Monday, April 16, 2012

Day to Day Touring

For long distance touring, it really boils down to four riding categories: Solo, two-up/one bike, touring with a buddy (2 bikes) and larger groups. I have done all multiple times and they each have their good and bad points.

Although I enjoy each for different reasons, I dedicate one trip - my long Summer trip - as a solo trip. I am one of the most social animals around and I thought I would find solo touring to be a lonely

venture. But that turned out to be pleasantly not the case at all. I find it to be almost a retreat atmosphere and do some of my best thinking all alone on the open road.

First of all, unless you have bike-to-bike communications, you're pretty much alone with your thoughts even while riding in a group. So, all I had to be concerned about - on the lonely front - was when I stopped riding for the day.

This is where I have found having a routine is helpful. I usually try to stop riding for the day at around 3 or 4 pm. I try to get on the road at or just after sunrise, so that is a good 6 or 7 hours of riding when you factor in gas, lunch, stopping for the largest 'Ball of Twine' roadside attraction and stretch breaks....and the occasional nap. That's enough riding for me for a day.

My routine is usually the same: Since I like to camp the majority of the time on the road, I find a nice place, set up camp, unload the gear and get the lay of the land. I talk to the proprietor(s) and ask about local places to go for good food and any evening doings that may be going on. Even if it's for the night - and I am usually dog tired - I like to know what's going on. Sometimes to go there - as in a weekend jazz contest in the town square in Fort Collins, CO, which was awesome. Also, sometimes you want to know what's going on so you can avoid going there, as in a cattle auction that was being held in a nearby town near Billings, MT which was going to kick up a lot of dust and clog the roads near town....let alone the smell.

I will also make a round or two around the campground - and met some of the most nicest people that way. I met a nice couple when I stopped and told them their renovated Airstream trailer was so cool...and it was. It turned out they were members in an Antique Airstream Trailer Assoc. and we had a great conversation over lemonade about those amazing silver trailers.....or as my wife calls them,'hot dog' cookers.

Any motorcyclist at a campground will give you a quick and polite nod which is good conversation starter. "Where you from? Where you headed? Anything cool down the road?"...are all good starters. I met one woman riding a big ole Harley who was camping solo, struck up a conversation, and she told me of the "Beartooth Pass" heading into Yellowstone National Park..which I never heard of but ranks as one the best rides of my life. It pays to talk and be flexible with your itinerary.

I have often found dinner companions that way...either invited to their BBQ or deciding to go out and eat in town together. Every once in a while, sitting and reading at my camp-site, some large group of campers will invite me over to hang out and offer a meal and some good company.

You just don't get those types of experiences at a roadside motel.

Most of the time though, I end up going out to eat by myself. I grab my maps and use that time to plan the next days general routes, or find a wi-fi spot and update this blog. Before I leave the campground (or even the motel), I always plug in the coordinates of where I am staying in my GPS. I can't tell you how many times I have gone to dinner in daylight and tried to return after dark and couldn't find my way back to the campgrounds because I was unfamiliar with the local roads. All I do on my Garmin is press the screen and it logs my current position as a waypoint, so I can find my way back.

I have never had any of my stuff ripped off at a campground when I leave camp for dinner. That said, I don't leave my stuff lying outside the tent, and anything of real value is with me or on the bike. I did have riding gloves stolen once when I left them on the dash behind the windscreen. My own fault for leaving a tempting target, but I use vented, rubber-armored mechanics gloves you can get from Wal-Mart for $20. For most of my riding over 45 degrees, these work great and is not a hug 'hit' if they get feet and walk away.

Road food can get a little tiring after a week or so and I don't carry a backpacking stove and related cooking gear. But I will have plenty of water, trail mix, fiber bars and, believe it or not, fruit on board. You'd be surprised how little fruit you eat dining at local eateries, dives and greasy spoons. Without some fruit in you're touring diet, you'll start to feel like a pirate with scurvy in short order.

Unless you have to be at a certain place on a specific date, I would suggest not blowing through all these little towns and cities. Relax. Make time to take a tour of the huge paper factory that employs virtually the whole town. Visit the 'Canal Museum,' and see the trails where mules teams pulled barges down the waterways. Find that Zip-Line proprietor and take a ride of your life over vast mountain sides. Get up early at a hot-air balloon rodeo and watch them come to life as they rise above the morning mist and defy gravity.

My motorcycle is important to me as an experience in itself. But it is also a magic carpet that allows me to visit new places, meet new people and have different experiences. The saddle got you there and will take you back. But life and adventure also happens when you get off your trusty steed.

Happy Trails.....

1 comment:

  1. I have found your blog to be greatly entertaining and I own a 2008 Burgman 650 I am going to head out on some trips this summer…I wanted to ask some questions to you at your email, but no where on your blog could I find a way to just email you….I am really wanting to ask about some of your ways of packing…..thanks