Ride Organized By:


Yermo's 2016 Trans-Am Trail Trip

'Wednesday August 10th, 2016 10:00'
This adventure is over.

Today was the eighth day of this trip and the second day on the Trans America Trail.

Even though it is still very early and there's no knowing what is in store for me as I continue this little journey, I can say that so far this feels very different from any long distance motorcycle trip I've taken. Something is missing. There's always been a peace that I find after a just few days on the motorcycle. Even when I was a much younger and smaller version of myself, the bike was the only place I ever knew any real peace. My Beloved Blue Oil Burner has often been referred to as my meditation chamber. Megan and I talked about the meditative nature of the act of motorcycling. "I ride because it calms the voices and let's me be." I stated to which she replied, "Yes, it quiets the monkey voices. It's a buddhist concept."  

That feeling, however, has been completely missing. The calm that always comes after just a few days is simply not there even though I am exhausted. I feel no sense of "away". It's as if I am still just at home.

Maybe it's because I'm not on "my" bike. The DR650 is a different beast. It's designed as a compromise between on and off road use. After all the work I've put into it, it's quite a nice motorcycle and with the suspension, brake, and tire upgrades I've made it handles on street and off quite well. To try to make it more comfortable for long distance, I added a little windshield by Laminar Lip and I also had a nice Saddlemen seat made largely because of how well the seat on my bike performs. Unfortunately, this seat, liimited by the fact that Dual Sport motorcycles are thin by necessity, is simply too narrow and puts pressure at odd places. It has gone from uncomfortable to downright painful. 

Maybe it's because of the trail. The trail so far, while not "challenging", does require constant vigilance as the bike moves erratically over the uneven traction reduced surface of gravel, dirt, rocks, bumps,dips, twigs, branches, and leaves. It's no wonder parts are falling off the poor dualsport. For shorter rides you really don't notice it but the experience of riding these forest service roads all day long is much like what I would imagine strapping a jack hammer to yourself and your bike and leaving it turned on for 8 hours would feel like. It is a thorough unmitigated rattling which, as a general rule, seems to intefere with any kind of thinking. 

Maybe it's that I can't separate myself from home the dark clouds that follow me beckon my thoughts and feelings homeward preventing me from being right here, right now. 

But maybe it will change. 

As I said in the article I lost in the ether last night in one of my many errors, I had originally intended just to pay Francois and Megan a quick visit and to my surprise was invited to stay for a few days. Megan strongly suggested a group shake down run, which we did through forest service roads. As part of that they reviewed the gear I had brought. Overall it seems I had covered most of the bases. I even got myself a water bladder backpack thing so I could sip water while riding. Megan looked at the small thing I had bought and told me that it simply wasn't large enough. It held maybe a little over a liter. I liked it because it was small. They had a spare three liter one which they loaned me. I am glad they did because I am certainly drinking more water than I was expecting.

Photo (12231))


It's worn like a backpack. I fill it with water and ice and it lasts the day. Before I left, Audrey gave me a sugarless electrolyte solution designed to be added to water for those of us who can't drink things like gatorade. I think it's helping.


Megan, after looking at how I had my top bag secured, told me that she simply didn't like how I had done it. She strongly recommended that I get so called "Rok Straps". They allow you to secure things to the bike much better than a simple nylon strap. She also recommended that, since I have a water proof camera that I get this auto-retracting lanyard thing that can be securely attached to a jacket. This has turned out to be a fantastic recommendation as it makes taking bad pictures much easier.



Given how late I stayed up writing and fixing software, I was surprised that I got up well before 9. I was out of the motel just after 10 which for me is not too bad. I headed up the street to Wheeler's Cycle in the hopes that maybe they would carry roll charts. It's a slow place and you have to be ready to wait a while. Unfortunately, they did not carry roll chart holders. Bummer. 


Given that this was a bust I decided to head out and worry about it another time. I soon found myself on gravel roads again.

Photo (12207))


Nothing was particular challenging but the scenery was simply beautiful. At every turn I would try to capture some sense of the wonder of these forests but to no avail.

There were streams filled with moss covered boulders.

Photo (12205))


There were sections of road that were moderately straight and hard packed allowing speeds reaching 30mph although for most of the day doing between 15 and 20 was a comfortable pace.

Photo (12203))


There were more streams.

Photo (12208))

At one point I came across an interesting little cabin. Surprisingly, the forest has a strange kind of monotony to it. After you've seen the first 500 turns that all look very similar the mind begins to crave seeing something different. 

So here we have a cabin. It is not a tree, a cliff, a rock, or gravel. Hence, it is different and note worthy.

