As featured in H.O.G.® Magazine Issue 038

Renowned photographer Carlan Tapp is one of those guys who really doesn’t care for interstates. Give him two weeks, two wheels, and two lanes, and he couldn’t be happier. He has a passion for what he calls “blue highways”: the smaller roads on the map that often take you through forgotten or overlooked parts of this beautiful country.

In September, Carlan took a journey down U.S. Route 93, a long and peaceful road that runs through Arizona, Nevada, Idaho, and Montana. Carlan wrote about his most recent blue highway adventure in H.O.G.® issue 038. And we’re proud to share some additional photos and insights here.

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Day 1 — Hot Weather Tips

“Temperatures upward of 106 degrees. Rode 40 miles. Drank a bottle of water. Rode 40 more miles. Drank another bottle of water.”

Even with autumn approaching, Arizona in September can get pretty freakin’ hot. Here Carlan follows the number one hot weather riding tip: Stay hydrated! And take frequent breaks. Other hot weather words of wisdom include:

  • Cover Up. A light, long-sleeve shirt keeps the sun off your skin and helps slow moisture loss.
  • Wear Sunscreen. Your face, the back of your neck, and the space between your sleeves and gloves are particularly vulnerable to burning.
  • Soak Your Head. Water is your friend, in more ways than one. A wet bandana on your head or neck – or even a wet t-shirt on your back – can help keep you cool (temporarily) in extreme conditions.
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Day 2 – Joshua Tree

“Morning light illuminated the ancient Joshua trees along the road – a forest of prehistoric beauty. A native to the Southwest, the Joshua tree is a yucca that grows as a tree and has clusters of spiky leaves.”

The Joshua tree is indeed a rare and beautiful gem of the American Southwest. Not too far from Carlan’s route on Highway 93 – a short day’s ride west on Interstate 10 – is Joshua Tree National Park. Covering nearly 800,000 acres of California desert, it offers some unique riding opportunities. And is also notable for being near Coachella Valley, site of one of the largest annual music and art festivals in the U.S.

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Day 5 – Pony Express

“Leaving Ely, a sign read next gas 124 miles. Rode next to the old Pony Express route just north of McGill. Metal sculpture of rider and horse sat out on the landscape.”

Ely, Nevada was founded as a stagecoach station along the original Pony Express Route. Today it sits at the junction of two historic roads: Highway 93 and U.S. Route 50, also known as the “Loneliest Road” due to the remoteness of some stretches. The Pony Express, of course, was a system of horseback mail delivery that achieved legendary status in just two years of operation, 1860-’61. To read more about the men who made it happen and riding the Pony Express Trail, check out this article, “Express Delivery,” in the very first issue of H.O.G.® magazine.

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Day 6 – Craters of the Moon

“Volcanic outcropping began to appear along the road. Approached Craters of the Moon National Monument – three major lava fields and about 400 square miles of sagebrush. The lava fields are open rift cracks. They include some of the deepest known on earth at more than 800 feet deep.”

As suggested by the name, Craters of the Moon National Monuments features one of the most unusual landscapes you’ll find anywhere in the U.S., the result of thousands of years of volcanic activity. It currently covers some 618 square miles – and it’s not done growing. A recent example of the region’s ongoing geological activity was the 1983 Mount Borah earthquake, during which Mount Borah, the highest point in Idaho, got about a foot higher.

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Day 9 – Cold Weather Tips

“Woke this morning to 34 degrees. Black ice melted, pass clear. Felt good to be back on the road, but riding at 34 degrees is cold. Hadn’t gone two miles before wishing I’d packed long johns.”

As you would expect, an 1,800-mile ride from the bottom of Arizona to the top of Montana features some wide temperature swings. “Forgetting” to pack long underwear is not a bad way to go when packing space is tight, as you can always buy some along the way if needed. Other cold-weather riding tips include:

  • Block the Wind. Full-face helmets, fairings/windshields, and lower fairings all help keep the wind from blowing away precious body heat.
  • Dress in Layers. Wear clothing you can easily peel away as the weather warms (or add to as the sun goes down).
  • Heated Gear. Heated jackets, vests, gloves, and other electrified accessories.
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Day 10 – Glacier National Park

“Pulled into Kalispell and one huge traffic jam. Whoa. Found out most folks were headed for Glacier National Park.”

If Carlan had the time, he likely would have enjoyed taking on Going to the Sun Road in Glacier National Park. This spectacular mountain road goes up, over, and through Logan Pass (6,646 feet), one of the most beautiful mountain passes in America. One big potential challenge, however, is traffic. The road is extremely popular with four-wheeled tourists, so pick a time (early in the morning is good) when traffic is more likely to be light.