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'Bout Me!

Fall Ride 2007

Fall Ride 2007

(Transamerica Trail and The 'Alternative' Continental Divide)


I have often been asked if I am not bored riding the bike all day? Or whether I have a sore back and/or butt after a day on the bike? Surprised looks when I mention that I ride every day from AM to PM when I am on a trip ...

I love to ride. I ride for the ride's sake. I don't sightsee. The ride is what I enjoy. Feeling the engine vibrating under me and the wind pulling at my jacket. The constant buzz in my ears from the wind. I don't do crazy things. I want to get in home in one piece.
All packed up and ready to go ...

Plan for this trip was to ride my 1982 R80G/S to Wichita, KS where I would meet Bill from Oklahoma, a fellow Airhead and Adventure rider. He would ride the Transamerica Trail on his 1983 R100 (with knobbies) on gravel, mud, sand and rocks through New Mexico and Oklahoma to arrive at Ken's Unorganized Boxerworks Rally in Southeast Oklahoma. Little did he know ... but he suspected what was about to happen!

  1. The ride to Wichita, KS
  2. Riding the Trail with Bill
  3. Meeting up at the Boxerworks Fall Rally in SE Oklahoma
  4. The 'alternative' Continental Divide

The ride to Wichita, KS

More of a mile-eating boring activity, I decided to run the slab on the first day to get some miles under my belly: 551mls in close to 11hrs, the bike ran like clockwork at 40mpg with engine rpm at around 5000rpm most of the time. A bit of drizzle inbetween, nothing major, but quite cold and clouded, I saw the first sun at 2:30PM and the first drizzle at 3:30PM. I spent the first night just South of Chicago.

It was cold in the morning, mid 40s but warmed up nicely by mid day. I chose secondary roads and also ran the first gravel. Running the bike mostly at around 4000rpm that day, the gas mileage went up to 42mpg. The day was however kind of foggy in my memory. I remember me being more quiet and just trying to get as far and fast away as possible. I spent the night in Jefferson City, MS I believe. The last leg to Wichita was uneventful and I arrived in Wichita, KS at about 7PM.

Riding the Trail with Bill

We expected a 6-day ride on our way to Ken in Hogden, OK: 2 days to get to our Trail starting point in Bransdon, CO. During the first 2 days we would just cross Kansas East-to-West and either stay in Trinidad, CO or Raton, NM or whatever motel would come our way.

We rode almost exclusively secondary and gravel roads to make the ride more interesting and ... hey, we were on vacation, no need to rush. 600mls in 2 days - piece of cake!

Not long into our ride (160mls) at 11.51AM ;-), Bill had his first boo-boo on very fine red sand: oh, was he ever so mad about this sand. Very fine and his front tire was doing the Cha-Cha going left, right and center as it pleased. But we had a good laugh. It should later become a point of reference for how bad sand can be and we would mention it more than a dozen times. OK, Bill would mention it 2 dozen times ...

We rode through some very remote areas and 'towns' such as Belvidere, KS:

13 souls lived in that little village and Halley's Junction was the center of this town. We had a chat with the owner and she gave us some insight into live out there. No need for me to mention any more, you can imagine ...

Worth mentioning that we would get up to 3200ft altitude that day.

We spent the night in Liberal, KS.

The next day:
By now, my tires (Metzeler Sahara 3) had about 5000mls / 8100km (in only 5mos) and were basically toast. As usual I brought a set of tires, knobbies in this case: a front Pirelli MT21 (70/30) and a rear 50/50 Kenda Trackmaster 760 with the inner knobs cut off so it passes the swingarm. I had the tires mounted in Liberal, KS at Milhon's Honda Yamaha Kawasaki. Cecil, the owner, did the job even before he opened (10AM). Thank you, Cecil.

To all you adventure riders on the trail: Cecil talked a bit about the people popping in from the trail and asking for tires in sizes he would never keep in stock. His advise: give himself or Mary a call at 620 624 7491 well in advance and let them know what you would need. They will have it ready for you.

We headed East on secondary and gravel roads to Trinidad, CO. Western Kansas is flat a a pancake!

It was a beautiful day and the weather was absolutely brilliant. The gravel was of the benign type and we had some nice high speed sections where we played around with the cameras.

We completely enjoyed ourselves, eating miles, taking the scenery in and playing around with the cameras.

In the far distance, we could see the Rockies already. And my mind was going back to the trips in the European Alps where tight turnbacks are the norm, long stretches are very rare!

During the day, we "climbed" up to nearly 6000ft!

