Well, that’s how the movie was SUPPOSED to start anyway…
Sadly, our buddy Habibi can’t make the trip now so in the spirit of “Flat Stanley” I present to you “Flat Habibi” who will join us on the journey instead…
Funny side note: One Twitter follower thought Habibi had “passed” and that’s why he could not make the ride… Ha. No, I’m happy to report that Habibi is alive and well but working on a book deadline while living in a tent in… True story.
So now it’s more like…
A Rockstar, Flat Habibi, and a Radio Dude take on the Transamerica Trail…
TAT Day #1
The Blue Ridge Mountains in October are quite lovely… The air is brisk, the fall colors brilliant, and the smell of wood burning stoves greet you as you roll through the back roads of North Carolina…
The perfect backdrop for the start of our TAT Adventure… Peter road up from Florida and I flew in from New York with Flat Habibi. (He flew in my carry on)
Perfect weather… Seriously perfect weather! Sunny and 50s all day and I mean absolutely perfect.
We bolted out of the city and quickly jumped on some great North Carolina back roads like Brushy Mountain Road… Nice and twisty with zero traffic… And did I mention the weather? Twas perfect!
Living in Texas I thought it was the Cowboy Capital of the world but apparently not… It’s right here in North Carolina! Who knew.? With a name like Love Valley they must be handsome Cowboys too.
After some time in the Valley of Love we made our way to what would be the “unofficial” start of our TAT ride…
If you’re not familiar with the Trans American Trail it’s a collection of dirt, gravel, mud, and basically unpaved roads than run from the Outer Banks of NC to the Oregon Coast… The reality is from the Atlantic to here in NC it’s nearly impossible to make it in 100% dirt and the “official” start of the TAT as established by its originator, Sam Correro is Tellico Plains, TN…
For now, we’re starting on dirt roads in NC and we stopped to pay homage to Flat Habibi and mark the occasion.
This road was great. I mean, with a name like Maple Sally Road you know it has to be good.
Did I mention the weather? Perfect.
And who knew dying could be so beautiful?
Not everything that’s beautiful is living…
The road known as Maple Sally twists, climbs, switches back, and back, and back again, as she ascends to over 3500 feet once reaching the Blue Ridge Parkway… A lovely road.
Two guys. Two bikes. Brand new camping gear (which we’ve never set up) and so were in search for a camp site and BAM!
Welcome to Linville Falls Campground site # 67!
Seriously, neither me or Peter have ever owned a tent and it’s been YEARS since either of us have camped out but…
The weather is perfect
We spent enough $$ in camping gear to stay in hotels for a week.
I bought a titanium spork.
And we’re riding.
And we have all this gear.
And the weather is perfect.
A bit like a Laurel and Hardy routine the two rookie campers got to work setting up the tents…
(Peter has never set this one up… As in ever)
I mean, I’m quite experienced with setting mine up. I sat it up once. In my garage.
But Laurel and Hardy had the last laugh (after the snickering camp neighbors)
Next, we need food. And did I mention the weather? Perfect.
This may come as a shock to you but neither of us have ever cooked camp food either… But today that’s about to change.
Here’s Peter and Flat Habibi about to chow down on some delish lasagna… Jet Boil Style!
No one was injured in the making of this food.
I went with Beef Stroganoff and honesty, we were both pretty impressed with how easy to make and good they were.
Next, we need fire. Yea, were in the woods but they frown on you chopping down the trees here so we did the next best thing…
Another win the the mighty R1200 GS. PACK MULE.
Did I mention the weather? Perfect.
Oh, did I mention the forecast low for tonight? 36 😜
Must. Have. Fire.
My fire starters failed miserably but not only can Peter Furler swing a hatchet the man can start a fire… It was a fairly short riding day by our normal standards (165 miles) but we didn’t get started until nearly noon and wanted to make sure we had plenty of time to set up camp and chill… TAT Day 1 mission accomplished.
Belly full. Warm fire. Great ride. Great fiends. Perfect day.
