Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Day 18 - Ever just have one of those days?

Mileage - 250
Ride Time - 9 hours

Today started out pretty normal, we were lost in the first 10 minutes. Our "trail" just ended in a field. Well we did a little re-route and were back on the road. After about 30 miles I noticed that my tachometer was not registering anything. At first I thought, oh well who cares. Never really use the tach anyway. After a few more minutes I realized my temp gauge was not registering anything either. So I pulled over and turned off the bike to check things out. After looking at the bike and deciding the best thing to do was to just keep going I tried to turn the bike back on and realized that all of the electronics on the bike were dead.

Luckily the KLR is a product of the 80's and super low tech so we could just roll start it and things would run. The problem with roll starting all the time was that if I stalled at the bottom of a hill we would have a hell of a time pushing it up enough to roll start it again.

So Palmer and I had to decide if we should turn back to a town that we knew had cell service but no mechanic shops or if we keep going and hope the town in 30 miles had a shop. We decided to let the GPS re-route us to the next town thinking that it would only take real roads and not the trails we were scheduled to take. Well a few miles later our road the GPS sent us on turned into a trail and then ended on top of a mountain with nothing in view. At this point we had wasted about half a day and decided to cut our losses and head back to the town we had come from.

So outside of McDermot Nevada we picked up a cell signal and called our buddies at Valcom Motorsports back in Colorado. I talked with PJ and after he pulled up the wiring diagram on his computer we decided it had to be a fuse. I thanked PJ and Palmer and I proceeded to pull the Red Devil apart. After digging down to the fuse box, that was cleverly disguised so we could not find it at first, we discovered that the main fuse was blown. After replacing the fuse the bike fires up and runs great with the exception of my turn signals and brake light. My turn signals do not flash anymore and the brake light just does not work. Who needs those anyway right?

So after wasting away the day we told Nevada goodbye and hit the highway to Oregon. After getting into the hotel I pulled the bike back into many pieces only to discover nothing.... really just nothing. So the plan is to keep pushing ahead and Palmer is going to be my brake lights.

For now I am happy to call it a crazy day and hit the sack.

Day 17 - Sagebrush still smells good

Mileage - 160
Ride Time - 10 hours

We can't figure out why but today seemed like a very long day. We were riding Nevada again today and the terrain was not extremely challenging but we are worn out. I think it was that we were riding trail all day and never really got a break on a real road. We were riding through grassy tracks and sage brush constantly. These sage brush were not messing around today, those things were like trees. I had my feet pulled off of the pegs several times from either the sage mini-trees or the rocks they were hiding.

Nevada still continues to surprise me with how beautiful it is. We passed the same mountains of sage and canyons of grass and creeks as yesterday but today we also mixed in some old homesteads. We also got the chance to climb up and over several large bluffs that reminded me of a small version of the grand canyon.

Here is a pic of the "roads" we were on

Bad pic but some cool horses we ran across

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Day 14, 15 and 16

Well it has been a while since I have had internet so it is time to play a little catch-up.

Day 14
Mileage – 160
Ride Time - 7 hours

Today was a pretty short day leaving Utah. We had pretty straight forward roads which was just what we needed. We were both getting pretty beaten down so a short day was just what the dr. ordered. We had a lot of just straight gravel cruising at 40-50mph. We had a couple of notable sections, my favorite being what I like to think of as the whack a mole section.

We were near the end of the day and cruising at 50-60 just to get through the day. I had pretty much lost sight of what we were doing and just ready to end the day when we came down out of the mountains and ran into this section where the road rolled up and down. There was a massive wind storm rolling in out in front of us and the effect was pretty cool. I would roll up to the top of the hill and see the light filtering through the clouds and the dust being picked up and thrown into the mountains and then roll back down into the gap where I could not see anything and just think about what I had just seen and then head back up to the top of the next hill and repeat. I kept adding more and more throttle until I had a grin touching in the back of my head at 70mph. Just great!!

At the end of the day Palmer and I stumbled on one of the strangest hotels we have had so far. This place was just a storage unit complex that someone had transformed into a hotel. I am not sure what I expected for $49 but at least it was clean and did not have bed bugs (funnier if you knew everything about this trip). Here is a pic of this sweet hotel.

For dinner we walked next door to the gas station/diner/casino. Oh yea, high class….

