Route suggestions for cross-country (USA) trip

Discussion in 'Americas' started by jlevers, Nov 29, 2016.

  1. jlevers

    jlevers Type 2 fun

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    Hi All,

    I posted a few months ago with questions about the feasibility of riding cross-country with my best friend/cousin once I graduate from high school this year. Everyone was super helpful, and I thought I'd come back to get some input on the general route we should take.

    We both ride classics: I ride a '79 CX500, and my cousin rides an '80 CM400T. (From here on, I'm going to refer to the two of us as "I", since it's easier.) Some background info -- I have about a month, and like to shoot for pretty low daily mileage since I really like to stop and explore on foot when I find something interesting. However, I'm definitely fine with putting in some super long days when in less interesting areas...For instance, I can imagine that in super flat places with very straight roads (aka the MidWest), I could put in 300-400 mile days (I don't mean to offend anyone who lives there -- if there are super fun roads there, please let me know!) We're planning to start in Western Massachusetts (Northampton) and end in Whistler, BC at the same time that Crankworx (a mountain biking competition) is happening.

    Here's my current (very vague) route plan: Start in Massachusetts, go west into New York, then south through Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and get on Skyline Drive in Virginia. Take Skyline to the BRP, and take that to the Deal's Gap area. From there, ride the Cherohala (not sure I spelled that right) west, and continue west through Tennessee into Arkansas. Once I get to Oklahoma, I'm thinking one of two things:

    a) blast through Oklahoma and Texas into New Mexico, and then ride through New Mexico and Arizona to the San Diego area. From there, ride up the entire west coast (through Oregon and Washington), and continue on to Whistler once I get to British Columbia.

    b) blast through Oklahoma to Colorado, and explore some of the riding there (which I've heard is awesome). Then, go northwest through Colorado/Utah (maybe Wyoming?), through Idaho, then either cut across Washington to the Bellingham area and head north to Whistler, OR go straight north through Idaho into BC and then go west across BC.

    I know this is fairly long-winded...I just want to give myself the best possible chance of finding an awesome route! I'm open to any route changes, drastic or otherwise. Also, I'm planning to do a live RR, so that I can get more localized route recommendations as I go.

    Thank you in advance!
    #1
  2. kantuckid

    kantuckid Long timer

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    You don't say but seem to imply that you've not traveled much, based on the CO comment? Your route is OK except for the fact that it should be headed toward the CO rockies from TN, not through OK?
    I suggest doing the Skyline/BRP route down to VA then the smokies area of TN & W NC, then suffer through some I-40 toward the Ozarks. The better part is the NW quadrant of AR but also VG riding in MO ozarks too. Has a different "flavor" than the eastern mtns. and the streams in the Ozarks run clear and pretty on rocks and a delightful place to canoe & fish if you are outdoorsy as you suggest in the "walk" statement.
    From that area angle up through the plains (big skys & clean air & little traffic isn't all bad) then hit RMNP. GET OFF THE MC AND WALK! Only a 1/2 mile or so & your away from the multitudes there and will then see the real thing. Might consider one "range" in CO and enjoy it more vs. doing several ranges and a drive by. Don't become a "MC style truck driver that sees all things from the seat"!
    Sure, you'll have to do some of that but avoid not immersing in some spots. An easy peasy mtn top hike in RMNP is a day hike from the highest hwy into mtns or along one of the many streams into back country. Same can be said for my Appalachian area too as mother nature sure didn't put all the woods & cliffs & waterfalls at the roadside for ride by's?
    In CO: lots of routes to follow and might just be the single state to focus on for rockies as you'll not do them all anyway. Given your youth spend some nightlife time in the CO towns with the modern day hippy kids that congregate as always there. You'll soon enough see what I call a "Colorado Girl" with those high altitude rosy cheeks and that outdoorsy glow!
    Damn tootin, you may never make it back to the gridlock of the east?:roflI do know of what I speak in spite of my years now.:lol2
    So, CO then some far western area like Utah spots then into N CA toward redwoods then down to S CA and back west from there through say, N NM? Or head for Tetons & MT. Were it me, I'd do the turn around in that area of WY/MT but if you must go west to the big water. While I like the BC aspect time may rule logic on that one?
    Are you camping?
    Take time to look at routes on some of the "ride websites" like www.motorcycleroads.us and www.openroadjourney.com and also look for regional help here on ADV for routes specific to an area of focus. Some good rides at the bottom of your VA Skyline ride are found on www.visitvirginiamountains.com under "trails" header(done by a riding friend who lives there) and arguably some of the better riding in the SE USA. I'm envious. At your age my life was play ball & work then just work.:-)
    Enjoy this one!
    #2
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  3. jlevers

