Trans-America Trail AR, OK, NM, CO

Trans-America Trail AR OK NM CO

Ride Report Trans-America Trail (TAT)

A Dual-Sport Ride Across AR, OK, NM, and CO

The Trans-America Trail is an off-paved road adventure across the U.S. The Trans-America Trail (AKA: the “TAT”) is a west bound dual-sport motorcycle ride across America.The Trail starts in southeastern Tennessee, and ends at the Pacific Ocean in southwestern Oregon – nearly 5,000 miles of mostly off-pavement riding.

Trans-America Trail TAT

If you have ever dreamed of traveling cross-country on your motorcycle, seeing sights you’d never see from a car, and meeting great people along the way, then the TAT is for you! Sam Correro had that dream and made it a reality by creating the Trans-America Trail. Now any dual-sport motorcyclist can make this amazing adventure, thanks to Sam’s meticulous mapping of the nearly 5,000-mile route across America.

This motorcycle adventure across America on the Trans-America Trail is NOT a single-track tight woods ride. The TAT is a route using dirt roads, gravel roads, Jeep roads, forest roads and farm roads. The TAT drops down into dried-up creek beds and crosses running water. You will ride atop abandoned railroad grades and levees. There are sections of mud, sand, snow and rocks. There are also inevitable sections of paved roads connecting the separate sections of unpaved roads and trails – especially on the eastern half of the TAT route.The Trans-America Trail is ALL of the above, and the TAT is specifically laid out to please the the Dual-Sport Motorcycle rider.

Sam Correro maintains the Trans-America Trail web site to provide helpful resources for planning this off-road cross-country trip on the “Trans-America Trail”. At TransAmTrail.com you will find all you need to plan and navigate your journey cross-country, including detailed roll charts and supporting maps. All of the TAT sections now have GPS way-points that have been added to the new and improved roll charts. Also there is an diagram of intersections on the new and improved roll charts. (Note: Navigation direction by the roll charts is East-to-West only. However, the GPS tracks and maps can be used for travel in either direction.)

Sam Correro states that the Trans-Am Trail is NOT for everyone. He cautions that it takes a rider with a “quest for adventure” and a special love for a motorcycle. You need to be able to find your own way using maps and GPS. You need to be self-supporting as there are MILES of trail with NO other traffic and no likelihood of timely help. The route is planned with an average daily riding distance of about 200 miles from motel to motel. This distance also means that camping is not recommended as setting up, cooking and repacking will add hours to your daily schedule.

In 2013 I completed a 1,795 mile loop that took me by highway to eastern Tennessee, and then back home to central Arkansas via the TAT. For this route (that included about 50% paved roads on the TAT) I rode my Suzuki V-Strom DL650. The full eastern TAT Ride Report can be found in another section here on my blog.

My Yamaha WR250R Ready For The TAT!

By reading the many ride reports on the Trans-America Trail site and other locations on the web, I determined that the best bike for the western sections of the TAT would be something lighter and more off-road capable that the mid-weight 650cc V-Strom. So my 2014 Trans-America Trail adventure started with the preparation of my 2013 Yamaha WR250R. To the base bike I added the following:

  • LED turn signals and rear tail light from Solo Racer (eliminates the huge rear fender and lights)

  • IMS 3.1 gallon gas tank (replaces the stock 2 gallon tank and allows use of the stock trim)

  • Cycra Racing hand guards

  • Flatland Racing skid plate

  • Flatland Racing radiator guard

  • Freedom Case Saver front sprocket guard

  • IMMX Rear cargo rack

  • Billet foot pegs

  • Rear pannier racks from BRMoto

  • Wolfman Luggage Enduro tank bag

  • Wolfman Monarch Pass rear panniers, along with fuel bottle carriers

  • Waterproof duffel bag for camping gear

  • Tank panniers for maps and misc

  • Fender bag for spare front inner tube, patch kit and tire irons

  • Garmin 78s GPS on RAM mount, hardwired to battery

  • TCI windscreen and headlight guard

  • Shok Sox fork guards

  • Pirelli MT21 front and Dunlop 606 on/off road tires

  • I also fabricated a larger pad for the kickstand to hold up the loaded bike.

  • Finally, I added my sheepskin seat cover!

