Motorcycle Types Touring / Travel Photo Ops: Top 20 Motorcycle Trip Images of the Past 15 Years

Photo Ops: Top 20 Motorcycle Trip Images of the Past 15 Years

Gary Ilimen’s Top 20 Motorcycle Trip Images of the Past 15 Years

My camera makes the trip pretty much any time I roam on a motorcycle. It is as much a part of my road gear as a tool kit, bungee cords and bottle of drinking water. Indeed, it seems every time I don’t pack the camera, there’s something worth getting a picture of, be it an unusual or rare motorcycle, a spectacular landscape view or rare weather event.

Over the past 15 years, I have managed to pack the camera and get some shots of things that made me glad I remembered to pack the camera. While my image files contain several thousand images and there are a lot of them I think are good, memorable, unusual or you-name-it, the 20 shown here are some of my favorites and maybe you’ll like some of them, too.

This unusual image from 2011 finds my ’76 Honda CJ360T at twilight with a full moon setting just above the right-hand mirror and at the end of a fading rainbow.
This unusual image from 2011 finds my ’76 Honda CJ360T at twilight with a full moon setting just above the right-hand mirror and at the end of a fading rainbow.

1—One late afternoon in 2011, I had my ’76 Honda CJ360T out for a run at twilight. There was a full moon setting in the west and some unusual lighting and sky conditions. Stepping away from the bike, the view put the moon just above the right-hand mirror and my ride at the end of a fading rainbow. I looked but no pot of gold was found—just aging but still peppy Honda.

Summer 2017: cruising in farm country with my ’84 Honda V65 Sabre, a blue sky and a moon overhead made for a great afternoon image.
Summer 2017: cruising in farm country with my ’84 Honda V65 Sabre, a blue sky and a moon overhead made for a great afternoon image.

2—On a sweltering summer afternoon while out cruising the back roads on my ’84 Honda VF1100S, I stopped and had a chance for yet another moonshot with a vivid blue sky and the old Honda posed up beneath it. With a calculated top speed at the redline in sixth gear of 177 mph, the VF1100S is my adrenaline pump, but it has remarkably amiable road manners.

 In the upper Midwest, fall colors are part of the magic of late season riding; my old Sportster is a great way to take it all in.
In the upper Midwest, fall colors are part of the magic of late season riding; my old Sportster is a great way to take it all in.

3—Of course, bikes are a very common feature in my favorite images and this old Harley Sportster is a great machine for laid back cruising on back roads. In the fall, the colors in the trees start to show, the air gets cooler and crisp and the crops being taken in gives the air an aroma you can only really sense adequately on a motorcycle.

The pond at Leland, WI is a beautiful backdrop for a summer ride rest stop and photo op with my 883R Sportster. Leland, WI is also the end point of the Slimey Crud Run coming up May 5.
The pond at Leland, WI is a beautiful backdrop for a summer ride rest stop and photo op with my 883R Sportster. Leland, WI is also the end point of the Slimey Crud Run coming up May 5.

4—Leland Pond in the hamlet of Leland, WI, is one of my favorite spots for a rest stop on a ride and it also makes for a great backdrop for a motorcycle portrait. Leland is the end point of the Slimey Crud Motorcycle Gang Café Racer Run taking place on the first Sunday in May and October.

There are times when old school—and I mean truly old school—meets modern, but still old school. The Harrisburg School in Sauk Co, WI was built in 1892.
There are times when old school—and I mean truly old school—meets modern, but still old school. The Harrisburg School in Sauk Co, WI was built in 1892.

5—The old Harrisburg School along CTH C in Sauk county recalls the days when schools were heated with a wood-burning pot-belly stove, had one interior room and an outhouse, and served a kid from first grade to graduation. What better setting for an image of an old-school bike than a truly old school?

Sometimes the landscape speaks for itself. Neuheisel Road climbs the steep north rim of the Wisconsin River Valley and the farmland view south is spectacular.
Sometimes the landscape speaks for itself. Neuheisel Road climbs the steep north rim of the Wisconsin River Valley and the farmland view south is spectacular.

6—The best riding in the upper Midwest is on quiet town roads that sway through farm country. Neuheisel Road near Spring Green, WI, is just such a road with a sweeping view of the farmlands south of a ridge that rims the broad Wisconsin River valley.

A motorcycle can take you to special places in a special way—here the special place is the beautiful Gile Flowage just west of Hurley, WI.
A motorcycle can take you to special places in a special way—here the special place is the beautiful Gile Flowage just west of Hurley, WI.

