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Article By: Scooter Tramp Scotty
Originally Published In The November 2018 Issue Of Cycle Source Magazine
I’d first stepped into full-time road life in 1995, as far as I’d known, it was only Panhead Billy and myself who embraced this strange lifestyle fulltime. Recently, however, folks from all walks are actively seeking extended motorcycle trips or even full-time motorcycle road life. I know, because I’m frequently contacted by those who wish to discuss such things. In light of this, I’ve decided to talk of my own struggles with the highway life, and some of the vitally necessary adjustments. The big motorcycle rally in Panama City Florida was over. In the large and recently deserted grassy lot where 50 vendor tents had stood just yesterday, Panhead Billy and I sat beside our camps under an empty stage/beer tent. In conversation, Billy said, “I’ve been on the road 33 years and have never seen a single guy who’s come to try this lifestyle make it work. Have you?” I considered this. Although I’d known a few, only a small number had lasted anything like a year. Most returned home within a few months, sometimes less. These were the combined observations of our 55 years of road life. To Billy’s question I had to answer, “Not really.” His response came quickly, “They can’t adapt, and won’t give up their conveniences” (his word for modern amenities). Maybe this is true, and maybe not.
In our own way, we’d both overcome road life’s obstacles long ago, but it didn’t start like that. Most begin with the same fantasy I did, for that’s where any new idea begins. The plan was I’d be riding off to permanent vacation. I’d see the world and live the dream! New places all the time! Perpetual adventure! The world awaited! All I need do was reach out and grasp it. Unfortunately, the reality was a bit different. For a drifter’s life that continues into consecutive years, the methods I’d used for even a few months travel were utterly inadequate. Over the long haul there were new obstacles, problems, and emotional pains that, had I not been diligent in learning new methods, would, and sometimes almost did, send me home screaming! To date, I’ve watched many be quickly turned back by these same demons. So I tell those who come to talk with me of their highway dreams, “If it’s full-time road life you seek, there’s probably going to be a very real learning curve that must fi rst be mastered. Only after will you likely fi nd what you seek.” A month later they’ll call with an exact problem we’d previously discussed that’s plaguing them. Hopefully, my experience is helpful.
Because of those few, I know who’ve remained out here for years, it seems each has overcome mostly the same obstacles in their own way. I can only speak of my own solutions. Although my methods will not work for all, many have taken at least a few, as have I have from others and used them to their own benefi t. So, in this article, I’ve decided to talk of a few major obstacles I’ve encountered, and the personal methods used to surmount them. For without good working solutions there’s no way I’d have been able to continue. A fi rst worry for most is how they’ll earn a living. Except to say that I work a few motorcycle rallies (as can be followed on Facebook), I’ll simply state that, unless independently wealthy, one is going to have to keep expenses down. This means few, if any, hotels, pay campgrounds, fancy restaurants, etc. My fi rst concern when entering any new place is always home. When I began riding entire summers in 1991, then left for good in 1995, no cell phones or internet existed. Not even my mother knew where I was unless I found a booth and called her. Road life was a solitary affair, and my unorthodox methods were molded around those times. Nowadays, via the net, many follow, contact, and invite those of the road to their homes. This has proved to be a great tool. However, although it may be possible, I’ve yet to see anyone make perpetual couch-hopping or family-visiting work as a longterm lifestyle. I personally like my own home.
For the fi rst couple years, I slept in many lousy spots that were either uncomfortable, pounded by wind that wreaks havoc on camps, or summertime sunshine that blows a person from their tent by early morning rather than allowing leisure time. Then there were places such as rest areas and the like where one need vacate early lest folks wander by and wonder what the motorcycle freak is doing, or possibly authority fi gures that tell me to move on. For a few months this is easily tolerable but as a long-term way of life? Forget it. On occasion, I’d stumble across a great camp spot then bask in how wonderful it was to wake up in my personal forest. I’d enjoy the privacy of stepping out naked to take a leak, stay as long as I liked without checkout times or payments, and be nestled between trees or other obstructions that offered shade and blocked the wind. This was such a wonderful experience that I began allotting far more time and effort to seek such places and eventually gained an eye for them. These spots began to feel like home. For it was not a life of sleeping on picnic tables I sought but hoped instead to engineer a way that was comfortable enough to work as a long-term lifestyle. To date I’ve achieved that very well, and so can anyone who truly wishes. Adaptation, persistence, and the willingness to trade a few luxuries for freedom would seem the essential requirements.
