Saturday, September 6, 2008


Just about everything worked, but here is what I found that worked exceptionally well:

1. The bike. 2008 KTM EXC-R 450, what more can I say? It just worked. Being nearly brand new probably helped too though. I changed the .6 liters of engine oil about every 2 days going through about 8 or 9 liters of high quality oil (either Motorex or Mobil 1). This wasn’t such a hassle for me as I had plenty of time each night and carrying 3 liters of oil at all times wasn’t so bad. Here is a link to all of my farkle.

2. Moose Heavy Duty Tire Tubes. They didn’t bust, enough said.

3. Wolfman Small Expedition Rear Bag. I never had to thing about this bag. It didn’t burn on the exhaust (I had about a 1/8th inch gap), it didn’t tear while I was beating it around and dropping the bike, it didn’t move around and required no modifications to the bike and had surprisingly few re-tightens. Good stuff.

4. Enduro Engineering Comfort Seat: I had monkey butt only one day. And that was because I was wearing old cotton underwear and sliding around in the seat and heat all day. Otherwise, monkey butt was not an issue.

5. Scott’s Steering Stabilizer. It’s expensive but well worth the investment. Mandatory suspension upgrade in my book.

6. My laptop! How? I dunno, I fell directly on it in NV and I’m still typing on it right now. HP Pavilion dv1000.

7. Sicass Racing Rearview Mirror. I never had to put a screwdriver on it once. One less thing to worry about.

8. Under Armour Base 1.0 Crew Long-sleeve shirt. Quick dry.

9. MSR ISDE Pant. Big pockets placed perfectly. Quality material.

10. Garmin GPSMap 478. Yes I had mapping problems but that was solely my fault. The battery issue was not, but I was running off the bike’s electrical system. Other than that, it’s bulletproof.

11. Keen sandals: Perfect in every way… except fashion.

What failed to meet my expectations:

1. Firstgear Master Waterproof Summer Rain Gloves: Once wet, virtually impossible to get on and off. And what are they doing wet in the first place?

2. Cotton underwear: leave it at home

3. Fox coolmax socks: Still wet…

What I would have done differently:

1. Purchased a quality voice recorder. I thought I would remember all the thoughts that I had throughout the trip, but I didn’t. I’m sure it would be easy to rig it up to make it easy to record on the fly.

2. Ride longer. I rarely rode past 4pm and never in the dark. Had I rode longer I could have…

3. Scheduled more side trips and soak in the historical sites a bit more.

4. Not drink so much. Riding the TAT is too much fun in and of itself, drinking too much that one night set me back a little bit and spoiled some fun.

5. ATGATT. This would have saved some road rash and possibly two fractured bones (I’d still wheelie all the gas out though)

Lessons Learned:

1. I didn’t really learn anything “new”, however a lot of the teaching of my parents and all the little idioms and sayings we hear everyday were reinforced… “the hard way”.

2. Patience

3. Sacrifice

4. I learned (and I’m still learning) more about myself. I learned that I’m a pretty good “leader” when I’m by myself and like to be a “follower” when in a group. I’m most definitely an introvert, not necessarily always shy or depressed, but I gain energy through introspect rather than yapping it up with others. There are also many attributes about myself (riding skills and degree of kindness come to mind) that I thought were higher than they really were. As I told several people that I met along the way, “this has been a very humbling experience”.

5. If you have no other choice but to ride through a flock of birds, keep your line.

6. If you stall out on a steep slope, and it’s possible to turn around, just go back down and go back up faster than your first try… you can wear yourself out trying to pick up where you left off.

7. Treat everyone with kindness and respect, it’s truly contagious, just like cruelty and disrespect are.

Final thoughts:

1. Seeing the environment and climate changes first hand is priceless.

2. Sam Correro, creator of the TAT, is a true pioneer, well deserving of all credit.

3. If you have the desire to do this (not everyone does) or something similar… make it happen.

4. I need to do this sort of thing much more often. I still have a lot to explore and learn.

A friend asked me when I got home to sum up my trip in a few words… that’s easy: Mind-expanding.

