Tag Archives: Motorcycle Touring

Highway 61 Remastered: Riding Along Minnesota’s North Shore

Rider Minnesota North Shore Lake Superior
The North Shore of Minnesota may look all pretty. But don’t let it fool you. Billions of years of violence sculpted this land. (Photos by the author and Sahlee Grace Kotoski)

If you go when the snowflakes storm
When the rivers freeze and summer ends
Please see if she’s wearing a coat so warm
To keep her from the howlin’ winds

— Bob Dylan, “Girl from the North Country”

I had forgotten about that feeling of violence that rises up through the ancient volcanic rock of Minnesota’s North Shore, where Highway 61 carves a thin rivulet of asphalt against a dead mountain range that descends into deep, dangerous water.

Rider Minnesota North Shore REVER map

REVER Route — MN North Shore: Duluth to Gunflint Trail via Highway 61

The sun had yet to rise. The air was cold but there was no frost. Cars with bright lights and loud trucks with loads of lumber cut through the darkness on their way to the Canadian border. My mind wandered, from Bob Dylan’s youth to the geologic time scale to the warm, soft bed my wife and I had just left.

My wife was huddled, bundled tight, hiding from the wind in a wave-carved basalt pocket. Besides a flashlight and the burning ember of my Newport, it was completely dark. Slowly the sun rose, turning purple, red, orange, and finally yellow. The lake turned blue again, and behind the lodge, the forest that covered the mountain came alive with color. It had been over 10 years since I had looked clear to the horizon over Lake Superior.

“It’s hard to believe this place is real,” Sahlee said.

Rider Minnesota North Shore Harley-Davidson Ultra Limited
Regal riding on the Harley-Davidson Ultra Limited.

We were on the third day of a four-day motorcycle trip along Lake Superior to capture the peak autumnal colors before the heavy Minnesotan winter tightened its grip. And it was our first long ride together in many years. We started our journey at St. Paul Harley-Davidson, where we borrowed an Ultra Limited in Vivid Black — a beast of a machine in both weight and power, a 900-pound workhorse designed for regal riding. It turned heads, and with a 114ci Milwaukee-Eight V-twin, it chewed up miles without hesitation.

We had checked into the historic Cascade Lodge, located between Lutsen and Grand Marais — a ski resort and a bohemian art enclave, respectively — shortly before dark the night before, following a 100-mile brisk ride north from Duluth. The lodge was established in 1927 to serve affluent Duluthians and wealthy socialites. Profiting from fishing, forestry, mining, and trade along the Great Lakes, some had predicted that Duluth would rival Chicago. F. Scott Fitzgerald, a Minnesota native, would have fit in well there. Thom McAleer, who has run the Cascade Lodge with his wife since 2017, said business was good year-round, with plenty of motorcyclists in summer and snowmobilers in winter.

Rider Minnesota North Shore Cascade Lodge
The historic Cascade Lodge catered to the wealthy and elite during the early 1900s, now it welcomes motorcyclists and snowmobilers.

The geology of Lake Superior has always fascinated me. It is a history of violence that can still be felt today. Long before human barnacles — from the ghostly-white Scandinavians to the soiled French fur trappers on down to the spirits that guided the Ojibwe — clung to life on this rocky, inhospitable shore, billions of years of primeval and powerful forces created, shaped and sculpted what we see today: the world’s largest freshwater lake that has claimed thousands of mariners’ lives and at least 550 ships, including the Edmund Fitzgerald, which sank in 1975. 

As we rode into Grand Marais (French for “big swamp”), we followed advice we received the day prior from Andy Goldfine, founder of the legendary riding apparel company Aerostich, and scanned the sky, hoping to see a congregation of seagulls darting at a skiff loaded with fresh herring.

Rider Minnesota North Shore Andy Goldfine Aerostich
The wise and wonderful Andy Goldfine at the Aerostich factory in Duluth, where Roadcrafter suits are made.

“If you sneak behind the Angry Trout Cafe, you can find fishermen cutting up the day’s catch, and freeze packing them to be sent to a rabbi in Chicago to make them kosher,” Goldfine told us.

When we met Goldfine the day before at his factory in west Duluth, we were greeted by a short, thoughtful, balding, and bespectacled man. Andy and I commiserated over our time at the University of Duluth, albeit decades apart, him with his philosophy major and English minor, and me with the exact opposite. As our conversation moved from topic to topic, from technology and its effects on society (good and bad), to the absurdity of the global fashion industry as satirized in the movie “Zoolander,” to the history of Duluth’s post-WWII economy, to global trade and how America has become a consumerism-driven throw-away society and finally trends in motorcycling, it became clear that Goldfine was not just an inventor, but a sage.

Rider Minnesota North Shore Highway 61
The road along the North Shore has few curves, but the scenery is beautiful.

He started Aerostich in 1983, when Duluth was in an economic recession and on the verge of becoming another hollowed-out Rustbelt town. U.S. Steel closed its coke plant in 1979. A decade prior the Air Force shuttered the base that housed the 11th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron, a secretive Cold War defense outpost that housed 2,500 to 3,500 servicemen tasked with aircrafts that would be deployed in the event of a Soviet invasion.

When I was living in Duluth 16 years ago, the west side of town was rundown and largely abandoned. Tourism, college kids with bar money, and gentrification have revived the area, with craftspeople, brewers, and restaurateurs operating in clean, modern industrial spaces like you’d find in Brooklyn. Goldfine observed all of the changes to this historic part of town. What hasn’t changed is his philosophy regarding Aerostich’s Roadcrafter suits, which have been an integral part of the riding community for decades.

Rider Minnesota North Shore Harley-Davidson Ultra Limited
With leaves past their fall peak, winter is coming.

“Our customers are everyday riders because Aerostich makes equipment. Just like a farmer’s overalls, a carpenter’s pants, a lawyer’s or banker’s suit, it is the equipment that these professions invest in, not fashion,” Goldfine said. “Our logic is that our products are sacrificial. [A Roadcrafter] keeps you safe from the elements, and say you crash going 60 and you are okay, it did its job.”

We toured Goldfine’s factory, met with his tailors, and checked out his waterproofing testing equipment and impact armor fabrication set-up. When we left, he wished us a happy marriage and I felt better knowing that guys like Andy Goldfine are so dedicated to their craft.

Rider Minnesota North Shore Lake Superior
Sunrise along the North Shore somewhere south of Grand Marais.

From Grand Marais, we rode north and then northwest, 15 or so miles up the beautiful Gunflint Trail Scenic Byway that, further north, terminates at the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness — a 150-mile stretch of hard-to-reach pristine lakes along the U.S./Canada border that skirts the Laurentian Divide, which separates water flow from either going down to the Gulf of Mexico or up to Hudson Bay. Starting in the 1600s, voyageurs would make a special stop here to collect flint from chert deposits for their rifles.

A loaded lumber truck with two blown-out wheels partially blocked our path up the Gunflint, so we turned around and returned to the lake, thundering down the road on the mighty Ultra Limited as a kaleidoscope of fall colors became a blur.

Rider Minnesota North Shore Split Rock Lighthouse
A 1905 storm that wrecked 30 ships prompted the construction of Split Rock Lighthouse. (Photo by John Steitz)

“The Lake Superior Basin … sits dead center over an ancient rift [that] was active 1.1 billion years ago when Minnesota was really the center of the North American continent,” wrote geologist Ron Morton, in his 2011 book A Road Guide: The North Shore of Lake Superior on Highway 61. “Hot molten magma rose upward from deep within the earth, and as it approached the surface, it caused the crust to arch or bow upward, and then split like an overcooked sausage,” he added. A heavy, miles-deep pancake of basalt lava spread across the region, with larger eruptions piling pyroclastic rocks around the edges of what today is the rugged Lake Superior shoreline. When the volcanic activity stopped, the weight of the lava started to sink the earth.

Rider Minnesota North Shore
Morning coffee at a rustic family cabin.

But long before that, a massive mountain range — larger than the Alps or Rockies today — had formed. As the mountain range eroded over eons, the sinking basin filled with sediment, creating a swampy plain. Then came what’s known as the Last Glacial Period, starting a mere 115,000 years ago. Thick sheets of ice covered the land and pushed southward, violently scooping out the basin like excavators. The earth warmed, the glaciers melted and a lake was formed — the world’s largest in terms of area, third-largest in terms of volume. Geologic instability causes the south and southwestern sides of Lake Superior to rise a few centimeters each year, raising the waterline on the Canadian side.

From Grand Marais, we drove up to the Lutsen Mountains Ski and Summer Resort, where we paid $24 each to take the gondola up to the summit for impressive and expansive views of the landscape. From a western outlook hundreds of feet above the valley floor, the trees were dead brown and red, a couple of days past peak, while to the east, yellows, oranges, and reds mingled with the green, winter-hardened conifers.

Rider Minnesota North Shore Palisade Head
The rhyolitic red rock of Palisade Head and the Tettegouche area is the legacy of ancient lava flows over 1.1 billion years ago.

Our final sightseeing stop was Tettegouche State Park to see Palisade Head, a large rock formation with staggering 300-foot sheer cliffs that end in a jumble of jagged rocks along the shore. I remember coming here when I was in college. The wind would whip so hard it felt as if it would blow you right off the cliff edge, creating a mix of fear and excitement. Palisade Head and I have both aged. It looks and feels the same. Can’t say the same about myself.

