Last September I set off on a cross country trip that would take me across the Mid West into the foot hills of Kentucky and then into the Appalachian Mountains of Tennessee and North Carolina while ending on the Atlantic Coast in Charleston, South Carolina. The interesting part is this was not the trip that I planned at all and by the third day I had to change my route from the initial plan that I had spent months developing. I’ll get into why I changed my route in a future entry. My original route had me following the Great River Road alongside the Mississippi River to central Illinois and then I would head east towards my extended families home in central Pennsylvania. From here I would jump on the Mid Atlantic Backcountry Discovery Route and head south through Maryland, West Virginia, and Virginia before working my way through North Carolina and then into my new home state of South Carolina.
This ambitious trip would roughly be over 2,000 miles and would take me through 12 states. I had no qualms about the KLR being capable to do this trip, after all these bikes routinely are ridden around the world as well as from Alaska to Argentina. The route that I had spent many hours plotting would be roughly 60 percent paved back country roads and state highways and 40 percent gravel and dirt roads. I figured that I could do the entire trip in 10 to 12 days if I pushed it through the Mid West weather permitting.
To get ready for this trip my KLR needed some work first but nothing really major. First I needed to replace the vacuum operated petcock system with a manual one. This has been an issue on KLR’s for a while and since I was traveling late in the summer in areas with high temperatures and humidity I really didn’t want to risk the vacuum petcock causing issues. I ended up ordering a manual petcock kit from 3D Cycles. These guys are great and helped me get what I needed fairly quick. If you have an old KLR or thumper like a Suzuki DR 650 and need some parts these are the guys to go to.
The last thing the KLR really needed was new tires and a new chain and sprockets. For this I went to my local Kawasaki dealer and worked out a deal with them where I would get free labor as long as I purchased the parts from them which to me was a pretty good deal. For this trip I needed a tire that could take some off road use while being able to knock out a significant amount of pavement. This led me to the Shinko 705’s. The 705’s have always come up as a reliable tire for adventure bikes for the last couple of years. They have been known for their longevity and their performance both on and off road as well as a really good price.
With the KLR mechanically sound and my route planned it was time to load up the bike and wait. By this time my families house hold was completely packed and heading across the country as my wife and I drove both of our cars with our dogs and son to our new home, it would be roughly two weeks before I would fly back to close on our old house and then ride the KLR. For this trip I decided to use my panniers instead of my soft bags mostly since I wasn’t riding anything technical and it allowed me to carry a little bit more. Initially the KLR was loaded pretty well with nothing to crazy. I packed the essentials for camping such as my backpacking tent, sleeping bag, air mattress, and stove. My tool kit and some spare parts also were packed, along with some clothes and personal hygiene stuff. I brought some camera gear since I was planning on documenting the trip and a jersey and chest protector just in case it got so hot that I couldn’t wear my riding jacket. Looking back I probably could of cut back on the amount of clothes that I brought as well as the camera gear since I really didn’t use it. I also think my 1.5 gallon Rotopax was unnecessary since the KLR has a massive fuel tank and a fairly long range and I was never more then 70 miles from a gas station on the trip.
While my family was getting settled in South Carolina I continued to make last minute changes to my route as I played the waiting game for my flight to take me back to Minnesota. Due to Hurricane Dorian I ended up flying out a few days earlier then expected and used that extra time to check and recheck my gear and the bike. This time was also nice because it allowed me to ride my bike around the area to get used to the additional weight as well as to break in the new tires. At this point the anticipation was building and the day of departure couldn’t come soon enough.