Trip Favorites:

Favorite Sight: Crater Lake (I know, I know, not very original, but it’s the truth)

Favorite Scent: The array of pines and evergreens riding through Oregon.

Favorite Sound: Mountainside brooks

Favorite Taste: Fried Chicken meal in Oark, AR!!! Mmmm, mmmm, mmmm!

Favorite Feel: All the kind people.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

(Day 24-29) “Looped” it back home…

Sunday, July 27th, 2008
Day 24
Port Orford, OR to Eugene, OR

Yesterday was great. I had a huge sense of relief and achievement by reaching my goal in what I considered to be in the most favorable of conditions. For example:

1. Rain only changed my direction twice (OK and CO)
2. I was only rained on once (AR)
3. I had one major wreck (OK), but escaped with only a jammed thumb
4. I had no major problems with the Orangutan (leaky fork seals (CO) is the only minor problem I had)
5. I did have some mapping issues (my fault) and a blown fuse (NV) with the GPS, but it performed flawlessly otherwise.
6. And the most fortunate non-occurrence: No flat tires!

I knew better than to think that this was “too easy”, I was just simply very, very fortunate.

HOWEVER!!! I also knew that the trip wasn’t over, as I still had about 300 miles of asphalt between me and the airport. But, I also had 5 days to get there.

While I was in Monticello, UT, I booked a flight home for August 1st from Portland to Charlotte. August 1st is Friday and today was Sunday. I obviously gave myself too much cushion, so I called the airline to see if I could change my itinerary… “Sure… for $500”. Uhh… well… I guess I’ll just take my time on my way to Portland!

I know there are probably many dirt roads that I passed on the way, but I just spent 23 days riding dirt and gravel, so the prospects of making it home safely, the change to pavement and more people was OK with me… for now. Port Orford wasn’t really doing it for me and the day before, this hitchhiker named Jim:

…suggested I go to Coos Bay. (I offered him a ride, but he declined…wonder why? So picky these hitchhikers are). So anyway, off I went to Coos Bay. First, let’s get some breakfast:

The group of Canadian riders that owned the bikes in the above picture were all really interested in my trip and I had fun talking with them. I told them my trip was changing at this point, and offered an even trade for one of their more street friendly bikes… but they weren’t budging. Oh well, let’s see what this famous highway 101 is all about:

Brandon, OR was a cool port town. Not very big, but I liked it better than Port Orford:

Moving along... another tunnel. I should have paid attention to the “Turn On Lights” sign:

Why? Here’s why:

My first thought was, “Ah cool, wait till this cop hears my story!” (I’ve been pulled over many times before, I should have known that this wasn’t going to help) I was pretty sure that he was pulling me over for speeding, but as I was trying to figure out how fast I might have been going, I realized that I was probably only going 68-70 max.

“Sir, I pulled you over because you don’t have your headlights on”
“Oh! I normally do, my battery has been acting a little weak and I turned them off so it would start easier. I must have forgotten to turn them back on”
[I turn them on and he confirms that they work]
“Can I see your license, registration and proof of insurance?”
[Doh! More times than not, this means the cop wants to write you a ticket for whatever reason they can find, but I felt confident that I had all my paperwork and he was going to have a hard time finding something else to bust me on]
“Here’s my license… registration… and… and… doh! I have proof of insurance on my Jeep and street bike, but I forgot to put my KTM insurance card in my wallet. Can I call the insurance company to confirm with you?”
“No, in the state of Oregon, you have to have proof of insurance with you at all times. I’ll be right back.”
[Well, great. 10 times out of 10, if the cop takes your paperwork back to his car, he’s going to come back with a yellow piece of paper for you to sign with a court date to add to your schedule]:

And please don’t let the smirk fool you. This guy was all business until I pointed the camera at him.

“OK, I let you go on the headlight…”
“… … … … ok”
“But, I had to write you up on the proof of insurance”
“… … … … thanks?”

