When the leaves start to turn color and garage season looms, many riders start thinking about what they’re going to do when their bikes have to hibernate. But for some parts of the country, “winter” simply means shorter days and a slight chance of rain.
Riders in the Sun Belt states get year-round access to some fantastic roads, but if you live outside the Sun Belt, you still have time to pack your saddlebags and head toward one of these great routes before the first snow falls. Here are five of the best warm weather rides.
1. Miami to Key West
Sure, you can ride from Miami to Margaritaville in a day, but why would you want to? Spend that first day riding around Miami, and make sure you cruise A1A to check out the beaches and some of the country’s best dining.
Get up early the next day and head down the Florida Turnpike to U.S. 1; there’s nothing quite like the 113-mile ride, which takes you across some 40 bridges.
Time it right, and you’ll pull into Key West in time to partake in a time-honored tradition—cheering on the sunset with the locals.
And yes, the Key Lime pie is better than any you’ll find on the mainland.
2. Austin to the Texas Hill Country
Again, your mettle as a biker will be tested—you might need to be pried out of Austin, which features some of the country’s best BBQ and a legendary live music scene.
Get up early, fuel yourself with the famed breakfast tacos (I personally recommend the gargantuan breakfast tacos dished up at Juan In A Million) and hit the road into Hill Country—Highway 290, to be exact.
A far cry from the flat plains that inhabit Texas, the rolling landscape makes for a picturesque and fun ride. Country music fans (and outlaws) will want to make a stop in Luckenbach, Texas, the little town made famous by Waylon Jennings’ great song of the same name.
3. Phoenix to Las Vegas
Face it—riding across the desert in the middle of summer is just not that pleasant. But come November, the ride from Phoenix to Vegas via the U.S. 93 is not only cool weather-wise, it’s just plain cool.
Grab breakfast at La Grande Orange Grocery on 40th Street, then head over to the 93 and head north. You’ll pass through low mountains, ride by forests of Joshua trees, and skirt the edges of Lake Mead.
Oh, and if you have a hankering for deep-fried rattlesnake, you can try some at the Wikieup Trading Post. It tastes like chicken. Honest.
4. San Diego’s Sunrise Highway to Anza-Borrego State Park
A caveat—it does snow on occasion in the mountains of east San Diego County, a fact that never ceases to amaze visitors.
But road closures are rare, and the ride from the metro San Diego area to the far eastern part of the county is an unexpected surprise for people who think of San Diego as just a beach town.
Take Interstate 8 from San Diego; you’ll be on the freeway for about 30 miles before exiting at the Sunrise Highway. The curvy mountain road carries you through scenery that wouldn’t be out of place in Colorado.
Detour to the mountain town of Julian via the 79, and make sure you grab a slice of the town’s famous apple pie at either Julian Apple Pie Company or Mom’s—you can’t go wrong with either.
Adventurous riders can head north on the 79 to the 78 East and head to Anza-Borrego State Park to see spectacular desert scenery.
5. The Pacific Coast Highway
The ultimate west coast ride, the PCH is a motorcyclist’s dream—beautiful and challenging. It’s possible to make the trip from LA County to San Francisco in one day, but a multi-day trip is the way to go.
Get an early start on your day by skipping the SoCal urban sprawl and jumping on State Route 1 in Ventura County. Make a stop in Morro Bay or camp at Montana de Oro State Park.
If you’re pressing on to San Francisco, have some seafood on the docks before hitting the road—you’ve got a ways to go before you reach the Bay Area.
Those riders with vertigo might want to prepare themselves for the sections of highway running through Big Sur that put you on curving roads on sea bluffs that drop a few hundred feet straight down into the ocean.
Monterey Bay provides more great scenery, and there’s nothing quite like riding over the Golden Gate Bridge.
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