Beemer Beemer chicken deener! (Ride report) - Page 2 - BMW G310 R/GS Forum
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post #11 of 85 (permalink) Old 10-20-2018, 11:33 AM Thread Starter
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cont.

Day 4: Wednesday 25th April 2018: Chantilly VA to Roanoke VA

256 miles

Having just passed the 600 mile mark on my arrival in Chantilly the day before, I was able to change the oil in Carl's garage after our photo session on Tuesday:





...and yes I can confirm you can change the oil and filter without completely removing the Rally Raid engine guard - result!

In that regard, I felt the bike was as run-in as well as it was likely to be now, so I could press on south at full pelt and try and outrun this rain...

Fortunately, as I approached Charlottesville, the rain receded, and I even felt confident enough to jet-wash the road-grime and general filth off the bike in preparation for my attendance at the Horizons meeting the following day, and the subsequent show-and-tell about the new bike and Rally Raid kit...



I then elected to ride the whole length of the Blue Ridge Parkway from Waynesborough to Roanoke (110 miles) in the emerging afternoon sun:



What a way to end the day!

Jx
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post #12 of 85 (permalink) Old 10-20-2018, 11:42 AM Thread Starter
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Day 5: Thursday 26th April 2018: Roanoke VA to Appomattox VA

109 miles

I won't bore you with the details about the Horizons weekend, but suffice to say it was a wonderful social event, with plenty of interesting presentations and attendees from all over North America and much further beyond (including Europe, the Philippines and even Australia).


photo. that is my tiny little tent on the far left, next to a useful bench seat.

We all awoke to a rather damp morning on the Friday (well, those of us camping, and who had not had the forethought to set up under the canopy of one of the pavilion buildings... while other attendees had seen the forecast and booked a cabin or bunkhouse), but none-the-less, the G310GS show-and-tell went down a storm with a lot of interested people in both the bike itself and of course what Rally Raid had done with it.




photo. this made me laugh - an etch-a-sketch, perfect for when you're stuck in traffic presumably?

I have to admit I thoroughly enjoyed the women's meet-and-greet seminar later that afternoon, which culminated in us all being inaugurated into the exclusive club known as the "Tequila Swilling Whores", complete with shots and a silly dance to earn ourselves a badge and sticker - priceless!

With zero miles ridden on the Friday (due to a combination of a morning presentation, and afternoon of drinking, and rain that didn't really lift all day), I decided that I would head back west towards the point at which I left the TAT earlier in the week on Saturday afternoon, after my final two presentations (Packing Light, and the US debut of Northern eXposure) that morning.


[riding] Day 6: Saturday 28th April 2018: Appomattox VA to Roanoke VA

96.7 miles

It seems I really can't escape this town, well, not until tomorrow at least when I will do my best of course!

I decided to only ride as far as a familiar hotel and get an early night tonight - plus the opportunity to hook up to some wifi and update you all, which as you see I have done - despite absorbing a huge bucket of Margarita in the local Mexican restaurant earlier this evening ;o) hic.


photo. this made me smile/happy... on my way back from Appomattox this afternoon, I noticed I'd marked a waypoint in my GPS during the Trans-Am500 ride as I thought this was a particularly twisty and fun road to ride. This alternative route back to Roanoke was a perfect opportunity for the GS to be in it's element, and I was delighted that my marker sticker (on the back of the aluminium sign) was still here three years later!

With my gear now all nice and dry, and everything repacked and ready to hit the trail tomorrow, it is my intention to roll out of here in good time, and see how far along the rest of the Virginia TAT (and who knows, even as far as North Carolina) by tomorrow evening - in a vain attempt to try and ride it all the way to the previous start in Andrews NC, near to the southern end of the Tail of the Dragon at Deals Gap (hwy 129 - ie. 318 curves in 11 miles, just in case you were in any doubt what I was talking about!) and therefore will have ridden all of the new TAT sections to connect up with those have ridden previously.

From there I'd like to ride the first few sectors of the Tennessee TAT, just for old times' sake, but by then I will really have to make a bee-line for Arizona if I'm to make it there by this coming Friday evening...

Wish me luck!

And much more to come of course, just as soon as I can get online again...

Jenny x

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post #13 of 85 (permalink) Old 10-20-2018, 12:00 PM Thread Starter
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Day 7: Sunday 29th April 2018: Roanoke VA to Damascus VA

273.3 miles (inc. 190.4 miles new TAT)

I'd set my alarm for 6.45am with the intention of heading out early to try and nail as much of the remaining Virginia TAT as I could today... however, the after-effects of a bucket of Margarita the night before in the adjacent Mexican restaurant meant I was nursing a new kind of migraine/hangover hybrid, which only began to be alleviated after a waffle and crispy bacon at the local diner.

I hit the road just after 8am, and stopped off to top up on fuel and cash on my way out of town:


photo. I still get a kick out of these drive through ATM machines... we have nothing like this in the UK you see...

It was about 45 miles to the point where I'd left of the TAT last Monday, and I was soon back into the swing of things on the minor [mainly paved] roads that wound their way up and down over the mountain ridges that make up the Appalachians in this area.



