Oh the places you go and the people you meet

My motorcycle seems to be one of the best ways to start a conversation when I’m out on the road. The other day, a guy standing outside a Missouri gas station commented on how he liked my bike. I thanked him and he began naming the qualities of the last Indian motorcycle he saw. He asked where I was headed and I responded that I was headed south. He had clearly had a couple of breakfast beverages that morning.

The guy regaled me with a tale about losing his cell phone on the road one day and upon going back to it, watched it get run over by a truck. He left it. Then he remembered that he had put 400 minutes on it and forgot to get his sim card. So he returned to the site of the smashed phone only to find it was gone.

Then he asked if I was traveling alone. I said yes.

He told me that he didn’t go anywhere without a can of mace and held his hands out to visually describe the size and I estimate that his can of mace that he carried everywhere was just smaller than a 2-liter bottle of Coke. I could not tell where he was concealing it, but I didn’t inspect too closely. He added that he also carried a pistol too.

He suggested that I carry a can of mace and a pistol…

…and a knife…

…and a rifle…

….and a machete…

….probably a shotgun too.

He pointed toward my bike and said that I could probably put those items in the saddlebags of my bike.

“Maybe a short shotgun,” he said.

Then he told me about the time he got beaten up and broke multiple bones in his face and had to have a lung re-inflated. He would rather kill somebody than get his head kicked in again.

We shook hands and introduced ourselves and I got back on the road.

I thought about our exchange for a good 50 miles. And it made me feel good. Well, I felt bad that he lives in a world in which he’s thought about the multitude of weapons he needed to carry around to feel good. I felt good that, in the same way he needed to think about the weapons he needed to carry to make is world make sense, all I need is my two-wheel beast and an open road.

And maybe the opportunity to talk to people who help me remember that life on my motorcycle is pretty awesome.

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Best Motorcycle Rides in the U.S.

Regions to road trip you should put on your bucket list now

The best motorcycle rides you can take on your two wheeled machine are not just great scenery or the curviest roads, but what it makes you feel during and after taking the trip. Riding your motorcycle is more than just a means of transportation, it is therapy and the quest to find joy and solitude all in one.

You see that sign at every motorcycle gathering that says that there aren’t any motorcycles parked outside of a therapist’s office. It makes sense. Sure, people have told me that they love to take the riding mower out to find some solitude, but the only reason there aren’t mowers outside of therapist offices is because some miserable soul is driving a car to get lay on someone else’s couch to bitch about life.

The following is the top five rides you should take your bike instead of a therapist’s office. The goal is to find the perfect mix of breathtaking scenery, excellent roads, and to answer your bike’s request to take it cool places.

These are in no particular order. Go ride them and figure out which one is the best.

Best Rides: The Black Hills and Badlands of South Dakota

Duh.

If you have a motorcycle and you haven’t driven it through the southwestern part of South Dakota, you should just cut your losses and go to a therapist. Or get your ass on your bike and ride there as soon as possible. Check out some of the rides Road Rube has done in South Dakota on the South Dakota Rides Page.

Not only will you be able to see some of the sights like Mount Rushmore and Crazy Horse and historic towns like Lead, Deadwood, and Sturgis, you will find some of the best riding in the country here.

Not only will you be able to see some of the sights like Mount Rushmore and Crazy Horse and historic towns like Lead, Deadwood, and Sturgis, you will find some of the best riding in the country here.

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You’ll find roads that you’ll ride and want to turn around and do it again throughout the Black Hills. Plus, you can take a short drive and ride through the Badlands. Then take a ride to the west to see Devil’s Tower if you’re so inclined. 

Get a full flavor of the Black Hills by riding Spearfish Canyon or the Needles Highway and the Keystone area around Mount Rushmore and Custer State Park. Vanocker Canyon is an terrific ride with great scenery and fun roads.

The roads are well-maintained and that usually means that you’ll occasionally run into road maintenance It’s not always under construction, but you will find plenty of places to ride to get around it if you have to.

It’s also a great experience to go to Sturgis around Rally Week at least once in your life. The sheer mass of motorcycle humanity is incredible and you’ll be able to buy one of those tin posters that says you never see a bike parked outside a therapist’s office. You may have to ship it home though.

Best Rides: Mountains in Wyoming (and a little Montana)

Take a look at the map of Wyoming and circle the Rocky Mountains and the Bighorn Mountains.

Last summer, I had decided to take the northern pass of the Bighorns coming from the west. I drove the edge of the mountains and a construction sign read that motorcycles should turn back due to construction. At one point in my life, I would have needed to see why I shouldn’t ride there, but I turned back to Greybull. I took the southern pass from Ten Sleep to Buffalo.

Both passes are fun rides with some lower range mountain switchbacks and beautiful scenery. There was rain in the forecast the day I rode, but the only effects of it I felt was a cool-down from 70 degrees to 52 degrees. The northern pass is more of a small mountain road feel to it with more curves, but the southern pass is impressive in its own right.

