Tag Archives: Favorite Rides

Joshua Tree National Park Motorcycle Ride | Favorite Ride

Favorite Ride Joshua Tree National Park Motorcycle Ride
While the majority of visitors to Joshua Tree National Park stick to the pavement, there are several dirt roads that finger into the beautiful desert landscape, perfect for this Joshua Tree National Park motorcycle ride. (Photos by the author and Cheryl Kessel)

“It’s the Joshua tree’s struggle that gives it its beauty,” writes Jeannette Walls in her 2005 memoir The Glass Castle. She further contends that such struggle leads to growth and resilience. We motorcyclists know all about struggle, especially in the depths of winter. We struggle to find ways to assuage our overwhelming desire to ride as snow blankets roads and freezing winds cut like knives. For us, the Joshua tree can also represent escape and relief. 

My wife and I sat in the morning sun in the courtyard of the beautiful Dive Palm Springs, a downtown boutique hotel in the vibrant California desert city (see sidebar below). As we ate croissants and fresh fruit, we discussed our January therapy session: riding our BMW G 650 XCountry through Joshua Tree National Park.

Favorite Ride Joshua Tree National Park Motorcycle Ride

Scan QR code above or click here to view the route on REVER

The ride out of Palm Springs was easy. The city has embraced and preserved its mid-century heritage and charm. Buildings, landscaping, and signage harken back to the city’s heyday as a mecca for L.A.’s rich and famous. We rode alongside expansive golf courses and tennis courts. Once out of the city, we continued east on Interstate 10 through the muted hues of the Mojave Desert. 

Favorite Ride Joshua Tree National Park Motorcycle Ride

Joshua Tree National Park has three entrances, and our route took us to the southernmost entrance near I-10. There was no wait at this lesser-used access, and our National Parks Annual Pass granted us entry.

Our ride north into the park started as a nicely paved roll through the sparse desert landscape on Pinto Basin Road. Mountains rose on the horizon, but no Joshua trees. A full palate of cacti, including chollas and ocotillos, defined our early impressions of the national park. Long sweeping corners and smooth straight stretches marked the climb in elevation. The road became more curvaceous, and the park’s namesake trees started to appear sporadically, foreshadowing what was to come. 

Favorite Ride Joshua Tree National Park Motorcycle Ride
The author’s wife, Cheryl, stands in front of the park’s entry signage.

See all of Rider‘s West U.S. motorcycle rides here.

Pinto Basin Road terminates at Park Boulevard. A right turn would lead us north to Twentynine Palms, the city immortalized in a great Robert Plant song of the same name. Instead, we turned left into the heart of the park and the center of the Joshua tree universe. 

Favorite Ride Joshua Tree National Park Motorcycle Ride
The roads through Joshua Tree offer up starkly beautiful visual backdrops. The rock vistas, desert sand, and unique trees combine for a remarkable riding experience.

Almost immediately, the stands of Joshua trees became denser, the trees larger. Joshua trees are fantastical, whimsical, and majestic all at once. It is as if each one has a personality of its own. Some are simple and understated, but many are over-the-top in their stylized poses. Arms emanate in every direction and at rakish angles that seem almost comical, like attention-seeking adolescents with limbs akimbo and wild haircuts. 

Our first pedestrian foray was at the fantastic erosion-sculpted Skull Rock. My diminutive riding companion could easily fit within one of the cranial cavities in the impressive monolith, one of many sculpture-esque outcroppings of granite in this portion of the park. 

Favorite Ride Joshua Tree National Park Motorcycle Ride
Cheryl stands in front of one of the park’s most recognizable features, Skull Rock. The rock morphs in appearance with the changing shadows throughout the day.

After a few more miles on our northwestern route through the park, we sampled one of the established dirt roads that wind through Joshua trees. Vehicles must stay on approved roads, and there are several dirt roads that offer off-pavement possibilities for dirt-worthy mounts. Our midsized BMW proved perfect for a little sandy exploration. 

See all of Rider‘s California tour stories here.

Back on tarmac, we motored past climbers scaling the vertical walls of beautiful rock formations. We also cut through the part of the park that features the most spectacular Joshua trees, which cast long shadows in the late afternoon light, adding an otherworldly quality to the ride. 

Favorite Ride Joshua Tree National Park Motorcycle Ride

After leaving the park, we rolled back to Palm Springs on Twentynine Palms Highway (State Route 62). We motored west and then south past Desert Hot Springs and beside a different forest – one of towering wind turbines. Back in Palm Springs, we showered off the day’s ride and headed downtown to enjoy the Palm Springs Village Fest, an event hosted every Thursday that features art, food, music, and lots of smiling attendees. 

With our therapy session complete, we felt much better. This ride would be oppressively hot during the summer, but it’s the perfect escape in fall, winter, and spring months. 

See all of Rider‘s touring stories here.

SIDEBAR: Dive Palm Springs

Favorite Ride Joshua Tree National Park Motorcycle Ride
The pool at Dive Palm Springs.

Dive Palm Springs is a quaint and beautiful 11-room boutique hotel on the fringe of downtown Palm Springs. The petite, Euro-inspired property is meticulously maintained, with a restored historic pool as its centerpiece. A welcoming glass of rosé greets new guests, and an individually prepared organic breakfast is delivered to your room or beside the pool each morning. This hidden gem is the perfect place to recline in luxury after a long ride.

Joshua Tree National Park Motorcycle Ride Resources


Tim Kessel Contributor

With 50 years of motorcycling and 30 years of teaching English under his belt, Tim Kessel has melded those two passions into a gig as a motojournalist. Maybe that’s why there is always a permanent, satisfied smile under his full-face helmet.

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Route 66 Motorcycle Ride in Oklahoma | Favorite Ride

Route 66 Motorcycle Ride Oklahoma
The Route 66 Interpretive Center, one of several interesting stops on this Route 66 motorcycle ride, uses audio-visual exhibits to immerse visitors in the history of the Mother Road. The building was built in 1937 and served as an armory until 1971. Photos by the author and Steve Skinner.

U.S. Route 66 was established in 1926 and was billed as the shortest, fastest, and most scenic all-weather route connecting Chicago, St. Louis, and Los Angeles. Dubbed the “Mother Road” by John Steinbeck in his novel The Grapes of Wrath, Route 66 was used in the 1930s by migrants fleeing the Dust Bowl in search of a better life out West. During World War II, it facilitated the movement of troops and equipment. And during the post-war economic boom of the 1950s and 1960s, Route 66 became indelibly linked to the Great American Road Trip.

