F I N E   H Y D R O C A L   C A S T I N G S   B Y   C.   C.   C R O W    
  P.   O.   B O X   1 4 2 7         M U K I L T E O,     W A     9 8 2 7 5     U S A    


A-48, Arches National Park, the perfect campsite.

The Fine Art of Motorcycle Touring

   My Philosophy

A Month, a Week and a Few Days

by C. C. Crow

A bunch of the guys I grew up with bought motorcycles in high school or quickly thereafter. Our "gang" would roll over the twisting Connecticut countryside on our way to the DQ, beach, work, friends, or cliff diving at one of the nearby reservoir. We were harmless hellions with big smiles on our faces. We knew how to have fun.

The southwest or California was the ultimate destination. The golden sunsets, the beach, the girls. The west coat dream. Occasionally someone would actually make it, for a few weeks on family vacation, or go there to school. My friends would always talk about it. Or other far off destinations.

Two of our friends, Seadog and Condo, in their senior year decided they wanted to be different. They wanted to go cross country, but to Alaska. Oh, and they wanted to do it on their motorcycles. We all thought they were crazy and would never do it.

They kept talking about their plan, take six weeks, visit all these great places along the way. After a while it sounded great to me and the other kids in our gang. It would be great to go along. Of course you sort of needed a motorcycle to do that. So we simply listened to their plans and dreamed about how great it would be.

These guys were actually serious. After graduation, they took summer jobs and saved up for their trip. We'd listen to thier grand plans. It sounded cool but actually doing it. A trip to New Hampshire was one thing but Alaska, come on. Let's have another beer. But they kept talking about it.

Reality set in however and the plan began to shrink. Not the destination but the time frame. Both of them were skiers, and well, you needed extra dough to be skiers, and the cost of the trip, well, they needed to make more money so week by week they kept working and working. Finally, it got down to just two weeks. Forget it you guys, let's go drink some beers at the Bridge Grill. But to our surprise they quit their jobs and off they went, a mad dash all the way across the country, tag the lower southeast corner at Hyder (I still have the postcard they sent to prove the feat), and then race back. Yes, they were totally nuts. But they did have this wonderful experience, something we poor mortals could only imagine if we drank enough beer. We were in awe.

Still, it was just nuts. What a waste. We would shake our heads. "If I were doing it..." They were chased by rain the whole way. Condo even broke the frame of his bike. No man, I'd take my time. I'd want to see all those wonderful things they had talked about in the original plan. Do through Colorado and up the spine of the Rocky Mountains. That's what I wanted to do. Not ride and ride and ride, get a shot of whiskey and be "Hyder-ized", then race all the way back. But they did it and we were impressed.

It would be a few years until I could prove my theory. At the time all I had was a Honda 450. Great for around town and few day trips. I took it to college in Syracuse. I took it to our family vacation on The outer Banks, but that was about it's range. After moving with my parents to Seattle I bought the perfect touring machine, a BMW twin. A month, a week and a few days became a reality. And forget the coast to coast. I was already there! Foreget riding day after day. Spend forty days circling the west, pitch a tent for a few days, kick back and relax. Now that's a motorcycle trip! One worth taking, and worth bragging about if you have to. It's more than that, it is a philosophy.

The Grand Tour

The idea of a grand tour solidified in 1981 for me. The year before some of my friends from Connecticut, Rooti and Frank, were coming out west to Colorado to visit Condo and Seadog who had settled there. They would ride across on their motorcycles and wanted me to come meet them. They only had three weeks so they'd have to jet. Colorado would be the rendezvous point. My poor little Honda 450 was worn out so I decided to drive my 1969 Datsun Roadster. With the top down and the tape deck blairing it wasn't a bad a way to travel- almost like riding a bike. Well, almost...

To make it interesting I went across to Glacier National Park, down to Yellowstone and the Tetons, and then Mt. Rushmore on the way. In Colorado we visited with our pals up near Golden and had a great time riding around and hiking in the mountains. It was like the old times again, racing from here to there. We could have stayed there another but Frank had set making it to Las Vegas as the ultimate goal. All the guys back home would think he's a pussy if he didn't make it. So we said good-bye to Seadog and Condo I followed Frank and Rooti across Utah to Las Vegas, their ultimate destination, where we continued to party. Then they were out of time and had to jet back.

Looking back I have to laugh, we just didn't know any better. Utah was just a place on the map that the interstate crossed. Places like Arches, Bryce and Zion National Parks were just unknown places on the map, still left to be discovered. We spent the night under an underpass for an exit for Zion. Zion, that's one of those religious morman places, right? We didn't have a clue. Frank was simply drawn to the lights and glitter of Las Vegas like a moth to light. Who cared what laid between way out here in the empty desert, out in the middle of no where?

Las Vegas was fun. Especially cruising the strip in my little sports car and watching the lights turn on. Wow. My moth wings were flapping. After the party was over I headed home via California. My friends had to sadly turn back, race like crazy home. Yhat must have been something. I on the otherhand had plenty of time. It was my first trip through California. I passed through Death Valley, Yosemite and Crater Lake. What great discoveries. What treasures. Camping out, cruising through these places, enjoying. All I had to do was add a motorcycle and I'd be in heaven.

The next year, 1981, Rooti moved to Sunnyvale, California which put us within range of joint motorcycle tours. Only I needed a motorcycle so in a moment of sever bike fever I found myself writing a check for a (new) 1979 BMW R100S boxer twin. Candy apple red on a black frame. Sweet! I still ride the same bike today with over 100,000 great miles behind me.

Originally, Rooti and I had planned a trip in July but he had to cancel due to his new job. I wound up breaking in my new motorcycle with a solo trip up into British Columbia and the Canadian Rockies. We had to wait till October the next year when we got together for a quick little introductory trip visiting Yosemite, Death Valley, Vegas, Zion and Bryce. Rooti only had a week off but it was enough to give us a taste. A very sweet taste. We began planning our next trip before this one was even half over.

We knew we needed more time, at least a month. We would take our time. Being both on the west coast we wouldn't have to waste half of it just getting out there. The map was full of places to discover. And rediscover. The stuff in southern Utah, Zion and Bryce, was full of weird sandstone formations and crazy cracked canyons. Places like the Grand Canyon, Yellowstone, the Tetons all beckoned. Visit our friends in Colorado again! Maybe a month wasn't long enough. How about two?

In 1983 it all came together. In early June I rode down to Sunnyvale to meet up with Rooti. One of his friends from work, Steve, a technision came along. Somewhere along the line it became dubbed "The Stray Cat Tour". The band by that name played often in Rooti's little boom-box.

Monument Valley.

Rooti contemplates his next move

From playing Moon Patrol in Sunnyvale we moved up to Yosemite and worked our way eastward, stopping in Death Valley, Las Vegas, Zion and Bryce. We hiked into the Grand Canyon, down Hermit's Trail, for four days. Rooti's brother Courtney met up with us there, hiked down with us the first day, then turned around and hiked out the next. Guess he didn't like waking up with scorpeans under his pillow.

Waterway in Lake Powell.

Exploring the back canyons of Lake Powell

We discovered Lake Powell in southern Utah. A great find. You are way out in the middle of a desert, what do you need? How about a great big swimming pool? Brilliant! Let's jump in. Then there was Arches, one of my favorites, Natural Bridges and Mesa Verde. Shit, I love them all. Weird and wonder places. We hung out in Colorado with Condo and Seadog again before turning back west via Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons. We passed through Crater Lake and explored the Oregon Caves before ending the tour at State Line, Lake Tahoe. I still had the California Redwoods and the Oregon coast to enjoy on my way home.

A sandstone wall in Lake Powell.

Desert varnish streaks the sandstone walls

Obviously, without even going into detail, you can see that it was a great trip. Perhaps once in a lifetime stuff. Screw that, I'm going again as soon as I can! I'll always remember it as one of the best though I've come close to matching it and will continue to try. I know I got a lot more out of it than you could ever get from a two week coast-to-coast ride. Coast to coast in a month might do it. I've returned to all of the spots in subsequent trips and added many more to the list of my favorites. And it continues to grow. In 1989 I went up the Inside Passage to Alaska with my bike in the hold of a fishing boat. Now that was an ultimate bike trip for sure! No, I haven't left North America but I don't think I have to- I am perfectly content.

Campfire at Stray Cat Point.

Campfire at Stray Cat Point

So, The Grand Tour Philosophy

Number one, take your time. Don't try to see it all at once, there will be other trips, other years. Or at least there should be. My all time hard ass ride record is a 762 mile day in 1984: mid-part of Denver to Seattle, 1500 miles total in 50 hours- but I really don't recommend it. What's the point? Well, there was a girl involved. It's much more fun to break the trip up, visiting places like Yellowstone, the Tetons or Glacier on the way. It's even better to see all three! You can do that in five days. Better in ten. My point is, the direct route is usually not the best. Skip the interstates! Look on both sides of it. Pick out two or three destinations and spend some time there, enjoying the place. See the sights and relax. Who wants to jet around trying to hit every destination with barely enough time to take a snapshot before having to run off to the next? Who cares what the guys at the bar think!

