Trips don’t always go as planned. I’ve always found that the more you plan, the more things will go awry. It’s one of my simple laws of physics: if you build something up too much, it is bound to tumble down harder.
In keeping with that theory, when I travel, I rarely do much planning; low expectations lead to fewer letdowns and inherently more “happy surprises” along the way. Instead, I put my time and planning into packing the right gear and ensuring I won’t be left at the side of the road with a broken-down bike (which has happened to me a few times).
It’s taken me more than 10 years to learn some very important lessons, and each time I travel, I learn a little bit more – or, more commonly, I make the same mistakes and remind myself to smarten up. Still, one thing I have learned is how to pack relatively smart, although, like many women, I tend to overpack.
There are a few simple rules I follow for a trip. Hopefully, you’ll find them useful when you prepare to embark on your next journey.
Bring smart layers: Look at the weather, and expect it to be worse. Pack wool and synthetic layers, and avoid cotton if you expect to get wet. If you decide to bring down-filled layers, be sure you’ll be able to keep them dry for the duration of the trip; same goes for your sleeping bag. This past October, I rode from B.C. to Ontario and hit rain every day while temperatures ranged from 2 C to 11 C. For that ride, I wore wool layers and a down jacket under my completely waterproof gear.
Understand the season: Spring, summer and autumn bring different advantages and challenges. Spring tends to be wet, roads may still be covered in salt or dirt, and the nights can be cold. Summer can bring extreme heat, loads of vacation traffic and bugs. During the autumn, you can experience cold nights, variable weather, leaves on the road and extra-active wildlife.
Protect your body: Wear the right gear, put on sunscreen, wear earplugs, cover your neck and protect your eyes. It’s the little things we don’t always think about, but keeping your skin and senses safe can ensure that you’re comfortable and have more years of riding ahead of you.
Avoid the crashes: Of course, please try to avoid collisions, crashes or falls of any kind. Although when I say crashes, I don’t mean on the bike; I mean sugar, caffeine and the inevitable energy crash after eating a big meal. Overeating while on the road is easy to do, given we habitually feel the need to eat three meals a day. Instead, bring small and nutritious snacks and watch your caffeine and sugar intake. I also bring a reusable container so that when I do eat out, I can make two meals from one. Most times when stopping, I assess if I’m hungry or if I feel I should eat out of habit. When I do eat a midday meal, drowsiness often follows.
Practise packing: Before you leave your driveway, pack, unpack and pack again. I rarely do this, and regret it every time. Sometimes, I realize that I’ve put my favourite snack or gloves at the bottom of the bag most difficult to get off the bike. Or, worse yet, forget where you’ve put things altogether and spend the next half-hour on the side of the road tearing open every small bag and compartment on the bike.
Know your toolkit: Throwing together a bunch of tools and calling it a day is easy, but that kit won’t always help you as you sit on the side of the road. Instead, before your departure, go over your bike and pack the most common and important tools needed for maintenance. Think about how many kilometres you’ll be putting on and, in turn, what maintenance you anticipate may be needed.
Lastly, while you’re on a trip – whether it’s incredible or just plain miserable – remember how fortunate you are to experience part of the world by motorcycle. Also remember that the most miserable moments make for the best memories. We have unique opportunities to observe and experience this incredible world as few others do, no matter how near or far you are from your home.
So, as you read about the incredible trips cradled within the pages of this great magazine during what is likely a dark and snowy day in Canada or wherever you may be, remember that these adventures have been documented by regular people who took the leap out of their comfort zone to explore someplace new. These people could easily be you, so dream and be inspired by the words that you read, learn from their mistakes and get creative in thinking about an adventure you could have this coming year.