The Five Year Plan, Revisited

Way back in September of 2015, while in Panama, I wrote a post called “The Fallacies of the Five Year Plan” based on an article my brother had sent me.

The concept of a Five Year Plan is not new nor is it limited to any one aspect of life. Countries do five year plans. Companies do five year plans. Some people have a five year plan to get a project done around the house that, if they would ever start, would probably only take a day to complete!

And that was the gist of the original article and post: that while a Five Year Plan is a great start, it’s too long and too easy to just keep putting it off and pushing it out, further delaying your goal, until you get distracted enough that it is no longer a goal.

The Five Year Plan concept in the business and government world seems to have died out. Perhaps they all realized after eight or ten years that they were simply planning to procrastinate by giving themselves five years.

In my original article, my intent was to motivate people to set goals, and in particular, to set goals towards a life of travel, if that’s what you want to do.

During my first year riding around the world, I received many comments from people who said “I wish I could do what you’re doing”. My response then, as now, is that you CAN! It takes a major adjustment in your mindset, a plan, and some really serious commitment, but it is definitely do-able.

So, five years later, I’m here to tell you that I continue to practice what I preach.

My views in that original post five years ago haven’t changed. When I returned from that ride, I took what I had learned, and I built a much smaller house, in a much simpler style, using less expensive materials and doing much of the construction myself, with the help of friends and family, to save even more money. I stopped buying “stuff” just because I thought I “needed” it, or wanted it. I stopped going out to eat multiple times a week. I stopped buying five dollar lattes. Well, okay, I still buy one occasionally on a Sunday morning to treat myself. I upped my 401k contribution at work in order to save even more, and then I put everything left into savings for the next trip. Like I said, it took some serious commitment, but if you keep focused on the goal, you can get there.

I don’t believe in debt. I don’t believe in buying anything that I can’t pay off that same month. If I don’t have the money for it, I can’t afford it, period. For years, I only paid cash for nearly everything. Every day when I came home, I emptied my change into a bucket. Once every few months, I emptied the bucket and deposited it. These little things add up.

While setting a goal five years out runs a definite risk of losing focus and direction, for me there was never a question: I was going to get back on the road. It’s an addiction that once you’ve tasted it, you can’t ignore it. I had already proven to myself that the world doesn’t end when you leave your job and everything behind and ride away. In fact, it actually gets better!

I actually didn’t think it would take five years; I was hoping for more like three, but one of the things I learned from the first year on the road was that having a place that was “mine”, where I could return for a month or so every now and then and be comfortable on my own couch and surrounded by my “things”, was important to me. So finishing up the house, simply so I would have a place to take breaks from traveling, took priority. Everyone is different, and not everyone will feel this way. Some people are fine crashing on a friend’s couch, or in their parents’ basement for short intervals. That’s definitely a good option if you are on a tight budget and want to hit the road sooner. For me personally, I wanted to have a “recharging station”. This is without doubt a double-edged sword, as when I left the US in 2015, I had virtually nothing of importance to return to, and likewise had nothing tying me down. No property tax bill. No utility bills. No worries about broken pipes, maintenance issues, etc. My mind was free to focus solely on the road ahead and the people and scenery around me. Having a house is both a privilege, and will present obstacles of my own creation next time.

Ironically, and coincidentally, it is five years later. In the middle of this crazy pandemic, I got married, and started seriously planning the next Round-The-World ride. This time, 2-up on a slightly larger motorcycle.

And now, here we are. Still in the throes of a lockdown, restricted from international travel, but with the sun rising on the horizon, and hopefully moving, if ever so slowly, toward the ability to safely travel again.

So, as I have said from the beginning…If Not Now, When?

Here we go!

Finally

Who remembers this movie quote?

“The new phone book’s here! The new phone book’s here! Millions of people look at this book every day. This is the kind of spontaneous publicity that MAKES people!”

I’m a big fan of Navin Johnson and The Jerk. I don’t know why that line pops up in my head now. It used to be every time I came home to find the new phone book on the driveway I would repeat it. But I’m not sure they even make phone books any more. Now the line comes to mind when my bike finally shows up at the local dealer.

I had a running joke at work for the last few years… I knew the 700 Tenere was coming, eventually, and I had joked that when it finally showed up I would be off on the next round-the-world ride. So about once every couple of months I would pop my head into somebody’s office and ask “Is my 700 here yet?”

It got to be such a routine that people started responding “Soon!” or “I heard yours was backordered”. Except for my boss, who would just say “No. It is not here. And it is not coming”, in jest of course, as a way of subtly suggesting I reconsider leaving again.