Forget your job, quit. Life's too short, enjoy it.

Also, get off the bikes for a few days and do something special. Take a hike down into the Grand Canyon, rent a boat and explore Lake Powell. Backpack into the Sawtooth Mountains. Or take a 4-wheel drive jeep into the Canyonlands. Yeah, motorcycle riding is great fun but combine it with some of these other highlights and you'll turn a good trip into a great one. Your friends and neighbors will actually be interested in seeing your photos and hearing your stories.

To enjoy camping out just like the boy scout motto, be prepared. Be really prepared! But also remember, you've got to fit it all on your poor motorcycle but it can be done.

We've got very good tents, sleeping bags and mini-mattresses. We've got lanterns and stoves. Both of us have small coolers. And we know how to cook. One of my saddle bags is "the kitchen". Add a grill for steaks or ribs and we're the envy of the campground.

One night in Zion on the Stray Cat Tour, some kids were walking by our campsite with their dad and were heard to say, "Wow, those guys have more stuff than we do, and they're on motorcycles!" It was taco night. We had the beef burning, grated cheese, fresh chopped tomatoes, lettice, the works! Compare that to some poor guy having trouble opening a can of baked beans with his pocket knife.

Pass me some more syrup for my French toast.

Every once in a while we head for a hotel for the night. Camping is fun but occasionally it's nice to wash up with hiot water and catch up on the news. The whole OJ thing was news to us. We completely missed it. When we do get a room it's ususally not the Motel 6. We splurge a little and hit some place nice and special, like a great lodge or western cabin at one of the National Parks. Or a party room in Las Vegas is good. Why not spend a few extra bucks and have a really good time, take in a show or go into the grand dining room for a roast beef dinner. We'll be back camping the next night.

Each year we each bring along a toy. It might be as simple as a Frisbee to throw around or Rooti brought his father's German luger one time for some target practice. Rooti has a little boom-box so we can listen to tapes at night. It's even hooked up to his bike battery for power, something he and Steve cooked up on the '83 trip. They even managed to solder the wires using the cook stove to heat up a screwdriver shank as the iron. Aerospace engineers on holiday. I carry along a fly fishing pole on most of my trips. One year I brought along one of those tiny TVs. It was great. Only one night on the whole trip did I get a clear signal, the rest was all static. Which is really just what I wanted. No cell phones, pagers, fax, modems or computers allowed on these trips. They are counter to the entire point of getting away from the storm.

I've been keeping a daily log or journal of my touring since 1983. It's a steno pad with daily entries and a mileage log. The entries ago anywhere from two or three lines describing what and where to three or four pages describing special events. Sometimes I can even tell you what we had to eat on certain dates. It's entertaining reading and can clear up some not too certain memories. Yeah, it was 1988 that we ran into Brooke, that cute little blonde, in Bryce Canyon, or rather she ran into me... And oh, the Canyonland Rangerrettes in the pickup on the White Rim Trail. Or that bartendress in Wallace, Idaho? But that's another story. As the entries have grown over the years the journal has become more and more valuable to me. I keep meaning to make a copy of it to carry along. I don't want to loose it.

I once did a 5,600 mile trip all on back roads. All except for about fifty of Interstate that couldn't be avoided. My point is there are months, weeks and a few days, all to be much more enjoyed if you get off those stupid freeways. Only use them if you have to. I guess it's okay to jet for a few days to get to a better location but you might already be there. Hunt out the back roads, discover what's here and there and really enjoy your trip. Even if you only have two weeks to do it in. Don't overlook your own back yard. While I'm talking about the wild west, the rest of the country could be seen with this same philosophy. Unless you live in Texas! (Rooti was born in Texas)

As I get time I will be posting more and more of my stories. Like I said, there are 111,111 miles of them. 26,500 more if you count those on my old Honda 450.

    and A FEW DAYS

    Motorcycle Stories


    Truth blended with Fiction

    T O U R   L O G S    

    P H O T O   G A L L E R Y    

    I N   T H E   G A R A G E    



  C. C. CROW     P. O. BOX 1427      MUKILTEO, WA   98275   USA