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National Park Motorcycle Ride – 5542 Miles in 16 Days 2013

 

National Park Motorcycle Ride Route Map

National Park Motorcycle Ride Route Map

WOW, I can’t believe we did it and it’s in the books. We just rode some of the best national parks, historic sites and national monuments in the U.S. and Canada (Pikes Peak National Park, Grand Teton National Park, Yellowstone National Park, Glacier National Park, Banff National Park, Little Bighorn National Historic Site, Devils Tower National Monument and Mount Rushmore National  Memorial).

We had a great time and everything went pretty much according to plan. I thought I would be worn out physically and mentally but Larry and I felt really good for the whole ride. I got back July 29th around 4:00 PM and felt so good I mowed the lawn the next morning!

 

Me and Larry at Pikes Peak

Me and Larry at Pikes Peak

They say a picture is worth a thousand words but experiencing it is worth millions. There is no way pictures can capture the adventure nor can I describe it all with words. It can only be experienced… Traveling by car gets you there but is only a few notches above watching the scenery go by on TV.  Traveling by motorcycle is the ultimate way to experience travel. You are in the environment, feeling the wind, sun, cool, heat and rain. At several points along the ride we could hear the rushing water in the streams and rivers. The smells are incredible. The smell of crisp cool air in the morning, pine forest, flowers, rain in the distance, food cooking, fresh-cut grass, fields of corn, fresh-cut hay and many unidentifiable smells… and yes the occasional not so good smell of dead animals, feed lots etc… Many of the smells took me back to my boyhood when I lived on a cotton farm in Texas. Those were good memories.

Grand Teton National Park

Grand Teton National Park

Beside all the great national parks, monuments and historical sites on this ride there were many beautiful farms and ranches in the valleys of the Rocky Mountains and on the Great Plains of the U.S. and Canada. Having grown up on a farm I have a great appreciation for the land and the people who work it. Rural life is a great life but a vulnerable one. There are many perils from Mother Nature and the economy. I also enjoyed seeing the many old farm houses and barns. I can only imagine the  many lives and stories of love, laughter and tears could be told about each and every one…

National Park, motorcycle, ride, travel

Lower Falls Yellowstone National Park

Another part of the ride I enjoyed was the many small towns and the people who lived there. I enjoyed the local businesses and the architecture of the many old buildings. Some buildings were still in use and some have seen better days. If walls could only talk… what a story they could tell.

National Park, Motorcycle, Ride, Travel

Glacier National Park

Larry and I met so many nice people on this ride. Our motorcycles and our tags from Georgia and Texas were always getting comments. Larry’s Victory Vision got most of the comments and questions. My mascot Kow A. Saky started many conversations too. We met people from all over the world. To name a few… a nice couple from England riding a rented Harley, a guy from Belgium riding with a motorcycle tour group, a group from Europe who shipped their antique cars over and were driving the Lincoln Highway, a couple from Ontario riding a Goldwing and many more. There were so many riders we met and riders traveling by car wishing they were on their bikes as well as many “want to be riders” and people just interested in where we were from and where we were headed. To those of you whom we met, who may be reading this, we would like to say thanks for making our ride that much more enjoyable. Please take the time to comment and say hi. We would love to hear from you again…

The other special part of this ride was stopping to see a couple of friends I had lost contact with over the years. I have just recently reconnected with them…

My old friend Jimmie and his wife Diann with Larry and me in Georgetown, Colorado

My old friend Jimmie and his wife Diann with Larry and me in Georgetown, Colorado

We stayed in Georgetown, Colorado on July 16th. Jimmie drove from Aurora and met us at the Super 8 where we were staying. I first met Jimmie when I went to work for Geophysical Service Inc. in June of 1965. I had just graduated from high school and was attending college part-time. He was about 10 years older but treated me as an equal from the start. We worked in Houston, Texas; Sydney, NSW, Australia; Dallas, Texas and Denver, Colorado. Over the years we worked together at different companies and I owe Jimmie a lot for my success in business. It was great seeing Jimmie and his lovely wife Diann, again, after so many years. We ate dinner at a little restaurant down the road from the motel. It was a great time but much too short. Now that we have reconnected I will have to get back up there to see him… Thanks Jimmie for all the great times and memories and a special thanks for all the support you gave me while working with and for you…

