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Traveling By Motorcycle

by Fred Ost

One of the best ways to truly see the United States is from the saddle of a motorcycle. I have ridden through many states with trips over six thousand miles in length including two solo trips from New Jersey to the Sturgis Rally in South Dakota, and to Pike's Peak in Colorado. I have found some tips and techniques that have worked well for me and I'd like to share them with you.

There are basically two ways to travel by motorcycle, probably one of the more popular but less spiritual is what some call "credit card camping" which is basically rolling from hotel to motel for your sleeping accommodations and buying all your meals on the road. I look forward to trying this method someday when my writing starts raking in the big bucks. About the only supplies you'd need for a trip like this (if your definition of comfort is not too demanding)would be:
  • Rain Gear
  • Camera/Film/Batteries
  • First Aid Kit
  • Change of Clothes
  • Sun block (for those of us not clad in our riding jump suits)
  • Sunglasses
  • Map
Personally I look forward to trying a trip in this fashion with only my jeans, T-shirt, and boots. I've been wet before and most motels and hotels have some kind of laundry area and plenty of towels to wrap up in. I might bring an extra pair of sock in a zip lock bag though, dry feet are happy feet.

The other way to travel and personally my favorite is to camp out between destinations, this is the cheapest and most immersing way to travel. Like they say it's the journey not the destination. All the equipment you would need can be found at your local or online backpacking equipment supplier. In addition to the above listed equipment, here is a list of what I usually bring for a typical solo long distance, or overnight trip:
  • One person backpacking tent
  • Ground pad for sleeping bag
  • Sleeping bag
  • Single burner multi-fuel backpacking stove
  • Fuel bottle with extra fuel (can also be used for bike)
  • Cooking kit (stove usually fits inside pot with lid)
  • Cup for tea or coffee
  • One meal for each days dinner and one energy or protein meal replacement bar for breakfast (grab lunch on the road)
  • Two water bottles one with measuring increments on it for cooking.
  • Candle lantern with one candle for each day of the trip
  • Small LED headlamp for walking around the site and digging through saddle bags
I chose backpacking/mountaineering equipment for two reasons, A: I already owned a bunch of it since that's my other favorite way to find inner peace, and B: backpacking/mountaineering equipment packs down small withstands tremendous abuse and is usually multi-use equipment ex: pot is used for bowl etc. Using a multi-fuel stove has several advantages, you will never be unable to prepare a hot meal because these stoves will burn just about any liquid fuel like gas, kersosene, jet fuel, and even dry cleaning fluid (if you can find that I don't think your far from fast food:) If you run your stove on regular gas or stove fuel you are in luck because your extra fuel bottle can also be used to feed your bike in case your in a jam. E don't mean enough my fellow travelers.

This may seem like roughing it to some people but it's luxury travel for others. Starting out with a light breakfast like an energy bar with some coffee or tea gives you a quick start on the day and speaking for myself I generally don't like to have a big breakfast before heading out for a days worth of riding, I'd rather be looking for fun side destinations than a bathroom.

Stopping for lunch on the road allows you the luxury of not having to unpack your stove, food etc. just to make one meal (trust me if you do it, you'll only do it once) it's worth parting with a few bucks just to not have to repack your bike.

Sleeping under the stars is not only relaxing but it can save you a bunch of cash as well. The average motel or hotel near an interstate, at least in the middle of the US averages about sixty-five dollars a night whereas the average campground is about ten dollars a night, on a week long trip that adds up to quite a bit of souvenir money. If you are traveling in the northeast US those same rooms can run your a hundred plus per night the closer you get to New York City. Since I mentioned it, in case you are wondering how to deal with souvenirs on the road, just stop by your local post office or UPS store and ship them to your home or to a friends house, so they can hold them for you till you return. This is also a good way to deal with exposed film from your camera and the not so rare event when you find out you over packed again. The post office or other shippers usually have everything you need to package your stuff boxes, padding, tape etc. keeping those saddle bags light make for a happy rider and better gas mileage too.

It does not matter what style or make of bike you ride as long as you watch your weight distribution, the only major difference you will experience between bikes will be in the way that you pack for the trip. I have gone on trips on dual sport (on and off road bikes) which are the equivalent of a giant dirt bike, sport bikes, and full dress touring bikes. I have no trouble packing all that gear into my Harley Electra Glide Classic these days, but I also have some great memories of strapping firewood to my Kawasaki KLR 650 and having kids and their parents chuckling watching me try to get back on the bike with my backpack on, so never let the style of bike you enjoy mess up your travel plans. Planning the trip is sometimes just as much fun as the trip itself, and it always make your travels go smoother.

Fred Ost is a writer, web designer and aspiring indie movie maker. He is a founder of, and staff writer at the free independent artits community at http://www.scptv.net


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