50 Tips for Riding A Motorcycle Across America

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Riding across America is the dream of many motorcyclists. The notion of traversing the U.S.A. on two wheels has a certain romantic aspect; 4000 miles unspooling before you like reels of an old, epic film. A lone rider and his/her machine, dusty and stoic, sharing tales of the road with strangers at every stop but never lingering in one place for more than a meal or a night’s sleep.

Unlike some things in life, the dream is not let down by the reality of actually doing it. Every ride across America is special – I’ve done it four times, and each trip provided unforgettable moments, the types of peak experiences we all long for when we get on a motorcycle. Still, there’s a lot to consider when planning a coast to coast trip: Do you use your own bike or rent one? How will you get your motorcycle back home when the ride’s done? What are the essential items to bring? How much time should you allocate, and what route should you take?

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The answers to these questions are really based on the individual. Everyone’s ideal coast-to-coast ride is their own, even amongst riders doing it together in a group. That said, there are a few things I’ve learned on my cross-country motorcycle journeys that may be of help to others thinking of doing this ride. So here goes, 50 Tips for Riding A Motorcycle Across America:

#1) Stop putting it off, life is short! Don’t forestall joy – why not do it this year?

#2) America is a lot bigger than you thought, and it takes time to see and appreciate it. Don’t rush.

#3) Take at least two weeks to do the ride, ideally more (see #2). Unless you’re in the IBA (http://www.ironbutt.com), it’s not a race.

#4) Should you ride East to West, or West To East? Well, America “opens up” as you head East to West. West to East, it gets more congested and populated. Psychologically, East to West “feels” a bit better because of that.


#5) Which route should you take? Start by figuring out which destinations you want to visit, then connect the dots by choosing good roads between them. Michelin regional maps are best for this task.

#6) Route suggestion #1: Start in New York City. Head to the battlefield at Gettysburg, then to Cleveland and the Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame, then Chicago, the Black Hills of South Dakota, Chief Joseph Scenic Byway and Yellowstone, Salt Lake City, Lake Tahoe, finish in San Francisco.

#7) Route suggestion #2: Start in Washington D.C. Head down the Blue Ridge Parkway into the Smokey Mountains, over to Nashville, then pick up Route 66 in St Louis and follow it to Los Angeles.

#8) Route suggestion #3: Start in Orlando, Florida, ride along Gulf Coast, see New Orleans, go inland to Austin, Texas, visit Big Bend National Park, Roswell, New Mexico, across Arizona to the Salton Sea, Joshua Tree National Park and Palm Springs, and finish in Los Angeles.

#9) Interstates = ZERO FUN. Boring to ride, and you don’t get quality time with people and places.


#10) A country is not just about the roads and the places, it’s about the people. Spend time talking to locals for a richer, more rewarding ride.

#11) When choosing a bike for the journey, bigger/more expensive does not always equal more fun. Rat bikes can be great cross-country mounts, as can small-displacement motorcycles, depending on the roads you take.

#12) Regarding accessories (GPS, satellite radio, random gadgets from the Aerostich catalog): more farkles equals more distractions and less fun. Map, smartphone, wallet, water, first aid kit and a change of underwear gets you 99% there.

#13) Make sure your tires can handle 3500-4500 miles of riding. Really sticky sportbike tires won’t.

#14) Give your bike an oil change before you go (not during the night before the ride!).


#15) Use GPS on your smartphone for emergencies, otherwise stick to maps. Maps look better with coffee spilt on them than a Zumo does.

#16) If you’re riding in summer, buy a cooling vest. You can ride comfortably for much greater distances in serious heat with a good cooling vest. I like these from Silver Eagle Outfitters.

#17) Bring earplugs and don’t be lazy about wearing them if you value your hearing.

#18) If you can take three weeks or longer for the trip, using your own bike makes sense financially versus renting. But remember that you have to get your bike back home once the ride is done, and after 4000 miles, you might not be too excited to ride back to wherever home is. Shipping can be expensive, and it may take several weeks to get your bike back.

#19) Best months to cross the U.S.A. on a motorcycle: mid May to late October (start a bit later and a finish earlier if you’re doing a northerly route.)


#20) If you bring your rain gear or heated clothing, fate and irony will ensure you won’t need it. If you leave home without them, you’re just begging for historic rain and low temperatures on the ride.

#21) People will be asking you to tell them about this trip for years, so:

#22) Start and end your trip in an interesting place (Note: your Uncle Morty’s house is NOT an interesting place).

#23) Take plenty of photographs and short video (smartphones are great for both, especially if you set them to embed GPS information automatically)

#24) Take time to document the places that resonate in you. Twenty years from now a grainy video clip you took at some hamburger joint will be absolute treasure.

#25) Blog about your trip while on the road so family and friends can ride along virtually.

#26) Consider riding for your fave charity. Learn about how to properly fundraise by contacting the charity (they often have instructions on their website).

#27) Plan for spotty to non-existent cell reception in some rural parts of the country.


#28) Post a brief “Flight Plan” every day before you ride, and check in with family/friends when you arrive at your final destination. This will ease the worry for people who love you and are understandably concerned for your safety.

#29) You’ll take your best photos around dawn and dusk – that’s when the light is best (“Golden Hour”). Think about that when you’re deciding where you’re going to be at those times.

#30) You’ll see countless smears of road kill while riding across America, and most of these creatures are hit at night by tractor trailers. Critters come out when the sun starts to go down. Your chance of encountering animals goes up exponentially at night, so be off the bike at or before sundown if you wish to avoid this.

#31) Weather band radio is very useful, especially during tornado season in the Midwest.

#32) Regarding camping: It’s a long ride, and you’ll be tired at day’s end. Motorcycle camping is for the young, the poor and/or the acutely adventurous.


#33) For everyone else, Best Western, Motel 6, Super 8 and their ilk are the better choice. A smartphone app that uses GPS to provide a list of lodging nearby can be indispensable (Trip Advisor, Priceline, etc.).

#34) Always call ahead for the best lodging price, and AAA membership always provides an additional discount. Get their best rate first, then mention your AAA membership.

#35) Sometimes you’re forced to stay in seedy, down in the mouth places on the road. In these types of places, always check the room before committing to stay, if only so you don’t get blamed for the dead hooker in the bathtub.

#36) Breakfast buffets at hotels and motels are almost always overpriced and underwhelming. Take some fruit and water for snacks later in the day, but eat breakfast at a local joint. Walk around a bit and you’ll find the right one.

#37) Eat a light breakfast, and a light lunch with healthy snacks as needed until dinner. And make sure you’re properly hydrated – keep a liter bottle of water in your saddlebag, protected from the heat of the sun.

#38) Be hungry for dinner. Save the heavier meals for nighttime. If you ask your body to digest a heavy meal while you’re riding, you’re going to get sleepy, which is dangerous on a bike. If you’re hungry, you won’t be sleepy.

#39) Do not drink any alcohol until after the bike is parked for the day.


#40) When you park your bike for the night, leave nothing of value on it or in it. Leave the empty saddlebags unlocked. Leave it in a well-lit place where people come and go, like the entrance of the motel. There’s less chance of the bike being stolen there. Lock the bike to something solid or at least to itself so it won’t roll.

#41) Music that goes well with a Cross U.S.A. ride: Robert Johnson, The Band, Dylan, Ryan Adams, Wilco, Willie Nelson, Daniel Lanois, Mark Knopfler, Freddie King, Jackson Browne, Emmylou Harris, Sheryl Crow, Lucinda Williams, Ry Cooder, The Grateful Dead without Mickey Hart and The Rolling Stones with Mick Taylor.

#42) The books you choose to bring are important. Books about traveling seem to read really well on long trips, especially if you’re riding alone.

#43) Paul Theroux’s “The Great Railway Bazaar” (or really almost anything he’s written); Ted Simon’s “Jupiter’s Travels” and “One Man Caravan” by Robert Edison Fulton Junior are worth the saddlebag space. Jack London and Raymond Chandler are good companions too. I often bring along some Pirsig for the times when I find myself in some gas station toilet stall that’s run out of paper.

#44) Go to bed early (by 10pm) and be on the road no later than 7:00am. It’s a treasure to watch the world wake up, as an observer, on a motorcycle.


#45) Stay focused at all times. You have to be ready for the unexpected every time you get on a motorcycle, and on a ride like this, where nothing is familiar, weather and traffic conditions changing daily, your head must be screwed on 100%. Do not allow yourself to get distracted.

#46) For some of us, riding long distance solo in lonely places can summon The Black Dog. If your mind drifts to negative thoughts, focus on gratitude. Most of the people you know, even hardcore riders, will never ride a motorcycle across America. You are truly fortunate to experience this journey. Believe this.

#47) On a trip like this, choose the people you ride with carefully. Being on a motorcycle for weeks at a time can be straining both physically and mentally, and everyone manages stress differently. You can make lifelong friends or lose them on a trip like this. Think farts are funny? After 21 days in small, shared motel rooms, they might not be. Some people like to ride early, some to sleep in. And even skinny guys can snore. Think about these things before you head out.

#48) We’ve all had a friend who likes to push it, who’ll take unnecessary risks for the thrill, the attention, or because they’re just wired that way. Do not do a cross-country ride with this person. This is an endurance ride, not a sprint race, not a stunt show. If you’re riding with someone and you don’t feel they’re being safe, have a word with them about it. If they don’t change, don’t ride with them. There’s no room for grab ass when you’re covering hundreds of miles a day.

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#49) Build some rest days into your itinerary. Stay somewhere great for two days, see the sights, catch your breath. Your body and mind will need a break every 5-7 days, and it’s nice to break the cycle of pack/unpack every day. Plus, you can get a little crazy at night if you don’t need to ride the next day.

#50) The night before you start the ride, pack your bags completely. Then, unpack them, spread the contents out, and remove 25% of the stuff. YOU DON’T NEED IT. Bring a few pairs of washable quick dry underwear and socks. Bring a few pairs of old t-shirts with holes in them. Wear one until you can smell the stink when you’re riding, then throw it away and put on another. If you need more clothes on the way, buy a cool shirt at some dive bar, or stop by a Target if need be. When you’re done reading a book on the road, leave it where you finished it. The goal is to arrive on the opposite coast with as little as possible in your bags, but your head and heart filled. This might be the most important tip of all.

I hope you’ve found these 50 Tips for Riding A Motorcycle Across America helpful. What tips do you have? Please share them in the comments below.

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  • Old MOron

    Good thoughts here, really good. Great pics, too. Thanks.
    Can’t really think of anything to add. Maybe add The Eagles or Neil Young to #41.

    • https://twitter.com/thetrickness Jim McDermott

      Damn, I knew I forgot something. Neil Young needs to be on that list!

  • fastfreddie

    Thanks for useful tips.Will bookmark this page when I take the vertical route through my own country.Not nearly 4000miles (around half),but sometimes you have to take what you can get;)

    Great article:)

    • https://twitter.com/thetrickness Jim McDermott

      Chet Baker is great on a ride, especially if you’re approaching a city at night.

  • john burns

    Now that I am a ways past AARP membership, I would add: Feel free to have a nap if you wanna… 20 or 30 mins of sleep when you’re sleepyish will let you ride a lot farther at the end of the day. And it just feels good.

    • DickRuble

      Tip#51 – don’t nap while riding (unless you’re the passenger)
      Tip#52 – not all the pictures you take need to include your bike.

    • Napom

      Having done one cross country ride and several long rides . . .the value of a powernap can not be overstated . . . find a spot of shade, make a pillow out of your jacket and get refreshed . . . just make sure you’re not lying on or near an fire ant colony . . .

