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Discussion Starter #1
The Beginners Reference.

Alright, let me start by saying I’m not new to bike riding, but with my first Sport Touring motorcycle (2006 Triumph Sprint ST), it was time to hit the road…with the wife. Key word there. I had made one other long journey alone (740 miles in one day) and loved it, albeit a long day. This would be a different experience that I wished to share with those who care to read it. This is our story.

We were headed from Pensacola, Florida to Winter Haven, Florida (1/2 way between Orlando and Tampa). Approximately 480 miles one way to see my sister-in-law who was working temporarily in Florida for a few weeks. She lives in Hawaii, so she was surprised at how “big” the State was after finding out it was a full day of travel just to get there.

For some, my ride was long, to others just a drop in the bucket. But this was our first long distance journey together, and one we will not forget. The intent of this writing is to educate those searching for the same goal I was looking for, and to help in achieving it to some degree. My dream was to go on long distance motorcycle rides with my wife, and experience motorcycling at its finest. Well…I believe we saw some good times, and some rough edges as well. Together it was great quality time, and I’m extremely proud of how much of a “trooper” she was helping me to achieve this goal. This is our “lessons learned” session, and may help some of you wishing to travel with your significant other/kids/two-up for the first time on a long trip.

Pre-trip planning went better than I expected. I had my wife pick out a new jacket from the dealership where I bought my motorcycle, and most everything motorcycle related I own, D&D Cycles in Pensacola Florida. I installed a 12 volt adapter and Throttlemeister cruise control, all purchased for this trip. Dink’s (owner along with Julie at D&D) instructions were dead on, and although it took me five times to tweak it just right, the Throttlemeister was an awesome addition. The 12V adapter was to run my Sirius satellite radio. We both listened to music the entire trip. The only purchase not from D&D was a new Nelson-Rigg CL-450 tank bag which held my radio and antenna in the map pocket amongst other equipment. That purchase was from www.extragear1.com, where the price was the best I could find on the net. Great deal on brand new gear.

We started from Pensacola early on a chilly October Saturday morning. It was 46 degrees, and I knew at highway speeds it would be cool. It was. Now for you northerners, this temperature may be warm. But we are accustomed to hot humid weather. For us, that’s pretty chilly, and the coolest we had seen since arriving in Florida (again) this past summer. My wife had wanted to go the fastest route to Winter Haven. Mapquest had predicted it would be a 480 mile one way trip, so she insisted we go major highways for speed and trip length purposes. Of course I wanted to go the scenic route, but knowing it would be a long day, I chose her option, “yes dear”. We stopped at the first highway rest area on I-10 to sanity check how she was doing. I had put lots of effort to ensure she was comfortable (i.e. layered comfortable clothing, a new riding jacket, comfortable new helmet, IPOD, etc.). She was doing fine so we pressed on. An hour later we hit another rest area, basically to stretch. We were both cold, and stopping failed to warm us up, but we pressed on. Just west of Tallahassee, we refueled. We had been driving into a strong head wind and both our helmets were being buffeted around quite a bit. My neck was feeling a tad sore already, and she mentioned hers was also. I had been foolishly driving fairly fast trying to run east quickly to get into the warmer areas of Florida. All I had done was increase the wind chill on us, and made our necks work harder to fight the headwind. Driving into the strong headwind made me wish for a taller windscreen.
 

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Discussion Starter #2
We were both shaking a bit much, so this stop we warmed ourselves in the sun, drank hot coffee and had some food. It was a long stop at 30 minutes, but we were cold and needed to raise our body temperatures. I realized we had been on the road a bit over three hours, and were still an hour west of Tallahassee. Hmmm…not making very good time, even with my earlier speeds. It was going to be a long day. From our previous stop to here, I had traveled only around 75 mph and it helped the neck pain considerably. My mileage was 36 mpg. Going fast directly into a strong headwind earlier had not helped, and I was disappointed at the mpg numbers. Just to be clear, I did the mileage based on the amount of fuel it took to fill up, divided by miles driven. I compared, but did not rely on the bikes built in computer to figure my mileage. For long distances, I had to know what I was really getting. At times I had reached 95 mph during this initial leg. I don’t prefer to ride this speed and unintentionally had while adjusting my Throttlemeister (going down hill). I am a relatively conservative rider, and speeds like this really hurt my gas mileage. Plus, I try to avoid speeding tickets without a radar detector. No wonder our necks were sore and we were cold. Lesson learned.
]
 

