Ride Organized By:


Yermo's 2016 Trans-Am Trail Trip

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

I should have realized it much sooner, but I did not. On the first few days of this journey, I was struggling. Nothing flowed. I kept dropping things. (Those who know me best, at this point, already know where this is going.)  I kept making mistakes of a kind I typically don't make. I felt out of sorts. I would end the day completely spent with sore muscles of the kind I have not felt in ages. I pondered calling it quits. I began to tell myself stories, "I'm just not a dual sport guy. There's something about this riding that I'm not suited for, but I can't figure out what or why. I'm going to slow. I'm taking too long. Thankfully, I'm alone because I would ruin the trip for any traveling companion. I should be forever alone. That would be best. No one will ever love me. This beautiful forest sucks. That mountains sucks. The sunshine sucks. Everything sucks." The world turned dark and hopeless as I rode along starkly beautiful forest service roads under a black sun that rained relentless cold sunshine through the lush green trees of a perfectly cool forest that gave me no peace. Rains were forecast and on that fourth day I finally got soaked and quite chilled. I was grateful for the heated grips. That evening I felt mostly ok but when I woke up in the morning my face and hands were strangely swollen, even for me, and every joint, muscle, fiber, and sinew of my carcass was in near agony. (At this point the ears of the fibromialgia suffers perk up.) I groaned as I hobbled around like some hundred year old man who had led a particularly rough life. Still, I told myself stories, "I'm not suited for this kind of riding. This hurts too much. I have allowed myself to get too weak." 

The following morning, which was Day 5 on the Trans America Trail, the pain was gone without any hint it had ever been but I had a noticable sore throat. I have seen this many times before, but still I didn't pay attention because I was too busy telling myself stories. I had waited quite late for the rain to pass and when I thought it was over I head out. I saw a storm cell in the distance but thought maybe the trail would go in some other direction.

Photo (12496))

It did not and ran straight into the cell. For a few moments I was in a downpour and got pretty wet. Strangely, I didn't mind in the least. After a few miles, the rain stopped and at times even the sun came out the warm my way. 

Day 5 was overwhelmingly on pavement. The amount of pavement in this trip so far has been surprising. Instead of a "trail across America", this section could be better described as "expanses of pavement that haphazardly zigzag all over the place to include distressingly short sections of perfectly tame gravel roads." The riding was easy. The AirHawk was helping tremendously and the pain I had felt from the seat was solely at the modestly annoying level. "You made a lot of progress today." I was told. My answer was,"It was overwhelmingly pavement so that's why it was easier." It was obvious to me, or so the story went.

The landscape changed again as the world flattened out and opened up.



At some point I decided, given how little gravel there is on this section, to try to document where the gravel starts and ends, so I started obsessively taking photos at each pavement to gravel transition (and the reverse). If I have time, I should be able to use the GPS locations in the photos to calculate how much actual gravel there is in each state. It gave me something to do as I rode along. 

There were some things to see such as decrepit houses from an age gone by on the verge of collapse.

I began to think about expectations and fears being two sides of the same fallacy. I was concerned enough about bears that I decided to take a can of bear spray with me. Mountain lions were also a concern as were wild boar. I was also very concerned about mosquitoes and ticks.

But the most dangerous creatures I have encountered thus far /BY THE DOZENS/, have been dogs. 

This became such a recurring theme that I started to become nervous as I approached any house. I could just hear the conversation.

"Hey Rex." said Rover.

"What Rover?", replied Rex.

"There's Yermo. Let's go chase him!" suggested Rover.

"Smashing idea!" responded Rex as both dogs go from sitting still to full on run in the blink of an eye. 

I must have been chased by over a dozen dogs and seen another dozen who couldn't care less. Most have been of average size. No truly large dogs except one that would likely have taken me out if he hadn't face planted as he tried to run out into the street. That dog came out of no where. Many very small dogs have also fearlessly come to attack. I confess being chased by weinerdogs is somewhat amusing. The real threat is that they inevitably try to get under the front wheel. So I've learned to slow down and sometimes even stop. Interesting, this seems to confuse the dog. At one point, I was cornered by three small dogs. One tries to bite my boot to no avail and when I didn't react it apparently became confused, laid down in the street and started licking its balls. 

At another point, I was chased by a group of very small dogs including one very small but fierce poodle looking thing. I've seen groups of as many as six dogs just hanging out in the road or on the side just waiting for an unsuspecting Yermo to come rolling by.

"Get 'im!!" I can just hear them say.

Photo (12501))

This "dog attempting to protect its owners from the evils of Yermo" theme would repeat over the following days distressingly often.

