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Offline JMo

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Re: Trans-Am 500 - the seven year itch
« Reply #40 on: September 03, 2015, 08:06:43 PM »
Day 41: Moab UT - rest day.

Having enjoyed effectively my first full day off since the beginning of this trip (even then I spent the morning getting a new front tyre fitted, and having a great chat with Fred at Arrowhead Motorsports) I spent the afternoon hermit like in my air-conditioned hotel room catching up on admin and the last few days' reports, and fundamentally it was nice not to have to repack my luggage, load up, and move on for more than 24 hours...

I'd also used this time to sketch out the last week or so of my trip (and I say 'sketch' rather than plan, as you know how these things can go!), and it made the most sense to only ride as far as Green River (approximately 70 miles north of Moab) tomorrow, as that would set me up nicely for the following day, where I hoped to cross the vast majority of the new TAT route through the middle of Utah, and end somewhere where I could find some accommodation - as even at elevation, it was going to be HOT out there...

Day 42: TAT day 15: Moab UT to Green River UT - via Kane Creek Canyon.

Mileage today: 124 (TAT 72)

This might have been technically the shortest distance on the TAT so far, but my choice to ride one of my favourite trails around Moab - Kane Creek Canyon - made this undoubtably the toughest day so far...

Of course there are any number of trails close to Moab that I could have ridden en route - and indeed the TAT itself includes Gemini Bridges - an 'easy' trail according to the guides (again a little like Sand Flats Road, it is a lovely scenic access to the trailheads of some far more technical OHV routes), before heading up to Green River on a series of fast flowing dirt roads, which would be welcome in the afternoon heat.

So rather than load up my luggage straight away, I elected to ride solo a short way down hwy 191 to the southern end of Kane Creek:

photo. Hole n' the Rock is a quirky tourist attraction with a cave house and petting zoo... but for me it marks the turn off to one of the best trails in the area!

I specifically mention starting at the southern end and working your way back towards Moab, as in recent years this trail has deteriorated significantly, and there are now some serious rock steps to negotiate - at least in this direction you are going down most of them...

The trail starts off innocently enough, with a lovely ride criss-crossing the creek:

As you decent deeper into the canyon itself though, it starts to become a little more technical, with rock steps and drop offs, before what I'd say is the first major hazard (really, the photos don't do it justice):

Half way down:

At the bottom:

Worth noting is that prior to this section there is another large rock step that over the years has become essentially vertical as the sand and stones below have been dug away (this is a very popular trail during the Easter Jeep Safari, where it is run one-way in the other direction ie. uphill), which means once you're commited, there really isn't any going back if you're on a big bike* like this... memories of the Rubicon came flooding back, although at least I sort of knew what to expect here, as I have ridden this trail a number of times (in both directions) in the past.

*Yes, the observant among you will notice that the 'little Honda' has suddenly become the 'big bike' again in this environment!

There follows a shortish section of shelf road - itself a very dramatic if not too technical ride, before the worst section of the trail:

photo. The bike might look tiny here, but it feels huge when you have to manhandle it down something like this!

Both here and the previous creek crossing steps section is manageable with a careful selection of line, and in this instance, essentially walking the bike down over the larger rocks to try and avoid dropping it. Believe me, it was over 100 degrees F here, and even walking down the rocks to reccy a line and back up again sapped all your strength.

I had already stopped any number of times already to rest, drink plenty of water, and chow on an energy bar. I freely admit that despite these efforts to manage my energy, I was beginning to feel light-headed in the heat; and with little opportunity for shade I really had to dig deep and try my best to stay focussed - there was still a long way to go.

After the rocky descent, there is at least a little respite with a winding trail offering a little tree shade, that criss-crosses the creek again, dozens of times - I love this section!

I eventually emerged from the creek itself onto slightly higher ground, although the heat is still so oppressive with the air hemmed in by the huge valley walls:

Believing I was now home and dry (well the reality is drenched in sweat, but you appreciate the metaphor), I pressed on at a good rate, dispatching the odd rock step and drop-off with renewed enthusiasm...

Unfortunately, I had forgotten about one short (uphill in this direction) section of slab rock, that has a series of stepped ribs running diagonally across the trail. In a 4x4 it presents little challenge if I'm honest, but on a bike, each step is essentially the length of your wheelbase, and there is very little chance of maintaining momentum and traction to see you up them in one hit, especially on a bike like this. The fundamental problem is that if you get it wrong at all, your rear wheel slews along the diagonal step and you end up either at completely the wrong angle (with no room to manoeuvre the bike, unless it is light enough to drag around), or worse, dumping it on the ground.

Trying to pick an alternative route to the one I have ridden on my usual Moab steed (a Yamaha XT225 Serow - don't laugh, they are perfect for the trails around here!), I made a real mess of things, and having dragged the bike backwards back down the steps, had to sit for a good while in the shade of a rock - and promptly sat on a cactus! It was a good job that Piglet was safely ensconced in the backpack as there was a LOT of swearing (not that he hasn't heard all those words, and the various combinations thereof before of course ;o) - partially due to the pain, and partially due to frustration. It had indeed been rather ambitious to ride this particular trail on a 400+lb bike in the searing heat of the midday summer sun.

Of course I'm sitting here writing this report, so you know I eventually made it out - and miraculously without dropping the bike either - although it was as much by luck and brut-force as anything else. I honestly can't imagine any other 'Adventure' twin being quite as capable or manageable in those circumstances - even the KTM 950/990 would be a massive handful in those conditions, and you'd have to be an exceptional rider to navigate that big tall bike over some of those steps without dropping it at least once. I imagine a 1200GS could quite possibly kill you.

I wouldn't say that this trail tested the absolute limits of the bike itself by any means, rather the conditions tested my own personal ability and stamina to the absolute maximum. I would usually be ashamed to admit a visit to McDonalds... But I absolutely murdered one of their fruit smoothies when I finally rolled back into town along the Colorado River road:

photo. The little arch high up in the cliff that overlooks the Colorado River is accessible from the top via the legendary Poison Spider trial - one for another day perhaps...

So, having collected my luggage (eternally greatful that I hadn't attempted riding Kane Creek fully loaded!) and picked up another 'trophy' sticker for the windscreen - boy did I earn that red one today! - it was time to get back on the TAT...

photo. A steep shelf road climbs up from the main highway at the start of Gemini Bridges trail...

photo. ...and offers a spectacular view over the highway and back towards Arches National Park and the La Sal mountains... So long Moab, until the next time ;o)

photo. 'Goony Bird Rock' is a local landmark on this trail... The surface itself a mix of rocky hard-pack and soft sand.

Once north of hwy 313 (that leads into Canyonlands NP), the TAT route follows Dubinky Well Road and a series of fast gravel hard-pack (in dry conditions at least) - a welcome relief from all the effort put in earlier today...

photo. The oversize windmill that used to run the pump at the Dubinky Well site.

photo. Heading north towards Green River just off I70.

Finally, a well earned burger at Ray's Tavern in Green River:

I was fortunate to find a lovely independent motel at a great price in Green River (the Sleepy Hollow Motel if you are ever in town), that is right next door to the Green River Coffee Co. which again I can personally heartily recommend, although if you read the reviews on Yelp you'd probably never go there - lets just say the service is a little more surly than the typical sycophantic sucky-up that Americans are used to in Starbucks ;o)

But hey, that was breakfast tomorrow, right now, I really needed to sleep!

More soon,

Jenny xx

Offline JMo

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Re: Trans-Am 500 - the seven year itch
« Reply #41 on: September 03, 2015, 08:08:14 PM »
Day 43: TAT day 16: Green River UT to Delta UT.

 Mileage today: 320

Other than a minor route change in Colorado, today would be the first of the 'New TAT' sections west of the Rockies.

In the past the TAT through Utah has essentially followed the main east-west interstate I70 from Green River all the way until the intersection with the main north-south thoroughfare I15, west of Richfield.

I have ridden some of this section west (before heading down hwy 72 to Bryce Canyon on my previous trip), and it was one of those sections where you do start to wonder if it might not be better just to have stuck to the highway (typically just a few miles to the north or south) to avoid slogging through the sand and dirt... particularly in the heat of high summer.

photo. Starting out bright and early from Ray's Tavern... Yes I know my camera is doing its funny thing with the edge of the photo again...

