DESTINATION: Milwaukee, WI
CLASS TIME: 25 Hours
DIFFICULTY LEVEL: Medium
Ah, motorcycles: the wind in your hair, the sun on your face, the thrill of the open road. All of that has always piqued my sense of adventure. The problem is the small detail of actually learning how to ride, which is why I set out to Harley Davidson HQ in Milwaukee, where some of the country’s most devoted hog enthusiasts hold court. I was a little disappointed when I heard that I wouldn’t get my own Harley; instead, rookies learn on plasticky, lower-powered Buells. (Picture some kid on Oregon Avenue zipping around your car.) But once I felt the seat rumbling beneath me, grasped the throttle in my sweaty palm, and surged forward with reckless abandon, I decided the Buell was just enough excitement for me. Now all I need is a bike, a badass leather jacket, a tattoo … Midlife crisis, here I come!
At Harley’s $350 Rider’s Edge course, beginners learn the ropes through a combination of classroom and on-the-road (well, parking lot) training. Once back in Pennsylvania, you can schedule a road test to get licensed.Harley Davidson Rider’s Edge, ridersedge.com.
All the cool people-that’s you, since you’re learning to ride a Harley-stay at the fabulous new, vaguely biker-themed Iron Horse Hotel, one of Condé Nast’s Hot Hotels for 2009, a luxurious boutique property in a 100-year-old warehouse. Don’t miss brunch in the sun-drenched library, or the soon-to-open 20-person (yes, 20!) indoor hot tub in the former boiler room. From $125 per night (ah, Midwest prices). Iron Horse Hotel, 888-543-4766, theironhorsehotel.com.
Milwaukee is a cool, throwback kind of town with lots of gritty, non-ironic, kitschy character. Think Bob & Barbara’s, not El Vez. Bowl a game at the country’s oldest alley, Holler House, where cute young men manually reset your pins. Sip a Pink Squirrel where they were invented: at Bryant’s, the city’s oldest cocktail lounge. Or sing along with 73-year-old Angelo at his eponymous piano bar. Holler House, 414-647-9284; Bryant’s, 414-383-2620, bryantscocktaillounge.com; Angelo’s, 414-347-4144.
Whatever you do, don’t miss the citywide Friday-night fish fry, which is exactly what it sounds like. One of the best is at German stronghold Kegel’s Inn. For brunch with a view, visit relative newcomer Roots, overlooking the city from its hilltop perch. Kegel’s Inn, 414-257-9999; Roots, 414-374-8480, rootsmilwaukee.com.
Fly nonstop on Midwest — they give you warm chocolate chip cookies. Once on the ground, you’ll need to rent a car. People in Milwaukee don’t walk anywhere.
To get on the bike, you’ll need a driver’s license, long-sleeve shirt or leather jacket, jeans, over-the-ankle shoes, gloves and protective eyewear. They provide the helmet.
Back in Philly: Get your license, then take Harley’s Skilled Rider course at Barb’s Harley Davidson (926 Black Horse Pike, Collingswood, 856-456-4141, barbshd.com). After that, hit the road and revel in how cool you’ve become.