National Park, motorcycle, ride, travel

My friends Ed and Avis and me

While I was in the Air Force, Ben, my roommate in tech school was always writing friends back home in Montana. One of those friends was a girl named Avis. I told him to say hi or something to Avis. She wrote back and we became pin-pals for four or five years and became good friends. I went to visit her, a couple of times, over that time. The last time was 41 years ago. Life got in the way and we eventually lost contact with each other. I have wondered many times what had become of Avis. I hoped that life had treated her well… About ten months ago, I tried to find her when I started planning this trip. I did find her and we have reconnected!  We stopped by and stayed with Avis and her husband Ed. Life has been good to her… Avis has a great husband and two great kids. Avis and Ed are very proud of their kids, as they should be…  They live outside Troy, MT on beautiful acreage. It is so beautiful and peaceful with views of mountains and a lake hidden across the road from them. I’m jealous… While there we caught up on what has been happening with us over the last 41 years. We still have more to catch up on. It was nice to finally meet Ed too. Avis and Ed are great hosts. Someday, I hope Janet and I can return the favor and show them part of our great state of Texas. Our time there was short but good. Thanks again to Ed and Avis for being such great host…

national park, motorcycle, ride, travel

Lake Louise in Banff National Park Canada

While on this ride we visited Pikes Peak, Grand Teton, Yellowstone, Glacier, Banff (in Canada), Little Bighorn, Devils Tower and Mount Rushmore as well as many other sites along the way. I will be posting about each day of our 16 day ride in the coming days… Please, follow along as we ride some of the most beautiful scenic country in the U.S. and Canada.

National Park, motorcycle, ride, travel

Little Bighorn Historical Site

 

National Park, Motorcycle, ride, travel

Devil’s Tower National Historic Site

National Park, motorcycle, ride, travel

Mt. Rushmore

For more pictures of our ride click here and don’t forget to like “The Texas Rambler” Facebook page. Look for the “Subscribe to Texas Rambler via Email” at the bottom left column to receive notifications of new posts by email. Also please take some time to leave us a comment. We always love hearing from y’all…

This has been one amazing ride for Larry and me. check out the other post from this ride using the links below…

Day 1 & 2 National Park Ride -Getting There
Day 3 National Park Ride – Dalhart, TX to Georgetown, CO
Day 4 National Park Motorcycle Ride – Georgetown, CO to Pinedale, WY
Day 5 National Park Motorcycle Ride: Grand Teton & Yellowstone
Day 6 National Park Motorcycle Ride – Yellowstone National Park
Day 7 National Park Motorcycle Ride – Gardiner to Kalispell
Day 8 National Park Motorcycle Ride – Glacier National Park
Day 9 National Park Motorcycle Ride – Troy, MT to Golden, AB Canada
Day 10 National Park Motorcycle Ride – Banff National Park Canada
Day 11 National Park Motorcycle Ride – Lethridge, AB to Billings, MT
Day 12 National Park Motorcycle Ride – Little Bighorn Battleground
Day 13 National Park Motorcycle Ride – Devils Tower National Monument
Day 14 National Park Motorcycle Ride – Mount Rushmore
Day 15 & 16 National Park Motorcycle Ride – Heading Home

Problem Solved… I Hope…

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Texas Rambler Business Card (front)

Problem Solved… I Hope… I am always meeting people and the conversation inevitably leads to riding motorcycles and traveling on motorcycle. I always talk about this blog and encourage them to have a look. Sometimes I see these people again and they have made an effort to look at the blog but had forgotten the address. So here is my solution… The Texas Rambler business card. Now if they can just hang onto the card until they are sitting in front of their computer 😉 …

Texas Rambler Business Card (back)

Texas Rambler Business Card (back)

Planning Motorcycle Trips

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To me, planning motorcycle trips is a necessity for a good motorcycle trip. You can never over plan but you can under plan…

In 1977 I took my first long motorcycle trip of 1800 miles. The only thing I planned was the start date, return date and destination. In spite of the lack of planning it was a good trip. Fast forward to June 2002 and I’m a lot older and I would like to think a lot wiser (I may get an argument from Janet on that point). This was my first long ride in 25 years and it was Janet first long ride ever. To top it all off it was to a place (Big Bend National Park) that is not forgiving if you have not planned. Because this was Janet first long ride, I wanted her to enjoy the ride and continue riding with me. I planned every detail of the trip. Because everything is “few and far between” in West Texas I knew where every gas station, lodging and places to eat were. I did make some mistakes. Nothing that ruined the trip but we learned from the mistakes. We have learned a lot and continue to learn more as we travel by motorcycle. This post is about my method of planning our trips.

