Touring Tip: Keep Your Motorcycle Memories Alive!

Sep 08, 2017 View Comments by

Having photographed and written about my motorcycle travels over the better part of two decades, I often enjoy taking a trip down memory lane. I’m always grateful later for having taken the time to capture people, places, and experiences. Working for RoadRUNNER, we photojournalists must follow a certain amount of discipline in capturing our tours in photos and prose. Over the years, these habits have migrated to many of my other travels.

Wandering Near and Far
When not traveling, I’m often thinking longingly about the many roads and destinations I haven’t yet experienced. Sifting through the bucket list, I sometimes feel discouraged. Have I really been to even a fraction of all the fascinating places that lie beyond the driveway? The answer, of course, is yes I have been to at least a fraction of them, but possibly a pretty small fraction.

Nevertheless, I’m heartened by memories of the many places I have been to. My record of past wanderings resides in several locations. I can access old articles on the RoadRUNNER website and reread the stories and peruse the photos. Because only about 10 percent or less of the photos I take actually make it into each article, I store the full archive of images on my computer. In recent years, postings on social media, by me and other rider friends, have documented even more two-wheeled wanderings. On at least one cross-country trip, I posted a daily blog about my travels and experiences, which could be read in almost real-time.

Taking Photos
Photography is usually the most common technique for capturing an adventure. Images of signs often help recall certain locations and why they are memorable, and unusually dressed characters make good photographic subjects for remembering the unique vibe of a place. I usually prefer to photograph members of my party when they’re in a natural, un-posed state. Having said that, posed group pictures are a must when traveling with others. Remember, though, it’s impolite to photograph people, especially strangers, without first asking their permission.

Historical destinations and people dressed in period attire are a high priority for capturing the back-in-time feel of a point of interest along a route. Landscape photos are frequently the best technique for cataloging the texture of a particularly pleasurable riding environment. And don’t forget to photograph iconic objects, like lighthouses, covered bridges, sculptures, statues, monuments, and other architecturally interesting structures.

With the advent of digitally captured images, there is now a strong tendency to just snap, snap, snap, without thinking about subject and composition beforehand. This can produce photographic gluttony, resulting in a large quantity of images to sort through later but not necessarily good quality ones. With higher resolution smartphone cameras, it’s all too easy to exhaust the memory capacity of the device and still not get the desired result. Like in the old days of film cameras, it’s a good idea to take your time and compose a well-framed photo that helps to tell a story.

Writing It Down

Taking photos only helps recall one of the five senses we use to experience life. The written word and other forms of physical documentation are ways to retain memories residing in the other four senses: feel, smell, sound, and taste.

During the many years I have been writing magazine articles about motorcycle travel, I have, for each one, made a three-ring binder documenting trip planning and tour experiences. There’s a tab and a printed route map for each day, with notes scribbled about unique things at specific locations. On the back, I write about other details like weather, impressions, intriguing people, events, and particularly great roads. I may put other keepsakes in the binder, including restaurant business cards, museum information, and hotel receipts.

This process of physical documentation started before the digital age. Now, much of my touring information is stored on the computer and less of it in the three-ring binders. I know it sounds a bit over the top, even full-on OCD. But it works for me! On a rainy day, or a snowy evening in the dead of winter, I can take a trip down my motorcycling memory lane and relive all of those wonderful, and sometimes not so wonderful, times.

Text and Photography: James T. Parks


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