A little later this year, I will be embarking on another cross country trip this time off-road along the Trans Am Trail. This is something completely new for me and, at first glance, seems like a difficult and treacherous fools errand. As is the case with most efforts involving the great unknown filled with unnamed risks, I have no way of knowing what I'm getting myself into. How doable is it? How dangerous? What should I prepare for? Will I sink up to the frame in mud? What that I fear typically doesn't happen? How bad are the river crossings and mountain passes? Is the mud in Oklahoma after a good rain as bad as I fear? What about the people I'm likely to encounter? What about critters?
To try to get my head around these and countless other questions, I've been trying to read as many road reports and other material as I can find about the trail. Not unlike the great Deadhorse Alaska Trip of 2010, much of what I've read is contradictory. It seems like every other ride report about the Trail involves some bike falling down the mountain resulting in a nasty trip to the hospital to deal with bones that are sticking out in the most unnatural ways. How do you ride 50 miles in the dirt with a compound facture anyway? I keep thinking I should bring a winch along.
For every horror story, there's another one that makes it seem like a cakewalk that doesn't require much in the way of preparation.
There may be some wisdom in not doing any research and just going to see what happens. "Step One - Get Map. Step Two - Leave."Andrew Pain would say.
But when embarking in a new direction, I like to prepare myself at least mentally. I see it as being something different than planning. Once I leave, there is no real plan, it's more of an "intention". But I would like to be reasonably prepared, so I read what I can find.
Some time ago, I came across this blog article written by a man named Michael Murray about his experiencesriding the Trans Am Trail while filming a documentary. It was one of the more complete and upbeat descriptions of the trail I've read. That led me to a How-To DVD he produced called:
Adventure Motorcycling on the Trans America Trail
At $24.95, it was an impulse purchase. I was hoping to get a better sense for what I was getting myself into beyond what I had already read online. The DVD is in an interview format where three riders who've done the length of the trail answer questions about their experiences and provide suggestions for others who are interested in riding the trail. I was hoping for something a bit more detailed but it turned out to be a relatively basic overview. It would have made a great starting point and I wish I had come across it before slogging my way through all those ride reports. Much of what I read in those ride reports now makes more sense having seen the DVD.
I do, however, find something about the interview format compelling. Hearing someone conversationally describe their experiences over photos and video seems to make it more engaging, more infectious somehow, than just reading a ride report. Even though it's a basic overview, it did contain some valuable insights for even this relatively late stage in my preparations. They make a number of good suggestions and I'll watch it again with a notepad in hand. For instance, while I'm not much of a hiker, after hearing them describe an incredible waterfall, I think there's going to be some real hiking to do. There are other places to stop along the way as well. Did you know Morgan Freeman owns a blues club? Neither did I, but it's now on my list of places to go see.
Strangely, listening to these guys talk about their trip was the first time I've looked forward to the trail. I hadn't been conscious of the fact that there's a big part of me that's been dreading this adventure. If there's no dread, then it's not an adventure. If it's not an adventure, then there's little chance of a story. I find myself wondering what stories will unfold for me Out There, if any.
If you're pondering the Trans America Trailand don't want to read endless disjointed ride reports or watch countless youtube videos but still want to get a feel for what you're in for, theAdventure Motorcycling on the Trans America TrailDVD is a solid starting point.
Michael reached out to me on Facebook and kindly offered to answer any questions I had about the trail. Very cool. As Josh once said, "There's something about motorcycle people ..." and he's right.