We have not even started riding the trail and are already having way too much fun!

We spend the night in Trinidad, CO.

October 16: First day of the Transamerica Trail - New Mexico Section

We were heading out South east towards New Mexico on country roads to get to Bransdon, CO. The weather was absolutely gorgeous and the mountains showed in all their beauty:

Moving on, we found so many photo opportunities,we hardly gained any ground:

Bransdon, CO is the official trail tail of New Mexico. I think I should explain that a bit more: The Transamerica Trail was designed by Sam Correro on his travel from the East to the West. And that is the way it is set up. So, we are really running it in reverse direction which is just as nice. A bit more work on transferring Garmin Waypoints as everything is sort of upside/down.

Now, we were officially on the trail and instantly greeted by a cattle herd that was blocking our way but agree to let us through:

The road we were following is within an "Open Range" where there are few fences.

The Adventure begins! The GPS indicates a road that is cutting through and would join the trail later again. I decided this to be the perfect 'alternative route' for two upcoming Marco Polos and in we went in after a short discussion!

This is a "road" that according to the GPS we should take! The tire tracks were barely visible ...

We stopped and began seriously wondering if this was the correct way? GPS said we were on trak! The trail is getting VERY rough! This is out in the middle of NOWHERE New Mexico. Seriously, we are way out, miles and miles from any civilization.

We are still following this trail, are we?

Stopped... wondering where in the hell we are.

Are we still on a track or already completely lost?

Ah, there are some tracks ...

And no Indians around ...

We had to do a few small water crossings, this looks simple, it isn't with a fully loaded 500+ lbs bike. I go first and decide to walk mine through, to help avoid sinking in the mud.

Bill had to prepare mentally for this crossing and then makes ity fine, handsomely sitting on his bike and driving it through, not as ungracious as myself. You live and learn!

DEAD END!!! We followed this trail until we could go no further due to a fence.... a fence... WAY OUT HERE?

We have to follow our own track back out.


Nearly back on the original trail.

This is a nice overlook of a valley we were descending into. Important side note: At this point we believe the alternator light on Bill's bike was starting to glim, but he didn't notice it, until ... You will see what happens later.

This valley did not seem to end and we are again enjoying some high speed gravel passages, quite relaxing after the work in the canyon.

And then, the shock when Bill's bike just died. No, not literally, it just did: 60mph to ZERO in no time!

In fact, we were in the middle of nowhere, with 2.5 more hours of sunlight to go and a bike with a very dim idiot lights. Bill and I had a short, heated discussion about what to do now in light of the remoteness of the area and the severity of the problem. Heated, because I did not see much of a problem, as I had all spare parts and Bill, being anxious of getting to village before nightfall and not having a clue how to get there at that point!

We started troubleshooting: first stator and rotor. In the meantime, a friendly farmer and his wife stopped and offered help. We asked for a jumpstart cable and he came back with that ... and a lawnmower battery. What a genius!

We had exchanged the parts and were able to push-start the bike: alternator light still glowing, more the higher the rpm went ???? Strange. Next thing, we exchanged the regulator: no change, still glowing. Bill got really nervous now and decided to pack it in and run the bike on the lawnmower battery for the next 55mls to Boise City. So, the only thing we did not change on the road, was the rectifier (aka diodeboard) which should be of relevance later. We left the jumpstart cable hanging over a fence, but also left $20 for the battery that Frank, the farmer, let us have for free. Thank you, Frank! Cutting the trail short, Bill sped to Boise City with a 75mph average, I was about 2-3 min behind and we both arrived in Boise City at dusk. Phew! At least save in a hotel and not broken down on the road.

Bill now described the further symptoms and it turned out, that the alternator light did not change with rpm but was fairly lit, but not fully! Should there be a AC phase or two missing? Lost in the rectifier aka the darn diodeboard perhaps?

We got round to it right away:

HEUREKA! Problem solved. The replacement diodeboard fixed the problem. The old one must have died a heat death due to our canyon riding at low speed and subseqeuent very high engine temperatures.

That concluded our first day on the trail successfully!

October 17: Second day of the Transamerica Trail - Western Oklahoma Section

The second day was pretty uneventful with respect to problems: there were none. We decided to cut the complete section of the trail for this second day since we lost a half day with the charging system the day before that we could not recover as we were about 2hrs away from the trail which ran further North.

Bill continued to ran on the lawnmower battery thereby charging his Odyssey battery:

The farm roads were getting a bit more wet which should become a story in itself later.