Another necessity was that camp must evolve as well. I began to pay attention to, then improve upon, equipment until home eventually became a wonderfully relaxing place to be. This was extremely important. Choice of equipment is, of course, a personal-preference affair. Second concern is staying clean. Having been dirty for days while walking around hoping someone will offer a shower makes me feel like a bum. The question of easily accessible showers became an important issue. Being somewhat of a gym rat anyway, when staying in a town I’ll hook up with a YMCA, rec-center, or gym then use their facilities. Many offer a free week trial membership, and if staying longer, I’ll simply buy a month. Joining a national gym chain did not work because none are everywhere. Truck stops offer free showers if you know how to get them and a video on my website, scootertrampscotty.com, depicts exactly how to use this valuable resource. Truck stops, however, tend to be located along large interstates. When traveling back roads, I’ll sometimes stop where the highway passes over a creek, grab soap and a towel, slide under the bridge, take a quick bath, don clean clothes, then continue on my way. A hose can be hung on a fence or tree provided it’s not freezing outside. Sometimes a bucket of water will have to suffice. These methods work in Canada and Mexico as well.
Next up and probably the most common destroyer of solo travels is loneliness. I don’t know how often it enters the minds of those who dare to dream of how often they’ll be entering new places in which they know no one. Think about it. You’re in Billings Montana. The local population is busy with their daily lives. Everyone you know is back home. What’re you gonna do? And how long can one sit in beautiful scenery twiddling his thumbs before he’s ready to kill himself? Sorry, but the newness of this eventually wears off. If a person’s natural social skills are good, this problem is easily abated, for all drifters must learn to make friends quickly. But what about the rest of us? At one point I’d found myself so lonely I’d start talking to folks as if I already knew them. This brought very good results and still does. To date, all drifters I’ve known have been absolutely forced to improve social skills to the best of their ability. This was a hard lesson for which I now enjoy great reward. Panhead Billy makes a continual habit of visiting events, at social gatherings people are no longer in work mode. They’ve come to let their hair down, make new friends, and possibly find romance. I’ve found Billy’s solution to work very well, though I don’t care to attend as many events as he. To emphasize my last three points: Try being truly homeless, dirty, and friendless in multiple towns across the country and see how long you can tolerate such existence.
Daily Routine is another concern. I’ve seen this many times. A traveler has ours/days/weeks/months/years to burn and little to fill them with. So he’ll enter a new town, sit around bored a few days, then say, “Nothing going on here. Let’s go to the next town.” Same shit. So he rides to the next, and the next, until finally the last is home. This idleness is another serious killer. In time, however, most configure a daily routine that works for them. Billy and I have come into a town, found a place to make camp, then he splits and I don’t see him again till evening. He’s doing his usual stuff, as am I. Billy’s routine would never work for me, nor mine for you. This is an individual endeavor one must eventually work out for himself. I tend to wake up late, drink coffee, read something, grab the computer and do some writing, quit at noon or 2:00, hit a gym, then set out to socialize usually not returning home until late. I’ll check fl yers at the Harley shop for local events to attend. Picnics, BBQs, campouts, or any other gathering are fair game as well. Usually, within a week folks begin to know me by name. Being an interesting anomaly for living on your motorcycle, people often invite you to their home, bar, or any other social endeavor. I also had to learn to slow down, be patient and simply let things happen. It’s been my experience that, If one moves to fast he will inevitably outrun his adventure. This business of slowing down seems a natural evolution after some time of mostly stress-free living. Think about it. If you could go to any town, have a good home, bathroom, social life, and working daily routine to occupy your time, think you’d ever want to go back? Although, like learning any new profession, the intricacies of road life may seem insurmountable, keep in mind that all who live permanently out here are just basic idiots like yourself. Hope to see you on the road someday.