Saturday, August 5, 2017

TAT 2017 Post 21 08/05/17

It’s always a letdown after we complete one of our TAT legs because so much planning goes into it before the ride then it all ends when the ride is completed. I have one more leg to plan then I’ll have to find some other project to occupy my time.

This post will summarize both our TAT Leg-3 ride and our total TAT accomplishments to date. I’ll also touch on our Leg-4 initial plans (UT to OR). And lastly I’ll provide comments on the bikes and gear we are using on our dual-sport coast-to-coast TAT adventure.

Please note that my comments are based on using motels and a support vehicle; not camping. The campers have more freedom for miles to ride and when to stop. In addition, they have much more gear to carry so many of my comments are not applicable. I provide my views only to document our experience and maybe offer input to someone doing a similar type TAT ride.

TAT Leg-3 – Lake City, CO to Delta, UT (23-28 July 2017)

We knew this leg would be more of a challenge than Legs 1 & 2 (Charleston, SC to Lake City, CO) primarily because of the terrain and weather. We were correct. The ride over the CO Mountains and UT desert is significantly different from the lower elevation plains of OK and wooded trails to the east coast. In addition, the availability of fuel and motels is a big factor out west, which requires proper planning and preparation.

Day-1 – Lake City, CO to Dove Creek, CO (165 miles)
This gets you over the Continental Divide and onto the Rocky Mountain foothills to the west. Even though Cinnamon Pass is the highest elevation it by far is not the most difficult part of this section. All the ATVs and 4-wheel vehicles are more of an issue than the trail. We rode this section on a Sunday so it would probably be less of a problem on a weekday. Ophir Pass I felt was more of a problem primarily due to the big rocks (baseball to football size) on the trail on both sides of the pass. The climbs and descents were long and steep and in many places narrow (remember the ATVs and 4-wheels). Although the uphill vehicle has the right away, motorcycles going down these steep trails are not that easy to stop and pull out of the way. On several occasions we had our rear wheels skidding trying to slow down our decent and some jerk in a jeep wouldn’t even try to give us room to get by. It must be remembered that anyone can rent a jeep or ATV and ride those trails so their experience level is very questionable. I always tried to get out of their way but at one point we had three of our riders drop their bikes in a tight switchback turn because some 4-wheel vehicle wouldn’t give them room to maneuver.

Day-2 - Dove Creek, CO to Moab, UT (136 miles)
Not much to talk about on this section. Pretty flat and dusty and mostly long gravel roads.

Day-3 – Moab day ride to Arches National Park (95.8 miles)
It rained all night and we were afraid the trails would be too muddy to ride so we took pavement to see the Arches. Worth the ride but take some comfortable walking shoes. Several of us only had our riding boots and I gave up trying to walk to the Arches after several attempts. The rain did stop early so on our way out of the Arches we took a gravel road out of the park. This road is great and we had a good ride to the highway (details in previous posts). Once on the highway we took the Gemini Bridges Road, which is part of the TAT northbound out of Moab. Another exciting ride but requires making some climbs on big solid rock to the top of the ridge. Nothing our dual-sports couldn’t handle but the larger heavily loaded bikes will be challenged here. If raining this could be a problem. Once on the top of the ridge it is just a lot of varying gravel and rock trails but all good.

Day-4 – Moab day ride to White Rim Trail (WRT) in Canyon Lands National Park (88.7 miles)
We took Potash Road out of Moab to connect with the WRT. We connected with the WRT at the point where the Shafer Canyon Road & Switchbacks end. The road to the switchbacks was closed for repair. We rode about 25 miles on the WRT before we had to turn back towards Moab. I think we got a good sampling of what the WRT is like for its 92 mile ride around the park but I would like to ride the whole thing sometime in the future. The rain a few days earlier had washed out part of the WRT so be sure to check the condition before attempting the complete trail. It has some great scenery and never a dull riding moment. There is NO SHADE on the WRT so beware and take lots of water. We were lucky that the temperatures were 101 at the most and not 110 as we had been expecting.

