2016 Bell Race Star Review

Head protection is at the top of my priority list when riding a motorcycle. I might ride in questionable items such as shorts and tube socks, but it’s rare you’ll see me out and about without a helmet on, much less a full face. While I was living in Arizona, my roommate graciously let me test out her Bell Star Carbon, the predecessor of the Race Star. I was immediately hooked and after riding around Phoenix for a few days with it, I was sold. Unfortunately for me, the 2016 model release was on back order and I had to join the wait list.

Finally, around mid September, I was able to get my hands on the Race Star. In the last month and a half I’ve put about 10,000 miles on my bike and this helmet has lived on my head the entire time.

FITMENT
During the 2016 COTA MotoGP Races I had my noggin custom fitted for a Star Helmet. After learning and understanding the changes Bell made to the fitment, I wanted to be sure I got the right size. For 2016, Bell swapped from a 3-shell to a 5-shell & 6 EPS system. Each size has its own shell, which makes it critical to have your size figured out before ordering online, since most companies don’t allow you to return helmets orders.

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I had Bell look up my fitment scan in their computers and according to their records I was a Medium. What? No way. I’ve never been close to wearing a medium in my life. Plus, the previous Star Carbon model I tried on that fit me oh-so-perfectly was an XS. So here I go, off to Hobby Lobby to borrow a measuring tape to have my head measured. Sure enough, Bell’s records were right. My head measured in right at 22 1/4″ which is the lower end of a Medium. Being paranoid about the helmet breaking in too much and fitting loose after the break-in period, I ordered a Small.

There’s an added top pad which velcros to the roof of the helmet. Personally, I like my helmet to sit a little lower on my head, so I took mine out. However for others, this might be an added bonus.

BREAK-IN PERIOD
If there’s anything I can say about the quality of the padding, it’s that it definitely doesn’t lose its form for a while–on top of being extremely comfy and soft compared to lower end helmets I’ve worn. It took a solid 2,000 miles for this helmet to finally form to the shape of my head. I would have been safe with a Medium after all, however since I prefer my helmets to be extra snug post-break-in period, I don’t regret ordering a Small. Just a fair warning–as with any extra snug helmet, you’ll probably get a headache after a while if you’re on a road trip. Luckily, my helmet fits like a glove now and headaches are non existent. But for those first 2,000 miles…oof. Snug as bug.

If the pads break in too much, or you need smaller or larger ones, Bell does offer different sizes, and are a snap to switch out. The cheekpads are magnetized and come out with a slight pull. Being a girl, I get makeup all over mine. So it’s convenient to be able to pull them and wash them and have them sit back in the helmet easily.

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WEIGHT & AERODYNAMICS
I’ve heard a few people complain that the new Star Model is still heavier than some of it’s competitors. My Small is extremely lightweight and I can’t even begin to complain about it hurting my head from wind drag or weight issues–as in I can’t recall a single time either has occurred. This is easily the most aerodynamic helmet I’ve ever worn. I’ve already done an iron butt ride (1,000 miles in under 24 hours) with this helmet on and have had zero issues on the long haul.

The ventilation system on these lids is superb. With or without a fairing, I’ve gotten plenty of airflow through my helmet to keep me cool in the 90+ degree desert temps. And on the other end, the option to close and add the optional vent cover (which comes standard in the helmet) during cold weather months keeps me a little more toasty during the chilly temps. I’ve had zero issues with my helmet fogging up while I ride, which is another pro.

NOISE
For me, personally, this helmet is quiet. However, I’ve had a few people voice that they think its a bit noisy. I listen to music while I ride, and with headphones in I have zero clue whats going on in the world outside my helmet. Its me, the road, and Taylor Swift’s 1989 album blasting at 90mph. Even without headphones in, I feel that the Race Star has an appropriate amount of noise-cancellation to still hear your bike and focus on the road. Maybe I have extremely selective hearing, or maybe I don’t get annoyed easily by the ability to hear the world around me when I choose to.

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VISIBILITY
The new “Panovision” shield design is intended to increase the riders’ field of vision. I’ve had zero issues finding people in my blind spots and checking for fellow riding buddies or cars out of the corner of my eye.

FEATURES

  • 3K Carbon Shell
  • Eyewear Compatible
  • Flex Impact Liner
  • Magnefusion™ Removable Magnetic Cheekpads
  • Raceview Orientation
  • Virus Cool Jade Power mesh Liner
WEIGHT: 1500 Grams

CERTIFICATION:

  • DOT
  • ECE 22.05
  • Snell M201

 

IN CONCLUSION…
Bell Powersports has done it again! I’m completely sold on the Star Series, and have absolutely zero negative things to say about it. There’s been zero issues with the quality and build of the helmet, and zero issues performance-wise.

