The big idea
My mate Geoff & I decided to do a big ride... We discussed loads of possibilities & for various reasons we settled on the Trans America Trail
(TAT), riding east to west across the good ole US of A offroad!
The trail is presented at around 5000 miles, it took 12 years to piece together
, linking various forestry tracks, mountain roads etc to get across the country with about 60 – 70 % off road. Sam Correro
is the fella who put it all together & now sells the maps/GPX files to fund some of the other trails he’s been researching since he completed this.
Geoff & I settled on Yamaha XT660R bikes for the trip, so as I was working overseas, Geoff bought them & pretty much set them up too, costing around £3500 including Akrapovic 2:1 exhausts, GPS technology etc.
Once I got back into the UK we embarked upon some training... neither of us had ever ridden off road before, Geoff has a racing back ground, sidecars & 400’s & I’m just a hobby biker, albeit we’ve both covered a ridiculous of miles riding round Europe & the UK since we met in Italy.
A taste of off road
How did we learn to ride off road? Green lanes in the UK on a 660R... now that’s a bit of a challenge, especially things like the Breast High Pass in the Lakes & all that tricky/slippy slate stuff... bugger... A very steep learning curve over 3 month’s got us ready to tackle the TAT.
Hitting the road
We shipped the bikes into Baltimore, had a right faff getting them out of customs, then headed off to the start of the TAT, 500 miles to the south west of us in Tennessee. We followed some great roads, the Skyline Ridge & the Blue Ridge Parkway... purpose built biking roads along a ridge for 500 miles... wow what a ride that was, it’d be fab on a sports bike. We finished off the approach with a blast over the Dragon, a tight twisty road much like Hartside near Penrith & then onto the Cherahala Highway which was amazing before dropping into Tellico Plains to pick up the start of the off road stuff.
The first few days of the TAT were a bit of a come down after fast road stuff we’d just done, but we were soon into some deep water river crossings, forest trails & trying hard to get our head around the mapping/trail notes which consumed our thoughts.
Tennessee was fast flowing, Mississippi was wet & humid, and Arkansas was a laugh, (Although the bear wasn’t funny!). Oklahoma was boring, New Mexico was the start of the real tough bits, Colorado was amazing, 14000 feet passes all over with some of the best riding of the trip, and Utah, Nevada & Oregon were technical, fabulous & really rounded off the off road parts of the trip.
The riding in each state was totally different; the wet sand/mud was the hardest part by a long way though. Both of us had to adapt our riding accordingly, navigation was easy for the most part due to the GPS’s except when we crossed Nevada, tiny little trails, barely visible on the ground meant trusting to the technology which some of us had problems adjusting too.
The White Rim Trail in Utah, 100 + miles of some of the best riding I’ve ever done. The Redwoods in California, the Golden Gate Bridge were all iconic things to experience. The very leggy blonde Californian girls were stunning; the more chunky Americans were as expected...
We lost track of how many times we dropped the bikes on the trip, it became a daily occurance... three sets of tyres, a new chain each, one front disc that fell off, a crash... oops, sorry Geoff, 2 broken side stands, lots of grazes, tick bites & insect hell... what a ride!!
We met up with two Americans & a South African fella who had lived in the States for 40 years, we ended up all riding together for weeks, the camaraderie, the different strengths, individual differences all made the trip, lots of banter, a few beers here & there & lots of motels with a much needed hot shower. The bikes drew us altogether & we rode in the desert sun, the heavy rain & every weather in between, we dealt with all the breakdowns, sought out little off the beaten places & totally immersed ourselves in the US way of doing things.
The trip finished up with Geoff’s bike broken with a knackered cam chain adjuster, the bike just about crawling onto the shipping offices forecourt in San Francisco for the return shipping back to the UK. Rattle, bang, puff of smoke... death rattle!!
The next trip
We all agreed to get together for the next trip which is shaping up already as a trip to Morocco in 2015 followed by an Australia to the UK trip at some point in the next few years. The preferred bike for this trip seemed to be a KTM, either 690 Enduro R, a 500 EXC or the 640 LC4, we’ll see!!
So now it’s back home to the Lakes for some play time on my little old DR350 SEW to take up a new aspect of motor biking, green laning with maybe the odd endure thrown in for good measure!!