Sam has certainly taken a number of key steps to address this criticism here - although initially you may wonder why the route now heads significantly south (towards Horseshoe Canyon to the west of Canyonlands NP), before looping back to cross I70 at a point only 26 miles further west than you started this morning!

photo. No kidding! Fortunately it has been bone dry for a good few days in this part of the country...

photo. A mirror-like water hole, and sedimentary rocks that are typical in this part of Utah.

It is a nice fast desert piste loop, and if you want to know what it feels like to be a desert racer, a fun way to wake yourself up in the morning...

However, at the same time, while I have tried throughout this trip to avoid being critical of any particular element (hell, I'm just happy to be out here riding!), I must admit this felt like a lot of miles - 110 no less! - for no real reward (usually Sam throws in a gem of a view or an interesting landmark), yet the only really interesting section* (that I strongly recommend btw.) is the latter part that passes by Temple Mountain - both an interesting ride and historical site - where the vast majority of uranium in the US was mined for initially Marie Curie's cancer treatment experiments, and latterly bombs and submarines. Take from that what you will with regard to human nature.

*Personally, were I not intending to follow the TAT in its entirety, in future I would simply head west out of Green River and take hwy 24 to the Goblin Valley State Park turn off, which is Temple Mountain Road. That said, in the interests of fairness, I can see why Sam has included that initial southern loop, as it makes it less of an obvious detour (and highway shelp) to incorporate the Temple Mountain section.

photo. The road past Temple Mountain - 'Temple Mountain Road' no less - is a lovely ride and I'd suggest includes more than enough fast desert piste to satisfy your needs right now... There will be plenty more of that in the next few days for sure...

That's swell!

Fortunately your reward for the first couple of hours of desert pounding is the utterly spectacular ride through the San Rafael Swell, as you feel dwarfed by the huge monoliths on either side, pass by the original bridge over the San Rafael river (the only remaining suspension bridge in Utah btw.) and a wall of petroglyphs at Buckhorn Draw... all wonderful stuff!

photo. The bridge is technically closed to all but foot traffic now... I guess you could pose your bike on it if you wanted... but I respected the signs.

photo. Piglet was relieved when I explained that 'rock art' didn't mean that Axel Rose had attempted impressionism with his own feces...

The new TAT route now heads west at much higher elevation, through the main Manti-La Sal National Forest... (there are additional pockets of that same National Forest south of Moab and around Monticello too of course) affording a cooling breeze as long as you keep moving, which I did.

photo. I love this sign - it's as if they just couldn't be bothered to even drive up there and measure it!

There is another questionable detour (hark at me, all critical today!) up Cottonwood Canyon and back down Miller Flats Road. It is very scenic, and with plenty of camping opportunities and what looks like a host of OHV side trails too - so worth considering if timing coincides with you needing to camp, or if you have a few days to explore off the main TAT route for example - but if you are on a mission to cover some ground today (as I was), then the best is still to come...

West of Joe's Valley reservoir is an excellent climb up to the summit (10,200 ft, and still the odd pocket of snow), with the trail (Orangeville Rd) lined with trees. I noticed a couple had been carved with names and dates, and subsequently realised that the whole avenue of silver birches had been similarly adorned... Personally I thought this was very poetic, and wondered if the elders had also been quick to judge those Petroglyph painters many hundreds of years ago ;o)

Just when I thought the day couldn't get any better, the sector west of Ephraim was undoubtedly the highlight of the whole route today. A narrow winding trail that worked its way up through a canyon, before offering a roller coaster of a ride and a real sense of crossing the country on a road less travelled.

photo. The trail west of Ephraim exits through a dry wash - Mellor Canyon Road - lovely!

photo. What the hell?! - a gate! My first in nearly 9,700 miles (well, not counting the road closure in Arkansas, ahem...)

photo. It had been a long and dusty day... But with a real sense of travelling across the country.

Having passed under I15 (that heads south for Las Vegas and ultimately LA), I got the distinct feeling that I was now getting closer to home, and ultimately bedded down in Delta to prepare for some more big miles in the desert the following day.


Offline JMo

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Re: Trans-Am 500 - the seven year itch
« Reply #42 on: September 03, 2015, 08:09:25 PM »
Day 44: TAT day 17: Delta UT to Wendover UT.

Mileage today: 270

Today would be all about the desert - but unlike yesterday's early morning sojourn south, the run from Delta to the Nevada boarder gave you the overwhelming sense you were making good progress west now.

It really did fell like a proper rally stage today. Right out of town the trail started with a broken two-track, punctuated with a number of dry mud holes that could catch you out (and potentially spit you off if travelling at speed and not paying attention). The trail had no choice but to detour to avoid a significant aquaduct (reminiscent of riding in Morocco here btw.), before picking up a fast smooth gravel track right through the mountains... and ultimately exiting Dome Canyon across a huge dry salt lake bed - utterly mesmerising!

photo. Right out of the gate the first sector west of Delta was fun fun fun - although it was a good job I noticed this barbed-wire gate in time!

photo. The view back east from Dome Canyon Pass - part of the historic Central Overland Trail pioneered by Capt. James H. Simpson in 1859.

photo. Winding down Dome Canyon - this is a lovely sweeping ride at up to 6600ft elevation, I can see why Sam chose this pass rather than the more southern or northern routes...

photo. ...not least for this 'big reveal' as you exit the canyon and blast across a huge salt flat!

Taco time...

Two and half hours later, and I rolled across the UT/NV boarder at that stalwart of the western TAT, the Boarder Inn - one of the very few opportunities to refuel both your bike and yourself out here (next services 83 miles says the sign, and that was back from where I'd come from) and marked the occasion with a suitable surreptitious placing of a TA500 sticker ;o)

photo. Don't be silly, this would have been far too obvious for a TA500 sticker... it's meant to be a treasure-hunt you know!

photo. The Boarder Inn just over the, well, boarder with Nevada - offers food, fuel and accommodation. Oh, and slot machines of course!

This is essentially where the new route converges with the original TAT (that took a more southerly route through the desert), but rather than head into Nevada and diagonally* northwards towards Oregon, the new route now heads directly north along the boarder (on the Utah side in the main), for another 150+ miles of high speed desert piste.

*Now of course the geometry-ists amongst you may be wondering why the TAT now essentially takes in two sides of a triangle to reach the same destination? - Well to mess with your minds even more, it now effectively double backs on itself and heads east again before going up into Idaho too - but that is a story for another day, like tomorrow to be precise... ;o)

Anyway, I make a particular point of the mileage here, as it really is essential to fuel up at the Boarder Inn, since the following sector really is very remote, with a real sense of solitude and wilderness, and the next fuel is not until you reach Wendover up on I80.

I have to say, the Honda really did eat up the miles here. Without wanting to sound like a broken record, it's conditions like these that really illustrate just how good (and worthwhile) the TracTive suspension upgrades are. The bike would track with complete stability at 60, even 70 mph on the faster wider gravel/dirt roads, and never once felt like things would get out of control.

Now I realise that you can ride pretty much any bike at around 50mph (the typical sweet-spot for washboard btw.) on a graded dirt road, particularly on the right tyres... However, what is fundamental about the rally-bike derived suspension and heavy-duty spoked wheels (and the 19" front wheel) that is part of the Rally-Raid Adventure kit, is just how much margin for error and the unexpected it now gives you...

Of course 'only' seven inches of travel means you can't ride this bike with utter impunity, but fundamentally the increase in travel over stock coupled with high-quality well-controlled damping means that hitting a rock ripple, wash-out or pothole doesn't cause nearly as much concern as it might otherwise, and it really does soak up such hazards in a very impressive manner. I would even go as far to draw the analogy of riding a big-bore rally bike at close to maximum speed... Of course you won't be going as fast on the CB-X, but it's weight and composure really does give you a taste of what it feels like to pilot a big race bike through the desert, just at a slightly more modest speed.

But back to the trail right?

Having wound though the boarder mountains on the old Pony Express route (interesting fact: although the Pony Express is synonymous with the Wild West, in actual fact it only ran for little more than a year until the trans-continental telegraph network was completed in 1861), Sam then utterly nails the new route with an excellent detour from an otherwise highway section, with a lovely little-used two-track trail into the wilderness - very reminiscent of trail riding in Wales for example.

