A two month motorcycle tour across the USA, riding more than 11,000 miles – one of the best road trips of my life!
We rode through Amish country, over snowy mountain passes, canyons, forests, deserts, bustling cities and ghost towns.
Getting off the bikes we experienced authentic American experiences such as NASCAR races, baseball, horse riding on a ranch, air boat ride through a swamp, shooting firearms, New Orleans jazz and New York bustle.
Read on, or download the itinerary (for the daily highlights), and you’ll learn of the iconic sights we passed on this unforgettable road trip.
My husband and I spent about six months planning our motorcycle tour across the USA. We were taking two months to ride; for the first month it would be just the two of us, travelling from East Coast to West Coast (through northern states).
Two other motorcycling friends would then join us for the second month to ride back across the country again (through more southern states). Having done motorcycle road trips with these friends before, we knew the best way to plan this road trip with them.
The planning of the second month was a joint affair with the four of us involved. It was fun mapping out our must-do experiences, must-ride roads and must-visit friends. Our must-do experiences for the second month included things like NASCAR, a baseball game, NYC, an airboat ride through swamps, seeing giant redwoods, hiking the Grand Canyon, etc.
It was the first time to the USA for our friends, and we were all excited. This was not the first time to the States for my husband and I; so our route for the first month (from east to west) was more about catching up with friends and visiting historical sites of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS).
Once we had our major route planned out, we used Google Maps to navigate on a daily basis. We downloaded Offline Maps if we travelled across large areas with spotty mobile networks.
If you’re interested in the costs of this motorcycle tour across the USA (fuel costs and accommodation costs) scroll through the photo gallery and check out the 8 infographics that I drew up at the end of each week. It will show how many miles we covered too.
We all bought our motorcycles rather than rent them. My husband, Noël, purchased his motorcycle, an Indian Roadmaster, online from Twigg Cycles, in Hagerstown, Maryland, a couple of months in advance. I didn’t know what bike I wanted, and I really like to test ride motorcycles before buying. Because of that, and because we were heading through northern states in April, when it would be cold, we agreed I’d ride pillion for the first couple of weeks. The Indian had heated seats, after all!
I bought a bike in Utah (Harley Davidson Dyna Switchback), closer to the warm weather riding, as planned. Our two friends pre-purchased their bikes (Yamaha XV1900 Roadliner and Yamaha XVS1100 V Star Classic) online from a place in Portland. My husband shipped his bike home at the end of the ride. I sold mine again before leaving the States, as did our two friends. My friends recouped the price of their bikes more or less. I lost a few thousand on mine, which worked out about slightly cheaper than renting the same type of bike.
Accommodation is a major cost on most trips. We are lucky to have a good network of USA friends who happily opened their doors to us. 50% of the time we stayed with friends which made the trip much easier to afford.
When planning accommodation with the four of us we set a rough budget, agreed that we all preferred Airbnb, then divvied up the places we had to book.
So much time is lost when you have a group of people trying to decide where to eat! To make it fair, and efficient, we all took turns – one person chose where to eat all the meals for that day. We took day about from there. We would ask locals for recommendations or used Google to find restaurants, diners or cafes with good reviews.
America is home to the most generously sized meals in the universe.
Knowing that we would spend most days sitting and riding, we had to manage our meals (and therefore, weight and health). Noël and I agreed to share meals. And for the first month, with just the two of us, we had day about choosing where to stop and eat.
USA Road Trip Part 1: Just the two of us
To explain the hashtag, I joined Instagram to record this trip; my handle is @nzjellys (because we’re from New Zealand and our nickname is “the Jellies”, from our surname, Jelsma). There were lots of family and friends wanting to follow our adventures.
We flew into Washington DC, and were met by dear friends who previously lived in Singapore. We stayed with them in Gainesville a few days while we sorted ourselves out buying sim cards, picking up the motorcycle from Maryland, etc.
In between we caught the end of the cherry blossoms festival at Washington Monument and visited Georgetown cupcakes which I’d heard so much about. I totally understand all the fuss now! And then, before we knew it, it was time to leave. We rolled out on 3 April 2017.
Day 1: From Gainesville, VA to Doylestown, PA
We rode through Lancaster County (Amish country!), stopped for lunch at Intercourse village and had shoo-fly pie for lunch. Dutch Haven is a popular place serving this dish. Shoo-fly pie is made with molasses, brown sugar, butter and other healthy ingredients. So called because when they were freshly baked and cooling on the windowsill they would have to stand guard and shoo the flies. The handmade Amish ice cream is amazing too!
Intercourse village has lots of cool Amish shops. Also of interest is the fact that Intercourse used to be called Cross Keys but changed it’s name in 1814. I wanted to buy a quilt, but with no luggage space available on Blue Steel, it was window shopping only. Travelling with zero extra space is a great way to keep dollars in your pocket! We loved the horse drawn buggies, haunted villages, bad roads, long dresses, and perfect weather as we travelled on the back roads from York.
Stayed the night with friends in Doylestown, PA. I could wax lyrical about all the friends we stayed with on our 2 month journey, but suffice it to say that they know who they are, and they know we look forward to returning the favour some day.
Day 2: To Canandaigua, NY
After breakfast with our hosts, we headed out. Though misty and cold to begin with, the day was a real mix of rain or sunshine. These things are more noticeable on a motorcycle!
We pulled off the highway for a great lunch at Viewmont Diner in Scranton. Then we visited a couple of historical sites of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) on our way north through New York State. First up was the Priesthood Restoration Site and the Peter Whitmer farm. Guides are available at both sites.
We arrived at 7:30pm to our Airbnb accommodation at Canandaigua. We stayed in a beautiful stone house; the original Risser homestead from 1887. Amazing house, great hosts.
