Motorcycle Saga: North America Part II

In ‘2 Months. North America. Motorbike. 8000 Miles.’ I gave you a short introduction into how this trip came about. In this post I will be relaying how we prepared and planned for the trip.

Living for a short time in another country didn’t make preparing for this trip an easy task. Although, given the hindsight we have now, both Henry and I realise that no matter how prepared you think you may be for a trip like this, there is absolutely nothing that can prepare you for what happens on the road and the experiences you gain.

Nothing can prepare you for the assortment of weather, road conditions and nights so cold that hypothermia actually seems possible. There is also no preparing you for the new connection you make with the world. When you ride on two wheels, you becomes one with nature. It’s a feeling that can only really be explained through experience. You can feel, smell and touch your surroundings in a way that isn’t possible through other means of transportation.

Preparation (or lack there-of) aside, when Henry and I had committed to the idea of travelling and camping around North America on a motorcycle for two months, we quickly realised how much we didn’t have in order for this to work and how much luggage we had with us at current!
The first (very apparent) item that we didn’t have was a motorbike. Traveling around a chunk of a continent on the back of a bike without said vehicle would have been very challenging indeed. As I don’t have a bike licence (something I’m hoping to gain soon!) the riding of the bike was going to be done by Henry who had got his license only 2 weeks before leaving for America when he envisioned himself travelling the States on the back of a classic motorcycle. So Henry quickly started trolling craigslist for motorcycles and a few weeks later purchased our baby/mode of transportation, a 1981 Honda CM400T. A vintage American motorcycle that isn’t sold in Australia; our dream was quickly becoming a reality.

In between bike searches, we both organised for the majority of our luggage to be shipped back to our homes in Australia. We both used Seven Seas, who I’d recommend for any overseas shipping. Decent prices and door-to-door pick up/delivery makes what could have been a very stressful task, stress free.

One mistake that we did make in regards to luggage is the fact that we neglected to do practice packing before shipping our big bits of luggage and before leaving. Something that we very quickly regretted! If you’re planning on doing a trip where the luggage you will be bringing with you is limited, make sure you practice pack! Packing the bike up on the day that we left Bozeman was very stressful and resulted in us looking like the families you see on motorbikes in parts of Asia – a look that stands out immensely in Montana. Luckily our first stop was at some family friends of mine in Chinook. So we were able to ditch a lot of items that very quickly became apparent that we weren’t going to be using them over the coming months.
Had we done the practice packs that we said we would (but failed to do so), we would have saved ourselves a lot of stress, time (it took us hours to pack the bike on that first day) and we would’ve been able to add what we threw away to our luggage that was being shipped back home.
Lesson learnt!

Once we had the luggage and transportation sorted, it was time to get a few last things including motorbike gear (shoes, jackets, helmets, gloves etc) and camping gear (Tent, sleeping bags, cooker etc). Henry bought an Alpinestar jacket, Gaerne boots and had gloves gifted to him for Christmas. I bought a pair of no-name leather boots online, got a leather jacket from an op shop and bought gloves from a motorcycle store clearance bin. We both used Bell helmets.

For our camping gear, we bought a North Face Rock 22 Bx Tent, MSR cooking equipment (stove, gas bottle, crockery and cutlery), Henry had bought over his Deuter Sleeping Bag, and I bought a small, roll up sleeping bag from Wal-Mart.
Take note that we didn’t buy mattresses. We relied on nice grassy patches in the ground. Although, we did end up buying a cheap $5 yoga mat and extra blankets from Wal-Mart after being uncomfortable and cold for about a week.

We were very lucky in that all the gear that we purchased for this trip were exceptional! I’d definitely recommend all of the products that we used. The only encounter that we had whilst travelling was to do with a loose bolt on the bike. So whether you’re looking for quality camping gear or bike gear, I’d definitely recommend the above listed items!

Whilst we were in the process of organising/purchasing necessities, we were also caught up in planning a travel route. Which proved to be quite the challenge. Before coming to America, Henry had mentally planned to head straight to Canada, travel East then South back into America at North Dakota, head into South Dakota and out to New York. When I had planned my after-college travels, I’d planned to head straight to my family in Chinook before flying out to Boston to spend time with a friend there and was then going to fly to LA where I was originally meant to be meeting my Australian friend, from which we’d hoped to travel around California, making the trip to Vegas before heading north into British Columbia.

With our separate plans being so different, we’d figured that we’d both have to completely scratch what we’d earlier planned and make a new travel route. A compromise. As I’d already planned to spend time with my family in Chinook and had bought my flight to Boston, that part of the trip wasn’t changing. Being family, they were very eager to meet Henry, so it was decided that we’d head North of Bozeman together on the bike, returning again to Bozeman a week later, so that I could catch my flight out East. My flight to Boston returned to Portland, OR a week later. So Portland was the official starting ground of our bike trip. Whilst I was on the East coast, Henry spent the week travelling from Bozeman MT to Portland OR, travelling through Idaho and Washington State to get there.
We’d booked accommodation in Portland and hadn’t really set anything in stone from there. We thought we’d head west to the Ocean, taking our time in Oregon before having to be in Canada by June 6 (the date my American Visa expired).
Our travel route was rather spontaneous and our destinations and length of stays were mainly dependent on what we felt like doing.

Our final route (which was decided as we went) ended up being Portland – Lincoln City – Newport – Florence – Crater Lake – Eugene – Portland – Seattle – Vancouver – Nanaimo – Victoria – Lake Cowichan – Qualicum Beach – Vancouver. From there, I flew home and Henry continued to travel.

Travelling without knowing where we were going was something new to me and at times stressed me out too. But I don’t regret a thing, it was a whirlwind trip that I’d happily do again and again!

In my next post I’ll share with you how our first ride to Great Falls MT went and begin detailing the early days of the trip.
Happy Travels,

Kachina 🙂

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