Destination or Destinations

Every trip begins with a destination or destinations. We pick destinations in various ways. Some of the ways are…

  • Destinations come from places I have always wanted to ride or after traveling somewhere and realizing the trip would be a great motorcycle trip.
  • Friends are always telling us about some of the places they have traveled and have suggested rides. It’s always good to get first hand information, recommendations and you can always ask questions and get suggestions.
  • Some destinations come from reading blogs like this one. Some of my favorite blogs are Coyote , Moto Hobos, Observations of a Perpetual Motorcyclist, Crossings and alison’s wanderland to name just a few. The nice thing about following blogs is you can always get more information from the bloggers. Bloggers are always happy to share their knowledge. Just ask…
  • Some destinations come from motorcycle publications or travel publications. My favorite publications for destinations are Ride Texas, Roadrunner and Rider magazines.

Route Planning

Once we have chosen the destination, we start planning our route. Not a simple task. When riding with the wives I try to keep the mileage per day from 200 to 350 miles. The wives have things they like doing, so I plan accordingly. If just us guys are riding I try to keep it under 500 miles per day and plan the route accordingly.

The routes are not always direct. We try to see what interesting things are along the way and plan stops if they aren’t too far off the beaten path. The stops can also limit the mileage per day depending on what the stops are. You can’t see something like Big Bend in an hour…

Another consideration is lodging. We might be able to travel further on a particular day but our lodging options maybe “slim to none“ in some of the more remote areas. I am a member of most of the motel chains reward programs so I check their websites to see what is available at the planned days end. Depending on the time of year, its popularity and the remoteness I may make reservations. In places like Big Bend National Park don’t expect to ride there in the spring when the cactus are blooming and expect to get a room. It ain’t happening, reservations need to be made a year in advance in Big Bend!!! Do the research before you go… Reservations are always a good idea if traveling to popular areas at popular times of the year. Unless you like sleeping on picnic tables… You should make reservations.

The availability of gas (petrol) is a consideration in route planning too. Depending on the range of your bike and the remoteness of the area it might be a good idea to know where gas stations are before you go and plan gas stops accordingly. If you don’t have many options in an area you might want to call ahead to know business hours. Sometimes they maybe closed or out of business.

I have several road atlases that are a good source for finding scenic routes. I usually google the routes to read about what touristy things are on the route as well as what others have written about the route. We don’t want to miss anything. It might be a while before we can get back to the area.

Once all the information is collected, I start planning the routes for each day. I use google maps the most. It allows me to plot a route with via points, determine mileage and if there is a question about road quality you can check the satellite view or use the street view to get a really up close look. This has been very handy over the years. I have changed routes when I realized the road in question was a gravel or dirt road. We have traveled a few of those roads and prefer not too. You can also check for motels, restaurants, gas stations or other services you may need.

Road construction could be a big issue so I check our routes before we leave. Each state in the U.S. have websites to check road construction areas.

As I map the route I enter mileage, stop information and other need information into a spread sheet. When I make changes the total mileage is recalculated. I print out the spread sheet so I can refer to it on the trip and I use it for entering destination and via point into the GPS each day. Below is the information for one of our riding days.

Itenary example, spread sheet, trip, plan, ride, motorcycle

Before I used a GPS I would printout each day as above and placed it in a map holder on my gas tank as a “quick reference” while riding. It was a great low tech method. The mileage between via points helped to know when my next turn would be and onto which road. Then came the GPS and now I don’t travel without a GPS or maybe I should say I would prefer not to travel without one..

Weather Information

The weather on the trip is good to know but the weather history is useful too. I always check weather.com for the average high, low and record temperatures and the average perception of each area we are traveling. This also helps me determine the best time of the year to travel “weather wise” and it helps to know what to pack and not to pack.

This summer we are planning ride to 4 national parks, Grand Teton, Yellowstone, Glacier and Banff. We will be leaving Texas in 90/100 degree heat but in the parks it will be 20 or 30 degree colder in the northern higher elevations and much colder at night. Needless to say we need to pack accordingly.

I hope this is of some use to novice and seasoned riders. One thing I’ve learned while traveling by motorcycle is you can never know too much but you can know too little. Be prepared…

I hope we see you down the road somewhere… Ride safe…