Over the past few days, we got calls about long distance travel from two separate riders.
One, who did not want to miss out on riding again this year as he had in the past two, wanted to plan a cross-country trip. His son would be attending his spring semester in Los Angeles (late January to mid-May) and he felt it the perfect impetus to pack the bike and head west. Since working from home these last years, he did not want the same boredom that set in this past fall to take hold again this spring. His questions dealt more with routes, roads and logistics. Since Brian and I had done a cross-country trip in 2020, he felt we may have some insight into these things.
The other was thinking about joining some other riders who would be heading to Alaska. This rider had been off his motorcycle for a time due to a horrific accident. The up side, if there is such a thing after a horrific accident, is that he is an amazing rider – has been on a motorcycle most of his life and adept at all types of riding. His concern was not logistics, as the other riders he would be joining already had a plan. His had to do with what motorcycle would be the best for this trip and the things that would need to accompany him such as GPS, luggage, etc.
Addressing the first, we said that the route we had taken would not serve him well, since he was thinking about doing this in April. Our path took us over the Rockies and the wonderful riding in Colorado. April in the Rockies is, well, still winter. So a more southerly route would certainly need to be the option. Specifically, his question was, ‘Any suggestions as to the best way to route the best roads in the connecting states?’
Most riders who have ridden or dream of riding throughout our beautiful country have a list of the ‘must ride’ roads that have been put out by so many magazines and motorcycle websites. There are annual ‘top ten’ roads that appear, pretty often the same every year, as there aren’t too many new roads being developed. According to GreatMotorcycleRoads.com, it’s Going-to-the-Sun Road: MO, Needles Highway: SD, Beartooth Highway: MO, WY, Natchez Trace Parkway: TN/AL/MS, Blue Ridge Parkway: VA/NC, Tail of the Dragon: TN/NC, Peak to Peak Highway: CO, Cherohala Skyway: TN/NC, Mt Washington Auto Road: NH and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument: UT. Those are some pretty fine roads, but, personally, I’d lose Tail of the Dragon – it is WAY too crowded most of the time with too many yahoos in that crowd. With the Cherohala Skyway withing striking distance, I would spend the time and concentration one hundred-fold on that beautiful piece of tarmac.
Of course, there are always those hidden gems (that’s what Backroads is always looking for…) which are sought and, if other riders play nicely, are shared via blogs, e-letters and such. We have found some pretty great ones along our Backroads rides – two particular ones that come to mind, both in Pennsylvania and, coincidently, both available to be ridden on our Spring Rally in May, are Route 154 and 125.
Route 154, which runs from Canton to LaPorte, has everything that a wonderful motorcycle road requires: complete curvaceousness, beautiful scenery and stopping areas to photograph it, decent pavement and food and gas along the way. While this length of road is a mere 50 miles, it can be ridden up and back, as each direction holds its own enjoyment.
Route 125, running from Shamokin to Marstown, is a bit shorter run at about 35 miles, but has a bit more technicality to it. It is more rural, without the scenery or photogenic qualities, but has been called the ‘Tail of the Dragon of Pennsylvania’ (yeah, I know I just said I’d wipe that off the list, but this is just a comparison and, as such, paints a picture).
On to Rider Number Two and his Alaskan Adventure; his thought was that his RT would certainly be able to make the ride but did he want that much bike. His friend would be on a KLR – he did not think he would be comfortable on that size bike for this length of time. He mentioned both the Africa Twin and 1250 GS – both excellent vehicles for this sort of ride. My retort to him, as he is both a mechanic and handyman, was ‘what is the right tool for the job?’
There have certainly been all modes of motorcycles to have ridden to the Arctic Circle Sign, making it on the ever-treacherous Dalton Highway, but there are better options than others. Personally, I would rather be on a more nimble, lighter weight bike than something covered in plastic. Sure, the crossing of the country would be a cushy ride on an RT, but the beating it would take on the Dalton might not be worth it.
In the end, it was mentioned to find a used Twin/GS/etc. for the trip and, when back home, decide if it is worth keeping or better to be passed along with a pat on the saddle as having done the job well.
To both of you long-journey riders, I hope that the trip comes to pass and I wish you safe travels and lots of fond memories to hold you until your next adventure.