Route 66 Motorcycle Ride Oklahoma

Scan QR code above or click here to view the route on REVER

My home state of Oklahoma boasts about 400 miles of the historic highway – the most of any of the eight states touched by Route 66. The Mother Road played a central role in my budding love affair with riding. In 1977, at the age of 14, I rode a 100cc 2-stroke Kawasaki along one of the best stretches of Route 66 in the state – the 100 miles between Oklahoma City and Tulsa. The 200-mile round trip was my first long motorcycle journey. It took me all day and cost about $2 in gas, and my long-suffering parents had no idea what I was up to.

See all of Rider‘s Southern U.S. motorcycle rides here.

Forty-six years after that formative adventure, I retraced my route, only this time I allowed time to take in the roadside attractions and small-town charms that make Route 66 such an iconic piece of Americana. Once again, I felt right at home on the Mother Road. 

Not far from my home, I hopped on Route 66 at its junction with Interstate 35 in Edmond. I headed east through wooded terrain and past sprawling Arcadia Lake before stopping at the Arcadia Round Barn. Listed in the National Register of Historic Places, it was built in 1898 by a local farmer who thought its round design would make it tornado-proof. Science may not support that belief, but the Round Barn has survived in the middle of Tornado Alley for 126 years. It’s now a museum, gift shop, and live music venue.

Route 66 Motorcycle Ride Oklahoma
The Arcadia Round Barn, built in 1898, was designed to be tornado-proof and still stands in the heart of Tornado Alley.

Continuing east, the countryside along this stretch is a mix of woods, farmland, and grazing pasture. Although not the transcontinental artery it once was, Route 66 remains important to the communities it passes through. The tarmac is mostly in great shape, and the occasional sweeping turns are enough to get you off the center of your tires.

In Wellston, I stopped at The Butcher BBQ Stand, one of the best barbecue restaurants around. The award-winning flavors were developed during eight years on the competitive barbecue circuit, including more than 400 1st-place finishes. One of my riding buddies calls this barbecue “meat candy,” and he’s not wrong. Thirty minutes before The Butcher opened, the line was already out the door.

Route 66 Motorcycle Ride Oklahoma
The Butcher BBQ Stand offers award-winning smoked meats on Route 66 near Wellston.

Just a few miles down the road in Warwick is the Seaba Station Motorcycle Museum, which was originally a Route 66 service station named after the proprietor back in the 1920s. The building was purchased in 2007 by Jerry Reis, and he opened the museum in 2010. It’s not only a great place to see a bunch of classic motorcycles, but it also has great Route 66 swag.

Route 66 Motorcycle Ride Oklahoma
Seaba Station in Warwick has an impressive collection of vintage bikes and memorabilia as well as a great gift shop for some Mother Road swag.

I next headed east-northeast toward the town of Chandler, where roadside attractions include the Route 66 Interpretive Center and Route 66 Bowl, a bowling alley with dozens of authentic vintage oil company signs lining the parking lot.

Route 66 Motorcycle Ride Oklahoma
Route 66 Bowl in Chandler with its collection of authentic oil company signs is one of the many Mother Road landmarks to visit on this ride.

Another 14 miles up the road, we stopped for lunch in Stroud at the Rock Cafe, another Route 66 institution. Opened in 1939, it’s named after the local sandstone used in its construction, and over the years it has been a trusted stop for long-haul truckers, a high school watering hole, and even a makeshift Greyhound bus station for soldiers shipping out during World War II. Pixar executives made stops at the cafe when developing the hit movie Cars and based the character “Sally Carrera” on proprietor Dawn Welch. The burger I had there was outstanding – and it was cooked on “Betsy,” the original 1939 grill.

Route 66 Motorcycle Ride Oklahoma
The iconic Rock Cafe in Stroud gets its name from the sandstone used for its construction in 1939. The delicious food served up there is still cooked on the restaurant’s original 85-year-old grill, “Betsy.”

The final stop on my Mother Road reunion tour was Buck Atom’s Cosmic Curios on Route 66 in Tulsa to see “Muffler Man” Buck Atom, Space Cowboy. Few authentic Muffler Men – giant statues used by businesses for eye-catching advertising – remain. Buck Atom was created using a mold from a salvaged 1960s Muffler Man cowboy. Christened in 2019, Buck is 20 feet tall, and he now holds a silver rocket instead of a muffler. He stands guard over a gift shop at the site of an old Route 66 gas station in the heart of Tulsa. The new, old-time Muffler Man fits right in on the Mother Road.

Route 66 Motorcycle Ride Oklahoma
A reimagined Muffler Man stands tall at Buck Atom’s Cosmic Curios in Tulsa.

Headed back to my home in Oklahoma City with daylight fading fast, I hopped on the interstate to make time – the very interstate that marked the end of Route 66’s prominence in Oklahoma, bypassing many of the communities stitched together by the Mother Road. True, the ride home was faster, but it was far less interesting. Just like during my first highway riding adventure back in 1977, I’m more at home on the Mother Road. 

See all of Rider‘s touring stories here.

Route 66 Motorcycle Ride Resources


Tim DeGiusti Headshot

Tim DeGiusti lives and works in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. Tim returned to motorcycling in 2012 after a long break, and since has ridden throughout Oklahoma and 38 other states (and counting).

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Skyline Parkway Scenic Byway in Duluth, Minnesota | Favorite Ride

Favorite Ride Duluth Minnesota Motorcycle Ride Seven Bridges Road
Originally built more than a century ago, Seven Bridges Road parallels and crosses Amity Creek, which cascades down a series of waterfalls for 400 vertical feet. This road was a highlight of this Minnesota motorcycle ride.

A couple summers ago, I flew to Minneapolis for a CFMOTO press launch and to visit our parent company’s home office. When CFMOTO gave me the key to a 650 ADVentura and let me loose for a day, I made a beeline north to Duluth to pay a visit to my friend Andy Goldfine and tour the Aerostich factory and store.

Related: 2022 CFMOTO Motorcycle Lineup | First Ride Review

Favorite Ride Duluth Minnesota Motorcycle Ride REVER Map

Scan QR code above or click here to view the route on REVER

It was a hot, muggy morning when I left the hotel in a northern suburb of Minneapolis and made my way to Interstate 35. The 160-mile ride to Duluth took a little over two hours, and along the way, being in the Land of 10,000 Lakes, I passed countless billboards for fishing boats, fishing lakes, fish camps, and marinas. I also caught the edges of two rainstorms, which cooled me off in my mesh jacket and riding jeans. But as I-35 descended a steep hill toward downtown Duluth, the temperature dropped into the mid‑50s due to the cooling effect of Lake Superior. By the time I pulled into Aerostich’s parking lot, my teeth were chattering.

Favorite Ride Duluth Minnesota Motorcycle Ride Skyline Parkway
Skyline Parkway provides unparalleled views of downtown Duluth and Lake Superior.