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We faced into the headwind the entire five+ hours on I-10 east, but slowly it began to warm. We never felt cold again after the previous stop. At least the weather guessers were sort of correct (winds were not predicted but it was warming up).

We hit I-75 south and stopped in Lake City for fuel. My mpg had gone up with slower speeds, we were warmer, and so far no butt soreness. That was a plus for sure, and I was now reaching 42 mpg. Much better. Traffic was good and we breezed through Gainesville headed south toward the Florida turnpike. We made good time and hit the turnpike without issues. While waiting in line to pay the $2.50 toll, I was not impressed with the road we had just paid for. Lots of gouges in the road that love to catch bike tires, although we had no real problems. I also noticed large puddles of transmission fluid on the ground at the pay station. You could tell where someone was leaking a lot in the stop and go waiting line. The thought crossed my mind that even in dry weather, stick to the inner or outer third of the lane. I had done so and was easily able to spot the leak and keep my tires clean of the slippery substance. Chalk a plus up to the Motorcycle Safety Foundation course I had taken many years ago.

The drive was bliss on the turnpike. The weather was nice, warm but not hot. Traffic was great, and my directions were paying off. Well…so I thought. Somehow I missed the turn I needed to take towards Tampa (I-27), and we rolled on towards Orlando. I found I-4 much longer down the road than I expected, but soon we headed west towards Tampa. It was then my directions made no sense. Had I realized my earlier mistake, I would have realized that I was off course of where I thought I was, and could have breezed on down the road. But nope, not me. I thought I knew exactly where I was. Wrong. So…we began the typical man thing, pull over and figure out why “all the signs are wrong”. This is where it got interesting.
 

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I'm thinking that wife of yours would really appreciate a Gerbings jacket liner!
 

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Discussion Starter #6
A real good idea on the heated vest or liner. I've been eyeing those Gerbings. Looks like a great line of products!
My wife tends to be a fair weather rider, but properly dressed that could change. Thanks for the words and ideas!
 

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Traffic was pretty nasty here, it was 5 o’clock traffic, and that did not help a tired and confused biker. Plus it was getting dark and I was wearing sunglasses and a dark visor. I found the next exit I could to figure things out, but missed it due to aggressive traffic. So I hit the next one and it was better, but why were all the cars taking this exit as well? It was like the entire highway exited here. Well I soon figured it out as I exited and drove smack dab into the entrance to Walt Disney World. You’ve got to be kidding me! You think they have any U-turns or alternate exits? Nope. I was along for the ride. I ultimately found a side road to pull over. I removed my sunglasses finally, and tried to figure things out a bit. First things first, ***** I’m low on fuel. No fuel light yet so no panic, but that just complicated things in the traffic. It was time to refocus and prioritize, refuel, figure out where the hell I am, change to a clear visor and relax a bit. At least Walt Disney World gave me one heck of a clue. I ended up rushing myself for no reason and removed my sunglasses, but left the dark visor on. I had plenty of time before the sun set….so I thought. That was a bad call. Lesson learned.

I found a U-turn at a light and took it. I worked my way back to I-4 and headed east to find fuel and relocate myself. The next convenient exit worked out and as I exited, of course I had exited into Sea World! Did I mention its dark now, traffic is heavy and I still have on my dark visor? Fortunately, I could turn left away from the tourist attraction and headed toward a hopeful neighborhood gas station. I found only a stoplight and empty roads. As we traveled toward nowhere it seemed, of course there were no turn-around areas for miles. Eventually we found one, reversed course and got back on the highway headed west this time (again). By God I was tired of playing in traffic, knew where an exit was that had fuel, and needed to get this dark visor off! I cursed myself for not taking an extra two minutes earlier to take care of such a simple task. Knowing I was running low on fuel, the visor distraction only complicated things, not to mention a safety hazard. The reality of the situation was I made it worse for myself. Although this was the farthest I had ever driven on a tank of gas, my low fuel light was still not on. The fuel gauge showed I was low, but not near the point of running dry (I have learned my fuel gage and found it reliable on the Sprint…when the light comes on I have at least 1 gal of fuel left). I still had over a gallon of fuel in the tank, but it was on my mind heavily, much more so than necessary. Hindsight is a great thing, if only I had seen it then in real time. Although the signs were extremely confusing in my tired state of mind, I found a gas station and refueled, smoked a few cigarettes, changed my visor to the clear one, and discovered where I was…20 miles east of where I thought I was. My wife was able to point out my wrong turn many miles before, and all of a sudden my maps made sense. I knew where I was, and where I needed to go. With a full tank of gas (and an incredible 45.7 mpg calculated), my mind was much more at ease which helped tremendously. Plus, I could see much better now.

We hopped back on I-4, headed west for a third time. Traffic was pretty heavy but the road was smooth, the temperature perfect and we cruised along nicely. I found where I would have exited had I followed my own directions the first time, and things all were making sense…until I exited. Then, my directions made no sense again. This was getting insane. However, I knew I needed to head south, so I followed my gut instinct on a dark two lane road and hoped for the best. What seemed forever was probably 8 miles total, but I found where I needed to go and followed highway signs. I did stop at one small town intersection to verify I was correct. As I tried to read my own printed directions in the dark, we had a very nice drunk volunteer his assistance to verify I was on the correct path. He was real nice, and after graciously listening to his motorcycle “dream story”, we pulled out and soon found our hotel. Whew! We had arrived finally. Tired but fighting it off, I readily accepted my sister-in-laws efforts to get me some beer. I enjoyed quite a few and slept very well that night. My own misdirection and subsequent stopping had cost us an extra two hours on the road that day, making for an 11 hour trip. No one to blame but myself. Thankfully, my wife was a real trooper, although I was the butt of many well deserved jokes between the sisters on my failure to follow my own “well thought out and planned” directions. I could see my wife was exhausted, but she handled the trip with humor and grace. Even after this long day, I could smile at the end of the day calling it “somewhat successful”. We had arrived alive without a scratch, and I was drinking multiple cold beers. Life was grand.

Lesson to be remembered: Never tell your spouse that “We are making great time! We’ll be there in less than 1 ½ hours”. It will come back to haunt you if/when you miss your turn. At the time it was 100% true, but 3 hours later we arrived. Although, it may be a great excuse for a GPS…
 

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We enjoyed our weekend stay and prepared to head home on Monday morning. I had an initial concern that bothered me all the way home. If you have ever seen my sister-in-law or wife travel, these ladies travel heavy! We had traveled somewhat light going down south, but I was shocked at the load I “needed” to carry back. I really was worried I would exceed the GVWR of the bike, and them some. But, I was extremely appreciative of the gifts from Hawaii.
Kona coffee, one case. No problem. Love the stuff!
Canned Macadamia nuts. Two cases, uh…okay. Bulky, but I’m sure I can pack it in.
Four pair of shoes, ***** those take up some room...
Three purses…are you kidding me?
Four bags of sweet rice…can’t we mail this?
Two bags of brown sugar? What the hell? We have grocery stores in our town too!
What’s in those two bottles of? Oh, shrimp paste (it’s an Asian thing). Better wrap those tight. I break those and not only will my marriage die, but my saddlebags (panniers) will stink for months.
But wait, there is more!
How about a case of chocolate covered macadamia nuts? I’m on a diet...
My previously empty backpack was to be packed full, along with my new tank bag (now fully expanded) and both saddlebags. I was careful to prioritize the weight and balance between tank bag and aft portion of the bike, trying to equalize all weight carried, including my wife’s weight and my own. I knew I was in rough shape when on the loaded bike (without my wife), I had to tip it slightly to the right to put up the side stand. I really felt uncomfortable riding this heavy, and promised myself to never do this again. But, I had successfully packed things quite professionally. My job in the US Navy is a Parachute Rigger, whereas we are known for packing 10 lbs of sh*t into a 5 lb bag. I quadrupled this theory with the weight I was carrying. I considered how this may affect the bikes handling…guess I’ll find out on the road. I did. Lesson learned.
 

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The weather guessers had predicted nothing but sunshine for our entire trip, but clouds were what we began facing as we headed north. I managed to stay on track this time and rode the correct route home. So far, we remained dry. But the side winds soon took the fun away. We hit some very gusty East/West winds that really blew us around, especially when we were heading North. At times, it was really quite difficult to stay in the same lane. Counter steer hard… lean…pressure the foot peg… whatever it took while constantly adjusting everything was some battle. I found it took quite the concentration to pilot the bike through a sudden crosswind, then it would stop quickly and then winds would come from the opposite direction forcing your head down! It was some crazy and gusty winds. Sometimes I could predict when to expect them based on openings in the forest, other times they came out of nowhere. We stopped for fuel, but mainly to rest. I was fighting winds and physically it was really tiring. These were indeed the oddest crosswinds I had ever ridden in, and I can honestly say it was not an enjoyable experience. Was the weight killing me? I thought those Goldwings got blown around less due to the weight? Maybe it’s the opposite? I don’t know, but we had a rough sideways ride. Gas mileage was at 44 mpg. I bought my wife a little Buddha for luck at the gas station. We are not Buddhists, but I could use a little luck. I had promised my wife a rain free weekend believing in the weather forecasters. After the pit stop, the winds seemed to not bother us as bad, although the clouds continued to darken. C’mon Buddha! We knew it would continue to cool down as we headed west. I needed all the luck I could get, as we were still 400 miles from home.

Reaching I-10 and turning west was a Godsend. The winds were at our back and the ride was incredibly smooth. We moved down the highway and once again, life was good. As I saw Pensacola coming closer and closer (196 miles, 175 miles….) I sped up ever so slowly. It was early afternoon, but man it was really dark! I thought about pulling over, but my body decided it for me. At 80 mph, my left leg started cramping up. It’s a longer story on how we had adjusted my backpack, but basically I was jammed up against the tank, backpack squeezed in between us, and no room to maneuver. There was little I could do except stop. There must be a motorcycle God out there somewhere because a Rest Area sign popped up and we took it. I took off my sunglasses at the rest area, but had my clear visor packed so deep I couldn’t get it out without unpacking everything. I had packed so successfully, getting the visor out would have bought me another 20 minutes of repacking. I decided to stay with the dark, bug splattered visor. This would haunt me later. Our last pit stop was in Crestview, FL. Traffic was really bad for reasons unknown, but we knew we would soon be home. Gas mpg was 42.7, but I knew that reduction was due to my increased speed. We call it “get-home-it is” in the Navy, and it has bitten many airplane drivers. I did not wanting that happening to me. But, instead of playing it smart and digging out my clear visor (or even cleaning my dirty dark visor???), we pressed on. Hmmm, my second pit stop opportunity I had failed to do anything. As soon as I was back on the road, I questioned my ‘lack of’ better judgment about the visors, and determined I would not make that mistake ever again. It was soon to be sunset, but with all the clouds, it was getting darker by the minute.
 

