Day Zero (July 8, 2017) began at the crack of dawn as usual for me. Today was the big day -pick up Chris and off to Alachua to grab JD then 8 hours to Andrews NC.
At JD’s Place
Since JD and Chris had never been to the “World Famous” Varsity restaurant in Atlanta we decide to stop.
Of course anyone who has ever eaten there would surely say it is the worst food with the most attitude from the staff you will ever find. But if you’ve never been there -you have to try it once.
July 9th 2017. Today was the official start of our TAT trip. We were up on time and the morning weather was perfect. A little foggy and cool outside made the start a perfect one.
We headed straight up into the mountains and immediately we twisting and turning through the Appalachians. We stopped for this photo next to a waterfall
Our first fuel stop took place at Thunder Mountain General Store. The proprietor, Ken, was on hand to let us know how many others had come through this season. I asked about the old school gas pumps and he said “they” want $60K to upgrade his to digital…He said “They still work just fine”.
Our route actually skirted behind this sign and then onto the dirt roads. This is very near the famous “Dragons Tail” route for motorcycles (all hardball roads).
Once we cleared the Appalachians we came out around Tellico Plains TN. We stopped for BBQ and of course a couple of beers. Just so happens there was a aptly named BBQ joint called Buckets & Brews.
We had a great conversation with the owners of Buckets & Brews and amazingly they had previously lived in Spring Hill Florida where Chris and I are from! We sat and talked with them for about an hour.
Once we departed Tellico Plains we headed right into the Blueridge Mountains. This is where things went from awesome to “get me off this mountain”. Those are the words I was uttering as day turned to night and we still had at least 20 miles to go.
We had no problem navigating but the ups and downs, twists and turns, and sheer rock cliffs but it took an inordinate amount of time. Our goal was to get to Chatsworth GA and by god we were gonna do it. At one point Chris hit empty on his fuel but we were carrying spares. We emptied our reserve fuel and finally made it out of the mountains. We arrived in Chatsworth around 10pm and parked at the nearest motel (Adco Motel). For those of you familiar with the Bambi Inn in Gainseville FL, this place put it to shame.
It was a Sunday night and everything was closed -I mean everything -Also there was absolutely no cell service or internet. It didn’t matter -we were exhausted. Our asses hurt bad, our feet were wet from the river crossings and our attitudes needed healing sleep.
July 10 2017. If you are following along, Day 1 ended late and we were exhausted. Day 2 had to be better and it was. We started our day a little late -around 9 am but that was because we had to remove all of our gear from the bikes the night before for fear of theft in Chatsworth GA.
Not long after departing Chatsworth we ran into this sign. Does anyone know what that means?
We pressed on and went into the mountains again but this time it was logging roads which are a bit easier to move along. We were constantly on alert for jeeps and trucks headed in the opposite direction. We have already had a couple of close calls as the trails are just wide enough for one vehicle.
We passed through a couple more small mountains winding our way towards Tennessee.
We had made it close to the Tennessee border and got a bit turned around. We spent maybe twenty minutes trying to find the route and ended up on the tracks, literally. We were paralleling the route but on the railroad tracks. Our thought was simply at the next crossing we get back on the trail. Well turns out -that wasn’t to be. We ran into a couple of good ol boys welding the railroad tracks.
Dakota and Zach.
They let us know that there was “no way to get there from here” and while we were turning around Chris managed to get really stuck in the gravel. It took Zach and Dakota to help us manhandle his bike back onto the tracks. Great guys just plugging away in the Georgia heat.
After the exhausting events of having to push and pull a fully laden dirtbike we had to find some shade and take a break. Turns out the shade we found was the turn we had missed. It runs under the railroad tracks.
After our break we were only about fifty miles from Fayetteville TN. A quick map check to be sure we could make it.
We made it to the motel in Fayetteville around 1830 and promptly loaded the bikes in the room.
Then it was shower time and crash. Tomorrow we head to Savannah TN.
Today was a real gut check. Hot, getting lost, and mentally evaluating whether we could actually get all the way across the country. The planned schedule was certainly beginning to come into question. Could we go 250 miles a day like this? We of course still had the enthusiasm to get this done. It takes at least one of the two riders to have a positive attitude to encourage the other and this duty was passed between the two of us throughout the day.
July 11 2017. Day three began on time mostly because the motel we were staying at was having the roof replaced and the trove of workers started tearing the old roof off at 5:30 am. I can sleep through a lot but stomping boots and shouts in Spanish had me dreaming the US had been invaded.
We departed Fayetteville enroute to AL and back into TN to end in Savannah. The day was full of gravel roads with multiple water crossings.
We were now clear of any mountains and into the rolling hills.
Tennessee is littered with old barns and majestic homesteads. This old place was being kept up and I wasn’t sure of the reason for the three flagpoles.
We took a quick break in front of this place -one of many abandoned places along the trail.
We have been cris-crossing the Trail of Tears for a couple of days now. This time we were running along the Tennessee river through Waterloo Alabama and a dad with is son fishing took this photo for us.