Big Agnes is calling my name now soooooooo… Good night from Camp 67.
TAT Day #2
Remember how I was waxing on and on about how nice the weather was? Well, I suppose it all depends on what activity you’re doing… or not doing.
Sunny + 52 degrees + riding a motorcycle in the Smokey Mountains = AWESOME
Dark + 32 degrees in the Smokey Mountains in a 40 degree sleeping bag = NOT awesome.
Camping. Newb. Fail.
Ever do something like that? You think you have things covered only to find that you actually DON’T and sort of “freeze your buns off”? Yea, we all do… back to our story.
After using up the last of the firewood, and drinking lots of hot coffee rolled back on the Parkway and headed toward Maggie Valley.
This stretch of roads is mostly paved backroads of North Carolina which are beautiful…
Oh, and the weather? It’s PERFECT again… (for riding a motorcycle anyway)
You might not think riding a motorcycle in 40 degree weather is awesome but this is where I find peace and contentment… rolling through back roads, stopping for a picture here and there… breathing in the sights, sounds, smells, etc. Perfection.
Oh, and if you ride a motorcycle you LOVE these…
… but if you get car sick you hate them.
If you love old barns you would LOVE this area…
When I ride solo I tend to stop at EVERY barn I see and snap… but when riding with others you keep rolling and snap.
Peter has been looking for a new vacation home and found the perfect one!
Just a few miles down the roads we arrived at our first dirt road of the day… As you can tell Peter is quite happy about it.
Finally starting to look like a real ride now…
Had to make a stop here and get the double “Ghost Rider” shot on this cool bridge…
Clear water… Cold water.
The views from the top are awesome and the colors are starting to pop…
Sometimes you make a plan in life and sometimes those plans change.
Same is true in Moto Adventures… our “plan” was to ride to Balsam Mountain campground for the night but we were trying to get to the next camp site by around 4pm or so (being the camp newbs and all) and at the pace we were riding it would be closer to 6 by the time we got there sooooooooo… I took a chance on stopping at Catoloochie Campground and “hoped” for the best.
Just as we entered the campground this guy walks by…
Part of what I love about the mountains is the unexpected… and THIS was unexpected. Huge thing.
So we pull into Catoloochie Campground where we meet Roy and ask about a site for the night.
He looks us over.
Looks at his clip board.
Looks us over again.
Scratches his head a moment.
Then scowls a bit.
And finally says… “Hmmmmmm”
At this point I’m thinking it’s a no… but then he says.
“There’s a guy fixin to leave camp site #8 and he’s already paid fur it… if it’s ok with him for you boys to stay there I guess I’m ok with that…”
So I walk down and meet Jay… the “owner” of Camp site #8 and tell him our plight and he’s TOTALLY cool!! He says yes and HERE we are! A FREE Camp Site in one of the best spots on the property!
Welcome to Camp Site #8 in the Catoloochie Valley.
We set up right next to the river which is one of the most peaceful sounds on the planet…
We met our “camp neighbor” Joe, a wildlife photographer who was there to capture some of the Elk and Bear in the area…a cool guy who told lots of great stories including how he spent
SIX weeks almost 12 hours A DAY waiting to get one good shot of a Panther… he never got it.
He was very generous and offered us food and beverage PLUS gave us some firewood for the night… which we would soon find out how badly it was needed.
More on that in the next update…
For now, goodnight from Camp Site #8 in Catoloochie Valley.
(Insert Batman & Robin theme music here)
nah nah nah nah nah nah nah nah nah….
When we last heard from our fearless Moto Duo they were bunking down for the night in Catolhoochie Valley Campground in near freezing temperatures…
But will the dynamic duo SURRRRRVIVE the night in the dark, frigid, woods??
Orrrrr… will they get eaten alive by wild bears or a pack of rabid coyotes???
Hello frozen Camelback bladder!!!!
