Go West Young Man – on Route 20

Ron and Evelyn Stone had a simple strategy for their trip west this summer: Follow that road.

In their case, the road was U.S. Route 20, a highway that starts in Boston, MA and ends in Newport, OR, near the Pacific Coast. With Evelyn sittng behind him on his R1200ST, Ron picked up Route 20 on June 27th in Canandaigua.

On their trip, they left the mostly two-lane road occasionally either to skirt cities or to take in an interesting sight, but generally they were true to 20 as they traveled more than 3000 miles across the country. Ron, 64, and Evelyn, 61, arrived in Oregon on  Route 20 
Route 20, coast-to-coast July 6th and then left Route 20, heading south and then east to see their son Mark, in New Mexico. Coming home a faster route, mainly on interstates, they arrive home on July 19th having logged 7500 miles.

That many miles, that many hours of close, wind-buffeted contact, might strain some relationships. But for the Stones, there's no better way to travel. "I like the freedom a motorcycle brings" says Ron, who has been riding for more than 30 years. "You can smell the rain; you can smell the pines: you can smell the manure. Evelyn adds that not only do motorcyclists get to see the country in a more up-close-and-personal way, they also get to meet more people. A bike is a conversational ice-breaker. People at restaurants and gas stations come up to the Stones, ask them where they're from, where they're going, where they've been.

This was Ron & Evy's fourth cross-country trip, the last being a 2005 trek following Route 50, a road running from Ocean City, MD to Sacramento, CA, which is billed as "The Loneliest Highway in America." On their treks, the Stones travel light, packing just enough clothes for seven days. On the seventh day, they take a break, do their laundry and rest. (On this trip the seventh day came in Cody, Wyoming).

The Stones ride between 300 and 400 miles a day stopping about 5PM, as night rides on a motorcycle can be a little risky, given deer, buffalo (yes) and other creatures on the road.

They allow for "wander time." Their favorite deviation from their route this time was a ride up and over Beartooth Pass in Montana and Wyoming. But many sights along Route 20 - including lava flows in Craters of the Moon National Monument in Idaho - stopped them in their tracks.

"It's hard to explain how beautiful this country is," says Evy.

The Stones stay in motels, often filling up on the provided continental breakfasts and then skipping lunch. For dinners, they try to eat in non-chain restaurants, off-the-beaten path places where the food is generally good and they get to meet the locals.

Ron's motorcycle averages about 50mpg, so they don't spend a lot on gas, though they traveled this summer at a time when prices were nearing an all-time U.S. high. (The peak in California was $4.98/gal.). They drove through a draught and experienced no significant rain on this trip. There was still snow in the Beartooth Moutains.

The temperature was 62 degrees as they rode through northern California and 118 degrees in southern California after they moved inland on their way to New Mexico. Ron & Evy are looking forward to more long journeys, including a jaunt to Newfoundland with friends. And they hope to cross the U.S. on Route 30, another one of the vintage highways.

"So many roads, so little time," says Ron, whose motorcycling avocation is also a vocation, as he works as sales manager at CRM. Ron & Evy will be giving a packing seminar at CRM on February 14th, 2009 as they really know how to pack.

Ron's advice to anyone who wants to travel by motorcycle is "Just go, just make up your mind and go".

Ron has an album of about 400 photographs here

—Jim Memmott, Democrat and Chronicle