The next segment of our Planet Ramble has just been published. This time, we ride to Montreal Canada to drop off the bikes for shipment to Europe. We eventually get there and pick up the bikes. You can catch up by clicking HERE or by copying and pasting the below link into your browser.
We hope you enjoy. There’s much, much to come soon.
Today we rode through Custer State Park and we can say it is all it’s cracked up to be. Significant twisties, deserted gravel roads and wildlife abound. Had a great time until we hit thunderstorms and headed for home.
I received an email the other day from a Kiara Wilson of Motorcycle House (www.motorcyclehouse.com) a few days back. She had seen our site and asked if we were interested in doing a review of some of their riding gear. They would make the gear available for free if we would agree to review it on our site giving our honest opinion.
I did a precursory check of their website and found that much of Motorcycle House’s gear is cruiser oriented, so I initially declined adding that we don’t really use cruiser gear and therefore couldn’t give an honest opinion.
Kiara suggested that I spend some more time on their site and browse through all their items and let her know if there was anything we would be interested in reviewing. While I was browsing, Kiara suggested that I might be interested in the Thor Phase Jacket. So I checked it out and it seemed to be a nice piece of enduro gear.
I reinforced the fact that I would give an honest review and that there were no promises that the review would be positive. But I did promise that the review would be honest. I also let her know that it was the middle of winter in New Hampshire, so I likely would not be able to give a full riding impression until things warmed up. Kiara agreed to all of this and as such I agreed to do a review of the jacket. Before I knew it, a Thor Phase Jacket arrived at my home.
I opened the box and was surprised at the contents. My first impression was positive. The quality seemed good, but the engineering of the jacket was what impressed me. The front of the jacket had two 12 inch long air vents complete with waterproof zippers. These types of zippers are more expensive compared to the normal zippers. The pulls are good sized and you can open and close them with a gloved hand. There was none of the “stickiness” that waterproof zippers sometimes have. The main zipper of the jacket is not waterproof but it does have an inch wide flap covering it with Velcro to hold the flap over the zipper. For normal riding it should do a good job of keeping the wet outside where it belongs. The back of the jacket has a similar 15 inch air vent zipper.
Inside the jacket is a mesh inner liner to help move the air around your body and keep the outer shell of the jacket off your body. There is also a an inner pocket lined with fleece big enough for your smart phone/music player. It even has a flap with Velcro to hold your ear bud cord in place. Nice.
An interesting feature are the zip off sleeves. So if it’s really hot out there and you are comfortable riding without the additional protection sleeves provide, they can be quickly removed and replaced when things cool off a bit.
Near the cuff of the left sleeve is a small 6 x 4 inch zippered compartment with a clear cover. It seems to me that this would be a good place to store your license or other motorcycle documents. This is perfect if you find yourself in one of those aww, sh!# situations where you have to produce documents.
The cuffs are also adjustable with a zipper and Velcro tabs to set the adjustments. So on those hot days with the sleeves on, you can also open the cuffs and leave them wide open for some cooling airflow.
In the back of the jacket is a built in ditty bag that could hold perhaps some light tools, a tire tube and similar gear. It could even hold those zip off sleeves. The compartment also contains a belt so that you can fold up the jacket into the compartment and wear it like a bum bag. This is a great idea for those “off the bike” times.
So all in all, not yet having ridden with the jacket I am pretty impressed. It seems like a good piece of kit and I am anxious to try it out.
Does the above mean that there isn’t anything I don’t like about the jacket? No, but my concerns are quite minor. This is a Thor piece of gear and has roots in the Motocross world. As such, the graphics are a bit much for me. The jacket itself is black, but there are some graphics applied that I could do without. It also has some sewn on rubber bits with the Thor logo on it that I don’t care for. But other than those niggles, I’m a pretty happy camper with the jacket and the fact that Motorcycle House made the gear available to us for free.
Stay tuned for a riding impression and video when things warm up.
I don’t generally write about podcasts, but lately I’ve been listening to a podcast that stands heads and shoulders above anything I’ve heard in the past about adventure riding. Adventure Rider Radio (www.adventureriderradio.com) has had my attention for weeks and it’s time that I let everyone in on my little secret.
Adventure Rider Radio’s host Jim Martin not only is the commentator, but also produces a high quality podcast filled with interviews from well known and not so well known adventure riders. In fact, I was quite surprised to listen to a list of guests that included:
- Simon and Lisa Thomas (aka 2RidetheWorld)
- Grant Johnson from Horizons Unlimited
- Simon Pavey (Dakar Competitor and Instructor to Ewan McGregor and Charlie Boorman)
- Sam Manicom (author of 4 world wide motorcycle adventure books)
- Austin Vince (round the world rider and producer of the films Mondo Enduro and Terra Circa)
Obviously, interviews with people like these is entertaining and with the thoughtful questions posed by Jim, the interviews are nothing short of spellbinding.
All in all, Adventure Rider Radio is a treat to an adventure rider’s ears. Do yourself a big favor and listen to one of the many podcasts. It won’t be the last one you listen to. You can download the podcasts at iTunes or via RSS feed at the Adventure Rider Radio site (www.adventureriderradio.com)
Give Adventure Rider Radio at try, you’ll come away impressed!
Ride2ADV along with their faithful companion Mr. Cotton will soon be riding the Colorado Backcountry Discovery Route (CODBR). From the 4 corners of the US where Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona and Utah merge all the way to the Wyoming border. There are sure to be lots of exciting gravel roads/trails to ride. We will be posting as we travel so if you want a taste of the Colorado Backcountry Discovery route, be sure to follow the R2ADV site for real-time updates and photos.
We’ll be using a Spot satellite tracker so you can watch us travel read time with position updates every 5 minutes. The map will become active Saturday, June 21, 2014.
With the publication of my first book, Mr. Cotton Wanders Europe: Where To Next? I learned my first lesson about being an author. I quickly learned that I needed to grow a thicker skin. As many of you know, for the first five days of the book’s publication, I offered the electronic version free to everyone who would like a copy. A few hundred copies were downloaded and I eagerly awaited the first review. It took a few days, but the first one appeared from Jennifer H-W “allweathers”
As I started to read, I immediately knew that the review was not a good one. In fact, it was a scathing and deeply venomous one. I’ve inserted the entire review below:
“I feel a little bad about this review because the author comes across as a nice man but he cannot write. It is patently obvious from the beginning that he is totally out of his depth. Painful is the only word I can use, I am still completely perplexed as to why I finished it, I wanted to be fair I guess. What is more, he waxes lyrical throughout about the ‘adventure’ he and the saintly Kim are having on their motor cycle trip through Europe but this is NOT an adventure. This is a high end tourist visit, they stay in the very best of accommodation and eat in high end restaurants and barely experience the true nature of the various places they visit. I got this e-book through Amazon for $0.00…..and that was too expensive.”
My heart sank. Could my book really have been that bad? Prior to its publication, it had been read by a few friends and each of them said that they had enjoyed it. So how could several people pre-read the book, and when published, generate such a negative and personal review?
My initial feeling was one of hurt. I had spent much time and effort writing the book and it had taken a significant part of my life. The next feeling was anger, particularly when the commentator personally ridiculed Kim. She doesn’t know Kim and the personal verbal attack was way out-of-bounds. In closing the commentator felt it important to state that the price of the free book was too expensive.
After reading the comment, I spent a couple of days being quite down. I felt like the review was inaccurate, as well as personal assault on Kim and me. I wasted a fair amount of time dwelling on the topic but then it dawned on me. I was indeed wasting my time worrying about the first review.
I know that everyone is entitled to their opinion and this person was entitled to hers. But as I re-read the review, I could see that she was writing not about the book, but about herself. She seemed like a jealous, angry person who was attempting to prove their worth to the reading community. But in leaving a review such as the one she left, she made it clear that she hadn’t really comprehended the book and was more intent in leaving a negative review than in providing the community with a helpful summary.
Some of her stated facts were wrong “they stay in the very best of accommodations” is an incorrect statement as we spent several nights places that were far from the very best. For example, our night outside of Rodez in a third floor, 6 X 8 un-air-conditioned 90 degree room with music blaring until 2:00 AM was certainly not the very best of accommodation. But it certainly was a safe place to lay our heads for the evening.
Accordingly, what I took from this part of her review was that my story telling attempts to relay the best about the particular person, place or thing had been accomplished. She apparently keyed on these descriptions and transposed her dislike of these good things. In her mind, clearly you can not have an adventure if you are not feeling pain or discomfort. Suddenly she seemed to be a very sad person.
Her verbal attack on Kim, referring to her as “saintly” once again seemed to point to her sadness. To take the time to distinctly single out Kim as “saintly” seemed to me to indicate that someone special was missing from her life and her lashing out was an indication of jealousy.
It also seemed she knew that she was going to be over the top with her review and felt it necessary to point out that she was trying to be fair. Her words were. “Painful is the only word I can use, I am still completely perplexed as to why I finished it, I wanted to be fair I guess.” If she really wanted to be fair, she would have been factual and left out the barbs. But no, she felt it important to include them to prove her own superiority. Sorry Ms. Jennifer H-W “allweathers”, writing a “review” and filling it with personal barbs does not make you a superior commentator, it just makes you seem lonely and angry.
Lastly, she felt it important enough to indicate, “I got this e-book through Amazon for $0.00…..and that was too expensive.” Well Ms. Jennifer H-W “allweathers”, I am sorry that you apparently feel that way, and that you spent $0.00 for the book. That was the lowest price I could offer. Now that you’ve read Mr. Cotton Wanders Europe: Where To Next? you will not have to endure such misery again.
In closing, I sincerely wish Ms. Jennifer H-W “allweathers” a happier and less angry life. I also want to thank you for teaching me a lesson. Going forward I promise to have a thicker skin, and take each review for its true worth.
