Winding Roads and Roaring Engines: Experience South Carolina State Parks by Motorcycle

Katie and Kurt, are members of the "Thunder Riders" Chapter of the Harley Owners Group, a nationwide group for Harley-Davidson motorcycle enthusiasts. The chapter has a tradition of issuing destination ride challenges to its members to encourage safe riding throughout the state and to allow members to travel to places they may not otherwise. Katie says, "Our most recent challenge is the South Carolina State Parks Challenge, to see how many members can visit each of the state parks and historic sites. So it was a no-brainer for us to combine the Ultimate Outsider challenge along the way!" Katie and Kurt set out on an exhilarating adventure that combined their passion for Harley-Davidson motorcycles with a quest to become South Carolina State Park Ultimate Outsiders.

Their expedition began in September 2021 at the Battle of Musgrove Mill State Historic Site in Clinton. Over the next two years, they traveled the state, exploring each state park and historic site, and finishing at Oconee State Park in October 2023.

For Katie and Kurt, navigating the state's diverse landscape presented challenges and opportunities. According to Katie, every mile was a testament to their meticulous planning. Katie says, "When traveling on a motorcycle, you have to maximize efficiency and take advantage of good weather days. So one of the most fun and interesting parts of our journey was mapping the locations of each park and planning strategic routes that would often allow us to visit multiple parks in one day as we created routes from our home in Irmo."

This wasn't merely a journey from point A to point B; it was a carefully curated experience that allowed them to immerse themselves in the rich tapestry of South Carolina.

One of the most exhilarating aspects of their adventure was the freedom of traveling on two wheels. Steering clear of the monotonous drone of interstate highways, they embraced the winding roads and hidden byways, uncovering hidden gems along the way, says Katie. 

"Since we visited all of the parks on the motorcycle, the other great opportunity we had was to plan these routes using back roads to avoid spending so much time on the interstate highways. This allowed us to see so many different areas of the state that we never even knew existed. Traveling winding roads and seeing historic towns, expansive South Carolina farmland, cattle, horses, and so much more along the way was definitely one of the highlights of our adventure."

One particular trip that stood out was visiting several upstate parks over a long weekend in late October.  "We drove our Harley from Jones Gap and Caesars Head to Table Rock and Keowee-Toxaway," says Katie. "The next day, we visited Devils Fork, Oconee Station, and then ended our Ultimate Outsider journey at Oconee State Park while the park was decorated for Halloween. Not only are each of these parks beautiful on their own, but the drive between them was absolutely stunning during the peak of Autumn’s leaf-changing season. Driving the motorcycle slowly and thoughtfully through the area made this a truly immersive experience, as we got to see thousands of vibrant orange, yellow, red, brown, and even purple leaves fall slowly and delicately to the ground around us as if they were dancing and twirling on their way down – some even landing on us as we rode through. It was a breathtaking and seemingly magical experience."

Each state park or historic site offers a unique opportunity to experience South Carolina’s history and natural resources. We asked Katie and Kurt if they had a favorite that stood out and they said they enjoyed the beach parks - particularly Huntington Beach State Park. Katie says, "Huntington Beach definitely stands out as a favorite because of Atalaya, and we also enjoyed the fun oversized chairs and the nearby state parks direction and mileage sign. After enjoying a beautiful walk on the beach, it was fun to stand in that spot and think about where we were in relation to all the other state parks!"

Katie shared her advice for others considering a similar journey of visiting state parks by motorcycle, stating, "Besides following all the safety protocol and rules of the road, I would encourage other riders to study the Official Guide to South Carolina State Parks to get an idea of where each is located and to determine your routes accordingly." She stressed the significance of time management, advising, "Give yourself ample time to drive the route between your home base and the park(s) you want to visit, but don’t forget to build in extra time to spend in each of the parks to really appreciate what they have to offer." Katie also cautioned about the rural nature of many parks, advising you to keep your tank filled when possible. In conclusion, she urged, "Get out there, be safe, and have fun!"

Whether you're a seasoned rider or a novice adventurer, there's no better way to experience South Carolina than from the saddle of a motorcycle. So, saddle up, rev your engine, and get out there. The open road calls, promising an unforgettable adventure around every bend.