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Best of Boston 2009

The motorized alternative

Hitting the trail on a Harley or a Honda
By NINA MACLAUGHLIN  |  July 25, 2006

"Bump, ba-bump, ba-bump." Such is the sound a motorcycle makes when running over jackrabbits on the Nevada highway. So says Max Tolkoff, program director of WFNX radio, and a motorcyclist for three decades. "When you stop, you can smell rabbit cooking on the tail pipe." That ain't going to happen on your Schwinn 10-speed.

You won’t cover 700 miles of highway in a day on a bicycle either. After a long day on the road, says Tolkoff, "most people want to stay in hotels," but there are big motorcycle rallies ― Tolkoff points to Laconia in New Hampshire, a weeklong rally every June, and the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally in Sturgis, South Dakota (this year from August 7 through 13), which attracted over half a million people last year, according to its Web site ("How Do I Get Married at Sturgis?" is among the most frequently asked questions). For non-rally camping around here, bikers often head up to Acadia National Park in Maine, located on the coast near Bar Harbor, with 47,000 acres of shoreline, hills, and woodland trails. A motorcycle-camping expedition to Acadia offers the added advantage of a long scenic drive up Route 1, home to some of the most peaceful scenery and most boisterous commercial strips in New England.

Another popular trip for motorcyclists (and one that works for serious bicyclists as well) involves taking the three-hour trip on the CAT, a high-speed ferry, from Portland or Bar Harbor, Maine, over to Nova Scotia ($75 in peak season from Bar Harbor; $105 from Portland; with added charges for side cars and trailers). Canadian roads are wide open and underpopulated compared to what the typical Massachusetts driver is used to, so again, getting there is at least half the fun. The Nova Scotia peninsula is peppered with Provincial Parks, many of which invite camping. Facilities at some of these campgrounds are relatively primitive compared to the trailer-park support system offered at many US parks, but if you’re on a motorcycle you shouldn’t be fussy. Nova Scotia also has numerous private campgrounds. Public or private, it’s wise to make reservations.

Bikers routinely climb Mount Washington (6288 feet) in New Hampshire just for the rush of making it to the top. The Granite State’s White Mountains contain spacious camping areas (call 877.444.6777 for reservations). Motorcyclists seeking even more remote high elevations simply head west for a cruise through Vermont to the Adirondack State Park in upstate New York, where wide, safe state roads take travelers through thousands of acres of undeveloped forest land.

But it's out West that the real riding happens, according to Tolkoff, who's ridden a Harley across the country almost 15 times. "There's really exciting riding out west," he says. "Everything west of the Rockies ― Rocky Mountain National Park, Arches [in Utah], the Grand Canyon, the meteor crater outside Phoenix on I-40 ― it's so much more scenic."

Tolkoff rides a Harley-Davidson Electra Glide Classic, a touring motorcycle from 1998. "Touring people also use Honda Gold Wings," says Tolkoff, which he describes as "the living room of bikes. It's like riding your sofa." He cites the BMW R 1200 RT as another popular touring bike. "But Harleys," he says, "are the Cadillac ― the Hummer of motorcycles."

Every year, Tolkoff rides from LA to Boulder. Along that route, he travels what's known as the Loneliest Road in America, a two-lane stretch that runs from Denver to Reno, with 50 to 60 miles between towns. "It starts to get lonely around Delta, Utah," Tolkoff says. "And every year I see people on bicycles. Solo people who aren't going to get anywhere for 75 miles. When you see someone on a bicycle on a two-lane highway ― that's balls."

On the Web
Laconia Motorcycle Week: //
Sturgis Motorcycle Rally: //
Acadia National Park: //
Nova Scotia Provincial Parks: //
Campgrounds of Nova Scotia: //
New York's Adirondack Mountains: //

Related: Take it outside, Two-wheeler tours, Journey into hell, More more >
  Topics: Lifestyle Features , Camping, Cultural Institutions and Parks, Culture and Lifestyle,  More more >
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