If you’d like to know a little more about us, check out the article in today’s Sunday Manchester Union Leader. It was fun to be interviewed and even more fun to see it printed!
Forgive me everyone, but I’ve got to tell it like it is and at the same time make a confession. Each month I receive several opportunities to take a brief vacation from the day to day grind. This short diversion arrives in the form of bound and stapled glossy paper, complete with photos delivered come rain, snow or gloom of night by the United States Postal Service. Yes, each month I am filled with the anticipation of the arrival of a pile of freshly printed motorcycle magazines. Like a kid waiting for his/her once a year present from a distant family member, the anticipation builds with each passing week until the next edition of the magazine arrives.
First days, then weeks, pass and suddenly it happens. With a rattling stop of a blue and white beat up right side drive delivery truck and the squeak of the mailbox door, the excitement is repeated. Upon the opening of the mailbox door, smooth glossy paper and sexy bright colors assault my senses and stimulate my mind. It’s like a paper version of the anticipation of an overnight date with that supermodel you’ve been dreaming about for years.
You quickly glance at the cover and there she is. That new bike you’ve been lusting after, wrapped in silky paint and sporting voluptuous curves. It’s a feast for your eyes and food for your motorcycle soul. That cover photo freshly seared into the frontal lobe of your brain, you can’t wait to open the magazine and get to know her even better.
But then it happens. You open to the page where your dream girl is supposed to be waiting. There’s another picture, not quite as large and glossy as the cover, but still sufficient to send another rush of adrenaline surging through you. You gaze upon her and she seems hotter and more exciting than ever.
Your eyes move from the glossy photo to the accompanying text. It can’t be, no it can’t be! Beside the glossy photo and smaller randomly placed and tilted snapshots are a couple of captions and two little paragraphs of text. To make things even worse, most of the text comes straight out of the manufacturers brochure!
Where’s the review? Where are the opinions, the comparisons and the road test? Where is the evaluation and the conclusion on how good or bad she is? There’s nothing; nothing at all for your brain. This can’t be! So close and yet so far, they’ve pulled a fast one on me. They’ve pulled a bait and switch and I’ve fallen for it hook line and sinker. Again!
Motorcycle magazine publishers, I’ve long been an admirer. You’ve been like family to me, at times bringing me closer and tighter into the fold. But I can’t deal with the continuing heartache. Propelled to a zenith by a big glossy cover photo of excitement and suddenly, unceremoniously dropped from the heavens into the pits of hell by the lack of data and the failure to opine. I can’t put up with this forever.
Please, please don’t torture me any more. Your loyal readers and I are getting restless. We understand that publishing is a business, and that you have to sell magazines. But you do your readers and yourselves a huge disservice when you print little more than a photo and a byline just to sell a couple more copies.
Leave the ill-gotten sales to the other guys and you’ll gain the respect and loyalty of a bonded community. Take the easy way out, and you’ll alienate us from your pages. Sorry to come across so hard, but when you care about something, we’re driven to tell you like it is and let you know that there’s a problem to be fixed. So step it up folks, there’s a line of faithful readers lining up by the door… and it’s not the entrance.
So what do you think?
When morning came, we were in no rush to get out of bed. We both knew that our little adventure would end today. All we had to do was to ride back to Barcelona and drop off the bikes. Much of the riding would be on larger and more traveled roads, particularly as we got closer to Barcelona. Neither of us rushed to get ready for the day, it was like without saying anything to each other, we were both trying to avoid the inevitable. Our wandering adventure would soon be over.
“It’s almost over Kim. I can’t believe we’ve used up two weeks already. It doesn’t feel like we’ve been traveling two weeks, but I know we have. Soon we’ll be back to the grind, doing our workday things and dreaming of another adventure. I can’t wait until the next one.”, I said sullenly.
Kim, as always was more upbeat than me. “We’ll be on another adventure soon, don’t worry. We’ve ridden all over the world so far and there’s nothing stopping us from doing another adventure. Don’t feel bad, we’ll be riding somewhere else in the world in no time.”
I paused and thought for a while.
“Thank you Princess, you always make me feel wonderful. You are so positive about everything, you always encourage me to look at the bright side. I love you so much.”
I don’t know what was getting into me, but it seemed each day on this trip, I loved Kim more and more. I thought I couldn’t love her any more, but each day on this trip, the depths of my love for her became deeper and more vast. I didn’t know how she did it, but she made me feel more in love with each day that passed. I had to ask myself, “How lucky could a man get? To be able to ride all over the world with someone who shared your love for out of the way places and have that travel be accomplished on a motorcycle.
I had to break myself out of my thoughts and get us onto the road. We had a light casual breakfast in the hotel’s restaurant and made arrangements to have our bikes freed from the hotel’s garage. Fifteen minutes later, we met the hotel receptionist in front of the garage and she opened the doors for us. It didn’t take us long to load up the bikes and we were quickly underway for the last time on this adventure.
The ride back to Barcelona was very quiet over the communicators. Neither of us said much of anything to each other. I think we were both lost in our thoughts about where we’d been and what we’d seen.
As we rode, I was truly re-living our wandering adventure of Europe. Even with an open visor, I barely heard the wind noise as it rushed through my helmet. We’d been to new places and met new people. The bikes had faithfully carried us wherever we’d asked them to never skipping a beat. They hadn’t only been our transportation, they’d been our partners on this journey. They’d introduced us to new places and even new people as the locals often came to us to chat about the bikes.
The miles melted away as we rode and before we knew it, we were approaching Barcelona. But we wouldn’t arrive without one last adventure. Less than an hour outside Barcelona, the winds began to rise. They were not insignificant and they were not steady. Heavy gusts pelted us from various directions, causing the bikes to shimmy and weave. The problem for Kim was worse for Kim since she only had a little over her 100 body holding her bike in place. Even with my 200 pounds on the bike, it was moving considerably.
It was actually better to have our speed up to make maximum use of the gyroscopic effect of the wheels to stabilize the bikes. On a different trip, we’d ridden though the Chile and Argentina and faced the Patagonian winds on our way to Ushuaia. Those winds were far more intense, but they were constant and on barely traveled gravel roads. Here we were in four lanes of traffic with wind battering us from all directions.
But we soldiered on and soon found ourselves on the outskirts of Barcelona. Now the traffic was heavy and we trundled along in the right two lanes. As a sort of last challenge, we rode across a long high bridge. Totally out in the open, we got the maximum impact of the winds.
The winds blew from all points of the compass. In fact it blew so strongly that my head was involuntarily shaken left to right by the swirling wind. This was getting a bit intense. We knew that we did not have much farther to go and pointed ourselves towards the center of the city. The closer we got, the weaker the winds became. Finally, we were able to relax and enjoy the end of the ride.
We exited the highway, and quickly found the hotel. We pulled up onto the sidewalk and parked the bikes. I slowly got off the bike and pulled off my helmet. I walked over to Kim. As soon as she had her helmet off, I gave her a gigantic hug.
Thank you, thank you, thank you. What a wonderful ride.” was all I could muster. “Thank you for coming along with me. It’s been a wonderful ride.” Kim just smiled at me and I could see that she was getting a little emotional. Truth be told so was I. We hugged again and started to unload the bikes.
As I unloaded my bike, I looked at Mr. Cotton. He was still there, none the worse for wear. He wore the same smile and accumulation of stubbly beard. His left hand still had its homemade hook fastened with tie wraps. He’d lost his first hook somewhere in Patagonia (but that’s another story) and he had gotten a new one while we slept. He stared back at me as if to say, “That’s it? We’re done already?”
We’d carried all we needed for the two week wandering of Europe, and now it was time to bring it back home. Arms filled, we walked into the hotel with our gear and checked in for the last time.
After freshening up, we decided to grab a quick dinner in the hotel, pack our gear into our luggage and turn in early. We had to return the bikes early the following morning so we could catch our flight back home.
When morning came, we put on our helmets and rode the short distance to where we had rented the bikes. As I got off, I looked at Mr. Cotton. He was still there, none the worse for wear. He stared back at me as if to say, “That’s it? We’re done already?”
I looked back at him, grabbed my little wire cutters and freed him from his place on my handlebars. “Yes, we’re done for now Mr. Cotton, but we’re going to have many more adventures until you retire. So you should rest up because this was an easy trip. I know you yearn to be back on the gravel roads of the world and I’ll make sure that you have more adventures in more remote places next time. I wouldn’t want you to jump ship like you did at that other cold place.”
I stuffed Mr. Cotton in my pocket and went inside to complete the final paperwork on the bikes. Our hosts were very accommodating and had us underway in no time. As we walked back to the hotel, our wandering adventure was truly over. But as I told Mr. Cotton, there were many more places to go and ride.
All we had to do was to figure out; where to next?
We recently had a wonderful experience that we would like to share with you. As you can tell, we have always been a big proponents of the community that is the motorcycling family. For over 30 years, motorcycling has always held a cavernous place in our hearts. To us, it has been a means to explore, share, learn and enjoy. As we’ve ridden, we met new people and made long term friends.
We’ve discovered that motorcycling is more than a “lifestyle”, “brotherhood”, “fraternity”, “sorority”, or “club”. To us, motorcycling is all about family. There are no individual boundaries, barriers or divisions. Just a large and open family that invites all into its waiting arms with no expectations or requirements other than enjoying travel on two wheels.
While there may be differences between family members as in all families, those differences are transcended by the larger community that is the motorcycling family. We all have a common bond and we believe that the world is a little better because of it.
While the motorcycle family is quite encompassing as a whole, its role as a builder of family relationships is clear. Families that ride together stay together. They develop a bond made stronger by the sharing of the ride. Kids hanging out at malls, or staring into electronic devices for hours on end is replaced by sun, wind, exercise and most importantly of all, communication between family members. The very task of riding in itself brings us all together.
