Yesterday I pulled off a spur of the moment motorcycle trip from my home near DC approximately 250 miles to Pittsburgh and then back to DC. It was a fantastic journey and on the way home I was contemplating the elements of a great bike trip. Many of these apply to road-trips in general, as I'm a big fan of hitting the road in any kind of vehicle. But things are always better from the back of a bike (unless you're in Alaska in January). So with apologies to Buddha, here's my list:
1. Right Destination The best trips are to somewhere you've never been before. I grew up out west, and there are a ton of places back east, in the northeast in particular, that I've never been. Time to go exploring! In this instance, Pittsburgh...home of some great professional sports teams. I departed DC around 2:30pm and arrived in Pittsburgh around 6:30pm. What a beautiful city, with lots of neighborhoods perched up on the hills overlooking wide rivers. Very nice.
2. Right Rationale Any road trip is a good trip in my mind, but they're always better when there's a something to see or do at your destination. The purpose of this journey? To watch my beloved St. Louis Cardinals take on the Pittsburgh Pirates. I saw the Cards play three times last year (DC, St. Louis, Milwaukee) on their way to becoming World Series Champs. Motorcycle races are usually my top rationale, but a baseball game is a close second.
3. Right Path Great trips require great roads. In this case, as I was on a tight schedule, I needed to stay on the interstates, which are not generally the optimal path for a motorcycle trip. In this case, highway's 70 and 76 were quite beautiful, as they passed through the lush green "mountains" (hills if you're from the western part of the US) of Maryland and Pennsylvania. Generally, I prefer two-lane windy country roads...but interstates can be very useful at times. As a side note, I've spent a lot of time this past year in Russia and Kazakhstan and I have a newfound appreciation for well-maintained roads.
4. Right Weather You know, with some good rain-gear I don't mind riding in the wet...but obviously, a sunny, warm day is better. Yesterday was around 95, probably a little too hot for my taste, but as long as you kept moving, it wasn't bad. The ride home (from about 10:30pm to 2:30am) was perfect.
5. Right Bike I've owned a lot of bikes in my life, and enjoyed them all, but I must say the two I have now are my all time favorites. For sportier roads, a BMW R1100S is my idea of perfection. For long-distance hauling, a Harley-Davidson Road King Classic. For this trip on the super-slab, I took the Harley. You really do feel like the king of the road on that thing...it's smooth as butter, and the riding position promotes a relaxing ride. For longer trips like this, I use the clear windshield (it pops on and off very easily) that provides a nice pocket of still air behind it. You can eat up the miles in comfort. I generally avoid riding at night...but the light bar set up on the Harley provided top-notch illumination for my return trip. In this case I was also augmented by the nearly full moon overhead on a mostly clear night. Beautiful! And when things got a little chilly, I fired up the heated hand-grips...the single best motorcycle accessory ever invented.
6. Right Food Good road food is always important, but I'm mostly easy to please. In this case, a cheese steak at the ballpark, accompanied by fresh cut french fried potatoes and one of those giant dill pickles from a jar. Perfect!
7. Right Companion For this trip I was flying solo. I generally don't ride in groups, too much of a hassle coordinating with everyone. But it's a given that having a special woman riding "bitch" always makes a trip better!! Last summer, I rode round trip from Virginia Beach to Salt Lake City and back. Solo on the way west, and with my 12 year-old daughter (not a bitch) on the way back. Traveling in a pair is great, but I definitely am not adverse to heading out on my own. I don't mind being alone, as I enjoy my company.
8. Right Riding When I take a trip in a car, it's not an official road trip unless you make at least one U-turn. On a motorcycle, I don't consider a trip official unless you pass someone over a double yellow line. That rule is definitely easier to follow on the BMW than the Harley. Since this trip was all freeway, I don't think I even saw a double yellow line. Other right riding ingredients: not getting pulled over by "the man"...no speeding tickets for me yesterday! The other beauty of riding a motorcycle is the enforced silence and solitude...riding allows for some great time for deep thinking. It also encourages being "in the moment". I do some nice meditating and generally come up with some good insight while traveling by bike.