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Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Swimming in Tennessee

This is the camera shot from my handlebars on my first attempt at crossing creek #4. Obviously it did not go well.



The bike with luggage was too heavy to pickup so I had to leave it underwater while I disconnected the bags and carried them to the bank. Then I was able to pickup the bike but not able to push it to the shore. So I spent the next hour working on the bike in the middle of the creek to get it restarted. Finally, after getting it running I got it out of the water. However, the camp was behind me so I had to recross the creek to return to camp so I could flush the engine.


You might call this attempt at crossing rather timid but it all stayed vertical and the crossing was without incident. While not caught on film you can rest assured that I did the Happy Dance when I was safely across.



Many kudos to the Alpinestars Toucan boots that kept my feet dry through all of this. Even when completely under water! The best dual sport boots I've ever owned.


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Saturday, July 27, 2013

TAT By The Numbers

While I'm trying to sort through the photos to pick out the best I thought I'd review some of the numbers from the trip

Days on the trip: 21
Days on the TAT: 1 1st attempt
4 2nd attempt
Miles on the trip: 4,739
Miles on the TAT 6 1st attempt
756 2nd attempt
Expenses
ATK Prep 951
TransAlp Prep 968
Cash 700
Food 171
Gas 349
Lodging 542
Maintenance 895
Support 2,174
6,750

According to the total mileage, I made it to the west coast and had a great time. Well, I didn't make it to the Pacific Ocean but I did have a great time! The days and mileage reflect the fact that I lost focus when I took the bike swimming. I'll know better next time. As my friend Nate says, "Good judgement comes from experience. And experience comes from bad judgement."

The expenses are skewed by prepping two bikes instead of one. The cash, food, and lodging are all in line with my expectations for the entire trip. All the side trips and change of plans just put them in different places

Maintenance is inflated by the oil and filters to flush the water out of the engine. However, I had planned to get new tires midway into the trip so the total is not too far off. Knobbies just don't last the way street tires do.

Support is for the things I got for the trip but were reusable for other things. Items such as the Coyote bags and the SPOT tracker. I got a new tent for the trip but was reusing my camp stove and cook set from previous trips, an inventory for travel builds up over the years. It also includes the airfare that Southwest was gracious enough to credit to any future flight in the next 12 months.

The best money I spent in this category was for a pair of Alpinestars Toucan Gore-Tex boots. Definitely pricey but worth every penny in comfort and protection. In the hour and a half I was working on the bike in the middle of the stream my feet never got wet.

Take out the support and the bike prep and I could do it for ~$2,500. Now that the bike is ready I'll just have to give it another try.

Stay tuned for pictures in another day or two.



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Tuesday, July 23, 2013

The last two days

Another picture of a train and the Transalp
I admit that I've been tardy in updating my trip info. The last two days after my previous post went quickly and when I arrived home on Friday, the 12th, there were many, many things to catch up on. Not the least of which was entering 287 credit card charges into Quicken.

Kinzua Bridge

The morning after the deluge was bright and warm. I got back onto the Ohio Turnpike to skirt Cleveland and then jumped on US 6 to cross Pennsylvania. If you've never taken this route you are missing one of America's best rides. Two lanes across the northern areas of the state takes you through some pretty areas of the Allegheny Plateau. It's a relaxed ride with plenty of curves and scenery to keep it interesting.

One of the best parts of traveling by motorcycle is that people just walk up to you and start talking. In a car you're anonymous but on a bike, dressed in your battle gear, you stand out as a traveler. Some people just want to tell you about when they had a motorcycle and used to ride but a lot of them want to hear your story and tell you about local points of interest you might enjoy. Such was the case in Smethport PA.

I had been thinking of stopping at the Grand Canyon of Pennsylvania but a local person suggested that I might enjoy visiting the Kinzua Bridge nearby. It meant a few miles of backtracking but he seemed enthusiastic so I jumped on the bike and turned it west. A good thing I did, it was a fascinating story. It was originally built of iron and then rebuilt in steel by taking down one pier at a time and replacing it from above with a new, pre-assembled pier. It's partially collapsed now but you can walk to the end of the remaining structure and look down through a glass floor at the gorge below. The fallen piers remain where they fell, all twisted and rusty.

