Tag Archives: Touring

Riding Central New Mexico

Astronomy, History and Great Roads

motorcycle ride New Mexico
Central New Mexico is a motorcycling wonderland offering up environmental and cultural diversity only found in the American Southwest. Photos by the author.

I stand over the open side case of my BMW R 1200 GS outside the Black’s Smuggler Winery in Bosque, New Mexico. I carefully wrap the bottle of local cabernet in a t-shirt and pack it in the middle of my left side box. It has become a tradition to bring my wife a bottle of the regional wine from any state I visit without her. If that means packing a little lighter for the ride, so be it. This is early in my trek through west-central New Mexico, so the bottle of red will be my traveling companion for several hundred beautiful miles.

I head south through the arid Southwestern landscape, cutting through a portion of the Sevilleta National Wildlife Refuge. This terrain lives up to the common perception of New Mexico. However, I know that my ride will encompass much more than desert — on a map my 400 miles will trace a big letter C through the diversity that is central New Mexico.

motorcycle ride New Mexico
Map of the route taken, by Bill Tipton/compartmaps.com.

The first real town on my route is Socorro. The historic city sits in the Rio Grande Valley and is the seat of Socorro County. There is copious history in this region, much of it tied to the strong Mexican influence. The name translates “to give aid or to give succor,” which is a reflection of the town’s early history of importance to the earliest of Mexican immigrants, including the 1598 expedition led by Don Juan de Oñate y Salazar.

The sun is low in the sky as I roll west out of Socorro on U.S. Route 60. The road is just a bit curvier, the grass is greener and mountains emerge in the horizon. Just after I ride through tiny Magdalena, juniper trees and other low evergreens dot the landscape. The Tres Montosas peaks rise out of the high chaparral landscape to my right.

Datil New Mexico
It has been a while since a wrench has been turned in this garage in Datil.

Just as I am getting used to the treed horizon, the evergreens subside and something otherworldly replaces them. Huge, white bowls stand like strange, metallic mushrooms on the expansive Plains of San Agustin. I am rolling into the Very Large Array, a world-renowned astronomical radio observatory. Each movable antenna is 25 meters in diameter. The observatory, which dates back to the early 1970s, has made key observations of black holes, pulsars and other intergalactic intrigues. The white bowls are so spread out as to be on the horizon for several miles of my ride.

Very Large Array (VLA)
The astronomical dishes of the Very Large Array (VLA) rise impressively out of the New Mexican desert.

Once clear of the VLA, I ride up in elevation and vegetation to my stop for the night. Datil is a tiny town sitting at an elevation of 7,400 feet. I walk into the small general store that also serves as the check-in desk for the Eagle Guest Ranch. I am told by the amiable man handing me the room key that the guest ranch serves as the annual encampment for a big Moto Guzzi rally. I shed my gear in my room before heading to the guest ranch’s restaurant, which has the reputation as one of the best steak houses in New Mexico. Not having enough appetite for one of their large, fresh-cut slabs of meat, I opt for what turns out to be a delectable steak sandwich and a cold dark lager.

Eagle Guest Ranch in Datil
A room in the Eagle Guest Ranch in Datil serves as my stopover for the ride.

The morning air is cool as I roll out of Datil to the west. This stretch of U.S. 60 is lined with a mix of juniper and pine trees and the elevation brings a nice green hue that sits in subtle contrast to the desert and chaparral terrains of the prior day’s ride. Long, sweeping turns are a great warm-up to what will prove to be a supremely entertaining riding day.

Signs indicate I am approaching the aptly named Pie Town. I ride into what is basically a two pie-shop town that has garnered national attention for its quirkiness and mouth-watering baked treats. It has even been featured on CBS’s “Sunday Morning.” It is too early for pie, and I am not much of a sweets guy anyway, but I have to stop and visit the famous bakeries. Fun stuff.

Pie Town, New Mexico
World-famous baked goods are served up in tiny Pie Town, New Mexico.

With the aroma of crust and filling still clinging to my riding gear, I head farther west on U.S. 60. Again, the trees subside into high grasslands as I make my way to Quemado. Another tiny, inhabited dot on the map, Quemado features a small hotel, a few restaurants, a school and the Sacred Heart Catholic Church with its twin bells and historic cemetery. The quaint hamlet spells the end of my jaunt on U.S. 60.

I have been looking forward to the ride on State Route 32 since the employee at the Eagle Guest Ranch told me that it was the favorite stretch for the riders attending the Guzzi rally each year. Heading south out of Quemado, the road begins with sweeping turns and expansive views of the New Mexican grasslands. However, in just a few short miles, I climb into a beautiful pine forest. The trees grow larger with the climb in elevation that also brings the most winding and entertaining tarmac of the ride so far.

The beautiful road tops out at Jewett Gap, which sits at an elevation of more than 8,200 feet. After that crest, I start my curvy descent through rock canyons and then beside Apache Creek as I head farther south on my C-shaped New Mexican tour. I think back to the muted browns of the start of the ride as I take in the vibrant greens of this mountain region.

I ride into the small, bustling logging and ranching town of Reserve. I gas up and have a chat with the counter worker who is intrigued by the big GS at the pump. After telling him that I am heading south to Silver City, he tells me that I should take the short ride west past Luna where there is a great view of the entire valley. Of course I’m up for that, and I head west. The ride to Luna is fun, and the end game, that overlook, is all that the gas station attendant said it would be.

motorcycle ride New Mexico
The elevated view eastward over the town of Luna is panoramic and enchanting.

After retracing my ride to the east, I turn south on U.S. Route 180, which will be my route through the Gila National Forest all the way to Silver City. After dropping out of the forest, I come upon the Aldo Leopold Vista Picnic Area. Leopold has long been one of my favorite nature writers and his book, “A Sand County Almanac,” holds a special place in my heart and in my bookcase back home. The views from the vista are massive and their unspoiled nature would make Leopold proud. After a quiet visit to the vista, I am back on the road. As I roll though a beautiful mix of environments, I can’t help but think of some of my favorite Leopold quotes. The most fitting for this ride may be, “Wilderness is the one kind of playground which mankind cannot build to order.” Well said, Aldo.

downtown Silver City New Mexico
Silver City’s central Bullard Street is lined with pastel-hued adobe structures.

The remaining 40 miles to Silver City winds through grasslands, rocky outcroppings and ranches as I trace the bottom curve of the big letter C. I roll into Silver City under the arching welcoming sign to the city’s downtown. In comparison to the tiny towns I have ridden through on this trip, Silver City seems like a metropolis. OK, that’s an overstatement, but the town of more than 10,000 residents is active and vibrant. Silver City is home to Western New Mexico University and, like most college towns, there is an added youthful vigor. That energy permeates the town’s historic ambiance and Southwestern flair to create a delightful cultural mix. There are even stately Victorian homes in the historic district.

Silver City, New Mexico
Silver City is a bustling college town boasting authentic Mexican food and fun lodging.

I realize that it has been a huge faux pas that I have not had a Mexican meal on my tour of New Mexico. I pull in front of the Jalisco Café to remedy that oversight. I take in the colorful Mexican-themed décor as I wait in ever heightening anticipation for my chili relleno. It did not disappoint.

It is with a full stomach that I head out on the final stage to complete the bottom, eastward arc of my big letter C tour of New Mexico. I roll onto State Route 152, and soon realize that I have saved some of the best riding of the trip for last. I carve my way on the narrow and winding road through rocky passes, and juniper and oak thickets before dropping down back into grasslands and big views.

Silver City log cabin
A well-preserved log cabin highlights Silver City’s rich history.

As I end my tour where the winding road meets Interstate 25, I think about the nature of motorcycling. If I had ridden from my start in Bosque to where I am sitting at the Caballo Reservoir on the interstate, it would have been a short, direct, boring two-hour ride. But, in making that speedy letter I into an indirect letter C, I have done what motorcyclists have relished since the dawn of the sport — explore off the beaten path. What could be done on a superslab in two hours took me two days, and that’s just the way I like it. I’ll tell my wife about it when I deliver the well-traveled bottle of New Mexico cabernet.

Source: RiderMagazine.com

Favorite Ride: Mineral King and Sequoia-Kings Canyon National Parks

Yokohl Valley Road
Yokohl Valley Road presents a series of serpentine switchbacks as it curves narrowly through groves of oak trees. Tar snakes, yes. Traffic, no. Photos by the author.