Fortunately, just when you think "I could do with a bit of dirt now" Sam dishes up the goods, in this instance about 30 miles in with the entertaining Sugar Run Road (note that the bottom half of the Virginia TAT appears to share a lot of the [exact] same routing as the new Mid Atlantic BDR does - I guess there are very few through dirt-roads in the region).



As I was razzing along Sugar Run', followed by an entertaining uphill climb on Flat Top Mountain Tower Rd (I could imagine this being a special stage sprint in a rally ;o), I thought I might confirm the ABS functioning on the bike - sure enough, if you've disengaged the ABS using the bar switch, it remains off if you stall the engine and/or use the kill switch. It only defaults back to ABS on if you switch the bike off and on again with the key. Nice.

Looking at the bigger picture on the GPS screen, I did wonder why Sam had seen to divert north towards Tazewell, rather than continue diagonally south west at Ceres... I should have known really - a corking climb over another ridge on dirt, followed by a wonderful sweeping decent into town where you can get gas and food, and accommodation should you require.

Best of all, the TAT route then starts up (or is that down - heading south) highway 16, aka. the BF Buchanan Highway, aka. the Back of the Dragon - a fabulous 19 miles (each way) of twisty country road that doesn’t have an absurdly low speed limit, nor is blighted by Sunday drivers on this sunny afternoon - result!

Of course all this tyre shredding put me a little behind on the TAT schedule, but then I hadn’t come all this way [not least flying across the county to buy this bike in the first place] to miss out on an opportunity like this!



The TAT actually turns off highway 16 precious few miles in, so I’d definitely recommend passing by and riding the whole thing to Hungry Mother Lake and back, before getting off onto the dirt again.


The next section had me feeling a little uneasy. Poor Valley Road lived up to its name exactly - a twisting dirt road though a valley, that passed through some very poor communities indeed. Ramshackle and abandoned houses, and amongst this shabby property and junk, those that were occupied were populated by some pretty scary looking people too - the kind you imagine spend what little money they do have on ammo and booze, and certainly not repairing the heaps of broken vehicles that littered their yards.



Only once before (in Africa) have I been this embarrassed that my motorcycle was worth more than someone's house...



photo. Southern Virginia is littered with abandoned property - you wonder what happened to make someone leave a house like this to ruin (it had been completely gutted of internal fittings)…


Time was pressing on now, however, once I refuelled at Atkins I factored I still had enough daylight to probably make it to Damascus VA - the technical end of the Virginia leg, and start of the North Carolina sections… and where I should be able to find a comfortable bed for the night.

The Virginia TAT ends on a metaphorical and literal high - climbing to over 4200ft on a cracking rough road though the woods (plenty of camping opportunities here, which I would have considered myself were it not so **** cold today!), while the final paved section into Damascus another epic twisty river road: the Jeb Stuart Highway.

So that’s the Virginia TAT - done!

Jenny x
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post #15 of 85 (permalink) Old 10-20-2018, 01:02 PM Thread Starter
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Day 8: Monday 30th April 2018: Damascus VA to Mars Hill NC

224 miles (all new TAT, other than slight detour due to a locked gate)


I’d rolled into Damascus pretty late the previous evening, and there seemed to be a dearth of traditional hotel/motels, only odd B&Bs that either looked really fancy/expensive, or closed.

I was getting desperate now, when I spied this joint set back from the main road:



The sign on the door said to call the number (the owner lived a few blocks away) to make a booking - although my phone seemed to be on the wrong network for this town, so I ended up using the landline from a local gas station… ah, remember the days when there used to be pay-phones?!

Anyway, to cut a long story short - the Appalachian Trail Town Inn is a delightful property, very much like a home stay (I was sharing with a couple of hikers who were walking the whole length of the Trail - hardcore!), very clean and newly decorated, and with excellent wifi, and the kitchen at your disposal. It would be great for a group (three double bedrooms plus a nook with two further single beds), and especially as a jumping off spot for mountain biking - ah, duh, turns out I was in the epicentre of southern Virginian cycling country!

Anyway, despite some confusion about how to pay my bill, it was a very nice place to stay, and plan the next stage of my attack on the TAT...


Having not left until after 9am, I felt there would be no point in rushing now, so dipped into the local coffee house on the way out of town - excellent coffee and great food too!


photo. I’d certainly got mine back this morning with a quad shot espresso and warm sticky cinnamon roll!


Again, the North Carolina section/s started out on minor paved roads - and the crisp morning sun picked out every crest of white water in the rushing rivers and creeks that I was riding alongside first thing…

Some observations of the new TAT sections so far: First of all, having ridden the TAT twice now in its entirety, and certain sections more times than that - if you are looking for a primarily dirt [road] challenge while crossing the country, I would have to concede that you’re really better off starting out in Colorado (or at least Arkansas) and heading west from there… That is not to say that further east does not have it’s own kind of charm - but the ‘trail’ is very patchy with regard to unsurfaced roads, and offers very little of what you might consider an actual ‘Jeep trail’.

However, if you want to ride some absolutely epic twisty minor highways and paved backroads, plus glimpse at a life that much of the modern world has passed by, then the Virginia and North Carolina sections are an excellent way to warm up for your complete cross-country ride… you’ll just have to allow the corresponding extra time for this indulgence, particularly if you want to say you “did it all”.

