I dismissed the idea of renting a motorcycle for this trip early on because it's expensive. I rented one for a visiting friend last year and the total for one day was almost $200. Over three weeks, throwing away $4,000 on just rental costs made my cheapskate skin crawl.
Since I'm due for an upgraded bike, my plan was to fly to New York City, stay with a friend while I bought a newish bike, and stop to visit friends and family in Illinois, Iowa, and Colorado on my way back to San Francisco. It turns out emission standards make buying vehicles out-of-state complicated. Dealerships must special order "California motorcycles" at a higher MSRP and most will not for fear the buyer backs out. Buying used online is tricker. On top of the usual Craigslist-related worries, buyers typically want cash-only for motorcycles and if all smog rules aren't met, I'd be unable to register it when I got back home.
So, after combing Craigslist for months and calling many dealers in the Eastern US to no avail, I decided to give renting another look. I called Eagle Rider and found they sponsor a cross-country trip from Los Angeles to Orlando in June. To make sure they have enough bikes, they offered me a considerable discount to go the opposite direction. Getting insurance through GEICO instead of the rental company saved $700 more. I had many beers in celebration.
Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover. ―H. Jackson Brown, Jr's mother
With my start and end points decided, I booked a one-way flight to Orlando and mapped out a rough route back to California. The keyword is rough—this is meant to change based on weather and recommendations from friends and locals along the way. Fighting the urge to get too detailed is hard for me, but seems essential on a trip like this.
A pitstop in Iowa on a trip from Orlando to Los Angeles is impractical and this really bums me out. I was looking forward to pulling my bike into a friend's garage so we could sit in lawn chairs drinking Busch Lights and stare at it. That dream will have to wait. Instead, I chose a warm southern route that traverses parts of the country I've never seen. I'll have rest days sprinkled in whenever I need them, but here are the tentative overnight cities with goals of avoiding freeways and less than 300 miles each day:
- Orlando, FL
- Daytona Beach, FL
- Cedar Key, FL
- Panama City Beach, FL
- New Orleans, LA
- Lake Charles, LA
- Austin, TX
- Del Rio, TX
- Big Bend National Park/Marfa, TX
- Roswell, NM
- Albuquerque, NM
- Flagstaff, AZ
- Kingman, AZ
- Joshua Tree National Park, CA
- Los Angeles, CA
Do you have any recommendations on cities to stop in or good places to eat, sleep, or camp along the way? Will you be in a city along the way and want to meet up? Let me know in the comments on Instagram!