Day-5 – Moab, UT to Castle Dale, UT (210 miles)
This is a very interesting ride with some beautiful sections and some very desolate sections. I’ve never ridden miles and miles in the desert before but I did on this section. The ride from Moab to Green River is about 60 miles and not too bad. At Green River you turn south for a 100-mile loop through the desert and return to I-70 west of Green River. This section is long and mostly in the desert. We encountered many sand piles on the road left over by the rain several days previously from 10 to 30 feet wide. Not real deep but did require slowing down to ride across. Some muddy spots but nothing too bad. If it is raining when you ride this section, watch for flash flooding across the road in the low spots. It was obvious flash flooding caused the many sand piles across the road that we found. The worse riding was on several miles of deep dirt/sand that had been spread onto the road by graders. We passed no civilization for that 100 miles; no buildings, no facilities, etc. Although we filled up at Green River and knew we had enough fuel for the 100-mile loop to I-70, there is no fuel once you reach I-70. Closest fuel was 27 miles away and off the TAT. We elected to continue to Castle Dale about 45 miles north for a total of 145 miles between fuel stops. Of our 6 bikes, 5 of them have about a 100+ mile range with their small tanks. I installed a 3.45 gal tank (170+ mile range) on my KTM so I never had a fuel problem. We had at least four 1-gal RotoPax with us so we had enough to make sure all the bikes made it to Castle Dale ok.

Day-6 – Castle Dale, UT to Delta, UT (170 miles)
This section goes through two mountain ranges, the first through a pass of 10,200 feet. Some good riding and scenery through this section and the passes are easy compared to the Rocky Mountain passes. As stated in my previous post on this section, we rode it in the rain with mud and temperatures down to 44 degrees so we didn’t enjoy it that much. If the weather is good, this will be an enjoyable section to ride. We ended our Leg-3 at this point.

Day-7 & 8 – Shuttle bikes back to Little Rock, AR
All the riders except me and the support vehicle driver, Michael, left Salt Lake City on Saturday to fly home. Michael and I left Delta, UT around 7 am (mountain) on Saturday driving back to Little Rock via Tulsa, OK where we dropped off Jeff’s bike and gear. We actually drove non-stop the 1700+ miles in 24 hours arriving in Little Rock around 8 am (central). We took turns driving and sleeping so we could get home ASAP, neither of us wanted to stop for the night in a motel. We had good weather and no traffic issues all the way, which made the trip bearable. I did take two days to recuperate with sleep as a result of the TAT ride and the drive back home. If you do the math 1700 miles/24 hrs = 70 mph you can see we made good time. Most of the speed limits out west are 80 to 75 mph plus we were on interstate 95% of the time.

TAT Completed
In 2016 and 2017 we have ridden approximately 3800 miles of the TAT from Charleston, SC to Delta, UT. Of the 4 core rides, all four have been on every trip. We have picked up a few other riders along the way, including my son, and now they have the urge to go back and ride the sections they missed.
We elected to use Sam’s maps and tracks for our TAT adventure and so far have no complaints. We recognize that they provide a recommended track but things change and sometimes we had to divert due to bridges out, roads closed, property becoming private, etc. This is part of the adventure for us and we’ve always been able to compensate without major impact. I know other TAT riders are using GPSKevin routes or others and I have no issue with that nor do I feel strongly which is better. I did download the GPSKevin track and he does provide lots of alternative routes for those more aggressive riders. Our ultimate goal is to ride coast to coast on dual-sport motorcycles, not to ride every inch of a specific TAT route.

The maps below shows the USA with our completed ride in green and our to-be completed section in red. More on the red track in the next paragraph.

TAT Leg-4 – Delta, UT to Port Orford, OR
I’ve just started planning for this last leg. One key factor is that several of us have elected to NOT ride the section from Delta, UT through the UT desert to Nevada then back to north of Salt Lake City. This is about 250 miles of desert with limited resources along the route. Terry and Steve do want to ride this section and think they can do it in a single day. I’m not sure that is realistic but will work it into the plan for either 1 or 2 days prior to when the rest of us join them for the ride to Port Orford.
Logistics for this last section is more complex than all the other legs primarily due to the distance we have to shuttle the bikes from Little Rock, AR:

Start - Little Rock, AR to Delta, UT
Finish – Port Orford, OR to Little Rock, AR

We currently think May 2018 will be the time for this last ride based on availability of all the riders. This will be a longer ride than all the previous legs at 9-10 days riding plus travel at both ends (2 weeks total is my guess). As of now the 4 core riders (Mike, Terry, Steve and Woodrow) have committed to go. Woodrow’s son Matty is also going and my son Jeff is about 90%. Others have expressed interest but nothing firm. I have found out that a group can be too big. 6 riders are about the upper limit as far as I’m concerned. It gets too tough to keep track of everyone with more when they are spaced out due to dust or steep climbs/descents. Another issue is if someone lags behind then everyone has to wait to see if they catch up otherwise they could be many miles behind and in trouble before the others make the decision to ride back looking for them.

