Opinion: Road trip rules

I’m on a mini-road trip this week with CMG’s Jeff Wilson, riding a pair of Indians through the southern California desert. You’ll read all about it properly after Christmas, including our reviews of the two bikes: an FTR1200 and a Chieftain Elite. They’re very different machines.

I’ve written before about my rules for a good road trip. First, there are the five basic rules:

1. You must drive for a while on a road you’ve never driven on before.

2. You must stop for a coffee or for lunch at a place you’ve never stopped before.

3. You must travel in both darkness and light, so either leave at dawn or arrive after dusk.

4a. You must have an alternative, easier, or quicker route that you do not take, or

4b. You must have been able to take transit or fly, but chose not to, and

5. You can drive fast, but you must not hurry.

You must stop for coffee or lunch at a place you’ve never stopped at before. This will do nicely then. Can you see Jeff?

And then there are the five additional rules that turn it from a good road trip into a great road trip:

6. You must cross water, preferably by ferry.

7. You must face some form of adversity, like a flat tire or heavy rain.

8. You must discover something about yourself, such as finding a relative in a graveyard or fixing a breakdown on your own.

9. You must be surprised by something, and

10. You must share at least some of the journey with somebody else.

We’ve not followed all of these yet, but we have another day to go as we round the Salton Sea and head back into the mountains.

Jeff pauses for a photo at the higher end of the road trip.

I’ve also written about How To Go Touring, and that article is full of advice for planning and preparation, but I’ve realized I forgot possibly the most important thing: If you’re travelling with somebody else, make sure you’re agreeable partners, and you’re on the same page for your expectations.

I could hear Jeff sucking in his teeth when I pulled to a halt last night outside the Western Sands Motel in Indio. The sign advertised “Full kitchens – Phone – Luandry – Pool – Spa” and I told him it would be perfect. After we’d paid our $65 each, however, we saw that the doors were falling off my kitchen cabinets (Jeff didn’t have any at all), and that the spa was just a dirty whirlpool next to the dirty pool, and they were both freezing cold. Only a small part of the light worked in my bathroom, which was probably just as well, and Jeff ended up sleeping in his clothes. He certainly wasn’t trusting anyone with his luandry.

And at the lower end…

Tonight, Jeff insisted on a veto vote and so we’ve found the Hacienda del Sol in Borrego Springs, which really is just perfect. It’s only $15 more, but it’s clean and bright and we can still park the bikes right outside our doors, which makes for easy unpacking and packing. Maybe I should have listened to him in the first place.

It’s trips like this that keep a Canadian motorcyclist sane through the winter. You don’t have to escape for the whole season like Jeremy Kroeker. The warm weather really isn’t so far away, and it’s neither difficult nor costly to ship your bike south or to rent a bike. You don’t have to take a long time – a week is plenty to blow out the cobwebs. You might want to budget for more than $65 a night for a motel room, though.

We’re not over the hump yet with the gremlins that recently struck Canada Moto Guide, but the techies say they’ve figured out the solution and will restore our lost stories in the next few days. When that happens, the site will be back to normal and all our links will work properly again. Fingers crossed!


  1. Read your story, hope you hit the 66 in California, recently did and sooo many bikes! No longer ride, but was happy to see it, many groups and some who rented from other countries! Most weren’t the best riders, dragging the feet when stopping was a dead giveaway! We conversed with all, and took some pictures. I couldn’t have planned it better! Sam Phillips.

    • Absolutely! The one caveat to that is when riding out of the country and wanting /needing a hit of free wifi, McDonalds is always a good stop (plus, the coffee is half-decent too).

  2. 1A- You must begin to understand that you “ride” a motorcycle and do not drive a motorcycle. As a rider of a motorcycle you engage with the scenery and nature instead of driver who sits in his climate controlled vessel free of heat, cold, rain,wind, scents, small and large animals entering your path of travel to tragic end.

  3. I would only disagree with #3. I do most of my riding in BC, dawn and dusk is deer o’clock. I generally ride 9-5. Have a good breakfast, have a great ride, finish and have a beverage and a puff!! Now allowed to say that. I also generally plan 300 km/day, that leaves lots of time for side trips, hot springs, lakes etc. Flexible is good, or have a home base and then you are truly free every day. Go where the weather takes you. Cam

    • I hit a bear, in my little S10 on the Monday of the August Long weekend, back in 1992 @ 12:00 noon on Muskoka 13. I hit a deer, while on my Suzuki 1400 Intruder at 100 kmh on highway 27 just South of Copper Creek Golf course, as I was heading North, on a bright sunny Canada Day @ 1:00 pm. Even though I hit the deer head on I didn’t crash (witnesses were amazed)

      I missed hitting a 2nd deer here in Alberta by inches between Black Diamond & Longview @ 11;30 in the morning, again on a bright sunny day. IMO, it’s a MYTH, that the most dangerous time is dusk & dawn.

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