10/10 I would recommend this to a friend, family, or foe.

 

Pop’s – Route 66 Soda Stop

Oklahoma’s Route 66 Holds a ton of little treasures. Luckily, Pop’s Gas Station is a 30 minute Ride from my house in OKC. There’s hundreds of glass bottled sodas, from your typical Mexican Coke to even questionable Ranch Flavored pops. The vanilla Malts are always a must and if you’re hungry the burgers will suffice.

It’s not a far ride from the city, but it’s a quick getaway from the hustle and bustle of downtown and a change of pace from the biker bars we usually stop at. The historic Round Barn in Arcadia is just up the road and is worth visiting if you have time. Tons of history and relics have been set up inside the old barn.

Bored? Head towards Tulsa and make a pitstop at the Motorcycle Museum and other Route 66 stops. Never a dull moment on the mother road!

The 2015 Taos Desert Run & Chopper Hill Climb: in Memory of Becca the Recka

Motorcycles make all of us feel some type of way. This community is not just a weekend ride. It’s a forever family. Earlier this year we lost Becca Strelitz to a motorcycle crash. She was a free spirit, environmental advocate, motorcycle enthusiast, and friend to many across the country. The second annual Taos Desert Run & Chopper Hill Climb was held this year as a memorial run for anyone and everyone on two wheels that wanted to remember Becca for the things she loved most: riding motorcycles, being outside, and being surrounded by good people and having a good time.

The first day of the run we met up at the Taos Mesa Brewery, had a beer, and waited til the sun was close to setting before we threw our kickstands up and headed out on to the Mesa. Chasing the sun to camp, I watched as the golden hour threw harsh shadows over and into the Rio Grand Gorge, and turned the riders in front of me into black silhouettes with shiny red tail lights slowly becoming more apparent as the sun grew closer to the horizon. We rambled down a dirt road for a few miles before we came to a questionably deep rutted dirt road. A little sketchy maneuvering and near bike dumping and everyone made it to the first nights campsite: a gigantic zombie apocalypse-themed fort, fully equipped with two bars, outhouses, and plenty of room for motorcycle camping.

Photo by Enrique Parilla
Photo by Enrique Parilla

Anything goes out on the mesa. It didn’t take long for the 70 or so of us to start crackin’ beers and shootin’ booze. After all this was a run to remember our sweet Becca, and she wouldn’t have had it any other way. Zia was shooting fire from her mouth like a professional pyro and others had found some magical mushrooms and began their own journey into the night. Music blared across the fort until the sun came up—it might’ve actually not turned off ’til someone woke up in the morning, but who cares.

I managed to ghost out and sneak away from the remaining 4 or 5 party animals towards the early hours of the morning. I lucked out and scored a sleeping spot inside a shipping container-turned-hangout-room and got an hour maybe two hours of sleep before it was time to wake up and shoot some early morning party aftermath.

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Since we rolled into camp after the sun went down, the surprise beyond the walls of the party fort was pretty bitchin’. From the fort you could see all of the Taos Valley, the Rio Grand Gorge, the town and the Mountains that form just beyond. Sleeping Bags, Motorcycles, and Tents seemed to be scattered all over the property where they would fit, and slowly but surely as the sun rose more people slowly began awakening in their proper hungover moods.

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Carla and friends slowly began cooking what I like to call Chile Cheekies —I think they’re actually called chile quiles or something like that— for everyone. While we waited for food to settle and for people to get their lives and livers to together, Jera managed to get a giant sticker bur stuck in her hair which we were able to cut out. Don’t worry, though, we wasted a good 30 minutes attempting to save her hair.

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From here people rolled out on their own to wander around the tiny town of Taos, grab some grub, or rip around on the mesa until we met up again at the TMB. The camp site and route for the second location was top secret again, so unless you rode with us out from the brewery you’d have a damn good time attempting to find us in the hills of northern New Mexico.

Our first spot was a hill climb, beer stop, and figure 8 run. I’ve gotta say, these crazy people I call my friends are in fact f’n nuts. Only a few folks slammed a beer and jumped on their choppers to attempt the hill climb, but it was pretty intense to watch. Clayer managed to pull a few runs up the hill for Becca, who was the only chick to attempt the hill climbs on the Desert Run the previous year. Tyler almost ran over me (Sorry bud), & a few of the Denver guys decided it wasn’t a party or proper hill climb without sparkle panties, so naturally you can image what happened.

