Two guys motorcycle camping around America in 52 Days, over 26 States, through 14 National Parks, and covering 12,000 miles. This page is a detailed guide to our adventure touring expedition across the United States. Below you’ll find the places we went, the gear we used, a trip report, and photos of our journey.
- Sena Bluetooth Headset – Being able to be in contact with my riding partner whether it was stopping for gas, getting lost in downtown Memphis or joking about the absurdities of the road made this headset all but priceless. Also the ability to stream music via the Bluetooth made the winding roads fun and the long straight roads bearable. Nothing but good things to say about these. Easy to use controls and extremely durable, handling many a rainy days on the road with no issues.
- Rok Straps – For what amounts to a glorified bungee cord, these things straight up rocked. Having a quick and easy in and out system for my camping backpack made setting up in the evenings and packing up in the mornings a breeze.
- Sony A6000 – Before heading on this trip I was debating whether or not to get a camera or simply rely on my iPhone for pictures, and ultimately decided to splurge and purchase the a6000 after some lengthy research, and I don’t know if I’ve ever been happier with a purchase. I’m now a photographer thanks to this camera. I never practiced photography before embarking on this trip and in the few months I’ve owned this camera my pictures have improved greatly. While it shoots incredible pictures in auto mode, manual is where it shows its true potential. From landscapes, to starscapes and everything in-between it handles wonderfully. It is the perfect travel camera due to its small size, relatively low cost, and ability to swap out high quality lenses. This thing took a beating on the trip and held up. Would highly recommend to any traveler wanting to take solid pictures to look back on for years to come.
- Scarpa Hiking Boot – Solid boot that handled motorcycle riding and backpacking equally well. They kept my feet dry and secure through the whole trip. My buddy had a pair of combat boots that soaked easily in every rainstorm and the comfort of having dry feet is something you don’t fully appreciate until it is gone.
Jesse Luggage Side Cases
- Jumper Cables
- Raising Links
- Tire Repair Kit
- Underwear x 7
- Jeans x 2
- Hiking Pants
- Bathing Suit
- Travel Journal
- Chain Lube
- Cooking Supplies (Olive Oil, Spices, Hot Sauce)
- Mountain House Meals x 3
- Ziploc (Important papers, batteries, hard drive)
- Socks x 7
- T-Shirts x 7
- Long Sleeve x3
- Rain Pants
- Jacket Rain Insert
- Jacket Vest Insert
- Extra Gloves
- Quick Dry Towel
- Camera Case
- Cosmetics Case
- Day Pack
Kelty Redwing 50L Backpack
- Alps Mountaineering 2-person Tent
- Alps Mountaineering Sleeping Pad
- Alps Mountaineering Sleeping +40F Bag
- Travel Pillow
- Running Shoes
- Hammock Straps
- First Aid Kit
- Solar Powered Tent Light
- Bug Spray
- Hydro Flask Water Bottle
- Aquamira Water Purification
52 days, 12,000 miles, 26 states, two motorcycles, and 1 unforgettable summer. For those looking for a quick summary and to get back to their Netflix programming, that about sums this little ditty up, but for those looking to dive deeper, I’m more than happy to share.
The story of this trip starts in April of 2015, as I was finishing up my Senior year at the University of Vermont. I’d just about made it through 4 years of engineering schooling and had a job at a manufacturing firm where I had been interning for the past 6 months. But, I wasn’t sold on the whole 9-5, work till I’m 50, retire, then have time to travel thing. I loved my engineering schooling and its endless applications, but the thought of being inside, at a desk or not, for most of my waking hours in my early 20’s didn’t seem to be my calling. I needed more, I needed to see for myself what else was out there. That’s what drove me to go on this trip; that fear of ‘growing up’ and taking the safe path. So, I made the decision to head out in the unknown, and it in the immortal words of Robert Frost, “that has made all the difference”. I debated including this next poem fragment that I’m sure you’ve all heard at least once before, but maybe rereading it might convince someone to do the same.
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
Still not a day goes by that I don’t stop and smile at the complexity of life, and they way each of us chooses to navigate it. Each of us with our own set of rules, values, beliefs and judgements; Working towards different goals and walking along different paths. For me, I’ve found that it is an endeavor far too important to be taken with too much caution, because time is the most precious resource we have. This outlook tends, more often than not, to lead to new adventures, a few bumps and bruises, and a whole lot of fun. Now back to the trip.