Day 15
Mileage – 25
Ride Time - 10 hours

Well yesterday we crossed into Nevada. For some reason I had been expecting Nevada to be flat, hot and sandy. Surprisingly what we have seen so far has been lush (for a desert) mountains. We started the day off realizing that Nevada was not going to be like any other state we have ridden in so far. About 10 minutes from the hotel we were lost. The routes in Nevada seem to be much more suggestions than anything else.

The maps built into the GPS just don't show the roads and the Topo map overlays Palmer and I have are only slightly better because they show the roads we are looking for, they just happen to be in the wrong place. So between the combination of hand drawn maps we have and a GPS that at best suggests where the roads are we spent the day wandering around making our own trail. This may all sound like a bad thing but we had a blast bushwhacking on motorcycles. Generally we would wander for a while and then eventually make our way to a section of the trail, ride that for a while and then wander to find the next section. The entire area was covered in sage brush which was the first thing that has made us smell anything but repulsive in a while (I forgot deodorant and quit noticing how bad I smell a week ago).

We hit several really cool sections of single track trail that make me realize how much we have progressed since the trip started. I was riding along on one of those sections of trail just thinking how great our riding skills had gotten and that neither of us had dropped out bikes today when all of a sudden I was on the ground in a cloud of red dirt. What happened?@! This helped contribute to this wonderful look I had going on by the end of the day. Check this out...

Day 16
Mileage – 150
Ride Time – 7 hours

Today was another pretty straight forward day. The norm in Nevada seems to be getting lost in the first 10 miles and today was no exception. After a brief re-route we were cruising at 40-45mph on gravel most of the day. I am still shocked with how lush Nevada is. The craggy peaks are just covered in sage brush and some small pine trees. As the day went on the terrain started to look more and more like I pictured the state. The greens and yellows of the morning gave way to more red and gray. At lunch we ducked out to another strange small town. After lunch we decided to take a different way back to the trail. We ended up climbing up and through the coolest canyon. According to the GPS we were not on a road but there was certainly something there. We criss-crossed a creek up and through the canyon for about 10 miles before we popped out into a lush grassy valley with tons of cows chomping away. On all of the peaks around us you could see the trails coming from old gold mines. Sad to see the land so raped but it was a beautiful site all the same.

Every once in a while we would run across a strange rock shack like this one.

Here is a little video of me getting stuck near the end of the day. This was a nasty bog but at least it was in a pretty spot.

Today finished a little early at 4:30 . Palmer and I found a hotel with a pool and let the chlorine attach our nastiness for about an hour before relaxing for the rest of the evening.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Day 13 - So worn out

Mileage - 170
Ride Time - 11 hours

Best day or riding so far but I can hardly move anymore. Today was a mix of sand, rocks, steep hills. We had a minor mechanical issue when my battery decided that it would not power the bike anymore but after pulling the battery out Palmer and I discovered that one of my several drops during the day must have emptied the battery. We refilled the battery cells from our camelback and as if by magic the bike fired up like a champ. Palmer and I both agree that Colorado and Utah tie for the best riding. Colorado had amazing views and great trails, while Utah has great views and amazing riding.

Not much or a post today so here is a little video from the day. I am going to take a handfull of advil and head to bed. Ouchh...

Day 12

Mileage - 180
Ride Time - 9 hours

Another long but great day. We headed out of Montecello today and headed twords the La Sal mountain range. Amazing that this mountain range is just a few miles from such a huge desert. We went from zipping up all of the vents in the La Sals to 100 temps in Moab and opening up every vent we could find.

We stopped over in Moab for lunch and ran into Staples. Staples is a rider we have been bumping into off and on while we have been riding. The other day when we had a second night in Salida that put him a day ahead of us. So we were suprised when we ran into him wearing just a sock on his right foot. Turns out he was playing around on the way into Moab. He headed up a steep slope when he stopped and the bike started sliding backwards. The bike dumped on top of him and the foot peg, we think, punctured his boot and tore up the bottom of his foot. He had three stitches between his two smallest toes and the bottom of his foot was all messed up. So, we must have a moment of silence because his trip is over. Such a bummer.

On a different note today was a little interesting when I had a little mechanical issue. Palmer and I were headed up a steep sandy slope when my clutch cable snapped. Luckily I used my deep mechanical skills to replace the cable and housing. Here is a pic of me jumping in with the utmost confidence.

In the end it only took Palmer and I 15 minutes to change out and we were back on the road.

Tomorrow is a big sand day so it should be a challenge. Here are a few pics from the day.

