TransAmerica Trail Ride Part 1
Art: Dave Bramsen

TransAmerica Trail Ride: 5,000 Miles Of Off-Highway Riding

A father-and-son adventure touring team set out on Hondas to travel the TransAmerica Trail.

Riding across the USA is no big deal, right? Well, how about doing it on nothing but dirt roads? Yes, it’s been done before and we know three riders who are about to do it again. Dave Bramsen and his sons, Paul and Caleb, have packed three Hondas to travel across America by way of the TransAmerica Trail. The TAT is 5,200 miles of country dirt roads and trails connecting Cape Hatteras, North Carolina, on the East Coast to Port Orford, Oregon, on the West Coast. Is this the ultimate way to see America? Follow along and see.

On this mid-June day, a MacBook Air and I are sitting on a cinder block behind Antioch Baptist Church in the verdant forests around Maggie Valley, North Carolina. My youngest son, Caleb, 18, is in the process of removing a spider from our tent, which is set up behind three Honda motorcycles.

Resting on red dirt is an Africa Twin CRF1000 and two CRF250s laden with camp gear, clothes, and tools. For the past four nights, we have enjoyed the challenge of the lost art of leave-no-trace camping near woods at an industrial building, a freeway offramp, 11 miles up a dirt road in Pisgah National Forest, and, now, here. In the process, we have met only one sheriff deputy. He was a friendly ex-Marine. Semper Fi.

Team Charlotte Motorsports
Paul and Caleb and I pick up our Hondas at Team Charlotte Motorsports.Paul Bramsen

Flipping back to 2016 finds eldest son, Paul, 22, working on a UC Berkeley master's degree in computer science. His bright, green Kawasaki Ninja EX650 brings diversion but the work-stress level turns the busy lad's thoughts to alternate activities. "Hey, dad," he said. "When I graduate in May, I want to motorcycle across America and ride back on dirt roads."

"You can do that, on dirt roads," I asked. “Yep," he replied. "There’s this thing called the TransAmerica Trail.” A few YouTube videos later, I knew more. And I knew he should not go without his dad, who has motored far and wide, and likes his sons. The youngest son had the same thought. Both are decent off-road riders.

Our plan: Fly to my brother’s house in Greenville, South Carolina, and depart on this collection of forest roads, creek crossings, rocky trails, fire and farm roads that run 5,000 miles from the Atlantic at Cape Hatteras, North Carolina, to the Pacific at Port Orford, Oregon. North Carolina is mostly paved swoops (with great scenics! ) leading to dirt at the west end.

Cape Hatteras
At the outer banks of North Carolina, approaching our starting point for the cross-country off-road ride.Paul Bramsen

Leaving the fine hospitality of my brother and his wife, we picked up our bikes at Team Charlotte Motorsports from the store manager, Rob Wiley. Great help, y’all. Check out this shop with 500 bikes and the coolest collection of vintage machines lining the walls. After six hours of connecting 12-volt power plugs and adding a burden of gear (six weeks of dirt and camping), we rolled east on a hot and humid June 3 around 6:30 p.m.

As you follow along on this epic ride, keep in mind that we're just regular guys out on an adventure, so the comments you see here in our travel blogs will be from that perspective. Indeed, this is quite a diverse stable of bikes—a 1000 and two 250s—which, as you will see, must do a fair chunk of touring and a more-than-fair chunk of dirt challenges. They—and we—are getting the job done. Those 250s are being asked to tour at the start. They’re doing it.

Next up: getting to the Atlantic.