This motorcycle camping adventure began as great ones often do, with little experience, limited planning and no schedule. This coupled with the rainy forecast for the first few days of the trip, were the perfect recipes for a running start. I’d gotten my motorcycle license 4 weeks earlier, the timeline for our trip was incomplete, and the rainy weather wasn’t ideal, but that morning, none of it seemed to matter. I made my last minute checks of tire pressures and oil level, did a quick inventory of my gear, hugged my family goodbye and was off. At this point I’d possessed my motorcycle license for less than a month, and now had my bike pointed toward California. I couldn’t help but wonder, “what the hell am I thinking”, a thought that produced a smile and small laugh, as big thoughts often do. I was so unsure of everything I was doing and couldn’t have been happier. Here I was, with no agenda, no plan, just the simple human inclination to explore. I wanted to see it all…I guess I always have.
Luckily, these first few miles were the only ones I would be traveling alone, for just a couple minutes down the road I met up with my traveling companion, Max. Max was the one who had slowly but surely convinced me to join him on this trip, as if I should have needed convincing in the first place. He had been my best friend through four years of college and now would be my traveling companion across 12,000 miles of open road. He was the photographer and motorcycle enthusiast who had dreamed up the trip, while I was the friend who was always up for a new adventure, and tagged along.
The trip started off as a game of cat and mouse on the Jersey highways, evading trucks and the nervous insecurities of the first day of an adventure. But about 5 hours, two gas stops and some parking lot pizza later we arrived at the first “choice” road of the trip, Skyline Drive. Skyline Drive is a manicured road, that twists and turns through Shenandoah National Park, with one way in and one way out. As I opened up the throttle, the KLR’s engine burred and began meandering through the road’s looping turns. My heart raced and for the first time I truly understood a motorcycles appeal. These snaking turns with unseen exits and lofting views were where a motorcycle was meant to be ridden. I then proceeded to chop through these perfect turns with no style or rhythm, that would come later. For now, I was a student and the bike was my teacher, slowly instructing me on how real riding was meant to be done.
Day 1 came to a close at a national park campground about halfway down Skyline Drive, where I gorged on a gourmet meal of chicken fingers and french fries, my go to spread since my Happy Meal days. It was at this banquet where we met the first of many travelers who would help set the tone for the trip, Walt and Sheldon.
This interaction began as we plopped down on a picnic table to enjoy our greasy meals and watched two men pull up on motorcycles. At this point I hadn’t fully understood the connection between travelers, especially those on motorcycles. Had this been a month later, I may have seen their packed side cases, far away license plates, and 5 day shadow, and made the first move toward conversation. But I was still a timid traveler feeling I had nothing to share, and I let them walk by. They made their way to the front door of the general store only to realize it had just been closed minutes earlier. Initially disappointed, they quickly changed pace and took up a conversation with the teenage employee of the recently closed shop with a goal of securing two blackberry ice cream cones. They didn’t demand or even really care if they got the ice cream, and took a genuine approach of two weary travelers who simply wanted some creamy goodness. And with that, the employee unlocked the door, disappeared inside, and emerged minutes later with two cones and a smile on her face. Then, ice creams in hand, these two began to walk towards us.
There was Walt, a small wiry man with a smile that stuck with me for long after his face was gone, and Sheldon a larger man, nearly double the size of Walt, but with a quieter nature. They noticed the helmets stationed by our sides and began a conversation with us about our bikes and asked us where we were heading. We outlined our planned route, and proceeded to talk about bikes, life, family and ice cream. And during the course of this conversation, we were shocked to discover that we were reliving a trip these two had take 38 years earlier. From the route, to our age, up through the general timeline, it was almost identical. They told us stories of their trip consisting of one day of rain (a number we would overtake in just two days time), mosquito infested nights sleeping in construction equipment, a few close calls, and an unforgettable experience. They laughed saying, “all your friends will be sick of the story of the trip. We did it 38 years ago and still talk about it like it happened yesterday”. Just as certain events are destined to happen, with no real explanation, these first two travelers we met on our journey were exactly the right ones. And with that, our fates were set, their trip had gone without incident, and thus so would ours. And after a brief email exchange, we departed, feeling a little more confident and excited about the road ahead, and once again we were back down to two.
