A trip report over a year in the making - Running the TAT during a 'pandemic'

desert_steve

Member
Joined
Apr 11, 2022
Messages
59
Location
Phelan, CA
- 6/11/21 -
I woke up nice and warm and made sure to make a note in my notepad that my sleeping bag kicked ass! I made camp at an elevation of 10754 ft and slept like a log all night long. I quickly got moving and it didnt take long to make the summit.20210611_091702.jpgP6111178.JPG
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Shortly after making the summit and taking lots of pics, I ran into a couple that were riding bicycles up to the summit. Any feelings of accomplishment went out the window after seeing that. While the guy wasnt very talkative and was huffing and puffing coming up the hill, his lady friend was super chatty and in great spirits as she was gingerly cruising her way up the side of a mountain - total beast!
Once I made it to the bottom of the hill I stopped to consult my GPS to figure out where I was heading next. As I consulted the almighty GPS, a rider on a Honda Africa Twin came down from Engineer pass, followed a few minutes later by another guy on BMW GS. They introduced themselves as Chris (on the AT) and MJ (on the GS) and they had both camped at the same campground the previous night. Chris was from Virginia and he was running the TAT (the normal direction) too, and MJ was from Oregon and just happened to be in the area doing some riding.20210611_113342.jpg
The guy in the VW bus came cruising up a few minutes later (from lower elevation) and told us he was planning on going up and over Engineer pass. The 3 of us tried to explain to him that there was no way his bus was making a couple of spots heading up the hill but he refused to believe us and insisted he was going for it. When we all asked him to wait a few minutes 1st so that we could get setup in strategic locations going up the hill with our cameras ready you could see the "hmm, maybe theyre not kidding" look come across his face. Much to my disappointment he changed his mind and the free carnage shit-show was cancelled, damn. Chris, MJ, and myself decided we were all heading towards Ouray and figured we'd ride that way together. Chris did a bunch of custom tin work on his AT and as someone that rides an AT as my daily transportation, I was drooling over some of the trickery he had done to his bike.20210611_104051.jpgP6111210.JPGP6111212.JPGP6111215.JPGP6111224.JPG
Watching those guys struggle through the intermediate-esque roads we were on made me thankful I was on the much lighter and nimbly-bimbly WR250R through that stuff. After they struggled through the dirt roads we all eventually ended up hitting a few miles of pavement before getting into Ouray. The 3 of us grabbed lunch at a local sandwich shop and BS'd for a while before Chris took off to continue his TAT ride, and MJ and I headed back to Lake City where he and Chris had convinced me the nicest campground in all of CO was.P6111238.JPGP6111244.JPGP6111277.JPG
MJ and I made it to the Elkhorn RV Resort and I grabbed a tent spot. The place was nicer than he and Chris had described and I definitely recommend it to anyone that happens to be in the area. I was able to do laundry and get cleaned up, and the owners BBQ'd up some sausages and fed a bunch of us dinner, just a great experience for sure. I knocked-out early and got a great nights sleep, CO was a badass state and the views kept getting better and better.20210612_073913.jpg
 
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desert_steve

Member
Joined
Apr 11, 2022
Messages
59
Location
Phelan, CA
- 6/12/21 -
Awake at 0630, trip log caught-up, and hitting the local bagel shop with MJ by 0730. We finished breakfast and parted ways, him heading home towards OR, and me continuing to head east. I was once again just cruising at my own pace as I made it over rolling hills and crossed large valleys. Every now and then I'd come across other people that just so happened to be out in the middle of nothingness like I was. The skid plate seemed to be extra loud/annoying today and I was hoping to stumble across a hardware store soon so that I could replace the chinese-ium hardware with something a little stronger.20210612_105654.jpg20210612_114542.jpgP6121321.JPGP6121324.JPGP6121351.JPG20210612_120023.jpg20210612_120044.jpg20210612_175211.jpg I came through the small town of Poncha Springs CO and to my luck one of the 1st places I saw was an Ace Hardware! Kiss my ass skid plate hardware, youve yee'd your last haw! Less than $5 later and I had all 4 of the stock butter-bolts replaced with stainless steel hex head bolts with lock washers. That was the last time the skid plate annoyed me on this trip, it was going to be a good day for sure.
I grabbed gas and topped-off my camelbak again, something that was almost second nature at this point, and headed to the local dirtbike shop to see if I couldnt smooth talk a shot of chain lube from them. The guys there were super friendly and let me lube the chain on PBB without a problem. I thanked them and headed out of town on the TAT and up into the mountains once again. I felt like some kind of outcast that would come down from the mountains to get food and supplies, making sure not to bother the townspeople or bother anyone, just to quickly scurry back to the protection of my forest home before the villagers had time to gather their torches and pitchforks.