There had been evidence of serious rainful. Interestingly, the sparse unpaved sections seemed to be less hazardous than the paved one where gravel, mud, and debris would be strewn across the road in unsuspecting places. The worst on the unpaved sections was the occasional rut that had to be avoided.

At one point, I came upon a church. The route went left but something to the right caught my eye. 

"Fortunately, I'm heading to the left." I thought. In the back of my mind, I pondered, "Foreshadowing?"

You betcha. 

Only a few hundred yards later the road was covered in water. It was shallow and easy to cross.


Not long thereafter, I came across another water crossing. This one caused me pause. It was getting late in the day and the sun was starting to set. I remember saying that if there was any doubt in my mind I would walk a crossing to check it out before riding it. In the worst case, I would go around. I have very little experience crossing water and none crossing moving water. I am well aware of the hazards of flowing water and some many years ago have been knocked down by moving water when a canoe tipped and I was unable to stand due to the force of the water. 

There was a concrete slab that spanned the expanse of the crossing. I couldn't quite see the bottom in the middle so I carefully, one half foot at a time, walked across it probing the surface and trying to feel how much pressure the water was exerting on me. In the middle, it was deeper than my boot but not by much. Traction was good and I guessed that because the spoked wheels there would be less force on the wheels of the bike than there is on me. But still, I was hesitant and considered finding an alternate route.

I walked it a few times trying my best to evaluate it and decide whether or not it should be attempted. I didn't know how deep the water off the ledge was which was the really big concern. Then I heard a loud engine approaching and a dune buggy looking thing appeared. A local guy with a thick Southern accent said he would guide me through and that there was a much worse crossing a couple miles down the road. The only other way out, he told me, was a long loop and it wasn't clear that those would be water free either. 

He went across two wheels on the slab and two off. He turned into the deep water off the edge of the slab and it was clearly not all that deep. He made it to the other side without issue albeit with a lot of splashing.

I figured if I ran into trouble there'd be someone to help and he seemed to imply that locals did this crossing all the time. 

So I got on the bike and started my way across. To my great surprise by the time I reached the middle, where it didn't seem like the current had been all that strong, the side force exerted on the bike was such that I was about to pushed over. There was simply no keeping the bike going in a straight line and I felt strongly if I gunned it I would simply pitch it into the drink which would likely end my trip or maybe worse. 

The bike started to be pushed off the side of the slab and I knew there was no saving it so I gunned it as the bike fell off the slab and went into the deep. I kept the bike upright as it stalled in water roughly up to the tank deep but mercifully close to the far shore. Instinctively, I hit the starter immediately and the bike sputtered back to life and I gunned it. I thought I was completely hosed because it looked like there was a rock shelf between me and dry land. I thought maybe I could try to pop up over it but it turned out just to be muddly water unsettled by the buggy creating an illusion. In seconds I was on dry land and surrounded in a cloud of steam. 

This could have gone very wrong. I second guessed myself quite a bit but decided it was not a failure of judgement. It was a failure of experience. I do wonder how more experienced "ADV" riders judge what waters to cross and what waters to avoid. My new rule of thumb is that anything deeper than my boot that exerts any kind of noticeable pressure will be avoided. I haven't yet figured out what "noticeable" is. 

If followed the buggy for some miles. The route veered off to the right but the buggy went straight. The second crossing was much bigger with a stronger current.

"No way." I thought. I shouted over the buggy driver and told him there was no way I could make it. He said he wasn't sure about the crossings on the other turn but thought there might be some. I thanked him for showing me the way and turned back up the hill to see about getting out of Dodge.

I stopped and emptied my boots which, being water proof, make for excellent water carriers. I noticed a dramatic sunset.

There were a number of smaller and some larger crossings that evening before I got out of the area and managed to find a motel.

The next day involved a bit more unpaved roads but largely the same conditions. There continued to be too many dogs and more evidence of much rain.

Photo (12509))

Fairly early in the day, I came across a muddied little road that I thought might be the "jeep trail" section listed on the rollchat but turned out to be just a "normal" gravel road. It had clearly had a bunch of rain.

Photo (12510))

It, however, led to what looked to be an intimidating water crossing.

 I didn't want to soak my boots again so I pulled them off and walked it barefoot. I immediately regretted not bringing flipflops.


 I walked it very carefully. There was little if any current. It was just about as deep as last night's errant crossing. But I could see the bottom. There were no obvious holes and only a few large-ish rocks. I guessed that if I did pitch it in the drink the bike wouldn't be completely submerged and the chances that I'd be pinned were very low. I simply decided to be in a position to jump away from the bike if need be. I then realized I was pretty confident that I could simply put my feet down and stop at any point in the crossing if I needed to. The previous nights events were very much in the forefront of my mind.