The gravel roads were as dry as they were in New Mexico ...

We came through Curtis, OK and at first it looked like a pretty busy little town until I saw the gas station ...

... and the shops ...

All in all, a very nice day, that led us to spend another night in Liberal, KS.

That's Bill ... can't you tell?

We went to see Cecil at Milhon's again to tell some tales and finally dispose of the lawnmower battery. Everything was back to normal on Bill's bike.

October 18: Third day of the Transamerica Trail - Mid Oklahoma Section

A memorable day ... for various reasons.

The day started with a beautiful sunrise and greeted us with blue skies and bright sunlight and temperatures in the 70s, maybe 80s. We headed towards the trail in OK.

The soil was well soaked and I expected some mud sections, hoping them to be more or less benign. But I should be proven wrong! Some last minute adjustments were nevertheless made.

This is where it got muddy ...

This didn't look as if we would get away with nothing ...

We made the first mud section just fine. I think Bill WAS worried but he was in it now, so no turning back! Off we went ...

Bill: (probably mumbling: I knew it ... f**^ck, s%^*t, merde) I'm ok, I'm ok! Don't worry!

Two mud sections down, many to go? It got better!

That's me on the next section ... long and quite deep!

When I reached the other side, I turned around and Bill was gone! Wiped off the face of the Earth! From that far away, I could not see any tire tracks so I walked back through that mud to see what had happened. Aliens picking him up or what?
Well, Bill (maybe in his desperation) decided to take a 'shortcut' and try to circumfer the mud section through the nearby maze field. What he didn't know (and couldn't see) was, that there was a flooded creek between me and him. He was near stuck when I spotted him:

I can't believe I did this! How did I get here? Get me outa here!

It took our combined effort to unload the bike and get it out of this precarious situation and into the safe zone.

The sign said Low Water Crossing. Would have been nice to see the sign first then run into mud, not the other way round.

My adventure bike ...

This little adventure was most remarkable in a way, and we took our time to get underway again. When we tried, Bill really couldn't go! His low front fender was blocked by the mud and his front wheel was only sliding on the mud instead of rolling atop of it. Only solution was to remove the fender!

Bill later had another little incident which we didn't document, it was too minor. In the end, Bill really only went down twice and he has my fullest respect for going through this with a street bike such as the R100. I learned from my Transamerica Trail experience in 2006 and did not go down this time which I simply put down to the choice of tires. In 2006 I went down hard four times without a helper runnung 80/20 Metzeler Sahara 3s.

We found a place to wash the bikes, they needed it:

The scenery now changed: we were back on gravel and tarmac, but the flooding was very intense so we had to turn around a couple of times.

I could not resist to do at least do one deeper water crossing ...

... with Bill supervising!

We left the area and moved on. The afternoon was amazing from a 'picture perfect' perspective. We rode through the Osage Indian Reservation that the Indians (aka First Nation) kept as is with hardly any fences or dwellings. A beautiful piece of land ...

One of my favorite pictures of the trip ...

October 19: Fourth and last day of the Transamerica Trail - Eastern Oklahoma Section

The last day was mainly going Southeast on the usual trail roads, gravel and some tarmac. Not a lot of pictures, I think we were still in shock about the previous day with its mud sections and the beauty of the land.

Along the way, I had to do something about the tire rubbing on the inside of the rear fender as it already ripped a piece off of the fender!

There was one road on the trail, that was kind of hidden due the road construction that happened over the years. I had to do some scouting while Bill had one of his freshair inhalers (aka ciggies, fags, smokes etc).

And finally, we met the first person ever on the trail on his DR650. A local, that wasn't even aware that he was riding on holy ground!

The ride on this Eastern section of the OK trail was very much like the AR trail, hills and forrests and lots of nice gravel roads, fun to ride with a lot of variety. We spent the night in Sallisaw.

As usual, track and profile of the day for those who are interested.

Meeting up at the Boxerworks Fall Rally in SE Oklahoma

This is our final leg to get to Ken's for the Unofficial Undecidedly Unorganized Boxerworks Rally, which IS organized by Randy and Ken every fall of every year since a couple of years. In the morning, we had another little boo-boo moment when we found oil literally spilling out of Bills bike's left valve cover. A rock must have found its way and punched a hole in it. It was later JB Weld'ed at Ken's.

We arrived around mid day a Ken's where the Rally was already in full swing as it started on Thrusday.

I had a chance to test ride this baby, thanks Ben!

Beautiful, innit ?!?!

