Sunday, November 8, 2015

Day 4: Oklahoma to Home

Riding home after an adventure on the trail is typically a depressing, pavement-pounding affair. Today though, may have been our best day.

We turned nearly every half mile as we zigzagged northeast from Great Plains Salt Lake back to Kansas City.

We took back roads, stumbled across a Kansas Trials riding competition, and there learned how to get back home ADV style. We discovered Teeter Rock and found unexpected great riding trails in Kansas, which we didn't know was even possible.

From Emporia we finally hopped on the pavement and sped home through 45° cold. We are thankful to be home, safe, bikes still running, and with a couple millimeters of tire tread to spare.


In short, the Oklahoma TAT is a different kind of ADV trail, but one we realized that we are glad we didn't miss.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Day 3: Mid Oklahoma TAT

We started the day off with a rush when on our way out of camp, I decided to take an exploratory route through the grass to a road the the map said was there. Well it wasn't, and we found ourselves stuck on a boulder-ridden embankment that we couldn't go back up, facing a lake that we surely didn't want to go IN. You'll have to tune back in later and watch the video to see how we got out. But alas, we did. And we had a grand day riding through the Oklahoma beauty. It's a different kind of trail, but it's been a blast. Tonight it's cold, and will be mid-30's by morning. Then we head home.

Friday, November 6, 2015

Day 2: Eastern Oklahoma

We started our day out like we meant business, with a full breakfast at Boomerang Diner in Tahlequah, OK. The "small" breakfast did not disappoint with eggs, bacon, hash browns, and biscuit & gravy. Mmm! I knew right then that it was going to be a great day.

The rest of the day did not disappoint, either. Despite our late start and big breakfast pushing our TAT arrival to nearly 11:00 AM, we wore ourselves out over 150 miles of trail.

The roads swapped back and forth between packed dirt and gravel of all sorts and colors. There was nothing of significant riding challenge, but I wouldn't call it boring. Much of the joy of this ride is just the beauty of it. Rolling hills and turning leaves made Oklahoma feel like Vermont. A different time of year, with the heat beating down, and I can see how this section of the trail could be dull. The interesting riding is definitely spaced out further by some long, straight gravel roads. Anyway, I'm still enjoying myself.

The daylight doesn't last long in November, so we stopped for camp in late afternoon. I think our secluded, lakeside campsite might be the best we've had. It clearly used to be a campground, but seems to now be unmaintained. Just finding the roads in was an adventure challenge, and we were rewarded with a beautiful view of the lake, trees for hammocks, and just the stars and armadillos for company. 

Day 1: KC to Tallequah

We made it a hour and a half into our ride when Joey announced his clutch cable went out. This could be a big problem, but Joey and I both have secondary clutch cables in place on the bike for this very scenario. We pulled over so he could take a couple minutes to switch the cables. Except it turned out that was NOT the problem. In short, we spent the next hour and a half pulling apart the bike to inspect the clutch plates, only to end up discovering his cable, though intact, came out of adjustment. 30 seconds with some pliers fixed the real problem. But we learned a lot. For one, our handpicked set of just a few tools turned out to be enough to get pretty deep into the engine in a Chinese restaurant's parking lot.

For riding in November, towards a thunderstorm, we've had it amazing. The thermometer showed 64 degrees our whole ride, and somehow we completely missed the rain. I told Joey that the clutch issue was actually divine appointment so we'd miss the rain storm like we did. He's not convinced yet, but he will be.

So we made it to our free campsite, dry, by 11pm. We setup camp without rain or cold. And the stars look AMAZING. 

We are just 5 miles north of the trail. Rest up.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

TAT 4 - Oklahoma

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

That's how I ended the last trip entry. It seems I'm not so good at following up... but here we are, prepping to leave again. Tomorrow we return to the Trans-America Trail (TAT), for part 4. We ride straight south from KC, and turn right into Oklahoma. 

Oklahoma is the forum-described "boring" part of the TAT. You can read ride report after report of adventurers who choose to skip the trail through OK and take the highway from Arkansas to Colorado. The three of us have gone 'round a few times arguing about what to do. We aren't obsessive about riding every inch of the trail, but the options we faced were skipping Oklahoma and hauling our bikes to the Mountains next year... or squeezing in another short TAT ride this fall and STILL heading to the mountains next year. So fall is here, and to that trail we go. It wasn't easy finding some time for a second trip in 2015. I think we've rescheduled four times, and now we're riding in November--adventuresome, but less than ideal.

Since the spring...

Joey's Honda XR suffered a piston explosiatastrophe, and he's replaced, resurfaced, and rebuilt all those complicated metal parts that go somewhere under the seat. Just last weekend he finished the carb and says she's running better than ever.

Danny's Suzuki DR had an oil leak... if you can call it that. I think he spent $2 on some gasket and, you know, took something important off, gave it a new gasket, put it back on... and now it's good.

My Kawasaki KLR on the other hand, developed a real oil leak. And while Joey rebuilt his engine and Danny scraped off a 20 year old cam chain tensioner gasket... I put a cup under my bike.

Plastic cup, on right, to collect dripping oil
Anyway, the cup is starting to fill a bit. So I added some oil to my bike last night. Good to go!

Also since spring, we've been playing a game of musical motorcycle luggage. In May, we each took different approaches for our luggage:

  • Danny: Nelson Riggs soft dry saddle bags - $50 Used on Amazon
  • Joey: Dry bags with custom straps for mounting - $60 for all parts
  • Nic: Wolfman Expedition Dry Bags - $180 Used from ADV inmate
There's a longer, really boring story about how Danny and I both ordered newly released DrySpec dry saddle bags several months before the trip, and then the bag manufacturing became so far delayed that Danny cancelled his order and I ordered Wolfmans at the last minute... and then two days into our trip the DrySpec bags shipped to my house. Anyway, after getting back from the trip, we decided the Wolfmans were the best, and Danny's bags were falling apart. So this happened:
  • Danny: Returned bags to Amazon for failure to perform well
  • Joey: Bought Nic's Wolfman's at a $10 discount (you're welcome, pal), sold custom bags
  • Nic: Opened the box of new DrySpec D20's sitting in the garage ($110 out of pocket)
Only problem here? Danny doesn't have any luggage. Then sometime over the summer he surprised us with his UPS tracking number of brand new Mosko Moto Scout Panniers. I won't say here how much they cost, to avoid Danny's embarrassment. I'll just say that they did cost less than $451. And so far they seem amazing. Time and the trail will tell us which bags are to be most desired.

And that brings us to tonight. Three running motorcycles, packed (overpacked in my case), ready to haul us through a rain storm (tomorrow) and across the Oklahoma plains. And here are three not-very-good pictures of it:

Danny's Suzuki DR 650

Joey's Honda XR 650

Nic's Kawasaki KLR 650