The mission was simple: See some scenery, carve some curves and soak up some cool temperatures before the summer heat arrived.

Three of us left our homes in different corners of Los Angeles, California; I was on a KTM 1090 Adventure R, my brother was riding my BMW R 1200 GS and our friend was on a Honda ST1300, and we met at the Halfway House café, a popular stop for weekend riders. After a hearty breakfast — of the kind none of us ever eats on a non-riding day — we headed northeast through a string of sweet winding roads. Traversing Vasquez Canyon, Bouquet Canyon, Spunky Canyon and San Francisquito Canyon, we made our way through Lake Elizabeth and headed down into the wide Antelope Valley.

Sequoia Kings Canyon california motorcycle ride
A map of the route taken, by Bill Tipton/compartmaps.com.

The cool morning air rose to warming levels by the time we’d run the long straight roads that climb past Willow Springs, through a forest of wind turbines to the town of Tehachapi, where we gassed up and hydrated. Then, it was down wiggling Woodford-Tehachapi Road — pausing to admire the famed Tehachapi Loop, a railroad engineering wonder that curly-cues a length of track around itself, and the César E. Chávez National Monument, a library, museum and memorial of the California farm unionizer.

I’d been impressed by the roadworthiness of the 1090 Adventure R. My impressions improved as we began the tight twists of Caliente Bodfish Road, a narrow two-lane series of sharp curves that brought out the beast in it. Mindful of the livestock roaming along the unfenced sides of the road, and not wanting to dust my riding partners, I modulated the throttle as we rose up and over the crest and proceeded north toward Lake Isabella.

KTM 1090 Adventure R
The KTM 1090 Adventure R had intrigued me most for its off-road capability, but it was on the twisties that I was most impressed.

Wildflowers carpeted the flat fields of Walker Basin, where we paused to take beauty shots of the bikes and complain about the rising heat. Knowing we had a lot of miles left to cover, and certain it was going to get warmer before it got cooler, we dashed down the mountain, past Lake Isabella, to air conditioning, cold drinks and lunch in Kernville at Cheryl’s Diner.

Revived, we scooted out of Kernville, running north along the banks of the Kern River up Mountain Highway 99, watching the trees change from willow and sycamore to oak and finally pine. This higher-speed road carves up an increasingly narrow ravine, the rock walls closing in as the corners tighten. Riding past the turnoff for Sherman Pass, we skirted Johnsondale, left 99 for the seasonally closed M-90, and summitted at 7,300 feet near Ponderosa.

Walker Basin along the Caliente Bodfish Road
Despite the early summer heat, the fields of Walker Basin along the Caliente Bodfish Road were still resplendent with yellow wildflowers.

The 25 miles of State Route 190 downhill to the town of Springville may be the most dramatic motorcycle road in California. Countless tight corners, including some tricky decreasing-radius turns, drop almost 6,000 feet in elevation through pine forests and past trickling waterfalls.

We gassed up again and guzzled cool drinks under a broiling sun in Springville before running the last leg of our first ride day — the splendid, high-speed M-296/Yokohl Valley Drive, a poorly paved length of pavement with some extremely tight hairpin turns that crosses oak-dotted ranchland. When that deposited us on State Route 198, we hooked right, slid past the edge of glistening Lake Kaweah, and landed in Three Rivers, where we’d booked rooms for the night.

Yokohl Valley
David, astride the BMW R 1200 GS, gets a good look at the soft suede hills of Yokohl Valley.

We’d done a little more than 250 miles from the Halfway House. An ample meal at Sequoia Cider Mill prepared us for a good long sleep.

Again mindful of the heat, we saddled up early and rode north to the turnoff for Mineral King. Once a prosperous silver mining area — hence its name — Mineral King got national attention in the 1960s when the Walt Disney Company selected it to build a massive mountain ski resort. Environmentalists intervened; Disney departed.

What remains are the granite cliffs, groves of giant sequoias, rustic cabins dating from the 1870s and a narrow, patchy length of pavement that climbs 7,000 feet in a short 28 miles. It’s a slow, uneven road snaking through dense forests, past cabins hidden in the trees, hugging the side of a canyon wall that features sheer drops to the east fork of the Kaweah River far below.

giant redwood
A few miles uphill from the hot flats of Three Rivers, there suddenly appear redwood trees. This hardy survivor—the tree, that is—had been there for quite a while.

At the road’s end, in an alpine valley dotted with wildflowers and interlaced with gentle streams, we paused to fill our lungs with crisp mountain air and take the obligatory photographs. Hikers setting out for the peaks were headed for 11,000 feet and higher. We mounted up and picked our way slowly back down the hill.

Soon we were on Generals Highway, entering the Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks area — I was getting to use my lifetime “senior” pass for the first time — and biting into a delightful lunch at the recently redesigned Wuksachi Lodge. An hour later, we had the keys to our cabins at John Muir Lodge. While my companions headed for the showers, I did an hour-long hike among the giant sequoias at Grant Grove, communing with the silence as the sun went down and the temperature dropped.

John Muir Lodge, high among the redwoods in Sequoia National Park
It was dusk and a chill was settling down as we parked the bikes and checked into our cabins at John Muir Lodge, high among the redwoods in Sequoia National Park.

Morning broke cold and damp, and it was 45 degrees as we walked to breakfast. It was colder and foggier when we saddled up and headed down East Kings Canyon Road toward the turn for State Route 245. Ordinarily a deliciously twisty downhill run through the towns of Pinehurst and Badger, this well-maintained mountain road loses elevation quickly through a 35-mile series of sweeping curves, each with its own impressive view of the great San Joaquin Valley.

This cold morning, though, the air temperature was just above freezing, the mist had turned to fog and the fog was turning to rain. We proceeded slowly, some of us maybe just a little smug that we had brought proper rain gear.

Old Stage Saloon at Fountain Springs
The Old Stage Saloon at Fountain Springs, said to have been founded in 1858, is famous for its fine food and strong cocktails. Our bad luck it was closed the afternoon we passed.

The unfriendly weather left us briefly as we paralleled State Route 99, but returned as we picked up Old Stage Road and climbed through Glennville and onto State Route 155 into Alta Sierra. Through a pleasant period of weak sunshine, I was able again to make the most of the KTM, carving corners as the two-lane rural roads took us up from farmland to grazing land to pine groves.

Soon the freezing rain had reduced visibility to a few bike lengths. We crawled over the summit and were still chattering in our helmets when we stopped again at Cheryl’s Diner in Kernville, this time to warm up with hot drinks.

We still had the southbound Caliente Bodfish Road to enjoy, and our reverse route through Tehachapi and Lake Elizabeth. But we’d already gotten more than we came for. Good scenery? Curves to carve? Cool temperatures? Check, check, check. Mission accomplished!

Source: RiderMagazine.com

Connecting Small Towns in Northeast Iowa

FB & Company, a bar in Waubeek
Looking back across the river at FB & Company, a bar in Waubeek. Housed in a century-old Stone City building, the place is very rustic but does have food, even a good breakfast. Photos by the author.

Iowa is not known as a motorcycling destination, but rather a through state. Motorcyclists travel mostly on the four-lane roads thinking that’s all there is to see, and that includes many of those who live in Iowa. Even our maps don’t make it look inviting, since the squiggly lines aren’t all that squiggly. So here are some roads I enjoy traveling that will be a treat for any motorcyclists looking for lightly traveled, interesting roads and a highly adaptable route.

Iowa motorcycle ride
Map of the route taken, by Bill Tipton/compartmaps.com.

I start at the intersection of State Highway 13 and U.S. Route 151 outside Cedar Rapids only because I live near there. The ride starts on what I call transit roads, or primarily straight roads. At County Road E34 head east toward the small town of Whittier, past a few houses, a Friends meeting house and a small store, then turn north. I should note that terms like village and hamlet are not common in Iowa, so even a few houses grouped together is called a town. At Waubeek you’ll cross the Wapsipinicon River, where an old mill has been turned into a rustic bar. You’re now on Boy Scouts Road, a former gravel road paved in the chip and dip manner. It’s narrow, the pavement is uneven but not rough and it has some tight corners. It’s a short stretch to savor before returning to more traditional Iowa-style main roads.

curvy road sign
Now this is a sign we like to see! The 25 mph suggested speed on Boy Scouts Road is for grain wagons, not motorcycles. Be aware of furry forest creatures though!