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We had been noticing the winds were increasing as we edged towards Pensacola, but crossing the Blackwater River on I-10 was astounding. I felt like there was a boxer on my front fender hitting my body and head like a prized fighter. The winds were giving me upper cuts, down cuts, left and right blows with a fury. I could swear we had just had an earthquake as much as my head and body bobbed in every direction. Once on the other side of the bridge, it stopped as sudden as it had come on. The winds were not my friend on this trip.

We breezed through Pensacola heading west to the Pine Forest exit on the far western side of the city. There is road construction, it’s dark, 5 o’clock traffic and I’m wearing a dark and very dirty dark visor. The word stupid came to mind more than once, but I pressed on. We hit our exit and followed it toward Blue Angel Pkwy. Once there, I noticed things flying around in the headlights. More bugs? Nope, just a blowing mist. But it wasn’t “supposed” to rain for another two days? Now my very bug splattered dirty dark visor has water droplets on it, and I have lost any and all depth perception. Add to that being tired from traveling on the road for 10 hours and I officially classified myself as a fool. No doubt about it, I have proved it now. The remainder of my ride was dry fortunately, raising my visor as I approached any stoplight to regain decent vision, and playing follow the leader with the cars in front of me the rest of the time home. I was flying blind with anything in the road that did not have lights. Road debris, dogs and cats, deer, etc., I would probably have hit had they been in front of me. I was really lucky and there was nothing but clear pavement and cars with lights to follow. It’s one of the few times I was appreciative of cagers. As we approached our neighborhood, the American flag that flies at the entrance was howling, and we noticed the streets were wet. It had rained earlier, but we had missed it. The mist we briefly saw earlier had not made us wet, so my promise for a dry ride had been fulfilled. Once home, I parked the bike in the garage and headed for a cold beer. We were home safe despite my mistakes. The trip had taken us 1006.1 miles total in two days of riding. No Iron Butt riders awards for sure, but it was quite the journey for my lovely bride of 22 years. Too much for her to be honest. I would do it all over again if the chance arose, but take the scenic route of course.

So what was the overall outcome, and what did I learn from all of this? Here is my list:

* Visors: Keep a clean one easily accessible, and change earlier than later.
* Clean the visor you have when you have the opportunity.
* Music inner ear buds work much better than ear phones (Referring to cheap IPOD type earbuds, not helmet installed speakers). I have not tried those.
* Leave your butt room to maneuver and adjust on your seat. It pays off on a long trip.
* Stopping once an hour saves your butt, but hurts your trip time (Velocity Made Good, (VMG) for you GPS or Mariner bubbas. Plan for delays and breaks.
* Hydrate, be it cool or heat. We did well in this category.
* Don’t load the bike too heavy. Tire wear and handling suffer.
* Slab riding (highways) require much more concentration on a bike than in a car. With that comes earlier fatigue.
* Realize that bike riding requires breaks, more so than in a car. With that adds time into the trip. Plan those breaks in, instead of pushing it when it not required.
* Satellite radio rocks!

For me? I like long distant rides. But slab riding is not my preference, or many other riders that I know. Although traffic was good the entire trip, it still required much mental and physical energy. It wore on me, but I still pushed limits that didn’t need to be pushed. I am good at testing myself and consider it a challenge, but I’m also realistic in knowing that if I had to make a split second decision such as an animal in my path, my reaction times would have been considerably slower. Far too many of our riding companions have lost their lives to deer alone, let alone smaller creatures we typically see dead in the road during the day. Nocturnal animals such as Raccoons and Possums can throw us a bad curve when faced suddenly in the road. Throw in fatigue, and maybe that can explain a few accidents.

