I am an Associate Member going through the IAM training programme. When asked by a bunch of experienced motorcycle mates if I wanted to join them on a road trip around the Southern USA, I said ‘Yes’ (which is my outlook on life) and set about getting it done. I chopped in my Suzuki Bandit 600cc and purchased a Triumph Bonneville America 895cc to get some heavy bike experience, I trained for months then left for the USA in April 2023. We had a party of 4 couples on 5 bikes, 3 pillions and one intrepid lady on her own bike.
If you decide to do a USA road trip then it has to be on a Harley Davidson motorcycle and as a music fan it has to be Highway 61 known as ‘The Blues Highway’ (New Orleans, Mississippi Delta, Memphis, Nashville), so we planned the whole route, accomodation, stopovers and logistics and took off.
The trip was planned in two parts, the first part being major music and historical cities, the second was rides through some of the famous USA biking routes in the National Parks of America, the Natchez Trace Parkway, Blue Ridge Mountains and Smoky Mountains.
The route we took is shown approximately below
Land Between the Lakes
We hired the bikes from Eaglerider in New Orleans, three of us went for Heritage Softails 114” rather than the much bigger Street Glide or Electra Glide options, one of the team was a BMW rider and insisted on hiring one of those instead of a HD and the lady rider went for a Yamaha as it was lighter and a lower seat height than the HD’s. We rode in classic IAM group manner when all together, each of us had Union Jacks fastened to the back of the bikes. We each had our own method of packing, restricted to what you could carry in a roll bag at the rear and two saddle bags at the side. Clothing was rationed to tee shirts (one on, one off & one in the wash) plus one pair of jeans, with high viz outer clothing with Helite inflatable waistcoats. After a couple of days acclimatisation in New Orleans we set of for the adventure.
In classic USA style they name some of their more interesting and scenic rides. They have names like Blue Ridge Parkway / Cherohala Skyway / Devils Traingle / Natchez Trace Parkway / Moonshiner / Tail of the Dragon / Dragon Slayer the list goes on. Some of them utilise the old indian trails which have been paved over and made commercial vehicle free, so they are free from trucks, vans and traffic lights with only motorcycles, bicycles and family cars allowed to use them, they also pass through some of the most spectacular scenery in the USA.
Day 1-2 - We started the trip in New Orleans
A two night stay without bikes spent wandering around the French Quarter visiting the incredible jazz bars on Bourbon Street and Frenchman Street, and the impromptu gigs taking part on streetcorners. We added a ride on the Natchez paddle steamer down the Mississippi river, to the Battle of New Orleans site for good measure.
Ride from New Orleans to Natzchez 190 miles on Highway 61 via Baton Rouge
We rode the Natchez Trace Parkway which is mostly flat and straight and is very scenic ride. The route has historical connections to Civil War battle history, as well as parts of the Natchez Trace Indian Trail and slave market. The road is perfect, not a pothole in sight and commercial traffic is banned, it was like riding in a video game. We stayed at an old plantation mansion from the 1830’s called Monmouth House Hotel.
Natchez to Vicksburg 150 miles on Highway 61
Natchez Trace Parkway
Vicksburg is a key Civil War battle city, put under Siege in 1863 by the Union army. A lovely ride with low traffic on Highway 61 and the Natchez Trace Parkway through the Indian Mountain nature reserve and burial grounds.
We stayed at the Bearhouse, had beers on the porch and a nice dinner. Vicksburg is the start of the Mississippi delta, the home of the blues.
Bob Hart – Part 2 next month
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