Andy Goldfine has visited the Rider offices several times over the years, but I’d never been to the Aerostich factory before, so to get a personal tour by none other than Mr. Subjective himself was a real honor. After seeing the factory, Andy gave me the nickel tour of Duluth, and we had lunch at a cozy Italian eatery called Va Bene, where I warmed up with meatball soup and coffee.

Related: Aerostich: The Great American Motorcycle Suit

Before we parted, Andy took pity on me for being cold and gave me an Aerostich waterproof/windproof innershell to wear under my mesh jacket. He also suggested I check out Skyline Parkway, a scenic byway that runs several hundred feet above downtown Duluth and provides excellent views of the city and Lake Superior.

Favorite Ride Duluth Minnesota Motorcycle Ride Seven Bridges Road
The series of stone arch bridges along Seven Bridges Road are a delight to behold.

I rode north along the lakeshore to Lester Park, where the Parkway begins on Occidental Boulevard as it goes due north along Amity Creek, ascending 400 feet as it follows and crosses a long cascade of waterfalls. In less than half a mile, the road crosses the creek, and its name becomes Seven Bridges Road. (The Steve Young song “Seven Bridges Road,” which was later covered by the Eagles and Dolly Parton, is about a street in Montgomery, Alabama.) Incidentally, the first bridge on Seven Bridges Road isn’t one of the eponymous seven; it’s designated “Bridge 0.”

Favorite Ride Duluth Minnesota Motorcycle Ride Seven Bridges Road
Originally built more than a century ago, Seven Bridges Road parallels and crosses Amity Creek, which cascades down a series of waterfalls for 400 vertical feet.

Construction of Skyline Parkway began in 1889 along a plateau that was once the gravel shoreline of an ancient glacial lake that predates Lake Superior. Ten years later, a local land developer named Samuel F. Snively began construction of Seven Bridges Road. The original bridges were built in the early 1900s, but nearly all have been rebuilt in the past few decades, and each of the stone arch bridges is a work of civil engineering art.

Favorite Ride Duluth Minnesota Motorcycle Ride Hawk Ridge Nature Reserve
The northern part of Skyline Parkway is a gravel road that passes through the Hawk Ridge Nature Reserve. The wooden platform behind the sign is a bird observatory.

At the end of Seven Bridges Road, the Parkway takes a sharp left and turns to gravel as it enters the Hawk Ridge Nature Reserve. Several hiking trails branch off from the road, and the Hawk Ridge Bird Observatory is a popular place to watch raptor migrations.

See all of Rider‘s Midwest U.S. motorcycle rides here.

The Parkway turns to pavement again as it meanders through a residential area. Riders must stay vigilant for the Parkway signs since several turns are required to stay on course. After crossing Chester Creek, the Parkway continues to wind through neighborhoods. Soon the houses on the lakeside of the road disappear, and riders are treated to expansive views of Lake Superior, downtown Duluth, and just across Saint Louis Bay, the neighboring city of Superior, Wisconsin.

Favorite Ride Duluth Minnesota Motorcycle Ride Hawk Ridge Nature Reserve
The Hawk Ridge Nature Reserve is a wooded area crisscrossed with trails.

After passing Twin Ponds, Skyline Parkway runs along the edge of a golf course, goes over U.S. Route 53, and crosses several creeks before passing through wooded parkland. The scenery and views are pleasant the entire way. I jumped off the Parkway when it crossed
I-35 to get back to Minneapolis, but it continues on the south side of the freeway, winding through the Magney‑Snively Natural Area before ending at Becks Road.

Favorite Ride Duluth Minnesota Motorcycle Ride Duluth
Overlooking downtown Duluth, the harbor, and – in the distance – Superior, Wisconsin.

If you plan to visit the Aerostich factory or will pass through Duluth during a Lake Superior Circle Tour or other Minnesota motorcycle ride, I highly recommend adding Skyline Parkway to your itinerary. Due to the icy winters in Duluth, parts of the Skyline Parkway are closed seasonally, so plan accordingly.

Duluth, Minnesota Resources

See all of Rider‘s Touring stories here.

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Source: RiderMagazine.com

A Scenic Casa Grande, Arizona Motorcycle Ride

Casa Grande Arizona Motorcycle Ride
Nothing says “Arizona” like tall saguaros. These thorny towers are in the Sonoran Desert National Monument.

Arizona is known for its five Cs – copper, cattle, cotton, citrus, and climate – all of which are represented on the state’s great seal. I experienced three of them in abundance on this scenic southern Arizona loop, rolling past harvest-ready cotton fields and large dairy farms and enjoying spectacular weather. Two more Cs – cactus and cars – were also highlights of this entertaining ride. 

Casa Grande Arizona Motorcycle Ride

Scan QR code above or click here to view the route on REVER

Before you get the wrong impression from the title, I did not get locked up on this trip. “Big house” is the English translation of the Spanish “Casa Grande,” the starting and ending point of this loop ride. My trip began with a walk around the city’s downtown, which includes a tidy and interesting neon sign park, a nicely curated museum, a city park, and an impressive city square. Every January, the annual Historic Downtown Street Fair/Car and Bike Show draws upwards of 40,000 visitors to Casa Grande.

Casa Grande Arizona Motorcycle Ride
A roadside display in Casa Grande highlights some of the state’s foundational Cs.

After the stroll, I mounted my BMW R 1200 GS for the short ride to the Francisco Grande Hotel and Golf Resort. Tall palm trees stood sentinel as I rolled onto the resort’s beautiful property, which was established in the early 1960s as the spring training home of the San Francisco Giants. It was also a favorite haunt of John Wayne. After settling into my room and enjoying the incredible view, I had a delectable burger in the Duke’s Lounge and admired photos of Wayne, Willie Mays, Pat Boone, and other legendary visitors. 

See all of Rider‘s West U.S. Motorcycle Rides here.

After a great night’s sleep, I mounted my GS and rode west through cotton fields and dairy farms to my first stop, the Dwarf Car Museum. The unassuming cluster of buildings belies the treasures displayed within. I paid my $5 entry fee and walked inside. At first glance, I could have been in any cool classic car museum, but as I got closer, the cars seemed to shrink. 

Casa Grande Arizona Motorcycle Ride
The stunning and diminutive creations in the Dwarf Car Museum sit waist-high to the 6-foot-3 author. In addition to small cars, the museum also has an interesting collection of automotive memorabilia.

After scanning the whimsical, barn-like interior of the museum, I spotted a gentleman warming himself by a fire in the perfect man cave. Ernie Adams, the master builder of this eclectic and fascinating collection of diminutive classics, invited me to have a seat, and we had a nice chat about his life and his cars. Adams built his first dwarf car in the early ’60s, and they are about 11/16th scale. He bases every creation on a wheel size of 12 inches and miniaturizes everything else to that scale. Adams does not do much of the work anymore, but his son, daughter-in-law, and a friend carry on the tradition. He even has a tidy collection of vintage enduro bikes in a backroom.  