Doh! I’m still trying to put myself in this man’s shoes and figure out how much money someone would have to pay me to write up a guy in my situation. He did ask, “So you rode this bike all the way from North Carolina, huh.” “Yep”. But apparently this didn’t mean squat to him as he had no problems writing a ticket. My guess is that this guy has either never ridden a motorcycle…ever, or had a “bad experience” with some other biker in the past and thinks we’re all the same.

Anyway, with my headlight now on, I march north (but still without proof of insurance, lol). I hit Coos Bay shortly thereafter and pull into a gas station.

Young blonde, stripper-looking chick in an old Grand Cherokee with 4 bald tires, one of them losing air as you could hear the hissing: “Hey, do you know how to change a tire?”
“Sure, do you have a jack?”
“I have this…”
[shows me a jack with no lever and a spare tire with no tire iron]
“Well, you’re going to need at least a tire iron to get the lug nuts off. Maybe you can drive it to an auto shop and they can plug it for you”
“I did, they won’t plug it because the tires are bald”
“Well, maybe they can put the spare tire on for you?”
“Well, I don’t want to pay for it!!!”
”Well, I wish I could help you out, but I’m afraid there’s not much I can do for you…sorry”

WHAT!? Are you kidding me!? “I don’t want to pay for it??” Have I driven all the way to France or Europe or something?

Anyway, I couldn’t find a room for less than 80 bucks in Coos Bay (pot kettle black), let’s go to Eugene:

I get a room near the University of Oregon campus for around 60 bucks, walk to all the local breweries and let the Orangutan sleep inside with me and not outside with the drunk college kids.

Monday, July 28th, 2008
Day 25
Eugene, OR to Portland, OR

Morning arrives, I gradually get out of bed and determine that this town was too expensive so off I go to Portland (like that’s going to be any cheaper).

To summarize Portland: I stop by all the KTM dealerships I could find. This one was the smallest I’ve ever seen (but not open on Mondays):

I eat at this kick-ass restaurant near Hillsboro:

…if you’re ever in the area, STOP BY TWIN OAKS BAR & GRILL. The guy is German and has been cooking for over 50 years. This burger was fantastic:

Later on, I find another KTM dealership and purchase some tie-downs to secure the bike for shipping. One of the customers (not anyone working there) was interested in my trip, so we talked awhile and he offered to snap my picture (thanks man!):

He also offered a couch to sleep on. This was very hard to turn down, but I wanted to explore on my own, so I kept on truckin’ into Portland:

It was getting late, so I just picked a motel close to the airport and called it a night.

Tuesday, July 29th, 2008
Day 26
Portland, OR

I didn’t get any pictures the next three days, so I’ll just have to summarize what I did. The motel was a little pricey, so I found a hostel in the “artsy” district for 23 bucks a night. I booked 3 nights, but could only handle 2! You get what you pay for and this place was freaking WEIRD. It was really like living in an episode of MTV’s “The Real World” without the cameras. I lived like a bum for a couple days and determined that since I wasn’t on TV, there was no need to put up with living with all these strange people. For the last night, I went back to the airport motel I stayed at three nights ago. This would work out better anyway since I had to crate the bike on Thursday (right near the airport) and fly out at 7am Friday.

The plan for Thursday was:

1. Crate the bike at Forward Air
2. Walk back to the motel

The plan for Friday was:

1. Catch the shuttle from motel to airport at 5:30am
2. Fly home at 7am

Simple enough, aye? Well, I executed each step successfully except for Thursday step 2. I’ll start with Thursday, step 1:

Thursday, July 31st, 2008
Day 28
Portland, OR

For some reason, the thought did not occur to me that I could wear all my gear to the shipping facility and take it all off before locking the crate up. I remember being in a hurry for some reason… but why you ask? I don’t know! So off I go in shorts and sandals…gear would have been good…

I get there with everything that will be going into the crate on my bike, and everything that will be going on the plane with me, in my backpack. The guy running the show asked me to purge the tank of all fuel. I had about 3 gallons in there and rather than dumping it in the parking lot, I cruise back into “town” and find an auto repair shop that gladly accepts my fuel.

