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Trans-America Trail September 2018

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11 months 2 weeks ago - 11 months 6 days ago #15066 by Richard
Replied by Richard on topic Trans-America Trail September 2018
I plan on driving the off road trail in June 2019. I will post the details after the first of the year. This will be a two week trip.

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7 months 2 weeks ago #15197 by Richard
Replied by Richard on topic Trans-America Trail September 2018
The trip was a great success. I am working on a trip report with photos and will post it shorty.
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7 months 2 weeks ago #15198 by John
Replied by John on topic Trans-America Trail September 2018
Waiting patiently.....

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7 months 2 weeks ago #15201 by Richard
Replied by Richard on topic Trans-America Trail September 2018
Here are the pictures of the five day return drive along Route 66 from Oklahoma City to Victorville.

www.dropbox.com/sh/3j5srdbse8swn9n/AABwo...7oNfGqdkoT1v3na?dl=0

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7 months 1 week ago #15202 by Richard
Replied by Richard on topic Trans-America Trail September 2018
Trans-America Trail
September 3, 2018 – September 21, 2018

The idea of driving the Trans-America Trail was first introduced to me by a fellow Land Rover of San Diego club member several years back during a Death Valley trip. I had never heard of the trail and I was immediately intrigued. I thought what a magnificent way to see the country from a completely different perspective. So, I began the reaching and planning the trip. I initially obtained the trail data from an online source, and subsequently began modify the trail using Gaia GPS and using Google Earth at times to get a better perspective of the trails and roads.

The planning took well over a year, and included pain staking work on identifying gas stations, lodging, markets, laundry, etc. Basically, all the services I believed would be important and/or necessary throughout the trip. In retrospect, that was completely unnecessary. There was an abundance of all types of services throughout the trip, and for the most part, there was good cell reception (Verizon, but limited T-Mobil) to help us locate what we needed. We did make camping reservations so that we knew where each day would end.

The most difficult aspect of the trip was finding others that were willing to take a 26-day trip, yet alone off road. The number of participates ebbed and flowed during the six months leading up to the trip. At one point, there were six participants, but in the end, there were three. My 2002 Discovery 2 SD, a 2004 Discovery 2 SE7, and a 1999 Lexus LX470. All vehicles were modified for off road use.

I spent a fair amount of time getting the Rover ready. All fluids (literally every fluid) and filters were changed. New motor, transmission mounts, coolant hoses, and thermostat. The truck was aligned, the tires balanced, the driveshafts greased, the throttle body and MAF were cleaned, new and extra air filters, and several comprehensive vehicle inspections later by my local Rover mechanic, it was as ready as it was going to be.

Though much of the Trans-America Trail literature discussed running the trail from east to west, I saw no reason why running it west to east would be any different. It was not. The source tracks I used, and the modifications I subsequently made, did validate athat either direction would work, so west to east it was. For no other reason than wanting to begin the adventure immediately.

We officially started the Trans-America Trail in Mesquite Nevada. Our destination that day was Kanab Utah. The first half of the day was spent driving through the Grand Canyon Parashant National Monument. The day’s sights included desert, multi-colored layered rock formations, large open areas, cattle, abandon wooden structures, more cattle, rain, mud, some washed out roads (did I mention rain), more washed out roads, many passes, a few wrong turns, and 9-hours later, we made it to camp in Kanab. The campground (RV park) was old, though functional and directly next to the Kanab cemetery. At least our neighbors were quiet. The price was right and the showers were hot. A group of young college kids from the Bay Area arrived well after dark. It quickly became obvious that they were not experienced campers as we watched them attempt to set up their large family tent in the dark. Yes, we stepped in and helped.

Today’s goal was Escalante Utah. We had to change out the alternator on the Lexus that set us back 3 hours. The entire day was spent driving through the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. Again, the sights and scenery were amazing. The natural beauty of Arizona and Utah certainly justified the 10-hour day. The campground had an exceptional restaurant (dinner and breakfast), an awesome selection of local Utah beers, and a super friendly and helpful staff. My favorite beer was the Wasatch Polygamy Porter. How ironic.

From Escalated we drove north through Hell’s Backbone. We passed through Boulder Utah, the last town in America to get mail via horse drawn wagon. The day took us through Glen Canyon National Recreation Area and Capital Reef National Park. We had planned to camp at Starr Spring in the area of Ticaboo, but we made better time than we had anticipated, so we went farther and set up camp in the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area at Hite Marina. The river was so long that the end of the paved boat launch was at least 50 feet from the water’s edge. Beautiful view of the stars that night and only one other camper there as well. Very peaceful.

The drive from Hite Marina took us out of Glen Canyon National Recreation Area (Lake Powell), through the Natural Bridges National Monument, into Manti-La Sal National Forest and ended in Monticello Utah. The sights were breath taking as you can imagine. We started the day at 3,600 feet, peaking at 10,450 feet and camped at 7,800 feet. We drove past numerous cattle, saw a bear cub dart across the trail (no sign of mama bear), wild turkeys, and countless deer. While driving through Manti-La Sal, we encountered heavy rain and hail, though only for a brief period. As a Californian, the mud driving proved a bit unnerving at times. The best BBQ was at Doug’s Steak and BBQ in Monticello. The mouthwatering beef brisket and fall off the bone pork ribs were unforgettable. I can say this now after having searched for better BBQ across Oklahoma, Arkansas, Mississippi, Tennessee and North Carolina. Oh, did I mention the very friendly camp cat who loved to jump into your car or sneak into your tent. Rascal! The free laundry at the campground was a plus.

Today was spend in the Canyonland National Park. Though not part of the Trans-America Trail, I scheduled in the day so that we could experience the park. We drove approximately 50 miles on the trail with a short detour down to the Colorado River. There are so many beautiful canyons and overlooks. The area is truly stunning and was worth the extra day. I certainly will go back and spend more time there.

The first 130 miles from Monticello were on fast moving Colorado country roads. We passed through the San Juan National Forest, into the Uncompahgre Nation Forest, and over Lizard Head Pass. We arrived in Telluride Colorado around noon to tackle Imogene Pass, only to learn it was closed for the annual 18-mile run. That was unfortunate to say the least. So, we ran Ophir Pass (10,500 feet), then drove 20 miles on the Million Dollar Highway, and arrived at the Engineer Pass trailhead at 2:30 PM. Engineer Pass was somewhat technical, but thankfully dry. Wet would have been a different story and a bit unsettling as well. There were a few very deep drop-offs. The trail took approximately three hours and the summit was at 12,800 feet. We drove by a massive heard of sheep, and an abandoned old mining town were the main attractions along the trail. We spend most of the day at or above 9,500 feet. In Lake City is a restaurant, Climb Elevated Eatery, which was amazing. The quality and service were unexpected for such a small community, though their primary source of business is tourism. It was by far the nicest dining experience I had along the entire Trans-America Trail. The RV park in Lake City Colorado had a nice evening social camp fire and it was a pleasure to meet likeminded travelers. There was no shortage of bear activity warning signs throughout the park, though luckily there were none that night.

We woke up to rain and broke a wet camp. The first and only time during the entire trip. The free coffee that morning made getting going in the rain a bit easier. We spent a good amount of time at high altitudes today on slow National Forest roads and dense mountain forestry in the northern section of the Rio Grande National Forest. We passed by large herds of cattle numerous times a day. Today we had to slow down for cattle that had no option of leaving the road (fenced on both sides) in front of us for about 1/4 mile. It was as if my Rover was my horse and I was the wrangler herding cattle. We eventually ended up in Westcliffe, and spent some needed time at the car wash blasting the mud off the trucks. Westcliffe, like Monticello, was another town where the Sheriffs worked Main Street from both ends for speeders – successfully I might add. We did escape the trap, since we learned their modus operandi from Monticello.

Today was our last day in the west and our final destination was Trinidad Colorado. The roads we a bit slower than yesterday. Early in the day we passed through San Isabel National Forest. We came upon a truly amazing sight today – Bishop’s Castle. I can only encourage you to Google it. A castle built by one man over the course of the last 50 years. Thereafter, the terrain became flatter and flatter as we continued east toward Oklahoma. Unfortunately, the third traveler had to head back to California due to some family issues, though thankfully nothing serious. We made home at the Carprios Ridge campground and grilled a few local steaks for dinner.

