A cross-country motorcycle trip was 40 years in the making
June 13, 2012
When he was 17 years old, Kevin Parsons saw Dennis Hopper’s motorcycle antihero movie “Easy Rider,” and the dream of hitting the road on two wheels was born
“I caught the bug,” he said, “and I always wanted to do it.”
Life, wife, and the pursuit of child-raising got in the way of a long bike trip for 40 years. Until 2010 when Sherri Parsons told her husband, “Why not now?”
Seattle natives and Vegas residents, Parsons and his wife of 37 years planned the trip for a year, calling it “50 states in 50 weeks.”
Then, last April 29, the dream became a reality. They left Vegas and hit Utah, Colorado, Kansas, Nebraska, Wyoming, Idaho and now Washington. Forty-three states to go. They also have 43 weeks to go. Kevin said, it won’t always work so neatly. Some states will take longer. The goal, Sherri said, is hitting every area at the right time.
“I don’t want to be in Florida in July, or in Maine in January,” Sherri said.
The America-by-bike theme will exclude Alaska and Hawaii. This month, Kevin will fly to Alaska solo and rent a bike while she stays with her Marysville parents. Then near the end of the trip, they will fly to Hawaii and rent another bike.
The lower 48, they will visit on their motorcycle decked in American flag colors, complete with a bald eagle near the windshield.
“That eagle’s eaten a lot of bugs,” Kevin said.
After Kevin returns from Alaska, they will zigzag across the northern states until they reach Maine in September, head south to reach Florida in January, and west to reach California in March.
The motorcycle pulls a pop-up tent carrying a king-sized bed and a 7-foot-by-seven-foot room. The room sits in a storage area, which they call their basement.
They sleep in the tent five days out of seven. After 41 years together, they also know when to give each other their space.
A quilter, Sherri is the homebody while Kevin is the explorer. When she sews in the trailer, Kevin rides around. Then they meet up, and it’s highway time, except on Sundays for church.
“We try to see the capitols, the museums, the national monuments and the great rides,” Kevin said. “The twisting roads with the great views.”
Kevin is always the driver, Sherri always the passenger.
“I don’t have the stamina he does,” she said with a laugh.
What they both have is heated suits that overcome bad riding weather. The suit parts plug to a controller, which plugs to the bike’s battery.
“We have never been cold,” she said.
Not even when they left Montrose, Colo. in 70-degree weather and arrived in Denver in a blizzard.
Half their friends think they are crazy. Of the other half, 80 percent remain non-committal about the trip, while the rest wish they could go with, including Kevin’s sister who hosted them in Snoqualmie.
The little treasures the Parsons have found along the way show who was right.
Like the campground next to a river in Hot Springs, Idaho, or like the barbed wire museum in La Crosse, Kan.
“I thought, ‘this is going to be tacky,’” Kevin said, “but it was fascinating. The history of barbed wire and how it changed the country.”
The country has changed since Dennis Hopper inspired a teenage Parsons to hit the road. Some of that youthful curiosity never abandoned him.
“I hope to see Vermont. I’m excited to see how they get sap out of trees and make maple syrup,” he said, “and if you know, don’t tell me.”
40 years later, Parsons feels grateful he never made the trip until now.
“If I had done it when I was younger, I had no money, no sense, a crappy bike and it would have ended badly,” he said. “Now our chances of success are greater, it’s already a success, and we’re having a great time.”
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Sebastian Moraga: 392-6434, ext. 221, or email@example.com.