Then just when you think it can't get any better, the route turns 90 degrees right onto an even more minor trail that deteriorates further... fact it doesn't look like anyone has been down here in a LONG time, with one or other of the two-track ruts completely washed away in places, creating bike swallowing gullies if you are not careful to plan ahead and swap from side to side in good time!

photo. Honestly, this is the other rut!

There was a feeling of really pioneering a new route here, but then of course remembered I was technically the only (other) person with these latest TAT tracks - although I did begin to wonder if Sam had sent me down here as a guinea-pig perhaps!

photo. After a short stretch of tarmac, it was back onto the dirt again on another faded trail... This track junction shows the importance of GPS when navigating in more open terrain, as you would have to be bang-on your odometer to ensure you didn't miss this left turn?

Emerging onto hwy 93 (technically now in Nevada of course), I passed a tree full of of shoes, caps and other personal items (including rather bizarrely, a false leg, complete with sock and shoe!), and recalled a similar, albeit much larger, tree on hwy 50 east of Fallon - it must be a Nevada thing ;o)

photo. Junk as art...

photo. It can be surprising what you find if you poke around!

photo. OK, so some stickers will be easier to find than others ;o)

Hwy 93 leads straight into Wendover - useful if you're pushed for time and need fuel/a bed for the night, and affords a lovely view across the salt plains that host the Bonneville Salt Flats Speedway strip.

However, if you have time (which I did, and would have made time anyway) there are a couple of detours into the dirt to the west of the highway that form part of the new TAT route too. Having ridden the first (all too short) section and embarked on the second sector, I opened the TOPO maps in my GPS, and sure enough saw there was what appeared to be a connecting through route that offered a far more interesting alternative than having to dip back onto the highway...

With plenty of daylight left, I then rode this interconnecting series of trails (ultimately in both directions to prove the route) to fill in the gap so to speak; and was rewarded with an excellent series of wide dry river valley crossings and undulating two-track, rocky climbs and descents, and fast sandy gravel... and almost all the while with a distant view of the shimmering salt plains in the distance.

photo. The 'missing' section I was able to successfully prove actually goes around the west side of Wildcat Peak...

photo. ...and crosses through three dry river canyons!

Honestly, this seventeen mile sector had a bit of everything that makes desert riding such a joy, and if it is Sam's ultimate intention to effectively bypass Nevada in subsequent editions of the TAT, then I would suggest retaining this little corner as a sweet swan-song - what a way to end the day!

photo. Emerging back onto the highway for the final few miles into Wendover, I would like to take this opportunity to mention a few personal supporters: ADVaddicts for their fine retro T-shirts, ICON for their Raiden riding gear, and Double-Take Mirrors for allowing me to debut their brand new design of dual-sport/adventure bike mirrors... I can confirm they suffer a lot less vibration than the original round design, and also stay put when riding washboard trails at speed - you also get a much wider field of vision too!

More soon!

Jenny x

Offline JMo

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Re: Trans-Am 500 - the seven year itch
« Reply #43 on: September 03, 2015, 08:11:27 PM »
Day 45: TAT day 18: Wendover UT to Tremonton UT.

Mileage today: 200* (TAT 176)

*explanation below...

So now where were we? - oh yes, Wendover - a typical splash-n-dash fuel stop (and not much more) off Interstate 80, on the boarder of Nevada and Utah; which these days is a motley collection of motels and casinos, and historically - as anyone who has seen the World's Fastest Indian will recall - is the closest town to the Bonneville Salt Flats Speedway:

As part of the ongoing revisions to the original TAT route, it would appear that Sam has tried to incorporate (where possible at least) a number interesting 'side shows' en route - or at least only a mile or two off the route (such as the Jack Daniel's Distillery in Tennessee) - and this new section through northern Utah particularly, includes a couple of worthwhile distractions to help punctuate the primary journey west.

Bonneville Speedway

Certainly for anyone embarking on the TAT over the summer (when Colorado ought to be free of snow), then passing through here in early September ought to coordinate nicely with Speed Week on the salt - although conversely you'll probably find every hotel room is fully booked of course!

The TAT itself heads north past the end of the Bonneville Speedway access road, a 3-mile dead end highway into the middle of flats, that is used for access to the paddock when the racing is on.

photo. Unfortunately the salt was still far too wet to ride on, but beautiful to look at nonetheless...

photo. ...and with some visitors using it as a beach instead!

photo. This guy didn't need my help with a photo, so I took the opportunity to mark the occasion with a sticker or two instead ;o)

Inspired by the location, I did my best to max-out the CB-X on my way back down the paved road, and was therefore slightly disappointed when I barely broke 90mph (according to the GPS) -  but then I was running TKCs at 25psi, into a strong headwind...

Back on the TAT and it was like being back in the future - or rather the past - yesterday in fact, as once again this sector is especially remote, curving north and east for nearly 100 miles around the top of the Great Salt Lake - with a real sense of being alone.

Fortunately the majority of the trail here is fast desert piste track, with the occasional 'hazard' such as a wash-out or rocky dry river crossing to help concentrate the mind - and in between offering plenty of time to contemplate how with perhaps a few choice 'R' mods, then the CB-X could actually become a half-way reasonable rally bike after all - in the right event at least?

I stopped for a picnic lunch at the junction of Emigrant Pass and Rocky Pass, just north of crossing hwy 30, and looking at the GPS, wondered why Sam hadn't routed along Rocky Pass instead? - although the clue is probably in the name if I'm honest.

photo. the trail over the pass was a winding 'grade road' - that is what I call a trail cut into the desert with a grader - the surface a combination of sand and gravel interspersed with a few larger stones, rather than a traditional hardpack or rolled surface - and where a little speed is actually preferable to stop the front end digging in and having to fight it the whole time.

photo. for a moment I thought we'd arrived at Stonehenge!

The trail then starts to follow the old railway grade towards Promontory Summit, which is ultimately where the Union Pacific and Central Pacific Railroads met in 1869, completing the first trans-continental railroad in the United States.

photo. en route to Golden Spike I thought this rock looked like a huge dragon, trying to eat the CB-X!

Golden Spike

Here is a handy hint for any new TAT travellers: when you rejoin the pavement, you need to turn immediately right if you want to visit the Golden Spike site - otherwise you might confuse the visitor centre (about a mile off the TAT route itself) for a small farm in your peripheral vision, and ride on for another 11 miles before you reach the end of that sector, that coincides with a road sign at a junction that says Golden Spike 11 miles, back the way you'd just come... "Yes Piglet, I was expecting to see some trains soon too... oh."

Arriving back at the visitor centre (it's a National Park btw. so you'll need a pass, or pay a $7 entry fee - that I have to say is TOTALLY worth it, especially if you are a steam-train nerd like me, erm, I mean Piglet ;o), and as luck would have it, the 20 minute movie was just about to start (it runs every half hour), and even better, my late afternoon arrival coincided with the two engines being steamed-up and driven back down the line to their overnight storage shed. Sheldon Cooper would just sh#t!

The two engines on display are not just replicas of the originals - but fully working replicas (built in 1979) that were painstakingly constructed within a quarter of an inch of the original dimensions. They are simply stunning!

photo. Inside no.119

photo. Inside Jupiter

photo. A [replica of the original] special tie was incorporated and the final sections of rail from either side joined at a special ceremony in 1869, using a primary spike forged from solid gold!

photo. Piglet even got to sit on each engine, but he didn't get to ride... denied!

Best of all, each afternoon (at 4pm), the engines are fired up and returned to their storage house a few hundred yards down the short section of railroad that has been relaid (after the original track was dismantled during WWII, in turn having already been bypassed by a new route that crosses a causeway along the top of Great Salt Lake a few miles to the south of here).

Did I tell you I love trains?!

A visit to Golden Spike to see the engines run really does time perfectly if you've overnighted in Wendover (as I had), and in turn, Sam has rather thoughtfully routed the TAT close to Tremonton UT, that offers a number of affordable motel options, and some halfway decent eateries too - result!

Jenny x

Offline JMo

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Re: Trans-Am 500 - the seven year itch
« Reply #44 on: September 03, 2015, 08:12:46 PM »
Day 46: TAT day 19: Tremonton UT to Ketchum ID.

Mileage today: 344 (TAT 326)

I really enjoyed my stay in Tremonton - I can recommend the Sandman Hotel on main street, and was in awe of the size of the dessert portions in The Grille restaurant just up the road - truly an epic cheesecake to round off a perfectly enjoyable day all round!