In the afternoon of the next day (Sunday), it was time for Bill and me to say cheerio after having been together on the road for 7 days: Bill is heading home towards Oklahoma City and I am heading East towards the Arkansas section of the Transamerica Trail.

Bill, I had a terrific time. Let's do it again some day!

So, packed up and ready to hit the trail again after 1.5 days of Airhead talk, tech sessions, tire changes and other talks about almost any subject, almost everything got covered!

I was going East-South-East to get to Alma but three times in a row, a flooded river was in the way. Back to riding alone, I did not attempt a solo crossing. So finally, I took a secondary road to get going.

The gravel roads started looking like the AR trail, nice!

October 22: Another day on the TransAmerica Trail - Arkansas Section

Bill and I had monitored the weather over the entire trip and the Eastern states seemed to have been covered in clouds permanently and hammered with rain. I was well aware, but I also noticed areas without rain on the weather chart, so I took my chances with this one.

The first day started with a surprise: I remember needing to turnaround at some point last year because I could not find the trail and some real weird construction was going on on Warloop Road. This time, I found it, WOW!

It was very early in the morning, so I messed up the pictures because of the poor lighting. I should have used my little tripod!

A steep hill with large and huge rocks that was difficult to master with my heavy bike. The experience however from the last year and last week paid out and I made it through. The Kenda 270 on the rear was amazingly strong on those rocks. It should also prove pretty decent in pouring rain later!

Conditions were not ideal and the further I went East, the darker it went and the more it rained.

The rain was desparately needed though, the rivers
and creeks were pretty low/empty!

I carried on and had a real good time on the road: gravel, gravel, gravel!

The weather deteriorated fast and at 4PM I stopped for the day in Conway, AR, no point in getting all wet, I had to check the weather situation again first.

The 'alternative' Continental Divide

The morning didn't look any better that the evening before: heavy clouds and rain. The Weather Channel did not provide any good prognosis for the Eastern states, so I changed plans.

I would define and ride my own personal 'Alternative' Continental Divide from Conway, AR straight North to Grand Portage, MN where I would cross the border. I was a little bit worried about the weather up North in Thunder Bay, but it did not seem to have started snowing, so I went for it.

According to the forecast and the radar images, I would have to go straight North until I hit the border to Missouri and would be greated with blue skies and ample sunshine. So off I went!

If you look carefully, you can see the blue sky in the very far distance!

Ferry on Bull Shoals Lake in the Ozarks on the border to Missouri.

Nice riding there ...

1hr left to blue skies ...

In the afternoon of this day, I rode my bike into the sun and it was warm! Fast and slow sweepers, turnbacks, Missouri's got them all.
And just as promised I woke up to blue skies and sun and carried on on my way North.

First Fall colors I saw ...

The end of a perfect day of riding!

I expected to wake up to another day in paradise and was not disappointed.

This was the first morning where the temperature fell below freezing point to around -2C/28F. It did not give me any trouble, bike started fine as the cold was dry.

Lake Huron North of Duluth, MN

Another 120mls to the border in Grand Portage, MN. It was beautiful ride on the 'Alternative' Continental Divide with quite a few new impressions.

It was here in Grand Portage, MN where my vacation ended. I was officially on my way home and was really looking forward to that, after nearly 3 weeks of travel half across the United States.

And believe it or not: I crossed the border and shortly afterwards, the weather changed for the worse. But only for a short time. Coincidence ... I am sure!

Amazing ...

In stayed the night in Marathon, ON and walk up at -5C/23F on a very cold morning. But the sunrise was promising a beautiful day!

At -5C/23F and with 20W50 oil, the bike would not start. I expected that and had chosen a hotel that was close to a gas station. So I pushed the bike across the road to the gas station, organized a Quickcharger and had it running within minutes. No big deal.

What followed then were my 1 hour of hell: there was snow on the road, they had sprayed salt and you never knew whether it was wet or dry or black ice. Snow was frozen on the road in shady areas and I was super alert.

I had serious doubts that I would be going home on my bike. I was not far from Bruno's residence and started considering my options: leave the bike there and take the train home came to mind!

Covered in salt ...

But a miracle happened ...

A piece of art ... Nature!

October 29, after 18 days and nearly 10.000km on the road, I arrive home safely and completely relaxed.

Back in one piece ...

Back to
  1. Top of Page
  2. The ride to Wichita, KS
  3. Riding the Trail with Bill
  4. Meeting up at the Boxerworks Fall Rally in SE Oklahoma
  5. The 'alternative' Continental Divide
End of Trip Report