This turned out to be overall quite a boring ride (and probably a boring story), but uneventful if you will. To me, that’s okay and probably a good thing on a 1000+ mile motorcycle ride. No flat tires, no blowouts, no rain, etc. Winds were unpredicted and really challenged me. Traveling heavy I’m sure had much to do with that. So what do I say to people considering a first-time long distant trip of their own?
* If solo, pick a route without a “must be here at this time” and have fun.
* If traveling with a companion, consider their needs and plan accordingly.
* Make it comfortable and see the sights we did not.
* If you do have a time dilemma to be somewhere, give yourself hours of spare time to allow for rest stops, stretch breaks, warm up/cool down, etc. You will use them.
* It’s easier to travel alone than with a passenger, and you can go much further without concern for another. But, companionship is also good, and makes the trip enjoyable as well provided they have the same passion for motorcycling as you do. If that is questionable, make your traveling days shorter and enjoy some evening time together without being exhausted.

I would easily take longer trips alone again, and will in the future. With my wife? I’ll break it into sections where we can practice what I just laid out above, and enjoy some spectacular spots together. Hmmm…maybe New Orleans in the Spring…
 

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Discussion Starter #13
Not that I've ever been accused of being long winded...ahem... I am open to suggestions for better story writing. It's sometimes difficult to create a story from a slab ride, but maybe someone planning a trip can gain something from my story.

Also, I do wish to point out that in my first photo, the tank bag was not properly adjusted, and riding too far forward. I knew that before the picture, and properly adjusted it afterward. It looks much better properly installed, and sits farther from the brake master cyclinder than what you see.

And as a final thought, I now have a new Triumph Aeroscreen installed. Now I'm waiting for a good headwind...
 

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Al....
Interesting thread, it sounds as though you found out all the stuff NOT to do on a trip with a co-rider. I've got a wife co-rider, but she rides her own bike, an '88 goldwing and I ride the trophy. Usually we plan our rides off the slab, and we're getting good at that. Time-wise, we usually plan on a ten hour riding day and try not worry too much about distance covered. We've ridden tank-to-tank when needed, otherwise we usually break for fuel at about 150 miles, give or take a few.

Some points to consider:::
An accumulation of "stuff" can be shipped home easier than packing it all on the bike.
A small spray bottle with glass cleaner and some soft cloths do wonders for face shields and eye glasses.
If you're using polarized sunglasses, you can get some disturbing effects looking through a face shield depending on the angle-position sun light.
Hydration is your wellness god down here.
Something to consider for later on when it warms up again, mesh riding gear, the wife and I both wear it come warm-up time.
As for helmet mounted earphones (speakers) I've added a portable CB to my bikes in order to have instant contact with my wife and others that we ride with. It does come in handy, plus mine has the NOAA weather radio incorporated into it. CB mic is mounted inside my full-face skid lid.

Anyway....best of luck and good weather for your next trip.

Frank



:cool:
 

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Discussion Starter #15
Thanks Heyman and Sunrider.

Heyman, yeah it's obvious I mad horrible decisions with my visor. But, instead of editing that embarrassment out, I chose to publish my mistake(s) so others can hopefully learn from them and not repeat my "I can handle it" attitude during that ride. I wonder as many times as I repeated it, did I learn something? God I hope it finally got through my thick skull. I am really more intelligent than that, but did not prove it during this trip. Thanks for the words.

Sunrider, some great and appreciated points. I do have all the mesh gear for summer riding, just haven't beefed up the cooler weather riding gear yet. I am working on it as the budget allows, as I plan to ride year round here.
I don't wear polarized sunglasses for exactly what you mentioned (although I do prefer un-polarized sunglasses under the visor). FWIW, I bought the darker visor specifically for this trip knowing I would ride into the sun headed east, and back into the sun headed west. It did work great for that. My helmet takes less than 30 seconds to change visors, yet...well you know the story lol! A small cleaning kit is indeed valuable advice (amongst your other comments). Although the story had a happy ending, it was by far my dumbest (and completely preventable) mistake. Hell, I had a clear visor with me the entire time! No excuses except poor judgement on my part. I am still evaluating where I lost my normal level of common sense? It really baffles me...

I like the radio communications advice. I've been considering an Autocom, but money is the immediate factor. After all it's Christmas, and I will give give give to my family.

Thanks for the responses. Happy Holidays everyone!
 
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