Joe’s Travel Tips!
This post will contain a growing list of helpful travel tips. I have done many of these. The others … are lessons recently learned! As I progress through this journey, I am discovering several things that will make things easier on my next one. They are listed in no particular order. Some of them will make you laugh. Enjoy!
- Sometimes (as is the case in tonight’s motel room,) hotel windows do not provide the privacy you require. Curtains that will not close, or curtains that blow open when the A/C is running, and mini blinds that allow a passerby to see into your room and use a wall mirror to take an inventory of its contents can be a real problem! By carrying a few large, heavy duty thumb tacks, you can defeat the local voyeurs and potential burglars by tacking one of the hotel’s bed sheets to the top corners of the window frame which creates a privacy shield that prevents any unwanted view into the room.
- Carry a set of clothes with you that can get really dirty. you don’t know when you will have to crawl under your bike or trailer and get greasy while changing out a wheel, or a shock or whatever. Black clothes work the best, because after they are washed, the stains from the work do not show.
- If you are headed to Sturgis, stop at some town along the way and get all of your laundry done. Sturgis HAS a laundromat, but finding parking is a challenge. You might have to hike in from a few blocks away, carrying all of your laundry, your soap and softener, and whatever else you would need.
- Carry REAL tire plugs with you. the flat sealers don’t generally work on motorcycles because of the higher pressures required in the tires. The air blows the sealer out through the hole. The red, rubbery, gooey tire plugs that look like short ropes are the best for a quick roadside repair, but they should not be relied upon BEYOND riding to the nearest dealership to have a new tire mounted.
- Install a standard cigarette lighter plug on your bike, or rig one to patch into your battery charger cable pigtail, so you can plug in an air compressor or other 12vdc device when needed.
- Heading out into widely unpopulated areas means many, MANY miles of road with no place to stop for a drink or use a restroom. It is a very good idea to carry extra water, energy drinks like Gatorade or Powerade, and assorted “munchies” to hold you over until you once again encounter civilization. My ride across eastern Utah today was great, but I found myself in dire need of water, shade and some place to pull over and rest, NONE of which could be easily found along today’s route.
- On a two-lane road, where oncoming vehicles routinely dart out into YOUR lane to pass a slower vehicle, it is imperative to keep your eyes on what is happening in front of you. Situations can change in an instant, as you will read in the journal, where I avoided a head-on collision today!
- If you are planning to visit several National Parks, invest $80.00 in the annual park pass. It will save you a LOT of money.
- When touring on a motorcycle, be very careful about finding places to pull over to allow another vehicle to pass, or to take a photograph. The shoulders along most two-lane roads are very soft and will cause you to dump your bike when the ground gives out beneath your tires.
- Sunscreen is a must! It is important to experiment with different brands BEFORE you travel. I purchased another can a few days ago, because the Coppertone Sport stuff was oily. I purchased CVS Pharmacy “Sheer Mist” sunscreen with SPF 70 protection. It sprays on and feels light and not excessively heavy, but I have discovered that it acts like spray adhesive! The road dirt, exhaust from the trucks and dust in the air STICKS to the sunscreen until my arms and face were charcoal black, and it takes a rather vigorous effort to remove it! The stuff does a great job of preventing sunburn, but I’m still searching for a good sunscreen that doesn’t feel “icky” or oily.
- Use a bright colored Post-It note to tag each washer and dryer you are using in a laundromat. Do not leave until every machine you tagged has been checked for any clothing items you may have left behind. Today, I left all of my socks in a dryer 126 miles south of my current location. Thank God for Wal-Mart!
- Don’t trust your GPS completely. The “road” it finds may turn out to be a logging road requiring a Jeep to traverse its length. If you ride out to it, and you cannot ride ON it, you may find that you have to ride a hundred miles or more out of the way to get around it!
- Keep an L.E.D. flashlight near your bed. In a power outage, you’ll stumble around a motel room unless you can see! There are plug in lights just for this purpose. You plug them in, and if the power goes out, the light comes on, using an internal battery. Don’t forget to take them with you when you leave!
