I’m a moto-commuter about ten months a year, in Detroit, no less. My job requires me to work with two sites outside of the Detroit area, so sometimes, my commute involves some distance. Most recently, it found me trying to figure out how to manage a site visit that needed to happen immediately after a long weekend trip to the Dragon.
My trip to the Dragon is an annual affair that I run either with a group of other riders I know or with my old car club, most of whom I have known for fifteen-plus years. Both groups hole up in a rental lodge for a few nights and run day excursions to the various excellent roads around the area. This year, we visited Helen, GA, and ran the Dragon, the Moonshiner (to Fontana Dam and Bridal Veil Falls), and the Blue Ridge Parkway. My necessary stop at work afforded me the opportunity to ride northbound somewhat east of my usual track and I added in NC 209, the Rattler, and the Cumberland Gap tunnel on US 25E. This turned the normal 200 miles of distance into about 1200 miles.
One of the biggest challenges of extreme moto-commuting is packing. Most recreational motorcycling trips that I take involve at least some camping, so my kit needs to include a 25L dry bag full of camping gear. I take a 1pp tent from REI, an appropriate sleeping bag, a sleeping pad, and a few odds and ends depending on my eating plans. I’ve recently discovered state park campgrounds, where for $25 you can get a decently private spot that includes power and flush toilets. I added a 10′ extension cord to my kit, along with some USB LED lighting for my tent. High living! But the camping kit wasn’t the big issue – it was the fact that one of my side cases was full of laptop, work notes, and the assorted safety gear required by your average garden-variety manufacturing site. Without that side case free for extra gloves and other motorcycle-oriented PPE (personal protection equipment), I was down to one box for clothing – the usual three days of liners and undies and a pair of sneaks fits fine, but now I needed to add two days of work clothes on top. Thank goodness for mechanical latches and locks, otherwise I think my poor old Vario-box would have exploded.
One thing I didn’t expect was the food challenge brought on by the packing challenge – I have Celiac disease and usually would pack a fair amount of gluten-free snacks and bread in my now-full-of-laptop side case. Normally, this is offset by being in the Meijer-zone – Meijer is a Michigan-based market chain that is a very reliable source of all kinds of allergen-free food and have stores all over the upper midwest. Instead, I found myself hopping from convenience store to convenience store, trying to find edibles that fit with my diet. Leaving Kentucky, land of no highway rest stops, I entered Tennessee and discovered the glorious Cheesewich. Behold, the ultimate in biker lunches: the only thing missing was a Ducati-themed SP bottle. Sadly, I did not find any more Cheesewiches along my route. It tasted a lot better than it looked.
Spending roughly 1000 miles of my extreme commute having fun put me in a great mood for work – no matter what plague and misery were awaiting me, I was full of miles of sun and rain, pavement and dirt, and it all showed. I call my I’ve-been-out-riding look “homeless construction worker chic”. Throw in the unbelievable amount of bugs stuck to everything and it’s not what I would call a particularly professional look, even if it is a contagiously happy one. Thankfully, the presence of a motorcycle seems offset the ugly for most people. Several of my coworkers ride, so my arrival by bike is something of an event and gets the site ready for whatever it is that I am there to do. The bike seems to turn most of the staff into little kids, and it’s a welcome change from the serious nature of our work.
A big advantage of the extreme moto-commute is that it ends in work, which means hotel room, and usually a pretty decent one. Hotels mean two things – warm and dry. In my case, it really means “dry out the camping gear before you put it back in the closet”. Convenient, it is. If you are really with it, you book a hotel with a laundry so you can catch up on wash before getting home. The travel agency can get confused when you are hundreds of miles from home and have no transportation booked.
My trip ended up going really well, with a very uneventful final 200 mile leg of boring old I75N. The main thing I would do differently is ship my work gear to my site and take more food. I’m still hungry.
Are you ready for an extreme moto-commute?