7—Bodies of water on sunny days are some of my favorite things and the number of images I have of such scenes proves it. The Gile Flowage is just west of my old hometown, Hurley, WI and, even though the flowage is man-made to help assure water for the hydroelectric plant downstream near Lake Superior, it is one gorgeous spot that I like to ride to every time I get back to northern Wisconsin.

I don’t get a chance to cover that many races, but the S&S Cycle Rumble at the Ranch featured flat track racing with champ Michelle DiSalvo showing everybody how it’s done.
I don’t get a chance to cover that many races, but the S&S Cycle Rumble at the Ranch featured flat track racing with champ Michelle DiSalvo showing everybody how it’s done.

8—Covering racing is a thing I’d love to do more of. Thanks to S&S Cycle hosting the Rumble at the Ranch flat track races as part of the company’s 60th Anniversary last year, I had a chance to do it. One of my favorite shots from that event is this one of AMA champ Michelle DiSalvo dusting the competition.

Brigham Park is atop the Blue Mounds in Dane county, WI, bringing together a great, winding back road, a spectacular view and in September, vivid fall colors.
Brigham Park is atop the Blue Mounds in Dane county, WI, bringing together a great, winding back road, a spectacular view and in September, vivid fall colors.

9—Fall riding can be some of the best all year with less humidity, cool, crisp air, the aromas of harvesting going on and, of course, an explosion of color in the foliage. This shot at Brigham Park near Blue Mounds, WI, combines the spectacular view from the summit, a view of the great county road that gets you there and some of the fall colors.

Yep, fall colors, blue skies and big rivers are among my favorite things to see out on a ride. This shot combines those with a lonely, abandoned barn; emblematic of Wisconsin’s disappearing family farms and the way life that goes with them.
Yep, fall colors, blue skies and big rivers are among my favorite things to see out on a ride. This shot combines those with a lonely, abandoned barn; emblematic of Wisconsin’s disappearing family farms and the way life that goes with them.

10—Another view of fall colors combined with the vintage barn along the Wisconsin River brings it all together under a dazzling blue sky. I spent a good part of my youth with my uncle Ray and grandparents on their dairy farm in northern Wisconsin, helping with milking, making hay, cutting firewood, picking rocks, fixing the fenceline and other chores. I look back on those years as some of the best a kid could have. To this day, seeing one of the old, smaller barns like the one in this shot, the scene takes me back to those happy days on the farm.

The Montreal river at the Kimball Town Park near where I grew up. My grandfather helped build the bridge I was standing on when I took this shot.
The Montreal river at the Kimball Town Park near where I grew up. My grandfather helped build the bridge I was standing on when I took this shot.

11—Big rivers like the Mississippi and Wisconsin make for great images, but so do small rivers like the west branch of the Montreal river, which flows through the Kimball Town Park. The bridge I stood on for this shot was built by a crew that included my grandfather, August Ilminen back around the depression days. I spent a lot of time at this park as a kid and when I was 14, I landed my first and only muskie there right below the falls in this shot.

Mt. Hosmer park in Lansing, IA, is one of my absolute favorite ride destinations. This is the panoramic view of the Mississippi river from the top.
Mt. Hosmer park in Lansing, IA, is one of my absolute favorite ride destinations. This is the panoramic view of the Mississippi river from the top.

12—There is no better view of the granddaddy of ‘em all, the Mississippi river, than from atop Mt. Hosmer in Lansing, IA. It is a spectacular view any time of year, but even more so in the fall.

Michigan’s Upper Peninsula has a spectacular scenic overlook you can ride right up to on a newly-paved road high atop Mt. Zion on the campus of Gogebic Community College in Ironwood, MI.
Michigan’s Upper Peninsula has a spectacular scenic overlook you can ride right up to on a newly-paved road high atop Mt. Zion on the campus of Gogebic Community College in Ironwood, MI.

13—The high places of the earth hold special fascination because they allow us to take in so much of the world around us. Mt. Zion Park is one of those places, featuring an incredible view north toward Lake Superior and Copper Peak Ski Flying Complex is visible in the distance. Its eastern face is home to Mt. Zion Ski Hill, which is on the campus of Gogebic Community College in Ironwood, MI. I enjoy the expansive view from the top and I have a special affinity for the college having been a proud three-time graduate!

One of the most unusual and spectacular sights you can ride right up to is also in Michigan’s U.P. Copper Peak Ski Flying Complex is a mammoth ski jump that you can go to the top of and see three states and Canada on a clear day!
One of the most unusual and spectacular sights you can ride right up to is also in Michigan’s U.P. Copper Peak Ski Flying Complex is a mammoth ski jump that you can go to the top of and see three states and Canada on a clear day!

