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Thread: American West Trip – Can it be done?

  1. #1
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    American West Trip – Can it be done?

    This post has been duplicated on advrider.com forums at http://advrider.com/index.php?thread...-done.1219253/ Hoping to reach a larger audience (and one that is possibly more in tune and familiar with the bike we'll be riding, I've also posted here. As a noob, I hope this is not frowned up on and if so, I will promptly remove the thread.) Some might say I've provided an excessive amount of detail, but I think I am probably at home in the BMWMOA community...

    This will be our first major motorcycle trip so I am reaching out to you more experienced riders to determine the feasibility of what we have planned at this point.

    First off, about us. The ride will be my wife and I on a 2016 BMW R1200GS Adventure with the factory panniers and a pair of dry bags. We are in our mid-thirties, both in excellent physical shape. I do strength training regularly and have a physically demanding job while my wife has trained as a yoga teacher and follows the lifestyle that entails. We are in good health, no existing ailments and are looking forward to an adventure. I have been riding for a while now and am completely comfortable handling the bike. In preparation for the trip, we will be doing a few long-distance overnight trips in the UP of Michigan as well as a trip down to TN.

    Our trip will begin in Western Michigan leaving the evening of August 29 to ride to the suburbs of Chicago to stay with family overnight. We will then head West returning home September 12 with work on the 13th. We plan to stay in hotels occasionally, with friends in CO for a night or two and ideally take advantage of Tentspace to save on money. Most of the funding has been spent (or will be…) purchasing the items necessary for the trip.

    A rough outline of our trip: I80 out of Chicago through Iowa and Nebraska, making our way North into South Dakota, arriving at Devils Tower in Northeastern Wyoming. From there we’ll head North and then West in Montana towards Billings to ride Beartooth Pass (which I have heard to be incredible). We will then Take 212 South through Yellowstone and then head west on 191 into Idaho splitting off on 32 to ride along the Western edge of the Tetons. From there we will take 26 over to Idaho Falls and head South on I15 though Salt Lake City down to Bryce, Goblin Valley, Canyonlands and Arches, passing into CO and seeing Colorado National Monument. We might possibly drop down to Silverton but ultimately head towards Laketon, CO where I have a friend we’ll be staying with. Before leaving CO we’ll pass through Estes Park and then either take I80 or I70 back towards home. We’d prefer I70 to see different scenery. Either way, we would again have a place to stay near Chicago if the timing worked out as we make our final push back into Michigan.

    All in all the rough draft of this trip is nearly 5,000 miles averaging 338 miles per day over 14 days.

    Screen Shot 2017-04-16 at 7.06.44 PM.jpg

    We are fully aware that there are going to be some utterly grueling days on this trip and definitely days where we’re gong to hate the idea of getting back on the bike. However, the idea of a real road trip and the experience of actually getting to travel the American West by motorbike far outweighs the difficulties that will evaporate shortly after the trip is done. The memories and experience we will have forever.

    So, thoughts? From those who have done something similar, is it possible? Sleeping bags come with a comfort rating and a survival rating for temperature –*what’s the comfort and survival rating when it comes to mileage on the sort of trip? Can we throw it in cruise and blast across Iowa and Nebraska for 8 hours? Any thoughts about using Tentspace? Other recommendations for accommodations? (We’re hesitate to book many hotels or campsites due to the inevitable flat tire or other holdup preventing us from making the reservation and forfeiting our money. Thoughts/experiences with planning but remaining flexible?)

    For those of you who have made it this far, thank you for reading and I look forward to any wisdom you might be able to share.

  2. #2
    Fortis Fortuna Adiuvat Omega Man's Avatar
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    It's cool, welcome to the forum!
    Gary
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  3. #3
    Registered User ExGMan's Avatar
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    Well, having done most parts of your planned trip in 2012 and 2016, my view is that you'd probably have a better experience doing more daily miles on the beginning and end portions of your trip. Your plan is to ride some interesting rides out west, so see Iowa, Nebraska and Kansas on the longer days, and spend the shorter days in the gorgeous scenery when you've got more time.

    I've had plenty of time for my trips, averaging 254 miles per day for five weeks. However, during some of those days I covered 450 miles. You'll have to move along smartly to get back and also have fun in two weeks.

    I'm sure you'll have plenty of opinions. Nonetheless, it should be an adventure.
    John Gamel
    2015 Ebony Metallic R1200RT
    BMW CCA 2006 - Present; BMW MOA 2009-Present
    Walt Kelly: "We have met the enemy, and he is us."

  4. #4
    You will be riding in many parts of the country where long distances and fairly high speeds are routine. Your mileage per day is very reasonable most of your trip. For half your days 338 miles will equate to starting at 9:00 a.m and being off the road by 4:00 p.m. Throw in sightseeing and an 8:00 to 6:00 day is still not difficult. Be prepared for rain, wind, and even the possibility of snow in the higher elevations. It probably won't happen but be prepared.