Day 3: to Buffalo, NY
We had more LDS historical sites on our itinerary for the next few days. After breakfast at our accommodation we rode a few miles to the Hill Cumorah. If you have an interest in historical sites like I do, I’m sure you’ll agree that visiting them helps internalise the events that took place.
From there we visited nearby Smith Family Farm and Grove before riding into Palmyra to visit the E.B. Grandin Press. Regardless of whether you are LDS or not, these sites were well presented and interesting from a pioneer point of view. Lunch was a roast beef sandwich in Macedon. Very good, but I don’t remember where exactly.
Then on to Buffalo. Riding along the edge of Lake Erie was beautiful. We met our Airbnb host briefly as she let us into the small house. Dinner that night was buffalo wings at a nearby restaurant (don’t remember where, but they were mediocre anyway) – it only seemed appropriate.
Day 4: to Fulton, OH
At Hamburg on our way out of Buffalo, we had one of the best breakfasts of our trip. The french toast stuffed with cream cheese and covered with berry sauce at Savory’s Family Restaurant was to die for! Just the fuel we needed for the wet and freezing cold ride to Kirtland.
We stopped in Kirtland to see the historic Kirtland temple. Unfortunately, we turned up just after the office had closed for lunch, and the next tours weren’t due to start for another hour and a half. I guess the guy behind the desk, and the handyman who happened to be passing, took pity on the sight of two dripping, freezing motorcyclists. In addition to leaky gloves, my waterproof pants had leaked. It was not pretty. Nor pleasant.
Extending a hand of hospitality and historically deep knowledge, the handyman Tom gave us a private tour since we’d come all this way. We were very grateful as we didn’t have time to wait till the next official tour. We were amazed at what pioneer farmers were able to accomplish.
Apple pie & hot chocolate for lunch at Kirtland Diner (now closed according to Google) helped us regroup and harden up for the afternoon’s riding.
We had an amusing stop at the Harley Showroom in Cleveland to buy boots. Amusing because we parked a great big Indian motorcycle in their front carpark and were the only customer out in the crazy weather. Urgent glove replacement happened at All Ohio Motorsports. Whenever, and wherever we stopped to buy motorcycle gear, we were always given the friendliest service, help and advice.
Then, onwards through the rain and cold to our Airbnb accommodation in Fulton. Another great host. Five minutes after it arrived, it started snowing. We walked to our dinner destination IN THE SNOW. This was not part of the plan. Boondocks Restaurant didn’t look like much from the outside but delicious ribs, smores dessert skillet and wall to wall Americana greeted us inside where it was warm. It snowed all night.
Day 5: to Indianapolis, IN
With snow on the ground, I ate breakfast as slowly as I could at our accommodation. But it didn’t matter. You can be sure I was wearing every piece of clothing I owned when we left at 7.30am.
We rode straight to Iron Pony Motorsports in Columbus, OH. They were super friendly and adjusted the bike’s gear shift. The shop was warm, and it was cold outside. So we browsed and ended up replacing the handlebars, the comms gear, and I rolled out with a new jacket and wearing new rain pants. Exciting shopping, I know.
Waffle House for lunch (our one and only Waffle House stop) and then on to Indianapolis, the largest city in the state of Indiana. There wasn’t anything in particular we wanted to see there, it was just a convenient stop en route.
It was a nice place. They take their lawns very seriously in Indianapolis we noticed. A quick stop at Walmart for more motorcycle related shopping (I know, the excitement is huge) – headphones, gloves and socks. Dinner was pizza at a restaurant by the Walmart. It was OK actually, but mostly it was convenient.
We spent the night spent installing our new comms gear. Our kind Airbnb hosts (who lived upstairs) lent us some tools.
Day 6: to Fort Madison, IA
We stopped at a diner for breakfast before hitting the road. Can’t recall which, but any diner that serves eggs for breakfast is a win in my books.
Thankfully, it was warm riding – the weather was cooperating. We met up with a college friend for lunch in Urbana, Champaign. We ate at a healthy restaurant full of college kids wearing yoga pants. Then, more hours of happy, warm riding – 5 hours riding in total for the day.
Our accommodation was a fleabag hotel in Fort Madison. But, we had a delicious dinner at Simple Table. The carrot cake was divine. And our new comms gear was working great.
Day 7: to Des Moines, IA
After breakfast at the hotel we started off the day with sightseeing round Nauvoo, another historic location for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. We loved visiting Nauvoo. It was a peaceful place that reminds you of all the hard-working people who built towns and cities out of nothing.
By lunch we were hungry. We don’t normally eat buffet meals, but the Hotel Nauvoo Historic Inn had a buffet lunch which we thoroughly enjoyed. It was a very cute inn which looked way better than the cookie cutter fleabag hotel we’d stayed in in Fort Madison. A reminder that you get what you pay for!
From there it was a windy ride to Des Moines. It was my husband’s birthday so we splashed out on accommodation at Des Lux hotel in downtown Des Moines. The hotel was very quirky and cool, with a large spa pool in the basement. We parked across the road from the hotel and walked into town for a steak dinner.
Day 8: to Elm Creek, NE
After a hotel breakfast we were out the door at 8am with all our layers on again. It was 4°C with 45km/hr winds. And that meant it was time to turn the heated seats on again. We rode for 3.5 hours until stopping for lunch at Arbys, (yay for hot chocolate) in York, Nebraska.
Then 1.5 hours more riding past corn fields with big sky views and little towns called Ottumwa, Iowa. It continued to get windier and colder still till our arrival at Elm Creek.
This was a tiny town with a railway track through it. Our Airbnb accommodation was a safari themed bedroom in a Nebraska Cornhuskers basement. It was spacious, and most of all, it was warm. I can’t remember what we did for dinner that night – but if you’re lucky you’ll never find yourself in the cornfields of Elm Creek looking for a place to eat.
