Steven and Clare Hyde US Road Trip
In September 2021 Clare and I once again toured Spain. I failed the mandatory 2 day before travelling home LFT which with the enforced ten day isolation, meant our trip was almost a month long. It was the proof I needed to take a month off work knowing the business was in safe hands. It was time to tick something off my bucket list.
There had been a loose plan to ride across the US West to East through St Louis. For research I watched the Hairy Bikers Route 66 BBC series, numerous YouTube channels and read Good Vibrations by Tom Cunliffe.
We had a few must do’s including the Antelope Slot Canyons which was on Clare’s bucket list, the BBC use images of the canyons for the bits between programmes they also featured on Planet Earth II. Death and Monument valleys, Yellowstone National Park, St Louis, NYC.
When we plotted the route, it became obvious some attractions such as Mt Rushmore were just too far away to be included in our itinerary, whilst keeping reasonable daily mileage.
Although we think of ourselves as relatively seasoned tourers in Europe and I had been to the US many times for work we decided to use a specialist to help us find the right places to stay.
We did a significant amount of research into bike shipping/hire. In the end due to significant problems with airfreight & shipping industry at that time and our schedule, hiring was the easier but more expensive option. After a lot more research we found Orange & Black in the UK, who are Eagle Rider agents and who have lots of franchises including one way hire.
The basic route was San Francisco, Death Valley, Boulder City, Page AZ, Moab UT, West Yellowstone MT, Lincoln NE, St Louis MO, Pittsburgh PY, New York City. There were several cities that were not much more than stopovers, only Ogallala Nebraska was so bad we left early to get away.
We flew from London Heathrow to San Francisco on August bank holiday. On arrival US Immigration was as busy as I’ve ever seen and when we eventually completed the formalities some of our luggage had been removed from the carousel, some was on it and some was missing. Our Apple airtag confirmed the BMW softbag was in the terminal. I filled in the necessary forms then took a 20 minute taxi ride to our first B & B, which on arrival was unlit and looked closed. Luckily another guest phoned the innkeeper and let us in. The missing luggage turned up two days later.
We really enjoyed our four nights in San Francisco although the B & B was too close to the Police and Fire stations, so the traffic was noisy. The highlights were riding the cable cars, seeing Lombard Street and visiting Alcatraz, where we learnt a lot about native Americans. 2nd September I took a taxi to Eagle Rider and collected the BMW R1250RT. It was important to have an RT as we had a tank bag and pannier liners, I wasn’t having a Harley !
The weather up to that point had been a comfortable 24 C, on our first day we rode to Bakersfield CA, where they had a record breaking, for that date 44 C. We were really pleased our first hotel was air conditioned and had guest laundry.
The next day we rode through Death Valley, until a couple of weeks before this had been closed due to floods and debris on the roads the main I90 road had dried sand/mud in places and extra care was needed at times. The temperature was scorchio in the extreme at 50 C (122 F) our right hand sides were burning even in our summer riding gear, aptly named places such as Stovepipe Wells and Furnace Creek. 291 miles to Pahrump was almost certainly the toughest ride of the entire trip. The extreme heat was to last for many more days.
One of my highlights was to see the Hoover Dam, originally called the Boulder Dam, we stayed at the disappointing Boulder City Hotel, although the museum in the same building was good. We liked Boulder City, even though the heat was unbearable we left the visit as late as possible.
Clare had insisted that the Antelope Slot Canyons was non-negotiable. We stayed two nights at Bears Den in Page AZ, this turned out to be the best B & B of the trip. We had a Navajo tour guide booked for the following day and it was unbelievably good. We visited the Upper & Lower Antelope Canyons and have 100s of photos. Clare took her dslr camera with only one lens, a small wide angle. It did a great job.
On the ride to Moab we rode through Monument Valley, which really does look like the Roadrunner Cartoon and where we stopped at Forest Gump Hill for this photo.
Both Moab and Salt Lake City were great even if the hotels were poor. At Idaho Falls we eventually bought a US phone as ours often didn’t have data and there were times with long gaps between filling stations. We also started to leave the Interstates and use the highways, which were much more enjoyable with restaurants/shops that were not chains. In Kearney NE, we eventually found the best Barista Coffee shop, in the US.
Yellowstone National Park was another highlight, Clare saw a bear (I didn’t) but we both saw eagles and Bison/Buffalo, apparently, they are the same. We also saw numerous hot springs including Old Faithful who managed an impressive 165 ft spurt and the prismatic springs. The hotel was at best average, two days in the National Park was not enough, we also rode through the Grand Teton National Park, which was on our route to Riverton but didn’t know it.
Next up was four days with friends near St Louis, they took us to a major league baseball game, visited the gateway arch but the highlight was seeing them all.
We saw lots of Police Cruisers when riding, but in Pittsburgh we saw a “hard” stop with guns and shouting. We also visited the Andy Warhol and Heinz museums, the latter being very disappointing.
The myth that speed limits are all 55 mph, is just that, we rode motorways with 80, 75, 70, 65 mph limits. Undertaking works well, but filtering is only permitted in two states.
The penultimate riding day took us from Pittsburgh to Harrisburg passing close to the site of the United Airlines Flight 93 memorial and the site of the infamous 911 plane crash in Somerset County, PA. It was also the only day it rained. We arrived at Harrisburg, tired and wet and was the only time we had a delivered meal, Clare washed and dried all our clothes for the final time.
During the last days ride to Newark, I started to feel a bit emotional, 4,200 miles across the US and a bucket list item ticked off. There was a bit of a panic when we arrived on schedule at Eagle Riders dealership, and they were closed. Numerous phone calls to the UK, Los Angeles and San Francisco whilst we ate only, I eventually told eagle Riders there was no chance whatsoever of me riding the bike to Staten Island. They agreed I could hide the bike and stash the keys for someone to collect later.
We phoned a local cab, and they whisked us off to our NYC hotel just off Broadway. After four days of sight-seeing, walking, a show and lots of restaurants our adventure was over and our return flight from Newark to LHR beckoned.
Although we had asked for boutique hotels, the chains were by far the best, everything worked, rooms were spotless, many had swimming pools and guest laundry. Almost all had no restaurant, and the breakfast was poor.
If anyone wants to know anything or see a few of the photos do let me know and I will be happy to share.
Steven will be giving us a presentation at one of our monthly meetings early next year.