“Spring is the time of plans and projects.”
Proper spring trip planning begins with a dream, visions of lands unexplored, of mountains never seen, roads never ridden, fantasies about different places, different climates, different people.
Where does your motorcycle mind go when it dreams? What unexplored lands haunt your imagination? When your mind wanders, what uncharted lands does it see? When you know the answer to these questions, start planning. There is a science and an art to trip planning that makes the process as pleasurable as the trip. Here is how.
First, close your computer. You heard me right, shut down your computer, turn off your cell phone, and disconnect. No internet, no Google Maps, no YouTube videos. In the same way some of MTV’s best music (remember when they actually played music?) came from their MTV Unplugged sessions, strive for the same acoustic soul in outlining your trek.
Buy maps. Good maps. Hoard quality maps like an devilish pirate captain and spread multiple states out on the floor, linking them together until your living room becomes an entire region of the United States or other country because something magical happens when you put a map in your hands. Dreams become tangible, touched, held, manipulated, the whole of the land at your fingertips.
Then stand back, silently sip coffee, sigh deeply and dream. Think. Ponder the possibilities. Feel the call of these places you have yet to experience, their weird smells, their unfamiliar sounds. Every pirate captain eventually succumbs to the call of the siren and these roads are your seductress. Don’t resist, run to them.
Butler maps are mandatory here. These motorcycle specific maps are made by riders and have the best roads marked, graded and sometimes even enlarged on the back for detailed planning. They fold easily, are tear-resistant and waterproof meaning they last for years and can double as an umbrella in wet sprints across rainy parking lots to your bike. They never need the internet, never use data, never crash and never need plugging in at night. Buy them. In bulk. Right now.
Next, find friends. Gather comrades with similar types of dreams, levels of insanity and ridiculous delusions of grandeur. Want to ride your GSX-R 600 for several 600 mile days to Laguna Seca? Someone out there is deranged enough to join you. Want to moto-camp for three weeks across America’s west? There are people that want a piece of that action. Commit to the journey together. Mutual accountability combined with threats of humiliations galore should anyone back out ensures that planned trips really do happen.
To make the trip happen, lock it in and set the date early. Even if it’s February and the outing doesn’t happen until June, write that date on the calendar in bold, black sharpie like an artisan carving their name on a stone statue. Commit.
I’ve experimented with part of the trip planning process scientifically over the years and with 100% success, days that are not carved in stone months in advance get filled with absolute and total garbage that could’ve waited until later.
So if you skip this step, if you hesitate when putting sharpie on calendar then guaranteed, horrible life things creep onto those dates. Nasty life phrases get penciled in like “paint the house”, or “fix the car”, or worst of all “help neighbor move” because your neighbor knows you lift weights four times a week and sees you have a truck parked in the driveway. These events are the trip-ruining, life-sucking parasites that drain joy from you faster than an unexpected colonoscopy.
Snippets from different months of my calendar with this summer’s rides marked in sharpie. See the dentist appointment on the 8th? That was a near miss. And the 50th birthday party on the 20th? Another close call.
That house that needs painting? It will be there when you get back. That car that needs fixing? Just maybe it will heal itself. And your neighbor that needs help moving? Well, if you stay gone long enough he will be moved out when you get back. In the Mild Hogs touring group here in Wenatchee, Washington, we set the date months or sometimes a year ahead of time for this reason. We all have responsibilities, but we don’t want regrets.
However, you will not make that date if you and your bike are not prepared. Start a month or more ahead of time and change the oil, check the charging system, examine the tires, clean the chain & sprockets, test ride the new luggage and install those heated grips. Also, take that new helmet, boots or gloves for an extended break-in ride looking for potential issues. Doing this early gives leeway to order. Install, test gear and solve issues that are potential trip killers.
Once the ride is over comes the most overlooked part of any trip: tell the story. The movie and book industries are proof that everyone loves a good story so instead of entrusting tales to word of mouth folklore, take on the role of chronicler and put the trip in writing. Nothing creates comedy and drama in concert like a motorcycle trip.
Did God Send You Road Baloney? Write it down. Are you Sleepless In Colorado? Document it. Are you a soldier taking The Long Road Home? Keep track. Did you plan a trip for months only to Toss The Plan away once it began? Take pictures, write it down and recount the experience. Your riding buddies, and maybe a few others, will want to experience the stories.
I am that person in our group, the one who gets the name of the barista at the espresso stand that told Dave Wensveen, my half-Dutch cousin, that he “ordered coffee like a white girl”. Although, in the barista’s defense, my lifelong friend and riding buddy Dave did give an order that sounded more like a graduate lecture in chemistry than coffee, so everyone in our riding group sided with her. Hence, “White Girl” became Dave’s new contact name on my cell phone. Don’t tell him. The big lesson here is people love to read about your adventures, so write about them.
This simple act works wonders to ensure future rides happen more frequently with more friends and with more enthusiasm because everyone wants to be a part of the story.
Well, mostly. At least every day our group is on tour, someone does something embarrassing and will come up to me and ask, “Is that going in the write-up? Please tell me you didn’t write that down.”
“Of course not,” I say. Then after they walk away I grab my pencil and scribble. Nothing is sacred and no one is safe our group. Excuse me Dave, but did you just pee out a second story window? Where’s my pencil…
And now I must go because as I sit here and write this (and I am not making this up) White Girl, err…Dave just texted me about a trip in late May. Time to dream big, unfurl the maps, set a date, prepare my steel steed and tell the story. I sure hope he orders coffee.