Late August. One can plan bike trips, or actually go on bike trips, or do both. Doing both is preferable, of course. Why plan if you are not going to go?
I enjoy the entire range of activities which go into the planning of any major bike trip, perhaps best characterized as the anticipation phase. Of course, plan making is not quite so much fun as the actual ride part of a trip, but it can be a lot of fun just figuring out what you want to do, who, if anyone, you'll take along, where you'll stay at night, and so on.
I'm planning a 12 day trip right now. My destination point is 2,362 miles from Grand Rapids. Just yesterday I was doing some earnest plan making as I e-mailed a high miler friend (Hondas and Bemmers) to see if he might want to come along, and then went back and forth some more in response to his questions about routes to take, an aspect of the trip that I, frankly, hadn't given much thought to. Since this is a rider who doesn't agree with me on anything, the first task was to see if we could figure out a way to actually do such a ride together at all. The guy's questions about routing presented a perfect test to see how we could get along now, after having not done a trip together for a couple of years.
Actually, we ride well together once we're underway, so I suppose that is the one thing in life that we have in common...other than the fact that we both walk upright (sometimes). But, everything else between us is a chore. Restaurant selection, motel selection, and, as I learned sadly yesterday, route selection too are the points where we disagree, nearly always. It is almost laughable to admit that just in the process of exchanging a few e-mails over a four day period we both concluded, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that we should not do this trip together - nor should we do any other trip together, for that matter. This inevitable conclusion was reached when exchanging ideas about routes. It began with his question about what my ride plan was. I wrote back, "I plan to ride to San Diego, attend meetings there on Monday and Tuesday, and then ride back."
That seemed like a fine plan to me. It contained just about as much detail one could need. I'd take the slab much of the time just because of the distances, but if I was running ahead of schedule, or if I found a worthy road or noted site of interest, I would deviate from plan and go off course just for the fun of it. I'm a little like our own Fast Frank: I'm happy riding my Moto Guzzi anywhere, on any type of road, at any time, during any season.
Well, in response to my abbreviated ride plan statement, as recited above, with a couple of e-mailed conversations in between, this guy eventually wrote back to say, "I think we maybe should not do this, Jamie." I was actually relieved. I shot off my quick agreement, all the more earnestly since I had just finished leafing through the massive 20 page computerized routing printout that he'd sent me in the meantime, complete with stops at all the tourist hot spots he could think of. Oh my. Why did I even think we could do this trip together?
Now, still two months from departure date, I can enjoy the plan making necessary to figure out if there is some other rider who would be a good partner for this trip, or whether I should count the advantages of doing the ride alone and just move on to plan it as a solo trip.
If I ride alone, which is my preferred method, and the preferred method of many high mile riders, then a whole new world of planning opens up. Who shall I visit on this trip? If I don't have to worry about another rider's interests, then I can do as I please. What a great concept. Since this will be a long trip, I'll want at least some human interaction at some point, so why not visit a few folk. Who knows? Maybe one or two of these will put me up for the night, which translates not only into a bit of relief to my traveling fund, but often an excellent meal or two, whether home cooked or at a famous local eatery. In fact, visits like these give me touring and local sight-seeing opportunities that I would never find on my own. It is like having your own personal tour guides waiting for you at certain strategic points along the way. However, this, too, requires some prodigious plan making Not only must I determine if these nice hosts will be available at the time that I'm rolling through, I must find a way to invite myself into their homes. Of course, any biker who's been doing this awhile gets very good at insinuating himself into other people's homes. It happens to me all the time as my friends - close, and not so close - pass through West Michigan.
In between the hard but enjoyable plan making work that goes into selection of route, monitoring of weather, review of climate and terrain, plus friendly visits to schedule, comes the unexpected thrill one gets at various moments from simply contemplating the great fact that he'll have that much time in the saddle doing one of his most favorite things in life. Imagination and memory are the most useful tools for this part of the planning phase. Remembering other exciting bike trips, and thinking ahead to imagine what this new one will be like, on different days and in different states, helps me sort of do the ride - in my head at least - long before I actually do the ride on the road.
Mid-October. After weeks of ruminating about how I might do the San Diego trip, I ended up taking a lousy airplane . . . so that I wouldn't be away from the family for quite so long. But before that decision was made, I had lots of fun talking to different rider friends about how we might do the trip together, and day dreaming about another long sojourn aboard my faithful Moto Guzzi. I'm fond of solo riding, but in this case, when I couldn't find a partner even for part of the trip, I took that as a cue to rethink my travel methods. And then the family stuff, too, helped me conclude I should abandon the idea of being out that long.
So, the compromise plan was to take a few days during the week preceding the San Diego trip and do a solo northern ride. I chose a northern route to enjoy the cool temperatures, and to take in some of our famous Upper Great Lakes Fall Colors (that's tree foliage, for you more arid types). After shooting over to visit Steve Kames near Rockford, Illinois - thanks a lot, Steve, for the overnight bunk, and especially for your help at the last minute with that defective rear wheel bearing! - I then rode due north to the top of Wisconsin, one of my absolute favorite states, and then home through Michigan's Upper Peninsula.
..Where, once again, I was nabbed by Michigan's Finest for going 73 mph in a 55 mph zone. The lady cop, in this case, was kind enough I suppose, but I was still hugely disgusted with myself. The officer lowered the charge to just "5 mph over," and said that she understood how hard it is to keep one's speed down on a fancy motorbike like mine, but the whole event still nearly ruined my attitude that day. I simply must remember to never, ever use fifth gear on any double nickel road. But it's sooooo hard to be content on a Guzzi at those stupid speeds, just like the nice lady said.
Late October. Our Spring and Summer and Fall in the Great Lakes states were nearly perfect this year for motorcycling. A few times of high heat and humidity, but not many. Instead, day after day of dry and sunny weather, just perfect for riding. In fact, this good weather stuck with us until just about one week ago. Then it fell completely apart. I'm in Chicago at the moment, on a four day outing where I had fully intended to have the motorbike at my side instead of the auto, but with temps in the low 40s, consistently, and lots of cold drizzle-type rain, I reluctantly left the beautiful Guzzi home. But there is still much anticipation ahead, and much plan making to do. There will be many days of dry weather yet, and if you work at it, temps in the 40s are certainly ridable. Occasional Fall temps in the low 50s are downright inspirational, so there is plenty of riding yet to do, though few bike rides will be overnight ones now.
It is this very anticipation of continuing to ride into the late Fall that keeps my motorcycle spirits high, and helps me realize that I shouldn't move my bike over to the shop for the winter. There I could have excellent dry, warm storage for the Guzzi, but it is what I would not have which would make that idea painful. I would not have that wonderful bike sitting close at hand, ready at all times for the brief cold weather blast that so invigorates the soul, and keeps you in the game.
As usual, here in Michigan there will certainly be a few weeks of no riding. Two winters ago it was a whopping 81 days where the bike was snowed in, so to speak. That nearly killed me. But as long as I can anticipate and engage in plan making, I'm gonna anticipate another moderate winter, and another case of year-around enthusiasm for these great bikes, and for the most excellent sport of motorcycling. The plan making will keep me going, and help me get through all the other stuff. I'm sure it's the same for you. Stay warm!