Announcer: They're behind the wheel and under the hood on everything automotive, with High Speed Stuff from HowStuffWorks.com.
Ben: Hello, everybody. Thanks for tuning in. As you know, my name is Ben. I write some videos here at HowStuffWorks.com.
Scott: And I'm Scott. I'm the auto editor here at HowStuffWorks.com also.
Ben: Scott, let me tell you, it's great to see you. We're rounding out the end of the year here and we've covered so many things this year, man.
Scott: Yeah, we've had a lot of variety this year.
Ben: Yeah, yeah.
Scott: What I do like though is we've been working some more motorcycle stuff into the mix.
Ben: Oh, yes, yes.
Scott: And I think we're going to make some people happy with what we're going to talk about again today then.
Ben: And let's continue on that trend with more motorcycles, right, and what are we covering today, Scott?
Scott: Today, we're going to talk about the Trans-America Trail.
Ben: And what is the Trans-America Trail?
Scott: Well, actually, I didn't know what the Trans-America Trail was until very recently. We had a listener who wrote in and requested this. His name is Clayton, and Clayton says that he just wanted to hear something about the Trans-American Trail, which is an off-road trail that moves east to west, covering about 4/5th of the continental U.S. And he just thought it would fun to hear more about it, so this one's for Clayton and everybody else out there who likes motorcycle topics.
Ben: Thanks for writing, Clayton. And let's just emphasize that one more time, 4/5th of an enormous country, and off-road.
Scott: That's right, east to west, it's off-road. It's a completely off-road trail and, now, it does follow roads, but very little paved road at all, and I think it's only just to get across to the other side to where the rest of the trail picks up.
Ben: Just where the trail intersects a road or something.
Scott: Yeah, exactly, and the trail also, just to be clear about this, and this is from the website - there's a Trans-America Trail or Transamtrail.com. It's where all this information comes from. The trail is, it's not a single motorcycle trail that goes through the deep woods and is real tight. This is more like logging roads, forest roads, roads that are gravel, roads that are covered with mud and snow, and muck and grime, and everything. It's not a paved road that you can travel, like; something like a Route 66 route would be driving a car. This is specifically for dual sport bike riders, and dual sport bikes are kinda like a mix between on-road and off-road motorcycles. You've probably seen them on the road around here; I know I have, I've seen a few of them. It's just an all-purpose on-road, off-road bike. It looks like a bike you'd see at a motor cross, similar, with a real high stance -
Ben: Uh-huh, I think I know what you're talking about.
Scott: - only it's street legal. And so that's the type of bike that you need to cross this trail.
Ben: And the wheels are different sometimes too, right?
Scott: Yeah, they're not street wheels. They're not the same pattern or tread that you'd find on a street bike. These are mo re like the knobby tires like you'd find on the off-road bikes. And I'm sure that for this type of ride, you'd want to go with something a little more aggressive than what you have normally on there.
Ben: And you couldn't - just to be completely clear about this - if anybody hasn't gotten this sense yet, let's say it in no uncertain terms. You cannot really take a care on this trail.
Scott: No, you can't, because you wouldn't be able to cross some of the deep sand and snow, and muck and mud, and the water crossings. Also, there's sections where landslides have happened and you have to traverse that or you have to go around that somehow. There's just no way to really take a car on this trip, and it's not really designed for that anyways. This is the dream of - his name is Sam - I'll try again here with the last name - Sam Correro, C-o-r-r-e-r-o.
Ben: That sounds right.
Scott: Correro and he charted this entire trip. He's the one who kinda founded this trail, so it's not a designated trail, it's a route that he has planned, from east to west, all the way across the - well, nearly all the way across the United States. It stretches from Tennessee to Oregon, I believe, is where it ends. This is, like, 4,800 miles of intense off-road riding; not always intense, but for the most part it is.
Ben: Wow, that's just the sheer entrepreneurship and pioneer nature of that makes me feel like I should do more with my life, you know what I mean.
Scott: Yeah, this is pretty impressive really, and he's charted this whole route. And I guess there was a time when it did cross some private property, farms, things like that, and I believe that he has now figured a way around all of that. So now the website says you don't have to make that a concern of yours if you're worried about riding on someone's private property, trespassing. You don't have to worry about that any more. There's ways around any of the private property sections, so this is all public access that you've got here, so you could take that concern away. This is just a fun ride really.
