The two Northeastern stops of the 2021 Progressive IMS Outdoors tour are on consecutive weekends in September. The New York City event will be at the Brooklyn Army Terminal, September 3-5 (Labor Day is the 6th), and the Pennsylvania event will be at the Carlisle Fairgrounds, September 10-12.
This 281-mile route begins in Saratoga Springs, in the heart of upstate New York’s farm and horse country. The town is home to the Saratoga Race Course, one of the oldest horse tracks in the country, dating back to 1863. The annual meet runs from mid-July to Labor Day, but there is harness racing year-round. Saratoga is famous for its mineral springs and bath houses, and there are plenty of excellent restaurants and vibrant nightlife to enjoy.
The route leaves Saratoga Springs to the south, on U.S. Route 9, and passes through Malta. It turns east onto State Route 67 and crosses the Hudson River at Mechanicville. Continuing east, Route 67 passes through Schaghticoke and follows the Hoosic River. At Eagle Bridge, the route turns south, and it picks up State Route 22 at the town of Hoosic Falls. At Lebanon Springs, it turns west on U.S. Route 20, then southwest on State Route 66. After crossing Interstate 90 and passing through Chatham, it continues on the Taconic State Parkway.
The 104-mile parkway took 40 years to build, from the mid-1920s until its completion in 1963. Parts of the road were designed by Franklin D. Roosevelt during his tenure as head of the Taconic State Park Commission, and we can thank him for insisting those sections follow the natural landscape instead of powering through in a straight line. Built in a simpler time, the Taconic has narrow lanes, minimal shoulders, and plenty of gentle curves, but do be on the lookout for accidents and state troopers.
The route ends at the George Washington Bridge in Manhattan. From there, many options are available to get to the Brooklyn Army Terminal, which is off the Belt Parkway (Interstate 287) on the edge of Upper Bay. Enjoy the show!
For more information about Progressive IMS Outdoors and to buy tickets, visit motorcycleshows.com.Rider is the media partner for the Adventure Out! area at IMS Outdoors.
Buffalo County, Wisconsin, is a hidden gem for motorcyclists. Located in the northwest part of the state, its southern border is the Mississippi River, which is the dividing line between Wisconsin and Minnesota. This is rural farm country, and the entire county has only one traffic light.
Buffalo County boasts dozens of fantastic motorcycling roads that twist along river banks, climb steep bluffs, dive into coulees and steep ravines, and cling to the edges of sandstone ridges. Numerous creeks and small rivers flow through the Waumandee Valley on their way to join the Mississippi, and they influence the shape and slope of these roads.
The best starting point is the town of Mondovi, located in the northeastern corner of Buffalo County. A quick fuel and food stop is recommended, as gasoline stations, restaurants, and other amenities are sparse as you head south. After a bite at McT’s Diner we follow County Roads (CR) H and ZZ south to a hook up with State Highway 88 at the Buffalo River.
Known as “Black Lightning,” Highway 88 has approximately 130 corners and curves in 40 miles as it runs from Gilmanton to the Mississippi River, making it one of Wisconsin’s highest-rated biker roads. It gives riders — and their brakes — a real workout as they ride the ridges and slash through a sandstone cut north of Praag.
At CR U, we head east until we reach CR C at a crossroads just north of the village of Montana. CR C dishes up a variety of steep climbs and hairpin curves as we work our way south along Swinns Valley Creek, on our way to State Highway 95 just west of Arcadia. A short jog going west on 95 takes us to CR E, which heads northeast through Pansy Pass and Glencoe to Waumandee. CR E east of Waumandee has such steep hills that many homeowners have large angled mirrors mounted on posts at the foot of their driveways to help provide a view of any hidden oncoming traffic.
The village of Waumandee — Chippewa for “clear and sparkling water” — is worth a stop. It dates back to the 1850s, and Waumandee House, which was built in 1879, is still an active inn and restaurant. Every September the village hosts the Waumandee Hillclimb, a unique event for sports car enthusiasts. A two-mile stretch of Blank Hill Road west of Highway 88 is closed for a day of timed runs up an 18-turn hillclimb road course.
Crossing Highway 88 we take a shot at Blank Hill Road, which is as challenging as advertised. Take care along the section of road that clings to the side of a cliff and has no guardrail. At CR N, we head north along Alma Ridge, which has some white-knuckle descents on its way to the Buffalo River at State Highway 37. A short jog up Highway 37 takes us to Highway KK on the west side of the Buffalo River.
Want a taste of riding the Isle of Man TT? Much like the famed road circuit, the CR KK south of Modena has climbs and descents chiseled into the sides of ridges with few guardrails, testing our binders and our nerves as we plunge down to CR D.
CR D winds west through rolling farm country to its junction with State Highway 35, which is known as the Great River Road and hugs the northern shore of the Mississippi. Overlooking the river, the town of Nelson has several recommended dining stops. On the day of our visit, J & J Barbeque and Nelson Creamery are overwhelmed with two-wheeled customers. We find an empty table at Beth’s Twin Bluff Café, and enjoy the best lemon pie we’ve ever tasted.
