Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. There's no stress about decorations or gifts, the food is the best, and it's usually still warm enough for me to ride a motorcycle the 400 miles to my parents' house. I'm a terrible son and hadn't been home since the previous Christmas, and since then my stepdad had a heart attack (he's doing great) and they left the burbs and moved back up into the foothills of my youth.

When mom called to ask if I was going to make it home, I replied, "You bet your ass I am. And I'm sorry for the potty mouth, but it's sort of your fault for doing a bad job raising me if you think about it."

Harley-Davidson
My elementary school sits at the center of town.Sean MacDonald

"What I've Been Riding" is a new segment for editors who may not have already written about a certain bike to toss their personal opinions in. Because it's fun for us, hopefully interesting for you, and a great way to create some more discussion around the stuff you're asking us about. The bottom of the page will give you links to things like first ride reviews, comparison tests, dyno runs, and other content we've run - all of which gets the broad-based and objective evaluation techniques you've come to expect from us. If you're dying to check out the specs or have a more technical question, we'd suggest perusing those before getting upset that these "reviews" don't contain our normal, rigorous efforts.

Harley-Davidson
So many memories of sucking at sports back here.Sean MacDonald

As I surveyed the bikes we had in stock—primarily some bikes from the current crop of super nakeds, a pair of Groms, a dirtbike, and Triumph Bonneville T120—my eyes landed on the Harley-Davidson Road Glide Ultra brooding in the corner, which had been used in a comparison with the Indian Roadmaster that, if my math is correct, should be hitting your mailbox any day now.

With a pressed timeline, the possibility of rain, and the idea of having to cram all my crap into a backpack, the Harley was an easy choice over the Yamaha FZ-10 or KTM 1290 Super Duke R. I only began to regret my decision as I headed home from the office to pack and got stuck sitting in traffic. Hopefully this wouldn't become a thing.

Harley-Davidson
Citrus orchards for as far as the eye can see, separated by rows of transplanted palm trees.Sean MacDonald

A night that went far later than it should have pushed packing until the morning, and I did a rushed job as the minutes ate away at my day. The weather was supposed to hold, but I grabbed an Aerostich R-3 Light and few extra layers, my laptop and camera, and a clean pair of clothes and hustled out the door about the time rush hour began to mellow on the Wednesday before Turkey Day.

Getting through LA was actually somewhat of a breeze until I got up onto the Grapevine, where an actual breeze tried to send me to the moon. Fortunately, the Road Glide Ultra is a hefty beast, and its 930 pound wet weight kept me planted and in my lane. I stopped for gas somewhere just south of Bakersfield to a text from my mother asking when I was getting in and mentioning something about chores, and my decision about routes was decided: it would be no fun for me today, and I'd be relegated to taking the fast way home up Highway 99.

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No one who meets me now would believe that, growing up, this was the closest thing I had to neighbors.Sean MacDonald

Riding the Road Glide up the 99 gave me plenty of mindless time to think about life and motorcycles, and it reminded me how much I love Harley-Davidsons for long rides. I still either can't put my finger on, or at least I don't know how to express, the way their bikes make you feel once out in their natural habitat of open, straight roads. Something about the way the bike vibrates or the sounds it makes. The way you you're enjoying the countryside on instead of staring at the next corner entry. It's heavy and shitty, but in the best way.

The new Road Glide cruises really nicely once you get above walking speeds, and even getting it around smallish spaces in parking lots and gas stations isn't too big of a bear. I had no time to play with it before I left, but it only took me 30 minutes or so before I'd figured out the infotainment system and various controls. The cruise control is nice and intuitive, but it won't hold your speed if you push it over 90 miles per hour.

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My mom and step dad both worked at the elementary school I went to, which means that NOTHING I did remained a secret. It's also why I get revenge by posting pictures of them looking super cool on the Harley.Sean MacDonald

All in all, the ride was uneventful and I managed to make it to Auburn with about an hour before sunset. Mom has me on Apple's Find My Friends app so she won't text me every hour asking if I'm still alive, and they were outside and waiting when I arrived. I barely got the 'Stich off before I was hustled on a tour of the property, but at least they put a glass of tequila in my hands first.

