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.
At about 15 or 16 years old my daughter decided she wanted to learn how to ride a motorcycle. I was roadracing at the time and she had come out the track a few times but somehow the ‘bug’ never got her. Until, she met a boy who rode motorcycles. Great? Well, at least it was better than falling for a surfer or football player…maybe?
“Dad, teach me to ride!!!” I was one happy guy. My daughter had gotten ‘the bug’. The good thing was we had a little Honda ‘Step Thru’ (a 1959 Honda Super Cub) in the garage that was a perfect basic trainer. Ok, that training session lasted about 15 minutes…”Dad, can I ride ‘The Mighty 350?”
Now this is one of my prized motorcycles…it’s not a museum piece, it’s just a bike I have had forever and have ridden everywhere. In a weak moment I agreed to teach her to ride on ‘The Mighty 350’. By the way, ‘The Mighty 350’ is a 1972 Honda CB350 with a sh#t load of miles on it. Again after about 15 minutes, my daughter was off into the sunset. She returned an hour or so later with a great big grin on her face.
Leah moved her way up onto her brothers Honda HawkGT but as she has told me many times, it was that little Honda Super Cub that really gave her the biggest fun.
The boy she had met was also a roadracer. While out at the race track on weekend, she and her friends decided to take on the boys to see who was fastest. The boys were quite surprised.
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.
I’m an open minded kind of guy, I think. I like all kinds of food (including stuff that if you really knew what it was you wouldn’t get it anywhere near your mouth), most all kinds of music (I learned to like punk because of my son but I will never accept rap as a form of music…), and even some friends choice of wives (or husbands as the case may be).
The area that I think I am the most open minded is motorcycles. As far as I’m concerned if it has two wheels and a motor, it’s great! I like most all motorcyclists as well. Ok, I do have a bit of a problem when it comes to certain motorcycle brand owners that are too into the ‘lifestyle’ instead of actually riding their status symbol, but I’m working hard at getting over it and thousands of hours in therapy are helping. I like cafe racers, dual sports, adventure bikes, long distance tourers, stretched out choppers, bobbers, baggers, vintage English bikes, UJM’s from the 80’s, and scooters too. I love motorcycles, even the ones you wouldn’t be caught dead riding much less be in your garage.
For some strange reason though, I have this weird affinity for the little old Honda 350. I have seen them laying in fields by the side of the road (that is where I found the first one I bought for my dad, yes I did like him), in the farthest back corner of an abandoned warehouse, in the basement of an old house in Hollywood (I did buy one there, really), a good number of them turn up at Vintage Japanese Motorcycle Swap Meets, and on ebay (generally way over valued).
I have seen Honda’s omnipresent 350 turned into cafe racers,desert racers (I have had both), choppers and bobbers.Grocery getters and student commuters. Todd Henning is the Guru of making Honda 350 roadracers that put bigger, more modern bikes to shame on the track. I have even seen some left stock?! The Honda 350 is the one bike that you can buy without breaking the bank (or even having to ask the bank…your wife…) and turn into anything you want it to be. That’s why I love ’em.
While looking for parts for my latest SL350 Cafe’ Racer project the other day, I came upon the coolest, or at least the most unique, styling treatment I have ever seen for a Honda 350.
I can’t imagine any high fashion woman not wanting to ride around in this classic Honda. Soichiro is probably turning over in his grave right now.
I’ll start this post with an apology. There will, in about eight months, be another Nielsen to terrorize the motorcycling world. I’m sorry. The other day my son Kelly informed me that I was going to be a Grandfather. This can’t be true I said to myself, I’m not that old!!?? A quick look in the mirror and guess what…I am that old. Damn.
I started riding at the ripe old age of fourteen, I rode my fathers Honda CB160 right into the back of his ’66 Impala. Being the good dad, he first asked if I was OK, I said yeah…but as he was asking the question he was checking out the motorcycle. I don’t believe that he even heard my answer. That’s OK too. From that time on I loved motorcycles. It was my stepfather that truly injected the sickness to me. I can’t thank both of them enough.
My son Kelly was about two years old when I first put him on a motorcycle. Trail riding in the Kennedy Meadows area of the southern Sierra’s. Outfitted him with helmet, goggles…(do you know how hard it is to find goggles, much less a helmet to fit a two year old??!!), gloves and whatever I could find for protection. Here we are on my trusty Husqvarna 250 getting ready for a fun ride through the mountains. Over the years I would take Kelly to school on a motorcycle, go to the Speedway races in Costa Mesa on a bike, all over the place and all on a motorcycle. But for some reason the sickness never infected him. Where did I go wrong??
Fast forward a few years. Kelly graduates from high school and we send him off to Europe for three months or so. It’s amazing what you’ll do to get your kid out of the house! Downside…he came back. Upside…he came back and wanted to ride?! Cool. He had rented a small motorbike in Greece and got hooked. He told me that he never understood my obsession until then. We spent Christmas day riding around the hills of our town just having a blast. He on our little trusty CB350 and me on..I don’t remember. Put the boy in the local MSF course, got his license, made him spend six months riding the little 350 and then got him his own bike, a Honda Hawk GT. He still has it.
Another short ‘fast forward’ here, my father who got me started, wanted to ride again..great. But..he hadn’t ridden a motorcycle since the days of the Honda 160. Search the classifieds and back yards and found my dad a ’71 CB350, the perfect starter bike…it seems I have a thing for the Honda 350’s…it’s a weird sickness don’t ask, I don’t know why. Anyway, same thing for dad, MSF course and time on a little bike. Next up, a Honda GL500 Silver Wing..neat little bike and a good traveler. Dad and I ride the SCMA 3 Flags Classic, Mexico to Canada in 3 1/2 days, together a couple of times and some other good trips. Dad was in his 60’s at the time and just as enthused as a kid, it was great.
At the same time as all this was going on, I was roadracing out at Willow Springs here in Southern California, AFM in Northern California and doing the western AHRMA races. My dad became the crew chief of our team and was having the time of his life. But…something was missing, Kelly. For some reason racing didn’t appeal to him..wuss.
I don’t know what happened but one day my son decided that racing might be fun…duh… So we bought another Honda Ascot to go singles racing and get him started. After a few races on that evil thing (“that bike is trying to kill me”) we actually got a proper race bike, a Yamaha YZF600. Set it up and off he went. The highlight of this time was the WERA 24Hour Endurance race at Willow Springs. The whole family, my daughter as a scorer, my son and myself as racers and of course my dad as crew chief. So, like I have said before, when the family rides together, there is no generation gap.
My son and daughter still ride and my dad rode his Gold Wing (he finally stepped up to the BIG leagues) until he passed away. Oh, and one other little note here, in the 24 hour race, my son Kelly was the youngest racer and I was the oldest. We finished 3rd in middleweight supersport. Not bad for a kid and a geezer