When Boy Scouts Road ends, turn east onto County Road E16 and enjoy some smooth pavement with nice open curves. At a four-way stop, seemingly in the middle of nowhere, turn north on County Road X20. This is a nice paved road off the beaten path where you can enjoy the scenery with a few curves thrown in to keep you from getting white line fever (remember that!).

Boy Scouts Road Iowa
Boy Scouts Road. If only this sign was true!

Next take the road toward Hopkinton, where you will most likely encounter horses and buggies, since there is an Amish population that runs several inviting country stores along the route. The road to Hopkinton, County Road D47, starts straight but then gets nice and curvy with a tight “S” curve that can catch out the unaware. At Hopkinton, there’s a college that used to be active — OK, it was in business about 100 years ago and today you can do a ghost hunt/sleepover if that’s your thing. Heading north you’ll find it is mostly smooth and mostly straight with a few open curves. It is, however, somewhat rough between Hopkinton and Delhi, which makes for a nice stop with available fuel and a couple of good restaurants located on the small-town main street.

Iowa landscape
Heading north on County Road C7X: not your stereotypical cornfield view of Iowa.

You’ll run into State Highway 3 at a T intersection where you’ll head left, then in a few short miles you will turn right onto County Road C7X. Turn right before the first big grain storage facility — you can’t miss the bright metal bins.

The road is smooth and has plenty of curves with gentle elevation changes. As you look around you’ll see what I call “vista views” across the hills that make up this corner of Iowa. You’ll pick up County Road X3C at what’s left of Elkport. A flood devastated the community some years ago; they did, however, make the best of the situation and created a green space camping facility.

Elkport Iowa
Looking south at what is left of Elkport. It does have a camping area with facilities — as long as you don’t mind outhouses.

The curves keep coming along with the views and smooth pavement until you intersect with Highway 13, yes, the same highway I started on. Head south toward an Iowa Welcome Center that has information, a small “Iowa Made” shop and displays of Iowa wildlife that make for a relaxing stop. There are plenty of opportunities to get food or gas along the way, but this stop makes for a quiet interlude. Leave the welcome center heading south looking for a right turn, County Road C24, heading west to Volga — any guesses as to what group settled here?

BMW R 1200 RT
Taking a break at the Iowa Welcome Center, a relaxing stop with an opportunity to stretch your legs.

This road twists and turns, rises and falls, with a few blind turns thrown in as well. At Volga there’s a park that offers camping as well as access to the Volga River for kayaking. This area has become a destination for both leisurely kayakers as well as whitewater kayaking. Volga, like most of the other towns on the route, has a convenient city park perfect for a picnic.

Iowa farm road
A view along County Road C24. I had the experience of seeing a bald eagle on the side of the road that lifted off and flew at my eye level for a second or two before taking to the skies.

Follow the signs to Wadena and you’ll be on a trip back through time to what many people think of when they think of rural Iowa. In Wadena you can stop at a locker (think no-frills meat market) and pick up travel food like meat sticks and jerky, or if you have a cooler, steaks to take home. You’ll also see an old hotel turned into a private residence that still has the name Wadena stenciled on the windows, so that when you got off the train a hundred years ago you knew where you were. Been wondering why so many very small towns exist along this route? One word: railroad. These towns owe their existence to having access to a rail line when rail was the only reliable transportation and communication line in Iowa. In Clermont you’ll see an old depot that a local group is trying to save.

Clermont Iowa depot
The author and his bike in front of the depot at Clermont. A local group is raising money to preserve the historic building. When I was there they were doing some tuck pointing to help it get through the coming winter.

When you reach Clermont, also known as “Brick City,” you can’t miss the turn of the century architecture throughout the town. Clermont was the home of the 13th governor of Iowa and has a statue and museum to prove it. Wadena and Clermont are still active and offer hospitality in the form of small-town restaurants and bars. These are not tourist towns, and they do cater to hunters in the fall, yet you’ll not feel out of place.

Grove Creek Cemetery Iowa
Many “wrought iron” cemeteries are along the route; where you see these old wrought iron signs you know a town was once there too. These old cemeteries mark just how much Iowa has changed through the years.

My ride doesn’t end at Clermont. You can reverse it (I like the way the curves string together heading north to south better then south to north), meander back on the other good roads in the area, explore the many graveled roads along the way if you’re so inclined or pick a new destination. The best time to ride the route is any time you can — I’ve ridden it four times already this year and plan on riding it at least one more time, so look for the guy on a BMW RT wearing high-viz gear: that most likely will be me!

Source: RiderMagazine.com

17th Annual Blue Ridge Gatherings

Blue Ridge Parkway
The gently curving Blue Ridge Parkway helped us get to the Blue Ridge Gathering — and lots of twisty mountain roads that aren’t so well known. Photos by the author.

The Blue Ridge Gathering is an annual meeting of sport-touring riders in western North Carolina, one of the best regions in the U.S. for motorcycling. In October 2018, riders came from as far as Newfoundland to ride some amazing mountain roads.

“I dug through the archives and the first records are from 2002, so this must be the 17th annual Blue Ridge Gathering,” said Phil Derryberry of Nashville, Tennessee, one of the event’s founders. “The original goal was to bring together Honda ST riders in these mountains, but it’s simply become a gathering of people who like to ride here. It’s not about what you ride, just that you do ride.”

Newfoundland license plate
Just how good are the roads in these parts? Good enough that Jim G. Gow rode from York Harbour, Newfoundland — 2,400 miles one-way — just to get here.

Phil is a self-described 7th generation Tennessee hillbilly. “The first Derryberrys were Adam and Eve — yes, really,” he smiled. “They settled there before Tennessee was a state. Both of my grandfathers were moonshiners and bootleggers at one point in their lives.” Though he’s a software developer and highly accomplished pianist, Phil embraces his hillbilly roots. Part of that, he told me, is knowing the best mountain roads, and he says they’re in these parts.

“People come to the Blue Ridge Gathering with a goal of riding some great roads they’ve never seen before,” he explained by a blazing campfire. “I study maps and explore, so it changes every year. If you’re not from around here, you’re not likely to find the roads that I found.” 

Moonshine Creek Campground in Balsam, North Carolina
Moonshine Creek Campground in Balsam, North Carolina, is ideally situated for easy access to some of the region’s best twisty mountain roads.

I can attest to Phil’s talent finding roads. These aren’t the ones you’ve heard of, like the gently curving Blue Ridge Parkway or the 11-mile stretch of U.S. Route 129 known as the Tail of the Dragon (which crosses into Tennessee). Such roads are fun, but they’re also tourist attractions that get crowded. Phil finds roads that most people wouldn’t, ones with unexciting monikers like Lower Flat Creek Road and Macedonia Church Road. They are challenging, technical and demand each rider’s full attention. 

When riding these roads in a group, it helps to have a simple approach that keeps the group united while everyone rides their own ride. Phil is a proponent of Drop and Sweep. “Some guys who come to the Blue Ridge Gathering have skills close to pro racers and some are relative newbies,” Phil explained. “If you ride to the lowest common denominator, it’s not good for everyone. With Drop and Sweep, you ride your own ride at your own speed, but the group remains a group, just spread out. It’s a safer way to organize a group ride because it relieves dynamics based on skill level. I learned it while I was touring in England and it worked so well I started to use it here.” (To learn more about Drop and Sweep, visit unclephil.us/groupride.htm.) 

touring motorcycle riders
After breakfast, people joining the group ride review the simple rules for Drop and Sweep.
touring motorcycle riders
To learn more about Drop and Sweep, visit unclephil.us.

After riding several of Phil’s roads, I sat down at a coffee shop in Marshall, North Carolina, and asked Blue Ridge Gathering riders about their experiences. “All of us are at least a day’s ride from this area and we think nothing of riding here to ride these roads,” said Ashley Horn, a Honda ST1300 rider from Jacksonville, Florida. “I came here in my pre-motorcycle years for hiking and wished I had a motorcycle. My wife then was a big ‘no motorcycles’ person, so I got a new wife — and a motorcycle. This is my happy place.”

“I first came up here in my car to visit friends,” said Dave Doolin, also of Jacksonville, who came on a Honda Gold Wing. “They didn’t ride and when I was up here in their truck and saw the roads, I was fit to be tied without a motorcycle to ride. Ever since, I come on a motorcycle. This region has become an important part of my life.”

motorcycle camping
Honda ST1300s are still the most commonly seen bikes at the Blue Ridge Gathering, but all riders and bikes are welcome.
motorcycle camping
The Blue Ridge Gathering has always been primarily a camping event.

