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Leonard's First Tour

Motorcycling articles by Leonard R.

Leonard - Motorcycle Touring contributor
My Very First Tour. Way back in 1965, my high school buddy Marvin, and I, purchased new Honda CB 160's. At the time of the purchase, we didn't think about taking a tour. We just wanted a motorcycle that our meager jobs would allow us to buy. Both bikes were ordered at the same time and arrived early spring at the same time. Since Marvin's was uncrated and assembled first, we figured his was older. His was black, where as mine was blue.

It seemed like we rode the central Iowa country side the entire summer before the mention of really going some where ever came up. I really don't remember who mentioned taking a camping trip, but once it was mentioned, it became a hot subject. Any conversation between us eventually turned to the trip. We really didn't plan it. It just seemed as though it happened. But, we must have planned it to some extent, because the day we left, we had assembled all the essentials onto our little motorcycles and this became our first official tour.

Map of Leonards first tour in 1965
1965 Honda CB160 outfitted for touring with a custom tail rack The reader has to keep in mind that we were only 19 years old and things like cell phones, I-pads and home computers were still yet to come. And only a few Interstate highways had been laid. But, none the less, we got some road maps and made things on hand work to our advantage. Since my Dad was a carpenter and Marv's Dad worked in a foundry, we were able to get them to make us luggage racks from pieces of wood and steel. My Dad cut the boards with eye bolts for the rack to our design and Marv's Dad made the steel brackets to support the wood board. Once the wood and steel were assembled, the rack bolted to the small bolts beneath the rear of the seat which was part of the seat bracket. And then a center piece of steel bolted under the tail light bracket onto the fender. The wood platform of the rack extended to just the outside of the tail light lens. In essence, the rack sat on the back part of the seat, with the brackets holding it centered on the seat. The extra few inches past the seat, was enough for us to carry our equipment.

Our camping equipment was fairly simple. We didn't have sleeping bags. It was early fall and they wouldn't be required where we were going. But we each did take a couple of old wool military blankets our fathers still had. Our tent consisted of a large, old canvas paint tarp my father said we could have. We split the center at both ends, so that when the canvas was draped over a stretched rope, the corners could be folded down to the ground, making a full enclosed tent. Three corners and the sides were staked into the ground from the inside, with the fourth corner only being tied. We needed that as an exit door. Grommets already on the tarp along the side worked for tent stakes. Before anchoring the hanging tent, we laid another smaller piece of canvas down to act as a floor. Granted, it wasn't wind tight and the corner flaps only worked fairly well. We did have one rainy night, which allowed some rain in, but the poor boy's tent did keep out most of the mosquitoes at night.

Leonards tarp tent
The rest of our equipment consisted of lots of rope of varied length. We cut our rope to measured lengths and then wound and tied colored yarn around the ends. This was then dipped in clear varnish. This color coded our lengths of rope, so that we would know which ropes were 10 feet long and which were 4 feet long, with other lengths in between.

I carried the small old metal tool box used to haul a few canned goods. Marvin carried a the tent gear and a steel thermos bottle for milk. We each hauled our own clothing bags. The only tools we had were the one's that came with the motorcycle in the little canister below the side covers. We felt these tools would be adequate.

breakfast cereal travels well this way on a motorcycle tour Our cooking equipment was simple too. All stored in a bag. Every bag was tied down with rope. The rope could be tied to the seat straps, under the seat at the center or through the eye bolts attached to the board. We had a one burner cook stove that used white gas for fuel. We used a metal thermos bottle to haul the white gas that my Dad used on his fishing trips. The glass liner in the bottle had been broken out years before and my Dad had soldered all the seams. I hauled the single pot, with lid and a pan, along with the saucers, bowls and cups for each of us. They were from my Mother's melmac set. The saucers and bowls all neatly fit inside the pot. Marv supplied a piece of tire inner tube cut into a circular strip, wrapped over the pot and lid, to keep the pot's lid on. I don't think the modern day Bunji cords had been invented yet, so rubber from old inner tube worked just as good.

For food, we didn't really plan meals. We did find out that hamburger buns pack better then loaves of bread. A couple of times we ate canned chicken or beef, heated and mixed with canned potatoes and a can of green beans. All could be cooked in the pot and the items combined made for a filling supper. Our breakfast consisted of Post Tens and milk. Post Tens were small boxes of single serving cereals of different kinds and packed well. Lunches were what ever we could find at the gas station when we got gas. Mostly soda's, potato chips and a candy bar. Cans of soda's back then had to be opened with a "church key". A quart of milk would last two days. We would have to beg for a little crushed ice and pour it into the thermos to keep the milk cold. So, on the last day, there was enough milk, but it was thin. We learned to live with it.

Clothing was simple too. A spare pair of jeans, a few t-shirts, socks, underwear, a sweat shirt and our brown pull on work boots. We didn't have leather jackets or actual rain gear. But our riding jackets were reversible with a plastic side to shed rain. The outside of the jackets looked nice, but the plastic side was gaudy. Mine was yellow and Marv's was pink. Thank goodness we never rode much in the rain. Our towels and wash cloths were in a separate small cloth bag and Marv carried these.

can and bottle opener described as a church key
A few extra's were, spark plugs, chain links, an extra clutch cable, a transistor radio with extra 9volt batteries, and large pill bottle of lint to start campfires. I carried those items in a small fishing tackle box. The transistor radio we had was about twice the size of a deck of cards in length and thickness.

We used a length of common electrical wire with an alligator clip soldered to each end. We then clipped one end to a tree branch, bush or something else and the other end to the radio's antenna. My Dad's old camping trick. We were surprised that most evenings we were able to receive music from a place called Bonaire. (Checking the atlas after the trip, we discovered it was a small island country off the coast of Venezuela.) Other stations we listened to, were from Del Rio, Texas, Des Moines, Iowa and Winnipeg, Manitoba. Modern radios don't seem to catch these stations from that far.

Leonard's First Tour Continues: Part 2

Back to Leonard's Two Wheels by the Campfire page

Leonard's First Motorcycle Tour in 1965 - Part 1 - Part 2 - Part 3 - Part 4 - Part 5

Leonard's One Pot Camping Recipes - Part 1 - Part 2 - Part 3 - Part 4

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