And I have to say, the G310GS seems to be absolutely perfect for this kind of sub-60mph backroad riding. The engine is peppy (especially when you’re rolling on and off the throttle in 4th gear), and the bike feels perfectly at home pointing and squirting between corner after sweeping corner, and flick-flacking from side to side as you carve through even the tightest turns - I do love the TKC80s in that regard.

You do get a great glimpse of rural life here in North Carolina too, although much of it is also very poor and run-down, such as it is in Virginia (and similarly in the Tennessee and Mississippi sections too) with abandoned and tumbledown properties.



photo. This barn was surprised (and perhaps even a little disappointed) to see I wasn’t on my Honda!







Personally speaking, I can’t help but think that there is a more obvious and direct route towards the dirt proper sections, ie. those that become far more regular as the TAT progresses west… but at the same time, I think what Sam [Correro] is trying to offer here now is not simply a ‘straight line’ from coast to coast, but rather the opportunity to explore a little more of each State as you pass through - which is increasingly important perhaps for those choosing (or only able time-wise) to ride the TAT a few sections at a time, rather than end to end in one hit - something that is increasingly going to the be the case for more and more riders I imagine, the longer and more elaborate the route becomes?


The TAT almost touches the Blue Ridge Parkway (you actually ride along side it for a short distance) just outside Blowing Rock, and it turns out that here is where all the [property] money resides in North Carolina. The town itself is full of restaurants and boutique shops, although not one traditional coffee shop/cafe that I could see, so I had to make do with a huge ice cream for lunch instead!


photo. I thought this sign was cute - one little guy is even trying to fly!



photo. Very fancy!


The trail sections south of here (and the Blue Ridge Parkway) are finally what I’d been waiting for... still well groomed for the most part, but more a traditional ‘trail’ than simply a gravel road, that even now you could still drive a car or SUV along with no bother.



I realised I was starting to run rather low on fuel (for info. I finally filled up after 173 miles this afternoon, with 21 still showing on the range display), on the second dirt section, so took it easy and popped out at the top of highway 181 (aka Jonas Ridge - another infamous and epic motorcycle road in the region) to finally refuel.

Interestingly, I must have came this way in 2015 on the CB500X as I’d actually marked a waypoint in my GPS along highway 181 as “Hoontown” - having clearly already enjoyed it on that bike too!


The TAT route once again flirts with the Blue Ridge Parkway, and detours along highway 226A, and Little Switzerland, before finally joining the BRP for some of the best (and highest so far - 5500+ft) sections as you head south west towards Asheville.







Sam does send you off and downhill on some dirt roads, then back up to rejoin the Parkway (personally, unless you’re looking to camp round about now, I’d just stick on the main BRP, it is an utter delight and the views are wonderful over either side here), but when he finally decides you’ve had enough, the trail down from the ridge turned out to have a locked gate:


photo. Yes I know I could have ridden around the gate, but I was worried that there would be a more substantial/official obstruction at the bottom of the hill, and I didn’t fancy riding down just in case…

Instead I continued on the Parkway a few more miles, briefly debated about heading for the familiarity of the Motel 6 on the outskirts of Asheville (just off the BRP btw), but then elected to try and get back onto the TAT as soon as possible, and aim for the stop that Sam had noted (complete with a hotel) at Mars Hill, a few miles further north of Asheville, and right on the TAT route.

Despite feeling I’ve broken the back of North Carolina today, there is still a long way to go before I reach the previous start point in Andrews, and can consider the current route joined up.

I also fancy having a quick blast down and back up highway 129 (The Tail of the Dragon at Deals Gap) before I absolutely have to head due west for Arizona later this week - especially as the weather forecast is good for the next few days, and being a weekday, is likely to be less busy with traffic and police.


Wish me luck!

Jenny x
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post #16 of 85 (permalink) Old 10-20-2018, 01:14 PM Thread Starter
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Day 9: Tuesday 1st May 2018: Mars Hill NC to Andrews NC

197 miles (all new TAT)

So having comprehensively availed myself of the facilities at the Comfort Inn in Mars Hill (I note this primarily for anyone else wishing to ride the NC TAT sections, as it's really the only place in town - not cheap, but clean and comfortable, with a laundry plus the requisite waffle machine for breakfast too - of which I am a firm advocate of course), I hit the road again a little after 9am...

Something had been bugging me since my first [600 mile] service - I'd taken what the dealer said with regard to the oil capacity [1.9L] as read, rather than actually read the manual - and was concerned my sight-glass was full to the top. Sure enough, the actual capacity for this engine is only 1.65L - so basically I had a whole can of Redbull extra oil in there, not ideal - as it could potentially start to damage the oil seals under pressure.


photo. yet another abandoned house in this part of the country...

So I took the opportunity once I hit the first dirt section after Mars Hill (which I have to say is around 40 miles into the day's route, after some utterly epic Supermoto style paved back roads - a luverly way to warm up for the day ahead!), and effected a ghetto oil-tapping, in true 'Mondo Enduro' style:


photo. I used a trash bag (always carry a roll of them in my back-pack for cleanliness around camp and/or as a emergency rain-cover, or simply an impromptu trail-side clean-up if I'm feeling particularly socially minded...), plus a stack of leaves to soak up the extra oil I was about to drain.