Let’s just say it was FREEZING and then some… we woke up to 25 degrees but still had a smile on our uhhhhhh… faces.
“Captain Fire Starter” (aka Peter) made haste with the left over firewood and we warmed our hands and feet between packing up camp and getting ready for the day.
Coffee… Must. Have. Coffee.
(insert imaginary waitress taking my order at a nice, cozy, WARM breakfast joint)
“Oh, yes mam, I’d like to have 2 eggs scrambled with pork sausage, a side of hash browns with those good peppers and onions in em please…”
Next stop, Indian Boundary Campground near Tellico Plains, TN…
Supposedly, THIS is where the “official” TAT actually starts but hey… the roads we’ve been on (both paved and dirt) have been pretty awesome like this one…
and this one…
and this one…
You get the picture…
oh, and the view at the top was pretty awesome too.
the fall colors were starting to hit pretty good… another week or two and perfect but no complaints here.
One of the coolest (paved) roads on this stretch was the ride up Balsam Mountain Road… check it out
The one way dirt trail DOWN the mountain was even more thrilling…
Video of that trail coming soon!
We wound our way down the mountain, stopped at a Salmon Hatchery, snagged a few (joke) and headed up the Cherohala Skyway toward Indian Boundry Camp where “the Beemers have landed.”
Mr Furler says… “Welcome to Camp Site #33 Mate”
Just as we finished setting up our “camp neighbor” Mike stopped by and said with the deepest southern drawl…
“now this here’s a one time deal fur you fellers… come on over and make yourselves a samich if ya wanna… but this is only a one time offer so if you want a samich y’all need to come getcha some.”
Two hungry bikers eating beef jerky, clif bars, and camp meals getting an offer for free “samiches” is like winning the Golden Ticket. I WON GRANDPA, I WON!!!!!!!
As it turned out these ended up being some of the nicest people in the world…
Meet Marcia, Mike, Martha, and Terry from Chattanooga. They have been friends for over 45 years, in each others weddings, kids played with kids, etc… delightful people.
I’m not kidding… these guys were incredible. They fed us when we arrived, brought kindling for our fire, loaned us two camp chairs, gave us a TENT HEATER, fed us burgers and beverages later that evening, and we stayed up until midnight just yacking away. It was truly a wonderful experience and loved every minute.
And speaking of fire… I headed over to the camp store to make sure we had plenty but how to carry it all?
After the previous night dipping to 25 degrees we were going to be ready this time… thankfully, Peter let me have the space heater… yes, a SPACE HEATER and I put it in my tent, cranked it up, and zipped my door shut, and slept like a toasty baby all night.
What an amazing adventure so far…
Oh, and the next morning Terry was there with coffee in hand for us. Great, great people.
Tomorrow we HIT THE TAT “for real yo” so for now, good night from Indian Boundry campsite #33 where my tent is like 700 degrees.
TAT Day #4
Remember Christmastime as a kid?
You can’t sleep.
You can hardly wait to see what is under the tree.
You just KNOW it’s going to be awesome… and then it’s time to start ripping open all the presents.
This is kind of like Christmas Day for Moto Adventures for me, Peter, and Flat Habibi…
Time to jump on the “official” start of the TAT.
We packed, said goodbye to our new friends and headed down the mountain on the backroads of East Tennessee. On the way down I stopped by the Community Center to see what’s going on…
Not much apparently…
Not long after we jumped on the TAT we rolled up on another rider.
Meet Ivan. Ivan is from Colombia and just bought a Suzuki 650 in the U.S. to ride the trail…
We chatted for a few minutes and invited him to ride along with us…
I read about the three water crossings at the start of the TAT so I was ready.
First crossing… Deep but no problem.
Second crossing… Easy but still deep and now my left boot has water.
Third crossing (and the one I had read about the most) is a bit more tricky.
See how shallow it is on the left of the picture? You should be able to ride right across this right?
See those rocks?