For this last section, Terry’s wife Donna will be our support vehicle driver. She has volunteered for this task so she can be there when we finish our coast-to-coast ride. A couple of us are thinking of having our wives fly out to OR to meet us at the end so we can have a proper party. More on that as it is worked out.

This section still goes through some rugged county in Idaho and Oregon and I’m still gathering the data for those sections before I determine our day-by-day ride plans.

Bikes and Gear
We have used a variety of bikes since we started the TAT in March of 2016 (all fuel injected except the KLR):

Mike – new 2015 Honda CRF250L (Leg-1 &2), new 2016 KTM 350 EXC-F (Leg-3)

Terry – new Kawasaki KLR 650 (Leg-1), new KTM 690 Enduro (Leg-2 & 3)

Steve – Used Yamaha WR250R (Leg-1, 2, & 3)

Woodrow – new 2015 Honda CRF250L (Leg-1, 2 & 3)

Jeff – used Yamaha WR250R (Leg-2, & 3)

Matty – used 2015 Honda CRF250L (Leg-3) (same bike I used on Leg-1 & 2)

All of the above bikes did great on the TAT so far. I love my KTM after many mods but the best all round bike has to be the Yamaha WR250R. It is strong and reliable and the price is right.

The Honda CRF250L with the FMF muffler mod is also a good choice and is $1600 cheaper than the WR250R. It is a bit underpowered compared to the WR and doesn’t seem to have as good of suspension but ride it conservatively and it will get you to the end. Both CRFs had front shock leaks either just prior to Leg-3 or while on Leg-3. Riding hard on rocky roads and dirt around the seals seems to be the cause.

WR250R – All around good bike for the TAT.

My KTM 350EXC-F has more power than I ever need and climbs the mountains like a mountain goat. Down side is the rear frame is weak and can’t carry a load. It also has an open loop fuel injection system meaning I had to tune the Throttle Position Sensor (TPS) when I got into the higher altitudes. A closed loop fuel injection system compensates for altitude changes, just like your car. It also vibrates like a banshee! It will do 65+ mph but hands, seat and pegs vibrate so much it isn’t maintainable for long distance. It will do 55 mph all day without wearing out the rider.

The KTM 690 is certainly one of the best of our fleet and for long legged strong riders would be the best choice except much more $$ than the WR. It’s a bit heavy for me and is extremely tall.

KLR – Great bike and lots of them on the TAT. It is very heavy compared to all the other bikes listed and is carbureted. It can carry a heavy load if you are camping but even Terry as big as he is traded it for a lighter bike after riding it on Leg-1.

We used a variety of bags but the Grand Loop (GL) bags (me on my KTM) and the Wolfman bags seemed to be the favorite and what most of us used.

I brought along a Baha no-pinch took set and it was used for tire changes prior to the trip and seemed to make tire repairs much easier. Only had 1 flat (slow leak) on the trip (my KTM) and I had it repaired when we got to Moab by MadBros motorcycle shop.

Tires – 2 CRFs, 1 WR and my KTM used Dunlop D606’s both front and rear with excellent results. Long wear on pavement and great grip in the mud and sand. The other KTM and WR used other tires but not sure of the brand or model.

One last comment about the support vehicle. We’ve used a support vehicle for 2 of the 3 legs (2 & 3) with great success. It lets the bikes ride light plus provides a safety net in case of breakdowns or injury. It greatly increased the enjoyment of our rides and I would hate to lose that support. We have used two different drivers and they both had a great time participating in our adventure. In fact, our support driver for this last leg is thinking he would like to do this for other groups if they are interested. Michael is retired and has a very flexible schedule. I highly recommend him and have known him for many years. If you are interested in having a support vehicle but finding it hard to get someone to commit to your time table, send Michael an email and discuss your requirements; .

