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Rules of the road for group travel

Posted By Susan Gibson #198777, Friday, November 15, 2019

I am a veteran motorcycle traveler and fortunate to do multi-week trips with my girlfriends all around the country over the last 10 years. Different friends, different groups, different destinations - but we all share the love of motorcycles and seeing the country on our two-wheel steeds.

I often hear negative comments about these adventures from both riding and non-riding friends. I’m told about the cat fights, drama, crying and being asked what happens if your bike breaks down - and these are just the things I can repeat here!

Below are touchpoints and recommendations for planning a trip I use for my ladies-only trips, but I’m pretty sure most of these will relate to any group road trips.

LEADERSHIP: A group needs someone to be in charge. The leader should not be bossy, but plan the routes, ensure everyone is hydrated and take on other mundane tasks of organizing a ride, be it four hours or four weeks. Someone needs to have the overall plan and be prepared to lead the ride because, in truth, most people don’t want to lead a ride. They just want to ride. Discuss this in advance so everyone has a part in the route planning and there are no surprises 10 days down the road. (Remember - surprises will always happen.)

COMMUNICATE with the group. Before the trip begins, ensure everyone knows the destinations, duration, approximate hotel nights and estimated costs. I find sending the route out in advance with my best estimates of where and when we will be at a destination is a good starting point. It won’t be enough once you are on the road. The group wants to know the night before where you are going, what time is KSU and what the overall goal for the day may be. Doesn’t sound difficult, but seven days into a trip the group leader might start getting sloppy with this. You have to let people know what the game plan is and communication is key.

EXPECT PROBLEMS: Things happen that will mess up your plans. On my most recent trip we had one dead battery, two bikes requiring trips to the mechanic for codes, multiple weather delays from storms, wind and heat, food poisoning and altitude sickness. All of these issues required me to make changes to the plan in the middle of the trip. Of course, back to communication, you have to talk with everyone and get input, but ultimately the group leader needs to make a decision.

MEDICAL: Be prepared with how you will deal with illness. For example, our food poisoning victim told us to go ahead and she would meet us on the road the next day. If someone is sick, will you hold up your trip or leave them behind? Sounds harsh, but it’s the reality when six people are traveling on their only two weeks off all year. By the way, we didn’t leave her behind. The dead battery on a Sunday in Dodge City, Kansas, gave the food poisoning time to ease.

If you have a chronic health condition make sure people know. Diabetics need to let the group leader know their requirements for meals, rest and other considerations. If the planned route takes you to 14,000 feet but you suffer from altitude sickness at 6,000 feet, let the group know. Are you allergic to bee stings? You leader needs to know where your Epi Pen is. Make sure you have all your medication with you along with drugs like anti-nausea, anti-histamines, pain killers and all of your prescriptions. Only you know what you may need. Bring it!

MECHANICAL: Have your owners’ manual with you on the bike or an electronic version on your phone. Know some basic things about your bike, like where is the battery, recommended air pressure in your tires, how many miles to a tank of gas. If you have had a problem with your bike, make sure you’ve addressed it before a road trip.

TOOLS: Have a set of tools for your bike on your bike. I have a BMW that’s all metric. Those tools aren’t much good for a Harley. Consider having an air gauge and a pump in the saddlebag. We’ve all heard of the air pump at the gas station that doesn’t work - or even worse, lowers the PSI in your tires.

LODGING: I never make reservations in advance unless it’s for a multi-night stay. Too many times my planned route has been altered due to weather or some other unexpected delay. Each travel day during the lunch stop I look to see how much farther the group can expect to ride and we discuss where we will stop. I’ve never had a problem getting a room, even during busy holiday times. But make sure your group agrees on the type of lodging. Some folks are fine at a Motel 6 but others need something fancier. Discuss this in advance.

MONEY: Everyone pays their share. I’ve never had a problem with this but we’ve always agreed in advance how we will repay someone. Will you split each night in a hotel? Will you PayPal someone daily? Talk about this so that everyone knows how money will be handled.

EXPECTATIONS: You can expect that everyone wants a fun, safe trip, but don’t expect that to happen without some bumps. Be flexible and resilient. At the end of the trip people will remember the beautiful vistas, the epic roads and the lifelong friendships forged on the road.

I hope these recommendations help to dispel some myths and misperceptions and inspire riders to hit the road on a glorious adventure. My road trip with my girlfriends is time cherished. Thanks to the time we spend planning before our trips, I can’t wait until our next one.

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