The Scenic Route

By Ginny Frizzi

January 22, 2010 5 min read

North, south, east, west -- where is motorcycle riding the best?

Different bikers will provide different answers, but there are many candidates for that distinction.

*There are more than tornadoes whipping through the Midwest. There are also bikers, including those riding the Great River Road from Minneapolis to Davenport, Iowa, named one of the 50 "Drives of a Lifetime" by National Geographic Traveler magazine.

The Great River Road begins at the headwaters of the Mississippi River, in Minnesota, and continues down into Arkansas. When it reaches the Quad Cities -- Davenport and Bettendorf, Iowa, and Moline/East Moline and Rock Island, Ill. -- area, the river changes direction to flow east to west for the only time in its course.

According to Jessica Waytenick of the Quad Cities Convention & Visitors Bureau, legend holds that "as the Mississippi River wound its way southward, it flowed through a section of land so beautiful that the great Father of Waters paused and turned its course to behold the beauty."

She says that many riders enjoy the area from the Quad Cities north to Dubuque, Iowa, because of its beautiful scenery year-round, quiet roads and small towns.

"With the museums and attractions that have cropped up along the way, it is not only one of the most scenic drives in the country but also one of the culturally richest," Waytenick says. Additional information is available at http://www.VisitQuadCities.com.

*It's hard to get more Middle American than Ohio, which also offers some good choices for bikers, including the Hocking Hills region of southeastern Ohio. Located in the Appalachian foothills one hour south of Columbus, it is a popular spot for motorcycle enthusiasts, as well as hikers, kayakers and rappellers.

The Hocking Hills region features craggy caves, soaring cliffs, dramatic gorges and rushing waterfalls along its twisting and hill-hugging roads, according to Amy Weirick of Weirick Communications Inc. Go to http://www.1800hocking.com for more information.

*The early spring brings many riders to southern Utah -- which has not only an open desert landscape but also national parks -- according to Elisabeth Osmeloski of Travel & Lifestyle Brands.

Arches and Canyonlands national parks are in Moab, where Scenic Byway 128 follows along the Colorado River. Riders also can trek over to nearby Lake Powell or Zion National Park, visit Grand Staircase-Escalante or head north to Bryce Canyon National Park.

Bikers can take the La Sal Mountain Loop Road up through Castle Valley into the high alpine forest above Porcupine Rim. Osmeloski points out that La Sal Mountain Loop Road can be closed until April because of snow.

*The popularity of Laconia, N.H., with bikers is hard to dispute. Every year, more than 350,000 of them descend upon the region to participate in the annual Laconia Motorcycle Week, now entering its 87th year.

Some bikers take it to new heights while in Laconia. They ride up Mount Washington, the highest elevation in the northeastern United States, or along the Kangamangus Trail, the White Mountains or the Lakes Region. The area's spectacular colorful fall foliage makes fall rides especially memorable.

The first Saturday of Laconia Motorcycle Week is the Peter Makris Memorial Ride, in which bikers and local boaters team up to raise money for the Laconia Fire Department's rescue team.

*As befits the home state of Harley-Davidson, Wisconsin boasts its own reasons for bikers to visit. According to travel writer Gary Knowles, author of "The Great Wisconsin Touring Book: 30 Spectacular Auto Trips," Mineral Point has much to offer in terms of location, amenities and cycling.

Located 50 minutes west of Madison, Mineral Point is a pleasant ride from Chicago, Milwaukee, Madison, Dubuque and Minneapolis. The town is known for its resident artists, Cornish heritage and dozens of great circle tours. For more information, visit http://www.MineralPoint.com/recreation.

*The Pacific Coast Highway is popular with many riders, including Eldonna Lewis Fernandez, a retired Air Force master sergeant. Fernandez has a business that teaches women how to ride a motorcycle as part of empowerment workshops.

"I live in Los Angeles, and there are some of my favorite rides here. From LA, we can ride up the Pacific Coast Highway along the ocean and ride some wonderful twisties in the canyon," she says. "My favorite ride is from my house in Redondo Beach to a popular bikers spot called Neptune's Net, which overlooks the ocean."

*MotorcycleRoads.com is a source for information on places and roads for bike trips. Organized by state, the routes are rated on scenery, road quality and amenities by the readers who have traveled them. Riders can share their experiences and learn about places they are considering visiting.

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