Unites States of America- Part 1 (Washington State - Florida)



After arriving in Miami, Florida, the first half of this leg has come to a pause. My dear friend Misael Gonzalez is storing my bike over winter time. By end of February I will resume the journey and ride the last part to the final destination which is Mexico-City…

So the plan to proceed the trip after having arrived in Vancouver much earlier than expected proved to be an excellent one. I still had plenty of time to explore the north and part of the east of the USA. So the first step was to enter the U.S. The easiest way to do so, was to take a ferry in Victoria, Vancouver Island (Canada) to Port Angeles, Washington State. Very easy custom procedure at the port in Victoria. No more hassles on the US-side. Just a last check of the passport at the exit gate of the port and off I went. That’s how I like it… J

The Northwest of the U.S. was the first very pleasant surprise. A very beautiful, green scenery with high mountains and pleasant valleys, lovely lakes, rivers and creeks were the setting for exciting winding roads, exactly like bikers just love it! What a beautiful corner of the U.S.! The states of Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana and Wyoming were just phenomenal! As I said a very beautiful nature and great roads (paved and dirt), but also “Wild West-Feeling” when you pass through an old gold mining town. In several places you might think that time stood still and any second there is a cowboy coming around the corner and racks up his horse in front of the saloon.  I loved to visit some local museums and imagine how life was in those times – though times, no doubt!

The National Parks in the U.S. are famous and most of them for of a good reason – they are spectacular! It started with the majestic Mount Rainier NP, the highest and most glaciated peak (4’393 m/14’410 ft) in Washington State, which is an active volcano. Close by is the St. Helens National Monument with its famous active volcano which terribly erupted last time in 1980. It’s interesting to see how the nature in the surroundings slowly recovers from that huge outburst…
Next fantastic National Park was the Glacier NP in the top north of Montana State, at the border to Canada. It includes two mountain ranges of the Rocky Mountains, over 130 lakes, more than 1000 different species of plants and hundreds of species of animals. A very beautiful area and part of the “crown of the continent ecosystem”. The whole protected land encompasses 41’000 km2 (16’000 sq.mls) – almost the size of whole Switzerland! Very impressive!

After an easy two-day ride I reached the next highlight: The Yellowstone National Park! Situated in the corner of the three states Wyoming, Montana and Idaho. It was the first National Park of the U.S. and it is even widely held, that it is the first worldwide! The park spans an area over 9’000 km2 (3’500 sq.mls.). It is full of natural wonders, like many geothermal features, especially the famous geyser “Old Faithful”. The Park is situated over the Yellowstone Caldera, which is the largest supervolcano on the continent! The caldera is considered to be a dormant volcano. Half of the world's geysers and hydrothermal features are in Yellowstone, fueled by ongoing volcanism underneath the park. The vast forests and grasslands attract hundreds of species of mammals, birds, fish and reptiles. The bison herd is the oldest and largest in the USA. And of course there is also an unique range of rare species of plants. Yellowstone Park is the largest and most famous megafauna location in the contiguous United States! So for me it is clear that the Yellowstone Park is the most beautiful and diversified park in the U.S…

I left the Yellowstone Park over the Beartooth Pass, which was several times recommended to me by other bikers I met before. And indeed it was a spectacular ride over that mountain range! The passes peak is on 3’337 m (10’947 ft.), which guarantees spectacular views on the mountain ranges and deep valleys. It is considered to be one of the most beautiful drives in the U.S.!

The same day I arrived in Cody, Wyoming, the city that was co-founded by and named after William Frederick Cody, better known as “Buffalo Bill” in 1896. The visit of the impressive “Buffalo Bill” Museum was a very interesting review on the old “Wild-West”-days. Lots of history in this town and surroundings!