And you certainly know you're getting into farming country here - as I rolled out of town the following morning through what was effectively an auto mall of tractor and combine-harvester dealers!

A few miles into the TAT and as the route passes under the Interstate 84, I saw a lone Toyota FJ with what was clearly a flat tyre...

Stopping to see if I could be of any assistance (and going by the current head-scratching going on, felt I could quite possibly be...)  it turned out that their tool kit was missing one vital section of the jack handle, and they couldn't raise the vehicle to remove the wheel.

Rummaging through my tool kit, I was able to fashion a makeshift alternative using a Motion Pro lever-wrench, and a 17mm socket, and between us we soon had that tyre changed over in a flash ;o)

Crossing into Idaho was a particularly low-key affair...

Although the welcome party had at least made some sort of an effort:

And certainly the first (of three) sectors that Sam had already proven in this brand new addition to the TAT was little more than a series of farm access roads, reminiscent of Oklahoma in that regard - pleasant enough (in fine weather at least), and a breeze on the smooth and comfortable CB-X.

But at the same time, you couldn't help but think that it was simply a means to an end (to get further north, to the fun stuff) and that ultimately, and especially on a bike like this which is so good on the highway too, that it might have been preferable just to blast up the central valley highway and give yourself a little more time in the mountains perhaps?

But at the same time, I was aware that I had been effectively entrusted to prove this new section of the route from an independent perspective, and therefore felt it my duty to ride the route in it's entirety wherever possible -  which is something I had endeavoured to do throughout the trip already, and indeed would continue to do so if only for my own personal sense of satisfaction.

photo. this was an interesting, if not wholly necessary deviation from the main road that ran up the centre of the Arbon Valley.

photo. No really, that is the trail!

photo. Ripley Road was an entertaining sprint along a roller-coaster of fast gravel - a surface that is not alien to me of course...

photo. These things are just weird!

photo. I feared delirium was setting in when the rocks started to look like faces! - it was time for some lunch!

Things started to get a lot more interesting after refuelling (myself and the bike) in American Falls.

photo. roadworks meant I passed next to (rather than over) the dam at Snake River, still a rather more successful navigation than Evel Knievel in that regard...

The agricultural access roads gave way to a proper single lane 'Jeep trail' as I entered the Craters of the Moon National Monument (and Preserve) - featuring the sort of surface that would turn to gumbo at the slightest sniff of wet weather, as the countless 4x4 ruts would attest.

I'd enjoyed the odd cooling shower from the irrigation sprayers that overshot onto the road while passing through the agricultural region earlier in the day, but now I was out in the desert proper again, and the heat was intense. I turned onto the wonderfully named "Bear Trap Emergency Road" and once again was able to maintain a good pace on the hard-packed dirt, grateful in that regard for the dry conditions at least.

photo. I liked this... and I cannot lie.

Arriving in Arco late afternoon, I was faced with a dilemma. I'd already completed two of the three sections in Idaho - not least as the conditions had been relatively flat and easy going all day. I was hot and thirsty, but at the same time, the later afternoon sun and promise of a long warm evening meant I was itching to continue up and into the mountains now - after all, this is really why Idaho has been included in the TAT, as the scenery is simply beautiful in this particular part of the country.

photo. Winding my way up to Antelope Pass...

photo. At the summit.

photo. Crossing the plateau on the far side.

photo. The final decent into Ketchum.

It has been a fantastic evening ride with some stunning panoramas, and indeed I'd actually been able to complete all three [confirmed] sections of the Idaho TAT in one hit, which in-turn meant I was now in the perfect position to embark on my exploratory run tomorrow... But here I was at 8.10pm (and the damn Starbucks had closed at 8pm) in the centre of what was clearly the most expensive town in the whole of Idaho! Ketchum is a very much a resort town - skiing in winter and spas in the summer, all clean and pristine; and I had no choice but to head a few miles further south to find some more affordable options for accommodation.

Unfortunately the next town south (Hailey) was hosting a huge cycling event that evening, so everywhere was full - and even the main street/main highway had been closed off for the 'celebrations'... fun for sure - and even moreso if you'd already got a reservation that evening, but I was getting increasingly concerned where I might be able to stay tonight.

I eventually found a campground even further south (in Bellevue - and I mention it specifically as it really is the only affordable option I could find that was still within reasonable distance of Ketchum), and bedded down for what I admit was only the second time in my tent so far this trip.

photo. Cute office and quirky owners of the Riverview RV Campground. It's basic, but has showers and a laundry, and perhaps most importantly an excellent local breakfast spot "Brandie's" just around the corner - apple and cinnamon stuffed French toast? - oh go on then...

It had been a long, but thoroughly enjoyable day - well over 300 miles, and the vast majority on unsurfaced roads and trails. As I snuggled down in my simple camp, I was actually pleased that for once I didn't have access to the internet, and that instead I could concentrate completely on plotting my proposed 'proving' route for the following day, and endeavour to get an early night for once too.

More soon...

Jenny x
« Last Edit: September 03, 2015, 09:12:03 PM by JMo »

Offline JMo

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Re: Trans-Am 500 - the seven year itch
« Reply #45 on: September 03, 2015, 08:14:00 PM »
Day 47: TAT day 20: Ketchum ID to Jordan Valley OR - proving new route.

Mileage today: 268 miles

There are very few times I have felt sick to my stomach.

Even lying on my back in the Atacama desert with a shattered tib & fib, waiting for the helicopter while counting out just how many hundreds of euros it had cost me per mile to race the first five days of Dakar 2011 (I put a conservative estimate on about €100 per kilometer if anyone is interested) did I ever feel as distraught as I did at that moment sitting in Brandie's restaurant, waiting for my breakfast, and fearing I had just hard-reset my Garmin Montana and wiped not only the past six week’s worth of track logs, but all the waypoints, and fundamentally, the remaining Nevada and Oregon TAT route that would be required to finish the ride.

Thinking it would be a good idea to clean the screen with a damp napkin, I must have pressed some corner of the screen at the same time as turning it on, and while I was sure I'’d pressed ‘cancel’ when prompted, the device rebooted back to factory settings with the message ‘'all user data cleared’'. Panic was not the word. To make matters worse, in my desperation I must have selected the wrong language too - as everything was now in Danish or something?! - fortunately the symbol style menu and my familiarity with the machine meant I was able to get it back to English at least, and ultimately found that while the basic settings had all reverted to standard, fortunately my waypoints and tracks were still in the memory after all - thank goodness!

I really don'’t even remember eating in-between spending the next 40 minutes reprogramming everything so that it was effectively back to the way things were the day before - and so sought solice in a Starbucks once I’'d arrived back in Ketchum, prior to embarking on my proving trip through the current ‘no-man's-land’ that Sam Correro had yet to incorporate into the new TAT route.

photo. Ketchum is so damn trendy, that even the Starbucks’ walls are made of perfectly stacked logs!

Rather than simply follow a pre-existing route in my GPS and make notes as and when something caught my eye, today I was mindful to make far more detailed observations and distance measurements (for example) that I could pass on to Sam to help him ultimately join up the new Idaho TAT sections with the remaining route.*

*Note. I had taken the decision to prove a route from Ketchum west and south west, to ultimately join up with the existing TAT route through Northern Nevada and into Oregon - particularly as those sections are both some of the most technically interesting and scenic, and of course well established and proven. However, I understand that longer-term, Sam intends to prove an alternative route directly west into Oregon and bypassing Nevada all together…. Personally, I feel it would be a shame to miss out on what is arguably some of the best sections of the current TAT - but then these trails are not going away anytime soon, and they remain as an option of course.

photo. This is an obviously refuel (even if it’s hard to see the pumps themselves ;o) as you turn off the main highway in Ketchum onto Warm Springs Road - before heading off into the mountains again.

The route west here follows a primary trail/forest road (NF227) that runs alongside a creek for many miles into the mountains, before reaching a small town (with food and camping, but no fuel that I could see): Featherville, around 84 miles later.

This was perhaps the nicest trail I'’d ridden in Idaho so far - a good hard-pack surface, winding it’s way alongside a picturesque creek, followed by a lovely switchback climb up and over a modest mountain pass - surrounded by a stunning backdrop of craggy peaks and lush forests. Coupled with the cooling breeze and scent of freshly cut pine trees, this ride was soul-soothing. There were also plenty of opportunities for camping all along the valley - perfect TAT material!

