Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Florida to Seattle, by Motorcycle

Hey Jamie --


I'm trying out being a snowbird and am in Florida until June first. I am going to ride my motorcycle home to Seattle and plan to take two to three weeks, probably closer to two. I want to avoid interstates as much as practical. I've road tripped the west several times, highway one and 101. Also Vegas, Tetons, Yellowstone, Seattle so while I love that area I don't need to repeat unless you think that would be best. Any great ideas for me? Thanks, I love your website

-- Greg


Dear Greg --

Many thanks for your message, and glad you like the website -- and I hope some day you get your hands on a copy of the book, which has a ton more ideas and pictures and maps (the book is also more up to date, strange as that may sound...)

About your trip. Nice life, for starters. Winter in warmth, summer in a green and pleasant land. Sweet.

Two weeks, cross-country, avoiding Interstates. Good plan. Without knowing a lot about you, I have some suggestions for a route. Start by winding up the coast, checking out as many of the barrier island as you can. I really like north Florida, from St Augustine running into Georgia (Jekyll Island, and Savannah, are both very nice places).

Then head west. The old US-80 route is pretty nice, especially if you are anything of a fan of the Allman Brothers. Not only do a lot of the towns and roads around here feature in their songs (Ramblin' Man, was born in the back seat of a Greyhound bus rolling down Highway 41, etc), but Macon is a mecca for all things musical. And the ride / drive is really nice -- classic two-lane, passing thru some nice small and mid-sized towns (Columbus is also worth a look). The old US80 road is pretty good all the way across Alabama (Selma and Montgomery are both intriguing places), and if you want you could veer south to explore New Orleans without going too far out of your way.

From Louisiana, rather than head west across Texas I would suggest you ride north, along the Mississippi River along the Great River Road. This is a fantastic route, winding across the Mississippi Delta and right into Memphis, another great stop. especially if you like BBQ ribs, or listening to Blues music.

(I have a whole book just on the Great River Road, and it really is a classic. The road I mean, not the book...)

From the Memphis area I might suggest you cut west, across the lovely winding roads of the Ozark Mountains, on the Arkansas / Missouri border. I don't cover these very much in Road Trip USA, but I know here are many "twisty" classics, if you like that sort of riding.

The next great road I would point you toward is the ultimate classic - Route 66, and its greatest hot, the route across Oklahoma. Route 66 verges on over-hyped in a lot of pats, but across Oklahoma it's the real deal. No signs of the Interstate for very long stretches -- and lots of small-town character. This road I do cover in Road Trip USA, all the way.

At some point you will need to move north, and get your self across the Rockies. There are a lot of options, but the one I like best is old US-50, which runs across southern Colorado, again far away from the Interstate traffic and tedium. The best thing about this route is that it drops you in Utah right in the heart of the gorgeous Canyonlands area, so you ride around Arches and Capitol Reef national parks. You could spend all your 3 weeks right around here, with never a dull moment.

Next up is the ride across the Great Basin, that big wide space that stretches across Nevada and Idaho. US-50 would still be my choice, mainly because I live in San Francisco (not Seattle!). For you I'd still recommend it -- this the famous "Loneliest Road" and the route offers a lot more topography than you 'd expect looking at it on the map. But it is lonely, with few service, so plan accordingly. And while you are in the neighborhood, check out Great Basin National Park -- you can ride to 10,000 feet and get an amazing panorama (and see some of the "World's Oldest Living Things", the 3000-year-old Bristlecone pines which live atop Wheeler Peak. I cover all this in Road rip USA, as well.

For the final stretch, since you know Hwy-1 and 101, I'd recommend one of my favorite roads, US-395 -- the trek along the eastern foot of the Cascades is really pretty, thru lovely Bend Oregon and on up toward Yakima, or down thru the Columbia Gorge, around Mt Rainier, and on to greater Seattle. You probably have your own fave roads to get you home from here, so I'll sign off here and wish you "bon voyage".

Happy Trails,

Jamie Jensen
Road Trip USA

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