That’s enough for now and this will be my last post for a while. Thanks for all the positive comments and hope to see you on the trail!

Ride Safe

Friday, July 28, 2017

TAT 2017 Post 20 07/28/17

Just when you think you have the TAT figured out after riding 3500 miles, the TAT Gods give you a Slap to show you whose boss. Today was one of those days. I really can’t blame the TAT Gods, we made some very stupid Rookie mistakes and we paid the price.

This was our last day on this section of the TAT and the end of Leg-3. We have now ridden from Charleston, SC to Delta, UT with only one last section to ride next May 2018; Delta, UT to Port Orford, OR (1347 miles).

We arrived in Castle Dale, UT yesterday as described in Post 19. Our plan was to get up early this morning then ride the last section to Delta, UT (160+ miles). The weather forecast was for broken clouds early but clearing to sunny around 1000 am and 84 degrees. I woke up around 5 am so went outside to check on the bikes. It was still dark but sunrise was not far away. What caught my attention was the thunder, lightening and overcast ceiling. As the sun started to come up, the light rain began.

By this time the others had come out of their rooms and we started discussing the weather. Everyone agreed it should clear up soon and we would have a great last ride to Delta. I even asked Terry if he was going to wear his rain gear. He said, “I’m not even taking it” and was going to wear only his web jacket and pants. I said that sounded good to me and I threw my rain gear into the back of the support truck. The rain at stopped and we could see some clearing to the west and that’s why we made the first Rookie mistake #1; always take your rain gear, especially in the mountains.

We also talked about breakfast. There is nowhere to eat in Castle Dale in the morning. In fact we stopped at the only gas station to get what turned out to be luke-warm coffee. One of our riders (not to be named to save him ridicule) said Ephraim is only 31 miles from Castle Dale. We all agreed to ride to Ephraim and stop for breakfast before proceeding on to Delta. Second Rookie mistake #2; more than one rider should look at the map. As it turned out he misread the map and it was actually 60 miles to Ephraim across a mountain range that went up to 10,200 feet.

We had also discussed the support truck route. Since we were not riding near any major highways but we had several possible fuel stops along our route, we decided the support truck could go directly to Delta and NOT meet us at the several intercepts we had originally planned. Rookie mistake #3; if you have a support truck then let it support the ride as planned.

The stage is now set for our miserable day. We left Castle Dale around 7 am heading for Ephraim only 31 miles (60miles) away over some small mountains (10,000+ feet) in bright and sunny weather (rain and 44 degrees).

As we started up the first mountain climb the light rain began. Not too bad and it was still relatively warm (high 60s). The trail started getting a little slick but nothing too bad. We kept climbing. The higher we went, the more rain came down and so did the temperature. Rookie Mistake #4; make the decision to turn around when the conditions aren’t what you expected and your are not prepared for what you are experiencing.

We finally realized our mistakes about 20 miles into the ride. First the weather was not clearing and in fact getting worse. We could not get our GPS (several) to agree that Ephraim should be only 11 miles away; they all said we still had 40 miles to go. About this time Jeff said he was freezing and would be glad to get to Ephraim to get some dry and warmer clothes out of the support truck; WRONG, I told him the support truck was headed to Delta!

It turned out that everyone had rain gear except me and Terry. I was only wearing a thin polyester t-shirt under my mesh armor and mesh riding pants (expecting 84 degrees). Jeff did have a few more layers on so he gave me his rain jacket. I really appreciate it because I also was freezing. He’s a terrific son for sure.

During this 60-mile ride through misery, the road was really getting muddy and treacherous. We were concerned it could become totally impassable but that didn’t happen. Everyone could keep moving except for one especially muddy spot where Matty took a hard fall when his front wheel just slid out from under the bike. We were all wearing plenty of good riding gear so he didn’t get hurt and the bike wasn’t damaged. He picked up his bike, got back on and continued up the mountain.

What intensified our misery was the sun kept teasing us. We were on lots of switchbacks climbing and descending the mountains. We would ride out of the rain into a spot of sunlight then turn back into the rain on the next switchback. The clear weather was so close but we never seemed to get into it for good.

