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37-91°F
3-33°C

15 April-30 Sep

Highway 61 Revisited Self Guided Motorcycle Tour

The Highway 61 motorcycle tour is a journey through time and a discovery of the mighty Mississippi River. Characterful cities, music all around you, American history from the pioneer days to the present, this road is probably even more significant than when Bob Dylan released his eponymous album some 50 years ago.

 

While he was growing up in the 1950s, Highway 61 stretched from Duluth, where Dylan was born, through St. Paul, down to the Mississippi delta and on to New Orleans. Along the way, the route passed near the birthplaces and homes of influential musicians such as Muddy Waters, Son House, Elvis Presley, and Charley Patton. The “empress of the blues”, Bessie Smith, died after sustaining serious injuries in an automobile accident on Highway 61. Blues legend Robert Johnson is alleged to have sold his soul to the devil at the highway’s crossroads with Route 49. Whichever way you look at it, Highway 61 is part of the soul of America.

 

And probably more than any of our tours, this one invites you to customise it to suit your own interests and wishes. Maybe a detour to Nashville, more time in the Delta, continue riding Highway 61 all the way to Duluth, or a night or two to wind down in Chicago.

 

Total Mileage c. 1700

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PRINT DETAILS

  • New Orleans

    New Orleans
  • Natchez

    Natchez
  • Harley-Davidson® Museum

    Harley-Davidson® Museum
  • Vicksburg, National Military park

    Vicksburg, National Military park
  • Mississippi Delta

    Mississippi Delta
  • Memphis

    Memphis
  • Great River Road

    Great River Road
  • The Bayou

    The Bayou
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Day 1 Arrive in New Orleans.
Day 1 Arrive in New Orleans.

Welcome to New Orleans! Despite the devastation wreaked by hurricane Katrina some 10 years ago, which resulted in the city population falling by nearly 50%, New Orleans has regained its soul.

 

New Orleans has many major attractions, from the world-renowned French Quarter and Bourbon Street's notorious nightlife to the historic Pontchartrain Hotel, the many 19th-century mansions, and on to Magazine Street, with its many boutique stores and antique shops.

Day 2 New Orleans – Natchez, MS. (255 miles)
Day 2 New Orleans – Natchez, MS.

New Orleans H-D is on the way out of town, and the scenic start takes you south into the bayou to Houma. This is Cajun heartland, so soak up the atmosphere, take a walk round the historic centre and grab some real Cajun food before you leave. Continue north to pick up the I-10 to Baton Rouge. You skirt this intriguing city, Louisiana’s state capital and a major port. It has a reputation for heavy traffic and if you do visit, allow plenty of time. Unusually, the original state Capitol was not a copy of the one in Washington, but a neogothic structure, and its replacement built in the art deco style!

And now the easy riding starts as you pick up Highway 61 for the first time, and stay with it for the next 80 miles or so. Your first overnight stop is Natchez. This is a small city steeped in southern charm, and the start of the Natchez Trace Parkway, which commemorates the ancient trade route through Mississippi, Alabama and Tennessee, and a lovely scenic ride. Natchez was the original capital of Mississippi and it is located on a bluff overlooking the mighty Mississippi, with many fine antebellum houses, some open to the public.

Day 3 Natchez – Vicksburg, MS. (75 miles)
Day 3 Natchez – Vicksburg, MS.

Take a stroll around Natchez before you leave, maybe visit one of the antebellum houses. Leaving Natchez, you can swap Highway 61 for the Parkway for about 25 miles until you reach Port Gibson. Hwy 61 then tracks the Mississippi all the way to Vicksburg. Your hotel is on the south side of the city, a little out of town, but with good views of the river. The rest of the day is yours to explore this historic city. A ‘must-do’ is the National Military Park. The 47-day siege of Vicksburg in 1863 was one of the most significant military actions of the American Civil War, and is considered by many to be the turning point in the Civil War.

The park includes 1,325 historic monuments and markers, 20 miles (32 km) of historic trenches and earthworks, a 16-mile (26 km) tour road, a 12.5-mile (20.1 km) walking trail, two antebellum homes, 144 emplaced cannons, restored gunboat USS Cairo, and the Grant's Canal site. The Cairo, also known as the "Hardluck Ironclad," was the first US ship in history to be sunk by a torpedo/mine. It was raised in 1964. The Illinois State Memorial has 47 steps, one for every day Vicksburg was besieged. There are over 18,000 bodies buried here, of which over 12,000 are unidentified.

Day 4 Vicksburg – Clarksdale, MS. (145 miles)
Day 4 Vicksburg – Clarksdale, MS.

Leaving Vicksburg, Hwy 61 takes you north into the Mississippi Delta. From now on, you need to let your Blues Trail Markers take over. Your route takes you near some but can’t cover many of them, so please do your homework. There’s over 170 markers now. Check out the website, download the app, and plan your day.

How about Leland, birthplace of Johnny Winter, Tutwiler (W.C. Handy) and on to John Lee Hooker’s marker before riding to Clarksdale. However, the options are almost endless, so please do your research before you set out. I don’t want you coming back saying you missed something!

