Hit The Road

By Diane Schlindwein

April 3, 2009 5 min read


Rallies and beautiful scenery await adventurous bikers

Diane Schlindwein

Creators News Service

When Linda Pasetti-Olson, a housewife who has retired from the information technology field, wants to escape her daily chores, she hops on her Harley Davidson motorcycle and hits the road.

A resident of Montgomery, Ill., Pasetti-Olson is the president of the South Dupage Chapter of ABATE, or American Bikers Aimed Toward Education. Over the past 12 years, she has put 70,000 miles on her bike, traveling all around the United States. "People are nice on the road. I've never had a bit of trouble," she said.

Motorcycle riders travel everywhere -- from just beyond their doorsteps to all the way across the United States. Each has their own favorite destination, whether visiting great monuments or even attending rallies across the country.

Like millions of other bikers, Pasetti-Olson has made the pilgrimage to Sturgis, S.D., for the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally. This year's 69th annual gathering will be held Aug. 3-9. That's when the 6,700 residents of Sturgis roll out the welcome mat for almost 500,000 visitors and exhibitors, which makes it the largest motorcycle gathering in the world.

"Most of the people spend a day or so in the town, but after that they take off and ride," Pasetti-Olson said. "They ride in Custer State Park, the Badlands and they go into Wyoming, where it is all open." However, Spearfish Canyon in the northern Black Hills is one of her favorite places to ride.

"Spearfish Canyon is about 30 or 40 miles west of Sturgis and it is absolutely gorgeous," she said. "The road has lots of curves and breathtaking scenery -- some of the most beautiful I've seen."

There is a lot more to see in South Dakota, including Mt. Rushmore and Crazy Horse Monument. "I rode a thousand miles to Sturgis, put a thousand miles on my bike when I was out there and rode a thousand miles back," she said. "I wanted to go another thousand."

Riders who prefer to avoid some of the crowds out West attend the Annual East Coast Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, scheduled this year for Aug. 5-9 at Little Orleans, Md. Attendees camp on Apple Mountain in an area that boasts plenty of mountains, rivers, creeks and streams.

Bikers can ride on Interstate 68 on some really great back mountain roads, according to promoter Ken Appel, who lives in the tiny hillside town in western Maryland. Campers -- which Appel describes as mellow and polite -- listen to music and generally "have a five-day party."

Motorcyclists enjoy a whole different kind of scenery while attending the Autumn Thunder Beach Rally in Panama City Beach, Fla., held this year Sept. 24-27. "We're a free rally that draws 45,000 to 50,000 people to the area," said executive producer Corky McCollum. "About 60 percent of our riders come here as couples." Both the autumn rally and another held in the spring feature 200 vendors who sell "anything and everything" a motorcycle enthusiast could want.

"The beach area is 27 miles long and the sand is super soft white powder. The weather is great," he said. "Riders get up early in the morning and ride from one end of the beach to the other. And we have spectacular sunsets, especially in the fall. They are just breathtaking."

Pasetti-Olson said riding in the South, the West and in the Midwest where she lives had given her a greater zest for life. "I've ridden in mountainous areas where you feel like you could just reach out and touch the rocks. I've ridden in grassy areas. I've ridden closer to home around Galena [in northwestern Illinois] where it is very pretty. It has helped me to appreciate this country and its people.

"When you are on a bike, you are living every minute. All your senses are alert and you are so in touch with nature. I recommend that people eat their dessert first because life is very short and unpredictable. I'm glad I've gone all those places. I wouldn't have missed those moments for anything."

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