Kiwi Ken – passionate about America and motorbike rides!
Jan (my wife) and I have travelled extensively throughout the U.S. and Canada over past 30 years and rode to Alaska three times from Los Angeles return.
Los Angeles to Key West Florida and return via Daytona Bike Week and riding to 13 Sturgis Rally Weeks from California.
New York to Quebec, south to Chicago, Memphis,New Orleans,Key West, back to New York and over to Los Angeles.
Most of tours we have organised have been for 6 weeks and average Ks per trip would be 14000.
This has given us considerable experience in selecting excellent rides, fantastic scenery each day and the knowledge to avoid Freeways except by choice.
Over the years of touring I have seen the problems that arise. These include being overly organised.
I would not like paying a lot of money for a trip of the lifetime and being told when to stop, when and where to eat, when to get up and leave. Our trips are organised to the point that all accommodation is arranged, you have a good map book with directions and tips on highlights along the way.
Ideal for all riders wishing to do their own thing where it is possible to ride in their group but have the comfort and security of knowing all your accommodation arranged letting you arrive later. Motels in States get fully occupied most nights in summer and not much fun riding round town looking for a motel late in afternoon and maybe having to ride to next town. Also tendency for room rates to rise as number of rooms to let get less.
On past trips, riders will often break into smaller groups that suit them. They may stop for a lot of photos, may be smokers and want to stop more often, may just like cruising easy and seeing all that goes by, may be wanting to get out of bed later then pushing hard during day. Whatever you decide, the choice is yours. We play leapfrog during the day and generally arrive at motel around same time.
You will not be ordered when to leave, stop or eat. At all times, your call.
I have seen New Zealanders get on their bikes and start riding 1000 k’s a day, not wanting to miss anything. Tried this once, missed out on more you saw, with no time to stop. Sore arse and crabby wife on back. Decided to keep rides down to 300-500 k’s a day. Not so daunting as doing that distance in NZ owing to quality of roads and sensible speed limit.
Have two night stopovers in the more interesting towns. Gives you time to get out, chat to the locals and live a bit of Americana.
Ken the bloke …
I grew up in the era when America was perceived by many including myself as being the goodies and keepers of freedom and keeping the forces of evil out of our lives. This had a great influence on my outlook to the world and was reinforced by a constant flow of Americana entering my life. The movies where the good guy beats up the bad guy, wins the lovelies heart and rides his horse off into the sunset to the adulation of all the townsfolk’s, and movies with Elvis; “Tony Curtis, and Kirk Douglas showed that a guy from a deprived background could over come all sorts of adversities and still make it in America. I’m sure a lot of very clever work went into the movies to portray America as this land for the free and righteous as opposed to the grim life on the other side of the Atlantic. T.V shows like 77 Sunset Strip, Route 66 and the many novels I read by Danny Robbins featuring life at different levels in New York or the Classic Mandingo series showing life on the plantations in the Deep South all left their mark on my developing thoughts and the America for me in the 60’s had a great glamour and mystique.
The other main source of news and entertainment arrived from the U.K. but Cliff Richard and Tommy Steele couldn’t get me to the same excitement level as generated by Little Richard and a young Elvis. Life as I saw it for American teenagers evolved around making out in drive-in movies and surfing with gorgeous chicks in bikinis, while listening to the Beach Boys. I wanted to go so bad!
I remember excursions into Wellington Harbour after school to gaze in awe at a U.S. Navy Icebreaker or a Destroyer and observing real Americans, the older and bolder amongst the many school kids gathered round would ask for a Yankee Cigarette; or a quick look at the sidearm the armed guard on the gangway wore but the best prize was to score one of the dinky little white caps the ratings wore.
Life went on, bought and sold a few bikes, I got married, we had kids, sold my bike and bought a station wagon, and my political thoughts about USA were going through a changing process but the affection for America was still there when I was invited to a wedding in California. Made the most of that trip venturing on to Las Vegas, New Orleans, Miami and the city I wanted to visit, more than any other, New York. Over 30 years ago but still remember having Sushi for the first time on 5th.Ave. in the first Sushi bar to open in New York.