We finally made it to Ephraim and parked at the closest source of heat we could find; McDonalds. We were a sorry looking sight I’m sure. The bikes and riders were covered in mud. As we took off our riding gear we were soaked to the skin. We walked into the McD and got some very strange looks from all the customers and staff because it hadn’t rained in Ephraim. We were dropping water and putting mud tracks on the floor the staff had just mopped. At this point we didn’t care because we were shivering so bad all we wanted was hot coffee. We ordered our food and sat down. Woodrow and Matty decided to walk across the street to a farm implement store to see if they had any t-shirts or other clothes they could buy to help warm up. After eating our food and drinking our warm only coffee we also walked over to do the same.

I can’t say enough about how friendly and helpful the people at this store was to us. I included a picture of the front of the store and I would highly recommend shopping there if you are in Ephraim and have made the same stupid mistakes we did. They also let us wash off the bikes next to their store.

After dressing in our new long sleeved t-shirts and putting on new rain gear we started on the next section of our ride; Ephraim to Delta, 100 miles away. We put on our rain gear because it looked like the rain wasn’t through with us yet and was following us on our route west. 10 miles outside Ephraim, the sun was shinning and the temperature was going up quickly to the forecasted 84 degrees. We stopped to take off our new clothes and packed them securely on the back of the bikes.

The rest of the ride was uneventful except for a few events. The SAM tracks we were using to follow the TAT didn’t seem to match the roads we were on 100%. At one point we took a wrong turn and ended up in some sort of calf raising place. Not sure what it was but they had calves tied close to individual little huts. We turned around and got out of there quickly.

Another time we came to a gate across the TAT and a sign next to it saying “Private Property”. The gate wasn’t locked and we were clearly on the TAT track so we opened the gate (and closed it behind us) and continued on our way. We kept watching for someone to come out of the brush with guns but we didn’t see anyone or any building until we came to a second gate, which we passed through (also closing afterwards). The Lat/Long for the two gates is provided below:

N39 21 17.3   W111 53 12.9
N39 23 58.0   W111 52 22.8

Towards the end of the days ride we came upon a long gravel road with sunflowers on both sides of the road; none in the adjacent fields but only on the edge of the road - picture below.

We arrived at our motel in Delta around 3:30 pm, found Michael waiting for us with the Yeti full of cold beverages. We asked him why he wasn’t at Ephraim with our warm clothes; just kidding.

We loaded the bikes onto the trailer, packed our gear and the five riders flying back to home loaded into the support truck for the 2 hour ride to Salt Lake City to catch flights back either late tonight or tomorrow. Michael, our trusty support truck driver, is just now returning to Delta after dropping them off at SLC. This made it a 4-hour round trip drive for him. We really appreciate all he did to make this a much more successful TAT adventure. Michael and I will drive the support truck and bikes back to AR starting early in the morning.

In closing, I have to say we are already pumped to make the last leg of our TAT coast to coast ride and initial plans have begun. You’ll have to wait to hear what they are until after I get home in a couple of days.

Thanks Jeff, Steve, Woodrow, Matty, Terry and especially Michael for making this possible. Can’t wait to do it again.

One last item. Anyone wanting a bike that is perfect for the TAT consider the KTM 350 EXC-F. This bike is fantastic and it got me through many obstacles that were clearly beyond my skills. Of course you may have to put on all those mods from my previous posts!

Sorry, one more last item. Matty only learned to ride a motorcycle 3 months ago! He's 18 and just graduated high school and is heading to college next fall. I talked Woodrow into bringing his son on this adventure ride before he leaves for college and gets to busy to have a bonding moment with is dad. I know how important this is after having my son on the last 2 legs we're ridden together. Matty got a years worth of riding experience in 6 days on the TAT. He did a fantastic job and took all the good and bad moments as a trooper. I would love to have him on Leg-4 next year.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

TAT 2017 Post 19 07/27/17

Back on the TAT. We left Moab at 6:15 am heading for Castle Dale, UT. We knew we had around 218 miles to cover through the desert with very little information on what the road conditions would be or how fast of pace we would be able to achieve. We assumed the worse of 20 mph average based on riding over 2500 miles of the TAT so far. That would be a 10-hour day.

We were cutting a short section off the TAT because we had ridden it as part of the Moab Day-1 local ride; Gemini Bridges Road. That section is very interesting and several of the riders wanted to do it again but all agreed we needed to make time if it actually turned into a 10 hour day.