The western sections of the Trans-America Trail, beginning in the Ozark Mountains of NW Arkansas, are known to be rougher and include fewer stretches of paved roads. In addition, there are sandy and muddy sections of the TAT heading through Oklahoma and father west that would be a handful for a heavy bike with a full camping load. While my V-Strom performed perfectly on the less-demanding eastern sections, I looked forward to riding the nimble WR250R heading west.

My other motive for all these modifications to the stock WR250R was to make the bike bullet-proof for other demanding off-road trips on the Back Country Discovery Routes across Arizona, Utah, and Colorado. See my ride report on the AZBDR here!

After many short trips around my home area here in the Ouachita Mountains, I took a “shakedown ride” north to the Ozarks. I rode off-road north and intersected the Trans-America Trail where I concluded my ride in 2013. The route from my home to where the Trans-America Trail crosses Highway 9 was 117 miles. I continued north 4 miles on Highway 9 to Choctaw, AR and refueled. I was happy to have used only 2 gallons of 91 octane gas!

Crossing Highway 9, the TAT rises into the Ozark Mountains of NW Arkansas. The route is fast and well-graded. Most of the route overlooks wooded valleys. There are no facilities along this section of trail, unless you take short side trips into adjacent towns.

My goal for the day was to reach the “TAT Shack“ and spend the night in advance of the thunderstorms that were forecasted. Pete, the owner of the Shack is a dual-sport riding enthusiast. He makes the Shack available for overnight stays for a voluntary donation. And he has a sign on the road that is a replica of the TAT logo!

In total, my mileage for the day was 190 and I arrived at the Shack by 4:30 pm – which was fortunate because I needed to replace a burned-out headlight bulb. I cooked supper with my camp stove and flopped in my sleeping bag – listening to the thunder build in the distance.

The next day I rode down to Russellville, AR and across the Arkansas River. I stopped to top off the tank having traveled another 95 miles since the last stop. Again, I averaged about 60 mpg and needed only 1.55 gallons of gas! I continued to work my way south on the forest roads over the Ouachita Mountains and through the Flatside Wilderness area.

My shake-down ended back home by noon and totaled 290 miles for the two days. All my equipment worked perfectly, The bike ran great on the trails and highway sections. With just over 1,000 on the odometer, I changed the stock Bridgestone tires for the more aggressive Pirelli and Dunlop off-road tires. The modifications to the WR250R have been proven successful. I am ready for the Trans-America Trail in July!

But first - an off-road trip on the Arizona Back Country Discovery Route! See my other AZBDR blog post.

6/24/14

Leaving for a 2,000 Mile Ride!

The day was heating up as I left home about 11:30 am and rode to the “TAT Shack” to meet rest of group. I checked the odometer on my WR250R before I left and it registered 1626 miles. (My tires had about 600 miles from the previous ride on the AZBDR.) I took the “long way” over the Ouachita Mountains to avoid some usually muddy sections as I retraced my previous trip to Russellville and the Shack. (See the details above.) As a result, I ended up riding to Hollis on Hwy 7 before heading east and north to Russellville. I arrived about 4:00 pm with a total of 134 miles.

All the riders had assembled: Gene Smitley from NC rode the highways 945 miles to the Shack! Randy Feiner rode over 800 miles by highway from Spring Green, WI. Rich Bergstrom and Ron Van Dell had ridden the TAT from the beginning in Tellico Plains, TN. (Rich had ridden down from CT; Ron had trailered his bike from TX!) In addition, Dale Warren had ridden the TAT to Arkansas, then peeled off to ride the highway home to TN. The plan included adding one more rider who would join the pack in Oklahoma. Bob Lovell was riding down from Kansas City to meet the group in Moodys, OK at the end of the first full day.

6/25/14

We agreed to get an early start at 7:00 am, finish the Arkansas section of the TAT and enter into Oklahoma. We made the “mandatory” stop at the Oark General Store. Several of the group had a full breakfast. I had a piece of blueberry pie!

Oark General Store

We all topped off our tanks with gas and rode toward the Arkansas/Oklahoma line. We enjoyed the impressive Ozark scenery.

I agreed to bring up the end of the line of five cycles. It didn’t take long for the group to get separated. Gene and Randy were faster than the others. Then they made a wrong turn and were gone! The other three of us decided to continue on the official TAT route and hoped they would catch up – which they did just before we hit the rough and rocky War Loop Road. (It appeared that we had several conflicting versions of TAT maps and roll charts?)

