The Ultimate Motorcycle Vacation Part 1

Maintaining your life while touring the country

By Genevieve Schmitt

They took seven-and-a-half months to tour the country logging more than 28,000 miles, yet this couple still lived their lives, paid bills, and maintained a Web site of their travels. Find out how they did it and how, you too, can take an extended trip without dropping out of society.

Jym and Ann in New Hampshire at the start of autumn.

Jym and Ann Batey had taken plenty of two-week-long scenic jaunts during the 10 years theyve been riding separate motorcycles. Like most touring riders, two weeks a year is all the paid vacation time their employers would allow. Once in awhile, the Bateys would stretch their time off to three weeks (unused sick days add up), or squeeze in a long weekend of touring on their matching Honda Magnas. “You have a specific goal or destination,” explains Ann of those trips limitations. “And sometimes, you get stuck in weather and places you dont want to be because you have this time schedule.”

Soon, those fixed-time trips became frustrating. The Bateys, again, like most serious touring riders, craved more time on the road, more time to veer off in unplanned directions, more time to stop at scenic spots, more time to visit places theyd always wanted to see. But how does one find more of that precious pavement time while holding down a 9-to-5 job, and managing a household? Were not talking dropping out of society to tour the world for several years. Were simply talking about stealing away for a few months to see the country. “The joy of a trip like that, for us, was not knowing where we were going to be that night,” Ann, 60, points out. “Having time to relax with each other and not letting work get in the way.”

Ann and Jym all geared up for their trial run trip to Yosemite.

So, in May of 2000, after five years of planning, Jym, a computer engineer for the city of Pleasant Hill, California, and Ann, a bookkeeper for a computer company, left their jobs and embarked on a seven-and-a-half month journey that would cover 28,706 miles of U.S. and Canadian soil. Along the way, they visited 71 national parks, took 5,700 photos, and facilitated a Web site of their progress, all while paying bills and maintaining a home in northern California to which they could return. “One of the fundamental differences of this trip was that it was not a vacation, it was how we lived,” Jym, 54, explains. “You still need to find a way to effectively pay your bills, to communicate with other people, receive mail and be notified of anything unusual happening. With vacationing, you can slide almost anything for a month.”

The Bateys kicked their trip into gear with a plan that involved five key elements, elements, they say, others can use to realize their dream of taking an extended tour.

1) Pre-planning and goal setting: The Bateys shifted into first gear five years before departing. “Every time we saw some place interesting, either on TV or in a magazine, we made note of it,” says Jym. Ann adds, “We wanted to do 48 states…”
“…which we didnt end up doing,” Jym interjects. “We wanted to do all four corners, which we didnt do either, not on that trip at least.” Furthermore, as an excuse to stop at a national park or monument theyd come across, Jym and Ann set a goal to achieve the Iron Butt Associations Master Traveler Award, which requires riders visit 50 national parks or monuments in 25 states within a year. It was the impetus they needed to visit the smaller, out-of-the-way parks, which, they say, paid off. “There were places we would never have expected to go like Saint-Gaudens [National Historic Site] in New Hampshire where this sculptor had an incredible place,” Ann says enthusiastically.

Ann loves quilting so she and Jym made a goal to visit as many quilting museums as they could find along the way.

Jym has an interest in carousel horses, while Ann enjoys quilting. So, they researched all the museums in the country showcasing those two hobbies and set a goal to visit them. By the way, there are four carousel museums and the Bateys saw them all.

One of the four carousel museums they visited.

Next, Jym and Ann decided they would inform their employers of their intentions to resign several years in advance of their departure. Jym gave two-and-a-half years notice, while Ann took a new job two years before their scheduled leave date and told her new employer of her plans. “Nobody believed we were actually going to do it,” she chuckles.The Bateys never had any doubt. Before leaving, they sold their house and moved into a home they inherited from Anns late mother. Anns brother was the person the couple designated to open their mail and email them with questions.Jym and Ann had had enough money stashed away to pay their bills for the six months they had originally planned to be gone. They set up an electronic bill-paying service through their bank so they could pay on the Internet. They used little cash on the trip, opting to charge expenses and pay later. The laptop they brought was their main means of communication.

