Along the Trans-America Trail

Text: Uwe Krauss • Photography: Ramona Eichhorn, Uwe Krauss

When we landed this assignment, I couldn't have told you why taking a trip across America on the "worst" possible roads sounded so appealing. Maybe it's because off-road riding doesn't even exist back home, in densely populated Germany. Or perhaps it's because we've learned on other trips that we more often meet the authentic characters of this world on country lanes and remote dirt roads than we do in hectic cities where so many are preoccupied and too few can spare the time to talk.

That may be the nub of the matter: Time. Which gives us the luxury of really paying attention while we're slowly picking our way toward villages where people still buy their groceries in the general store, and venturing into the woods along neglected trails and abandoned railroad grades that force us to creep along, look around, and stop to savor the moments. This Trans-America Trail trip would certainly take much more time than a coast-to-coast haul on the Interstate. Last but not least, though, as far as most logical inducements go, an off-road journey of 4,741 miles always sounds like a good time waiting to be had for a couple of dual-sport riders like us.

From the Trailhead to the Great Falls Dam
The trail starts in an unspectacular fashion out of a motel parking lot in Jellico, on the Cumberland Plateau in northeastern Tennessee. Nevertheless, we're excited when we leave the town of 2,500 inhabitants behind. But we didn't realize then that Jellico would be the busiest place we'd encounter for days.

After six miles, gravel replaces the asphalt for the first time, and 35 miles further on through the bush, the route hits Highway 27. After not having seen a single car for one and a half hours the appearance of something called traffic is a shock. Happily, the roadbook makes us turn off 27 after little more than a mile.

Wartburg, a small town in these mountains, is also a famous castle in Germany, only 70 miles away from our hometown of Steinach. Martin Luther translated the New Testament into German in Wartburg. So, with those connections in mind, we had to explore what the Tennessee namesake was all about. Referring to sources in the local library, we learn that German settlers founded the town in 1851 and named it Wartburg because the pleasant area reminded them so much of their Old World home.

Outside town, we take the winding Catoosa Road six miles to a bridge. And though the view over the side is a bit scary there, you'll miss discovering a rock-carved pool ideal for a relaxing dip if you don't take a look.

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For the complete touring article, including facts & information, map(s), and GPS files, please purchase the September/October 2007 back issue.