The plan began I don’t know when. My buddy Jameson (lamoson) and I both have wanted to ride the TWAT for quite awhile. We hadn’t settled on where when or how until the planets had aligned just right. See, my wife and I were selling our house, and I knew I’d need some way to relax after all that. Jameson had spent the past eternity rehabbing his house and was finally seeing its completion nearing. So 2 weeks after closing on my house, we planned to jump ship on a Sunday afternoon, with strict requirement that I be back before Friday for a rehearsal dinner for my sister in-laws wedding. Years ago, I missed my other sister in-laws rehearsal dinner, so I was responsible to not make the same mistake twice. Don’t Be Late!!!
Our plan was straight forward. I’d leave my house on my KTM 350. Meet Jameson at his place near Lake Geneva, WI. We’d leave Sunday afternoon, following Stateline Road West to the start of the TWAT. We would then head North on the TWAT to my parents cabin near Soldiers Grove, WI right off the TWAT. From there, we’d blast our way North. We’d go as far as we could, and camp along the way. We’d blast our way North, and then do the same, heading South, back home to arrive sometime Thursday PM. I secretly thought…..ehh, I can get home Friday and be OK, but figured I’d plan on the safe end of things.
So a week or so before the ride, Jameson informs me, he’s got a 3rd guy looking to go with us. 2 problems for him. He was to be at a wedding the Sunday that we were leaving, and according to him….he’s a nancy with a KTM 690 and riding from his place in Wisconsin to ride the TWAT was too far. This guy….I tell yah. Things ended up panning out however. Caleb decided that he’d be zonked from the wedding he was going to, so would drive\trailer out to Jameson & I near Soldiers Grove, WI. He’d meet up Monday AM, and we’d all roost into the distance.
To get things straight here, let’s sort out our cast of characters.
Myself – Riding my 2013 KTM 350 (pic in the old house….goodbye old friend)
Jameson – With his KTM 950
Caleb – Riding a KTM 690
Day 1 – Sunday…afternoon
I left my in-laws house (my current residence) to meetup with Jameson. It’s about 40 minutes from my place to Jamesons. About 2 minutes into the ride, I could tell it’d be….interesting. I’ve spent some time on my 350. From racing harescrambles, to gnarly riding out in Moab. This was a different ball of wax. I had a giant tank bag my dad gave me, with all sorts of luggage and crap strapped to the back. I had an area the size of my waist to sit, keeping me locked into one position. Not how I like to ride. I topped up with fuel, zeroed my trip meters, and was off to meetup with Jameson.
Jameson locked & loaded to roll:
I adjusted my luggage a bit, and neglected to take a picture, because, well….I have a tendency to not take pictures. I try, but I fail at times.
With that, we were off, and ready to hit the open road. Jameson navigated us along a handful of Wisconsin backroads, slowly meandering our way to meetup with Stateline Road. For those not familiar, Stateline Road weasels it’s way the border between Wisconsin and Illinois. The road starts about 5 minutes from my house, and works it’s way all the way west to Galena, IL or somewhere thereabouts. About an hour in, I needed to relieve myself, so as I tend to do while out riding solo, I found us a small park to rest at.
Don’t look so surprised –
At this point, we both reveled at the magic that is the Garmin Montana. I wirelessly synced data from my device to his. Magic. If you look close enough, you can see the data in the air.
We moseyed on, heading due West. Ok, not due West, but in a total zig-zag along the IL\WI Border. This was fun, but after awhile got to be annoying. That’s not right. The reality is this. You’re riding along farm fields, as far as your eyes can see. Corn to the left, Corn to the right. For some reason, they decide to put stop signs at every single intersection along the way. No one is out here. Cows, maybe. I don’t know. I didn’t care however, as we were riding, the sun was out, and we were enjoying it.
Somewhere along the way, we crossed this bridge, and I took a picture:
At this point, we weren’t too far from the actual start of the TWAT. I think I was about 150 miles in? I was soaking up the fact that my 350 was getting 55-60mpg thus far (and would for the rest of the trip) meanwhile, the 950 was somewhere in the 30-35mpg range. But that doesn’t matter, because fossil fuels be damned. We had to ride!