Casa Grande Arizona Motorcycle Ride
What gearhead doesn’t have a soft spot for vintage Japanese dirtbikes?

Back on the GS, it was time to head to another C: the cactus-rich majesty of the Sonoran Desert National Monument, one of the most biologically diverse deserts in North America. Saguaros tower over the sand, each striking their own unique pose. With the rugged South Maricopa Mountains serving as the perfect backdrop, I explored a few established dirt roads off State Route 84.

On Interstate 8, I opened the throttle and made my westward ride through more of this desert grandeur. Interstates have never been my choice of roads, but this stretch of I-8 is as beautiful as they come. Various cactus varieties dot the rolling hills in the foreground, and distant mountain ranges create texture in the background.

Casa Grande Arizona Motorcycle Ride
The Casa Grande Neon Sign Park in the city’s downtown area preserves vintage neon signs from historic local establishments.

The ride west was relaxed and beautiful on the way to the final landmark on my list: the Space Age Lodge in Gila Bend. I have always been a fan of the rock band Rush, especially Neil Peart, who was arguably one of the greatest drummers in rock ‘n’ roll history. After tragically losing both his daughter and wife within a span of months, Peart rode his BMW GS more than 55,000 miles through North America, Mexico, and Belize, which he chronicled in his memoir, Ghost Rider: Travels on the Healing Road. One stop on Peart’s journey was the quirky, seemingly out-of-place Space Age Lodge, and I had to see it. 

Casa Grande Arizona Motorcycle Ride
The music-loving author had to make a stop in Gila Bend to check out the Space Age Lodge, which was mentioned in Ghost Rider, Rush drummer Neil Peart’s amazing moto-centric memoir.

As I rolled out of town, one last incongruity caught my eye. Twin fighter jets crouched in front of a tiny airport on the outskirts of town. The pair of RF-101 Voodoos flew reconnaissance missions in Vietnam and now have a permanent home in Gila Bend. 

It was time to head back to Casa Grande. Besides I-8, the other road that crosses the Sonoran Desert National Monument is State Route 238. This more northern road doesn’t have the towering saguaros of the interstate, but it is a relaxed desert ride with much less traffic.

Casa Grande Arizona Motorcycle Ride
The Museum of Casa Grande is housed in a beautiful Southwestern mission-style stone building. More than 40 buildings in the city are listed on historic registers.

This southern Arizona loop is best navigated from fall to early spring, as the desert temperatures are toasty in the summer. What it lacks in curves, it makes up for with a full plate of other entertaining Cs.

Casa Grande, Arizona Motorcycle Ride Resources

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A Scenic (and History-Laden) Southern Utah and Arizona Loop | Favorite Ride

Southern Utah Arizona motorcycle loop Zion National Park BMW R 1600 GTL Grand America
There are several hairpins just west of the 1.1‑­mile Zion‑­Mt. Carmel Tunnel, which separates distinctly different parts of Zion National Park in southern Utah.

Living at 6,000 feet in Cedar City, Utah, most of my winter riding involves heading south, which offers a quick drop in elevation and less chance of the falling white stuff. So that’s what I did a week before Christmas, giving myself a gift of a one‑­day ride through some southern Utah and Arizona history.

See all of Rider‘s West U.S. Motorcycle Rides here.

The day promised unseasonably warm temperatures…eventually. Just after the sun peeked over the mountains, the ambient temperature was in the upper 20s, but doing 80 mph on the interstate meant I was closer to single digits. Thankfully, the BMW R 1600 GTL Grand America I was riding offers great wind protection, and with my California Heat heated apparel (see California Heat gear review here), I didn’t need to use the bike’s seat or grip warmers.

Utah is one of the few states where even interstate riding offers great views. Descending the Black Ridge south of Cedar City, the mountain terrain changes from gray and sage green and reveals distant red rock mesas. Exiting Interstate 15, I took State Route 17 to Hurricane and connected with State Route 59.

After a quick climb out of Hurricane, SR‑­59 flattens out and heads south. Just a few miles outside of town, jagged peaks painted in rust, deeper reds, and oranges rise in the distance. Much of this area is managed by the Bureau of Land Management, and numerous dirt roads meander from the highway.

Southern Utah Arizona motorcycle loop Zion National Park BMW R 1600 GTL Grand America
If you keep your eyes open on the east side of Zion National Park, you’re likely to see a mountain goat…and much less tourist traffic. Plus, the curvy road is open to motorcycles all year.

Within an hour, the temperature had risen nearly 20 degrees as I rolled into the small twin cities of Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City, Arizona, an area locally known as Short Creek. Much has already been written about this area that is both the last U.S. stronghold of the FLDS church (read: polygamists) and the non‑­FLDS members struggling against that stigma, so I’ll just say they have a beautiful place to live.

Southern Utah Arizona motorcycle loop REVER map

Scan QR code above or click here to view the route on REVER

Continuing on, the road isn’t especially exciting, but the scenery remains impressive. Crossing into the Kaibab Indian Reservation, the road heads east, paralleling red cliffs to the north. To the south, on a clear day, you can see as far as 60 miles into the Arizona Strip – a wedge of that state between the north side of the Grand Canyon and the Utah border – without any signs of humanity. The desolation makes it easy to imagine life a couple centuries ago. However, not far onto the reservation is a sign for Pipe Spring National Monument, an oasis in the desert where Mormon pioneers erected a fort in 1872 for protection against some of the very people whose land they had settled on. Located a half mile off the highway, the museum and fort are worth a visit.

Southern Utah Arizona motorcycle loop Pipe Spring National Monument
The fort at Pipe Spring National Monument was built as both a ranch house and protection for settlers during the Black Hawk War. It later served as a refuge for polygamist wives.

Farther east, I picked up U.S. Route 89 in Fredonia, and 7 miles later, I rode into Kanab, Utah, known as “Little Hollywood” for its filmmaking history, particularly old Westerns. My family likes to come here in February for the annual Balloons & Tunes Roundup hot air balloon festival. The historic Parry Lodge is a fun place to stay, and there’s a good mix of dining options.

Outside of town, the road cuts into the red rock, climbing and then dropping again into Mt. Carmel Junction, with the landscape colors changing from red to white to yellow. 

Southern Utah Arizona motorcycle loop Kanab Utah BMW R 1600 GTL Grand America
The only thing missing from this photo taken in Kanab, Utah, (aka “Little Hollywood”) is a locomotive.

Taking State Route 9, this diversity of landscape continues with almost every twist and turn, both in tones and textures, leading to the east entrance of Zion National Park. For most of the year, you can only get up the road into Zion’s main canyon via shuttle, but as spectacular as the towering cliffs in the main canyon are, I much prefer riding on the east side, which is always open. It’s like an alien landscape, and with the slower speeds, you get to enjoy both the views and the numerous curves.

