We are completely and utterly exhausted. I’ll get into more details later, but after a few days of rain, wrecks, and a couple 11 hour days on the saddle, we needed to hole up for a day. So from the small town of Batesville, Mississippi, I bring to you our latest update of day 4, 5 and 6!
Day 4 – Leaving Tennessee
We headed out from the Richland Inn full of a fresh “continental” cheerios breakfast and ready to ride. The weather was calling for scattered showers, but the skies looked clear and we figured we’d be alright. Yea, we were wrong. We started out with a bunch of pavement, and everywhere we rode it looked like it had just rained. Were we catching up to the rain? That’s what I was thinking when I flew through a stop sign, tried to catch a turn and nearly wiped out in some wet stones on the road. Luckily I got a foot down to save the fall, but it was enough to get me back on track and focused. Even slow speeds on pavement can be dangerous, and it’s hard not to let your mind wander on those boring roads.
Finally we reached some dirt, and thankfully it was packed enough that the rain didn’t make it into a muddy mess. It started with a long uphill climb around a bend, climbing, climbing, HOLY CRAP a dump truck!? I veered off to the side as it came barreling down towards me. Completely caught me off guard and I nearly wiped. After that it was smooth sailing, flying along some wide open dirt lanes for miles and miles. Great riding.
Eventually we came upon some creeks that we had to walk the bikes across, one bike at a time. Now before you think “what a bunch of wussies”, these are not your typical creeks. The whole creek bottom is made of large flat rocks, covered in a slippery algae. I’d say it’s even worse than ice, because not only is it slippery, but the creek actually wants to carry your bike downstream. Thank God we were blessed with two locals on four wheelers to help us get them across, it was not an easy task. They were really helpful and friendly fellas, wish we could have snapped a picture with them.
Shortly after this crossing it started to downpour, just as we came upon another creek. This time there was a raised cement lip on the far side that looked like it might give us some difficulty getting the bikes up and over. We scoped out a spot upstream and picked the shortest point across. As we started walking the first bike across, Dad keeps stressing “baby steps Mike, baby steps”. We get about 3/4 across, and Dad says “ok let’s get a running start! 3″ Wait, what? No more baby steps? “2, 1, go!”. And, we got the first bike over the lip. Unfortunately, there is nothing exciting to report on the 2nd bike. We got her across just fine.
After a boring afternoon of mild paved roads and the occasional dirt patch, we ended up at “America’s Best Inn”. Their name was far from the truth. The first thing I noticed upon walking into our room was that it smelled like your grandparents closest. That musty, bad cologne mixed with damp mothballs that doesn’t immediately smell bad, but if you take a full, deep breath it makes you throw up in your mouth a little. You know, THAT smell.
Realizing we were out of clean riding clothes (we brought 3 sets of everything) it was time to do laundry. Unfortunately the nearest laundry mat was too far, so we decided to wash them in the bathtub. To save precious cargo space, I had purchased the Old Spice 3 in 1 body wash, shampoo and conditioner. Well, what they don’t tell you on the bottle is that it’s actually 4 in 1 – body wash, shampoo, conditioner, and laundry detergent
After washing, we began ringing the heck out of everything and hanging it to dry in any place we could find. It seemed like a good plan, but the socks just didn’t wanna dry. After squeezing, twisting, re-squeezing, they just still felt really wet. Welp, time for plan B, get the hair dryer! 20 minutes later…nope, still wet.
Day 5 – Leaving TN, Eating Mud for Breakfast
After another continental cheerios breakfast, we headed out for the day – damp socks and all. After only a few paved miles, we were welcomed to Mississippi with some nice wide open dirt roads. We even ran into a fellow TAT rider who was exploring a small portion of the trail in preparation for a ride later that year (Can’t remember his name off hand, but he was anxious to check out the blog – if you’re the guy who was riding a 07 Honda 650 leave a comment and say hello!). Unfortunately he was telling us in a nice way that we had just come from the wrong road. Well, shucks, but our route is stored in the GPS and we had to stick to it. Besides, we logged this trail turn by turn and are pretty confident it’s 99% accurate…I think…
Soon after that, disaster struck. We came to some softer mud and didn’t think anything of it. Sweet, mud puddles! Splashing through a few small ones was fun, and I was finally starting to get the bike dirty. We started heading up an incline, and that’s when things started to get rough. From behind me, Dad described my first wreck like this: “Well I looked up and it was like you were riding a bucking bronco, bike was going back and forth, legs flying, it was very clear you were completely out of control”. Yep, that’s what it felt like. There were huge drainage gullies zig zagging across the trail, each one about a foot deep. On top of that, our tires were so caked with mud they were essentially bald. Jumping from gully to gully it was only a matter of time, really. I was unharmed, thanks to the huge luggage bags we have that kept the bike from laying on me. I should also note that Dad ended up spilling at the exact same spot I did, unharmed as well.