Day 9: to Denver, CO
It was a chilly -1°C when we rolled out. Thankfully it warmed up as we rode; we slowly shed layers as we headed west to Denver. We stopped at the Golden Spike Tower in North Platte. It is the largest rail yard in the world and just up the road from Buffalo Bill’s ranch, (but no time to stop there).
Two fuel stops took us from the flat, cold lands of Nebraska to the warm, rolling hills of Colorado. It was 21°C there. We bunked down with more awesome friends who took us to Hickory House for delicious ribs and brisket dinner.
Day 10: stayed Denver, CO
If you’ve ever done a seriously long trip, you’ll know that travel fatigue is a real thing. Especially if its a road trip.
We stayed another night with our friends who kindly lent us a car for the day. Our destination was Colorado Springs for some good old fashioned walking. We hiked (walked) about 5 miles through the spectacular rock formations of Garden of the Gods. With good, clear weather we took our time and grabbed lunch at a cafe there. Then another trail took us to Siamese Twins rock which had great views to Pikes Peak. Dinner was at an Italian restaurant (very good, wish I could remember the name of it) with friends.
Day 11: to New Castle, CO
Into the Rockies! Thankfully, we had amazing weather for our riding and the roads were all open. We had massive nachos for lunch in Vail Village at a restaurant on a corner with views to ski slopes. Then we rode over Loveland Pass towards our Airbnb accommodation at New Castle. The views through the Rockies and Loveland Pass were stunning. After checking in with our host we had time for a hike to Hanging Lake.
It is a steep and rocky hike up through a canyon and – when we were there, snow – to the lake on the top of the stony hill. The lake was pretty impressive. It took us 45 mins to hike up. Then, just before the sun set, we stopped in town of Glenwood Springs for a welcome, glorious soak in Iron Mountain Hot Springs. Dinner was pie, glorious pie at Village Inn. Where I’m from; New Zealand, pies tend to be savoury, hot and meaty, and oh so good. But American pies – sweet and total dessert decadence – have a piece of my heart as well!
Day 12: to Nucla, CO
With clear weather we bypassed our original route (through Grand Junction) and opted to take a scenic ride over Grand Mesa. The roads and skies were clear, but boy, it was cold at the top! Hardier people than us were enjoying snowmobile riding over 800 square miles of snowy mountains – we saw tracks everywhere. We stopped for a much needed hot chocolate at the store of the Grand Mesa Lodge and got a recommendation for lunch from the owner of the lodge.
It was a downhill run to RJ’s Steakhouse for a very good open face green chili. It was beautiful riding both before and after lunch. Especially through Gateway Canyon where it was much warmer and it was stunning canyon scenery all the way to Nucla. Nucla is another middle of the nowhere place. But our Airbnb hosts here were very cool. They cooked a lovely roast pork dinner with an amazing mousse for dessert.
Day 13: to Eagle Mountain, UT
Fine weather as we rode through Moab. The annual Jeep safari was happening in Moab this Easter weekend, so there were jeeps EVERYWHERE. We stopped briefly for lunch and remembered fondly how much smaller Moab was when we first visited there 24 years earlier. Ah, the times they are a-changing.
We took a tourist stop to stretch our legs at The Hole in the Rock (house built in a rock) before riding into Salt Lake City. We were excited to reach Salt Lake City because we had good friends to catch up with, and this is where we planned to find and buy a motorcycle for me!
Day 14: stayed Eagle Mountain, UT
Today was Easter Sunday. We spent the day relaxing, catching up with friends and being treated to a seriously amazing smoked pork by Dirk and a smoked brisket by Scott for dinner. Americans who love to barbecue are the very best sort of American friends to have!
Day 15: stayed Eagle Mountain, UT
We set out to buy a motorbike but most showrooms were closed because it was Monday. So we did what all visitors to Salt Lake City should do – we went sightseeing around some LDS sites instead.
Welfare Square (dairy, chocolate milk, cheese, cannery, bishops storehouse, etc) was inspiring with the good work carried out there – the chocolate milk was so good! The family history centre near Temple Square was fascinating. The conference centre has guides available to show you round if you want to walk through, and the spring flowers around the Salt Lake City Temple were gorgeous. All tours of LDS sites are free.
Day 16: stayed Eagle Mountain, UT
Today was all about buying a motorcycle. Up and down the valley looking at all the used bike showrooms. We ultimately found success with Candice (owner) and Ric (chief mechanic) at Addictive Behavior Motor Works. Though I was adamant I didn’t want to be the cliche that rides a Harley Davidson while on a motorcycle tour across the USA, it was the best of the used bikes on offer at the time.
I chose a shiny blue Harley Dyna Switchback. It was a long day, but I was happy with the decision. We would pick the bike up the next day after saddle bag liners and another ignition were installed.
Day 17: stayed Eagle Mountain, UT
Our friends borrowed a Teryx (a small 4 wheel drive vehicle) from their neighbour and we spent the morning exploring the hills in a Teryx. So much fun! There’s a lot to see in the hills around Salt Lake City!
After lunch with friends, we went to pick up Spud (my Harley Dyna Switchback) in the afternoon. Spud was so named because of the sound he makes when idling… “potato potato potato…”
My first ride on Spud was in the pouring rain back to Eagle Mountain.
Day 18: stayed Eagle Mountain, UT
We headed into the hills again with our hosts. But this time, we were armed. We went shotgun and pistol shooting in the hills of Cedar Fort. Lots of fun.
Then we rode our bikes back into Salt Lake City to get the handlebars swapped over. This was our last night in Salt Lake City. We left the bike with Ric overnight, knowing that we’d be coming past in the morning.
That evening my husband and I had a once in a lifetime opportunity and sang with the Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square. It was one of their regular rehearsal evenings, but with the orchestra, the singers, the conductors and music, it still counts!
