In 2009 I took my first long distance motorcycle ride from Texas to South Dakota. This is what I learned from that trip:
1. Do your research.
Wherever you are, the weather different 2,000 miles away. It may be 40 degrees cooler where you’re going than where you started from. Add a wind chill factor of 70 mph, and you’re talking cold as Santa’s balls.
If GPS says it takes 20 hours to get where you’re going and you look at a map and find an easier route that looks about the same, it’s not. If it were then your GPS would have told you to take route. The “easier” route actually takes 5 hours longer. So you’ll ride 10 hours the first day and then 15 the second day. And on the second day, you’ll be racing against the sun trying to arrive before the temperature plummets under the heartless night sky, and you’ll lose the race. Luckily by this point, your body will be so numb from the cold that you won’t feel any more pain from the cannonball run you’ve unwittingly signed yourself into.
2. Check your bike.
If you don’t know anything about bikes, at least check the easy stuff at least…like the foot pegs you bolted on yourself after drinking a 6 pack. If you don’t, the right footpeg might fall off without you knowing, leaving the only (relatively) comfortable position to hold your legs in for 50 hours is an awkward Street Fighter 2 jump kick pose.
Check to make sure your license plate is bolted on securely. Otherwise, it might fall off somewhere in Kansas leaving you to drive across 8 state lines paranoid of the cops. But take comfort in knowing that cops don’t pay much attention to motorcycles that are going the speed limit.
3. Spend the money on the right accessories… at the right time.
Take a short road trip and see how comfortable you’re going to be sitting on your bike for hours. If you find that your seat isn’t made for long distance, make sure you buy a new seat and have it on your bike before you set a date to leave. You might order a seat online and find out something went wrong and your seat isn’t going to be delivered until after your departure date.
If you don’t have the right seat for the ride, you might end up having to find something to put under your ass to pad it. Don’t get a gel-cushioned bicycle seat. It’ll only create ledges for your ass to grind against and an uncomfortable bulge under your fragile taint. You’d be a little better off using the leopard print throw cushion you put in your duffle bag to cushion it against your back.
If you don’t have a back on your seat to lean against, and you don’t have a big windshield, you’re going to spend 50+ hours using your arms to hold your body forward against 70+ mph winds. So you might want to invest in one of those.
4. If you put your gloves in your jacket while gassing up and drive off forgetting to put them back, stop immediately and put them back on.
Otherwise, the right-hand glove might fall out and be lost forever. Then you’ll have to buy a $4 pair of scissors at a gas station and cut holes in a black sock to wear as a glove so that the unexpected cold doesn’t make your hand feel like a starved chipmunk is chewing on it.
More importantly though, if you thought taking your gloves off for 3 hours while driving through northern Texas would be comfortable and cool you might find that the tops of your hands have been burnt like Beavis’s on that episode of Beavis and Butthead where Beavis stuck his hand in the fryer at whatever burger join they worked at. Then you’ll do goddamned anything to cover your hands to keep them from getting more burnt…especially after you put your stiff motorcycle jacket back on at a rest stop and the cuff sloughed the boiled skin off of the back of your hand like on that scene on “We Were Soldiers” where the cameraman pulls the wounded soldier’s legs off as he’s being loaded on the medivac chopper.
5. Everything will cost twice as much as you expect.
…and the price of gas will jump 15 cents between the time you leave and the time you return.
6. Call your bank and tell them you’re planning on taking a cross-country road trip.
Otherwise, they’ll assume somebody else did…and they’ll lock your check card out…that you’re using to pay for gas.
However, they’ll only lock your card for “suspicious activity” after you enter your secret pin in an ATM to check your balance…after charging up the card for 8 days all across the country. But if you keep $40 in your pocket you should be able to just make it back to Austin.
7. When you gas up your motorcycle pick the pump closest to the gas station window. If you park your bike behind a big SUV and walk into a gas station with hair that looks like the bride of Frankenstein got electrocuted, while wearing combat boots, MC Hammer pants, a wool/leather vintage Air Force bomber jacket (in seemingly good weather) covered in dead bugs, wearing a cut up black sock on your right hand while your left hand looks like burnt bubble wrap…and there’s a circular sunburn around your eyes and nose but not the rest of your face…if the cute gas station clerk doesn’t know you’re on the motorcycle ride from Hell, she’ll probably assume you’re a homicidal smack addict, .and she won’t smile at you.
7. That’s the ride.
If you hiked halfway across a continent and back, you would deserve to feel proud of that accomplishment no matter how many novice mistakes you made along the way. Regardless of how bad you screwed up, you still did something very few people ever will. More importantly, you did something you set out to do. You lived your life even though you were unprepared. That’s the definition of foolishness and courageousness. Even if you were totally foolish and completely at blame, you still learned how not to be a total dumb ass by being a total dumb ass. That’s how the ride works. Your first mistake is your first step towards mastery.
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