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Why the hell would anyone want to travel the USA?

For a start, let’s face it the US lacks the variety of wildlife found in Africa and Australia. Okay, they do have ferocious rattlesnakes, hoards of squirrels and a lot of suicidal deer crossing roads at dawn or dusk. Although their microbrewery culture is solid and growing fast, the beers are outrageously expensive, which in my opinion is a human rights issue all on its own.

Then, it’s not an affordable place for long-term budget travellers. A large country without many cheap hostels and/or overland stops. We heard horror stories on social media of whale size Walmart people and areas without Starbucks coffee shops. Can you imagine!?

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Bear’s Tooth pass. Beautiful winding road over mountains between Montana and Wyoming

We were advised to scream “don’t tase me bro” when a police or traffic official stops us. We were warned against gaggles of Harley riding pirates, a scary, unnerving and ungodly sight when passed on a lonely highway. Told to avoid the fast food strips with a drug-induced variety of foods that would beget a heart attack within a few delightful bites.

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Rodeo is an absolute must see in the US

Well, despite all the above, we decided to risk life and limb and travel the big bad ol’ US of A to experience first-hand the horridness we were sold.

And we made it! We can confidently debunk many of these and other myths.

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Small town of Red Lodge Montana.

Let us tell you why in our opinion you should absobloodylutely travel the USA! In the same breath we will offer you a few tips on travelling the land of the free as well as bust some popular myths.

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Grand Canyon North Rim

The first thing that hits you when reading up on America is the staggering range of possibilities. There are few other countries with such a combination of beauty, variety of mountains, glaciers, rainforests, deserts, canyons and beaches. Wacky sports, uncanny friendly and inviting souls, the coolest campsites and wild camp areas, tip-top restaurants and bars. Well-nigh anything you can dream up you can do and see in the US.

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Lifelike American Indian statues in Santa Fè art Canyon road.

Our US visas were to date the easiest to get, and not at all the scary hype people made it out to be. None of the piffle advice and admonitions we received were true. The Embassy in Cape Town with typical first world efficiency took no more than 20 minutes in and out. They even offered to courier our passports back home. We experienced the same treatment when we set foot on American soil and walked through customs at Dallas airport. The customs official asked us a few questions and after telling him we want to stay as long as possible to ride as much of the USA as we could, he stamped us with a 6 months’ visa! To date the US customs have proved to be the friendliest and most efficient of any country we have travelled, by miles.

Hank, our friend with the 600’000 miles GS1100BMW whom we met in South Africa on his Africa trip invited us to stay with him while we prep our American bought Suzuki Dr650’s. Both bikes were bought from one very cool dude, Mike in San Antonio. Both were low mileage late models and well cared for bikes. We decided to buy newish bikes as we did not want to start a multi continent long-term, high-mile trip with our old BMW’s which we left in Europe for future use. The poor BMW650Dakars had a rough time with us traversing Africa and around Europe. With the help of Drum at Procycle and Rick and Todd from Cogent we converted the two bikes to overland specification in no time, chop-chop. Kids in a candy store, type thing! united states-motorcycle-adventure-pikipiki-11

The plan, to take a loop route up to New Mexico, Arizona, Utah, Colorado, Wyoming, Montana, down to Idaho, Washington, Oregon, California, and then into Mexico and down South America. Our only commitment, an invite from Hank to attend the annual BMW motorcycle gathering in Billings Montana, where he was booked to work at the TouratechUSA stand. All worked out well as this route took us through an incredibly scenic part of the US.

We left for Big Bend National Park from Dilley with a beamish look of excitement to explore the land of opportunities. But something was not quite right … It was all too easy, too nice, there was no drama! The type we had in Africa. It was only when we hit Santé Fe a couple of thousand miles later we had an epiphany.

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Camping is a big thing in the USA and they have some of the nicest camping spots. This one next to the Colorado river.

The Americans did not sit on their arses the last 300 odd years doing nothing. They build a country that is comfortable, easy to live in and easy to travel.

Here’s the kicker!

The way to travel the US is to take it easy, relax and appreciate all it’s offerings. There is fuel everywhere, food, a plethora of places to stay and relatively cheapish hotels. It is fairly safe to travel, Wi-Fi spots almost everywhere, REI’s and Starbucks aplenty. Need something? Get drinks in a humongous “drinking vessel” the size of a Jacuzzi. Or buy beer and snacks from a drive-thru and get camping gear in the next town. Nothing in short supply.

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Yosemite National Park is set within California’s Sierra Nevada mountains. It’s famed for its giant, ancient sequoias, and for Tunnel View, the iconic vista of towering Bridalveil Fall and the granite cliffs of El Capitan and Half Dome. In Yosemite Village are shops, restaurants, the Yosemite Museum and the Ansel Adams Gallery, offering prints of the photographer’s renowned black-and-white landscapes of the area.” Wiki

Indulge in the history, culture, spectacular nature and one of the most diverse group of people in the world. Remarkable national parks, wide clean open spaces, wild camp next to clean forest rivers or creeks and enjoy the assortment of museums and attractions, if that’s your thing. Cities, towns and the bucolic one-horseman towns each has its own unique charisma. Road tripping is not meant to be a robust near death type excursion. Although, make no mistake you can easily get lost in some of the million hectare parks and become a toy to a bear. Americans love their comfort, and we utterly enjoyed it for a change.

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Redwoods forest

The small back country towns were by far our favourite.  They still have the seductiveness of times gone by. The chummy chatty people are a treat from fuel stop attendants to characters we encountered in dodgy bars. The bigger cities were easy to get around and most downtown areas are reborn as hip hang out places with coffee shops, independent brand shops and bars serving ice cold locally brewed beers with quirky names. Fascinating festivals and events are all over the place, as I said before…you are spoilt for choice!

