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X-Raying Your Junk vs. X-Treme Riding Pleasure


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Motorcycle Touring Mathematics 102: X-Raying Your Junk vs. X-Treme Riding Pleasure

Distance Riding with Bruce | December 2010

Copyright © 2010 Bruce Arnold. Republication with attribution permitted.


I was in Aylesbury--a quaint little duck-loving town in Buckinghamshire chock-full of disarmingly friendly people and Anglo-Saxon history, but a wee bit lacking in memorable pubs--when the three World Trade Center buildings were brought down on 11 September 2001. My (EDITED: for Political Content) stay in Merry Olde England was extended several days as I waited anxiously along with thousands of other American expatriates for an opening on any flight back to Sweet Mother Texas and my loved ones. And with the sad August 2008 exception of one flight home to my current digs in Miami after blowing Hidalgo's engine in the Chihuahuan Desert attempting another BBG 3000, "9-11" marked the end of commercial air travel for me.


Nowadays if I need to get from anywhere to anywhere on the continent, a motorcycle is my primary--nay, exclusive--means of motorized transportation. Rain or shine, it's worth the extra time. And compared to the headaches, humiliations and horrors of post-9/11 TSA goodie grabs ... chronic departure delays ... tarmac torture sessions ... and peanut-free (Hell, nothing's free) no-frills airline flights, that "extra time" can be a small price to pay. Allow me to explain:


According to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS.gov), in 2009 the average non-stop distance flown per departure for U.S. domestic commercial flights was 618.6 miles, or roughly the bee-line distance from Miami, Florida to Atlanta, Georgia. According to Orbitz.com, flying American Airlines coach class direct non-stop from Miami to Atlanta will cost you $79.00 with a "flight time" of 2 hours. Your door-to-door trip time, of course, will entail a lot more than just the stated flight time. First you must travel to the airport, which can easily take 30 minutes. Next comes "airport processing" and, believe it or not, according to SpiritAir.com, "The average time it takes to enter an airport terminal, check in, clear TSA security and board [an] aircraft within the U.S. is approximately three (3) hours." Then, after spending all that time being handled and herded like beef on the hoof, and quite possibly felt up like a teen queen on a second date, Time Magazine (Time.com) says to be prepared for an average flight delay of 57 minutes somewhere between actually boarding, finally taking off, flying the distance and then actually touching down. Add to that an hour or more to deplane, grab your bag, and rent a car or catch a cab to take you to your final destination, and your total door-to-door time flying from Miami to Atlanta could easily exceed 8 hours.




But what if--instead of having to endure 8 hours of degradation and discomfort with your fate and maybe even your junk in somebody else's hands--you twisted your own throttle and RODE from Miami to Atlanta? According to Google Maps (Maps.Google.com), you'd be looking at a ride of 661 miles that should take you 10 hours and 44 minutes. Gas and out-of-pocket expenses for the ride should be less than what you'd pay to fly. So in this example, riding instead of flying would cost you a little under 3 hours but maybe save you a little cash.


The trade-offs to consider, however, go beyond time and money. Given the choice, for instance, how would you rather spend an entire day: Subjecting yourself to the pains of being processed, inspected, stamped and transported like so much meat? Or enjoying the pleasures of the wind in your face, a thundering engine beneath you, and the open road ahead of you? And what about privacy and practicality? Would you rather pack what you really wanted and needed to take with you, or worry about whether your shaving cream, pocket knife or party favors will make it through security? And last but not least, just how much individual freedom and personal dignity are you willing to sacrifice in return for a questionable promise of protection from some ethereal "terrorist threat" that may or may not exist? Would you rather spend 8 hours being confined, controlled and at the mercy of an inept and unaccountable bureaucracy, or 11 hours with the controls of your bike and your fate in your hands?


Yes, I freely concede that for many of your trips the distance will be too far, the travel time too long, or the weather and road conditions too poor for riding to be a practical alternative to flying. But I'll wager that for most of you there will be just as many trips where freedom of the road would be a better choice(EDITED: for Political Content).


Until next time, Ride Long, Ride Free!