As the trip progressed we would meet many more awesome people. Day 2 brought Eleina, an Italian biker chick with a true taste for adventure and a personal desire to help others who shared her vision. She gave us information on where to travel, what to see, and who to talk to. Day 17 gave us the purveyor of the general store at Kodachrome State Park. He treated us to free breakfast and joked about the phallic rock formations of the park, dubbing it Penile Point. Following the trip Max mocked up a postcard of the site and mailed 30 of them to the store. Day 31 brought Doug Sergent, a hitchhiking traveler who has been heading coast to coast looking for answers on the road for the past 5 years following the suicide of a close friend. We sat on the front stoop of a a gas station in Prospect, Oregon listening to his stories for close to an hour. He’s got a YouTube channel here, and is one of the nicest most genuine people I’ve had the opportunity to meet. Day 47 gave us Brock, the rock climbing Israeli who was kind enough to share his campsite at the KOA in rainy South Dakota when my bike chain snapped, stranding us for a day. These are just a few of the hundreds of people we had small conversations with about life, travel, food, the weather of whatever else happen to be on their minds.
After that first night in our tents (our homes for the next two months), day 2 was upon us. Skyline Drive came to an end and we proceeded onto the Blue Ridge Parkway, a 469 mile bikers paradise that winds across the tops of the Blue Ridge Mountains. From there we proceeded south until reaching a friends house in North Carolina where we spent the 4th of July, with fireworks, BBQ, beer and drunken volleyball at Saeeds. We stayed an extra day to regroup and skip some rain, but as soon as we had arrived, we were off again, this time heading west for the first time in the journey. We zoomed west through Asheville, Nashville, Memphis, Hot Springs, Norman, Amarillo, and into New Mexico. Eating savory southern grub that I still have dreams about. Off to the right is the “Hogman”, creator of the greatest pulled pork I’ve had the opportunity to eat.
After New Mexico, with its folk art and towering canyons, came Colorado. Our first stop in the Centennial State was Durango, a quiet mountain town nestled in the gorgeous Colorado hills where we spent the day fossil hunting. Up next came the million dollar highway, a breathtaking stretch of road that sends you up into the clouds; It’s a road that should be on every motorcyclists bucket list. From there we charged into Telluride and then out into Utah where we zigged and zagged through Arches and Capitiol Reef, into Bryce Canyon, and down to the penis shaped rocks of Kodachrome State Park. That night in Kodachrome we embarked on a midnight hike and were treated to breathtaking views of the Milky Way over a moonless sky. The next day we rode into Zion Canyon with its towering red walls and other worldly feel. We then decided to bypass Arizona and skip the Grand Canyon due to a hurricane pushing up the coast and instead sent it towards Vegas. That day we experienced what felt like 100 mph cross winds during intense downpours that tried to drag us off our bikes, and we actually found ourselves still riding when cars were pulling over. It was utter insanity, but ranks as one of my highlights for the trip. We made it through that endeavor damp and dreary, and pushed forward into the Nevada desert where we camped in the middle of nowhere with only the distant lights of Vegas peaking out from the mountains keeping us company. Then came the Hoover Dam and finally, Las Vegas. [redacted]. After escaping Sin City we hit up Joshua Tree and kept the train rolling right into Newport Beach where we were greeted by good friends, surfing and beautiful women. Then up the coast we went! Traveling along beautiful Route 1 up to San Francisco, then out to Yosemite, before heading up to Tahoe, Crater Lake and Bend, Oregon (my new home!). Up to the Olympic Peninsula, a ferry into Bellingham, across to Glacier, down to Yellowstone and Teton, through Jackson and then east, east, east! Flying down interstates stopping only in the Badlands, Chicago, and a few parks before the final stop at Steel Steeds Campground on Sleazy Lady Lane. O what a summer, o what a trip!
To tell every detail of the trip would require a novel, not a reflective essay, but things went hitch-less as far as I am concerned. No one got hurt, no time was wasted, and no Facebook statuses were posted. That seems like a solid win in my book. I met countless travelers who opened my mind to what lies outside my comfort zone and got to see some of the most breathtaking scenery found on earth.
The magical beaches of the Olympic Peninsula, the pristine lakes of Glacier and the towering red canyons of Zion exude other-worldliness. These along with the rest of the National Parks around the country are places that pictures can never fully capture, and need to be seen to be believed. The images of these natural wonders that that arm our nation’s landscapes will stay with me in memory, but even more than that are the feelings from the atmospheres that they produced.
