Reflecting on last year, I did over 13,000 miles during riding season from March (Bike Week at Daytona) and November. That is pretty good for me and I never felt like I was tired of it. To the contrary, getting into the daily habit of packing up, talking to the local people over breakfast and planning for the day made me want to continue on the trips. It is only when I got to the last day heading home that I really wanted to sleep in my own bed.
Thoughts of a rambling rider.
I am frequently asked if I am scared traveling by myself. Well, I don't think that is in my DNA. First off, I know my motorcycles and have gone over them a number of times checking to make sure that the bolts are torqued properly and all services performed. I carry the things that can be used to repair the bike if I am stuck somewhere like a pretty extensive tool set, spare oil, spare spark plugs, spare headlights, emergency equipment like flashers, tire repair equipment and most importantly a first class first aid kit. Then there is my new addition that gives me comfort and keeps my wife up to date on where I am, the Gen 3 Spot Locator that sends my location to a website every 10 minutes indicating where I am. It also has emergency buttons that will send for help, either medical or rescue depending on the circumstances. So I feel pretty prepared. Last summer I was out of cell phone range much of the time but it was there if available.
Conditioning is probably my weakness. I did spend a good bit of time learning in the dirt and on gravel to get accustomed to the feel and what pressures to set the tires at for best traction. I went to the off roads park with a very good enduro rider to practice, he also happens to be my internist, so I am not totally crazy. But things still happen like my fall the first day out in a stream in TN and breaking my ankle. But I healed.
I thank my mother for my comfort at being independent and traveling solo. I learned the joys of travel at a young age. I was young and went to Athens GA to visit my cousins. While there I got swimmers ear and was pretty sick. My cousin put me on a bus home and this became a wonderful learning experience. I was by myself, maybe 12 years old, and I got on the bus and sat next to a well dressed older man. I was riding with Frank Porter Graham. He traveled by bus from Athens, GA to Chapel Hill, NC because he didn't like to drive by himself. We talked all the way to Asheville and I was fascinated with his view of the world and his independence to travel alone. So to answer the most common question, No I am not lonely traveling by myself. Had I not gotten on the bus I would have never met Mr. Graham. Who knows who I could meet on my next trip!
When I travel, people frequently approach me at lunch or dinner just to ask how far I am going and what is the purpose of the trip. Many come to me to discuss interesting places that I should see while in the area. The funniest was a man in NE that sat with me while I had coffee telling me how he wished he had done what I was doing when he was younger. I asked him how old he was and his response was 55. Then I told him I was 66 and I could see the wheels turning. I then told him he has 11 years to catch me. When I went to Nova Scotia in 1974, camping and fishing around Cape Breton, I camped for 3 days at Ingonish Beach. My first night a lady from the family next to me brought me a half of a homemade blueberry pie, wow fresh fruit for dinner. The next morning while I was stringing my fly rod an older fellow(at that time everyone was older, not so anymore!) in a pickup truck asked if I wanted to join him since he camps there every summer for a month and fishes everyday. He took me to all of his favorite fishing holes all three days. If a person is traveling in a group then socializing tends to be narrowly defined in the group. A group of motorcyclists is not really approachable to strangers, you tend to travel together and eat together but don't really meet the locals.
I have often speculated that traveling in a group, to me, is more dangerous than traveling alone. When I am alone I alway ride within my skill level and almost never approach crossing that line. On group rides there is always someone that is the least skilled in the group and the group psychology will push the pace or challenges in such a way as to force that person to exceed their skill level and place them in danger.
I was told by a number of people that I should be carrying a gun for protection. I don't really get this one. I have not yet been in a place where I was afraid for myself. There was the potential to have my bike stolen crossing through MS this spring but I always checked with the desk clerk about where the video cams were and I always park in front of the lobby if it is manned 24 hrs. So far I haven't been somewhere where I was worried about being eaten by the wildlife. Luckily moose are vegetarians but I will have to rethink this next year when I am planning on Alaska 2017! If someone is set on robbing me, well he will probably have the drop on me so take whatever. If it comes down to guns I will probably be out gunned and out manned. So I use my head when I look for places to stop and stay over.
Then lastly, hopefully my ramblings haven't run you off, do you know how hard it is to find someone to ride with over the same route and timeframe. I was lucky to have my wife, Pattie, join me now on two trips to NS and now Newfoundland for a week each time. It is a great experience having a pillion rider to enjoy the scenery, food and experiences. It has been fun for both of us and I wish we had done this earlier in our 35 years of marriage. But if I can't find someone to do a trip with I am going anyway! And excited to do so! Now let the planning for the New Year begin!
Next up...........the plans!