On reaching Featherville, I elected to try a route north and west out of town, via a high pass along the ridge of Trinity Mountain - as I felt this would be a particularly spectacular way to head ultimately south towards the town of Mountain Home (an obvious refuel, food and hotel stop should that be required).

Out of the corner of my eye I saw a sign saying the Lake road was closed due to snow, but figured it was either talking about a different section, or that the sign just hadn’'t been removed - there certainly didn'’t seem to be any snow on this balmy day at the end of June.

Approximately 40 minutes later I was faced with a locked gate. Damn it, this is the road they meant after all. However, it had appeared some ATVs had picked their way around the gate and logs on either side, so I figured that someone had just not opened the gate this week (it was a Friday, and I'’m sure they'’d be opening for the weekend…, right?) so promptly skirted this barrier and continued on.

Three miles further and my heart sank. Inevitably three seconds later the Ranger flicked on the blue lights on the roof of the truck, and I knew I was in trouble.

I explained [honestly] that I'’d presumed the gates just hadn'’t been opened prior to the weekend, and had followed the other vehicle’s trails (that'’s no real defence I know), but it turns out that this wasn’t just a snow gate, but that the road itself has a seasonal closure and didn'’t actually open for another two weeks (15th of July).

Fortunately my contrition coupled with a UK driving licence - and recalling my previous experience with the CHP with regard to a speeding ticket, knew to avoid their subtile passive-aggressive line of questioning about how long I might be remaining in the country - I managed to avoid what otherwise would have been a nasty ticket and a serious fine.

Hell, the guys even gave me an OHV map and suggested a nice alternative route south before I followed them rather sheepishly back down the trail and was let out of the gate - God bless the Parks Service!


Unfortunately, this intervention meant I had effectively wasted more than an hour and a half, and once I returned to Featherville for another cold drink, elected to plot an alternative exit that had essentially been suggested by the Rangers. I have to say, it really didn'’t disappoint - and felt it was a more than acceptable inclusion to the TAT - with a fast and flowing gravel road that skirted the beautiful Anderson Ranch Reservoir:

Again, with plenty of opportunities for camping along the shore, together with a suitable fuel/food/camping/motel spot: the town of Pine at the head of the valley.

photo. My route crossed the dam at the foot of the Anderson Ranch Reservoir, before winding it’s way up a steep dirt road to join the highway….

Endeavouring to ride as much dirt between there and Mountain Home (without being too convoluted of course), I included a couple of nice trails away from the highway that included part of the long distance Oregon Trail emigrant route, and ultimately led right into town past gas, food and lodging - good job Jenny!

A day of two halves...

It was now 4.30pm... too early to stop really, but would I have enough daylight to reach my ultimate destination of Jordan Valley - the only place that was anywhere near my intended route south west, that ought to have fuel, and hopefully some sort of accommodation?

Certainly this next sector was likely to be very remote - more than a hundred miles of desert, although the plan was to stay on established dirt roads at least...

photo. It's got a road sign, I mean, how tough can it be, right?

Fortunately, other than a slight backtrack to avoid a private ranch, my GPS led me on a fantastic 'shortest route' across the desert, that incorporated the wonderful "Antelope Ridge Road":

A little-used single-lane trail, with some tasty wash-outs, marred only perhaps by rather too many wire-fence gates... but still more than worthy of a TA500 sticker ;o)

As the evening drew on, the gravel roads grew wider and faster, offering the opportunity to witness some stunning scenery in the fading light...

It had been a long day - more than 12 hours in the saddle, and the vast majority of the riding on unpaved and off-road.

I rolled into Jorden Valley hoping the "Sahara" motel listed in my GPS would be as romantic as the name suggests:

It wasn't.

It wasn't even open, and clearly hadn't been for some time.

Indeed it appeared there was only one other establishment in town, that also doubled as a gas station (thank goodness) - and I admit I did have second thoughts when I first saw the frontage:

But actually I have to say, it was very comfortable inside (the windows were on the other side ;o), although once again, wifi was unavailable so any online reporting was going to have to take a back seat for another day. But hell, after these past couple of looooong days, I was grateful for the opportunity to enjoy a shower and a decent sleep.

More soon!

Jenny xx

Offline JMo

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Re: Trans-Am 500 - the seven year itch
« Reply #46 on: September 03, 2015, 08:15:03 PM »
Day 48: TAT day 21: Jordan Valley OR to Lakeview OR.

Mileage today: 281miles*.

*(129 miles proving, 77 miles TAT, 75 miles to fuel and hotel).

With no internet to distract me, I was up and away early the following morning, after a very tasty breakfast sandwich (double sausage, double egg!) and hash browns at what appeared to be the only restaurant in town... and that somewhat bizarrely also offers windscreen repairs, albeit on an adjacent site.

photo. I love these old signs, especially when the establishment is still actually open!

What with the doubling up of the gas station/motel combo too, it seems there really isn't anything this small town can't do to keep you on the road - a real little oasis in the desert!

Over the past couple of days proving, I had essentially entered a series of waypoints into the GPS in the general direction I'd wanted to follow, and let the 'shortest route' calculate what I'd hoped would be a through route - it's a procedure I have relied on many times in the past, and on the whole, Garmin doesn't disappoint.

Today was likely to be yet another 300+ miles (if I were to make it to my intended, if slightly ambitious, stop-over in Lakeview OR), and in anticipation of some slightly more technical riding once I reached northern Nevada (and picked up the original TAT route), had initially been content with a morning shelp down hwy 95 to keep me on some sort of schedule.

However, zooming into the GPS maps revealed a series of dirt roads almost immediately out of town, that would effectively shadow the main highway south and west, but ought to be far less monotonous... and as it transpired, actually threw up some utter gems en route!

I soon realised that I'd stumbled on the old ION highway (I.O.N being Idaho, Oregon, Nevada) - an historical trade route that clearly was never much of a 'highway' as such - with often the only indication there was still a trail at all being a pile of rocks stacked to one side or a cutting through the scrubland, and punctuated by the odd gate (usually wire) to show it was once a road:

West of Arock (barely a town, but it did have a post office!) the trail essentially disappearing into pasture:

...thank goodness for GPS to keep you on target for the next random gate:

photo. I see the Oregon farmers use the same hinge supplier as the Welsh do...

Eventually the trail rejoined a series of slightly more established dirt roads, and crossed over hwy 95, before continuing on the old ION highway route that cut through the desert.

photo. honestly, the trail runs just to the left of this water trough!

I had ridden nearly seventy miles already on all but abandoned trails this morning, before crossing the paved highway once again and picking up the wide and fast gravel Whitehorse Ranch Lane that would essentially take me all the way to Denio Junction where I could possibly* refuel, before rejoining the official TAT route that runs through the remainder of Nevada.

*It was a slim chance I know based on recent TAT reports, but I wasn't unduly concerned as I had only covered 129 miles since refuelling that morning (and the CB500X has at least a 250 mile range), and was confident I could break for the highway (140) at some point during the afternoon, to splash-n-dash somewhere before rejoining the TAT en route for Lakeview...

Fire in the disco!

Pausing at a track junction to plot the final approach to Denio, I noticed a faint burning smell that seemed to have been following me for a while now...

Closer inspection revealed that my effectively off-piste navigation this morning had resulted in an amount of grass and seeds collecting around the exhaust catalyst, and that after this prolonged high-speed run along the gravel, had started to smoulder rather alarmingly!

With visions of Paulo Goncalves in Dakar 2014 fresh in my mind (where his HRC Honda Rally bike caught fire in similar circumstances due to combustable debris collecting around the exhaust headers) I swiftly loosened the bash plate fixings, allowing me to pivot it down and clear the offending cinders before any further damage occurred...

photo. Yep, that could have been a close call!

photo. The final approach to the Fields-Denio Road (hwy 205) just north of Denio itself.

Denio - denied!

Rolling into Denio Junction itself (blink and you might miss it), it was about that time that breakfast wore off, so I stopped at the store/restaurant (and small 8 room motel that is part of the complex*) for some sustenance...

* A somewhat generous term perhaps, but for want of a suitable alternative...

... and despite the presence of a pair of pumps, sure enough, fuel had not been available for quite a while now.

