TAT day 3 – Sunday

After having earned our Mud merit badges, and a new username of DirtNap, I had high hopes for today and the weather looked really good.

The roads were (initially) fairly dry gravel in good shape and we could make good time. True to form, however, it didn’t take long for the trail gods to say “Nope. Too fast. How about some mud right HERE?” The trail gods were serious. This was the worst mud we had encountered and since you can’t tell when it will end, you carry on. The road was running alongside a creek that had been out of it’s banks very recently and the road was berm-to-berm mud. My favorite. Red, slimy, sticky and slippery. After rolling a few feet the bike is taller because of the mud stuck to the tires. After putting your feet down a few times you’re taller as well – for the same reason.

We slogged on through 4-5 miles of this and finally came to a turn onto a paved road. Right there we decided that we were going to bypass the next mudfest we encountered, as our Mud merit badges had been earned many times over.

The terrain was starting to change too. More hills and less bottom land. But at the same time, the hillsides and roads are becoming more rocky with exposed ledges and big rocks.

Now we’re getting into the Ozark National Forest on the fire service roads. These roads aren’t in the best shape and are usually narrower than the county roads. After passing a ranger station, there was a switchback and a rocky and steep climb. Picking your line on this type of trail just about requires that you are up on the pegs, looking ahead and once chosen, committing to the line. Throttle and clutch control will help avoid wheelspin and keep the rear tire hooked up. I got the KTM a good part of the way up and chose a line to the right, which turned out be a bad choice. John was able to back the KTM up a bit and get it over to the left side, which was clearly the better choice.

In the Ozark Mountains the scenery (when there was an opportunity to look around) was really nice. You have to concentrate on the trail, because the margin for error is pretty thin when you are a long ways from help. Some of these roads don’t see traffic except for TAT riders, so waiting for help is futile. We both have SPOT trackers, so we can summon help even without cell coverage, but it seemed better to avoid the need to summon help in the first place.

We decided to stay in Clinton, Arkansas, and John saw an opportunity to head for Clinton that saved us a few miles today and tomorrow when rejoining the trail. We stayed at a Super 8 and were both able to get laundry washed and dried. We had intended to bring enough clothes for 3-4 days of riding and then to wash them and have enough for the rest of the trip. So far, other than the miles per day, our planning was working out well.

While we were riding today, I mulled over this thought – is the KTM the right bike for me? Given the past couple of days, I’m thinking no is the honest answer. There may be a replacement that is a better fit – but I need to do some research before making a decision.

The stats from today:

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