The reason for our first detour.

Coming into the La Sal mountain range

Climbing the hill I busted the clutch cable on

Flatlands outside Green River Utah

Palmer outside Moab

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Day 11 - fun with high mountain passes

Mileage - 180
Ride Time - 11.5 hours

Wow was it ever a long ride today. We had a mix of a little of everything. We crossed over 3 11,000+ ft passes today. The ride was a combination of everything we have seen so far (rocks, steep, beautiful) with serious exposure added in to keep your heart racing. On several of the climbs and descents we would have 200-500 foot drops off to the side.

Today was so beautiful it really made me almost sad every time we put in another mile because we were that much closer to leaving. I really felt a connection with each place in Colorado. The views are so incredible I just can't do it justice with words or pictures. I will try with pictures but they really don't even begin to show the whole view.

This afternoon we left Colorado (tear) and headed into Utah. Tomorrow it is on to Moab.

Here is a little video from today.

Day 10 - lets try a video post

Favorite pic of the day So I gotta work on my script but here goes.

Day 9 not exactly as we planned

Mileage - 80
Ride Time - 4 hours

Well today was not exactly what we had planned. We got a bit of a late start today and did not manage to start riding until about 10. The big event today was hancock pass at 11,800 feet. The ride up is supposed to be challenging enough to where there is a detour. On the way to the climb we were notified by another rider that the pass was closed due to snow. He said you could get close and that it was a beautiful ride up so we decided to give it a shot.

I was really nervous about the climb because it was supposed to be very rocky. It also did not help that while we were chatting with the owner of our hotel and happened to mention that we were going over Hancock he said "oh, well as long as you are very experienced riders then you will be fine." Anyway with visions of the most vicious rocks imaginable in my head we pointed the bikes up the road and headed up. In the end it was pretty technical with a few very interesting snow banks you had to cross but all in all I think we did great. We rode up as high as you could get on the road (11,600ft) and then hiked a little to get a few photos. Then my dread of getting back down kicked in. My fear was not justified though as it was not bad getting back down either.

Since the detour took us right back through Salida, where we stayed last night, we decided to stop in at a pizza/brewery that someone had recommended the night before. In town we both agreed that we should just call it for the day and rest up since it was already 2pm and we still had to eat.

It was a beautiful day today and even with the pass closed I am very glad that we went up. Crazy that a pass could still be closed on June 19th. From the look of things it did not look like it was going to be opening up any time soon.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Day 8 - Up into the mountains

Mileage - 270

Ride time - 10 hours

We woke up at 6 this morning since our maps said it was going to be a long day. When we took a look outside we knew it was going to be a bit longer as it had been raining all night and was still going.

About 30 minutes from the hotel we were suprised because the mud was not all that bad. We still had pretty good visibility so other than riding in full rain gear it was not that bad. Well all good things must come to an end and this was no exception. Suddenly the mud changed from a little slippery to deep muck that clogged up the tires and was super slick. Palmer dropped his bike early on but seemed to get it out of his system since that was his only drop of the day. I was extremely confident on the red devil since I had gone 6 days without dropping it at all. Well that confidence was shot when I came around a corner and went crusing into some deep slick ruts at 25-30mph. The red devil finially could not take it and slipped out from under me.

After a while the sun came out and we began to dry out. We also began to climb and it started getting pretty cold. This was the first time that I closed up all of the vents on my jacket. Soon we had climbed up to our first pass at 10,000 feet. We spent the entire day climbing up and over 9000-10000 passes. We passed through aspen groves and lush forest. I can't do it justice but it was amazing.
I am probably forgetting a ton of it but I have to say it was the prettiest and best day so far. Do I say that each day??
At the end of the day the clouds cleared as we descended to Salida. Salida is a really cool town that has a downtown area that is alive. This is a big change from the ghost towns that we have been passing through since the begining of the trip. There is a festival going on downtown so we are headed down there to check it out.

Day 7 - 4 States one day

What a day!! Said goodbye to Graham this morning, took a quick parting group shot and hit the road. Bummer to see Graham go but it looks like things are getting tougher from here and that V-Strom 1000 is just not really up for it. He will be missed.