14—Speaking of Copper Peak, here’s a shot that captures the massive scale of the jump. It is literally called a “ski flying” hill because it is so much bigger than your standard Olympic-sized ski jumps, the largest of which are termed 120 meter hills. Copper Peak is a whopping 170 meter hill!

While you’re touring the U.P. don’t miss the breathtaking Lake of the Clouds in Ontonagon county.
While you’re touring the U.P. don’t miss the breathtaking Lake of the Clouds in Ontonagon county.

15—Lake of the Clouds is not all that far from Mt. Zion and Copper Peak, lying north of those sites in Ontonagon county in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. It is a spectacular natural lake with a scenic overlook that is hard to beat.

Natural Bridge State Park is just outside Leland, WI. This stunning ancient natural bridge is one of two in southwest Wisconsin.
Natural Bridge State Park is just outside Leland, WI. This stunning ancient natural bridge is one of two in southwest Wisconsin.

16—Wisconsin has two natural bridges only about 40 miles apart. This soaring arch is in Natural Bridge State Park, just outside Leland, WI on CTH C. Below this arch is a cave that anthropologists say may be one of the oldest sites of human habitation in North America. The natural bridges were created by the enormous erosive power of the outwash from melting glaciers to the north. There were four periods of glaciation, but for reasons that are still unclear, southwestern Wisconsin was never under glacial ice.

Ferry Bluff is about six miles west of Sauk City, WI, off STH 60. It’s a hike from your bike but the view from the top is worth it!
Ferry Bluff is about six miles west of Sauk City, WI, off STH 60. It’s a hike from your bike but the view from the top is worth it!

17—One of the best views of the Wisconsin river and a lot of the surrounding territory is from the top of Ferry Bluff about six miles west of Sauk City, WI, just off STH 60. Ferry Bluff is so-named because in the days before bridges spanned the river, a ferry boat operated from near the foot of the bluff.

 Your bike can take you right to the south shore of Lake Superior at Saxon Harbor. The view of the largest body of fresh water in the world is amazing.
Your bike can take you right to the south shore of Lake Superior at Saxon Harbor. The view of the largest body of fresh water in the world is amazing.

18—The greatest and largest freshwater lake in the world is Lake Superior and part of its south shore forms the northern boundary of Wisconsin. About ten miles west of Hurley, WI, and only a few miles from Saxon, WI, is Saxon Harbor. A couple years ago, the marina at Saxon Harbor was devastated by a massive storm that tragically took the lives of four people around the region. As I write this, the reconstruction of the marina is still underway, but the view of the lake is still there and still breathtaking.

Pier Park in Rockbridge has the other of Wisconsin’s Natural Bridges. The foot bridge spans the Pine River to the tunnel which runs about 70 feet right through the sandstone formation.
Pier Park in Rockbridge has the other of Wisconsin’s Natural Bridges. The foot bridge spans the Pine River to the tunnel which runs about 70 feet right through the sandstone formation.

19—Pier Park in Rockbridge, WI, along STH 80 is home to the other of Wisconsin’s two natural bridges. The Pine river cuts right through a natural tunnel in a massive sandstone wall-like formation in the park. Another natural tunnel a few yards away is high and dry, allowing you to walk through to the other side of the formation where the rest of the park is located. A stairway to the top of the foundation lets you walk on the sod at the level most of the area might have been before the meltwater from the northern glaciers carved the topsoil and sandstone away, creating the formation that’s left.

Another of the geologic features erosion by outwash from melting glaciers gave southwestern Wisconsin is the craggy Parfrey’s Glen Canyon in Sauk county.
Another of the geologic features erosion by outwash from melting glaciers gave southwestern Wisconsin is the craggy Parfrey’s Glen Canyon in Sauk county.

20—Another geographic feature of the land in Wisconsin that was created over millennia by erosion is the canyon at Parfrey’s Glen in Sauk county. It is craggy, cool and beautiful and only a short walk from the parking lot. Located on CTH DL, not far from Devil’s Lake State Park it is a feature that many riders on their way to the state park overlook—but they shouldn’t.

Well, that’s the sampling of some of my favorite images—and through that, of some of my favorite places and points of interest. I guess one of the things I enjoy about these images is that when it is bitter cold outside and the snow is piling up and getting out on a bike is a long way off, revisiting images like this is a way to revisit those places as well. Even though that, like spring, may be a long way off.

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