Last summer I went on a guided motorcycle tour of the Wild West of America. It is a trip I’ve been dreaming about for a very long time, maybe even forever. I wanted to explore the United States on a motorbike; see for myself some of the places I’ve heard about and seen in photographs, get away from it all and enjoy something totally different.
I am no stranger to organising my own motorcycle adventures. In recent years I’ve biked all over the UK including JOGLE and four compass points charity rides I organised with family and friends, as well as exploring Ireland and France. It’s the old clichés – riding a motorbike provides a sense of freedom, the wind in the face, a feeling of being at one with the road. There is a huge difference in the things you can experience when riding as opposed to driving. In a car or RV you would never notice the subtle (and not so subtle) changes in temperature as you climbed to high altitudes or descended into valleys. You would also never notice the different smells as you sailed past ranches and farms and through parks – such strong whiffs of pine, lavender, the ocean.
My Wild West tour took a big circle around all those places you’ve seen in movies. Starting in Los Angeles (not my favourite place, but handy for flying from the UK), I rode through some of the most famous sights of the Wild West, including Joshua Tree National Park, along the best bits of Route 66, around the Grand Canyon, through Monument Valley, to Bryce Canyon and through Zion National Park. From there we went to Las Vegas for a couple of nights (what a bizarre place!), then across Death Valley – the hottest place on earth, to Mammoth Lakes, through Yosemite National Park with its mountain passes and lakes, to San Francisco and down the Pacific Coast Highway back to LA. The itinerary was packed full of some of the best motorcycling roads in the USA, and I didn’t stop smiling from the moment we landed at LAX to when I sadly had to give back my Harley Davidson Fatboy some 2,500 miles later.
You may wonder why I would choose to book a guided tour rather than organise my own adventure this time. Apart from anything else this was going to be my trip of a lifetime, and I wanted everything to be perfect and stress free. This was supposed to be a holiday as well as an adventure, and so I wanted someone else to worry about the logistics – the route, a nice bike, fuel and oil, stop-overs, national park fees, mechanic back-up, drinking water and all the other details.
Jeff, the EagleRider tour leader, knew the areas, knew where the next gas station was, knew where served great food, knew where to get great views, knew which junction to take. Jeff, Wilm and Mike, the team who looked after us, made sure there was no stress, no worries, and that I could simply ride my Harley and enjoy the roads and the scenery. You might think just going along for the ride took the fun out of it, but not on this trip – adventure can involve nice hotels and someone else planning the route; sometimes it’s very nice to spoil yourself.
A group tour also gave me something I’ve never had before when travelling – the opportunity to meet and get to know like-minded people from all over the world. Having not done the gap year thing and being very poor at making new friends when on holiday, this was a whole new experience and one that was loads of fun. There were bikers from France, Germany, Norway, Brazil, Australia, Spain, and some other Brits – communicating was fun but thanks to the language skills of others in the tour group I was able to make some fantastic new friends. We were a varied bunch!
This trip was about riding, laughing, seeing and experiencing – and choosing a guided tour provided all that and more. If you want a taste of adventure without any of the stress I would definitely recommend it! The problem is, naturally, that now I have had a taste of riding in that part of the world and now I want loads more… it’s time to start organising my next trip of a lifetime!