      Looking forward to my 2nd cross country ride this year – and finishing the lower 48 on 2 wheels . . .

    • https://twitter.com/thetrickness Jim McDermott

      I left it out of the list because I thought it might sound a bit new-agey, but meditation actually works better for me than napping, and takes about 30 minutes. It’s equivalent to a multi-hour nap.

    • http://www.facebook.com/phil.hughes.35728 Phil Hughes

      Agree, a short nap is good. Sometimes though. Just get off the bike and walk around a bit and you are good for a few more hours. The thing to do is to stop if you v start to feel sleepy when riding.

  • Robert Parker

    Stopping and chatting with the locals is the best part. You will remember them a lot longer than a picture you took of a sunrise…
    As for preparation: prepare to deal with a flat tire, or maybe two. If you have never done a roadside repair to fix a flat, then your education is about to broaden… roadside assistance can only trailer your bike to get it fixed. And most dealers WILL NOT plug or patch your tire, you have to buy a new one; yep. So your ability to plug a tire along side the road, and, or use tire sealant like Ride-on to prevent flats…. well, just prepare for a flat. It will happen, if not this trip, but the next.
    Most anything you will need you can buy somewhere along the road… but like a flat tire, make sure you have what you need with you at all times…and only you can answer that… Have fun, and put on clean underwear every day….. :)

    • Marcus Veytia

      I agree with learning how to fix a flat on the road. I FORCED myself to take off the tires and remove the tube so that if I had to do it on the road, or trail, I will be able to manage it. I ride solo and off-road when I can; this is a valuable lesson.

  • lundque

    Here are some of mine per your invite.

    Waterproof touring pants with removable liner. Under, nothing but bicycle shorts with a shammy lining (not the gel) that have added 300 miles to my stamina. Wash them at night with hotel room shampoo, they’ll be dry enough in the morning.

    Touring jacket. Mine is leather and has remained waterproof as the ads claimed for the last three years. It could use armpit vents but I’ll have to try your evap vest idea. Together with the trousers, I don’t need to pack the rain suit.

    Waterproof touring boots, smartwool socks if its cool and rainy because “waterproof” doesn’t mean they stay that way all day. Neoprene wet weather enduro gloves. Not really waterproof, but they’ve keep my hands fairly warm and unstained from dry riding black leather gloves for many years. All you need to do is remember to change into them before the rain hits.

    Single vision dark sunglasses. You won’t strain your neck contorting to look both over your windshield and the bifocal line. Yeah, you will not be able to read the map.

    I’m looking for an ideal touring lid, something like a combo visored dual sport and flip front Schuberth. Any suggestions?

    For music, Appalachian Spring. To read: try Bonhoeffer’s Letters and Papers From Prison. Pikety’s Capital was a bit harder but a good one this past summer.

    Superfluous add: Shakespeare collapsible rod. Yes, you’ll need to buy the out of state license! I’d like advice on a decent backpack guitar. Not really happy with my Martin.

    Intended Route One Day: US 50 from Ocean City, MD to Sacramento. Then a mission tour down El Camino Real, ending up with a cup of Joe at my nephew’s San Diego coffee shop on Pacific Beach to map the return trip to Wisconsin.

    • https://twitter.com/thetrickness Jim McDermott

      Great additions, thanks for sharing!

    • Jeremy Marr

      Appalachian Spring? As in, the ballet composed by Aaron Copland?

      • lundque

        The orchestration.

        • Jeremy Marr

          Oh, I love that one! I remember having a performance of both it and Billy the Kid on a Great Performances CD…it was one of the very first CDs I ever owned. I played the shit out of that one.

    • Old Guy

      Take a blue foam mattress pad, road side concrete picnic tables get hard at night.
      Old Guy

    • Sylvester

      I did a coast to coast trip in 2012 with a pal on our BMW boxers.. Mine a 1978 R100, his a 1991 R100GS. Two months, 9000 miles from Baltimore to LA via the Blue Ridge Highway, Barber Museum at Birmingham, Alabama, Ozark mountains, the Gulf, Roswell, Flagstaff, then part of route 66, Death Valley, Yosemite, San Francisco, Napa Valley, Highway 1 to LA.
      Tips – At any tourist office, pick up a booklet of hotel & motel discount vouchers which lists all those offering special deals by town/city in that particular State.
      – US Tyre prices are a half as much again as UK so put new ones on before you go.
      – Check out the weather before embarking on Highway 1. If the wind is predicted to blow from east to west it can be sweltering even in October.
      If it blows the other way, expect a cold, damp miserable ride through low mist & fog.
      Stay inland!
      – Visit Nit Wit ridge in Cambria (on Highway 1) far more interesting than nearby OTT Hearst Castle.
      – Don’t expect to much food wise at least as far as quality goes! Best description is cardboard soaked in barbecue sauce. Most place compensate by serving twice as much as even a big appetite like mine can manage.
      – Try some grits for breakfast – doesn’t taste of anything – like warm ice!
      – Fast food texmex usually includes something that looks like it has passed through the cat.(mashed kidney beans!)
      – More tips to follow if you liked these!

      • Marty

        Sylvester , I would like to more about how your bikes preformed and, what kind of condition they were in when you left?
        I have a 1970 Triumph with 6000 orig miles and not sure how far I should take it.

        • Sylvester

          I think you need to contact someone with a similar bike. Note that Ted Simon went round the world on a 500 Triumph Twin so that’s a good reference!
          My own BMW had already done 250,000 miles – I have owned it from new. I gave it a good check over before leaving the UK including a crank oil seal replacement but other than that.. I also needed a new back tyre – should have fitted a new one prior to the off but mistakenly believed that they would be cheaper in the States – wrong!!!
          The bike gave no trouble. My mates GS had to have a rumbling gear box bearing replaced in Flagstaff.

          • Marty

            Thanks Sylvester. I guess my follow up didn’t get through to you.Would you please let me know how do I contact Ted Simon.

