My very first motorcycle camping trip was back in 1994 when I rode with a buddy of mine from our College campus in Bloomington, IN up to the state capital of Indianapolis to go to my first Indy 500. The race itself was dominated by Team Penske in cars built to satisfy a loophole in the rule book at the time. Al Unser Jr. won that year, but what was most memorable to me was the adventure of trying to pack enough camping gear onto a tiny little Suzuki GS450 for the 65 mile trip for the race weekend.
My backpack was stuffed so tight it could explode at any second, and without saddle bags or any type of motorcycle luggage I was forced to strap everything to either the seat, tank or frame. It was clear that we were going to have to survive the weekend with nothing but minimalist gear, no sleeping pad or pillow, and no room to bring food so we had to rely on the track-side vendors to feed us…No Problem. I brought a small tent, mainly because there was rain in the forecast for the weekend, and a sleeping bag, besides some clothing, rain gear and personal items. I learned one of the most important lessons of camping that year, and that is to make sure your campsite is always at the high end of the campgrounds. We didn’t get to choose our site and were assigned a campsite in the low corner of the lot. Needless to say, when the rain did come we found ourselves surrounded by mud and standing water. Fortunately, we made friends with our neighbors and didn’t spend a lot of time there anyway.
It was a rough weekend. The first two days were cold and wet and we found ourselves under equipped to handle the weather. The ground was hard to sleep on with only my backpack and some rolled up clothing to use as a pillow, the campfire was definitely our best friend! But the cold rainy weather of the first two days finally gave way to sunshine on Sunday, and we enjoyed a great race! Although sleeping on the ground didn’t seem to bother me too much at the time, I would never dream of attempting it now.
The ride home seemed longer than it was. I couldn’t wait for a hot shower and a clean, warm bed. But as I reflected on the weekend, although it wasn’t a relaxing comfortable trip, there was a definite feeling of accomplishment having discovered that a tent and a sleeping bag can truly be enough to get you where you need to go on an extreme budget. It wouldn’t be long before I would try another motorcycle camping adventure.