TransAmerica Trail Ride: Roads Defined

What kind of road is this?

Arkansas TransAmerica Trail
Dave Bramsen stirring up some Arkansas dust on the Honda Africa Twin.Paul Bramsen

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 consists of a variety of road surfaces. A 5,200-mile dirty jaunt across the U.S. from the grandly scenic Colorado vista to the backwoods of Mississippi littered with mounds of rusted junk.

Meeting up with over 700 minibikes on a TransAmerica Trail detour:

muddy road on the CRF250L Rally
Caleb Bramsen splashing through some mud in the Arkansas Ozarks.Paul Bramsen

The TransAmerica Trail consists of many different types of roads. On some you can ride at a relaxed pace, maybe make a bluetooth helmet call to your mom back home if you're lucky enough to get cell service. Other roads require your undivided attention. Here's another menu that defines each type that you might encounter along the TAT.

PLAIN OLD COUNTRY ROADS: From easy 60mph surfaces to washboard stretches that'll shake the peanuts out of your brittle.

WOODS AND FOREST ROADS: Serenity under a canopy of trees with the occasional stream crossings. The sticky mud is not so serene. In the South, you think you're remote and then motor past a backwoods trailer.

MOUNTAIN ROAD: This is a sub-category of forest roads on which your two wheels will ascend and descend through the Smokies, the Ozarks and higher still in the stunning beauty of Colorado's San Juan Mountains.

SINGLE-TRACK ROADS: Most mountain roads will allow a motorcycle to continue forward while passing an oncoming vehicle. But there are sections in New Mexico and Colorado where you'll have the fun of a trail ride; up on the pegs, negotiating around rocks and busted trees.

MOUNTAIN PASS ROADS: Sheer drop-offs. Sharp hairpin turns. Steep descents. Stretches of large chunky rock. Water across road. Sheer drop-offs. Riding 600 lbs. of Africa-Twin with gear and gas. Did I mention sheer drop-offs?

FARM ROADS: Endless droning. Clouds of dust. One Oklahoma segment had 112 miles of straight road with a mere dozen right angle turns. Wet tees (under heavy riding jacket). Who smells the worst?

DEAD-END ROADS AND BRIDGES: Not uncommon. We generally proceed beyond a "closed" sign just to find out how far we can get. One Tennessee bridge was indeed totally impassable but we were able to ride down to the river and make our way across.

DESERT ROADS: Primarily found in Utah and Nevada. Lots of variety, even stream crossings. But a dominating feature: stretches of up to 150 miles with heat and no services. Sand. Technical short rocky segments. Long straights. Single-track (or less) between miles of sagebrush.

When riding the TransAmerica Trail, remember this: If you hate the road that you're on don't worry. One you'll like is not far ahead.

Watch out for deer on the trail
More TAT memories from Dave Bramsen's sketchbook.Dave Bramsen