The Most Detailed Motorcycle Tour Book You’ll Ever Need

I’ve been looking through a copy of Great American Motorcycle Tours, by Gary McKechnie, and I am blown away at the amount of effort he has put into this. And oh yeah, he’s also laid out 25 rides that would probably be a lot of fun.

Great American Motorcycle Tours cover

Great American Motorcycle Tours by Gary McKechnie.

This is actually the fifth edition of this book so I guess he’s had a lot of time to do his research but with all the detail he includes it would be a full-time job just trying to keep that all current. I have a hard enough time just trying to keep my Colorado Motorcycle Dealers and Repair Shops page semi up to date, and this is so much more.

The tours are distributed all over the country. That is by design, Gary says: “In this volume I have tried to be equitable in representing different regions of the country, so you should find at least one tour that’s near you.”

That’s fine, but in my mind it’s the information about the tours that are not near me that are of interest. One of the 25 is titled “Colorado’s San Juan Skyway” and that’s a great ride. I know that because I’ve ridden it and pieces of it many times. But I don’t need a book to tell me about that ride. What I like is the information about all the others all over the country.

Now, truth be told, I’ve done enough touring that I’ve also ridden a bunch of the other rides as well. But the large majority are places I’ve never been on a motorcycle and this book just points out what I’ve been missing. So far.

Which ones look the most interesting? Well, there’s “Oregon’s Best Run,” which runs down the Pacific coast from Cannon Beach to Florence and then goes inland to a town named Sisters. I’ve been all along the Oregon coast, though not on a motorcycle, but I have no idea what the terrain is like heading east there. Apparently it’s a good place to go. I’ll keep that in mind.

Then there’s the “Blues Cruise,” which starts in Memphis and follows the Mississippi River all the way to New Orleans. Again, I can say, “Oh, I’ve lived in Memphis and I’ve been to New Orleans several times,” but I’ve never been to either place on a bike. (I was 10 when we moved away from Memphis.) And the real strength of the book is the detail. Gary doesn’t just tell you the roads to take, he probably offers more than most people want. That’s fine, you don’t have to read it all, but whichever parts you do want to read, they’re there.

He starts each section with a “primer” that gives you some basic history and background information about the town or area. Then he runs through a list of some of the best tourist spots, again with background and history. In the case of Memphis, we’re talking about places like Sun Studio, where Sam Phillips discovered and made history with recording artists such as Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Roy Orbison, Carl Perkins, and Jerry Lee Lewis. And Graceland, Elvis’ home.

There’s more to Memphis than those places, though, and Gary continues with plenty of spots you’ve never heard of. This is followed with a small section on shopping, then restaurants, then bars, and then motels. This is the stuff that I’m certain must be a lot of work to keep current. Knock yourself out, Gary.

So anyway, the section continues with some highlights of the ride south and then goes into all this detail again about Vicksburg, the next sizable town on the route. And then on to New Orleans and the same treatment for New Orleans.

Now, for me, I don’t care two hoots about the shopping. I’m not going to spend my time reading that. But the rest of it, if I’m there or going there, I’ll probably read it all.

The obvious question–and Gary raises this himself–is, are these the best 25 rides in the U.S.? And as he says, well, some of them may be but the intent is not to point out the best, the intent is to point out some really good ones so if you’re going somewhere you’re not familiar with, you’ll have an idea about where you might want to go when you get there.

That works for me. I’ll be hanging onto Great American Motorcycle Tours and when I’m planning future trips, if I’m going anywhere near any of these rides I’ll be considering how I might incorporate some of these roads in my itinerary. Thanks for the heads-up, Gary.

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