Boutin's Motorcycle Touring and Travel Pages
The Fall Tour for 2009 was very different than any similar ride of years past. Every year since 2000 (that year was a Prelude trip) I packed up and rode north. Usually to New England or the Mid Atlantic area, with a couple of jaunts to the Mid West and Canada thrown in. But each had a Northern direction out of Alabama. Fall is my favorite time of year, but to enjoy it, I must leave my homeland. Autumn is mostly hot and brown here, and not much to see. What color we do have is limited to the Cheaha area of the state, and the window is very tiny to catch it.
In 2009 I rode due West. I loaded up the RT and rode straight to the setting sun. Why? Several reasons. First, I wanted something different, second, not been west in 16 months and I was missing the cross country ride, and third, I needed the solitude of the wide open spaces one only finds out west. I find a peace on the road I can't get anywhere else.
I love waking up someplace different each day, meeting new people, and witnessing wondrous sites, and yes, enjoying the sensation of a fine machine. Riding gives me all these things, how I relish and thrive on it.
I craved the loneliness of West Texas, the emptiness of Southern New Mexico, and the sense of awareness you only get riding solo across the country. I had much on my mind and wanted to lose myself for 10 days. The vastness of the American West can swallow a Long Rider up, it is a elixir I find myself addicted to.
My next goal was to visit a few places I passed by on previous cross country rides, I wanted to slow down and check a couple off the list. I achieved that objective by visiting Petrified Forest National Park, and the Fort Union Historical Site. Along the way I retraced a few miles along the original Santa Fe Trail.
I also wanted to sample what a Rocky Mountain Fall was like, I know what Fall in the East is, and I wanted a new perspective. I spent a substantial amount of time riding the Southern Rockies. In fact, I rode them half way across Arizona, across all of New Mexico, and into Oklahoma, where I remained on backroads all the way back east to North Carolina. On this tour I embraced the wide open land of the Southwest, to the closed, thickly forested lands in the East, a contrast of many things for just a single ride. I found myself in the Jemez Mountains of New Mexico, leaning past 12,000+ Mt. Baldy, in the East, I came through the Ozarks of Arkansas, then on to the Blue Ridge of North Carolina, and finished in the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee. A varied, and exciting ride for sure.
After completing my business West, I headed back to North Carolina to take part in the annual Blue Ridge Gathering, a informal rally made up of old and new friends. I go there every Fall to spend time with them. It is one of the highlights of the year. Several of the annual attendees are guys that have been with me from the beginning of this life chapter. Though I'm a solo rider, I enjoy their company and camaraderie each Fall in the Blue Ridge.
This small gathering of friends grew to about 60 this year. Many for the first time, and hopefully they will take back the feeling of why I am drawn to the Blue Ridge each year, and return next year when the leaves change. The Fall color there was brilliant, probably the best I'd ever seen in almost 10 years of attending.
This tour covered 5,000 miles, over 10 days, and like all long tours I was faced with a few obstacles and tough decisions. The reasons they call long riding an adventure. Weather was excellent except for a few miles, and I had no equipment failures, except one blown low beam.
Speaking of which, the ride for this tour was the RT. It was the first real trip West for the bike, mostly because in years past I didn't trust it and BMW dealers are few and far between out there. But this time I wanted to see what it could do on the vast run outs of the American West, as if to say, " ok here's ya chance, lets see what ya got."
Despite having ridden the bike 50k miles, I wasn't sure how it would handle a tour that had been exclusively handled by the Honda in years past. I can report the 1200 RT in stock form, is the best all around touring bike you can buy in my opinion. If you don't mind not as fast as most of the others, you can't go wrong with it. This was the first tour where I asked the RT to handle consecutive 5-600 mile days. It's superior comfort, and touring extras, such as cruise control, on the fly suspension adjustment, heated seat and grips, are top of the line and without question should be standard equipment on ANY touring bike, that up to now, stuff only found on the BMWs.
Out West, one quickly comes to understand the term "wind management." The RT has the best of any motorcycle including the GL 1800, its ability to deliver a almost dead quiet cockpit is the measure other sport touring bikes should be judged. I rode miles and miles with the screen high in a cool and gusty wind across New Mexico and Oklahoma, and the 1200 managed the conditions exceptionally well.
The upright, no reach to the bars sitting position, is not fully appreciated till you're faced with a 100 mile straight shot across Oklahoma, I know, because I did that on the tail end of a 600 mile day. You can modify either version of the Honda ST to TRY to get such a ride and the best you will get will be compromise version of the stock 1200 RT.
This is before I mention how quick and willingly it wants to lean, and how it handles a touring load better. This is not to say I don't love my Honda, it is reliable beyond belief, but when it comes to pure function, and touring, the RT is hard to beat.
Once again, I took over 200 pictures, what you see here on the intro page are just a sample what will be inside this journal. I passed through some beautiful country and documented it as best I could. I also captured a few hours of video, and occasionally a day's ride will have a accompanying video, but the true essence of the tour will be in the story.
The riding itself was spectacular; mountain twisties in the Rockies and Appalachians, what else do you need to know? You can read about that in the pages of this journal.
So with all that out of the way, time to get started.
Guy- October 12, 2009. Top photo by Peter Menard -NC 21