This month, The Bear gives us all his knowledge to discover the greater side of the USA via America's Scenic Byways. Check out all the info you need to have an epic riding holiday...
I headed out to check out the famous National Parks in the USA. For motorcyclists, the ideal way to enjoy these parks as well as a lot of other wonderful scenery is the American Scenic Byway network, there’s no better way to see the natural wonders of North America.
American Presidents once had the time and the inclination to go camping for a few nights with environmental activists instead of bolstering their ego by showing off secret documents. It was Theodore Roosevelt who headed out in 1903 with the co-founder of the Sierra Club John Muir, to enjoy the wilderness of Yosemite Valley. Having shown the President the beauty of Mariposa Grove, Sentinel Dome and Bridal Veil Falls, Muir urged him to set aside more land for national parks – starting with Yosemite. It took three years, but Roosevelt came good and not only created Yosemite National Park but created a grand total of 148 million acres of parkland nationwide.
Follow the Bear tracks here…
These roads, all over the US including Alaska and Hawaii, are designed to make the most of the land they traverse and are signposted to make them easy to follow. Often they provide access to places you’d never reach by road otherwise, and just as often they are brilliant motorcycling roads.
You can find them easily here. The website includes not only a comprehensive list but also an excellent interactive map. There are five different kinds of byways. The first, and particularly special roads are called All-American Roads. They include Scenic Byway 12 in Utah, a road I particularly love, and even the Las Vegas Strip. Some of them are singled out as Parkways, including the like of the Blue Ridge Parkway and the Natchez Trace.
“Few places in this world are more dangerous than home. Fear not, therefore, to try the mountain passes. They will kill care, save you from deadly apathy, set you free, and call forth every faculty into vigorous, enthusiastic action.” ― John Muir, The Mountains of California
Then there are the National Scenic Byways, and there are lots of those including the Great River Road – you will have read about that here, too – and the Mount Hood Scenic Byway. Possibly even more interesting to us as riders are the National Forest Scenic Byways. These tend to be in less developed country and include such roads as the Great Divide Highway and the Lady Slipper Scenic Byway at the head of the Mississippi. The Bureau of Land Management has its own selection as well with the BLM Back Country Byways, some of which are a bit rougher and more demanding.
The website also includes a listing of a huge number of ‘Other’ Scenic Roads, and these might be the most interesting of all. Among them is one of my very favourite roads in the United States, Bayou Teche Scenic Byway. If you want to see the Old South, and especially Acadiana, this is the road to follow. Mind you, it’s more than just a little complex!
You can see a map of the Bayou Teche road on the website; this is fully interactive. Below the general map of the US there is a list of States; click on the one you’re interested in and it takes you to a map of the State showing its Byways; click on those and you get a general description, length and driving time plus a more detailed map which also shows mountains. You can also click on the names of the roads in the main listing to get the same information.
The information pages also show you some books that you might like to buy and read about your upcoming travels, along with details of how to buy them. And something else makes this website interesting, and useful. It provides free and as far as I can see unlimited access to trip planning software called Furcot. Here’s some of what the pleasantly cheerful site says about itself.
Furcot is “a trip planning application. It’s delivered directly to your browser through magic of the Internet, so you don’t have to buy or install anything and it works out of the box on your desktop, laptop, tablet, and phone… Think about Furkot as you think about your dear, somewhat obtuse, smart – but not street smart – mate (yeah, there are people using Furkot in Australia). Hey, why don’t we go to Yellowstone this weekend, you say. And Furkot says: sure, but it will take 3 days just to get there even if we don’t stop to see anything on our way. Did we mention that spontaneity is hard for computers?”
You can sign up to get continuity of any trips you may plan, but there is no requirement to do that. Looks good to me; I signed up quite a while back.
I should warn you at this point of allowing your mind to be saturated by all of this information. It’s best to go riding with a fresh and clear mind – not an uninformed one, but not a fully made up one, either. John Muir pointed out the dangers in his book Travels in Alaska, where he says “Most people who travel look only at what they are directed to look at. Great is the power of the guidebook maker, however ignorant.”
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