With my trailside 'workshop' set-up, I brewed a quick cup of coffee in my Jetboil, in an attempt to allow the now hot engine oil to cool a little at least... unfortunately, it wasn't quite cool enough, and while I was able to restrict the initial flow of oil reasonably carefully, the hot oil glugged over my hand causing me to flinch and drop the drain plug from the end of my socket wrench - so the only option was to lean the bike away from me to stop too much oil pouring out... Of course the bike was parked pointing ever so slightly downhill at this point, and I'd [stupidly] forgotten to put the bike in gear - so the result was the bike now rolled forward a few inches, enough to give me no option but to lay it right down on it's far side to stop an otherwise environmental disaster* from befalling rural North Carolina that morning...

*If I'm honest, it was more to stop any more/too much oil from draining out, having none with me to top up again - and let's face it, there is enough trash and general junk road and trailside in this part of the country that a splash of two of used engine oil isn't exactly going to cause any major concern to anyone, sadly. In fact I'd actually be doing my bit to return the processed dinosaurs back to whence they came ;o)

With the mess cleaned up and contained in the trash bag and leaf/dirt combo, I packed up and continued on to where I could refuel and dispose of the waste safely.

Again, for those particularly interested in these new sections of the Trans-America Trail, it's worth noting that with regard to the [numerous] paved sections here in Virginia and North Carolina, that there simply isn't clearly isn't an obvious and direct 'dirt' route though these states, so instead Sam has chosen to incorporate some of the finest and most remote/lightly-traffic'd paved roads as part of his odyssey west.

Now this ought to be considered nothing new of course - the whole purpose of the TAT was never to simply to offer a [direct] dirt route from one side of the country to the other, but more the opportunity to see some corners of the USA that you might otherwise never have reason to ride/drive - and that fundamentally, if you're on the right bike - ie. a genuine dual-sport or 'Adventure' bike, rather than think you're going to need a dedicated 'dirt bike' for those few technical off-road sections that you might/will come across - then and from a personal perspective, then mix of back roads and dirt roads/trails is wholly welcomed - "It's all good" as the saying goes.

However, I would counter that with the suggestion that if you're ultimately going to be limited by a time constraint (as most people tend to be of course), then you may need to take some time before you start the TAT and consider where you might streamline your own personal attempt - fortunately there a good number of opportunities to bypass certain sections if needs must, although I'd ultimately end by suggesting it would be a huge shame if you did, as you're more often than not going to miss a visual and/or visceral treat if you do end up cutting the route simply because of time... the moral of this story being that if you intend to ride the current TAT in it's entirety, then you really need to allow an extra week (ie. a good 5 weeks in total) to really do it justice.

Certainly, although I was aware of personal commitments right across the country this coming weekend, I was not planning on forfeiting any of the current new route on my way to join the previous start point in Andrews NC.



Back on the dirt, I came to 4-way track junction high in a forest, and noticed on my GPS that Sam had included an alternative 'hard' route to the main gravel forestry road. As I considered the option, I heard a pair of trail bikes climbing up the hill from below, and they emerged from what would be the hard route down hill via Hurricane Creek Rd. That was all the incentive I needed to take it myself of course!

I chatted with the two riders for a while (one was from the UK!) - who actually work at the Wheels Through Time motorcycle museum in Maggie Valley NC (located a few miles south of where I currently was), which, as it turns out, is also on Sam's new TAT route of course!

I have to say Hurricane Creek is really the first really 'technical' trail section you encounter on this new TAT route - in that it is a dedicated 'jeep road' with numerous creek crossings (some of the muddy) and some rocky terrain to navigate - nothing impossible, but on a larger Adventure bike especially laden with luggage, you might start to sweat. As it was, since it was in the 80°s already, I freely admit to perspiring myself even on a smaller and lighter machine!

A couple of notes I made with regard to the bike at this point: the first is the stock pegs are truly atrocious to try and stand on for any length of time - certainly in the boots I was wearing - not only were they painfully thin, but also so short that my feet were hanging uncomfortably over the ends too.

The second thing I noticed was that the tank side covers (the grey plastic parts on the 310GS) actually splay your knees rather wide and awkwardly when standing up - certainly more so that the comparatively narrow [and yet significantly more capacious] tank on my CB500X for example. This wouldn't be so bad if BMW had actually chosen to fill those voids with actual fuel tank, rather than only looking like it has a 5 gallon capacity!


photo. I recall I crossed this bridge (in the opposite direction) many years ago on my XT660Z when I was exploring this part of the country en route to the Tail of the Dragon and the original start of the TAT in Tennessee!

The trail sections came thick and fast now on my way south through the eastern end of the Great Smoky Mountains NP, and I bopped out in Maggie Valley, albeit with not enough time (or admittedly inclination) to visit the museum after all; instead I was eager to try and complete the rest of the North Carolina TAT to Andrews by nightfall...