It did not take long for us to cross the Colorado / Oklahoma state line but not before a short three-mile leg through New Mexico. The terrain was flat across the Oklahoma panhandle. The area is predominantly farmland, cattle grazing, oil derricks (aka sucker rod pumps), and oil storage tanks. Corn, corn and more corn, and an occasional ghost town. Did I mention churches? The Rover started to develop a noise in the driveline after about 60 miles into the day. WD-40 on the front driveshaft u-joints helped for a short period. I was able to borrow a grease gun from a local mechanic in Boise City Oklahoma, since the NAPA store was closed for lunch. It did not help with the clicking noise, and the rounded hardware proved difficult to remove with hand tools. I had a new drive shaft overnighted to our next destination and all was well again. Good thing we have a rest day planned in Liberal Kansas.

A full day in Liberal Kansas. It does not sound exciting, but every town is what you make of it. I used to time to get the oil changed, resupplied at the Walmart Supercenter, did my laundry, and patiently waited for my new driveshaft to arrive. We spend the morning visiting the Mid-America Air Museum. There are over 100 airplanes of all types from WWI through modern times. The airfield was a major B-24 Liberator training facility during WWII. Liberal is flat, windy, and dusty. We found a very tasty Italian restaurant and a local pancake house that we visited twice. There was an odd odor in town, which I figured out when I drove past the National Beef processing plant. It is a massive plant that employees over 3,500 people. I guess I now know where all the cattle end up.

Today we set out for the Great Salt Plains campground outside of Jet Oklahoma. Basically, we drove the entire distance paralleling the Oklahoma / Kansas state line across the Oklahoma panhandle. The drive was relatively uneventful and the terrain was basically the same the entire way. The area is predominantly agriculture with little else to see. We had the entire campground to ourselves - end of the season I suspect. Thankfully there was a good breeze that keep the bugs away. We observed a long large flocks of Osprey birds circling over the reservoir. This was an amazing sight. I did see the occasional turtle on the road. Turtles seems out it place for the Oklahoma farmlands, but maybe that is me not knowing any better.

Another day across northern Oklahoma. Agriculture and cattle. We stopped in Newkirk Oklahoma for a late breakfast. It is a charming town. We found an awesome breakfast burrito in a bakery across from the county courthouse. Easy on the potatoes and heavy on the bacon and sausage. The front of the courthouse had a tastefully constructed war memorial for all those fallen from the county since WWI. I walked into a local bank to get quarters for laundry, and like many times before, and many times thereafter, we were met with the curiosity of Californians in an Oklahoma small town. Another opportunity to share the tail of the Trans-America Trail. We also passed a horse ranch with at least 500 horses huddled in several large groups in the field shielding themselves from the wind. Our lakeside campsite was again nice, though more crowded. The showers were not very hot, but some water is better than no water after a night of sleeping in humid 70-degree weather.

We spend most of the day finishing off Oklahoma, reached the 3,000-miles driven mark, and finally entered into Arkansas. It was a long three days of open fields and wide expanses. Did I mention cattle, horses, and a lot of corn? We finally saw an east Oklahoma below ground concrete tornado bunker. My mind immediately went to the Wizard of Oz. We stopped at a river to take some pictures and struck up a conversation with a local couple on lounge chairs who were relaxing and enjoying a cold beer (or maybe more than one). When they asked why we were taking pictures, we said we were documenting our cross-county trip. The husband responded by saying he recognized us from TV. Cute. We set him straight. We told him we are from HBO and the film crew is right behind us. Kidding. We told him we are just are few travelers from the west coast. Shortly thereafter the Lexus began making noise from the rear brakes. In short, the pad (friction material) was worn down so low that the brake pad fell out of the caliper and landed in the bottom of the dust shield. Go figure. It was a four-hour delay to include a three-hour drive to get a set of Lexus/Toyota rear brake pads. We finally got to camp around 9:00 PM after a local Mexican dinner without a beer to wash it down. Yes, another dry county. My reserved campsite outside of West Fork Arkansas (Devil’s Den) was occupied by a local whose explanation was less than convincing. I will leave it at that. Instead of asking him to pack up that late at night, I shared the campsite with my fellow traveler. Road kill has become plentiful. Squirrels, Possum, and Armadillo to name a few. Do I dare grill them? Luckily, we have not hit anything ourselves, yet.

