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Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Packing For My Motorcycle Road Trip

Everything on this workbench was in my left saddlebag

I had a little experience with packing for a long road trip, having ridden from here in Alexandria, Virginia, down through the southeast to New Orleans, and then across Florida, before turning back north to make my way home. 3,400 miles, give or take a couple hundred, as I recall. This was the ride back in 2010 that gave this blog it's name...Southern Comfort.

Before I left for that run, I got a lot of good advice about packing, I looked at a ton of websites, and I picked the brains of peeps who have gone on similar rides on similar bikes. I rode a 2008 Softail Custom on that ride, without a ton of extra storage, so space was limited.

As it turned out, I didn't need much of anything in the way of tools or spare parts on that ride, which is a testament to how well new Harley Davidsons are built. They're a far cry from either of my old rigid frame Panhead choppers, I'll tell you that!

But for the upcoming Sturgis ride, I was going further, and riding a slightly older 1999 Road King that I'd bought just for the trip. I had a lot of confidence in the bike, given the level of maintenance and care taken by its previous owner, but a bike is a bike and anything can happen, right?

I was not just stopping at Sturgis, either. I had some half-baked plans to ride into Wyoming and Colorado afterwards, into areas where getting gas wasn't going to be easy, much less spare Harley parts. So I wanted some assurance that I could at least get to the next town if something broke.

So what did I take with me?

I started by setting a limit that every bike-maintenance-related thing had to fit in one saddlebag. First, I bought a Reda gas container and a Saddlemen luggage bag that's made specifically to fit with the Reda container. I figured the comfort of knowing I had extra gas was worth losing the small amount of space the 1-gallon container took up. (Click that highlighted text, above, for more info on those products)

Ebay is a good source for the container. You'll spend about 40 bucks, plus tax, for the pair from Eastern Performance Cycles, which is where I got mine. The container never leaked a drop, nor was there an issue with fumes, and it had a spout so no need to carry a funnel.

And before you chuckle about this damn gas can, there were two stretches of road, one in South Dakota on SD44, between White River and Interior, SD (128 lonely miles*, with the 2-lane all to yourself), and another on US85 in Wyoming, between Newcastle and Lusk (85 miles) where gas stations are non-existent. But the scenery's nice while you're hoofing it! Anyway, that extra 35 miles of gas was looking pretty darned good to me on both, and I'm glad I had it.

On SD44, pretty early in that long stretch, I do remember seeing a gas pump near some outbuildings in a Lakota settlement I went through, and I had the passing thought of asking them if they'd sell me some gas, but decided to hit the next regular gas station instead. There wasn't one. The image of that pump I passed up tortured me for the last 10-20 miles of this lonely stretch of road!

A very appropriately named gas station in Interior, South Dakota. It was the most beautiful sight I'd see that day, because I was damn sure running on fumes when I got there.

Then I chose some tools. I took:
  • Snap ring pliers, small enough to help replace the clutch and brake lever. I broke a brake lever on the New Orleans ride, so I definitely wanted something to help with a similar event. But without the oversize Mississippi gal to help out.
  • A set of craftsman combination SAE wrenches....1/4" to 3/4"
  • Medium size straight screwdriver
  • Medium size Phillips screwdriver
  • 6" and 8" crescent wrenches
  • Small Channelock pliers
  • Dikes
  • Needlenose pliers
  • Tweezers
  • Small vise grips
  • Allen wrenches...a foldable set. Turns out I did have to buy a regular Allen set to tighten up my fairing. The foldable set didn't fit into the area I was working in...needed a regular length wrench to do the job.
  • Small ballpeen hammer
  • 1/4 drive socket set
  • Spark plug socket and a 3/8 drive ratchet to fit it
  • Flashlight and spare batteries
  • Rubber/latex gloves
  • Work gloves from the local 7-11, for reinstalling hot exhaust pipes. I think I packed these because of vivid and painful memories of putting the pipes back on my 55 Panhead. Many times. Using my shirt. And still burning the living shit outa my hands.

All these tools, except the heavy work gloves and socket set (in its own plastic box), were layed out on a towel and I just rolled up the towel. It made a relatively small package and kept the damn tools from rattling around. Plus I had a towel! 

Spare parts...

I went to my local Harley shop and asked what parts most frequently failed on a 99 Road King. They said "tires!". 