Southern Utah Arizona motorcycle loop Zion National Park BMW R 1600 GTL Grand America
The Zion Canyon Scenic Drive is closed to personal vehicles most of the year.

On the west side of Zion is Springdale, a typical national park gateway community with lots of lodging and dining options (depending on the season), as well as art galleries and novelty shops. Just a few miles past Springdale is Rockville, where you can detour on Bridge Road to cross over the Virgin River on the last surviving Parker‑­through‑­truss bridge in Utah. Continuing 3.5 miles on this road, which turns to dirt about halfway, takes you to Grafton Ghost Town, where parts of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid were filmed.

Southern Utah Arizona motorcycle loop Rockville Bridge
The Rockville Bridge is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Built in 1924, it enabled the first direct link from the Grand Canyon North Rim to Zion National Park.

Staying on SR‑­9, it’s about 16 miles from Rockville to close the loop at SR‑­17 in La Verkin, where I made my way north and back home. Like the places I’ve ridden through, this Favorite Ride is now in the history books.

Southern Utah and Arizona Loop Resources

See all of Rider‘s Touring stories here.

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Source: RiderMagazine.com

Small Town Tennessee Motorcycle Loop | Favorite Ride

Small Town Tennessee Motorcycle Loop Honda Rebel 1100T DCT Trace through Land Between the Lakes
The Trace through Land Between the Lakes offers scenic picnic areas for a mid-ride break.

These days, I’ve become so enthralled by all the great motorcycle roads around the world and on my bucket list that I forget about the ones close to home. For this ride, I retraced steps from my early riding days with a 140‑­mile Tennessee motorcycle loop around my hometown of Dover, which is located on the Cumberland River about 30 miles west of Clarksville and, as the crow flies, a little over 60 miles northwest of Nashville.

Small Town Tennessee Motorcycle Loop

Scan QR code above or click here to view the route on REVER

I was joined by my husband, Jake, on his Can‑­Am Ryker Rally, and I was aboard a Honda Rebel 1100T DCT test bike.

Related:

We started out at the Dyers Creek boat ramp, just across the river from downtown Dover. Then we rode across U.S. Route 79 and onto Bumpus Mills Road. This road has some of the best curves of the loop – the perfect way to get our blood pumping at the beginning of the ride.

When we got to the end of the road at the junction with State Route 120, we turned north and stopped at the family‑­owned Bumpus Meals Diner. We had hoped to pop in for a bite of their handmade desserts and a cup of coffee, but the diner was closed that day as the family and staff were enjoying the Thanksgiving weekend.

Small Town Tennessee Motorcycle Loop Can-Am Ryker
My husband, Jake, and I revisited many of the roads we explored as high schoolers with fresh driving licenses.

Oh well, onwards we went. The next stretch of the ride took us into Kentucky on State Route 139. It can be tempting to pick up the speed on this road, but we knew we couldn’t get too carried away. Much of this land is farmed by Amish communities, and you never know when you’ll run up behind a horse‑­drawn buggy just over the next hill.

An optional spur is to take a right on State Route 164 and visit the Oak Ridge Country Store. We love their homemade cheeses, deli sandwiches, and local canned and pickled foods. There are other stops along the road where you can purchase smoked meats, honey, fresh produce, and other goods.

We continued our Tennessee motorcycle loop north until we came to U.S. Route 68, where we turned west for 15 miles and rode over the Cumberland River and into Land Between the Lakes National Recreation Area. We turned south at the Woodlands Trace National Scenic Byway, also known as The Trace (not to be confused with the Natchez Trace Parkway, which runs between Nashville and Natchez, Mississippi).

Small Town Tennessee Motorcycle Loop Honda Rebel 1100T DCT
State Route 232 has nice sweepers and little traffic, allowing us to ride at our own pace without having to worry much about other drivers.

The Trace is a beautiful road that runs right through the center of LBL. Along the way are the Golden Pond Visitors Center and Planetarium, picnic areas, a bison range, campgrounds, the Turkey Bay OHV Area, and the Homeplace 1850s Working Farm and Living History Museum.

We continued through LBL and back toward Dover. At the end of The Trace, we turned west on U.S. Route 79 and popped in at Brien Dill’s Piggly Wiggly. I worked at this grocery store throughout high school and college and still enjoy stopping by to visit with past coworkers and the owner, Brien, who rides a BMW R 1250 GS Adventure and loves chatting about motorcycles.

Small Town Tennessee Motorcycle Loop
My first employer, Brien Dill, always has a smile and loves chatting about bikes.

Down the highway about 6 miles, we turned south onto State Route 232, also known as the “Baby Dragon.” Unlike the famous 11‑­mile road in East Tennessee with a similar name, the Baby Dragon doesn’t have tight, technical curves, but it has plenty of long sweepers with good visibility. By the time we got to the end of the Baby Dragon, we were getting hungry, so we stopped at Southernaire Motel & Restaurant for a meatloaf plate with turnip greens and black‑­eyed peas.

Small Town Tennessee Motorcycle Loop Honda Rebel 1100T DCT Baby Dragon
Cruising down the “Baby Dragon.”

After a tasty lunch, we continued east through the towns of Stewart, Tennessee Ridge, and Erin until we got to Cumberland City, where candy‑­striped steam stacks from the TVA power plant stretch up into the sky. We rode down to the ferry, paid 75 cents (tickets are $1 for out‑­of‑­state motorcycles), and hopped over the river.

Small Town Tennessee Motorcycle Loop
Southernaire has an extensive menu, but you can’t go wrong with the meatloaf plate.

The last leg of this route goes through Indian Mound, the part of Stewart County where I grew up. Maybe I’m biased, but this is my favorite portion of this favorite ride. The roads through the Mound rise up over ridges and snake down along creeks and past fields of cattle. The last road is Old Highway 79, the curviest road of the loop.

Small Town Tennessee Motorcycle Loop Can-Am Ryker
The TVA power plant employs many local residents, including my dad, and the ferry just south of the plant offers a quick jump across the river.

At the end of Old Highway 79, you’ll find yourself back on U.S. Route 79 and just a stone’s throw away from the boat ramp where we began this route. Revisiting these roads and stops that have always been a part of my life gave me a renewed appreciation for my community and town. Sure, there are places in the world with more dramatic views and more exciting roads, but at the end of the day, these are the roads I’ll always come back to.

Tennessee Motorcycle Loop Resources

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Sonoma Motorcycle Rides, On My Own and With Family | Favorite Ride

Sonoma Motorcycle Rides Lake Berryessa
Lake Hennessy and Lake Berryessa highlight the northern arc of this spectacular loop ride through Sonoma’s hill and wine country.

This is a tale of two amazing rides. One threads its way through some of Northern California’s beautiful wine, lake, and hill country. The other winds its way through my very being to the center of my heart. 