Photo (12204))


Photo (12210))


Flowers are also note worthy.

Photo (12212))


I believe this is the only bridge I have traveled under so far. I thouth the flowers lining both sides of the road were pretty.

Photo (12209))


Most of the day was spent riding on roads with distressingly steep drop offs. These roads are not difficult but they are very very unforgiving of inattentiveness. Gravel strewn switchbacks appear randomly. Combine that with a steep downgrade and it can make for interesting lack of traction on braking if you are not expecting it. It would be very very easy to miss a corner and go tumbling down the mountain into the trees. Given that over the entire day I only saw a handful of other human beings, one would be unlikely to be found off the side of the mountain. Caution is merited.

I tried to capture how steep these dropoffs are, but of course the photo doesn't do it justice. 

Photo (12214))


Photo (12213))


Photo (12211))


At one point I was taking a break at the end of one of the GPS sections when a man rolled up on an old Honda Transalp. The Transalp is now a fairly coveted rare machine so it was unusual to see. His name was Eddie and we talked for quite some time. Well, he talked and I listened. I as surprised to learn he was about to turn 61.

Photo (12215))


It was getting late and I was already hungry so I pushed on hoping to make it to Telico Plains. I had been doing pretty well with navigation that day despite not having a roll chart holder. When the GPS got confused I would pull the chart ticker tape out of the tank bag fumbling with it to find what turn this was. Unfortunately, at one point I failed to realize that I had gone off the prepared route. I don't have much experience following routes on the GPS as I mostly either use it to get to a destination or to record a ride. 

I had thought that once a route track was imported it would continue to display that route even if one veers off of it. This is not how it works. Once you are off the prepared route by any distance the GPS automatically recalculates and provides you a new route. This happened at a wrong turn which led me on yet another detour. I didn't actually realize that I had gone the wrong way until I came upon Witt Road from the wrong side. 


Megan and her friends Marissa and Caleb (sp?) had taken me down Witt Road to do the water crossings under supervision. After a rain I'm told they can be quite challenging. "You've done them so you can go around and skip that section." Francois would say. 

I was hungry and was not interested in doing a big detour so over the four crossings I went. In reverse the first one is the challenging one.


I made it through all four crossing without issue and headed to Telico Plains. I stopped by a motorcycle shop there to see if they had any roll chart holders but it was to no avail. I went to a nearby cafe and had a salad. The waittress when taking my order asked me about my crazy diet restrictions. It's always a topic of conversation and makes traveling and eating out challenging. "No cake, no soda, nothing fun?" she asked seeming honestly distressed by this. "Nope." I replied.

"Don't worry, I still love you." she said jokingly. 

I know it's just how people down here speak but it hit me like a lightning strike. I'm not sure why. "At least someone does." I said regretting it instantly.

I distracted myself with GPS issues. I wondered if there was a way to get it to stop auto-routing when one goes "off-track". It seemed like a feature the contraption should have. Perusing discussion forums on the phone yielded conflicting information. Some people say the Zumo 550 has the feature and others say it doesn't. Maybe it's a software revision thing.

I paid the bill. The waittress asked if I would be around again and I told her it was unlikely as I was heading West. I walked outside and futzed with the GPS in the heat. It turns out the Zumo 550 does have the ability to turn off auto-recalculating of routes.


Setting this to "prompt" now gives me a nice visual warning when I'm off the track while leaving the track displayed on the screen so I can find my way back to the point where I took the wrong turn. This works like a champ. I made no further egregious navigation errors. The two times I took wrong turns I was able to quickly find my way back to the official trail. What's challenging is that sometimes the turns you are supposed to take look like little more than driveways but now I have a failsafe.

Off to Witt Road I went to ride through the four water crossings for a third time. Witt road, up until this point, was the least maintained of the roads on the route. In sections it's quite rocky with quite a bit of gravel. I had decided to try to film myself doing the crossings. You can see the results of my efforts in this video on youtube

I continued to ride through the deep dark forests into the late hours of the day. At one point I came across forest road 80 which is the least maintained "road" so far on the trail. It's more a big trail than a road and winds it's way up steep fairly narrow inclines. There are downed trees, ruts, grass, rocks, It feels like a proper trail in the mountains.


Photo (12216))


Photo (12221))


Photo (12220))


I made my want into Ducktown where I found a motel. Two guys who were also riding the TAT arrived around the time I did. Earlier in the day I had come across an older guy at a gas station saying he had done it 5 times and would fall down "about 50 times" on each trip. Foreshadowing? 

Day 8 - Water Crossing and Less Errors


    You must be a member of this group to post comments.

    Please see the top of the page to join.

    Link Details