Next highlight were the Black Hills National Forest, which hosts the famous Mount Rushmore National Monument of the heads of the four U.S. presidents George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln carved into the granite stone. Each head is 18 Meters tall (60 ft.). The Black Hills NF is a very beautiful area with great roads to roam around in lush nature. Another highlight in the forests are the “Needle Highway” which leads through an area with characteristic needles, carved by wind and weather – a great ride with tons of curves. J
Unfortunately I learned to late that there is a new monument in construction, which will depict the great Oglala-Lakota-Chief “Crazy Horse” riding on a horse and pointing into the distance, once it is finished. The sculpture's final dimensions are planned to be 641 feet (195 m) long and 563 feet (172 m) high. The arm of Crazy Horse will be 263 feet (80 m) long and the head 87 feet (27 m) high; by comparison, the heads of the four U.S. Presidents at Mount Rushmore are each 60 feet (18 m) high! If completed as designed, it would become the second tallest statue in the world! But apparently that would take another 100 years, as it is financed only by donations…

Not far from Keystone, the base for the visit of the Mt. Rushmore Monument, is the famous gold-rush town “Deadwood”, which was founded in 1876. Again the “Wild-West”-feeling” is in the air. Should it happen that you are in the area, don’t miss a visit of Deadwood!

After leaving Keystone and the Black Hills an easy ride on the road no. 44 brought me to the nearby Badlands National Park, South Dakota, with its spectacular and bizarrely shaped rock formations. The rock formations are perfectly striped in greyish/brownish and reddish colors! A very unique area…

Nearby the Badlands is the little town “Wall”, South Dakota. It was founded in 1907 when the Chicago and North Western Railroad was extended to that point. The town is most famous for the Wall Drug Store, which opened as a small pharmacy in 1931 during the Depression, but eventually developed into a large roadside tourist attraction with many shops and even a little museum with many original pictures of famous Native Americans, soldiers and other important personalities of that time. But they also show the everyday-life of Native Americans and Whites and of course… war scenes. They allow a very interesting insight in those days. I definitely prefer our time… J

After a 3-day rather boring ride across the completely flat states of South Dakota and Minesota I arrived in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. There I visited my friends Ashley Przybyl and John Altmann, which I met on my first leg in Mexico, only three weeks after my departure to the rtw-trip – over 11 years ago! Now being in Milwaukee, what is the highlight for a biker in this city? Of course the visit of the Harley-Davidson Museum! And I have to say that they made a fantastic job! In a very interesting way they display and explain the history and development of that famous brand. I loved it…! J

As I decided to skip the Northeast of the U.S. (seen already in a previous trip) I drove straight down to Nashville, Tennessee, where my next host, Jim Freddie Vazquez, was waiting for me. We did a very nice daytrip over back country roads to the “Jack Daniels”-Distillery in Lynchburg, Tenneessee.  It was a great day – thank you very much for this Jim!

After also having visited Nashville downtown, I drove to the nearby and wonderful Appalachian Mountains. I spent the next two weeks in the southern Appalachians (eastern Tennessee, northern Georgia, eastern North- and South Carolina and western Virginia. The first experience of this great area I made, was riding the fantastic Cherohala Skyway, leading directly into the famous “Tail of the Dragon” - two wonderful twisted roads across the mountains and mostly through forests – a dream for every biker or sports car driver! Curve after curve for many, many miles, enriched with stunning views from the ridges. Wow, breath-taking!  
I had the great luck to be invited by my next host, the wonderful family Marty and Celia Hastings with their lovely daughters Marissa and Cecelia, who live in Greenville, South Carolina, which is on the east side of the mountains, right at the foot of the Appalachians. Thank you so much for hosting me for a whole week! Marty knows the Appalachians inside out and so he could give me many tips and hints about great roads and routes. As he is also a biker we did of course great day rides. One of the highlights was certainly the visit of the fantastic motorbike museum “Wheels through time” in Maggie Valley, North Carolina, which displays wonderful rarities of Vintage American Transportation, guiding visitors through the evolution of American motorcycling and automotive history. The museum houses a collection of 350 rare machines comprised of 25 (!) makes! Very impressive and very much recommended! So thanks to great hospitality and generosity to Marty and his family I had the chance to see and experience much more from the Appalachians and South Carolina. 

