It is that time of year when you start thinking about where you are going to ride this year. Those big trips do require some planning in that we have to put in for vacation time and decide how long we are going to be on the road. A trip to Galveston from Fort Worth is a no-brainer compared to heading out on your annual excursion to Sturgis. Still again if you are heading for Alaska from anywhere you need to do some strategic planning. The trick no matter where you are going is to not over plan. I believe the longer the trip the more unplanned days are required to keep the adventure level worthy of the tales to be told upon your return trip. Planning should be kept for starting time, where you might end up the first night, a very loose schedule as when you want to arrive at certain points of interest or rest and what your general direction is going to be. Of course, I would also plan on an appropriate tool kit for those unplanned adjustments on the road where there is no one around and no cell service. While this may seem like some kind of oxymoron and a bit confusing, I will take the time to point out when planning is necessary but also to let you know when no plan is the best plan for the ultimate adventure.
Let’s start with quick trips under 500 miles. Not much of a plan required here: departure time destination, check your oil and fill up with high test. You can usually get a room through booking.com when you are hundreds out without much problem. If it is a big rally and you want to be downtown you probably will have to book a room ahead of time. I am making one big assumption here and that is your bike is well maintained and always waiting for you to point it in a particular direction and twist the throttle. Personal experience for my Sturgis plan goes something like this: 4:00 a.m. departure from shop to beat some of the heat, a 600-mile planned day on the highway (highway is for first and last day) to somewhere in Nebraska. From here the plan goes something like: there is a party Sunday night, we need to check out Rushmore and Crazy Horse and we can’t forget to cruise the Needles Highway. On the way home, we can swing west through the Rocky Mountain National Park and decide which way we want to head home. I have not done the Alaska trip yet but I am thinking about what is a realistic pace, when am I going to need tires, I will bring a filter and do my own oil change and what do I pack for two months on the road. I am not going this year but when it gets closer, we shall review plans, especially with you guys that have already done it.
There was that one year going to Sturgis; we met at 4:00 a.m. and headed north. It was a little chilly so we figured to be wearing jackets into Oklahoma. It never did warm up that year so we ended up wearing jackets the whole first day. We had decided to pull over at Interstate 70 to review our direction. When we hit Interstate 70, the bikes were running great, nobody else noticed where we were, so I made the decision to head to Klock’s party in Mitchell. It still goes down as one of our best first days doing 850 miles in 15 ½ hours and still fresh enough to party when we got there. I promise you stopping in at a karaoke joint at 10:00 at night in Tennessee was not part of our plan that year, but we had the best time and crashed in a motel across the street that night after partying with some fun-loving locals.
The next year we headed out figuring we knew the route and it rained the whole way and I mean it rained hard enough to close down Interstate 40. We were supposed to meet friends at the Smoke Out some time on a Friday. We finally pulled in late Saturday afternoon, had a few shots, partied all night and got up around 8:00 a.m. and headed back. The planning philosophy of a great motorcycle ride should be based around a general direction to travel, safety and the time frame you allotted for this particular adventure.
Everything in the middle should revolve around the fun factor with a schedule or formality left in a rest stop on the side of the road. A good plan for the unexpected is a proper tool kit.
So let’s run down the list of tools I have accumulated for the road: Box combo wrenches (5/16 through 3/4), an adjustable wrench up to your axle nut size, a spark plug wrench, a hex key and torx key assortment, a couple different-size Vise-Grips, tire pressure gauge, Phillips and straight screwdrivers, electrical tape, a flashlight, baling or safety wire, duct tape, electrical wire, some pre-cut shrink tubing, a soldering iron, pliers, diagonal cutters, a multi tool, some quick ties and a tire repair kit. Don’t forget motorcycle jump cables. Yes, I have used all of these. I have changed a tube-type tire on the side of the road, replaced electricals including a regulator, ignition and battery, fixed broken mounts and rewired lighting. We had a regulator cook itself in west Texas with nothing to look forward to except 110-degree heat and no shade. We picked up a small battery, put it in my bagger and ran it till it ran out, about 50 miles. While we rode that 50 miles we had the old battery strapped to my buddy’s bars and connected to his battery via motorcycle jump cables. We changed batteries every 50 miles till we got to the Harley dealer where we bought a regulator and put it in. Good thing we were flexible with our plans that day. You can’t forget a good rain suit when planning for the unexpected. The bottom line is, plan for a destination and your needs but stay loose because life on the road is an adventure if you don’t get bogged down with sticking to the plan.