Reader Story: My Motorcycle Trip of a Lifetime

Fulfilling a dream on her two months off from work

By Linda Leubner, Exeter, New Hampshire

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When I found out that my employer, Stonyfield Farm—who by the way, makes the best yogurt in the world—was implementing a two-month paid sabbatical policy, all I could think about was using that time for a motorcycle trip. With all the potential trips I could take, I kept looking West, with all of the national parks and the Rocky Mountains, which I had never seen. I also thought about returning to upstate New York where I had lived for 12 years before returning home to New Hampshire 25 years ago. I worked on my trip and routes for months and couldnt believe it when the time arrived for me to start my vacation! Many friends couldnt believe that I would really go—a woman, mostly alone, with just four riding seasons under my belt and a new boyfriend who couldnt go with me. But, I just had to go! It felt like the chance of a lifetime that I just couldnt pass up.

Reader Stories My Motorcycle Trip of a Lifetime woman on motorcycle
Ready to ride! With two months of freedom, Linda saddled up for the adventure of a lifetime.

I left home on August 15, 2012 and headed to Loon Mountain, N.H. for the New Hampshire / Vermont HOG Rally. I had planned to go to this rally a year in advance, and it seemed like the perfect sendoff. I had a wonderful time with my HOG friends during those four days, and then on Sunday I met up with my brother Dave to start my journey.

“Even in the most beautiful places, people will still tailgate, cut you off…”

We had a wonderful ferry ride across Lake Champlain into New York and crossed the beautiful Adirondack Mountains into upstate New York and to my old stomping grounds in Rochester. I was so happy to meet up with long-lost friends, and even stayed an extra day to visit and rekindle old friendships. From there we headed to Niagara Falls, crossing into Canada, somewhere I had visited often when I lived nearby, but a place which Dave had never been. The falls were beautiful and it was amazing to spend time with my brother. (Just to note, I have since traveled back to Rochester for an extended visit with those rekindled friends—who will always be my friends!)

After our Niagara adventure Dave headed home. I continued west following the shores of the Great Lakes all the way through Amish Country in Indiana to the big city of Chicago, Ill., following the Harley-Davidson Cross Country Tour Map, which I used for my entire trip. From there the scenery started changing as I saw the effects of the drought across our country, with field after field of desiccated corn and alfalfa fields. It was ironic that the first rain I experienced on the trip was in Iowa, one of the hardest hit states. Nebraska was also drought-stricken, but it was still beautiful, with fields of Angus cattle as far as you could see. It was also where I had the best steak dinner ever in a little town called Valentine.

Reader Stories My Motorcycle Trip of a Lifetime mount rushmore
Lindas trip took her to many iconic landmarks, including Mount Rushmore.

My favorite day of the trip started in Nebraska and crossed into South Dakota past field after field of sunflowers in bloom, into the Lakota Indian Reservation and past Wounded Knee. I continued on through Badlands National Park, with a stop at the Caputo store, a cool little country store, which just happens to be across the street from the “Dances with Wolves” filming site. Then on to Mount Rushmore, through historic Deadwood and into Sturgis. What an amazing day!

“Dead skunks smell the same from east to west.”

Although Sturgis is a known motorcycle destination, nearby Deadwood was my pick! Deadwood is nestled in the Black Hills, surrounded by beautiful mountains, and is a “living history” Wild West town. During my day in Deadwood, I saw Wild Bill Hickok shot during a poker game in Saloon #10, and then saw a shootout in the street from the veranda of the historic Franklin Silverado Hotel where I had managed to book a room for the night. I also attended the trial of Jack McCall, Wild Bills killer in the Town Hall. Then I found myself dancing and enjoying the wonderful night life of the town with new friends I had met that day. I know I will go back to Deadwood and the Black Hills of South Dakota someday.

After my time in Deadwood, I headed west from South Dakota past the most beautiful scenery in Wyoming including Devils Tower National Monument and Big Horn National Forest. From there I went to Cody, Wyo., where I spent hours at the Buffalo Bill Historical Center, but I could have spent days enjoying all the wonderful exhibits. I even visited the chuck wagon out front, tried the beans and biscuits and sat in the tipi nearby.

Reader Stories My Motorcycle Trip of a Lifetime bison on raod
Theres buffalo on those roads! Linda had some close encounters of the wildlife kind on her journey.

