Sunday, June 1, 2014

The trip's not over yet...

"The trip isn't over until everything is unpacked and cleaned up." That's what I might tell my 1 year old son if he could understand it. Unfortunately, if I believed that, I'd technically still be on my trip right now, after two weeks. At least until I wash off my boots sitting in the garage.

Typically, the part of the post-trip clean up that takes the longest is compiling the helmet cam video. For some reason reliving the memories of yesterweek simply isn't as enticing as reliving them of yesteryear. But alas, I finished it. Before that though, there are a few leftover thoughts I had about the trip:\

Eagle Scoutness

On the ride down, Danny and I learned that Joey is an Eagle Scout. Moreover, I believe he said "This will be the first time I've ever camped with non-Eagle scouts." Uh oh. How would we compare to  Joey's advanced training in the ways of camping? What if something completely embarrassing happens, like I can't start a fire in under four hours (yes, it's happened). Luckily we all held our own. Well, you'll have to ask Joey, I suppose, but I think we worked together: Danny cooked the biscuits, Joey fried the eggs, and I cooked the sausage for our Blueberry Sausage McCampers Biscuit, and we all enjoyed them. I think that says it all. Although, Joey clearly won in tenting:

The Bikes

We were amazed to discover how similarly all three bikes performed, despite their vast differences. It probably has more to do with the similar experience of the riders, but all three bikes went everywhere we pointed them and none of us found ourselves bored from slow progress nor terrified of trying to keep up. So three cheers for you, motorcycles. And Danny definitely won in motorcycling. Mostly because we least expected the V-Strom to make it over the tough obstacles. Danny proved himself to be a most capable rider by, on the hardest bike, not only keeping up but not slowing us down one bit. But also: 

But all of these are just honorable mentions compared to the real winners of the trip: my dad's trailer and the BMW X5 that hauled it. Despite the Unreliable German's warnings (and oh they were many: Brakes, ABS, AWD / Traction Control, Check Engine Light, Transmission Failsafe Mode), it and the trailer got us, the bikes, the trailer, and all the gear to camp and back safely. Thanks guys:

And also, here's the video:

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Measuring Fun

It's difficult to accurately measure and compare historical experiences. I estimated that today's riding was twice as fun as yesterday's. Danny's calculations put it closer to 200x more enjoyable. Joey added that it might have been the best time he's had riding motorcycles. Suffice to say it was a great day.

The morning ride through Fayetteville was a bit chili and would have been dull if we didn't have 3-way helmet intercoms. And riding straight south towards the trails into what looked like a heavy storm wasn't encouraging. The idea of more red Arkansas mud made Danny and me shudder a bit. Last year was rough. 

But as we got to our route and the pavement disappeared behind us, so did any worry. As the day went on, it only got better and better. From crossing bridges over turquoise streams, to speeding over tree-canopied rolling hills, to water fording... It was a blast.

As we rode, it became increasingly clear that we are better riders than we were before. Which provided confidence. Which helped ride even better, and learn even more. Pretty soon we were flinging red mud off our tires and tearing around uphill rocky switchbacks. And so we did, all day.

After deciding our time was up, and turning down the last trail of the day, it got really interesting. Immediately we had to ford our deepest water yet.

The water came above our feet and sprayed higher than our windshields, and was completely awesome to ride through. It wasn't 200 feet further, around a curve, that we found our road blocked by a large fallen tree. Immovable, and not circumnavigable, we built a stone ramp and each rode up and over!

Our supreme comfidence of dominance over the TAT lasted a whole 30 seconds until we got to this:

More than a puddle or a stream crossing. You can see the other side of the road,
hundreds of feet behind be, with a RUSHING RIVER IN BETWEEN. 

I knew we were done. Danny
Assured me that we could make it... until really looking. Joey was doing donuts in the mud around a tree.

It was a fitting end to our ride. While I wouldn't say we completely defeated the TAT, we definitely didn't lose this round. We needed to turn around and go home anyway. And it leaves something to tackle next year. 

Until then TAT.

P.S. No, we don't know who won the LARP battle that happened in our campground while we were gone.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Breakfast and LARPing

If you haven't tried a Blueberry Sausage McCampers Biscuit, you are missing out.

Also, we were mystified when we saw a guy wearing a cape, crown, and carrying a fake sword through the campground this morning. But then we found the rest of the LARPers. And we were still mystified.

It rained for most of the night last night, but we put everything away beforehand,  the tents stayed dry and we kept the firewood covered... It was, simply, no problem at all. It's nice when camp just works. So we are refreshed and ready to ride!

The blue is where we rode yesterday, and the red is all possibilities for today:

Conquering Old Foes

The second half of the day was better than the first. The first order of business was re-visiting the section of road where Danny fell last year, and defeating it. After that confidence boost (and after the bacon cheeseburgers digested a bit) we cruised over the dirt with relative ease and enjoyment. And it was glorious.

We came to the spot at which we previously bailed from the TAT roads. But we turned left instead of right this time, and it turned out to be the best part of our ride.

After this we discovered that riding hundreds of miles of dirt backroads in a single day can exhaust the human body. But that was nothing that a campfire and chili-cheese-wursts couldn't solve.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Ride 1

This morning's ride was amazing. It's exactly what we wanted it to be last year and what we hoped for today. 

It was full of tree-canopied dirt roads with cows laying in the surrounding green rolling hills. And the occasional farm dog chasing us down the road.

Lunch is at Burger Land, same place we ate last time! In fact, my phone auto connected to the burgerland-wifi that I saved a year ago. 


Made it to camp. The bikes didn't fall over. Trailer and BMW are intact. The tents are up. We are right on the lake, which you can barely see is covered with fog under the moonlight.

Ticker says 3:03AM and 38° F.  Time for sleep.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014


It's time for another one: a hundred miles (if we're lucky) of the Trans-America Trail (TAT). It will be a quick 3 days, and only 4 hours away. But don't for a moment underestimate the difficulty of this ride.

I don't think I wrote about it (probably from embarrassment). But about this time last year, the TAT defeated Danny and me (well, mostly Danny).

We packed the bikes and road south after work. After pulling into camp, preparing for a late fire and night under the stars... we quickly found ourselves in this instead:

After flooded tents, soaking clothes, and a few hours sleep, the roads looked like this:

We rode for 10 hours and made it about 25 miles. It was horrible. One of us fell (I won't say who). But we mostly kept upright by walking our bikes through the mud. There were a couple good parts, like stream crossing:

But we left that place, defeated.

So after a year of building up the courage to re-attack our foe, we are ready to return; this time smarter. We'll be hauling the bikes and leaving the gear at camp so we can keep them light on the ride. We've got newer, better gear. We've also added a third challenger, our secret weapon who currently has an undefeated record against the TAT. He can ride. He can camp. He can take a turn driving us down there. And we like to call him...


Also, most importantly, this time we've checked the forecast beforehand. So we should be good.