Eastside Custom Tours: Motorcycle Touring

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Eastside Custom Tours

Ride Across America, One Week At A Time

In 1990, Washington entrepreneur, Keith Thompson, bought a motorcycle in Florida with the intent of riding it home – and he did, over the course of several months.  Thompson would ride for an average of a week, then fly back to Seattle to resume his business life, leaving the bike stowed in whatever city he finished a leg in.  A few weeks later he caught a flight back to the same town, picked up the bike and was on his way to the next destination.  Eventually the bike made it home to Seattle and Thompson turned around and rode back across the U.S. one leg at a time.  By 1993, he had criss-crossed America four times.

In 1997, Thompson, his wife and another business partner bought a motorcycle dealership in Bellevue and in 1999 they began a venture that would allow others to experience America the way Thompson had – The Custom Ride program.

At Left: Sound RIDER! visits Bryce Canyon during a recent Canyonlands Custom Tour

The Custom Tour program provides a week long trip each month in a different part of North America and is open to riders of all makes and models.  Destinations include Utah and Arizona’s Canyon Lands, The Colorado Rockies, Sturgis, Baja, Sun Valley, The Mississippi Delta region and other scenic highway and byway areas.  The program allows you to ride your own motorcycle in areas of the continent that you would otherwise never have time to reach, ride and return from. 

It’s simple to make a reservation which can be done by calling Eastside Harley-Davidson/Buell or going to their website which lists all the upcoming rides for the season.  Rates on the website and in their brochure only include reasonable shipping rates (more about other travel costs in a moment).  Riders then drop their bikes off in Bellevue ahead of time and a custom outfitted semi trailers up to 26 bikes to the destination of the month.  You, on the other hand, catch a plane out of Seattle a few days later skipping the drive time to the start point, then spend the next 3-5 days enjoying the scenery of North America that you might otherwise never see in your lifetime from a motorcycle.

While Eastside Custom rides are available to owners of Harley-Davidsons and Buells, their truck can be rented if another group wants to ship their bikes off when the rig is not tied up with a ECR.

At right: A California Condor flies over head at the Grand Canyon on a recent leg of a Custom Tour.

You can opt to ride with the group, or just ship your bike and take off on your own course for the term of the ride.  First timers to an area will often ride with the main group, while seasoned riders who know how to navigate the area enjoy splitting up and making their own route.

If you opt to ride with the group you will receive a tour package that includes daily itinerary information as well as suggested hotels for each day.    Eastside does not handle travel reservations, although they did at one time.  They found that it was simpler for individuals to handle the accommodations themselves, which adds flexibility for each person and reduces the overall costs of the trip.    Make your plane and hotel reservations at least two weeks in advance, or earlier if you can.

The ride begins early each day and covers a range of 200-300 miles per day.  Stops are made about every 60-75 miles for scenic viewing and for stretching.  Lunches are had at roadside establishments, or you can pack you own if you’re uncertain of what lies ahead.   Most of the suggested hotels are simple and affordable,  and often include amenities such as a pool or spa.  All of them are AAA rated and clean.

The Custom Tour program offers you the ability to see North America on a motorcycle one week at a time.  It’s perfect for those who are busy and can only allow for a one week motorcycling adventure each year, but others including younger and older riders, retirees, empty nesters or just long range enthusiasts find a Custom Ride vacation a great way to spend a week each year. 

The Sound RIDER! first hand experience:  Great stuff, save us a space for a ride next year too, and the one after that, and the one after that…

TM/Summer 00

For more information visit the Eastside website at www.eastsideharley.com


Riding in a group can be a lot of fun, but it’s important to execute safe riding skills, for your own safety and the safety of others riding with you. 

  1. If you have not done so in the last two years take time to re-read both the motor vehicle and motorcycle safety manuals provided by the DOL before you ride with a large group.   It doesn’t hurt to get a copy from the state(s) you will be riding in either.

  2. In group riding remember to ride in a staggered formation, the opposite side of the lane from the rider in front of you.

  3. Allow one to two seconds of space between you and the rider in front of you.  Road obstacles or a blow out on the bike in front of you can cause serious injury to you if  follow to closely, or ride directly behind them.   Spread out.

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