Route 66, you’ve seen it on the movies, it’s been in television shows, products have been named after it, songs have been written about it.
So if you’re not from the United States; what is it; where is it; and what’s all the mystique surrounding it?
For those who aren’t familiar with Route 66, it’s a highway that traverses the US from Los Angeles to Chicago. Route 66 or sometimes called US Highway 66, was established on November 11, 1926. It was a major route between the west coast and mid-north part of the USA. It covers some incredibly diverse country if you rode it from end to end.
Over the years the legends of Route 66 have grown and it’s become a must see place for many visitors to the United States and for People from the Eastern States.
Greg King from Canberra Australia recently had the opportunity to get his kicks on Route 66. Greg started at Los Angeles and ventured west on the route and completed the loop back at LA. This included one of the seven wonders of world, the magic of Vegas, some of the wild wild west, a real roadrunner tour.
I had the opportunity to catch up with Greg over lunch at the Starfish café in Bateman’s Bay, NSW, Australia and told me a little bit about his trip. By day Greg runs a successful optometrist store and on the weekend is an avid motorcycle rider.
Ed: Greg, tell us the background to riding Route 66, why and what were you thinking?
Greg: For sometime I’ve been saying that I would really love to ride Route 66 or at least part of it. I had done a little bit of surfing on the Net and something caught my interest; you now how it is, you keep going back to a site, a bit like an itch! Well, I was meeting with some friends and opened my big mouth about my crazy idea.
After several times of getting together with my friends, one of them said, “so Greg, how’s the trip planning going, when’s the big ride”? Well, I was sitting there going um, uh and they obviously sensed I needed a push. One of them said, ‘so what’s stopping you from doing it?’ Well, there was nothing stopping me except for my procrastination. So I made the commitment to do the ride.
Ed: So, you commenced researching, tell us what you found and did prior to the trip?
Greg: As I mentioned, I had been doing a little web surfing so I had a feel of what was out there and what tours were on offer. I always kept ending up at Ride Free Motorcycle Tours.
The more I kept visiting their website, the more I liked what I saw. The thing that kept me going back to the site was the tour wasn’t going to be just a tour, but rather a life changing experience; that was right up my alley, that’s what I was after.
Other things that stood out for me was the passion of the proprietor, Erik Seversen; it showed in the way the website was written.
It was around six months prior to the trip, that I sent Ride Free an email, Erik promptly got back to me. After corresponding with Erik over a few emails with a few more questions I got to know him better, from there I paid my initial deposit. One month out from the trip I paid the final amount.
Ed: What were the sorts of things in the tour package?
- Bike (a beautiful Harley-Davidson) I chose a Harley Fatboy™
- Motorcycle Insurance
- Accommodation and Meals
- Trip support
- Park Fees
Things not in the package were, Airfares from Australia, Travel Insurance, Motorcycle Clothing, (Helmet, Jacket, Boots, gloves, etc), spending money in the US and other costs for incidental bits and pieces.
Ed: So you arrived at Los Angeles on a Friday afternoon. What happened from there?
Greg: After arriving and clearing immigration, I got onto a shuttle bus that took me direct to the Hotel where the tour commenced on the Sunday.
After settling in, I did a little bit of sight seeing around LA. I gave myself around 2 days to get my body clock in order.
On the Saturday night we met in the bar of the hotel. While sitting in the bar, I noticed some other people there who looked like Motorcycle riders. I went over and asked whether they were here for the Ride Free Motorcycle tour. ‘Yes Sir’, came the response and it wasn’t long till the rest of group started arriving. Erik arrived with his team, (finally we met) after the meets and greets, we settled in for dinner together.
This gave us the opportunity to get to know everyone along with receiving instructions for the tour and what was happening on Day 1.
Ed: I guess that was good getting to know everyone, at least you’ve got some idea of who’s on your tail and who’s out in front. So, day one, the tour commences, tell us how the day unfolded?
Greg: Early Sunday morning, we checked out and met the team and loaded our luggage into the support vehicle. We headed for Eaglerider motorcycle rental to pick up our bikes. Before heading off we had to fill in the usual paperwork. As there were 12 of us in our group, it took some time. It was a little frustrating considering we wanted to hit the highway.
