From the early days of my motorcycle travels, I camped. It was cheap and I liked the idea of being completely self contained on the bike. I enjoyed the experience of sleeping on the ground in a minimal fabric shelter that I could put up anywhere with a flat spot. I have motorcycle camped all over the US, in the east, in the north, in the south and in the west.
In my younger days I have started many a motorcycle trip without much of a destination. I have camped in a tiny worn out tent, the kind that lets water in but not out, with a million mosquitos inside. I used my flannel-lined Boy Scout sleeping bag well into my 30’s until a freezing night in the mountains above Flagstaff sent me into town for a modern replacement. I have turned up gravel or dirt roads in the dark and found a field to camp in, not knowing until morning where I was. I have lain in a tent in the mountains of southern New Mexico listening to the wind blowing, to the sound of things outside rustling in the leaves and awakened in the morning to find my tent collapsed on my face. I have shivered in my sleeping bag in the western desert and heard coyotes singing somewhere out there. I have camped at a BMW rally in Arizona next to a honeymooning couple who had gotten married there earlier that day and neither they nor I got much sleep. I have camped within a few feet of a lakeshore and on the sand by the ocean. I have ridden out of camps in the wee hours of the morning with only a thin white rim of sunrise on the horizon, not knowing exactly where I was heading except for a direction. I have often shaved with cold water using a motorcycle mirror wiped off with a sleeve for guidance. I have bedded down in my tent after a supper of salted peanuts from a cellophane packet and a swig of leftover red wine.
Gradually, as I aged and getting up from the ground became more difficult than enjoyable, I began to prefer motels with climate control and indoor bathrooms. One of my last motorcycle camps was in Colorado, in my 60’s, where the late-night getting up excursion had me peeing in a perfect lake, glass smooth with the reflection of the stars in the enormous western night sky spread out before me.
My final motorcycle camping experience was in a campground outside of Grand Teton national park, where I got the last available space as the late summer dark was closing in, the space near the office. For reasons I don’t know, cars kept pulling in and leaving all night, their headlights sweeping across my tent like the searchlights in 1950’s era prison break movies. The bath house in the morning should have been condemned by the EPA. I was 64.
Now I don’t camp.