Regrouped, we stopped for ice cream and gas in Mountainburg on Hwy 71, then headed northwest. As we approached Lincoln, storm clouds with lightning gathered ahead of the group. We rode into Lincoln, AR about 3:30 pm and there was a difference of opinion. Randy Feiner filled up with gas. Rich wondered if we should look for a campsite. Gene looked for a restaurant. But I insisted that it was too early to quit for the day – before we had even logged 200 miles and before 4:00 pm!

As we headed out of town, our group fell apart. Again, I brought up the rear. My goal was to reach Moodys, OK and meet up with Bob Lovell. Gene and Randy soon left the rest of us in the dust. I rode past Ron and Rich and then waited at a turn a few miles later. When they didn’t show up, I rode a few more miles west down a long, straight road where I could watch my rear view mirror. I called ahead to Bob to tell him that we were running late. While I was calling, Rich and Ron showed up at the intersection from a different direction?!

Gene and Randy were long gone with at least a 20 minute lead. I told Ron and Rich that I was headed to Moodys for gas, about 25 miles up the road, and would see them there. That was the last I saw the other four bikes!

It took only one day for our "group" to fall apart and divide into three pairs of riders.

I pulled into the gas station in Moodys, OK about 7:00 pm, having ridden 214 miles on Day 2. I met Bob (and his wife, Dottie who had driven him down from Kansas City and had waited for several hours!) I called the other Randy to learn that they were camped along the river somewhere east of town. So Bob climbed on his Husqvarna 615 and we headed backwards to find them – but we never did. It turns out that Gene and Randy had stopped at a campsite about 15 miles short of Moodys. Rich and Ron had stopped at a motel 20 miles earlier.

While Bob and Dottie had been waiting for me to show up, several people stopped to offer him help. One person suggested that it was fine to camp alongside the volunteer fire department building next to the gas station. So we headed back there and pitched our camp. Total miles for Day 2: 229

6/26/14

Bob and I packed slowly, expecting some of the other riders to show up for gas in Moodys. About 7:30 am we decided to head west and hope that the others would catch up. It wasn’t going to happen. We enjoyed the rolling hills and creeks of NE Oklahoma. One low water crossing caught me off-guard and dumped me on the slick algae-covered concrete.

Scene of my First crash on the TAT

Bob and I had similar riding styles. Bob had much more riding experience, including motocross. By lunch time we made it to Dewey, OK, just north of Bartlesville. Turning west again we hit the wide open Oklahoma prairie. Our speed picked up as we blasted down the good gravel roads. We saw a coyote, and then a road runner a half mile later! Of course, we shared the ranch roads with lots of cattle.

One of HUNDREDS of cattle guards in Oklahoma

We made it to Braman on I-35 by supper time, then we blasted west all the way to Manchester, OK. The roads were generally good and fast, with just enough sand and mud to keep us on our toes! A message from Randy confirmed that they were over 50 miles behind (having stopped for Bar-B-Q at 10:00 am…) We enjoyed the hospitality of the Manchester Bar & Social Club, then got permission to camp in the picnic shelter across the road in the town park.

Manchester Bar & Social Club

6/27/14

Packing up, we headed generally west on fast roads. Storms loomed on the horizon, but just before we reached the rain, the TAT would turn south or north and then west again. The south wind was 30 to 40 mph, forcing us to lean into the cross-wind. The riding was tiring, but the varied terrain was interesting.

(Please also check out my You Tube channel for more TAT and COBDR videos!)

We stopped for lunch and gassed up in Buffalo, OK. While taking a mid-day break, we were passed by two other ADV riders headed for Colorado. They had caught us by having leap-frogged many of the TAT dirt sections and elected to ride the highway to put the plains of Oklahoma behind them.

Bob and I committed to ride the prescribed TAT route and kept heading west. We were enjoying the challenge and the changing landscape. Our tentative goal was a soft bed at a motel in Liberal, Kansas. The gravel roads were hard and we made fast progress at 50 to 60 mph!