Today was a pretty uneventful day and with the exception of seeing a Moose (I never got a picture, it was too fast) it was a quiet day.P6121376.JPGP6121403.JPGP6121411.JPGP6121426.JPG
I found a random spot to throw down my tent for the night and got in my sleeping bag just as a quick wave of rain came through. It would rain off and on throughout the night, just enough to make sure my gear was still wet in the morning.
 
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desert_steve

Member
Joined
Apr 11, 2022
Messages
59
Location
Phelan, CA
- 6/13/21 -
My alarm went off at 0630 but I laid in my sleeping bag for another half an hr or so. I could hear water dripping outside the tent and knew everything was going to be wet from the rain. I broke camp and started hauling ass down the road, I wanted to get CO finished today.20210613_082334.jpg20210613_083837.jpg20210613_093843.jpg20210613_115013.jpg20210613_103959.jpg
I ran into John on his BMW 800GS at a gas station in La Veta CO. He was in the military and on his short window of time off he was trying his luck at the TAT. He told me that he had just spent multiple days stuck at a campground because the fuel pump in his BMW had crapped-out, but that after a bunch of internet digging he found out the BMW and some small car (a KIA/Hyundai something?) shared the same fuel pump. Even though the BMW fuel pump was on national backorder, he was able to get the KIA/Hyundai part over-nighted to his camp ground where he was able to get it installed and get back on the road. Atta boy! We compared notes on what the other was about to run into and went our separate ways. I grabbed lunch at Tonys Diner in Trinidad CO and crossed into New Mexico shortly after that (you end up crossing in the middle of nowhere so I wasnt able to get a "Welcome to New Mexico" picture - bummer).20210613_142425.jpg20210613_150315.jpg
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Its hard to tell in the pics, but NM was WINDY. As much as I had wanted to say that I camped in every state that I rode through, the idea of throwing my tent up in hurricane winds didnt sound very appealing. Not to mention I still had a lot of daylight left and wasnt quite ready to shut it down for the day. I hauled ass through the small corner of NM that the TAT takes you through, and before I knew it I was already into OK.
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Shortly after crossing the state line I heard a strange noise as I rode by a bush. A quick look over my shoulder and I noticed a little deer sitting there. HOLY SHIT, A LITTLE DEER! I expertly whipped-out an awkward U-turn and cruised back towards the little fella. It made all sorts of noises as I got off the bike and walked towards him/her/they/them. It didnt seem to care as I reached out and began to pet it, before it quickly changed its mind and decided violence was the right choice for the moment. The little a-hole proceeded to head-butt me before running off into a nearby bush - I swear I saw a middle finger pop out of the bush for good measure too. What a dick.

I couldnt stop laughing at what just happened, and I jumped back on PBB and continued on my way. I came across the Great Plains Bunkhouse, another spot well known in the motorcycle community for hosting cross country travelers. https://okbunkhouse.com/
I walked into the office but no one was home. I signed the guest book, took some pictures, and marched on.

Now, in all the years that I read about the TAT, one thing was mentioned in EVERY ride report: STAY AWAY FROM ANY WET GROUND IN OKLAHOMA! Seriously, every thread made some mention of the glue-like mud in OK. I didnt think that'd be too hard for me, I avoid mud like the plague. I hate mud. Back home whether Im on my bike, or in my truck, when I see mud, I slow down to a crawl and do anything I can to not touch it. Yeah I know, I sound like a primadonna, but I dont care. Eff mud. Well lucky me when I thought back to the night before when I got hit by a few waves of rain while I was in my tent. Im sure that rain made its way east and hit OK too. Yup, I was hitting water EVERYWHERE.
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I couldnt believe how much water was on the ground. It was like my nightmare had come true. I'd follow the GPS from one water-logged road to the next. I finally just started heading east on any dry road I could find. At one point I was cruising along down a 2 track road when the green vegetation started getting higher and higher. Before I knew it I couldnt see the dirt anymore, and the next thing I knew I was on the ground in a farmers field. Crap.20210613_202611.jpg
It was so muddy and slippery that all I could do was drag the front end of the bike over, then the back end, then the front, then the back again, until I had the bike on firm enough ground to stand it up. I wasnt hurt, the bike wasnt hurt, but each of us had an extra 10lbs of mud stuck to us. Did I mention that I hate mud? I got the bike fired up and Im somewhat ashamed to admit that we rode on the edge of that farmers field (field of what I couldnt tell you) until we made it to the next road. I quickly got us on the next paved road and pointed us towards the closest town - Elkhart KS. I stopped at the El Rancho motel where the owner cut me a cash deal for a room, then pointed me in the direction of the closest car wash with a fistful of quarters so I could wash off the bike and my clothes.
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desert_steve