Recently, my wife and I traveled to California’s Sonoma wine country to attend a ceremony in which our son‑­in‑­law, Lt. Col. Joffre Lander, assumed command of a squadron at Travis Air Force Base. Since I don’t like to be far from a motorcycle when traveling, I took my BMW G 650 X‑­Country along for the trip. 

Sonoma Motorcycle Rides backroads
Sonoma’s backroads trace beautiful paths through rolling hills.

A Wine Country Loop

During a lull in the military and familial activities, I snuck the BMW out for a loop ride through the golden hills and grapevine‑­lined terrain in the Sonoma region. I rolled out of Vacaville on Interstate 80 to reach the sweeping corners of narrow, scenic Wooden Valley Road, which is lined by trees and passes through rolling grasslands and vineyards. 

The turn onto State Route 121 provided even more varied terrain as rock outcroppings added texture to the ride. Various wineries staked their claims with stone archways and beckoning signage. As SR-121 morphed into State Route 12 on my approach to the town of Sonoma, the density of wineries increased.

Scan QR code above or click here to view the route on REVER

When I threw down my kickstand at Sonoma Plaza, I had no idea of the historical significance of the town of just over 10,000 souls. Across the street from the beautiful centerpiece park rests the Sonoma State Historic Park, which is a cluster of historic sites. It’s an open and easy stroll through locations like the Mission San Francisco Solano, Sonoma Barracks, Toscano Hotel & Kitchen, and other fascinating buildings. 

After walking back to the vibrant green shade of the 8‑­acre Sonoma Plaza, I stood in the shadow of the impressive Bear Flag Monument, which commemorates the spot where the Bear Flag Party raised the Bear Flag and declared California free from Mexican rule in 1846. After a walk around Sonoma City Hall in the center of the plaza, I continued my clockwise loop ride. 

Sonoma Motorcycle Rides Bear Flag Monument
The Bear Flag Monument honors a significant moment in California history.

See all of Rider‘s California U.S. tour stories here.

SR‑­12 led me to Trinity Road and other narrow, winding byways that are thoroughly entertaining, curvaceous rolls beneath trees, beside cliffs, and over hills, often with panoramic views. 

After passing through Oakville and Rutherford, I headed farther east on State Route 128. This stretch was arguably the most beautiful part of an already spectacular ride. I rolled past Lake Hennessy, Lake Berryessa, and several family wineries. Finally, I headed south back to Vacaville and to my daughter’s home. Would this be the end of my tale? Hardly.

Sonoma Motorcycle Rides Sonoma City Hall
Sonoma City Hall is the centerpiece of Sonoma Plaza.

A First Long Ride

In 2011, I welcomed my first granddaughter into this world. I vividly remember the overwhelming love I felt when I held little Skya for the first time. The tiny black‑­haired treasure in my arms was so perfect and so lovely that I was instantly and indelibly smitten. 

Over the dozen years since she was born, I have taken Skya on many short motorcycle rides around the yard or the block with her planted securely in front of me on the saddle. She has grown from a fragile cherub to a vibrant, smart, lovely pre‑­teen, and motorcycle rides have been a vital part of our deep and loving connection. 

Sonoma Motorcycle Rides
The author’s granddaughter captured his heart from the first moment he held her.

On this occasion, Skya was waiting when I rolled into my daughter’s garage. As we sat and talked, it became clear she was ready for her first longer motorcycle ride. Parental permission was secured, and I fitted Skya in my wife’s riding gear. We discussed what it takes to be a safe and secure passenger on the back of a motorcycle.

With a wave to her mother and grandmother, Skya and I headed north for a loop ride. Almost instantly, she found the groove and became a settled “sack of potatoes” on the back of the BMW. The repeated portion of my earlier route took on a new significance as I could feel the wonder Skya was experiencing. She would occasionally tap me to point things out, and as we flipped up our faceshields to talk, I could see the joy in her green eyes. 

Sonoma Motorcycle Rides
Full-face helmets can’t hide the joy on those two faces. A “favorite ride” indeed!

We stopped often to decide on routes, take in views, and just chat. At one stop, I pointed out the smooth, pale hills on the horizon. I mentioned that they reminded me of Hills Like White Elephants, a short story by Ernest Hemingway, and I recommended that she read it someday. Back on the motorcycle, Skya chose the routes, including a long road to a dead end that gave us both a laugh. 

I have ridden thousands of miles in my lifetime, and the miles that Skya and I shared that day are some of the most significant. We agreed that when she gets a few more years under her belt, we will reconvene for an extended ride. We can’t wait.

Sonoma Motorcycle Rides
The nimble BMW G 650 X-Country was the perfect mount for the curvy sections of the route.

See all of Rider‘s touring stories here.

Sonoma Motorcycle Rides Resources

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Rolling to the January Jam in Rocky Point, Mexico | Favorite Ride

January Jam Rocky Point Mexico
The U.S./Mexico border is a place of transitional beauty, with various types of international boundary barriers inter-secting the stunning Southwestern landscape. The January Jam was a great excuse to experience it.

January can be a cruel month for motorcyclists. Even in sunny southern climates, chilly temperatures can make extended rides an exercise in discomfort. That’s why I make an annual winter sojourn south to the land of tequila and tacos for some riding and music at the January Jam in Puerto Peñasco – or Rocky Point – Mexico.

After topping off my tank at the lone American border gas station in Lukeville, Arizona, pleasant ambient temperatures mixed comfortably with radiating heat from the cylinders of my BMW GS as I idled in the slow parade at the border crossing. Rumble strips, remote cameras, armed agents, and concrete barriers marked the intimidating border security protocol.

January Jam Rocky Point Mexico

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My anxiety was tempered by the knowledge that I had my ducks in a row. I had purchased my three-day Mexican motorcycle insurance, and I had my passport, registration, and license handy. The camouflaged border agent motioned for me to lift my tinted faceshield and then waved me through. Just like that, I was in hustling, bustling Sonoyta. Men rushed at cars with squeegees, women held up packages of tortillas for sale, and traffic was frenetic. 

I knew what to do in this dusty border town. I kept my head on a swivel and rode below the posted speed limit. Local police cluster by the border and on the southern fringe of town with eagle eyes for tourists who drive like they are still in the U.S. It is not a cheap ticket if you get stopped.

January Jam Rocky Point Mexico
Puerto Peñasco is full of small motorcycles and big murals.

Sonoyta has the colorful, informal vibe of most Mexican towns, but I kept riding south. While the temperature back home in Arizona was hovering in the 40s, I smiled as the reading on my dash indicated 72. Yep, just what the doctor ordered.