“How did the ride go?” “What’s the track like?” “Did you work on the bike this weekend?” “Do you want to go for a ride?” All these things bring us together and cause us to talk and share. They constitute a bond that is nearly unbreakable and the more people participate, the stronger the bond.
So what caused me to write about the motorcycle family? Frankly it was a film that all motorcyclists should see. It’s called “Why We Ride” and it captures the essence of the motorcycle family. Even if you or someone you know is not a rider, you should see this film. You may just end up joining a new family.
Check out their trailer below. It’s just part of the story.
Why We Ride is an independent film and as such, screenings have been limited. They try to show the film where they can gain maximum impact; check their website for showings. It’s well worth a trip to see this film.
Finally, we would be extremely remiss not to mention our friends Charles Sandoz and Jim Smith of Seacoast Sport Cycle in Derry, NH who sponsored the showing, generously permitting about 150 of our motorcycle family to see this film. Ride2ADV does not accept advertising, but we felt it very important that Charles and Jim get the credit for all they’ve done for our family.
Go see the film. Take your family and some non-riding friends. You may find that your family grows even larger, and that’s a good thing.
Over the years, things in my life have changed; a lot. I’d like to think that as I’ve grown older, I’ve learned quite a bit, hopefully become somewhat wiser, experienced life’s ups and downs and generally lived the life that I wanted, to the fullest. However, what is important to me now may not have been so important to me years ago and vice versa.
This came to me a little while ago as I passed through a small space where we keep the bikes and much of our motorcycle gear. A part of the garage that we lovingly call “The Shrine”. While there, I was hit with a revelation (pun intended) of sorts that over the years, perhaps my motorcycle helmets said something about me. For some reason that resides deep in my subconscious, I’ve kept almost all of my motorcycle helmets as well as many of Kim’s. Seeing them all sitting there lined up on the shelf, they spoke to me. You’ve changed, you’ve abandoned us!
They may be right. What was the single most important thing to me when I was younger was high speed performance. My fear of death or injury was practically nil. I can recall pavement escapades that today seem like insanity. Nowadays, high speed performance is not nearly as important to me. I now know when I fall off, it takes longer to heal and it really hurts! My focus is more on the ride itself and what happens during it, than going from point A to B as quickly as possible. Pavement riding, once the sole realm of my motorcycle riding is now secondary, and riding the gravel or woods is what really burns in me.
So as I stared at the helmets on the shelf, they spoke to me without speaking. Sleek, solid black Simpson Bandits in different versions cloaked with dark visors reminiscent of Darth Vader glared back at me. Several Arai RX series helmets adorned with factory racer replica colors practically screamed high RPM. The ones with the deep scratches from falling off during the years that I was competing in road racing told a story of excitement and falls. Then there were the helmets painted to my specs based upon my somewhat bizarre sense of humor; including one with an attached 18″ black braid of hair which contrasted with my bald head. Finally there were the visor-less dirt bike helmets and helmets designed specifically for adventure riding.
As I stared at them, I think they had a story to tell. They told me that my life had changed and my priorities were different. Perhaps they also reflected the importance I’ve assigned to taking things as they come instead of trying to catch a glimpse of life fueled with adrenalin at warp speed.
So do our helmets say something about us, or was that shrine driven revelation merely a dream?
Oh, yeah; one other thing. My current helmet is a fluorescent “Don’t Run Me Over” yellow. What does that say?
Ride2Adventure – Shrink the planet one ride at a time.
It’s no secret that Kim and I have been wearing Aerostich Roadcrafter one piece suits for years. You probably know that we really, really like them, so we wanted to be up front with our “bias” towards this piece of kit. That being said, we’ve had the opportunity to compare and contrast the differences between the standard Roadcrafter one piece suit and the newer Roadcrafter Light suit. We’ve literally ridden these suits tens of thousands of miles in extreme heat and cold. We’ve also ridden them for hours on end in dry, damp, rain and bucketing down rain. As such, we’d thought we’d offer our impressions of the suits.
Both of our original Roadcrafter suits have handled the years very well and we still use them on a daily basis. That being said, we’ve been riding in hotter and hotter locations and heat has become a more significant issue. Our recent trip along the Trans American Trail in the hottest, muggiest weather we’ve ever experienced, made checking out a lighter weight option almost mandatory. Ten or twelve hour days in the saddle in significant heat certainly makes the riding more difficult and potentially more dangerous.
So it was with some excitement that I ordered an Aerostich Roadcrafter Light for Kim for our wandering trip across much of Europe in mid July heat. Kim has a pretty off the shelf size frame, so I was able to order one right off the rack for her in grey and hi-viz yellow. It arrived in just a couple of days ready to wear.
The standard Roadcrafter is made with 500 denier cordura Gore-Tex with 1050 denier cordura in the ballistic areas (i.e. high impact areas). Both these deniers are much thicker and heavier than the 200 denier outer layer cordura Gore-Tex of the Roadcrafter Light. Aerostich claims that the Roadcrafter Light is has roughly two thirds the abrasion resistance of the 500 denier cordura. They don’t publish the denier of the ballistic areas for the Roadcrafter Light, but it seems to be similar to the ballistic material used in the standard Roadcrafter, meaning it is very sturdy.
There are significant differences between the standard Roadcrafter and the Roadcrafter Light. Think of the Roadcrafter Light as the evolution of the standard Roadcrafter. According to Aerostich, there have been numerous improvements including:
snap down collar,
removable rare-earth magnetic collar clasps,
water-resistant inner wallet/phone/iPod pocket,
adjustable impact pad positions,
inner pocket hook for accessory pocket
and a mini-carabiner helmet holder clip.
There are additional options, including:
Integrated Boot Raincovers,
Chest Impact Pad,
Chest Insulation Pad (Standard and Electric/Heated versions) can also be incorporated.
Having tried it on, Kim commented immediately it felt lighter than the standard Roadcrafter. The difference in weight is indeed very noticeable and it is significant. She also said that it felt ready to wear and exhibited none of that having to “break it in” feel. We note that although the standard Roadcrafter has a brief “break in” period, it eventually becomes like an old pair of jeans; very comfortable. Fit in the Roadcrafter Light appears to be the same and Kim thought it was quite comfortable. Getting in and out was also the same easy procedure as it is for the standard Roadcrafter.
Since the Roadcrafter Light has some claimed improvements, we thought it appropriate to discuss them. So far, the suit has been entirely waterproof. There have been no leaks and none of the previously dreaded Aerocrotch. The zippers do seem to have tighter teeth, but it has not effected the ability to zip or un-zip them easily.
The snap down collar (in the back) is easy to use and makes the collar snugger and easily closed. As you may know, there are now strong rare earth magnets in the base of the collar and in the collar tabs. They keep the collar down while riding so you don’t have to ride with the collar closed. They are very effective, however, perhaps a bit too effective. When you are suiting up and you want the collar up, you need to exercise a bit of care zipping up so that the collar doesn’t automatically fold down. This is a minor annoyance and if you had to choose between having or not having the magnets, you’ll definitely prefer that the suit have magnets unless you are riding in the Antarctic and the collar always has to be up. The water-resistant pocket seems to do it’s job, we’ve not seen any water in the pocket.
There is a very definite difference between the armor mounting in the two suits. The standard Roadcrafter has a sort of inner liner that has sewn in pockets to hold your armor. The Roadcrafter Light comes with separate pockets which you Velcro into the suit in the appropriate places. While the pockets stay in place once you position, Kim has found that she has to use a little more care when putting her booted foot into the suit, especially on the right leg where it does not open all the way. She’s never had an issue getting the suit on or off, it’s just that she needs to be more careful putting it on so that her boot doesn’t get hung up with the pocket. That said, if you don’t wear armor, this is a non-issue. If you do wear armor, it shouldn’t be considered to be a big enough issue to turn you off from buying the Roadcrafter Light. Lastly, the inner accessory hook and the helmet carabineer are nice to have, but aren’t anything spectacular.
We did not order the integrated boot rain covers, chest impact pad or chest insulation pad so we can’t comment on them or how well they do or don’t work.
Overall, Kim really likes the Roadcrafter Light and now wears it most of the time. If it’s going to be cold, she opts for the Roadcrafter standard, but in all other cases, she rides with the Roadcrafter Light. It is lighter, fits the same, watertight and packs smaller than the standard Roadcrafter. There’s really nothing not to like about this suit.
So if you are the type that always wants the most protection that you can get in a cordura suit, or you ride in mostly cold temperatures (i.e. 50 or below) you’ll probably want to opt for the standard Roadcrafter. But if you are ok with having two thirds the abrasion protection, in a lighter, cooler suit for $200 less, then the Roadcrafter Light may be for you.
You should really check out both suits yourself, but we thought we’d offer you our perspectives. Your perspectives may be different, so take the time to investigate what will work best for you.
I couldn’t have captured the essence of motorcycling any better. The end of the video just reaches to my soul.
Riding the TAT we’d been in rural areas for quite some time. But the deeper we ventured into Mississippi, we began to notice that we’d entered another level of rural and got the feeling that we had really passed into an era where time may have stopped for a while.
On the gravel, we found remnants of old farms and homesteads. It was a little mesmerizing riding through this part of the country. You could really get the feeling of old-time farming and people scratching a living from farmland carved from the thickly wooded earth. Each farmer cutting down trees by hand and pulling the stumps with horses or oxen.
By the way, if you don’t know, click on any one of the pictures in the gallery below and it will open that picture into a full size picture and then you can click your way through the remainder of the pictures in either direction in full size.
Then suddenly, the farms disappeared. Fields gave way to forests once again. Forests partially relented and gave way to water. We were in the true wetlands of Mississippi. When I was a kid, we called these places swamps. We weren’t in a swamp, we were in the true definitions of wetlands. The swamps of my childhood were a smelly, litter infested, mud and still water mess. These were different.
