Being encouraged by your loved one to follow your dream is kind of nerve wracking. If you have a dream and haven’t pursued it is plainly because you are scared, as am I. The excuses are endless, but are all motivated by the fear of anything from the cost, to ‘what if I see a bear’. Anne pushed me into the uncomfortable zone and I’m well on that path. Having a partner that sacrifices their own aspirations for freedom and pushes you to yours is indescribable. I am also very fortunate to work for people that don’t mind me taking off for a month; knowing I can come back to earn back the money spent on this extravagance. That in itself is a gift which should be cherished.
I have wanted to travel overland since I was at school. I had plans, supported by my mad mine dwelling parents, to drive home to Zimbabwe from the UK after high school, but that was cut short (pun intended) by my cousin Mark needing my help a bit sooner because the fool lost his leg. He still rides a bike to this day, by the way, and is he’s still one of my gold standards for manliness.
So, what’s the plan? Ride across the ‘States? Very cool. But that kind of leads to nights in motels and a load of slow rides through, to be honest, a lot of very similar middle american towns. Having the opportunity of living in North America gives you the scope to do some great traveling, but distances here are massive and getting anywhere by road takes days. I love riding on dirt and a while ago I found out that there are a few people that have created resources to ride the whole way across the USA on dirt. The term coined it the Trans America Trail, or TAT for short.
Here is a link to the map in case the one below doesn’t work… I’ll fix it later
About three weeks is needed and it’s generally accepted that riding East to West is preferred. The best reason I can think for this is because the country becomes more and more majestic the farther West you go. Starting on the long flat open states, North Carolina, Tennessee, Arkansas, Oklahoma and rising up to Colorado. There the trail takes a more aggressive bent and heads up over the Rocky Mountains. I’m super fortunate to have a fantastic cousin Adam living in Denver who’s hospitality (and garage) I can abuse. My parents always said that as a guest you pay by entertaining your hosts so hopefully, by then, there will be stories to exchange with Adam and Carolyn for that hospitality. No doubt by then I’ll need to fit new tyres and maybe have a bath. In Denver I’ll also be hooking up with a friend from London, Adam B, who took around 30 seconds to decide he was coming too. He’s got the work/holiday thing to deal with so can only do the part from Denver onward, which works out really well because it’s probably the part where we’ll need to help each other.
I’m not planning on doggedly following the trail for the kudos of ‘I did the whole thing off road’ but will, instead veer off if something more interesting comes up. I have a strange fascination for the odd and kitsch of the world and seek it out whenever possible.
The trail itself is, it seems from the reports I have read, mainly dirt roads and Jeep tracks. There is mud in the East, rocks in the mountains, dust in the desert and forests in the West. My plan is to pack as light a setup as feasible in soft saddle bags. I’m trying to imagine that I’m on a bicycle trip because the more weight the bike has the less fun it will be. So light back country camping gear, small stove a tiny amount of clothes and food for 2 days should be all that is strapped on. Then there are tools for punctures and any random occurrences that may happen. If you’re reading this and have any of that very expensive kit you wouldn’t mind me
abusing taking great care of then I would really appreciate it.
The majority of people who have done this trip have done so on smaller bikes. Adam B bought himself a 400cc Suzuki, which seems to be the default (and probably wisest) choice. I figured that the thousand mile ride to the start, then the three thousand miles home from my sister’s in Victoria, BC were enough reason to offset the extra weight and bulk of an ‘Adventure‘ bike. There was the option of buying a bike in the US and selling it again, or buying a smaller one and shipping it there and back but I thought ‘if you can ride the whole thing then why not?’
On the way back I’m going to see if I am in the humour to be inaugurated into the Iron Butt Association. This requires you, at a minimum, to prove that you have ridden 1000+ miles in less than 24 hours. It’s a feather to your bow and something to make the big flat midwest dissolve into a day!
Wish me luck and if you have any questions you know where to find me!
Sam Correro’s TAT – http://www.transamtrail.com
Picture from this YouTube image slideshow