The USA Four Corners Tour is a challenging, self-guided, long-distance motorcycling event. The objective is to ride a motorcycle or trike to the four corner cities of the continental US: Key West, FL, Blaine, WA, Madawaska, ME, and San Ysidro, CA, in 21 days or fewer. The route is generally between 7,000 and 8,000 miles long, not including the distances from home to the first corner and from the fourth corner to home. The tour is sanctioned by the Southern California Motorcycle Association, which sanctions a number of other long distance and local rides.
The association added an “X” variation of the regular tour, which includes riding to Lebanon, KS between corners 1 and 2, 2 and 3, and 3 and 4. That ride must be completed within 26 days. I rode the regular version, not the “X” version.
Sabbatical for the Spirit
For experienced riders, the USA Four Corners Tour is simply a long, fun ride, but for me, as an inexperienced rider, it was a challenging adventure that took me to new places. I was hoping the experience would lead me to new perspectives on my life, which is why I called the ride, “A Sabbatical for the Spirit.”
As I was planning for this trip I came across a “Rider” magazine article highlighting several routes in Washington state. The pictures revealed the beauty and overwhelming size of the mountains. I wanted to see them, yet I was a bit fearful of what I have to do to get there. As the departure date grew closer, I got butterflies. I was eager to get started and apprehensive about taking on this daunting trip. This quote from Bishop Spong helped me to deal with the uncertainty.
Faith ultimately has something to do with being, with embracing the unknown, with a willingness to step into the future and with the ability to live each day with integrity, even in the face of the anxiety of humanity which we never escape. Both human insecurity and our ability to live with it become our glory when we have the courage to be all that we are capable of being in the face of it.
I trusted I would have the faith and courage to make this sabbatical all I hoped it would be.
It took a lot of time to plan for this ride. I had to choose a route, prepare my bike and riding gear, and create an itinerary. I had to decide in what order I would ride to each corner and whether I would stay in motels or camp along the way. It seemed that the leather saddlebags on my bike would not provide adequate protection for my things, so I looked for hard cases. I knew a GPS would be easier to use than paper maps, so I considered different models. I looked for extreme weather clothing for myself since I knew I would be crossing mountains and deserts.
I chose a counter-clockwise route. This routed me across the top of the country from East to West. I figured it would be easier to pass through storms rather than ride along with them. Since I didn’t know how many miles I could ride in a day, I prepared two itineraries – one with overnight stops every 500 miles and one with 400-mile intervals. I decided to stay in motels rather than camp. I chose to stay motels so I could use my laptop to post to my blog, stay out of bad weather, and get a good night’s sleep. Setting up and taking down a camp consumes a lot time, so I chose to use that time riding.
I timed my ride to include going to Washington, DC, for the Rolling Thunder demonstration, which is intended to keep the POW/MIA issues in the forefront of the minds of our government leaders. In recent years 300,000 to 500,000 bikers have participated annually. Riders assemble at the north parking lot of the Pentagon and ride a circuit in downtown DC. After the demonstration I headed to my first corner in Key West. From there I rode north to Madawaska, ME, west to Blaine, WA, and south to San Ysidro, CA.
I removed the leather saddlebags from the bike and added plastic side cases and a top box. The LeatherLyke saddlebags were not cheap and turned out to be problematic. The Mutazu top box I bought from an eBay site. It survived the trip, but the latch was under-designed. I added a Garmin Zumo GPS to guide me along the way. It was very expensive, but it worked flawlessly and was invaluable not only for routing, but also for helping me find overnight accommodations. I added an “air card” for my laptop so I could get access to the internet through the mobile phone network.
The ergonomic factors of a bike used to ride long distances have to be just right. A few years before the trip I added a Mustang seat with a back rest, handlebars that are easier for me to reach, and small foot boards that fit in the clevis of the standard foot pegs. Those items allowed me to ride comfortably for 10-13 hours a day. For the desert I got an evaporative cooling vest and for the mountains a Gerbing heated jacket. They kept me cool and warm when I used them.
After the Ride
The route I took was nearly 11,000 miles door-to door and lasted 29 days. I completed the ride from the first to the fourth corner in 16-1/2 days. I did not need to take a day off until after I finished the last corner. Each day I posted my journal of the ride except for the few days that my laptop screen failed. I filled in the missing posts when I had access to an external monitor. In addition to the computer failure, my bike broke down and some of my equipment failed.
Follow the story of my USA Four Corners Tour
Each day that I had internet access, I published my progress report and a few pictures. Later I added photo albums. The full journal follows. I invite you to imagine the riding the tour as you read it.