When we reached Hwy 83 just south of Liberal at 4:30 pm, Bob and I hesitated for only 5 seconds before blasting farther west towards Elkhart. We finished Day 4 after having ridden 301 miles. We found a motel on the Kansas/Oklahoma line. (By now we were about 50 miles ahead of my daily goal, and about 150 miles ahead of Gene and Randy. A text confirmed that Ron and Rich were going to ride the highway to try to catch up.

6/28/14

The goal for Day 5 was to ride through the New Mexico section of the TAT and end up in Trinidad, CO. We road 91 miles to the Oklahoma and New Mexico state line, arriving at 11:00 am. We had completed crossing Oklahoma “the long way”, including the panhandle for 674 miles!

After crossing into New Mexico, the terrain changed almost immediately. The flat prairie turned into rolling hills. We started to see more antelope. We even saw a cattle drive with cowboys on horseback.

NM cattle drive on the TAT

Bob had been leading through NM since I had not bought the GPS tracks or maps. We hit the Colorado line about 1:00 pm (Central time), then continued on toward Trinidad. We hadn’t stopped for gas all day. Both Bob and I emptied our spare gas into the tanks. We coasted into Trinidad after just over 200 miles. I had stopped checking my mileage – it was consistently exceeding 65 mpg. Bob had a larger tank and was averaging about 45 mpg. We learned that 200 miles was our maximum range!

We took a long lunch break, and then worked our way north and west. We made it to La Veta, CO and after refilling our tanks, we both decided that the loss of power we were experiencing as the altitude increased was probably due to dirty air filters from several hundred miles of dusty roads. Taking advantage of the service station facilities, we both cleaned our filters.

I checked my watch and saw that it was already 7:30 pm. We hesitated to continue riding and when we asked about motels and meals available, we learned that “Sammie’s” just down the road was a restaurant, bar AND motel. Another instant decision was made and we decided to quit for the day and rest up – only to later realize that the correct local time was only 6:30. But a shower and a good supper and breakfast sounded more appealing than riding on and looking for a campsite. Total miles for Day 5: 290.

6/29/14

We headed north and west into the Sangre de Cristo Mountains towards Salida, CO.

The low brush of southern Colorado changed to pines and aspens. We were steadily gaining elevation with every hill that we climbed. Lunch and gas was found in Westcliff, CO. We had been following the river valleys, but still climbing. Now we were within close proximity of snow-capped mountains!

By late afternoon we made it to Salida. Bob knew of a watering hole along the Arkansas River where we had an appetizer and watched kayaks, tubes, and rafts drift by. As the sun was starting to drop in the western sky, we followed the TAT route on Hwy 50 to Hwy 17, and then Forest Road 32 towards Marshall Pass.

TAT Climbing Marshall Pass in CO

As we climbed sharply higher, the “road” was more of a cow path.

We bumped up over our first pass in the Continental Divide at 10,846 feet, and then descended to find a campsite for the night. After what seemed like many miles of descent and many, many switchbacks, Bob pulled over at a grassy campsite with a mountain stream just across the road. I was surprised when I checked my GPS that we were still over 9,000 feet! But we built a camp fire and shared a freeze-dried supper. Even with the fire, we felt the chilly air settling down the mountain. So we crawled into our tents and got ready for a cold night.

Day 6 miles: 207.

6/30/14
The next morning I crawled out after 7:00 am. I found a light frost on the Yamaha and my duffel bag. I heated up some water and had instant oatmeal and coffee for breakfast. Bob crawled out about 30 minutes later. He also had some coffee, then began packing his bike for the next section of the TAT. Try as he might, Bob just couldn’t get in gearHe gathered and rearranged his gear, wondering how it had all fit the days before? Finally, close to 10:00 am we started down the road. Bob blamed the high altitude for his lethargy.

Next stop was Lake City, but first we had to negotiate some more high passes. At Waunita Hot Springs the TAT joined the same route as Colorado Back Country Discovery Route (COBDR). We traveled across high open range lands and almost never dipped below 8,000 feet. We crossed Los Pinos Pass at 10,541 feet and then Slumgullion Pass at 11,361 feet.
We rolled a few miles down the highway to Lake City for a late lunch and gas. Our rate of progress had slowed considerably as the passes got higher and the roads rougher. It was after 3:00 pm before we left Lake City for Telluride – and the high passes in between.