The next stop was Yellowstone National Park where I had a close encounter with a bison! The rangers at the entrance told me to be careful because the bison were rutting and aggressive, so when I found myself face-to-face with one on a small two-lane road, I was very excited to see it, but also pretty scared! Thank goodness I had learned to do tight U-turns with my big motorcycle during a Police Skills course at my local Harley-Davidson dealership. I did a quick U-turn and pulled off into a parking area where a national park ranger assured me that I could pass him…very carefully! I slowly went past in the left lane as he looked at me with a huge eye from the right. This was just one of many close animal encounters on my trip.

“…its a beautiful country, but theres still no place like home.”

I was able to get a last minute cancellation and got to stay in a cabin right in Yellowstone. It had been pretty smoky from the wildfires, but an overnight heavy thunderstorm left the air clean and skies bright for my exploration of the park the next day. Old Faithful geyser was awesome, but I loved all the spooky steaming ponds and bubbling mud in the Norris Geyser Basin.

Reader Stories My Motorcycle Trip of a Lifetime Old Faithful Geyser sign
Linda couldnt visit Yellowstone National Park without stopping at its most famous sight—Old Faithful.

From there I headed south though Grand Teton National Park and into Jackson, Wyoming, one of the most beautiful towns on my trip. The next day I ventured into Idaho and Logan Canyon, Utah, and to Salt Lake City where I stayed with one of my best friends from high school. We spent Labor Day weekend touring around Salt Lake City, catching up and reminiscing.

My next stops were in Colorado, my favorite state of the trip, and the highest elevations. I actually rode my motorcycle to the alpine heights of 12,000 feet above sea level in Rocky Mountain National Park! Another favorite stop in Colorado was the Garden of the Gods National Park in Colorado Springs, with amazing red rock formations looking out at the Rocky Mountains and Pikes Peak.

RReader Stories My Motorcycle Trip of a Lifetime Garden of the Gods
Oh, how the landscape has changed! From New Hampshire to the red rocks of Colorado—Linda made time to appreciate all the natural beauty along the way.

It was getting to that time where I was ready to head back east, and I knew it was a long ride home. I loved seeing herds of pronghorn antelope as I crossed into Kansas, rode through the beautiful Ozark Mountains in Missouri, and stayed in a lake front lodge on Barkley Lake in the Land Between the Lakes National Recreation Area in Kentucky. I rode past the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville and through Great Smoky Mountains National Park. I then made my way to South Carolina and the last stop of my trip with my old HOG friends, Tina and Bob. From there, the three of us headed out on a tour of the Blue Ridge Parkway. We had some close animal and bird encounters on the Parkway before Tina and Bob headed home—a huge black bear crossed our path and a red tailed hawk nearly landing on my helmet! Alone again, I was ready to head north—home was looking pretty good.

I arrived home in Exeter, N.H. on Monday, September 17th—33 days, 24 states, and 7,600 miles since I had left. I have a lot of t-shirts, pins, patches and other souvenirs, but the memories I have of this trip and these beautiful places will be with me forever. 

Since my trip, many people ask me what I learned from traveling across the country. This is what I tell them:
•    You can’t stop at every scenic vista or you’ll never get to your destination.
•    Even when you feel like you have all the time in the world—you still can’t see everything.
•    Sometimes pictures just can’t capture the beauty of a place.
•    Dead skunks smell the same from east to west.
•    Even in the most beautiful places, people will still tailgate, cut you off and try to run you off the road.
•    And finally…it’s a beautiful country, but there’s still no place like home.

Reader Stories My Motorcycle Trip of a Lifetime Harley-Davidson
Linda’s trusty steed, packed and ready for whatever new adventures await.

Do you have a story to share? We want to hear it!

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14 thoughts on Reader Story: My Motorcycle Trip of a Lifetime

  1. What a fantastic and inspirational story of courage and independence! Thank you for sharing.

  2. Congratulations Linda! I admire your positive attitude about your safety and well-being; to not be overcome by the fear of the unknown, but to just embrace it. What a wonderful chapter of your life! Memories to last a lifetime…or until the next trip! What a story of courage, possibilities and success for all the women out there, young, old, in-between. Congratulations again!