We spend most of the day driving through the Ozark National Forest. Flashback. I left Advanced Individual Training in 1989, and I drove through the Ozark National Forest back to California. We stopped for gas in Hector AR, population 450. The gas station still had the old-style pump... remove the nozzle, lift the handle and pay after you pump. The spicy grilled chicken sandwich, which they informed me would take seven minutes, was actually very tasty and fresh for gas station food. The people were extremely friendly and they too were inquisitive about the journey. We did pass by the quintessential country shack. Every piece of junk you can imagine out front to include a horse tied to a post. I interesting piece of local art was a front yard display of dozens of rusted out old cars and trucks. We came across a young Floridian headed west on the Trans-America Trail from Tennessee to Oregon. He dropped his bike in a ditch and needed help getting it up and out. This is where we come into the story. A quick three man lift, a few trip stories, a transfer of water (me to him), a photo or two of the exchange, and off we were. Happy to help a fellow Trans-America Trail traveler. The campground in Heber Springs Arkansas was nice and has a specular lake view. Oh, did I mention buggy and extra humid.

This morning I felt taunted by the RV next to my tent. Its air conditioner was running all night while I wallowed in 100% humidity, only to later realize that the RV was empty. At breakfast we were greeted by an inquisitive police officer regarding our journey. Laundry was with a very talkative attendant who shared with us her Arkansas iPhone photo gallery. The pictures highlighted the beauty of Arkansas and its distinct seasons. She shared that most of Arkansas is dry, with the exception of very few counties. At that point, I was down to one beer. The situation seemed dire, but to my luck, the route took us through a “wet” county. Yes, I stocked up. We spent the first half of the day driving southeast and the second half northeast through farm fields...corn, beans (type unknown), some kind of grain, and toward the end of the day cotton fields. It must be harvest time, because there was a lot of activity and heavy farm machinery about. We had lunch at a BBQ shack (really, a shack) and one of the workers was so exiting that we were there all the way from California. The town’s population is 650, and she shared that her town has 250 residents. Rondo Arkansas, population 150, is the smallest town we passed throughout the trip. Our campground was in the Saint Francis National Forest, again with a lakefront campsite.

We were now nearing the end of our adventure. We had approximately 775 miles left until we reached our final destination in North Carolina. We did not anticipate any adverse effects there from the Hurricane, since we planned on ending 400 miles from the east coast. We started out through Helena Arkansas that quickly came across a well preserved (or restored) civil war fort (Ft. Curtis). We arrived in Mississippi by crossing from Arkansas over the mighty Mississippi River. What a sight. As we entered Mississippi, we are greeted by a massive casino and hotel complex. Again, a good amount of agriculture early on in northwest Mississippi that then it shifted to predominantly rural homes. It became more obvious that we were in the south based on the architecture and design of the homes and the frequent confederate flag. There are churches everywhere, even in places that you would not expect them, like miles from anything along a backcountry dirt road. The majority of the day was through wooded areas at around 300 feet above sea level. I had thoughts of a bootlegger in an old truck speeding buy with the local Sheriff in hot pursuit. We also saw a good amount of log carrying truck traffic and finally came upon the logging area. It was fascinating to watch the machine pick up several felled trees, run them through a machine that strips off the small branches and then drop the finished product onto a truck. A cool experience was watching a crop duster work a cotton field. The day did not bring us through a town of any significant size so lunch was on the trail. Gas was sparse, but available where the trail crossed over a major highway. Smoking in a restaurant is still permissible in Mississippi, or at least is was in Pots Camp. The food at the gas station diner was inexpensive and the portions were large. The campground in Holy Springs National Forest in Mississippi was by far the worst of all campgrounds. Like the trails in Mississippi, the campground too was heavily littered. It was so bad that though we had reserved two sites, we decided to camp together in the one that was relatively debris free.

We split yesterday afternoon and this morning driving through the balance of Holy Springs National Forest. The farther east we drove, the less dirt roads we encountered. Most of the roads were now paved back country roads, though they were mostly one lane wide and limited to 35 miles per hour, which was largely due to the to their curvy nature. The area was more wooded, similar to that toward the tail end of Mississippi. Here we experience our one and only closed road detour, thought luckily it was only several miles in total. There were a few shallow water crossings. They were just enough to keep the brake dust down. I think I now know where all the timber goes. There is a massive cardboard manufacturing plant in Counce Tennessee. The smell was horrendous, and worse than the beef processing plant in Kansas. Again, there was no shortage of churches, though mostly Baptist. We camped at the David Crockett State Park outside of Lawrenceburg Tennessee. The restrooms and shower rooms had air conditioning. That was a nice touch.

