When Christa asked me to do a motorcycle camping trip in Pennsylvania, I said “Sure!” with great enthusiasm. Just between you and me . . . I didn’t mean it. The last time I lashed a tent to the bike was in the dark days BFI (Before Fuel Injection). I’ve since graduated to walls and roofs (also known as “hotels”), and have come to appreciate the finer points of free Wi-Fi and “make your own waffles” breakfast buffets.
But heck, I’m as outdoorsy as the next guy, as long as the next guy isn’t Grizzly Adams. Or that guy from Man versus Wild. Or the Cub Scout that lives down the street. So the night before the trip, I excavate the basement to find the camping gear. This trip will be a great way for me to reconnect with nature, to travel simply. Or maybe not simply, but simpler than usual. First things first—where’s my heated jacket?
Known as the Pennsylvania Wilds, north central Pennsylvania is just that: a thinly settled throwback to a wilder time. Much of the area is state and national forest, replanted and re-nourished after the clear-cutting of the 1800s. The rest is a patchwork of small farms and small towns, pre-agribusiness, pre-Walmart. Geologically speaking, it’s a desiccated plateau, a formerly flat area worn down over time by glaciers, wind, rain, and the occasional World Series victory. The hills, valleys, creeks, and rivers give the area its rustic charm.
The Digital Rider Goes Camping
One of the cool things about motorcycle camping is that it opens up a whole new area of gadgetry. Ultralight tents, sleeping pads that compress down to the size of a Harry Potter paperback, kitchen utensils made from space-age materials, and camp stoves that burn everything from gasoline to propane and everything in between are all parts of the puzzle. And while most campsites don’t have a Starbucks (yet), I brought something even better along: a stove-top moka pot. No grind-filled camp coffee here, just smooth, tasty espresso every morning. The Moto Guzzi looked on approvingly every time I made a pot.
Keeping digital gadgets charged on a camping trip is a bit of a challenge, particularly if you can’t charge while you ride. It’s good to bring spare batteries for digital cameras and to know how many pictures you can get from a typical charge. Smart phones and tablets can often be charged with external batteries, and power-sucking features (i.e., Bluetooth and Wi-Fi) should be turned off, unless of course campgrounds have Wi-Fi, which some do.
The routes cover some of the main attractions of the area and are centered on the Grand Canyon of Pennsylvania. This isn’t a Shamrock Tour per se, as there are only three loops and multiple accommodations. But it can be turned into one easily with a little creative trip planning.