Clarksdale of course is the site of the ‘Crossroads’, Ground Zero and many more blues sites. And we think you’ll like your accommodation tonight – a bit of a surprise!

Day 5 Clarksdale – Memphis, TN. (120 miles)
Day 5 Clarksdale – Memphis, TN.

Highway 61 takes you straight into Memphis, but how about a detour across the river into Arkansas, which gives you a great view of Memphis as you cross back over.

Day 6 Memphis. (free day)
Day 6 Memphis.

The day is yours to explore this musical icon – Gracelands, Stax, Sun Studios, Beale St, the list is endless.

Day 7 Memphis – St Louis, MO. (340 miles)
Day 7 Memphis – St Louis, MO.

Back in the saddle, a detour brings you to Nutbush this morning. Then head for Cairo, once a vital river port, before continuing on the Great River Road to St Louis, home of Chuck Berry, with its famous Memorial Arch. It’s a long day, but the riding is easy and the stops welcoming.

Day 8 St Louis – Davenport, IA. (300 miles)
Day 8 St Louis – Davenport, IA.

Continuing north, you can swap Hwy 61 with the Great River Road and ride both banks of the Mississippi to Davenport. Make sure you stop at Fort Madison for a tour of the fort, where tribal leader Black Hawk attacked the US garrison for the British in the war of 1812.

Day 9 Davenport, IA – Prairie du Chien, WI. (170 miles)
Day 9 Davenport, IA – Prairie du Chien, WI.

More of the same today as you continue following the mighty Mississippi. However, the scenery changes as the river flows between hills for much of the way, making for some winding roads through woodlands, and spectacular views and river crossings. Again, you can ride either bank of the river. Make time to stop at Galena, once one of the most important cities in Illinois, and a major river city. It was also home to Ulysses S. Grant, Civil War General and president. In his time, the population of 14,000 was over three times the current population. The town is now considered one of the top ten charming small towns in America, and a perfect tourist stopover, so take some time to have a wander around. And how about a detour to the American National Motorcycle Museum in Anamosa!

Day 10 Prairie du Chien – Milwaukee, WI. (200 miles)
Day 10 Prairie du Chien – Milwaukee, WI.

A lovely morning ride along the banks of the meandering Wisconsin River brings you to Sauk City. In the afternoon, continue on a country ride to Milwaukee, or visit the state capital, Madison, a bustling university town set between two lakes.

Day 11 Milwaukee. (free day)
Day 11 Milwaukee.

The day is yours to enjoy the Milwaukee, with its old downtown area, iconic art gallery, and of course the Harley-Davidson Museum, and hopefully there’s time to see the Motor Company headquarters at Juneau Rd.

Day 12 Milwaukee – Chicago and depart Chicago. (80 miles)
Day 12 Milwaukee – Chicago and depart Chicago.

We’ve saved you the unexciting ride into Chicago and your final short ride to Woodstock is a more enjoyable experience. Just be sure get back to Woodstock Harley-Davidson in time for your airport transfer for your flight home.

  • Our Tour Price Includes
    • Harley-Davidson® authorized rental motorcycle (current year model, dealer owned, under 20k miles with factory warranty)
    • Standard motorcycle insurance cover including CDW and State minimum liability cover
    • Emergency roadside assistance
    • Personal hardcopy tourbook including maps
    • Accommodation in 2-4* hotels
    • Some breakfasts
    • Bike locks
    • Unlimited mileage
    • All taxes and any one way fees
    • Helmets (if requested). We strongly recommend you bring your own
    • Luggage storage at dealership
    • SatNav included in selected models
    • GBP pricing – we take the currency risk
    • Guaranteed financial and legal protection, for your peace of mind from our Travel Trust Association membership and ATOL Bond
  • Pre-bookable Options
    ‘Try before you Fly’ Harley-Davidson® 2 hour Orientation Ride Flights (we are an ATOL bonded, UK company) Specialist Travel insurance for motorcyclists (EU residents only) Optional CDW & SLI motorcycle insurances Excursions/activities Pre and post tour accommodation Pre and post tour motorcycle hire UK airport hotels and parking US Airport to hotel transfer Trike
  • Our Tour Price Does Not Include
    • Meals except where specified (allow c. £30/person/day)
    • Riding gear
    • Additional activities
    • Personal expenses, souvenirs, tips
    • National Park Fees
    • Fuel and oil on tour (allow c. £15/motorcycle/day)
    • Hotel parking fees
    • Hotel to dealership transfer
    • Airport to Hotel transfer

Our Main Motorcycle Models

  • Electra Glide Ultra Limited
  • Electra Glide® Ultra Classic®
  • Road Glide Ultra
  • Road King®
  • Street Glide®/Street Glide®Special
  • Heritage Softail® Classic
  • Fat Boy®/Fat Boy® Lo
  • Dyna® Switchback ™
  • Sportster®1200 Custom
  • Tri Glide Ultra Classic
  • Bring Your Own

  • Other models may be available upon request

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