So, I've just completed this ride SOLO a couple of days ago. The intent of this trip was to bring my AT home from where I had left it with my parents in Florida. As I had some time, I also planned to make this ride a bit more fun and avoid as much slab as possible. So, I also hit a number of scenic highways, and also included the MABDR (https://ridebdr.com/MABDR
) as part of the fun. States/Provinces covered: FL, GA, SC, NC, TN, WV,VA, MD, PA, NY, ONT. I also intended on camping out where possible to reduce cost.
My ride: 2017 Africa Twin - Tri-Colour
Mods used this trip: Barkbusters, Bumot Sidecases, Kaoko throttle lock, Honda heated grips, Honda center-stand, powered accessory plug, MoskoMoto Tank Bag, AltRider Brake extender, Motoz GPS Tractionator tires front and back.
Other Trip accessories: OSMAND+ on phone for GPS routing, Garmin Inreach mini Satellite beacon, and purchased for this trip: Rev'it Sand 3 riding jacket and pants, Alpinestars Apex Drystar Gloves.
Note - there is a mini equipment report at the end.
Day 1- ride from Ocala to Magnolia Springs State Park, GA. Temps hitting 32C (89F). Good test of the new Rev'it Sand 3 Jacket and Pants cooling ability - with everything zipped open, pants venting seemed barely adequate, and chest venting not picking up much air behind the AT screen - the arm venting however is fantastic, carrying air forward and around through the back.
Stopped in Jacksonville, FL in order to buy some rain/winter gloves which I figured I'd need sooner rather than later. I was riding in this direction and only decided on a place to camp at aroud 3pm. I ended up cutting this rather close as I arrived 10 minutes before the office closed. Thankfully, they had a walk-in spot left for me. Surprisingly these walk-in spots had water supplied - which I don't think is that usual in Canadian campgrounds, but then again, I usually do hike through camping/backpacking. Anyways, makes for real easy coffee in the morning. Facilities were also great - clean, hot showers, etc. Loosened up with a short hike on the local 2 km trail after the ride.
Day 2- Blue Ridge Parkway. From the campground, I rode up to the start of the Blue Ridge Parkway, and rode some of that absolutely spectacular road and scenery. Temperatures cooled down significantly from the day before to around 18C to 24C - suit quite comfortable with no liners in at these temperatures. As many folks have ridden this route, I won't say too much about this part of the ride. At 3PM again, looking for places to camp, google pointed me to a couple of places, but they were all not yet open for the season. I ended up staying at the Pixie Motel near Linville, NC after failing to find camping at Grandfather State Park. The owners said that they had just opened for their season - and in fact I was the only person there for the night.
Day 3 - Damascus, TN - start of the MABDR to Pembroke, VA through the Cherokee National Forest. This area is also a spot for a lot of Appalachian Trail hikers, so thankfully, there is a good coffee shop there to start the plan. This is where I started using the OSMAND+ app and following the most excellent GPS trail provided by the ridebdr.com folks - using the app and the GPS trail was a very satisfying experience, as OSMAND+ not only showed me the route, but also described the route like a rally driver - which was great offroad (eg/ "Slight left in 200m", "Sharp right in 100m and then slight left"). The GPS trail provided by the ridebdr guys also includes waypoints with Gas stops, food stops, and potential lodging which is immensely helpful.
The route at this point, is probably 10% paved roads, and the rest mixed gravel with dirt. Lots of switchbacks, climbs, descents, and very few people on the trails/roads that comprise the route. Very glad I brought the Garmin Inreach that I used to ping messages to my wife (no cell service).
Again, by 3pm or so, the skys had darkened considerably and it had cooled off a lot. The closest waypoint on the GPS track was the Mountain Lake Lodge, VA. Pulling in I was surprised by a considerably upscale hotel ( at least compared to my prior digs). I had very little time to absorb this before the sky opened up and started a torrential downpour. So with little additional urging, I booked a room. Great beds, but no in room TV, I ended up eating at the bar, primarily as I had a good coversation with the barman, (who informed me the next day the hotel was fully booked for one of the 3 annual "Dirty Dancing" weekends - which was the movie that had been filmed there).
Day 4 - Mountain Lake Lodge to HOMESTEAD INN MOTEL AN PETERSBURG WV, criss-crossing VA, and WV.
Parks: George Washington National Forest, Jefferson National Forest, Monongahela National Forest.
Conditions: Overcast, Sporadic Rain, Windy.
After the torrential rains the night before, and knowing that there were water crossings, I decided to forgo the water fordings as a solo rider. Fast water + solo rider after thunderstorm is bad juju. So I blew past the water crossing sections on some windy pavement instead, and rejoined once I was past them. There was still some really good riding here, but the conditions just didn't help to make it enjoyable. It was also sporadically raining, so few pics were taken. Towards the end of the day, toward the motel - it got really windy - to the point that I was worried the bike would blow over on the kick stand - I checked on it several times through the night. The motel was nothing special, but reasonable value - huge room, large bed, hot shower and clean.
Day 5 - Petersburg WV through MD to MT HOLLY Springs PA/ Carlisle, PA.