Those rocks are covered in mossy SLIM and (as they say in these parts) “Slicker than buttered cat shit in a frying skillet” Yea, pretty slick alright so you have to go through the deep end… and so we did.
Peter went first… it was pretty rough with some major ruts but he got through.
Ivan went next… same thing. Bumpy exit but made it.
So now it’s my turn and all was going well until… well, here’s the sequence of events.
Naturally, Peter had his camera clicking away to capture the awesomeness.
But alas, it’s all part of the adventure and I’m all THUMBS UP!
Yea, the water was OVER the top of my boots… so yea.
Keep on rolling through the trails and it’s a beautiful ride…
We had plenty of dirt but were all a little surprised by how much the TAT was “paved” to be honest… still, it’s a beautiful day, the backroads are great, we met a new friend, and we’re riding… what’s NOT to love about this day?
Well, except maybe soaking wet (cold) feet… but it’s all part of the adventure.
We spent a good part of the day connecting between some great dirt roads and beautiful backroads of East Tennessee before heading toward our camp site for the night.
Ivan had a reservation at a campground so we followed him there only to find that you had to “backpack” about a mile to the site… um, no thanks.
So we busted up to the beautiful Falls Creek Falls State Park… by far the nicest camping facility on the trip.
Welcome to camp site #61 in Falls Creek Falls…
With our new friend Ivan…
Another chilly night means another load of fire wood for Exodus…
But she doesn’t seem to mind… she’s a pack mule.
We put Flat Habibi to work lighting the fire for this evening…
We spent the evening sharing stores with our new friend Ivan talking bikes, work, life, and even had some wild life join the party.
Tomorrow morning we hit the trail again and we have no idea what’s ahead… but it would turn out to be the ride of our life.
For now, goodnight from Camp site #61 in Falls Creeks Falls State Park.
TAT Day #5
You know those mornings that you wake up and everything is just right with the world? Kinda like, all your dreams just came true, or you got a huge raise, or just won the lotto, or every day feels like Christmas Day?
Good morning from Fall Creek Falls State Park in East Tennessee.
Falling asleep to the sound of a Waterfalls and waking up in this beautiful park is one of those mornings… and it makes me wonder how many of these mornings I’ve missed in my life because I’ve been too busy.
Or I’ve been sitting on the couch.
Or I’ve not been open to new experiences (like moto-camping)
Can I encourage you to stop living “vicariously” through others? LIVE your life…. get off the couch. Get outside… enjoy what God gave us and explore more of it.
One of my all time favorite songs ever is from my friend Robbie Seay called “Breathing Air Again.” This is the song that was in my head when I woke up this morning and want to inspire you with it… Here’s the song and video I did on my “Last ride on The Eagle”
Ok, so back to our story but first a quick Public Service Announcement… if you are EVER in this area do yourself a favor and stay at this park. It’s absolutely beautiful, clean showers/restrooms, great location, beautiful falls. Just do it.
The first order of business (after the obvious) is Coffee and now that we have our new friend Ivan, from Colombia, Peter thought it would be good to share some of our “Colombian” coffee with him.
Let’s just say he wasn’t all that impressed and said “when I get back to Colombia I’m going to send you guys some REAL coffee…”
Since this camp site was a last minute decision we had travelled quite a bit north of the TAT so I worked on setting a nice “back road” route until we could re-join the trail… I had NO IDEA what we were about to go though.
We went about 7 miles and then jumped off the pavement and back off dirt… it was a great fire road that ended up narrowing, had some great mud, dips, and to be honest was BETTER than any off the dirt TAT we had been on so far… we were diggin’ it and having a blast until we came to this gate.
Ivan spied out a way around that clearly a few others had made… a bit of hard fencing laid over top of some logs and made sort of a “ramp” through the woods and around. BAM!
From here the road got even better with more trees, logs, mud holes, etc and continued to narrow… and get rockier. I could see on my GPS that we were about 3 miles to the highway so we kept rolling and then… there it was.
It’s really hard to see in this picture but this is a road… well, it’s more like a path is FULL of giant rocks everywhere.