Member
Joined
Apr 11, 2022
Messages
59
Location
Phelan, CA
- 6/14/21 -
While it was definitely an older place, the El Rancho turned out to be one of the nicest motels I stayed at during my trip. The guy staying a couple rooms down from me was on an absolute monster of a bike, an Indian Chief Dark Horse. This bike was HUGE, it made my Africa Twin back home look like a toy.20210613_224135.jpgP6141573.JPG

I left the hotel a little later in the morning and made a quick stop at the local post office to send off more post cards and stuff to people back home. A lot of folks on the various forums complain about OK being flat and boring. While theyre not entirely wrong, I have to admit that OK wasnt the worst place ever. It was pretty cool to just be able to jam wide open for EVER and be able to see in miles in every direction.20210614_114609.jpg20210614_160242.jpgP6141575.JPGP6141607.JPGP6141589.JPGP6141598.JPG
In Buffalo OK I stopped for gas and 3 older guys came riding up on a KLR650, a CRF250L, and DRZ400. They too were running the TAT and they warned me about the dangerous water crossing that I was heading towards. They said it took 2 of the 3 of them down and was no joke. I had some notes written down and knew that at some point in OK there was a slippery water crossing that was rumored to be the demise of many a rider, Id get my chance at it soon.

In Alva OK I *FINALLY* found the chain lube that Im particular to at the local Walmart. Ive had pretty good luck with it over the years and its easily found online
Oddly enough though its pretty hard to find anywhere else. I also grabbed a freeze-dried mint n chip ice cream sandwich at Walmart too - it tasted like crap, 0/10 I dont recommend. Before leaving Alva I had dinner at the local Mexican food place. Steak and Shrimp with tortillas and rice and beans with a side salad for under $25... I felt like a king.
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I made it about another 80 miles before shutting it down and making camp under a windmill where I proceeded to sweat my ass off all night thanks to the humidity. Gross.
 