Ben: Now, Scott, when did this take place? When was the conception?
Scott: You know what? I don't know the actual date of conception, but I know he spent years charting this course, and it continues to grow. He's trying to work it further east, I believe, so he's trying to find a further route. I think he's always just trying to extend it a little more, and it's not just one route. I'm going to shuffle some papers here, but I've got it. There are three paths you can take on this trip, so one goes from, like I said, Tennessee all the way up into Oregon, it ends right at the coast.
Ben: And that's the longest one, correct?
Scott: That's the longest one. That's the Trans-America Trail, and that one is about 4,800 miles, so that's a long, long trip. I mean, we're talking more than a month to make this trip because the average day's ride, I believe he said is 200 miles. And it doesn't sound like a whole lot, but your realize that that takes from about 7:00 a.m. until about 6:00 p.m. every day.
Ben: Sure, solid riding.
Scott: Yeah, and it's difficult riding too. That's on a street on pavement where it's nice and soft and cushy, and you're got, I don't know, a McDonald's to pull off to.
Ben: And add to that extreme variations in climate because, depending on the time of year, Tennessee, the Western United States and Oregon are very different places.
Scott: Exactly, yeah, and there's even - you know what? There's even a time when they suggest that you leave and arrive because of the different conditions in certain places. There's a snow window for the mountain paths, there's an area, a time when some places are just impossible to pass because the water is too high or the snow is too deep. So he's got that all charted out here and there's a time to leave and a time to arrive. And there's a window in there that you need to hit. So everybody doesn't need to leave on the same day, of course, but if you leave too late in the year you won't be able to make it all the way across.
Ben: I jumped in a little early. What are the other two trails?
Scott: The other two trails, there's one that's called the Shadow of the Rockies Trail, and that one starts - that is a trail that goes from so uth to north. And these are charted out so that you go a certain direction. They're not charted for the other direction. He's made all these maps and charts. This one goes, again, from south to north. It starts at the Mexico border down in, it look like in Texas, right at the edge of Texas here, and it goes all the way up to the Wyoming border. And I believe he has plans - and that's 1,356 miles right now. I believe there's plans to make that all the way up to the Canadian border, so then he wants to extend that up through, yeah, it would up through Montana. Is that right? Yeah, Montana, so that's the second trip you can make. And that kinda - that goes right through the middle of this one, so I suppose if you wanted to, you could kinda detour and take the rest of that the rest of the way north if you wanted to. There's one other very short trip, which is really just a one-day out and back trip, but he's trying to make it into a roundtrip, two-way trip.
Ben: Oh, cool.
Scott: On off-road with different ways. So it's called the Mississippi Hill Country Ride, and really it only goes through a little bit of Mississippi here, but it goes from north to south again. I'm sorry, north from south, which is opposite of the other one. It goes from Madison, Mississippi to Batesville, Mississippi, and the total length on that one is about 244 miles. So you could see that anybody taking the full Trans-America Trail, of course, they're going to be tempted to take this one as well that's just a minor detour at that point.
Ben: Why not, yeah.
Scott: Yeah, it's another day or two days at that point.
Scott: But really, these guys spend more than a month out on the trail riding. I mean, you can imagine 4,800 miles, 200 miles at a time, and very, very sparse stops in-between, I guess.
Ben: That's amazing. So this guy too - it sounds like Sam is still with us, is that correct?
Ben: Now, what's amazing to me about this, Scott, is the amount of time he has had to spend exploring and mapping, and riding, to be able to figure this out. So we have to assume that he has crisscrossed the United States multiple times.
Scott: Oh, I would think so, yeah. And there's, you know what, there was no information on the site about how many times he's done this, how long he's really spent doing this.
Ben: He may have lost count.
Scott: I bet he has because he even says on his site, "If you contact me, I may be out on the trail at the time. I'll get back to you as soon as I can, whenever that is." So he tells you right upfront that, "I'll be out riding probably when you contact me, but please do anyways. I'll get back to you."
Ben: Even now.