Green and brown never mixed in such symmetry. The brown water was tinged with green and rolled lazily past the shores. Trees sprouted from the depths of the water on roots that gave the trees a “standing on tip-toes” look. The roots arched from the water forming a triangular base from which the tree trunk sprouted. Although they provided a platform out of the water for the tree trunk, the moss-covered roots reached away from the base and dove into the water. A clear sign that the tree needed water to survive. These rounded tubular roots were a natural straw, feeding the ever-growing trees life-giving nutrients and fluids. It was a great example of the circle that is life, be it human or otherwise.
We stopped to take a few pictures of this natural wonder and in the 30 minutes that we were taking pictures, not a single soul passed by. We were enjoying our frozen moments, but we had to get moving in order to make it to the Arkansas border for the day.
Before we knew it, we had transitioned into back onto hard surfaced roads and farms once again began made began dotting the landscape. Most were fairly large and crossing from one to the next took some time. We had passed several and as we rounded a corner and headed down a straight stretch of road, we came across a somewhat immovable object. There was a very large animal standing in the middle of the road.
Tracy had already ridden by the large animal but the rest of us were stuck behind. Kim saw it before I did and said into her communicator, “Oh look, there’s a cow in the road.” I paid more attention than I had been and sure enough, there was a very large animal standing in the middle of the road. I muttered into my comm back to Kim, “Um Kim, that’s not a cow, it’s a bull.” “Oh” was the somewhat unimpressed response. But the bull wasn’t going anywhere fast and he was in a somewhat testy mood. He stood his ground and stared directly at us.
Somewhat surreal, in a fenced field beside the road, a group of cows and calves stood at rapt attention watching and waiting to see what might happen. While the cows watched from the side of the road, the bull watched us and we watched the bull. We yelled at him and revved our engines, but still he remained unmoved. Now we were stuck. What could we do to get this bull’s attention and make him move? After a lot of shouting and revving of engines, I decided that we had to do something different. What could we do? There was only one thing left to do. I reached over to my handlebar and gave my NH approved street legal horn a blast. Said horn was of the rubber bulb type normally associated with little children’s bicycles.
After about the 6th “honk”, the bull slowly walked to the side of the road and stared into the brush. MaryLee took off in a flash and was past. Kim and I revved our engines, I engaged the clutch and… stalled my bike. Great! I immediately pushed the starter button and… silence. My battery was now dead, it had given up but we hadn’t. I kick started the bike furiously and it caught on the fifth or sixth kick and we were off.
With the bull facing to the right we rushed to the left side of the road and we were quickly past. Not happy with trespass, the bull immediately turned left and started chasing us! He followed for about 50 yards and then stopped. But in the end, I guess he felt had to show his bull chivalry and put on a show for the cows who had been watching.
With the bull dispatched, the next item on the agenda was to try to find a replacement battery for my KTM. I thought to myself, “Oh great, we’re out in the wilds of Mississippi. Where are we going to find a motorcycle shop and better still, one that is familiar with KTMs. As we trundled on, I resigned myself to kick starting my little KTM each time we stopped.
We hadn’t been back on the road for more than an hour when Kim called through the communicator, “Look on your left!” I didn’t see anything and motored on. She said “Turn around, there’s a KTM shop on the left!” Amazed, I said, “What? Did you say that there was a KTM shop?” “Yes!” somewhat loudly she responded, “turn around we’re going to pull in.”
I made a very rapid U-turn and sure enough, it was a combination farm store and motorcycle shop, complete with KTMs! I couldn’t believe our luck. I walked to the back of the store to the parts counter and asked them if they had a battery for a KTM 250XCF-w. Sure as heck, they did. They also had oil, filters and other miscellaneous parts that would come in handy. While I waited for the other parts I wanted, little did I know that Tracy had taken the battery, had it installed and I was ready to go. Wow, he had done that in the stifling heat and had never said a word about it. I was so grateful, I didn’t know what to say other than thank you. True friends are amazing. With a new battery in place, the bike fired right up and we were back on the road and hightailing it to our rest stop for the evening, a moored riverboat that was also a casino. The best part, only about $40 a night.
As we motored on towards the casino, we decided that the heat was too much and we needed to stop get into some air conditioning and quench our thirsts. We found a small roadside market and went inside. There we met some of the nicest people. One gentleman came over and sat down at our table and asked us where we were from. We told him a little about our trip and he told us about himself, his family and his farm. I was a great little chat, and I think he wanted to invite us over to his house for dinner, but just couldn’t get that part out.
It was just as well, as we’d walked into the market, there on the counter were two large gallon jars filled with picked pigs lips and pickled pigs feet. Help yourself. We just couldn’t bring ourselves to try that delicacy. But others had enjoyed it because both jars were only partially filled.
Having had a nice chat and cooled of in the air conditioning, we walked outside once again into the thick and muggy air. Kim was just finishing off her Coke when she decided that her “cool vest” had dried out. These vests are made to cool by being immersed in water and then as you move through the air, the water evaporates and cools you. “No worries”, I said, and quickly readied my hydration system to cool Kim off. One of the nice things about my hydration system is that it keeps the water fairly cold, especially when it had been filled to the brim with ice cubes that morning.
Before she could say anything, I had the hydration system going and ice cold water was shooting out at her. At first I don’t think she knew what to do. Be angry or be happy that she was being sprayed with ice cold water. Luckily for me, she liked it more than the initial shock and ultimately asked me to spray her all over. But I must tell you, when the water first hit her, her expression was priceless. Surprise, dread and relief all at the same. I was a wonderful sight and one that Tracy caught on film. It is one of my keepsakes from the trip that she and I now both enjoy.
A couple of hours later, we were pulling into the parking lot with our dusty and dirty little machines. We parked in front and went inside to the front desk outside of the casino. After about 15 minutes, we had our rooms and headed to the bikes to get our gear. We asked the doorman where we should put our bikes and he said, “Leave them right there, We’ll keep an eye on them for you.” Wow, we’d never been treated like that and after gathering our gear to go to our rooms, we left the filthy bikes next to the sparkling clean limousines. What a great scene!
Even better was our walk to our rooms. To get there, we had to walk through the casino. With people sitting at tables and at slots, we “moseyed” our way though. Some people were dressed to the nines and we had our own attire. Dusty riding pants and pressure suits were our wardrobe and they created a bit of a surreal picture. I just had to stop to take a picture of Kim. It came out wonderfully with Kim’s bright smile and dusty gear providing an amazing contrast to the well dressed people, flashing lights and ringing bells.
We’d had a long day, and it was time to turn in for a good nights rest. For tomorrow, we would make our way into Arkansas and start another hot humid day on the TAT.
With Tracy’s pannier repaired we were once again underway on the TAT. The day had been filled with enchantment and excitement and we wondered what other treats the TAT could drum up on this day. It wasn’t long before we would get a taste of some of the twists and turns of the TAT. Literally.
We found ourselves on a gravel road somewhere in Tennessee. The joy of travel sort of overwhelmed us and we just decided to go the way we thought we should be going instead of taking the time to properly assess where we were. What else could happen on this day’s journey? As the TAT wandered and snaked its way westward, we found that it still had a few tricks.
As we made our way, I guess we zigged when we should have zagged. Suddenly we seemed to be making a lot of turns when the route sheet said we should have been going straight. We had become wanderers instead of travelers and that was ok with us. Winding roads changed from gravel to asphalt and back to gravel. Soon we were pretty much lost but we were having fun.
We guessed where we were and turned left onto a gravel road. Shortly thereafter, we came upon a wooden bridge without guardrails of any kind and we decided it was worth a try. Boards laterally placed on beams comprised the base with with three rows of boards running along its length for each tire track. It was an easy crossing of a lazy stream and it sort of represented the kind of day we were now having. Easy going. We thought, what the heck let’s go and see where it led.
The road snaked through a short section of forest and then into an open field. Soon we found ourselves at a farm house with a gate at the end of the road. Wow, we had not been on a road, but we had been riding someone’s long driveway! A woman came out of the house and made it clear that we were on her property and she’d like us to leave.
By the way, if you don’t know, click on any one of the pictures in the gallery below and it will open that picture into a full size picture and then you can click your way through the remainder of the pictures in either direction in full size.
We said we were sorry for trespassing on her property and soon she calmed down. We told her we were riding the TAT and told her a little about it. She said that we weren’t the only ones to ride down her driveway without permission and asked us to tell all those TAT riders that they should keep off her property. Well I guess we weren’t that far off course then. All those TAT riders on her property? We must not be that far off course then. We finalized our apologies and rode back the way from which we had come.
Soon we were back on the trail and going in the right direction. The roads were good to excellent and we were once again having a lot of fun, wicking it up a bit through some pretty rural areas. Tracy and Mary Lee had the need for speed more than Kim and I did and soon we had nothing but their dimming dust trail to follow.
But Kim and I were not worried, we knew they would stop and wait for us at some intersection ahead. We were enjoying ourselves and took our time dawdling along. The road was covered with a thin layer of pea gravel on top of some very hard dirt. Not super challenging, but enough to make the bike move around underneath you a bit. Kim was doing great and she was merrily chugging her way along and I was just as happy to follow in her wake and take in the sights.
About ten minutes after we lost sight of them, we once again found Tracy and Mary Lee. Tracy’s bike was facing the wrong way, parked in a shallow ditch at the side of the road. Mary Lee’s bike was on the correct side of the road but sat in the middle of her travel lane. The two of them stood standing at the side of the road and they looked like they were in conference. They stood shoulder to shoulder, looking across the road hands gesturing as if explaining some exciting event.