While the national parks were some of the most magnificent places we visited, the tangible aura of our country was everywhere. It stemmed from the different locations, their features, the weather, but most importantly the people. They are the constant that are at the core of the country. We live different lives across thousands of miles, but there is always something to be learned and stories to be shared. This trip wouldn’t have been possible if it weren’t for the hundreds of unnamed gas station attendants, waitresses, construction workers, forest service staff, and everyone else that made navigating the country possible. And to all these wonderful people across the county I would like to give a heartfelt thanks. You made it possible to do what we did. Travel is one of the most genuine forms of education, and you were the greatest teachers.
Life on the road is fluctuating and full of surprises but there is on thing I can promise you will happen on any extended trip, you will think alot; There’s not much else to do. And this doubles down on a motorcycle trip. Riding a motorcycle as opposed to driving a car, means you are in it 100%. There is no taking out your phone to check texts, no quick naps. When you are riding, you are simply riding and thinking. That is all. Riding around the country illuminated a thirst within me to find my place in the world. I spent days with questions like where am I’m supposed to be, and what am I supposed to be doing rattling through my brain; Ultimately useless questions with no good answers. Forms of resistance against making any life altering change. Until one day it suddenly hit me, the future I was building for myself was happening right fucking now. Every mile I drove, every mountain I climbed was progress. Thinking about the future and what options would lead me here or there, and which paths would make me happy or bored was useless. By settling into the moment, everything began to get clearer. For what seemed like the first time in years I had time to try and fully understand my values and how to build my life around them. Life is meant to be experienced, to be in constant flux, not lived as a constant. We all have so much room to explore and to do the things that make us happy and fulfilled, and its often much more than we give ourselves credit for. Out there I had no schoolwork, parties, or copious amounts of beer to stop me from accessing the real me. Out on the road I could examine what was important. In the end it boiled down to good health, strong community and lots and lots of fun. Three ingredients for a kick ass life.
Our country is one of unrivaled scenery, with striking differences between state and often even county lines. While seeing the country by motorcycle may not be the optimal trip for most, and would probably be called ludicrous by many, it is still just one option. For anyone unsure of what they want to do, where they want to end up, but most importantly what they value most in life, get out on the road now. If you can muster the economic ability, do it. Grab a friend, grab a ride, and take a few weeks away from the consumer mindset to figure out what the hell is important. You wont soon forget it, and I will guarantee you wont regret it. But once all the dust has settled, make sure to follow through. Don’t get sucked back in to what you left when you return, or the aura of the trip might shift to lost time or money which are both preposterous accusations. Time is never lost if we are in it, and by living in regret or in anxiety of the future we aren’t fully living. Time is the one thing we don’t get back.
My best advice for the road can be summed up in two statements. First, take it slow, with no inclination as to where you might end up. Some of the greatest things we saw and experienced on our trip were from recommendations by fellow travelers and simply added to the route. And second, Fuck Las Vegas. That is all.
- Get good shoes. For me, having a combination hiking/riding boot that was also waterproof was something indispensable on the trip. Having the ability to quickly hop on and off the bike for a quick comfortable hike was sweet.
- Grocery Stores are great places to eat cheap and healthy across the country. Pop in, grab an apple, a yogurt, and some soup or salad and you’re on your way. It’ll cost the same as a few fast food burgers, but I can guarantee your body will thank you for it. We had originally planned to do a bunch of cooking but quickly realized that we were too tired or possibly lazy after a long day of riding to deal with it.
- Whatever you think you’re gonna spend on food, double it. This might not apply to everyone, but when we were traveling to all these awesome places with different food we found it difficult to pass up more often than not. That was the single greatest miscalculation I made in trip costs.
- Camp for free. You can camp for free across most of this country and we found ourselves paying for campsites for less than a third of the nights during the trip and saved a lot of money this way (we spent all this money on food instead). freecampsites.net was an invaluable resource and had tons of great sites to be utilized.
- Talk to the locals. This might seem self explanatory, but don’t be shy. Most people are nice and many will give you tips that you would never be able to find otherwise.
- Take fun roads. You’re not driving a car, take some detours that might add some time. Most of the fun is in the journey, not the destination. motorcycleroads.com was an awesome resource and pointed us to quite a few entertaining routes.
- Wake up early. Though we didn’t do this as much as we wanted to I’ll admit, you’ll never regret seeing a sunrise. plus you’ll get an awesome jump on the day to add in time for detours
- End Early. It’s no fun riding a motorcycle after sunset. This happened to us a few times, and whether it was riding in downtown Memphis or the middle of the New Mexican desert, it was not a fun time.