TAT Fall 2008The Planning
When Chief and I were in Mexico last May we decided to do the TAT together. We picked the end of September so it would be cooler and not as busy at work. I purchased the maps from Sam for AR, OK and CO. I loaded every turn with a waypoint into map source; it ended up being a little over 750 of them. Others have said that map source routing would not work but I did not have one issue with any of the routes I had made. There is a section in CO just west of Delagua that is no longer accurate but more on that later. I posted the ride on a few web sites to see if anyone wanted to join us. At one point there were 7 riders. However when it came time to go there would just be three of us.
and myself Trailace (Rick).
I wanted to pack as light as possible so I downsized everything that I could. The rear bag weighed less then 30 ponds, the tank bag 9 ponds and my spare tubes on the front fender. I also brought a new smaller camera but sure wish I had some way to bring a better camera on the X Challenge. I will work on this for the next ride.
Everything was going to plan until Ike came to town and created a few issues for Chief and myself. Chief had 5 feet of bay water in his house and was not sure if he would be able to make it but if he could he would be delayed for a few days. I found out the night before I was to leave that there had been no power at the ranch for the last week and I would need to go there and clean out a freezer and refrigerator. So I loaded the X Challenge in the truck and headed there with my wife.
Getting to the meeting place.
We were all going to meet September 20th at St Francis NP ($4) just north of Helens AR and start the TAT on Sunday September 21st. I took mostly back roads to cover the 400 plus miles and I had a few issues that I would need to fix.
First I lost the yellow valve part of my camelback and the GPS kept going on and off. I had just added a new on off switch for the GPS so that I could kill the power with out having to unplug it every night and the waterproof cover was to tight causing it to go on and off. I removed the cover and all seemed to be working ok. However I had this issue with the switch a few more times and will be replacing it soon. When going through Shreveport there was a Bass Pro-shop so I made a quick stop and the valve on the camelback was replaced.
New bridge over the Mississippi.
I made it to St Francis NP and set up my tent.
Not long after that Guy showed up.
He was there earlier and did some riding in the area to kill time. After we were done setting up we started a fire and talked about the TAT and how we would communicate with each other while riding. The weather was perfect for camping and before long I was in a deep sleep.
TAT Day 1
We were both up and packed early, ready for the excitement that awaited us on the TAT. We had waited so long and the time was finally here.
The eastern side of AR was mostly gravel and dusty roads.
Guy was eating a lot of dust.
There was this road that had a sign and was just mowed.
We did have a few water crossings but nothing difficult.
Then we climbed a little and came to this nice overlook.
It was getting late so we decided to find a place to eat dinner and camp. It was just 15 miles to Russellville so we headed there for dinner. However we found a little café in Pleasant Valley that had great food and was a lot closer to our camping destination. Oh I forgot Chief called and left me a message that he would be leaving to meet us Monday. I called him back and told him we should be in Devils Den State Park Monday night. After dinner we headed back to the trail and stopped at Long Pool campground ($7).
We were looking at the map and decided that at the pace we were going we would be past Devils Den SP by lunch and would need to call Chief and let him know a new meeting place. There is no cell phone signal at Long Pool so we called him the next morning first chance we got. The new-planned destination would be Wah-Sha-She SP OK. We had a great first day and could not wait for the next.
TAT Day 2
We woke to another cool morning and were on the road in no time.
Sure wanted to get a hold of Chief before he got too far east and just 5 miles from camp we stopped on a ridge and left Chief our new destination.
Then back to the dirt.
Of course we had to stop at Oark to eat. I was hoping to get a Chicken Fried Steak, but since it was still too early I had breakfast and it was great.
It was not long after we ate, the roads became more entertaining with lots of woods and elevation changes. Than came Warloop road. I’m not sure if Guy enjoyed it but it was fun to me. There looked to be a bypass on the right near the hardness part but that was not for us.
Passed a few of these.
I was so close to these horses I could smell them.
This was cool.
We realized that we would never make Wah-Sha-She State Park before dark so we called Chief and let him know our new meeting place would be Snowdale State Park ($30 We think the guy running over charged us but what can you do.). We felt bad about the change and knew that we had Chief zigzag across OK. A few hours later when we pulled into camp Chief was there waiting. He left Houston, TX, at 4:00 in the morning and covered over 700 miles. It was great having him with us and after setting up we were off to eat.
Found this nice little Diner in Pryor just West of camp.
