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
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
For more information visit the
Eastside website at www.eastsideharley.com
IF YOU GO - SAFETY FIRST
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.
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.
In group riding remember to
ride in a staggered formation, the
opposite side of the lane from the rider in front of you.
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