          • Sylvester

            Ted Simon wrote a book about his trip called ‘Jupiters Travels’
            I don’t know him – he was around in the sixties and seventies and used to do lecture tours around the UK. The book should still be available on ebay but try Googling his name.
            Sorry I can’t help you further

          • Marty

            Thank you very much . Sounds interesting.I’m just in awe of how many miles you have put on your bike.

          • Harold Maxwell

            I will be headed to the UK this coming Oct. What are the prices of bike rentals there… any suggestions? I will be there 3-4 weeks and thinking I would like to ride all over the place.

          • Sylvester

            I’m not familiar with hire prices in the UK – suggest Googling – I do know that there are hire firms in London.

  • Chris haddad

    Mints or lemon drops handy to eat while you are riding through long and boring stretches can help pass the time

    • fastfreddie

      Chewing tobacco is better!;)

      • ed M

        Route 32 across the heartland is a nice ride. You are only a couple of miles from the center of the 48 states at one point. Some nice little towns and some scenic farm fields. It is the old Pony Express Route.
        It ends just east of Denver.
        Traffic is very light and it is not the same sights over and over.

        • John Talbert

          Did you mean Route 36, can’t find a 32?

        • brenpd

          Route 2 along the Canadian border is another great one. I picked it up in Ashland, WI and rode it out to Minot, ND where I started heading SW towards Montana and Beartooth Pass.
          At one point, It was extremely flat, but I had farmland on both sides of the road and it was carpeted with sunflowers as far as the eye can see.

    • https://twitter.com/thetrickness Jim McDermott

      gotta be careful with the hard stuff, you hit a good bump and you can swallow it. don’t ask me how I know :-)

  • norskmann

    I was going to hike the PCT this year but think I’ll save that for next year and take a ride on the ZX14 to the east coast and back instead. Did the trip several times in my 20’s some 40 years ago, it will be nice to do it again when I’m not in any hurry. I’ll just be using an Eclipse tank bag and packing lite. The hard part will be keeping the speed down on the beast… Should be a blast…

  • Shybiker

    Very helpful tips. I’ve done several long trips and planning to do more, so many of these points of advice are greatly appreciated. I laughed at #35 because it brought back a memory of desperately finding a squalid motel late one night in the middle of nowhere, only to find blood on the room’s carpet and drug-dealing in the parking lot.

  • Jimi & D. Lynn

    We did a 4,200 mile ride over the course of 15 days, beginning late August ’14. No agenda. Got up on the 23rd and flipped a coin. Heads. We rode north from Cheyenne to the Tetons. Crossing Towgotee Pass (in August…) we got snowed on. Having rain gear added a much needed layer of insulation. Next, to Yellowstone. Two days camping in 34 degrees was enough, so we decided to head south to warm up. Over the mountains to Pocatello, Idaho, then through SLC to Green River Utah. Traffic is crazy in SLC, even in a car, so especially watch it on a scooter. Left Green River and toured a couple of days around Moab and Durango, eventually getting to Ignacio, Colorado and the Four Corners Rally, then back to Mesa Verde and Cortes. Next was Four Corners monument, then through Monument Valley to Flagstaff. Flagstaff to Sedona, Prescott, Quartzite, Yuma, then Mexico at Los Algodones, Baja, then back to Phoenix. On the run from Yuma to Phoenix in August/early September, you cannot carry enough water to cross the desert in one run. In 117 degrees you can make it in 30 minute hops, if you soak yourself down at each stop and rehydrate with electrolytes good and plenty when you do stop. The only shade is the overpasses and at the gas stations along the way. Bring something you can throw over a palo verde for shade if you break down. From Phoenix, we took the back way through Happy Jack to the south side of Winslow. Very nice ride, although extremely windy beginning fifty miles or so south of Winslow. From Winslow to Santa Fe, then through Raton Pass, NM, to Trinidad, CO. Hit a frog strangler of a thunderstorm in the pass. Another time the rain gear proved a blessing. 15 mph for 18 miles in the thunderstorm to Trinidad. Never thought Wendy’s chili would taste so good. The next day, it was the press to Cheyenne. Clear skies and no snow. Saw a lot on the trip and did a lot of crazy things, with the details left out of this telling. Met a lot of interesting people and other riders on the road. If you get the chance and have to the time, don’t hesitate. This year, we’re heading south and east for an estimated 4,000 miles round trip. Wave if you pass us going the other direction, or, stop and shoot the… with us if we meet.

  • DickRuble

    Tip#53: Add “Plus RV” to your AAA membership. It’s a lot lighter than a mechanic’s toolbox and a lot cheaper than the cost of towing.

  • madbuyer

    Ride a bike that does not require +91 octane too. My RC51 hated the gasoline offerings of South Dakota, Wyoming and Utah. Plan your trip to see relatives,no matter how distant, it makes a trip that much more memorable.

    • https://twitter.com/thetrickness Jim McDermott

      Good point – I had a 51 too, man that bike liked to suck down gas.

  • David Blaska

    Can’t believe how timely this is!! I’m thinking of doing this very thing. Trailering to Arizona in February, stay and ride for a month, then on to San Francisco and Sonoma. From there? Maybe back to the Midwest by mid-April, saints and the weather be willing!

    • Bob Eldridge

      For a better experience and memories, forget the trailer,,,,,,,,,,,,,just my $.02. Bob

  • Phip Nosiw

    Done a few Xcountry rides myself and I strongly recommend re-reading #37, 39, 48 and 50.

  • BiteMe

    This whole article is plagiarized. It doesn’t need to linked in all the forums you ‘own’ just so your shitty website can make another nickel.

    • https://twitter.com/thetrickness Jim McDermott

      As the writer of this piece I can assure you that it was in no way plagiarized.

    • Alan Mitchell

      Sad comment

  • a b

    be adventurous. take a back/side road every now and then with no idea where it goes. some of my fondest memories of my trip through the Smokies was branching out onto unknown roads with no idea where they headed.

  • Ghost

    A few ideas on this much-beloved subject:

    4. Eat to west or vice versa. “Both” is the best option. Ride out, then ride back home, taking a different route on the return trip. This means more taking more time, but then you always get to ride your own bike.

    6. Route suggestion #1. If you’re going to do the Chief Joseph Scenic Byway, which is well worth it, also do Beartooth Pass. (They’re right next to each other.)

    18. Ride yours or a rental. See my note for #4.

    19. Cross-country riding season. If you’re crossing the Rockies, even mid October can get dicey. I’ve encountered snow in the mountains three times in April and four times in mid October. If you want to spend time in the mountains (as opposed to simply crossing over them), plan your trip for mid June through Labor Day (early September).

    23. Taking photos. If you’re using a camera that doesn’t geotag photos, use the Trails app (or something similar) on your smartphone to keep a GPS track of your daily travels. When you get home, you can use software like GPSPhotoLinker (or something similar) to match your tracked location to your photos (by timestamp).

    25. Documenting your travels. WordPress is a good tool for blogging and has an excellent app that runs on smartphones and tablets.

    27. Spotty cell service. Jim McDermott speaks the truth. However, even in the most isolated desolation of a Nevada desert, most motels have wifi. Don’t be afraid to loiter in their parking lot for a minute to steal some bandwidth.

    28. Keep in touch with home. There are free smartphone apps out there that will periodically post your location on a map for your loved ones to follow. They may lose you for a few hours through a cell service dead zone, but your missing path will eventually catch up when you get service/wifi. FollowMee is a good example of these applications.

    30. Critters after dark. Jim McDermott speaks the truth again. Many regions of the country turn into “Wild Kingdom” when the sun goes down. If you’re like me and your schedule or predilections tend to keep you on the bike after dark, invest in some serious auxiliary lighting and stay alert. (Having said that, the only animal I ever hit on a bike was in broad daylight. Go figure.)

    32. To camp or not. Camping is all about tolerance, time, and space. If you’re still able to get a good night’s sleep in a tent, regardless of age, then keep it open as an option. The biggest veto for a night of camping is the weather. If it’s raining cats and dogs or the overnight low is going to be a humid 80ºF, you’ll be much happier in a motel room with a roof over your head and reliable climate control. Another consideration is that camping will take more time out of your riding day. If you’re planning days that have you riding into the night, you are better served by getting an inexpensive motel room. If you’re ending the day’s ride around dinner time, you’ll have plenty of time to set up camp, ride to a local joint for dinner, visit a bar to swap lies with the locals, and still get back to your site for a healthy rest. Finally, camping does add to the amount of gear that you need to carry. If you’re bike (or preferences) dictate a very light packing strategy, plan on hitting a motel (or a friend’s place) each night.

    37. Hydration. If your an all-gear-all-the-time rider like me, being wrapped in leathers and a helmet on a hot day underlines, in large flashing bold red text, that you need to drink extra water. Most gas stations that have a self-serve fountain will let you fill a liter bottle with ice and water for free, if you ask nicely. Also, if you’re sweating bullets all day, sports drinks like Gatorade will help replenish some of your electrolytes.

    43. Reading material. I’d also suggest “Blue Highways” by William Least Heat Moon.

    47. Riding companions. If a guy you take on day-rides begins to grate on your psyche by the end of the day, do not travel with them cross country. You may find yourself pushing them off a mountain.

    48. Speed demons. Jim is correct again, but I would add the following caveat. We all have different riding abilities. If your friend wants to be more aggressive on a challenging stretch of road, let them. Agree at the beginning of the trip that anybody in the group can dash up ahead, as long as they’re willing to wait as some point for the rest of the group to catch up (and I don’t mean at the end of the day).

  • http://www.leathermagic.com Danny Yunker

    Did a 4900 mile round trip in September from Charlotte, North Carolina to Flagstaff Arizona. Whirlwind trip since it was part business, part pleasure. Made the trip in 9 days. Not the ideal way to do a cross country, but sure did make my wife and I start planing for the next, more leisurely trip. Most of the trip was on Interstate and rather hum drum, but even so, never boring and still quite exciting for a first “cross country”. I learned a lot on this trip and I have to agree with most of the information here. We only had a day to plan for the trip due to the circumstances, but fortunately, I had already had the bike serviced and new tires, so that part was taken care of. We have done a lot of long trips, so had a really good idea of what we needed and what to expect.

    We headed west via a southern route. Weather was great the first day and a half, albeit a little hot. Hit some really bad weather in Mississippi. Had rain suits, which helped, but visibility was “0” and could only move about 25 – 35 mph. Weather cleared up for a couple of days, but going through Texas and into New Mexico the heat was unbearable. Managed to pack some “cool towels”. These things were life savers. Wet them with water, place them around your neck (I put mine under my helmet) and they will keep you cool enough. As has already been mentioned here; DRINK PLENTY OF LIQUID! Once, I was feeling fine, I’ve never really had any issues with dehydration in past rides, but it hit me like a truck! I felt absolutely sick and thought there may be something serious going on. Pulled over to a convenience store and sat in the shade for a while and drank a quart of Gatorade. Felt like new in a few minutes and got back on the road. I kept a bottle in my lowers from that point on.

    I could go on and on, but, those of you who have the courage to take this kind of a trip…without question, DO IT! you will never regret it.

    • Gruf Rude

      Staying hydrated and protecting your hearing are two secrets to comfortable cross-country riding. The CamelBak rates as one of the greatest inventions in my 50-year riding career. I won’t go on a day ride without my hydration pack.