Scott: Yeah, even now, yeah. And he's the one who is - he's responsible for putting together all these charts and maps that he has. He put together something called a roll chart, which is kinda cool. And I guess a lot of off-road - or actually, a lot of motorcyclers use this and rally racers use this as well. It is, a roll chart is just what it sounds like. It's almost like a mini scroll that attaches to the handlebars of the bike.
Scott: And it's paper directions.
Ben: You know, I've seen those as novelties before, but not for an actual -
Ben: Yeah, not for an actual riding device. I've never heard of that.
Scott: I kinda been looking around at this after I found out about these things that they exist even, and he sells charts that are in sections that they're the right size for a typical roll chart machine. I don't know if you even want to call it a machine.
Ben: A box.
Scott: It's a box, I guess. It's a small box just a couple inches wide, a couple inches tall, with a viewing window. It's got two knobs and you kinda roll the scroll onto this thing, and you advance it just by turning a knob. It's strictly mechanical and you just kinda roll up a few directions at a time. It either gives you an odometer setting, like, you go .2 miles and then turn left at the next crossing, or it tells you there's a downhill section ahead, or there's a water crossing ahead. It shows you just kinda at the fork stay left or stay right. It's real, real simple, quick, easy to look at instructions. Just glance down, see what's next, and then hopefully you can get a couple of these in a row, and then advance the scroll just a little bit and, then, you're on to the next set of directions. But it keeps you on the right track because you're really back in the middle of nowhere on this trip and, if you make the wrong turn, you're off the trail and maybe you wouldn't know that for a while, unless you had these step-by-step directions.
Ben: And let's just to add, to defend this because this goes into another one of my big ideas or my big assumptions about anything mechanical, is simplicity is key. It's sorta an Ockham's Razor application there. If somebody wants to say, "Well, why don't I just take a GPS," there are multiple problems that could happen with the GPS. What you lose, I guess, in this kinda scrolling, purely a mechanical technology, you lose the continuous updates that you could have for GPS if you have power, if you have coverage, if the battery's working correctly and if the maps are updated on the GPS. All four of those of big "ifs" so I'm completely onboard with that. I think it's a great idea.
Scott: Yeah, I mean, I think that he mentions that GPS backup is fine. He recommends both. The charts are pretty much essential in order to get through this. And, of course, now Sam sells these because he's the one who's charted the course and he knows it the best. He's got all the information. So you can get all of that information right there and how much they cost for each section. You can even buy it for different sections if you don't want to go the entire way, you wouldn't need the full chart set. And he also has detailed maps that have information about elevation and gas stops, hotels along the way because there are hotels within easy distance to get to and from the trail. And there's - the fuel stops, like I mentioned, are - I think he said there's over 100 miles in-between available fuel stations, with an average of 60 miles in-between stations; that's the average. So you have to maintain a close eye on your fuel situation because you don't want to be 60 miles away - well, I guess you could be 30 miles away from something, either forward or back. And he did say that there was one section in the Nevada where there's 180 miles between gas stations, so that's just one -
Ben: You have bring extra fuel with you.
Scott: Yeah, exactly, that's one passage or one day when you need to bring fuel.
Scott: So it sounds like there's a lot of planning. It's someone who's really adventurous, really excited about doing this type of thing. Of course, you can camp along the trail, so that's fine. And there's a recommendation that you bring -
Scott: - water and a safety kit, and energy bars and things like that, but you'll also see that, if you look at the photos, there are places where you stop off at the local tavern and get food there. I'm sure there's plenty of restaurants along the way as well. If there are hotels there, of course there's going to be things like that around it.
Ben: Do they use the buddy system? Do they recommend traveling in a group of some sort?
Scott: Yeah. You know what? I didn't really see that anywhere, but I would be positive that they would recommend that. I mean, of course, there has to be more than one. It's kinda like swimming. You could be out there, no one would know you're out there and know what happened to you. You could just be swallowed by this trail, you'd never know.
Ben: Or like rural hiking or skiing expeditions where, at the very least, what you need to do is have somebody waiting at the end of it and expecting you on a certain day.
Scott: That's a very good point, yeah. Tell somebody that you're going, roughly where you'll be each day, and when to expect you back, too, because that's important because you're talking about a trip that's more than a month long here, possibly two months long. I don't know. That's a long time to be out in the middle of nowhere.
