Trip Planning

Posted by Tom Mehren on

Often around the first of the year, many of us are planning our trips for when the weather warms up and roads are more welcoming. But as many of us know, staying inside and doing the planning is part of the fun as well.

We’ve been talking with a lot of our readers about their tips for trip planning and now we’ll share those tips with you.

Giselle Binham lives in southeast Idaho and rides a BMW F700GS. “I like to plan a few trips each year. One short, one medium and one long one. The planning for each is totally different, but it’s more interesting for me to do the planning, than say, spend time doing frivolous things like watching TV.”

And Giselle’s not alone as thousands of riders take to books, their computers and other resources to plan out their future adventures each winter.

But Giselle gets right to the point. Time.

How much time have you got?

How much time have you got? About 20% of our readers are retired. For them, there is a lot of time. Others work 40 or more hours a week, so time is limited. In between, there are the self-employed or readers who have lots of flex time in between work days. Whichever person you are, you need to determine how much time you have to ride before you can properly start your trip planning.

Financial resources

Another important factor to consider is your financial resources. There are those who can afford to take a tour somewhere around the world and those who cannot.

Stewart Leeds is retired, living in Edmonds, Washington, and rides a BMW K1600GT. Leeds rides about 10,000 miles a year around the Pacific Northwest. But there are times when that bike stays home as he takes in one to two tours around the globe. “I’ve ridden in some wonderful countries, but I’d have to say, the riding around here is just as good.”

John Dougas lives in southwest Oregon and rides a 1988 Honda Transalp. Close to retirement, things are a little different for John. “I’ll have enough money to retire, but I’ve had to scrimp and save over the years and that hasn’t left me with a lot of money left to travel much outside the country.” But John has come up with a mindset that works for him regardless. “I often plan a week or so trip where I purposely route myself away from large cities I know and explore desolate places I haven’t been to yet. That’s pretty easy to do from where I live.” By staying near home, John’s managed to enjoy some low-budget trips while feeling like he’s in a foreign country now and then.

Where to

So of course, with the prior considerations, the next logical step is to plan where to go.

Ellen Whitan lives in eastern Washington. She and her husband do a lot of riding on their Harley-Davidson Road Glides. “The Pacific Northwest is a great place to ride and tour, but after doing that for so long, we learned we need to break out every few years and explore beyond the local perimeter.” They began doing that a few years back with a trip to Sturgis, but since then have also toured Colorado, Utah and, most recently, the Canadian provinces of British Columbia and Alberta. “Some years we go away, others we stay closer to home. Maintaining a good balance of the two is what I like best. When we’re far off, I’m missing the Northwest and vice versa.”


A number of our readers enjoy planning trips with a thematic twist to them. One obvious one is to take a tour of National Parks on your motorcycle. Another is to follow an old route like the Pony Express Trail or Route 66.

David Clak lives in Lewiston, Idaho, and enjoys riding a KTM 1190 Adventure bike. “I was really looking to mix it up, but stay in the Pacific Northwest, so I bought a copy of ‘Weird Oregon’ and created a route where I could visit some of the oddities Oregon has to offer. The trip lasted two weeks and could have gone on longer if I’d had the time.” Along the way David visited a strange shoe tree, haunted castle, peculiar rock garden and The Oregon Caves National Monument, to name a few.

Days off

Motorcycle touring is different from trying to ride from point A to point B, and no one knows it better than David Hough of Port Angeles. Hough has written a number of books about motorcycling and has clocked more than a million miles on two wheels. “When I’m out touring, I like to keep my daily mileage under 300 miles a day and plan some days off for sightseeing by foot or maybe a bus tour of some sort."

Vancouver rider Terry White seconds Hough’s sentiments. “I learned the hard way you can’t tour Yellowstone National Park on a motorcycle comfortably. I was on and off the bike that day at least 30 times or more. I’d much rather have parked the bike and signed up for a yellow car tour.”

Maps, guidebooks

Getting a few maps, atlases and guidebooks in advance will most likely enhance your travel experience, but be sure to get current publications, not outdated materials.

Shannon Liis of Seattle was out riding with her boyfriend one day in early June. “We had a map that showed a road to the northwest of where we were. The road to the west was closed due to snow, so we figured we’d give it a try. The road was shown as paved on the map. The whole thing turned out to be bogus, as it was all dirt and there was no way we could take a street bike down it. We had to turn around and pray our fuel supply wouldn’t run dry before we could backtrack to where we started.” Turns out that map was ten years old and utilized a US Geo Survey from 1947. The fact was, the road they were trying to use had never been paved.

Up-to-date guidebooks and maps will ensure you have the latest information, phone numbers and location names of the places you’re looking for.


Accommodations certainly come into play when you’re planning some motorcycle touring time. Some will only stay at hotels, while others can only afford to camp.

Greg Banok of Pocatello rides a Kawasaki KLR and tours both on and off the pavement. “I like to mix it up and thread together several nights of camping, then a hotel or motel stop so I can grab a shower and sleep up off the ground.”


If you’re a big eater, motorcycle touring is a great time to eat lighter meals since you’re probably not burning a lot of calories sitting on a bike all day, or exploring a new-found town.

Robert Derks rides a Suzuki DR350 and has ridden around the US as well as Mexico and Central America. “I could spend consecutive days eating nuts, dried fruits, beef sticks, cheeses and other snacks and never have to pull into a restaurant or cook a meal for myself.” Sounds extreme, but to look at Derks, he’s as thin as a rail, so it seems to be working for him. The point here is, you can mix it up, eating at restaurants and then slipping in light picnic-like meals along the route.


So, when does your passport expire? Is insurance required for you and your bike where you’re going? When is it time to renew your driver’s license? While you have your planning underway, it’s a good idea to be sure all your documentation is in order and at-the-ready when need be.


One last thing we’ll leave you with, is that although it’s not so common in the States, when you travel abroad, the chance you may fall ill increases. What would you do if that happens? It’s a good idea to think about that and have a plan B in your mind in advance. That way, if you have to lay over a few days, need to seek medical attention away from home, or make arrangements to abort your tour, you’ll be ready for it.

Happy Touring!

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