- Always have water, some Gatorade or similar drink, and some snack foods with you that do not require refrigeration. In small towns, they tend to roll up the sidewalks early, leaving you with NO “Midnight Munchies” option!
- A one-gallon jug of drinking water usually costs LESS than the smaller bottles with the fancy labels. If you have the space for it, buy your drinking water by the gallon. Make sure it has a SCREW ON CAP!
- Try to get an early start and settle into a motel or campground before 6:00 PM. you will need the time to unwind, unpack and prepare for the night. Arriving late means sleeping in, and that translates into a short day to follow.
- BEFORE you purchase a room, be sure to go look at it. Check the heater/AC unit to make sure it works, and see if it is too LOUD to run while you sleep. Check the door frame to make sure the door actually locks securely. If the wood is split, it means that someone broke into the room previously. It may indicate the tone of the neighborhood, or the motel. Make sure the door closes securely. At a previous motel, I discovered that I could slip a credit card into the door jam to enter my room, even though the door was “locked.” Turn on the bathroom light and fan. See if the fan can be run separately, and if not, will leaving the bathroom light on cause you to lose sleep with a loud fan running? Check the bed. Too soft? Too hard? You’ll want to know before you commit to sleeping in it for a night! Oh, and flush the toilet to make sure it functions properly.
- Sweatshirts without pockets are nice to sleep in, but they are useless for traveling on a motorcycle. A jacket or sweatshirt with pockets gives you a place to store cameras, coins for toll booths and so forth. As you add or remove layers, the contents of the pockets can be moved from garment to garment.
- Be careful when riding in the left lane of a one-way street in a strange town. At the next intersection, it just might change into a TWO-way street! If you are not paying attention, you could find yourself riding into oncoming traffic. (Trust me on this one.)
- In a laundromat, try to put your clothes into dryers that are warm or hot to the touch. This is your best chance of selecting dryers that actually heat up. If you put wet clothes into a cold dryer and drop a few quarters into the machine, you might come back to a lump of cold, wet clothes. Slipping them into a machine which someone else just removed their clothes from is the best use of your coin, since it doesn’t have to heat up again.
- ALWAYS take the time to clean your windshield, mirrors and helmet visor. The dirt won’t show itself until it is critical that you see through it.
- When touring the California coast, do not wait until the last minute to find a motel or campground. You might discover that there is no vacancy to be found.
- People are creatures of habit. try to break the routine by forcing yourself to eat at places you cannot eat at when you are at home. You will find a greater variety of food, and you will probably be pleasantly surprised! Avoid the McDonald’s, Subway, Wendy’s, Burger King etc. habit.
- Pack a small roll of 2″ packing tape on a dispenser. Hotel curtains often do not offer complete privacy. Use the tape to pin the curtains to the walls beside the window(s) so that people cannot see into your room directly or via a reflection on the mirror in the room. It will also prevent the freaks from standing outside of your room to sneak a peek! Also, the tape can be used to keep the curtains from blowing from the updraft of the wall mounted air conditioner, usually found directly below the window. Tape a length of string across the curtans to keep them in place and allow the A/C to actually cool the room.
- Place a piece of opaque tape over your door viewer. Scopes are sold that allow a person to peer through it from the outside and see everything in your room with clarity.
- Check the fridge in your room for any food that was left behind or forgotten.
- Bring a wall outlet remote control. Plug one lamp into it and keep the remote by your bed. When you need to turn a light on, you can do it by remote control! Don’t forget to take it when you leave.
- Look under the bed(s) when you check in for items that may have been left behind. Look again when you check out!
- Ask the desk clerk at your hotel if your room key earns a discount at any local restaurants or attractions. Often, flashing a hotel room key will get 10% taken off of the bill!
- Cell phones are notoriously unreliable. Purchase a Magic Jack PLUS and set it up for a full year (or more) of service. When you plug it into a hotel LAN cable, you will have the same phone number no matter where you are. The Magic Jack PLUS does not require a computer to function, and your friends can call you without burning up your cell minutes or draining your cell battery. Bring along a simple “Princess Phone” to use. Now people can call you directly without needing the hotel phone number or room number!