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desert_steve

Member
Joined
Apr 11, 2022
Messages
59
Location
Phelan, CA
- 6/15/21 -
I didnt sleep very well due to being sweaty and slippery all night, humidity sucks. I was awake and breaking camp just after 0600. The next gas stop was in the town of Newkirk OK. I topped-off the camelbak and BS'd with the store clerk for a minute before getting back on the TAT.
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I made it to the infamous slippery water crossing and slowly brought the bike down to the edge.
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You could see the brownish-green slime that coated the concrete crossing... In fact you could smell it just as strongly. I slowly let the clutch out and brought my feet down off the pegs to act as pontoons in case I lost traction and the bike started to slide. The next thing I knew I was laying on my side in about 1.5 inches of warm stinky water that slowly flowed over the concrete. WHAT JUST HAPPENED?!?!
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I layed in the stinky goo-water for a minute, almost positive that I had just broken my elbow when it impacted the concrete, before slowly getting myself out from under the bike. My body had broken the vacuum seal of stink out from under the waters surface and the smell had me gagging and abandoning the bike in place as my mind was still trying to put together the last couple of minutes of choices that landed me in this situation. How did it happen so fast? The last thing I remember was letting the clutch out on the bike, and when that happened I was still dry and stink-free.
I watched the bike for a couple of minutes, the recently topped-off gas tank slowly dripping rainbows into the water from the tanks vent hose. After a minute I cautiously walked back over to the bike and attempted to stand it up. I could barely stand in the slippery gunk. I apologized to the bike as my last option was to just grab it by the bar guard and start dragging it over to the side where I could try to get the tires to grab some kind of traction in the gunk. Luckily the bike slid in the water like an air hockey puck. The tires finally stopped slipping out from under the bike and I was able to stand poor project blue balls up. The right side was covered in brown goo and unfortunately the smell came with it.
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I made it another 50 or so miles when I felt an all too familiar feeling: the dreaded "you got a rear flat" wiggle coming from the back of the bike. FML. For those of you that dont know me in real life and/or dont know of my flat tire expertise, Im CURSED when it comes to motorcycle flats. Some people claim to be cursed in love, others cursed with bad luck... Im cursed when it comes to keeping the tires on a motorcycle inflated. To be honest I was surprised that I had made it halfway across the country before experiencing my 1st flat of the trip. I broke out my tool pouch and spare tubes and got to work.
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You can see a tiny drop of slime right in the middle of the tube. As part of my TAT preparations I installed Michelin ultra heavy duty tubes and added slime to them too. The best I could figure is that the tube failed right at the 90* position. Typically I get whats called a pinch flat, but not this time. This was just a tiny pinhole. I figured since the rear tire was coming off, now was the time to install the new Dunlop 606 tire that I had been carrying for the past week. After struggling to get the new rear tube installed, I discovered my next challenge: my air pump broke. At this point it was getting pretty hot and I had been baking under the sun for a good hour. I had sucked down all the water in my camelbak and I was starting to get concerned. I jerry-rigged the pump together enough to get a few PSI into the rear tube, then S-L-O-W-L-Y rode the bike in 1st gear until I found some kind of elevated feed bin thingy next to the road. I parked under it and cooled down in the shade for a while before getting back to the rear tube situation. I patiently held my tongue in just the right position in order to get more air into the rear tube. Once I had just over 10psi in the tube I got back on the bike and continued east - cautiously.
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I arrived in the town of Bartlesville OK and went to the 1st gas station I could find. The gas station attendant was concerned with my physical appearance and they got me a chair so I could sit in the air conditioning while I sucked down my weight in ice water. After cooling down for a while the attendant pointed me towards a motorcycle shop so I could *hopefully* get a new spare tube. 20210615_145603.jpgOddly enough, the local Harley shop DIDNT have an 18" tube that I could use, but the guy there made some calls and he found a tube that would work at another local shop. The people in the town of Bartlesville were extremely nice and helped make a rough day a little bit better. The guys at the small shop even let me air-up my rear tube to 20psi and let me dump my old tire and tube there (for free). They couldnt believe that places in CA would actually charge you to dispose of your old tires!
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I came across a couple of turtles in the road and as I put down mile after mile I decided to try to make it to Arkansas before the end of the day. As I rode into the night it was like riding at light speed with all of the bugs getting illuminated by the headlight just before being splattered across the face shield of my helmet - gnarly. I made it into AR at about 9pm and grabbed a room at some ghetto hotel that claimed to have a washer and dryer. More on that in the next post.
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desert_steve

Member
Joined
Apr 11, 2022
Messages
59
Location
Phelan, CA
- 6/16/21 -
So the previous night I had called multiple hotels in the area trying to find one that had a washer and dryer that I could use to wash the brownish-green stench off of my clothes. After a bunch of calls I found a place that had laundry facilities and got a room there, score. Since I arrived pretty late in the evening, I figured I'd wash my clothes 1st thing in the morning.

I grabbed my gear and headed downstairs to the hotels laundry room to find a bunch of "out of order" signs on the washers and dryers. WTF?! After a bunch of bitching and moaning the manager of the hotel allowed me to use the washers and dryers that they normally use for the hotels bedding and towels. After getting my laundry started I went back to my room and when I came around the corner there were a bunch of cops all around, apparently they were arresting the hotel customer just a couple of rooms down from mine - classy place.

Once my clothes were done I packed-up and headed down the hwy until I met up with the TAT again. I knew there was a section coming up that was rumored to be very difficult riding. Unfortunately I had missed it the night before when I jumped on pavement in order to make it to the hotel.P6161671.JPGP6161674.JPGP6161678.JPG
As I was cruising down a dirt road I saw a small bear cross right in front of me. I tried to get a pic (above) and that was the best I could do by the time I was able to stop (because the WR was so fast and everything, naturally).20210616_171528.jpg20210616_171815.jpg20210616_141659.jpg
I stopped for lunch at the famous Oark Cafe. I had a burger and fries and finished it up with some ice cream for good measure. It was probably the best burger I had of the entire trip and the folks that worked there were very friendly.P6161686.JPG20210616_153747.jpg20210616_183234.jpgP6161703.JPGP6171710.JPGP6161705.JPGP6171732.JPG
I snagged a room at the nearby motel 6 so I didnt have to spend the night sweating all over myself in the tent. The TAT was turning into a lot more pavement and boring dirt roads at this point and I found myself becoming bored.
 

