Joe Gresh vs. the Trans-America Trail, the Sequel | Twenty-Seven Days

By Joe Gresh, Photography by Robert Williams, Vance Hunter, Joe Gresh

With fresh knobbies The Widowmaker bites nicely into the damp earth. A few hundred miles of graded roads and we enter Glacier National Park’s unmanned east gate. Cold rain starts to fall. Then sleet. We slog our way over Logan’s Pass and drop down into East Glacier. Snow begins to fall.

Dawn. It’s still snowing. A Florida boy hates to trail ride in snow, so Vance agrees to bypass the divide ride for awhile. We saddle up and work our way south on pavement. The Widowmaker’s chain is jumping teeth and the WR’s has reached the end of its axle adjustment. The snow builds up on my faceshield, hardening to ice. I’m riding blind. We stop every 10 miles to thaw our hands on the exhaust pipes. Eighty miles of this treatment and we are frozen solid; we call it a day. As I walk into the motel lobby, sheets of ice crack and fall from my jacket.

Today is chain day. We bust out the wrenches; the KLR and WR get shiny, new sprockets complete with greasy new O-ring chains. Running much more smoothly, we rejoin the Continental Divide Trail, crisscrossing the country’s east/west slope somewhere around three million times. My underpowered KLR putt-putts over each pass at 20 mph. If it weren’t for downshifting I’d have no shifting at all. Against the howling headwinds of Wyoming, through Yellowstone and down to Colorado, the KLR’s tiny heart beats a weak tattoo across America’s spine.

This morning we spent four hours on some godforsaken mountaintop beating the bikes against jagged rocks like dirty laundry. Net gain: 20 miles and a softer, fluffier motorcycle. Colorado has some of the best trail riding in the country, but using Vance’s modified CDT route, we see a fair bit of the worst of it. I’ve had plenty of time the past weeks to study Vance’s trip planning, and I’ve come to the sneaking suspicion he’s ratcheting up the technical difficulty in a misguided attempt to atone for the failure of his two-stroke on the TAT. Deep within the recesses of his twisted mind, I think he believes he’s doing me a favor.

The final run across New Mexico and Oklahoma is fast and furious. With the wind at my back the KLR250 effortlessly spins to 70 mph with me sitting bolt-upright, even over Oklahoma’s mild hills. Four weeks on the road, 3000 miles of dirt, 2000 miles of pavement and countless 10,000-foot passes and I’ve never let The Widowmaker’s tach drop below 5000 rpm. Always moving slowly while never feeling relaxed, the little 250 proves unburstable, having exceeded both my expectations and my ambitions. Looks like I’ll need to step down to a 125 for my next trip...

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Nice write-up Joe. You're a better man than I....on a 250 no less! Thanks for sharing a trip I will never EVER take myself. Ever. LOL
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