So in conclusion of my trip (if you haven’t read about it, I urge you with this link – The First Leg), I think I learned a few things along the way about how I want to structure my motorcycle trips in the future. The first obvious thing was to buy a new tent, one that is waterproof. But there are other, less obvious things that I learned after spending almost two weeks on the road. Don’t get me wrong, I had a blast of a time and after getting into a routine, every day became easier and more fun.
Making the Time:
I had the realization that there are, at the core of it all, two types of motorcycle trips: there are those that are about the ride and those that are about the destination. Although some may say all trips are about the ride, I have to disagree, although not entirely. It is possible to do one or the other or both combined, but you need to plan accordingly.
For me, I would categorize the first half of the trip as being all about the ride. For every 500-1000 miles of road, there are really only a few “attractions” to see along the way, with most of the riding graced with spectacular views and fun, twisty roads and almost no large cities. This is what I experienced around Lake Superior and Lake Huron, with amazing scenery with little to nothing in the way of places to stop and walk around for more than hour. This kind of trip makes eating up miles easy and generally painless, and allows for planning 300-400 mile legs that last all day, so long as your butt can take it. To give myself some credit, I actually planned this pretty well and is why I enjoyed this part of the trip.
The second part of the trip, most especially going through the cities of Toronto, Montreal, and Quebec was all about the destinations and less about the ride. This is where my planning ahead of time clashed with what would have worked in reality. Although blowing through the cities made sense, it worked out to be extremely boring driving made even worse by traffic and congestion. Instead, it would have made sense to either avoid them all together or have shorter days of less than 200 miles each. This would have allowed me to bypass the highways and traffic, take the slower but more interesting back roads, and stop and see more. Additionally, when the trip is all about the destination, like visiting Quebec City, it would have made more sense to arrive in the evening the day before, spend a whole day in the city, and then leave the next morning. I think I got this right in Maine, when I took a day off to explore the wilderness and enjoy being there.
Restructure Destination Trips
If my trip is about the destination, I want to make darn sure that I have enough time to see that destination. A good example was my last night of the trip, when I stayed at Putnam Pond in the Adirondacks. The campground itself was located near Ticonderoga, home to the famous Fort Ticonderoga. It would have been nice to have more time to explore the area more. So to restructure these trips, I would arrive to the campsite, make camp and plan for the next day to be an exploring day. This accomplishes two things. The first is the obvious time benefit of being able to leisurely go about your destination without worrying about getting to your next POI on time, you could even get back to camp after dark! The second benefit is the fact that you leave all of your things back at camp while you are off exploring. Although your stuff is not 100% safe from thieves, I believe it is probably 100% more safe than if it were on your motorcycle. So you now have peace of mind for the whole day, and can leave your motorcycle unattended and out of sight. The downside to this strategy is that you increase the duration of your trip, not necessarily a bad thing, but if this is one stop of a multi-day trip, it could turn a week into two weeks.
I can say this now, since the trip is over, that I experienced no theft or loss during my trip – there, now I won’t jinx myself. It’s hard to say what methods I used were successful, since I would only know their failure if they…had failed. But I think the general mentality of keeping things out of sight, and not easily removable will work better than any other method. One time, I had my license plate stolen from my motorcycle, in the one of the most heavily trafficked areas in downtown Philly. I had parked in a motorcycle corral, with several other motorcycles, not any more fancy or glitzy than mine. Apart from the plate, the bike was exactly as I had left it, nothing out of place. The reason as to why it was stolen I can’t be 100% sure, but the reason it was able to be stolen was because it was fastened on with easily turnable knobs – easy on, easy off. The point of that aside is that you never know what will be stolen, so don’t let anything be a target.
Through all the miles and locations and roads, the one thing that ties it all together is food. Every time I would get to my camp and be completely drained often had a lot to do with how often I stopped and how much I ate. If I skipped meals or skimped on meals, I would feel more lousy that day than on those days that I kept nourished. That’s why it was always important to keep a couple of power bars along for the ride. From doing my athletic training, i’ve found certain flavors and types of bars and liquid gels that work for me and more importantly taste good, which makes me actually want to eat them. So always remember to eat something, it gives you a reason to take a break and walk around for a little.