Their rehearsals are open to the public to attend and watch, (check their website for the details) but we knew someone who arranged for us to sing with them as a special treat. What an honor it was to sing with them! It was a very grand, emotional experience.
If you ever get the chance to hear this choir in person, take it!
Day 19: to Boise, ID
We left Julie and Scott’s about 9.30 am. First stop was to pick up my bike. We repacked, then hit I-84 to get to Boise. It was COLD. We rode at high speeds. No longer the passenger on a heated seat behind my wind barrier husband, my fingers got cold burn on them. Overall, it was a long, hard, unpleasant ride for me, but thankfully, it didn’t rain.
We stopped at Ranch House Diner in Snowsville for a hearty, delicious lunch. And then at Shoshone Falls to stretch our legs. The falls were spectacular; in full force because of spring melt waters.
We got to Boise just after 6pm where our friends were letting us stay with them. We spent the night with them and a group of other old friends catching up on old times around a fire pit at one of their homes.
Day 20: stayed Boise, ID
I was glad we stopped in Boise another couple of nights. Now we needed to fit out Spud for the rest of the trip. To maximise my luggage space we installed a sissy bar and luggage rack on Spud the bike. In the late afternoon we hiked up Table Rock from the Old Boise State Penitentiary. We enjoyed the views over Boise with our friends before heading home for steak and salad dinner.
Day 21: stayed Boise, ID
We had planned to ride on to stay with other friends this day, but because of the heavy rain forecast we changed our plans. Our Boise friends let us stay on with them but we agreed to catch up with our other friends at Kirkham Springs near Lowman.
We packed a lunch, jumped into the car and drove 1.5 hours past Lucky Peak Lake along the Ponderosa Pine Scenic Route (Highway 21) to our destination. As we drove through slushy snow and rain, we were glad we weren’t on our motorbikes!
Driving through rain we found our friends, and dry weather, at the natural thermal Kirkham Springs. Great little place where there are hot water pools on the side of the river. I would recommend taking water shoes or sandals to help with walking on the rocks to a natural pool of your choice.
After enjoying the warm water and company of friends for a couple of hours we headed back the way we came. This time we stopped at Trudy’s Kitchen in Idaho City for delicious huckleberry cheesecake and a huge coconut cream pie. They spend thousands of dollars buying up tons of huckleberries when they can, and then freeze them, so they can make their world famous huckleberry pie available all year round. Thank you, Trudy – it was very good.
Day 22: stayed Boise, ID
We had planned to move on this day, but the weather was against us, so we stayed put. It’s important to be flexible when you’re on the road. Sometimes things don’t go according to plan. You can’t choose the weather, but you can choose your reaction to it. We stayed in Boise, nice and dry and watched it rain. And we didn’t do a lot else to be honest. And that was OK.
Day 23: to Condon, OR
Thankfully, the weather had cleared and we had a dry ride from Boise to Condon. The scenery reminded me of the South Island, New Zealand at times. We rode over high mountain passes with snow on the roadsides. I was really looking forward to some warmer weather already.
We stopped in Prairie City for lunch at an unassuming Mexican restaurant called El Cocinero – delicious. Because we had lost an extra day to Boise, we did not have time to see the Painted Hills as originally planned; we rode straight on to Condon. It was a lovely ride though; with hills and canyons once we got out of the mountains.
We had simple, clean, budget accommodation at Condon Motel, and for dinner we had pizza at Round-up bar in Condon. The pizza was yum, and large enough that we had leftovers for breakfast the next morning.
Day 24: to Portland, OR
We left Condon in the rain and fog about 8.50am. It was nice to get down out of the hills and ride along the river on I-84 into Portland, Oregon. It was slightly warmer in temperature, though still wet, and cold. We stopped twice to defrost (McDonalds at Bigg Junction, then McDonalds at exit 17 on I-84). It was a relief to reach the home of more amazing friends in Portland.
Our East to West Coast leg of the journey was officially over!
Also, we were looking forward to welcoming Amanda and Tui (A&T), our two New Zealand friends who were joining us for the rest of the motorcycle tour across the USA.
They stayed the night at our friend’s house with us. A&T had purchased motorcycles online, ahead of time and picked them up from Portland earlier that day after arriving in the country.
USA Road Trip Part 2: Then there were four #mustiesdousa
Day 25: to Klamath, CA
No rest for the wicked, or the jet-lagged! The Musty Demons, or Musties for short, were ready to roll. After breakfast with our hosts, we rode away from our accommodation in the rain and cold. We had lunch at Red Robin somewhere on the road.
It was scenic riding through Redwood National and State Parks to our cabin (Airbnb) in the forest at Klamath. We stopped on the way for dinner at Crescent City at a Thai restaurant that was OK, but not memorable. The Airbnb cabin accommodation was basic, but we were there for the redwood forests and roads and looking forward to some magnificent riding the next day.
Day 26: to Red Bluff (not San Francisco as planned)
Breakfast was further along the Redwood Highway at a classic diner in Orick. From there we headed south, and did some riding along the Avenue of the Giants, winding our way through the giant redwood trees. And that was as much of our planned day as we completed.
Because 101 South was closed in places we headed up Alderpoint Road to take the detour Google suggested. At the top of Alderpoint hill was a cop who warned that the road ahead was unsuitable for our motorcycles. Our best option was to ride back the way we’d come for an hour, then detour across the ranges. This added 3 hours riding time.
We had a late lunch at Mad River burger bar in the middle of nowhere. The burgers and fries were good, well worth the stop.
We finally pulled into Red Bluff after 6pm. Jet lag was catching up with our new biking buddies and a motorcycle was misbehaving. We pulled in unannounced and stayed at Travelodge, Red Bluff on the edge of the river. It was very basic accommodation. Sadly, we never made it to stay with our friend in San Francisco that night.
