No question, traveling by motorcycle is not for everyone. Unlike taking the self-contained, climate-controlled, environmentally-sealed, rolling concert hall, a motorcycle leaves you in the wind- literally. Adapting along the way is what I love about traveling by bike, but definitely takes commitment. Imagine my surprise, after driving past riders donning raingear in a deluge, PrettyWife suggested “We need to do an overnighter on the bike”! It’s an idea I’d been lightly tossing around for years, but to have the suggestion made during a worst-case scenario? Wow!
PrettyWife has been my favorite passenger for years, even on bikes where passenger accommodations were little more than, uh, theoretical. For the record, she’s also trained to ride, but she found she simply does not enjoy handling a bike on her own. As long as she’s OK with me riding, I’m good- that she loves riding pillion is a wonderful bonus! We’re currently riding a Victory Vision, a large touring bike that treats the passenger better than the pilot, has plenty of room to pack (for a motorbike!), and effortlessly glides overs miles. The right bike for the task might be what finally sparked the idea to extend a ride. Now that it was out there, I found myself in the weird position of trying to temper her enthusiasm- nearly to the point of trying to dissuade her of this craziness! Rain, traffic jams, heat, cold, same basic position for whole trip, PACKING… she said she got it, and was still all in!
Finding a destination was easy. PrettyWife loves zoos, and we had two nearby zoos we’d never visited; Toledo (OH) Zoo to the west and Pittsburgh (PA) Zoo about the same distance southeast. We opted for mostly highway, as the destination was the goal the first day. Pittsburgh would have been the more interesting ride, but we’d like a longer visit in Pittsburgh, so it was Toledo this time. We’d d leave early and spend Day 1 at the zoo, off to a hotel, then spend a day or two enjoying the ride along Lake Erie shoreline as we headed east toward home. Upcoming weather forecast was scorching but slim chance of rain, so it was all a GO.
2-wheeled traveling for me is pack a drybag and call it done. The voices in my head agreed the appropriate gift for anniversary #32 is luggage custom fit to the Vision trunk, so PrettyWife got an entire bag to herself. Downside was helmets normally locked in the trunk would be locked to the bike, out in the weather. Luckily, rain was never an issue. The bag was perfect for a couple days, plenty of space and easy to carry in to the hotel. Even enough space for my stuff! Packing done, bike checked, Bluetooth Coms working (“check, check”), and we were off!
The ride to the Toledo Zoo was perfect and uneventful. Never occurred to me, however, that our typical day rides are as far from highways as possible, and weekday traffic in Cleveland can be harrowing. PrettyWife’s anxiety rose with the number of vehicles jockeying for space, completely unprepared for vulnerability of being so exposed in traffic. Soon enough we were through downtown, though, and the ride was wonderful again. A few hours later, we swapped riding gear (we’re ATGATT riders) for lighter walking clothes and enjoyed the afternoon at the zoo. We had a great time, but the Toledo Zoo was a bit disappointing. Maybe it was the heat, or far too many “closed for upgrades” areas, but there seemed to be a lack of animals compared to our Cleveland Metroparks Zoo. Still a great day, though, but man it was HOT!
Short jaunt outside the city to our hotel, and we were ready for showers and food. We picked a terrific hotel (Staybridge Suites, Rossford) but planned a bit poorly since there was no food in walking distance. This meant getting back on the bike for a short jaunt to restaurants when I was ready to be done for the night- but hunger always wins out! After a good night’s sleep, we spent the rest of the trip riding, parking, and walking around the Lake Erie shoreline. In the summer it would be easy to mistake Marblehead, Sandusky, Port Clinton and surrounding communities for beautiful eastern seaboard towns. Temps stayed in the (humid!) 90s, but lake breezes and a moving bike kept us mostly comfortable. Our only hiccup was an accident (not us!) on the high-level bridge passing through Cleveland. Stopped traffic, furnace temps, and everyone looking for the escape lane put PrettyWife well outside her comfort zone again. Hooking up with passing riders, we went for safety in numbers and got through stressed but unscathed. Another 20 minutes of riding completed nearly 500 miles of local travel, and we were home, sweaty, glazed, happy, and safe!
Enjoying dinner when we got home, I asked PrettyWife for her thoughts on riding for travel. Turns out she loved it! I’m hoping to talk her into writing a guest blog about her experience, but we’ll have to see. In the meantime, here are a few random thoughts she shared, in case you or someone you know might be considering a motorcycle trip:
-The riding was super fun, but might have preferred cooler temperatures.
-Glad it didn’t rain, even though we were prepared for it.
-A brief advance ride through a busy city/ highway while planning might be a good idea.
-Insert luggage worked great; fill it in the house, drop it in the trunk, easy in and out of hotels.
-You actually NEED far less than you might think, especially when staying in hotels.
-Gear for the ride, light casual for all the rest and you’re good to go.
-Pack water and snacks for the stops, and take a few minutes to enjoy them before getting back on the road.
-The Bluetooth helmet intercoms worked great. Bikes don’t lend themselves to long conversations, but it’s nice to be able to talk as needed, instead of communicating by hand signals.
(and a final, perfect thought to end this post)
-Don’t overthink it, just try it!
Keep Riding Local, Dreaming Global, and we’ll see you on the road. Enjoy!