By Mike Zimmerman, H.O.G.® staff writer
In September 2015, 24 members of the Belgian Metropole H.O.G.® Chapter undertook an epic voyage across the Western and Midwestern United States. Their story – as told by Rony Puystiens – appeared in Issue 2/2016 of the European edition of H.O.G.® magazine.
In this hog.com version, we revisit some highlights, digging deeper into some of the amazing things they saw and experienced.
“Two black plumes of smoke, dust, and burned rubber shoot squealing from under the wheels of a Boeing 777 when they hit the tarmac at Denver airport. A little later, Colorado welcomes 24 BMC members to the start of a ‘once-in-a-lifetime’ motorcycle adventure.”
Denver is known as the “Mile High City” because its official elevation is 5,280 feet (1,609m), exactly one mile above sea level. It sits just to the east of the sprawling Rocky Mountains.
“In that fairytale-like scenery, beautifully exposed by sun rays that cascade as diffused laser light through holes in the cloud canopy, a wide winding asphalt road lies draped. It appears to be especially for us, because not many souls are to be seen.”
Estes Park’s claim to fame is as the gateway to Rocky Mountain National Park, home of Trail Ridge Road (U.S. Highway 34), the highest continuous paved road in the United States. Topping out at 12,183 feet (3,713m), it includes more than 11 miles (17.7km) of roadway above the tree line, offering amazing panoramic views of the valleys below.
“Signs and sculptures along the way let you know that dinosaurs have once lived here. The sprawling, mountainous landscape fits right in with the image I have of these giants. We insert a stopover for a visit to the Dinosaur National Monument Visitor Center.”
Dinosaur National Monument is home to one of North America’s largest collections of dinosaur fossils. The main attraction is Quarry Exhibit Hall, where more than 1,500 dinosaur fossils lie exposed on a cliff, which now serves as a wall of the Visitors Center.
“This evening we explore Jackson Hole, a pleasant ‘cowboy town.’ After the obligatory visit to the local Harley® dealer, we delve into the Million Dollar Cowboy Bar and take our places at the counter … in a saddle with stirrups and everything that goes with it!”
Jackson Hole is best known for its proximity to the stunning Grand Teton mountain range, so named by French-Canadian explorers for its resemblance to a certain part of the female form. In the summer months, Western-themed adventure activities draw tourists from around the world; in the winter, skiers flock to the area for the world-class resorts.
“Due to 800km (497mi) of paved roads, [Yellowstone] is ideal for touring around by motorbike. Sometimes this is somewhat ‘tricky’; if, for example, a herd of bison suddenly emerges from behind a bend. You cannot but feel awe for these wild, indomitable behemoths.”
Recently named the National Mammal of the United States, the American Bison (often called “buffalo”) was once on the verge of extinction. Centuries ago, millions roamed the Great Plains. Overhunting nearly wiped them out; careful conservation has brought them back. Today some 3,000-5,000 bison live.
“In a sense, motorcyclists are the modern version of cowboys: worn jeans, sturdy boots, scarf against the dust, and insects before the mouth … riding, riding, riding … in a group, yet alone with your thoughts, inhaling smells and colours.”
Some smaller highways in the western U.S. feature long stretches of “open range,” where cattle are not separated from the road with fences. Signs will warn you when you’re entering open range, at which point you’ll cross a “cattle grate,” widely spaced iron bars in the road that vehicles can cross but cattle can’t. Always ride across these grates at a 90-degree angle, as you would a railroad crossing, as they can be very slippery when wet.
“Arguably even more impressive than Mount Rushmore is the colossal statue of Crazy Horse on horseback, with one arm outstretched toward the horizon. The statue is still far from being finished but is an amazing spectacle nonetheless.”
The massive Crazy Horse Memorial has been under construction since 1948. It represents the vision of Henry Standing Bear, an Oglala Lakota Chief who invited sculptor Korczak Ziolkowski to carve a mountain memorial honoring all North American Indians. Ziolkowski died in 1982 at the age of 74, but the work continues by his family members.
“We visit Fort Laramie, a military fortress during the 19th century and an important trading post and a place of diplomatic consultations between the U.S. government and Native Americans.”
After a long and important history as the “principal military outpost on the northern plains,” Wyoming’s Fort Laramie was abandoned by the U.S. Army in 1890. The Fort Laramie National Historic Site became part of the National Parks system in 1938.
“In the evening, the Mile High H.O.G.® [Chapter Aurora, Colorado] joins us at the restaurant. There is conciliation, talk about the operation and activities of our respective clubs, we express our envy about the roads and the climate, which make riding motorbikes here so much more attractive.”
Denver is near any number of amazing motorcycle roads. Two of the most unique are the roads to the top of Pikes Peak and Mount Evans, two peaks over 14,000 feet (4,267m) high.
“After 23 hugs I am suddenly standing alone, with a suitcase that (just like myself) has put on some weight. Back home again.”
The Belgium Metropole Chapter is sponsored by RMC-Classics Harley-Davidson in Zemst, Belgium. Members had so much fun on their U.S.A. adventure they’re already planning another ride for 2017, this time focusing on the Southwestern United States.