In my time as a motorcyclist, I have taken a handful of cross country trips. I am not an expert by any means but I am completely comfortable packing a bag and leaving out for over a week or more with no reservations. On my last trip, as I didn’t organize or plan it, things were done differently. The stark contrast between the two styles of trip was something I felt would be worth talking about. It is something I will have to consider when planning my next trip.
On my first couple adventures I camped most of the way only occasionally getting a hotel room. I never made any strict plans on where I would camp either. Basically, I would look at the atlas each morning and pick a camp site that I thought I would be able to make it to and a backup site just in case I failed to reach the farther one. This worked really well most of the time. The times it did not…well, that might have to be a topic for a later post.
As there were few rigidly planned stops, I rarely researched the attractions in any of the areas I was going through. Truth is, I likely missed out on a lot of cool things to see while I was on the road. Traditionally, my goal was to keep moving and move I did. So much so, that I didn’t take the time to smell the proverbial roses. Though there is not much I would change about my trips, this is one area where I feel I shortchanged myself. Next time I have the general idea of where I am going, I will research things along the route. Also, a smartphone will be an asset once on the road. Once I get the daily plan laid out I can do a quick search for points of interest along the way.
When there were places I planned stop on the road, all of my gear was strapped to the bike. This made it really hard to see some of the attractions in the places I did stop because I was afraid to leave my gear. While not a concern in some of the more rural areas I went through, I certainly would not leave my stuff unattended in touristy spots or city streets. For example, my traveling partner and I took turns walking around New York City because the minute we stopped we could feel the eyes on us and our packs. If you have locking bags, this doesn’t effect you but with a backpack strapped to a sissy bar, my gear was an easy target.
The last trip I went on was put together by a friend and thus, I was following his lead. His road trip style is a stark contrast to mine. He planned to the letter and knew where we were going every day and where we were staying every night. There were also a ton of landmarks and things to see that he researched, read about and knew whether or not were worth seeing.
As his planning included lodging in KOA cabins in most of the cities we stayed in, we had a place to stow our gear. This meant that nobody had to stay with the bikes and we could walk around worry free. It sounds so simple but this was vastly different than what I was used to. Honestly, it was liberating. Which brings me to the next point: we actually took time to explore and see the places we were riding through. I’m not saying I saw every cool things in every city but I saw more than I had previously by a long shot.
Different is good. In some cases, like this one, it can be great. Though I wont say that I will make every trip from now on a tour of each place I go through, I will certainly do a little more homework. In terms of lodging, there will still be nights I go without reservations but if I am passing through a place I really want to see, I’ll get a cabin at the KOA or a room at a cheap hotel so I can wander without worry. It really boils down to what you want out of your trip: saddle time or site seeing. I think going forward, my trips will be a hybrid of both.