Monday, May 25, 2015

All done

We made it back to KC safely after a morning ride through Mark Twain National Forest, and then a lot of highway 50. 

Love the TAT. Miss it already. Some more thoughts and pics to come.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

TAT 3 - Day 4: The Real Mississippi

After several days of adventure riding, we started referring to any paved road as a highway. When switching from packed dirt to something even like a two-lane road without lines and crumbling shoulders, the leader would announce "looks like we are hopping on a highway" over the intercoms.

We were riding on just such a "highway" in Mississippi, complaining about how little adventury miles the state had to offer on our trail. That's when she (Mrs. Ippy) overheard us and punched us right in the face.

I told the crew to turn around, we had missed a turn off of our road that the trail map showed. I was surprised, as I hadn't seen it. We road back for a few thousand feet... and missed it again? The map is a little out of date, but roads don't just disappear. After turning once more we found it. A sliver of a gap in the wooded trees to our right, and a trail of mud to follow. Off we went down a stretch of maybe a mile that took us two hours to complete.

There was mud pit after mud pit (deep mud).

We even had to hatchet vines and trees out of our way on a point to be able to get through this Missippi jungle. At one point Danny caught a vine in the helmet and practically pulled him off the bike, which fell sideways, into 12" of muddy water. Below you can't see him literally pouring out his boots after.

Then all of a sudden Joey's XR 650 didn't want to run any more. It just stopped. We spent an hour trying to start it. Joey drained the carbs. We pushed it back up the trail 3 times and tried to roll start it. We even changed the spark plug on the trail. And yes, we prayed. All that in 90° heat, and infinite humidity. But it still didn't start. Then we noticed it. The carb had come slightly loose from the manifold. 

Pushed it back in, and it fired right up. A few sighs of relief later and we were on our way. 

Around 2pm we had to say our goodbyes to the trail and the taunts of Mississippi, and turned home. 

Hotel beds will rest us tonight for a long day of the REAL highway tomorrow, which wil take us back to KC.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

TAT 3 - Day 3

We made it to Mississippi! We aren't too far across the river, but we found good camping at Sardis Lake, and we are exhausted. The trail is harder in Western Arkansas than Eastern Arkansas, and both were probably harder than Mississippi so far (though we are barely into it). Each day, though, has had it's share of challenges that keep us standing on the pegs.

Besides the riding, it's been fun just seeing the ecosystems change as we go. The dirt we ride on has been changing colors, and at any given moment we'll be in the middle of a forest, racing over sandy farm roads, or even spinning our tires in muddy slush. And meeting people at every stop is also interesting. The accents have been getting thicker with each stop. Eavesdropping on some of the campers next door proves they are often impossible to understand.

I'd say we are exhausted. We have to start thinking about when to turn toward home and how to get there, but we can't give up tackling a few more miles of the trail. So tomorrow we'll do both. Get just a LITTLE bit further before turning sorta-around. Danny still has to get to Tennesse to cross that state off his list. And of course Joey and I need to eat BBQ or fried chicken in Memphis. Then we'll ride West while tryint to avoid highways.

Photos won't upload tonight. And it's hot. 85 degrees or so in my tent. I hear the bull frogs croaking now that it's night. A pleasant break from the zacatas scremaing during the day.

Friday, May 22, 2015

TAT 3 Day 2

When you're driving a car on the interstate (which we lovingly call the super slab) you can cover 500 or 600 miles in a day over 8 hours.  We are riding about 200 miles per day, over 10 hours, and moving eastward at less than 100 miles each day. That means we're averaging about 25 mph (including some breaks). And it's amazing.

The trail has so far been excellent. It surprised us when we hit the hardest part we've ridden within the first 30 minutes of hopping on, back south of Fayetteville. That section (Warloop Rd) set an expectation of difficulty that has been lessening each mile we ride. Today in fact had quite a bit of pavement and gravel in between the fun parts. But the fun parts included 18" deep river crossings, tree-canopied packed mud roads, and beautiful Arkansas mountaintop views.

Finding a campsite for the night was the biggest challenge. When we left for this trip we didn't know how far we could get each day. So we decided to do the very thing I hate: "just wing it." We're riding all day and finding a campsite wherever we can once we get tired. Yesterday was brilliant. We rode until we couldn't and camped in a clearing we found at 5pm that was 50 feet from the trail, in the Ozark National Forest. See our little tents in the back?

Tonight, though, was tougher. We ended the day in Beebe, AR. It's big enough that we couldn't find a place to camp or a paid campground anywhere near the trail. We drove back and forth for an hour, exhausted, looking for anything, to no avail. After getting stuck and unstuck in some mud, with no prospects... what did we do? Prayed for a place to sleep and rode back into town for some Arkansas BBQ. Then through a happenstance encounter and a kind eavesdropper, we were sent to a fishing lake, just out of town, with plenty of free campsites available (really???). 

So here we are, lakeside: fully fed, warm, next to a dying fire made from wood that a stranger brought over, since he knew we couldn't haul any with us. Everything we need and more. It's good. All that and still no broken legs.

Tomorrow we hope to make it to Mississippi.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

TAT 3 Day 1

The Super 8 parking lot we came from this morning seems like a year ago. 

Since then we've had to turn back from a washed out road,

Gone around the river that stopped us last year,

Had a slice of the best pie in the world,

And slowly, steadily, built a campfire.

The riding was great today. The sun was out, the trail was challenging, and no broken legs (thanks God, keep it coming).

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Ready or not, here we come

I'm packed. Pfew.

I don't know at what point the dream of spend-a-week-on-the-trail-without-a-care-in-the-world turns into replace-every-loose-part-on-my-motorcycle and try-to-squeeze-everything-a-man-needs-to-live-into-three-bags. But for the last couple days I've been leaving right at that crossroad.

While Joey continues to encourage me, assuring me that I'll find a way to make it all fit and it won't be too heavy, I'll have everything I need... Danny ever-so-sweetly texts me things like "I'm trying as hard as I can to fill my bags. Impossible!!!" Thanks, bro.
And while my bike feels like it can barely move under it's own power, Danny said on his test ride he "didn't even know there was added weight." Not sure what I'm doing wrong. I know I've done this before... And I know cut out about 30 pounds of gear since last time... Maybe I don't need to bring the 30 lb. dumbbell? I mean, I can probably get a good workout on the trail with just the 25 and 15 pounders, yeah?

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

The TAT. Part 3

We're going to the TAT. Again. Just for a refresher, the Trans-America Trail (TAT) is a collection of backroads and trails that run from Tennessee, all the way to Oregon. We've seen a joy-to-ride section of it in Arkansas. But apparently, not enough of it to get our fill.

It was on the drive home last year that we started planning our trip back. We spent the drive researching bikes, picking our perfect machines, and discussing how to trick our wives into letting us take a week off in 2015 so we could do it all again. And so... here we are (thanks, wives)!

Danny grabbed a Suzuki DR 650 as soon as he found one he could afford. Joey bought a Honda XR 650 in Colorado and waited months to find a way to get it delivered to KC. And I came up with a different bike I intended to buy about every single day, but in the end I couldn't abandon my Kawasaki KLR 650. It didn't take long at all for the three of us to find a good "proving ground" in KC to practice getting stuck in the mud (over, and over...). Then the gear started to arrive (thanks and ebay). Then there was a mad rush of motorcycle maintenance and modifications and unnecessary upgrades (you'll see pics of my auxiliary lights). Now we're a couple days away and nearly all packed up. Ok, so Danny and Joey have been packed up. I've barely started... but averaging that out makes us nearly there.

Dear Lord, give us great weather. And also no broken legs. Amen.