Cinnamon Pass Road

The first part of the route followed creeks and was fast and easy. But after the route turned onto Cinnamon Pass Road, the going got steeper and much rougher with loose rocks, abrupt ledges and wet sections fed by still plentiful snow. We bumped along and made Cinnamon Pass at 12,620 feet (below the summit at 13,328 feet).

Cinnamon Pass, Colorado

The trail clings to the sides of the mountain, and is comprised of loose rock – and no guard rail – as it “descended” to Animas Forks at about 11,000 feet.
We continued onward toward California Pass, topping out at 12,930 feet. The trail leading up the pass was bulldozed through snow that exceeded 6 feet deep!

California Pass, Colorado

The trail was wet, loose, slippery rock. The route included many tight 180-degree switchbacks – one of which was my downfall – literally. I rounded the corner and was faced with an immediate climb at about a 33-degree angle. Going slow around the corner had robbed me of all forward momentum and I spun out going up the hill. Grabbing the brake, I found my bike sliding backwards as gravity overcame the grip of the knobbies on the rock. In slow motion, I fell over sideways – down the sloped inside corner of the turn and flopped in the mud and snow.
Now my bike was on its side, wheels uphill, and at the apex of a steep hill with no room for a run up. Thankfully, Bob came along and helped my right the bike, and then back up to the furthermost downward edge of the turn. I didn’t make it on my first attempt, but with more throttle and determination I made it up the slope on my second run. (I later learned that a standard modification for my WR250R is to lower the gearing for mountain riding!)
Then it was down the mountain one more time. But there was no time to rest. We still had to cross Corkscrew Pass and get off the mountain before we could think about stopping for the day. Corkscrew was no easier at about 12,400 feet. But it was the descent on the west side that was most memorable as the earth just drops after you cross the pass. The “road” is loose rock cut into the side of the mountain. Multiple switchbacks barely allow for a sharp turn to the next stretch. Vertigo is a real danger as you dare to look over the sheer edges.

Corkscrew Pass

After what seemed like an hour of downhill riding, we came out at the Highway 550 junction leading north to Ouray. I was wore out! After a short discussion whether to camp, ride into Ouray, or continue on to Telluride we chose the latter and pressed on. But this also meant we had one more pass to cross into Ophir. After a few miles on Hwy 550, we turned on FR679 and then FR630 to Ophir Pass.
I was encouraged that this would be easier since we were following an SUV with kids hanging out the rear windows! After a few miles, the SUV slowed at a wet curve to let us go ahead. Soon we topped the pass at 11,790 feet and then began our descent on the loose rock road carved into the side of the mountain. Note that Ophir Pass is considered one of the easiest in the region, but it still keeps you intensely focused as you traverse the open slope on loose rock, held in place by only a few inches of rubber on your two wheels!

Ophir Pass Road

Eventually, the pass connected with roads leading to the mountain village of Ophir, and idyllic collection of rustic cabins. Joining Hwy 145, we turned north toward Telluride. Entering Telluride after 7:00 pm, we quickly realized our planning error. This tourist town has NO chain restaurants or motels and we needed food and a place to crash for the night. Plus, this was the height of the summer season.
We were directed to Town Park at the east end of town. We cruised the campground that was packed in these days just prior to July 4th. Just as we were about to give up and move on a woman waved us over and asked if we were just looking for a tent space for the night. She and her husband had claimed two campsites and had moved in a camper and a few tents to reserve the spaces for more friends until the weekend. While there would be more people occupying the sites in the next few days, on that Monday night there were only three people in their camp. We were invited to set up our tents in the remaining openings and share their site for the night!
We set up our tents and finished our freeze-dried suppers in the dark. Then we crawled into our sleeping bags for some much needed rest. I also nursed my toe which had been pinched in the tip-over on the pass. It seems that the foot peg had landed right on my middle toe. The next morning when I put my motocross boot the pain was intense. It was then that I felt inside my boot and found a “dimple” that had been punched inward into my boot, pressing directly down on my black and blue middle toe! After pressing the boot back into shape, I was able to wear the boot for the rest of the ride, with the swelling going down day by day. Total miles for Day 7: 175.
7/1/14
We reloaded our bikes and said thanks to our campground hosts and headed for Utah. Our goal was 3 Step Hideaway, a remote camp across the border in Utah that I had read about in ADV ride reports. The camp is owned by Scott Stevenson and his wife Julie. Scott is a proponent of the Yamaha WR250R for light back country touring and was of the key influences in my choice of this motorcycle. His 250 Yamaha has nearly 60,000 miles! Along with Mark Sampson, the “Big Dog”, Scott has traveled from Mexico to Canada and back, plus to Prudhoe Bay and back, plus many other trips!
The ride toward Utah took us down the highway from Telluride about 20 miles before turning onto the TAT route as it climbed between Wilson Peak and Mt. Wilson, both topping out over 14,000 feet. The route was easy to ride with a hard-packed road negotiating the climb with numerous switchbacks. We crossed over Delores Peak, Dunn Peak and then dropped down toward Groundhog Reservoir after about 50 miles of riding. There is a small convenience store at the lake that provided coffee and a snack.