But, now, after being home for four and a half years, it’s here.

I’ve been waiting on this day for a long time.

Yep, it’s all there. Time to get to work.

So it’s time to get to work. Since the bike has been available in Europe for going on two years, I had already ordered and received most of the accessories I plan to install long before my bike arrived.

A small amount of the accessories I’ve had in my shop for months, waiting for the bike to arrive. Includes: panniers, pannier racks, rear rack, footpegs, rear shock spring, top handlebar clamp (for GPS mount), heated grips, skid plate, center stand, engine guard.

Let the fun begin!

No More Excuses

You know it’s getting serious when you start running out of excuses. Not that I really had any, or needed any. But a couple of weeks ago another big reason most people use — somewhat logically — to keep them from setting off on a round-the-world ride fell away: Diana retired after 40 years in her profession. Forty years is a long time to do anything, and to do something that requires using your hands all day every day can be physically demanding. She loved what she did, and still does, and a big part of that goes to her employer for the last eight years. She has told me many times that she wishes she had found Dr. Bell earlier in her career.

Mixed emotions, leaving a great job with a great boss and co-workers who have become friends, but ready to retire and hit the road.

Since Dr. Bell announced her retirement, Diana has received many emails and comments from patients wishing her well and telling her how much she will be missed. It’s a good feeling to know that you not only were good at your job but truly appreciated by both your employer and those you served.

While her replacement is already in place, Diana has offered to help out for a few more weeks while the office searches for a new front desk person. After that, she’s ready to start full-time preparations for our departure.

No pressure on me. Just one more excuse that we can no longer use as we move closer to living on two wheels.

I guess I’d better get moving on some of these projects, so we can get on the road whenever the world opens up.

Prep Time

It’s always fun to “build” a new bike. I especially enjoy the planning and execution of preparing and installing all of the bits that personalize the bike to my specific needs and requirements for my travels. Everybody is different in this way. I’ve never been a “farkle” guy. I don’t attach anything to the motorcycle that doesn’t serve a necessary purpose, and preferably each item should serve more than one purpose. For example, the rear rack has a large, flat, top plate added that serves as a table when we are camping or performing maintenance. The bash plate has a tool box mounted to it to keep a good amount of my heavy tools low and forward. The engine guards not only protect the bike if/when it falls over, but they provide a location to mount side bags. You won’t find chrome doo-dads or skulls or flames on my motorcycles. I don’t have room for that stuff. This motorcycle is our house for the next few years, and our pack mule. It has to carry everything we need. Which is a lot of weight. No need to add unnecessary weight.

 

Starting Point: This is my idea of fun.

Here’s a list of changes and modifications I’ve made so far. This should be close to everything I intend to do:

  • Rear Rack
  • Pannier Racks
  • Panniers with expedition boxes
  • Touratech fuel can
  • Bottle cages
  • Rotopax mount and water can
  • Garmin Zumo XT GPS, Touratech lockable GPS mount and top clamp
  • Oxford grips
  • Turn signals
  • Barkbusters
  • Tankbag w/ powerlet thru-port
  • Kriega side pouches
  • Engine Guards
  • Skid Plate with Tool Box
  • High fender kit
  • Foam air filter
  • Powerlet
  • USB ports
  • Rear spring
  • Greased all rear suspension bearings/bushings, and steering head bearings

The list above is our starting setup. I haven’t had a chance to take it off-road yet, so that’s next up.

First Shakedown Ride

My buddy Caleb showed up the other morning on his new 700 Tenere. I had a spare rear rack due to some last-minute modifications, so we installed it on his bike and went for a ride. Seeing as it was just me, and we were only going for a couple of days, I left the panniers and all the camping gear at home. This was mostly an opportunity for me to get a feel for the bike, both on-road and off-road, and gather any feedback for changes I had made and/or future adjustments.

I have a backroads route that I like to take from home out to Luckenbach, Texas (the tiny town that was the subject of the Waylon and Willie song of the 70s; if you’re not familiar with it, now is a good time to have a listen). Luckenbach has a great “feel” to it, even though it’s become a bit of a mini-Disneyland Frontier Town with all the tourists. Still, it’s a fun place to stop on the way deeper into the Texas Hill Country. And if you’ve never been in the area, within a 20 mile radius of Luckenbach there are dozens of vineyards and wineries.

From Luckenbach, we rode through Fredericksburg and on to Kerrville for the night.

