A February motorcycling tour

May 5, 2004
Outside Magazine
Week of December 17 - December 23, 1998
Cross-country treks: a coast-to-coast drive
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A February motorcycling tour

A February motorcycling tour

By Grant Davis

Question: I’m thinking about a February motorcycle trip from NY to New Mexico or Arizona. I’ve got two-and-half weeks for the round trip and I’ll be riding a Goldwing and carrying camping gear. Any suggestions?

Scott Shirley
New York, New York

Motoring across country in the off-season has refreshing benefits
Adventure Adviser: My first suggestion would be to head south, way south. By staying east of the Appalachians, you’ll avoid the brunt of the nasty winter storms that howl across the mid-west each winter. You might not escape a cold rain here and there, but you shouldn’t have to worry about snow and close-to-freezing daytime temps. Head down the Atlantic seaboard as far south as Atlanta, and then cut west. Be forewarned — you’ll be traveling in the off-season, which means you’ll escape the crowds but might run into deserted campgrounds and “closed for the winter” signs.

You are on track to head through some great college towns, which with school in session, will be lively and packed with students. Swing through Athens, Georgia; Oxford, Mississippi; and Austin, Texas on your way out. They’ll definitely put you into a “vacation” frame of mind — the sight of thousands of idealistic youths unconcerned about the daily grind of life should be a refreshing change.

Once you get to New Mexico and Arizona, stay south as even the northern halves of these states see an occasional snowstorm. You can easily spend five days riding around the wide open spaces checking out Carlsbad Caverns, Gila National Forest, the satellite array at Saguaro National Park near Tucson, and the sprawl of Phoenix. Since you’re on the Lazy-Boy of motorcycles, I’d recommend just riding all day, every day you’re out west. If you’re lucky, you might find a valley the size of metropolitan New York all to yourself. Make a big loop starting in El Paso, Texas and running out to Prescott, Arizona and back.

Coming home, don your warmest outfit, turn-up your bike’s heaters, exit the Interstate for a remote two lane blacktop, and drive across west Texas on a moonless night. West Texas is one of the few places left in North America (south of the Arctic Circle) where you can see so many stars. Just remember to keep your eyes on the highway. From there, head to Houston and hop on the highway to New Orleans because, well, it’s New Orleans and you deserve to eat well after so many days on the road. After a decadent day or two there (minus the “Easy Rider” drug scenes), stick to the Gulf Coast and then cut across Florida to Jacksonville. If you’ve got the time, tool up Highway 1 along the Atlantic coast and back to New York hitting Savannah, Georgia and Charleston, South Carolina along the way. Unlike your trip out west, the Gulf will be in peak tourist mode, especially in Florida. You might want to call ahead for reservations.

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