Related: Baja Enlightenment: Riding Mexico’s Lower California Peninsula

On Highway 8 toward Puerto Peñasco, I passed dozens of descansos (“resting places” in Spanish), memorials that are intriguing, sobering, and often quite beautiful. They range from miniature concrete shrines to thematic collages. One honored a Dallas Cowboys fan.

January Jam Rocky Point Mexico
Creative descansos line the route to Puerto Peñasco.

I also passed a sign that read “Hassle Free Vehicle Zone.” Uninformed tourists often mistake these signs to mean relaxed traffic and speed rules. Not true, my friends. They just mean fewer paperwork regulations for tourist travel.  

The road from the border to Puerto Peñasco is straight and barren, but there is something to be said for an open-throttle roll through the warm desert in the dead of winter.

January Jam Rocky Point Mexico BMW GS
My BMW GS is perfect for exploring the thriving desert environment.

At the end of this 70-mile stretch, I came upon a group of Mexican sportbikers who were chatting along the dusty roadside. The half dozen crotch-rocketeers waved and saluted as I approached. They were more than happy to pose for a photo for a lone gringo moto-tourist before pulling a group U-turn and roaring back toward the coast. 

Just as Puerto Peñasco/Rocky Point goes by both Mexican and English names, it has two distinct personalities. There is the old town itself, teeming with street vendors, rusted vehicles, and colorful buildings, exuding the character of a traditional fishing village. Street taco stands waft aromatic clouds, and small motorcycles mounted with massive transport containers serve as delivery vehicles. 

January Jam Rocky Point Mexico
A group of Mexican sportbike riders pose for the gringo tourist.

Then there is the new, mostly American-owned resort community in Sandy Beach north of town. Upscale resorts line the blue waters of the Sea of Cortez. What Sandy Beach lacks in traditional character, it replaces with comfort and safety for international tourists. 

January Jam Rocky Point Mexico Sonoran Sea Resort
The Sonoran Sea is one of the beautiful resorts on Sandy Beach.

Both locations served as staging points for my weekend’s activities during the January Jam, which is the brainchild of Roger Clyne, the charismatic front man for Roger Clyne and the Peacemakers. Clyne is an entertainer with a voluminous catalog of great songs and an enthusiastic following in the Southwest and beyond. 

For the jam, Clyne assembles a lineup of accomplished musicians and invites fans to congregate in Puerto Peñasco for three days of music, golf, and general reverie. Music fills the sea air, and tequila flows, especially Clyne’s own premium spirit, Canción, fittingly named after the Spanish word for “song.” 

January Jam Rocky Point Mexico
Fantastic musical acts fill the nights during the lively January Jam festival.

There are daily and nightly concerts at Clyne’s watering hole, Banditos, as well as performances at other venues in Sandy Beach and Rocky Point. We enjoyed the familiar tunes of Clyne’s band as well as David Lowery of Cracker, the Mexican-influenced sounds of The Jons from Tucson, and the lively rock blend of Miles Neilson and the Rusted Heart.

After a weekend of sampling traditional Mexican food, listening to great music, and riding to nearby fishing villages, the time came to head back north. It was over too soon.

January Jam Favorite Ride Resources

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A New Jersey Backroads Motorcycle Ride in Fall | Favorite Ride

New Jersey backroads motorcycle ride Pequannock Watershed
Rumbling through a kaleidoscope of woodland colors, a rider and his passenger on a New Jersey backroads motorcycle ride enjoy the curves of Clinton Road as it ambles through the Pequannock Watershed.

When the leaves tremble with their last days of color and the north winds begin to blow, I want to seize the day and take a ride before the snowflakes fly. I like to experience a variety of roads and sights all within the limited daylight of late fall. Northern New Jersey has great roads that ramble through state forests, around reservoirs and farms, and into small towns, making for a superb day ride.

I had plotted a route for this trip, but soon after my ride began, I saw a road sign that warned: APPLE SEASON HEAVY TRAFFIC. The last thing I wanted was to be stuck in the middle of a traffic jam surrounded by carloads of apple‑­picking tourists slowly swarming toward orchards, so I threw out my itinerary and decided to go wherever the road and my gut told me.

New Jersey backroads motorcycle ride

Scan QR code above or click here to view the route on REVER

Rolling up Abram S. Hewitt State Forest’s Bearfort Ridge on the serpentine Warwick Turnpike, I avoided the congestion by taking the forest‑­enveloped Clinton Road, which snakes through a large section of the 35,000‑­acre Pequannock Watershed. There are four reservoirs open for public recreation, and the area is crisscrossed by mountain trails and home to all manner of wildlife. 

New Jersey backroads motorcycle ride Pequannock Watershed
A fisherman enjoys some peaceful solitude on one of the Pequannock Watershed reservoirs.

Clinton Road and its surrounding wilderness have a somewhat creepy reputation for ghost sightings, witch gatherings, weird animal hybrids, and at least one infamous serial killer. I was attracted to this particular stretch on my New Jersey backroads motorcycle ride because it was recently repaved and weaves alongside the sun-kissed reservoirs and through colorful forests, but the area’s notoriety added to its allure.

New Jersey backroads motorcycle ride Kawasaki Vulcan
Among the fall colors, the author’s Vulcan stands ready to continue the cruise.

Several boat launches and parking areas provided opportunities to stretch my legs and drink in the scenery. Some riders are tempted to white‑­knuckle it through the many twisties of Clinton Road, but I don’t recommend it. During the late fall rutting season, deer are hyperactive and as plentiful as flies on a cow patty. Besides, a slow cruise gives you time to appreciate the beauty.

See all of Rider‘s Northeast U.S. tour stories here.

However, as I turned off Clinton Road and rode west on the mostly rural State Route 23, I ramped up the pace. The crisp, pure air caressing my face was invigorating. At Hamburg, I picked up State Route 94. Rumbling south, I spotted the Northern New Jersey Veterans Memorial Cemetery and stopped to pay my respects. Walking through the cemetery, you cannot help but be overwhelmed with emotion and appreciation for those who served our country and now rest in this hallowed ground. 

New Jersey backroads motorcycle ride Northern New Jersey Veterans Memorial Cemetery
Headstones at Northern New Jersey Veterans Memorial Cemetery honor fallen soldiers.

Continuing south, SR‑­94 passes through Newton, a bustling small town, and then into lush farmland, with New Jersey’s western mountains rising on the horizon like a fortress wall.

New Jersey backroads motorcycle ride County Road 521
County Road 521 rolls through picturesque New Jersey farmland.

In Blairstown, I stopped for lunch at the Blairstown Diner, which has been family owned and operated for over 70 years and has tasty food and authentic retro decor. The diner was featured in the original Friday the 13th film, and in the hills of nearby Hardwick, Boy Scout Camp No‑­Be‑­Bo‑­Sco stood in for the film’s major setting, Camp Crystal Lake.

