Fail to plan, plan to fail- A wanderer’s guide to great road trips
Fail to plan, plan to fail
A wanderer’s guide to great road trips
By Dallas Hageman, Wild Ride Radio Host
It’s that time of year again. It always seems to creep up on me even when I’m expecting it… the time of year when Old Man winter is feeling his oats and doing his best to make you as miserable as possible. It seems as though warm days are a distant memory and all that’s left is the unending cold, heaps of snow, sneaky black ice and all around feeling of what I can no doubt assume is called “blech” in the medical realm. Winter is, quite possibly, the most hated season for Riders.
Before I go on I’ll let you know that I fully expect to get a couple of smug emails telling me that you don’t stop riding during the winter and only weekend Riders and wimps quit riding… and I call BS. Look, I live in Colorado and have my whole life; however, there are times when it is literally impossible to go down the road on two wheels. I’ve ridden many times in the snow but my final attempt, and the straw that broke the motorcycle camel’s back, was when I found that the rear wheel of a Softail doesn’t stand up to 3 inches of ice. So let’s clear it up, if you live in Colorado then you don’t ride year round… you ride when the streets are clear; there’s a difference.
So, we’ve established that you’re probably stuck inside and wondering how to fill all that time NOT riding. By this time of year you’ve probably at least wandered out to your garage or storage place a couple of times to look longingly at your steel horse, only to be smacked in the face with a cold harsh reality that it’s cold and harsh outside. It sucks but never fear, I can keep you sane (at least by my standards… which are pretty low). Around ye olde’ wintertime I’ve found a great way to focus on riding and keep your cabin fever at bay. A very useful and notable exercise to itch that riding bug when you’re cooped up is, to plan a road trip.
I would argue that road trips are the very reason most of us get motorcycles. They are possibly the best way to experience freedom on your ride. Sure, going from bar to bar might be fun for a while, or catching the scenic way home from work is a good stress reducer, but there isn’t a better way to leave it all behind you for a while and truly relax than with an over the road, long haul motorcycle trip. Road trips are finicky however and must be planned the right way. I know, I know, I’m going against all the riders who are of the Peter Fonda “throw away the watch and ride” mindset, but in the event of a spontaneous road trip if a few details aren’t ironed out before hand, it could make for one miserable time on two wheels. A good road trip has a couple of key planned elements to it and depending on how nitty gritty you want to get, can become a lengthy and drawn out process to plan. Don’t get too far into the weeds when lining out your trip though. Remember, it’s supposed to be fun. So, what do you need to think about before getting out onto the asphalt?
Plan not to plan:
Planning is good, GREAT in fact but don’t have and itinerary down to the second… it’ll cause your buds to begin and plan a mutiny on you, maybe light your hair on fire and roll you over a cliff while tied to your Hog sort of thing. Have an idea of where you will be starting, where you want to end up and how much time you’ll have to do the whole shebang. If you neglect this key point and head off into the wild blue yonder, chances are you’ll never make it through the whole trip and be pressed for time coming back to the homestead. Budget your time accordingly. For example, if you want to go from Colorado to California and you have eight days to do it but spend six days going out sightseeing, you’ll probably have to turn around before hitting the Golden State. If you plan a time budget, you’ll know that you have three days out, three days back and one to lounge around the beach ogling the locals. You’ll be more at ease knowing what time you have to “spend” at each stop and this will add to the enjoyment of each and every time the kickstand is down.
This one may sound a bit obvious but I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been riding with someone and they neglected to take time to take time. I also used to go full throttle across the country, adding up miles instead of memories and while this is one way to road trip, it’s not the ONLY way. When planning a road trip don’t assume you’ll have the gas full throttle the whole way. Plan on stopping a time or two and enjoying the scenery. If you want to have a heads up on attractions where you’re headed, I’d recommend Googling the surrounding areas beforehand. This usually brings up a laundry list of attractions you may just miss if hitting the main drag and busting through the towns. Plan on finding some places you had no idea were there. If you’re going to travel, and do it the right way, then take the time to absorb it all; your friends, riding family and scenery.
