Shrinking The Planet – One Ride At A Time

Traversing The TAT (Trans-America Trail) Chapter 1

One of the mainstays of R2ADV is to suggest that by riding motorcycles all over the planet, you have the opportunity to meet new and interesting people, share and learn a bit about each other.  Well such is the genesis of our story to traverse of the Trans American Trail, better known as the TAT.  This journey to cross most of America actually began at a lodge in Alaska near Mt. McKinley.  We had made a quick stop for a bite to each and as we were walking back to our bikes, it was there that we met a couple who we had a wonderful conversation with. 

They had seen the New Hampshire license plates on our loaded bikes in the parking lot and wanted to talk about how our journey had been.  We chatted for about half an hour and told them that we often blogged about our trips if he wanted to see more.  They were excited and the man of the couple said, “We have a friend that rides motorcycles and he would love to meet talk to you.  Do you mind if we give him your email address?”  We said that we’d be happy to correspond with this new to be friend and the couple took our email address and left. 

In case you don’t know it, if you’d like to see any of these pictures in full size, simply click on one and you will be taken to a full size gallery where you can page by each picture you’d like to view.

A couple of days later, sure enough I received an email from Tracy, the person the couple had mentioned.  He said that he lived in Alaska and he would like to meet if we had the time.  We responded that we would be happy to meet and that one of our stops would be for an adventure riders gathering in Dawson City in the Canadian Yukon.  Tracy said that he might be going as well and he’d try to find us there.

To make a very fun story short (you can read all about it in our ride story: Alaska – Gravel, Grandeur & Goofy Grins found elsewhere on this site) We met Tracy as we literally first got off our bikes in Dawson City.   We had stopped at the visitor center to use the facilities and as we dismounted, a man approached us and said, “Are you Kim and Mike?”  Tracy had found us and we had found him.  We spent 2 days in Dawson City and then a full day with both Tracy and his wife MaryLee in their home town in Alaska, and we had a great time!  We had made a great friendship that continues to this day.

Tracy and I continued to correspond to each other and tried to figure out ways that we could get together and ride.  When the TAT ride was agreed upon as a mutual ride, we both set out to make preparations for our ride across much of America.  Tracy and MaryLee would actually start from Toledo, Ohio and we would be starting from Jellico, Tennessee.  The two couples would meet in Jellico and start our TAT ride from there.   We picked early June to start our journey thinking that we would beat much of the well known midwest heat.  Boy were we about to get a lesson in heat.  But we’ll tell you much more about that later. 

Making preparations for our trip consisted of a lot fun intertwined with moments of frustration and anger.  We had decided to go “light” and take our two identical model KTM 250 XCF-w bikes upgraded for long distance travel.  The thought was, if some of the terrain became difficult is much easier to manage a lightweight bike.  In those instances where the terrain might cause a fall, we thought it much easier to pick up 250 pounds than 400 plus pounds. 

So I set off to obtain the proper equipment and modify the bikes for the long ride ahead.  Kim and I already had the majority of the gear necessary, we just needed some of the equipment that would be appropriate for a long distance journey on lightweight bikes intended for brief jaunts in the woods or single track, not on a 2,500 to 3,000 mile journey. 

First to be purchased were the storage containers and for that we purchased some excellent Giant Loop saddlebag type panniers.  I also installed some brush guards/hand protectors and sent the stock seats out to James Renazco at Renazco Racing to have them re-fitted for longer distances than the mostly stand up, sit down on occasion stock seats.

I also installed a couple of sturdier bash plates and road safety equipment such as mirror and horn so that we would be 50 state legal on those occasions where we were on public ways.  To complete our retrofitting ensemble, I installed a couple of fender tool kits with tools and extra tubes and a GPS.  Oh and Mr. Cotton, my mascot for most of our adventure rides jumped aboard as well and securely tied himself to the handlebars to keep an eye on me.

There, I thought we were ready to go.  But about a week before the trip, one of my friends asked a fairly simple question.  “What are you two going to do between fuel stops?  I’ve heard it can be more than 200 miles between gas stations.”  Drat!  I thought I had thought about everything and this simple, but unbelievably important item had completely slipped my mind.  Our little KTMs, although fuel sippers, had small fuel tanks and there was no way they would make it 200 miles between fill ups.

Thus began the quest to develop a standby fuel storage system for our two wheeled transportation.  KTM did not make anything and even the aftermarket had nothing to fit the little KTMs.  Double drat!  So I went about my way to quickly find a portable fuel container to put on the bikes with less than a week before blast off.  My head was spinning.  There was little time for mail order and we needed whatever solution fitted on the bike and ready to go in less than a week.

I rooted through bike magazines and websites and all sorts of places where I thought I might find small fuel containers.  Ultimately, I found a small plastic unbreakable 1.5 gallon fuel container with mount from an all terrain vehicle supplier.  It was pretty much that or nothing for a factory engineered fix.  I placed a rush order and got two of the containers and mounts.  They arrived two days before we were set to leave and they needed to be installed in a way they were not originally intended to be.  Yikes.  Oh yeah, did I mention we both had day jobs to take care of as well?

I’ll tell you more about the install and the beginning of our journey in the next chapter.

2 responses

  1. itsmewilly

    This is getting interesting. I’m probably mistaken, but Tracy is not the gentleman you featured and again now feature on your cover is he?

    Like

    March 10, 2013 at 7:48 pm

  2. Awesome!!!

    Like

    March 13, 2013 at 11:35 am

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