  • disqus_VzEgqJfnYf

    Chief Joseph Scenic Highway is the absolute bomb. Much better than even Beartooth Pass, which is the next thing you hit going north. Been to a lot of National Parks, for me, Glacier NP, Zion NP and Yosemite are over the top. Yellowstone is overrated, just one man’s opinion. Spend as much time in Utah and Colorado as you can, more scenery per mile than any other place. Myself, being from the Midwest, I slab across the Midwest every time to get to the West, which I am partial too. People in the south are very nice in general. In Texas, on back roads, people on 4 wheels move over to let you by. Arkansas is absolutely lovely. Take tools and be competent at basic repairs. Make your list, pack it on the bike, then take ride somewhere at least 2 hours away to see if your packing plan works. Take lots of pictures and movies and write a log of your trip. Each night, when I got to a motel, I would record start and end time and location, number of miles and what happened that day. You can relive it all later, very nice. I stay in cheap motels, I NEVER give them money until I’ve seen the room, I learned that the hard way. If you get to a town with 4 or 5 motels at a reasonable hour, it’s easy to be picky. If you roll into a town with 1 motel at 10 pm in a rainstorm, your options are limited. I am a planner type so I “Plan the ride, ride the plan”. That means I get up and already have my GPS routes loaded and an end destination for that day. All the thinking is done pre-trip (and I enjoy all that planning in the winter anyway), so I can just relax and ride my route. Everyone is different, that’s just how I like to do it. Just f’in do it, I have taken long solo trips multiple times and love it. Lots of trips with friends too, but there’s something about being out on your own that speaks to me.

  • disqus_VzEgqJfnYf

    The more people on the trip, the worse it will be, too many egos, everything is a vote, harder to find a huge batch of rooms late at night. 4 is my max group size. 1 is perfectly acceptable also. I have never reserved a room more than 4 hours in advance and rarely at all. A by God motorcycle GPS that has “find a meal, gas or a room” feature sure is nice. Trying to make a car GPS survive is asking for complications. I always take an atlas, maps app on my phone, GPS and even cut up old atlases sized to fit in my tank bag map pouch and laminate them, very helpful.

  • Gary J Boulanger

    How about riding across country alongside Neil Peart as you listen to ‘YYZ’ and chuckle?

    • https://twitter.com/thetrickness Jim McDermott

      I dunno, I’ve read Neil’s books and he seems to be the “I want to be alone” type. I’m afraid if I ever met him it would be one of those “don’t meet your heroes” moments…..

  • csang56

    For those of you who have done a trip like this before , should a trip like this be done by someone (me) with little or no mechanical skills on a not brand new bike?

    • Tim Erickson

      You will be the best judge of your mechanical aptitude, the trustworthiness of your bike, and your willingness to accept the unknown risks. Motorcycles vary widely in complexity; stick close to main routes with available balance on a credit card to get yourself out of a mechanical jam if needed. For peace of mind, ask around for a reputable shop to give the bike a once over. Talk to the mechanic, tell him/her what kind of trip you’re up to, and have them show you simple procedures you can do out there. They should be happy to share that adventure with you by lending some wisdom.

      • Marcus Veytia

        Have your bike checked out by your mechanic well before leaving. Also do a close visual inspection to see if anything is loose, cracked or broken.

  • Kenny Gatesman

    Slamming MIckey Hart? That’s not nice, it would be nicer if you plugged Pigpen. I get it though.

    • https://twitter.com/thetrickness Jim McDermott

      Kreutzmann swings and stays in the pocket, Mickey dribbles all over it. But I’ve always been partial to the 72-74 stuff, especially the shows where Donna’s mic was turned down low in the mix 😉

      • Kenny Gatesman

        Donna and Keith’s keys never worked that great for me. I am not sure what they were thinking with Donna, I think it was a package deal. Mickey’s dribbling is what makes the Dead breathe.

  • Ride the Edge

    In 2010, I rode over 23K miles on a 153 day trip from Feb thru July, tracing the perimeter of the US on a 2009 HD Muscle, (started in LA, then headed SE, following the shape of our great country until I got back to LA) then eventually coming home (east) on Rte 66, traversing the country a total of 3 times. Here are some things that may help the long-haulers. I had no windshield and didn’t buy one until 3 years after the trip ended. Windshield. This may be a no brainer to all of you, but hey, had to give it a shot, just won’t do it again.

    Jetboil, instant oatmeal, instant coffee and ramen noodles. Life savers for those rural areas that may leave you sleeping in no man’s land.

    Motels, not hotels. Mom and Pops, not chains. Motel 6 and Super 8 are easy, but M&Ps will often negotiate on price. I usually got 40-60% off of the room after a friendly chat with the front desk worker. The stories you tell leave them awed and they want to help a brother (or sister) out. A lot of times these places will have a fire pit with a ring of chairs on their property where you can meet kindred spirits that have slipped into the travelers underground and can share entertaining tales of their travels as well as share advice that’s been road tested. Come to think of it, M&P everything from general stores to diners. You’ll lose on some gambles, but will win the majority of the time.

    Camp gear- sorry Jim, will have to partially disagree here. I’m not young, old or that hardcore. But a 2 person tent with thermarest pad gives you shelter from the storm, is a cheap alternative to a motel, and can save your ass if civilization feels like something you read about once. A 2 person, backpack/light tent will give you enough room to stretch out, cook, and stow some of your gear out of the elements, if needed. It also packs small enough and can strap to your front fork, if you need to.

    Maps are the bomb. I personally hate the e-versions that require a connection. However, if you’re in an area with service and you need some detailed routes that a paper map may not zoom in on, hook it up with the googs maps, get your detailed view and take screen grabs, in sequence. This can save you a bunch of u-turns.

    Great article and good tips. Thanks for stoking the January riding fire, here in the snow-locked midwest.

    Ride hard. Ride safe.

  • brenpd

    I did the trip back in 2001, (July-August) One of the things I brought with me were two camp fuel bottles full of gasoline (about one half gallon) and kept it in my saddlebag. I never used it, but it gave me piece of mind that I had it with me. One day on the middle of North Dakota farm country, I went to reserve and I wasn’t sure if I could make it to I-94 and a truck stop before I ran dry, (Poor planning on my part) but I didn’t panic because I knew I had those aluminum bottles of fuel.
    Also, I had two helmets… A halfie and a full face. Most of the time I rode wearing my Super Seer halfie, but during a T-storm, I was very glad I had my full face.
    My trip was one of the best vacations I’ve ever taken. 7,400 miles through 17 different states. I’d love to do it again now that I’m retired, I can take more time doing it.

