TransAmerica Trail Ride: Obstacles In Tennessee

Not all dirt is the same.

Riding across the USA is no big deal, right? Well, how about doing it on mostly 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 via Dave Bramsen's blog and see.

The TransAmerica Trail is a 5200-mile-long country road. Lengths of asphalt connect the ever-increasing segments of dirt as you ride west. Of course, not all dirt is the same. For those of you planning on challenging the TAT, here's a menu of what to expect:

TransAmerica Trail mud
Two Hondas, two puddles, and a Tennessee cornfield.Dave Bramsen
mud trail crash
Dave's least favorite road surface: mud!Paul Bramsen

PLAIN DIRT—Available in a variety of colors including light gray, yellow, red, and brown. If it's graded and packed, 60mph is good. (Sidenote: I tend towards speeds in the 50s to preserve reaction time, as when a night deer bounded in front of my bike in Colorado. Also, I'm kinda chicken. My two TAT team sons and motocross pals ride much faster than I do on these surfaces.) Generally produces clouds of dust which coats everything.

GRAVEL ROADS—Not my favorite surface for riding. Arkansas, why must you spread such a generous layer on your section of the Trail? But once you adapt to the twitchiness, you can cruise on the straights at 55mph (See chicken note above). Both sons, Paul and Caleb, were riding towards the late sun, entering a well-graveled corner in Tennessee and went down. No serious loss, but a reminder to watch gravel depth in corners. Also produces clouds of dust which coats everything.

ROCKY TRAILS—Rocks are different from gravel. The TAT offers a variety of rocks and boulders wanting to take you down. See more on this in an upcoming blog on road types.

MUD—This is actually a sub-category of dirt. Mixing dirt and water can be bad. I did not drop that large Africa Twin on gnarly rock-strewn sheer-drop Colorado passes but the Oklahoma mud got me. It is why both my ankles have been swollen the past week and a gouge on my shin weeps. It is why another TAT rider had to leave his bike planted in Arkansas mud until the next day, when help from a tractor arrived.

SAND—Ambiguous and twitchy. Stand on the pegs and keep some power on. I turned off the Africa Twin's traction-control to lessen the chance of the engine cutting out as I tried to spin my way out. More to come on this in Utah and Nevada. Stay tuned...

Animals on the TransAmerica Trail
The TAT has critters so pay attention when riding!Dave Bramsen