The actual riding conditions turned out to be much better than anticipated. We covered 210 miles in 7 hrs 57 min with an average moving speed of 30.2 mph. Temperatures got up to 101 max but it only got hot when we weren’t moving.

Route details. There is no shade in this part of the world. The TAT from Moab to Castle Rock has lots of variation; some good, some bad. It includes:
  • ·      Gravel roads - lots of these
  • ·      Sand – when you least expect it. Mostly in the lower sections where rain wash-outs has gone across the road. Even some sand dunes.
  • ·      Hard packed with embedded rocks
  • ·      Mud – It had rained hard the day before our departure so there were still occasional mud holes.
  • ·      Hardened truck tracks – from the rain the day before (These almost caused several downed bikes)
  • ·      Deep ditches a foot wide and a foot deep across the road – caused by rain erosion. If traveling at high speed, you don’t have time to slow down before you bottom out your suspension and possibly bend a rim or blow out a tire.
  • ·      Loose dirt 4” deep left by a road grader
  • ·      Beautiful scenery in some places and lots of flat nothing in most of the other areas

Because our support truck had to stay in Moab to pick up the overnight delivered push rod, our planned intercept as we crossed I-70 for fuel didn’t happen. The ride from Moab to Green River was 60 miles in cool temperatures. We fueled up and got a snack at a gas station and then headed for a 100-mile loop through the desert to return to I-70 northbound. We encountered most of the conditions listed above on the 100-mile loop but we still kept our speed average up around 30 mph. Temperatures were getting up to 100 by this time.

When we got back to I-70 we stopped under I-70 (only shade) to top off the fuel tanks with the RotoPax carried by most of the riders. We had 46 miles to go to get to Castle Dale so we had to determine if everyone had enough fuel to make it. The only fuel available was 27 miles away from what my GPS told me.

We got back on the trail and rode the last 46 miles through the most interesting potion of this section. The last 30 miles (north of I-70) was through twisting canyons with high rock formations on both sides.

We arrived at the only motel in Castle Dale, for which we had reservations, and found it closed. A sign on the door said there had been a local power outage and they would be back at 4 pm. The temperature was 101. Michael had picked up the push rod in Moab and his ETA at Castle Dale was around 2 hours after our arrival. We were all in our hot riding gear and boots. We couldn’t get into our motel rooms for several hours. Our clothes were in the support truck and wouldn’t arrive for an hour or more. Crap!

We rode our bikes to the Submarine shop to get into air conditioning and get a cold drink. After being there for a while we got a call from the motel saying they were sending someone to check us in ASAP. Within 30 minutes we have our rooms but are still wearing our riding clothes AND BOOTS. Michael arrived an hour or so later and we finally got to change into our civilian clothes and get cold beer out of the Yeti.

One comment about this route. If it’s dry then no a big issue, just hot and dusty. If it is wet then I would expect a lot of slow moving due to wash-outs and mud. We crossed numerous places where it was obvious they have flash flooding when they get heavy rain.

Now for the non-riding events. Several of the guys want to get home a day early. Our original plan was to ride to Delta, UT on the TAT tomorrow. We would all spend Friday night then leave the TAT early next morning to ride to the Salt Lack City airport. This would be on pavement (135 miles). We would spend Saturday night at SLC then 5 riders would fly home on Sunday; Michael and I would then head back to Arkansas in the truck with the bikes.

New plan: We will ride to Delta tomorrow but then load all the bikes onto the trailer tomorrow afternoon. I will then take leave the trailer and bikes with Michael and drive all five riders to SLC to catch a flight either later tomorrow night or Saturday. I will then drive back to Delta to spend the night and Michael and I will head home to AR early Saturday morning.

This plan is still in flux but for now we all get home at least one day early. Since the ride from Delta to SLC isn’t on the TAT, we don’t feel like we are missing anything.

KTM 690 – Jeff installed the new throw-out bearing push rod and now the ReKluse works. The issue with the original one is it isn’t hardened steel and the top had mushroomed out. This reduced the amount of movement of the ReKluse thus making it not disengage. If you have a KTM 690, this is something to check because it happens on non-ReKluse bikes also.

More tomorrow night.