Travel Tips & Words of Wisdom

Diana Pillion Princess

In anticipation of our upcoming trip through West Virginia, I thought it appropriate to address some great travel tips provided by the American Motorcycle Association.  I first saw these tips mentioned at Keep The Rubber Side Down. This will be our first 5-day tour (we have done several 3-day weekends), so it is shaping up to be quite an adventure!

Here are the “insider tips,” with a little commentary from Mrs RC on each:

1) Eat at weird times. Everyone and their dog eats around 8 a.m., noon and 6 p.m. To get in and out of restaurants in a hurry, don’t be hungry then.

Like you can control when you are hungry!  LOL  Seriously, this is great advice for avoiding long waits.

2) A short metal cable with loops on both ends (like those made to keep people from stealing bicycle seats) is perfect for securing a jacket and helmet to your bike’s helmet lock.

We have one of these.  Jay put it together at Home Depot with help from one of the employees.  It cost about $3 including the little Master pad lock, and it works great!  You just pull the cable through your sleeve and hook the padlock around your helmet strap fastener.

3) Carry a spare key. Zip-tie or duct tape it somewhere hidden on your bike, or better yet, give it to a traveling companion.

Neither one of us even HAS a spare key to our bikes (they only came with one).  Maybe we should look into that.

4) Portable weather radios are now in the $20 range, and the first time one saves you from running right into a massive storm, you’ll wonder why you ever traveled without one. Check accessory companies like Aerostich, or Radio Shack.

Many cell phones nowadays have internet access.  You can check Insta-Weather any time you want…all you need to know is the zip code.  You can get the forecast and even see the radar map in motion. Skip had this function on his Verizon phone during our Rhode island trip, it was great. We could see the rain heading straight for us!

5) On high-mileage days, you’ll feel a lot better if you carry eyedrops and use them every time you stop for gas.

Even with a face shield and sunglasses, some residual wind gets up into my eyes.  They can feel scratchy and dry after a few hours.  Eyedrops sound like a great idea.

6) If you’re nearing the end of your riding day, and want to set yourself up for a quick getaway in the morning, consider riding to the far side of the next city you reach before you stop for the night, eliminating urban traffic the next day.

Great plan!  Everybody hates rush hour!

7) Take a tip from off-road riders and carry a backpack hydration system so you can drink while you ride. A must for arid weather.

Hmmm….now if we wear Depends then we don’t have to stop for the bathroom either!

8.) Going on a long, complex trip? Keep yourself organized with the envelope system. Before you leave, prepare one envelope for each day on the road. Mark the dates and locations on the outside, then stuff things like hotel reservation info and lists of things to see inside. Instead of juggling your entire stack of literature to find the piece you need, you can just open up that day’s envelope.

We will be staying at 3 different hotels along our trip.  Seems like a fabulous way to stay organized.

9) A simple map case attached to your bike’s tank (we’ve used a Rev-Pak version that has been available through for years) can keep you on course without the bulk of a tankbag.

Jay purchased a Dowco Magnetic Motorcycle Rally Pack on eBay.  It works great.  He even puts his EZPass in it sometimes.  After about a year and a lot of use, it is starting to wear around the magnets.  If I know Jay, a new higher-quality map case will be replacing it soon(maybe the one fromT-Bag that our friend Bob has).

10) Keep your stuff dry in saddlebags by using trash compactor bags as waterproof barriers. They’re thicker and more durable than standard garbage bags.

We pack everything in large size Ziploc bags.  The freezer kind are much sturdier than the regular ones.  And they also have jumbo 2- and 3-gallon sizes with handlesThese make it easy to grab everything out of the saddlebags to bring in to your hotel room for the night.

11) Use earplugs to help reduce wind noise. You can get them from most mail-order shops or dealers, or in bulk from safety-equipment supply houses.

I know people who wear earplugs to protect against the sound of their own loud pipes.  Isn’t there something wrong with this picture? They sell these at our local Rite Aid Pharmacy.

12) Don’t forget that pack-and-ship places are just about everywhere these days. They’re perfect when you spot that antique umbrella stand you’re dying to buy hundreds of miles from home.

UPS is generally much cheaper than the local “Mailbox” places.  You can even use these services to ship your dirty laundry home, or clean clothes ahead to a known destination.

13) Don’t forget a small towel or rag for wiping dew off seats, windshields and mirrors, and even for doing a quick whole-bike cleanup. Those synthetic chamois cloths work particularly well.

Hotels might frown on you using thier towels on your bike.  But Jay does it anyway and carrys a chamois.

14) Pack extra bungees and zip-ties. ’Nuff said.


15) Go ahead, buy that GPS you’ve always wanted. They’re perfect not only for finding yourself, but also for allowing you the freedom to get lost in the first place.

We use one in our car, and can testify that there have been many occasions when that little device has been a godsend!  It has earned its $300 worth many times over.  Definitely on the to-get list for the bike, but not until after we get CBs. The best part is, they can get you home after you get lost on purpose.

16) You’ve heard it a million times, but we’ll say it again: look over your bike carefully every morning on the road. Checking the simple stuff—air pressure, oil level, loose or missing fasteners—can save you from big trouble.

T-CLOCS  (if you have taken a Motorcycle Safety Foundation course, you know what this means!) Jay just got a digital tire pressure gauge. I’m sure you will see a product review after our trip.

17) Sign up for AMA MoTow. For $25 a year, you get peace of mind, knowing that if you do break down, a motorcycle-savvy towing crew is only a phone call away. To sign up, call the AMA at: (614) 856-1900.

There are many roadside assistance programs out there, often provided through insurance companies or club memberships loike HOG.  Be sure to check out the actual coverage before you leave for a trip.  If you have AAA for your car (as an example), don’t assume that they will come get you on your bike unless you have paid extra for the “recreational vehicle” coverage.

18) Stash a little cash somewhere hidden on the bike or on you, so you can make something happen when all else fails.

Just don’t forget where you put it!

19) Before you take off from the hotel or campground in the morning, double check every strap on tankbags or soft saddlebags, and every latch on hard luggage.

I have seen way too many straps, flaps, and lids flapping in the breeze.  (Ever wonder how mattresses end up in the middle of the highway???…strap it down well!!!)

20) Especially if you’re riding alone, wear a dog-tag with your name and contact info. You can get them lots of places, including your local army surplus store.

At least carry your ID on your person.  Emergency crews will not generally go rummaging through your bags to find your wallet.  Also, program an emergency contact number into your cell phone so the authorities can contact your loved ones should anything happen.

21) Take a look back at where you were parked every time you leave someplace. You’d be amazed at what you find.

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22) A cellphone can be a lifesaver in an emergency. You can dial 911 for help anywhere you find cell service, but you’ll need to tell a dispatcher where you are. Keep track of route numbers, interstate exits, towns you’ve passed, mileposts—anything that can save emergency officials time in getting to you.

911 services can easily track a landline to get the exact address, but a cell phone out on the road is a different story entirely.  The better the information you can give them, the quicker they can get there to help you.  I was in a car accident once, and told the 911 operator that we were in front of Franklin High School.  After a half hour, we had to call 911 back — only to find out that the cops were around the back parking lot of the school and couldn’t find us.  I swear it would have been quicker to walk across the street to the shopping center where several of them were probably camped out doing nothing in the first place!!  Thank god we only needed a tow truck and not an ambulance!!!

23) Good motorcycle gear really is worth it. Waterproof, breathable linings in boots and jackets will transform the way you think about bad weather. A number of companies offer materials that work well, but always test your gear on a rainy day at home before facing a storm on the road.

Ten hours straight of pouring rain will definitely test out your wet-weather gear!  You will find every nook and cranny where the water can get in.  After our Amphibious Assault in Mansfield this spring, many of us learned the hard way that quality is definitely worth the expense.  Purchase the best gear you can afford to buy!

24) Do routine maintenance at home with your bike’s toolkit, so you’re sure you have what you need along the side of the road.

We take a toolkit with us everywhere we go.  It would probably be a good idea if either one of us knew how to use any of the tools!

25) On a long tour, plan for at least one day every week of doing nothing. Time is the ultimate luxury, and can mean the difference between a vacation and an endurance run.

Excellent advice!  Even the most minor things can delay your progress — 40 people in line to use a single bathroom, chasing down group members who obliviously took a wrong turn, flagmen at lane closures, etc.  More often than not, travel time is longer than you expect.  Build in some catch-up time so that you don’t have to put yourself in danger by racing against a clock.  Keep your rides stress-free and safe.

26) Be realistic with your daily mileage. In really scenic areas, 150 miles may make a very full day. Don’t assume you can achieve freeway mileage on good back roads.

Even though you will be travelling on open 50 mph roads, don’t forget to factor in the small towns that will drop your speeds to 25 mph or less.  And many great back roads are only 30 mph to begin with!  Those great mountain twisties WILL take a lot of time.  Plan for it.

27) Guidebooks can be invaluable, but these days, a search of the Internet can add spice to your trip by revealing special-interest locations most books fail to include. One of the sites we’ve used is World’s largest concrete bison, anyone?

We are big fans of  Scenic BywaysThere are many (often free) brochures and books that map out state and national byways.

28) It is possible to use a kit to make emergency repairs on tubeless or tube-type tires alongside the road. But before you count on this as your safety net, practice using the kit on an old tire in your garage.

Refer to comment on suggestion #24

29) A packable motorcycle cover not only keeps your bike clean and dry overnight, it also discourages thieves. And don’t forget a stout lock of some kind for the bike itself.

Jay always brings along a sturdy lock he used to use for his mountain bike.  Those concrete parking blocks make great things to lock your bike to.  Beats the hell out of trying to ride the bike up the stairs to your second-story hotel room!

30) If you can afford it and are short of time, you could always ship your bike somewhere cool and ride it back. Call the Federal Companies at (800) 747-4100, ext. 217 or 218, for details.

You can also rent bikes at many Harley dealerships.  This is a great way to enjoy some time riding when you are on the other side of the country for a family wedding or something.  It’s also a great way to get an extended test-drive of a different style bike if you are thinking of trading up.

31) If you call a hotel—even if you’re two blocks away—you can often get a better rate than if you just walk in. And if you have access to a computer, there are some spectacular Internet-only deals available these days. Either way, do yourself a favor and have a reservation by 4 p.m. You never know when a convention will take over your destination city. Remember that AMA members get a discount at Red Roof Inns (call (800) RED-ROOF and use AMA code CP503343).

Keep an eye out for those free travel guide magazines you see at convenience stores and in the vestibule at Denny’s.  They often have coupons and deals for the local area.

32) A nap can do wonders on a long day.

True words of wisdom, but I am not sure about the logistics on this one.

33) If you’re traveling east or west, schedule your breakfast or dinner times near sunrise or sunset so you don’t have to stare into the sun when it’s low on the horizon.

And if you are traveling north or south, make sure to put extra sunscreen on the side that is facing the sun.

I hope that you find some wisdom in these tips.  All of us have something to learn, and all of us have something we can share.  If you have any other “insider tips” on motorcycle touring, please share! 

10 Responses to “Travel Tips & Words of Wisdom”

  1. Have a safe trip and thanks for the mention!

  2. All good tips. The only one I am not sure about is the tank bag map. If you need to check out the map then you should be taking a breather anyway.

    I might be a freak but I don’t eat much while I am riding, just makes me tired. I sort of graze.

    One thing I insist on every trip is the hydration bag. Especially long distance rides. I only use it if I really have to. One never knows where they might get stuck and if you are out in the middle of nowhere. It might be awhile before someone finds you. The cell phone doesn’t always have service. I found out the hard way many times. I always leave my planned route with someone when I leave. (even though I don’t follow it most of the time, lol)

    Have an awesome ride and don’t forget to get lost. When you forget what day it is and not sure of the time…thats when it gets really good. I’ll be looking for the post! Thanks for the info. Really good stuff.

  3. I’m just glad to hear you guy’s are alright and can I say you have the coolest site!!!

  4. Thanks Rick, and no problem.
    Dave, That’s definitely a great idea to add…leaving your route/itinerary behind with someone. Just in case. The map sack is great for directions on poker runs! We always print out a map with the route highlighted and giant route numbers with arrows for turns. So its just a quick glance while riding, just like a GPS would be. As far as getting lost, Jay rarely lets that happen! But in our club we have a running joke that it’s not an official ride unless we have an “oops–turn around” somewhere! LOL
    Thank you Jeff, we try to keep it interesting. Anybody who has a photo of a Mustang on the front page of their website is alright with me! Stop back often. 😀

  5. Lens wipes! I buy them by the big box full at BJs Wholesale. I don’t know if they are in other states, but it’s the same deal as Cosco, Sam’s Club, etc.

    I always have a handful in my vest pocket, and also inside my glasses case in the saddlebag. They are great for cleaning road grunge off your shades, mirrors, even windshield (though you may need to use 2 or 3 together) quickly while stopped for gas or whatever. A spare pair of day/night eye protection is also a good idea. You don’t want to be stuck someplace with no eye protection. You never know when that stray rock may find you, or you drop them, or sit on them in the booth at the diner by accident.

  6. Sit on them in the booth at dinner by accident??? Sounds like you are speaking from experience, Joker!!
    Great idea about the lens wipes. Eye protection is definitely one of the most important things you need when riding. Thanks for the idea.

  7. It wasn’t me. But, since I’m constantly undressing women with my eyes everywhere I go, it’s very possible one day I will sit on my shades someplace. I just hope she’s worth it.

  8. Joker you came up with a fantastic suggestion about the lense wipes.Thanks for the tip. I just got tinted glases this summer and now I bring both day and night prescription glasses on trips.

  9. We found on our WV trip thst carrying a spare key could be a really good thing. Bob had a little scare about not being able to find his key. It all worked out OK, but it would have not even been a worry had he carried a spare!

  10. Old School had a little scare once also. So I have been bringing the spare key with me because I like to be prepared for anything and I don’t like scares.

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