We finally made it to the top of the hill, and why we didn’t turn around at this point, I’m not sure. Looking back we should have seen this type of mud as a bright red flag. But, being the naive adventure riders we are, we kept going deeper into the disaster trail.
Next, we came upon a huge mud patch and I tried to plow right through. Nope, took a spill, again on my left. This time I decided to capture the moment and live tweet the photo to the right. I turn around, whoop! There goes Dad. We pick up both bikes, and decide to carry on. Not even 100 yards later we came to another mud puddle, but I see a “dry” channel on the left and try to hit it. Nope, wasn’t dry, down I go. Dad barely makes it through, and I’m starting to lose a lot of my confidence. About another 50 yards, and we come across three HUGE mud puddles that we didn’t even have a chance at crossing. Gulp. I’m really not sure what to do at this point – going back is out of the question – I can’t imagine tackling those gullies again, let alone downhill. But what if it just keeps getting worse? I pull up Google maps and the news is bad – we’ve got about 3 miles left of this BS. Better than 30 miles I guess. After weighing our options, we decide to walk the bikes through the 50 yards of mud in front of us. Now this might sound easier than riding it, but it definitely wasn’t. The puddles were about a foot deep, but my feet kept sinking another 6 inches or so, and they would either stick or slide with every step. Not to mention the bike kept sinking into the mud like quicksand.
FINALLY, we were across, completely and utterly wiped. It had only been 2 hours since we started our day, but it was time for a Cliff bar and some shade. I took a walk up ahead, and thankfully the trail looked fairly dry for awhile. After a good 15 minute break, we mounted up again and took off. We were ecstatic that the trail was staying dry, and it looked like we were going to get out with no more issues. Could that be it? Are we home free?
Of course not! We rounded a corner and lo and behold, a freakin’ tree was down. Really? I got out my axe, lifted it above my head…but Dad made me wait until we inspected the situation first. Did I mention I might have been hallucinating from exhaustion? Luckily there was a small opening on the right side that we just barely, and I mean barely squeaked through by ducking down and walking the bikes. Seriously, click on that picture. Tight squeeze, right?
So, needless to say we couldn’t wait to ride for 8 or 9 more hours that day. We had lost a lot of time to the mud, and were a bit worried about burning daylight. I must admit this was the first time I thought about the magnitude of this trip – what are we doing out here? Why did I want to ride this whole thing again? But the rest of the day turned out to be a really, really fun ride on nearly all dirt, and I was back in love with the TAT. Mississippi is loaded with back roads that are a mix of loose stones and red clay. We could average about 35 mph, and it was great practice for the tougher trails we know are coming in the weeks ahead.
Once we got within about 40 miles of our destination – Batesville, MS – I started pushing it really hard. I was ready to plop down on the bed, order a pizza, and eat the whole thing myself. Mmmm pineapple and ham, or maybe I’ll order a…ZING! Whoa, something definitely just flew off my bike. Then my left hand guard started pushing into the clutch lever – the bolt attaching the guard to the inside of the the handlebar had come out. I ended up riding with my left hand protecting the clutch until we arrived in Batesville. I ordered that pineapple and ham pizza but could only get down four pieces. Probably a good thing. Dad ate his whole pie, the rest of mine, and a king size M&M’s. Just kidding, Dad! (He left me one M&M)
Day 6 – Rest and Repairs
We’re now stationed at the Ramada “Limited” in Batesville, which has been the nicest place so far. So nice, in fact, that we decided to take today as a recuperation day to recharge and get my bike fixed.
Dad headed over to the laundry mat to dry our socks (and rewash everything) while I went out in search of the missing bolt for my hand guard. First stop was Autozone. I wasn’t sure what size I needed, so I decided to take the bolt out from the other hand guard on the right side. While unscrewing it in the parking lot, the bike was on the kickstand, which slopes the handlebar down to the left. What I forgot was that there was a special expanding lock nut inside – as soon as I removed the bolt, it slid down deep inside the handlebar, and now I officially had no hand guards at all. Nice job, genius.
Ok, long story short – two hours and three hardware stores later I had enough pieces to jimmy-rig the things back on. Not perfect, but I got them back on and secured. I also shipped my broken laptop back home (goodbye extra 10 lbs, sweet), and headed back to the hotel, where I’m writing this post now.
Tomorrow we cross the Mississippi river and head into Arkansas. Going to be a 300 mile day, our longest yet – and if you were wondering, I forgot to empty the video memory card so I have no video for you today. But, it’s empty now and ready to rock, so hopefully my next wreck will be in crystal clear HD.
Again, if you’ve read this far, thanks for joining us! Follow me on Twitter for live updates from the trail, if I have service that is. Seeya in a few days!