We hit the road out of Liberal Kansas and ducked quickly back into Oklahoma to pickup the trail again. It did not take long for us to get back out into the wheat fields again and start cruising on gravel. We saw tons of pheasant as we crossed the fields and also started to see tons of deer looking animals (antelope?). The sand also did not wait long to make an appearance and was a good bit deeper today. After about 70 miles we left Oklahoma and crossed over into New Mexico. Almost on the border the terrain switched over to desert scrub. As we were getting use to running up our speed on the hard packed desert we ran across an area covered in prairie dogs. There must have been 5 hawks circling overhead just waiting to pick one of those little guys off. Really neat to watch the prairie dogs pop out and check for hawks and then go sprinting off for another hole.

After cruising in the desert for a while I saw what looked like a dark cloud on the horizon. The cloud looking things then became two and about the time I was thinking how strange it would be that two little storms were camped out on the horizon I realized they were our first mountains. After what seemed like a long time we turned towards the hills and they gradually grew and grew until they became mesas. We ran up to and around a few and then the trail went straight up a set through some of the most technical trail that we have seen so far. I think that was a pretty good preview of what is to come. After we got to the top we cruised through some rolling scrub for the rest of the day. We were up at altitude so the whole day stayed nice and cool. We finished out the day in Trinidad Colorado bringing the total number of states for the day to 4.
Tomorrow is supposed to be a tough day with 260 miles of technical trail so this might be the last update for a few days. Hopefully I will have the energy to at least do a post with video so I don't have to take the time to type. For now we are hanging out at Valcome Motorcports getting oil changed on both bikes and new tires on Palmers bike.

Here is a little video all clipped together of the terrain from today.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Day 6 - Second Verse Same as the First

Mileage - 210
Ride Time - 8 hrs

Well day 6 was pretty much as exact copy of yesterday. We started out in the same rolling hills as yesterday and were just as blown away by how amazing they were. We spent the entire morning crossing cow fields and carving through the corners.

The afternoon was filled with the same straight as an arrow roads and as if one queue the heat kicked in at about noon. We had a little deeper sand which actually helped things a bit. The cross winds were not nearly as bad which also helped us out.

We are in Liberal Kansas tonight and everyone is pretty beaten up from riding for 6 days straight. Also it is the last night that Graham will be with us so a few parting drinks are in order. The three amigos are going to turn into just team brothers Straughn. Tomorrow Palmer and I are headed through the corner of New Mexico and into Colorado. Things should start getting progressively harder from here on as we head out into the desert and then up into the rockies. We are planning to end the day at a motorcycle shop tomorrow where Palmer is going to change his tires to full knobbies, get his crash bars repaired from an earlier fall, and we are both getting oil changes. Should be a fun filled day.

For now I am going to hop in the shower and clean off the dust from the day. Then the plan is to work on Palmers bike a little and then grab some dinner and a few beers.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Day 5 crossing the plains

Mileage- 200
Ride time- 8hrs

The time is flying by way too fast. Day 5 is already over and we are about to sack out. The day started off beautiful as we headed out across the plains. From everything I had read I was expecting today to be pretty boring as we headed in a straight line for hours on end. Was I ever wrong... The day started out twisting over rolling hills. The only other thing I have seen that looked like the view today was in ireland. Really looked like a sea of green.

Here is a little video of the ride.

After leaving lunch the view changed a bit. To picture the ride just think of hoping in your car, cranking up the ac and driving through some of the most beautiful wheat fields you have ever seen. Now take away car, hop on a motorcycle, throw in a few truckloads of sand here and there to make things interesting, put it all in your oven, heat to 98 (record temps today) and bake for 5 hours. Extremely hot but I would not have changed a thing. Everywhere we looked there was a harvester cutting down wheat. It all stretched as far as you could see. Pretty amazing how much farmland there is out there.

Hopefully we are starting a new trend today as all the bikes stayed upright the whole time.

Tomorrow looks like we run for 200+ miles without a single turn. I think the sand is going to continue as well so it should be interesting.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Day 4 mileage is right on target

What a day! Today was a long mileage day of 250 and we loved avery bit of it. We rolled out out of the Ozarks and headed into the plains. Lots of long stretches of straight roads with amazing views. Increadable how quickly the scenery changes on the way across the country.

Day 3 and we made our mileage

Click to enlarge image

It is the end of day 3 and we got in the full mileage for the day. Also we are starting to make a dent in our route as you can see above. Still having some trouble with Palmers side bags melting and we have a new fender in the mail for him but the bikes are running great and everyone is feeling good. Well now that I say it Graham did break his shift lever in a fall today so that is on the repair docket.