TAT Day 3
There was now a third compadre of the TAT in camp last night and even though I camped a hundred yards away his snoring still woke me a few times. It was another cool morning and we were already on the dirt when the sun rose above the horizon.
There would be lots of this today.
However the team of three just kept pushing on.
We dropped down off the TAT to Bartlesville for something to eat and gas.
Then it was back on the road. Not a lot to see but was beautiful in its own way.
The grassy plains of Oklahoma are a sight to see and seemed to go on forever in all directions. This is where I started thinking how hard it must have been for the settlers to pass over this hard land. What took us minutes would take them days.
When you’re out on the plains it’s hard to pass up shade.
As we were coming into NewKirk the route took us right by a casino and the temptation to stop was high but we knew they would not want our dusty butts in their nice clean building. We did stop in town for a drink and a snack. This is where Guy decided to end his ride and head for home. We hated to see him go and would miss him. Now I would be stuck with only Chief the rest of the ride.
Once past NewKirk the roads went from gravel to dirt and if it had been raining these roads would have been a real mess. There was no rain today so its fun fast riding as we pushed on. On this section the road changes a lot so you have to make sure you stay on your game. It would be a perfect smooth road and right over the next hill it would be 10-inch ruts and holes. We could see bike tracks on the right and left of this area telling us there must have been deep water on the road, again we were lucky, high and dry. We dropped down off the trail about 20 miles so we could camp at Great Salt Plains State Park. (Free no where to pay) As we galloped through town on our trusty steeds we could feel all the eyes on us. The park was on the south side of town and we quickly found a site. Chief with great wisdom said why don’t we go back to town and see what there is to eat before setting up. That was a great call because as we turned into the only store in town the lady was just locking up. She was nice enough to reopen or it would have been a 30+ mile ride to the next town. There was not a lot to choose from but who cared at that point. Dinner would be Dinty Moore beef stew, chips and beer.
TAT Day 4
Last night while eating we heard on the Red Cross weather radio that a cold front was moving into the mid and west side of OK. This would bring rain and thunderstorms into our planned route.
With a beautiful morning like this how could it rain?
As we headed north we can see the clouds in front of us, however our luck still held and all we had to deal with was drizzle and this rainbow.
Since we were still in OK there would be lots of this today.
We wanted to make Black Mesa State Park so it would be a long day with lots of miles. Riding into the small town of Gate we decided to stop for a bite to eat, after all dinner last night was not the best.
I believe these two ladies were checking us out as we dismounted.
Laurie’s Café was the only eatery in town so that where we ate.
The food hit the spot and the service was excellent. The lady who ran the café was also a rider and her husband would be leaving in the morning for a ride. We asked about gas and found out you needed a special card to pump it. Since we did not have one there was no gas. The lady said she would have her husband meet us and we could use his card and just pay him cash. That was a great help and now we could make it all the way to Boies City without stopping.
Just blazing down the trail without a care in the world.
Then we ran into a little sand and Chief’s horse took a break.
The roads before you come into Boies City.
You have to get gas in Boise City, no other gas stations for 200 miles, so we did and we also filled our own tanks. When we came out of the diner we could see that Chief had picked up a nail and was in need of a new shoe. We replaced the tube and headed to Black Mesa State Park.
The park was really cool and I will be taking my SO back someday. We took showers and cleaned our clothes and hung them to dry in the stiff west wind. We would not be using our rain flys tonight and I fell asleep looking at the stars. They were truly amazing.
Lot’s of miles today
Starting to climb.
TAT Day 5
You could feel the excitement in the air this morning more than any other so far. Not only was the weather cool and dry but also we would be in CO by days end. I’m not knocking AR and OK but we were glad to be done with them. Another beautiful morning awaited us and our trusted mounts.
Black Mesa State Park ($10) was nice but it was time to hit the trail.
We would cross the Santa Fe Trail a few times today.
Then it was welcome to New Mexico.
Stopped to check out this old house.
Long walk back to the bikes.
I marked it for ya’ll with this nice little rock stack.
The trail would become a little more difficult for the next few miles but it was still early and as you can see, nowhere near high noon.
Someone made and posted a sign to help us along our way.
Right after this turn was a steep climb with lots of rocks but it was fun. Then more of this.
Mandatory picture of the Jail.
Just a few more miles of this and we would be in Trinidad.
Once in Trinidad we stopped at the Trinidad dinner for lunch. We were asked a bunch of
questions about our ride. After we finished eating we would go find Valcom motorcycle shop and have them install a new tire on Chief’s ride.