From there it was back on the road to my friend Jay's home. He lives in a "modest" log cabin that he built himself. He single handedly fell and stripped the trees, cut them and moved them into place, and chalked the spaces to make a very nice abode that is the envy of everyone who visits.

Jay and his farm engine
In the morning Jay and I went to an antique tractor and farm equipment rally. Lots of tractors and gear that I would have missed had a local person not pointed the way. Jay was displaying his farm engine that he started up for me. As it is with most farm implements of the time, it is simplicity itself. The valve clearance is set to "approximately ¼ inch".

Leaving Jay I took US 6 to Scranton and then got on I-84 for an express trip east. There is nothing I haven't seen dozens of times before and I was ready to be home. A warm shower and sleeping in my own bed was looking good after 3 weeks on the road!

Tomorrow I'll post some videos and begin a wrap-up of the trip.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Unsafe at any speed

Today started off great. Sunshine and mild temperatures as I cruised to the east on US 20. At Cleveland I switched over to Interstate 80.
WHAM! What had been a couple of sprinkles here and there suddenly turned into a downpour. Gusty side winds were blowing me from lane to lane even though I was down to 40 miles an hour.
All I wanted to do was get to the next exit and get some place dry before I had an accident. Water was building up on the road and I didn't want to do any horizontal surfing.
I finally got to the exit and got major attitude from the toll taker when I handed her my soggy ticket. A mile away I found a motel and walked into the office dripping wet. All I wanted was a hot shower and dry bed.
On the TV the news program they said there was major flooding, hurricane warnings, and winds gusting to 60 miles per hour.
When I was riding to the motel the water was a foot deep across the road in places. Didn't I have this kind of problem the last time I try to go across country?
Well tomorrow looks better so I should get home soon. Tonight I'm eating Pop Tarts and Pepsi out of the vending machine. It's just another (water logged) adventure!

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Planes Instead Of Pains

Took a day off today to get some feeling back in my backside and some circulation in my legs.
The USAF National Museum has virtually every plane used by the Air Force and the Army Air Corps since the Wright brothers original model.
To see them up close makes you realize how dangerous flying in World War II was. Frankly, they were crude and tiny compared to the modern jets we know now.
I think the most amazing thing was to see how small the Apollo capsule was. This thing was smaller than a Fiat 500 and they went to the moon and back in it! Of course I would have given anything to have been one of them.

Heading East

Yesterday was just a delightful day of riding on the road. There were wide easy curves through the rolling hills of southern Illinois and Indiana. The sun was bright and the temperatures were moderate, what more could you ask for?
How about the world's best BLT? I stopped at this little general store in the middle of nowhere just at random. BLTs are deceptive in their simplicity. This one had home grown tomatoes, homegrown lettuce, and locally grown bacon. Lots of bacon! It was so good that afterwards I went over and shook hands with the cook.
Then there was the Wabash-Cannonball toll bridge. I almost missed this gem but I turned around and went back to give it a look. At first I missed the second sign and came to the river where the road just ran into the water. I stopped at the post office and asked the lady if it was a local joke just to catch tourists. She thought that was pretty funny but pointed out where I missed the turn. The bridge is a series of old railroad trestles. The rails have been removed and you ride along the old wooden planks. 18 inches wide or you drop down on the tie beams. Needless to say I was very focused and not gazing at the scenery as I traversed the river. Taking the bike swimming once on this trip was quite enough. I'll post the video of this when I get home.
From there I crossed over to US 40. Surprisingly, parts of the original National Highway are still preserved. I got to ride on the original cross-country highway from the 1920's.
Today I'm going to take a break from riding and visit the USAF Museum. It's huge and walking around will give my b*** a rest from sitting.

Monday, July 8, 2013

MRT for TAT

The disappointment of leaving the TAT has been balanced against finding the MRT( Mississippi River Trail). This is a bicycle path from the very headwaters of the river to the Mississippi Delta. The trail winds through the back roads of each state providing an up-close-and-personal look at life along the river.
I got to ride along the top of a levy, see the broad plains of farming that make New England look tiny, and even got to ride a barge across the Mississippi River.
Where the TAT avoids all contact with humanity except for the rare gas stop, the MRT goes through every little town, village, and hamlet it can find. I met and talked to more new people yesterday than all of the rest of the trip.
One of the disappointments of motorcycle travel is that it can be either a motorcycle trip or a photo trip but can never seem to be both. There's just too much gear between me and the camera for spontaneous photo taking. I keep one camera in an outside pocket but I keep the phone very deep in my jacket. I'll try harder to take pictures I can post a long the way today.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Plan X

I went to Memphis and got new sneakers for the bike. Unfortunately, they are more suited to street and trail. I tried about 15 miles of the TAT today and on the gravel roads the bike handled like a drunken donkey on roller skates.
It was too much work and there was too much chance of an accident to continue. So Plan X is an eXit from the TAT and the beginning of the ride for home.
However, the trip has not been a failure. I've learned much about planning, about dealing with problems as they arise,  and how to stay focused when things go wrong.
Best of all, I've had a really good time. I've gotten to see some friends I haven't seen for a while and I've toured a part of the country that I've never been in before.
Tomorrow I'll head north along the Mississippi River and hopefully won't catch up with all the rain I see in New England. The TAT will be waiting for me when I return.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Losing My Grip

These tires are just about gone. However with amazingly bad planning, getting new tires on the 4th of July weekend is impossible.
Getting out on the highway doesn't seems like my brightest idea either. So I'm going back to the TAT And I'm going to ride across Arkansas for a couple days. I'll look for a bike shop on Monday and overnight some tires to them. Nobody is going to have the sizes I need in stock.
Not a critical problem with just a fun way to deal with the delay. After all, what could go wrong? It's not like this is Tanzania. Its just Arkansas.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Mississippi Blues

Only 180 miles yesterday. Mississippi has proven to be a most irritating state. Many of the back roads are graded clay with a layer of crushed rock on top. It's like you're riding down a river bed mile after mile. Hemmed in by trees with nothing to see it's exhausting.
There have been some pretty parts but they've been few and far between. Also the trail is heading more south than west. I'm tempted to skip ahead to the Mississippi River but now I'm determined to finish it. It's about 120 miles to go. That should take most of the day if the roads are the same as yesterday.
Camped out again last night. Boy could I use a shower. However I'm getting better at packing and packing and even cooked dinner last night.
The tires are looking pretty shot and I'm going to have to replace them soon. I can't complain, 2600 miles of mostly asphalt and a little bit of dirt is a lot to ask out of some nobbies. The trouble is nobody's going to stock the sizes I need. I have all day to think of a solution for that problem.
Westward Ho!

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Overnight

I was misinformed about the reservations I had made on the Internet. I ended up sleeping next to some farmers cornfield. Who needs fireworks when you have a hundred fireflies?

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

TAT Day 2

Bright and sunny and warm today. Just the opposite of yesterday. Pulled over to change maps in the route sheet holder. Finally got a train and bike picture. Things are looking up.

TAT 2.1

Started early and got across the creek safely. Didn't get wet there but got wet everywhere else. Sometimes it rained and sometimes it rain harder.
No pictures for the day because the phone stayed safe in the dry bag. This morning looks bright and sunny. The forecast is for rain to chase me all day as I head West.
The day started off with a lot of dirt roads but then turned to all asphalt. Kind of like a giant Tiddler Ride. It would have been really beautiful if it wasn't for the rain.
Today I should get the rest of the way across Tennessee. Hopefully it'll get back to dirt soon. Maybe even another creek or two. ;)