First proper stop along the way was a little jaunt that puts you in the Mississippi River
Sunsets and god awful garbage can windscreens
We headed back onto the trail, at which point I saw a Rustic Road sign. I’m doing my best to catalog them (of which there are 115, and I’ve done now 25 or so)
The TWAT works its way along the Mississippi North (I think?). Pretty early on, you hit a gravely section. This Southern portion of the route gets you into the zone of that overhanging rock, you know, the one with all the stuff you’ve seen 10,000 times….
Struttin’ Jameson approves
Now this is where we got confused. Ok, I shouldn’t say “we”, but more so Me\I. This is the Trans Wisconsin Adventure Trail, and not far in, it appears to have a doozy of a jaunt West into Iowa for awhile around Prairie Du Chien. I can’t and won’t complain. I was riding, and enjoying it. The roads over here were awesome. We however were running into one teeny weeny polkadot bikini of a problem. Daylight. Yes, I had installed some fancy pants LED’s on my bike, but it is prime Field Rodent…err Deer season, and I’d prefer to keep things upright as best I could, and not interfere with 4 legged beasts.
My initial concern of 4 legged land beasts was for Deer. Somewhere on this Iowa jaunt, another 4 legged beast became my primary concern. We were on a small back road, with an apparent cattle farm to our side. This is normally not an issue, however in this situation, there appeared to be 2 younger beef production units in the middle of the road. On the side, inside the fence is what appeared to be the mother, giving these beasts the stink eye.
At this point, I was ahead of Jameson….no lie, those KTM 350’s go like stink. So I come barreling down this road, and lay on my hoofs. My mighty steed comes to a screaching halt, as I see these 2 leather factories in the middle of the road. I sit there for a second, seeing Jameson isn’t too far behind. All of a sudden, these 2 goons turn towards me, and start getting huffy puffy, like 2 street tuffs. Jameson rolls up, and I ask….well…what’s your thoughts. We were both mildly unsure, so I figured, ok, let’s roll up slow, and when we’re nearby, lets gas it and get outa dodge. I give a mild honk, and begin motoring along. The 2 cows seem to get the idea, and move a bit towards the shoulder. All of a sudden it’s like these guys planned an ambush on us and start galloping right at me\us. Now at this point, I do my best to get the 350 moving. Unfortunately, I’m currently geared for extensive highway riding, and was in 3rd gear to keep my revs down to not spook the leathery beasts. I neglected to downshift and just about get run over by Jameson! Hells horses, we scoot another mile or so down the road and stop. Jameson relayed that he about got ramrodded by one of the cows, and was ready to take me out to get out of the way. We had a good chuckle, and got back on the road.
If they were 4 feet tall, I’d tell yah they were a mile.
A bit further down the road, we realized we needed to find our way out of Iowa, and over towards Soldiers grove for the evening.
I don’t have any pictures at this point, but I can put into words the next hour of riding. We found a cutoff in the Iowa side, on Cr-X52. We followed this North along the Mississippi until we got to Lansing. We zipped East on 82, and promptly South on 35 until we hit 171. Thankfully I’m relatively familiar with 171, as at this point it was pitch black outside, and my visor was absolutely coated in bugs. We wound our way along 171 and into Gays Mills, WI. We stopped in at the convenience store, grabbed some beer, and made our way to my parents cabin. By the time we got there, it was about 9pm. Around 10pm, Jameson decided he needed to change his rear tire. I opted to help by watching, and point out what he was doing wrong
After the tire swap, we called it a night. The next morning, Caleb would arrive, and we’d work our way North with great speed, and all that jazz.
Day 1 Map
Day 2 To follow –
I’ve spent the past good while stressing a bit about the house selling stuff. We went through having an offer and deal on the table, to it falling out in a weeks time. We’ve also spruced up a few things around the place, which should help with moving it. All that stuff has kept me busy the past few days, and I wanted to take a day and go get a ride in.
I talked to my brother Saturday evening to see if he was interested in scooting out with me on Sunday. He was tentatively in for leaving at 7am. Unfortunately Saturday night, my dog decided to start absolutely freaking out about some fireworks going off. My wife had to be up at 4am for work, so I took the dog into the living room with me and cozied up on the couch. This was fine except for some neighbors having a big bon-fire just up the road. The dog was quite worked up for awhile….leaving me to not sleep so well. My wife woke me up at 4 when she got up, at which point I headed back to bed….promptly waking up at 730.