Wayne Efthyvoulou, a long-time sportbike rider from Easthampton, New Jersey, was on his first long tour aboard a purpose-designed sport tourer, his newly acquired Honda ST1300. He was succinct: “It’s great here.” 

The Blue Ridge Gathering is not a commercial event so riders only pay for a campsite or cabin, meals and gas. (Fair warning: you’ll eat up tires faster than usual!) “What makes the Blue Ridge Gathering different is we take roads that aren’t on anybody’s radar,” said Phil. “Most don’t make the ‘Tour North Carolina’ maps. They’re steep, twisty, challenging mountain roads unique to this part of the U.S. I’d love for people who come to have a great safe ride, enjoy some scenery, talk around a campfire after dark and leave feeling like they learned something. And that’s about it.”

For more information, visit blueridgegathering.com.

Macedonia Church Road (State Route 1326) in Rosman, North Carolina
Steve Efthyvoulou and his son Wayne, both from New Jersey, rest along wonderfully winding Macedonia Church Road (State Route 1326) in Rosman, North Carolina.
Macedonia Church Road
Speaking of wonderfully winding Macedonia Church Road…here it is.

Source: RiderMagazine.com

Stage Route to Deadwood: Tracing a Historic Route to the Black Hills

Cheyenne Wyoming boots
There are at least 17 oversized cowboy boots in Cheyenne, which provides the interested visitor the opportunity for a scavenger hunt to locate all of them. Photos by the author.

Cheyenne’s population of 60,000 more than doubles during its 10-day Frontier Days rodeo, which took place a week after I arrived. As it happened, I rode into town a day after the city’s celebration of 150 years of Wyoming statehood in conjunction with the four-year restoration of its gilded domed statehouse. The crowds were gone, so I dodged a bullet. I was here to follow the stage out of town, but first, to take a looksee.

Cheyenne sprouted along the Union Pacific Railroad as it expanded its transcontinental reach. The Romanesque circa-1887 depot is a testament to that history, and a resulting National Historic Landmark. Striding around the Depot Plaza are eight-foot-high concrete cowboy boots painted by local artists to depict regional and state history. An objective, I understand, is to embark on a scavenger hunt to locate all 17 or so oversized boots stepping around the city. My visit to the Old West Museum provided me with an appreciation of the rugged rodeo riders who consider being battered and bruised a badge of honor. It’s sort of my feeling after another cross-country ride, especially as I age.

Cheyenne 1887 Union Pacific Depot
Cheyenne’s 1887 Union Pacific Depot is a registered National Historic Landmark.

My iron horse would have to do in lieu of the cowpoke transportation around here. My purpose was to follow one of the more storied stage routes, the Cheyenne to Black Hills Stage Line. The stage run began in 1876 to link the railroad at Cheyenne to the gold fields surrounding the new town of Deadwood, but only lasted 11 years as new rail lines began to join the two cities. The 300-mile trip was made in 50 hours. Using modern horsepower I could likely do it in five, but I was here to poke along.

Cheyenne to Deadwood motorcycle ride map
A map of the route taken, by Bill Tipton/compartmaps.com.

Rocky outcroppings define the landscape north of Cheyenne, especially at Register Cliff where Oregon Trail pioneers inscribed their signatures into the bleached limestone. Approaching Fort Laramie I encountered a bowstring-style iron truss bridge spanning the North Platte River built in 1875. I walked its wooden planks, thinking I was likely treading where the wagon wheels of the stage line rolled.

bowstring style iron truss bridge dating from 1875 over the North Platte River helped improve access to Fort Laramie
An army-built bowstring style iron truss bridge dating from 1875 over the North Platte River helped improve access to Fort Laramie for the stage line.

The Oregon, Mormon and Bozeman Trails, the Overland Stage, the Cheyenne to Black Hills Line and the Pony Express made Fort Laramie a busy outpost on the frontier. Fort Laramie began as a fur trading post established by William Sublette’s Rocky Mountain Fur Company in 1834. It became a military garrison between 1849 and 1885, and a major staging area for conflicts and treaties with the Plains Indians.

stage route marker
Marker along the old stage line between Cheyenne and Deadwood.

Actors in period costumes strolled the grounds. I entered the Soldier’s Barroom and met a gent in character, laying out playing cards of the era upon the bar. I sidled up for a sarsaparilla, and we got to talking about the West’s adventurous opportunists, Jim Bridger, Chief Red Cloud and John “Portuguese” Phillips, the last of whom burst into the officers’ quarters on Christmas Eve in 1866 after riding four days through a blizzard to tell of the Fetterman Massacre at Fort Phil Kearney, where 83 men were slaughtered by the Sioux and Cheyenne. History comes alive here.

Soldier’s Barroom at Fort Laramie
A re-enactor in character serves up sarsaparilla in the Soldier’s Barroom at Fort Laramie.

Rawhide Buttes Station north of Fort Laramie was the next stage stop. Although I was content to stop between gas fill-ups on a long haul, the stage paused every 10 miles or so to change horses and feed the passengers. Then, with a crack of the whip, they were off once again. Dime novelist Edward L. Wheeler described the essence of stagecoach travel well in an 1877 missive:

“Rumbling noisily through the black canyon road to Deadwood, at an hour long past midnight, came the stage from Cheyenne, loaded down with passengers…there were six plunging, snarling horses attached, whom the veteran Jehu on the box, managed with the skill of a circus man, and all the time the crack, snap, of his long-lashed gad made the night resound as like so many pistol shots.”

I crossed into Niobrara County on U.S. Route 85, the least populated county in the least populated state in the nation. I approached Lusk, population 1,567. Where did all these folks come from? Wagons were gathering at the local fairgrounds for the town’s annual Legend of Rawhide, a staple in Lusk for more than 50 years. Corn hole tournaments and a team-driving contest amused the locals during the pageant. Their Pioneer Museum has on display one of the two existing original Concord coaches of the 30 used on the Cheyenne to Black Hills Line. The other resides in the Buffalo Bill Historical Center in Cody, Wyoming, an affiliation of the Smithsonian. William Cody used it in his Wild West Show.

An original wagon of the Cheyenne to Black Hills Stage Line is on display at the Stagecoach Museum in Lusk.
An original wagon of the Cheyenne to Black Hills Stage Line is on display at the Stagecoach Museum in Lusk.

Not far out of Lusk I encountered historical signage for the stage line’s Hat Creek Station, where it’s said Buffalo Bill and Wild Bill bedded down. Also among those of note who traveled along the stage road was Martha “Calamity” Jane Cannary, once a bullwhacker disguised as a male, although she was mostly a drifter known for her tall tales and delusional relationship with Wild Bill Hickok.

Deadwood cemetery Calamity Jane Wild Bill
No visit to Deadwood is complete without trudging up the hill to Mount Moriah Cemetery and visiting the final resting place of the notorious, including Wild Bill and Calamity Jane.

Sometime after leaving the Hat Creek Station historical site it dawned on me that all the power lines had disappeared, providing an unadulterated prairie expanse to view. The only ranches were miles down dusty side roads. No vehicles were in sight for miles ahead or behind, just me and the breezes rippling the prairie grassland and softly patting my cheeks behind the windscreen, bringing fragrant aromas of sage and lupine. The air was so pristine not even bugs splatted the windshield. One archivist of the stage journey described the scene this way: “There is something on the Plains that cannot be found elsewhere, something which can be felt better than described, something you must go there to find.” These are reasons why I wear an open-face helmet while on tour.

Lusk 1880 log cabin
The first log cabin in the region around Lusk was built in 1880, since relocated to the town park.

Some 60 miles later Newcastle intruded on my highway reverie. Another stage station is preserved here, the Jenney Stockade Cabin, dating from 1875. Motorcycle traffic picked up as I closed in on the Black Hills. Riders I talked to were coming from Devils Tower and Custer. Eighteen miles from Newcastle is Four Corners, site of at least one stage robbery in 1878. Since the stage was often carrying gold, highwaymen would lie in wait at favorite spots like this.

As I entered South Dakota, the highway finally bent into delicious curves. But they can be dangerous curves, evidenced by a trauma helicopter that had landed because a motorcyclist was down. Roadside memorials of white crosses are prevalent throughout the Black Hills. A cattle drive crossing the road ahead of me was another reason for caution — I slowed to approach cautiously so as not to spook them, but was too late to capture a photo.

Black Hills
Trees and a red rock mesa mark the verge of the Black Hills entering into South Dakota.

