Saturday, June 20, 2009

Rainy days in Vacationland

It rained all day yesterday, dried out a little today, but started raining again this afternoon. The forecast for tomorrow: Rain. Don't they know it's only supposed to rain at night? 55 degrees but almost no wind -- when will summer arrive?

My friend Jim in Honolulu sent me a couple of articles about motorcycle camping. One was by W.H. Wallace in the May 1916 edition of "Recreation" magazine and the second was from the current edition of "Motocycle Sport & Leisure," a British journal.

I appreciate more the article by the intrepid Mr. Wallace, who toured New England and New York state on a "spring-frame Indian" back in the day, than that by Britains Kevin and Julia Sanders, since I'm covering some of the same ground Wallace did. The Sanders have plenty of good advice about visas, bribing border guards and such, which is useful for international explorers. Wallace, on the other hand, has practical tips I can put to use on my route, such as how to start a campfire with a wad of cotton soaked in gasoline.

Both articles have sound advice on how to pack for motorcycle camping. Now that I've done a bit of that myself, here's my current, but ever-evolving, pannier-packing strategy:

I have two backpacks that fit, one-each, inside the 36-liter Givi side bags on the KLR. In one, I put food and cooking stuff, such as stove, gas, fry pan, plate, bowl, cup, knife and fork, spatula/spork, salt and pepper, water bottle, baby wipes, sponge and liquid soap in a zip-top plastic bag, large plastic bowl with snap-on lid, cutting board, vegetable oil, eggs (in a plastic egg carrier), canned and packaged food, instant coffee, wine (which is now sold in foil-lined cardboard bottles), etc.

In the other go odds and ends: a dry bag (which can accommodate both tent and sleeping bag during wet travel), nylon motorcycle cover ($20 at Walmart), hatchet, tent light, miscellaneous 12V DC adapters, iPod, passport and bike registration, duct tape, toilet paper and whatever overflows from the cooking pack.

Clothes, rain suit, toilet kit and laptop go in the tail bag. Into the tank bag go camera, Blackberry, foam ear plugs, multi-tool (I have a Gerber, which is like a Leatherman), maps, National Park pass, pen and index cards. Up front, there's a small bag above the headlight and below the windshield where I keep my new rain gaiters and a bungee cord net. The folding knife goes in my pocket.

The tent and sleeping bag together fit in a compression bag I found at Walmart. Strapped to the passenger seat, that bag makes a perfect backrest. I can lean back, put my feet up on the highway pegs and bomb along at 65 in comfort.

So far, this arrangement has worked. Once I reach camp and set up the tent, the two backpacks, tail bag and sleeping bag go inside and I can ride unencumbered but with plenty of room in the now-empty side cases to haul groceries or whatever. The heavy stuff is down low in the side bags, while the light stuff is up high on the seat or rear rack. Altogether, the whole shebang weighs less than a passenger.

I added an oversize rear rack, which is overkill for the tail bag, but handy for hauling firewood, cases of beer or bags of cement (just kidding!). The rack is a great anchor for the webbing straps that keep stuff aboard. My little netbook computer is sandwiched above the clothes and below a fleece in the tail bag's center compartment where it's well-cushioned, but easily accessible when wi-fi is available.

I've left most of my clothes at the cottage at Branch Lake during my overnights out at Acadia. So, despite advice not to bring more than one change of clothes, I'm thinking I'll need more room on the road in August. I think tank panniers might be the way to go.

I have a Cortech mini tank bag, which is perfect for the three or four items you need all the time -- camera, phone, sunglasses, multi-tool -- and it's easy to remove to fill the tank. Balancing a big tank bag on top of the humped KLR tank wouldn't be optimal. Besides, tank panniers look cool.

The cooking kit still needs work. During my first overnight, I found I needed something for dishwashing and storage and picked up a squarish Rubbermaid tub with a locking lid to do the job. Second overnight, I forgot to bring a towel -- don't do that.

Here's a tip: Pick lighter to start your campfire in a bright color such as yellow, white or baby blue so you can find it easily. My first one was black and perfectly camouflaged in the black nylon zipper bag it shared with a bunch of other stuff, such as cable ties, zip-lock bags, GI can opener and nylon line.

Naturally, as soon as I got a replacement it reappeared.

1 comment:

  1. John,

    Just wanted to add - that cotton ball soaked in gasoline makes a good after-shave too. Tightens the pores, keeps the black flies at bay, and surrounds you with the scent of commitment. And don't underestimate the value of a well-palmed cadeau. Those park rangers always set aside a prime camp site or two for the savvy traveler.

    I don't have a clue what I'm talking about.

    Vicariously yours,