The day before any motorcycle trips, I spend time in the garage checking things I had checked after I checked things several times subsequent to the first time I checked them. You might call this obsessive. I call it a ritual.
Even after 50-plus years of riding, I still get excited about long motorcycle trips. The around-town stuff? Not so much anymore. But give me some sunrises to chase, and I get all warm and fuzzy.
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What I enjoy most about these trips is the unknown. Unless I’m working against a deadline, I prefer to minimize the planning. I depart knowing there are things I want to see and people I want to meet, but the route to get there is open to the whims and weather of the day. I’m easily seduced by side roads and ghost towns, not to mention lighthouses, free-range moose, and mom-and-pop restaurants that serve chicken-fried steak. The longer I’m up on two wheels, the more likely I’ll come home with a saddlebag full of great memories and maybe even a story or two with which to bore Lora.
My sleep the night before can be restless as I keep reviewing everything I packed and worrying about what I’m sure I’ve forgotten. A checklist works wonders. Over the years I’ve narrowed my “must haves” down to a short list, but I still stress a bit. The anticipation and excitement of the coming days always make me feel like a kid on Christmas Eve. Morning comes early, as I like to get on the road ahead of the unfortunate souls commuting to work.
I prefer to camp on these trips; or more correctly, four nights on the ground to every one night in a motel. That fifth night allows me to do a load of laundry and take a long, hot shower. Oddly, I usually sleep better in a tent than in any motel room or in my bed at home.
My various age-appropriate aches and pains make rolling out of a sleeping bag a bit of a comic act, but a cup of AeroPress coffee and a Tylenol before leaving makes everything copacetic. Before gearing up, I take a short, brisk walk around the camp area to kickstart my body. I aim for an hour on the road before stopping for breakfast.
One more thing about camping: I prefer the company of those I meet around a campfire to those in a bar.
I travel solo and am not much interested in changing this habit. These trips are a form of meditation for me. They clear my mind and help me bring home new perspectives and renewed energy.
For many years, most of my trips were on Thunder Press biz. This meant I was always in a hurry and generally behind schedule. The result was 400- to 600-mile days. I’d hit the tarmac early and ride to a late stop, so I missed a lot along the way. Now I limit myself to 300-mile days. This means I can set up camp by mid-afternoon, take a quick nap, check out the area, and then hunt up a great dinner, preferably to the accompaniment of a margarita (on the rocks, no salt).
At some point, I have to turn around and head back to the barn. I always look forward to returning home, but as I get closer, the urge to stretch the trip out for another day or two invariably pops up. That’s okay; I know there will always be another checklist and another trip.
This column originally appeared in the October issue of American Rider.