It took a little while to find but they sure were a lot of help and they had us back on the trail in under an hour.
However we decided to just call it a day and start fresh in the morning. We camped at Trinidad State Park ($26) and just enjoyed the weather and sights.
TAT Day 6
We were up but not moving very fast this day, I’m not sure if it was the colder weather or the half-day we took off yesterday.
As soon as we turned north off 160 we were back on dirt.
Loaded and ready for the mountains
We crossed over 25 and headed west through Delagua into a neighborhood and saw these old buildings.
Soon after the buildings we were supposed to go straight towards Ludlow but this was the only mistake I made on the GPS routes and we headed right on Black Bear Rd. It was a cool road but it was also a dead end. After trying a few different roads a nice guy told us all the roads in the neighborhood were dead ends and got us going in the right direction. We lost a little time but had fun. It wasn’t long before we were back on the trail.
Stopped to take a pic of this old church.
A few miles later Sam had us going down this nice trail.
We ran over a few small cacti but no harm came to our tires. Anyhow we were getting closer to the mountains and there would be a surprise.
We knew that we were doing the TAT a little late and with luck we might just catch the leaves changing. Here was the first sign of things to come.
Then as soon as we started to climb we saw this.
I have been to CO many times but this was the first time for me to see the aspens changing and it just made today’s riding that much better.
When you come off the trail onto 165 and head south just a mile or so you will come to Bishop’s Castle. It’s definitely worth the time to go check it out.
I climbed to the top of both towers.
Look how small the bikes look.
We were trying to make it to Cotopaxi and camp but all my playing at Bishop’s Castle had us running a little behind. After filling up with gas in Westcliffe and seeing there was a place to eat we decided to just stay there for the night. There was a NF campground just west of town so we headed for it.
Not much of a campground but the price was right. (Free)
We had dinner here.
You could see Westcliffe lights from our camp.
TAT Day 7
Today we were up early but not by choice. It was hunting season and this must have been the trailhead for the area. First is was just a truck or two passing by than it was unloading of 4 wheelers and trying to get them running on this cold morning. The final straw, 2 hunters from camp starting up 2 old 1970’s 2 smokes Yamahas.
It’s nice waking to this.
The campground was at 9,000 feet so it was a little cooler this morning but the sun was coming up and you could already feel it’s warmth.
We could see the mountains that awaited us off in the distance.
Quick stop in Cotopaxi for a morning snack and to refill our camelbacks. Just north of town we climbed over two passes of 10,000 ft. This is where the Aspens started to put on a show for us.
Chief trying to savior the moment.
I set my camera to video and took this.
Few more pictures.
We came out in Salida where we gassed up and ate breakfast. The trail out of town had us meandering across pavement trying to keep us on dirt.
Here is where our timing did not work out for us. This is what we are heading to and yes it would be raining on and off the rest of the day.
It did keep the dust down
The next timing issue was that it was Saturday and there was lots of traffic on the trail, people looking at the Aspens and enjoying themselves. By the time we made it to St Elmo the sides of the roads where packed with four wheel drives and ATV. One trailer and truck was parked in front of the road we needed and we went right by it. A quick U-Turn in St Elmo and we found it.
Not a bad view here.
Why not everyone else does.
Things start getting fun.
Here is where bad timing struck again. Here is the deal, Chief’s left arm has bad nerve damage and in cold weather he can lose feeling in the arm and hand. That being said I knew this section was going to be a challenge for him. Around 11,000 feet the trail became a lot more difficult and I had concerns for Chief so I stopped in a flat spot to see how it was going. I did not hear him coming so I hiked down the trail to find him. About 200 yards down there he was straddling the DR. He did not fall but could not hold the bike up when it came to a stop after hitting a big rock. I took a few pictures but not one of them was on my camera and I don’t know why. After talking it over and the fact that his arm was numb we decided to turn around and see how Chief was feeling when we get back to the bottom. Another bad timing thing, Chief forgot to take his arm medicine this morning. Chief told me to keep going and he would meet me on the other side but I learned in a previous ride that this never worked out well so it was one for all and all for one.
We stopped in Salida to take a break and get something to drink. Chief was not sure if he could keep riding because his are was still an issue. He took his meds and we blacked topped it to the beginning of the big bike bypass. Buy the time we made it the meds had kicked in and he was feeling a lot better. So it was up and over Marshall Pass.
