Mindfulness on the road

This is a post that will have additions made to as they come to my mind for the rest of the journey. Have gotten more than a couple of questions on citical planning factors for a trip such as this and so as stuff comes to mind and as it finds its way into the notebook, it will so find its way into the blog.

I have been asked a ton of questions about being on the road and the this and thats of how and what we did. Tried to put together as much as I could and a lot came together in no particular order. However, at the core of an road trip which equates to life is what is the direction of the trip if you will.

There is no way to plan such a trip by simply getting a tent, sleeping bag and having a vague end. Easy Rider was a movie about the days gone by without direction and ended most tragically. Aside from that a Robert Redford  or Dennis Hooper I am not. I am a retired soldier in the summer of his 69th year who is on a mission. The mission is to plant the seed of awareness of Women and Children in the Jails and Prisons of the Nation and to do that I will travel to the four corners of the nation giving talks supported by a PowerPoint. Essentially, Easy Ryder was a bike trip from California to New Orleans. At this stage we are in Rhode Island and have don’t just short of 9,000 miles of an 11,000 mile ride to the four corners of the nation.

Our trip had a clear direction. It was to raise the level of awareness of Women and Children in the Jails and Prisons of the Nation and to do it, we took motorcycles to the four corners of the nation as a vehicle to spread the message. This was an expensive project and in an effort to reduce expenses I choose to do a combination of camping, stays in houses and organizations as well as motels when the situation demanded.

Where as a lot of people opened their homes and organizations to our presence, it was still expensive. In many respects, motorcycles are not only hard but most inefficilent ways to travel in an economic and time consuming manner. It takes time to load and unload them with camping gear. About an hour to two hours at the end of each day. Loading a bike is a mindful exercise and the price of carelessness is instant road kill at highway speeds. In addition to camping gear, there were computers and projectors to pack as well as clothes for the presentations. I also had a C-pac machine to carry that I needed to be protected from the vibrations of the road and vicissitudes of the weather.

A blog was created to generate interest in the trip and allow the audiences the ability to be prepared and well as follow up on the talks. Where as this sounds nice, it required from me at least two hours a day. There were places we stayed that did not have internet access and in the cases I would have to activate the mobiole hotspot on my phone. I the second month of trip, I exceeded my bandwidth with AT&T of 4 gigabytes which was their largest internet plan and went on to be fined for each additional gigabyte. The blog did serve its end and by the time we got to Cambridge towards the end of the trip we had over 5,500 hits on it.

Accidents and Repairs: accidents happen and equipment breaks down. I was riding a 2002 Yamaha V Star 1100 and it was a work horse that could and did cruise at highway speeds across the nation. However, busted a fairing in Seattle, the weld on the luggage rack came apart in San Diego and the starter went out in Stugis. As a safety measure, the break light and directionals were replaced with LEDs in Boston. All of which were covered by a small contingency fund that was really not cash on hand but a spare amount of credit. To take on an 11,000 mile road trip without this contingency fund is insanity.. There were also oil chances and tires that had to be replaced.

Cooking: cooking on the road and in a camp is a fine idea and I imagine can be romantic if the objective of the trip is to ride and camp in the company of another. However, cooking on the road is not a five minute process but breaking out the gear, getting the food and then clean up and repacking is time consuming. Also, all of this takes space in the bags which is at a premium already. I had a two cup heating pot which was great for coffee and soup. I did cook rice it in it and that is about as much as I cared for on the road. It turned out that heavy coffee in the morning, a road house breakifast after a 100 or 200 miles and who knows what for dinner that was sometimes missed or often a hamburger at best.

This is a tricky item and requires lots of care. I opted for a relatively high quality, super light two man tent. Having the option again, would have gone for the same model but a four man tent. I say this because it rained and more than once found myself trying to blog and keeping all my equipment as dry as possible. This would have been a great set up if I traveling with someone or just riding. Also, tents are designed for maybe a total of two to three weeks camping a year for maybe three or four years. We put them them through some rough use as well as many set ups and on the back of motorcycles. Need to water proof tent as well as get a ground cover.

Tools: Don’t know there is an easy answer for this one. It is almost as if you have to look at it on a couple of levels. Then you have to look at the two levels by injecting just how much you know. My first advice is to find a mechanic that will let you hang around while he is working on your bike. I found a couple of excellent guys that would let me look on and ask all kinds of dumb questions.

The reality is their is not all that much you can do because most of bikes are closed systems these days. First rule is to get a good insurance policy that has towing. Second, every time you get a tow, make sure the company has or gets a record that the condition on the last tow was taken care of and I suggest you fax them a copy of the bill for work done.

Second rule is to do daily maintenance checks. Get good on your manual and every day do it from top to bottom. Then there is one more step and that is to check all nuts and bolts. Being on the road everyday and especially your saddle bags and the frame you may be attaching top side luggage to need to be touched and tested. Once a week or so check you lights and other stuff to make sure machine screws have not come loose. Bring a packet of extra screws and bolts because some are coming loose and will fall off.

Tools: Honda is good about listing what you need for tools. Saw no such list for my Yamaha. When around to each nut and bolt to find what metric wrench fit and make it a point to have something for everything I could see. Put them all in a roll up tool back and it was the last item to go into a saddle bag so that it could be the first item out if I needed it.

Tools II: I carried a letherman on my belt the entire trip and it was not till I got to Rhode Island when I was in the process of replacing light bulbs with LEDs that I realized whoever had the bike prior to me had tried to make one Phillips head screw driver fit all screws. Get a leatherman belt tool that has some quick change heads on it so that you can work with small screws without further damaging the heads. It may be more expensive up front but in the end it will serve you better. Also, carry extra nuts, bolts and screws that fit both metric and common screws and machine nuts.

Plastic Sheets: Took along two heavy duty black plastic sheets cut to 5×7 for ground cover, bike cover, back cover on roads and to provide a clean entrance for tent in bad weather. They are well worth their weight in gold and take up very little space. They are particularly useful as ground cover for the tent.  They need to be aired out every once in a while as do the tents.

This also includes an air pump with power take off.

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