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.