Biting cold wind meant that Old Man Winter would arrive soon. Time to get back down to St. Paul to return the Harley and hunker down.

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Edelweiss Bike Travel Survey: Chance to Win Norway Tour

Edelweiss Bike Travel Norway Touring Center

Edelweiss Bike Travel is conducting an anonymous online survey about motorcycling travel and touring in 2021 and beyond. The survey takes only about 5 minutes to complete.

At the end of the survey participants can enter a raffle that includes one spot on Edelweiss Bike Travel’s Norway Touring Center including motorcycle rental, or one of 5 travel vouchers worth 250 Euro each.

Click the link below to access the survey:

For those who are interested in Edelweiss Bike Travel motorcycle tours, which take place all around the world, check out dates, locations, pricing and more at edelweissbike.com.

Rider Magazine has teamed up with Edelweiss Bike Travel for a special “Best of Greece” tour, October 10-23, 2021. For more information, click HERE.

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Favorite Ride: Space Coast to the Smokies

Favorite Ride — Space Coast to the Smokies
The morning sunrise on the Intracoastal Waterway. Palm Bay, Florida. Photos by Randy Norton.

You really couldn’t tell that it was the first day of fall in Palm Bay, Florida. The forecast called for lots of sun and 90 degrees. With a beautiful sunrise to my right, I headed north on I-95 toward Daytona Beach on the Harley-Davidson Road King, planning to meet my old friend Bob in Robbinsville, North Carolina the next day. He was riding down from Ohio on his TriGlide. After that it would be Smokey Mountain touring for a few days. 

Leaving I-95 I exited on West Granada Boulevard and headed east to Florida State Road A1A. I was looking forward to a beautiful cruise along the ocean and was not disappointed. Between Ormond Beach and Flagler Beach I stopped at an interesting historical site — a coastal watchtower from WWII used by spotters to monitor German U-boat activity and watch for enemy aircraft. More than 15,000 of these towers were erected along the U.S. coastline after the bombing of Pearl Harbor.

Favorite Ride — Space Coast to the Smokies

I continued to cruise north on coastal FSR A1A until I rolled into St. Augustine over the Bridge of Lions. The historic lighthouse in the USA’s oldest town came into view and made for a great place to take five. Still a working lighthouse with a museum on the grounds, many structures like it in St. Augustine are reputed to be haunted, but the only spirit I was interested in was a cold beer at the end of my riding day. So, I crossed back over the Tolomato River as soon as I could to pick up coastal FSR A1A and rode on to Jacksonville.

Heading west on Beach Blvd., I left the ocean behind and grabbed the I-295 Loop to avoid downtown Jacksonville. Exiting on U.S. Route 23 I aimed for Callahan, Florida, a much needed break and a fuel stop, looking forward to passing through small towns and riding through the countryside.

Favorite Ride — Space Coast to the Smokies
North of Folkston, Georgia you will find the Okefenokee Swamp Park.

Crossing the Florida/Georgia border, soon I was in Folkston, and more than one sign reminded me that this is the gateway to the Okefenokee Swamp. After a bite I continued north on Route 23 through Waycross, cruising country roads past classic old farms, red dirt side roads, cotton fields, old barns and even Vidalia, home of those famous sweet onions! Holding to Georgia Route 15 brought me to Sandersville, Georgia, and a Quality Inn on the main drag.

Early on Sunday morning I kept rolling on 15 through Georgia. Sparta is a classic old southern town founded in 1795 that is full of historic buildings and sits in the heart of old plantation country. I stopped at Monument Square, where the courthouse dates back to 1882, then pushing on and ever northward I rolled through the Oconee National Forest and skirted around Athens on the U.S. Route 441 Loop.

Favorite Ride — Space Coast to the Smokies
I was naturally drawn to all of the Harley displays but this whole place is amazing.

Finishing off Georgia on Route 23, soon I had the North Carolina Mountains on the horizon. It was an easy decision to drift up to Cherokee before riding west to Robbinsville to meet my friend Bob. Early Sunday evening I pulled into the Phillips Motel, our home base for the next three nights, a clean and comfortable spot with covered parking for our machines. 

Up before the sun, we took a warm-up ride south of town before leaving on our much-anticipated ride to Maggie Valley and the Wheels Through Time Museum. I was scouting photo ops and enjoying the cool mountain air when a big bird flying way too low came out of the trees. Just before I ducked, I saw the owl’s two large eyes, a beak and lots of feathers, and heard him bump my windshield. Luckily for both us it wasn’t a solid hit, and we both went on our way….

Favorite Ride — Space Coast to the Smokies
A post WWII motorcycle shop is replicated in this Wheels Through Time Display.

After breakfast at Southern Gals Restaurant, we were off to Maggie Valley, riding North Carolina Highway 143 and hooking up with U.S. Route 19. The beautiful mountain roads led us to Dale Walksler’s Wheels Through Time Museum. If you dig vintage bikes and automobiles this place is a must see. The friendly staff has a wealth of information that they are more than happy to share. The museum staff steered us to Pop’s Place for lunch. My Road King was gaining miles, I was gaining weight!

Our Tuesday plan was to ride the Cherohala Skyway Loop. Rain suits and wet roads were the theme that morning, with a fine mist lingering. As we climbed the twisty mountain road Mother Nature tossed in some thick fog, and wet leaves on the road made me even more cautious. The Smokies were really living up to their name and I wondered if there would ever be any visibility at the scenic overlooks we kept passing!

Favorite Ride — Space Coast to the Smokies
The Deals Gap tree of shame is adorned with plenty of broken bike parts.

After a few miles the fog lifted and we began to see breaks in the clouds, and those overlooks started to live up to their reputation. Sunshine, scenic vistas and dry roads were more than welcome. We ditched the rain gear at an overlook and cruised across the Tennessee line to Tellico Plains. After a home-cooked lunch at the Telicafe, I was thinking about what lay ahead — the infamous Tail of the Dragon, 318 curves in 11 miles that would close out our ride. I was thinking, “I’ve already scraped a floorboard or two on these mountain roads, how much more twisty can this Dragon be?” The answer is “a whole bunch more!” It’s exciting, challenging and even dangerous, with 11 miles of hairpin, switchback, and floorboard-scraping turns. Once it was behind me, I stopped at Deals Gap, the motorcycle oasis at the south end of the Dragon, and waited for Bob and his TriGlide. We topped off our day just a couple miles south of Deals Gap at the Historic Tapoco Lodge, dining at an outdoor riverfront table while reliving the day’s ride.

The next morning, I headed for home just ahead of the rain, bidding my friend good-bye and safe travels the night before. I was treated to one last ride through the Smokies before heading south outside of Ashville, already thinking of my next trip up here and all of the Carolina roads waiting to be explored.

Favorite Ride — Space Coast to the Smokies
A beautiful dinner time view from the Historic Tapoco Lodge.

Favorite Ride: Space Coast to the Smokies Photo Gallery:

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No Promises of Tomorrow: Three Buddies Chase Sunsets and Dreams

No Promises of Tomorrow: Three Buddies Chase Sunsets and Dreams
Opposed twin, parallel twin, and v-twin. Top right: U.S. Route 212 Beartooth Pass, Wyoming. Bottom right: Riding in the Dinosaur National Monument, Colorado. Story and photos by Michael Palmer.

At a rest stop, a lovely young lady walked slowly, allowing her old dog to keep pace. The dog stopped in front of me, and she said, “He’s 118 in dog years. He’s gentle, you can pet him.”

Without thinking, I said, “One last road trip?” Her eyes welled with tears, and I turned my head so she wouldn’t see mine. I quickly said, “Hey, it looks like you two are having a great time.” She smiled and lifted the old guy into the well-padded backseat of her SUV. The sad part of owning dogs is, they don’t live long. Likewise, the only bad thing about being a motorcyclist is, we don’t last long enough to ride all of the roads out there. But, dadgummit, I’m gonna ride all of them that life will afford me.

No Promises of Tomorrow: Three Buddies Chase Sunsets and Dreams

The coronavirus pandemic be damned (while following safety guidelines), three lifelong friends in our sixties set out for parts of the country we’d never been on a 2008 BMW R 1200 GSA, 2002 Suzuki V-Strom 1000 and 2017 Yamaha Super Ténéré. In a little more than 7,000 miles and 19 days, we covered 12 states, grew thoroughly tired of sharing a hotel room and rode some of the best passes in the world. From Arkansas, we crossed Oklahoma and the panhandle of Texas to the resort town of Red River, New Mexico. Snow skiing is the main attraction, but summer fun includes hiking, mountain biking, riding the ski lift up and down the mountain, which we did, and horseback riding, which we did not. We like two wheels under us.

Our next destination was Dinosaur National Monument, located in both Colorado and Utah. U.S. Route 550 was the scenic route we took out of Durango. Anyone who has ridden 550 knows of the climb to more than 10,000 feet on Coal Bank Hill Pass and the descent to Silverton. The Million Dollar Highway between Silverton and Ouray includes the 11,075-foot Red Mountain Pass. Neither written words, nor brilliantly composed photos can do justice to the beauty along these roads. One must see it personally, from a motorcycle. Route 550 becomes U.S. Route 50 going north, where we caught Colorado State Highway 139 just north of Grand Junction and on to Dinosaur, Colorado. Dinosaur National Monument was open, and with various points of interest to ride to like the Josie Morris Cabin, it’s well worth a visit. However, due to COVID-19, the Quarry Exhibit Hall was closed. I suspect Covid killed the dinosaurs. We had Yellowstone National Park on our minds, and the lovely U.S. Route 191 north out of Vernal, Utah, took us there.