We needed to find a place to camp so we headed toward Dovleville but there was nothing there so it was on to Gunnison and the KOA ($18).
It was nice to be able to take a shower and look at the web for the first time in over a week. The nice lady told us it was going to be in the low thirties in the morning. We charged our phones, ipods and cameras since we had power.
TAT Day 8
The best day for me.
It was a cold night but I slept like a baby in my down sleeping bag. I heard a few varmints in camp but they did not seem to get into anything. Things were a bit icy this morning.
We used the stove in the pavilion to help warm our hands after packing our cold icy tents. Chief used his Hippo Hands to keep his left hand from going numb. The first part of the day was fast flat gravel roads. We stopped at the old Stage Route and I road my trusted mount on it for about a ¼ mile. It’s hard not thinking about how tough it was for our forefathers traveling when you come across things like this.
We went over a few summits and the paved section down into Lake City was great fun,
We enjoyed lunch at the Tic Toc Diner in Lake City.
We backed tracked to the trail and headed up toward Cinnamon Pass. Things were not looking so good in that direction.
It had rained and was now drizzling on the trail and us but we pushed on.
With the overcast weather we had limited sight of the beauty around us.
View near the top of Cinnamon Pass.
Chief and Trailace
The weather took a turn for the worse and we were now dealing with a wintry mix of rain and snow. Also the water was draining down the trail making it just a little more fun.
Then the snow started to build up on the road.
We made it down to Animas Forks.
Chief took care of some business and I made a snowball.
Then it was up to California Pass and more snow.
Chief did not even stop at the top because it was really snowing hard now.
You can see in this picture the snow was starting to build up on the trail.
I was having fun but it was time to get out of the snow. As we started up Hurricane Pass the snow turned back to a light rain and all would be ok.
One more pass to go and that was Corkscrew. No issue going up but the red clay like dirt was slick in the tight switchbacks. On one particular tight switchback I could feel my back tire just slide out from under me. I had a premonition so I slowed to watch Chief and sure enough down he goes. I pulled out my camera and went to take his picture but as I topped the hill he was yelling for help and this is the only pic I got.
The bike fell on his foot and had it twisted in a bad way. I pulled the bike up so he could get his foot out and check the damage. He said the pain was worse than when he broke his leg a few years back but it stopped as soon as the bike was off him. He rested a few minutes and everything was ok.
Chief riding down Corkscrew.
It was a long way down and when we made it to pavement we decided to head for Silverton for the night. Bt first we had to go over Red Mountain pass in the rain. However it was all pavements. When we arrived in Silverton it was raining and cold so against my better judgment Chief talked me into getting a hotel room. It’s not that I’m apposed to sleeping in a hotel but I told myself after the Mexico ride I would never share a room with Chief. His snoring keeps me up all night and I don’t like wearing earplugs to bed. I enjoyed watching Sunday night football and drinking a few beers before plugging up and trying to get some sleep.
SIZE="4"]TAT Day 9
It was the coldest night of the ride but knew before long we would be in a lower elevation and feeling the heat.
We also knew this would be the last day of the TAT for us on this trip. Chief was feeling the cold.
It was a beautiful morning in Silverton as we departed and headed for Ophir pass.
The sky was clear so we were able to get a few scenic pic.
At the top you feel like you’re on a different planet with all the rocks no trees.
Chief coming up the pass.
Coming into Ophir
They had this home made sign at the entrance to town.
So what road do you want to be on?
There was some nice fast riding through the next section.
We were slowly dropping in elevation and thinking all the difficult riding was behind us when Sam gave us this.
This small mud puddle was a lot deeper than it looked. As I started through it my front fender was under water and Chief said it looked like it would just swallow the bike up. The water was only 2 feet deep but the mud on the bottom made it deeper.
This was 10 miles of jeep trail with lots of water holes to go through or around.
At the end of the trail there is a gate and map.
The trail in yellow is what Sam sent us down but Chief said I just added it to our route. He said we could have taken the nice smooth dirt road we were on and still ended up where we were at.
I broke out the TAT maps and showed him I did not add it. We were now only thirty or forty miles for the end of Co and there would still be one more cool road to deal with. Well that is if you call this a road.
Stopped in Dove Creek and had lunch at Deb Diner.
Then we finally made it to the CO/UT border.
Then to Monticello and Moab where we would spend the next two nights at the Canyonland Campground. ($20)
We were done with the TAT for this ride so while in the Moab area we would check out the White Rim Trail. It would be another beautiful day but it was still a bit cold as we road to Canyon Land NP.