Lead (pronounced Leed) was named for the heavy ore deposits in the area. One of the largest gold mining pits in the Western Hemisphere is on view here. Noted author and humorist Ambrose Bierce managed one of the placer mining companies. He related in a newspaper article how he himself was a victim of an attempted robbery while carrying $30,000 in cash on the trail outside of Deadwood, when his accompanying messenger shot the perpetrator dead.

Deadwood South Dakota
The end of the line in Deadwood.

Numerous notorious characters got themselves shot dead just up the road in Deadwood, and I trudged the hills of Mt. Moriah Cemetery, where lie the remains of Wild Bill and Calamity Jane. The rest of Deadwood is a tourist scene I just as well avoided. You can’t even park on historic Main Street. The whole town has been described as illegal anyway since it lies within the territory granted to Native Americans in the 1868 Treaty of Laramie. One can blame Custer, who led an expedition that discovered gold here in 1874. Disputes over these Black Hills are ever ongoing, and have reached the Supreme Court on several occasions. Regardless, Deadwood became the end of the line for the stage. Mail from Cheyenne was delivered and gold from the mines transferred to strong boxes and the cycle repeated itself for the return trip.

On the northern fringe of Deadwood I encountered a scene from the movie “Dances With Wolves” at an interpretive center called Tatanka, where giant bronze sculptures of bison pursued by Indians are gathered on a hillside overlooking an expansive view of the valley below. Indeed, it was Kevin Costner who commissioned this artwork and financed the center. It’s a fitting tribute to Native American culture, and a fitting end to my ride along the stage route to Deadwood.

Tatanka—Story of the Bison
On the northern edge of Deadwood appears Tatanka—Story of the Bison, featuring bronze sculptures of said buffalo pursued by Indian riders.

Source: RiderMagazine.com

South of the Border: The Sierra Madre Oriental of Mexico

Parque Nacional Cumbres de Monterrey (Summits of Monterrey National Park)
The Parque Nacional Cumbres de Monterrey (Summits of Monterrey National Park) is just south of Monterrey, population 1.1 million, but feels worlds away. The riding can be challenging on a big bike. Photos by the author.

I’ll admit I was skeptical. A land of mountains, twisty asphalt, endless dirt tracks, cheap lodging, good food and friendly locals just a few hours south of the Texas border? 

But I’ve seen this dual-sport promised land and I’m here to report it’s all true. The Sierra Madre Oriental mountain range, which begins just south of Monterrey, creates an international motorcycle wonderland that’s easily accessible for anyone living in the Midwest or Eastern United States. 

You’ll need a temporary vehicle importation permit (TVIP) to bring your bike this far south into Mexico. Getting one requires a valid registration in your name, your Mexican visa (free if you are staying seven days or less) and a passport. Some riders report also needing a vehicle title, but no one asked to see mine. You also pay a refundable deposit that varies depending the age of your bike; it was $300 for my 2006 Suzuki DR650. Make sure you get insurance, too. Again, nobody asked to see proof of insurance at the border, but if you get in an accident in Mexico you can land in jail if you aren’t covered. 

Mexico motorcycle ride map
Map of the route taken, by Bill Tipton/compartmaps.com.

We made quick work of the McAllen/Reynosa border tangle and headed southwest on Federal Highway 40, the equivalent of a state highway in the U.S. South of the border, the posted speed limits are low, typically 60 mph or less, but few pay attention to them. The thing to remember is to stay to the right. People will pass and you are expected to pull as far to the right as you can to let them by. Even on a narrow, two-lane road, pull to the right as far as you safely can. Other drivers will do the same for you.

The fun began with a section of tight, twisty blacktop that turned south from Federal Highway 85 between Ciudad de Allende and Montemorelos. The temperature dropped and the clouds closed in as we wound over the Sierra Madre for the first of many times this trip and down into the pecan-farming town of Rayones. We were taking the “fast” way to Galeana, our base for the next few days, and that meant a 10-mile dirt road south from Rayones that might be a challenge for inexperienced riders on bigger bikes.

Sierra Madre Oriental
Take a bike that can do it all because the Sierra Madre Oriental has everything from twisty pavement to endless dirt roads to challenging trails.

Galeana is small city at the base of Cerro El Potosí, which at 12,208 feet is the tallest mountain in the Sierra Madre Oriental range. The town has plenty of restaurants, stores, banks and supplies, and makes a great base for exploring the area. We stayed at the moto-friendly Hotel Magdalena, where a double room was $36 a night with secure parking for the bikes in the back. There are probably cheaper places to stay, but the Magdalena is right on the spotless square, the heartbeat of this vibrant town.

We based in Galeana for the first few days. It’s a small city at about 5,400 feet in elevation, so it can get cold. After clearing Reynosa on the Texas border, Galeana is a three-hour ride by the fastest route.

One of our best routes took us back north to Rayones, then on a combination of sinuous asphalt and well-kept dirt roads, loosely following the Río Pilón through mountain towns too small to even have restaurants. Eventually the dirt road turned to steep, rocky, loose two-track that tested the big bikes in our group — a BMW R 1100 GS, Suzuki V-Strom 1000 and Triumph Tiger — to the limit. It all felt about right on my DR650, though.

The real apex of the trip was spending two nights in Real de Catorce, an old silver mining town three hours southwest of Galeana. Real is situated atop a plateau at almost 9,000 feet, and if it looks like a movie set of a forgotten Mexican mountain town, that’s because it is. A good portion of “The Mexican,” the 2001 film starring Brad Pitt and Angela Jolie, was shot there.

riding motorcycles in Mexico
Off-road terrain in the area varies from smooth dirt to goat trails, sometimes in the space of a few miles. Be prepared to do some rocky hill climbs.

There are two ways into Real: a steep, rocky, narrow jeep trail from the west, or right through the side of a mountain via the one-lane Ogarrio Tunnel. We chose the latter, and even getting to the tunnel is an adventure: 17 miles on a cobblestone road. The trick, I learned, is to keep your speed up. Ride too slow and the cobblestones take control of where your bike is going. This stretch should probably be avoided in the rain.

Pay a small toll to get through the tunnel and 1.5 miles later you’ll emerge into Real, once one of the largest silver producing towns in the world. When the price of silver collapsed, the town’s economy went with it, and the downsized village is now largely dependent on tourism. Many travelers come to Real for the town’s reputed spiritual energy or to hunt for peyote, the cactus fruit that is sacred to the native Huichol people who originally inhabited this area.

Real de Catorce
The town of Real de Catorce is accessible either by a tunnel or a rough jeep road. Real was once a silver mining hub, and served as the backdrop for the movie “The Mexican.”

We parked the bikes and toured Real on foot, hiking up to the Pueblo Fantasma, an abandoned mining quarters for the workers who extracted precious metal from these hills. Expect warm, sunny days and cold nights in Real.

Food in Real is basic and cheap. We ate a breakfast of eggs, tortillas and beans for less than $3. Lodging ranges from basic to luxury, but even the most expensive places in town only cost the equivalent of about $70 U.S. per night.

Cobblestone streets in Real de Catorce.
Cobblestone streets in Real de Catorce.

After a week in the Sierra Madre Oriental I realized I had barely begun to experience the area. The mountains stretch south past Mexico City, after all. Further explorations await.

Because of the times we live in, no story about riding in Mexico would be complete without a word about safety. I’ve been to Mexico a handful of times and don’t consider myself an expert on the topic, but I will say this: not once on this trip, nor any other, did I felt threatened in any way. Quite the opposite, in fact. I have found the Mexican people to be warm, inviting and accommodating. Speaking even a few words of Spanish pays dividends.

motorcycle ride in Mexico
Searching for a tiny church tucked away in the mountains, we found that maps aren’t always accurate. It’s best to consult the locals.

Source: RiderMagazine.com

Big Water: Exploring Southern Indiana’s Chunk of the Ohio River Valley

V-Strom Ohio River
The Strom has been a fantastic partner over the years and carried me to some great vantage points. This one at Aurora, Indiana, looking upstream on the Ohio ranks high on the list. Photos by the author.

Despite being a lifelong Hoosier, I hadn’t spent much time riding in the southern part of Indiana. This year would be different — I had a family reunion coming up in Bloomington, only four hours away from home in Valparaiso. I also had some rare extra days off from my mill job, so I thought I’d meander my way there instead of taking the direct route. Using secondary roads exclusively crossed my mind, but I didn’t have that much time.

