Q & A: Tips For Distance Rides

A few simple things can save grief in the long run when you take off on a long haul - or even to the next town over...

Check tire pressure every morning. Invest in a quality tire pressure gauge - don’t trust your life with those cheapo stick gauges.

Consider a windshield. Depending on your location, how fast you like to ride, the time of year and average air temperature, a windshield can make for a more comfortable ride. I know this because I didn’t have one - in the Nevada desert, the incoming air was a cooling relief; in Montana, it was brutal, cold, and felt like I was getting punched in the chest for hours on end.

Know where to find help. Before I left, I used the online yellow pages to make a list of Vespa dealerships and motorcycle repair shops along my route with addresses and phone numbers.

Let go of your worries. Stressing the whole time about what might go wrong defeats the purpose of your trip. Be aware and be safe, then let go and enjoy.


After A Month Of Riding In The Country

I’m in Chicago, deep in it - the madness of the city swirls around and slams itself through me. I’m in it and of it - instantly morphing back into city mode, dodging potholes and running yellow lights. It’s amazing how quickly I adapt. Life speeds up a thousand times - ten thousand times - it speeds up until it rockets off and is an entirely different universe altogether...


Q & A: What I Brought

It’s the high season for travel, for taking off down the road for an afternoon or a week or more, so I thought I'd finally answer what many of you have wondered: What, exactly, did I bring on my cross-country journey, and where did I put it?

There’s no place on a Vespa for traditional motorcycle accoutrements such as saddlebags or tank bags (no tank), so my available storage was limited to the compartment under the seat (which is the size of a full-face helmet), the tiny 'glove box' below the handlebars, a stock Vespa pod (topcase, technically), and a small, square cooler bag I strapped to the seat behind me.

My sleeping bag, maps and directions, and a pair of flip flops went under the seat. In fact, the seat would not close properly with a haphazard stuffing of the sleeping bag - it had to be mashed free of air and then rolled and folded at the same time like a fancy burrito.

The glove compartment is hardly larger than a pair of gloves, but into it I crammed rain pants, my fancy tire-pressure gauge, 18 feet of nylon rope, coarse sea salt (to counter dehydration), and extra-large rubber utility gloves that fit over my leather gloves in the rain.

The cooler bag was mostly filled with film (call me old-fashioned), along with my camera and a refreezable icepack to keep the film cool. It also held my journal and two pens; my cell phone, charger, and three extra batteries; sunscreen, sunglasses, a lighter, a flashlight, and a pocketknife; my wallet, a water bottle, two neckerchiefs (which I wore wet when it was hot and dry when it was cold), and an mini can of fix-a-flat (which I never used). I didn’t bring a tent, but did bring a tarp to sleep on or to cover the Vespa with if necessary. I folded the tarp to fit on top of the cooler bag and strapped it all down with a bungee net.

Everything else went in the pod. My clothing for two months amounted to two pairs of thin wool socks, one pair of kneesocks, three tank tops, three t-shirts, two bras and a handful of underwear, silk long underwear, one long sleeved shirt, a fleece hoodie, and a pair of lightweight cargo pants. The other necessities: travel-sized toiletries, spf chapstick, mascara, a nail file, extra contacts, a folding hair brush, hair bands and bobby pins, a very thin camping towel, insect repellant, and four small rocks, because I have a thing for rocks.

I rolled my clothes into long tubes in order to cram as much as possible into the oddly-shaped pod, and packed toiletries in small bags to fill small niches. Everything I needed, fit; and there was not room for anything more.

That was it; plus, of course, my daily uniform: leather pants, leather jacket, leather gloves, and motorcycle boots. That was all I had for two months, and I never felt deprived. Though the first thing I did in NYC was go buy a pair of jeans.


Where The Lessons Are

Adversity is a teenager with studded lips and lobes and a sullen expression. If you turn your back or say cruel things, it will glare at you in return and be none the worse off; it expected such behaviour, anyway. It comes to you on the defensive, but comes to you nonetheless. And if you are not intimidated or disapproving; if you are not judgmental of an exterior you may consider harsh, and instead, relate to it in respect, you’ll find a liveliness and a brilliance, a purity, a revelation, a gift.



The road is straight and desolate; cars are few. I ride through Pine Ridge and continue on Highway 44, through towns that all begin with W: Wanblee, White River, Wood, Witten, Winner. The land is hot, beige. I feel tiny here.

The dry, brown earth extends wide and unobstructed; I don’t understand how it’s plotted, or who owns it, or what it’s used for. It stretches out lazily to each horizon like a mountain lion stretched in the sun, impossible to tame or own; it’s simply too wild and self-possessed. As I ride the pavement that cuts through this land like a gash, the wind and heat beat forcibly upon me, emissaries of the landscape to keep it pure of men.


A Tiny Huge Distraction

Yet again, I've been away from this website for a month... beginning when a ten-day-old orphaned coyote baby came into my life and moved into my cabin with me. It is an experience filled with wonder, one that I've given every free moment to enjoy. Now that I've managed to find a balance between Real Life and lovin' up the coyote (he's sitting on my lap as I write this), I'm back.

New posts will start rollin' next week.