On the map it’s called Dykes Mountain Road. In reality it should be called “you’re really dumb if you try to descend this on a fully loaded R1200GS”
Now it was decision time… to we descend the last 1.9 miles down this trail or do we go back almost 25 miles? (and past the gate again)
Ivan was on a 650 which is more suitable for a trail like this so he volunteered to ride down and back up to report… said he would “honk” if things looked OK so off he went.
Little did we know this would be the last time we saw Ivan for over an hour…
We could hear his bike on occasion but never heard a honk so it was REALLY decision time… and we decided to go for it.
Remember the game at Chuck E Cheese where the little thing would pop his head up and you had to knock it back down with a mallet?
Now, imagine getting on a 700 pound motorcycle while descending a 5% and instead of “furry heads” popping up it’s GIANTS boulders and instead of a mallet to knock them back down you use your MOTORCYCLE to do it… and their are hundreds of them… to the left… to the right… then a treek limb… then a huge rut… yard after yard of this going very slowly and then all the sudden…
The hardest hit I’ve ever had as I went over a boulder and it ripped off the Touratech Skid Plate from my bike… I mean, it destroyed it and we haven’t even gone 1/2 a mile (still 1.5 to go)
Peter always made fun of me for having “too much stuff” but this is one time I’m glad I did.
A few zip ties, a ratchet strap, and some rough patch work should get me going…
Zip ties and a ratchet strap can fix almost anything.
As you can see it was a pretty hard hit but somehow I managed to keep the bike upright.
About the same time this happened (almost simultaneously) Peter got his right foot caught between a rock and his peg and got a really nasty sprain/bruise.
But we had to keep going because their was NO WAY to go back up at this point… and the next 1.5 miles were the most difficult I’ve ever ridden. From the time we started until we finally saw Ivan again it was over an hour.
Over an hour to go 1.9 miles!
BTW, I was rolling helmet cam video this whole time but somehow my GoPro files got corrupted so if you know how to fix this let me know!
FINALLY, we see the bottom, we see Ivan, and we are completely exhausted. We start high-fiving like we just won some major world war… probably because it felt like we did.
Peter is limping.
Exodus is limping.
Ivan’s bike is dead.
This trail was NOT part of the TAT but it was the most memorable for sure… if you ever wanna give it a go it’s called Dykes Mountain Road (not kidding) but I highly recommend taking a dirt bike instead of a fully loaded R1200GS 🙂
Thank God that’s over… now time to push start Ivan’s bike.
We are now 2-3 hours behind and we need to make up time in order to get to Muscle Shoals so Peter and I say goodbye to our new friend Ivan and put the mighty GS1200’s in “Highway” mode and bust it to Alabama.
The amazing thing about these bikes is how well they do on the road and OFF road…
When I saw the TAT trail one thing I noticed was how close it came to Muscle Shoals and I mentioned to Peter how I always wanted to visit those famous studios… “me too” was his reply so it was a no brainer and off we went.
If you’ve not seen the documentary I suggest you do… what a story and of all places the MAJOR songs and hit records that came out of this town and these studios.
Where it all started…
We paid 10 bucks to take the tour…
Studio A control room.
I mean c’mon, how often do you see a 2″ reel of “Duane Allman outtakes” laying around?
Just a few of the songs recorded here were… Mustang Sally, When A Man Loves A Woman, Land of a Thousand Dances, etc. Artists like the Rolling Stones, Aretha Franklyn, Lynard Skynard, and thousands more recorded here.
FAME is still an active, working studio today and we saw Rick Hall (owner) while we were there.
Here’s some history if you wanna check it out…
So after the CRAZY day on the trail and the long highway run we opt for a hotel, a shower, and a nice dinner tonight rather than a tent, sleeping bag, and beef jerkey…
so for now, goodnight from the Budget Inn and Muscle Shoals, Alabama.
