Friday, 4 September 2009

January 2009 – What sort of tour did I want?

The beginning of 2009 saw a change in my own personal circumstances which meant I would have more free time. I was very lucky that my plans to retire were coming to fruition and I was able to semi-retire at the end of that 2008. I was now only working about half of my time and the New Year saw me itching to get back to planning the tour.

So, in January 2009 I started to find the time to think about the main tour of the USA once more. I had put the previous abortive attempt behind me and instead of rushing in, like I did last time, I decided to go about this more methodically.

I knew that I wanted to do much more than just a motorcycle ride. I wanted to take in the best that America had to offer and for me, that meant stopping a lot, talking to people, learning about what I was riding passed, seeing the countryside, the towns and cities. I didn’t just want to experience the tarmac and the roads.

For some motorcyclists, it is all about the journey, the ride. I can understand that and indeed I enjoy just the ride sometimes, but to do that on this once in a lifetime journey I was planning to me seemed to miss the point. I recently read an American bikers website and the guy who wrote the site said that when he goes touring, he does 450 to 500 miles per day, every day. For some people this is fun. For me it isn’t. In the UK after those sorts of mileages, you could go the entire length of England and Scotland in 2 days, within 80 miles of 50 million people and end up knowing nothing about the country or the people. Whatever floats your boat I suppose!

For my tour, I was planning to ride an average daily distance of 125 miles. This would give me about half the day riding and half looking and learning. Depending on the area I was in, some days I would do much more than this and some days I would do a lot more. At this average, I could also easily afford to spend a few days in one place if I really liked it.

The next question was where would I stay at night – what sort of accommodation did I want to use? In America the choice is enormous, anywhere from 5 star palaces to camping. My needs are simple as providing I have a bed that is clean and comfortable, I am generally happy. That rules out the two extremes – top end hotels and tents are not for me. Regular hotels and motels are what I would go for. I would try to avoid the very low cost motels, as they can attract (in almost every country in the world) the wrong types of people. I don’t think I am a snob – I just don’t like getting into certain situations with certain people. Mid-range family run type hotels are my preference as they also give you the greatest chance of meeting people along the route.

Next, what were the absolute must see places for me? The list was not that extensive;

• California, especially the Pacific Coast Highway
• Chicago (one of my favourite cities)
• Death Valley
• Las Vegas
• Maine
• Milwaukee (home of the Harley-Davidson)

• New York City
• Niagara Falls
• Route 66
• San Francisco
• Sturgis (the best motorcycle rally in the world?)
• The Rockies, especially in Colorado
• Utah – cowboy film country
• Vermont
• Yellowstone

I got out my big map of the whole of the USA, stuck in pins in these places and a pattern very quickly emerged. Generally, these places were in an east-west line across the top of the States, or in a north-south line that roughly follows the line of the the Rocky Mountains Range.

I began to see a picture emerging that the route would start in the top right hand corner of the States n the Atlantic, head south down the coast to New York, then head west about two-thirds of the way across, then head most of the way down south, then head west again to hit the Pacific coast.

I did a very rough estimate of the mileage and determined this was about 10,000 miles. At an average of 125 miles a day, that would mean 80 days riding. Add say another 10 for rest days and I was looking at a 90 day tour, which seemed about right for me.

The route looked something like this.......

I ended January 2009 which a much better idea of what my USA motorcycle tour might comprise. The route might have only been in outline, but I knew roughly where I would go, how many miles it was and how long it would take.

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