Bruce Arnold ;-)


Bruce Arnold ... record-holding long distance motorcycle rider ... disappointed bikers' rights activist but proud member of The 100 ... disillusioned political agitator targeting social injustice and piercing the veil of our two-puppet system to expose the institutionalized greed of the Kleptocracy pulling all strings Left and Right ... like Thomas Jefferson, (EDITED: for Political Content) a philosophical anarchist who accepts the State as a necessary evil under which the best government is less government. Follow Bruce at http://LdrLongDistanceRider.com and http://IronBoltBruce.com



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I figured this one out quite a while ago. If I have to travel, I use the 11 hours or less rule. If I can drive/ride there in under 11 hours, I do not take a plane. Years of travel has taught me that I arrive just about anywhere short of that in about the same time and much less rested when flying. Audible books get me lots of places.

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Hello Bruce and welcome. The smaller airports don't take nearly that long enter and board your flight but yes, the total time required for airflight is getting longer these days.

Since you cracked the lid on that can of worms, I'll add that I won't be flying anywhere soon unless they figure out that profiling can be a good tool and "Grandma" isn't packing any explosives or weapons.

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I just had to fly to NYC and back, the TSA stuff didnt bother me, it wasnt that bad and thought of straight long flat slab all the way there for 4 long days doesnt seem that great, especially with the wife and kid on the back of the bike and 5 bags of luggage....


There is a time and a place for both. I would rather ride country roads there and back for 2 weeks, but that is not practical for a Carpenter with limited time off, no vacation while your off, and 3 people, 2 of which dont ride street bikes.

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I know there are quite a few of us on the board that agree with you, not really practical for trans-continental flights and certainly not trans-oceanic even if you are a strong swimmer but otherwise...


It's especially true for those of us that live 200 miles from the nearest airport.

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I used to fly quite a bit but since 9/11 I've only done it a handful of times. The "security" measures I've seen don't encourage me to take to the skies either. Really just about any other mode of transportation seems preferable to me these days. How sad that flying has gone from being a luxury to an ordeal.

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The "unknown" I most often deal with by riding (or driving), is the very real potential for traffic accidents delaying my arrival. Usually a big truck is involved (don't get me started...). All it takes is one jack-knifed rig on the interstate and potenially thousands of people are going to be stopped cold in their progress. Only if you're lucky can you can get off the superslab and find another way. With jets, once you are airborne, then you almost always get to your destination in the allotted time.


Also, at my local airport I find that an hour lead time is plenty to get through security with my pre-printed boarding pass and on to the gate well before the flight departs.


Your points are good ones though and bear further consideration.



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I'll add that I won't be flying anywhere soon unless they figure out that profiling can be a good tool and "Grandma" isn't packing any explosives or weapons.

This has been discussed in other threads, but I can't resist pointing out the flaw in that logic. If TSA were to start exempting harmless looking old ladies and gents and two year olds from scanning, there would be an obvious way to get something onto an airplane. There are lots of grounds for criticizing the current strategy but profiling is not a cure.

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I live a lot closer to Atlanta and it costs $300 or more to fly there.

$600 for the two of us.

One can't compare ticket costs across the board.

Time investment, however, is quantifiable.

It is a 3 hour proposition to get to the airport an hour early, board, fly, land debark, exit airport head to destination if everything runs early and smoothly.

It never does.

More like 5 hours.

I can ride there and be parked in less than that.

Your premise (w/out any politicizing) has merit.

In reality 300-600 miles is the limit many place on their daily riding mileage as not all are LD Riders.

Either way, in many situation 2 wheels would be an excellent choice.

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When it comes to work-related travel, my rule of thumb is that I'll generally fly if the drive/ride is five hours or more and my ultimate destination is close to the airport. At that point, and assuming that I don't experience cancellations or delays in my flights (a rarity), it's pretty much a wash for me.


This somewhat rough rule of thumb is something I arrived at multiple occasions of taking commercial flights because it was "easier," only to find myself delayed by weather or airline screwups. Add to this the many other unpleasant realities of flying, such as having to deal with surly airline employees, obese adjacent passengers in filthy planes, and having my gonads irradiated, and it becomes a pretty easy call . . . up to about five hours of riding or driving.


If personal travel is involved, I have to have some pretty strong lure to get me onto an airplane, like the promise of an exotic vacation on the other side of some ocean, or a limited number of days to get to and from my destination.

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Somewhere between 5-6 hours is my fly point, also depends on the need to be there at a particular time. I found many times I enjoyed the flexibility of my own vehicle, and departure/arrival time flexibility when traveling between Chicago and Columbus, OH. Flight time 1hr 1 min, but 2 hours in advance, and another 1 to get to actual destination at either end and I found myself right at 5-6 hours. Opted to drive many times -not tied to the airline schedule, and direct from actual departure point to point of arrival. That trip is about 350miles.

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