We spent days 21 and 22 in Montrose Colorado doing maintenance, repairs, repacking, and resting. Tom went on his own way on the 21st and Ron had to stay in Montrose for at least a few more days so we left as a team of 3. The last day in Colorado proved to be a very fulfilling day of riding. We left in the morning without our cold weather gear on since it wasn’t too cold in Montrose, but as we climbed in elevation it quickly brought us to our knees. We suffered through for a while and finally decided to stop and put on whatever extra layers we had with us. Once we got to the first gas station we ran inside to get warmed up.
Once we warmed ourselves back up and found our way back to the trail, we experienced some of the most jaw dropping riding we had seen so far. We headed through Ophir Pass which still had snow that was nearly 14 feet deep in places. There were beautiful wooded rocky trails with mud created by the snow runoff. As we dropped in elevation the roads became more sweeping and fast paced. The weather made us think we might run into some rain, but we missed all but a tiny sprinkle. We soon crossed into Utah and rode into Moab after a very long day of incredible riding. Lynn headed straight for town while Chris and I thought it would be a good idea to ride Hell’s Revenge in Moab. Hell’s Revenge is an incredible trail over some of Moab’s incredible rock formations. We made it a ways in until we approached a hill that was a little to steep for us to try with all of our gear on our bikes, so we rode around the area until we found our way out and back into town. This was easily one of the most memorable days of our trip!
As we began to pack, I started backing up our pictures and videos on our Nexto DI so we didn’t lose any of our content. This is an incredible device for backups in the field and makes the process very easy. We would finally be back with our computer and having all of our files on this device makes downloading them so much simpler. By the end of this day, we needed to be in Montrose, Colorado so we could meet up with our support trailer at Davis Service Center. DSC is an incredible motorsports dealer with a very helpful staff. They allowed Richard to leave the truck and trailer there for nearly 2 weeks and let us come in and service our vehicles once we made it into town. The trail leading up to Highway 550 was absolutely spectacular! It was easily some of the best riding of the trip.
Around every turn was another breathtaking view. It kept getting better and better all day with the high altitude passes being some of the most memorable moments from the trip. The riding through these sections requires the most concentration of anywhere along the Trans-America Trail. The passes in Colorado include steep hill climbs, lots of loose rocks, and melting snow creating water run-off that often becomes the trail. The cool air at this altitude was a welcome change from the blistering heat we were used to dealing with. We saw our fair share of Jeeps and probably aggravated a few of them with our picture and video taking. Once we made it to Highway 550, we had another 40 miles to Montrose. Hwy 550 is a beautiful road to ride and was nearly as beautiful as much of what we rode earlier in the day. Once we made it to DSC, we took care of some maintenance on Tom’s bike so he could hit the road in the morning. We decided to take the next day off so we could do some much needed maintenance and repacking.
After a restful night’s sleep, we exited our tents and found all of our camping gear was soaked from the moisture the lake provided. The morning was cool and our jackets were wet. Even so, sunrise over the mountains was absolutely gorgeous! I made myself some oatmeal and Chris and Tom packed up and headed into town to eat. I packed up and met Ron and Lynn at the gas station we separated from the night before.
The riding on day 19 was more fun than any of us were prepared for. Although, we still had to deal with lots of dust and heat. The landscapes of Colorado began to open up with fast curvy road that soon turned into more technical rocky sections. We saw lots of water crossings which were mostly a result of melting snow. We stopped for lunch amid a bicycle festival where two strangers admired Lynn’s Africa Twin. We rode the rest of the day with Lake City as a destination that seemed to get farther away as we got closer. It seemed like every sign with Lake City on it was listing mileage that was higher than the last sign. We finally made it to town where we had incredible chicken fried steak at the Lake City Cafe. The camp grounds in Lake City are fantastic. This was my favorite campsite of the trip. We slept right on the river with perfect temperatures and low humidity.
As we woke on June 18th, we had to take care of several issues before we could hit the road. Chris had to finish mounting his tire, which was being stubborn the night before, and Ron had to get his countershaft seal fixed. I met Ron and Lynn at Topar Racing where they took us in and immediately got to fixing Ron’s seal with sewing string. The seal didn’t leak a drop of oil for the rest of the trip! Topar is an amazing shop and produce top quality parts, plus they welcome all TAT riders! http://www.toparracing.com/
As we hit the road we immediately started climbing in elevation. The riding got better and better as the day progressed. At our final stop to fill up with gas, we met a guy named Tom. Tom was from Philadelphia and was doing the TAT solo on a KTM 500EXC. Although, he was following GPSKevin tracks and we were following Sam’s. The tracks didn’t vary very much at all, other than the option to take multiple routes once in western Colorado. Tom camped out with Chris and I that evening while Ron and Lynn rode another 25 miles to find a vacant hotel because there was a wedding in the town we camped in, taking up all of the hotels. The mosquitoes were terrible at the campsite until they mysteriously stopped swarming not long before we went to sleep.
We started riding long straight Oklahoma roads in the dark to help beat the heat. Sunrise over the farm land is absolutely beautiful and the temperatures are much better this time of day. After riding for a while at pretty high speeds we stopped and noticed Ron’s DRZ started leaking oil around the countershaft seal. He had extra oil with him and was able to keep going by checking his oil at every stop and topping off as needed. We made a breakfast stop at Rockin’ A Cafe and signed their TAT book.
