Spite Old Man Winter And Go Cruising In The Sunshine
When winter rolls around, there are few better places to toss a leg over the bike than in the Gulf States. While they may not have the long-range mountaintop views, they still serve up a healthy helping of twisty roads, gorgeous beaches, biker parties, and all the delicious southern food you can eat. But what’s best about the Gulf States in the winter is the weather, especially for motorcyclists.
The busy season is already in full swing, as many other folks have caught on to the benefits of heading south for the winter. With that in mind, planning your travel accommodations as far in advance as you can is key. To help you build your biker itinerary for your trip to the Gulf, we’ve put together this rundown of riding along the southern coastline from the bayous of Louisiana to the bays of Florida.
Motorcycling Along The Gulf In Louisiana
Louisiana offers up an endless supply of moss-draped cypress trees, curvy backroads, and the tastiest po-boys you’ve ever had. Just crank up the cajun and let it ride. The state is covered in fun twisty routes, but when you’re taking a winter trip, there are a couple of rides in the southernmost part of Louisiana that offer far more pleasurable weather.
When you’re searching for a break from crowded tourist roads, turn down State Route 22 beginning just south of Baton Rouge in Donaldsonville. From there, head northeast until you reach the Lake Pontchartrain community of Mandeville. There are three interstates that serve this area, so Route 22 is rarely used in Bayou Country. The 35-mile stretch between Sorrento and Ponchatoula is as twisted as they get and presents a challenging ride for anyone. Just be careful or the locals will be fishing you out of the swamp before you know what happened.
Riders seeking more hills and fewer swamplands should check out the Longleaf Scenic Byway. This two-lane State Forest Road in Western Louisiana traverses buttes and mesas in the Kisatchie Hills and serves up some of the most technical riding in the state.
After a long day of carving corners, there’s sure to be a roadhouse, pub, or stand close by to grab some down-home Creole cuisine.
When Motorcycling In Mississippi, Hit The Natchez Trace
If you love cruising on National Park Service Parkways, you’ve got to check out the 444-mile Natchez Trace Parkway in Mississippi. This road runs all the way from Natchez to Memphis, and couldn’t be more ideal for a motorcycle vacation.
For starters, no commercial traffic is allowed, so you’ll enjoy a ride devoid of semis, dump trucks, gravel trucks, or buses. You’ll find the majority of the traffic on the Trace consists of cars, pickups, RVs, and motorcycles. Although you may come across some commuter traffic around Tupelo and Jackson, that’s only during commuting hours. With no heavy commercial traffic to abuse the road surface, the asphalt is in top form, delivering a smooth ride the whole way.
There are also no traffic lights or stop signs, with entry and exit all accomplished using ramps.
A long narrow park that runs through forests and state parks, the Trace serves up scenery that’s pristine and unspoiled, with no utility poles, no advertising, and nothing to block your view.
You can also stop at a variety of points of interest, from waterfalls to historic monuments. What you won’t find along the Trace is an abundance of motels. That said, there are a large number of motorcycle-friendly B&Bs, cottages, cabins, and campgrounds to get some rest after a long day in the saddle.
Once you’ve wrapped up the Trace, you can add even more miles by dropping down to the coast and taking any of the east-west roads to wind up in Biloxi. The ride along the Mississippi coast is sometimes crowded but fun. There’s plenty of lodging, outstanding fresh seafood, and even some casinos if you’re feeling lucky.
When Winter Drags On, Just Head To Florida!
While Florida can be jam-packed with tourists and snowbirds that are sometimes hazardous on the road, both coasts offer amazing beaches, and there are some great routes for motorcycling if you know where to go.
One twisty and challenging route in Florida is the “Tail of the Gecko” which runs from Florida State Road 62 to County Road 672. This ride packs a punch with tons of tight twisty turns that are sometimes covered in loose sand, so stay alert and ready to react. This road follows the natural flow of the land and leads you through forests and citrus groves.
Of course, a big reason many motorcyclists flock to Florida is to party down. There’s no doubt Florida has become a mecca for motorcycle enthusiasts and clubs who want to have a good time and put their bikes on display. There are numerous events throughout the year, and two of the largest are just before and after winter, making them a perfect destination at the end of a long Gulf Coast tour.
Biketoberfest in Daytona Beach is held in October and draws thousands of bikes every year. Events and activities include rallies that showcase new, vintage, and custom-crafted bikes, demo rides on the newest bikes from top brands and plenty of on-track motorcycle action at the Daytona International Speedway. You’ll also find an abundance of food, drink, and live music.
Daytona Bike Week is held in March, and with over 500,000 bikers each year is the granddaddy of bike events. The weeklong festival runs the gamut of good times, from old-school biker parties to motorcycle races to concerts. This is one bike rally that’s a must for your motorcycle vacation to the Gulf Coast.