Saturday, 19 September 2009

First part of May 2009 – Preparing for California

Back in November the previous year, I had agreed to join a bunch of guys (that I didn’t know) on a two week tour of California on rented motorbikes. I was now preparing for that trip and I was struggling with the decisions about what to take. Everything had to fit in the two panniers (or are they called saddlebags?) on the bike and a specialist piece of motorcycle luggage made by Nelson-Riggs.

One of the problems I had to consider was what bike clothes to take. The route we were planning included coast roads, inland roads, mountain passes, near desert conditions and just about everything else in between. Checking on the internet showed that we could expect a pretty large temperature variation - anything from snow in the mountains to high temperatures in the glorious California sunshine.

Being a lover of writing lists (it drives my wife mad) I wrote out everything I thought I might need to take. I will write more about this later in the part about preparing for the main USA tour, but for now, it’s enough to know that I found this very helpful. This list was split into the main sections of clothes, bike clothes, tools, bathroom stuff, electronic gear etc. Weeks before I was due to leave I laid everything out on a spare bedroom floor and needless to say, it didn’t fit into the luggage I was able to carry on the bike.

I set aside those items I didn’t think were really necessary and eventually it did fit without having to leave behind anything crucial.

Regarding the logistics of the trip, I was lucky that two of the guys worked together and they used their brilliant secretary to find and book hotels, flights and all the necessary paperwork. There was quite a lot of this as I found out when I was presented with a file of what I would need.

For the trip of California, we rented bikes from a company called EagleRider. They can rent a wide range of bikes from Harley-Davidsons to Honda, BMW’s, Yamaha’s and many more. Harleys are their speciality and we paid around $135 per day, plus a little more for top-up insurance. This bought unlimited mileage and a wide network of rental locations that meant we could have returned bikes to a different location than we started from if we had wanted to do that. I went for a Harley-Davidson Electra Glide.

As we were on a fixed timescale we pre-booked accommodation ahead of time. I had mixed views about this – it was good that we didn’t need to worry about this at all during the trip as we knew exactly where we would stay each night. The bad point was (and this happened a few times) we arrived at out designated hotel way too early in the afternoon and it would have been better to carry on riding. As we were a sizeable group (seven of us) on the whole it was better to book in advance to make sure we had somewhere to sleep.

The preparations seemed to go ok and there was only one last thing to do – meet the guys in a local curry house about a week before we left. It was a good job I liked them as 2 weeks with people I didn’t get on with could have been somewhat challenging!

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