From a 20-Mile Commute to a 3,200-Mile Trip Across America

Andria Yu, who perpetually has helmet hair, joined the staff at the Motorcycle Safety Foundation in 2016.

By Andria Yu

I can be stingy. (Economical, my friends would say.) I also like to try to make everything I do fun,  including my dull 20-mile commute to work at the newspaper. The solution I came up with: I’m gonna get a motorcycle! I can save fuel and have an exhilarating commute. (Who ever thought those two words would go together?)

I didn’t know anyone who rode; none of my friends or family did. Which meant I knew exactly zero things about motorcycles, let alone how to ride one. I was, however, aware that with any activity that takes skill, there are good habits and bad habits, and I didn’t need any more bad habits. “Well, if I’m going to learn how to ride,” I thought to myself, “I may as well learn the right way.” I figured Maryland’s Motor Vehicle Administration would point me in the right direction, as they would be issuing my license after all, so I went to the MVA website and searched “motorcycle class.”

At the time, the classes were run by the MVA, which used the Motorcycle Safety Foundation’s curriculum. I was excited and nervous when class started, but I was immediately eased when I realized that the coaches would take things step-by-step. I passed with flying colors — nearly a perfect score.

Me taking an MSF Advanced RiderCourse class.

I started riding and commuting immediately. I started with a Honda Rebel 250 (the same model motorcycle we used in class). As I rode more and grew more confident, I wanted to do more than just commute by motorcycle. I wanted to explore. And while I loved the little bike for commutes and around-town jaunts (and the 60 mpg average I got out of it), it did have its limits. I needed something with a little more oomph if I were to ride longer distances on the highways.

Motorcycling opened up a whole world of possibilities for me. Since learning to ride in 2001, I’ve had about 13 motorcycles (eight of which I still own).

We rented Yamaha motorcycles from EagleRider and rode from Las Vegas to Zion National Park.

I’ve ridden from Baltimore to the Key West, to Detroit, Indianapolis, Pittsburgh, somewhere-North Carolina, and through the Shenandoah National Park. I flew down to Chattanooga, Tennessee, to buy a motorcycle and ride it home, embarking on my first long-distance solo adventure that took me through the twists and turns of the Cherohala Skyway and the Tail of the Dragon. And I’ve done more training, including the Motorcycle Safety Foundation’s DirtBike School and then Jimmy Lewis Off-Road Riding School, in Pahrump, Nevada, before embarking on a dual-purpose ride through Death Valley. My husband (whom I met on a New Year’s Day ride) and I also rode nearly 500 miles through the sandy Pine Barrens of New Jersey with friends we met through motorcycling. There is truly no better way to explore than on two wheels.

Dual-sport riding on borrowed Husqvarnas through Death Valley, aka Tatooine in Star Wars.
Pit stop to check out UFOs on our ride across the U.S. We believe!

After the covid pandemic hit, motorcycling provided a much needed outlet. And before prices skyrocketed, I got a great deal on a KTM 390 Adventure, but it was in California. A friend of mine picked it up and stored it for me, and six months and two vaccines later, my husband and I flew out to the West Coast to bring the bike home. We also gave my husband a $5,000 budget to buy a used bike for him to ride back because no, I didn’t want to be a passenger on MY motorcycle. We got lucky and found a used Kawasaki KLR650 completely farkled out.

It was the end of March 2021, my very first cross-country trip by motorcycle. A friend of mine, who worked at BuzzFeed at the time, heard about my plans and told me to save video clips from my adventure. And from those clips, he recreated our 3,200-mile trip in under five minutes.

This Couple Motorcycles Across Country Together!