From Blairstown, I wound my way north on the rolling County Road 521, stopping briefly at the scenic White Lake Natural Resource Area and the historic Vass Farmstead. Built in 1812 and listed in the National Registry of Historic Places, it is worth a stop.

New Jersey backroads motorcycle ride Vass Farmstead White Lake Natural Resource Area
The restored 19th century Vass Farmstead, now co‑­owned by the Ridge and Valley Conservancy and the state of New Jersey, overlooks the White Lake Natural Resource Area.

At Stillwater, I turned left onto County Road 617 and then followed a series of other rural roads. My Vulcan handled these wavy and weaving routes through farmland and forests with cool confidence. By the time I reached SR‑­23 again, the sun was hanging low in the western sky. Heading south, I cracked the whip on my Vulcan and enjoyed its pulsating power as we rode down the highway.

New Jersey backroads motorcycle ride
Leaves on the ground means riding season in New Jersey is drawing to a close.

As I exited onto the tree‑­lined County Road 513, my journey neared its end. Although my route was impromptu, the ride was perfect. Cruising on great roads through the beautiful countryside during the fall reminded me what riding is meant to be: unfettered by plans and going with the flow. There definitely will be more freewheeling rides in my future. As Peter Fonda’s sage old biker character Damien Blade said in Wild Hogs, “Lose the watches.”

See all of Rider‘s touring stories here.

New Jersey Backroads Motorcycle Ride Resources:

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Motoring from Denver to Moab | Favorite Ride

Denver to Moab motorcycle ride
Utah State Route 128 is a scenic byway on the way to Moab, Utah, that winds through a canyon carved by the Colorado River.

Moab, Utah, is an ideal destination for a motorcycle trip. Where else can you find sandstone arches, red‑­walled canyons, snow‑­capped mountains, scenic byways, two national parks, and a fun, adventure‑­ready town? The best time to visit is in the spring or fall because it’s often too hot in the summer and roads can get icy in the winter.

Denver to Moab motorcycle ride

Scan QR code above or click here to view the route on REVER

Since I live in Denver, on the other side of the Rockies, part of the fun of visiting Moab is simply getting there. Heading west out of the city, U.S. Route 285 climbs the Front Range before passing through mountain towns like Conifer (8,277 feet), Bailey (7,740 feet), and Fairplay (9,954 feet).

Riding through the Rockies means going over mountain passes, and on the way to Fairplay, you’ll cruise over Kenosha Pass (9,997 feet) and Red Hill Pass (9,993 feet) before descending into a broad valley. Such grand vistas across open range show the true beauty of Colorado. Fairplay is an old mining town named after the notion that all miners should have an equal chance to stake a claim. It’s home to South Park City, an open‑­air museum preserving a 19th century mining town, including over 40 original buildings and thousands of artifacts from the boomtown days.

Denver to Moab motorcycle ride South Park City Fairplay Colorado
South Park City in Fairplay, Colorado, is an open‑­air museum that preserves a 19th century mining town.

Continuing south on U.S. 285, the road becomes U.S. Route 24 at Antero Junction and goes south and then north through Buena Vista (7,925 feet) and Granite (9,012 feet). At Twin Lakes, turning west on State Route 82 takes you across the Continental Divide at Independence Pass (12,095 feet), where the air is thin and always chilly.

Denver to Moab motorcycle ride Independence Pass Continental Divide
The author and his Yamaha V Star 1300 Tourer at the high point of his ride from Denver to Moab.

The long, winding descent to the ski town of Aspen is pure pleasure. SR‑­82 ends at Glenwood Springs, and the next 134 westward miles follow a curving section of Interstate 70. If you have the time, I recommend the scenic Rim Rock Drive through the Colorado National Monument among the high cliffs above Grand Junction.

See all of Rider‘s Colorado touring stories here.

After crossing into Utah, take the first Moab exit for State Route 128, which is a scenic byway that winds through a majestic red rock canyon carved by the Colorado River. Highlights include the stunning Fisher Tower and Castle Rock, a finger‑­like spiral to the southwest that’s been seen in many films and commercials. 

At milepost 14 on SR‑­128 is the Red Cliffs Lodge, built on the old George White Ranch, another location used in many Western films. If you’re a cowboy fan like me, visit the lodge’s Moab Museum of Film and Western Heritage to see production stills, movie posters, autographed scripts, props from movies filmed nearby, and displays about Western heritage. Lunch or dinner at The Cowboy Grill is highly recommended.

Denver to Moab motorcycle ride Colorado River Red Cliffs Lodge
View of the Colorado River from the deck at Red Cliffs Lodge, which has dining, lodging, and a museum dedicated to Western films and heritage.

The key attractions in Moab are Arches and Canyonlands national parks. Arches, located just a few miles north of town, is the more popular of the two, and the nearly 20‑­mile paved road through the park takes you past a stunning array of sandstone arches, petrified dunes, and red rock formations.

Canyonlands is the largest national park in Utah, and its diversity staggers the imagination. The park is 32 miles from Moab and has 20 miles of paved roads with many pullouts offering spectacular views. The Island in the Sky sits atop a massive 1,500‑­foot‑­high mesa, and on a clear day you can see over 100 miles in any direction. Sunrise and sunset are particularly beautiful times of day to enjoy these panoramic views of canyon country.  

Denver to Moab motorcycle ride Arches National Park
Arches National Park is a wonderland of sandstone arches, pinnacles, and other rock formations. The park gets busy, so it pays to go early.

Scenic State Route 313 leads to both Canyonlands and Dead Horse Point State Park, which offers unforgettable views of deep canyons and cliffs overlooking the Colorado River. I recommend taking time to explore side trails to see different viewpoints in this one‑­of‑­a‑­kind area.

See all of Rider‘s Utah touring stories here.

The La Sal Mountain Loop, a 36‑­mile scenic road that starts at SR‑­128 near Red Cliffs Lodge and goes through Castle Valley, up into the La Sal Mountains, and then back down to Moab near Spanish Valley, is another great local ride.

Denver to Moab motorcycle ride Dead Horse Point State Park
One of the many awe-inspiring vistas at Dead Horse Point State Park.

Moab is an ideal base camp for lodging, dining, and other adventures such as whitewater rafting, hiking, mountain biking, and off‑­road riding and driving (you can rent Jeeps, ATVs, and side‑­by‑­sides). One of my favorite places to stay is the Red Stone Inn, a rustic but clean and affordable motel with a communal hot tub and picnic area and rooms with a TV, free wi‑­fi, and a mini kitchen.

Whether you travel across the Colorado Rockies, through the red‑­rock canyons of southern Utah, or take some other route to get there, put Moab on your “must visit” list. I promise you won’t be disappointed.

See all of Rider‘s touring stories here.

Denver to Moab motorcycle ride

Denver to Moab Motorcycle Trip Resources:

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