No Promises of Tomorrow: Three Buddies Chase Sunsets and Dreams
Summit — Beartooth Pass, Montana.

We arrived a couple of hours before sunset, traffic was sparse, and we saw Old Faithful blasting over the treetops as we topped a hill. Four-legged road hazards are everywhere, but the worst, and the one I almost nailed, was the two-legged kind standing in the middle of the road, gazing through a camera at a moose. As I got off the brakes and rode slowly around him, I said, “Dude, buy a postcard.” We found plenty of lodging in Gardner, Utah, just above Yellowstone, allowing us an entire day to explore the park, ride through herds of buffalo and to the summit of Beartooth Pass, where at 10,948 feet, snow remains well into the summer. We then rode back, west, and hooked up on Wyoming Highway 296 to Cody and to the southeast entrance of Yellowstone National Park. I highly recommend 296. The pavement is smooth and grippy with plenty of curves and vistas, and we joyfully experienced one of those rare golden rain showers in the sunshine. Motorcycle touring doesn’t get any better.

Montana lived up to its nickname, Big Sky Country, as we rode U.S. Route 89 on our way to Glacier National Park. We planned to go north to Saint Mary and take the Going to the Sun Road through Glacier Park. But, travelers strictly warned us, the Blackfoot Nation was serious about having no visitors and if we entered Saint Mary, we’d likely be arrested. Had we ridden so far only to face another COVID-19 disappointment? To make the most of it, we took U.S. Route 2 west along the bottom of the Park. This turned out to be an excellent motorcycle road, and we picked up the Going to the Sun Road at West Glacier. However, traffic was thick, and we were forced to turn around at Lake McDonald. I might be like that old dog, on his last tour, but I’m going to do my best to get back to Glacier Park.

No Promises of Tomorrow: Three Buddies Chase Sunsets and Dreams
More scenery on the climb to Beartooth Pass.

Staying on Route 2, we crossed the northern panhandle of Idaho and spent the night in Spokane, Washington. I’ve always dreamt of riding in Washington State, and Mount Saint Helens was on our radar. Would we find it closed, with COVID-19 as an excuse, and what kind of weather would we find? It had been perfect so far, and the weather was no different as we crossed eastern Washington, which, to my surprise, is desert. Leavenworth was highly recommended as a good lunch stop. It must be good; it was so crowded we could not find a place to park our motorcycles. We left and took U.S. Route 97 south to U.S. Route 12 west. Quite soon we had to put on warmer gear as 12 took us into the heart of Washington’s forest. We could clearly see snowcapped mountains in the west and south; one of them was Mount Saint Helens.

We spent the night at Randle, and then ventured south on Forest Road 25. The first thing one might notice is the “Rough Road” sign, and it is, but slow travel is necessary anyway if one wants to enjoy this rich rainforest of pine, cedar and fir trees. About 25 miles in, we took NT-99 into the clouds to Windy Ridge Viewpoint and just beyond to where the road ends. It’s at more than 4,000 feet but feels much higher. Mount Saint Helens had clothed herself in clouds, but once in a while, we’d get a glimpse of her hiding behind flowing curtains like a beautiful woman. Through the mist, we could just see Spirit Lake, still floating a huge number of logs put there by the blast in 1980. We had to — no — we got to ride out the same way we rode in, and it’s a stunning ride to I-5 where we turned north to the west entrance of the park.

No Promises of Tomorrow: Three Buddies Chase Sunsets and Dreams
That’s me, staying young, on the east side of Mt. Saint Helens (Forest Road 99).

Spirit Lake Highway (Washington Route 504) leads up to Johnston Ridge Observatory, so named in honor of David Johnston, the geological survey volcanologist who was killed by the blast while on duty at the Coldwater II observation point. Amazingly, so much of the forest has regrown that it’s hard for an untrained eye to recognize that 150,000 acres of timber were destroyed. Douglas fir, maple, and pine, as well as elk and deer, have returned. We stopped at the Mt. Saint Helens Learning Center, to find the center and restrooms closed, due to COVID-19. From the parking lot, we viewed the Toutle River Valley, where the biggest of the mudslides occurred in 1980. We rode on to find the road closed just beyond Coldwater Lake, due to the pandemic. Our next goal, Oregon.

I had no idea Oregon has some 60 volcanoes. We avoided downtown Portland on I-205, and then took Oregon Route 224 and OR 22 south to U.S. Route 97. We were again awed by the scenery and cool temperatures as we passed Mt. Jefferson, Mt. Washington and the Three Sister volcanoes. From 97 we took OR 138 to the north entrance of Crater Lake National Park on the Volcanic Legacy Scenic Byway, my favorite part of our ride. Crater Lake is in the mouth of Mt. Mazama volcano with the surface at 6,178 or so feet, and is the deepest (1,945 feet) lake in the U.S., ninth in the world. The caldera (outer rim) is as high as 8,000 feet and one must take care walking about and taking pictures on the loose soil. There are hiking trails around, but the 1.1-mile Cleetwood Cove Trail is the only legal way to the water, where they say you can swim if you can handle the cold. Next, California and the Redwoods.

No Promises of Tomorrow: Three Buddies Chase Sunsets and Dreams
Crater Lake National Park is a highlight of riding through Oregon. There are plenty of pleasant roads to explore and a hiking trail leading to the lake.

We made our way to the Redwood Highway (U.S. Route 199), and it seemed we were in the Redwoods before we realized it, then just as quickly, we exited the forest into Crescent City. Not a problem, because the next morning we were on U.S. Route 101 and in Del Norte Redwood State Park. We took our time, stopped and touched the forest giants, and hiked among them. We had lunch in Leggett at a food truck and, not knowing better, we missed Drive Through Tree Park, taking California Highway 1 toward the coast. No matter, as Highway 1, just off 101, was one of the best roads of the trip, and I don’t think the Pacific Coast has ever been so clear. We stayed on Highway 1 until just south of Jenner and took California Route 116 to CR 12. With my GPS set on motorcycle travel, and CR 88 as the waypoint, we were pretty well wasted by the time we reached Santa Rosa for the night. Our next destination, Lake Tahoe.

Carson Pass Highway (88) winds through mountainous pine forests with little traffic until it connects with U.S. Route 50, leading to Tahoe Valley, and CR 89 on the west shore of Lake Tahoe. Just into Incline Village, Nevada, we took the Mt. Rose Highway (Nevada Route 431). I highly recommend this 24.5-mile route that winds its way up to nearly 9,000 feet, then down to Reno. The next morning, we rode NR 341 south to Virginia City, another twisty road, and took 79 to America’s Loneliest Road (U.S. Route 50). In Utah, parts of 50 and I-70 are much like riding through the Grand Canyon. Just east of Gunnison, Colorado, we rode south on Colorado Highway 149 through a pleasant little place called Lake City and over the 10,898-foot Spring Creek Pass to South Fork. From there, we were going home.

No Promises of Tomorrow: Three Buddies Chase Sunsets and Dreams
Toutle River Valley, below the west side of Mt. Saint Helens. Nature has recovered so well, it’s hard to tell this is where the largest mudslide occurred.

Kenneth, BR and I started riding together in the 1970s. We were furious competitors in motocross, enduros and hare scrambles, and, quite stupidly, on the street, too. It is a gift that the three of us are still healthy and able to do such a ride as this one. When I tell people about our trip, they say they’d love to do that, but just can’t find the time, or can’t afford it. I say, “Just pick a place, grab you credit card, and get on the motorcycle and ride. Because there is no promise of tomorrow.” That goes for all of us. 

No Promises of Tomorrow: Three Buddies Chase Sunsets and Dreams Photo Gallery:

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New England Loops: A Bucket-List Ride in New England

New England Loops: A Bucket-List Ride in New England
The rugged nautical majesty of Maine’s historic Nubble Lighthouse on Cape Neddick frames the Chieftain Elite. Story and photos by Phil Buonpastore.

My cousin Jim Pace, an avid motorcyclist and native of New Hampshire, and I had long discussed touring New England from his home in Barrington, and our bucket-list ride was finally planned for last summer. Indian Motorcycles arranged for me to borrow a 2020 Chieftain Elite from Motorcycles of Manchester, so with all of the pieces in place, I flew to New Hampshire in July. The ride to Barrington gave me an opportunity to get accustomed to the bike.

New England Loops: A Bucket-List Ride in New England
A stop at a scenic overlook on the ribbon-like Mt. Washington Auto Road.

Not long after cousin Jim and I embarked on a loop ride around Lake Winnipesaukee. Leaving Barrington on New Hampshire Route 11, gradual sweepers punctuated by a few tight turns took us along the western side of Bow Lake. Here, towns and traffic gradually disappear and the road begins to elevate to the Lake Winnipesaukee Scenic Islands Viewing Area, cresting a high embankment revealing elevated views of Diamond, Rattlesnake and Sleeper’s Island in the lake below, with rolling foothill mountains in the distance.

