What I have learned

Riding in cold weather is feasible

Not just riding, but riding long distances is feasible, not some crazy idea. As long as the equipment is adequate (see article about riding in cold weather) all will be fine.

Camping is easier said than done

Finding locations for camping in America is not easy. Most RV campsites don’t have reserved spaces for tents. State parks are few and far between and full of rules and regulations that make you feel like you are one of the attractions in a theme park. Most jurisdictions in America make it illegal to camp in non-designated areas and you can be fined (and expelled) at any moment. Wither you are out in the wilderness or in a controlled environment (with electricity, showers, wireless internet) where you will pay nearly as much as you do for a cheap hotel, so what is the point? Considering the discomfort and aggravation of setting up your camp and packing it all again at the end, I am questioning the usefulness of the entire idea. I updated and carried my camping gear for three thousand miles and haven’t used it yet.

Couch surfing is very efficient

During the 30 days it took me to travel from Miami to San Diego I only stayed in hotels or motels 5 nights. The other 25 I spent couchsurfing and the experiences varied from all right to excellent. Booking takes a little bit of smars and psychology, choosing dates and locations takes some scheduling and planning, but by any account staying at nice places for free while learning and making friends beats staying at hotels any time.

Bigger is better than faster

I rode a Kawasaki ZX-14. Very nice motorcycle, great control, and plenty of power. However I logged much greater mileage in the past with bigger motorcycles like the Honda Valkyrie and this time I felt the difference in two important aspects:

Hard saddlebags are more convenient in long trips. You can lock your valuables on them and not worry about it as much as you do with nylon, detachable bags.

The other important aspect is a consequence of size and style of bike. A Valkyrie, or pretty much any large cruiser, can be used to run out of the paved roads to find a campsite, handle bad road conditions (like RT-9 in New Mexico) with comfort, and allow to carry the same amount of luggage while still leaving enough space for a passenger. The Kawasaki is a great motorcycle but as soon as you leave the perfect pavement of the best roads it gets scary, and in anything that is not asphalt or concrete it turns into a scary, unmanageable beast. Sometimes even going over a curb or a patch of grass to reach the driveway can be frightening.

You can travel very slow and enjoy much more

I can ride from Miami to Los Angeles probably in 6 days, maybe even less if the weather is fine and the motivation is there. But that would not compare to doing it in a month or more. I had the opportunity not only to get some work done online but also to talk to people, stop many times to enjoy the scenery, relax and appreciate the landscape like you never do while riding a car, or when trying to beat the calendar.

Smaller is better than powerful

When it comes to computers and travel, smaller is definitely better. I carried a really small Dell Mini 9 running Mac OS X and it beats any other computer I had. I can do any of the work I do in my desktop computer or any of my previous PowerBooks, while at the same time taking much less space on the luggage and tolerating the abuse typical of backpacking and motorcycle riding. This computer has no moving parts (even the main disk is solid state. All together a computer like this can be purchased by $300 or less on eBay or CraigsList and will serve you like nothing else.

My dependency on communications is significant

I don’t need to answer the phone all the time, I don’t text message all the time, and I can survive a day without internet access. However, my day really goes better if there is WiFi and if my iPhone has access. I am using the iPhone to check messages, check emails, and as a GPS. I didn’t get lost a single times on this trip. I could find restaurants and services any time I wanted. I could even give information to tourists in cities that I didn’t know thanks to Google Maps.

When I plan my next trip abroad or if I decide to get into the wild and do some real camping for any extended period of time I will need to take into account cell phone coverage, internet access (or abstinence), and even the availability of electricity.