Scenic pull-offs are plentiful on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Combine these with friends/family that look forward to photos from my motorcycle adventures and a failed stator and you have a major inconvenience in the making. Mine occurred perhaps 15 or 20 miles from the scenic viewpoint where I inquired about fuel availability. Fortunately, engine stall from insufficient power to make a spark did not occur in a place where I could not get safely off the road. Instead, the bike failed at a scenic pullout. Subsequently, no matter how hot I managed to get my boot soles while running next to the bike, the engine would not catch. My hope of only a failed battery began to diminish and quickly. In its place, I hoped that a broken wire or bad connection was at fault. Worse case scenario, I speculated, was a failed component of the charging system.
Lone Bald Overlook, Blue Ridge Parkway, North Carolina
If I consider how many miles of worry-free travel my 1982 CX500 has given me, its first breakdown on the Blue Ridge represents a major victory rather than a failure. I began long-distance touring by motorcycle in the winter of 1997/98. During that winter, I rode solo over 3 months covering 26 states and 16,000 miles: Boston area south to Key West, along the Gulf to Brownsville, TX, northwest following the Rio Grande River Valley to Big Bend National Park (perhaps the most scenic place in NA that I've encountered), northwest to El Paso, TX, north to New Mexico, west to Arizona and the turn around at Grand Canyon, and from here back to Massachusetts (many miles were accumulated crossing Texas three times...I only mentioned one above...it's a long story!). On this trip, and all others since, I've ridden the same '82 CX. When I bought the bike in (about) 1996, I paid only 200 dollars and the odometer read just over 13,000 miles.
Since my first long-distance trip, I've completed four others: (1) With two friends, 2 weeks, (about) 3,000 miles, Fall 1999, northern and coastal Maine, New Brunswick, and the Gaspé Peninsula; (2) Solo, 5 weeks, summer 2002, 5,000 miles excluding ferry crossings between Portland, Maine and Yarmouth Nova Scotia (overnight ferry), North Sydney, Cape Breton and Port Aux Basque, Newfoundland (NFDL), and St. Barbe, NFDL to Blanc Sablon Quebec-Labrador border town, including paved and dirt roads in the Canadian Maritimes and Newfoundland-Labrador; (3) Solo, 6 weeks, summer 2003, 11,000 miles across North America from the Boston area to just north of San Francisco, up Rt. 101 into Washington, across northern states, ferry across Lake Michigan, across Canadian border at Sault Ste. Marie, east to New Brunswick and south to Massachusetts, (4) Solo, 5 weeks, 6,000 miles, trip just completed.
Gros Morne National Park, Newfoundland
Accomplishments and experiences from these trips are too many to list and likely, more than you desire to read! However, a few are worth putting out there especially considering the appearance and age of the motorcycle: combined trips have taken me to all 48 lower states and 5 provinces (all those east of Manitoba); the bike and I have crossed every major mountain range excluding those in Alaska and including the Appalachians and Rockies (many times and at several latitudes), Sierra Nevada (crossed at Tioga Pass, Yosemite National Park, near 10,000 ft.), Coast Range, and North Cascades (my personal favorite); encounters with impressive North American rivers have been many and I cherish every one of them including those with the Connecticut, Hudson, Delaware, Susquehanna (personal favorite), Ohio, Mississippi, Missouri, Platte (and branches), Arkansas, Rio Grande, Colorado, Green, Yampa, Columbia and Snake; American deserts are all unique and generally HOT...the CX crossed the Sonoran, Chihuahuan, and Great Basin flawlessly (yet to visit the Mojave); elevations caused a reduction in gas mileage but otherwise the bike handled the reduced oxygen environment well including crossings over 10,000 feet in the Rockies and Sierra Nevada, across a section of routes 6 and 50 in the Basin and Range region of south-central Utah and Nevada the bike and I crossed 6 or 7 ranges over 7,000 feet and in between the driest desert I've encountered before or since all in the same day (primary desert vegetation cover was greasewood)...again, this time due to extreme hot temps, WIND, and moderately high elevations, gas mileage suffered, other highlights include the "Avenue of the Giants" through giant coastal redwoods in northern California, massive dry lake beds in south-central Nevada, solitude and stunning scenery along dirt roads in the northeastern quadrant of Yellowstone National Park, all of Big Bend (!), glacially sculpted and domed Appalachian hills and interfingering saltwater bays and fjords of Gros Morne National Park, Newfoundland, and lastly scenery along the Susquehanna and Delaware Rivers in Pennsylvania. Honestly, I could go on for a while like this...North America seems to be endless in its diversity, and opportunity for serendipity.
Text & photos © André Breton