New Hampshire-Maine rides
Map by Bill Tipton. (Compartmaps.com)

At Glendale, NHR3 and NHR25 wind for 26 miles along the western shore of Lake Winnipesaukee. The lakefront town of Weirs Beach, location of the annual Laconia Motorcycle Week rally that brings thousands of motorcyclists to the area each June, is also a popular spot for tourists. After stopping for some locally made ice cream and people watching, we continued northeast on low stress two-lane country highway through mild curves, rolling hills and forest until reaching NHR16, also known as the White Mountain Highway, then turned south through the towns of Ossipee, Wakefield and Milton. A detour on First Crown Point Road for a quick jaunt through Blue Job Mountain State Forest and it was back to Barrington, completing a 3.5-hour, 150-mile afternoon ride.

New England Loops: A Bucket-List Ride in New England
An abandoned Indian Motocycles truck trailer offers a surprise photo-op in Milton, New Hampshire.

The next day’s plan was to ride 60 miles north on a loop that would encompass both the Franconia and Crawford Notches, the well-known valley passes through the White Mountains. Heading north on NH16 through scenic countryside, we passed through the town of Milton, and happened upon the most surprising photo op of the week — an abandoned truck trailer painted bright yellow, with the classic Indian Motocycles logo painted in red and a rendering of a 1940’s vintage Chief motorcycle. It was an absolute must stop for photos of the new Chieftain.

New England Loops: A Bucket-List Ride in New England
A stop for a roadside break at the Ossippe River near the town of Effingham Falls.

At Union, NHR153 is the preferred route, offering taller hills and tighter curves than the highway. Once to Conway, we headed west on the must-ride Kancamagus Highway. The first 20 miles of the highway begins leisurely and sedate, paralleling the Swift River to the Sugar Hill Scenic Vista, featuring hiking trails and the opportunity to take a cool dip on a hot summer’s day. But the fun for a rider is in the second 20 miles, where the valley between Mount Hancock and Mount Osceola offer major changes in elevation and a sequence of increasingly challenging twisties, topped by a 200-degree classic hairpin turn around the Hancock Overlook.

New England Loops: A Bucket-List Ride in New England
The Ride up the Mt. Washington Auto Road was blanketed by thick fog for most of the ride to the summit. Cousin Jim cautiously surveys the road ahead.

At the town of Woodstock, the Kancamagus ends. Turning north on U.S. Route 3, the Daniel Webster Highway is a relaxing ride that leads through Franconia Notch State Park, a focal point for hiking trails that go up to five mountains: Lafayette, Liberty, Flume, and the Cannon and Kinsman Mountains that surround the park. North of Franconia Notch, U.S. Route 3 goes east toward U.S. Route 302 and Mount Washington. Here the skies clouded, and intermittent light rain began to fall, putting a damper on the enjoyment of the day. A quick stop to don rain gear and take photos of the magnificent Mt. Washington Hotel on a cloudy day, and we continued through the Crawford Notch to Conway, where sunshine and blue sky returned. After a stop for bygone-era photos at the Conway Railroad Museum, we returned to Barrington through broken clouds, completing 205 miles and 4.75 hours of ride time. The loop was spectacular, but we would need another opportunity to fully enjoy the Crawford Notch and Washington Hotel in better weather.

New England Loops: A Bucket-List Ride in New England
At the summit, the Sherman Adams Building houses the Mt. Washington Observatory and Museum, and chains anchor the Tip-Top House to the mountain. Wind velocities here have been recorded as high as 231 mph.

By midweek, the days had become sunny, clear and blue, perfect for a ride to the top of Mt. Washington State Park. Taking NH16 north for 75 miles brought us to the park entrance at about 1 p.m. After paying the $20 entrance fee and getting our “This Bike Climbed Mt. Washington” bumper stickers, we started up the very twisty, ribbon-thin 7.6-mile Auto Road to the top of Mt. Washington. The road is hardly wide enough for two cars, and the ride to the summit was made all the more interesting by a heavy fog that settled on the mountain about halfway up, sometimes limiting vision to less than 50 feet, with a road section under repair reduced to dirt and gravel. Keep calm, and keep moving. Still, I couldn’t pass up opportunities for ghost-like photos, with headlights appearing and disappearing as they passed in the fog.

New England Loops: A Bucket-List Ride in New England

At the road’s end is Mount Washington State Park, a 60-acre site topping the 6,288-foot summit of the Northeast’s highest peak, surrounded by the 750,000-acre White Mountain National Forest. Mt. Washington is famous for having the highest recorded wind velocity ever measured in the U.S., an astounding 231 mph, and the summit building built in the 1930s is chained to the ground in order to withstand the sometimes very high winds. On clear days, summit views extend as far as 130 miles to Vermont, New York, Massachusetts, Maine, Quebec and out to the Atlantic Ocean. Breaks in the fog allowed for some amazing views into the Tuckerman Ravine. The well-known Appalachian Trail also crosses the Auto Road about halfway up to the summit.

New England Loops: A Bucket-List Ride in New England

The Sherman Adams Building houses the Mount Washington Observatory and Museum, and the Tip-Top House, a hotel built in 1853 and renovated in 1986 for historic tours. While Covid-19 restrictions had closed these facilities to the public, the Mt. Washington Cog Railway was operating. Built in 1866 by Sylvester Marsh, these unique and beautiful period trains use a giant cog-style gear and rack system to pull railcars up the mountain at angles from 25 to as great as 38 degrees, transporting visitors from the Marshfield Base Station near the Mt. Washington Hotel to the top of the mountain.

New England Loops: A Bucket-List Ride in New England
One of the few operating in the U.S., the colorful Mt. Washington Cog Railway uses a gear and rack system to operate on inclines from 25 to 38 degrees.

As rainy weather had previously kept us from experiencing the Crawford Notch and Mt. Washington Hotel in all their brilliant glory, we took a detour on U.S. Route 302 to make another pass through the notch and a get second look at the hotel. This time, we were not disappointed. Closing in on the golden hour, the late afternoon sunlight bathed the steep mountainsides in deep amber as we rode through the notch.

New England Loops: A Bucket-List Ride in New England
The Crawford Notch runs through the White Mountains some 4,000 feet overhead.

The Mt. Washington Hotel is a massive and beautiful structure of the grandest design built in 1902. Its history boasts the signing of the agreement for the creation of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund in 1944, and the filming of scenes from the movie “The Shining,” as well as supposedly being haunted by a ghost named Carolyn, the wife of the hotel’s builder and first owner, Joseph Stickney. I am not sure, however, if any of this information recommends a night’s stay there! After a walk through the hotel to take in the building’s beautiful interior and the large semi-circular patio that overlooks the golf course and mountains behind, and we were riding once again.

New England Loops: A Bucket-List Ride in New England
The spectacular Mt. Washington Hotel, built in 1902, has hosted presidents and world dignitaries.

Passing through the town of Freedom, we saw an old rustic barn with a sign reading “Freedom Farm” above its double doors, an obvious final photo-op of the day. With the afternoon spent on Mt. Washington, we arrived home after dark, completing a 225-mile loop.

New England Loops: A Bucket-List Ride in New England
The “Freedom Farm” in the town of Freedom affirms both the New Hampshire motto and the rider’s resolve: “Live Free or Die.” Center: U.S. 1A, or Long Beach Avenue, runs through the seaside town of York, and within yards of the Atlantic Ocean.

The next day it was time for something completely different — a seaside ride on the coast of Maine. Taking NHR9 and Dover Point Road to Portsmouth then crossing the Maine border, we rode out toward the Atlantic coast on Maine Route 103, a lovely Maine low-country ride along small rivers and waterways and through coastal communities, serene and peaceful. MR103 changes road names from Shapleigh to Whipple to Tenny Hill to Brave Boat Harbor Road before crossing the York River, leading to a right turn onto U.S. 1A, also known as Long Beach Ave. Within a few miles, the road turns parallel to the coast and within feet of the Atlantic Ocean, often separated only by public beach and sidewalk. The day granted perfect riding weather — clear blue skies, low 80-degree temperatures and scattered cumulus. A detour on Nubble Road through spectacular oceanfront residences led to the Nubble Lighthouse, perched on its own island and picture-perfect. North of the lighthouse, we continued through the York Cliffs, Bald Head and Ogunquit areas, with the road becoming less populated as it reached the coastal Wells National Estuarine Research Reserve, then to the beautiful town of Kennebunkport, vacation spot of presidents. Maine Route 9A to New Hampshire Route 9 served for a fine open-country ride on the one-hour return to Barrington.

New England Loops: A Bucket-List Ride in New England
Built in 1879, The Nubble Lighthouse, also known as the Cape Neddick Light, is still in use today.

My arrangements with Indian included returning the motorcycle in Florida, and later that week I began the ride south. New Hampshire and Maine had been new territory for me, and there is a lot of riding there yet to be done. Looks like I’ll need a bigger bucket. 

New England Loops: A Bucket-List Ride in New England
Built in 1879, The Nubble Lighthouse, also known as the Cape Neddick Light, is still in use today.

New England Loops: A Bucket-List Ride in New England Photo Gallery:

The post New England Loops: A Bucket-List Ride in New England first appeared on Rider Magazine.

Source: RiderMagazine.com

Beartooth Forever: a Father-Daughter Ride to Yellowstone

Beartooth Forever – a Father-Daughter Ride to Yellowstone
Looking at the next stretch of road from an overlook on the Chief Joseph Scenic Byway.