The wonderment and diversity of the different cities in the same country got to me and I wanted to return. The kids got a little older, so off to the States for Christmas doing this several times over next 10 or so years spending New Years eve in Reno, New Orleans, Whistler and New York. We were getting a rental car and driving between overnight stops at the cities with the thought to get their ASP and explore the same after checking into motel that had to have a pool for the kids.
I loved the big cities, the hooting, the sirens, steam being emitted from sidewalk vents over the subways, the jay walkers just avoiding getting run down by cars and yelling at the drivers, famous buildings, bridges, parks, bars and restaurants I had read about or seen in movies. The different food that the kids probably didn’t always enjoy. Ryan as a 10-year-old coping with the breakfast special of Scrapple and eggs in the South (Pig balls).
So, still a huge fascination for all America, but never a thought about the wonderful scenery we were passing, nor would we ask the locals for their advice on to which road to take for the views, always wanted to make good time, so would drive the freeways and see bugger all.
I remember remarking to Jan about the huge amounts of nothing on freeways between places and my fascination for the States was waning thinking we had seen all of interest to us. This was after possibly 10 trips to U.S and we had not visited a U.S. National Park and had driven past the Grand Canyon without bothering to stop. Big change in 1999 when Steve Dundon and his friends invited Jan and I to ride our recently purchased Road King Coast to Coast with them. Los Angeles to Key West and return taking 6 weeks.
Well, there is a huge amount of nothing between places riding in Texas and Oklahoma but sure is not tedious or boring. We often rode 500 miles in a day and it was always with mixed feelings when time to get off road and into motel. Jan often did not share this feeling with me however. Long day sitting pillion, even on a Road King.
The sights that I had barely glanced at driving were now a 360 degree vista without the obstruction of a car roof. You could feel and hear the wind, get warmed by the heat, almost smell the thunder storms and coming rain, the crops in the field and the stock yards all delivered a flavour that added to the enjoyment of the days riding. I knew without a doubt we would be returning to what I was finding was the best bike riding in the World.
Two years later, same group and we were heading North to Alaska. More consideration and thought going into rides now, not in a hurry to get from A to B, we want the ride to be the highpoint of the day and if we only go 100 miles in straight line but taking 200 miles to do so that means we must be having fun.
Well, I had so much fun; I’m doing it again in 2003 with a group from Lower Hutt. This 6 week trip took our group down the Pacific Coast from Los Angeles to San Diego then along the Mexican border before heading North from Arizona into Nevada and through Colorado to Sturgis and the Black Hills of Dakota.
In 2005 I add Canada to the 6 Week trip. This takes in the Rockies and a wonderful National Park straddling the US and Canada border, this ride rates as one of best in US.
Canada and especially Victoria on Vancouver Island really popular with most on tour so include Canada next 5 years riding through British Colombia and Alberta before dropping South into Cowboy territory, Montana on way to Sturgis.
The North and South West of America would rate as the best motorcycling in the world. They speak your language, even if they don’t understand you, you can understand them. The roads are superior to those in New Zealand, very few broken up roads except for some of the higher passes that are snow covered 9 months of the year. The food is reasonably similar to ours though we can’t wait to get home for roast lamb, peas, spuds and gravy.
Don’t get many complaints about the beer – why would you complain when you are paying $1.00 a can? Have I mentioned how friendly the Americans are, the most warm and inviting people I have met in any country I have travelled to. If your Harley has a hiccup, well you’re darn right handy practically anywhere to get it fixed.
Don’t need to say much about the Bike Rallies, you know they are the biggest in the world, attended by thousands of good time seekers from all parts of the globe. Perhaps what you don’t know is the intense excitement that takes place in towns up to 200 miles from Sturgis. With thousands of bikers converging in to Sturgis the demands for accommodation and food at outlying towns is enormous and most towns welcome bikers whole heartily. The towns have welcome banners across the main street and many bars will have activities planned in the days before and after Rally Week.
2012 we visited Alaska again with group of 38 riding mixture of bikes, interesting comparing how the different makes performed.Several in group changing their perceptions to makes other than their own and I noticed a lessening of the ribald comments as the trip went on.
Had such a great trip repeating Alaska for 2013, when I had first thought about riding Route 66 from Chicago to Los Angeles. After recalling the hours spent riding on Freeways on a previous crosscountry tour and comparing it to riding in Alaska with the lack of traffic, the abundant wildlife, mountain vistas, it was an easy choice.