  • 40mmtrsmith

    Ride, check into motel, get up in the morning, repeat. Who has time for reading?

  • Backroad Bob

    Tip #51 – Ride 2000 miles up and down the East Coast, drive a fine automobile or pilot a plane from Ohio to Colorado, ride to the West Coast and ride down the West Coast. The rest is lacking in interesting and twisty (by East Coast standards) roads. In Pennsylvania, I met a a couple from Turkey who had just ridden in from Yellowstone. Her comment was, “I don’t want to see another corn stalk again for the rest of my life”. I told them about the BRP. They said it was the best road they’d found in America.

  • Elsie Ayson Pomranky

    bring first aid kit

  • Tim Erickson

    This summer marks 19 years since “The Ride.” An epic 11,478 mile, 34-state, and Biblical 40 day lap of America. This was the present I gave myself after college graduation, and the person I traveled with remains my best friend today. I can’t count the experiences, but I can easily sum as falling in love with this wonderful American landscape; the destruction of biases; and personal growth.

    It would be a different trip today with technology. I traveled with a 50-state very detailed compact Atlas. I highlighted every road traveled (my tip #51), Interstates and divided highways be damned with rare exception. Our route started and ended in Mpls, easy to Maine, south (via Blue Ridge Pkwy) to Florida, west to the coast. We turned north on the PCH in Santa monica and stayed on or ear Hwy 1 to Seattle. Glacier park and the Black Hills the highlight of the final leg.

    Tip 52 can’t be understated. Blog or journal your travels. Make it timeless. My return trips into my old notebook, accentuated with my print pictures, cannot be replaced.

    Safe travels, all. Any cross country travel, even if only half is what you an spare, is an odyssey. Get to it.

  • clayusmcret

    I highly recommend reading:
    A Photographic Journey Into One Man’s Passion

    US Four Corner Ride – 15 June – 06 July 2013

  • LogicDude

    The evaporative vest is a real godsend in desert-like heat. I learned about it from an oilfield worker out here in Oklahoma, so it already had some cred with me. It takes a while to get it exactly how you want it, but even when still tweaking the wetness and outfit around it, with one I can ride when the weather service tells me it’s 107F outside. I have it under my textile jacket, with a few vents open and it’s great. If I used it with a mesh jacket I would probably develop hypothermia, it’s that effective until it dries.

    At almost every stop, I buy a cold water bottle twice as large as I need, drink half and pour some on my vest, and some on the thigh panels of my partly mesh pants. It’s like having air conditioning, though of course things warm up a little bit before the next stop, as things dry out a bit.

    The first time I tried it, at the start of a 2700-mile road trip, I got it too wet, and riding with it felt a bit like the feeling you get on an unreasonably hot day when you jump into a lake with your clothes on and have to walk around in that outfit for another hour, and so part of you is kind of clammy while the other part is dying of heat exhaustion. In fact it was so wet it dripped into the worst part of the upper pants, so to speak. But when I figured out how to get the vest wet but not too wet, ah life was good.

    You also want to wear athletic (e.g., polyester) “wicking” kind of shirts under it if you can. It works better with a vest and textile jacket than cotton would, I reckon, though I haven’t actually tried cotton to be honest. And I’m not sure an evap vest is a good idea with leather, or by itself as it would just dry out really fast and then be useless.

  • OldGrey n Grumpy

    Great article and much appreciated. America has wonderful unique vision. Have not ridden as my other half is saddle shy but have driven and planning it again next year. After your USA trip, why not come down and try riding across my country – Australia?

    I have done it twice – north to south is Brisbane to Melbourne on coastal roads (the best options) then Brisbane to Perth – east to west across the middle. Lots of desert too but that is amazing in itself and also worth flying over or watching a TV travel doc.

    Australia has it’s uniqueness but if you can get your own bike here would be best, fly out ahead of you as separate freight to your flight. You can hire here as there are many Harley dealers but not cheep. Nat a bad thought to toss around eh??

  • Marcus Veytia

    I read with interest since I am in the planning/prep stages for my motorcycle exploration of U.S. National Parks this year.

    This year, I am on a 1-year Sabbatical and will be spending more time at the destinations conducting multi-day hikes and canoe trips. Thus, I will be packing a few more items for all those activities. (Most of my stuff will do double-duty). I will also be incorporating more off-road riding and staying off the interstates, unless it is necessary. I have broken down my destinations/routes into roughly geographical quadrants, starting with the Southwest in the spring.

    In 2013, as a novice rider (2-1/2 months experience), I loaded up my new 2012 Triumph Tiger 800XC for a trip from Vancouver, BC to Toronto, ON, then on return, through St. Louis and the northern part of the U.S. Most of my travel through Canada was on secondary highways along the U.S. border (if you do secondary highways in the prairie provinces, take extra fuel. Stations are sparse and some are private). I didn’t have the luxury of riding many secondary highways in the U.S. since my time was running out – I only had 3-1/2 weeks. I camped out at national or provincial/state parks except for Toronto & St. Louis, where I have family. Although, I was 59 at the time, I much preferred the camping to bedding in motels.

    It was the best solo vacation I ever had! I was hooked. Again, thanks for the tips and safe and enjoyable riding for those that will be rolling through the American byways.