What worked – Tuna packets for lunch were sufficient, they provided enough protein and weren’t heavy. In general having a lighter lunch that wasn’t dense in carbs or would sit in your stomach worked. When I stopped at Surly Brewery in Minneapolis and had a beer and giant lunch, sitting on the bike for another 3 hours afterwards just didn’t sit right. However, given enough time to digest and walk it off for an hour or so would have been alright, but again, you need to factor that into your total driving for the day. Breakfast bars in the morning were generally okay, they gave me some good energy and were easy to eat while also packing up the bike at the same time. In general, light meals if you had to sit on a motorcycle and didn’t have time to digest – mainly breakfast and lunches. Heavy meals reserved for dinner when you could walk it off.
What didn’t work – Being crunched for time really affected my ability to enjoy my meals. In the morning, I would be so focused on getting the bike packed up so I could hit the road before 8am, I didn’t have time to heat up water for coffee, an essential part of my morning. This resulted in having to almost always stop at a fast food joint to get coffee, not a bad thing per se, just you would need to make the effort to find it. Also, I had thought about ramen noodles for lunch, since they were relatively easy to make and would fill me up. I can say that for the whole trip, I did not eat one packet of the 4 that I brought with me, and they just took up space in my side cases. Firstly, they would have created a rock in my stomach and secondly, I generally packed all the essential things away to boil the noodles while underway, and the last thing I wanted to have to do in a rest area was break into all my gear, fire up a camp stove, and cook my lunch. Instead, I would go with things akin to the tuna packets, like peanut butter and pita bread or peanut butter and apple/crackers (I like peanut butter, if you couldn’t tell). Ideally, things that I can pull out, throw together, and have little to nothing left over to clean. Another problem was that getting to camp at night, I felt very little urge to cook anything beyond the water for my dehydrated meals. So if I had brought anything to actually cook, it generally sat in my cases the whole time, taking up space. The only time I actually felt like cooking was when I had a day off, as was the case in Maine. This is because not only did I have more time but also because I knew that I wouldn’t have to put all of it away and set off the next day.
The Motorcycle – Read my post, it was written after my ride and my thoughts on the bike hold true for this post (My Tiger 800)
My backpacker instincts held up on this trip, and I did not bring anything that was excessive or dead weight in terms of camping. My biggest piece of advice is to make sure you check EVERYTHING beforehand, even if that means spraying your tent with a garden hose to check for leaks. There are very few things that can happen to your gear that can’t be prepared for ahead of time, and making sure all of your equipment is in proper working order can decrease the probability of something going wrong. I would like to give a shout out to the MVP of the trip, my REI brand folding chair, without which I would not have had a comfortable place to sit around the fire every night (https://www.rei.com/product/877258/rei-flex-lite-chair). Despite its excess weight and size, having a comfortable bed roll was absolutely essential and even though i’m “young” and “spry” that doesn’t mean I want to have an uncomfortable sleep. Also, earplugs. They are essential for cutting down on wind noise during riding, but they let me get a solid nights sleep without waking up. Critters scurrying around, rain, all keep me awake and prevent me from sleeping well, so make sure you carry a TON of earplugs.
Because motorcycle gear is ridiculously expensive, I don’t have a lot of it. I buy the best gear out there, because I know it will hold up over time and it will do its job right. This means that the gear that I do have is made for the worst case scenario, mainly rain and cold. Wearing full ADV waterproof boots sure kept my feet dry for the 1% of the trip that it rained, but for the rest of the trip they were overkill and most days I opted to wear my low cut hiking boots. Riding pants, again kept my legs dry and blocked the wind, but were hot and clumsy to walk around in off the motorcycle. I did get to take them off occasionally, and wearing running shorts underneath worked like a dream, but they still were a bit of overkill for the 99% on-road riding I did. I lament that if I had been doing more off-road riding, wearing the pants and boots would be a necessity, but here they were too much. For most of the trip, my boots and pants took up space in my luggage and I instead opted for my hiking shoes and REI brand pants, which were heavy, working style pants. Wearing heavy clothes are good, because they don’t flap around in the wind, which can become uncomfortable over time. For the future, I would probably purchase low cut ankle boots, that allow for more air around my legs but that protect my ankle. I would also purchase lighter pants, that aren’t waterproof, but are made of durable fabric that would prevent road rash in case of an accident.