Groundhog Reservoir.

Refreshed, we continued west. The route flattened as we dropped into ranch lands. Slowly the terrain opened into farmland with plowed fields bordering the roads. After about 120 miles we arrived in Dove Creek for gas and lunch, only a few miles from the Utah line. The temperature was rising now that we had dropped in elevation. We pushed on. I had a few way points for 3 Step Hideaway, but only knew general directions that lead north just after we crossed into Utah. We continued to follow the TAT GPS tracks but saw no indication marking the Utah/Colorado line. We were watching for the end of the Colorado track when we soon realized we were on the outskirts of Monticello, UT, and that the Colorado track had taken us about 15 miles too far!

The TAT and New Mexico line

Well, we took our state line pictures and burned back down the highway east toward our route to 3 Step. Finally turning north, we arrived at the camp late in the afternoon having logged about 20 more miles than I had planned. Total miles for Day 8: 171.

3 Step Hideaway, Lasal, Utah

3 Step Hideaway was exactly what we needed after several days of tough riding. We showed up unannounced. Our original group was spread out over several states. The other group members had shipped new sets of tires to 3 Step in preparation for their continued ride on the TAT all the way to Oregon. Scott and Julie welcomed us warmly and showed us to a rustic cabin with twin beds and sheets!

Then we were given a tour of the bath house with running hot water and clean towels. We were added to the dinner list, along with Mike and Jen who were staying at the camp awaiting parts to rebuild Mike’s KLR that had blown a head outside of Monticello. After a hot shower, we were ready for supper. Supper included a grilled steak, fresh salad, and cherry crisp for dessert! Then we took advantage of Scott’s shop to do some preventative maintenance on our bikes. While finishing our bike checks, another group of nine riders arrived at 3 Step. This group had trailered to Trinidad and had ridden the highways and passes to arrive at the camp. The camp was the middle of a four day ride that was circling back to Trinidad. The group was also served a steak supper and we all enjoyed some fresh cookies as we heard their stories of crossing the mountain passes.

7/2/14

Our original plan was to backtrack on the TAT to Dove Creek to refuel, and then continue on the CO Backcountry Discovery Route past Groundhog Reservoir. But Scott offered to show us the “back door” overland from his property into Colorado and Slick Rock, CO. Our plan to ride back to Dove Creek was necessitated by gas, but Scott also has a reserve of fuel on hand at his camp which was added to the tab we had generated during our stay. With full tanks, we headed east across high desert and into the canyons. Scott led the way for five miles with his Honda side-by-side UTV. He pointed out the Utah/Colorado line marked only by a barbed wire fence and a USGS pipe. Then we followed a series of back roads along gas pipelines and up and over mesas toward Highway 141.

Slick Rock, Colorado

Reaching the highway, we turned east and then south on the gravel again at Road 190. This eventually led us back to Groundhog Reservoir. Not only did we get to ride through some great country, we avoided backtracking though some hot, boring farm land AND shaved off over 40 miles! We had a snack and something to drink at the store and then continued east. Our next stop was Telluride to refuel. While the COBDR headed north from the lake, we elected to retrace the scenic TAT route up over the mountains. By Telluride we were hot and thirsty and ready for a break. Refreshed, we turned west looking for Last Dollar Road that would take us north toward Ridgeway, CO. This was a scenic road, although the amount of traffic increased with numerous ranches and expensive vacation homes along the route.

View along Last Dollar Road

When we came out on Hwy 62 we were in for a 20-mile downhill pavement ride into Ridgeway. I kicked the Yamaha into 6th gear overdrive and cruised downhill at 65 mph. By Ridgeway, we were tired again. It was only 4:30 pm, but we needed a break. We elected to stop for an early supper, and then ride for an hour or so to several forest service campsites in the Uncompahgre National Forest.

Leaving Ridgeway, once again we climbed into the mountains, crossing Owl Creek Pass at 10,111 feet and looking up into surrounding mountains topping over 14,000 feet. We wound down the mountain looking forward to a campsite along a mountain stream. After a few more miles we found a perfect campsite. We pitched our tents, built a fire, and enjoyed a relaxing hour before hitting the sleeping bags. Total miles for Day 9: 181.

7/3/14

Our goal today was to rejoin the COBDR and continue along continental divide toward Pitkin, CO. This required some highway riding into Gunnison and then beyond to reconnect the TAT and COBDR routes near Doylesville. We turned east onto the gravel road and then north headed for Pitkin. We crossed over Waunita Pass at 10,265 feet and then dropped into the cool town of Pitkin, CO. We enjoyed an ice cream bar and coffee on the porch at the Silver Plume General Store, then moved north again.

Silver Plume General Store, Pitkin, CO

The road connecting Pitkin and Tin Cup crosses Cumberland Pass at 12,010 feet. Rain was threatening once again, but the sun reappeared as we dropped down the mountain.

Cumberland Pass, CO 12,015 feet

We pulled into Tin Cup and took more pictures in this misnamed “ghost town”. Next stop was Buena Vista, our original goal for the day.

Tin Cup, Colorado

The area around Tin Cup was full of trucks, ATV’s, and campers. We took a series of logging roads to bypass Taylor Park due to the increasing holiday traffic. Then we connected with Hwy 209 that would take us over Cottonwood Pass and the Continental Divide at 12,126 feet.

Cottonwood Pass, Continental Divide

The parking lot at the pass was a zoo with people traveling into the country for the weekend, and others just wanting a photo at the Divide. Every sort of vehicle and camper and trailer was passed on the road. We took one last look back at the mountains we had crossed and headed down the mountain on the paved road into Buena Vista for supper.

We had traveled about 140 miles so far. It was just after 5:00 pm and we had a light supper and some refreshments. The original plan was to ride the COBDR for a short section north of Buena Vista the next day, and then ride the highway for the remaining miles into Denver to meet up with family. Looking at the COBDR map we realized that the next 20 miles or so of “back country” would likely be overrun with holiday traffic generating clouds of dust with their Jeeps, ATV’s and cycles. After all the remote roads we had covered, we decided this was a bad way to end our ride. Instead, we elected skip this last 20 miles of dusty roads and just take Highway 285 directly into Denver. And since this was going to be the plan, why wait for tomorrow when we could still ride these last miles yet tonight? So we mounted up and hit the highway. We agreed to stop after an hour or so to refuel and stretch. We gassed up in Fairplay and then made it to Bailey just as thunder and lightning surrounded us in the mountain valley. A call to family in Denver assured us that the storms were scattered and dissipating. So we watched the black clouds swirl around us and after about 30 minutes we blasted down the mountain. Our fears of holiday traffic were confirmed as the two highway lanes heading up the mountain were completely gridlocked as vacationers tried to leave the city behind for the July 4th weekend As we approached the outskirts of the Denver area, I turned north to my son, Aaron’s house in Arvada. Bob continued east to the center of Denver and his son, Robert’s home. After pulling in to the driveway, I checked my odometer and found that the total miles for Day 10 equaled 284. I had ridden for 10 straight days. The last highway section had cutoff a planned 11th day. This planned 11 days of travel had also allowed for weather and/or mechanical delays - of which there were NONE! I started at 1,626 miles and ended with 3,884 on the Yamaha WR250R. I had ridden 2,258 miles overall, with 90% being on unpaved gravel, dirt and rock roads and trails. Bob and I had experienced no mechanical problems. Neither of us had had even one flat tire! I hadn’t even needed to add oil to the WR250R! And after nearly 3,000 miles there was still tread left on the knobbies, ready for some fall riding back home in the Ouachita Mountains of Arkansas…

2013 Yamaha WR250R

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