26 Comments

  1. Awesome write-up guys, and fantastic pictures as always! And great tips – a few I need to remember also, lol!
    Mike

  2. Great write-up. Harry, Linda, Dave and Linnea Thomas and a few Americans and I did Northern America and a bit of Canada which also included the Sturges Rally – really awesome. We did 7500km in about three weeks! Lots of memories.

  3. Funny Harold told us about that trip and how angry people got with them Lane splitting ?

  4. Thanks Mike! Make your plans ?✌

  5. You should have spent some time in the Eastern US. Everything is cheaper especially beer, food, and lodging.

  6. Thank you
    Too bad you did not call, we could have told you how we would like to go back to RSA

  7. Great write up, you will have to come back for the Sturgis motorcycle rally in South Dakota someday.

  8. For sure! We were on our way there from Billings BMW gathering but people told us if we did not book we are wasting time as we won’t find place to stay. 300000bikes will be there ?

  9. As an American, I was a bit worried to read your piece! What a relief to know others enjoy our amazingly bizarre country!

  10. Americans are cool people and can definitely take a joke. But no BS, the USA is one schuweeet country. You can rightly be proud of your country. ?

  11. Sounds fantastic, and is love to do it but- and some friends of mine have tried and failed miserably – how did you buy and register (“title”) bikes in the US if you are not residents? ? And insure them. I’ve tried, and failed, too, in Georgia….

  12. John it is possible. Not all States allows this but Texas for one does. We bought and registered them there. And we got insurance which was not that expensive. It’s only 3rd party but still okay.I hope it helps.

  13. Thanks for that yes useful info.

  14. I have already commented on the Facebook share but I will comment here again. I agree with Paul Cupp above, you should have visited the east coast and the next time you are here you have an open invitation to visit and a place to sleep, I’m in New Jersey, close enough to NY so you can leave the bikes parked at my place and take the train. Also like Chris May above I was a little worried when I saw your post and thought “oh no” but then I realized you were being sarcastic. I lived in SA from 75 through 85. My wife is South African and I’m from Mozambique, we still have friends in SA and always worry when reading what others think about the USA. This is now my country, I have now been here over 30 years and love this place. I have traveled extensively across the USA by car and bike including all the way to Prudoe Bay, Alaska. I basically agree with everything you say. We do have the quirky laws, things you can do in one state and not in another but that’s what makes this place so interesting. I have friends from NJ that will ride their bikes with a helmet and upon crossing the Delaware river into Pennsylvania they remove their helmets because over there they can 🙂
    When you you plan on coming back?
    Stay safe

  15. Thank you for sharing your journey – it was a beautiful and entertaining read. I did a 6,000 mile solo journey around the western U.S. and British Columbia on my Triumph in 2014, and it was fun to re-live my trip through your eyes. Any chance that photo of Red Lodge Wyoming was actually Red Lodge Montana? If you ever need a place to crash in San Francisco, please look me up.

  16. Thanks so much for the invite and next time we are back to travel the USA we will do the East coast. For now with our currency so weak against the $ it is financial suicide to travel the USA, so not sure when we’ll be back. But we will be back! 😀

    We grew up with the USA is a big bad place. Now that I have been there I can honestly say I can live in the USA quite easy.
    Thanks for the respond ??

  17. Hahaha yes you are correct, thanks for pointing that out to me David. We went through SF if I knew we could have hooked up for a beer. Next time!

  18. Look on ADVrider search for BOM (Best of Montana)

  19. Spent 7 months in North US and Canada. Rode 2 triumphs (2aussies2triumph.wordpress.com). Absolutely amazing place. Plan to return and do it all over again and add central and South US.

  20. Had a look at your blog, really cool writing! 🙂

  21. Paul Narramore

    What an excellent write up. I’ve ridden across the US – my favourite country bar none by the way – twice with my second trip lasting three months and 17,000 miles. New Jersey to California and back. Yes, I did visit a few tourist traps. My wife flew out to Las Vegas and we stayed a couple of days (a couple of days in that crazy place is enough) before we road into Death Valley then on to Yosemite and we went our separate ways in San Francisco. I agree 95% with what has been said. Tipping? I felt 10% was plenty yet 15% is now not only the norm but expected. In Jackson Hole a waitress even handed me the bill with a little note saying that as an overseas visitor, I might not be aware that 15% was expected. Hmm. Alcohol. Many if not most restaurants DIDN’T have drinks licences and asking for the wine list often was met with a shocked look on their faces. “This is a family restaurant” was one response. “You want to buy a WHOLE bottle of wine?” was another. Most stores only sold low (very low) alcohol beer, which sometimes meant a four mile trip to a supermarket to get some good beer. Good beer is in plentiful supply in the US and their microbrews are excellent. One tip. Keep a journal. I used to write in it each evening With snippets of information, tickets and oddments glued in, all useful stuff when emailing home or recollecting on the trip months and years later.

  22. Paul thanks so much for taking the time to add your experiences. Man, I agree you just have to visit a few tourist traps along the way. The better ones are worth the visit.

    We keep a booklet now with all the info, it makes life so much easier afterwards when wanting to write about the trips.

  23. Love the picture on the Sierra Nevada Pass of Tenaya Lake. I was like wow that looks familiar then realized that it’s because it is the background of my computer from a trip I took that way in Oct ’15.

  24. It’s a stunning place, we have sat there for over an hour enjoying the views 🙂

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