Long-Term KTM 1290 Super Adventure, Homeward Bound Part 1

The best way to get a test bike from Wisconsin to California is to ride it!

KTM 1290 Super Adventure, Wisconsin to California ride
Recommended place to have breakfast by Butler map guys. The Blue Bonnet Café in Marble Falls, Texas certainly gets my vote now.©Motorcyclist

Editor's note: Former Editor At Large Aaron Frank 's long-term KTM Super Adventure is headed back to Motorcyclist headquarters in Irvine, CA, from Aaron's home in Milwaukee, WI. Piloting the bike for us is Joe McKimmey, art director of sister Bonnier brand Dirt Rider. He was crazy enough to contemplate a trip from Chicago to California in early March.

KTM 1290 Super Adventure, Wisconsin to California ride
Retrieval crew: Tom McKimmy, former MC staffer Aaron Frank, Dirk McKimmy.©Motorcyclist

The KTM 1290 Super Adventure is currently stopped in Marble Falls, Texas, while I have lunch at the Blue Bonnet Cafe. Apparently this is a local favorite in Marble Falls—with biscuits and gravy to die for. Next comes the Texas hill country before the two of us, the KTM and I, head west for home in California. But that's getting ahead of the story.

The Super Adventure started in Milwaukee, with former MC editor at large Aaron Frank. It had been his long-term bike but someone in California apparently wants it badly enough to have it ridden or trucked back. I had been wanting to take a big, solo trip—a way of resetting personally and professionally—and this was it.

KTM 1290 Super Adventure, Wisconsin to California ride
Some routine maintenance before we hit the trail.©Motorcyclist

This KTM was found sitting in the cold garage with a dead battery by Dirk McKimmy (my father) and Tom McKimmy (my brother), who showed up at Aaron’s house on Saturday, February 27th and trailered the bike out of snowbound Milwaukee southbound to Chicago, where my two-week trip would begin. After being unloaded and thoroughly checked over, the Super Adventure was shoved back in the garage for another day.

KTM 1290 Super Adventure, Wisconsin to California ride
Hermann, MO This little town from the 1800's is where the trip began.©Motorcyclist

As soon as the garage door opened up on the following day and the Super Adventure fired up, we were off and running; however, the weather wasn't as nice as the previous day’s and with a big storm rolling in we had to get out of town quickly before it was upon us. The KTM’s temperature display was reading 33 degrees and flashing the ICE Warning, but I didn’t care.

KTM 1290 Super Adventure, Wisconsin to California ride
Off the beaten path from highway 82 for a closer look at the Gulf of Mexico.©Motorcyclist

We made a straight line to St. Louis then proceeded to work our way to a little town 30 miles west called Hermann, MO. We held up in a little bed and breakfast for the night. Hermann is a cool little western town established in the 1800s; we were about to see towns much like these as we wandered west.

KTM 1290 Super Adventure, Wisconsin to California ride
Couple of ferry rides to make it through the washed out parts of Highway 82.©Motorcyclist

The next morning is where the adventure really began. I split off from Tom who had followed along to tend to some business in St. Louis. We (me and the KTM) were on our own from here on out. The weather was not the greatest with sleet and hail this morning so speeds from here on out would be much slower. The idea was to stay away from any major highways and try to avoid all the big cities. We did have a basic route put together by Justin Bradshaw at Butler Maps, but the route was to be broken however we saw fit.

As we started to settle in with the weather, some of the electronic glitches Aaron Frank observed appeared for me, including the TC light flashing on and off, then the dashboard turned off for about 40 minutes, and then came back on. Also, the range indicator is terribly optimistic when you first fill up.

KTM 1290 Super Adventure, Wisconsin to California ride, Tabasco
But Tabasco is red.©Motorcyclist

The Super Adventure traveled through some epic back roads in Missouri but we didn’t stop for anything other than gas and drinks for fear of more bad weather. We eventually stopped for the night in Mammoth Springs, MO.

The weather warmed up over the next couple days as the Super Adventure clicked through the gears in Arkansas after spending the night in Mammoth Springs, MO. Some of the best roads for a motorcycle are in the Ozarks. Roads like Highway 7 and Pig Trail, just great twisty roads with elevation changes that wrap themselves through cute little towns without seeing many cars. The roads were so good; I was tempted to drag footpegs every corner. We, the KTM and me, cruised through some awesome little towns like Jasper, Eureka Springs and Hot Springs, the boyhood home of Bill Clinton.

KTM 1290 Super Adventure, Wisconsin to California ride
A quick stop for lunch in Cameron, LA. There are many little paces like this along Highway 82 where you can get fresh shrimp pulled from the Gulf of Mexico and put right on your plate.©Motorcyclist

We camped for the first night at Hot Springs for the natural hot springs bathhouses. Unfortunately, we showed up too late and all the bathhouses were closed at 5:00. The temperature dropped that night to nearly 33 degrees. I was so cold in the tent I was shivering. The crew in the campsite adjacent to us were bikers as well. I’ve met a lot of very friendly locals as we cruise through these small towns, some bikers, some not. Just downright nice people that are just curious about you and who you are and what you’re doing.

KTM 1290 Super Adventure, Wisconsin to California ride
This photo might not look like much. Imagine it a 33 degrees going 75 mph.©Motorcyclist

After spending two days in Arkansas we started heading west through a few more twists, going through the southeast section of Oklahoma then eventually cutting back towards Louisiana and Texas.

At this point we didn't have many options, heading due west would have put us through more cold weather and there was really no good way to get to Austin other than just flat straight roads. So we headed along the Louisiana-Texas border thinking that further south would be warmer. My partner also wanted to check out Avery Island, home of Tabasco. I wish I could say the riding through this area was an awesome ride much like Arkansas but I can't. Only thing interesting was the River Ridge Campground that we found in Carthage, TX. It was a fishing campground; the people were nice but the next morning their faces didn’t look too happy as the KTM’s big motor rumbled through the campground.

KTM 1290 Super Adventure, Wisconsin to California ride
A beautiful historical little town nested deep in the Ozarks.©Motorcyclist

The next morning we made tracks to Avery Island for a quick tour of the Tabasco plant, then back on the bike and running along Highway 82, which is the most southern road in Louisiana and Texas. It took two ferries to get to Galveston. Weather was warm but super windy. A quick sleepover then eventually making our way to Marble Falls, TX. Thunderstorms were rolling in fast but we can't wait to hit these Texas Hills. We have a lot more cool places to hit before we make it back. I'll keep you up to date on the progress.

KTM 1290 Super Adventure, Wisconsin to California ride, in Texas
On the mad search for a campsite in Carthage, TX, at a local fish camp.©Motorcyclist