Riding on Dirt, Gravel and Remote Backcountry Roads

I do a fair share of my riding on unpaved roads.  Not exactly the target marketing segment for Piaggio.  But there’s something soothing and restorative about wandering alone away from the thrum of civilization.  I’ve been content to ride wherever time and opportunity permits with little thought to much more than “going for a ride.”

Content until I ran into Bruce Leigh.

Bruce Leigh with his 1995 Suzuki DR350Bruce Leigh with his Suzuki DR350 Heading North

I had the wonderful opportunity to meet a fellow rider from North Carolina who was making his way north along the Mid-Atlantic Backcountry Discovery Route (BDR).  A thousand mile journey from southern Virginia to the northern border of Pennsylvania.  Mostly off-road.

There’s a danger meeting other riders.  They can put thoughts into your head.  Just as I finally put to rest the idea of buying a dirt bike along comes Bruce.  As we ate breakfast in State College I listened to a fine storyteller weave his magic about the BDR.  Before I finished the home fries I was crafting plans in my head to buy a motorcycle and take my own trip on the Mid-Atlantic BDR.

It’s worth watching a short promo video of the ride to get a feel for what the ride might be like.

Bruce is making the ride alone and mostly camping along the way.  And a lot of the ride up until we met was in the rain and mud.  A slightly different experience than the video suggests.

As we talked I learned a few things.  Like he was using this trip as a shakedown of the DR350 for another trip.  He wanted to evaluate whether the bike had the guts to do the TransAmerica Trail — a 6000 mile, mostly off-pavement, ride across the country.  Here’s a taste of that ride:

By the time we finished breakfast I was thinking my little rides through the sticks were lacking something.

Motorcycle rider Bruce Leigh at Saint's CafeConversation at Saint’s Cafe

After breakfast we retired to Saint’s Cafe to continue talking.  Considering the long trip still ahead, it was obvious that the BDR left Bruce in a pretty relaxed state.  Or maybe that’s just his default setting. He was gracious in sharing his experiences on the road so far and we reviewed a lot of the route on the Butler map of the Mid-Atlantic BDR.  While the map is nice, Bruce shared that without a GPS device the route would be near impossible to follow.  I added that information to my mental checklist.  So far I had the following:

  1. Buy map
  2. Buy GPS device
  3. Buy dirt bike
  4. Figure out how to convince Kim that 10 days away from home is a good idea

Bruce’s wife is a rider.  During breakfast a text arrived with a photograph of her blue Vespa GT200.  If circumstances allowed, she might be riding the BDR with him.

When Bruce departed he still had a couple hundred miles to go until he reached the end of the trail.  And then the ride back to North Carolina.  I’ve not heard from him but he did say he had to be back at work today.  Perhaps he’ll check in to say he’s safely at home and comfortable that the Suzuki can make the trip on the TransAM trail.

Me — I’m left with more dreams and an un-quiet mind.  I’ll have to go for a ride to clear the head and put the BDR in the right place.  Maybe while I’m out I’ll stop and look at a dirt bike…

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