We headed north on State Highway 25 along the eastern edge of the Tiffany Bottoms Natural Area. At the village of Misha Mokwa, we turn east onto CR KK and complete the circle at the junction with CR D. Twists and turns command our full attention on our way to the village of Modena. Visit the general store in Modena to see two large motorcycle sculptures made from scrap metal, and pick up some cheese curds for a snack. We continue east on D until it dead-ends at Highway 37, then we follow the Buffalo River north and return to Mondovi.
The roads on this 110-mile loop are challenging, but most of the pavement is in good condition (be mindful of gravel in some corners). Part of what makes Buffalo County a great riding destination is the traffic — except for Highway 35, there is none! On a full day of weekend riding we encountered two tractors, two pickups, seven motorcycles, and one corn picker, which was blocking a narrow farm road. The only thing missing for a perfect riding weekend is a motorcycle class at the Waumandee Hillclimb so we can clock our time going up Blank Hill Road!
For 2021, the Progressive International Motorcycle Shows tour has been rebranded as Progressive IMS Outdoors and events will be held outside, like open-air powersports festivals. The tour will visit nine major markets around the U.S. between July and November (see the full schedule at motorcycleshows.com). Each stop will be a three-day event for powersports enthusiasts and potential riders of all ages and skill levels, with motorcycle demo rides and hands-on experiences unique to each venue.
The first stop is in Northern California, at Sonoma Raceway over the weekend of July 16-18. We’re providing suggested scenic rides to or near each tour stop, with routes available on the REVER app. The Northern California ride is a 165-mile paved route that starts in the coastal town of Fort Bragg and ends at Sonoma Raceway, which is located north of San Francisco. Most of the route follows California State Route 1 south along the scenic, rugged Pacific Coast.
Fort Bragg is a charming burg that’s home to the Sea Glass Museum, the Skunk Train, and North Coast Brewing Company. Heading south through town on Route 1 (Main Street), the ride begins on the Noyo River Bridge. Known in this area as Shoreline Highway, Route 1 is a scenic two-lane road that winds along the contours of the coast. Despite being just 165 miles long, this route typically takes four to five hours, not including stops.
You’ll want to stop often at the many towns, natural areas, scenic overlooks, and state parks along the way, such as the Navarro River Bridge, where Route 128 goes inland to the Navarro River Redwoods State Park. Other highlights include Mendocino, Point Arena Lighthouse, Stewarts Point, Salt Point State Park, Fort Ross, Jenner, Sonoma Coast State Park, Duncans Point, and Bodega Bay.
After riding along the eastern edge of Tomales Bay, you’ll arrive in the town of Point Reyes Station. Turn onto Point Reyes-Petaluma Road, which follows Lagunitas Creek and passes along the Nicasio Reservoir. The route continues east, crosses U.S. Route 101, and follows State Route 37 (Sears Point Road) and State Route 121 (Arnold Drive) to Sonoma Raceway. Enjoy the ride and enjoy the show!
For more information about Progressive IMS Outdoors and to buy tickets, visit motorcycleshows.com.
Describe your dream tour, anywhere in the USA. Win the use of a V85 TT adventure bike for 14 days and a $2,500 travel budget.
I threw down a route. Start in Seattle, ride east to Glacier National Park, then follow the Rocky Mountains south through Yellowstone, Grand Teton, Flaming Gorge, Capitol Reef, Grand Staircase-Escalante, and finish in Las Vegas. Eight days, seven states, six national parks and monuments, 2,600 miles. Epic!
When the Piaggio Group called me last August to tell me I had won, it didn’t leave much time to prep and hit the road to beat the cold weather in Glacier National Park. My buddy Kit agreed to join me, and Moto Guzzi generously offered us a second bike. The adventure/dual-sport market isn’t Guzzi’s typical realm, so when I read that the TT stands for tutto terreno (all-terrain), I figured the least we could do is put them through a genuine off-road test. Part of the budget went toward Michelin Anakee Wild tires; billed as 50/50 on-/off-road, they have a surprisingly aggressive tread pattern. At 500-plus pounds, the V85 TT is no dirt bike, but if adventure is your goal, sooner or later you’re going to find yourself off the beaten path, and that’s exactly where we planned to be.
Our Chariots Await
We flew to Seattle and first saw our V85 TTs parked outside at Optimum Performance Motorsports. Their styling reminded me of old Paris-Dakar bikes. I took the Adventure edition, sporty in bright red and white livery, with only a gesture of a windscreen. Kit took the Travel edition, with a sophisticated metallic sand color and a larger windscreen, auxiliary lights and heated grips. Both bikes were fitted with excellent panniers, and the Adventure also included a top box, which I removed to allow more room for my DrySpec soft bags. After a chat with Alan Kwang, the dealership owner, he handed us the keys and wished us well. It was surreal riding away on brand new bikes without having exchanged anything more than a conversation.
