A Vietnam Veteran Sets Out Across The Country
On my 2018 Honda Goldwing, with my friend Max on his 2015 Harley Road King, we launched out on our whirlwind 6,000 mile, 2-week trip across the United States. Sick of the constant negative news and craziness of current culture, we hit the road to get a taste again of real America, like the old Simon & Garfunkel song to which my title refers. We averaged between 400 and 500 miles each day. We left North Georgia and blasted our way up through Kentucky and Illinois into Iowa. It was amazing to see the changes in the landscape from the eastern United States to the central and then to the west. Our lands are rich in diversity, in so many ways.
In the summertime you meet the cross section of humanity at roadside motels. There are people from all over the country and the world, and they all had something to say or ask about our motorcycles. Some of the places were very nice with well-to-do folks while others, not so much, which made me worry about my bike and gear.
Traveling such long distances every day put us on the road early each morning but we always seemed to have enough time for a pleasant lunch break. We managed to stay out of fast food joints and found many great small town cafes. We had a nice room on the Missouri River in Chamberlin, South Dakota for a night’s stay. We visited the beautiful Dignity statue, seen above. We dined on bison burgers with my old friends Barney & Julie who drove in from Hecla, South Dakota. Barney and I went to mechanic school together many years ago and it’s always wonderful to see him. He said he wants to ride to Sturgis next year, so we have the seeds of another cross-country tour for 2023.
We met many friendly people on our northern path. We visited interesting places like Wounded Knee, where “Custer’s Last Stand” took place. The trip up through wide-open Montana is fantastic with 80 mph speed limits. We rode from Billings, Montana up and around the south side of Glacier National Park on our way to West Glacier. We thought we would have to skip Glacier Park because of Covid registration restrictions but we stopped at the entrance and the ranger said that if we got to the gate by 6:00am we could ride in without paying or pre-registration. This was a stroke of luck and one of the greatest parts of the trip. Glacier National Park is a must-see ride for any touring motorcycle rider.
As we got to the east side of the parkway, we stopped at the Saint Mary River Bridge that was a setting in the movie “Forrest Gump”, and what do you know, “Forrest” was there, so I got his picture! (see below) “Run, Forrest, run!”
We headed to the Alberta, Canada border from the park as we had a room in Calgary. Going through the border was a bit of a challenge. The Canadian border guy said that we matched the description of some Hells Angels that were supposed to be going to Calgary for the weekend. Seriously? With me on a Goldwing?? Two old guys on motorcycles I guess. After a period of time asking us a bunch of questions, they finally let us go through.
You have to know your kilometers in Canada for the speed limits. We arrived in the huge city of Calgary during rush hour following my Honda GPS, which was very dangerous. The rush hour, not my GPS! When we finally found our hotel it had been turned into a refugee center, so we had to search for another hotel. Unless you absolutely have to travel to Calgary…don’t!
After Calgary the rest of the trip through the Canadian Rockies was an incredible ride and visiting Banff National Park was a special event. I wish we could have spent more time there but we were “Searching for America” after all. We sailed back through the U.S. border crossing and wound our way through the panhandle of northern Idaho. This part of that state is very dry and wooded and you can’t help but wonder about the ongoing fire hazard. We spent the night with a Vietnam buddy that I hadn’t seen for over 50 years. This was a very special time catching up over burgers and beers. As the guys say at Road Dirt, “relationships are everything.“
The next day we traveled back into Montana. We were invited to spend the night with more old friends in the very trendy city of Bozeman. We were treated to a very nice pizza parlor for dinner. Chalk up another great visit with a nice homemade breakfast the next morning before heading south to Utah.
These 500 mile days had become routine now. We rode through Salt Lake City in the HOV lane for at least 75 miles on the way to Denver, Colorado with a side visit at the Dinosaur National Monument.
Mountains, mountains and more mountains. It is truly breathtaking out here. “America The Beautiful” indeed.
We stayed with family in Denver where we actually spent two nights and parked the bikes for a day. It’s always a blessing to visit with family. After we left Denver, we rode to Wichita, Kansas where we had a wonderful visit with the family of another old Vietnam War buddy. He had a stroke back in June and was not doing well. I told his family many stories of our time together during the war. It broke my heart to see my old friend that way. Time and age take their toll on all of us.
From Kansas it was another 1,000 pavement-pounding miles back to our home near Athens, Georgia. We rode over 6000 miles in two weeks. We found so many friendly people out there in the heartland who were very interested in our adventures and we were equally willing to share our experiences. And to visit with family and old friends along the way just made the miles and hours even more worth it.
By the way, the goodness of America is still out there- and it’s as beautiful as ever!
*Editor’s note: We are thankful for Mike, his old military buddies, and all of our men and women in uniform, past and present, for their selfless service to our great country. Utmost respect.