Off The Road Again
The Clarion Ledger
“Off the Road Again”
Article by Billy Watkins
Think about it: We’ve spent billions, maybe even trillions of dollars building and maintaining roads and bridges across the United States, including both scenic routes and interstates. We’ve cut through mountains, crossed great rivers. Made maps readily available so everyone can find the safest and quickest course to his or her destination. Then along comes a guy like Sam Correro, a mild mannered pharmacist from Madison who says, “Thanks, but that’s too easy. I think I’ll make my own road.” Which is what he has done, plotting an off-road motorcycle course that runs from near Anniston, Ala. to a spot somewhere in North Central Nevada. He plans to continue the course right on over to Coos Bay, Ore. where he hopes to drive his XR 600 Honda bike right into the Pacific Ocean.
It’s adventure and freedom on a motorcycle.
That’s what it all boils down to
It won’t exactly be Columbus bumping into America, but it’ll be about as close as one comes these days. “This has nothing to do with profit or making money,” says Correro, 54. “This is about pure pleasure. It’s just my way of going through rural America, meeting the people, talking with them. It’s adventure and freedom on a motorcycle. That’s what it all boils down to.” Correro didn’t conjure up the idea of a cross-country off-road trail all at once. It evolved. “There aren’t many places to ride off-road,” he says. “And what I mean by off-road is not riding on pavement. Instead you ride on gravel roads, dirt roads, logging roads, dry river beds, railroad grades. The only time you might get on a paved road is when you’re crossing a river or something like that. “So much of the land is privately owned or tied up in hunting clubs. But in the late 1970s the Corps of Engineers donated about three miles of trail up around Sardis. It was OK, but in terms of difficulty it was a very easy ride. “Later, a friend of mine in Alabama allowed us to ride over there. All the people around him said it was OK too, so now we had about 100 square miles to ride on. And that was when it came to me:
I would love to cut a trail from my home in Madison to a mobile home I had parked on my friend’s land in Alabama.
By ‘cutting a trail” he doesn’t mean cutting down trees and fences. He means plotting a course – taking a dirt road here, then a pasture over there, then another dirt road that leads to another pasture or dry creek bed. It involves studying topographical maps to see what natural obstacles are in the area, such as rivers and mountains; scanning country maps for dirt roads; and obtaining permission from private landowners.
On one part of the Trans-Am Trail in Oklahoma,
I actually go through a man’s barn…
…in the front, out the back
He completed the course from Madison to Anniston in the mid-1980s. That is when he dropped the big bombshell on his wife, Dannette: “I think I want to cut a course all the way to the Pacific Ocean,” he said. “That’s nice dear,” Dannette responded. Or something like that. “Honestly, I figured it would give him something to do, planning all this out, studying all the maps,” she says. “But I never dreamed he would actually ride the course out.” She was wrong. Beginning in 1989, Correro began his trek west, cutting through Arkansas, Oklahoma, Colorado, Utah and Nevada. He did it mostly on weekends. “He’d come back tired and dirty,” Dannette says, “but he always came back excited.” Planning was essential. Correro spent hours going over maps, trying to pick the most logical course. “But what’s on the map isn’t always on the ground,” he says. “And what’s on the ground isn’t always on the map. For instance, I found a public dirt road fenced off in Oklahoma. That’s illegal, of course. But the fence ran from county line to country line, which meant I had to go around it. That cost me about a half-day of riding. I had to change my whole route because of that fence. “Landowners have been great. I haven’t been chased away with a shotgun, and not a single person has turned me down.” He has, however, received numerous funny looks. “When I tell them what I’m doing they say ‘Where are you going?’ and I say, ‘I’m not sure.’ Then they say, ‘Well the highway is right back there.’ And I say, ‘But I don’t want to use the highway.’ Then they think I am crazy. But they’ve all been nice. On one part of the course in Oklahoma, I actually go through a man’s barn – in the front, out the back. In another, I go through a man’s yard.”
There are no road signs on Correro’s course, of course, so careful plotting is essential. Correro has it stored on 28 computer disks. Directions in one part of Oklahoma read like this: “Church on left. Go 2.7 miles, then right on main gravel road. 1.1 mil, take right by the pigpen. Go 3.8 miles. Turn left on dirt, three trees on right. 1.5 miles turn right by W.J. Guthrie store…” “It can really get confusing,” Correro says. “A turn left in Leflore County might look a lot like one in Oklahoma. And just for a second, you’ll forget what state you’re in.”
In July, Correro and seven friends rode across the Colorado section of the course, which he has named X-C Monkey Butt because “after riding a motorcycle for six days, your butt is red, just like a monkey’s.” After the snow melts next spring, Correro says he will resume plotting his way toward the Pacific. “I figure I’ll be through sometime in ’96,” he says. “From all the maps I’ve looked at, everything looks good.”
Others have caught the fever. People are putting in branches to my route,” Correro says. “Some friends in Los Angeles are making a loop to meet me in Nevada. There’s another leg being developed into the Grand Canyon.” He has a stack of letters from inquiring minds, including one from a geography professor at Harvard. “But I don’t want things to get too big, involve a lot of people,” he says. “Nobody knows the course but me. And that’s the way I want it. When I promised these landowners that I wouldn’t make a lot of noise, wouldn’t disturb their families, I sort of promised them that wouldn’t be 100 people riding across their yards. “I just want to get the thing completed, reach the Pacific Ocean and just sort of relax for a few minutes.”
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