A Dash Across an Apocalyptic Plain
It was nearly noon by the time we packed everything on the bikes and rode east out of Seattle. U.S. Route 2 climbs into rugged, pine-strewn mountains and goes over Stevens Pass (4,061 feet) before descending along the floor of a dramatic, glacial valley. During a late lunch in Leavenworth, the smell of smoke reminded us there were wildfires still burning across Washington State. After crossing the Columbia River, a steep ascent took us out of the rocky canyon onto a vast, windswept plain. Rolling grassland swept off to the horizon in all directions. Huge areas, scorched black by the recent flames, were still smoldering. It was like riding through the wake of a recent battle. We raced across the plateau for 140 miles, and then descended into Spokane and made quick time to our hotel in Ponderay, Idaho.
Majestic Glacier National Park and Deer in the Headlights
Still refining the bike-packing process, we began the first of 440 miles much later than planned. Just shy of the Canadian border, Route 2 turns east near Bonners Ferry, into the dense fir and spruce forests of Montana. Entering Glacier National Park, crystal-clear Lake McDonald sweeps up the valley alongside Going-to-the-Sun Road, a narrow strip of asphalt (and an engineering marvel) carved into the side of a mountain range. Logan Pass (6,647 feet) offered awesome views, as sheer valleys tumbled down to the lakes below and knife-edged arêtes towered above us. The light was fading by the time we got on the deserted forest road to Missoula. Kit spotted a mule deer, her almond eyes reflecting brightly in the Travel’s auxiliary lights. She was the first of many, and it was 10 p.m. when we finally walked into the Missoula Club bar, famous for its burgers and beer.
The Glorious Mountain Roads of Montana
After refueling in Hamilton, we turned east into the Sapphire Mountains on a steep gravel track and climbed up to Skalkaho Pass (7,257 feet). It was our first off-road test for the bikes and tires, and we quickly found our confidence on the hard-packed gravel. Abundant torque served us well, especially in 2nd and 3rd gears. By afternoon, the towering canyons had relented to reveal panoramic views of the dramatic scenery. We swept up another pass, riding into Virginia City, a marvelous authentic gold-rush town established in 1863. Following the Madison River south from Ennis, we had a breathtaking sight as the setting sun lit up a colossal rift running along the western bank. Eventually, we made it to our hotel in the dark, tired and hungry, only to discover the nearest restaurant was eight miles away, in West Yellowstone.
Enchanting Yellowstone and Towering Grand Teton
As the sun came up, we brushed the ice off our seats and rode into Wyoming and Yellowstone National Park. We rode a clockwise loop around the park, passing steaming geysers, volcanic hot springs that belched scorching, sulfurous gas, and bison that grazed the roadside meadows, eventually coming upon enormous Yellowstone Lake. We made a quick stop at the amazing Old Faithful Inn, just as its namesake geyser erupted.
The road exiting Yellowstone’s southern entrance runs along the edge of a sheer canyon, ending at Jackson Lake, where the Tetons, a series of three spectacular peaks, soar up from the western bank to over 13,500 feet like giant fossilized teeth. It was late afternoon when we stopped at Alpine to buy supplies. The Guzzis always drew a small crowd and a flurry of questions. I discovered our next leg, a 95-mile dirt track through Bridger-Teton National Forest, was only graded for the first 40. Undeterred (somewhat), we proceeded anyway and soon found an idyllic spot to make camp by the river.
Scarlet Sockeye and the Stunning Beauty of Flaming Gorge
After a chilly, restless night, we rejoined the track running along Greys River, a ribbon of blue and lush green framed by rocky bluffs. As predicted, the track became steep and challenging, but the V85 TTs’ suspension capably soaked up the abuse, while their V-twins churned out torque with a lovely, distinctive rumble. We savored awesome view after awesome view as our fifth day’s route took us out of Wyoming’s forested mountains and into the painted desert canyons of Utah.
Desolate plateau roads delivered us to a series of tight corners cut into the red rock, descending hundreds of feet into Flaming Gorge. At the bottom, we stopped at Sheep Creek, where the shallow, limpid water was teeming with sockeye salmon. A series of thrilling sweepers and twisties climbed out of the gorge, providing a spectacular view of the sheer, banded cliffs of crimson and terracotta strata and the reservoir below. The plateau finally ended with a dramatic zig-zagging 3,000-foot descent to the town of Vernal, Utah. We used every electrical socket in the room to charge the crap out of everything — cameras, phones, drone — making the most of our last night in a hotel.
Ridge Riding on Top of the World and A Steer Standoff
After a dash across the vast Uinta Basin, we descended into Scofield (pop. 23), home to Snack & Pack, a quirky gas station where customers broil their own burgers. With us and the Guzzis refueled, we climbed into the mighty Manti-La Sal Mountains and onto Skyline Drive Scenic Backway, a rough unpaved road that follows a knife-edged ridge at over 10,000 feet, with sheer drops down both sides to the valleys below. I tried to focus on the riding, despite the arresting views at every turn. This was not a good place to screw up.