(Budget Inn – A name well deserved)
TAT Day #6 (last day)
You know how you imagine things will be only to find out they are NOT what you imagined?
I imagined lots of miles on the TAT.
I imagined hating camping.
I imagined wanting to ride solo.
None of these were as I imagined…
We didn’t get nearly as far on the TAT as I thought we would.
I absolutely LOVED the camping aspect of the trip.
Having a riding partner is WAY better on roads like this.
The Muscle Shoals studio visit was a good way to wrap up this ride with Peter and we reminisced over dinner about the week… so many highlights but we kept coming back to the gnarly section of trail that wasn’t even part of the TAT. (this would have been colored TRIPLE RED section)
I said goodbye to Peter, he went Southeast and I went Southwest down the Natchez Trace…
The Trace is beautiful but pretty much the same for 300 miles… but WAY better than the Interstate and it gave me lots of quiet time in my helmet… just me and my thoughts.
Perfect weather (again) and I was taking my time to ponder the week we just had and decided to stop here for the night…
Welcome to Camp site #18 in Jeff Busby Park…
Beautiful eve and no fire needed for tonight… may even sleep with the windows open.
As soon as I got set up a big Motorhome pulled in next to me and out jumped a cheery Australian. I thought it was kind of funny that I’d been riding all week with an Aussie and now they are camped next to me for the night!
Meet John and Robyn Murray, from Gorokan, Australia.
They are touring the US in a Motor coach celebrating their 50th (5th tour of U.S. As I recall) Just delightful people who love to travel and see the world. John is 77, both are avid golfers, and keep up with family on Facebook. I’ve said it before but I’ll say it again… You meet the nicest people at campgrounds and love hearing their stories of adventure.
They invited me in for Pork Chops and we spent time chatting and getting to know each other and swapping stories. They even gave me this little souvenir to remember them by…
Meet Willie the Koala.
Not long after I met a few more new friends…
This is Cody and Sierra.
Cody is a pro Snow Boarder from Utah and cycling from Salt Lake to Orlando. Partly for fun and partly to raise awareness for the Gary Sinese Foundation. His accommodation expenses after nearly a month in the road? $0.00 He sets camp at free sites (like this one), city parks, side of the road ETC. He also gave me a great tip on how to keep from freezing my buns off in the cold using a sleeping bag line! Who knew? What a great guy and really enjoyed chatting with him and Sierra. Give him a follow on Instagram @cody_hughes91 and send him some love. gofundme.com/pedalforvets
Use the underscore, not the period on IG. @cody_hughes91
Last morning of the trip:
One last coffee and breakfast before rolling home…
Packed and rolling south I took to some Mississippi back roads and discovered some beautiful buildings, places, and scenery.
Notice the Indian Mounds on the left…
Lots of cool old buildings like Mama’s Old Store… mama wasn’t home.
Building had some great patina…
So many great church buildings in the south…
and across the street…
and my favorite one… amazing structure.
Remember how I said…
“You know how you imagine things will be only to find out they are NOT what you imagined” at the start of this entry?
I now realize this “ride” was not really about the ride… it was about the people.
Time with friends.
Meeting new friends.
Helping support friends on their journey.
The kindness of strangers taught me to reach out and “pay it forward” any chance I get.
I once said “I’ll never camp again” but now I can hardly wait to go again.
I’ve always said “I prefer to ride alone” but now I want to find more riding buddies.
I even said one time “I’ll never own a GS” but now I can’t imagine NOT owning one…
Peter was right, it really IS the best, most versatile Motorcycle in the world.
I’ve had a lot of rides in my life but this one ranks near the top for so many reasons…
Mind full great memories.
Heart full of gratitude.
Camera full of pictures…
Sadly, I lost about 90% of the video I shot when my GoPro files got corrupted but… I did manage to put together a video highlight reel with the footage I had.
Thanks for following along.
3:55 ride along with me, Peter, Ivan, and Flat Habibi…
Music by: Hooray For Love – Wonderful Day
Used by permission