I drained a little bit of the reserve too, but still had enough to get back to the shipping facility. A worker at Forward Air grabbed a fork truck and dropped my (very small) crate outside for me to load my crap into. “You can load your bike right here, let us know when you’re done so we can put it back into the warehouse” “No problemo”.

I stripped the Orangutan down to her birthday suit and decided to go run the rest of the fuel out. (But, what I really wanted to do was be a hooligan.) I just rode 5000 miles with 50lbs of luggage and 4 extra gallons of fuel and, all the while, being extremely cautious. Now I had a few ounces of fuel and no luggage, the bike was light again. Apparently my desire to “see what she’ll do” outweighed all of the lessons that I thought I had learned on the trip. A small voice in my head told me, “If you pack up now, you win”. The other voice said, “If you pack up later, you win too! Now let’s go screw around and run this tank empty!”

Unfortunately I listened to the latter. I was trying to catch 2nd gear on one particular wheelie, gave it too much gas and looped it. I tried to hang on for longer than I should have and I heard the license plate scraping the asphalt, so I bailed and ended up falling backwards, on my side, feet first. I watched the bike come down hard on my leg and bounce off. My first thought was that my leg was broke in half. As I was coming to a stop, it seemed to be wobbling around like that was the case. My next thought was just pure and utter disgust with myself. “All this way and I break my fracking leg in the airport parking lot! DOH!”

I do some more personal inventory and notice the brush guard came down on my wrist, cutting a nice slit across the top of my arm and leaving a huge strawberry on the bottom of my arm from the asphalt. I checked my leg again and noticed that it was straight. So, I stood up and was able to put weight on it without anything moving around internally. I figured I better get the bike up and back over to the crate before it really started to hurt. Right after I got the bike up, a guy in a truck comes up to me, he saw the whole thing, “DUDE! ARE YOU OK!?” “No, think I broke my leg” “REALLY!!?” “Yes” “I SAW THE BIKE LAND ON YOU, SO I FIGURED I’D COME OVER TO SEE IF YOU WERE OK” “Thanks, man” “ARE YOU GOING TO BE ALRIGHT?” “Yeah, I’ll be fine” [he drives off]

I use the bike as a crutch for about 100 yards back to the crate. I limp into the office, “Did you guys see me wreck” “No, we didn’t. What happened?” “I was being a dumbass and dropped the bike on my leg, can I hire one of you guys to load the bike for me?”. “No, we can’t do that” “…Ok, can I use your bathroom?” “OK”. So, I go in there and try to clean the road rash on my wrist and ankle, but determine that it’s not worth it. I limp back outside to see two of the employees scoping out my situation. “Dude, your bike is not going to fit in there”. These guys obviously don’t know how to improvise, so I respond, “Yes it will, we just have to take the wheels off” [one guy walks away at this point]

The remaining guy told me he could help me for $40. Uh, thanks? This guy has probably never used a wrench before, so I instruct him on how to get the front wheel off. He proceeds to sheer off one of the pinch bolts. I laugh at him and tell him to get out of the way. So hopping around on one leg, I take BOTH wheels off and muscle it into the crate with little help from the remaining employee (actually he ended up being more of an obstruction than anything else). I manage to get one tie-down on and throw everything except my backpack in there and promptly call a cab after I give the Forward Air employee all my cash, which was only 14 bucks, lol.

We find an urgent care facility and I wait in the waiting room for a good 10-15 minutes filling out 3 or 4 sheets of paperwork while trying to keep blood from dripping on the carpet. Before anything else, the nurse asks:

“Were you in a car accident?”
“A motorcycle accident, yes”
“What did you hit?”
“The ground”
“Was anyone else involved?”
“Did you hit any personal property?”
“You were the only person involved?”
“There was no one else involved in the accident?”
“NO, do you double as the cops?”
“Well… sort of…”
“Are you filing a claim on your insurance?”
“So you’re just not going to fix the bike?”
“It’s not damaged.”
“You didn’t damage the bike when you wrecked?”
“NO.” (Will you please just clean me up and take a FRACKING X-RAY!!!)

