Traveling Across The Country By Motorcycle

Sundry Rider

On riding across the country on a motorcycle packing nothing but a toothbrush.
Sundry Rider
Some folks like to travel rough. Some do it as an homage to a simpler time; some do it because they’re gluttons for punishment.©Motorcyclist

I rode across the country on a motorcycle packing nothing but a toothbrush. I wore the same clothes day after day and slept in abandoned buildings. Hold on a minute; that’s not strictly true: In my back pocket I carried a Buck knife that had a locking, 4-inch blade. There are noises in the night, see? The Boogie Man or worse.

One morning I woke up next to a partially decomposed rat crawling with big red ants. It was a setup. I couldn’t have committed the murder. Rats don’t decompose overnight.

If the buildings in a town were in use I would ride out and lie down in a field to sleep. I didn’t bathe or shave. This was long ago, back in my Rag-Boy days.

I don’t plan on sleeping rough anymore. Still, I don’t like being caught out by “no vacancy” signs, so when I travel long distances I carry a sleeping bag on my motorcycle. Price gouging is another pet peeve. I’ve been known to spend a quiet evening among the cows to save a lousy 50 bucks. The bag I have now packs down to the size of a football without the pointy ends. It makes throwing a tight spiral difficult.

I quit using a plastic tarp for a rain cover. Instead, I pack a space blanket. Space blankets are a NASA spin-off, like Tang and that ballpoint pen that writes upside down. The size of a pack of cigarettes, they unfurl into a jib. I’m scared to open the thing; it’ll never fit back into the package.

Most rural fields are unheated, so sleeping with the cows can be made more relaxing with a mild sedative. A pocket-size flask of Crown Royal always finds its way into my motorcycle kit. Drink enough Crown and the Boogie Man is no longer scary, just misunderstood and a little sad. For those times when Crown Royal is inappropriate, I carry a few of those iron oxide, instant-heat thingies. Pop them in the floor of your sleeping bag and you’ll be toasty warm until Bessie wakes you with an alfalfa-scented kiss.

My Rag-Boy days are over, so I bring baby powder. The stuff is shower in a can. Dust it on, vigorously rub it in, and then towel off a day’s worth of gunk. Put baby powder on your feet to stop boots from going septic. Put it down your pants to prevent monkey-butt. Baby powder makes everything better—even tire changing. Sprinkle some on the inner tube and beads.

Waking up after a 600-mile ride I feel like I’m encased in steel wool until I get coffee. Lately I’ve been packing a homebuilt beer-can stove. Lighting it is risky. The thing bursts into a ball of flame without warning. You learn to greet each new day with caution. Along with the stove I have instant coffee, powdered creamer, and a stainless-steel bowl for boiling. Water is heavy, but I bring some anyway and a bottle of denatured alcohol to fuel the stove.

From one toothbrush I’ve slowly gravitated to a pharmacopeia. I have two kinds of blood-pressure pills—one for cholesterol along with an asthma inhaler for when I eat too much dust on the trail. I carry every remedy from Advil to Zyrtec. Ointments include poison-ivy cream, antibiotics, and Benadryl. Then there’s underarm deodorant, an electric shaver, sun block, and moist towelettes. I have more cosmetics on my motorcycle than an Estée Lauder counter at the mall.

I’m not nearly as tough as I used to be, so traveling by motorcycle has become a balancing act between the luxury items I want and what I actually have space for. My packing may be getting out of hand though; if I get much more comfortable I’ll be driving the car.

Gresh Gets Cranked On Weight: