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!?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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!