Indiana motorcycle ride map
A map of the route taken. By Bill Tipton/compartmaps.com.

I headed east on U.S. Route 30, then south on U.S. Routes 35 and 31. Thankfully, the rains that plagued us for weeks had finally stopped. Indiana is squarely in the Corn Belt, but the crop in our part of the state was pretty much toast due to the wet conditions. This was painfully obvious mile after mile, as stunted seedlings were barely at the ankle. The old saying is “knee high by the Fourth of July,” but with modern hybrids, most years the stalks are at the shoulder or better by late June.

North of Indy I jumped on State Highway 38. I’d noticed a scenic route designation on the map for State Highway 1, starting at Hagerstown, less than 20 miles from the Ohio border. The town is also just above the imaginary line that separates the state into north and south — as good a place to start as any. There was even a motorcycle-friendly eatery, Dave’s Café/Flatlanders Motorcycles. The Harley parked among the pool tables made my burger taste all the better. As poor luck had it, I’d showed up the day before their weekly bike night. Still, this was shaping up to be a good ride.

Dave's Café/Flatlanders Motorcycles
As soon as I pulled into Dave’s Café/Flatlanders Motorcycles, I knew they were serious about being bike-friendly.

The Whitewater Canal Scenic Byway offers a snapshot of 19th-century American travel: river, canal and rail. I’d heard at the Greens Fork Family Diner it was also a fine motorcycle road. The report was accurate, with smooth pavement, abundant curves and frequent elevation changes, features that riders seek out but are rare north of the dividing line — especially the smooth part. Plank roads aren’t represented, but there is a heritage railroad running between Connersville and Metamora that features a restored section of the Whitewater Canal that once stretched 76 miles, from Hagerstown to Harrison, Ohio. Construction was a major engineering feat due to the steepness of the route, requiring 56 locks and seven dams, and the costly project drove the state into bankruptcy for a time.

Whitewater Canal Scenic Byway
This rustic barn likely once overlooked a dirt road that is now the Whitewater Canal Scenic Byway. Evidence the Indiana DOT has made some progress over the years.

I’m a fan of big rivers. I enjoyed riding the Mississippi and Missouri river valleys a couple of years ago in the Show Me State. Since I was close to the Ohio, I figured I would check it out. I was particularly interested in how it compared to those two flooding-wise, as my Missouri route was often dictated by water-related closures. But the first diversion was due to construction, not flooding. Instead of Lawrenceburg, where the river enters Indiana, the detour put me a few miles downstream in Aurora, where I picked up the Ohio River Scenic Byway. The Hoosier State segment covers 302 miles and follows several Indiana State Highways, 56, 156, 62 and 66, which meld together rather seamlessly. The distance suggested a lot of curves and didn’t disappoint.

Among American waterways, the Ohio is second only to the Mississippi in volume of water discharged. It has been described as a series of strung-together reservoirs, built and operated by the Army Corps of Engineers. As such, it serves many of the same functions as other Corps projects, such as drinking water, recreation, flood control and shipping. Barge traffic was abundant. I stopped a couple of times at riverside parks to watch the towboats do their magic. A century ago, the river towns catered primarily to businesses. Now tourism is a big economic activity as well.

Harleys Indiana roads
Harleys heading for the abundant curves on the Whitewater Canal Scenic Byway.

Given the combination of good pavement, hills, curves and friendly locals, unsurprisingly there were lots of motorcycles on the byways. On one construction reroute, where it took 50 miles to go 10, two Harley riders gave chase. They weren’t dressed for a crash but pushed me hard on the straights and sweepers anyway, then I’d walk away from them in the tighter curves. We repeated the pattern several times. Fun!

I’d always wanted to visit our first Indiana state Capitol building, in Corydon. Just off the byway and easy to find, the tidy limestone structure is dwarfed by the current rendition in Indianapolis. But it was doubtless a big undertaking for the fledgling state in 1816. Unfortunately, it was closed for the day, a constant aggravation on my rides when visiting historical sites.

Corydon capitol building
This tidy limestone building was Indiana’s first Capitol in Corydon.

The afternoon was fading when I encountered another reroute. I wondered if this one really was due to flooding, as the stretch ran right along the river. Water or roadwork, I never found out, but I’d neglected to top off the Suzuki V-Strom’s tank in Jeffersonville and the blinking fuel gauge was making me nervous. I’d passed through several small settlements, but none with gas available. Luckily, the Derby General Store was still open. One of the pumps offered ethanol-free 90-octane mid-grade, rare in my corner of the state, and the Strom loved the unadulterated fuel. The attendant clued me into a shortcut that didn’t show as connecting on the map. It allowed me to see the dam at Cannelton, which the sanctioned route bypassed. I don’t use a construction avoidance feature on my GPS; folks that live in an area can generally advise the best route anyway.

Derby also carried a grim reminder of the potentially destructive power of big rivers: flood lines spanning eight decades posted on a utility pole. Like the Mississippi and Missouri, the Ohio sometimes jumps its banks despite man’s best efforts to tame it. But even with the proximity of big water and recent heavy rains, the corn crop in the area was comparatively healthy. One lush field shared space with another common Midwestern fixture, the oil pumpjack.

Ohio River
There’s lots of places to launch small craft on the Ohio River. Driftwood littering this public access site was deposited only a week or so before I arrived.

I stopped for the night in Evansville, an easy enough town to navigate considering its relatively large population. I often wish I’d been born in the southwest rather than the northwest corner of the state. The milder winters, better roads and laid-back lifestyle are big plusses. The next morning, I rode the remaining 25 miles of the Ohio River Scenic Byway to where it crosses the Wabash River into Illinois, then doubled back to Mount Vernon to begin the trek back north on State Highway 69.

I had the whole day to make it to Bloomington, so I stuck to state highways. They passed through endless farmland and the occasional small town. I prefer mom-and-pop diners, and one of the best indicators of quality food is pickup trucks in the parking lot; if the fare is substandard, the locals won’t patronize. JJ’s in Cynthiana looked promising. A man I guessed correctly to be JJ stood behind the register, hands on hips, looking me over, and asked, “What’d ya need, captain?” “How about a menu,” seemed the obvious reply. He shot back, “You sure you can read?” as he handed me one with a smirk. Then he put on a fresh pot of coffee, not so much for me, but for the lunch crowd about to arrive. Like clockwork, trucks of every description soon moved in. I hung out for a while, talking bikes, farm equipment, weather and steel mills.

Metamora Historic District alongside the Whitewater Canal
The quaint Metamora Historic District alongside the Whitewater Canal is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

ABATE of Indiana is a robust motorcycle rights organization. Twenty years ago, it purchased 400 acres in Lawrence County to host its annual fundraising party, the Boogie, which is dubbed the “Midwest’s Best Biker Fest.” The property has since been developed into a full-service off-road riding area with 60 miles of trails, campgrounds, showers and RV hookups. The Lawrence County Recreational Park is off the beaten path, but worth a visit. One day, I’d like to give those trails a try. The Indiana Motorcycle Safety Memorial is at the park’s entrance, dedicated to fallen Hoosier riders. The memorial grounds are impressive and made my detour worthwhile.

Bloomington is smack in the middle of some of the best motorcycling in Indiana. My youngest daughter once rode with me there. She said it felt like “riding through a tunnel,” as we motored under the canopy of trees that covers many of the highways. I’m not complaining, but at times the hills and curves became almost overwhelming. Once, I dropped my guard and almost overshot a tight turn. But I knew in a few hours I’d be back on straight and boring roads, with a large helping of potholes thrown in, so I enjoyed the squiggly lines while I could. Efficiency dictates that major highways cut the hills down to level the run, but rest assured there are still many miles of unmolested pavement in southern Indiana.

New York Central #6894
New York Central #6894 was built by the American Locomotive Company in 1912. Currently non-functioning, the Whitewater Valley Railroad hopes to perform at least a cosmetic restoration.

U.S. Route 231 was my chosen route home, avoiding the interstate. The dry and beautiful Saturday night brought out bikes by the score. In Crawfordsville, a chapter of the Iron Order with dozens of rumbling steeds had gathered for a run. I waved and they waved back. We were all on V-twins, albeit built for different styles of riding, but it didn’t matter. At West Lafayette, I once again overruled the Garmin’s choice of I-65 and picked up State Highway 43, then U.S. Route 421 for the last 70 miles. It’s weird, but after all the curves and hills, the arrow-straight run that I’ve made many times was strangely satisfying.

