Open eyes. Open roads. Open throttles.
We set out as four friends looking for an adventure and a break from our day-to-day routines. When we started, we all shared a love for two wheels and a desire to experience as much of what life — and America — had to offer.
We left the West Coast looking to get into as much as we could in one short month. America is far from an undiscovered land, but we knew from our experience growing up around Portland that there was gold to be discovered off the beaten path.
The Trans-America Trail.
Our route was to be the famed Trans-America Trail (well, famed if you’ve happened to frequent online dual-sport motorcycle forums), an inter-connected series of dirt roads and trails that zigzag their way from Andrews, North Carolina, to Port Orford, Oregon. It takes you from the deep South to the deserts of Moab, over the Rockies, and into the forests of our home, the Pacific Northwest.
You, your machine, and the path stretching out before you.
When you start a trip like this, it's always difficult to fully prepare.
For what you'll run into, how long 4 weeks actually is, and the ups and downs you'll experience day in and day out. What really stood out over the first week was our collective willingness to adopt a team mentality. But there was also a feeling of singularity. We were all going to the same place but each having to carry our own weight to make it. We weren't ripping towards the Pacific, but towards experiencing as much as we could every day.
Getting our sea-legs the first week, we dropped bikes; on the trail, in the gas station parking lot, and in river crossings. We stumbled across epic viewpoints and met amazing people. We laid out our soggy gear in empty campsites and jammed into small hotel rooms. Shit, Joe even almost got run over by a Forest Service truck.
2 weeks in and 2,700+ miles covered, the routine of the trip had begun to settle in.
Wake up, pack, coffee. Ride until we're hungry enough to stop, then get back on the trail. Pick up beers if we can and enjoy one while they're cold, the rest will be warm by the time we reach our campsite for the night. Set up camp, sleep, then repeat.
By this point, it'd become painfully obvious that we'd all severely over-packed.
Versatility. It's an oft overused word. Yet there's a clear difference between a passable job at a few tasks and the tools we were coming to depend on, day after day. Some things were nothing short of indispensable, and our knives definitely fit the bill.
From making lunch on the side of the road to shaving off a melting side cover our blades were in use as much as they were at our hips. Luckily, we were within striking distance of our first drop point of the trip, Tulsa, OK. Once we made it we all mailed a box or two of under-utilized gear home.
By far the highlight of this section was catching the solar eclipse.
We were cruising along somewhere in the middle of nowhere waiting for a sign of the eclipse when we noticed the light change. We pulled over just as a light cloud passed over the sun and we were able to look up and see it without glasses, perfect timing. Kind of a strange energy at that moment and for that whole day really.
Oklahoma turned out to be the opposite of expected.
We'd pictured endless yellow fields but instead were greeted by green rolling hills and fun, windy roads. The next morning we backtracked to the Tall Grass Prairie to try and get some shots of Bison but they were nowhere to be found. The endless expanse of green was beautiful however and we made a detour to the Great Salt Plains.
2 weeks of literal and metaphorical ups and downs.
We passed through some of the most picturesque zones of the trip and drank wine at 13,000 ft. We climbed canyon walls in Moab and mountains in Colorado, camping along some of the most beautiful streams and hillsides we've seen thus far.
Unfortunately this turned out to be one of the lowest emotional points of the trip.
Joe went down hard on a god-forsaken stretch of 8-inch-deep moondust by the turnoff for Horseshoe Bend outside of Green River Utah, ending a good run and sending him home on a plane early.
Collarbones can be fickle little bastards sometimes.
The difficulty of the trail varies, and Mother Nature always finds a way to throw a curveball your way, but the seemingly endless beauty of this great land never disappoints.
Relief, excitement, apprehension.... 5,000 miles in the rearview and we finally made it to Oregon.
Crossing the Snake River from Idaho the feeling was oddly surreal. To be honest, Utah and Idaho fucked us up. The absolute emotional highs of Moab quickly transitioned into the lows of Joe's shoulder injury. Our camera equipment and computers were cutting in and out, bearing the strain that we were putting ourselves through without any of the feelings to keep them going. Still, we had to continue on and we could almost feel the cold mist of the Pacific in our tired minds.
The landscape started to become visually familiar, but the sense of home was simultaneously welcoming and odd. Smoke clogged the normally pristine forests. Our route to familiar places was different and the dirt beneath our tires felt foreign.
The great Pacific.
Fires eventually cut off our route, forcing us to take highway down from the Coast Range.
The smoky skies could to do little to darken our spirits however, and we pushed the bikes for one last time with the ocean seemingly within striking distance. Finally, we came over one last crest, descending into Bandon, OR and bee-lining directly towards the closest place to touch the Pacific.