In these years of Big Rides I got to see things I never could have dreamed about growing up. A childhood dream was always doing one of those “Drive-Thru” trees out in the redwood forests. We did that. I have seen so many places that millions of people will only read about. Seeing these places, experiencing these places on a motorcycle is so fantastic. So, let me finish these very short excerpts from the Big Rides.
In 2013 I made the top-of-the-world events the keystone of my planning. We found lots of new back roads to create adventures, but kept some of the cool ones we knew at the center. Part of the fun became watching the newbies on the rides pop their eyes with each day of great expectations. But there had to be bigger rides to see more of the west.
In 2014 I worked with Lorne, who moved from Florida to California a few years earlier. He rides as much as he breathes and helped create some fantastic routes. Unfortunately, California and Oregon had a lot of fires that year that detoured us a few times. We rode up to Crater Lake on this adventure that had 16 bikes on the trip. We had something go wrong every day, from a bike breakdown (CMA traveled 8 hours one-way to bring a replacement bike) to a flat tire in an area so desolate, no one could get cell phone service. We were less than 20 miles from San Jose, yet the tow truck we finally got took almost 3 hours to get there due to the twisted mountain roads we were on. Turns were so tight, he had to do 3-point turns to get around the curves! Still, it was one of the most spectacular rides I remember thanks to Lorne knowing about these hidden roads.
2015 was the 75th anniversary for Sturgis and every bike east of the Mississippi was rented before April!!! We actually had to skip this year of riding out west. It was sad.
2016 we had to plan something spectacular to make up for last year. Our center piece became the Grand Canyon. Day one was down the PCH (after Old La Honda) to Paso Robles. Then, we went across the Mojave Desert and up into Arizona at Flagstaff, having done a small part of Route 66. The third day we rode along the Grand Canyon and loved it! Then, on our way to Utah, we went through Marble Canyon and Vermilion Canyon before finding Zion National Park. We had little time for the park as we headed for America’s Loneliest Highway: US50 across Nevada. It’s a well named road, but we saw antelope and wild mustangs. The next day we did our favorites with Kingsbury Grade and CA89, but skipped Yosemite for Carson Pass. I had found some new roads to take us back west through Sonoma Valley. Another spectacular year of riding out west, but we had enough of desert heat to last a lifetime.
In 2017 Scott and Ilene retired, selling CMA. The new owners failed to complete the sale and put us in a position to rent from EagleRider for the first time. We flew into Denver and our first day took us on winding roads, through passes, to Estes Park, then through Milner Pass to Grand Lake. This was the first half-day and it was incredible!!! The next day was less exciting as we crossed into the plains of Wyoming on our way to Buffalo, a town we all loved. Next, we rode across Big Horn National Forest. This was an awesome surprise with one of the most incredible vistas at the west end. Follow that with a ride to Red Lodge and across Beartooth Pass, the most spectacular section I have ever seen. You have to do that ride.
By the way, Beartooth (US212) then empties into Yellowstone National Park! We rode across the top of the park to Gardner, MT for the night. The next day, we explored the park, including Tower Falls, Lower Falls, Yellowstone Lake, Old Faithful and then south to the Grand Tetons before crossing into Idaho. This was a day filled with magnificent scenery. Our final full day took us across Palisades Reservoir, back into Wyoming to follow the Green River into Utah. We saw Flaming Gorge, a spectacular display of color created by the Green River. After a night in Utah, we rode back into Colorado to enjoy more mountains before returning the bikes. This became the best ride I have planned so far.
In 2018 we did our first ride without rentals. Most of us did the Auto-Train for the first time and relaxed to Lorton, VA. Off the train, we rode through Virginia and Maryland into central Pennsylvania. On this 8-day ride, it rained at least two hours every single day. From here we went up to Niagara Falls and then on to Erie, PA. The next day took us down the west side of PA to the mountains of West Virginia. Our next day finished WV and entered Kentucky roads with great video surprises, including washouts from all the rain. We finished the day riding part of Tennessee and into Asheville, NC. We rode some of the Blue Ridge Parkway and lots of incredible roads that Telisa had grown up riding into North Carolina down into Georgia to spend the night at a friend’s home. The last day was the long, flat ride into South Florida, but the trip was great in spite of some of the weather.
We had a bonus trip in 2018 because Gary had to attend a wedding in his home town. The result of taking the long way provided us with riding the entire length of the Blue Ridge Parkway, the entire Shenandoah Skyway, north into central Pennsylvania before heading west through Ohio and into Michigan to Traverse City. The two riders from Florida did almost 3,600 miles on this ride. We rode through 12 states and a variety of weather conditions. It’s cold up there!
I can’t express the fondness I have for the riders that shared these adventures. We have, literally, thousands of photos that have been shared and hours of YouTube video for you to watch, some shot in VR 360! The memories are beyond description.
2019 begins in late May. It is my Ultimate Big Ride. It will touch all 48 lower-states and DC. It has several smaller rides built in and is easily customized for individual riders that can’t commit to such a long ride. This will be my bucket list killer, though I have more great rides already planned for 2020 and 2021. I hope to see you on one of my rides some day.