Running along the river had major twists and turns on loose gravel with some very steep ups and downs. The heat had taken its toll on me and I needed a break. We opted to rest at an old burned down house where all that was left was the concrete porch.
We ran across this little guy basking in the sun. Problem was he was in the middle of the road.
Chris opted to place him back on the grass.
We made it to Savannah TN around 5pm and were lucky to get a room at the Days Inn. Since it is now day three we had to do laundry. I opted for the Days Inn’s wonderful pool. Yes those are my socks and underwear in the water. I figure the chlorine is better than the hotel soap.
Chris however, decided he would wash his socks in the sink where we are going to brush our teeth. So those of you that cringed at me washing my clothes in the pool -what say you about which method is better?
After the clothes washing we headed over for some Taco Bell and back to the room. Bikes full loaded and settling down to write this blog and download the videos.
Tomorrow we are off to Batesville MS!
July 12 2017. Day four began on time with a quick stop at the car wash to rinse the wheels and add some chain lube. Today we went from Savannah TN to Batesville MS.
After departing Savannah we ran through what seemed like endless corn fields then we had to cross the TN river at the Pickwick dam. We came across this screw monument. We didn’t take the time to read where it came from.
We rode for a couple of hours then Chris caught a flat front tire. Luckily it was only on the low pressure side of our Tubeliss tire systems. So a quick jolt of air from the Tusk C02 canister and we were back on the road.
We entered Mississippi and I noticed that the Kudzu was everywhere. It seemed like it was literally overtaking all of the trees.
I snapped this pic at one of our gas stops (Kossuth MS). I thought the truck matched the era of the gas station.
Mississippi brought the most washed out roads/bridges we had to navigate. Crossing areas that are washed out is really fun. Having to figure out how to do it and then taking the risk of actually doing it is a blast. Luckily along our route no one ever tried to stop us -I think they were just fascinated with these two guys even attempting it.
We arrived in Batesville MS around 7pm really tired and dusty. A quick dip in the lovely America’s Best Value Inn’s pool and then dinner at Waffle House next door. It had WiFi but super slow and I couldn’t get the videos to upload.
Chris had to improvise drying his socks tonight. Tomorrow we are definitely seeking out a laundromat…
July 13th 2019. Batesville MS to Clinton AR.
290 Miles. Hot and extremely dusty
We departed Batesville around 8am and within about 70 miles crossed the Mississippi river into Arkansas
Another 30 miles into Arkansas we came upon the famous TAT stop. The stop is now a landmark on the trail where hundreds of riders stop to meet Mr. Heidelberger. He is the proprietor and once avid adventure rider. He now sits in his outbuilding across from his house that was built in the 1930’s and is filled with items he has collected over the years. He takes photos of all of the riders in front of his place and each year has a photo book made.
Notice on the left of the building is the original jail cell from the local courthouse.
The TAT stop also handed out these great stickers:
The next 200 miles consisted of gravel roads that are extremely hard to ride. Arkansas loves gravel. Its deep and slippery for a dirtbike. The riding wears you out. We were both tired with about 30 miles to go when out of the blue Chris coming down hill into a left turn across a small bridge with a gap in the road. His front tire caught the gap causing him to slide off the road down into a 5 foot ditch.
We uprighted the bike and noted the bent shift lever. We did our best to straighten out the shift lever and limped into Clinton AR for the night.
We had one important thing to do before hitting the sack and that was laundry!
Tomorrow we head into Oklahoma.
July 14 2017. Clinton Ar to Alma AR.
We were supposed to go from Clinton AR to Moody OK but the day went on a bit long. As were were prepping the bikes to roll we ran into a couple of other TAT riders that were staying at our hotel. Joel and Jeff both from the Atlanta area and are going from GA to CO and Back.
We ran into them again along the trail in the mountains and at this great little diner/gas station/general store (it is a common stop for TAT riders). The burger and onion rings were fantastic with many of the customers happy to see us and ask questions.
At the end of the day we went to dinner with them and had a couple of beers and shared stories. Great dudes, hope to run into them again along the way.
The Ozark Mountains didn’t disappoint. Lots of twists and turns with steep inclines and declines.
We took advantage of the rock I am standing on and leveled Chris’ bike on it for an impromptu chain tightening. While we were doing that Joel and Jeff cruised by putting them in front of us. We played leap frog with them throughout the day.
Buffalo statue out in a random Field.
Now you may be wondering why the day went long…well two reasons. One, we got caught in a heavy rainstorm. the rain made the dirt very slick and the gravel very slick. Two, I ate it hard twice. Now in my defense, the dirt was slick and the gravel was slick. But in reality I was going to fast for the turns (Both downhill and to the right)
This is a pic of where I would have gone if I didn’t bail off the bike. Hard to tell in the photo but it is a good 80ft down. And there is a tree with windshield glass embedded in it. Therefore I didn’t feel as bad for dumping it there as others have done the same before me. The embarrassing part is Chris caught the whole debacle on video.
Tomorrow we recalculate…We are about 50 miles behind schedule. Time to improvise.