by Denny Schmidt
In the last episode of budget touring, I covered some of the finer points of traveling by motorcycle as cheaply as possible. Those of you who are able to afford one of those two-wheel luxury suites may find nothing of interest in these budget touring stories. However, if you have house, car and snowmobile payments or kids requiring expensive dental appliances, you may be one of us folks who are forced to tour on a smaller, less expensive motorcycle.
My long distance ride of choice is a mildly customized 1972 CB750. I must admit there have been times when I would have liked to have been able to see the world through the weather blocking picture-window-like wind screen of a plush, 800 pound, $15,000 touring rig. I sometimes imagine myself clicking off mile after mile enjoying the premium sound system. In my imaginary state of mind, I am comforted by the fact that neatly tucked into my voluminous luggage, I have enough clothing to meet any weather or social activity I may encounter during three months on the road. I dream about having helmets, jackets and rain suits all the same color as my bike and one of those way cool karaoke microphones on the side of my helmet, so I can sing into it while tuned into one of those “oldies stations.”
Back to reality. All you really need to wear is a half-way decent touring sweatshirt and maybe a thrift store bomber jacket. Oh yeah, I recommend a helmet and stout shoes. The helmet can be painted the same color as your bike, or as close as possible, with a spray can. I no longer mess with the color of the jacket. The spray paint makes the leather stiff.
Luggage is a little tougher to deal with, since it is nearly impossible to find after market bolt-on luggage racks anymore. It is one of the few things I miss from the 70s (remember the plastic milk crates?). A small back pack bungeed to the seat will hold a couple pairs of underwear and socks which should last about a month on the road, along with an extra pair of jeans. A small tent and light sleeping bag will roll up tightly and provide you with a back rest. If you need a place for your tire pressure gauge, comb, sunglasses etc. and if you like the European tank bag look, one of the cheap lunch carriers from a discount store works nicely. I prefer the soft sided bag rather than the hard plastic ones. You can bungee it on, or just pick up about 2 pounds of refrigerator magnets and toss them in the bottom of the bag. If the paint on your tank is less than pristine or if you’ve got a couple of dents in it anyway, just go ahead and use duct tape.
The premium sound system of a big touring rig can be approximated by strapping a transistor radio to your left leg and mounting a speaker in your helmet. If you prefer the traditional “do-rag” or handkerchief helmet, then a regular set of “walk-man” style head phones may work for you.
Now that we have the comfort and wardrobe issues settled, let’s give some thought to the least expensive way to eat. The two primary budget busters on the road will be keeping both you and your bike fueled. There are two categories of food I prefer while touring on a budget: cheap and free.
Two hot dogs for a buck falls into the cheap category. You’ll see this promotion advertised quite often on signs outside of gas stations to lure hungry auto and RV drivers in for fuel, and hopefully entice them to buy twenty cents worth of soda pop for a buck. My advice is to carry a canteen and fill it with free water from the restroom sink. Then buy the 2 hot dogs for a buck, and load them up with all the free condiments to ensure each of the basic food groups are covered.
Locating food in the free category requires a little more creative thinking, but it’s not all that difficult. Free sample day at the grocery store works, but it takes a long time to get filled up. A more efficient method is to pick up some of those little stick-on name tags that say, “Hello, My name is….”, fill in what ever name you feel comfortable with and cruise the state or city parks looking for a family reunion or similar get-together. When you spot a likely looking group, grab yourself a plate, fill it up and eat standing up. By standing up and keeping your mouth too full to talk, you’ll be an hour away by the time they figure out nobody knows who you were.
Where to sleep, cheap, can be a challenge for the budget minded motorcyclist. In the next issue we’ll answer that challenge. Stay tuned…