    jlevers Type 2 fun

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    I've done a fair bit of traveling in the States...I was basing the CO comment off of beginning to head towards CO from AR, rather than TN, but I guess it would make more sense to start heading towards CO from TN.

    I definitely don't plan on staying on the motorcycle the whole time (like the "motorcycle truckers" you mentioned). Riding motorcycles is really fun, but exploring is really fun too, and I don't want to miss out on that part.

    I don't think that we're going to have time to both do CO/UT/ID and NM/AZ/CA. If I were to be choosing one of those, which would you suggest? What you said above makes CO sound really nice...both the scenery and the nightlife.

    I'm actually not planning to come back for some time...I'm taking a year between high school and college, and my plan is to live in Bellingham WA and mountain bike a ton.

    Thanks for the links! I'll definitely spend some time looking through those...the Back of the Dragon (VA 16) looks awesome. I really appreciate all the input.
    #3
  4. kantuckid

    kantuckid Long timer

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    What would I suggest? -back at you! What do you like? Get real specific! I'm an outdoor active guy and have been there , done that and happy to say I'm still into get er done mode!:rofl
    I grew up in Kansas and people in Kansas go to Colorado! for the mountains and Ozarks for the fishing,etc.. They both have their flavor. I moved to Kentucky in 1973 and live on land. I'm a "woods guy" and live in the middle of thousands of TREES! BIG TREES! In a log cabin I built and raised our 3 sons.
    Every time I went to CO in my younger days I relished the notion of living in the rockie mtns.. After 5 careers I had the skill sets to pull it off but given our having 3 babies in under 3 years I was chicken to do it! I was also chi9cken to become a full time wood worker even though I had that potential I was attracted to the $$$ of jobs my newly acquired degrees might get me. After I had multiple degrees it was even harder as the time had come when people lined up to get a teaching job out there in the rockies. I read once there were 3,000 applicants for each slot in education jobs. I resigned myself to becoming a "make believe hillbilly".:-) The rule of thumb out there is closer to the mtns the more money it takes to own land or live normally. It still sticks in my craw!
    I'm a fisherman, backpacker, hiker, and life long MC rider since 1963. We still travel as often as we can to wherever our teacher retirement checks will take us-which is quite a few neat spots, mind you.
    We did the Bellingham,WA get on the AK ferry thing. Consider that as a must do! Stop wherever you like for as long as you like in SE AK. Work, play whatever. Go into that wilderness there!
    We also did the BC Ferry thing from Port Angeles to Vancouver Island and went into the mainland @ Bella Coola and back down. Do that too! Take yer bike and a tent duct taped to the deck.
    FWIW, I have two sons that are serious bicycle riders(like I was in another life) but neither have biked in that NW area.
    Consider the Olympic NP as another must do! It is as close to the alps as North America can get. Neat place near your WA spot.
    Given my background as an educator-is financial aid based on HS performance something you'll miss out on due to the interlude between HS and college? I do know that many types of merit based aid come from the HS setting and can disappear when you play or work awhile. Not fair but it does happen. Parents income ( or lack of ) for need based aid can still come through if your a candidate for that $. PM me for more info..
    Do you live near Springfield, MA ? I have a riding friend/ ER doctor who lives there.
    #4
  5. jlevers