With one eye on the clock, we reluctantly turned off Skyline, riding down into the valley, where we found our route blocked by a herd of belligerent bovine. Stores are scarce in this remote part of Utah, and we were forced to ride 20 miles past our exit to buy supplies, starting the last leg as the sun began to set — a steep, 18-mile dirt track that provided plenty of butt-clenching moments in the dusk. We pitched our tents on patches of sand among boulders and stunted juniper. There was no moon, and when the last of the firewood burnt out, we could see the Milky Way painted across the night sky, with shades of purple, blue and red in an ocean of stars.
We Max Out the V85 TTs and Reluctantly Ride to Vegas
The morning sun blazed across the desert as we tore off down the rocky trail and into Cathedral Valley, where a group of distinctive striped mesas rise up from the plain like a village hewn from rock. Capitol Reef National Park is amazingly varied. Terracotta cliffs are the backdrop to white and yellow hoodoos, vivid green yuccas and gnarly juniper, as well as a formidable mix of sand-and-rubble tracks. Our pace had increased, and at times we asked more from the Guzzis than they were designed for, but what a ride! Inevitably, a deep sandy section proved too much of an ask, and I dumped my Adventure — scuza amore.
As we neared its end, the trail entered a dense line of trees and abruptly ended at the Fremont River. The fast running water was muddy, and Kit was the first to ford with little notion of depth and no idea what lay below. A breathtaking narrow road perched atop a meandering ridge separated by two yawning canyons delivered us to Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. Completely exhausted, we began looking for a campsite along Cottonwood Canyon Road. I found a ledge with a panoramic view across the valley. A series of sheer, striped ridges ran across the horizon, and towering above these, the giant mesa we had traversed all afternoon. We toasted our last night as the last of the sun’s rays set alight Escalante’s vivid strata. It had all gone so fast, and yet Seattle seemed like a lifetime ago. The view from my tent the following morning was worthy of its own trip.
On our final day, we thundered down a deserted, undulating track running along the floor of Cottonwood Canyon, a dust cloud in our wake and rocks pinging off the sump guards. With the road through Zion National Park closed, we had to take a southern loop through Arizona before starting the last, searing leg down to Las Vegas.
The Moto Guzzi V85 TT, È Tutto Terreno?
After riding hundreds of miles on dirt tracks, some seriously challenging, the V85 TT has convinced this skeptic that it will handle anything you can reasonably expect to throw at it. Overall build quality is excellent. Even with its handsomely sculpted 5.6-gallon tank full of gas, the V85’s center of gravity feels surprisingly low, and coupled with the Michelin Anakee Wild tires, inspired the kind of off-road confidence usually associated with lighter bikes. On the road, more midrange power would make fast overtaking maneuvers less of an exercise in physics, but otherwise, the V85 TT was a superb ride.
Both Kit and I are over six feet tall, and I’d figured we’d be folded up like a couple of deckchairs, but with some huge miles undertaken, we appreciated the excellent ergonomics and supremely comfortable seat. In terms of range, comfort, durability and handling on- and off-road, the V85 TT is a credible contender at a competitive price, and the folks in Mandello del Lario deserve credit for also making it so very beautiful. We were reluctant to hand back the keys. Arrivederci bellissima! Thanks for the good times!
There are rides we’ve ridden only once and they became favorites, and then there are favorite rides we’ve ridden over and over again. This ride falls into the latter category. I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve ridden Rim of the World Scenic Byway, but I’ve done it on pleasure rides, solo tests, comparison tests and press launches, on cruisers, sport-tourers and adventure bikes.
This route is entirely paved, but it goes through California’s San Bernardino National Forest and provides easy access to many unpaved forest roads and OHV routes. And although I describe the route from its eastern end in Redlands to its western end at Mormon Rocks, it’s just as enjoyable when ridden the other direction. The route is about 100 miles and can be ridden in just a few hours, or it can serve as the main artery for a weekend of adventure, from camping and hiking to boating, fishing or relaxing in mountain communities like Big Bear and Lake Arrowhead.
Redlands is part of the Inland Empire, a vast metropolitan area east of Los Angeles that covers parts of Riverside and San Bernardino counties. State Route 38 begins in Redlands, at the junction with Interstate 10. Rim of the World Scenic Byway begins as Route 38 starts to climb into the foothills of the San Bernardino Mountains. The escape from civilization happens quickly as the road starts to gently curve its way up Mill Creek Canyon, with slopes rising steeply on both sides of the road.
Following a 180-degree, constant-radius sweeper, the road begins a much steeper climb into the mountains. Now we’re talking! Route 38 winds its way through beautiful mountain scenery on its way to 8,443-foot Onyx Summit. Due to the high elevation, snow and ice are common during the winter and early spring, so proceed with caution. On the flip side, the thinner air makes this route a wonderful escape from broiling heat down in the valley during summer and early fall.
