I’m a pretty minimalist kind of guy when it comes to motorcycle travel. I believe if you’re going ‘credit card camping’ Motel 6 is plenty fine…as long as there is a good restaurant and local dive bar within walking distance. A couple of clean T-shirts, skivvies, socks and rain gear…you’re good to go. I have been known to pass up the budget motel once or twice after a long day in the saddle for the sign that says ‘jacuzzi’ or ‘spa’ makes me turn in.
If you’re going real camping it does take a little more preparation and packing but still, pretty easy. A small tent, sleeping bag and pad, one little stove, a small cook kit, coffee pot and the world is yours. Buy your groceries on the road each day or stop at a local diner, there is nothing better than moto-camping.
Over the years and miles I have traveled with all kinds of moto-travelers; credit card campers, tent campers, sleep under the stars campers and a couple of times I have sat around the campfire with those towing a camping trailer behind their bike. I love everybody that travels on a motorcycle, there is really no better way to see this country. But…a trailer? I’m not quite sure I get it –
Now, towing a trailer behind a motorcycle is nothing new, look at this Rudge Motorcycle ad from over 100 years ago.
While the men are out catching dinner, the women are setting up camp. Back then there was a saying…”Mens work is hunting, fishing and making love. Womens work, everything else…!???
Over the years moto-camping has evolved almost to the point of why not just buy a Winnebago? I may get some flack for that thought but…
I have to admit that over the past few years my traveling style has evolved as well. I started on a Honda 350 with an Army / Navy surplus sleeping bag strapped to the back of the bike and a Boy Scout Yucca pack on my back. Rain Gear? What rain gear? Then came a tank bag. Next was a set of soft saddlebags…I could tell I was on a slippery slope.
The day came that I bought a bike that came with hard saddlebags, I was almost embarrassed to seen with them. Was I really getting that old and soft? And then I found the true benefit of hard saddlebags…I love modern technology.
Happy camping everyone, no matter what your style. Oh and by the way, the guy at the top is not me, that is my long time traveling partner Jeff…he is much better looking than me and has a much better sense of style.
We all do our very best to prepare for an event, whether it’s a race or a long trip, we get things ready. Holidays are no different.
Usually on Christmas we have a house full of family and friends, most of them motorcycle people. The stories are flying and the more beer we have the stories fly even higher but that is part of what makes the day special. We watch classic races (World Superbike Imola 2000, Troy Bayliss and Colin Edwards…the best race to watch over and over), ‘On Any Sunday’ and whatever movie somebody brings…last year we watched Big Faus and Little Halsey (or is it Big Halsey and Little Faus??? Does it matter?).
This year everyone was here and it was time to put the turkey in the BBQ (in Southern California that is the preferred method…) Instead of putting stuffing in the turkey we put some garlic into a can of good beer, put the turkey over the can and cook. It always comes out great…except this time. The turkey decided that this year the beer was going to be administered a bit differently.
We ended up ordering pizza. Happy Holidays to all and a very Happy New Year. Now sit down and start planning your first big trip of the year. I am.
Moto-Camping has been a way of life for me since I was a teenager…it was always a good way to escape suburban family life. Moto-Camping tested your planning skills (having been a Boy Scout preparation was pretty easy), adaptability skills (you never what the weather will throw at you), packing skills (motorcycle luggage at the time consisted of a small duffel bag strapped to the seat and an old Boy Scout Yucca pack) and map reading abilities (where does this road go???). At times, it also tested your mechanical skills, especially when riding a mid 1960’s Triumph. It was also important to know how to Bullsh*t your boss when you wanted an extra day or two on the road.
The thing about Moto-Camping is that it boils everything down to what is absolutely the bare essentials you need to have a good trip. You spend years and lots of money acquiring just the right gear and as soon as you think have your ‘kit’ just right, you meet another Moto-Camper on the road that has something newer, better and tricker than you. More money going out when you get home.
Over the years I have camped solo, with just a friend or two and done some good sized rallys, I like ’em all. I’ve ridden bikes as small as a Honda CB350 all the way up to my newest ride, a Buell Ulysses, and everything in between. The main thing that has changed for me is that now I travel two up ninety percent of the time. It’s true, I finally found a woman who likes Moto-Camping as much as I do!
Moto-Camping two-up requires a whole new strategy when it comes to prep and packing. Suspension has to be set much different, general ergonomics have to be adjusted and sometimes even a new motorcycle. It’s all worth it. Another thing you have to think about when Moto-Camping, or any kind of vacation for that matter, is what to do with your pet. You can take them to a kennel (too much $$$), you could beg and plead with a family member to take Fido or Fluffy for a few days…the odds of them agreeing to that are a bit slim, or you can simply ask a neighbor to come over and feed Muffy or Spot, (again, a tough favor to ask…).