    For a trip like that I would plan for a minimum of one non-riding day. So when the severe storms are rolling through the plains you can just duck for a day. It might not happen but allow time to duck.

    On your leg across Kansas and Missouri I would recommend US 36 rather than I-70. It is a much more pleasant way to go and not a whole lot slower. The extra hour is well worth not riding 70. Look at the entire trip and try to stay off the interstates as much as possible.
    Last edited by PGlaves; 04-17-2017 at 03:10 AM.
    Paul Glaves - "Big Bend", Texas U.S.A
    "The greatest challenge to any thinker is stating the problem in a way that will allow a solution." - Bertrand Russell
    http://web.bigbend.net/~glaves/

  5. #5
    Can't add too much to what has already been said, but I will add. The rule [OK my rule] when traveling out west is simply...when ya see gas, buy gas ! Ya never know how long it will be till you see it again.

    Enjoy !
    Ron Prior {AMA member ,MOA member}
    Milford,Oh
    2002 KLT
    2004 Roadster

  6. #6
    FUKENGRUVEN SURVIVOR akbeemer's Avatar
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    A modification to your route for your consideration. Instead of taking the interstate from the Rapid City area to Billings, take Hwy 212 from Belle Fourche to Crow Agency. Saves 50 miles and gets you off the interstate. You can make a deviation and visit Devil's Tower as well. The Black Hills of South Dakota are worth a day if you can fit it in.
    Kevin Huddy
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  7. #7
    #4869 DennisDarrow's Avatar
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    Welcome aboard......You are and will get lots of advice about roads and such and all is good stuff. Just know that you are young, life is long, and you have many roads in front of you to travel. Don't feel bad when a wheel bearing goes out in the middle of Wyoming and you need to loose 3 days to make repairs. Be mentally ready for these things to happen, adapt, overcome, and just laugh about the twists and turns that are going to happen......THEY ARE GOING TO HAPPEN.

    Glad you are just getting out there and just take the trip as the first of many. You will either hate it and cant wait to make the turn around that all trips have, that point when you head for home. Sometimes it's the second day of 20 and others it's when you pull in the driveway. I hope, for you, its the driveway......God bless....Dennis

  8. #8
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    Great trip planned! For an inexperienced tourer, you've done a terrific job of planning.

    I, like most of the ones on this forum, have ridden all the roads you are planning to ride. They are universally wonderful, even the non-urban interstates are nice.

    I echo Paul's suggestion: follow US 36 across Kansas and Missouri instead of I-70. In Kansas, 70 is fine with few towns to get through, not much traffic and not many trucks, but in Missouri the interstate is crowded with trucks most of the time. If you ride on 36, you will be paralleling the interstate, it is mostly small towns and little traffic.

    Have a great trip. Good luck.
    Royce
    On the coast of Kansas
    2012 F800ST

  9. #9
    Quote Originally Posted by DennisDarrow View Post
    Welcome aboard......You are and will get lots of advice about roads and such and all is good stuff. Just know that you are young, life is long, and you have many roads in front of you to travel. Don't feel bad when a wheel bearing goes out in the middle of Wyoming and you need to loose 3 days to make repairs. Be mentally ready for these things to happen, adapt, overcome, and just laugh about the twists and turns that are going to happen......THEY ARE GOING TO HAPPEN.

    Glad you are just getting out there and just take the trip as the first of many. You will either hate it and cant wait to make the turn around that all trips have, that point when you head for home. Sometimes it's the second day of 20 and others it's when you pull in the driveway. I hope, for you, its the driveway......God bless....Dennis

    Just a note here..a broken valve stem in Pacific Junction Iowa put me on the side of the road, on a late Sat afternoon. I met some of the nicest people over that, I'm almost glad it happened. An H/D dealer towed me to a motel free..[his franchise agreement prevented him from repairing imports] ?....since it was not a planned stop, the motel owner gave me & my travel pals a 50% discount....the lady at the restaurant found out through conversation that I like spice cake....she BAKED me one. The tow truck guy knocked 25 bucks off the price , the dealer [that repaired it] invited me & my travel pals to join them in their Monday tradition lunch of Sub/sandwiches & pizza . Then R&R'd the front wheel, dismounted the tire, & replaced the stem.........$31.00!

    My friend Carl said, "with folks that kind, & friendly.....I think I'll sell my place & move here"
    Ron Prior {AMA member ,MOA member}
    Milford,Oh
    2002 KLT
    2004 Roadster

  10. #10
    Quote Originally Posted by royce View Post
    Great trip planned! For an inexperienced tourer, you've done a terrific job of planning.

    I, like most of the ones on this forum, have ridden all the roads you are planning to ride. They are universally wonderful, even the non-urban interstates are nice.