The Ohio River Valley is now on my list of favorite places. The byway hugs the river for many miles and I’m glad I ran the Indiana section almost beginning to end. I only wish I could have spent more than a day taking it in. Two or three would’ve been better, as there’s much to do and see. I’m always searching for the perfect ride. Turns out one of the best has been in my backyard all along. 

Source: RiderMagazine.com

When will 2-litre Honda Goldwing arrive?

The long-awaited 2-litre Honda Goldwing has again failed to materialise, instead receiving minor tweaks for 2020, just two years after a major update.

Honda fans have been tapping a 2-litre version for some years, but instead of making a more powerful bike, the Honda techs have made one that handles better at low speeds, such as parking.

We’ve seen people grappling with the heavy bike in parking situations and dropping them.20202 Honda Goldwing

So Honda has improved the fuel injection and Dual Clutch Transmission so it is smoother at walking pace.

They have also fiddled with the suspension for better balance in parking situations and some other minor tweaks.

Surely these minor tweaks for 2020 mean the bike might finally be due for an upgrade to two litres the following year for Euro5.

It is also tipped to get emergency brakes,  a head-up display windscreen with touchscreen sensitivity, a climate-controlled seat and a seven-speed DCT.

2020 Honda Goldwing20202 Honda Goldwing

Other minor tweaks for 2020 are a second USB connector in the left saddlebag, while the new Tour version gets LED fog lights and bigger passenger grab handles.

The 2018 update was much more extensive with the introduction of Apple CarPlay, adjustable electric windscreen, major weight loss, new frame, double wishbone front suspension, Smart Key, four selectable riding modes, Hill Start Assist and Honda Selectable Torque Control (HSTC).

The flat-six engine was also revamped with four valves per cylinder.20202 Honda Goldwing

There is no word yet from Honda Australia on arrival or pricing.

Colours options may include Candy Ardent Red, Matte Ballistic Black Metallic and Pearl Glare White with a combination of black, silver and red engine details. 20202 Honda Goldwing

Source: MotorbikeWriter.com

Riding Nova Scotia’s Worst-Kept Secret: The Cabot Trail

The Cabot Trail offers 186 miles of winding roads and exhilarating scenery. Photos by the author.

At just 360 miles, you could probably ride the entire length of Canada’s second-smallest province in a day, including Cape Breton Island on the north end. Having said that, you could also spend a good 3-4 weeks exploring the coastal roads that encompass Nova Scotia. But despite the appeal of the many lightly-traveled roads along the coast, the main allure for me and many motorcyclists all over North America are the legendary roads on Cape Breton Island.

Map of the route taken, by Bill Tipton/compartmaps.com.

My first stop in Nova Scotia was along the South Shore. From here, the ride was about 190 miles to the Canso Causeway, which joins Cape Breton Island to the mainland. As soon as you are within a couple miles of Port Hastings, the first town you enter once you cross over the causeway, you will immediately notice an increase in the bike-to-car ratio.

Winding roads overlooking an endless valley of trees north of the Cape Breton Highlands National Park.

Although the Trans Canada Highway runs up the middle of the island and is the more direct route to the Cabot Trail from Port Hastings, you would be doing yourself a disservice by cutting out Trunk 19, also known as the Ceilidh Trail. It is a 66-mile scenic road that rims the Gulf of St. Lawrence, starting at Port Hastings and ending at Margaree Forks, which is a southern point on the Cabot Trail. The paved road passes through quaint Scottish towns offering reasonably priced accommodations that are more accessible than the lodgings on the Cabot Trail.

Accommodation in Margaree Forks, which is on the southernmost part of the Cabot Trail. The Normaway Inn offered cabin rentals that were reasonably priced, and live Celtic music featuring local talent.

Up until this point in my trip, I would use my last fuel stop of the day as an opportunity to pull out my phone and assess the availability of the local motels. This strategy will not work on the Cabot Trail, especially if you are planning your trip over a weekend in the summer, because everything seemed to book up really fast. However, there is an abundance of B&Bs in the towns along Trunk 19, a perfect location since it is less than an hour’s ride to the Cabot Trail.

Trunk 19 is roughly 66 miles long and passes through quaint Scottish towns before connecting you to the Cabot Trail.

Although you could probably ride the entire trail in 5-6 hours, it took me nearly eight with frequent breaks due to the heatwave conditions in early August. On the advice of the locals, I filled my tank in Chéticamp, a small Acadian village with a main street lined with cafés and restaurants. It is a good place to fill up your tank and grab a bite to eat since both fuel and food start to become scarce after passing this village. Chéticamp was bustling with tourists when I arrived, but this is not a reflection of what your ride will be like on the trail. Because of its vastness, I oftentimes felt as if I had the road to myself, despite the fact that it was a Friday afternoon on a beautiful summer day.

Fog sits over the mountain a few miles north of Chéticamp.

The ride between Petit Étang (which is less than two miles north of Chéticamp) to Ingonish was probably my favorite part of the trail. I enjoyed everything from the spectacular view of the coast north of Petit Étang, to the long sweeping turns around the mountain, to the challenges presented by the switchbacks before descending down the coast to Pleasant Bay. There are many excellent lookout points along the trail, presenting a good opportunity to stretch your legs, snap a few pictures and take in the stunning view of the coast from the mountain.

Long, sweeping turns with a beautiful coastal view around Petit Étang.

There is a longstanding debate among the locals over the best way to ride the trail, clockwise or counterclockwise. Although riding counter will put you in the lane closer to the coast, a few of the locals have told me that riding it clockwise is more enjoyable, as you experience the steep descent down MacKenzie Mountain. This was probably the highlight of my entire ride, so I have definitely become biased toward clockwise.

The iconic Peggys Cove Lighthouse, which was built in 1914.

After reaching Cape North, the northernmost part of the trail, you will approach South Harbour. Just past this point, taking a left turn onto White Point Road will bring you down a narrow, paved road along the coast to a small fishing town. It was recommended to me by some locals, and it was a nice 7-mile venture off the trail. It’s a great place to dismount, stretch your legs and take in the beautiful scenery as you listen to the waves crashing against the rocks. The road eventually turns into New Haven Road, which will connect you back to the Cabot Trail.

Turning off the Cabot Trail onto White Point Road led me to a stunning, secluded beach area. I came here on the advice of locals who described it to me as a “less touristy Peggys Cove.”

I ended the loop by riding back to Margaree Forks just before the sun started to set. As a precaution, you may want to time your rides so that you are parked by dusk. Moose are known to frequent Cape Breton Island, and I was told they usually come out around 7:30 to 8:00 p.m. each evening. Not feeling too great about my chances of survival against a moose, I tried to limit any potential exposure to them.

Stopping to take a break and enjoy the scenery before approaching the famous switchback that brings you down into Pleasant Bay.

Despite the fact that it is a 186-mile loop, the hours you spend in the saddle on the Cabot Trail will fly by. The three mountains — MacKenzie Mountain, French Mountain and Smokey Mountain — offer different backdrops for your ride, and the tight corners and changes in elevation will present an equal combination of challenge and thrill.

The roads east of Pleasant Bay were well-paved and winding. The colors of late summer provided a vibrant backdrop for my afternoon of riding.

Source: RiderMagazine.com

Snake Loops: Sport Touring East of the Hudson

Above the Amenia Hairpin, this lay-by looks over the New York landscape east of the Hudson River.

Snakes employ astonishing methods of locomotion. Legs? Who needs ’em! Using muscles and scales, snakes hug the landscape as they wind along their way. Roads can be like that, with narrow, winding runs of asphalt that hug each rise and bend.

Snaking asphalt brings joy to this motorcycle rider, and east of the Hudson River there’s a region with plenty of it. This area of small towns, farms and woodlands straddles New York’s border with Connecticut and Massachusetts. The rolling landscape means the roads rarely go straight, and with some route planning it’s easy to avoid population centers. Connecting roads with snake-like curves is the inspiration for this ride.

Roughly in the center of this region is the western Massachusetts town of Great Barrington. It has a picturesque, old-fashioned Main Street neighborhood and interesting options for eats, accommodations and entertainment, so it’s a good base of operations for two routes that begin and end there.

Map of the route taken, by Bill Tipton/compartmaps.com.

My friend Andrew joins me and we’re up early to take photographs in the best morning light. Andrew points out the Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center on Castle Street. Berkshire County, the westernmost part of Massachusetts, is renowned as an arts region, and this historic venue has been a performance site since 1905. One marquee is lit up and the neon calls to be captured.