Another dose of Oregonian law I guess. Anyway, the rent-a-doctor tells me the wrist is fine, the ankle is broken. Fractures on both tibia and fibia, but no displacement, not too bad.

The nurse does her best to clean the dirt out the road rash (she’s the type who would pull duct tape off your arm very, very slowly), wraps my leg up with a half cast, gives me crutches and shows me the door. Another cab to the hotel… and doh!, I forgot to go to the pharmacy. Another cab to the pharmacy to get some drugs (anti-inflammatory, antibiotics, pain killers) and take yet another cab back to the motel:

I get up just in time to catch the 5:30am shuttle to the airport. At security, I forgot to lose my hacksaw and multi-tool knife! They were cool about it and shipped those items home for me for 12 bucks. Luckily my gate was the closest to the security checkpoint. A United Airlines representative spotted me and put me on first class. Oh, it was terrible:

I was back over the Rockies in no time:

I got extremely lucky during the layover in Denver. My gate was only about 100 feet away and they gave me 1st class again. What a shame!:

United Airlines really treated me well all the way home. First in line to get off the plane, the stewardess opens the hatch and BAM! Oh man, the humidity! I almost wanted to stay on the plane and head back to Colorado, but they had a wheelchair for me, so I got carted out into the surprisingly busy Charlotte airport. They wanted to get one of those electric trucks to haul my crippled ass to the taxis, but I got tired of waiting in the wheelchair and crutched it all the way out there.

I told the Charlotte cab driver to take me to OrthoCarolina (yes, I know where it’s at) so I can get a better doctor and second opinion. The orthopedist confirms two fractures of the tibia and fibia, puts me in a boot and schedules another appointment.

Not wanting to pay another cab fare, I decided to try public transportation. For $1.30 I get to within .7 miles of my house. Not wanting to ask anyone for help, I crutch it all the way home in the nearly unbearable Charlotte humidity. I had visions of triumphantly riding the Orangutan back home, but I ended up swinging my one good leg on crutches for the final stretch home. Either way, I still made my final destination and made it back home… on my own.

Here is what the damage looked like back at the house:

What a way to end the trip, aye!?

I’ll follow up later with my final thoughts, what worked, what didn’t work and what I would have done differently…

Friday, August 29, 2008

The gas station "incident"...

Looking back, I apparently forgot to mention my gas stop in Chiloquin, OR, just before Crater Lake. As I pull in, yet another gas station attendant was filling up the guy in front of me as I was waiting in line. Geez, not another gas pump babysitter! I don’t want to tip this guy for handing me the pump! Sheesh, I try to do it myself, but it wasn’t happening. The guy takes my card and hands me the pump. I feel like a 3 year old! But, luckily this guy goes to the next car after handing me my receipt. Ok… well… thanks?

Now, back to Port Orford… After I finished soaking in what I had just accomplished (any how fortunate I was), I decided to get some food, find a room and gas up. I pull up to the pump to find another attendant tending to the car on the other side. I swipe my card and grab the pump. As I’m waiting to get authorized, the gas attendant, a 40-something year old woman hiding behind large sunglasses (it was almost dark outside at this point, not sure why the sunglasses were necessary) and a baseball hat, says in her most authoritative voice:

“Um, no?”

By the tone of her voice, you would have thought that I was trying to steal or vandalize something of her own and that she had the authority and means to be judge, jury and executioner. I’m so shocked at this point, I’m literally speechless. Not only was this woman a total *****, but this beautiful state that I just rode through is also a nanny state… what a crying shame.

Rather than putting her hand around my crotch area to pump the gas, she does let me do the pumping, but I still had to hand the pump back to her after I was done. Still speechless, I drive off thinking about this law and how funny it is and how I now realize why each Oregon gas station I pumped gas at was a little quirky. Now, would it be more fun to watch non-Oregonians get busted pumping gas in Oregon, or watching Oregonians trying to figure out how to pump their own gas in the 48 babysitter-free states?

At this point I’m ahead of schedule by 4 days, which means I have 5 days to get to Portland before my flight leaves…more on that later…