Kim pulled over and stopped beside them both. I on the other hand went past them and pulled off to the side of the road and walked back towards them. Now I could see that Kim was in discussion with Tracy and MaryLee. All were animatedly chatting at a level that did not allow me to hear what was being said. When I arrived at the group, they told me that MaryLee had just crashed but was OK. That’s strange, I thought to myself. Mary Lee’s bike is parked on the road and Tracy’s bike is in the ditch, but MaryLee crashed? Hmm….
They proceeded to tell us the whole story. It was a minor crash and Mary Lee’s bike had escaped mostly unscathed. The bike and MaryLee had only picked up a few scratches in the incident. The only remnants of her fall were some shallow gouges in the pea gravel.
I was amazed at Mary Lee’s enthusiasm. She had just crashed and was relating the incident more like a war story than something that had just happened. One thing we learned about MaryLee, she did not do anything half way. She either went for it all out, or didn’t do it.
It turned out that she too had her own little secret (to me anyway). MaryLee is the first Woman’s Downhill Bicycle World Champion and she knows how to ride bikes (obviously)! She was also an Olympic Nordic skier and has retained her competitive spirit and drive throughout her life. Every time Tracy wicked it up a bit, MaryLee was right on his tail, on all sorts of terrain. Her spirit is indeed impressive, but she was fairly new to motorcycling and at the speeds she sometimes traveled at, I feared for her safety during parts of the ride.
But Mary Lee was unfazed from her little get off and she was raring to go. All that was left of her crash was a small spattering of pea gravel and some marks in the road. She was ready to go and so were we. So once again, we hopped aboard our little machines and headed toward new trails.
The TAT was once again going to deliver special sights, sounds and smells. The trail squirmed and twisted its way southward leading us towards Mississippi. With the southerly turn, the temperature started to soar even higher. It was well over 100 degrees F, and the humidity was unbearable. It became apparent that we would soon need to stop to hydrate and rest.
Passing through a small town, we arrived at the Olive Hill Store. Inside it was cool so we purchased some drinks and decided to stay a while. The proprietors for the day were a pair of 16-17 year olds talking about things that kids their age discuss, while apparently running the store. Soon a friend of theirs came in and the two girls talked about their friends while their male acquaintance passed judgment on the girls friends. It seems that small towns are the same the world over, people just being people.
After our brief respite, we returned to the bikes for some more heat, humidity and amazing sights. Riding along, it soon became apparent we were getting to places where not many people go and time slows down. It seemed we were going back in time and we were willing time travelers to this very special part of the TAT.
A narrow gravel road greeted us shortly after we got back on the TAT. Sunlight beamed through the trees and lit a sparkling path before us. It was like nature was putting on a little light show for us, egging us on to go further and faster along the TAT. The beauty and the excitement got the best of all of us but Tracy and I were the first to succumb to the enticing TAT. It sparkled our eyes and whispered to us sweetly. Enjoy this as much as you can for it may not be here forever.
For a short while, Tracy and I apparently lost our minds and we raced along, dust rising in our trail with the sun flashing through the green canopy like a golden strobe light. It was a mesmerizing environment and somehow time stopped. We had become as one with our surroundings. I knew we were moving at a rapid pace but the sense of speed was gone. The feel from my fishtailing bike in the soft gravel only made me feel more part of the environment. As the bike slowly swayed back and forth beneath me, I imagined being part of a school of fish. I followed the swaying tail of the bike in front of me, and sped forward trying to keep up with my fellow school member on a stream of gravel, not water. I knew something was propelling me. It was not fins, but the fire from within the bike as well as the fire inside me. Ultimately we came to a “T” in the road where we were forced to stop and the magic moments were no more. But we both exchanged knowing smiles, we both knew that we had been enchanted by this particular section of the TAT. The ladies of our group, apparently much smarter than us, caught up to us at the T junction. Tracy and I just smiled but I know the ladies knew we had been enchanted and our little escapade was a joyous event for Tracy and I. We sat at the junction for a brief time and told MaryLee and Kim how much fun we had just had.
By the way, if you don’t know, click on any one of the pictures in the gallery below and it will open that picture into a full size picture and then you can click your way through the remainder of the pictures in either direction in full size.
Our little jaunt over, it was time to get going. As we rode the narrow gravel, we started seeing the first signs of water crossings. Small slabs of concrete had been poured over narrow creek beds. Most were less than 100 feet wide with a one inch deep flow of water lazily crossing half the width of the concrete. We straight lined most of them and before long, we got cocky. Once again, we started enjoying ourselves and Tracy and MaryLee quickly vanished into the distance while Kim and I dawdled along enjoying the green canopy that surrounded us.
I had almost forgotten about the our travelling companions when we rounded a corner and started down an incline. There in front of us lay Tracy’s bike on its side. A downtrodden looking couple stood and gazed down at the machine which seemed to be taking a nap in the very shallow water. It was a sorry sight. They both stood there for a while, a bit dazed about the whole event.
Tracy, a veteran rider of more than 30 years fell off his bike in less than an inch of water? How could that happen? I quickly got my answer as I stopped and dismounted my bike to assist. As I hurried over to them, I stepped into the tiny stream and almost ended on my backside. This was no ordinary water crossing. This water crossing was over a layer of stone, not concrete. An on that stone was an almost invisible very slippery and slimy algae. No wonder Tracy fell off! I have walked on skating rinks in my shoes before and I can honestly say that this rock was far more slippery.
Now the three of us stared at Tracy’s stricken machine while Kim stood at the side of the crossing taking pictures. For posterity! Surely three of us could easily pick up a 650cc motorcycle! But it was not to be. Each time we reached down to pick it up, we started scrambling for footing. This algae was slimy! So in a concerted and coordinated manner we proceeded to pick the bike up. After a couple of tries, we were able to get it back on two wheels. Now all we had to do was push it across the water crossing.
Very carefully, the three of us slowly pushed the bike to the opposite side of the water crossing. We decided that we had better get the other three bikes across as well. So Tracy and I agreed that we would take the ladies’ bikes across the water crossing ourselves. It wasn’t that the ladies were not good riders, it was the thought of either of them going down on this slippery rock would not be pleasant. But how to do it?
Riding with legs outstretched like outriggers, Tracy slowly rode MaryLee’s bike across. Then it was my turn, first Kim’s machine and then mine. But it must have been a real sight watching two middle aged men taking the bikes across the crossing. With only an inch of water, we must have looked like we were 4 year old beginners. It was not a difficult task, but it sure was a slow one.
When we had all four bikes across, it was time to inspect Tracy’s bike for damage. His right pannier was damaged significantly. It was bent backwards and downwards and its perfect rectangular shape was now a very interesting trapezoid. The lid lay hanging at the side of the pannier but it had retained its shape. Once we flipped the lid over the top of the pannier, two separate gaping isosceles triangles appeared under the lid leaving the contents of the pannier in the elements.
We would have to make a field fix if Tracy was to be able to use his pannier for the remainder of the trip. I got out my toolkit, but there wasn’t really anything that would help this mangled pannier. So we’d have to improvise and improvise we did. We roamed the area and found a fist size rock. That ought to do the trick I thought as Tracy prepared to do his best McGyver impersonation.
With a little pounding and tugging, we were able to get the pannier to be rectangular enough to be able to close the lid with the assistance of some good old duct tape. That stuff is great for everything!
After about an hour at and on the side of the trail, Tracy’s pannier was sealed and we were once again on the TAT motoring towards the evenings destination. Little did we know it but we were to have another challenge that day and let me say that this challenge was no bull!
I was at another website the other day and found a post that asked whether true “adventure bikes” should be big, medium or small. It was and excellent and interesting question. So I had to stop and ask myself, “do I really think there is a best size of bike for adventure riding?” After some thought, I came up with an answer that really wasn’t an answer. From my perspective there were a bunch of variables that could define what the “best” adventure bike would look like. If I were on a long ride with only pavement and well maintained gravel roads to deal, it seems to me that the full size adventure bikes (e.g. BMW GS1200 or GS800, KTM 1190 or 990 etc.) would be the “best” for covering those distances in comfort, load capacity and speed. However, if there was some real rough stuff ahead, I’d rather be on a lightweight easy handling bike (e.g. Yamaha WR250, Honda CRF250L etc.) might make it the “best” choice. I wouldn’t have to worry about the technical tracks, but of course the light weight nature and size of the bike would limit the amount of cargo I could carry and potentially impact range.
So where does that leave us? Do we need to compromise comfort, range and speed over ease of handling on technical sections? Perhaps not. What about those middleweight machines like the KLR650, Vstrom 650 and KTM 690E? Could they be the answer? Well, after I thought about it a while, I came to the conclusion that everything is a trade off. The middleweight machines weren’t especially heavy, nor were they exceptionally small. They provide the rider with relatively good comfort and can carry quite a good amount of cargo. Not bad, not bad… But when you looked at the entire equation, the Middleweight bikes really constituted a trade off on just about everything. They were neither highly comfortable platforms, nor were they light and “flickable” as the lightweight small bikes.
So where does this leave us? Big bikes do certain things very well, little bikes do certain things very well and the middleweight machines don’t do much with excellence. Therefore, it would seem that the right size for a true adventure bike is the bike you feel confident on that will get you through the terrain you plan to travel. Kim and I travel all sorts of terrain, the majority of which will be maintained gravel roads and fire roads. As such, we’re taking the middle ground and going on middle weight machines. We’re planning a 2800 mile ride through six states in the west this summer, so it’s a KTM 690 for me and a DR650 for Kim. I still have to get Kim’s bike into “adventure” shape, but I think my KTM 690E is coming up to snuff.
So what do you think? Let us know what you think the best size for adventure riding is. We want to hear from you!
