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  • Writer's pictureJessica Stough

The Top Motorcycle Trips Across the US - Wolves, Dreamcatchers, Eagles, and Colorado Vacations Too

“The only trust required is to know that when there is one ending there will be another beginning.” – Clarissa Pinkola Estes, 'Women Who Run With The Wolves'


The New Year has certainly started off rocky, seemingly testing me at every turn. Just shy of a month after Grandma passed away, Grandpa did as well, leaving our family shaken and in more grief than anyone should have to deal with in one sitting. Another family member had a terrible threat come their way that same day, then shortly after, yet another family member spent a night in the hospital with an issue in which no one could quite explain the cause. 


Both of those family members, I must say, are fine – but it felt as though our family continued to take blow after blow as 2024 began. Then, in yet another unexpected kickoff to the new year, we had a mysterious water leak come from somewhere (even the plumber couldn’t identify the source) that had us waking up to a mini ice rink on the floor of our garage, water seeping through the ceiling. 


Mix all of those things together with the -20 degree windchills, the 15+ inches of snow we received early on, multiple migraines, and the stress of some terribly serious family drama no one needs, and 2024 has been an absolute year from hell thus far. I can only hope that the nasty start to the year just means that we have nowhere to go but up, better, more positive, and just all of the good things. I’ve also made the executive decision to refuse to even acknowledge January existed, as I am forcing myself to believe that may help February and the rest of the year end up being better.



I started writing this over a month ago, but everything that has been going on in life has just continued to get in the way over and over again. Then, when I’ve had the time to write, I’ve either been too drained to think hard enough to write coherent sentences or have just wanted to disconnect and decompress. Those migraines I mentioned above also haven’t helped my ability or interest to write recently – but I am a big fan of the classic saying “better late than never” so here we are. 


After everything that happened in January, I “officially” kicked off my February New Year with a new tattoo January 31st in honor of both Grandma and Grandpa. The tattoo consists of a wolf, dreamcatcher, and an eagle. Before I hop into any travel information (I will get there, I promise!), I want to take a bit of time to break down what this tattoo means to me and why. 



The Wolf


Those of you that have been keeping up know that I’ve been obsessed with wolves since we visited the Colorado Wolf and Wildlife Center last summer. Add the fact that they’ve just recently started their wolf reintroduction plan (learn more about that directly from the source, Colorado Parks & Wildlife, here), and my obsession has strengthened. I’ve read books on the subject, done my research, and have truly fallen more and more in love with them the more I learn. 


I had actually already drawn up and talked to an artist about another wolf tattoo, but could not figure out what placement I wanted for it. I truly believe that there was a reason I was feeling held back from that decision, and that it was because it allowed for this idea to come to fruition when I really needed it. Here is the part where people may wonder, what does a wolf have to do with her grandma? Well, a lot of things (plus, this is my one and only plug where I will say tattoos are personal to each individual and can mean as much or as little as they want them to – and all of those decisions are absolutely okay). 


Grandma loved wolves too. In their home, she had unbelievable amounts of wolf decor. During our first trip to Colorado, I found a cute little wolf statue and didn’t give it a second thought before I bought it for her as a gift. She found a home for it near her other wolf decor, even though it was way smaller and arguably much less cool than the other decor she already had. 



Wolves symbolize so much more, though, too. According to UniGuide, wolves symbolize loyalty, family, friendship, teamwork, protection, wildness, freedom, instincts, endurance, curiosity, and playfulness. 


Wolves are savagely loyal to their family. Mama wolves will actually go and hide in a safe place before they have their pups– not to protect themselves, but to protect their pups. Alpha wolves will scan the perimeter of their home “base” to ensure there are no threats, while keeping all of their pack inside the perimeter where they can remain safe. They work together to ensure the pack is as strong as it can be. Just like people, they are stronger in groups and they make sure to stick together for that very reason. 


Just as importantly, though, wolves know when to back down. They will fiercely protect their own, but also know when it is smarter not to fight. There are stories of hunters that have gone into mama wolves’ dens to get them and their pups. The mama wolf will always put herself in front of her babies, but will never go after the hunter. Knowing this breaks my heart, but also is an excellent reminder to only fight the fights that are truly necessary. I think Grandma was a lot like that – she knew how to throw a punch if she needed to (and yes, I’ve heard stories from her younger days when she actually threw some punches), but wouldn’t do it without putting a lot of thought into it first. 


The Dream Catcher


The dream catcher is an ode to both Grandma’s love for dream catchers (much like the wolves, she had dream catcher decor in many places in the home) and also to her Native American heritage. Grandma was a quarter Cherokee Indian. I can almost see readers thinking, “But you’re pale as a ghost so how is that even possible?” Well, genetics are weird, as explained in the fun gummy bear chart below, and I obviously got more from my Irish heritage than my Indian heritage. 



On top of what the dream catcher means personally to me, and what I feel it meant to Grandma, the history and tradition of the dreamcatcher is also pretty cool. According to Owlcation, in the original Ojibwe legends that spurred the dreamcatcher, they served “to catch any negative energies that were in the room, and the dreams of those who slept there would be good ones.” In more current cultures, as most people know, they allow good dreams to pass through but bad dreams get caught in the webbing. To me, the dreamcatcher is a constant reminder that Grandma and Grandpa will always be there with me, allowing for good days to be good and bad days to be more bearable. 



