How to pick a destination
by Janet Green, Editor, Biker Chick News
When I first started riding my own bike, I was happy just to get out and practice. This usually meant a ride “up around the lake,” which gave me a variety of things to encounter: curves, tight turns, road surfaces, etc. This was fine when I was very new to riding, and still thinking purposefully about the mechanical operation of the bike, when to do what as far as shifting, leaning, and that sort of thing. But there came a point where I wanted to GO somewhere… since the day I’d started, I’d had a vision of packing up the bike and taking a trip, and I finally I felt that I was done practicing, and ready to “really ride.” But where to go, and what to do? As it turned out, an invitation from some online riding sisters determined my destination and, ultimately, the route for my first overnight/longer distance ride. But in finally settling on that particular ride, I hit upon a few other ways for generating ideas about “where to go and what to do,” so for what they’re worth, I’ll share them here.
1. Draw circles on your atlas. One day I was bored and wanted to generate ideas for future road trips. I wanted to know what I could explore in my immediate region, say, no more than 2 hours away by car. So, by using the scale of miles on my atlas and some drawing tools, I was able to put some circles around my home city that showed where I could go if I wanted to go 60, 90 or 120 miles out before heading back. The map gave me cities and towns, some points of interest, scenic roads and state parks. I was able to come up with quite a list of things to see just from this one exercise.
2. I found more ideas in my state’s tourism guide. I’m sure every state has these, and many of them are online. (Here is the one for Iowa, in case you’re interested.) It was easier to browse the print guide than the online version, but by leafing through it I was able to find attractions, events and places in my state that I had never heard of. Those that interested me went on the list of “rides to ride,” no matter how far away they are from my home city.
3. Pick a theme. At one point I was getting quite elaborate with my trip planning. I dreamed up a theme and would come up with three or four rides that suited that theme, and called it a “Tour.” For example, the Shop til you Drop Tour included day-rides to J&P Cycles in Anamosa, Iowa (to shop for chrome), Jordan Creek Town Centre in West Des Moines to shop for shoes and cheesecake, and a couple others. A day-ride by itself could also be centered around a theme; I planned a “four corners” tour where I would hit the town in the four corner-most locations of my state (this would have actually taken two days), and a “World Tour” where I planned a route that went through towns named after famous places (Jamaica, Orient, Peru, Nevada, Paris, etc. – all towns in Iowa). Another “tour” just had me riding all of my state’s designated scenic highways over a period of several weeks.
4. Pick up a “roadside oddities” book for your state. My book on “roadside Iowa” includes all kinds of fascinating locations, from the Villisca Murder House and the Grotto of the Redemption, to the giant Strawberry of Strawberry Point and the giant bull in Audobon.
5. Tune in when you hear people talking, and be ready to recognize possible destination ideas wherever they may come from. I work for our local chamber of commerce, and one of my jobs is to answer the emails that come into the “info@” email address on our website. One day I received an email from someone asking about where they could find a roadside attraction that was rumored to be a “painted rock with a military theme.” A couple minutes’ internet research revealed the “Painted Rock” over by Greenfield, Iowa, painted with a veterans’ mural prior to each Memorial Day by a young man who had recently graduated from Iowa State University. A new destination was added to my own list!
Thanks to these ideas, I have somewhere around 50 planned rides that I can take when the mood strikes. I’m sure there are other ways to generate ideas, but when you get stuck wondering “Where can we go,” just try one of the above and you’ll find yourself out on the road!