Parks: Green Ridge State Forest, MD, Calendonia State Park, PA, Michaux State Forest, PA.
Conditions: Day started off very windy, but tapered off after mid-day.
Came through the Horn schoolhouse (ca 1880s), and got the tour from the local lady who, along with her husband maintains the place. Lots of cool paraphernalia and each one has a story. Signed the book and left my mark on the blackboard along with the other ADV'ers who have passed through. The book had me as the 2nd person this year, but I'm guessing others have skipped the signing, as I saw a couple of others going the other way on the MABDR.
Lunch at the Belle Grove Wildlife Mgmt Area. Spectacular riding, sunny. Through Caledonia State Park. It is boggling my mind that there is such great riding here, and that adv bikes are allowed to ride it all. As I was bombing along in Michaux State Forest, I came upon three guys on BMW GSs heading the other way. Stopped for a chat, and as it turns out they were scouting for a leg of the MABDR. Anyways, we followed each other for a while, and ended up having dinner and a chat at a place in Carlisle called Redd's Smokehouse (Bar-b-q) which I would recommend.
Stayed the night at a Holiday Inn Express - these are all the same so nothing worth reporting here...
Day 6 - Carlisle, PA to Seven Mountains Campground, Spring Mills, PA.
Parks: Tuscarora State Forest
After separating from the BMW trio, I headed off into the Forest following the trail. As it turns out, this day was a day of misadventures. Closed roads, requiring backtracking, GPS malfunctions - more backtracking, and finally a massive downed tree across the road with no way around - MORE backtracking. All this in drizzle and heavy Fog. After looking at the map, I decided to make a bypass by heading for the next fuel stop. After all the backtracking, I was getting worried about fuel. So I was quite dismayed when I came upon a closed sign at the waypoint for fuel. There was a lady sitting outside having a cigarette next door so I asked here where she thought the next closest open gas station was. She called her husband into conference and they concluded Port Royal some 70 miles down the road. They made some calls, and got me a splash of gas from a Jerry can that would let me make the distance to Port Royal. Extremely generous to a fault, they wouldn't accept payment ! Lovely Amazing folk. After todays' debacle, I decided to grab some chow and find someplace to sleep that was close to the trail to continue in the morning. I picked the Seven Mountains Campground...and set up my tent.
Day 7 - Seven Mountains Campground, Spring Mills PA - End of the MABDR in Lwarenceville, NY. Day end in Bath, NY.
Parks: Poe Valley State Park, Poe Pady State Park, Bald Eagle State Forest, White Mountain Wild Area, Little Mountain, Tioga State Forest
Conditions: -2C overnight warming to 9C by mid day.
So, when picking this campground, I should've realized that weather reports in the mountains are quite unreliable - it got a lot colder than I had planned for - along with the noise of the nearby highway, I got very little sleep. In the morning, the tent, the bike - everything was covered with frost.
Again, however, I was warmed by the generosity of strangers when a nearby camper came over and offered me a fresh brewed cup of coffee.
After warming up and packing up, I headed off to another cold, but fantastic day of switchbacks, forest roads, and rocky ascent/descents. Given the lack of a good nights sleep, I was determined to make it to a hotel this night and to finish the MABDR as I was so close. Made it to the end in Lawrenceville, NY, but was disappointed that the actual end was on a highway and I couldn't get a picture. Oh well - rode on to Bath, NY to get a nice hot shower and soft bed.
Day 8 - NY to Orangeville, ON and home.
Conditions: 6C - 11C
Rode the rest of the way on highways to make it home quick.
Rev'it Sand 3 suit - 5/5. Performed very well - rain, cold, hot, lots of different conditions. Note - I did not use the thermal liner as I used my own thermal layers - rain liner worked just fine.
AdvRider Brake Extender - 5/5. A MUST have for this type of riding. Lots of standing, and the brake extender helps so much when standing.
Bumot Panniers - 5/5 - Waterproof, excellent mountings and stood up to the abuse of the trail.
Kaoko Throttle Lock - 4/5 - Not as good as a proper cruise control, but mostly does the job - a bit fidgety to properly set a speed.
OSMAND+ GPS Map - 4/5 - a bit obtuse UI, but once you figure it out, this app rocks - unbelievable value for money. It even helped me set a custom POI for water fordings!
Garmin Inreach mini - 4/5. There were a couple of times, that it took a while to connect to satellite/GPS properly before I could send a message, but this thing is a lifesaver.
Motoz Tractionator GPS - 4/5 - held up very well, on a heavily loaded bike. Tread life seems excellent, and grip was decent in the wet and loose surfaces - never felt sketchy to me. The rears were quite difficult to mount (gave up on doing it by hand and had to take it to a shop), but that was the only problem I had with these. There is a hum from these tires at speed (as expected).
Bumot Bash Plate - 4/5 - very heavy, but absolutely bombproof - I had all kinds of things clang off this thing, and one real bash against a rock.
Alpinestars Apex Drystar Gloves - 2/5. Waterproof as these things go, but once your hands are wet - very difficult to put back on. Didn't find them warm enough, even with my heated grips.
Honda Heated Grips - 2/5 - These things just don't get hot enough. I'm going to have to replace them..