desert_steve

Member
Joined
Apr 11, 2022
Messages
59
Location
Phelan, CA
- 6/17/21 -
I left the Motel 6 and went to "The Old South" restaurant for breakfast. A local guy there (Will IIRC) struck-up a conversation about the TAT. He was asking me what I thought about "warloop rd", the famous 'hardcore' road I had hit the day before. I explained to him that unfortunately I had missed it in an attempt to get from my hotel back to the TAT. On my GPS I showed Will where I had jumped back on the trail and he was all too happy to point-out that the very 1st bit of dirt that I had hit (the day before) WAS the famous Warloop Rd! (see the 2nd pic I posted from yesterday)
The ol' project blue balls and I had tackled Warloop Road and we didnt even know it, rad!P6171728.JPG20210617_111623.jpg20210617_122947.jpg20210617_102322.jpgP6171729.JPGP6171711.JPG
No shit?
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A quick stop at the famous "TAT stop" and a visit with the father/son team that ran it. The 2 guys were funny as hell and telling all sorts of stories. When it was time to leave I jumped on the WR and felt ANOTHER flat rear tire. I asked the father/son if they would mind if I busted the bike down in the shade of one of their trees and they did me one better: they told me I could use their garage that was just a couple hundred feet down the road!20210617_150929.jpg20210617_150947.jpg
Best as I can tell, my spare tube (that was swapped-in back in OK) had spent too much time smashed-down in the tube pouch and it failed where the valve stem was vulcanized to the tube. In the tubes defense, it had been my spare tube for years back home, I never even considered its age.

After getting the tube swapped-out for the "spare" that I picked up in Bartlesville OK, the guy at the TAT stop gave me an old tube from his XR650L. We put some air in it and dunked it in a bucket: NO LEAKS. The kindness of complete strangers was awesome! I thanked them for their hospitality and saddled-up the bike to continue my ride. I was "over" the boring back roads and was hoping the TAT would get better. My front tire was starting to show some wear now that I was hitting so much pavement and I didnt know if it'd make the rest of the trip.
Roughly a half an hour later I crossed the Mississippi river and made it into MS. The weather was disgustingly humid and I was pouring out sweat so I opted for another hotel room. I stayed at a Hampton Inn and it was the most expensive room of the entire trip, a wallet-buster at $90. They didnt have laundry so I had to improvise.
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desert_steve

Member
Joined
Apr 11, 2022
Messages
59
Location
Phelan, CA
- 6/18/21 -
I got up early and pilfered the hotels breakfast for all sorts of goodies: Cereal, muffins, OJ and apple juice, I was living large! After breakfast I jumped on the TAT and quickly hit a few washouts that I was warned about the day before by the guy I met at the TAT stop.20210618_110035.jpg20210618_110224.jpg
After making quick work of the washouts I found a bunch of turtles w/in a few miles of each other.20210618_120437.jpgP6181803.JPGP6181794.JPGP6181793.JPG
I came across a few 'road closed' signs, and after ignoring them and pressing-on, the reasons that they were closed (as far as I could tell) was quite comical.20210618_155644.jpg20210618_155742.jpg
I had met a guy a day or 2 earlier that was telling me about the pizza place that was located in one of the towns that I'd be going through. He made sure to point-out how good the pizza was, how it was a screaming deal for all the pizza you got, etc etc etc. It was called the pizza portal and it was next door to the McDonalds. It had been a minute since I had some pizza so I was really looking forward to this highly regarded pizza and was all too prepared to smash the whole thing.20210618_144140.jpg
Yep, thats the Pizza Portal. A damn little Caesars. I was so bummed-out lol.20210618_162414.jpg20210618_165409.jpg20210618_171050.jpg
The godfather of the TAT lives right on the TAT route. I stopped by but nobody was home.20210618_172500.jpg20210618_172559.jpgP6181835.JPGP6181837.JPG
Once again I grabbed a cheap hotel room and ate some gas station pizza for dinner - Im sure it was better than Little Caesars.
 

desert_steve

Member
Joined
Apr 11, 2022
Messages
59
Location
Phelan, CA
- 6/19/21 -
Up and out of the hotel before 0700. The TAT was mostly paved back roads at this point so I took the liberty of skipping sections that were nothing more than large loops that kept you off the Hwys... these big loops were a waste of time and gas (IMO).20210619_084737.jpgP6191849.JPGI usually picked up any snake or critter that I knew wasnt venomous or poisonous, but I wasnt sure what kind of snake this was so I left it alone. A little homework after I got back home would tell me that this guy was just a harmless corn snake. Damn, I shouldve picked it up!
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I stopped to grab some gas and shared my snacks with this dog before a few local guys showed up on their cruiser/harley/wannbe harleys. After a bunch of laughs we all headed out in our respective directions and I found a shop that had the oil and filter I needed to give PBB its 2nd oil change of the trip. The air filter that I put in back at the 3 step still looked good so I didnt bother with it.20210619_095923.jpg20210619_143603.jpgAfter changing the oil I headed over to Lynchburg to get a tour of the Jack Daniels distillery. Im not much of a drinker but its not like Im in TN very often... "when in Rome" right?

