Opinion: The vacation trap

The polar vortex is back in southern Ontario, bringing the temperatures down for Toronto to what the rest of Canada calls “a normal winter,” but there are also shrieking winds and snow across the eastern seaboard. It’s perfect weather for thinking about motorcycles.

Not for riding them in such crap –  though some do, like Ed March, Paul Mondor, Oliver Solaro, and even us when we’re feeling especially CMG. No, it’s ideal for putting another log on the fire, drawing the drapes and thinking about riding bikes in nice warm places. That’s why Zac is telling us this week about all the options for including a motorcycle in your vacation if winter is starting to get you down.

There’s a concern, though. When you’re on vacation (and all’s going well), everything slips: time, responsibilities, standards. People who would never dream of riding their big Beemers with any less than All The Gear, All The Time, go to Bermuda or Cuba, rent a moped, and crash into walls wearing only shorts and flip flops. It just doesn’t seem like the same thing on holiday, but those walls are just as hard as any in Canada. And they’re unfamiliar, and so they’re more dangerous.

I once found myself thrown off a flight in Honolulu, trying to get home to Toronto from Australia (long story), and had a day to kill while I waited for another flight. So I decided to rent a motorcycle from a local rental store and go look at the island. I was 20 years old and didn’t have a credit card, and when I told the store my Hawaiian address was “Terminal One,” they weren’t impressed. I bought a pair of sunglasses for $20, so they left me with $10 for gas and $10 for lunch, and held onto the few hundred dollars I had in cash as a deposit on the bike. In hindsight, they were doing me a favour, but it didn’t seem that way at the time.

That’s the beast – a well-worn Kawasaki LTD440 that never saw snow. Mark got it back to the shop in one piece, though he was not quite so fortunate.

Before this, I had never, ever ridden without All The Gear, but this was my only opportunity to ride in Hawaii on a motorcycle, so I settled my shorts into the stepped seat, put on the sunglasses, ran my fingers through my hair and set off into Honolulu. At the very first lane change, I glanced over my shoulder to check the way was clear and the sunglasses blew off; I watched a car following behind crunch over them. I had to go back to the store and buy another, cheaper pair with my lunch money.

The point is, people make foolish decisions on vacation. That day’s ride on a crummy Kawasaki LTD 440 was memorable but not that great – I was very hungry with no money for food, and I ended up with a brutal sunburn on my legs and forehead. I should have taken my cash and enjoyed a day near Waikiki, instead of risking road rash or worse out on the highway. At the least, I should have worn a helmet and a jacket, jeans and gloves.

So if you do want to take a motorcycle break, great! Zac’s got plenty of good advice. But plan it well and don’t fall into the trap of making foolish decisions because you’re on holiday. One slip and the vacation’s over.

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