So how do you find a route that'll take you from one side of the United States to the other on off-road tracks? With the help of someone else who's done all of the hard work!
Sam Corerro is a Tennessean dirt biker who wanted to see if he could get across his home state without using paved roads. Having successfully navigated a route across Tennessee using only off-road trails, county roads and forestry tracks, Sam moved onto the neighbouring State of Mississippi. Some ten years later, Sam had mapped out his off-road Trans-America-Trail route or TAT. http://www.transamtrail.com/ that can be navigated by 4x4 as well as dirt bike.
Sam now sells maps and GPS track files for anyone who wants to do the TAT which is updated regularly thanks to feedback from TAT riders who update Sam with gas station closures, locked gates, new fences and any other diversions. It should be said that there is another popular TAT website Kevin's GPS(https://sites.google.com/site/gpskevin/adventurerides) where you can get an alternative version of the TAT route free of charge, together with route maps etc. It's a great resource and the route contains more detailed info than Sam's maps by highlighting recommended restaurants, TAT friendly campsites and repair shops etc, but the adventure bike community have a genuine sense of loyalty to 'one of their own' and feel it's only right that the guy who gave up a good chunk of his life is rewarded for his miles in the saddle.
I bought Sam's package of maps via his website, but backed it up with the Kevin's free version, for no other reason that another option was always useful, and since it didn't cost me anything - why not?! It's worth pointing out that Sam's route still starts in his home town of Tellico in Tennessee whereas Kevin's route starts at the coast in North Carolina making it a true coast-to-coast route. It's easy to combine the two. The MUD Defender was being shipped into Charleston South Carolina so my journey was always going to kick off within spitting distance of the Atlantic. Sam and Kevin's TAT routes both end on the NW Pacific coast in Oregon, but Kevin offers an alternative end point in California that takes in trails around the North Rim of the Grand Canyon that I'm hoping to incorporate into the trip at some point.
Whatever source you get the TAT route from, GPS routes arrive in the shape of GPX files that first download onto a Micro SD card and then plug into your Garmin GPS or SatNav. I was using a Garmin Nuvi SatNav so I downloaded a North American map from Garmin's website onto the same SD card so the TAT routes are conveniently overlaid on the standard Garmin US maps that retain all the usual SatNav features.
Paper maps are supplied with the TAT route highlighted and Sam even includes rally style roll-chart maps offering turn-by-turn tulip diagrams and distance splits. Most people end up relying solely on the convenience of the GPS route but I found the (big) pile of maps divided into 100 mile sections and individual states useful for general pre-trip research and getting the 'the big picture'.
I'm also running an iPad installed with HEMA Explorer mapping of North America. HEMA is a popular off-road navigation tool in Australia that has only recently been launched in the US. The HEMA platform is a great mobile tool as it lets you switch between several map layers on the screen so you can switch between say, a standard road map view of an area, to a more detailed topographic view or a satellite image of where you are with just a touch of the screen. HEMA can also function like a basic SatNav and will let you create your own routes or copy routes other people have shared via the HEMA website. I'm guessing it's only a matter of time before someone makes the TAT route freely available via the HEMA platform. www.hemamaps.com.