Every now and then, you have a day that stands head and shoulders above others. A day when everything goes right, things look and smell better than usual, and all is right with the world. Today is one of those days.

We’re in the Sheridan Lake Campground in the Black Hills National Forest. I make my coffee on my single cup burner and look at maps while my 13-year-old daughter Shayla sleeps in. The next few days of our two-week summer trip to Yellowstone promise to be the most memorable.

Beartooth Forever – a Father-Daughter Ride to Yellowstone
Shayla at the roomy Sheridan Lake Campground site, in the Black Hills of South Dakota.

The trip has been great so far. The shoulder that I had injured a few weeks earlier has hardly bothered me. My new-to-me 2010 Gold Wing is keeping us comfortable and running as smoothly and as well as expected. My quest to maintain close ties with my now-teenage daughter seems to be working, since we are getting along very well, enjoying each other’s company and creating new shared memories.

We take U.S Route 16A south through Custer State Park, enjoying the curves in the early morning. I wish we could spend more time in this area because the roads are so great, and are currently almost free of traffic. The refreshing, crisp morning air, the curves — including a few of the hairpin variety — make this the best road of the trip so far. We then take Route 16 west toward Wyoming. Route 16 becomes Interstate 90 for about 100 miles, but then turns back into two-lane Route 16 as we ride through the Bighorn National Forest. There we experience more great curves and beautiful vistas. It’s a hot day so we stop often for drinks and ice cream.

Beartooth Forever – a Father-Daughter Ride to Yellowstone
Photographing the view from an overlook on the Chief Joseph Scenic Byway. Not shown, obese chipmunk planning for his next snack.

At the small town of Ten Sleep, Wyoming, we turn north onto Lower Norwood Road, which turns into Wyoming Highway 31. Both are small roads that roughly follow the land, making them a delight through the wide open spaces. Greybull Highway 14 into Cody is straight as an arrow with little traffic. Riding into the sun might normally be annoying but today it is somehow magical. I’m not sure if it is the wide open spaces, the almost total lack of traffic or if I’ve achieved a state of zen, but in my mind’s eye I can see us from above, riding into the sunset along this lonely stretch of road.

In Cody, we get a room at the cozy A Western Rose Motel on Sheridan Avenue, which is the main downtown street. It’s a lovely evening so we walk down to the Irma Hotel for dinner. Buffalo Bill Cody, who founded the town with his name, built the Irma in 1902 and named it after his daughter. Buffalo Bill, born in 1846, was an American soldier, bison hunter and a showman, best known for his traveling Wild West shows. The hotel menu has an appetizer called Rocky Mountain Oysters — Buffalo Bill’s Original Sack Lunch. I suggest to Shayla that we try them, but she’s disgusted at the thought and refuses. We have an enjoyable meal anyway, to cap off a perfect day.

Beartooth Forever – a Father-Daughter Ride to Yellowstone
The Irma Hotel in downtown Cody, Wyoming.

From Cody we ride along the Chief Joseph Scenic Highway toward Beartooth Highway and enjoy the many curves and scenic views. The Gold Wing may be a big beast, but it’s still a joy on the curves. At an overlook, we meet the fattest little chipmunk we’ve ever seen, one who has obviously mastered the art of obtaining free food from tourists. Shayla succumbs to his charms and feeds him a cracker, ensuring that his battle with obesity will continue.

The last time I was on Beartooth Highway I was a much younger, more fit version of myself. The amazement and the feeling of riding on top of the world is the same this time. The weather is beautiful, the views are stunning, and the road that has been called “The Most Beautiful Drive in America” doesn’t disappoint. Shayla and I continually marvel and comment on the beauty through our headsets.

Beartooth Forever – a Father-Daughter Ride to Yellowstone
Beautiful curves are easy to find on the Beartooth.

As planned, we ride from south to north, have lunch in Red Lodge, Montana, and then turn around and ride the road again. We reach heights of 10,900 feet, so at an overlook stop, Shayla makes a snow angel and we have a brief snowball fight. The views on the way back are equally stunning.

At the south end of the Beartooth, we enter Yellowstone National Park. The park is initially disappointing after the views we had experienced on the Beartooth. Then we enter the Lamar Valley and start to see bison in the fields. First bison near the road, and then on the road. We watch a giant male wander along the centerline of the road, causing all traffic to stop. Fascinating to watch — from afar.

Beartooth Forever – a Father-Daughter Ride to Yellowstone
Bison causing traffic jams in Lamar Valley in Yellowstone National Park.

We camp at a small campground owned by the Diamond P Ranch on U.S Route 20 outside of West Yellowstone. In the morning we do some horseback riding, then head into Yellowstone again. Yellowstone is all about geysers, so we investigate many of those, including Old Faithful. The crowds are worth it, since those geysers are impressive. We witness the eruption of the Beehive Geyser, whose eruptions are unpredictable, but it is one of the most powerful ones in the park. The eruptions average about five minutes and shoot water an incredible 200 feet into the air. We also enjoy the colorful sulfur pools that look way nicer than they smell.

In the evening, after cowering in our tent during a flash thunderstorm, we go to a rodeo a couple of miles up the road from our campsite. It is literally our “first rodeo,” and we take it all in and have a great time. We get back to our tent shortly before the rain starts again, and it continues for much of the night.

Beartooth Forever – a Father-Daughter Ride to Yellowstone
Photographing the view from an overlook on the Chief Joseph Scenic Byway. Not shown, obese chipmunk planning for his next snack.

In the morning we load up the bike. Returning from the outhouse, I notice the Gold Wing is on its side! The ground, softened by the overnight rain, was not able to support the fully loaded bike, forcing us to heave it back up again. The practice we get picking the bike up will come in handy the next day in Montana.

We make our way north on U.S Route 191, west of Yellowstone park, and enjoy the scenic ride through mountainous recreation areas to Bozeman. We then take the lovely Montana Highway 86 up to U.S Route 89 and then to the deserted Montana Highway 294. The secondary highways in this area are almost traffic free, and are quite scenic at times. We hop back on the 191 up to Lewistown, Montana. At the Yogo Inn we enjoy the indoor pool, hot tub and a poolside meal from the hotel restaurant.

Beartooth Forever – a Father-Daughter Ride to Yellowstone
Picturesque view from Montana Highway 86 north of Bozeman, Montana.

The next day, on a whim we decide to visit the ghost town of Kendall, outside of Lewistown off Route 191 that we’re taking to head north toward Saskatchewan. The road to the ghost town starts off as a nicely paved secondary road, but soon turns to gravel. We pass a couple ruins of old buildings, but the road continues, so we continue. The road narrows and turns into a single lane path, with big rocks and bumps. On an adventure bike it would be fun, but this is definitely not Gold Wing territory. There is no one else on this road, and as we climb the mountain to see where the road takes us, the guardrails disappear and the drops become larger.

As the bike bumps and gyrates along, Shayla expresses concern that we should probably not be on this road. Even though I tend to have a mental defect that makes me press on even when it may not be wise, I eventually have to admit that I’m pushing it too far.

Beartooth Forever – a Father-Daughter Ride to Yellowstone
It’s easy to feel like you’re on top of the world while taking a break at a Beartooth Highway overlook.

The road seems narrower than the Gold Wing is long, so I get Shalya to disembark and proceed to do a multi-point U-turn. While backing up, the bike leans toward the left, my bad shoulder side, and I drop it! I’m OK, the bike is OK, and we both start laughing. I take a photo of the downed bike, which is really the only good thing about a bike being on its side.

We straighten up the bike and make our way back down the mountain. I derive a strange sort of pleasure from riding a motorcycle where it has no business being ridden, and Shayla starts getting into the absurdity of it. I’m cautious, and we bump and bounce along at 5 mph, laughing and giggling in our headsets. We don’t get to see the full ghost town, but the memory of trying to get to it will surely stay with us for a lifetime.

Beartooth Forever – a Father-Daughter Ride to Yellowstone
Beehive Geyser in Yellowstone National Park erupting with bursts up to 200 feet in the air.

We head north on Route 191 and back into Canada, and eventually back home to Ottawa, Ontario. Sixteen days and 5,700 miles after leaving, we pull into our driveway, safe and sound.

I’ve heard it said how having kids is like a long, slow, painful good-bye. Kids start out being fully dependent on their parents, becoming less dependent as they grow, until they are eventually (hopefully) self-sufficient. My goal is to maintain as many ties as possible while that happens. My hope with this ride is that the shared experiences, the hours of conversation through our headsets, the challenges, the dropped bikes, the joys, the heat, the rain, and the time spent together, have contributed to that in some way. We’ll always remember the Beartooth, and we’ll always be able to laugh about the ghost town we almost visited. 

Beartooth Forever – a Father-Daughter Ride to Yellowstone
Pull-off on U.S. Route 16 in Wyoming, in the Bighorn National Forest. with the mountains getting closer.

Beartooth Forever: a Father-Daughter Ride to Yellowstone Photo Gallery:

Source: RiderMagazine.com

Get out and riding despite the plague! A few ideas…

Some quick trips

By Peter Thoeming ‘The Bear’

Don’t worry, you’re not trapped. Even with the Coronavirus romping around the country and locking State borders, there are still places you can go on your bike. Here are a few suggestions you may not have thought of. Even if you have thought of them, they may be places you intended to go “sometime” and never got around to. Go now!