Today was pretty straight forward. We hit a few technical sections but until the end of the day I would say we were about at the level of the last two days. At the end of the day (10 miles until the end) we hit the hardest section so far. We were cruising along just fine and all of a sudden the trail got pretty narrow. Then the rocks showed up and then it got steep. We had a few drops but all in all everyone really did great.

I am pretty wiped out so that is about all I can post but I hope to check out some of the video we shot today and post a few tomorrow.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Day 2 still going strong

Today was another great one. We woke up to a huge thunderstorm and thought it was going to be a bad day. Luckily by the time we ate and geared up the weather had cleared andwe headed out under dry skies.

We hit a few technical sections but nothing like yesterdays mud. Although after saying that I do have to mention graham pulled off one of the best crashes so far.

His fender was so packed with mud that his front whel would not spin and made him lose all control in mud. We pulled off the fender and cleaned everything up so he can now actually steer. He's got that going for him now, which is nice.

We also met these friendly pups along the way. If I had any way to carry them I would be theowner of two dogs right now. Here they are camped out under the red devil.

Near the end of the day we worked our way into the foothills of the ozarks (sp?). Really pretty rolling hills that I did not manage to get a single pic of.

At the end of the day we had logged 170 miles which is way under what we were hoping for so tomorrow is an early start to make up time. Gotta sack out now. More tomorrow.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

What a first day! Motorcycles hitting the ground already.

What a nutty day. I will have to upload some pics later but it was a great first day!

I met up with graham in memphis after a looooong plane ride and we were shortly on the road. We hit about an hour of pavement to get to the trail. We hit the dirt with smiles on our faces and were making great time until we hit some nasty mud sections. After hitting the mud our progress slowed from 40-45 mph to about 2mph. Bikes started falling and the temp just kept rising. It was a workout and we had some parts damage (palmers beak from his dakar and grahams hand guard and shift lever) but it was all around a great day.

We are now hanging out in the hotel room blasting the ac and working on finding food in this tiny town.

If this was the first day I wonder what is in store... More tomorrow.

In the air

I just woke up from a sweet 30 minute nap bringing my total sleep since getting up at 6.30am yesterday to about an hour and a half. Whew... What time is it?

Did get to meet my parents for breakfast in the atlanta airport. It was fun catching up but I was a little loopy from the flight. Can't wait to see them in seattle in a few months.

I am excited/nervous. Can't wait to meet palmer and graham and get a few miles under our belts.

I get to meet my new motorcycle today too!! Think I am going to name it the red devil.

More later...

Friday, June 12, 2009

Lets do this!!

So I finished up packing. At least I have everything that I am taking as I don't have a single place left to stuff anything.

I talked to P-man earlier today and he is rolling down the road on his way to Memphis with both bikes and will be meeting up with Graham tonight. Wow, this is really happening!!

I decided I would update my google maps file and add in Arkansas because looking at all the milage we are going to do without Arkansas made me scared. Adding more will make me feel much better right? Holy crap we are riding a long way!! Why is this just sinking in as you are 2 hours away from getting on a plane you may be asking. Hmm, good point. Well here is the updated map.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Packing up and getting ready

Well tomorrow is the day the trip begins. I can't believe how fast this day has gotten here. Seems just like yesterday Palmer, Graham and I were riding across Tennessee dreaming of one day doing the whole trail.

Tonight will be filled with last minute packing details and putting the final touches on everything. Palmer should be picking up the Uhaul about now and starting to load up motorcycles. Uhaul, if you are reading this we would never load motorcycles in your vehicles (but we are).

On the right hand side you will see a link to a sub blog. Not to say that it is a lesser version of this spectacular piece of writing and photography but it has a very limited purpose. For this trip I purchase a SPOT device that will allow me to check in with friends and family when I don't have wifi or a cell signal. It is a pretty cool little device (check out www.findmespot.com to learn more). All the blog http://tatprogress.blogspot.com/ will do is have our location posted as I check in.

I will be posting our location periodically, like the one below, as we go but for anyone who really wants to know where we were most recently you should check it out.

Also, Natalie and I went out for a final nice dinner before I hit the road and she gave me the coolest present, a flip-cam!! So with this super cool little video cam I can post video on here as we go across. Airport security is going to hold me forever with all the electronics I am carrying tomorrow.

For now we have a wide open map with nothing but a route. Can't wait to start putting some locations on there as we head across.

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