Getting between filling stations can be somewhat of a chore but it used to be more of a problem than it is now thanks to larger tanks and more stations dotted across the U.S. landscape. However, there are a couple of places on the map where fuel is sparse; one notably on US Route 50 in Nevada. On that route, gas stations are (if you’re lucky) 100 miles in between with nothing, and I mean NOTHING separating them. It’s a gorgeous road and one I like to take often, but if you pass up an opportunity to fuel on that Route, you’ll be hoofing it for miles and cursing your lucky stars you didn’t gas up when the opportunity arose. One motto that was handed down to me by an old Biker Brother of mine and one I live by is “Never pass up an opportunity to fuel or pee.” It may sound dumb, obvious, or goofy, but the first time you ignore this sage advice, you’ll regret it… deeply. Gas up, hydrate and pee when you can, you and your bladder will thank you, and me, later.
Budgeting (the good kind):
Ah yes, the sly and stone cold master of us all. It’s the owner with many slaves and the grease that moves the cogs of capitalism. Money. You need it to do anything and everything and when out on the road, this fact amplifies itself tenfold. When in your own stomping grounds it’s easier to get out of emergencies due to the network of friends and family located in close proximity. If you leave your realm and venture out, you lose that network. If you go it alone you lose your friends as well. It’s not that they’ve bailed on you, it’s just that if your engine decides it doesn’t like that pesky piston residing in it any longer and shoots it out the side while you’re far from home you may be left in a lurch. Cell phones are great and most true Brothers and Sisters will help out when called upon, but there isn’t a faster or better replacement for peace of mind on the road like cold, hard cash. Remember when we brought up time budgeting… your cash is no different. In fact, it’s more important. Without cash you’ll cease going wherever you were headed.
Those V-Twins don’t run on hopes and dreams (I’ve tried) so sit down before you head out and calculate what the cost will be. A good trick is to add up all the miles you plan on traveling, and divide that number by the amount of miles you typically get with your scoot. That will give you the approximate gallons of fuel you’ll need, take that number and multiply it by how much fuel (the premium kind you cheap bastards) is at the present moment. That final number will be approximately what you should put aside for fuel.
Next add up how many days you’ll need a hotel room (or if you’re not a hotel princess like myself, calculate what you’ll need to purchase by way of camping fuel/ tents/ sleeping bags etc.) and set aside the appropriate money for lodging that’s needed. Keep in mind that some rider memberships and groups offer discounted rates and points if you belong to them. These can come in handy and save quite a bit of money if you’re planning a four week trip. You can also book hotels early online and get the best discounts, this will also help you know exactly what your expenses will be when on the road.
Don’t forget about food either. I know this is one area where some people try to save money and start talking about living off bologna and old Ritz crackers. It’s a noble idea to go the way of the hobo when trying to save some cash, but be realistic as well. There will be nights you’ll want more than spongy bologna, and Ritz get gross after the third time eating them. There will be nights you’ll want to do more than warm a hotdog over your exhaust pipe so make sure to be truthful in expectations of how much food will cost you and set that aside as well.
Finally and notably are the little things that can sink your road trip ship. It’s the 3,000th poker chip that you just had to have but will never look at again; or even that shirt… the one that doesn’t fit you but has the skull that was just soooooo cool you HAD to pick it up? Yeah, I too have a closet full of them and those little things are great to grab and shove in a tour pack, but could also bring your road trip budget to its knees. Set aside a sum of dough to spend on stuff I call the “I didn’t know existed but when I see them I wonder how I ever lived without them before.” part of the road trip. It’ll keep your cash flow in check and your wallet full-ish… until you coast back home on fumes.
If you follow these few steps when planning your next getaway on two wheels it’ll make for a much more enjoyable trip. There are many ways to go over the road and none of them are the “right” or “wrong” way. Heck, 90% of you reading this won’t go on a trip this year anyway, so if you do go without ANY plan, you’ll be ahead of most the riders in the first 10 miles of your trip. MY encouragement to you is to go. Just go. Plan now. What are you waiting for? You won’t get younger, there will never be a “perfect” time to start and excuses will still be there a year from now. To quote the Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu: “The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.” So take the step, start the bike and twist the throttle, but start planning now so when summer comes, you’ll be ready to roll.