I reckon if they did a lot of the paperwork on the evening before, it would probably have saved a bit of time picking up the bikes and getting away early on the first day.
So I’m given the Harley and it was somewhat bigger than my Kawasaki ZZR 650. They gave us the opportunity to do a few laps of the car park to get use to it. It was really different to what I was use to. I quickly worked out I can’t lean it over as far as usually do, but the thing had stacks of power, really made for cruising. The seat was comfortable, big handgrips, it had a great riding position.
So off we head for expressway, I thought to myself this is going to be interesting. I had to quickly get use to riding on much wider roads than we have in Australia. Riding on the other side of the road wasn’t an issue, but wow, the whole expressway experience was a buzz! I probably wouldn’t have said the same thing if it was a weekday.
|After being on the highway for around three and half hours, we stopped for lunch; that was around 3.30pm. Lunch was at Bagdad Café, Newberry Springs, famous for the movie with Jack Palance.
It was pretty hot riding out in the desert; lunch and cold drink was certainly a welcome relief; I’d never ridden in that kind of heat before.
Ed: So its 3.30 in the afternoon, how many miles were they intending to do on the first day? Where were they planning to stop for the first night?
Greg: We needed to do around 350 miles the first day and our first stop for the evening was for Laughlin, Nevada. It was about this time I was getting in the groove of riding the Harley. You give it a handful and boy, the bike growls!
Anyway, getting back to the ride; it was really spectacular riding into Laughlin at dusk, things were starting to cool down and riding with the mountains on the horizon and the sun going down was an unbelievable sight.
We rolled into this mini Las Vegas to the Colorado Belle Hotel. It’s a replica of a 19th century Mississippi paddle wheel riverboat over 600 feet long and 6 decks high! It was right in the middle of all the casinos on the Colorado River. It was real pretty at night with all the lights.
At the end of the evening we all sat together and had dinner and we talked and talked. Usually we discussed all the crazy things that happen during the ride. After that everyone turned in for the night.
Ed: Day two?
Greg: Day two we headed for the Grand Canyon; I was really looking forward to this part of the trip.
We left at 8.00am in the morning and had delays en-route due to one of the guys having a flat tire, this took some time fixing, which delayed us a bit, maybe if we had some spare tires with in the support vehicle it could have saved a bit of time, anyway it was a good excuse to have a chat.
Due to the delay it meant we would now get into the Grand Canyon in the evening, hopefully not in the dark. Boy, it was hard open highway riding, however, it was really spectacular. It would have been great to pull over and take a few photos. Everywhere you looked was a photo opportunity.
|As we were running late, we had to open up the Harleys to make sure we got there as early in the evening as possible.
One thing I noticed was the Harley is made for this open highway cruising, it really eats up the miles. The seating position is well suited. Well, we got there after dark and we were all knackered.
Day three we were headed from Grand Canyon to Zion National Park. We were scheduled to get away early but we had to deal with the flat tire from yesterday.
It looked as though it was going to take some time to sort things out so we got off the bikes and we got onto the buses to become tourists. If you’ve never seen the Grand Canyon in the flesh, pictures only give you glimpse of what it’s really like. It’s a really awe-inspiring place; being one of the seven wonders of the natural world you can see why.
Around mid-day we headed for Zion National Park, another hard afternoon of riding. We got to Zion after dark. This meant we lost the experience of the windy road down the canyon due to night time riding and focusing on where you were going without the scenery. At dinner, a few of us decided that early in the morning we would re-ride the route back down the canyon.
So the next morning, off we go to the top of the range where we did the ride again. Talk about spectacular! The mountains around Zion were unbelievable especially early in the morning with sun light rising and glowing on canyon walls. The place is incredible cause it is nestled away in this hidden part of the valley.
Day four (after the morning ride) we headed for Las Vegas. We arrive at Vegas and were joined by another group from Ride Free Tours. Now we’ve dropped our speed to the city limits and you’ve got 16 Harley’s coming down the strip. What a buzz! Boy, the looks we got, especially the noise when everyone is together, talk about a ‘Wild Hog’s’ experience.
To top it off, we went to the Harley Davidson Café for dinner. I suppose that was HOG heaven to many of the riders there, great food and they had a replica of Peter Fonda’s Harley from the film ‘Easy Rider’. Now the meals at the Café were great. I never ever seem to be able to finish everything that’s put before me. The Café has stacks of Harley memorabilia and the atmosphere was sensational. After dinner we did the Casino thing, Caesars, MGM, and a few of the group went to hear Elton John perform. Our accommodation in Vegas was 5 star. It was great, except being there overnight meant we really didn’t get the chance to fully enjoy it. However, I must say that all the accommodation had been first class for the trip.
Day five we headed for Lone Pine, through Death Valley, famous for Cowboy and Western movies. On this part of the trip there was plenty of straight roads, but boy, was it hot and dry! It’s got sand dunes on one hand with snow-capped mountains on the other along with a stony wilderness. To top it off it was a desert as well, and we got to ride through it!
When we got through the desert, we reached the hills and there were lots of highway sweepers. With high temperatures and strong side winds it made for some interesting riding. It was a welcome relief when we arrived at the motel, we quickly found the swimming pool and set up camp for the afternoon; swimming, drinking and chatting, what more could a good ride offer!
Ed: So, day six, where to next?
Greg: Well, we headed for Big Bear Lake in the San Bernardino Valley in California. The roads into Big Bear had a bit of gravel on them so we had to ride carefully. We were advised that a couple of weeks prior to us arriving, a couple of bikers were killed on this road, so the tour guides were advising us to go lightly. A couple of the guys on the ride dropped their bikes at slow speed so it was a little tricky.
On the last day we headed back to LA and Eagleriders to drop off the bikes. After returning the bikes, we had a barbeque lunch to review and reminisce over the last week’s riding and events.
Ed: Looking back at the overall trip what things do you think could have been done differently?
Greg: I would have loved to had more time to stop and see things. It would have been great just pulling over and taking a few photos of the scenery. There were lots to see in the places where we stayed as well. It would have been nice to absorb the atmosphere for a little while longer .
Ride Free tours are working to a schedule, and they have other trips that lend themselves to soaking up more scenery.
Ed: What would you say were the highlights of the trip?
Greg: The ride was absolutely superb and the camaraderie was outstanding. Each night we got to sit around and just talk and chat about the ride, talk about where people came from; listen to their experiences from other places around the world.
One of the things that appealed to me about Ride Free Tours was the thing they called a ‘life changing experience’.
|I can testify that it really was a life changing experience. It gave me a real confidence boost in my riding ability and changed my attitude to how I ride. I made lots of new friends, exchanged email addresses; the trip is something I’ll never forget. Erik and the team did a fantastic job, guys if you read this, thanks from the bottom of my heart.
Ed: What do you reckon as a score out of 10?
Greg: I would give it a 9.5 out of 10.
Ed: Any other great outcomes from the trip?
Greg: I got together with my friends who challenged me to do the tour. We went out for a meal and I had to ‘report back’ on the trip.
|I took with me a small bag and all the boys were asking, ‘Greg, what’s in the bag’? Well after telling a few protracted stories, I finally made a big presentation to the boys for encouraging me to do the trip. Nothing beats a hat with Route 66 on it!
Ed: So Greg, where to next?
Greg: I would like to go back to the US and go north up the coast from Los Angeles and head for San Francisco. After telling the boys about the trip a few of them are interested in joining me for the next one.
Ed:Thanks Greg that was great!
For more information about Route 66 rides and tours, make sure you visit Ride Free Motorcycle Tours (www.ridefree.com)
Greg’s Rider Profile:
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Motorcycleridingcentral.com, and Ride Free Motorcycle Tours are not affiliated with Harley Davidson, Inc. Throughout this article, trade marked names such as, but not limited to, Harley Davidson, Harley, HOG, Fat Boy, are used in an editorial manner only with no intended trademark infringement.