Mike and Kim
Ride to Adventure – Shrink The Planet, One Ride At A Time
The following morning, the sun rose quickly and immediately heated the muggy air to a grey haze. We finished a quick breakfast and headed out to the TAT once again. We were quickly back on the TAT and were greeted by narrow twisting roads under a lush green canopy from the surrounding trees. The traffic was non-existent leaving us to enjoy the swoopy corners and somewhat cooler air.
Again I was riding at the tail of the group, and clouds of dust rose from the gravel track. But it didn’t diminish the pleasure that the TAT was gifting to us. I watched from the back of the pack as Tracy faded into the distance and MaryLee and Kim played a kind of moto tag with each other. MaryLee would lead the way and Kim would sprint up to her until the dust began to get too heavy and faded back. I was enjoying the playful component of the ride immensely.
But after about an hour, the verdant canopies began to part and we found ourselves in farm country. Green fields contrasted with golden fields of grain. As we rode along, we saw evidence that the locals were working the fields to get the crops of grain in. We were used to seeing the huge plastic rolls of hay that are widely seen in New England. But the stacks we were seeing were vastly different.
Small piles were neatly stacked along side each other. The stacks consisted of what appeared to be individually bound bundles tossed in opposing directions making for a tightly bundled and geometrically shaped pile. We had never seen stacking like this and to us, it didn’t seem to be prepared by the large farm equipment that roams some of the fields back home. But something was stacking these small works of art dotting the fields. Who or what could be doing it?
It wasn’t long before we got our answer. As we turned from one small road onto another, there in a field directly in front of us was a pair of beautiful harnessed draft horses. As draft animals, they were huge and they dwarfed their owner who stood close by. Clad in jeans and a shirt topped off by a large brimmed black hat, a young Amish man watched as we approached and ducked down seemingly trying to hide. So it was him who had been making these beautiful stacks of grain.
Tracy stopped to take a picture and the farmer insisted that he not to take one, so as requested, Tracy put away his camera, said hello and rode off. As we continued our way through the county, it became clear that we were in fact in an Amish enclave. Good sized farms were all about but suddenly I noticed something a bit odd. At the roadside, there were no telephone poles and no wires running into the farms. They had no electricity!
Kim’s uncle is a farmer and we know how hard and thankless a job farming can be. Many, many hours are spent in the fields trying to bring a crop in and/or taking care of the animals. It has to be one of the most difficult and exhausting jobs in the world. And then it dawned on me. As difficult as it was to be a farmer, they often use electricity and power tools to accomplish the day’s tasks. Now take away the electricity and all the power tools and you have the life of an Amish farmer. It makes you think about how committed those people are to their beliefs. Forsaking even the most rudimentary of power equipment, they still carry on the difficult day’s work without complaint. It truly is an amazing act of faith to maintain such a life.
It also made me think about the little works of art that were the grain piles. No farm equipment making 10 foot rolls of hay were being used. The Amish used their own two hands and made each bundle individually. When you looked at the size of some of the fields, I felt a deep admiration for those people who toil so hard, while the tools to make their lives easier went unused. Their faith was their tool and they used it well to maintain a hard but appreciated life. Witnessing this, I thought to myself that to be Amish, you have to be a very stout person. Very stout indeed.
The enclave was fairly large and it took us about 10 minutes to pass through it. Along the way, we passed one of their well known plain black buggies. Pulled by a single horse, the buggy made its way along the road, with its lantern headlights and tail lights. Two women sat in the buggy, one middle aged and another old. I could just make out their black clothes and bonnets as I rode by.
It made quite a contrasting scene. Immediately in front of me were two women in a single horse drawn wooden carriage. While just ahead, I could see two women riding on small horses of steel and aluminum that far eclipsed the power of the larger single horse buggy. Riding through this little enclave, really helped me put things into perspective and open my eyes to a different way of life. A way of life that could be more physically demanding, but for them, more meaningful.
Soon after passing the buggy, once again the fields started to fade and we found ourselves traveling through very sparsely populated land. The road narrowed and the trees closed in. The road was now barely large enough to fit a single car, but it was nice to be in the shade at times. What structures there were on this road were very old and most abandoned. Wooden planks of siding sagged from the buildings, age having long since taken the remnants of colorful paint away. But in their grey hued glory, they told a story of remote living and of farms that had long since come and gone.
We lazily dawdled along in the oppressive heat under the canopy of green leaves and grey branches. At times, the gravel road gave way small concrete water crossings an inch or two deep. At first they were no more than 50 feet across, but they soon got wider and more treacherous. You might ask how a couple of inches of water might constitute a treacherous hazard. How could water on a hard surface only one or two inches deep cause any problems? We’ll talk about that in the next chapter.
We knew that to find some cool air we’d have to get off the TAT for a while. So we found the nearest paved road and hightailed it towards the nearest town. Along the way we found a small marina perched on the side of a narrow green river. A dirt parking lot greeted us with a single large willow tree drooping in the heat. We parked the bikes under its branches to get out of the sun.
As we walked towards the marina, the river’s yellowish green water sluggishly churned under an old rusted metal railroad bridge. The water looked to be moving as slow as we were, both of us slowly making our way towards our final destinations. We walked towards the marina boat house hoping to find somewhere to could cool off. Unfortunately there weren’t any apparent public areas. The few people at the marina looked at us but didn’t utter a word. We must have been quite a sight in our dusty, sweaty gear with our riding pants open at every vent. We smiled at the people, said hello but other than a short hi, there was no other response. It was clear that this place wasn’t going to provide us a respite from the heat so we returned to the bikes and got under way again.
Luckily for us, about 5 miles down the road, we came to a small gas station with a little restaurant and… air conditioning! We were elated. Kim and I needed fuel, but the cool air beckoned and we just couldn’t wait to get inside. We almost immediately ripped our gear off and rushed towards the restaurant. It was one of those 3 Stooges moments, each of us racing to get our gear off and looking at each other. Who was going to make it into the cool air first? If we had all gotten to the door at the same time, I could have seen me pulling Tracy backwards while I clawed at the door while just as I got to the threshold, MaryLee would jump on my shoulders knocking me to the ground and plunge for the entry way… until Kim would have grabbed MaryLee by her ankle and pulled her from the entry. And so it would continue until one of us had established our supremacy and fell through the door with a triumphant yell with the others hot on their heels.
Once inside, it was literally a breath of fresh air. Cold air blew from not one, but two air conditioners. So cold that Kim got goosebumps from being chilled; she was quite happy with that result. As we surveyed the rest of the scene, we found pure country. The gas station part of the store had all the little things that a local small town family owned store might have for its residents. Gum, fishing lures, comic books, pliers, firewood; you name the little market had it.
The restaurant was even better. The walls were covered with farm implements and the tools of farming. Fastened to the wall just above our table was a horse collar that had been converted into a mirror. Next to it was an empty feed bag and next to that were a couple of scythes. It was just a wonderful mix of eclectic farming implements used to make the place feel like all were welcome. It was a terrific place to stop.
Settled at our table, we read from a paper menu filled with down home items like meatloaf with gravy, hot dogs, hamburgers, sandwiches, potato salad, fries and chips and the like. There was no fancy stuff here, just comfort food. Having been cooled off, we were ready to eat. No sooner than we sat down, than almost as by magic a waitress appeared and took our order. Our requested food arrived in what seemed like no time and we got down to the business of eating.
By now we were very hungry and ready to shovel the tasty food down. But in this cool air, none of us was in a rush to finish and get back into the heat and humidity. We even took the time to order and eat dessert! By the time we were done, our 30 minute lunch had turned into an hour and a half meal. Ultimately we could delay no longer, and we ventured back out into the heat.
Once outside, we returned to our bikes and the girls decided that they’d had enough of the heat for the day. A suggestion was made to leave the TAT for the rest of the day and head towards the hotel at all due speed. Normally, we’d want to spend as much time on the gravel as possible, but in these conditions, no-one objected.
As we prepared to mount our bikes, Kim found that she had a visitor and it looked like he wanted to get a drink too. A three inch wide moth walked his way over the top of Kim’s gear and nestled himself (or herself) up against Kim’s water bottle. It looked like he was settling in for the ride and slaking his thirst before we departed. We tried to give him a little motivation to be on his way but he decided he wasn’t going anywhere but with us. Ultimately, we had to remove the little guy by hand and send him on his way so we could get started towards the hotel.
Moth removed, we put on our gear and went to fuel up the bikes. As we pulled up to the pumps, we noticed a small handwritten cardboard sign inside the pump proclaiming NO ETHANOL. Wow, no ethanol! In the US, no ethanol fuel is quite a find and is non-existent where we live in New Hampshire. So with our small tanks, Kim and I proceeded to fill our bikes to the brim with the undiluted high octane fuel. Little did we know that this one decision would have grave consequences on our ability to finish our TAT journey.
During lunch we had decided that we would take the shortest route back to the hotel due to the heat and humidity. Once again it would be all pavement to the hotel at this late time of day. But some fun times would still be had before we arrived at our evening’s destination.
Although it was really, really hot, we were having fun on the lonely twisting roads. We were not on powerful bikes, but it was still a joy to be on a lightweight machine swooping back and forth, playing with and on the curves. Speeds and spirits were high until I rounded a corner and saw the unmistakable markings of a police cruiser. I was about to grab the brakes but just beyond the cruiser sat another car parked next to the cruiser. It was an orange Dodge Charger with Confederate stripes on the roof.
Wait a minute, flashed through my head, that’s not a real cruiser. As I got closer, it was clear that it was not a real cruiser and the Charger was a replica of the General Lee from the old TV show Dukes of Hazzard. Cool!!! For this, I had to stop and the rest of the gang stopped to let me take pictures. I was never a big fan of the TV show, but both replicas were really well done and I had to get a few pictures. I placed the bike in front of both cars and snapped a couple of pictures as a remembrance of this nice chance encounter.
It was soon time for us to get underway and once again fortune smiled down on us. Our route would take us across the Natchez Trace. A brand new smooth ribbon of asphalt twisting through a forest. It was a two lane road with broad grass shoulders that made the whole road seem like a ride through a carefully manicured park. The road was virtually deserted and once again we had a chance to play on the curves of the road without any traffic. The heat of the day was almost forgotten as we swooped our way through lazy open sweepers, our group snaking lazily through the woods.
Once again I was tail end Charlie, but this time I wasn’t eating any dust and I was really enjoying the views as we made our way towards our hotel for the evening. Even though we were on the pavement for another hour and a half, the time literally flew by and before we knew it we had arrived at our hotel for the evening. We’d need to clean up a bit before dinner, but all of us were happy with what we’d done and where we’d been on this day.
Tomorrow would be another hot day, but we were undeterred, we were having a great time and with the next sunrise, we’d be on gravel most of the day. We were psyched and with a little rest, we’d be ready to attack the TAT once again.
Our brief night’s sleep was followed by a morning dawn of bright blue sky. Although the sun had set on our first day’s ride, the heat of the previous day had never broken. I stuck my head out the hotel door to sample the temperature and immediately a wall of heat and humidity streamed into the room. It was already sweltering.
I walked back into the room and I guess that my face told the story. Kim just looked at me and said “It’s sweltering isn’t it?” I gave her the look that said yes and she smiled and just started to get ready to ride for the day. We both stared at our dusty riding gear laying on a chair across from the bed. Neither of us really wanted to put on all that gear in the sweltering heat.
But the TAT was calling and the longer we waited, the higher the temperature would climb. So we put on our dusty gear and headed out for the day. Tracy and MaryLee were ready and we wasted little time in getting underway. A quick stop to pick up some fuel and a little meddling with the GPS and we were soon on the TAT.
After only about 15 minutes on pavement, we were once again back on the gravel of Tennessee passing verdant fields and small family farms. On today’s ride we would not see any of the massive commercial farms, only those run by enclaves of dedicated families who tilled the earth to bring us the food we eat each day. As we rode, proud but weary buildings told stories of those people who toiled each day to scratch a living from the earth. Some once proud very large barns had now given their all and leaned precariously or fell completely under the sweltering sun. Patches of once bright paint clung to the barn board that was now grey with age and withered with time.
Trucks from the 1950s and 1960s with their dulled paint and pieced together bodies sat side by side with newer expensive dual wheeled, closed cockpit air conditioned tractors. Each of these tools had its role, and each would be used until it could no longer give any more. Then like an old animal, it would be put out to pasture to lay in the sun, watching the seasons pass until it was no more.
We were only in this farmland for a couple of hours but with each passing farm scene I could see that each was but a chapter in the very beautiful story of how nature and man are inextricably intertwined. Viewing them made me feel very small and the world very large. Having taken all this in, I was awed by how unbelievably important our farmers are to us and how little we think of them and fail thank them each day.
It was now getting hotter with both the earth the riders baking in the sun. It was time to do something to get some relief. Anticipating some heat, Kim and I had brought cool vests for extreme heat. It was now or never and we put them to good use. Cool vests are vests that you wet down and then wear close to your body. As you move through the air, the vest retains the water but allows a small amount to evaporate cooling its wearer.
Both Kim and MaryLee were really suffering in the heat so I gave mine to MaryLee and Kim put hers on. Tracy and I could almost see immediately that the girls were more comfortable and the vests were doing their job. Under our riding gear, Kim and I were also wearing pressure suits. Pressure suits are like jackets made of mesh with molded in plastic armor. Not ideal for pavement but sufficient for gravel roads. Kim and I decided that we would offload our jackets and ride with the pressure suit as our jackets. Anything to get some cooling air past our bodies.
Lighter and somewhat cooler than when we started the day, we rode along taking in the farms and the green countryside. As we rounded a corner we approached a barn with a pond in front. Not unusual you might think, and as to barn there was nothing unusual. It was the pond that was a bit different. Inside the pond, a big black blob appeared to be moving slowly back and forth. What the heck could that be I thought to myself and as we got closer, we found that it was not a rock. It was something far more interesting. It was black with small splotches of white… and it was furry. It was a cow standing belly high in the pond.
As we approached and ultimately passed, the cow looked at us impassively and merely got back to the business of cooling off. Now I didn’t feel so bad. No I wasn’t a wuss, no sir. It was so hot that the cows were standing in the ponds to cool off. That my friends is pretty hot. Even though she had a leather jacket on, I did not give her any credit. Some of us were out riding in the heat, and others of us were simply lounging around in their natural pools.
We continued riding gravel and found ourselves somewhat lost. The TAT isn’t always that well marked and sometimes you just have to make a decision to go one way or the other until you can find the next section. So as we mosey-ed along, we came to another gravel road that could have been the right one for this segment of the TAT. The girls were pretty hot so Tracy and I went on ahead and scoped out the possible turn. What we found was pretty cool.
We rode a section of rather loose rocky gravel enclosed by trees. Branches of all sizes littered the road and there were some tree falls partially blocking the road as well. We rode around the tree falls and branches enjoying the somewhat cooler air in the trees. Ultimately, we ended up at a locked swinging gate that was supposed to barricade us from a wooden topped dam. We could ride around the swinging gate, but at the other end of the dam was a tall chain link fence that we could not get around.
I walked across the dam taking some pictures of the dam itself and an apparent power station. It must have been overly dry or they must not have needed the energy because although one side of the dam was full of water, the lee side of the dam was mostly dry. A mostly dry river bed ran to an impressive building and large array of power lines, but no water was churning any generators. It was a bit strange seeing all that engineering sitting idle while the supply of water it needed to produce electricity sat on the opposite side of the dam waiting its turn to go rushing through the generators and empty out into the river below.
Time passed very quickly during my little dam inspection and when I returned to the meet with the rest of the gang, it was clear that Kim was really suffering from the heat. She was all flushed and she literally had to sit down to keep her head clear. It was time to get into some cooler air pronto, so after we had plied Kim with water and recharged her cooling vest, we got under way to find some cool air and some food for our road worthy women.
The increasing heat and humidity turned the once bright blue skies and surrounding air to shades of grey. A murky haze surrounded us completely; so dense it appeared to be making everything sweat. Little did we know it at the time, but each of the pictures we would take this day would have a washed out, grey hue.
Our initial riding section was to be through some dirt country lanes. Plumes of dust were hurled skyward by each bikes tires. Dust clouds slowly rose and as each bike passed, the dust became more intense. As the fourth out of four riders, visibility was greatly reduced but it still didn’t dim my excitement about riding the TAT.
Our environment was beautiful. Trees surrounded us from both sides and overhead. We continued our ride thinking that the more we rode under the leafy canopies overhead, the cooler it would become. But the heat was unrelenting and even as we rode in the shade, the temperature and humidity continued to rise. I opened all the vents on my lightweight Goretex off-road gear, I an attempt to get some cooling air. However, as the tail end Charlie of our group, the vents only let in the dust which rapidly transformed from its airborne state to a muddy goo inside the suit. It was truly damned if you do or damned if you don’t situation.
It was beginning to become quite uncomfortable, but we were there to ride and we wanted to get the most from our adventure. It just so happened that at this moment,the adventure was becoming more difficult. So we continued our ride in the stifling heat and humidity taking brief stops here and there to drink some cool water.
As we were approaching one of those stops, I think the heat got to me. Tracy, MaryLee and Kim had already pulled to the side of the road to have a drink and check the maps. For some reason, I took this as an opportunity to do a bit of a fly by. Coming off the corner and approaching the trio, I twisted the throttle and went flying by letting them eat a bit of my dust for a change. Wooo…. Hoooo…. I thought as I passed them all.
However, my victory pass would be very short lived. I turned the bike around and then pulled up behind them. I turned the bike off and started to dismount. As I alighted from the machine, I lost my balance and dropped the bike to the ground in an exceptional display of ineptitude. Marvelous. Sometimes the heat can do crazy things to you. I scrambled to pick the bike up as quickly as possible using my best, “I meant to do that” look, but nobody was buying it. They merely looked at me like an insolent little child and went back to cooling off and checking the map.
We decided it was time for some fuel, something to eat and the possibility for some air conditioning. So we made our way through the canopies at greater speed hoping that we would soon come across a suitable stopping place. After about an hour, we found a small gas station with an attached mini-mart and restaurant. We had struck gold. We pulled in and fueled up quickly. We rolled our bikes away from the fuel pumps and quickly shed our outer riding gear.
Just as we were heading into the restaurant, a group of bikes pulled in, then another and still another. We had arrived at a bike rally of sorts. All different types of bikes were represented. From sports bikes to cruisers to our dual sports bikes, they were all there. We stopped and chatted about various topics and the types of bikes we were riding. We would have chatted with everyone, but not everyone was human. One of the riders had as his passenger, his small dog complete with goggles and skull cap. It was a great meeting of riders on diverse types of machines. But they were only there for fuel and while standing in the sun the heat was intense. Before we knew it, they were all on their way.
Our conversations completed and wilting from the heat, it was time for cool air and some food. We quickly made our way inside and the cool air was amazing. As I stood looking at the menu, I realized how hot it really was. Finally clear of all the covering gear, sweat poured from my head and into my eyes. My under layer shirt was totally soaked and I could feel the rivulets of sweat pouring down my back and into my pants. Being inside seemed only to intensify my awareness of how hot I had been. I thought to myself that I might be eating this meal very slowly to extend the time I had in the cool dry air. I didn’t want to hold everyone up, but I was really, really hot.