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After the tour I got a room at another bed bug inn and started mapping-out the next days ride. I was w/in a few days of the Atlantic and I didnt want to waste anymore time/miles on back roads just for the sake of saying I wasnt on the Hwy. I could almost smell the ocean at this point.
 

desert_steve

Member
Joined
Apr 11, 2022
Messages
59
Location
Phelan, CA
- 6/20/21 -
The Revenge of the Turtles!

Ok just kidding, but holy shit did I see a lot of turtles on this day!
I left the hotel and grabbed a nutritious breakfast at a local gas station before getting on the Hwy to start making a straight shot towards the known "good off road stuff" in TN. There was a section of the TN TAT that was notorious for a series of dangerous water crossings that had stranded/claimed many a rider - so naturally I wanted to try my luck at them.
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I jumped on the interstate for a little bit and it dipped down into Georgia for a minute before bringing me back into TN.P6201914.JPGP6201939.JPG20210620_161150.jpg20210620_162251.jpgP6201925.JPGP6201940.JPG20210620_161613.jpgP6201947.JPG
At the last/final water crossing a small family was posted-up for the day. They said watching dumb motorcycle riders crash in the water was the local entertainment, and the entertainment was plentiful. Ok Im slightly kidding, they didnt say "dumb" motorcycle riders haha.
After making this final crossing (w/o incident!), I headed to the famous Tellico Plains Lodge (which had recently traded hands - https://smittyslodge.com/ ) to snag a cabin for the night.
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This place was badass. They had numerous shed-sized buildings that were small living quarters. The main building housed a large locker-room-style restroom with showers, and next to that was a small kitchen area for preparing simple food/meals. The young couple that owned it was very nice and I was the only guest for the night. After putting a pin on their map to show where I was from, I got cleaned up, turned on the AC in my shed-room, and headed into town for a quick dinner.
After dinner I came back and went to bed, tomorrow I was going to hit the famous 'Tail of the Dragon' and I needed my beauty rest!
 

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desert_steve

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Joined
Apr 11, 2022
Messages
59
Location
Phelan, CA
- 6/21/21 -

I left the Hunts Lodge and got on the Cherohala Skyway, making my way towards the Tail of the Dragon. I had read about it for years on various motorcycle forums ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deals_Gap,_North_Carolina ) and although I dont consider myself a street bike enthusiast, I still wanted to be able to say that I conquered "The Dragon".20210621_084802.jpg20210621_094006.jpg20210621_094826.jpg20210621_092250.jpg20210621_104805.jpg
I made it to Deals Gap and parked PBB in the line of pavement-pounders that filled the parking lot. The couple on the Goldwing parked next to me had just run the dragon and somehow managed to drag one of their bags on the ground, grinding a hole right through it. Some duct tape from my tool pouch patched the bag up enough to get them home. I bought some trinkets and shirts at the store and packed them away before firing up the beastly WR250R and giving the dragon my best shot. For the 1st couple of miles I cruised along at my own pace, carving up the many turns of the dragon with a smile on my face... until I caught up to a big group of Harleys and that was it. We all slowly negotiated the remaining miles of the dragon at what felt like a snails pace - and then it was over. Oh well, the 1st 1/3 or so of the dragon was a blast, even with a chopped-up front knobby and the D606 rear tire I was running out back.20210621_121011.jpg20210621_121427.jpg20210621_121250.jpg20210621_114823.jpgP6211992.JPGNext I ran through the Smoky Mountains National Park before going through Maggie Valley, followed by a stop at the "Wheels Through Time" motorcycle museum. The place was badass, they had a ton of old Harley and Indian motorcycles (as well as others), the place was filled to the brim with motorcycle history. One of the guys working there was cool enough to fire-up some of the old bikes and let me stay there after they closed so that I could finish the self-guided tour.
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After Maggie Valley I continued on the Blue Ridge Parkway until it started to get dark. I was in the middle of nowhere and was looking for a place to throw the tent for the night but it was a tall order. I eventually found a dirt road that was a mile or 2 long that was a dead-end so I figured there wouldnt be too much traffic on it. I got the tent up and tossed my gear inside just a few minutes before the sky opened up and it began to pour. A tropical Storm (I think it was tropical storm Claudette?) that I had been warned about by a few family members had finally caught up to me and it poured all night long.
 
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desert_steve

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Joined
Apr 11, 2022
Messages
59
Location
Phelan, CA
- 6/22/21 -
My alarm went off at 0600 and much to my disappointment it was still pouring outside. F@ck! I checked my phone and it was supposed to rain all day. I made the decision to say screw it and make a beeline for the coast. The never-ending pavement was driving me insane and my front tire was chopped-up really bad. And if Im being honest, I was ready to come home.
From the Blue Ridge Parkway I doubled-back to a highway and began taking that east, rain be damned!20210622_073402.jpgP6222081.JPGP6222085.JPGP6222082.JPGP6222083.JPG20210622_083036.jpgP6222086.JPG
After a few water-logged hours of pounding pavement the weather cleared up a bit. I stopped at another Harley shop to grab more over-priced tshirts for the folks back home, then stopped at an amazon locker to pickup a knock-off Pelican case I needed to bring some things back with me on the plane ride in a few days.
20210622_134345.jpg20210623_103657.jpgI got yet another hotel room and set-up all of my wet gear in hopes of it drying out by the next morning. That poor room got destroyed haha (I did my best to clean it up before I checked out).20210622_205428.jpg
 

desert_steve

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Joined
Apr 11, 2022
Messages
59
Location
Phelan, CA
- 6/23/21 -
With my gear all dry I packed everything onto the bike once again and used the broom visible in the last photo to clean the whole hotel room before checking out.
I jumped on the WR and stopped at a UPS store to ship a bunch of stuff home - Id be flying home in a couple of days and I wasnt planning on checking anything other than the pelican case I had mentioned in my last post.
With about $60 of junk on its way back home, I found the most direct paved route to Cape Hatteras and started jamming.P6232105.JPGP6232112.JPGP6232119.JPGP6232136.JPGP6232147.JPG
I MADE IT!
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It was a bittersweet moment. I had just spent close to 4 weeks riding an under-powered dirtbike across the country as part of a trip made-up by some guy from TN lol. I walked around the beach for close to an hour, getting sand blasted by the intense wind while trying to find the perfect seashell to bring home (that didnt happen, I could only find small shards of weathered shells).

After a bit I went and checked out the lighthouse, as well as a couple of small shops further north. My original plan was to spend the last official night of my trip camping at a nearby campground, but the wind was so strong I voted against that idea. Instead, I figured the closer I made it to Jacksonville, the less riding I'd have to do the next day. As I headed southwest I came across the last turtle that I'd get to move out of the road on this trip. I snapped a few pics of the sunset and made it into Plymouth NC before grabbing a room for the night.P6232217.JPGP6232218.JPGP6232230.JPG20210623_191338.jpgP6232174.JPGP6232270.JPGP6232289.JPGP6232315.JPG
 

desert_steve

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Joined
Apr 11, 2022
Messages
59
Location
Phelan, CA
- 6/24/21 -
I woke up and got my flight home booked, as well as got everything finalized for getting the bike shipped back home. I wasnt about to hassle with trying to sell it back there in the limited amount of time I had left before coming home just so I could lose my ass on it.

A lot of people had asked me if I brought anything "for protection" on the ride. The answer is Yes, I brought a small 9mm handgun along with a 16" AR that I built from an 80% lower and 500 rds of ammo. That last part is total bullshit by the way - I only brought 90 rds of ammo, 500 rds wouldve weighed too much, c'mon. Ok but seriously, I brought the 9mm handgun and 16 rds of ammo. Being that ammo is pretty hard to find back home (and expensive when you DO find it) I figured I'd try to ship my ammo home too. The only way the airline would allow me to do that was if the ammo was in the manufacturers box. Since I didnt have that, I hit a local gun shop to see what I could find. I was passing right by "Mackeys Landing Firearms" on my way to Jacksonville so I stopped in. This place was the Chaparral motorsports of gun shops. They explained that unfortunately they didnt have very much in stock at the moment... umm, huh? They were WAY bigger than anything back home. I was geeking out as I walked through the shop checking out their massive inventory and even struck up a conversation with 2 state troopers that were there killing their lunch break. I give the place a 10 out of 10, definitely worth a stop if youre ever in the area.20210624_110846.jpg20210624_115409.jpg20210624_114940.jpg20210624_114440.jpg20210624_115259.jpg
I bought a 'reload' box from Mackeys and used that to transport my ammo home. From Mackeys I rode down to "New River Harley Davidson" where I left the WR in the possession of Becky and Vince in service (They held onto the bike for a couple of weeks before it was picked up by a motorcycle shipping company to be shipped home). They wouldnt take any money for storing my bike, yet another example of total strangers being awesome.
20210624_154310.jpg20210624_153950.jpg20210624_151153.jpgI left my camping gear and riding boots (which had lost their waterproof-ness for some reason) strapped to the bike and took my clothes and Pelican case with me to another hotel. This was the last hotel of my trip and I treated myself to some Papa Johns pizza for dinner. Im a pizza-whore apparently.