The Eagle


The eagle is really where Grandpa comes into this tattoo. The morning I received the call that Grandpa had passed, I sped to get to his home. On the way into town, I looked to my right, and saw three bald eagles sitting at the side of the road. As I drove by, two flew off, and the other stayed and watched as I continued on to the house. My brother and cousin both also stated they saw the three eagles on their ways into town as well. 


When I got to Grandpa’s house, someone made a comment about their living room. The living room they were commenting on was what I refer to as their “non-living living room” because it was always blocked off and no one ever went in there. It was well decorated and had a few places to sit, but was really untouched. 


I approached the entryway to the “non-living living room” and really took it in, seemingly for the first time. When I looked around, I realized every piece of decor in that room was some rendition of an eagle. A few had “Harley Davidson” proudly labeled on the fronts, but others were just plain eagles. 


Even with these two things, I didn’t think much of it. However, after staying in town for multiple hours, as I headed back out of town, I was shocked to see that the one single eagle was still sitting by the side of the road right where he was before. He again just watched as I drove by. 


Coincidence or not, I had never in my entire life of growing up in that small town seen an eagle anywhere nearby. To add to it, I saw another on my way to their Celebration of Life – again, in a place where eagles had never frequented before. 


After all of the eagle events, I then looked up what eagles meant. According to World Birds, eagles symbolize multiple things, but perhaps most importantly “eagles are often tied to the sun, the sky, and even heaven itself.” 


It also notes that “eagles can be seen as representing truth, justice, honesty, integrity, and duty. The eagle’s flight reminds us to choose the high road whenever possible.” This, to me, screams Grandma and Grandpa both. They were the most caring, loving, take-the-high-road people I had ever known. Over the past few months, I’ve often asked myself, “What would Grandma and Grandpa had done or wanted me to do in this situation?” Now, I can look at my tattoo as a constant reminder that they would always want me to take the high road, to be the bigger person, and to do the right thing. 


Alright, now that I’ve talked – written? – through all of that, it’s officially time for some travel information! In honor of Grandma and Grandpa, and to avoid this blog post being a mile long, I’m going to do something a little different. I don’t think I’ll be buying a cruiser and going cross-country on my motorcycle anytime soon, but I know that is how they loved to travel in some of their earlier years. Plus, each of these trips would be, of course, fun as a road trip in a car as well. 


 

The Top Motorcycle Trips of the USA


  1. Blue Ridge Parkway – North Carolina**

  2. The Ozarks – Arkansas & Missouri*

  3. Coastal Highway US 1 – Maine*

  4. Pacific Coast Highway Route 1 – California

  5. Tail of the Dragon US 129 – North Carolina

  6. Tunnel of Trees – Michigan

  7. Northwest Passage Scenic Byway – Idaho

  8. Going-to-the-Sun Road – Montana

  9. Mohawk Trail – Massachusetts 

  10. Historic Columbia River Highway – Oregon

  11. The Badlands Loop Road Highway 240 – South Dakota

  12. Scenic Route 100 Byway – Vermont

  13. Cascade Loop Scenic Byway – Washington

  14. Beartooth Highway 212 – Montana

  15. The Devil's Highway Route 666 – Arizona

  16. The Three Sisters (AKA The Twisted Sisters)- Ranch Roads 335, 336,337a – Texas

  17. Arches National Park – Utah

  18. The Ozello Trail Ride – Florida

  19. Independence Pass – Colorado

  20. Natchez Trace Parkway – Tennessee, Alabama, & Maine

  21. Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument – Utah

  22. Eastern Sierra 555 Mile Trip – California

  23. Skyline Drive – Virginia

  24. San Juan Skyway Scenic Byway – Colorado

  25. The Kancamagus Highway – New Hampshire

  26. Woodlands Trace National Scenic Byway – Kentucky & Tennessee

I reviewed multiple different lists of the top motorcycle trips across the U.S. to compile my list. To make it easy for readers, I ensured the routes that were noted in multiple articles are at the top of the list (those bolded were noted twice, those with one asterisk were noted three times, and the top, Blue Ridge Parkway, was noted in all four of the main articles I reviewed (American Legend Rider, Travel and Leisure, USA Today, and Rider Magazine)). 


 

As mentioned, I do not think I’ll be getting a cruiser to do a cross-country motorcycle trip anytime soon, but we do now officially have plans to visit Colorado again in just a few short weeks. With that, we’ve already driven Independence Pass, but I do not believe we’ve taken the San Juan Skyway Scenic Byway – it might be something we have to do while visiting this year. 



Colorado has always felt like a home away from home for the both of us. We have had multiple conversations about how we would move out there in a heartbeat if life handed us the opportunity. I can’t help but wonder if my love for Colorado actually started years ago when Grandma and Grandpa took our family out there for the very first time. 



It may appear as though I was not having fun (I believe I have been told multiple times that I had been, in fact, ripping out my own hair in this picture because I was so angry about something). However, perhaps that trip was what started it all for me, and it just took us finding our way back as adults for me to realize that was the case. 



Here’s to happy thoughts, healing for all, good vibes, and more living life like the wolves. I will leave you with this:


“It is interesting to note that among wolves, no matter how sick, no matter how cornered, no matter how alone, afraid, or weakened, the wolf will continue. She will lope even with a broken leg. She will go near others seeking the protection of the pack. She will strenuously outwait, outwit, outrun, and outlast whatever is bedeviling her. She will put her all into taking breath after breath. She will drag herself, if necessary … from place to place, till she finds a good place, a healing place, a place for thriving." – C.P. Estes


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