Not a big deal, as I saw I had a message from my brother at 12:30, who had a failed 3D print, so was dealing with that on Sunday. I was moving a bit slowly, but wanted to really get out for my ride. The dog seemed plenty chipper in the morning….darn thing.
So that said, I had a rough idea of what I wanted to go ride. Rustic Roads 90 & 27 were within a decent distance from me. Straight line, they are only 63 miles away. Basically they are a couple of the last “close” rides for me (that could be done in less than 1/2 day). Their descriptions & rough outline looked appealing enough:
So the plan I had was to get on the road, tell the Garmin 60CX to just point me in the right direction towards the 1st waypoint on RR90. I was excited, as I had a nice new hardwired power on my KTM 350. I plug everything in…..and the unit shuts off as soon as the unit shakes. I say to hell with it, and toss my solar charger & phone in my tank bag, plug in the waypoint and off I go.
Loaded and ready to go:
Now I gotta say, I got a whole crap ton going against me on this right now. First of all…..I’m running a 350 race bike, on a front knobby that has 4 races, 600+ Moab miles, many local road miles, that is chunking like no other, with a rear tire that I got used from a friend (that I swapped in Moab as well), that is rapidly degrading to oblivion. On top of that, neither wheel is balanced, my front rotor has a tiny bend in it (pulsing brake lever), an OEM seat that is like sitting on nails, and now I added that silly stupid tank bag….all so I had room to hold something to drink. But hey….I was ready to go riding, and I really wanted to get my use out of them tires.
So kickstands up, and of course, I may as well top up with fuel right away. From here, it was my standard route of getting from home to Highway B in Wisconsin. My phone\GPS is telling me God only knows what way to take to get out to the first road. I know B heads West, so I’ll just go by feel. A couple miles into B, and I find that I’m running into some sort of triathalon going on. I end up passing bicycles for a couple miles….they all looked miserable as I easily motored by (reminded me of Moab). I end up taking a few “wrong” turns, and managed to find myself cruising on a lonely State Line Road.
Wisconsin and Illinois….well you gotta love and hate em. At least in my immediate vicinity, things are flat, straight, and full of corn. It’s OK though, as I find that when I go out riding….I’m just enjoying the riding. State Line Road, as the name suggests more or less splits Illinois & Wisconsin, just about from Lake Michigan all the way to the Mississippi in Iowa. It’s pretty cool, and while it is flat, and straight, you kind of feel as if you’re heading down a road that was used long ago for important things. There’s that sense of history as you cruise down the roads, which twist and turn as you into and out of IL\WI.
As always my days start though, I end up with myself full of coffee on an empty stomach, which prompted my first stop.
I think I can….I think I can…
This was looking South (bike facing North). You head South here for 1/4 mile, and then back West shortly ahead. If you keep heading South, the road turns to gravel. I wasn’t looking to hit that road, so continued on my way. I meandered along and ended up finding myself back where I got back into competition with motorcycles; Blackhawk Farms Raceway.
Long story short, in 2008 I was road racing an R6. My bank account was draining quicker than I could fill it. I then had this 100mph lowside……right in front of my (future) wife, mother, father, grandpa, etc:
Suffice to say, I switched to trials shortly after. Much cheaper, and the risks of crashing were exponentially reduced. I’m very grateful for this, as I learned so much riding trials, that I continue to tell friends and those I meet that I could NOT do what I can on a dirtbike now, if it weren’t for the years on a trials bike.
There was some racing going on at BHF, but I had places to be and didn’t want to pay a pit fee, so I continued on. The roads around here are older feeling, and many find you beneath well covered tree canopies. They aren’t all that much, but I find the more I ride these roads, the more I grow to appreciate what is around here. I ended up on Highway 81 in Wisconsin for a good 15 miles. This T’s into Highway 11 just South of Brodhead, WI, and a mile or two from RR90.
I had no idea that this was gonna be a gravel road:
The road appears straight, but if you get closer, it has a couple fun little sweepers to it. I rode the road to the end, and backtracked to the start where I snagged this panoramic:
I snagged another of the rear knobby….this was about 80 miles into the ride:
But what can I say…..it was a nice stop (bio break out in the open as well )
From here I found my way to the start of Rustic Road 27. A short 10 mile jaunt, and you’re at the start of a really beautiful section of road:
OK, so it appears to be one straight road, but you can’t complain. Again, this is an older portion, which winds slowly around through some old subdivision of some sort. The entire area is covered in trees, and the road has a very nice flow to it. I highly recommend this one. Even the roads all around this area are pretty solid. Had I of had more time, I would have scouted around a bit.