    I echo Paul's suggestion: follow US 36 across Kansas and Missouri instead of I-70. In Kansas, 70 is fine with few towns to get through, not much traffic and not many trucks, but in Missouri the interstate is crowded with trucks most of the time. If you ride on 36, you will be paralleling the interstate, it is mostly small towns and little traffic.

    Have a great trip. Good luck.


    I have traveled 36, actually like it! I believe the geographical center of the America is along there, has a marker....That's a 'must-see'..

    On the western end, near Colorado there is a restaurant that boast's {and I believe it} the largest model tractor collection on record. Might sound 'corny' ? Trust me it is neat to see.......walls & walls of proudly displayed model tractors, most are behind glass. The display indicates a labor of love.
    Ron Prior {AMA member ,MOA member}
    Milford,Oh
    2002 KLT
    2004 Roadster

  11. #11
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    You've planned a magnificent ride, IMO. However, to me it seems a shame to miss Zion and Bryce Canyon NP's in SW Utah. In any case, check out Hwy. 89 from Provo south instead of I-15. As you've probably noticed already, there will be no shortage of suggestions - you may have to start planning for next year's ride.
    '17 R1200GS.
    Priors: '16 R1200R, '14 R1200GS, '13 K1600GT, '08 R1200RT, '04 R1150RT, '05 R1200GS, '73 R75/5 (LWB).

  12. #12
    Quote Originally Posted by sailorlite View Post
    You've planned a magnificent ride, IMO. However, to me it seems a shame to miss Zion and Bryce Canyon NP's in SW Utah. In any case, check out Hwy. 89 from Provo south instead of I-15. As you've probably noticed already, there will be no shortage of suggestions - you may have to start planning for next year's ride.

    Man ! You guys are stirring up many' a good memory. Traveled that route as well. From Green River UT, south through the canyons to Kanab, then on to Four Corners...then 160?, N through Wolf Creek pass . Then caught US50 east headed home......another great trip.

    That said....I don't think there is a bad trip out west...IMO
    Ron Prior {AMA member ,MOA member}
    Milford,Oh
    2002 KLT
    2004 Roadster

  13. #13
    got, got, got no time... rguy's Avatar
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    Great trip! On the return trip I would definitely recommend I-80 over I-70. I-70 from Topeka to St. Louis is to be avoided in my opinion. If it were me I would enjoy US36 out of Denver and then cut north somewhere in mid to east Kansas to I-80 and slab it from there. We need pics when​ you get back!
    Neal - '16 R1200GS / '81 R65
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  14. #14
    I'm intrigued to hear about your planning and trip. I'm also in my mid-thirties, hoping to do Indianapolis to Astoria, Oregon and back in 14 days in late September, which is about the same distance in the same amount of time. My wife rides with me as she is able, but not on this trip.

    I did 2500 miles in 6 days last September, from Indy to West Virginia, Virginia Beach, Outer Banks, North Carolina, Tennessee (including Tail of the Dragon and Wheels Through Time), Kentucky, and back to Indy. The last day was probably the worst, doing about 550 miles, with the last 350 miles or so being one shot interstate home in the cold and getting dark. Overall it was a great experience, and the pace was sustainable for me as a serious but not super serious motorcyclist on an R1200R. I fit everything in the two system cases, although I will take much less on the next trip. I wore an Aerostich with a hoody, T-shirt and jeans underneath. I highly recommend Aerostich. I also used an Airhawk seat, which made a big difference. I booked the first two hotel rooms before leaving, and had a rough idea of the place I needed to be by certain times. The rest of the bookings I did from my phone the night before I needed them, using Google ratings to help me hit a certain quality for a certain price point (and trying to stay away from big cities where hotels cost more). For the most part this worked pretty well.

  15. #15
    Quote Originally Posted by cide1 View Post

    I did 2500 miles in 6 days last September, from Indy to West Virginia, Virginia Beach, Outer Banks, North Carolina, Tennessee (including Tail of the Dragon and Wheels Through Time), Kentucky, and back to Indy .
    Good job. I have completed two Iron Butt Rallies and a 49 State Ride and still don't like long days in that geography. You are almost doomed to congested freeways or toll roads, or winding, hilly (fun but not fast) two lane rural roads and small towns.

    In the west you will find two-lane speed limits of 65 or even 70, and faster in Wyoming and Montana. Towns are far apart and 400 or 500 mile days are fairly easy. In the Rockies things slow down a bit but not at all like Appalachia. In the east the big hazzard is congestion. In the west it is thunderstorms, wind, and running out of gas.

    Plan on a good method to stay hydrated, wear good gear, gas early and often, and have fun.
    Paul Glaves - "Big Bend", Texas U.S.A
    "The greatest challenge to any thinker is stating the problem in a way that will allow a solution." - Bertrand Russell
    http://web.bigbend.net/~glaves/

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