A group of motorcycle riding tourists from Belgium passed through Lincoln County this week. Led by tour organizer Colette Thoreau of Evergreen, Colorado, near Denver, the 22-person group is on a 16-day tour of the U.S. from Denver to San Francisco.
The group stopped in Pioche at the Silver Café for lunch Monday afternoon. One of the riders, Veronique Bucher, said they are mostly working people between the ages of 40-50 and a few retired people. They had gathered in Brussels, Belgium, flown to Frankfurt, Germany and then to Denver to begin the tour. They had already visited Page, Ariz., the north rim of the Grand Canyon and stayed Sunday night in St. George, UT. After the Pioche stop, they headed to Ely.
Thoreau said she picked Pioche as a place to stop for a couple of reasons. One, Pioche is named for F.L.A. Pioche, a San Francisco-based Frenchman, who owned many of the mining properties in Pioche in the early 1870s, and second, because most of her people had never seen an authentic Old West town. She said, “Online, I found the Silver Café, and we decided to stop here and the town is very interesting, and for somebody coming from Europe, they have never send an old western town.” This is the first time she had taken this particular tour route, into Arizona and St. George, to Enterprise, Utah, then to Panaca and Pioche.
Thoreau said she had a long career in finance in Colorado, but retired in the late ‘90’s and thought it would be fun to be a motorcycle tour operator.
The riders come from all walks of professional life in Belgium, she said,, but all are experienced motorcycle riders. Thoreau has the group ride Harley-Davidson rental bikes, depending upon availability, or other makes as needed.
“We must be doing something very right,” she said, “because the majority of them are repeat tourists with me.” She said the annual tours are usually promoted in Belgium primarily by word of mouth.
From Ely, the group planned to travel on U.S. 50 to Eureka, Austin, Fallon, Virginia City, South Lake Tahoe, Yosemite, Kings Canyon, Moro Bay, California, and up the coast route to San Francisco, then return to Belgium.
Thoreau noted another interesting fact the people usually comment on, is that as Belgium has one of the highest population densities in the world. “When you take a motorcycle, you can go maybe five or six miles and you come to a town. But here, for them to be able to ride for hundreds of miles without seeing anything is an experience. That’s why were are doing it. That’s something that fascinates them, the Old West.”
Not all her tours have been in the U.S. over the years, other have gone to Mexico, Western Canada, China and South America. Some of the U.S. tours have traveled north from Denver, but this time she said, “We wanted to do something different and go from Denver west to San Francisco. We wanted to take advantage of the beauty of southern Utah and find a way of connecting everything with California, and this is it.”
Rider Guy Vandabond commented, “This is an amazing country. We don’t have anything like it in Europe. This is the fifth time I have participated in this tour, but my first time to Pioche.”
Phillip Ramaekers said, “The trip with the bike is very nice. Nice weather, nice country, and nice people as well. I am astonished.”
The group stays each night in motels or hotels and takes their meals in local restaurants.
Overall cost of the 16-day trip is about $9,300, not including the evening meals and airfare.
Thoreau drives the support van with the luggage and equipment for motorcycle maintenance. After nearly 20 years of touring, Thoreau, herself a native of Brussels, Belgium, said this year’s trip would be her last.