Life on the frozen tundra of South Dakota Life on the frozen tundra of South Dakota

Motorcycle Touring In The Year Of COVID-19

Motorcycle Touring In The Year Of COVID-19

I had no doubt this year that I was taking a motorcycle trip. Prior to the last several years' worth of trips I was always up in the air until the last minute, but this year there was no question that I was going to get away and ride for a few days. My sanity needed it.

That doesn't mean I knew where I was going to go. 2020 was a bizarre year with COVID-19 and all the other strangeness going on. For a while I wasn't sure if there would be any hotels open, or if they would even allow interstate travel due to the virus. I had decided that even if I couldn't stay overnight, I could spend four days riding my motorcycle and return home every evening. I needed to go somewhere, and I didn't care where.

Thankfully, the quarantine restrictions didn't get bad enough to restrict travel (at least at the time of this writing.) Hotels were open. Most restaurants were open. There were no travel limitations. The biggest difference from other years was I had to wear a mask when I wasn't on my motorcycle, in my hotel room or putting food in my mouth. So with that being the case, I set about coming up with a route.

The previous three years have been lower mileage affairs, with last year's trip being extremely short at less than 700 miles. I definitely wanted to ride farther this year. However, I didn't want to try and set any ridiculous mileage records either. After staring at a map I came up with a route that basically circles the perimeter of Minnesota.

Once again my friend Jon expressed an interest in going along, but it didn't work out with his schedule this year. So also once again, we're going to shoot for next year.

I had to take care of a few things prior to leaving. A couple weeks beforehand, I remembered that my luggage had developed a huge hole. I still used it for a couple of trips after the hole formed, but had to be careful about what I put in that corner of the bag so that nothing fell out. Also, it had gotten large enough that if it rained that corner of my belongings got soaked. If that weren't bad enough, the bag was really starting to sag bad, to the point where frequently I would have to stop and reposition it to keep it from falling off the bike. I decided that after 15 years it was time to get a replacement.

So I did some shopping, and after much deliberation settled on the Saddelmen S3500S bag. It wasn't cheap, but after living with a cheap bag for 15 years I was in the mood to splurge a little. When it arrived, the first thing I noticed was how huge it was, especially if I put the roll bag on top. I think it sat just as tall as my head. Call it vanity or whatever, but I thought it was so tall it looked funny, so I wound up putting the roll bag on my back seat. Thankfully the whole piece of luggage came with lots of mounting straps so putting the roll bag there didn't require any redneck engineering.

This new bag proved an excellent upgrade over my old one. Both the main luggage and the roll bag have a fiberglass shell that keeps its shape whether empty or full, unlike my old bag that looked like a Teddy Bear without it's stuffing if it was empty. There were tons of storage pockets and ways to organize things, unlike my old bag where basically everything got dumped into one huge space. The luggage opens on the sides versus the top, which made it much easier to get things out without having to dig. The luggage also came with a shoulder strap and backpack straps which made it a lot easier to carry in and out of the hotels. All in all, it was a little spendy but in the end I didn't regret my purchase. You wouldn't think it would matter that much, but this new piece of luggage actually made the trip more enjoyable.

I did a little maintenance on my bike. Earlier in the season I had to replace the starter relay, as it stuck in the "on" position and would keep cranking whether I was pushing the button or not. In fact, it would keep cranking whether the key was in the ignition or not. I had to pull the cables on the battery to get it to stop. I noticed that one of my front turn signal lights was out, so I replaced that. Then, in the middle of testing the new light the other one burned out. What are the odds? So I replaced that one as well. While I was at it, my front fender marker light bulb was dead so I fixed that one too. Then I gave the bike its first wash in about 3 years.

A couple nights before I left I went and topped off the tank with gas. I had ridden 140 miles this year prior to leaving. Not much, but significantly more miles than I had put on the bike before my previous six trips. As I've mentioned before, I just don't ride the motorcycle as much since I became a full-time bicycle commuter.

The day before the trip I spent the morning packing. Then my wife and I met some friends and learned how to play Pickleball. I led music at our Saturday night church service, then came home and actually got to bed at a reasonable hour.

Continue on to day one...

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This page last updated on 09/01/2020