When I left Greenville my next goal was the Overland Expo that took place in Arrington, Virginia - a gathering of motorbikers and 4x4 drivers with included shows, presentations, lessons for improving skills in riding, driving, photography, navigation aso., movies and tons of “fuel talking” with like-minded people. My personal highlights were the meeting with famous Ted Simon, a legend among motorbike worldtravellers, who wrote remarkable travelling books such as the famous “Jupiter’s Ride” (very much recommended!), Lisa and Simon Thomas, who travel the world since 15 years, and Sam Manicom, who is also a motorbike traveler and author of very interesting travelling books (also very much recommended! J ). We are all connected in Facebook since many years and now this was the chance to meet in person! It was a very nice meeting with interesting and like-minded people. Just fantastic! J

But the event was still 10 days away so I had some time to kill. I decided to pay Washington D.C. a visit, as it is only about 250 km (155 miles) away from Arrington. And I could combine the visit in Washington with the ride on probably also one of the most beautiful roads in the U.S. – The Blue Ridge Parkway! It is a National Parkway, noted for its scenic beauty. The parkway, which is America's longest linear park, runs for 755 km (469 miles) from Cherokee to Afton and linking Shenandoah National Park to Great Smoky Mountains National Park. It runs mostly along the spine of the Blue Ridge, a major mountain chain that is part of the Appalachian Mountains. The roadway continues through Shenandoah NP as Skyline Drive, a similar scenic road and is another 170 km (105 miles) long. It ends in Front Royal. I did the road in easy three days. What great ride it was… J

Front Royal is located on the height of Washington D.C. and so it was only easy day ride to Georgetown (Washington D.C.), where I had booked a room. I spent 6 days in Washington D.C. and I must say that I liked it. A very interesting city full of history, world-class museums and many impressive monuments. No wonder that Washington D.C. is one of the most visited cities in the world! I’m glad I took this detour…

After having enjoyed a great extended weekend at the Overland Expo it was time to head towards Florida and prepare the winter sleep of my bike. My friend Misael Gonzalez, who I also met on my first leg in Venezuela, had invited me over to his place in Pompano Beach (near Fort Lauderdale and Miami) and offered me also a space in his garage for my bike.  On the way down to Florida I made two more stop overs. Of course I had to visit famous Daytona Beach and to my surprise there was just a biker event going on: The Biketoberfest! What a great timing it was! Thousands of bikers gathering and having lots of fun – I enjoyed that, too! Next stop was Orlando. Being so close I couldn’t miss that. The kid within us came alive and enjoyed wild rides in the Universal Studios and Disney World... J

Last stop was at Cocoa Beach and a visit of the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral. Now that was something really special and I loved it! That was not just fantasy, no it is real! There was for example the real and original space-shuttle “Atlantis” (which flew 33 times to the ISS space lab) or the real Apollo 14 (which was never launched). It features exhibits and displays, historic spacecraft and memorabilia, shows, two IMAX theaters, and a bus tour to the two launch pads. All the exhibits, movies and educational games have only one common subject: the space with all its facets! Extremely fascinating and absolutely worth a visit…

After this very interesting stop I had only left the last ride to my friend’s place in Fort Lauderdale. First thing to do after arrival was to bring the bike to the nearby BMW-Dealer and offer to my bike a thorough service which included to change all the fluids, new chain/sprockets and new tires. The ridden distance from Anchorage, Alaska, to Fort Lauderdale, Florida, were pretty much exactly 25’000 km (15’500 miles). I used only two sets of tires and changed the oil/oil filter once after 12’000 km. Besides this no other issues occurred.  What a great bike! I love my reliable BMW F800GS… J

As I said before, me and my bike will now hibernate until approx. end of February/early March next year and then I’m very much looking forward to travel across the Southern States until California and again experience nice encounters with lovely people and see more awesome nature. I’m sure it will be a worthy final leg of my rtw-journey…




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