Under Open Air


Getting Lost in America

Produced by Joe Stevens | Words by Steve Ebert | Photos by Grant Puckett


 

We’re all on a lot of different roads.

Physically, metaphorically, theoretically. GPS routes, Google Maps, career path, even retirement plans: It’s all up to your personal interpretation and confidence in the route you’ve chosen.

What really matters is where you’re going, what you experience, and what you take away from it.

America is far from an undiscovered land. If you hashtagged your way across the states via Instagram, location tag to location tag, you’d be well on your way to internet fame. You’d also undoubtedly see a lot of cool shit. But for all the viewpoints, historical monuments and parks, there’s still gold to be found off the beaten path.

We set out on this trip not as MX riders who grew up around the track, but as a group of friends with a love of two wheels and the sense of freedom they enable. All four of us have a different story. When we flew to Atlanta to start this trip, back home we had Harleys, old Yamahas and Triumphs all in our personal quivers and varying experience riding them on dirt.

What united us all was a desire to do something new and challenging, and to document a relatively known route in a way we had never seen before. And, if we did it right, maybe inspire some equally reckless souls to follow in our tracks.

 

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The Trans-America Trail is a (marathon) ride where you can get loose. You can rip. You can practice your lefts, rights, and long, long straights. You can think you’re past a gnarly section and run into miles more just around the corner (looking at you, Utah). It takes you up and down, through tight shit and bullshit. You can do pieces, long stretches or get creative and go coast-to-coast. You can stay with friends and family, find hotels, or sleep on the ground under the stars.

You’ll meet a lot of interesting people. You’ll see the country in a way that few have. You’ll discover the unexpected, and you’ll unexpectedly discover things about yourself. 

 

From Tennessee to Oklahoma to Oregon, you’re sure to find your fair share of surprising vistas, prime campsites and curveballs from Mother Nature. But the trail is just that. An interconnected series of roads to take you from one place to the next. The route is just the path that you took. The experience is another thing entirely.

 

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On a trip like this, you slowly come to the realization of how much time you are physically spending on your bike. We knew that coming in but could never really fully prepare for it. It happens from both the gradual flattening of your ass and the hours each day you spend locked inside your helmet and, subsequently, your own head. The TAT is simultaneously a group effort and a test of your own personal will. The bike becomes your home in the sense that it offers the solitude to get away, to think, and to feel. To focus on the stretch before you, the earth underneath your tires, and to experience the freedom the machine beneath you offers. Yet you’re all in it together. One bike issue is a roadblock for the collective, and individual priorities take a backseat to the goals of the group.

As the miles ticked into the thousands, we slowly became less cognizant of rules and boundaries. Gas station parking lots became our go-to watering holes – warm beer starts to get pretty old after a few days. We usually had to drink at least one while they were still cold. Speed limits all but faded from our consciousness. Our friends, day jobs and responsibilities became somewhat distant recollections, no less real and meaningful – but oddly detached from our day-to-day. We spent so much time with ourselves and each other that interactions with outside people began to feel a little foreign. Encountering a car or two started to feel like a traffic jam, and other riders on the trail felt like some kind of strange brotherhood of crazy people.

We became more aware of life and death. Each flattened armadillo and rotting skunk reminded us of how alive we truly felt and how lucky we were to have made this happen. The pre-trip early morning phone calls, lunch meetings and late-night proposals became more and more worth it the more we encountered what we’d promised to see and capture. The theoretical blending of work and play we were searching for stopped being an idea and became our day-to-day. Conversations transitioned from how sick things would be to simply trying to remember as much as we could from what had happened just that day.

 

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A trip like this changes you in the best way. Your motorcycle becomes more of a gateway to an experience than a machine. You become more confident in its solace and freedom, more capable in your ability to control and sense the movements of its system of components, and more aware of your own inner drive and feelings as each hour passes by. 

 

The hills flatten and rise again, water crossings come and go, and you move from campsite to campsite. But the wonder and excitement about what’s around the next bend constantly sticks with you. From the forests of the deep South to the cold waters of the Pacific, we put our bikes and ourselves through it all.

Looking back on 6,000 miles is a tremendous feeling. Certainly there’s the sense of accomplishment that comes with completing the route relatively unscathed; but the real reward was the feeling of taking an idea – a dream, really – and turning it into a reality. To have this experience and to be lucky enough to share the views, thoughts and range of emotions that came with it. To have minds full of moments we hope we never forget. And to have another bike in the quiver to bring back those experiences again and again. Honestly, we can’t wait for what’s next.

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Read the story in Volume 010


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