Day 27: to Monterey, CA
Yay for Denny’s restaurant right next door for breakfast! After warm drinks everyone was feeling much better.
We rode to Golden Gate Bridge (via Sausalito side) under sunny skies and took photos from Hawk hill (limited parking, beware) before crossing the bridge and stopping at a random mall on our way out for lunch.
Then an awesome afternoon riding south on the Pacific Coast Highway. We got into Monterey as night was falling. Bon Ton L’Roy’s Lighthouse Smokehouse won our patronage for dinner (good portions, friendly service), and then it was onwards to our Airbnb accommodation in the dark.
Day 28: to Placentia, Los Angeles, CA
Within a day we’d gone from cold and rain to hot weather. We headed through the stunning wine country of Carmel Valley. Very picturesque.
Breakfast was at V’s diner (which Google says is now permanently closed) in King City. After that it was all day riding to Los Angeles via the Pacific Coast Highway. We stopped for lunch at a fuel stop along the way.
One thing soon became noticeable, drivers around Los Angeles were a lot less tolerant of bikers – maybe they are less tolerant overall – we just noticed that there seemed to be a lot more badly behaved drivers here.
But we were over it by the time we reached our friends who had an amazing Mexican meal waiting for us all!
Day 29: to Phoenix, AZ
Hot; all day riding to Phoenix. We rode via Palm Desert, taking the Ortega Highway CA-74. The roads from Hemet to Palm Desert in particular were great motorcycling roads. All with amazing scenery to boot.
I’m wondering if my husband was in charge of meals this day because we stopped at Dairy Queen in Palm Desert for lunch. We arrived at our friend’s house in Phoenix and jumped in her pool before another delicious home cooked meal. After a long, hot ride, we all slept really well.
Day 30: to Ash Fork, AZ
There’s always sometime, somewhere, you have to spend time maintaining vehicles if you’re on a long road trip. Especially with the long miles that a motorcycle tour across the USA demands. We mucked around in Phoenix with an oil change for the Indian and buying some stuff before hitting the road.
Lunch was delicious barbecue at Babe’s Roundup in Camp Verde. We were telling the waitress our plans for the day and she advised us to go check out Montezuma Well (instead of paying to see Montezuma’s Castle National Monument). She also gave us directions to drive through Red Rock Canyon to Flagstaff, then on to our accommodation in Ash Fork.
Montezuma Well has clifftop dwellings dating from around 1000-1300s. Access was by ladder or narrow ledges. Following our waitress’ directions we enjoyed the Well and the amazingly beautiful canyon roads that took us Flagstaff.
The day started hot as we left Phoenix, but got noticeably colder as we climbed to higher altitudes. Our night’s accommodation – Ash Fork Inn – was cheap and very basic. We had to borrow a microwave from reception to plug in our rooms to make hot chocolate in polystyrene cups.
Day 31: to Grand Canyon, AZ
It was an hour further to enter the Grand Canyon National Park (South Rim). We had breakfast at Yavapai Lodge restaurant then changed from riding gear to hiking gear and headed down the Bright Angel trail.
This was a really good walk with lots of great views of the Grand Canyon.
We walked as far as the 3 mile marker. With lots of photo stops it took us about 1.5 hours. We had a good lunch break (we packed a burrito and water in with us) then headed back up the same trail. It was hard work because of the high altitude and 3 miles uphill hike, but we did it in 2 hours.
That night we shared one room at the Yavapai Lodge. This place fills up quick, so book well in advance. We all wore earplugs to ensure we got some sleep! Dinner was good, but no frills – at the Bright Angel restaurant. Do note: there was no phone reception or cell coverage in the park. But there was plenty of deer!
Day 32: to Cortez, CO
We left the South Rim after breakfast and took one last look at the Grand Canyon from Lipan Point. Then, it was lots of straight road riding with cool rock formations via Monument Valley.
We had a bike breakdown on the side of the road just before Mexican Hat. Noël found a local Navajo man from the nearby village of Halcinta who had the tools that we needed to get things rolling again. We stopped in Mexican Hat for a late lunch but the milkshakes were soooo slow we rode on without ordering any food.
Our ride through Valley of the Ancients was underwhelming – lots of bad roads – and though we stopped briefly at Hoevenweep Ruins, we didn’t see anything noteworthy from the road. I guess we were supposed to get off and hike to see the cool stuff.
There was some picturesque high country farmland before reaching Cortez, but Monument Valley was the highlight of the day. Dinner was also very good. Delicious burgers at J Fargo’s Family Dining and Micro Brewery which was across the road from our rooms at Travelodge and beside the stores selling marijuana and guns.
The other noteworthy thing of this day – my husband shaved his beard off that evening! He had grown it specially for the trip; but I was glad to see it go. 😊
Day 33: to Santa Fe, NM
Good weather and riding from Cortez to Santa Fe. We stopped at Pagosa Springs Resort and Spa for a dip in the hot pools on the river’s edge (so good) and then rode a short distance to The Peak Deli for hearty, freshly made sandwiches.
We arrived at our lovely little casita (Airbnb) on the outskirts of Santa Fe, and found a bull snake by the front door! This was very exciting stuff for four people who grew up in New Zealand where there are no snakes!
Santa Fe was one of my favourite places from when Noël and I were last there as newlyweds, so we were keen to go check it out again! We went to dinner at Blue Corn Cafe (recommended by hostess); it was good, but I’d try somewhere else next time. It was Friday night and town was busy with Cinco de Mayo celebrations, but to us, it is still a quaint, gorgeous town.
Day 34: to Amarillo, TX
The road today was pretty boring. It was either Interstate or grasslands with nothing to see. Plus, it was pretty windy as we crossed from New Mexico into Texas.
