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Sturgis, Laguna Seca and Beyond

Creating alternative routes to popular motorcycling destinations

Sturgis and Laguna Seca are two of the most popular motorcycling destinations for many motorcyclists on the West Coast. The cruisers need to go and be seen with their brothers�and the Sportbike enthusiasts need to go and be seen�with their brothers.

As a result of the popularity of both these events we're often asked what's the best way to get there. Of course there are the typical freeway routes that will have you slabbing for hours on end attempting now and then to keep yourself awake through the boredom of four concrete lanes and scattered exits.

Then there are the more scenic routes that pull you along through rural communities and keep you rolling from town to town.

Funny how when you compare and contrast the two events they're very much the same. You go there, there's lots of bike traffic, it takes an hour to get a tank of gas, there's lots of vendors and pretty girls all around, hotels are at a premium and camping seems the only alternative� and over in this corner there's a race going on. Are we talking about Sturgis or Laguna Seca here?

The point being that the ride to and from may end up being the most memorable part of your trip that produces the least amount of stress. So using alternative routes makes sense if you've got the time.

All mapping software is not created equal. Some do this and some do that. Some work with a GPS, others don't. And whether your going to Laguna Seca, Sturgis or anywhere else, the lessons learned here can be applied to any trip you're planning.

Both Microsoft Streets and Trips and Delorme Street Atlas allow us to do something not available in most other mapping software. When you dig into the options you can state your preferences for the types of roads you'd like to travel. For our example in this story we'll use Microsoft Streets And Trips. In it's case you can chose from seven levels running the gamut of like to dislike. Streets and Trips defaults midway for the four choices you can manipulate - Interstates, Other Highways, Arterial Roads and Toll Roads.

So let's say we want to determine a more rural route to Sturgis. We begin by creating a route that starts in Seattle and ends in Sturgis. The software's default give us the I-90 fast track version. You travel 1,162 miles and get there about 16 hours later.

Above: With the preferred roads settings set dead center, as in the image above, we get the typical route to Sturgis one might expect - all along I-90.

Now we tinker with the software telling it we entirely dislike Interstates and we totally like Other Highways, then request directions. This time it comes back with a more scenic route that's 1,321 miles long and takes 26 hours to ride. Now the route takes us through Leavenworth, down the lower Coulee, into the Palouse, over Lolo Pass, into Great Falls and brings us into Sturgis from the east side of town rather than the west. Hey, that's a scenic ride.

 

Above: Some slight tweaking gives a route full of the roads less traveled

You can go deeper from there, because we see that our second route didn't take us into Yellowstone and we'd like to include that in our trip. Simply add it as a stop and watch the entire route change.

Let's visit another scenario, getting to Laguna Seca from Portland. You're a Sportbike kind of guy and you know you could just hoof it down I-5, take I-80 a while, head south on 101, go west to Salinas and bask in the glory of the masses. The quick and dirty way gets you there in 13 hours along 733 miles of slab.

But we've got a little more vacation time to kill, so again we tweak the software in favor of Other Highways and not Interstates. I know what you're thinking � the obvious route is going to run you down 1 and 101 � right? We'll that's not what actually happens when you run the scenario and in fact you get a route few probably ever ride in full that takes you through the heart of Oregon into Bend, then southeast to Lakeview, past Pyramid Lake in Nevada, out of Carson to Sonora, along the Old 49er road and into Merced, then out to the racetrack. It takes about 19 hours of road time and is 957 miles long. Add three more miles to that, do it in a day and you just qualified for an Iron Butt Bun Burner certification. However long it takes you it's bound to be more scenic and memorable.

A slight modification on how much you like or dislike a road type can bring an entirely different route into the picture.

For instance from Boise to Laguna Seca, with strong preference for Other Roads dialed in and an extreme dislike Interstates sends you west through Oregon where you can meet up with your pals from Portland in Lakeview. Total trip to the track is 976 miles and 20 hours of road time.

But if you back off the slider on the preference for Other Highways one notch you get a route through the Nevada Dessert, straight through Yosemite National Park and you can meet your Portland pals instead in Merced. Total trip is 18 hours and 876 miles. Hey � that's 100 miles and two hours shorter than the previous plan.

You like to ride dualsport � on and off-road? Try this. Push the slider for Interstate all the way left, go midway on Other Roads and crank up Arterial Roads all the way to the right. Refresh the route directions and bingo, you'll find yourself getting into off-road sections if they exist. At this point it's a good idea to double check your routing using an up to date atlas like those made by Benchmark Maps .

The scenarios are endless and it's quite fun to play and plan with this type of software calling out alternatives. The drawback is if you use a popular GPS such as Garmin, you'll have to hand key your final route into that software since the two don't talk to each other. Well, you needed something to do on a rainy day anyway, didn't ya?

Patrick Thomas/Winter 06


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