Thanksgiving was great. A far cry from the 30 person dinners of my childhood, but I'll spare you the boring details with the exception of one: there is room for a track in the back and they'd already scouted it with the riding mower. Christmas is going to be fun, and come with lots of pictures of them crashing dirtbikes.

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Come Christmas, there will be a track of sorts back here.Sean MacDonald

Despite 40 degree temps and my being a sissy, I got up early-ish on Friday to try and give myself time to enjoy the foothills on my way home. As I was packing up, my mom asked if I was going to leave without giving her a ride (she'd never been on the back with me before, but the luxurious nature of Harley lured her in) and there was no way I was turning her down. We wrapped her in as many layers as we could and made a morning run. Shockingly, she was a great passenger and didn't fight the turns much or smack me on the back of the head, which she's known for doing.

With that out of the way, I gathered the rest of things and headed south on Highway 49, which runs along the base of the foothills from north of Lake Tahoe to Oakhurst, east of Fresno. Their house is off 49, as is my sister's, and most of my childhood vacations and field trips took place along the tiny highway.

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Mom's first ride.Glenn Lockwood

I never feel at home anywhere quite like I do in this environment. There's something about the rolling hills, tall weeds, sparse oak tree, and outcroppings of granite rocks that reminds me of chasing snakes, being chased by turkeys, and acres full of buried cap guns and home made bows, arrows, swords, and spears. The streets and neighborhoods are named after the various crops once planted, most of which were citrus trees, and you can still see rows of imported palm trees, which once outlined massive property lines.

Their new house, and most of 49, runs a few miles higher up the hill than my childhood home, right where the oaks start to turn into pines, and the rolling hills are cut up by the north fork of the American River. The towns are small, with populations in the triple digits, and the towns have largely been left unaltered minus the occasional hulking Home Depot or Walmart plopped where older markets once stood. The roads are even smaller, encroached on even more so by modern full-sized pickups strewn below houses cropped awkwardly into the hillsides above.

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The Forresthill Bridge is the tallest in California at 730 feet, and is where they filmed the car jump scene in that Vin Diesel movie XXX. Something that's still a big deal in small towns like mine.Sean MacDonald

After about an hour or so, the road opens up a bit into cattle pastures, and the hillsides shrunk in height along riverbeds once coveted for their gold. The Harley had come to feel large and cumbersome through some of the really tight towns, with the awkwardly sloped streets and slippery pavement reminding me just how skinny my chicken legs really are. But here, here is where the bike shines. The exhaust echoes off the trees and the slow steering perfectly accompanies the meandering tarmac.

I'm not one to normally buy into the machismo The Motor Co is pushing, but in this environment and on this bike I'm feeling it in full force. Quite honestly, the bike is simply great at this. It's in its element and, while not as technically capable of mastering the roads or length of the trip at hand as something like a Ducati Multistrada, I'd choose it over a bike like that for this sort of riding if the two sat in my garage.

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Gold rush country.Sean MacDonald

I'd planned on riding the length of the 49 from my parents house to where it ends in Oakhurst, but slow traffic and the hours ticking by got the better of me and I cut down to the 99 once I hit Sonora. My butt and shoulder were already sore, my life back home was calling me, and I'd already listened to all the podcasts I'd saved up.

The last 200 miles of my ride droned out easily, and I was glad I'd ridden home early when I was greeted by little to no traffic through LA. As I parked the beast and popped my post-ride beer, the only thing I could think about was how interesting it was that I don't truly love anything in Harley's lineup except the bikes that couldn't be aimed further away from my demographic.

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2017 Harley-Davidson Road Glide UltraSean MacDonald

I'll likely never have the means to spend $26,299 on a cruiser, but I sure do understand why those who can, do. And I can't wait until the next time I get to see more of America on one.