The highlight of this day was our lunch stop in Springer, NM at Elida’s Cafe. It was unpretentious (which makes sense since it was in the middle of nowhere) with the most amazing Mexican food; it was seriously good.
I also remember there was lots of cotton blowing round in the air in Springer. We tried to ride Route 66 – but found short pieces only (like Midpoint) were tar sealed; the rest of Route 66 wasn’t suitable for our big motorcycles.
On the way into Amarillo we stopped at the buried cadillacs of Cadillac Ranch. Free, and a good place to stretch your legs and let loose your inner graffiti artist. We lost another hour as we crossed timezones and were feeling the long day, so dinner was good old Arby’s on our way to our Airbnb.
Day 35: to Duncan, OK
Another uneventful day, with straight, hot roads made interesting with an unscheduled stop at the monthly Trade Days in Whistle-Stop. We just got lucky it was the first weekend of the month, and they were there!
Tui bought a Texas buckle, Noël had fried oreos. Lunch was in the shrunken town of Hollis in Mr Joe’s Grill and Drive Thru, an ex-Pizza Hut restaurant. It was really interesting, and a little sad, to see these small towns with empty shops and houses that were once thriving agricultural towns. After lunch, one of us (but for Tui’s sake, I won’t mention names though, hahaha) got his bike stuck in the snow on the side of the road.
We got to our Airbnb accommodation in Duncan, and on recommendation from our hostess we had dinner at Wrights Family Steak House. Based in an ex-union hall which was never used, the service was friendly and the meal was very good for the price (overall, it was OK, nothing to write home about really).
Day 36: to Wylie, TX
We rode together to Armadillo’s Grill where we had breakfast (good service and meal), and where I bought cowboy boots. As you do.
Then we split up. A&T were off to see friends somewhere (watch Tui’s videos for a weekly update and to see where they went) and we headed to visit friends who have 12 acres in Wylie, near Dallas. On the way we stopped for a delicious fresh sandwich at Jimmy John’s for lunch.
We had a couple of friends to catch up with here in Dallas, and did so over excessive amounts of food at Babe’s Chicken Dinner House.
Day 37: to Austin, TX
An easy ride to Austin to meet up with our riding buddies again. Hubby bought some cowboy boots. It seems the thing to do when you’re in Texas! To be honest, Texas was one of my favourite states on this trip. I loved the cowboy hats and boots vibe, for starters, followed by barbeque everywhere!
Our Airbnb was walking distance to South Congress Avenue. We wanted to go out to live music after dinner but it didn’t start till really late, so we settled instead for a late night dessert from Amy’s Ice Cream on South Congress. Unfortunately, I don’t remember the name of the restaurant (also on South Congress Avenue) where we had dinner, but it was good!
Day 38: to San Antonio, TX
Time to take care of some business. Tui visited a doctor in the morning, and I took the time to go get a haircut. Noël and I then rode ahead as A&T waited for a prescription to be filled. The four of us met up again at our Airbnb in San Antonio.
We rode into town together and swapped bikes for the Riverwalk boat tour; followed by dinner at Barriba Cantina Restaurant (which Google advises is now permanently closed). The Adam Johnson Band was playing at the restaurant, and were very good. There are a ton of restaurants to choose from on the San Antonio Riverwalk. It’s a fun place to wander trying to decide what to eat.
We didn’t have time to visit The Alamo while in San Antonio unfortunately. I’d like to know if you’ve been, and if it was worth it?
Day 39: to Klein, TX
Cowboy day – Yeehah! We rode to a tiny place in the country called Hallettsville. We were visiting with Kathy and Tom (a bonafide cowboy) and looking forward to riding horses on their ranch. On the way we picked up some food for lunch from a grocery store.
I’m not a confident horse person, but Tom was kind enough to let me ride the most forgiving of all the horses and we helped round up cattle and move them from one paddock to another.
So much fun! Tom’s horses are so well trained, I was in awe. Seeing a Texas Longhorn and meeting the owner who gave us permission to get up close to the friendly bull helped make it an amazing day.
Then we parted ways again. A&T stayed at Tom & Kathy’s for the night while we rode on to Houston. We had friends waiting for us in Klein, with real chicken fried steak for dinner. See, how can you not love Texas?!
Day 40: stayed Klein, TX
We spent the morning changing bike tires and visiting. Then we caught up with A&T at Kennedy Space Center in the afternoon. We probably needed more time than we’d allowed, but there were a lot of school trips happening at the same time so we were OK with the couple of hours we had there.
After that we all went back to Klein where my good friends had arranged a dinner, a birthday chair and cake in honour of Amanda’s birthday. Staying with friends made our whole trip so much richer!
Day 41: to New Orleans, LA
We had a big hot day riding to New Orleans. On recommendation from our Texan friends we stopped for crawfish in Sulphur at a place called The Boiling Point. The place was very plain, and empty when we first arrived. We wondered if we were at the right place. But trusting our friend we sat down and ordered crawfish. Then we ordered more, and by the time we left the place was full. Their pistolettes were amazing!
Continuing on, we stopped for a look at the Mississippi River as we crossed before visiting a random music/food festival in Baton Rouge that we saw signs for. That’s the great thing about road trips – you can take the time to do things spontaneously.
Unfortunately, in this case the music festival was pretty lame, but oh well – it was free and a good stretch of the legs. Up the road at a service station all women within hearing range were invited to a barbecue by a random, slightly drunk dude in honor of Mother’s Day.
The world has such interesting people in it.
We checked in to our Airbnb in New Orleans then headed to Nola’s on Bourbon Street for gumbo. Because it was dinner time the restaurant was crowded, but the food was good. Just wandering around the streets with live music through open windows and happy crowds kept us entertained the rest of the evening.
