In 2006, I set a plan to see all the remaining lower 48 states from the seat of a Harley Davidson. I had already ridden to and from all of the northeast — New England and the east coast states down to and including South Carolina by this time. I got a wall map, a
In 2006, I set a plan to see all the remaining lower 48 states from the seat of a Harley Davidson. I had already ridden to and from all of the northeast — New England and the east coast states down to and including South Carolina by this time. I got a wall map, a few highlighters, and I started selecting routes for several trips to catch all the remaining states.
In the process, I set a few rules for myself, the first being (as in all past trips) I had to leave for each trip on a Harley Davidson that I owned. Second, as in all other trips, was that I had to leave from my home on that motorcycle and return to my home on that motorcycle, no planes, trains, trucks or trailers and certainly no rental bikes involved. As the planning went on, I decided that “riding” in each state was a must, so no short cuts or detours into a state just to say I rode there and then quickly leave and head for the next. The final “rule” was that on every trip, in every state, I would try to find interesting places and things to see. Now these were my rules, and they fit me, but I in no way feel different about anyone doing their own thing, this is America — Land of the Free! To begin this journey, I sold my Road King and ordered a 2007 Street Glide in vivid black. I can still remember my wife asking me on a cold February morning why the Harley Dealer was backing a trailer down the driveway toward the garage — I may have forgotten to tell her about the purchase. Looking back, I wish I would have ordered an Electra Glide Classic and as a side note — I did buy one in 2012 and finished all the remaining trips on it.
After proper planning and research, I spent some time each year ‘selling’ my plans to friends for each of the trips in order to have good friends to share each journey with. In April 2007 my friends KD and Whitey rode along to Louisiana, and all the way we explored the open road on two wheels. We left PA, headed for WV, KY, TN, AR and LA, and all along the route tried to locate Mom & Pop diners. The farther south we went, the more each food stop got better.
Our goal was New Orleans with a stop to see a friend in Baton Rouge and one in Alexandria. One of the first must-see places was a trip down Louisiana Highway 105; this two-lane country road is famous for the final scene in the movie Easy Rider. Upon our arrival in the “Big Easy,” we were welcomed with the sights, sounds and the smells of Creole and Cajun cooking. As we rode into New Orleans, about a year after Hurricane Katrina, the damage and horror caused were still evident all around. As we were riding towards the hotel, I couldn’t help but see ahead of us at what looked like a hill, it was Lake Pontchartrain, and it sits 12 feet above sea level.
From 2001 to 2015 there were numerous trips to Daytona, Sturgis, Laconia, Delmarva and Myrtle Beach bike weeks with many of my friends, almost all of whom still ride today. On a trip to Tennessee to attend the Combat Vets Motorcycle Association’s “Ghoststock,” my friends Dave, Ken, and I were able to make a side trip to Nashville to see the birthplace of the Grand Ole Opry — the Ryman Auditorium. It was opened in 1892 and was the home of the Grand Ole Opry from 1943-1974, and in 2001 it was named a National Historic Landmark. We were able to stand on the wooden stage, tracing the steps of Hank Williams, Minnie Pearl, and George Jones.
In the final days of Feb 2013, I set out with a close friend “Springer,” and we left PA — clear roads, but 36 degrees — destination, Daytona Bike Week. This trip was the coldest in my 20 years of riding at that point; I don’t think it got above 50 until we hit the Florida state line.
By the Spring of 2013, only a few of the midwestern states, a couple of southwest states, and the whole west coast was left to finish. This is the point where I got serious and planned two routes, the “2014 Southwest Tour” and the ” 2015 Northwest Tour.”
Dave, Springer, and I set out on the 2014 southwest tour in April ’14, and little did I know that day what was to come. Up until this trip, all the trips had been 4-7 day adventures, the only way to make it to CA and back and actually get to see a few things was to make these trips 13 days. Like many trips before, we averaged 500 miles a day, with some days due to stops, location, sightseeing and such being anywhere from 300-700 miles a day. For these two week trips, I planned in a “day off” going out and back, this was in case of breakdowns, to do laundry and take in some extra sights.
Along this trip we saw the Corvette Museum in Bowling Green, KY, rode on numerous sections of old Route 66, ate at the Big Texan Steak Ranch (home of the 72oz. steak challenge) in Amarillo TX, toured the International UFO museum in Roswell, NM, stood on the corner of Winslow, AZ, saw the Grand Canyon, rode down the Vegas Strip, and more.
We took our day off and stayed at my Aunt Wilma and Uncle Mitch’s home in Lake Havasu, AZ, by this point it was 100 degrees, and we needed a break. On April 12th we stopped for gas near Bunkerville, NV. The gas station was full of people from all over the country. After speaking with a few people, I found out we were a mile from the Bundy Ranch, the standoff was that day.
We continued through Utah and to say the sights, mountains and State/National parks all along this trip were amazing is an understatement.
By this point, we were well into our way on the return trip. We got up that morning and started through Colorado, at a gas stop I looked up ahead and thought there was fog on the mountain, halfway up after looking over at a Bighorn sheep perched on a rock ledge my worst fear set in SNOW! At this point, we had climbed over 3/4 of the way to the top, and in all my planning I never considered the temperatures in the Rocky Mountains at 12,000ft in April! By the time we reached the top, it was snowing steady, at least an inch had fallen, and we had no choice but to continue down the mountain as there was no place to pull off or take shelter. We made it to the bottom at a snail’s pace, found a hotel, and ended up there, snowed in with over a foot of snow, for two days. By day two I saw the highway looked clear, so I borrowed a worn out snow shovel, shoveled a path to it and we were on our way, 35 degrees never felt so good.
The final chapter of the 48 state journey included a 2015 northern route in order to reach the last five states (ND, MT, WA, OR & ID) with a stop on the way back through in Sturgis for the 75th Anniversary. Once again Dave was on this trip, and my friend Whitey joined us as well, and it was not until North Dakota that the scenery was actually something out of the ordinary.
We set foot on Custer Battlefield, spent an evening at the American Legion in Bozeman, MT, and visited my friend Roy at his ranch in Northern ID. We were asked to be guest judges at a large car and bike show in Spokane, WA since we traveled the farthest. One of my favorite memories was seeing the “Big Trees” in the Redwood National Park — something I had dreamed of since I was a child. The best ride of the trip was down State Route 1 that runs the coast of California; the views and scenery were awesome. Standing on a cliff in CA, in August of 2015, looking out at the vast Pacific Ocean is where I realized my dream of seeing all the lower 48 on a Harley Davidson had come true.
My advice to anyone is simple, never let anyone tell you that you can’t do something and that includes yourself. If you have the will, you can find a way. It may not always be fun or easy, and at times it may be freezing cold. There is something special out there, and it is within everyone’s reach by car, train, motorcycle or plane. Each of these places is different in 47 way than the other — the lower 48 awaits you all!
- May 22, 2019
- May 22, 2019