We love our dog, he’s a good traveler in the car and we would like to take him out into the world more. We have never really all that fond of car camping, it’s too easy. Two Martini’s later however we started talking about getting a small travel trailer (talk about being too easy!) take the dog, the grandkids and see the USA in style and luxury.
The next morning we were back to our senses. We decided that Moto-Camping is still the way to go for us but…we know that our dog would love it too. So, with a little research I found a way to take Boscoe along. It’s perfect.
Good afternoon all,
The AMA, American Motorcyclist Association, has said that 99% of all motorcycle riders are good law abiding citizens and the other 1% are outlaws. The ‘one percenters’. The motorcycle gangs. We’ve all seen the movie ‘The Wild One’, well, I hope most of us have seen it, Marlon Brando, Lee Marvin and a sweet innocent girl in the local cafe’, great stuff…anyway, with a little bit of literary and artistic license it portrayed the motorcycle gangs of the fifties. Riding, drinking, fighting and general mayhem. Ride into town, intimidate the local folks…scare the crap out of them really…take what you want and ride onto the next town. That movie along with others like, Hells Angels on Wheels, Wild Angels and more, stamped the outlaw biker image on the American public. Easy Rider on the other hand, showed ‘the biker’ as a loner, criminal and maybe not such a bad guy.
I grew up in the San Fernando Valley of California. A suburb of Los Angeles. Bob Hope, Bing Crosby, Ronald Reagan, Disney Studios, Warner Brothers, many celebrities and notables called ‘The Valley’ home. So did some motorcycle gangs. The Hessians, The Mongols, The Hells Angels and a couple of minor gangs. Everybody saw them and heard the myths about them. In those days, they really didn’t lay low. The parties were legendary, the crimes..violent, the image..huge. True modern mythology. Then for a few years, it seemed that the gangs were, well, not such a big deal. You didn’t hear much about them, didn’t see them everywhere so, almost forgotten. Relegated to history. Not so.
Motorcycle gangs became businesses. Corporations no less. Violence was down, business was up. Crime does pay. Territories set and observed. There were still investigations, arrests and convictions. Fued’s between rival gangs still existed but no longer on the front page of the L.A Times. All seemed pretty quiet on the Motorcycle Gang front.
A few years ago that quiet ended. And I was a little closer than I would like. I was in Laughlin, Nevada celebrating my brothers birthday. I had ridden my Ducati Darmah and the valet guys let me park right by the front door. Two days later my Ducati was surrounded by a sea of Harley’s. It was the beginning of the annual Laughlin Run. After a lot of careful manuevering, I was able to extricate my motorcycle and get on the road for home. I was heading west, and a caravan of Harley’s was heading east. It was quite a sight..and sound. Before I had even gotten home that night, the Motorcycle Gangs were back in the spotlight. Stabbings, shootings and dead bikers. All at the same hotel I was staying at.
I used to own a small retail business here in Southern California and a few members of a motorcycle club were our customers. They were OK guys, always nice, polite and respectful. We treated them the same way. A couple of members even offered to ‘help’ when our store was broken into. Uh, thanks but no thanks.
This big club decided to have their International 50th Anniversary party in our town. The town government went into a panic. ‘No Motorcycle Parking’ signs up all over, adding police officers from all over the county. The city spent thousands and thousands and thousands of dollars to protect the citizenry and in general, making this club feel very unwelcome. The Anniversary event went off without a scene. The members from around the world spent money in stores and restaurants and went home.
A few months later, a large number of the club members were arrested, including the club president, on a wide variety of charges. Some stuck, some didn’t but the clubs days of doing their business quietly or under the radar were now over. Motorcycle gangs had a few brief moments on the front page again. Then just as quickly, out of the spotlight.
Until the other day. Another very large international Motorcycle Gang was raided in the Los Angeles and San Fernando Valley areas. Raided big time! Guns, money, drugs…the stuff of motorcycle gang lore. Back on the front pages and the 11 o’clock news.
This is a bit of a different post for us, but we do call ourselves The Moto ‘World’ don’t we? Well, gangs are part of the motorcycling world, for better or worse. One motorcycle club’s own website has a unique line at the bottom, “When we do right, nobody remembers, when we do wrong, nobody forgets”. I guess participating in toy runs at Christmas are the good things that make up for the bad things?
Earlier on I made a comment about being closer to motorcycle gang activity than I would like. More than the brawl in Laughlin, more than customers in my store. A young man that I have known since he was just a little kid… good family, good friends, a good surfer and computer wiz, is joining a motorcycle gang. Why? I don’t know. It makes no sense. I don’t want to lose a friend to that life because as the gangs say, “once you’re in, you’re in for life”.
Motorcycle gangs are back in the news again, but hopefully, they will be back out of it just as quickly. Those of us in the 99% don’t need negative publicity.