I under-estimated how solid the surface was. It was not sand or mud but the consistency of gravel. My boots didn't sink into it, but the tires immediately did making for a shaky launch.

Riding across was no problem at all. No drama. No issue. It was however, quite far. I'm terrible at judging distance. I thought twenty yards but looking at the photo I'd say it's probably farther, no?

The day continued with some minor crossings, more dogs, more gravel roads, some devastated forestry sections. 

And butterflies. Butterflies everywhere. I did my best to avoid them but there were so many it seemed the air was filled with them. I've never seen that many in my life and this has been going on for days.

They would congregate in the road for reasons I do not know since I do not speak butterfly.

I really did try my best to avoid them but every now and again I would tag one despite my efforts.

At one point I came across a turtle. I stopped and watched for some time when I noticed it start to open its shell. 

"Alive!", I thought as I picked it up and put it a distance off the road.

"Yermo Lamers, savior of turtles and unintentional assassin of butterflies." 

There were more dogs including vicious poodle looking things.

Photo (12515))
More Dogs

These guys attacked in a coordinated fashion. "Be very very quiet, we're hunin' Yermoes."

At one point after many miles of farm gravel/dirt roads I the route went across a bridge that was out of commission.

I walked around trying to see if there was a way across but there simply wasn't. The GPS wasn't being much of a help so after about half an hour of walking around I decided to head back up and find an alternate route. Channeling the days as a smaller me, I found myself thinking there's no way the locals would accept a bridge out. There had to be a path somewhere that would lead across. A short way up from the bridge I did see tracks leading down to some powerlines which I followed. And behold, I did indeed find a place where the locals crossed and there happened to be a local on the other side smoking a cigarette. 

His name was Colton and he was surprised to see a non-local. I told him about the trip. .

"Aren't you married?" he asked.

"Nope. All by my lonesome. No wife. No kids." I replied.

"That's how you do you it!" he exclaimed.

"I don't know. It'd be nice to know you have a reason to go home instead of just an empty house." I said. 

With every opportunity comes a cost. People perceive the upside they want to perceive. They rarely pay attention to the costs. Some upsides are very costly.

He warned me about crossings. There are often deep unseen holes in these crossings that can sink a bike. He then talked about avoiding going off trail in the swamps.

"We lost four 4x4's in the swamp last year." he said as he described jeeps sinking and being completely lost to the murk. He called it "sink sand" I think but I understood it as quick sand.

"I fell into quick sand when I was a little kid." I told him to which he looked surprised as if he was looking at someone who had escaped a near death experience.

"Who pulled you out?"

"My sister."

This crossing as also no issue. 

There was another sunset.

Photo (12518))


There are other stories to tell. The toddler who appeared the restaurant and looked up at me. Her father picked her up and said, "Now, honey, you're going to have to wait a while yet." Everyone laughed for quite a while.

There's the dinner Bob, the BMW Riding Philosopher Baptist Pastor, treated me to last night. I met Bob on the 2014 trip and we've stayed in toumch since then via Facebook. I'm saddened that he's unfortunately having the "bad unconsciounably bad BMW service" experience. He's got a decent bike but no one to fix it correctly. I hate seeing that kind of thing. We spent thme evening talking trips, Taoism, Yoga, Mysticism, resistance to ideas, close mindedness and a host of other topics during which time he regularly interjected Middle Earth and Star Trek references. It was a wonderful evening spent with a kindred spirit on what has been ovewhelmingly a very solitary ride. 

And, as the riding has gotten easier and whatever that immune system event was that plagued me those first days has passed, I've further explored my developing bad relationship with narratives, notably the narratives we use to explain our world. I suspect that will be a topic that will occupy my mind for some time.

It's almost checkout time and I have a few phone calls to make before I venture deeper into the red clay of Mississippi. I've been warned about what this could be like if it rains. I've certainly seen more than ample evidence that it could get "interesting". 

If you'd like comment on these posts directly or try to mess with the errant maps, you can register for an account on the site or contact me on Facebook. As I mentioned, for the moment I'm obsessively documenting surface changes for reasons that are not entirely clear to me. You can click through on the map to zoom in and see endless photos of pavement and gravel. Once I have another couple down days, I hope to improve the photo integration so you can just click through full sized versions. There still so much work to do on the software for this site.

Day 14 TAT Day 7 - Red Clay


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

Please see the top of the page to join.

Link Details