Victoria: Well, okay, if you live in Melbourne you may be trapped after all. Once things ease off, here’s a fun one or two day ride. Whitfield is not too far from Melbourne – some 250 km via Yea and Mansfield. There is some excellent riding along the way, and while the pub’s accommodation was a bit ordinary last time I stayed there, it’s close enough to make it a day return ride from Melbourne. If venturing further than after Whitfield head to Myrtleford and then Mount Beauty or Bright.

The road from Whitfield to Yea is always a good run
The road from Yea through to Whitfield is always a good run

Queensland: Boonah is a nice little town, and I bet you’ve never even been there! A round trip via Beaudesert and Ipswich is about 200 km. Flavours Café has good coffee and even a little motorcycle history display. Nice run out from behind the Gold Coast via Canungrah.

South Australia: I like the Cradock pub. It’s on the RM Williams Way, about 350 km north of Adelaide. You know how sometimes people say, ‘There’s nothing much there?’ Well, there’s nothing at all at Cradock except the pub, but that’s a tidy little place with very affordable accommodation and quite good food. There are also several alternative ways to get there.

Animal life in Cradock consists mainly of corrugated iron cut-outs.
Animal life in Cradock consists mainly of corrugated iron cut-outs.

Western Australia: What about Wave Rock? It’s just outside Hyden, 340 km almost due east of Perth. Admittedly the roads to get there are pretty flat and straight, but they are tarred and that means it’s a good chance to give the bike a bit of a run! Nearby and reasonably inexpensive accommodation at the Wave Rock Motel has a pool and free Wi-Fi.  Ye Olde Quindanning Inne near Williams is another good quick out of town ride for lunch, or a big night at the bar with an overnighter.

Editor Trev at Wave Rock in the late 90s. Word is that it makes for an awesome berm… In less enlightened times…

Tasmania: I’d head for Bothwell, whether I lived in Launceston or Hobart. Good riding both ways (better from Launceston) with some optional routes, and wonderful vanilla slices.

New South Wales: Here’s a destination with a difference. The old silver mining town of Yerranderie is in the Blue Mountains, some 270 km from Sydney over a variety of roads. Mainly tarred, but with some gravel and dirt. Best thing is to camp there; taking all your own supplies.

Check out some motorcycle travel ideas with The Bear
Shooters Hill Road, the last bit of tarred surface on the way to Yerranderie.

Source: MCNews.com.au

The Pennsylvania Wilds

The Pennsylvania Wilds
The author’s Kawasaki Voyager 1700 basks in the sun alongside rolling Route 660 and the lush farmland near Pine Creek Canyon. A Pennsylvania dairy farm near Wellsboro stands proudly in the morning sun.

When I want to escape the daily grind for a few days, any motorcycle excursion I choose must have great roads, beautiful scenery, parks and interesting places to visit. The ride getting there is just as important as the destination, too. Rolling west on scenic roads through New Jersey and New York to the heart of Pennsylvania adds to the adventure. The North-Central Pennsylvania Wilds region contains 2.1 million acres of public land and is one of the least populated areas in the northeast.

With hundreds of miles of roads to explore and small towns with a 1950’s vibe that dot the landscape, the Wilds’ forests and mountains are also home to elk, bear, deer, coyote, fox and rattlesnake. In fact, if you really want to add an extra level of excitement to the trip, visit in the spring and participate in one of the annual rattlesnake roundups.

The Pennsylvania Wilds
Some of our group celebrating atop Hyner View State Park (from left: Wild Bill, Maggie May, Nordic Linda, Road Captain Ken, and in back, Woodstock Mark).

When I started talking about my trip, I thought a few friends might be interested, but eventually 12 riders on 10 bikes wanted to join me—a bit of a large group but manageable. Morning rain delayed our departure time for more than an hour, and we still left Ringwood, New Jersey with it coming down. Traveling west, we bounced along on the two-lane Greenwood Lake Turnpike and weaved alongside the lush forested mountains that line the blue waters of the Wanaque and Monksville Reservoirs. Climbing up and over Bearfort Mountain, we rode through a section of the 34,350-acre Wawayanda State Park and into the expansive farmland of the Pine Island black dirt region of New York State.

At Port Jervis the rain took a respite and we blasted off on Interstate 84, a scenic highway that cuts through the forested hills of eastern Pennsylvania. On weekdays, traffic is usually light. My Kawasaki Voyager 1700 handled the backroads with aplomb and did the same on the Interstate, eating up 65 miles of highway in no time along with the other nine bikes.

The Pennsylvania Wilds

Taking Interstate 81 north to Waverly, we had a tasty lunch at the Camelot Restaurant and Inn. After lunch, the sky had cleared and the sun gazed down upon us like a mother admiring her newborn. Traveling west on State Route 632, this curvaceous two-lane road led us to famous U.S. Route 6, also known as the Grand Army of the Republic Highway. It honors the Union Civil War Veterans and travels 3,199 miles from Bishop, California to Provincetown, Massachusetts.

At Russell Hill, we exited Route 6 onto the rural and rustic State Route 87, which for the most part is decently paved and serpentines through wave-like Pennsylvania farmland devoid of any large towns. However, for the rest of the day’s ride, Mother Nature toyed with us like a heartless bully: rain then clearing, rain then clearing and so on.

The Pennsylvania Wilds
Facing the Loyalsock Creek, the Forksville Methodist Church epitomizes the rural style of Pennsylvania churches.

We continued on Route 87 to the Forksville Covered Bridge. Built in 1850, the 152-foot-long bridge crosses Loyalsock Creek and is on the National Register of Historic Places. Since Wild Bill and Woodstock Mark wanted a snack, we stopped at the Forksville General Store & Restaurant, erected in 1851. The store’s motto is “Let’s get forked up.” It is known for its Philly cheesesteak sandwich, as well as other culinary delights. Nearby the Worlds End State Park has scenic overlooks, a swimming area, a campground and cabins.

Backtracking to State Route 154, which is a more rural route than Route 87, we weaved and bobbed through farmland and forest, the road occasionally caressing small villages where at times we felt like we had sailed into the 19th century. For the most part, this country road was in good condition all the way to State Route 414.

The Pennsylvania Wilds
Wild Bill gets his “cool on” while posing with our machines at Hyner View State Park.

At State Route 287, we roared north to Wellsboro, gateway to Pennsylvania’s Grand Canyon area and our home for the next two nights. Excellent views of the Canyon can be seen from Leonard Harrison and Colton Point State Parks, both roughly a 12-mile ride from Wellsboro. Officially named Pine Creek Gorge, it is almost 50 miles long, more than 1,000 feet deep in spots and a mile across at its widest. A rail trail runs the entire length of the gorge, which is surrounded by 160,000 acres of the Tioga State Forest.

Settled in 1806, Wellsboro’s population is 3,328, and its gas-lit streetlights and Victorian Mansions date back to the early 1800s. The town’s two-storied Main Street architecture screams rural America, and restaurants are within walking distance of several motels. After a hearty meal at the family owned The Steak House Restaurant and a few celebratory libations, we called it a day.

The Pennsylvania Wilds
Time for a map check on Route 44 before entering the 215,500-acre Tiadaghton State Forest.

Saturday greeted us with sunshine and blue skies. We left early, our caravan of motorcycles pulsating through the cool morning air as we rumbled through Wellsboro to the friendly waves of locals. Heading south on State Route 287, we stormed through the countryside like the cavalry charging (Fort) Salladasburg, one of only five villages on this 36-mile section of road. State Route 973 led us west into a tunnel of greenery that enveloped this twisting, hilly roadway to State Route 44 north, which plunged us ever deeper into the Wilds.

Finding Hyner Mountain Road proved a bit challenging, so I stopped to consult my map and also asked Warp Speed Vito to program the road into his GPS. Approaching the turnoff, he signaled it was up ahead. Coming from the east, there are two roadways to Hyner View State Park; bypass the first unpaved one and take the paved Hyner View Road a few miles beyond on the left. This narrow, bumpy, twisting five-mile road leads to a spectacular panorama of the Pennsylvania Wilds, which incorporates 304,540 acres of Sproul State Forest. The West Branch Susquehanna River slithers alongside State Route 120 as it passes through several small river towns.

The Pennsylvania Wilds
Described as “The Best Classic Diner in America,” the railroad car-style 1939 Wellsboro Diner serves delicious and reasonably priced meals.

Stopping for lunch at the Sportsman’s Hotel & Restaurant in Renovo, Too Cool Drew and Scott, “the Hurricane,” suggested we dine on the patio. The food and service were good, as was the conversation with local riders who kidded us about being a bunch “tough bikers from Jersey.” Due to recent heavy rains, our waitress mentioned there might be bad road conditions leading to Kettle Creek State Park, but they all proved to be fine.

Riding west on Route 120 to Westport and then Kettle Creek Road is a beautiful run alongside the West Branch of the Susquehanna River and Kettle Creek; both were swollen from the rains. Cruising parallel to the creek surrounded by forest was like floating through the wilderness.

The Pennsylvania Wilds
Hyner View State Park vista includes the West Branch of the Susquehanna River, Route 120 and the forested mountains of Sproul State Forest.

