This is the first in a series of posts documenting my motorcycle tour of the Wild West of America. Thanks for stopping by. Links to each of the other posts in the series are at the foot of the article.
I don’t remember when I started dreaming about this trip. It feels like forever. LincsGeek and I have certainly been talking about it for several years, perhaps many years. We wanted to explore the United States on motorbikes, see for ourselves some of the places we’ve heard about, get away from it all and enjoy something totally different.
About five years ago we made our way around Motorcycle Live at the NEC speaking to all the motorcycle tour companies and picking up their brochures. We knew where about we wanted to go but were open to suggestions for route, bike, stop-overs and all the other details. We narrowed our options and compared the maps, working out the differences and comparing costs of going it alone and going with a guide. It was a long process (which may have involved a spreadsheet or two), but eventually we made our choice. Then it was just a case of waiting for money and time to become available, until we realised that life is too short and we should just get on with it and make good on our dream.
We booked everything through The Lost Adventure, a UK company that specialises in EagleRider tours of the USA. They handled all our transactions and were our point of contact at home, which made everything very easy and meant we didn’t have to worry about dollars or time differences or anything of that nature until we actually arrived in America. In all our research they were by far the most outstanding tour company we spoke to – passionate, accredited, with exactly what we were looking for. The Wild West tour takes riders in a big circle starting in Los Angeles, taking in some of the most famous sights of the Wild West, such as the Joshua Tree National Park, Route 66, Grand Canyon, Monument Valley, Bryce Canyon and Zion National Park. From there we would head across Death Valley to Mammoth Lakes, through Yosemite National Park, to San Francisco and down the Pacific Coast Highway back to LA. The itinerary was exactly what we wanted – iconic scenery and great motorcycling roads.
You might wonder why we chose to go for an organised and guided tour for the biggest trip of our lives. Why not go it alone? Just fly out there and hire bikes, winding our way through the places we knew we wanted to visit, stopping in hotels we liked the look of, and spending lots of time together on a true motorcycle adventure. Actually there were a number of reasons. There wasn’t a huge difference in cost between the two alternatives – the tour price with The Lost Adventure and EagleRider included the bike hire, nice hotels, breakfasts, some evening meals, all fuel and oil, basic insurance (which we paid to upgrade), National Park entrance fees, all the water we could drink, a support van to carry the luggage, a spare bike (which LincsGeek made use of – more of that another time), and of course a couple of guides.
The only major thing that wasn’t included in the cost of the tour was the flights. After lots more research (and another spreadsheet – all important decisions involve a spreadsheet in our house) we chose to book with Air New Zealand as they had what we considered the best seats for the money. We went for their premium economy fare, sitting in very clever space seats that give loads of leg room and recline in their own space rather than taking over the space of the person behind. We were very impressed with Air New Zealand – the service, the food, the comfort was all excellent. It was rather nice that when sorting our bits and bobs out on the plane a flight attendant came to introduce themselves to us, calling us by name, and handed us the menu for the flight, a nice touch. The flights to and from LAX were definitely the most comfortable long haul flights I’ve been on, I even managed to sleep a bit which is a bonus.
Apart from cost, and more importantly, choosing a guided tour made this trip a real holiday. It was organised and planned, and we could relax. Jeff, our EagleRider tour leader, knew the areas, knew where the next gas station was, knew where served great food, knew where to get great views, knew which junction to take. Jeff, Wilm and Mike, the team who looked after us, made sure there was no stress, no worries, and that we could simply ride and enjoy. You might think just going along for the ride took the fun or adventure out of it, but not on this trip – we’ve done touring on our own, and will definitely do it again, but being able to do this one with a hint of luxury was exactly what we wanted. Adventure can involve nice hotels and someone else planning the route; sometimes it’s very nice to spoil yourself.
We met up with the tour leaders the night before our tour began in one of the hotel meeting rooms – we stayed in the Marriott LAX just a few minutes from the airport and also very close to EagleRider. We were given our road book and our tour jacket (which was a plain black Fulmer jacket with large zipped vented sections with mesh lining), along with some instructions for the following morning, and met some of the rest of the group but not everyone. We actually flew into LAX the night before that to give us a day to get used to the time difference and also have a bit of a mooch about Los Angeles. The hotel was nice with a great breakfast buffet and choice of restaurants; we were put in a junior suite which was rather lovely, I think the guy on the check-in desk felt sorry for us after our long journey.
We hired a car (online in advance to save a few pennies) for our one day in LA and headed to see a bit of Hollywood. We started at the Griffith Observatory where we spent a few hours wandering around the grounds and exhibits and had our first root beers of the trip, and then headed to Hollywood Boulevard to see the stars. A tip if you’re heading that way – park in the Hollywood and Highland Centre, a shopping and conference centre, and get your ticket validated at the information kiosk at the entrance to the shops to park for $2, the cheapest we found anywhere. The following morning we all met up in the lobby at 7.30am (early risers in California!) where we were met by the support van and also a minibus to get us to EagleRider to collect our bikes, which was really our first chance to get to know our fellow riders.
The group tour also gave us something neither of us have had before when travelling – the opportunity to meet and get to know like-minded people from all over the world. Having not done the gap year thing and being very poor at making new friends when on holiday, this was a whole new experience and one that was loads of fun. There were people from France, Germany, Norway, Brazil, Australia, Spain, and some other Brits – communicating was fun but thanks to the language skills of others in the tour group we were able to make some fantastic new friends and we hope we will be able to meet them again sometime soon. Here is the group on the first day of riding – we were a varied bunch!
This trip was about LincsGeek and I riding, laughing, seeing and experiencing – and choosing a guided tour with EagleRider via The Lost Adventure gave us all that and more. I’ll go into more detail next time.
Read the Wild West Series