For information: the Denio Junction site has recently been taken over by new owners - and they have every intention to get fuel back there as soon as they possibly can, and re-open the restaurant too. For the moment however, there is just the motel and the general store/bar, that really only offers cold drinks and ready meals - still, any port in a storm eh?

Therefore, if you do require fuel either immediately, or to top-up in regard to the onward and very remote journey (at this point Lakeview is still 115 miles away, and that is by road - the TAT route is appreciably further still), then Fields which is approximately 25 miles to the north of here is currently your only option... so my suggestion for any subsequent TATers, would be to continue on the Whitehorse Ranch Road all the way to where it meets hwy 205, and juice up there before heading south to Denio.

Anyway, I intended to trust to luck and my optimistic fuel gauge, and crack-on with what is arguably the 'best' section of the current Trans-Am Trail - the remote wilderness crossing west of Denio.

photo. Back on the the most remote section of the TAT with what was barely half a tank of gas... what could possibly go wrong?

photo. A beautiful (and moderately technical, in a downhill direction) pass a short while after leaving the highway behind... this is what we'd come all this way for Piglet!

photo. The afternoon would be filled with a lot of this - lovely little-used two-track across the desert...

photo. Plenty of this - rocky and rough climbs crossing ranges of mountains, and a real sense of travelling across country...

photo. Stunning panoramic views both ahead and behind you... and an overwhelming sense of being, alone.

The TAT route essentially passes through the huge wilderness that is the Sheldon National Wildlife Refuge - over 900 square miles of high desert that is managed habitat for all manner of horny and thorny creatures.

I was really enjoying the afternoon's ride - climb after climb (some quite technical for a big or loaded bike), winding my way though the mountains, witnessing antelope, burros and even some wild horses. There was potentially show-stopping creek crossing near the historic Virgin Valley Ranch (through the ominously named 'Mud Creek' no less, that had burst it's banks onto the trail itself), followed by some more epic trailage as the route switchbacked over more mountains...

Then without warning, I was on my arse. And perhaps more disconcertingly, the bike was on my leg:

It was one of those stupid crashes - and I admit that unlike the other times the bike had been down during this trip (precious few, thankfully), this was not 'a drop' or 'laying it down' - this was a full-on proper caught-me-before-I-even-had-a-chance-of-saving-it, crash.

The rear wheel had caught a protruding rock and it had kicked up and hooked the whole bike sideways - essentially low-siding me down the trail. Fortunately I was only travelling at about 20-25mph at the time, but even though, I imagined I was lucky not to have hurt myself - especially when the whole weight of the bike landed on my left leg and foot.

Of course my immediate reaction (other than to wiggle my toes and flex my ankle to ensure nothing was broken) was to grab the camera from my jacket pocket and take the above photo, as I know you guys would want to see it ;o)

It was only then that I became a little concerned that I might not be able to wiggle my leg free as my boot was comprehensively hooked up on the pillion peg bracket, and sandwiched between the bike and the hard rocky trail.

With all the incentive of Piglet about to grab the Leatherman and go all 127 hours on me, I eventually managed to lift the bike by kicking the seat with my free foot, and then by dragging my trapped foot back and forth until I could pull free - grateful that the Giant Loop bag had actually taken some of the brunt of the initial fall, rather than my leg being potentially crushed by the full weight of the bike, and provided a valuable gap to help wiggle free. Phew.

I was also thankful that I had not been able to fuel up at Denio, as this bike with a full tank would not only have potentially caused more serious damage to my leg/foot, but it would be an even bigger bastard to lift back upright - as it was, adrenalin soon had the CB righted. A quick inspection and I was amazed how well the bike had crashed - sure the left hand-guard had rotated slightly, and the tip of the gear lever also bent back a few degrees - but fundamentally there was no damage to the bodywork, nor turn signals, and the [OEM] handlebars remained as straight as ever. Good job Honda!

I have to admit, the tubular wings of the Rally-Raid engine guard had taken a beating in this particular instance, but then that is what they are there for, and fundamentally there was no damage to the engine cases - which is the primary importance of course. Had this little episode not been enough to prove the strength of the engine guard, as I was using my tyre iron to lever the bent gear shifter back into line, I heaved a little too heavy, and since the bike was standing almost vertically upright on the uneven trail, it promptly fell over onto the other side. Bugger... that is both hand-guards scratched now. During all this reinstatement and realignment, I also noticed that there was a tiny weep from the lower radiator hose near the gear lever, so in true MacGyver fashion, effected a repair using my air-mattress puncture patches and some duct tape. It worked!

The great escape...

Of course now it was getting late in the afternoon, and once the fuel light started flashing at around 220 miles (experience had taught me this still means there is around a gallon left in the tank, but whether all of that finds it's way into the fuel pump is another matter of course), I realised that there was no way I would make it to Lakeview this evening - not off-road at least, since there was still at least 85 miles of TAT route to ride.

I took the decision to break for the highway at a suitable point once the TAT route got close (about 7 miles away) from hwy 140 - figuring I could return and continue once I'd refuelled.

My 'escape trail' while not part of the official TAT, was more of the same, and would have been immensely satisfying had I not be so concerned about my remaining fuel now!

Rather than the wide gravel road I'd been expecting, my route out was another narrow and little-used two-track trail, which I rode at barely tick-over in an effort to save fuel. Once I hit the highway, I realised there was still 35 miles to go to the nearest town that purportedly had fuel - Adel - and rather than enjoy the magnificent highway that wound it's way down a sheer bluff cliff face at speed, I rode like a lemon at 50mph hunkered down over the tank in an effort to reduce wind-resistance (and boy, it was windy), all the while wondering if a) I would actually have enough range in these conditions, and b) if the gas station would actually be open when and if I managed to get there.

It was a painfully long journey - the road seemed endless and I was sure my odometer was on some kind of go-slow... I eventually rolled into a haphazard collection of tumbledown buildings, which you wouldn't even consider was a town were it not for a sign announcing your entry, and thankfully, there on the far edge of town was a ramshackle store with a brace of pumps outside.

Once I'd refuelled (4.1 gallons, so technically I still had almost half a gallon left) and guzzled my own gallon of Pepsi, I figured that 7pm was too late to head back to the trail this evening, particularly as I didn't really relish the prospect of wild camping after such a long and arduous day.

photo. I'd busted my arse enough already today, so elected to find a comfy bed, and continue the TAT in the morning. note. RRP power bracket also doubles as an excellent cup holder!

I wimped out with another 35 miles of highway (but boy, what a great highway 140 is to ride!) all the way to Lakeview, where I knew there was plenty of accommodation options, food, and as it transpired - a super duper coffee stand - just what I needed! The TAT could wait until tomorrow... be continued.

Jenny xx

Offline JMo

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Re: Trans-Am 500 - the seven year itch
« Reply #47 on: September 03, 2015, 08:16:08 PM »
Day 49: TAT day 22: Lakeview OR and back to Lakeview OR.

Mileage today: 174*

*(103 miles TAT, 71 miles to return to where I'd left off...)

Lakeview Oregon is one of those 'full service' towns (that is one offering an range of food, fuel, accommodation and various mechanical / workshop / bike shop facilities if required) that happens to be right on the TAT route. It also happens to have an outstanding coffee (and fruit smoothie) hut on an otherwise abandoned lot opposite the Chevron gas station - something I was unfortunately not aware of until tomorrow's ride report...

So having woken early (and I mean bloody early, like before 5am thanks to not switching my phone ringer off and a text coming in from the UK), I grabbed a modestly sized but exquisitely prepared portion of French toast, washed down with a rather lacklustre brew coffee, and set about my business of the day.

Since my intention has been to ride the TAT in its entirety wherever possible, the plan was to retrace my extended road-ride from yesterday, and pick up the trail where I'd left off in the middle of the Sheldon Wildlife Preserve - to complete the official route into Lakeview, even though it would mean I would find myself back in this same spot at some point later that day.

In fact in order to set the scene a little I ought to add that prior to breakfast, I'd checked out of the hotel, and immediately embarked on the journey back east via what looked like a tasty trail out of town - and due to my still groggy state, almost came a cropper in some deep tractor ruts that had hardened in the muddy surface. To compound my agitation, right at the end of this trail was a locked gate onto private property. I therefore felt on balance, the day would probably be much better after a decent breakfast, rather than grabbing something at the gas station/diner in Adel which had been my original intention...

On returning to Adel* I topped off with fuel (having already covered more than 70 miles since I was here the evening before), and ducked into the store to stock up on trail snacks. A couple at the bar overheard my accent and it turns out that he [Allan] had moved here from Yorkshire (UK) a few years ago, and with his wife Barbara set up a cabin and camping facility: just a few miles north from here. I mention this specifically as useful information for anyone else intending to ride the TAT through here and would prefer not to wild camp (although I would add that there are dedicated primitive camping sites in the Sheldon Wildlife Refuge should you have enough fuel with you to stay on the trail) - as it ought to be feasible to stay on the TAT until the signposted turn-off north for Adel; and to ultimately fuel, feed and slumber without taking quite as long a detour as I had done.

*please note I have purposely avoided making such obvious Adel[e] jokes as: "Chasing pavements" back to Adel, or "Adel was '21' miles away, or, "Rumour has it" that there was fuel in Adel... or that the CB was so fast that despite the damp roads I "Set fire to the rain" etc. etc. and apologise now for not being able to resist adding them after all.

So, back on the TAT (via a slightly different trail south of hwy 140, that was perhaps even more impressive than my escape route the evening before), and after riding just a few miles from where I'd exited yesterday, realised I was now riding the exact same sector I had (albeit in reverse) back in 2008.

Sure enough, these sights were instantly familiar (I will resist posting the original photos from 2008, but believe me they are almost exactly the same ;o)

photo. I am almost embarrassed to post this one, as I'm sure everyone takes the same photo who passes by here...

photo. Similarly, the switchback decent as you exit the Sheldon Refuge is instantly memorable - what a view!

photo. I also have exactly the same photo of Piglet hanging over this sign, although since it was November last time, he was in slightly warmer clothes back then... same pattern Buff mind you!

Indeed, riding this sector of the TAT towards Fort Bidwell (where it dips, momentarily, into California for a few miles) felt eerily familiar, despite the years...

photo. This dry lake crossing is just after you pass through an abandoned (or not?) farmstead...

Before climbing out of the valley and into the forest south of Lakeview:

Whether it was the familiarity, or simply the amassed tiredness (compounded by the lack of sleep the night before), I increasingly felt detached from the whole procedure - like it was some strange dream sequence - and worse, almost as if I was going through the motions for the first time on this trip. Hell, I even recognised a clearing in the trees that had been filled with snow the very first time I'd ridden in Oregon (on my XR650R in 2007, when I'd also passed through this way, not knowing it was actually the TAT back then...) and on reaching Lakeview mid-afternoon, scoffed down a burger and shake at the local drive-in, and thought the best course of action was to probably book back into the motel again, and get a proper night's sleep.

My head hit the pillow at 4pm, and it was the best night's rest I'd had in a long time.

More soon!

Jenny x

Offline JMo

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Re: Trans-Am 500 - the seven year itch
« Reply #48 on: September 03, 2015, 08:18:09 PM »
Day 50: TAT day 23: Lakeview OR to Crater Lake OR.

Mileage today:325* (TAT 239)

*total to hotel - including lap of Crater Lake.

Today marked my 50th day on the road since leaving the Golden Gate Bridge on Sunday 10th May - the official start of the Trans-Am 500 ride (even though I'd actually ridden over 500 miles from the Giant Loop HQ in Bend OR to get to that point the day before of course).

I have to say, 14 hours sleep had really reset my body clock, and I was all packed, checked out and raring to go before 8am. It was at this point that I stumbled on the oasis that was the Fastbreak coffee hut, and spent a delightfully extended pause for breakfast on this sunny Monday morning, sitting on a picnic bench on their lot, and plotting the final few days' schedule...

photo. I can certainly recommend their wildberry and protein smoothie, oh yes!

Looking at the overview route in my GPS, the current TAT appeared to be very similar to the route I'd ridden (albeit in reverse as I'd started on the coast) back in 2008 - so it would be interesting to see if there had been any [minor] changes, or that like yesterday, things would appear instantly familiar...

One thing was certain however, while it might only have been three hundred and fifty or so miles (by road) to the coast now, it would be totally unrealistic to expect I would finish the TAT by this evening (having already overshot my original target of yesterday, the 28th June).

Therefore with the pressure essentially off now, it was time to recalibrate my expectations for the final few day/s, and simply enjoy the rest of the ride... Indeed, there was a nagging sense of sadness in that this trip was almost over, and that the routine in which Piglet and I had become ensconced, would be rudely returned to the real world.

The ride out of Lakeview takes in such delights as the Warner Creek Correctional Facility (a very 'open' prison by the look of it), before heading into some delightful forest trails that were a joy to ride:

photo. Once again I marked what I felt was a particularly enjoyable trail as a recommendation to others...

...and on reaching Silverlake (I'm sure this place used to have fuel?) crossing hwy 31, knew I wasn't far from the impressive Fort Rock (yes, it's a rock, shaped like a fort... and a bloody big one!)

photo. indeed!

However, while I can vividly remember riding past here on a previous trip, I couldn't recall passing the rock when I'd ridden the older TAT route in 2008 - and sure enough, the current route actually turns due west a few miles short of this impressive vista - so I've included a couple of photos from 2007 to show you what you're missing ;o)

Again, I will come to Sam's defence here and suggest that you can't possibly incorporate everything into a single cross-country journey, and that arguably the trail that heads west is far more 'interesting' than an otherwise endlessly straight gravel road that takes you past Fort Rock.

Furthermore, in this instance particularly, you really aren't that far from the site - so you could always detour and rejoin the TAT a little further on... and this very much illustrates the primary purpose of the TAT, which is not to insisit that you follow it exactly inch by inch (something that this trip, or at least the weather this trip, has proved is all but impossible), rather you ought to view it as guide - that not only incorporates some excellent and often little-visited points of interest, but also sets you up nicely for your own additions should you desire?

Certainly the ride through the heart of the Deschutes National Forest towards Gilchrist was hugely enjoyable - albeit often sandy - and I was looking forward to some lunch before refuelling and pressing on towards my own intended side-show from the main TAT route, the epic Crater Lake.

Missing in action...

A trio of chicken tenders, a bucket of coke, and a huge ice-cream may not be the food of champions, but it certainly sorted out my grumbling tummy. However, on returning to my bike (that had been parked outside the restaurant just out of view) I was dismayed to see my tail-pack was now missing...

My immediate reaction (being British) was that some bastard had stolen my tail-pack, which, as you are probably aware from earlier reports contained ALL my tools - yes, every single one - I didn't even have my Leatherman or 5mm allen key on me should I need to make any minor adjustments, never mind a major repair.

Incredulous that they had not bothered to take my $400 helmet (that was sitting on the tank between the handlebars) nor indeed the Garmin VIRB camera that was attached to a RAM mount next to my left mirror - either of which would have been far easier to lift in an instant - I soon realised that not only was the tail-pack missing, but also half the rack that had supported it over the last 11,500 miles or so...

I took back those initial curses when I realised that the rack itself had seemingly sheared where it mounted to the subframe brackets (well, unless some oaf had simply wrenched the whole thing off of course), and figured that actually I'd not noticed it was already missing when I'd dismounted and gone inside - a hungry belly and the lure of fried chicken and ice-cream my excuse for this lack of rudimentary observation of course - and that should I retrace my steps, that somewhere, back down the trail, I would find the remains at least, of my chattels...

Having made a minor adjustment earlier while out on the trail, I knew the last time I was certain I'd had the tail-pack attached... so retraced the GPS track-log back into the forest, hoping that some 'helpful' passer-by had not actually moved it* to the side of the trial (where it would be more difficult to spot of course), or worse, taken it upon themselves to move the bag completely - into town for example.

*I mention this specifically as a reminder for anyone else who trail-rides regularly - by all means move an item out of harms way (for example, in the past I've found a camera in a pouch in the middle of a trail - that would almost certainly be destroyed should another vehicle run over it), but please leave it in a really obvious position, as almost certainly the owner is likely to come back to look for it, especially if it is an expensive or essential item - of which my tool kit was certainly both!

photo. Fortunately this little-used trail meant my pack was exactly where it had fallen.