- Make sure your vehicle registration is current and valid through the entire trip. If they have to send you a new tags, you’ll have to figure out where to receive it as you travel.
- You can have anything sent to you in care of GENERAL DELIVERY to any U.S. Post Office. They will hold the package for 30 days before returning it. If you know you will arrive at a Post Office in several days, the “thing” you sent for can be waiting for you.
- Make sure all of your T-shirts and casual shirts have a pocket. It will come in so handy!
- Take a few rolls of quarters, dimes and nickels along. They are good for toll booths and parking meters.
- Make sure your vehicle insurance is valid and current.
- Check over the entire vehicle. repair or replace ALL parts that are prone to failure on a long trip.
- DO NOT store fragrant bars of soap in the luggage that contains your clothes. (Trust me!)
- Tighten all bottles containing liquids, and carry them in an upright position.
- Take along a lot of Post-It note pads. They are good for so many reasons!
- Carry a few black “Sharpie” felt tip pens, and several ball point pens. you will lose them frequently.
- Lay out EVERYTHING electronic that you will carry, and make sure you have ALL of the chargers, cords, spare batteries and connectors, adapters and such. You won’t be able to find some of them on the road! Use a label maker to tag every cord, battery and wall wart charger, so you can identify them quickly.
- Take along a few of the small L.E.D. flashlights. Place one in each luggage bag. Put one in your bike’s trunk.
- Bring a “Night Light” so you can see when you wake up at night in a strange hotel room. Your shins will thank you!
- If you take a computer, be sure to bring your “Rescue Disks” or a copy of your OS in case it crashes.
- Carry a large portable USB solid state hard drive (or two) so you can dump your camera photos and videos to it and clear out your cameras.
- Make a printout of the banks, checking and credit card account numbers, mailing addresses and customer service numbers you will use on the tour. Be sure to include the expiration dates and SEC numbers. If your wallet is lost or stolen, you will need to report to each of them ASAP. DO NOT carry this list in your WALLET!
- Have extra keys made for your vehicle, especially if they require a “chip” to start it. Keep TWO on you at all times. Hide another one behind a taillight lens or tape it to the back of a license plate.
- Print out a list of the make, model and serial number for every camera, cell phone, iPad and other electronic device, so you can report them to the police in the event of theft.
- If you are a letter writer, bring along printed envelopes addressed to everyone with whom you will correspond. Alternately, print out a list of Avery labels. It will really come in handy for that fast post card or letter, as well as other things.
- Carry a large pad of paper, and a few dozen sheets of white paper.
- Print out a dozen shipping labels addressed to your home or wherever. When you want to send something home, just slap a label on it.
- Open a FedEx or a UPS account. Put the bar code on the shipping label. Now when you send something home, you won’t have to worry about postage. It will be billed to your credit card.
- Carry a big book of postage stamps!
- Pack an extra pad or two of your checks from your regular checking account so you don’t run out of checks!
- Carry a spare roll of toilet paper in a small tote bag. Replace it before it is gone!
- Pack a can of the pop-up wet towels and keep them handy.
- Take a couple of multi-outlet power strips. Motel rooms seldom have enough outlets. If you use a lot of the large “wall wart” chargers, get a strip with the outlets spaced out so you can plug everything in!
- Buy shaver blades, batteries and such at home, on sale. They are hugely expensive in the touristy areas.
- Carry a spare pair of glasses. If you wear prescription glasses, go to Lens Crafters or wherever, and get a few more made. you will be glad you did!
- Bring along a can of Febreze air freshener. Your hotel stay will be more pleasant!
- Bring a Carbon Monoxide and smoke detector with you. Don’t trust your life to the one in the hotel room.
- If you leave your hotel window partially open at night, you can get the very inexpensive window intrusion alarms at Home Depot or Harbor Freight Tools. Set one at the window and take it with you when you leave. If someone tries to climb in, the alarm will sound.
- CHECK the clock radio in the hotel room. The previous guest may have set it to go off at 3:00 AM! The same goes for the new flat panel TV sets. They can come on without warning if someone set it to do so.
- Check the ring level of the hotel room phone. They can be really LOUD!