2) Communications: Being able to keep in touch and have access to communication is the critical factor between the trip being one of productive citizens taking time off to see the country, or one of vagabonds roaming the country aimlessly. Jym built a Web site where friends and family could log on to for updates on the couples progress. “Were not good letter writers, and six months is kind of a long time to be out of communication,” says Jym. He would update the site every three to four days with pictures downloaded from their digital camera, while Ann kept the daily journal.Before leaving, the Bateys also set up an account with an Internet Service Provider (ISP) they could access all over the country. They used, although, they advise choosing another ISP if your plans include Canada because netaccess800 was not available there at the time.

Surprisingly, the Bateys did not carry a cell phone, and Jym staunchly defends their reasoning. “Most of the places we rode were rural and hilly with very spotty cell phone coverage at all. We were two people on bikes. If we had a problem, we always had the ability to jump on one bike and go somewhere.” He adds, :”We did have an ATT card.”Ann quickly points out, “Never did we run into a problem we couldnt deal with because we didnt have a cell phone.”Jym has since discovered, and advises others, to carry an old cell phone for emergencies. It doesnt need to have service, just a charged battery for 911 to work.

A beautiful shot taken in Yosemite on their trial run trip.

Jym and Ann laughed in spite of themselves when they shared, that while they did not bring a cell phone, they did pack a CD burner to download all the photos they were taking. When they filled up a couple of CDs they would ship them home. Jym really thought ahead when he brought along a power strip enabling him to plug in several electrical items into one outlet. “We have batteries for our Chatter Box radios on our helmets we have to charge, batteries for our camera to recharge, the laptop and the CD burner, and if youre at a KOA cabin that has one outlet, were OK because we carried this silly power strip,” Jym explains. “We cant live without it.”

3) Choosing Motorcycles: The Bateys 1980s Honda Magnas were showing their age and could not be counted upon for reliability. With no affinity toward any brand, they narrowed their choices down to BMW after riding them on a tour in New Zealand. Back home, a salesman steered them towards matching R 1100 RTs. After a test ride, the two were hooked. “We put every luggage option we could get on them,” Jym said. “They have an on-the-fly adjustable windscreen, heated handgrips, plus they were sporty enough, not like lugging around a Gold Wing or an LT.” He added that BMWs reputation for reliability was also a deciding factor. Then, they re-took the MSFs Experienced RiderCourse to get used to their new bikes.

A daily motorcycling ritual — making all that stuff fit on the bike.

4) Trial Trip: They hadnt originally planned to take one, but afterwards, the experience proved invaluable. “Theres a difference between camping for a week and camping for six months,” stated Jym. A four-day trial trip to Yosemite State Park showed Ann, among other things, that she must pack her hiking boots toward the top of her bag, because the couple likes to hike and her motorcycle boots are not comfortable for that. They also realized they didn’t need the full complement of camping equipment, like a stove and lantern, since they had planned on eating picnic-style meals on the big trip. “We did set up a rudimentary amount of equipment so if we did get stuck out in the boonies we wouldn’t starve,” Jym said. They also ditched their 35mm camera when they came to terms with the fact that their digital camera was all they were going to use.

Wha-la! It fits every time… that is if you don’t buy any souvenirs.

5) Rules of the Road: To make their trip more interesting, the couple came up with some rules to live by on the road. For choosing restaurants: Avoid places where you stand up to order or pay before you eat. Ann says, “There are great little restaurants all over. You just have to look.” Jym adds, “When you avoid the chains, you’re left with mom and pop restaurants. Look where the pickup trucks are parked. That generally indicates where the locals go, where it’s cheaper, or where the best food around is.”

Stay off interstates. This is a common goal for touring riders, but the Bateys vowed to live by it. “For the most part, you can get anywhere you want to go without hitting the freeway. The only time we got on the interstate was for specific reasons,” says Jym.

So how did the trip go? Click here to read part 2.

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