From RR 27, I wanted to get myself home without hitting a highway (on a KTM 350 remember….). I ended up in downtown Brodhead, WI. I stopped in at a gas station, got some fuel and gatorade. I look up and saw there was a park right across the street. I saw a silver truck parked there, so I rode over and sat down in the Veterans Memorial Park to snack on my gatorade & candy bar. I saw a guy get out of the truck and put something on a tank they have on display there. I finish my snack, and head back towards my bike. I end up chatting with the guy a bit. 91 year old WW2 vet who takes care of the park. He was quite excited about the park, and hoped that the local kids with nothing to do wouldn’t steal the flag he hung on the tank. I would have liked to have gotten more info, but as my wife can attest, I am far from a details person….and given my preference, would be quite happy in isolation. The man & I said our goodbyes, and I hopped back on my bike to get on home.
I ended up following a similar route home, following State Line Road. My bike hummed happily around 60mph the entire way, not missing a beat. At one point, I may (or may not have) made sure that the bike still understood how to ride on it’s rear wheel…..oh how good that feels. It reminded me of a fellow in the gas station who asked me about the KTM earlier in the morning. He asked if it were street legal, to which I replied….Yes, though they should be illegal. They are far too fun. He seemed a bit perplexed, but wished me safe travels.
I made it home about 4.5 hours later. My trip meter confirmed that I’d have a sore behind:
That KTM 350 never ceases to impress, though I did note that I have a leaky fork seal. The Seal Doctor will fix that right up. All in all, a very good day. It helped clear my head, and continued my bond with this bike (that I thankfully never had with the Ducati).
Until the next one….
I’ll be going to Moab this spring. I’ve assembled a few GPS Routes, Tracks, Etc from a variety of sources.
GPX File here: MOAB-2015 (Right Click & Save As)
Mapset I’m using in Garmin Basecamp: http://www.gpsfiledepot.com/maps/view/701/
I found most of the tracks\trails @ Trail Damage here: http://www.traildamage.com/index.php
5 Miles of Hell info here: http://www.dirtbikeutah.net/five-miles-of-hell.html
That’s about all I have at this point. I’ll be camping & on my 2013 KTM 350 EXC-F
After years of use and abuse, my Moose Tool Pack (ok fanny pack) has finally given up the ghost. Out on the market are a couple options. Ogio, KTM, Fox, Klim, etc all have their Tool Pack offerings, but Klim has always seemed to be the dependable choice with moto related gear. I had no idea what the insides really looked like, so I took a bit of a gamble, so hopefully what I show here and on my video can give you an idea as to what you’re getting into.
The Klim Scramble Pak has 3 main sections. The large center section and the two side sections. The two side sections are identical to each other and are not much more than an empty space. The main compartment is split up into several compartments. Unclip the two side clips and first you’ll see the outer pouch. This opening is about 6″ wide with enough room to fit your latex gloves or a couple rags, or maybe a few zip ties and odds and ends.
Flipping the top open, there is a large YKK zipper to access the main compartment. These zippers like all on the pack have a mild cover to them to help keep out the elements. Once the compartment is opened, you see your assorted slots, zip compartments, and elastic to keep your tools and gear in place. There is a big clear pouch which would likely be ideal for a phone, or whatever you may want a quick view at. One strip of the retention straps has a nice rubberized grip to it to help keep tools in place.
The side pouches themselves as noted earlier are primarily empty spaces. The outside wall of them is soft like that of a sunglass pouch. This outer wall also has a small elastic pouch to it. Both sides are identical and have YKK covered zippers on them.
The main buckle is a solid unit with a very strong hold to it. At the base of the pack there is a rubberized gripper to help keep the pack from rotating around your body while you’re riding. The padding on the inside of the pack seems to be plenty adequate and thick enough to keep tools from poking through the pack, without being too thick as to be bulky.
All in all, initial impression of the pack are very solid. I’ll be loading the pack up for some upcoming events and will do a year end review with it at the end of the season.
For full Hi-Res pics check below: