by Melissa Hayman
Soaring peaks, rolling plains and the romantic roadside diner is the stuff of dreams for the All-American biker who takes to the open road and revs up their Harley for an adventure of a lifetime. For some, it’s a poetic pastime – for others, a culture and lifestyle all on its own which drives their everyday mantra. The vast landscape of the rugged American outdoors is too wild and seductive to resist, driving an appeal which reaches beyond the coast and across the sea to the throngs of British bikers who make their pilgrimage to the New World for some tire-treading story-making. Centuries after “finding” America, Brits still can’t get enough of this glorious country.
The Brit Invasion
Route 66, the exalted Chicago to Santa Monica journey is a definitive draw for British bikers who find themselves living out the lyrics of the Nat King Cole classic. But it ain’t the only one. Expats and explorers alike covet the hardened dirt and tar from coast to coast. Enough British bikers have traversed the territory and ingrained their own native heritage of the motorbike to merit anticipated events like the British Biker Co-op Rally and Show in southwestern Wisconsin in July this year, featuring the best of British engineering and craftsmanship and welcoming folks from across the board. Without a doubt the influx of Brits on the bike scene has revved up parts industries and diversified the art of the motorcycle, whether it’s designing or driving – not to mention the excess of British-style pubs that adorn both city and small town.
Prepare for the Trip of a Lifetime
The beauty of the States is that while massive in scale, it doesn’t have to be overwhelming. Long-distance and short-distance riders alike can choose their destination and when budgeting right, can hang around any joint they fall in love with and meet fellow Brits and Americans. It doesn’t have to be a first-class convention, either – bikers love to socialize, and pubs, diners, and larger cultural meccas are optimum meeting grounds.
For Brits seeking that long-awaited ride of a lifetime, they have a few things on their side when journeying across the US – well-maintained and easily navigated roads, endless opportunities, friendly people, welcoming rest-stops, excellent food, and a rich and evolving bike culture. Thanks to visa waivers, Brits have up to three months to fill their dreams before needing to apply for a visiting visa, leaving only health care and driving permits to reckon with. And whether it’s a chopper or a tourer, getting equipped with the right road kit and coverage is fortunately easily done as well. The only thing left to do is figure out where to have that first famed grilled-to-perfection steak.
Getting’ their Kicks
When the leather-clad road warriors of the British countryside have done it all – the Peaks, the moors, the coastal gems – they know that the ultimate epic lies across the pond in the legendary route that spans over 2,000 miles that has made its way into song and literature countless times. Billy Connolly’s ever-popular Route 66 reflects a fascinating travel trend where the old world folks recapture the sense of amazement in the relatively unscathed beauty of the new frontier, placing the audience in the driver’s seat at they set to discover the iconic culturescape of Americana against the backdrop of desert sunsets and vintage gas stations. Winding through stops like Amarillo, Los Angeles, Saint Louis, Oklahoma City, the “Main Street of America” beckons.
If the sweet aromas of mountain laurel and southern-fried chicken appeal, then take a spin through the breathtaking Appalachian Mountains along a 770 mile route from Virginia to North Carolina. The misty peaks of the of the Great Smoky Mountains, the bustling tourist hotspot Gatlinburg, Shenandoah National Park and several other enticing deviations call out on Highways 28, 360, 72 and more, revealing the most magnificent of the Blue Ridge backcountry and the festive lifestyle associated with it. For the bold of heart, the 50 mile Sun Road in Montana’s Glacier National Park is an adventurous meandering through rocky ridges and jagged peaks overlooking the great Midwest landscape.
Many Brits savor the prospect of venturing to see one of the planet’s most diverse and distinctive landscapes, Yellowstone National Park. Making a daring ascent into the heavens at more than 10,000 feet at the Pass in Wyoming, the Beartooth Highway traverses the best of the glaciers, waterfalls and forests of the Northern Rockies. A little on the warmer side, the River Road connecting the stretch of Chihuahua desert and its mountains, canyons and Valley of the Gods is another good run that bikers will crave to fit into their itinerary.
According to hardcore gurus Lonely Planet, the best spots to check out the abundant coastline wilderness both east and west start with Coastal Highway 1 from Kittery in Maine and its trail of lighthouses rendered as if out of a painting. Basking in the balmy breeze, Florida’s Overseas Highway from Key Largo to Key West ushers in deep azure blues, blissful beaches, succulent seafood and flocks of British tourists both on and off the bike who love to visit the Sunshine State. Across a few thousand miles, and the Pacific Coast Highway gives all of this and more – luxurious rest-stops, rising redwoods and the vibrant metropolises of Seattle, San Francisco and San Diego.
Truly ambitious bikers can embark on their own legacy by taking on the USA Four Corners Tour – covering the key destinations like San Ysidro (California), Blaine (Washington), Madawaska (Maine) and Key West (Florida) in 21 days. Despite the scope of the journey, 21 days is leisurely enough to get side-tracked and explore some of the lesser-known regions or drop by a town fair and take in the essence of American rural and urban culture. The historic sites of New England and its rich colonial past where America laid its foundations will resonate, as well as the vintage allure of the ever-evolving American Dream.