There’s a reason several of our country’s oldest songs celebrate natural wonders—from mountains majesty to shining sea, America’s best features are the ones that often get buried by the habitual daily grind. Making the time to take in this natural splendor, though, is a worthy endeavor and one everyone should aspire to.
Crossing America on a motorcycle is one way people can capture this experience.
Keep in mind, though, it’s a trip that requires a good deal of preparation, and a bit more enthusiasm from the rider, if he or she plans on making it across in one pleasing pass. But it’s well worth the effort, and if you keep your eyes open and your ears tuned, a motorcycle trip across the U.S. can be a rewarding and life-changing journey.
We want you to enjoy an extended trip across the country, so we’ve put together a list of essentials that will help you save a few dollars and make the most of every moment.
Maintenance & Preparation
The success of your trip will depend on how effective you are at planning it from the get-go. This includes where and when you plan to travel, what you bring, and how well you prepare your bike for the lengthy 4,000-mile ride.
Let’s start with bike maintenance. Check all your fluids, tighten fasteners to spec, and check the brakes and cables. And don’t forget to make sure the tires have enough tread on them for the whole trip.
As for what you should bring, definitely plan on making room for a few maintenance items like a tire repair kit (learn how to use this before you head out), a few spare fuses, a quart of oil, and perhaps a small tool kit, just in case.
Being a member of a roadside assistance club like AAA couldn’t hurt either. Accidents happen, and the best anyone can do is take steps to mitigate the likelihood of getting stranded.
Another way you can prevent roadside challenges is to plan your trip during a time of year when the weather is most agreeable, ideally between May and October. Individual routes will vary, but planning a trip in mild climates and weather conditions can help reduce wear and tear on your bike, as well as make for a more comfortable ride.
Sure, strict plans can hold you back from vicarious adventuring; but having a loose understanding of when and where you will travel can help you pack smarter, and make better decisions on the road.
Keep It Simple
Motorcycles have long captured the imaginations of individuals in search of tangible freedom. A cross-country trip is the essence of liberation for many a rider, which most people assume has to do with the distant horizons and vastness of our country’s natural beauty. However, it’s the freedom from possessions that also plays into this mythology, not just the expansiveness of the road.
With limited space to haul around clothing, gear, and gadgets, you might not know what to bring with you on the road. In our experience, the lighter loads are most rewarding: a pair of jeans, a few t-shirts, socks, and underwear can keep you clothed for several weeks, though you may have to do laundry every four days.
Packing light can be difficult for cross-country rides because the weather (even during ideal travel times) will be different in the North and South. If you’re planning on meeting friends along the way, mail items you think you might need to them ahead of time; once you’re done using these items, mail them back home. Plus, if you really need something and forgot it, there are places to stop along the way.
Don’t be afraid to let go of yourself and your possessions on a cross-country trip. The less you bring, the less there is to fuss over.
The Cheaper, the Better
Overnight accommodations during a cross-country motorcycle trip can get expensive—especially if you plan to visit the country’s national hot spots. Sure, you can camp to save money, but that means bringing a bunch of extra gear.
First, small hotels or motels are usually more willing to negotiate on price. This is relevant for riders who are up and out the door by 7:00 a.m. and usually pulling in for the night around dusk. You should be able to barter for a better deal if you show up at 8:00 p.m. and promise to be out of the way by early morning.
Second, make sure you drive into town a bit before you settle on the first hotel, restaurant, or gas station you see. Riders just making it out of a 200-mile stretch of wasteland are more likely to park at the first places they see after a rough stretch. This means prices are usually higher, and places are going to be crowded. Be sure to drive into town a bit and try to find something on the edge of town in the direction of your departure. That way, when everyone’s stuck in rush-hour traffic, you can enjoy your coffee a few minutes longer and avoid the mess.
Finally, don’t be afraid to ask for special discounts. Smaller hotels sometimes offer discounts for members of AAA, the AARP, military veterans, and even select enthusiast groups, like Harley Owners Group and Honda Riders Clubs. It never hurts to ask.
Embrace the Locals
Finally, a trip across the U.S. just wouldn’t be the same without engaging the local folk wherever you stop. Be willing to meet people and talk to them for an experience that’s truly meaningful.
Ask locals where they like to eat, drink, and be merry. Forget about those “Lonely Planet” travel books that feature highlight reels of places some stranger thinks you should go. Instead, focus on doing as the locals do. A good way to get the ball rolling is to pick up a local newspaper when you first pull into town. Look for events that coincide with your visit, and get out there and experience the scene.
The trip itself will be very memorable, but it’s more than likely that the people you meet along the way will be even more unforgettable, and a welcome addition to your plans.
So, what are you waiting for? The hardest part about a cross-county motorcycle trip is deciding it’s finally time to make it happen. We hope you do, and J&P Cycles will be here if/when you have bike questions or need help planning this once in a lifetime adventure.