Few things symbolize freedom as much as hopping on a motorcycle for a long-distance road trip. For the last few weeks, I have had very little work (I'm self-employed), and, about a week ago, I casually mentioned riding to Sturgis if my lack of work continued.
It was really kind of a pipe dream, since I'm practically broke, but it got my girlfriend Anna thinking, we could ride to West Virginia, where she is from originally. Other than money, I have few things preventing me from taking a long road trip. Anna, on the other hand, has a full-time job, plus a 10-year-old son. But, since she has a few extra days of paid time off from work coming, and her son would be staying with relatives for a few days, she was ready to ride with me to West Virginia, where she has not been in 12 years.
"It seems like we never get to ride long enough on group rides," Anna said. "I always want to keep going."
Originally, the plan was to leave Rhode Island around 9:00 Friday morning, arrive in Kanawha County, W. Va. that night; spend Saturday visiting family, friends and a few local hangouts; and ride back on Sunday (stretching the ride back into Monday, if necessary). The trip is about 750 miles each way.
The thing is, the most I have ever ridden in a day is 426 miles total, with five leisurely stops, and that was without a passenger. The most Anna has ever ridden on the back of my bike in a day is about 200 miles total, again with rather long breaks. The most miles I have ever ridden continuously (without a break) is about 150. It's worth noting that my bike does not have a windshield, which takes some of the fatigue from highway riding.
"Okay, question: Can we ride a motorcycle 800 miles; rest and hang out for a day; and then ride back 800 miles?" Anna asked on her Facebook page. I posed a similar question on www.harley-davidsonforums.com.
While some bikers have ridden 600, 700, 800 and even 1,000 miles in one day (which earns Ironbutt status), many consider 300-400 miles a day, maybe 500, the upper limit for riding in reasonable comfort, we found out.
A Wisconsin member on the Harley forum wrote, "We just did a 1,000 mile trip, two-up on a Fatboy fully loaded with saddle bags and a backrest bag. We did it in four days, with our longest day being just under 350 miles. I think we could have done 500 in a day with a better seat and a little cooler weather. We also took a two-day break in the middle while we visited friends. It would have been nice to spend an extra two days with friends if we would have made the full 500 in a day, each way. But my wife's longest riding day prior had been about 200. So in the long run, she was much happier that we split it up into shorter days."
He added: "Now, if I had a geezer glider and she had the full queen seat with armrests and all, that would change the whole picture. But on a stock Fatboy, 300-400 a day with two people was enough for us."
Rossco, a biker from Montreal, wrote: "A single 750-mile day is totally doable, but I wouldn't want to be a passenger for it (or have a passenger for it)."
Our friend, Andy Beaulieu, recently rode with his wife Kathy from Rhode Island to Ohio. He said he made the 600-mile trip in about 12 hours. "We decided to travel during daylight for safety, but if we HAD to do 800 miles, we could have done it. After this ride, I have no doubt that I could do the 1,000 miles in 24 hours ... but why?" Andy rides a Honda Gold Wing, which is designed for touring.
After soliciting opinions from more seasoned riders, I felt more comfortable with riding about 400 miles the first day, staying overnight, and doing the remaining 350 or so miles the next day. Andy agreed that was a better plan than trying to push 750 miles in a day, even if the weather totally cooperated. But Anna only has four days off, so taking two days up and two days back leaves no time to do anything in West Virginia.
While I have enough money for gas and a discount motel room, I don't really have any contingency funds available if my bike broke down during the trip. But, in the end, lack of time appears to have scuttled the trip, at least for now. Instead, we will probably do a long day trip on Friday and some shorter rides this weekend.
(County map of West Virginia courtesy of www.geology.com - this is a cool site with many different types of state maps!)