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

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

I’ve never seen him so mad. “F*ck Nevada!” He yanks the carb from its rubber manifold; gas spews onto the talcum, turning it into flammable adobe. Vance disassembles the carb, spoiling to hit somebody, anybody. I hover just out of range, shooting photos of the wreckage and telling him it’ll be good for the story. “Hit the f*cking SPOT Checker, damnit!” I press the bright-orange SPOT satellite locator position update button three times—our code to Robert that we are out of commission.

Vance wanders off into the desert. I stare at him staring at the broken rocks, barren purple-red mountains and a fantastic moonscape of emptiness. The sun moves west, shadows elongate and tilt. He walks back. “Hand me those pliers, will ya?” Under the blue dome of Nevada’s endless horizon, the emulsifier slides into the carb body. Now the main jet with its copper washer, the O-ring, now the bowl. Vance reassembles the carb onto the black-rubber spigot. The DT starts but it’s clearly sick. After a mile, maybe three, we park next to a free-range cow. “No sense ruining the engine.” There’s not much else to say while we wait for Robert.

Vance finishes the day’s route with the WR250F and we take a few days off in Battle Mountain trying to get the DT going again, to no avail. With his newfound Zen-ness, Vance is saying things like, “It’s not the bike, it’s the journey,” or “The TAT is a test of man, not machine.” He’s driving me crazy with this neo-serenity dribble, so I spend most of our downtime trying to piss him off. Things are so bad that when the WR250 gets a flat three miles from the California border and I gleefully hand him a tire iron to throw, Vance just gives me this beatific look, raises his hand, palm outward like the Pope waving from the Popemobile, and says, “I’ll be glad to get out of Nevada.”

The KLR was happier pacing the old DT400. The WR250 is light years ahead in power and suspension, and I’m wringing the poor little bike’s neck trying to stay in Vance’s fuel-injected dust cloud. Clipping the upper right-hand corner of California, we roll into Oregon. The WR has developed a chain-eating problem. Vance adjusts the tension every morning, but by mid-day it’s dragging the ground. Instead of freaking out, he says, “I’ll get sprockets and a chain at the next Yamaha shop we see. We sure are lucky it hasn’t broken.” I can’t stand it!

Oregon’s endless switchbacks wind through tall trees, over mountains and down to streams. We repeat the sequence ’til driven insane. Moving 30 miles west requires a hundred miles of trail. The sun sets, the temperature drops. Vance starts telling me how good we have it. “Imagine what it was like for the first settlers with their Conestoga wagons, fighting constant hunger and disease.” Instead, I imagine I liked him better when he was screaming and spilling gas. Somewhere far away Port Orford recedes into the night.

Closer to the coast, the TAT is blocked by rockslides and locked gates. Vance re-routes, trying to stay on dirt, but creeping civilization wins. Our last miles to the Pacific Ocean are on pavement.

There are a couple of things you can do in Port Orford. You can have a fish sandwich or ride down the steep access road that leads to a dark-sand beach. We went to the beach. X marks the end of the Trans-America Trail, the end of a four-year endeavor that consumed us for no good reason except that it was there. Fog rolls in, suiting the muted celebration. We conquered the TAT, but not how we wanted to. Such a long, hard ride, ending less than perfectly.

There’s no time to feel melancholy, though. Vance has 2000 miles of trail plotted for our return trip. Delays have pushed our schedule, so we load all four bikes onto the Yamahauler and drive to Roosville, Montana, where we pick up the Canada-to-Mexico Continental Divide Trail.

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Mike153
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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