Saturday, March 20, 2010

Motorcycle camping

How do you overnight when touring by motorcycle?
Traditional motorcycle camping is an honored and cherished tradition, at least for bikers who entered the two-wheeled world a couple decades ago. Today, if you are up for it, motorcycle camping connects us with the men and women who traveled the U.S. on two wheels many decades ago heading to this vacation spot, or that rally. If you’re up for it. It can be fairly primitive. It doesn’t seem as though motorcycle camping is what it once was. There are too many motorhomes pulling motorcycle trailers, or a few motorcycles pulling little campers. To me, motorcycle camping is at most a tent and a few supplies bungieed on to the back of my bike.
I have found that backpacking equipment makes good motorcycle camping equipment. It’s lightweight, compact and durable. So I can pack enough for a week’s stay on my bike, including even a camp stool, cooler, sleeping bag pad, sleeping bag, tent, camp lights, even a one-burner stove.
I recognize that not everyone likes to camp, but it’s probably the most economical way to experience a rally. It allows you to immerse yourself in to the event. Two good examples of motorcycle camping are the Freedom Rally in Iowa and the Sturgis Rally in South Dakota.
The Freedom Rally in Algona, Iowa is my favorite rally. It’s as traditional and focused as any rally you can find. The entire area is owned by ABATE of Iowa. It’s fenced off so that you can access the campground only by motorcycle. Motorhomes and travel trailers are parked down the road at another site. The campground is clean and cool. Big cottonwoods give plenty of shade if you choose that relatively secluded area. Or if you like, you can set up in a sort of “tent city” where the partying never stops. That's the way it is at the Bottom's Up Rally in Marmath, ND.
Similarly there are “motorcycle only” camp sites at the Sturgis Rally. For example, Glencoe has an area where only motorcycles can squeeze through the narrow openings. Pick a spot, park your bike and call it “home” for as long as you wish during the rally.
The benefits of camping like that are obvious: you avoid the astronomical high prices of motels during the rally. One motel in Sturgis where I stay before Memorial Day or after Labor Day prices its rooms between $50 and $80. But during the rally, they are $250 or more. Camping during the rally is as low as $12, but generally in that $30 to $40 range.
Other benefits include the camaraderie of fellow campers, and the immersion in to the motorcycle lifestyle.
The disadvantage is of course you are exposed to the weather as it is – hot, cold or rainy. I’ve climbed in to my tent after a wet day of riding, and there’s no warming up by the furnace or fireplace.
It’s also a bit more work to camp. It’s up to you to pack and unpack as you move. No ready-made beds are available. Showering is a challenge, but usually most campgrounds have a community shower that is just fine with me.
Motorcycle camping is part of the motorcycle experience. If you wanted to travel in luxury, you could have traded in your bike for a pull behind trailer and you drive the country in your car. Or you can just motel hop your way across the country, leaving the confines of your cage for the continued confines of a motel room.
Me? I like the exposure and freedom of motorcycling – and that includes motorcycle camping.

1 comment:

  1. I am a 2 wheel moto-camper. Nothing suits the Sportster long distance rider in me more. When I travel...I carry my tent, air mattress, pump and sleeping bags with me (yes, plural: 2 bags). I like to be comfy.

    Enjoyed your thoughts