Ride safe, ride fast and stay in the UPPER 1%, not the lower.
A couple of weeks ago I got to do one of things I love to do most, go traveling on my motorcycle. This addiction started back in the early seventies with a trip up into the Sierra’s on my BSA Lightning 650. I rode with my high school friends Benny and Mike. Benny on a ‘chopped’ Honda CB350 and Mike on a Yamaha XS650.
We took off on a warm sunny day, first stop Mammoth Lakes. We took a route that I still take to this day. Up the Kern River, over Sherman Pass then up HWY395. None of us had ever gone that far in one day and we were whooped! Back then we didn’t have tiny tents and tiny sleeping bags, we didn’t even have saddle bags! Everything was strapped on the bike somehow or another. So after a cheap dinner at the local McDonalds it was toss the sleeping bags on the ground and call it a great day. Our trip went like that for the next four days. What a great time, I was now hopelessly addicted to Moto Traveling.
Since that first trip I figure I have put nearly 400 thousand miles on a motorcycle. All over the western USA and Canada, what fun and adventures. Blazing hot days to being snowed on. Rain for days on end and getting blown off the road in Wyoming. Coming eye to eye with a moose in the middle of the road and watching a woman knitting while sitting on the back of a Honda Valkyrie. Almost running out of gas in Clorado to almost running off the road in Glacier National Park…yes, the scenery is that stunning!
So here I am over forty years later, traveling on my motorcycle. Nowadays, I do have saddlebags and a little tent, a little sleeping bag, a fancy air mattress and all kinds of great camping do-dads. Ah, modern technology and conveniences.
Well, this trip I decided (after checking the computer for weather info) that I was going to go retro…back over thirty years. Sleeping bag under the stars. My traveling companions opted for tents and air mattresses, wimps! The first night out we camped at Onion Valley in the Eastern Sierra’s. Nearly 9000 feet and truly beautiful. Sleeping next to the dying campfire, listening to the waterfall and looking at the Milky Way brought back the memory of that first trip and why I love MotoCamping.
Sleeping under the stars, there is no better way to end a day of motorcycle riding. So where can I go next? Where is my map??
Ride safe, ride fast, ride far and I’ll see you on the road
Here I am on my soapbox again…
I just got home from a great road trip in the Sierra’s…criss crossing the passes…Sonora, Ebbitts, Monitor, Carson…what fun. Great roads, scenery, camping, weather, you couldn’t ask for more.
But…here’s the soapbox stuff…Groups of riders that are parading instead of riding. We have all seen this phenomenon. There is a certain segment of the motorcycling population that like to go for group rides, compare chrome goodies on their motorcycles, see if they have enough fringe, is their ‘helmet’ small enough and do they have a black and orange t-shirt from a dealer in some other state (which you get by mail order, you don’t have to actually have ridden there). Oh, and the most important part..can you ride slow and loud enough so that everyone knows you’re there?
Disclaimer here…not everyone who rides this particular brand/style of motorcycle falls into this category. However, if you do, you know who you are.
Now, back to the reason for this Soapbox post. While enjoying a fun ride up and over the Sonora pass, my friends and I stopped for the obligatory pictures at the summit. During this break a group (about 20 or so) riders come over the hill. Friendly waves and smiles, down the hill they go. A bit later my riding friends and I head down as well. In a very minutes we catch up to a traffic jam. No kidding..we are now at a snails pace. We start picking off cars one at a time (about 20 of them) until we get to the cause of the slow down. The parade of loud, slow motorcycles and..get this..their chase vehicle??!! Passing cars that are going slow is one thing but weaving in and out of a group of motorcycles just doesn’t work. For one thing, it’s not safe, it’s not courteous and it’s just plain hard to do. So there we are, stuck going 15-20 miles an hour where a posted speed limit is at least 35-45. This lasted for miles. When this ‘parade’ finally pulled into a roadside stop, even the cars were honking their appreciation for them getting off the road.
Riding with friends is always fun. If you have a parade, someone should be looking in the mirrors to see if they are holding up traffic and if they are, pull over..there are turnouts and wide spaces in the road all the time. USE THEM! I know you like to be seen and heard, but, be courteous, pay attention and if you need a chase vehicle…well, I don’t know what to say.
An addendum to this…over on Carson Pass, we had stopped to take a picture or two and a couple went by on a nice ‘bagger’, again waves and smiles. We pulled away from the vista point and fell in behind the couple on the ‘bagger’. Thinking we would get by at the next opportunity we just kept their pace. Their pace was really good, I mean really good. There was no reason to try to pass, we were all having fun. When they turned off, waves were waved and we had a an admiration of this guys skills.
Moral of the story… it’s not the bike you ride, it’s the way you ride it.