After an entertaining climb past the North Carolina Ski resort of Cataloochee, the TAT ultimately rejoins the Blue Ridge Parkway for another particularly entertaining and scenic section (it's all pretty entertaining and scenic of course!), although once again, it turned out that a side spur that forms [a loop] part of the new TAT was currently closed with a seasonal gate:



Still, the main BRP is more than enough compensation, and I was able to rejoin the TAT route at an underpass a few miles further south west, where again I recognised the junction (and trail number, which I'd previously logged in my GPS as a waypoint) from when I rode though here with some ADVrider inmates as part of the Trans-Am 500 ride in 2015 - as with the Old Cataloochee Turnpike through the east side of the Great Smoky Mountains NP that I'd ridden both previously and earlier in the day, it turns out this particular trail is now part of the official new TAT route too!



As the TAT finally left the Blue Ridge Parkway behind and headed further south (and west) towards Andrews NC, it encompassed a particularly entertaining climb up a huge powerline cutting, and crossed over the Appalachian Trail:



...and followed this surreal pipeline for a good few miles on fast and easy gravel roads before finally giving way to tarmac again for the final stretch into Andrews:


photo. I always like riding in the late afternoon/early evening (although you do have to watch for deer of course!) - and this final stretch of the new TAT was a delight to encounter at this time of day.


photo. Piglet emerged to make sure we had actually joined up with the previous TAT start point on Locust St. Andrews NC.

It was now getting dark, and having grabbed a burger at a local stand (I subsequently heard via the internet that there is a great bar/restaurant at the other end of town - the Hoppy Trout), I considered my accommodation options...

Having only Sam's GPS tracks, not his full maps and roll-charts that offer a wealth of additional information, I did not realise there was a proper hotel in town [I previously had elected to stay a further 15 miles away in Murphy] - turns out the Comfort Inn (yes, another one) has been there for 25 years, right on the edge of main highway, where Locust St/ crosses over to begin the TAT. I felt like such a fool for not making a note of this the last time I was here!

I booked in and bedded down. There was a Dragon that needed slaying in the morning before I could start to finally head resolutely west.

More soon!

Jenny x

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post #17 of 85 (permalink) Old 10-20-2018, 01:33 PM Thread Starter
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Day 10: Wednesday 2nd May 2018: Andrews NC to Counce TN

420 miles

"Dragon my heels"


photo. The TAT route out of Andrews heads north/north west towards the Cherohala Skyway (hwy 143), but I wanted to ride the Tail of the Dragon (hwy 129) first, so headed north east to Robbinsville on this alternative dirt-road/trail instead...

My mission today was twofold - first of all, to ride the Tail of Dragon (Deal's Gap, hwy 129) in both directions because, well, just because... I've said it before (as part of my Trans-AM 500 report), but the internet loves to criticise the Dragon as being 'crap', more often without much quantification... it's true that the popularity of the road (due to Youtube and like) means it is an utter bun-fight on a sunny Sunday afternoon, littered with screaming street-bikes and cumbersome cruisers, or a procession of four-wheelers - usually lead by either the inept or someone who just scared themselves, and a magnate for easy pickings by the local constabulary (it's a 35mph limit, and solid double yellows the whole way other than a couple of hundred yards where you'd get the opportunity to overtake legally, ahem.) - the point being, this road has the reputation it does for good reason - 318 bends in 11 miles - mental!

Fortunately today was a Wednesday, early morning (well, early for me - ie. before 10am), and I was blessed with a clear run both ways - save for one small convertible who was slowing specifically for one of the numerous roadside photographers, giving me ample opportunity to overtake and be in perfect focus for my Killboy close-up ;o)







photo/s. yep, I even paid for a trio of photos from Killboy, although there were some equally nice ones from the alternative photographers/locations too.








Deal's Gap itself (the 'motorcycle resort' with a motel, restaurant, fuel and now a dedicated photographers merchandise store on the opposite side of the road) was already awash with action - it would appear that a vintage Japanese 2-stoke club had taken over all the motel rooms, and erected their easy-ups to embark on their tune-ups, out of the increasingly fierce spring sunshine:



The ever present Tree of Shame was loaded with the latest debris:



While a quick walk-around had me smiling for different reasons:


photo. A 170cc Grom - nice!


photo. A shed-built hard-tail Kawasaki - interesting!


photo. The Killboy metal dragon (with details made from various old motorcycle parts).


photo. This made me laugh - the main store sold any number of different design T-shirts and stickers as souvenirs, but most telling was the rack with zip-ties and webbing tie-down straps - presumably to bodge back-together and/or drag your broken bikes home with ;o)


photo. I thought this was fun!


photo. Killboy is the most well-known of the the Dragon photography agencies, and in recent years they have built a dedicated store where you can order pre-printed and personalised merchandise.

As I say, I can't hate it - because each time I've been here I've enjoyed myself, and had a nice clean run of the road.

cont.

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post #18 of 85 (permalink) Old 10-20-2018, 01:41 PM Thread Starter
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cont.

However, it really was time now to stop messing around, and start to head for Cottonwood AZ - yes, Arizona, to which I'd committed to meeting friends by Saturday, for some trail-riding together over a long weekend.