    jlevers Type 2 fun

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    What do I like...now there's a good question! I like a lot of things, but my favorites (esp. as they pertain to route planning) are beautiful scenery, friendly people, and interesting things to explore, whether that be the aforementioned scenery, abandoned buildings (I've been in too many of these, I'm afraid I'll get lung cancer from asbestos :lol3), or anything else. I'm certainly a fan of the wilderness, as you seem to be. (I've done a ton of backpacking, although that's not my goal for this trip, and I'm an Eagle Scout.) But honestly, I haven't done as much riding as most people do by the time they're planning a trip of this magnitude, so it's hard for me to say what I want in a motorcycle trip. I know that I want some really good twisties, that's for sure.

    I think I forgot to answer one of your questions -- yes, I'm planning on camping a lot. I don't have the flex in my budget to stay in a hotel very much.

    Sounds like you've had an interesting life! As far as the Northwest goes, I've spent about a month total there, between WA and BC. The biking in both places is absolutely incredible...nowhere else I've been can compare. I hadn't heard of the ferry from Bellingham to AK, but I'm certainly intrigued! That sounds like a lot of fun. I've been to Olympic NP, and I agree with you that it's amazing! I've never seen mountains with quite the "wow" factor of the Olympics.

    I'm PMing you about the education stuff.

    Yeah, I live about 30 minutes north of Springfield. Is your buddy an advrider member? I'd love to meet up with him. I don't have any local riding buddies.
    #5
  6. 4PawsHacienda

    4PawsHacienda Long timer

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    Skyline Dr & BRP are nice little roads thru the middle of some fantastic riding areas. Good easy riding, allow two full days with minimal stopping. There is a good motorcycle specific campground one full days ride from Front Royal VA by the name of Willville located in Meadows of Dan VA. VA State Parks also have excellent camping and there are plenty close to the BRP along the New River. You do have an ambitious goal of seeing and experiencing a lot of the country while still getting to Whistler within your time frame. The roads thru the southeast are as curvy and fun as you want to make them but they will resemble what you have grown up around. As much as it pains me to suggest it you might want to try and squeeze in more time in the western areas of the country because they are so much different than what you have lived in and the riding and scenery are fantastic.
    I'll be glad to share what I know of the BRP/Skyline Dr/Smokies region should you have any time to wander my neighborhood. PM me when your departure date draws closer if you want any specifics.
    #6
  7. Tom D

    Tom D Been here awhile

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    a month's time? maybe you should stick to the east coast.

    in 2012 I did an around the states tour and it took me 10 months. I probably could have taken 2-3 months off that time but then I wouldn't have had time to explore. total mileage was 24k. I also did it on a bmw r1150rs, a far more comfortable bike then what you have chosen.

    image.jpeg
    #7
  8. boatpuller

    boatpuller Long timer

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    Do you want to spend more time in the desert conditions, or alpine mountains? Do you want to spend time in more Native American / Hispanic culture, or more hippie / Mormon culture? Your answers will direct you towards NM and AZ, or CO and UT. Keep in mind each choice has some of what the other excels in.

    And the poster who suggested the southern Appalachian mountains will have much of what you grew up with in the northern Appalachian is probably right. It's lovely, but it's very similar to what you already know. If you want to see parts of the country you don't know, than head due southwest from home, hitting the rich plains of western OH and northern IN and IL with their black soil. The vastness will impress you - one way or another. Then dip down to grab CO (eastern 1/3 is barren, central 1/3 is mountains, middle of western 1/3 is also mountains), and then either hit the desert of NM and AZ, or the high plains of WY/MT, or the amazement of UT and the nothingness of central NV. These all provide new experiences different from your home.
    #8
  9. jlevers

    jlevers Type 2 fun

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    @4PawsHacienda thank you for the info and offer of even more info! I'll definitely give you a PM when I'm closer to that area. I think you have a good point in that I probably would get more enjoyment out of the areas of the country that I've spent less time in, although I definitely want to get at least a taste of the amazing riding in your area.

