Kevin had opened up the charger box and traced the problem to the Diginow controller. Crap. Now that is a problem. The stock level one charger has been removed; the Diginow’s are the only way to charge the batteries.

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    not happy
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    V2 diginow controller. mouse for scale :)
    This is the gas bike equivalent of having no way whatsoever to put gas in your bike.
    Prior to leaving on this trip, Kevin had identified the Diginow controller as a single point of failure that could end our adventure. The controller is a collection of off the shelf consumer-grade parts assembled and “potted” (with hot glue, not our first choice, but that’s how it came to us), in a little off the shelf enclosure. It uses an Arduino to control the chargers using a proprietary program.

    Fortunately, Kevin had secured a second controller just before we left (thanks, Morgan!). That controller was back home in NC, and was not tested, or potted.

    Time to phone a friend. Patrick answered the call, and within seconds of Kevin asking if he could ship the spare controller out that night before FedEx closed at 9pm, said “yeah, I’m down for that.” The phone call took 60 seconds.

    Let me explain what he agreed to in that short time. It was nearly 8pm his time when we called. The FedEx shipping center at the Greensboro, NC airport accepts shipments for next day delivery until they close at 9pm. It’s a forty minute drive. Dude dropped his entire life at that very instant to make a mad dash, first to get the part, and then to the airport. We had a confirmation picture of the part with his steering wheel in the background at 8:15, and an email confirmation of the shipment at 8:55. This wasn’t even an emergency. It would not have been the end of the world to wait a day for the controller to arrive. Patrick, that was amazing, and we owe you one.

    If you are going to have a breakdown, having it happen in a town and not out in the middle of nowhere is really nice. We had nice, air conditioned inside lodging, showers, wifi, restaurants nearby, and J-plug EV chargers right at the hotel for testing. What else could we ask for? There are so many places we have ridden so far where this would have been much, much harder.

    In the morning, Kevin made a run to Lowes for some supplies on my WR, and dashed 30 minutes down the interstate into Tupelo to buy $1.60 worth of resistors from Bluff City Electronics, and also to pay his respects to the King of Rock and Roll. (Now that radioshack is mostly closed, where the heck do you buy resistors in person? We didn’t want to buy online and wait a day for them to come in).

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    obligatory stop in Tupelo

    The controller arrived at the hotel in New Albany, MS around 9:30 in the morning (which is amazing to me), and Kevin was back just before 10am. After verifying the controller worked, it was time to do some re-wiring, and get it installed.

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    Potential Failure Modes:
    Why did the first controller die? We’re confident it did not get wet, and it was potted well enough that we don’t think vibration shook anything apart. Our top three theories for failure are heat, random component failure, or a voltage spike from the CAN bus system on the bike.

    With regard to heat, the Arduino is rated for a surprisingly high 185*F temperature. The chargers get hot, but it’s doubtful temperatures got quite that high. Also, after consulting with the extremely helpful knowledgeable Morgan, our inside source for Diginow knowledge, it was apparently very common to mount the controllers in the same enclosures with the chargers. He was doubtful that heat caused it to fail. (Also, Morgan spent his personal time on the phone during this ordeal sharing knowledge and advice that provided a lot insight into how to sort out our issues, and was the reason we had a back-up controller at all. He doesn’t know Kevin from anyone; he’s just a good guy that wanted to help. Seriously, thank you Morgan, you saved our trip.)

    It’s very possible that a component simply decided to fail after 4000 miles, which is how long Kevin has been running this system. These are consumer grade parts, not Tier 1 automotive-grade hardware.

    Another likely suspect is a voltage spike from the bike’s CAN bus system. On version 2 of the Diginow controller, which is the one that failed, the controller interfaces directly with the bikes CAN bus system. This is apparently risky, as even factory Zero bikes have blown out their stock chargers through voltage spikes on the CAN bus.

    Version 3 of the Diginow controller, which we just received, does not connect to the CAN bus, eliminating that failure mode. The problem is that now the controller cannot tell the bike to go into charging mode.

    Thus the mad dash to Tupelo to get the resistor. It’s possible to wire in a switch and 100k ohm resistor from the B+ terminal (up to 116vdc) to the Charge Enable pin on the aux charger Andersen connector. When the switch is closed, the bike enters charging mode. Kevin spent part of this morning installing a rocker switch attached to the handlebar to do this. It’s simple enough to use, and there’s now zero connection between the bike controller and the Diginow charger controller.

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    vice grips aren’t electricians pliers, but they got the job done
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    potting electronics with hot glue on a hotel night stand, as one does
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    field install is decidedly lower quality than the shop at home


    Kevin mounted the V3 controller under the seat, instead of in the charger box, just in case heat was a factor. There is no way for it to get too hot now. It also can’t get blown up by the CAN bus system, because it’s not connected. The controller is very well sealed, securely mounted so it won’t rattle, and wires are all managed to prevent strain and chafing. Eliminating 2 potential failure modes is bound to help, but that is the last controller. If this one fails, our trip is done. We have the bill of materials to make a new controller, and could actually build one while on the road. The problem is the software program. If we had a copy, we could load it onto an Arduino, and totally self-support without the need for someone else to build another controller. But we don’t (though we’re working on that). (please help thanks).

    Kevin had the bike back together and charging by early afternoon. We were back on the road and riding the TAT again by 2pm.

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    its working again!!!

    22 hours from “Oh crap, it won’t charge, we’re stuck, trip might be over” to riding, including having parts shipped in. What a ride.

    To be clear – this is not a problem with Zero’s engineering, but with the aftermarket fast chargers that we added. Zero, could we please have a factory option for 12kW (or more) of charging on the DSR, while also having the extra Power Tank battery? Basically what we put together, but rigorously designed and tested. And add CCS support while you’re at it – switching power supplies can take both AC and DC as input, so you could stick with your ~100v pack a while longer…

    Cross posted from here.
    #39
  20. Motor7

    Motor7 Long timer

    Joined:
    Sep 16, 2013
    Oddometer:
    1,730
    Location:
    East Tennessee
    Great writing and photo's. We bought two Rad Power E-bikes 3 years ago and they continue to amaze me. It's trips like the one you are doing that will pioneer future E-Moto changes and my hat's off to y'all!
    #40
    ROAD DAMAGE and norton73 like this.