The Pacific Crest Trail passes just east of Onyx Summit, and beyond that high point, Route 38 begins a gradual descent with sweeping views of the desert valley to the northeast. As you begin to see residential areas, be mindful of posted speed limits. Route 38 takes an abrupt left as it becomes Big Bear Boulevard and heads west. After the intersection with Greenway Drive you’ll be on Route 18 (Route 38 turns off to the north) and travel through a heavily trafficked area. Some folks who work down in the valley live up in Big Bear, and it’s a popular weekend destination with many rustic cabins available to rent. There are plenty of options for gas, food, supplies and lodging.
Route 18 roughly follows the southern shore of Big Bear Lake, an expansive blue reservoir. (Route 38 runs along the northern shore and typically has less traffic.) After navigating your way through town and a tight, winding section of road through trees and big lakeside houses, you’ll see Bear Valley Dam. There’s a parking area where you can stop to check out the dam and snap photos of the lake.
From Bear Valley Dam to Lakeview Point, Route 18 hugs rugged cliffs and offers up a delightful — and at times challenging — series of curves. Beware of rockslide debris and fine gravel used for traction in the winter, and commuter and tourist traffic can add their own hazards. Lakeview Point (7,100 feet) is a scenic overlook with great views of the mountains and a peekaboo view of Big Bear Lake off in the distance.
What follows is a tight, technical section that will put your riding skills — and the limits of your cornering clearance — to the test. After passing through the community of Arrowbear Lake, you’ll come to the town of Running Springs. Pay attention to the road signs and stay on Route 18, which follows an off-ramp to the right. It’s easy to end up on Route 330, an absolute blast of a road that winds its way back down to the valley; it’s a fun down-and-back-up spur if you want to extend your ride.
West of Running Springs the route offers up some of the most scenic views on the entire byway, as Route 18 follows the spine of the mountains. There are many turnouts where you can enjoy the view, particularly Red Rock Scenic Overlook, but from the westbound lane be careful crossing the eastbound (valley side) of the road on blind corners.
As Route 18 starts to make its way down to the valley (another fun one), at Mount Anderson Junction you’ll turn onto Route 138 (another off-ramp to the right) toward Crestline. Roads are well marked, so if you’re paying attention or following the route on REVER, you’ll be fine. After winding your way through tall trees and densely clustered cabins, Route 138 becomes a rollercoaster of tight turns, hairpins, dips and rises. This is my favorite section of the entire route, but it’s also the most challenging.
As you come out of the forest, the road opens up as it approaches and rounds Silverwood Lake. No more hairpins, just big sweepers, a few rollers and some straights through sandy desert landscape. After crossing over I-15 and railroad tracks at Cajon Junction, you’ll see Mormon Rocks, a dramatic wind-eroded sandstone formation, rising up in the distance.
That’s the end of the scenic byway, but it doesn’t have to be the end of your fun. Right across from Mormon Rocks is Lone Pine Canyon Road, a lightly trafficked back road that goes to Wrightwood and Route 2, better known as Angeles Crest Highway, a legendary favorite ride.
Trying to summarize a 14-day motorcycle tour through Romania, Bulgaria, Greece and Turkey, with all of the roads and meals and people and historic sites that it entailed, in about 1,000 words is like trying to stuff 10 pounds of rice into a 5-pound sack. Adriatic Moto Tours’ Romania to Istanbul Adventure tour lived up to its name, providing a dozen of us — four Australians and eight Americans — with a rich experience in a very interesting and beautiful part of the world.
Our tour began in Bucharest, Romania, and followed a counterclockwise loop with overnight stops in charming towns and rest days in Sibiu, Romania, and Istanbul, Turkey.
Before our trip, Adriatic Moto Tours (AMT) sent us a detailed tour guide book and a map, and they made our hotel arrangements in Bucharest and picked us up at the airport. All my wife Becky and I had to do was pack our gear and make sure we made our flight. Orientation, bike assignments and everything was stress-free, and after our first dinner together our group was acquainted, bonded and ready to ride.
Rok was our motorcycle guide and Primož was our support van driver and evening host. From Burcharest we made our way to Târgovişte, where we enjoyed coffee and fresh pastries at a café adjacent to an imposing 15th century fortress. Vlad Dracula, also known as Vlad the Impaler and the inspiration for the vampire Dracula, fought bloody battles here. Primož told us that Vlad once invited hundreds of guests to a banquet, then had them all killed and impaled.
On that cheery note, we rode north toward Câmpulung into delightful mountains, with rocky peaks in the background and gorgeous green pastoral scenery below. This stretch was winding and curvy but smooth and pleasant. There are many beautiful places in the world, all different, but there aren’t many that are more beautiful than this section of Romania’s Carpathian Mountains. We visited Bran Castle, which was built in the 13th century and inspired Bram Stoker’s description of the vampire’s castle in “Dracula.” On the way to dinner that night, Primož led us on a walking tour of the old city in Braşov. Each night we walked to a wonderful restaurant, and the guides shared their wealth of knowledge about the culture and history of the area. Dinners were family-style, with Rok and Primož ordering a variety of platters so we could sample a little bit of everything.