Mahaiwe (“muh-HAY-we”) Theater on Castle Street in Great Barrington opened in 1905 as a vaudeville house and has presented arts programming continually ever since. A major renovation was completed in 2005.

On Main Street, at the corner of Taconic Avenue, the sun shines brightly on St. James Place. It was built as an Episcopal church in 1857 and by the late 20th century it had fallen into disrepair. But it was renovated and, in 2017, reopened as an arts center with offices and performance spaces.

Built in 1857 as St. James Episcopal Church, the restored St. James Place is now home to several Berkshire arts organizations.

Just south of downtown, we bear right onto Massachusetts State Route 23/41. After a quarter-mile on the left, in a green space next to Silver Street, we find the Newsboy Statue. In 1895, William L. Brown, who was a town resident and part owner of the original New York Daily News, presented it to the people of Great Barrington. I was a paperboy, so it feels right to stop and pay my respects.

The Newsboy Statue pays homage to young entrepreneurs (your humble scribe among them) who spread the news.

When 23 goes right, we stay left on 41 then make a quick right onto Mount Washington Road. It can be hard to find the signs that point the way to Bash Bish Falls State Park, but it’s worth the effort. Turn right onto Cross Road, right onto West Street and left onto Falls Road to the park. Bash Bish Falls is the highest single-drop waterfall in Massachusetts and a short walk from the parking area.

Bash Bish Falls is the highest single-drop waterfall in Massachusetts.

Continuing west lands us in New York, the first of many “border crossings” we’ll be making. We turn left at New York State Route 22, which will make several short appearances throughout our route, then start looking for Under Mountain Road. At U.S. Route 44, we go right and when we reach McGhee Hill Road, begin to meander through sparsely populated areas along serpentine roads.

We curve around Hunns Lake, then in Bangall turn hard left onto Bangall-Amenia Road. A ways on we merge back onto U.S. 44 and pull into the scenic overlook to survey the landscape from a standstill. Just below the overlook — and waiting when we hop back on the bikes — is the Amenia Hairpin, a delightful and downward sloping left curve. Farther along, Halls Corners Road and Chestnut Ridge Road keep us smiling.

Sometimes, snake roads appear to have their own scales.

By the Union Vale Fire House, a right on Clove Road has us winding south and a bit west. U.S. Route 9 eases us to Philipstown, then we turn left onto State Route 301 through Fahnestock State Park. The area ahead is known to local curve-loving riders, and we spot several enjoying it with a mechanical symphony from their bikes’ exhaust.

Back underway we’re on Gipsy Trail Road and County Road 41 to Farmers Mills. Haviland Hollow Road crosses into Connecticut. We wrap around Squantz Pond State Park and back into New York, then roll north through Pawling and Wingdale. At Dog Tail Corners Road we wag left and soon we’re in Connecticut again, crossing Bulls Bridge over the Housatonic River and turning north onto a gently winding stretch of U.S. Route 7 that parallels the river. The quaint village of Kent is a good place for a break, but we make our stop just beyond at Kent Falls State Park to see another great waterfall.

A few miles north is Lime Rock, home to the Lime Rock Park racing circuit. Actor and philanthropist Paul Newman spent a lot of time here, shunning the spotlight, making friends and honing skills that would lead him to the Sports Car Club of America national title (as an amateur) in 1976 and a second place finish with his team at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1979. Lime Rock Road goes right past the track, which is quiet today.

Old movie houses like Quirino’s Crandell Theater in Chatham, New York, offer an alternative to the Cineplex.

A right on Connecticut State Route 41 begins the return stretch north into Massachusetts and we arrive back in Great Barrington, leaving 221 snaking miles behind us. I notice that the First Congregational Church, which was in shadow this morning, is now basking in afternoon sun. Built in 1883 from locally-sourced limestone, it’s listed in the U.S. National Register of Historic Places.

Unlike early this morning, Great Barrington’s old-fashioned Main Street neighborhood is bustling now. There are interesting places to eat, shop, explore and spend the night. U.S. Route 7 just north of downtown resembles Anytown, USA, with additional options for accommodations, restaurants and stores, plus a microbrewery.

On such a calm, fair morning, we’re surprised by the absence of pilots at Koladza Airport in Great Barrington.

It’s another early start for day two and another easy roll down Main Street to Massachusetts State Route 23, then right onto State Route 71 and into New York before shooting briefly south onto New York State Route 22 and turning right onto County Road 21. In much of New York, numbered county roads are the roads less traveled, and in this region they embrace the rolling hills and keep me smiling. Sight distances are typically short and forest critters could emerge from anywhere, so I dial up my Spidey senses.

We like that creative use of an inverted curve sign, but wish it was pointing to breakfast.

Crow Hill Road and State Route 203 lead us to Chatham and another still-sleeping downtown. There’s no place open for breakfast yet so we continue to Old Chatham, but the Country Store hasn’t opened either.

My bike’s long shadow reveals how early it is…still too early for breakfast!

County Road 13 snakes through East Nassau and Stephentown, then we curl back west on County Road 16 toward Nassau. A right on Rabie Road curves toward West Sand Lake, then Route 351 goes to Poestenkill and Plank Road goes to Berlin. At State Route 22 we turn north to Petersburg then slither east up Taconic Trail (State Route 2). At the top of the ridge we cross into Massachusetts and wind back down to Williamstown.

Massachusetts State Route 2 cuts through the picturesque campus of Williams College. In front of the Museum of Art, we stop to look at several sets of large, disembodied eyes, sculpted in bronze. I ride my bike onto the sidewalk to set up a photo, and even though no one is around I get the feeling I’m being watched.

“Eyes” by Louise Bourgeios, standing watch next to Goodrich Hall at Williams College.

A short ways on, we turn right onto Luce Road toward Notch Road and the Scenic Byway to the summit of Mount Greylock. On a map, this narrow, 7-mile, seasonal jewel resembles a sidewinder, with successive climbing hairpins. We keep up the revs and power through, while staying alert for trail hikers crossing the road.

From a left at the T, Summit Road rises to the highest point in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts (3,491 feet). Reaching skyward another 92 feet is the Massachusetts Veterans War Memorial, a lighted beacon atop a granite tower, which was completed in 1932 and rededicated in 2017 after a two-year renovation. On a clear day we’d see nearly 100 miles over western Massachusetts, southern Vermont and eastern New York, but today we’re in the clouds.

The Massachusetts Veterans War Memorial rises 92 feet above the summit of Mount Greylock, the highest point in the Commonwealth (3,491 feet).

Also near the summit is Bascom Lodge, built in the 1930s by the Civilian Conservation Corps. Out front I talk with a young couple who are “thru-hikers,” completing all 2,190 miles of the Appalachian Trail, which runs through here. They started in Georgia a few months ago and have a few more weeks to reach the end in Maine. What’s their hike been like so far? “It’s sure a good way to get to know someone,” the young man replies, eliciting a steely gaze and raised eyebrows from his companion.

Back down the mountain, Rockwell Road rewards us with more twisties and hairpins. At the bottom, a right on U.S. 7 and a sharp left on State Route 43 soon has us back into New York and more curvy county roads through Stephentown, East Chatham and Austerlitz. A short run north on New York State Route 22 and then east on State Route 102 returns us to Massachusetts.

Andrew circles (over and over) before Tracy Memorial Village Hall (c. 1913) in Chatham, New York.

Rolling through the village of Stockbridge seems to transport us into a Norman Rockwell painting, and there’s a reason for that. Norman Rockwell lived here, and his experience inspired his iconic scenes of 20th century American life. Fans of his work can go one mile south on Massachusetts State Route 183 to the Norman Rockwell Museum.

State Route 102 continues along the Housatonic River toward Lee and U.S. Route 20, where most vehicles (thankfully) turn into the outlet mall. We continue onto the best stretch of U.S. 20 in Massachusetts, Jacob’s Ladder Trail. The alternating downhill curves going into Chester are downright danceable on a motorcycle, and mellower curves continue all the way to Russell. There, a right on Blandford Stage Road takes the less traveled leg over to State Route 23.

Turning west, Route 23 twists and curls back to Great Barrington, all the way hugging asphalt undulations in that most enjoyable manner: like a snake.

West Branch Reservoir Causeway in Carmel, New York, is the southernmost point in our southern loop.

Source: RiderMagazine.com