Tennessee is a beautiful state. Green, lush, friendly and warm people. We passed through numerous small communities, each with their own unique charm and character and their respective BBQ establishments. Now that I have said that, today’s segment of the trail was all paved roads. Though mostly older, less maintained country roads, nevertheless, no dirt roads. Interestingly enough, those roads are not really any faster than the dirt roads due to the numerous 90 degree right and left turns. The occasional country dog chasing the trucks did not help.

A small amount of agriculture here and there, but generally just trees and homes every couple of miles. A few interesting sights included a young girl, who did not look a day over fourteen, operating what was a very big piece of farm equipment, a small asphalt carrying truck doing patch work on back county roads, numerous abandoned old homes, and a quick visit to the Lynchburg Jack Daniel’s Visitor Center (yes, I made a purchase). The trees were starting to turn. It would be a sight to see if only there was more time. One topic have I have not addressed is the concentration of cemeteries along the trail. Since we entered Oklahoma, we must have passed five to seven cemeteries a day. Some had grave sites dating back to the 40’s. What left an impression on us was how well-groomed and maintained they were, and that they always had an abundance of fresh flowers on the vast majority of the graves. The RV park outside of Decatur Tennessee was run down and predominantly occupied by long-term residents. Our reserved tent sites were on a steep incline - a total no-go. We offered to pay for an upgrade to an RV site, and the camp host (super sweat lady) made it happen - gratis. A bonus was that we were right next to the comfort station (that is what the locals call a bathroom).

The final day of the Trans-America Trail. Next stop was Indian Creek campground outside of Cherokee North Carolina. The morning started off with a crazy experience. So, here is where it gets interesting. As I was putting the finishing touch on packing the Rover, I noticed a young man exit a trailer to my right and walk, what appeared to be between the front of the Rover and the rear of the Lexus, headed to what I believed was the restroom. Next thing I know, he jumps into the passenger seat of the Rover, and then begins to climb between the front seats into the rear of the truck. I ask him what are you doing? No response. Then, in a louder voice I said “get out of the car.” He gets out the way he got in, I asked if him if he was okay, he apologizes, and then goes back into his trailer. My assumption is that he was sleepwalking. Now that was a once in a life time experience.

Once we got going we finally found dirt again. We began the day by driving through two National Forests - Cherokee and Nantahala. Both equally beautiful, dense foliage, thick overhead canopies, rays of light peeking through the trees, and a few one-foot deep stream crossings. Our first gas stop revealed a horse drawn buggy with its occupant whose attire appeared to me as Amish. Next was Tellico Plains Tennessee, a quant tourist community, into Deals Gap and over the infamous Tail of the Dragon. Eleven miles through the Great Smokey Mountains consisting of 318 curves and magnificent views. This is heaven for the motorcyclists and sports cars and there was no shortage of them that day. We passed Fontana Dam, which I akin to a mini Hoover Dam. We turned southeast before Gatlinburg Tennessee, and through the Great Smokey Mountain National Park with its vast lakes, rivers, streams and cascading water sheeting off the large boulders paralleling the roads. The day ended with an oil change in Bryson City North Carolina and more grilled steaks to celebrate the trips success.

Sadly, this is where the Trans-America Trail journey ended. 4,319 miles driven, two oil changes, 360 gallons of gas, and one drive shaft later, we finally reached our final destination on schedule. It truly was a memorable day and a fitting end to an amazing adventure. Next, 2,400 plus miles home on I-40, and the joy of seeing what remains of Route 66 along the way.

These are the pictures of things I mention above.

www.dropbox.com/sh/jk5jsxa6wny5mnq/AAC6H...F_GPV79f9hDbOYa?dl=0
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7 months 1 week ago #15203 by John
Replied by John on topic Trans-America Trail September 2018
Thx Richard, great read.
I may have to save my pennies and take the van.

John and Janet

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