Our route continued through Transylvania on smooth roads through rolling hills, the terrain and scenery constantly changing. We had lunch in Sighişoara, a walled 12th century town that’s a UNESCO World Heritage site. For our “rest” day in Sibiu, we did what riders do — we got up early and headed out on a ride, in this case to the renowned Transfăgărăşan road over the Făgărăş range. At the base of the mountain, Rok gave the signal and the group broke apart with everyone riding their own pace up the steep twisty switchbacks to the pass at 6,699 feet. The next day, after finding out that a rockslide had closed the highly anticipated Transalpina Road, we assuaged our disappointment with another run on the Transfăgărăşan.
We crossed the Friendship Bridge into Bulgaria and made our way to Veliko Tarnovo, where we spent the night in the Tsarevets Fortress. We visited the Shipka Monument at a 3,900-foot mountain pass that was the site of battles during the Russo-Turkish War in the late 1800s. And we descended into Rose Valley, where much of the world’s rose oil for perfumes comes from, and passed sunflower fields that stretched as far as the eye could see.
After a night in Plovdiv, which has Roman ruins in the center of town, we rode through the Rhodope Mountains into Greece. Most of the road had excellent pavement, smooth curves and gorgeous mountain terrain that gave way to Mediterranean seaside scenery at Alexandroupoli. The next day we crossed into Turkey, and a perfect arc of roadway around the Gulf of Saros took us to tip of the Gallipoli Peninsula, where we visited WWI memorials.
Istanbul is beyond words. As the crossroads of the East and West, it has a rich, varied history and a unique mix of cultures. Three nights and two rest days in Istanbul allowed plenty of time to explore and see famous sites like the Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia and the Hippodrome of Constantinople. People on the streets and in shops were warm and friendly, and the variety of foods was endless and always delicious. Our hotel provided easy access to historic areas, and its rooftop restaurant and bar overlooked the Bosphorus Strait, which is the boundary between Europe and Asia. Just indescribable — you really should experience it for yourself.
After the sensory overload of Istanbul, we followed Rok northwest to our lunch stop at Saray. The roads zigged and zagged, and the surface was somewhat rough due to years of being patched. We crossed the border back into Bulgaria, and at the checkpoint there were several luxury vehicles shot full of hundreds of holes. If that was meant as a warning, it worked. Nessebar, situated on a rocky peninsula jutting into the Black Sea, was our stop for the night. It’s one of the oldest towns in Europe, and as we walked to dinner we saw monuments and ruins dating back to the 5th century. The atmosphere in the twilight was breathtaking, another step back in time.
The terrain and scenery changed yet again as we rode north along the Bulgarian coast, which is a popular vacation destination with dramatic cliffs, pristine beaches and resort hotels. After a night in Kavarna, where we stayed in a modern condo overlooking the Black Sea, we rode through fertile grain-producing agricultural areas. We crossed back into Romania on a ferry over the mighty Danube River and made our way back to Bucharest, where Primož greeted us with champagne at the hotel. After celebrating, we emptied the bikes and got cleaned up for the farewell dinner. I don’t remember much about that final night. Our heads were spinning with memories, laughter and a few adult beverages.
This tour was everything we could have imagined, multiplied by a factor of 10. Both guides worked tirelessly to accommodate us every day for 14 long days. The riding was great, the scenery ever-changing, the history and culture beyond what we could absorb in a lifetime, and Adriatic Moto Tours earned our highest regards for everything from the booking to the final hoorah. Maybe we can go again someday?
AMT’s Istanbul to Romania Adventure tour runs several times a year from August to October. For dates, pricing and details, visit adriaticmototours.com.
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.
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.
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.
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.
“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.
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.
“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.
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.
“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.
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.
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.
Several times a year I ride north from my home in New York City to Saratoga Springs to visit family. Like any motorcyclist worth her salt, I’ve sussed out some truly glorious roads and turn what is normally a 350-mile roundtrip into a meandering 500-plus miles. Saratoga Springs and the surrounding area make for a great escape from the city, or a worthy destination in their own right. Options for entertainment run the gamut from arts and culture to gambling, outdoor adventures and gourmet dining — there’s something for every rider in your group.
The easiest way to get out of the city while still enjoying the ride is to take the Taconic State Parkway north. Long stretches of the roadway are in rough shape, and some of the worst patches are in big sweeping curves. Should you choose to roll on the throttle through those curves, I recommend good suspension and extra Vitamin I (ibuprofren). Or you can test your handling skills by navigating a slalom course between the potholes, like I do on my Triumph.
Allow me a moment to wax rhapsodic about my Street Triple. I used to ride a Bonneville, and while the beautiful Bonnie will always have a place in my heart, as a smaller, lighter rider, a sportier bike suits me better. The Street Triple is the very definition of “flickable,” and while my 2015 doesn’t have a ton of low-end torque, the smooth acceleration through the upper rev range makes getting there a pleasure. There is little that can compare to the distinctive pop-pop-pop of that throaty triple, mine made even rowdier with a Two Brothers slip-on exhaust.
Now, where was I? Right, potholes on the Taconic.