    @Tom D I wish I had that kind of time, but I don't, and as long as I need to get to the Whistler area anyway, I figure I might as well have an awesome time while doing so. I hope that someday I'll take the time to thoroughly explore the US, but at the moment, I just want to have as much fun as I can with the options I have. Also, I'm only planning on logging 5-6k miles, rather than the 24k you did.

    @boatpuller I'm inclined to say alpine rather than desert, but having been to NM and AZ, I really liked those (desert) areas too. But overall, I do think I like alpine better. I'm definitely more into hippie culture than Native American/Hispanic culture (I'm definitely not much of a Mormon).

    One route idea that I was toying with today was going south to Deal's Gap, then northwest through TN, MO, and KS into CO. From Co, going through UT and the corner of AZ down to San Diego, and then following the West Coast all the way up to BC. That way, I'd get to hit the awesome roads in the southeast, see the southern Ozarks in MO, the great plains in KS, the awesome mountains and canyons of CO and UT, some of the southwestern desert, and still get to experience the (in most accounts) awesome ride that is the West Coast.

    The other main idea I'm having is basically what @boatpuller said, heading across the northern sections of OH, IN, and IL, then going down to CO, then up through WY/MT/ID into Canada and then west to Whistler.

    I'm also realizing that I'm quite likely to not end up deciding until I actually leave -- I'll probably have a much better idea of what I want to see after spending a while riding. Thank you all for your input! It's super helpful, and I'm always open to other ideas.
    #9
  10. everready

    everready Stuck in Ohio....Ugh!!!

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    If you decide to go through a major city, fuel up about 30 miles out, stay on the interstate until you get out in the boonies on the other side. Don't try to navigate through an unknown city, you NEVER know what kind of neighborhood you'll end up in, DAMHIK.
    #10
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  11. jlevers

    jlevers Type 2 fun

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    This may just be naiveté, but having spent lots of time in very very poor neighborhoods (both my parents were inner-city teachers in Providence for many years), I'm not as intimidated by bad neighborhoods as many people seem to be. Again, it's totally possible that that's just due to having an undeveloped brain :rofl. Despite what I just said, I'll still keep that advice in mind, since I'd rather be safe than sorry.
    #11
  12. boatpuller

    boatpuller Long timer

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    Even if it is not a matter of safety, it is more convenient and less stressful to fuel up in smaller less congested areas than crowded downtown cities. also, when stopping for the night, sleep on the far side of city to reduce morning rush hour traffic.
    #12
  13. jlevers

    jlevers Type 2 fun

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    Yeah, that makes sense. I'll do that. Plus, fuel may be cheaper outside of cities...not sure, but I'd assume so.
    #13
  14. Earache

    Earache Hola!

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    If you do decide to do Colorado, let me know - be happy top help you out with some route suggestions, etc. Have a spare room at the house you could crash in for a couple of days. We live right in the middle of the good riding area.
    As others have said you might want to get west as quickly as possible as the riding is so different from what you're used to. Loads of old buildings here - abandoned gold mines, mining towns, etc - to explore. Great scenery and decent weather (low humidity and not all that hot).
    If you have any questions, let me know. Sounds like a great trip - wish I had done something similar at your age.
    #14
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  15. Earache

    Earache Hola!

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    Couple of piccies to get ya thinking....
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    #15
  16. jlevers

    jlevers Type 2 fun

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    Wow, thank you for offering a room, as well as route suggestions! I'm thinking more and more that regardless of which way we end up going (either mostly south or mostly north), we're going to end up spending some time in Colorado, so I'm definitely going to take you up on that offer. Those pictures look absolutely amazing! Is the last one Pikes Peak? I don't actually have any basis for thinking that, just that I watched a cool video about Guy Martin riding Pikes Peak, and it looked a lot like that.
    #16
  17. Earache

    Earache Hola!