Day 42: stayed New Orleans, LA
Noel and I took a morning walk to nearby Audubon Park in the morning where we saw the gorgeous Tree of Life.
We took lunch in the middle of the French Quarter listening to some great jazz. New Orleans really is full of music. We had some time before our airboat tour so we walked and explored the architecture and shops of the French quarter.
Then it was on the bikes and out to our scheduled airboat ride with Louisiana Swamp Tours. We definitely recommend this if you’re down this way (you’ll need to book at least a day in advance). Zooming at high speed through water landscapes that were exotic to us, and up and close with crocodiles who love marshmallows was so much fun.
We at dinner that night at The Maison – a restaurant in the French Quarter we’d spotted earlier in the day. Pricey, but good food and AMAZING zydeco music. Down the road was a night art fair. I bought an ‘improv poem’ from a young lady at the Frenchmen Art Market on Frenchmen Street. With just a few sentences about what the four of us were doing, road tripping around the States on motorcycles, she wrote an improv poem which sums up our road trip so beautifully.
Day 43: to Mobile, AL
Time to leave the rhythms of New Orleans and head east again. Riding through the state of Mississippi we stopped for lunch with a beach view at ‘Shaggy’s’ in Gulf Port. Who knew Mississippi had such a beautiful coastline? It sure was a pleasant surprise to us beach loving bikies. Lunch was fantastic.
Then onwards to Mobile, Alabama. Our Airbnb home was in the leafy Leinkauf Historic District. We had a delicious pizza dinner at Mellow Mushroom. Then home for some mahjong time.
It’s always good to have a planned activity for down time when you’re travelling together. Whenever we could, mahjong was how the four of us would relax together, talk nonsense and eat way too much chocolate. Mahjong should always be accompanied by chocolate.
Day 44: to Birmingham, AL
We rolled out to Montgomery to visit the Dexter Parsonage Museum where Martin Luther King Jr. was the reverend for a few years. You’ve got to book in for the guided tours though. We booked when we arrived, so had some time to go grab lunch at a nearby Jimmy John sandwich restaurant before the tour started.
The tour was a lot of fun – photos and videos are forbidden. We heard great stories from an old lady who still has fire in her bones; an ex-school teacher who knew Martin Luther King Jr.
Then onwards to our next accommodation at Birmingham. Our Airbnb home was under renovation but comfortable. We went out for dinner to a restaurant that had neither music or dinner as advertised, so ended up at a sports bar called Sky Castle across the road. We got excited and joined in their trivia night, (because we were all on a winning trivia team once) but it was a slow, drawn out affair, so we bailed and went home to continue our game of mahjong.
Day 45: to Atlanta, GA
A day of glorious roads. We stopped at Lake Cheaha at Cheaha State Park. The weather was beautiful so we jumped in for a swim before continuing on our way.
Barbecue lunch was at some small town on the way to Atlanta.
We stayed at Extended Stay America Cumberland Mall, which was cheap and clean. It was also walking distance to our dinner stop at Applebee’s Grill and Bar (a typical US chain restaurant) where we met some friends of A&T. With them, we then walked to a baseball game at the new Suntrust Park stadium in Atlanta (Atlanta Braves vs Toronto Blue Jays).
Nothing like a baseball game in the States – go see one if you can!
Day 46: to Chattanooga, TN
We had a late breakfast together at an old style diner called Marietta Diner. Then we split up again. A&T grabbed a rental car and went to visit friends in Cincinnati. We headed off for a nice, easy ride to Chattanooga. We didn’t get far though before we were pulled over and told off for lane splitting (“not in this state”); no ticket thankfully. Hint: always know which states you can lane split in!
We checked in to our humble, artistic Airbnb home in Chattanooga then rode over to the Incline Railway. That was a mellow, interesting trip up to Lookout Mountain, and down again.
A walk along The Passage on the Tennessee River introduced us to the injustices to the Cherokee and Trail of Tears in these parts. After that, we enjoyed time to ourselves and went to the movies (Guardians of the Galaxy 2) before an amazing meal at Main Street Meats; a small butcher and restaurant on a local recommendation.
Day 47: to Sapphire, NC
The two of us took our time riding great roads along rivers, and headed along I-74 and I-64 through mountains of national forests.
We were headed for the small settlement of Sapphire. Lunch was at the small town of Franklin, just off the highway. We ate at Ms Lois’ Restaurant (cash only) which was tasty.
We got caught in some rain in the last 20 minutes of our ride once we crossed the Eastern Continental Divide. Our accommodation was an Airbnb room with hosts. The house was in a forested estate; lovely stay. There are a lot of waterfalls in the area, so we hopped on our bikes to go see the White Water Falls but the park entrance was closed and by then it was too late to drive to others. I wish we’d had time to explore this area more. In fact, I found myself wishing that about most places we visited.
On our host’s recommendation we had a lovely tapas meal at Table 64.
Day 48: to Charlotte, NC
We headed to Charlotte to meet up with A&T again. We were all looking forward to NASCAR that night – we’d bought tickets months in advance when we were first planning our motorcycle tour across the USA.
After an early lunch at Gentle Moon cafe at Kings Mountain (permanently closed now according to Google) we got to Charlotte about 1pm. We had a Airbnb house booked. Unfortunately, A&T were having rental car troubles so would meet us at Charlotte Motor Speedway. With time up our sleeves we went for a massage at a nearby shopping centre.
NASCAR, at Charlotte, was a total hoot. We LOVED it! We were well prepared with our ear plugs and picked a random car to cheer on. The noise and atmosphere was so much fun! You’ve gotta do it if you ever plan to visit Charlotte.