**No pictures of the last day so Ill just add the commentary here**

- 6/25-21 -
I booked a taxi to pick me up at 0330 and take me to the Jacksonville airport. Uber and Lyft wouldnt guarantee me a pickup so to ensure I made my flight I went old school. I checked my Pelican case with the airline and boarded the plane to Charlotte NC, and then to Dallas TX, which finally took us to the Ontario CA airport where my dad picked me up and took me home. I was finally home and it felt great. Not to take away from the bucket list trip I had just completed, but man it felt great to be home!

Ill make one last post to sum-up the final numbers of the trip.
 
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desert_steve

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Location
Phelan, CA
Im not known for my math skills but according to the numbers, heres what the costs were:

From the time I left my front door until the time I got back to it = 29 days.

The WR with all gear and myself (aka gross combined weight) = 604lbs total.
Just the bike with camping gear = 370lbs.
I weighed 196lbs the night before I left.
My riding gear and vest (full bladder of water) weighed 38lbs.
I weighed 184lbs the day I got back home.

The tripmeter on the bike said we traveled 7258 miles total (from my house to New River Harley Davidson). I know the speedo on the bike was NOT accurate though. The true total was probably closer to 6700 miles.

I spent:
-$998 on hotels/lodging.
-$482 on gas.
-$832 on misc. (This number couldve EASILY been cut in half had I not bought overpriced Harley Davidson shirts and other gifts as I went across the country)
-$486 on food.

That means the ride by itself cost $2798.

If you factor in the rest of the costs:
Flight home = $249
Shipping the bike from NC back to CA = $790
Purchase price of WR = $5500
Extras/aftermarket spent on WR = $1500 (+/-)
Selling price of the WR = $5200

Total cost of riding a 2019 WR250R from coast-to-coast in a month = $5637

That total was a little shocking to me, I didnt realize that it cost that much to complete the TAT.

- Would I take the WR again if I had to do the ride all over? Yes and no. While it did absolutely phenomenal on the majority of the dirt sections, its highway performance left something to be desired. If I could sink a little more money into the engine/performance of the WR and squeeze some more power out of it, I think it would be perfect for the TAT. Oh, and add some kind of wind protection, even if it was one of those cheap-o bolt-on wind screens. If engine upgrades werent an option though, I'd probably pass on it.

- Whats the perfect bike for the TAT? Depends on your experience level, budget, what kind of riding you like, etc. I cant answer that question for you. As you mightve been able to tell, I enjoy riding dirt a lot more than pavement. The further east I made it along the TAT, the less enjoyable it became for me, despite how hard I tried to just "enjoy the ride". I think any modern-ish 400cc+ bike thats under 500lbs would probably be a good candidate.

Also worth noting, I managed to make it across the country without eating any Subway. Yes, I did stop at a Subway in UT but luckily they were out of most of their food so I never actually ate there. Thank you Lord baby Jesus for saving me from their garbage "food".

Thanks for reading along, I hope you enjoyed the story as much as I enjoyed the journey. Dont hesitate to reach-out if youre planning your own TAT ride!

See you in the dirt,
Steve
 
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Brett_408

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Jun 29, 2022
Messages
59
Thank you for doing such a detailed write up I've been hooked on it for the last few days. Logging in to check updates! If you were to do it all over would you recommend going from east coast to west coast and getting the flat states out of the way first?
 

desert_steve

Member
Joined
Apr 11, 2022
Messages
59
Location
Phelan, CA
Thank you for doing such a detailed write up I've been hooked on it for the last few days. Logging in to check updates! If you were to do it all over would you recommend going from east coast to west coast and getting the flat states out of the way first?
Im glad you liked it!

Definitely. The guy that "made" the TAT suggests doing it East-to-West, and now I know why lol.

Plus in doing it E --> W you'd gradually get into better riding/scenery (IMO). Start with some 50/50 tires on the east coast and then swap to more aggressive tires when you hit CO or so. At least thats what I'd do.
 
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