The 104-mile parkway took 40 years to build, from the mid 1920s until its completion in 1963. Parts of the road were designed by Franklin D. Roosevelt during his tenure as head of the Taconic State Park Commission, and we can thank him for insisting those sections follow the natural landscape instead of powering through in a straight line. Built in a simpler time, the Taconic has narrow lanes and minimal shoulders. Posted at 50 and then 55 mph, the nimble Street Triple is perfectly suited to slip through bottlenecks created by drivers white-knuckling along at 40 mph. Though a state parkway, it isn’t boring and has plenty of gentle curves, but do be on the lookout for accidents and state troopers.
The Taconic ends at the junction with Interstate 90, but a better choice is to take back roads up to Saratoga Springs through farm and horse country. The town is home to the Saratoga Race Course, one of the oldest horse tracks in the country, dating to 1863. The annual meet runs from mid-July to Labor Day, but there is harness racing year-round. Saratoga is famous for its mineral springs and bath houses, and there are plenty of excellent restaurants and vibrant nightlife to enjoy. Its extensive, elegant historical district showcases many pristine Victorian mansions.
To head south back to New York City, I start by cutting 30-odd miles west to Amsterdam on State Route 67. There are rolling fields of corn and that upstate staple, Stewart’s Shops, where you can stop for a quick coffee and a warm-up. Even midsummer mornings can be chilly this far north. Amsterdam’s story is like that of many upstate towns, especially those along the Erie Canal. Industry boomed and then died, and now these places are trying to reinvent themselves for the modern era. Some are faring better than others, but almost all of them retain a shadow of their former glory in architecture and design, which makes a trip through this area feel like a trip back in time.
Route 67 runs into Route 30 near the intersection of all the major arteries in the area, including the muscular Mohawk River. A primary tributary of the Hudson, the Mohawk looks serene in the summer but is prone to dangerous floods, particularly in spring when the snow melt comes roaring down. Take Route 30 over the river and over the Thruway, and then civilization quickly gives way to the lovely curves and hills of the Schoharie Valley.
You don’t have to enjoy the smell of cow barns but it won’t hurt if you do, as Route 30 runs through mile after mile of farmland. Every 20 miles or so you’ll slow down from 55 to 45 to 35, one small town after another like links on a chain. If you’re fussy about filling up with 93 octane you may have to wait a minute to find a station, but they do exist.
These little towns are a living history of the ups and downs of upstate New York. Some look a lot worse for the wear while others have managed to thrive, hanging baskets of petunias cheerily welcoming just as you see the 35 mph sign. But all the parts of Route 30 are rife with historical markers and sites, including several covered bridges. Drop a kickstand and look around.
The upper portion of Route 30 often mirrors the curves of Schoharie Creek, making for a meditative, hypnotic ride. The Schoharie turns east just outside of the ambitiously named Grand Gorge, south of which are the headwaters of the East Branch Delaware River. Here the road flirts along with the creek as it gradually builds in volume, both you and the waters being drawn south.
I recommend stopping for a break in Margaretville. Ice cream at the Bun n’ Cone is optional, but however you refresh, you’ll want to feel bright-eyed and bushy-tailed before you hit the next section of the road. Follow the signs to stay south on Route 30 and enjoy 30 miles of pure happiness as the road undulates along the Pepacton Reservoir. My favorites are the big sweeping horseshoe curves, the kind motorcyclists dream of — the ones that seem to go on forever and challenge even the most experienced riders to hold their line, creating that perfect harmony of rider and road and machine.
The road along the reservoir is in fair to very good condition, some stretches recently repaved. I’ve seen all manner of bikes on this road and can pretty much guarantee that whatever you ride, it’ll feel like it was made for the Pepacton. In addition to those glorious sweepers, there are lovely views of the reservoir and, as the western shore marks the Blue Line boundary of the Catskill Park, the surrounding forests are thickly green in the summer and a riot of color in the fall.
You may well be tempted to make the run down to Downsville and then back up to the top once or twice, and there’s no shame in pursuing that desire. It’s a gorgeous road and deserves to be enjoyed. When you’re about out of gas, or it’s dark, or you were supposed to be home three hours ago, I recommend heading east on Route 206, another pretty little road that pops you over a hill and down into the town of Roscoe, which has staked its claim as Trout Town, USA. There are several breweries and distilleries in the area, which makes a compelling case for booking a room and making Roscoe your home for the night.
Roscoe has several small-town attractions, including a railway museum and a bridge handy for watching fly fishers ply their trade. If I’ve hit Roscoe by 1 p.m. or so I usually take the long way home — Route 30 down to Deposit and Route 97 along the Delaware River to Port Jervis. If you’ve spent your day riding Pepacton over and over again, you can pick up Route 17 and deadhead it about 80 miles back to the city.
The next time you ride out to Pepacton, add Route 10 along the Cannonsville Reservoir to your itinerary. There’s little in the world like the feeling of taking one of those big sweepers, the road unspooling ahead and the bike humming beneath, your hand on the throttle and your eyes up toward the exit, chasing that white line rolling away before you, the exhausting thrill of knowing you have so many more excellent miles to go.