Ben: I would love it, man.
Scott: You know what? I think I would too. I've looked at the photo galleries on the site and, if you need any kind of encouragement to do something like this, look at the photo galleries on Transamtrail.com. And just check it, just look at some of the scenery and the - it's beautiful. It's really beautiful. I mean, you'll see images of motorcycles where you don't see anything on the horizon. You almost see the - it's almost like you can see the curvature of the earth.
Ben: No road signs.
Scott: No road signs, it's just nothing but brush and then there's mountains where there's rockslides. There are river crossings where it looks like it's lower than knee-deep, but the motorcycles are up really high, so it's a deep water crossing. Just beautiful, beautiful scenery along the way. And like I said, if you need encouragement to do something like this, just take a look at the gallery and that may push you over the edge.
Ben: You know, my friend, this is the one thing that might actually get me on a motorcycle because you know I said I'm not a biker.
Ben: But the idea, I've got to admit, it's tempting. It's tempting.
Scott: You know, I'm not either, but something like this is so cool because I like to find the off-the-beaten-path roads to drive on.
Scott: And I try to as much as I can, when I can, to get on the smaller roads and I really enjoy that. I can't imagine how enjoyable this would be. This would be right up my alley. This would be fun. And one quick thing I need to mention, one of the things in the frequently asked questions section was, "Can I ride from west to east?" And for whatever reason, he says that the maps and the charts have been designed strictly for east to west navigation. It says, "Do not even think about attempting to navigate from west to east on this trail." So there's a strong warning don't go from west to east. I don't know why that is, but all of these have - the routing is laid out exactly that way. I don't know why he doesn't have a reverse direction. I don't know if it has to do with the weather -
Ben: I would guess the weather maybe.
Scott: It may. Yeah, it may.
Ben: And plus, and I guess you could also think that maybe the terrain alters fuel consumption, possibly, going the other way.
Scott: You know, I just don't know.
Ben: That's crazy.
Scott: That's a possibility.
Ben: The second thing I said was crazy, the first one is reasonable, but I don't know, man. We already jumped the gun because we're both pretty eager about this, so I guess this is the time to put out a call to the rest of our High Speed Stuff crew, which would be you guys, the listeners. Has anybody been on this trail that Clayton wrote to us about? And if so, we always love to hear from you. As a matter of fact, we love to hear from listeners so much that we should probably check out some listener mail right now. Right?
Scott: Sounds good. All right, so I've got a little bit of listener mail here from Eric, from Boise, Idaho. Okay, Eric listened to our Autocross versus Gymkhana issue we did just not long ago. And he said - this is a correction, actually, which always glad to get.
Ben: We love corrections.
Scott: He competes in Autocross. He competes in Autocross, Solo II, Pro Solo, these SCCA events.
Ben: Oh, cool.
Scott: And so he said that, let's see, I'm trying to scan through this here, but he says that what we mentioned in parts of the episode isn't recognized as Gymkhana in the U.S. They call it Autocross, Solo II or Pro Solo, referring to the mirrored courses that run side-by-side. So I think in that podcast I had mentioned that sometimes they run them on mirrored courses, left and right, at the same time, and then come back and finish and see who has the better time. That's incorrect. I guess that is more of an Autocross or Solo event. So and he competes. He races in a '92 Mazda Miata and he even sent some video links to us, or a video link to us, of him running in the SCCA Pro National Tour in Wendover, Utah. And I watched that video, it was pretty cool.
Scott: Yeah, it was pretty fast. It was a cool thing to watch.
Ben: That's awesome, man.
Scott: Yeah, it was neat, but you know I always appreciate getting something like that because I really thought that Gymkhana had the mirrored setup as well. I don't know, it just must have skipped me. I guess they just do the one course at a time, one car at a time.
Ben: Well, luckily, we've got some racers who can fill us in, man.
Scott: That's why we asked about it.
Ben: Yeah, definitely. So I guess that pretty much wraps things up for this latest episode of High Speed Stuff. Scott, do you have anything to say?
Scott: No, I'm done.
Ben: Then the only thing that I have to say is please do send us an email about anything on your mind at Highspeedstuff@howstuffworks.com.
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