You can ride the trail clockwise or counter clockwise, we went clockwise. I’m not sure which way is harder but all the bikes and vehicles we passed were going counter clockwise. There is nothing like a little sand to start the trail off.
Before long we would be down on this part of the trail.
But first we had to get down there.
There were some truly amazing sights to see.
This Jeep was having issues trying to make it up this sand fill hill.
This is Murphy Hogback but it’s a lot steeper than this picture makes it look.
Chief going up.
A few more of the area.
Found a little shade near the end of the trail.
We did the complete trail in just a little over 6 hours. We had a great time but even at this time of year it was hot. We headed back to camp and took a dip in the pool. Had dinner in the local ice cream shop and made plans for the ride home. We hated to think about it but we knew we could not ride forever. We did get some firewood and had a real nice fire.
Then it was off to sleep because we had a long day ahead of us.
Not a lot to say about today just that it started and ended cold. We would stay off the interstate highways as much as possible and it made the ride bearable. We did see this in New Mexico.
We did not ride too fast but spent a long time in the saddle and made it to Amarillo before we stopped. We camped at the KOA ($24) Chief and I would split up in the morning. I would head for home and he would head for Fort Worth.
I left Amarillo before daybreak and it was cold and I would not warm up until Fort Worth. I had 329 miles on this tank of gas when the gaslight came on. I would go 20 more miles before getting gas for 350 miles on one tank. After filling up I still had just a little lass than a gallon left. That means I could have pushed it to 400 miles. I did stop in Fort Worth but that was just to eat. After eating it was hot and it seemed to take forever to get home to Houston.
The bike safe at home.
All I can say is what a great ride. It had everything; hot, cold, sand, mud, gravel, dirt, snow, wind, rain, hail, lots of great people and a few super riding companions. I know I probably left a lot out and if Guy or Chief want to add anything it would be great.
Total miles a little over 4,000. I would say about 2,000 of them were on dirt. Longest day over 675 miles.
Total TAT elevation.
Spent 11 nights camping Total $159.00 or about $84 per-person.
One night in Hotel $76.00 or $38 per-person.
What worked for me and what did not work.
2007 BMW G650 X-Challenge - What can I say other than excellent, it took on every challenge with out an issue. I know a few people have a dislike for the air shock but for adventure riding it fit the bill well. When coming down or going up it kept the rear tire planted and in control. The rear breaks on the X are sensitive but with a load on the back it is a non-issue. The gas mileage was always over 50 mpg but most of the time over 60mpg. It was just like my R1150GSA when it came to starting on the cold mornings. If you did not give it just a little throttle she would be hard to start but with a little gas she kicked off instantly. Only had to do it twice on the coldest mornings.
Front: Pirelli MT-21 - It did well on and off road and still has a few miles if needed in it.
Rear Dunlop 908RR - Made the whole ride, all 4,000 miles. I did baby it while on the pavement but not the trail.
Garmin 276C - Never missed a beat.
Wolfman front fender bag worked well and never moved.
However the homemade support I mounted under the fender broke on the last day. Not sure if it was needed but I like to play it safe. I threw it together the night before my ride but next time I will spend a little more time on it.
Front Touratech Fender Extension was a great add. This was the first trip with in on and boy what a difference it’s it made. No spray on me on my helmet.
On off switch for the GPS did what I wanted but the new switch was bad from the start and a few times it was hard to get it to work. I will just replace the bad switch.
Small mirrors in hand guards work but not very well. I only put them on to keep the law off my butt but it never came up. Still looking for a good set of folding mirrors.
Map holder worked very well and kept all my TAT maps high and dry.
Homemade light cover did its job and for only $3.
Homemade rack carried all my gear with no issues.
Sidewinder Titanium II Sprockets and chain show no sign of wear and needed no adjustment in over 4,000 miles.
Kutch HardPart took a few hits but did their job.
Homemade rear fender did well and did not break,
SIDI Discovery boots performed well.
My new Exped Down Mattress 9 DLX worked well and is light.
This little Bike tool was great to check all the screws on the X each night.
Tire Buddy helped with the one flat on the DR.
Homemade Brake disk guard worked as you can see.
If I think of anything else I will add it. Thanks for taking the time reading this and sharing the great time Guy, Chief and I had doing it.
Now to start planing part II Do you want to come along?