Kettle Creek State Park’s 1,793-acres lie in a valley surrounded by the mountains of the Sproul State Forest. The Alvin R. Bush Dam is 165 feet high and controls 226 square miles of drainage. A flood that wiped out a large portion of this area, including parts of Renovo, was the impetus for the dam and park. Today, Kettle Creek State park is home to elk, bald eagles, coyote, fox and bear, among other wildlife.

Taking a break by the lake proved most relaxing, so much so that Down-on-the-Farm Darwin took a nap in the grass. We enjoyed the view and the cool breeze blowing off the lake. Kettle Creek State Park has two campgrounds, cabins, a small beach and non-motorized boat rentals. For riders who like to combine riding with camping, the park makes a great base camp for additional exploring.

The Pennsylvania Wilds
The French Azilum Marie Antoinette Lookout off Route 6 near Wyalusing.

Nordic Linda ended our respite saying, “Hey, guys, let’s get moving. I want to enjoy the pool before dinner.” So we fired up our machines moving north on smooth State Route 144, which snakes its way through forestland to Route 6. Then we traveled east toward Pine Creek Gorge (Pennsylvania’s Grand Canyon), and on to Wellsboro.

Sunday morning greeted us with smiling sunshine that would follow us home. Route 6, a designated Scenic Byway, would be our main route to New Jersey. Although not as impressive as some of the other roads we traveled, it is nonetheless a pretty ride through the countryside and small towns of an earlier era.

The Pennsylvania Wilds
Looking southeast from the French Azilum encompasses valley farmland and mountains.

One of the most impressive views on Route 6 is from the French Azilum, also known as the Marie Antoinette (of “Let them eat cake” fame) Lookout. Eight miles east of Towanda, the view of the Susquehanna River Valley unfolded before our eyes like a colorful bedspread of farmlands dotting the valley, with low rising mountains sitting on the horizon.

At Dixon, I bypassed the congested areas of Route 6, taking State Route 92 (a bit bumpy) northeast to State Route 374 and then south on State Route 106, both smooth rural roads, and reconnected with Route 6 for a short time at Carbondale (State Route 107 is a shorter, simpler bypass). From Carbondale, we jumped on the Owego Turnpike, which serpentines through the countryside to Route 6 in Hawley.

Riding home from Hawley with the warm wind and sun caressing my face, I smiled with thoughts of the trip. Although we were a large group, all worked out well. We overcame a day of rainy weather and a few missed turns, but we had a great time. We sailed through forests and small towns, visited impressive state parks and rode our motorcycles to the top of panoramic vistas. Yet, there was still so much left to explore, making a return to the Pennsylvania Wilds an enjoyable inevitability.

The Pennsylvania Wilds
The cows speaking: “Don’t eyeball us, biker folk; we Pennsylvania heifers are tough.”

Story and photos by Kenneth W. Dahse

The Pennsylvania Wilds Photo Gallery:

Source: RiderMagazine.com

Around the world with The Bear | Part 35 | Arizona to Hollywood

Motorcycle Touring in the USA

The King of Every Kingdom
Around the world on a very small motorcycle

With J. Peter “The Bear” Thoeming

Sitting Bull ate a handful of gunpowder every day. Maybe I should have been drinking petrol..

The bike was still running well and lapping up the excellent roads of Arizona and Nevada. But it was getting a little hard to start again, so whenever I pulled up to take a look at the Canyon, I tried to find a slope to make clutch starting easier. Despite these concerns, I still found the Canyon stunning.

The sheer size is overpowering, and it takes quite a while before the mind can take in its scale. It’s very pretty, too, but it reminded me irresistibly of an enormous layer cake that’s been attacked by monster mice.

From here, I turned north-east towards Durango and the Rockies. The old Indians at the roadside stalls where I stopped to buy turquoise souvenirs had the most awe-inspiring faces I think I’ve ever seen – except perhaps for some of the Tibetans in Nepal. Lined and sombre, their faces reminded me of photos of Sitting Bull. Did you know that he reportedly ate a handful of gunpowder every day to protect himself from gunshots?

Around the world with The Bear Peter Thoeming Part PICTxUp through the mountains the altitude put me in a good mood with the XL also performing well

The road past the bald head of Engineer Mountain and up to the 11,000 ft pass leading to Silverton was great. Quite aside from the fact that I was enjoying having corners again – despite its weight and nearly worn-out shock absorbers, the XL was fun on winding roads – I also got an altitude high.

This happens to me occasionally when I get too high up, and I start making faces, singing, cracking jokes and laughing like crazy – all to myself. It also helped that I was back in the lovely Rockies, with forests of aspens and conifers on the steep slopes and that bracing, cold, clean air. Some of the aspens were already beginning to turn from green to gold. Winter was on its way.

I hurried to get to Denver, where I expected mail to be waiting for me, but of course the best-laid plans of mice and bears… Just outside Conifer, some 40 miles from Denver, my throttle actuating cable broke. I was on the very edge of the huge rampart of mountains that leads down to Denver, so I tried coasting.

I got 18 miles before I ran out of hill! Then – at Bear Lake, to add insult to injury – I finally had to give in and switch the return cable with the broken one. This gave me a throttle control, but of course it now turned the opposite way—to accelerate, I had to turn the throttle away from me. Lots of fun in peak-hour Denver traffic!

Around the world with The Bear Peter Thoeming Part RIMGA broken throttle cable saw me coast 18 miles, before stopping to switch the return cable around

By now it was too late to go to the post office, and when I got there in the morning there was no mail for me anyway. It’s always a bit depressing when you’re on the road for a while and don’t get mail. You really feel lonely.

But I still had the address of John-with-the-BMW, whom I’d met in Michigan, so I went up to Boulder to stay with him. In traditional American style, I was made most welcome by all the inhabitants of his house and spent a cheerful few days there. Boulder is full of musicians and has an excellent library. I loafed and read and listened to music. My mail was waiting for me when I got to Denver again a week later, and my bliss was nearly complete. But I was still missing Annie, very much.

Down I rode to Colorado Springs along the row of frozen combers that make up the eastern edge of the Rocky Mountains, and then up and around Pike’s Peak to Cripple Creek. An early mining settlement, this little town has now suffered the fate of all picturesque places in the US – it’s become a tourist trap and derives its substance from the buses. It was still pretty, though, and the scenery on the way even more so. Some of the trees were now changing from gold to bright scarlet and the slopes were marbled with the different shades.

Around the world with The Bear Peter Thoeming PartTaos proved the ultimate in tourist towns…

Sand Dunes National Memorial, an enormous dune formed by wind forced to drop its load of dust and sand by a mountain range, was not as impressive as the booklet had suggested, so I took my leave again and headed for New Mexico. Leaving Kit Carson’s old fort to one side (he was the local hero here), I made Taos in the early afternoon. This has to be just about the ultimate in tourist towns – it gives the impression of having been built exclusively for the trade. Not that it isn’t pretty, it just seems so phony. Perhaps I shouldn’t talk. I only spent an hour there.

I slept up in the hills above Santa Fe that night, deep in another world. Everyone here speaks Spanish, the shop signs are in Spanish and the fluorescent Coors advertisements all say ‘cerveza’ instead of ‘beer’. I felt as though I’d made it to Mexico. In another sad case of prejudice, a white Anglo-Saxon-etc American I asked wouldn’t tell me where any of the local bars were. He didn’t think I really ought to drink with ‘those people’.

Around the world with The Bear Peter Thoeming Part‘Mexican Hat Service’ – Stopping for fuel

From Santa Fe I took the back roads to Albuquerque and found myself back up in the mountains. It was drizzly and cold, too, but the road was well surfaced, narrow and twisty; I had a good time here. I also stopped in a weird little town called Madrid. It had obviously not long since been a ghost town, but now a great crew of hippies was busy restoring, shoring up and beautifying the wonky-looking timber houses.

On the way to Ruidoso and the Aspencade Motorcyclists Convention, I began to worry about the chain again. I’d had to tighten it rather frequently – neither of the chains I’d bought in the US lasted very well – and now the bike was jerking quite noticeably. I had all sorts of fantasies about bent countershafts (silly) and twisted sprockets (sillier).

Riding was becoming unpleasant. I made it to Ruidoso anyway, and spent a relaxed couple of days watching the bikes roll in. I’d been in touch with Honda, and they had expressed an interest in having my XL250 on their stand at the trade show, so, once the show started, I spent my evenings down there talking to the visitors – who found it very difficult to believe that anyone could be crazy enough to ride a 250 around the world.

Around the world with The Bear Peter Thoeming PartAspencade Motorcyclists Convention

Days were spent drinking with my newly acquired friends Norman – who left his little dog Honda guarding their Gold Wing – and Bob, who’d ridden to the show on one of the very few two-strokes around.

Nothing much was going on, rather a disappointment after the bustle of European rallies, but it was great to talk to so many people, from so many walks of life, who were all devoted to motorcycling. I was a little surprised to see relatively few Harleys compared with the waves of Gold Wings that inundated the place.

I rode the new Harley Sturgis, and was very impressed with the belt drives, and spent a lot of time admiring the custom bikes. Unfortunately, they mostly looked as though they’d been put together out of three only slightly different mail-order catalogues. There was not really much variety. The trikes were spectacular, but once again there was little variety among them. On the third day, I won the ‘Longest Distance-Solo Male Rider’ trophy, which still hangs proudly on the wall of my office.