I needn’t have worried though. As we sat at the table together eating our sandwiches, we exchanged knowing looks that indeed all of us were feeling the effects of the heat and sun. There were only 40 trail miles left to go on the day’s ride, but we each knew it was 40 miles of dust, gravel, sun and heat that none of us wanted to continue in. The temperature was well over 100 degrees and the humidity was unbearable.
We decided that although we probably only had about two more hours of trail riding to go, we’d stick to the pavement and head straight to our hotel and air conditioning. Once we had eaten our sandwiches and hydrated ourselves, we put our gear back on and made for the hotel in Crossville, Tennessee. There would be no gravel roads on this final leg, just smooth pavement where we could maximize our speed and reduce our exposure to the heat.
Thus ended our first full day on the TAT. We had enjoyed our introduction, but we were rapidly learning that the TAT commanded respect in all aspects. We’d been taught respect for the roads and trails, as well as environment in which we rode. We knew that the TAT would provide some challenges, but we’d underestimated all of the types of challenges that the TAT could throw at us. We were now well schooled, and with new awareness we readied ourselves for day two.
We packed the truck quickly, cramming in all our gear and loading the two little KTMs into the bed of our little truck. The passenger compartment had three occupants, one more than would be riding the TAT. For the journey to Tennessee, we had Kim’s dad Dick along for the ride. Dick would drop us off and then drive the truck back to New Hampshire after stopping to meet some relatives along the way. It was a great deal. Dick got some someone to chat and keep company with on the way down (and past) and we got free transportation of the truck back to New Hampshire. It was a win/win situation for us both
Finally, we were ready to depart for Tennessee. The pressure associated with the decisions surrounding the extra fuel tanks was over since it the design was done and anyway, we would have to live with it at this point. The mood in the truck was pretty light as we all looked forward to things to come. Kim and I could hear the TAT calling and Dick was ready to have a visit with the relatives.
The trip to Tennessee was pretty straight forward with no real issues. As we made our way south, we passed through some areas that had just been struck by tornadoes and the damage looked pretty severe. Light posts were bent at odd angles, house were leveled or portions were in shambles. It gave us pause to think how lucky we are not to not usually have to worry such destructive displays of mother nature. We may get the odd blizzard or two or lose power for a while, but at least our house would still be standing after the blizzard had passed.
We stopped along the way for some Bar-B-Que at a roadside stand and it was good. We thought we must be getting closer to the south because you sure can’t get good Bar-B-Que in the north-east. At about 7:00 P.M. we decided to call it quits on the driving for the day and got a cheap hotel. Up early the next morning, we were raring to go. The TAT awaited! We quickly checked out and got back to the truck. Good, there were still two bikes in the back, so we were good to go. Soon back on the highway, we watched as we scooted past towns, rest areas and truck stops. The music was on, there was some light chat and we were feeling good.
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.
Before we knew it was lunch time and we needed to stop to get fuel. Off at an exit that promised fuel, we found a mini-mart type gas station. In scorching heat, I filled the truck up and as I was looking around, spotted this most amazing sign. A smiling chubby pink pig in a chef’s hat leapt about and beckoned to us. His recommendation, the Sweet Lips Diner; Come In & Pig Out!
Well, this we had to see. Once the truck was fueled, we headed just down the road a bit and there it was. A long diner like you’d expect to see in a rural area. A dirt parking lot surrounded it and it was packed. We took that as a good omen and headed inside. We were seated at wooden tables and served home cooked Bar-B-Que. What do you know, the pig was right, the food was good and there was plenty of it. We stuffed ourselves on the great Bar-B-Que and waddled our way to the door. Our next stop would be Jellico and our long planned meeting with Tracy and MaryLee.
Back in the truck the time flew by. Before we knew it, we had made it. Just up ahead was the exit sign for Jellico, Tennessee and the hotel where we would meet Tracy and MaryLee. We pulled off and there it was, our hotel for the evening, the meeting place and our departure point for our TAT journey. It sat at the top of a small hill and as we pulled up the driveway, we saw two bikes. Both with Alaska plates, Tracy and MaryLee were in the house!W
We registered at registration desk and picked up our keys. As we were unpacking our gear, out came Tracy and MaryLee. They were a great sight. We hadn’t seen them in almost two years and here they were, ready to ride with us again on another adventure. We were psyched. We hugged and shook hands and had all the banter that good friends have when they haven’t seen each other in a while. The excitement of seeing them again was multiplied by the excitement of the upcoming TAT journey.
It was dinner time by the time we unpacked our gear and bikes from the truck and made it ready for packing on the bikes. There was time for a few “group” photos and sooner than we imagined, it was starting to get dark. Hunger overwhelmed excitement so we drove over to a small pizza joint and toasted our upcoming TAT journey with pizza and beer. The excitement was palpable and each of us was a bit giddy at the thought of starting the ride for real. We soon finished our dinner and headed back to the hotel. We wanted to get an early start so we called it an early evening and racked out for the night excited by the thought that by daybreak, we would be on the TAT.
When we awoke the following morning, it was already very hot; like 85+ degrees hot. You could cut the humidity with a knife and by the time the bikes were loaded, we were all somewhat overheated. I filled my hydration system with ice cubes and cold water and hoped that they would last for a while. I knew that water was going to be important.
We said our goodbyes to Dick and my little truck we were finally off. We took a leisurely pace and the first part of the morning was mostly on pavement. But as we wandered along, the sun rose and the air heated and stilted. The horizon turned grey with hanging moisture, and seemingly our bikes cut their own wakes through the murky moisture. It was as if we had an extra burden of pushing the laden air in front of us, each carving and then leaving our own wakes. The heat was growing so intense that in our full riding gear it was almost unbearable for these four northerners. We thought we might be somewhat unaccustomed to the southern humidity, but when we spoke to the locals, even they said it was overly hot. Boy did we pick a tough time to ride.
But as we entered the afternoon, things began to change to the better. We left the pavement and got onto gravel, a place where we all felt more at home. In addition, as we left the beaten track, we got into some wonderfully green and canopied lanes. Immediately the air was a bit cooler and we were shaded from the intensity of the direct sun.
Riding along was like being in a strobe lit verdant wonderland. Bright flashes of sun briefly blinded us to the terrain ahead. The view was then almost instantly replaced by wet, deep dark greens, soothing to the eyes and cooling to the body. We knew it was hotter than Hell, but with the show presented before us none of us wanted, or dared, to stop.
Time was indeed running out to complete our bike preparations. Two similarly colored red unbreakable fuel containers lay on the concrete. They were both supposed to be the same color but for some reason, one was bright red and the other was an organish red. From the cold concrete, they stared at me like non-identical twins, begging me to take them along for the ride. Oh well, at least we’ll be able to tell the two apart.
I was in a bit of a panic to get them on the bikes; but how? They were tall, slim and would be full of explosive gasoline. I searched the lines of the bikes to try to figure out where I would fit two fairly large odd shaped canisters on a very small bike. Normally, the back of the bike would be an ideal place for the fuel tanks, but that area would be consumed by our Giant Loop saddlebag crammed to the gills with our supplies for the trip. There was no way that they were going to go on the front. The front fender was only a couple of inches wide and lacked any real rigidity. Besides, that space was already taken up with our spare tubes and tire tools.
Where the heck was I going to put these absolute necessities? I thought about manipulating the bracket a bit to mount it low and on the side of the bike. But the right side was consumed with the exhaust and the exhaust exit. I wasn’t really keen on putting a fuel tank just forward of the hot exhaust and exhaust gasses. The left side was available, perhaps I could put it there, with the bracket hanging the tank over the left side. But the more I thought about it and looked at the actual position of the tank, the more I decided I didn’t like it. I did not like it one iota. As placed on the left side of the bike, it was in the perfect position to take the brunt of a fall. We would be riding on unknown (to us) terrain, so the likelihood of dropping the bike onto a rock or gravel and piercing the plastic tank was a fair possibility. I really wasn’t sure what to do.
I admit, I was stymied for a few moments. There really wasn’t any more space on the bike normally associated with where a fuel tank would be mounted. Anger began to boil inside me for having not thought through this issue earlier and also for not being able to solve it correctly now. It was one of those throw the wrench across the garage to feel better moments.
So as I stood in the garage, anger welling inside me, one of my fuel tank orphans stared at me from the concrete floor and the other waited patiently in my hand for a miracle solution. Unfortunately none seemed imminent and the phone rang. I put the tank I had in my hand on the tail of the bike and ran into the house to answer it. It was a call about my real job and that didn’t make my mood any better.
I finished the call as quickly as I could and hustled downstairs and into the garage. When I got there I found a sight that changed me altogether. There on the floor was the fuel tank that I had put on the back of the bike. Lying next to it, was the plastic cap of the fuel tank broken into two large pieces. I was mortified. My concern about mounting the tank anywhere a direct impact was likely, was correct. All I could then think about was Kim dropping the bike on the left side on a rock on the gravel. Fuel spraying all over from a broken cap or a split in the tank as Kim lay trapped under the bike. After seeing the cap lying on the garage floor in pieces, broken from a fall from about three feet on a non-moving bike, I couldn’t do it. I just couldn’t mount the tank on the side of the bike.
If we were going to bring the extra fuel, it was clear that some sort of drastic measures would be necessary. The tanks were designed to be used on ATVs and to be mounted upright. Hmm… Could I mount them upright just behind the seat but behind the Giant Loop saddlebag? It was this or nothing, and not having the extra fuel was out of the question. So I proceeded to mount the tank in an awkward position, high but in the center of the bike furthest away from direct contact with the ground in the event of a drop or fall.
It looked ridiculous. Mounted straight up, rigid at full attention, the tank cried out for a better design. But there was none to be had in such a short period of time due to my inattention. Matched side by side, the two tanks stood on the bikes like sentries guarding the bikes and all the goods on them. I felt foolish. But it was the only way we were going to get extra fuel on the bike.
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.