Once you loop through those roads a couple times, make your way to Cody and the national parks.

Warning: the riding in Yellowstone and Grand Teton is not intended to be super-speed, action riding. Don’t plan on it taking less than a day of riding to see the sights and ride Beartooth. It will be a leisurely ride no matter what you do. Go in with the mindset to be okay with delay for animal gawkers and road construction.

Warning: the riding in Yellowstone and Grand Teton is not intended to be super-speed, action riding. Don’t plan on it taking less than a day of riding to see the sights and ride Beartooth. It will be a leisurely ride no matter what you do. Go in with the mindset to be okay with delay for animal gawkers and road construction.

Road Rube

Last summer, I encountered road construction in Yellowstone. First in line and the wait for the traffic coming in the opposite direction was about 30 minutes. The construction folks are sour on bikers and tourist peeing on their port-a-potty seats, so I used the woods. Smelled better there anyway.

My bike was also caked with mud because the water trucks are consistently working on keeping the dust down during construction. The water truck guy left his water on for a moment as he approached the lineup of vehicles, paused, and smiled when he turned the water off just before dousing me. I waved thanks and I think he thought it would have been funny to see me soaking wet.

Mud washes off and the scenery is amazing. Beartooth Pass offers breathtaking (literally and figuratively) views. You can stop and see all the other sights like Old Faithful and Mammoth Springs if you’re brave enough to stroll a little bit, get some looks from the tourists, and sweat into your boots a little bit.

This is a ride to take just for the sheer majesty of it. It might be the single-most beautiful scenery in the country, but that is debatable because of the number of great places to see around the States.

Courtesy: National Geographic

Best Rides: Smoky Mountains in Tennessee and North Carolina

I made the decision last summer that, when I was in the Smoky Mountains, I would just start turning down roads and see what kind of motorcycle roads they would be.

Not disappointed.

The list of the best motorcycle rides in the Smoky Mountains is a list of one-is-as-good-as-the-next motorcycle roads. I’m going to hold off on that for this post.

I’ll be headed to Tennessee and North Carolina this summer to do reviews of the various rides throughout the area. So stay tuned.

The biggest one that people ask about the Smoky Mountains is the Tail of the Dragon. It’s one of the most well-known ride from the area. Plus it has 318 curves in 11 miles. It’s very cool to ride, but it is not for the feint of heart.

The corners are sharp and require maximum attention while riding. It is equally important to be aware of the traffic around you on the Tail. Cars and sport bikes want to go as fast as they can. Just get out of the way and enjoy your ride.

Regardless of your thoughts of their choice to ride that way, stay out of their way. There are plenty of spots to pull off to the side and let them pass. And remember not to have a death grip on your handlebars while you ride.

The Smoky Mountains have several roads that will give you scenery and fun riding throughout Tennessee and North Carolina. If you’re looking for a more subdued ride, consider the Blue Ridge Parkway or the Smoky Mountain Loop. There are tons of places to have a great ride.

Best Rides: Northeastern and Eastern Colorado

The Rocky Mountains are amazing.

Driving through Colorado with your motorcycle will get you into altitudes that provide scenery that is tough to beat.

Rocky Mountain National Park winds through the mountains to the northwest of Denver. The national park takes you through the highest peaks on easy-to-navigate roads. Colorado’s breathtaking scenery makes these some of the best motorcycle roads.

You will understand what they meant when they wrote “purple mountains majesties” when they wrote “America the Beautiful.” 

They weren’t lying.

Couple things to consider:

1) Please keep watching where you’re driving because it’s easy to get caught up in the surroundings.

2) Make sure you check to see if there’s snow up in them thar hills. According to The Summit Daily and Denver 7 (the ABC affiliate) there are buildings covered in snow at 11,796 feet (entire buildings) as of May 20, 2019. It is unclear when the road will be opened to traffic. Doesn’t look like it will be open soon – especially for motorcycles.

Pike’s Peak is open year-round, but that doesn’t mean you ride your bike up and down it anytime you want. Pike’s Peak has awesome views of everything. If heights aren’t your thing, this may be a tough one on a motorcycle for you. The air is thin at the top. And, did I mention, the whole thing is awesome?

Best Rides: Utah

I know, you’re saying – Utah is a huge state, it can’t all be awesome.

You’re wrong.

The salt flats in the northwest. Rocky Mountains on the east. Five national parks in the south. If you’re going to nitpick about little parts of Utah, tell it to your shrink. Utah has some of the best motorcycle rides in the country.

You will have excellent and interesting scenery no matter where you go.

Make sure that you get yourself to Torrey and take 12 south from through Escalante and eventually to Bryce. One of my favorite rides in the country, bar none.

Road Rube

The south features five national parks – Arches, Canyonlands, Bryce, Zion, and Capitol Reef. Just that alone gives a guy plenty to see. Make sure that you get yourself to Torrey and take 12 south from through Escalante and eventually to Bryce. One of my favorite rides in the country, bar none.

Plan your trip wisely. If you want to get to all five parks leave yourself time.

Utah.com has a travel plan that takes a person to five parks in five days. It’s for people in cars. Plan accordingly.

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Why do I live here?

Life in Minnesota sucks when your only hobby is riding on two wheels

The feeling that a Minnesota motorcyclist gets on the first ride of the season is indescribable. We sit up here in a frozen prison and look at our motorcycles sitting in the garage dormant. Winter wonderland, my ass.

We mark time up here based on the weather phenomenons that happen on a yearly basis. For instance, ask any Minnesotan over 35 about Halloween 1991. You’ll definitely get an answer. Thirty one inches of snow fell that day and people are still talking about it.

I’d say that for those of us with a motorcycle addiction, the winter of 2011-2012 was equally remarkable. I was still riding during the first week of December 2011 – something that rarely happens around here. Most people are wondering if it will be a white Christmas and making guys like me try not to kick them in the shins.

There was hardly any snow that winter and it was great. The temps made me put my bike away for the winter, but the extra riding season made it okay that year. Of course, I was still antsy about getting back on the bike in the spring.

The roads looked fairly clean and clear of any residual snow and ice early that March and it was going to be 60 on the 6th. I took my bike out of hibernation and walked with it gently over the couple of chunks of ice that I neglected to scrape off and took off down the street.

Exhilarating.

And then embarrassing.

What I hadn’t noticed on the street was the thin layer of frost on the ground due to the fact that the sun was shielded by the trees in the neighborhood.

The back tire swooshed back and forth, I instinctually shifted to neutral, and then the bike and I went down. I managed to slip my leg out from under the bike and we spun twice. On one spin the bike and I moved in concert, but I stopped spinning quicker than the bike did, and one side of the handlebar caught in the neck of my jacket and twisted the throttle full bore.

So there I laid for a moment thinking about what had just happened. Motorcycle winding out at full blast and me on the ground laying next to it. It took a little doing to get the throttle out of my collar and then I slowly and gingerly took the walk/ride of shame back home. I had just learned that it was too early to be out riding the humiliating way.

So, now as I sit for days on end not riding my bike because the high will be 40 for the day or it’s raining or there’s a trace of snow on a May day (two days ago), I think about why I live in this motorcycle forsaken tundra.

I’ll have to get back to you in June on that subject.

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Road Rube Diaries: Entry #1

You’re already there…enjoy the ride

The journey is the destination.

It’s easy to say it. But it’s not necessarily easy to live it.

As a kid I would sit in the back seat of the car turning green from my dad’s pipe smoke and motion sickness wondering how much longer it would take to get to grandma’s house or to the amusement park. Of course, we’d get to the amusement park and ride the scrambler for more motion-activated dry heaves. Sometimes I got dry heaves at grandma’s house for entirely different reasons, but I digress…

I was always focused on the destination.

Are we there yet?

…I realized that the key to life didn’t necessarily lie with where I was going, but how I was getting there.

In my free time as a kid I would go outside and drive a tractor or a mini-bike, hell, I’d even drive the lawn mower around just for fun. So as I got older, I realized that the key to life didn’t necessarily lie with where I was going, but how I was getting there.

A buddy of mine years ago got a job in Fairbanks, Alaska and he asked me to take two weeks to share the driving duties and to enjoy the scenery along the way. I went to the editor of the newspaper I was working for and asked for two weeks off, even though I didn’t have that much vacation time saved up. I was willing to take the time off without pay. He said I couldn’t leave for that long so he vetoed my request. I reached down into the bag I had with me and laid my resignation on his desk.

Call it an adventurous spirit or just being an idiot. The choice was simple for me.

We drove through the flattest part of the Earth I could imagine – I saw the curvature of the Earth on the horizon, we drove through incredible scenery in Banff and Jasper, we drove until it hurt…and we were half way there.

We just needed to be where we were…and take the time for good-looking women to ask us things that entertained our 20-something dirty minds.

My brain couldn’t wrap itself around the fact that we were only halfway through the journey and I began to go stir crazy. But then a simple question from a cute young lady snapped me back into reality and reminded me to enjoy the journey.

What was the question? Would you like to take a bath?

Okay, we stopped at some hot springs and the cute young lady was asking if we wanted to dip ourselves into the hot springs, but it is a reminder that we didn’t need to be in Fairbanks to experience awesome things. We just needed to be where we were…and take the time for good-looking women to ask us things that entertained our 20-something dirty minds.

So, that brings me to the present.

I still ramble across the country just for the sake of rambling.

And I’m rambling on here in this post to share one of the little secrets to Zen.

Enjoy the ride.

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The Journey is the Destination

If you’re here reading this, you are witnessing the construction of Road Rube. It’ll soon be filled with all kinds of stuff that will make your road trips awesome.

I took the one less traveled by and that has made all the difference.

Robert Frost

The Open Road Photo
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