Then it was off again – a straight run for the coast. Every trip has a limited lifespan, and after 11 weeks this one was gasping its last. So it was out onto the Interstate, a road I generally avoided, and off.

Around the world with The Bear Peter Thoeming PartI could tell I was reaching the natural end of my journey with the trusty XL

Seventeen miles from Yuma the steering went heavy. Inspection showed that the patch we had put on the front tube in the Khyber Pass had lifted. It was well over 35 degrees C, there was no shade, and in fact it was very similar to the conditions in which the tube had first given out. It went flat again just outside Yuma, so I had a new tube fitted.

I rather begrudged that now, seeing we were so close to the end of the trip, but I couldn’t be bothered with any more flats. In El Centro I also found an excellent bike shop, where they located a good second-hand Tsubaki chain to replace my old, worn-out one. So I was ready to face the last stretch with confidence!

The road to the coast was most enjoyable, through rugged hills on an excellent surface. In San Diego a solid wall of smog was waiting for me. I made my way down to the Pacific – nice to see an old friend again – and watched the huge oily rollers coming in all the way from Australia.

Up the coast into the rat’s nest of freeways that is Los Angeles, and a stop at the Road Rider magazine office, where I was received very kindly and offered the use of a typewriter to belt out a few stories for them and refresh my traveling kitty.

Around the world with The Bear Peter Thoeming PartWas always a pleasure meeting fellow riders, many surprised by my trip on the XL compared to the more common machinery seen in North America

I spent the last few days before my flight was due wandering around, by bike mostly, and sightseeing. I found Hollywood especially interesting – not so much the homes of the stars as Hollywood Boulevard. Then I had lunch with the friendly folk from Honda USA, entrusted my little bike to them for forwarding to Australia and climbed aboard the plane with the big red kangaroo on the tail.

I spent the flight planning the next trip…

And that, as they say, is all he wrote. But of course I wrote a lot of other stuff after this… and I’m grateful to all of you who read it.

Source: MCNews.com.au

Around the world with The Bear | Part 34 | Oregon to the Grand Canyon

Motorcycle Touring in the USA

The King of Every Kingdom
Around the world on a very small motorcycle

With J. Peter “The Bear” Thoeming

I received some sage advice at this point in my journey, “Just because you reach the Pacific coast doesn’t mean you’ve seen America, boy!”

My new-found friend Larry thought that story was very funny when I told him in the bar that night. Larry was an extremely laid-back ex Marine, whose wife owned one of the three bars in town. He explained to me why he was happy with his life. “You know the story about the perfect wife being a deaf and dumb nymphomaniac who owns a bar? Well, look, my wife may not be deaf and dumb, but she owns this place, and as far as the rest is concerned…”

Around the world with The Bear Peter Thoeming Part RIMG‘The Western’ motel offered an old school saloon experience

On down the coast, and past the gloomy but impressive hulk of Humburg Mountain, a block of stone between the road and the sea. I was in the redwood forests by now, which presented a problem in photography. Even with the widest lens I carried, I had to put the camera up quite a distance from the tree if I wanted to get both the top and bottom in, as well as myself standing at the base. So I’d put the camera on the tripod, set the self-timer and run like hell to get to the tree before the shutter went off. I succeeded most of the time.

Around the world with The Bear Peter Thoeming Part RIMGTraditional American food, not so different than what you get in Australia…

Maybe it was the majesty of the trees, but I started to do some rather serious thinking about what this trip had taught me, and how I had changed in the last two and a half years. I could come up with very little, except that I missed Annie badly. It’s probably not so much that there’s little to learn on this kind of trip… it’s more that I’m incorrigible. After all, I’d coped pretty well with all the different cultures… hadn’t I?

I had looked forward to discussing all this with Ted Simon, who had written a marvellous book called Jupiter’s Travels about his own circumnavigation of the globe. Ted now lived in San Francisco, and mutual acquaintances had given me his address and telephone number. But when I rang, it was to discover that he had just become a father – and swapping ideas about bike travel was the farthest thing from his mind. I could hardly blame him!

When I got out of the phone box, the bike refused to start again. The poor little 250 XL had been mistreated for so long that it was finally rebelling. Even pushing wouldn’t do it. As it happened, the phone box was outside the Municipal Offices for the small town I was in, so I went in there looking for pushers. The Sheriff, Deputy Sheriff and the Fire Chief all lent a hand, and the bike – out of respect, I guess – fired straight away.

Around the world with The Bear Peter Thoeming PartI had to request some aid to get the Honda started on occasion

Through the coastal fog, I rode the last few miles into San Francisco. The fog was eerie, somehow – I had the constant feeling that there was an enormous eye, just above the fog, looking for me. California was beginning to affect me, I guess. They do say that the place has more religious nuts than any other place on Earth. Maybe it’s catching. Once in the city, having crossed a Golden Gate Bridge whose upper beams were invisible in the same fog, I started looking for a bike shop to service the XL.

The Honda dealer’s service manager was dubious. She indicated her crew of mechanics and said: ‘These prima donnas only like to put new bits on new bikes,’ something that the XL definitely wasn’t. But she sent me down to Cycle Source, a small service shop run by the inimitable Jack Delmas.

Around the world with The Bear Peter Thoeming Part RIMGThe Golden Gate Bridge is an inspiring site

Jack is an ex-cop, and one of the friendliest, most helpful blokes I’ve ever met. His staff aren’t far behind, either – Chris, on the spares counter, and Eddie, in the workshop, both helped me out. The shop was like a little home away from home. Eddie also got the bike running – and starting – beautifully. All at very reasonable rates. I celebrated by doing (more or less involuntary) wheelies up the steep streets of San Francisco, racing the cable cars.

SF is one of those rare cities that just feels good. Fishermen’s Wharf is a tourist trap, but North Beach is full of great bars, with good music and imported beer. Although why they bother importing Bass is beyond me… Then it was time to turn east again, over the Bay Bridge and through Oakland and all the little valley towns to Yosemite National Park.

If Yellowstone is beautiful, Yosemite is exquisite. The soaring cliffs, yellow meadows and dark pine forests set each other off so well that the place hardly looks real. All development has been done carefully, and presents a low profile. The park is like a natural garden, from the delicacy of Bridal Veil Falls to the brute mass of Half Dome.

Around the world with The Bear Peter Thoeming Part PA slightly different message to the one we’d see back home…

Despite the lateness of the season, the campgrounds in the valley were full, so I camped in one of the free sites up in the hills. Smoky Jack campground was very pleasant in the half-dark, with campfires and stars both twinkling away. Despite the cold night, I slept well – no doubt partly due to the good offices of Mr James Beam.

Mono Lake was a little disappointing; its strange rock formations didn’t really live up to the publicity. But I was thoroughly enchanted with an extremely attractive ‘flagperson’ with one of the road repair gangs I met on the way south. Women are now a common sight in road gangs in America, but they seem mostly to do the less strenuous work. That’s changing too, though. I saw a number of female tractor drivers.

At Lone Pine I turned onto the roller-coaster that passes for a road down to Death Valley. From 5000 ft it goes nearly to sea level, then back to 5000, down to two, back to nearly five, and then down to Furnace Creek, 178 ft below sea level. True to form, it was hot – over 37 degrees C – and it didn’t cool down much at night.

There were some German travelers camped next to me, and although I got some sleep on top of a picnic table in my underpants, they tossed and turned all night. Australian conditioning finally comes in handy!

Around the world with The Bear Peter Thoeming Part PElevation changes and heat took their tole, but being used to Australian conditions helped

I had a strong headwind the next day, and was nearly blown off Zabriskie Point lookout. But when I turned left at the ghost town of Death Valley Junction the wind was at my back and helped me along. The whole area is very impressive for its total desolation – over square mile after square mile not a blade of grass grows. It must have been a tough life working in the mines here.

Las Vegas spreads its rather unattractive tentacles far out into the desert. Housing developments go up on the flat, windy plain and some attempt is made to civilize it all by pouring great quantities of water into the ground to grow a bit of anemic lawn. I much prefer the desert itself. The town, however, is fun with its amazing architecture, combination loan offices/motels/wedding chapels/divorce offices, acres of neon and extremely single-minded people.

Around the world with The Bear Peter Thoeming Part RIMGSome interesting signage…

Something seemed odd to me about all the casinos, and it took a while before I’d worked out what it was. Unlike the equivalents in Europe, Las Vegas casinos were not styled like palaces or upper-class residences. Here, they were styled in Ultimate Suburban – their exteriors like a hamburger joint gone mad, their interiors like a suburban tract house owned by a suburban millionaire. Lots of flash, but no taste. Tremendous fun, all of it.

In the bizarre, broken-down little town of Chloride, I asked the elderly, toothless petrol-pump attendant where the campsite was. He pointed to the top of a distinctly bare hill off in the distance, and I decided to push on to Kingman instead.

Around the world with The Bear Peter Thoeming PartThe famour Route 66

I followed one of the few remaining stretches of Route 66 in the morning, and rode through Coconino County, the home of Krazy Kat in the famous thirties comic strip of the same name. Meanwhile, dozens of grasshoppers hit my legs as I rode along – it was almost like riding through gravel as they rattled against my shins. There seemed to be quite a plague of them.

Still in beautiful sunshine, I rode up to the Grand Canyon.

Well, all good (and other) things have to come to an end. That’s what this story does next week. About time, eh?

Source: MCNews.com.au