I see mountains! It’s Thursday, somewhere west of Anton, Colorado, and after four-and-a-half days and 1,600 miles, the snowcapped Rockies appear on the horizon. My riding buddy Jay and I left our home state of West Virginia on Sunday. Now midday, we see the jagged peaks we’ve been longing for. The Great Plains were beautiful and adventurous, but we’re anxious to ride into some elevation.
In Aurora, Jay makes the required pilgrimage to a Harley shop and buys yet another T-shirt while I get a long overdue full-face helmet. Then we climb up, up, up. West Virginia, known as the Mountain State, has great riding, but its mountains are mere hills compared to the Rockies. West of Denver significant climbing and a diversion onto U.S. Route 6 leads to 11,990-foot Loveland Pass on the Western Continental Divide. Beyond that the road winds through scenic towns like Dillon and Frisco until we stop for two nights in Edwards.
Our next two travel days are memorable! Riding through the high plains beyond Steamboat Springs, the spectacular views blew us away. We stopped for gas in Maybell, Colorado, and encountered three dual-sport riders on their fourth day off-road — and they sure looked it. Our lunch break was at the BedRock Depot in Dinosaur, where delicious sandwiches and milkshakes hit the spot. Then on into Utah, climbing up to 8,300 feet on U.S. Route 191, north of Vernal. In Wyoming the land became so dramatic through the Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area that I could hardly keep my eyes on the road. When a cold, wet front was forecast and we could see clouds ahead, the flat broadly curved roads allowed for high-speed fun. We beat the storms, passed the 2,000-mile mark and ended the day’s ride in Rock Springs.
Winds were a brutal distraction at the start of the next day, leaning constantly into 30-mph gusts until the wind abated near Cokeville, Wyoming, but soon after lunch in Montpelier, Idaho, the rain started. We climbed into the Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest and it began snowing hard, sticking to trees, bushes and my windshield, but fortunately not the road. We were cold, but it made for a memorable photo at Emigration Pass on Idaho Highway 36. Dropping below the snow line, we ended the day’s ride outside of Preston, Idaho, at the Riverdale Resort. It has geothermally heated outdoor pools where we simmered for an hour. Ahhh ….
Two nights and friend farewells later, we headed north through Soda Springs, where many of the roads are posted “Open Range.” Sure enough, we rounded a curve to find a herd of cattle blocking the road. We honked, and they genially ambled aside. Idaho Highway 34 followed Tincup Creek on its way to the Wyoming border, and we paralleled the Snake River on U.S. 89/191 through the Bridger-Teton National Forest, reminiscent of our own West Virginia roads. As the valley opened, we finally entered Jackson.
We continued north on U.S. 191 through the incomparable Grand Teton National Park and into Yellowstone National Park from the south. Twice we crossed the Continental Divide at 8,000-plus feet before descending into the Firehole River valley. We enjoyed lunch and a timely geyser eruption at Old Faithful Village before riding a long circle around the park. East of Yellowstone Lake we cursed in our helmets as traffic halted. Up ahead a bison plodded along in our lane. Awestruck and humbled, we eventually rolled past this massive creature.
We exited via Yellowstone’s east entrance on U.S. Route 14 and rode over 8,524-foot Sylvan Pass, and rolled downhill for 20 long, pleasurable miles. The surroundings turned from pine green to desert brown as we passed between huge sandstone sentinels along the Shoshone River. We reached Cody, a nice thriving western town. At dinner, Jay smiled and ordered Rocky Mountain oysters. About half a bite was all I could manage of fried bull’s balls.
Continuing east on U.S. 14, we crossed a broad valley and began to climb yet again. The view behind us became breathtaking, the temperature dropped to 45 degrees and we crossed the Bighorn Mountains via 9,033-foot Granite Pass. We picked up I-90 at Ranchester, but I foolishly ignored a gas stop. My engine sputtered to a stop and we had to siphon a quart from Jay’s tank. He’ll never let me live it down.
Devils Tower was impressive. No extraterrestrials, just busloads of photo-snapping tourists. Our destination was Keystone, South Dakota, 130 miles away. Signs for Spearfish, Deadwood and Sturgis flashed by, but it was getting dark and drizzling so we roared on. Finally, we reached our hotel. We rode 510 miles over 12 hours and our backsides were numb. What’s half of an Iron Butt — a Wood Butt? An Iron Cheek?
We visited Mount Rushmore and the Crazy Horse Memorial, which is much larger than Rushmore and was the highlight of our visit to the Black Hills. Under construction since 1948, the only recognizable part is Crazy Horse’s face and it won’t be finished in my lifetime.
After 3,300 memorable miles, we became horses headed for the barn. Our tripmeters were just shy of 5,000 miles when we arrived back home in West Virginia four days later. My wife greeted me by asking, “So, where to next year?”
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.
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.
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.
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….
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!
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 Photo Gallery: