10 Tips for a Successful Cross-Country Motorcycle Trip

With the conclusion of my first big motorcycle journey, starting in Colorado and ending in Oregon, here’s a few things I found to be helpful, and things I wish I’d known.

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gas1.    Gasoline filled bottles

No, not for Molotov-Cocktails, we’re not going anarchist on this journey. In case you lose your way (which happens), it’s nice to know that you’ve got an extra 20 mile buffer by filling up a liter water bottle with gas. Make sure it’s a bottle with a great seal; nothing worse/more dangerous than a backpack soaked in gasoline. It’s cheap, easy, and even if you don’t use it it brings peace of mind.

2.    Read the directions first, tape to your forearm second

Thanks to the convenience of GPS, we are so used to never knowing or needing directions that we forget, when on a motorcycle, there is no searching for directions on your phone. My advice: know your directions ahead of time, read through them well, then tape a copy to your jacket-sleeve. Additionally, it’s a hassle to have to stop, take off your pack and dig out directions if you forget a step. I’m not advocating looking at them as you cruise along at 80 mph, but you’ll be amazed at how much time and trouble it saves you if you can quickly pull over to glance down at your arm for directions when needed.

3.    Waterproof your pack by packing smarter

Many decent packs will tell you they’re waterproof, but you’ll see how the title holds up when you get caught in your first down-pour with no cover in sight. What helped me was using my extra gear that was water proof to seal my pack. Rather than packing my tarp and extra jacket on bottom, I packed them last to cover my other gear inside my bag. Seeing that almost all the water that will seep in is through the opening on top, I use this gear to put another layer/seal my belongings and the rain.

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4.    Keep what you’ll need handy

Again, this all boils down to packing smarter. The first time a storm hit I had to dig all the way to the bottom of my bag, PAST MY CAMERA I was trying to keep dry, to get to my gloves and shell. Not a mistake I made twice. Think about what you’ll need to get to quickly on the road, and what can be buried, and pack accordingly.

5.    At the bare minimum bring a Leatherman

For those that don’t know, a Leatherman is a multi tool with a variety of handy gadgets on it. More useful than a pocketknife, but still portable. On a long journey, it will prove useful more than you can imagine, and in some instances it may be the vital piece of gear that saves you a real hassle along the way.

compass6.    Bring a compass

No, they’re not just for sailors. If you’re anything like me, when you stop for the night or simply to sightsee during the day, you’ll head off the beaten path to explore. Even on major highways you can forget which direction you’re heading, but especially when you start to explore the vast number of winding scenic routes and back roads along the way, you’ll be happy you have a compass in the bag.

7.    Baby-Wipes, Baby-Wipes, & BABY-WIPES

Don’t go macho on me here and say you’re too much of a man to use these delightfully scented wet-wipes, typically associated with cleaning a baby’s bum. I could write a book on the many uses of baby wipes when adventuring. They pack easily, taking up relatively no space, and have a million uses. Most obvious is a no water/no hassle/anywhere shower, and you’ll be amazed how much better you feel after cleaning up when camping. It always gives me that, “PHEW! Good as new!” kind of feeling. Another use I hadn’t anticipated was as a wind-visor wiper. There are A LOT of bugs out there, and using a dry wipe to clean your helmet’s wind visor just smears them, essentially making you blind. One baby wipe and your set.

baby wipes

8.    Choose Smart Food

You’ll get HUNGRY on the road, and you need to choose food to pack that lasts in your bag without turning into a warm, stinky, smashed mess (no sandwiches people.) Also, choose food that you can munch on, so it serves as more than one meal. My go to is beef jerky, trail mix, and dried fruit. You  can pack a lot of it without taking up a ton of space, and it kept me going for days.

9.    Pack PLENTY of water and a basic First Aid Pack.

I know it’s a pain, but you’ll be glad you did. Count on more than a liter a day no question.

10. Talk to people!

Yes, it will be okay, I PROMISE. I’m not telling you to follow any Tom, Dick or Jane to their house in the boonies, or to get yourself into a situation where you’re no longer in control, but I do encourage conversation! There is a vibrant and interesting community of travelers, bikers, and tourists alike on the open road, and you’ll get to know some fascinating people if you stay open to the opportunity. Also, many travelers will be more prepared than you, and they just might give you a tip about road conditions, route problems, or some other useful detail you hadn’t thought through. For example, I was headed north through Nevada, planning to stop at a tiny old gas station Google had found for me, when an old man I met on a Harley let me know it had been closed for years. He let me know an alternative, and sure enough, he saved my ass. So again, trust your judgment, but don’t be scared, and TALK to people.

There it is, 10 things that will undoubtedly help you along your journey, and hopefully ensure a more stress-free ride, allowing you to enjoy the open road and beautiful countryside. Enjoy the video of my ride, and get out there on and explore open road!

– Joey

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