The sense of relief was immense I can tell you, everything was intact (well, apart from the broken tail-rack of course), and I was doubly grateful that I had not cut short the straps on my Giant Loop Coyote bag, and that I could effect a satisfactory solution that would allow me to continue without fear that I'd lose the bag again:

Crater Lake

The TAT route actually skirts north and west of Crater Lake by about 15 miles. However, it is well worth the detour, especially in late afternoon as the scenery is simply spectacular in the early evening light.

photo. You really think this need not be said, but when you stand on the rim (which is anything from 500 to nearly 2000ft above the water), you kind of see what they mean...

photo. I have a similar photo of Piglet on the XR650R from 2007 here - taken a little earlier on a perfectly calm day - when the lake is like a mirror and reflects the surrounding peaks perfectly - it is a surreal optical illusion to effectively see the sky below the mountains!

photo. The little fella loves this lake, as do I... Here you can just see Wizard island, which is a volcanic cone protruding from the depths of the lake (the lake is nearly 2000 ft deep, and is the crater left by a collapsed volcano), and there is another smaller cone under the water, that is actually 1500 ft below the lake surface!

My original plan was to ride the rim road, then head down to the campground in the valley below, as there are very few affordable options for accommodation close by.

photo. Piglet got to ride in the front of the jacket like old times, for the lap of the lake...

photo. Although I have been here twice before, this was the first time I'd ridden completely around the lake - and the alternative views can be breathtaking...

And as the evening drew on, I figured there might be an opportunity to get one last photo at the rim edge as the sun went down:

photo. Perfect timing! - as the photographer who was sitting close by confirmed by giving me a thumbs-up when he saw me scoot into position for this photo!

It was such a perfect evening, that I decided to forfeit the campsite, make the most of the fading light, and take a few more photos before ultimately heading down the highway to find a motel...

More soon!

Jenny xx

Offline JMo

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Re: Trans-Am 500 - the seven year itch
« Reply #49 on: September 03, 2015, 08:26:15 PM »
Day 51: TAT day 24: Crater Lake OR to Glendale OR.

Mileage today: 239* (TAT 178)

*in total to hotel in Grants Pass.

Despite riding well over 300 miles yesterday (including my indulgence around Crater Lake of course), I was still over 200 miles from the coast, by the shortest route on road...

Of course I was looking forward to another day (at least) on the forest trails, but at the same time, I was so tantalisingly close to the end that I was getting impatient - particularly as I'd been on the road over seven weeks now, with only two full days* not actually riding the bike at some point...

*and this was the weekend of the Overland Expo in Arizona, which were instead long days on my feet, and still talking about the bike!

Funny story before I leave: I checked into the Whispering Pines motel which is at the junction of hwy 97 and 138 (that leads to the Crater Lake north entrance) - a quirky place indeed, but perfectly comfortable and great value. There was wifi access, but it worked better outside the room (and nearer to the office), and the owner said she'd put a citronella candle in the room incase any midges followed me in as I retired...

There was the remains of a tea-light in a jar on the table, but a lovely looking new candle on the nightstand - perfect. I dug out the lighter that was buried in my camping kit, lit the wick, and went into the bathroom to brush my teeth.

Next thing I know, the smoke alarm is screeching the place down, and I dash into the bedroom to see the 'candle' has become a molten mess of goop that is bellowing acrid black smoke! Turns out it was a battery operated night-light which I'd just set fire to...

Having no choice but to pull the battery from the smoke detector (don't worry, I replaced it properly the following morning), I hit the sack, wondering how I might explain my clumsy mistake.

The following morning over a delightful breakfast of freshly home-made muffins (she must have been up all night making these little buns of joy!), I confessed and presented the sorry remains:

She burst into fits of laughter and said "Don't worry, you're not the first..." reached behind the counter and pulled out another where someone had done exactly the same thing! I imagine this will be the start of quite a collection ;o)

The motel reception is shared with a 'general store' - although it is more a museum of retro packaging to be honest - some items clearly of indeterminate age, interspersed with such delights as Ghirardelli Chocolate Squares that may or may not have been past their sell-by date too (not that I'd care of course!)

This one particularly made me smile:

photo. Every generation gets the superhero it deserves...

Anyway, it was almost certainly time to hit the road now, and I rode the twenty odd miles back to where I'd left the TAT the day before - juicing up the CB-X at an independent fuel station near Diamond Lake (again I mention it as fuel is relatively few and far between in these parts).

Almost immediately I was climbing up through a burn zone in the foothills of the Umpqua National Forest:

... enjoying the cooling breeze and the shade of the trees (well, those that still had leaves on of course), and some stunning views across the labyrinth of valleys below:

However, at the same time I was conscious that inevitably, traversing these forest terraces meant you ended up covering a lot more ground than you might otherwise - and indeed, after a rather frustrating detour (due to a closed road), I ended up on the shore of the South Umpqua River having taken four and a half hours to cover the last 110 miles...

To make matters worse (and purely from the point of research you understand), I tapped my start point into the GPS and it 'shortest' routed me on what I'm sure would have been an equally scenic alternative, that even incorporated the initial TAT trail, before following alongside the creek  - on what I'd presumed was a continuation of the paved minor road I was now on. That would have saved me over two hours riding this morning, and is certainly something I would suggest to subsequent travellers, should you be wary of your schedule at this point.

Still, I'd come to ride the whole Trans-Am Trail, and I wasn't about to take any short-cuts now!

photo. The shade from the trees (and general altitude) was welcome as the day got hotter...

photo. 'Heavy plant crossing' - I managed to sneak round this minor landslide on the verge...

photo. These stripped-bark trees were particularly stunning in the afternoon sunlight...

Heading back into the forest, Sam then came up with an utter masterpiece of a trail - although I would add it was not really for the faint hearted!  Indeed, when we'd discussed those sections where options available (he does offer an alternative 'big bike' route for certain sectors of the TAT, especially here in Oregon), I was adamant that I'd want to prove the CB500X Adventure could handle the tougher 'dual-sport' routes he had logged...

And this climb was a killer - it started off as a rough ATV width climb through the trees, before emerging on an open ridge line that seemed to get more and more gnarly as it climbed ever upwards. On a big bike loaded with luggage, it would take all your concentration and resolve - as one over enthusastic twitch of the throttle on this loose and rocky surface could easily have the bike sideways - or worse, on it's side - which would be extremely difficult to recover from and keep going - you'd be far more likely to have no option but to turn around (which itself could cause all manner of difficulty on this steep slope), ride back down to the plateau, and have another go - if you dared.

Fortunately, I had already come to trust the utterly predictable fuelling and traction of the CB-X implicitly - where time and again (especially in the technical terrain I'd traversed in Moab) it had literally saved me from either a stall or fall, and I simply snicked it into first gear, held a steady throttle and rode it like an automatic - letting the supple TracTive suspension once again prove it's worth many times over as I clawed up this climb.

Just when I though the worse was over, the trail turned hard right and climbed straight up the fall-line - criss-crossed with a myriad of gullies caused by rain run-off. Jeeeez, I honestly could not believe how I made it up there! - and reaching the top, marked my GPS with an expletive, and the trail itself with a TA500 sticker on a suitably placed rock:

Seriously, send me a photo of your 1200GS next to this rock, and I'll personally send you a prize!

I took a moment or two to chow a Clif bar, and simply take in the stunning view that was reward for all this effort. I also considered just how perfect the CB had been over the last couple of miles: anything physically larger would have been a real liability (unless you're 6' 6" and an utter riding god of course); while a typical big-bore thumper, for all their comparative lightweight and manoeuvrability, are prone to cough-stalling in such circumstances if you are not careful. In comparison, the low seat, supple suspension and sweet soft power delivery that are key attributes of this bike were an absolute revelation - and allow you to take such liberties and get away with it, first and so far, every time.

Later that afternoon, as the TAT route reached interstate I5, I decided that rather than press-on into more wilderness where I would almost certainly have to wild camp somewhere out on the trail (don't forget there are bears in these woods!), I would dive into Glendale and see what accommodation options were available locally or at least close by - figuring this way I would have the whole of the following day ahead of me to complete the TAT, fundamentally in the daylight. No point in taking risks this close to the end I thought, especially as my laundry was in dire need of refreshment too!

As it turned out, the one and only motel in Glendale had long since closed, while the next option a few miles further south on I5 looked like I might well have made the National Morning News had I stayed there... Ultimately I sought solace in the familiarity of a Motel 6 a further fifteen miles down the highway (in Grants Pass) - well, that is also what this bike is so damn good at after all ;o)

More soon!

Jenny xx


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