Sunday, August 17, 2008

US 20: Cross Country on a Motorcycle

Here’s an interesting story from the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle that talks about a local couple who went cross country on US 20 by motorcycle. They didn’t go the whole route though; they started in Canandaigua. NY. Still, a significant ride!

Ontario couple uses motorcycle to follow Route 20

Ron and Evelyn Stone of Ontario, Wayne County, had a simple strategy for their trip west this summer:

Follow that road.

In their case, the road was Route 20, a highway that starts in Boston, Mass., and ends in Newport, Ore., near the Pacific Coast.

With Evelyn sitting behind him on his BMW motorcycle, an R 1200 ST, Ron picked up Route 20 on June 27 in Canandaigua.

On their trip, they left the mostly two-lane road occasionally, either to skirt cities or to take in an interesting sight, but generally they were true to 20 as they traveled more than 3,000 miles across the country.

Ron, 64, and Evelyn, 61, arrived in Oregon on July 6 and then left Route 20, heading south and then west to see their son, Mark, 36, and his wife, Rena, in New Mexico.

Coming home a faster route, mainly on interstates, they arrived in Ontario on July 19, having logged 7,500 miles.

That many miles, that many hours of close, wind-buffeted contact, might strain some relationships. But for the Stones, there's no better way to travel.

"I like the freedom a motorcycle brings," says Ron, who has been riding for more than 30 years. "You can smell the rain; you can smell the pines; you can smell the manure."

Evelyn, who left her BMW home for this trip, adds that not only do motorcyclists get to see the country in a more up-close-and-personal way, they also get to meet more people.

A bike is a conversational ice-breaker. People at restaurants and gas stations come up to the Stones, ask them where they're from, where they're going, where they've been.

This was the Stones' fourth cross-country trip, the last being a 2005 trek following Route 50, a road running from Ocean City, Md., to Sacramento, Calif., that's billed as "The Loneliest Highway in America."

On their treks, the Stones travel light, packing just enough clothes for seven days. On the seventh day, they take a break, do their laundry and rest. (On this trip, the first seventh day came in Cody, Wyo.)

The Stones ride between 300 and 400 miles a day, stopping about 5 p.m., as night rides on a motorcycle can be a little risky, given deer, buffalo (yes) and other creatures on the road.

They also allow for "wander time." Their favorite deviation from their route this time was a ride up and over Beartooth Pass in Montana and Wyoming.

But many sights along Route 20 — including lava flows in Craters of the Moon National Monument in Idaho — stopped them in their tracks.

"It's hard to explain how beautiful this country is," says Evelyn.

The Stones stay in motels, often filling up on the provided continental breakfasts and then skipping lunch. For dinner, they try to eat at non-chain restaurants, off-the-beaten path places. The food is generally good, and they get to meet the locals.

The motorcycle averages about 50 miles per gallon, so they don't spend a lot on gas, though they traveled this summer at a time when prices were nearing an all-time U.S. high. (The peak was $4.98 a gallon in California.)

They drove into a drought and experienced no significant rain on this trip. There was still snow in the Beartooth Mountains.

The temperature was 62 degrees as they rode through northern California and 118 degrees in southern California after they moved inland on their way to New Mexico.

The couple is looking forward to more long journeys, including a jaunt to Newfoundland with friends. And they hope to cross the U.S. on Route 30, another one of the vintage highways.

"So many roads, so little time," says Ron, whose motorcycling avocation is also vocation, as he works part-time as the sales manager at Country Rode Motowerks in Fairport.

He and Evelyn plan to give a seminar at Country Rode on their Route 20 trip later in the year. Meanwhile, Ron has this advice to anyone who would follow their path.

"Just go," he says. "Just make up your mind and go."

The US Route 20 Blog homepage can be found here.

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