Ruling out carrying a fucking spare (and I got a new set of tires before I left!), I asked what else, explaining why I wanted to know. They recommended a headlight bulb, a tire repair kit, a couple fuses, some mechanic's wire, some electrical wire, and a few miscellaneous nuts and bolts. And some duct tape and wire ties. 

Danny Boy at the parts counter said "Take some wire and go. You can fix anything with wire!"

I ended up taking:
  • A couple small handfuls of smaller nuts, bolts and washers. Like some 1/4"or 5/16" stuff that would hold something together.
  • Tube of 242 Loctite
  • 5 or 6 fuzes
  • Headlight bulb
  • Mechanic's wire (didn't want to ignore Danny's advice!)
  • A little spool of 16 gauge electrical wire
  • Wire ties 
  • Electrical tape
  • Racer's tape
  • StopNGo Tire repair kit with compressor. That's a nice little kit, by the way. Click the name for info
  • A string tire repair kit for rips instead of punctures.
  • Clutch and brake levers
  • JB Weld
  • A couple extra exhaust clamps that were laying around the shop
  • A short length of rubber fuel line, and two hose clamps to fit it
  • A new set of spark plugs
  • A few extra tie downs and bungee cords
  • Owners Manual for the bike
Last of all, I took a First Aid kit I picked up at REI. This was a suggestion of my neighbor, John, for the New Orleans trip, and I think it's a damn good idea.

So believe it or not, everything listed here fit in one saddlebag, and to my surprise, I still had a little room left over to shove in a seat cover for rainy days.

As for the rest of my stuff, I took extra boots, enough t-shirts to keep from smelling too bad, an extra pair of jeans, underwear, and socks. 

I actually bought some underwear that were supposed to keep that perspiration down to a dull roar, and therefore the damned rash I sometimes get from hot weather, long-distance riding. It worked! No rash, and I didn't have to use that corn starch that John G recommended. Click HERE for a link to the place I ordered it. 

PS: If you get that damned rash, better than corn starch* to clear it up. If you feel the rash coming on, don't wait. Toss a handful into your underwear and hit the road. It's a HUGE relief. Or don't wait. Just use it before you go. 

Corn Starch Usage Note: If you think you might be getting lucky sometime that night, I strongly suggest hitting the shower real quick before things get steamy. Might be tough to explain having heavy deposits of powdery residue on your private parts, and that corn starch/rash explanation is hard to sell. Just sayin'...

Besides the regular clothes, tools, and spares, I took a leather jacket, gloves, chaps, spare helmet, good rain gear, extra goggles, and an extra pair of prescription glasses. And though it was 100 fucking degrees on some days, there was also an hour or so during one ride when John and I damn near froze. Seeing snow in that windy mountain pass on 385 would not have been a surprise. Don't be a hard-head if you ride in the heat of Summer. Take a fucking jacket. I was real glad I had mine.

And I packed chargers and spare batteries for all my electrical stuff. I took along a spare USB adapter that hooked to my 12v cigarette lighter/outlet and to my phone mount. I thought I ordered one, but two came in the mail, so I tossed the extra one in the bag. As luck would have it, one of the girlies at the EasyRiders Saloon that washed my bike for me also filled my first 12v/USB adapter up with water. Poof!

But she was cute, so who cares......

Anyway, the spare came in handy, and next time I'll take out the adapter, tuck it away, and put the cover on the outlet. Assuming the girls aren't there. If so, I could easily forget again. Who thinks of this stuff with distractions like that around?!?!

So that's what I hauled along, and there was a little room left over to haul back some souvenirs. I didn't need much of the bike stuff, but on every lonely stretch of road, I was glad I had it. Especially that can of gas. In fact, the only thing I needed during the entire ride were a few tools to adjust my fairing, plus I lent a couple wire ties to a kid in a truck stop to keep the bumper of his Ford Fiesta from dragging the ground.

One part did break that I didn't have, nor would I have dreamed I'd need a spare. Inside each sagglebag are two 1/4-turn twist-pins that attach the bags to the frame. The business end of one of those pins broke off about 4,000 miles into the ride. I just happened (Thank you, Baby Jesus) to be right next to a Harley dealer when I noticed it. They had one in stock, so for $8 bucks, plus the price of one more t-shirt, I was out the door and rolling again. So maybe buying one of those and carrying it along too ain't a bad idea. Takes up just a little room, and no tools necessary to replace it.