Creating a Pre-Trip Journal

Creating a Pre-Trip Journal

High on the bucket list for many riders is a cross-country motorcycle trip, either alone or with a group of friends. Usually the envisioned route includes specific, meaningful-to-you destinations like the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame Museum in Pickerington, Ohio, historic U.S. Route 66, etc. Whether this is a ride you are planning to take in the next few weeks or sometime in the future, a great way to start enjoying and preparing for the adventure right now is to create a pre-trip journal and/or folder to gather relevant info. Every time you see an article or ad about anything relating to the trip cut it out or write it down and add it to your collection. If you are adverse to paper, make it a virtual folder in the cloud or on your desktop. Scan in or upload your documents. Some folks just pack some camping gear, a credit card and a few clothes and head off into the sunset. For the rest of us, preparing in advance is the key to an enjoyable, trouble-free ride. Besides the obvious scenic stops, here are some practical tips to add to your to-do list to get you started:

  • Get a motorcycle E-Z Pass to ease your way through toll roads and bridges. You’ll need proof of registration and you’ll received a special “M” tag that will save you about 50% of the cash toll rate, and lots of time! Make sure to tether it to your bike as it often takes weeks to replace
  • Make copies of all important documents and keep them in a separate place from your wallet. Keep a copy at home where someone could possibly email or fax them as needed. Hide an ignition key somewhere on your bike or have your buddy carry it and do the same for them.
  • How’s your health? When did you last have a medical, dental or vision checkup? Nothing ruins a great trip more than a toothache, sinus infection, allergic reaction etc. Make sure you have enough medications to last for at least a week more than your planned trip. If you wear prescription glasses take an extra pair.
  • Plan a stop for motorcycle maintenance and make a reservation in advance if possible. Don’t count on smaller dealers/shops being open weekends. Of course make sure your bike is in tip-top shape before you leave. Take appropriate tools/parts/equipment to cover minor incidents or repairs.
  • MAPS – yes, paper maps. On a recent cross-country trip we often relied on local knowledge.
  • You’ve heard it and you’ve read it – you only need about a third of what you think you need when it comes to clothes. Invest in good motorcycle gear (jacket, pants, boots, gloves) that will keep you comfortable and dry over a wide range of temperatures and weather conditions. Pack light!
  • Many areas in the U.S. are out of cell service range. If you’re traveling alone consider one of the satellite phones/trackers. Many include medivac services that you can purchase on a month-to-month basis. One helicopter evac could cost up to $10,000 and most medical insurers won’t cover it.
  • Invest in roadside assistance. It’s usually available at low cost through membership and other organizations.


Finally, and most important of all, make your trip a priority. There’s hardly ever a “perfect” time unless you make the time to do it. You’ll be glad you did!


Ride Safe!