Day 49: to Warm Springs, VA
We were almost back at our starting point! A&T stayed in Charlotte to visit with friends, so Noël and I enjoyed a beautiful day riding through the forested roads of West Virginia. We stopped at an Eagle Rock diner for lunch; and took back roads to our accommodation at The Inn at Warm Springs.
The name of the town seemed misleading. We were disappointed there were no warm public springs to go sit in as we hoped. And despite the good reviews of our accommodation, we were in some old rooms out the back that were nothing special. Quiet though.
We did have a delicious meal at the Waterwheel Restaurant. It was a nice restaurant with history in the tiny town.
Day 50: to Gainesville, VA
Our ride back to our friends in Gainesville where we started our trip. We had breakfast at a diner somewhere before hitting the roads and eventually the highways that led us back to Gainesville.
We passed some Civil War sites and pull outs that gave us great Shenandoah mountain views. But otherwise, nothing of real note this day, we were just keen to get back and call the circle complete!
Day 51 and 52: stayed Gainesville, VA
While A&T made their way over, we spent the next couple of days washing, repacking (because we still had to go visit New York City) and checking out the local sights such as:
- The Library of Congress, Washington DC (very ornate. Be sure to go as early as possible to the more well known sites)
- Washington Monument and National Mall (so much to see as you walk around. Long lines of school kids at the nearby Smithsonian museums, unfortunately)
- Civil War Sites (there are a lot around this area if you’re interested)
- Smithsonian Air Space Museum (in Virginia, super cool)
Day 53: to Staten Island, NY
Our son had flown in from New Zealand to join us for the last week or so. He rode pillion on my husband’s bike as we all headed to New York city. The five of us stopped at Intercourse, PA for lunch at DJ’s Taste of the 50s diner – delicious and fun! Then we hit the highways to our Airbnb on Staten Island. We walked to an Italian restaurant Vincents Pizzeria and Delicatessen down the road for dinner. Delizioso!
Day 54: stayed Staten Island
We saved ourselves a small fortune by staying on Staten Island instead of somewhere on Manhattan Island. We caught the Staten Island ferry over to NYC each day. Fantastic views of the Manhattan skyline and Statue of Liberty from the ferry. For our first foray into NYC it was all about the food.
Weeks previous we’d booked for a 3 hour food tour of Greenwich Village with Foods of NY Tours. Our friends from Denver joined us which was very cool. We did not leave hungry and we got a good feeling for what lies behind the faces and buildings of NYC. Then, like all tourists we made our way to Times Square and wandered around.
When we weren’t wandering we were using the NY metro to get around. We just purchased single ride passes as and when we needed them.
Something I totally recommend if you have a few days in NYC, and like to laugh, is to catch a stand up comedy show.
We caught a show at the Standup NY Comedy club. Loved it. We finished up the night waiting way too long for a Big Gay Icecream (which is a fancy snowfreeze type ice-cream) in the West Village before making our way back to the ferry terminal.
Day 55: stayed Staten Island
After a quick grab-and-go type breakfast at the ferry terminal, we made our way to 9-11 Memorial and walked around before heading over to East Village for lunch. Our destination was Katz’s Delicatessen for a pastrami sandwich for lunch. I see it has very mixed reviews on Tripadvisor at the moment. We were recommended it by a local NY friend, and we loved it! We shared our meals there before walking around East Village a bit.
From there we made our way to Central Park. And we took our sweet time exploring. Paying $1 (from memory) for a map at one of the entrances was a huge help to us. We lay on Sheep Meadow, rowed boats on the lake and people watched to our heart’s content. There’s so much going on there. Something for everyone of all ages too. Check their website for seasonal events.
I don’t remember what we did for dinner this night, but chances are it wasn’t much after our big lunch! One thing is for sure, there is always plenty to eat in the Big Apple.
Day 56: stayed Staten Island
Our last day together as A&T flew out the next morning, and we would leave New York as well. A&T had pre-sold their motorbikes online to a couple of New Yorkers and delivered them the day we arrived in New York. But we still had time for one more jaunt on the ferry.
We went to the Chelsea Market for brunch. After a good meal and some shopping, we made our way to the Natural History Museum (click here for discounted tickets). So many floors, so much to see!
Back on Staten Island, after a final pack up it was time for our last dinner together before A&T flew out the next evening. So we treated ourselves to an upmarket dinner at Ruddy and Dean (very good) on Staten Island and recapped our month’s journey from the west coast to the east coast of the United States.
Day 57: to Niagara Falls, Ontario, CA
And then there were three; us and our teenage son. We hired a car and decided to leave the country. We drove north for 6.5 hours and crossed the border into Canada to see Niagara Falls from their side.
This was my second time to the falls, and it is still amazing! We paid to go to the tunnels under the falls (Journey Behind the Falls) which was kinda cool. I can’t remember which hotel we stayed in – it was a last minute decision, so whatever was available was where we stayed. We had dinner at My Cousin Vinny’s for Italian which was walking distance to where we stayed. We went back to the falls to see them lit up at night.
Day 58 – 61: to Doylestown, PA
The next few days were mostly about logistics, selling bikes, final packing, etc before flying out from New York. The last fun thing we did was spend a morning in Philadelphia. There is a lot of history here worth checking out if you have the time. Independence Hall was free admission, but there was a 6 hour wait to get in so we moved on. We walked around some of the other free sites instead. And then, before we left we visited Reading Terminal Market (large, indoor market with lots of great food) for a Philly Cheesesteak sandwich.
Our motorcycle tour across the USA was amazing in every way.
The States is a motorcycle friendly environment – we found other drivers mostly mindful of us on the roads. The food portions are large, and the people we met were generous. Though I was pleased to stop riding when we did; my butt, and wrists, had had enough, I’d do another road trip of the States in a heartbeat. And if you’ve read this far, kudos to you! Any questions or comments you may have are very welcome.
Trip taken April 2017.