We were up and moving early the next morning, as we had some off-roading planned and still a bit of a trek to get there. It had rained overnight, but wasn’t raining when we left. Other than a few light sprinkles, we got lucky and missed the rain, but the roads were wet and a bit slick on the way out through Hunt and headed towards Rock Springs, and the crosswind at times brought back memories of fighting across Patagonia on the way to Ushuaia. Once we left the pavement and dropped into some canyons, the wind was blocked and the riding was great.

Caleb’s 700, crossing below a small dam in the Texas Hill Country.

Along with a couple hundred miles of pavement, we ended up doing about 150 miles of dirt roads, mostly small ranch roads with several low-water crossings and dozens of bump-gates. Both bikes performed very well (Caleb’s is all stock, and he had already done some off-road with it in Georgia before today). I was surprised at the traction offered by the stock tires in the dirt, and the lack of slip when accelerating hard out of corners. The stiffer rear shock spring and damping adjustments to the rear shock still worked fine even without the heavier loads of the panniers and passenger, though it was definitely noticeable. These tires should take us through the first three or four countries if we are able to stick with our “Plan A”. Then I’ll likely opt for something a little more dirt-oriented, as I prefer to travel that way.

Lots of great dirt roads, with everything from gravel, caliche, dirt, sand, and rock.

Quick stop at a scenic overlook before we headed home (yes, if you got closer to where I’m sitting, it’s a great view).

At the end of the day, we parted ways in Bandera, which was about an hour and a half for each of us to get to our destinations that night. We covered about 400 miles that day. A good initial introduction to the bike, its’ capabilities and my alterations.

So far, so good.

“What Are You Taking and How Do You Pack It?”

That’s a lotta stuff…

It’s kind of amazing how much you can pack on a motorcycle if you have the time to study it and find nooks and crannies to stuff things. On the other hand, I’m fairly meticulous about analyzing what we take along and looking for ways to shrink it, adapt it, or lose it. I spent a lot of time studying other travelers’ gear before leaving on my first trip, and because of that, I didn’t take a lot of unnecessary stuff that I had to ship home (yes, this is a thing).

Much of the gear that I used on my 2015-2016 trip will be used again beginning in 2021, because as they say, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”. When you live for a year off of a small motorcycle, you learn what works and what doesn’t, what you need and what you don’t, and what not to carry next time.

In 2015, I packed a lot more spare parts than I actually needed or used. This was primarily due to the fact that I was taking a small, low-horsepower motorcycle on a long trip and focusing on off-road riding for much of it. So I took gaskets, clutch plates, levers (including a brake pedal), cables (everybody does?), brake pads, and lots more.

What I learned was that many of these parts are available in places you might not expect. Yes, I had planned ahead from the beginning, and chose a motorcycle that, although the exact model was not sold in many of the countries I visited, the engine and many of the parts were common to other models that are sold in those countries. This is definitely something to keep in mind when in the early stages of planning. For example, when I needed sprockets and a chain in Argentina, I found that shops in Buenos Aires had sprockets for a YBR250 (a street bike version sold there). Same sprockets. Of course, at the time, I wasn’t aware of that. Now I know.

On the last trip, I was on a much smaller motorcycle, but I went solo, so I only had to pack for one. Adding a passenger and all of her gear drastically increases the load. A lot of thought has to go into this, as the load needs to be balanced as well as possible. We have a lot more on the rear of the motorcycle than I would prefer, but I’ve been able to spread some weight forward by installing my heavy tool pouch to the front of the skid plate similar to last time, and I’ve added the side pouches to carry heavy spare inner tubes, and other supplies.

Do we absolutely need all of this stuff all of the time? No. Some people ship certain parts of their kit between locations during their travels. For example, if you know you won’t be camping in certain countries, it might make sense to ship the camping gear ahead, or home, if you’ve finished that part of your trip.

For the first year or so of this upcoming trip, we will be in developed countries. This changes some of the gear we will carry. Also, there will be some side-trips into other countries on other motorcycles that will be totally different, and for those trips it’s likely that all of the gear we carry will be in a small backpack. More about that when it comes.

For now, here’s a complete list of all gear (subject to change), including the bike, all modifications, and everything we will carry on it and on us. If you want to plan a similar trip, you may find this useful as a starting point to decide what you carry. When you look at the whole list, it seems like “everything but the kitchen sink”, but many people will want to add a lot more. We’ve been there, done that, and found we don’t need it. Others will feel we are carrying a lot of unnecessary stuff. As I’ve said, to each his/her own. Everyone has different priorities. It’s important to have an item or two that makes you happy, even if it seems like excess. Even if you’re not planning a similar trip, it’s amusing (to me, anyway) to scroll down the list and marvel at how much crap is on one motorcycle.