  3. Really enjoyed reading this. I am going on a week-long tour this summer and I have a couple of questions. I don’t know your age but how do you ride for days on end and not get tired? I mean, I’m going through menopause, love to ride but before every ride, I have to gauge whether I’m too tired or not to ride. What if I’m on my trip and all of a sudden by body won’t let me ride? My other main question is did you ever worry or be concerned about your safety, as a female, on this ride? Thank you for sharing!

    1. Response from Linda: “I am also in the “over 50” crowd, so I appreciate your concern. Luckily, I was not on a schedule, so I only rode as far as I felt like it each day. I didn’t book hotel rooms in advance, so I’d ride until I was tired, took lots of breaks, and stopped whenever I felt like it. I also didn’t use an alarm clock, so I slept until I was ready to wake up so I felt refreshed most days. I also stayed over some days when I was in a cool place, and just relaxed for the day. That was a great way to re-energize. Whenever I’d get talking to people, I’d always tell them I was meeting up with friends in the next town. It was my excuse to not join up with them and put myself in a bad situation. I did have a man try to tag along with me in Wyoming, but I stayed in my room late the next morning, and waited until he left. I’d like to think he meant no harm and just wanted some company, but I felt better on my own rather than having a stranger riding with me. I was never afraid and found joy in the freedom of riding alone. Best of luck to you! You won’t regret it!”Here are a few articles related to your question. Riding Sick and TiredEveryday Miracles: Turning 50

  4. I would love to take an extended trip like yours, Linda! I’ve gone on two long solo rides but they were predominantly to “get where I was going.” They were both wonderful! I rode from Florida to New Mexico for my best friend’s military retirement. There are times when you sweat while flying down an interstate in blazing hot Texas! Next trip was Florida to Michigan to spend a bit of time with my stepmother, who was undergoing chemo treatments for breast cancer. She had no idea I was coming and it was FABULOUS to see the look on her face when I walked into her workplace!I recommend solo trips to any woman rider! I’m a planner, meticulous packer, worrier, and I still did it – and enjoyed it! I never knew I could pack so light!

  5. Hey Linda! I met you as you were passing through Sturgis, SD, at the Harley dealer. I remember our visit and how much fun you were having. I am so glad you had a wonderful trip and made it home safe and sound. See you on the road.

  6. A great story Linda. You inspire us all.

  7. Linda, Thank you for sharing your story. I ride alone most of the time. Would love to someday be able to take an extended trip like yours! You had the opportunity to see some of the greatest parts our wonderful nation.

  8. What a wonderful opportunity for you! I’m thrilled that you got to come out to my part of the country and enjoy some of the beautiful sites. I too travel on my own quite a bit and find that it is really a fun way to go. It gives you a chance to be a role model for other women who believe they can’t do this (“Of course you can!”) You get to meet all kinds of people and most of all, you get to stop when you want and spend more time in a particular place if you want! I’m so glad to hear you had such a life altering experience and that you are sharing it with others! You are an inspiration!

  9. You go girl! What a wonderful adventure! You owned the road! I did something like that on the East Coast in my Vega Panel express. Sleeping in the back, bathing from a canteen and enjoying the flora and fauna, and new found friends. I hope you get the chance to visit those sights that you had to pass by! PS: Yes it’s true about the poor skunkies. I prefer the live ones (de-scented).

  10. What a spectacular story! I too will be embarking to the West Coast later this year, as of right now solo, and this just gives me more inspiration. We all must seize the day when you want to do something as everyone will not be available at the same time so why miss out on the experience? Do not miss out on the experience. Live life now. Peace and blessings to everyone. I will also share my story after my fabulous ride!

  11. Wow, what an awe inspiring article. I too dream about doing a solo trip one day; your story whets my appetite. I’ve been riding for 10 years and love every minute I can get out and ride. Positive articles like your story provides the encouragement for other women riders to fulfill their own dream of a solo adventure. Thank you and I wish you many happy and safe miles of riding!

  12. Thank you so much Linda for sharing your story. It was so encouraging and inspiring about getting out, fulfilling dreams and enjoying this life. I really want to do something like that myself some day. I’d love to do a ride out West, ride along the Pacific Coast Highway, Washington State to California, etc. Just need time and money! HA! And courage. I often think to strike out on my own for motorcycle trips, yet am a bit hesitant I admit. Fear talk from family and friends, friends that think it’s crazy all roll around in my head. I appreciate the time you took to share your trip with us. I’m sure it’s just a small bit of all you experienced as well along the way. I really enjoyed reading what you shared.

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