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    The last one was on Mount Evans - should be on your "to do" list.

    I think you'll find lots of people willing to set you up with a room for a night - like I said, wish I'd done the same trip when I was your age and happy to help make it happen for guys that are actually doing it. Don't be afraid to take them up on the offers - but don't let your guard down 100% either!

    Loads of great riding here, you could spend a month just tooling around Colorado and still not see all of the cool stuff.
    #17
  18. Pantah

    Pantah Jiggy Dog Fan from Scottsdale Supporter

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    I like your route just fine. Its the details that probably differentiate. My favorite place to ride is NM, UT and AZ. My suggestion for that area is as follows:
    1. From Oklahoma or Texas find Cimarron NM on highway 64. Take 64 over the top if the southern Rockies to Taos, NM. Check out Kit Carson's old digs in Taos and maybe the Taos Inn. Actually, Taos Pueblo is the main attraction, but its not always open to the public since the natives still live there. There is a little Vietnam memorial at Angel Fire that is worth a stop to stretch.
    2. Continue on 64 from Taos west to Chama, NM. Maybe grab lunch. You will cross the Rio Grande Gorge. Then continue over the highest pass in the southern Rockies (9600') and drop into Farmington. Spectacular views and great motoring. Continue to Shiprock (the town).
    3. In the middle of Shiprock turn left onto 491 and ride to the Monument known as Shiprock. It is only a short way and you can see it for miles. The first right turn past the monument is Indian 13 or also called the Red Rock Highway. That little ribbon of tarmac will take you over a pass that will rival the 'Dragon'!
    4. 13 will take you into AZ. At Indian 12, turn south and find hwy 64. Take it west to Chinle, which is where Canyon de Chelly is. Check it out!
    5. From Chinle head north on 191 to Many Farms. Turn west onto Indian 59 at Many Farms. That will take you to Kayanta AZ and hwy 163. Take 163 north through Monument Valley to Mexican Hat, UT. Monument Valley is breathtaking. Mexican Hat has a great patio steak house called the Swingin' Steak. Expensive, though.
    6. From Mexican Hat continue to highway 261 and take it north (the Trail of the Ancients). In a few miles you will climb up the face of the next steppe over 1000' above you on a road called the Mokee Dugway. It is dirt but has paved corners. You could do it easily on any motorcycle, but you'll never forget it.
    7. Take 261 north to highway 95. Natural Bridges is nearby as well as Arches Monument. You can take 95 north to Hanksville UT. At Hanksville turn west again onto 24 through Capitol Reef Monument.
    8. Just past the west entrance of Capitol Reef find Hwy 12 south to Boulder UT. Then continue west on 12 through Escalante and maybe stay at Bryce Canyon National Monument. Hwy 12 takes you past many things you might want to see. But you have to look at maps.

    I could take you to Las Vegas but I'll let you boys poke around to locate the things you want to see most from there. North Rim maybe? Highway 12 is one of the finest motorcycling roads there is and its not crowded. You can flat motor. I wish you could do dirt roads too, because I have several of those that connect the dots through that area too. But the tar is terrific and the scenery is enough to overpower your senses no matter what you are riding.

    My first road trip through there was when I was 20 driving a 1963 Austin-Healey 3000. I bought it in Savannah, GA where I learned to fly helicopters for the Army. The road trip was to my home in Hayward, CA for my 30-day leave before I shipped off to Vietnam. That first road trip is why some 48 years later I still do them. But now I do them on a dual sport motorcycle. Trip of a lifetime!
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    #18
  19. Earache

    Earache Hola!

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    This is true. Shot from south of Hanksville at the Hite Overlook....

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    Another thing you'll want to think about in this area is fuel tank range. Fuel can be hard to find at times if your range is under 150 miles per tank. Not sure wehat kind of range your bikes get, but an auxiliary tank of some sort might not hurt.
    #19
  20. Earache

    Earache Hola!

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    Video from Route 12 around Escalante, great riding road....
    #20