    3 key considerations for an enjoyable adventure: preparation, planning & safety

  • Speedwayrn@yahoo.com

    The only thing I would add is there is also an evaporative cooling jacket with zip off sleeves. Get the one with the mandarin collar. Yes its more expensive than a cooling vest but it works so much better when your arms are also cool. If you can’t swing the $ then use a heavy weight cotton sweatshirt. The key to using these evaporative devices is DO NOT use a mesh jacket. I repeat DO NOT use a mesh jacket. Your undergarments will dry too quickly and you will become dehydrated very quickly. In fact unless your in stop and go traffic keep all your vents CLOSED. This will allow slower evaporation and your cooling garments won’t dry out in 30 minutes like they do wearing a mesh jacket.
    You lose a lot of water when you have 100+ degree air flowing over your skin.

    The best rain gear is Frogg Toggs. They are kind of like a tyvek material that breaths but is waterproof. Best rain gear investment I have ever made.

  • Luan XMercenary

    Great article!

  • Peter Ballantine

    Great advice in your words. My girlfriend and I took off two years ago and circumnavigated the U.S. and Canada and put a little over 15,000 miles on our R1200RT in 2 1/2 months and had a blast but wish we would have read this first.

  • Gerald Trees

    Ask the locals where to eat, they know the best places. If a local recommends someplace close by to go see, it’s usually a good idea to take the time as locals are rarely tourists in their own neighborhood. If they say it’s good, it probably is.

  • Tom

    Wonderful discussion. I rode from Fl. to AK. and back a few years ago on my 86 BMW airhead. I camped for the most part and recommend it for those who truly enjoy “roughing it”. There is plenty of time to set up if you do not ride after dark and morning pack up and is not appreciably more than leaving a motel. I would get up light the stove for coffee and while it perked strike the tent etc. Drink a cup or two and then pack the bike as the stove cooled. Ride an hour or so and stop for breakfast. Ride an hour or so and stop for fuel. Ride a couple hours then lunch. I continued alternating meals and fuel stops so that I got a bit of time off the bike every couple of hours which helped with concentration to the task at hand. Safe, attentive riding. In nearly 13k of great riding I never had a scary moment. I ride at a leisurely pace and was surprised how often I was passed multiple times in the same day by a rider traveling much faster and unable to view much scenery as a result. Actually not covering any greater distance than I did. I guess the white knuckle pace requires more and longer stops. Allow yourself ample time for your return trip as many problems occur on the return trying to meet a schedule and with proper planning the return can be as rewarding as the trip out. tag

  • Cap’n Ron

    This started out as just a plan to ride the 3,000 miles to New York to visit my dad for his birthday. 85 days later, I pulled back into my driveway having covered just over 17,000 miles. What an epic journey!

  • Hezakiah

    51.You’ll need it

  • William Claggett

    I’ve ridden a motorcycle in all 50 States & most of the Canadian Provinces. I’ve also participated in a couple of the Ironbutt rides. I’m not interested in the coast to coast or 4 corners of the US rides that they have set up. Take your time & enjoy your trip. Two weeks is going to be pushing it for an enjoyable trip across the country. Look at 3 to 4 weeks & enjoy!

  • hotroded

    51 if you can’t get it done on a motorcycle do it in an old hot rod I will let you know how it goes in June 10 days in a 1931 coupe from nyc to Chicago south 4 days then to indy for 3 day party back to ny

  • Gonzalo


  • https://www.facebook.com/lawrence.hogarth.5 Lawrence Hogarth

    Take lots of pictures.

  • Harold John Jurewicz Sr.

    My wife and I have ridden completely around the U.S. on 4 different occasions. The first trip took us from the coast of NC to LA, then up to Vancouver, BC for the World’s Fair, back across to Buffalo, NY and then back home to NC, visiting as many sites as possible along the way. All I can say is get out and see this great country and continent, and there is no better way than on 2 wheels, maybe 3 if you need them.

  • wayne hudnall

    I’m 66years young leaving for California on my goldwing from vermilion ohio on May 20th. Any suggestions?

  • Woodrow Landfair

    A must do!

  • GoyToy

    worked at TWA for 28 years as a flight operations manager……..in addition to unlimited free flights we got free freight allowance. my motorcycle dejour were loaded into many a 747 freighter for trips around the globe several times a year. new zealand and austraila were the cats meow. riding into paris at 3am and seeing the eiffel all a glow was priceless. would fly over a purchase a BMW from the factory, ride it around europe and meet all kind of locals, ship it back “used” on TWA and save 40% off price. those were the days. now I have a ninja 1000 with bags and ride around the catskills and adirondacks as a geezea. you could not get me to go on an airplane now if you paid me……city bus with jet engines complete with TSA goons.

    • Ozzy Mick

      Hey GT, I’m an Aussie, mate. What’s a cat’s meow? Anything to do with pussy?

  • Chris Vorster

    liked your top 50 points could relate to many of them…have been privileged to ride across the states on 3 occasions
    first in 2010 coast to coast Daytona beach to San Fransisco via New Orleans Amarillo Route 66 Vegas and LA
    then 2011 we did Orlando to New York across to Cleveland Chicago Milwaukee YellowStone Salt Lake finished in San Fran again
    then 2013 we did Orlando to Key West then back up to Tail of the Dragon and across the middle Nashvile Kansas City to Denver the Million Dollar Highway through Colorado then Monument Valley Vegas and through Death Valley to Yosemite and Finished in San Fran
    we have booked our rental again for this September and plan to do the South across to San Diago then up to Seattle along the coast road
    we feel major blessed to have been able to do this and now for our 4th time it is addictive

    thanks for sharing

  • Chris Vorster

    my trips combined

  • Meis3b

    I just back from a 2500 mile trip in the Canadian Maritime’s with my wife(on her own bike) It was great. I agree really think long and hard about what you are bringing! We camped some of the time and B&B/local hotel the rest. Met great people!! As far as books…Kindle. As far as music/listening IPOD and earplugs. Stopped every ~50 miles at some place interesting. Tim Hoton’s have great tea!!

    In Canada if you want to draw a crowd pull over and open a map!!

  • McMike

    Just finished this one, and shared this list with the other couple we traveled with. They all replied with a comment about #47


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