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Touring and Travel Articles
Our second largest state (behind Alaska) isn’t well known for its motorcycling roads, but small areas like the Hill Country are hidden gems to explore. As the most liberal and artsy city in Texas, Austin also offers a lively community and some of the best barbeque in the country.
Not far west of Columbia, SC, riders encounter the outdoor recreational offerings and scenic vistas of Lake Murray. Venturing deeper into the state’s hilly Upcountry, bucolic backroads lead to historic sites recounting the state’s pivotal role in winning the American Revolutionary War. Riders also will see the plantation lifestyle, which characterized the South’s antebellum era before the Civil War.
My ears ring from the blast. Acrid smoke fills my nostrils and burns my eyes. That shot was the last of my powder and the Yankees are coming fast. My mind screams “Run,” but I draw my sword. It is March 8, 1862, and I may die today at the Battle of Pea Ridge, Arkansas … or so I imagine as I stand here where it all happened more than 150 years ago. But I am no soldier and these cannons have been cold for generations. My horse, a pearl white BMW R 1200 GS, is ready to explore the backroads and bountiful history of this rich territory turned state.
Cool, moist air seeps from the acres of perfectly manicured greenery as the sun tiptoes closer to the horizon. The sky is already a clear blue and a few mists still linger in the hollow places of the hills. Kentucky waits with open arms.
Irene and I are ready to ride to places only two wheels can reach, to tell the stories of those we meet. Our rugged KTM 690 Enduros have landed in Valparaíso, Chile. Finally, after eight months of serious preparation, we start the first miles of our journey.
I’ve been curious about Michigan’s Upper Peninsula (aka the U.P.) for a number of years. This northern exposure has plummeting wintertime temperatures and lake-effect snow piling high. The U.P. constitutes 29 percent of Michigan’s total landmass, but the unforgiving winter weather explains why only three percent of the state’s population lives here year-round. During the moderate summer months, though, this outdoor paradise begs to be explored by motorcycle. And we’re here to do just that.
Our route out of Rawlins, WY, takes us through the city’s center before turning south and heading out of town. It is a great day for riding, with mostly clear skies and cool temperatures, as we enter the Medicine Bow National Forest. Not far from the Colorado border we come upon Aspen Alley, a peaceful place where aspen trees line the side of the road. Each state we have passed through has had unique scenery, and just beyond the Colorado border, smooth, round mountains are joined by jagged crags reaching up from the earth. Passing through the Routt National Forest roughly 120 miles into the day, we find ourselves on a technically demanding section of road. After a sudden climb, large stones, ruts, and mud demand our full attention for miles. We stay dry, but it’s obvious that it has rained here recently, and the slippery, moss-covered rocks that make up the trail add to the challenge of keeping upright.
With its latest XSR900 model, Yamaha has spawned an exciting sibling from the FZ-09, one with a neo-retro look that’ll make you nostalgic for the ‘70s.
With enduros enjoying a continued rise in popularity for not only their off-road capabilities but long distance comfort, many riders are already familiar with what’s on the market. But Honda’s long-awaited big adventure bike spells trouble for the competition. Carefully planned and expertly engineered, the Africa Twin arrives at the perfect moment to capture the enthusiasm of all motorcyclists. And while it has familiar characteristics, it definitely does things differently.