As we approched the New Mexico border, we encounter the first part of the trail with mud. Chris managed to steer right into the deepest section of the mud hole and sunk his bike to the frame. We had to unload his bike and use straps to pull it out of the mud hole. Once we were back on the trail, the temps began to rise as we crossed into New Mexico. At this point, it was like someone flipping a switch with the landscape except the fact that there were still no shade trees. We made good time through New Mexico and made it into Colorado for the night. Chris and I found a campground where he changed his worn out Dunlop D908 with a new tire. It was nice to have Oklahoma behind us. Now we look forward to the incredible riding Colorado has to offer!
After being scorched the day before, we got on the road by 5:30AM to get as many miles in before the blistering heat returned. This day was by far the most beautiful ride we had in Oklahoma. Watching the sun rise over the gorgeous rolling hills was spectacular. We started seeing more and more jack rabbits and started riding more with free range cattle. You really have to watch out for animals.
After a great early morning ride, we stopped in the small town of Gates, Oklahoma for a bite to eat. Laurie’s Cafe has fantastic home cooking and was a great place to take a break since stops in Oklahoma are few and far between. An older resident of Gates joined us for breakfast and educated us on the history and people of Gates. He even gave Ron a couple gallons of gas since there were no gas stops for some distance. We got back on the road and made it to our destination in no time, making for a shorter day so we wouldn’t have to ride as much in the extreme heat.
Day 15 was a wakeup call for us! As we headed out that morning, we had no idea how tough the day was going to become. The first clue was the heat. It got really hot, really fast! There were several small water crossings that we welcomed. One of them was over a concrete slab that was covered in slick green algae that took Chris out. He slid on his newly installed Mosko Moto Back Country bags, which didn’t seem to even notice. We found all of our Mosko bags to be tough as nails and incredibly functional.
As we were heading out we spoke with two guys doing the TAT in a Jeep. Throughout the day we crossed paths with them multiple times. We needed to take frequent breaks in the extreme heat. For the first time, we were finding that shade trees were becoming harder and harder to find. The temps reached well into the 100s and we had to keep moving to keep cool. Once you get a hundred or so miles into Oklahoma the roads begin to follow a system of mile long grids. Some of the roads go for 30+ miles without a single turn. This means we make good mileage but there are very few gas stops along this part of the trail. Sure enough, Ron’s bike ran out of gas since he had the smallest tank(4 gallon.) Ron and I sat in the Oklahoma sun while we waited for Chris and Lynn to find us or until anyone could help. Eventually, a man in a truck stopped and offered to run into town to get us some gas. We found out he is fellow biker and went out of his way to give Ron several gallons of gas. We couldn’t be more thankful for folks like this man who gave up their time and resources to help. After the longest and hottest day of the trip, we used the evening to rethink our approach to this section of the trail. We decided getting an early start to beat the heat is the only safe way to ride Oklahoma.
This was our last day with the trailer until we made it to Montrose, Colorado. Like most days, we rode in exhausting heat that takes it’s toll on you day after day. We rode along side the Illinois river and saw people swimming and kayaking everywhere. Chris and I just couldn’t resist stopping to jump in the water! After a quick cool down, we hit the trail and ate dust for the rest of the day. We had a longer day of riding than normal and made it into Bartlesville Oklahoma.The transition from east coast terrain and west coast terrain happens between Arkansas and Oklahoma. The riding is great with a variety of landscapes throughout the day. We also saw lots of beautiful farms and unique animals.
June 13th took us through rural Arkansas. As we got further into the trail that morning, we began to feel like we were getting deeper and deeper into nowhere. We wondered if we would ever get to a place to eat and to our surprise, we suddenly ran up on the Oark Cafe. They make a killer burger and is a fantastic spot to grab a bite to eat! We met a fellow TAT rider there and discussed our trips so far. After the Oark Cafe, we found ourselves throughly enjoying some pretty beautiful landscapes in Arkansas. One of the most technical portions of the trail is on this section. War Loop is a rocky and wet section of the trail that is the most technical part of the eastern section of the TAT. It isn’t anything difficult, but it is a good change of pace from graded dirt roads. All of our bikes handled it just fine. Overall it was a pretty great day of riding!
After 10 days of riding we decided to take a day off to repack and assess our approach. Upon awaking from our first night in Arkansas, we found tens of thousands of dead mosquitos in our trailer covering all of our stuff. We’ve never seen so many dead mosquitos in one place before. We think the harmonics of the fan in the trailer is what killed them. Either that, or fumes from the pile of dirty clothes and sweaty boots. The first two pictures in this post are dead mosquitos!
Our first full day of riding Arkansas was as dusty as it could possibly be. We got to sign-in at the first major TAT stop. Not long after, I got my first flat tire due to a puncture. We tried plugging the tire but it wouldn’t hold more than 9 PSI. It was enough to hold with the Tubliss system helping me make it another 150 miles for the day. While working on the tire, a farmer came and offered use of his air tank to get us going again. One of the best parts of riding the TAT is meeting people like this man who farms 4,000 acres. He didn’t hesitate to help us and stick around till we were ready to go.