I also wanted to pop by and say hello to Sam Correro (originator of the Trans-Am Trail of course), who had recently moved from Corinth MS just north of the state-line into Counce TN, which is another location right on the TAT route itself. It would be some task to try and get there in time for dinner this evening (as it transpired he was busy that evening anyway, so we elected to meet for Breakfast the following morning instead), and at the same time - I already felt that I'd blasted though the new sections of TAT more quickly that I might otherwise have liked to - although at least I was able to commit some key highlights to both camera and my notebook before they slipped my memory into what was now fast becoming a bit of a blur...

So I decided to late fate decide my schedule and plotted a route into the GPS that would be both fulfilling, and also fulfil the need to get significantly further west by the end of the afternoon.

My route south and west from Deal's Gap was around the delightful Lake Santeetlah (plenty of camping here if you're ever in the area), before picking up the epic Cherohala Skyway (hwy 143) that crosses into Tennessee just east of Tellico Plains - which until 2015 was always the official starting point of the Trans America Trail.

I snaffled down a burger and iced tea at an independent cafe in the town square, then made a bee-line for a familiar and fun trail that forms the first dirt section of the Tennessee TAT - Witt Rd - which I imagine for many of you who have either ridden the TAT, or simply watched a video clip or read a report, will be immediately recognisable by the series of creek crossings, photos of which are almost always included in any ride report, including this one of course ;o)


photo. this crossing in particular is notorious in having riders on their arses - the water upstream being deceptively deep, while the rock ribs are covered in slimy algae. Cross with care!

Ultimately I broke from the TAT route a little way north of Lake Ocoee (another scenic highway 74/64 runs around the north shore here), and had no real choice but to endure the interstate network south of Chattanooga to get around that urban sprawl, before heading west on the continuation of hwy 64, and ultimately tip-tapping a series of intermediate waypoints that would direct me along much more minor roads, to ultimately dove-tail with the final few miles of the TAT route across Pickwick Dam and into Counce itself.

That evening I elected to bed down right on the TAT route at Little Andy's motel - something of an institution amongst the TAT aficionados I'd been led to believe, although I initially baulked when I squinted through the lobby window at the pricing board - fortunately it turns out the "80" was actually just cents, and the room was a little over $45 with all taxes included! It's not the most modern joint I have to say, but quiet and comfortable and right next door to a BBQ and breakfast restaurant - what more* do you need?

*Turns out what you need is a wider choice of beer at the RnB diner - sure, they have both kinds: regular, and Lite.

As I supped a glass of their least insipid pale yellow liquid and licked barbecue sauce from my fingers, I totted up the miles (420.7 door to door today), and factored with the time change that I had actually been riding for over 12 hours pretty much straight - including a number of great trails, the Tail of the Dragon (both ways), the sweeping scenic Cherohala, interstate, highways, back-roads and byways - and this little GS was proving to be pretty adept at all of it so far - I was impressed!

More soon,

Jenny x
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post #19 of 85 (permalink) Old 10-20-2018, 07:29 PM Thread Starter
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Day 11: Thursday 3rd May 2018: Counce TN to Oklahoma City OK - yes, really!

649.7 miles (that's 1045 kilometres in metric!)

I'd arrange to meet with Sam for breakfast at the Outpost Cafe north of Pickwick Dam, so was showered, packed and ready to roll out of the motel carpark by 7.20am - a good thing, since although I didn't know it at the time, today was going to be the longest so far, by quite some margin!


photo. Trans-America Trail originator: Sam Correro - 78 years young!

We chewed the fat about the trail in general, discussed the new additions, and when I mentioned it was my intention to ride some of the initial Mississippi sections again as part of my morning ride west, Sam warned me that he'd had to reroute around what had been one of my most favourite sectors right out of Counce itself:


photo. 2015 on the CB500X - I love these old railway bridges (you might notice a TA500 sticker here ;o), but this trail has since been closed just a few hundred yards further on...

It turns out that the road [trail] bridge over the river just after the railway bridge has been partially dismantled to deter hunters from using this trail:


photo. now it's more like something you might find on the Road of Bones...


photo. I suppose if you were brave, you could try to cross the river itself though the shallow section seen here, but it is soft and sandy underneath... (note also that the water level was currently much lower than it was in 2015 when the whole basin was full of water).

For info. I'd taken the suggested detour, but then rode back along the original route for a mile or so just to check it out for myself:



photo. sure enough, the armco barriers means it doesn't look like this crossing is going to be reinstated any time soon.

I rode a few more miles of the Mississippi TAT route, and again happened on a Closed Road sign:



However, in this instance, I can confirm that this one is still perfectly navigable by motorcycle ;o)

From here, I left the TAT route in an effort to plot a straight route across northern Mississippi, electing to use highway 310 (of course ;o) which happened to run almost directly east west towards my intended crossing of the Mississippi river in to Arkansas over the Helena Bridge (hwy 49) - again, picking up the TAT route fore final few miles in Mississippi, and continuing on the TAT though eastern Arkansas, until it crosses Interstate I70, where I'd absolutely have to leave the dirt behind if I would have any chance of making my Arizona rendezvous on time.

A few photos to illustrate the rest of the day:


photo. The ubiquitous crossing an abandoned railway line picture...


photo. the start of hwy 310 near Sardis Lake.


photo. an abandoned car at an abandoned gas station... you do wonder which happened first?!


photo. I'm not sure if this was a flood, or just a joker had put the street sign in there!




photo. I love this sort of scenery that you get in Mississippi.


photo. down on the Bayou, back on the TAT...


photo. having crossed into Arkansas at Helena West Helena (crazy name, crazy gal!), I continued west on the TAT route, and was disappointed to see the amount of trash and fly-tipping that had gone on along this particular rural road.


photo. Familiar territory - as the Trail turned to dirt, this was my first TA500 sticker in Arkansas back in 2015.


photo. At the TAT Stop - you've got to stop at the TAT Stop!


photo. Just a reminder that there is still a long way to go if you intend to ride the whole TAT!

This time around I got to meet the owner Percy (who offered me a welcome ice-cold coke!) and signed their 2018 yearbook - it would appear I'm only the 6th rider to pass though this season! I also met Al who then took my photo for their annual photo compilation book too.



It was now after 3pm and I'd already ridden nearly 250 miles (yep, I'd been on a mission all day), and I debated just what to do next.

The TAT route crosses over I70 near to Brinkley AK, which my Garmin Montana had calculated was 1014 miles from Grants NM - in other words, the perfect way to knock out an Iron-butt Saddle-Sore ride (that is 1000 miles in less than 24 hours) while crossing the country in the most direct way possible...



Hmmmmm. I gassed up the bike on ethanol mix regular at exactly 4pm, and contemplated the next 24 hours over some equally poor quality human fuel:


photo. Shameful I know.

As I chewed my way though a rubbery quarter pounder with cheese and an equally rubbery 'Americano', I considered it was certainly unrealistic to try and ride another 1000 miles in 24 hours now, starting at 4pm - and even though I'd already amassed 250 since leaving Counce this morning at 9am, I'd not averaged anything like enough to make those miles count towards the total (which btw. I'd calculated would need to see me in Tucumcari NM before 9am tomorrow to make it count).

However, regardless of how I ultimately managed to break up the next stage of the journey, I was conscious that I really needed to be in Grant's NM by Friday night if I'd have any chance of getting to meet up with my friends in Cottonwood the following day - especially as after two full days on the interstate, I was going to want to take a more gentle and scenic route from New Mexico into Arizona, one that would ideally result in the ingestion of pie en route [in Pie Town NM].

So I rolled onto I70 at approximately 4.30pm that evening, with the intention of riding until I was tired, and see how the trip unfolded from there...

As it was, I arrived on the outskirts of Oklahoma City a little before midnight, having ridden another 400+ miles since that McDonalds. I was beat.

649.7 miles since Breakfast with Sam that morning - it felt like at least a whole other day away by now!

notes. The fuel economy does start to suffer at higher speeds on this bike (at least with TKC80 tyres fitted) - I was only getting around 49mpg at 70mph this evening, into a headwind admittedly. I also notice that the bike does have a vibration between 5000-6000rpm - it's not overly intrusive, and something that a lot of singles tend to suffer from... once you get over 6750rpm it smoothes out again appreciably, and I'm amazed how refined it feels at 70, even 80, mph when you consider it is such a small capacity single cylinder engine. The gearbox is also very slick and smooth - so I'd suggest that's two fingers up to all those internet critics who think the Chinese can't assemble an engine ;o)

I was also impressed with the low-beam of the headlight, a nice broad spread and good penetration I thought... however, conversely the high-beam is absolutely rubbish - you loose all of the foreground, and get no real penetration to compensate either... I think a trip to Motominded might be in order in future ;o)


Jx
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post #20 of 85 (permalink) Old 10-20-2018, 07:35 PM Thread Starter
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Day 12: Friday 4th of May 2018: Oklahoma City OK to Grants NM

628 miles

"Wake up Piglet, we've got another huge day ahead of us..."

I really felt I'd pushed my self to the limit yesterday - not that 650 miles in itself is not far enough on a small capacity single, but particularly as I'd started the morning (goodness, was it really that same morning?!) riding trails, then slaying the Dragon, riding rural roads and eating well and chatting with locals (at the TAT Stop), before then deciding to embark on another 400 mile shlep on the interstate late into the night... and I was still over 1000 miles from my ultimate destination of Cottonwood, where I'd planned to be by tomorrow evening.

There was only one thing for it really: Waffles.


photo. I'd been given a 'free waffle' token at the branch in Roanoke (goodness, that already felt like a lifetime ago!), so thought I'd best get my syrup fix before their locations petered out the further west I went...

For here on in, I figured there would be nothing much to report on today - the world flashed by in a blur of iPod enhanced surreality - punctuated by fuel stops typically every 130-150 miles and the regular ingestion of sugar and caffeine - sometimes a combination of solid and liquid form, but most usually combined in a single can.

I have to say, while I consider the G310GS perfectly comfortable cruising at higher highways speeds - I found, as John from Rally-Raid had also suggested, that the bike is probably sweeter (and feels less stressed) cruising at 70mph rather than trying to push 80mph... although it will certainly do that too with out much complaining - certainly on the flat and without too much of a headwind - however, the fuel economy does seem to take a dramatic dive over 75mph...


photo. stopping for a little roadside relief, I pulled off the main interstate onto the frontage road and realised that Route 66 actually shadows I40 for much (in fact pretty much all) of the distance through western Oklahoma, Texas and New Mexico... I mention this here for anyone contemplating riding the entire length of the Mother Road - my advice is, don't bother (unless you're planning on doing it on a Monkey-bike or roller skates), it is dull as heck... trust me - the best part of R66 is from Williams AZ west.

I had plenty of helmet time to start drawing up a list of likes and dislikes so far (I'll post these in a separate list a little later), and on the whole I was increasingly impressed with the way the bike was handling the mundanity of a long highway journey, certainly now the engine had really begun to loosen up (have passed over the 2500 mile mark a while back now)...

However, if I'm honest - this kind of riding was not it's forte, yes it will do it, and do it comfortably (ergonomically) and reasonably fuel-efficiently too, but so far this trip, the bike has not really offered me anything that my Honda CB500X does while feeling far less stressed and with a significantly longer fuel range and more comfortable seat.

I will continue to reserve judgement of course - certainly until I've had a proper chance to really put the GS through it's paces off-road (which would have to wait until I got to Moab the following week) - terrain where I trust the 50+lb lighter weight of the GS (despite the 25% power and torque deficit) is likely to give you a little more margin for error, if not make the bike 'feel' ultimately more capable off road*, or at least be ultimately less wearing to pilot in really technical terrain.

*note. I'm speculating here, as I consider myself pretty handy on-board the 430lb Honda CB500X, and that the Rally-Raid kit fitted to that bike gives you the confidence to ride it much as you would a 650cc class dual-sport thumper - indeed, you really are only aware of it's weight when you are faced with a steep/step climb, and/or have to pick it up, otherwise, it is incredibly nimble and has excellent traction for it's size and weight - honestly, I really do believe it is the BEST 'Adventure' bike with regard to combined on and off road performance... as John and I designed it to be of course ;o)

Sorry, my mind was slipping away from the task and subject in hand there for a moment - time we stopped for fuel again Piglet... uh oh, look at the fuel range!


photo. I rolled into a gas station in Amarillo Texas on fumes (in fact I want to say I even felt the bike hiccup briefly at the intersection off the interstate), and sure enough, it appears I had maxed-out it's range on this particular leg:


photo. I think someone is lying - either the BMW tank capacity is a touch larger than advertised, or that Shell need to calibrate their pump more accurately (although I did fill it part way up the filler neck too!)

So with the pithy consideration that I might just drop Tony Christie (and Peter Kay, UK fans ;o) a note that the way to Amarillo is indeed straight along the I40, I ploughed on through the hot afternoon towards the next state-line, New Mexico. With the wind picking up, and an average speed of 67mph on the comprehensive dash display (the wealth of information is one of the things I like about the baby Beemer, although it's design is a little fussy), my economy had now dipped into the high forties... yep, I really might as well be on the Honda for this kind of riding - it would feel both more relaxed, and be more economic!

By mid afternoon (3pm) I'd reached Tucumari NM - and this is where my 1000 mile Iron-butt would have ended if I'd counted all the way from Counce TN the previous morning - ie. 6 hours* more riding on top of what I'd already managed before hitting the motel at midnight last night, so technically I could have completed the distance in about 21 hours - although not something I would even consider based on the route and timing I'd actually taken...

*7 hours actually, I'm sure there was a time zone crossing in there somewhere!



photo. This was on the old Route 66 near Moriarty NM (as part of a fruitless attempt to find a Starbucks that was showing in my outdated 2015 GPS database) - if God was giving me a sign, it wasn't to where I could find a proper cup of coffee!

I finally sated my lack of caffeine with a quad-shot of espresso and a correspondingly high-octane refuel of the bike too in Albuquerque NM - it was starting to get chilly now (a quick glance at my GPS showed I'd been steadily climbing all afternoon as the sun was going down, and had been riding at over 7000ft - so no wonder!), and continued counting down the miles towards another Motel 6 (in Grants NM), where I finally decompressed the day while taking the opportunity to launder all my clothes from this past week, in preparation prior to spending the next few days camping with friends.

Sitting there in my last clean set of underwear and a sarong (what a vision eh?) - I totted up some numbers: rolling into the motel car-park at 8.30pm, I'd racked up another 628 miles today - which since leaving Counce TN yesterday at 9am, means I'd covered 1280 miles in just less than 36 hours, so not quite an IBA 'Bun-burner' then (which is 1500 miles in 36 hours), but still pretty impressive for such a small capacity machine I thought.

Interestingly, I had actually covered the last 1000 miles from Brinkley AK in approximately 28 hours, so factoring in the 8 hours I spent in a motel from midnight last night, technically I could have ridden an 1000 mile Iron-butt had I not elected to start late afternoon and also take a break overnight... although I'm not sure I'd want to spend 20+ hours* on any bike, especially not straight through!

*note. it would actually have been around 21 hours when you consider the time change.

In other news, apparently I didn't quite make it Back to the Future either, having only managed to max-out the G310 at 87.6mph this afternoon.

More soon...

Jenny x

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