The November/December 2007 issue is instantly available digitally including all articles, maps and GPS files.
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Touring and Travel Articles
Arriving in the city of Bismarck after driving through the grasslands of North Dakota for a couple of days is a slight shock to the system. And though it only has a population of 55,000, Bismarck's big streets and noisy traffic are as far removed from the quiet solitude of the prairie as one can get in these parts. All of a sudden I have to pay attention to traffic lights and cars again.
Smoky Mountain roads are quiet places, especially in the morning. Turn off the key and listen. Beneath the engine's cooling ticks, the subtle sounds of nature close in. The ever-present breeze dances with leaves above the clear streams tumbling from ancient mountains. Birds and crickets call, then answer. The grass sways. And above it all, clinging valiantly to the treetops, the night's foggy shroud is slowly pulled apart in the morning sun.
"Glenlivet it has castles three,/ Drumin, Blairfindy and Deskie,/ And also one distillery,/More famous than the castles three!" It's not Glenlivet we're visiting on our Edelweiss Royal Tour of Scotland, but tiny Cardhu in the village of Knockando on the River Spey. The tour buses have disgorged at the famous Glenlivet, just down the road, while Emma, our kilted guide, takes our small party around Cardhu's nineteenth-century distillery.
Long Island, in geological time, was born yesterday. Glaciers that created this 120-mile long, fish-shaped pile of rock and sand began retreating some 22,000 years ago. Sea levels rose in concert with the thaw, completely encircling the land mass 11,000 years later. Today, it's one of the most densely populated areas in America, home to more than 7.5 million people, and Suffolk County, in the easternmost section, is now the recreational playground of choice for many affluent New Yorkers.
Year to year, under normal conditions, most riders don't contemplate getting very much riding in on the trails in Colorado and Utah after September. But for my Canadian friend Jeff Sherren and me that couldn't be helped, and it was already October by the time we started rolling toward the hazardous trails in the Rockies on a BMW R1200 GS and a KTM 950 Adventure.
Our crossing from Maine into New Brunswick was quick and easy. We only had to stop long enough to answer one question: "Do you have any alcohol with you?" We had some wine and beer on board, but since the tight spaces on motorcycles are seldom thought to yield huge quantities of that sort of contraband we were waved through in the blink of an eye. Welcome to Canada!
Kawasaki could write the book about playing the tease. For most of 2007, they coyly titillated the motorcycling world with hearsay about their long-anticipated replacement for the venerable Concours. Rumored release dates, tantalizing photos, and thinly veiled specs fluttered by, and each tidbit hinted at a machine that would share the DNA of the mind-numbingly fast ZX14. With all of the winking and nudging that was going on, Team Green obviously had something up its sleeve.
I've had the privilege of riding some of the finest creations the motorcycle industry has to offer. Everything from low-slung American customs, the fastest Japanese sportbikes, and exotic European models have all left their own indelible marks. But of all the machines I've ridden, none of them can steal a scene or draw a crowd the way the Vegas Jackpot will.
Finding interesting, new roads on the map is one of life's great treasure hunts. Poring over the topos, looking for previously unnoticed grey lines rife with squiggles is a quest that pays touring dividends time and again. But even the best research can run afoul of the facts. How many times have you ended up miles into your great new twisty discovery and, bang, the dreaded "Pavement Ends" sign appears?
The burgeoning supermotard class of motorcycles offers a sizzling blend of motocross and road-racing designs that can be devastatingly quick on a twisty back road. If you've never experienced a 'motard, think of riding a big dirt bike on steroids, with lots of power, sticky street tires and great brakes - you've got the idea.