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People got squirrelly, had fun, and did their thing. As for me, I created a drinking game for the boys. How to play? Shotgun a beer. First person to finish slaps the other person as hard as they can in the face. 1-2-3-GO! Naturally, this got way too entertaining way too quick. We paused the game, cleaned up our trash and got ready to head to the campsite where the final hill climbs and party shenanigans would take place.

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The best part about this run is the roads you gotta take to get to the campsites. If you can’t ride on dirt roads, you’ll be a pro by the end of the weekend, or you’ll just hate riding motorcycles on anything but pavement from here on out. Each road to every stop on the run is at least 2-3 miles worth of dirt roads.

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The final stretch of road led us to a massive dirt pit with a convenient camping area uptop. Those that were ballsy enough to rip up the hills made their runs until the sun went down. A few people got stuck, but there were plenty of helping hands around to give a bike a push or pull to the top of the hill. People were losing kickstands, mirrors, shifter pegs, all kinds of semi important stuff as they failed their hill climb attempts, but it didn’t slow anyone down from gettin’ rowdy and having fun.

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That’s what makes this group of people so damn rad, and why this will probably be one of the most memorable runs for me. Not only because it will always remind me of the wild girl I met in the California High Desert with a heart of gold, but because the people who knew her reflect the same character traits. Nobody on this run was too “chopular” or egotistical for their own good. Everyone was there for the same reason: to remember Becca the Recka and to have a damn good time.

The sun set and things got even more wild than the first night. A typical chopper campout is the easiest and PC way I think I can describe it. But if you care to know: There was a couple fucking in a truck bed about 30 feet from the campfire, others stoned out of their gourds, drunker than skunks, tripping out of their minds. What makes you more free than a motorcycle sometimes? Party favors of all flavors. Especially when taken with friends. Every guy still awake by 2am ended up with his shirt off hootin’ and hollerin’ around the campfire, and some chicks even joined in. As for I, I stayed stoned in my mummy bag next to the campfire and watched the party from the exact same spot the entire night. And it ruled.

When I woke up in the morning I was still laying next to what was left of the campfire. There were empty bottles of moonshine, beer cans galore, and plenty of liquor bottles scattered around me and the rest of the area. Slowly people began to wake up and stumble back to the fire to help clean up the trash. It was another slow moving morning, but one by one people started to pack up and head home.

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About 20 of us stayed behind and let our hangovers ease off before we got our day going. Some had a little hair of the dog and took shots of jim beam out of Clayer’s belly button, others puked at the sight of a whiskey bottle. Finally we got the camp spot cleaned up, were able to make a few more hill climb runs, and then headed out to the Rio Grande River for some swimming.

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The run was over, and we had successfully threw a hell of a party to remember our wild Becca. Thanks to her, I have new found friends in New Mexico and Colorado, amazing memories, and a new found love of sketchy dirt roads on motorcycles. Ride Fast, Take Chances, and never forget exactly why it is we all love these death machines and the people that ride them.

Photo by Enrique Parilla
Photo by Enrique Parilla

MOTO ADVENTURES 101: What to Pack for Your Motorcycle Trip

I’m so stoked to see more women head out on the road and to be approached by so many of y’all with questions and advice. So I’ve compiled my tips the best I can so that I can answer these questions for everyone. Living off of your motorcycle shouldn’t be stressful. You can pack everything you need for a weekend, week-long, or month-long motorcycle trip on your bike. Here’s some tips and things I’ve learned on my two-wheeled adventures.

Step One: How long is your trip?
Length can be measured in miles, days, or both. A little weekender to the campground 60 miles from home won’t require nearly as much as a 500+ mile, week long excursion across the country.

For the remainder of this article, let’s pretend this is the 500+ mile adventure. 1-2-3…Go!

Step Two: When/Where are you going?
Weather is weather. It’s a pain in the ass and isn’t always predictable. However, you don’t want to get stranded without proper gear wherever you destination takes you. I’ve been on trips where I leave my house looking like the Michelin man with every layer possible on my body trying to stay warm, and the next day I’m taking all the layers off and soaking my clothes in water at the gas station trying to cool off. Have ya ever hit an unexpected rain storm where the temperature drops from 80 and sunny to 50 something and cold? Yep, bet you wish you had rain gear and thicker gloves that day if you didn’t. Getting sick from trying to look cool without gear isn’t worth it. Learn about riding gear and get into it!

***Note: I’m not an “all the gear all the time” advocate by any means. I do however strongly advise you to hit the pavement at a decent speed before you decide if you want to ride in short sleeves and other questionable garments. Road rash hurts. A lot.***

Step Three: What’s up with your bike?
Everyone has their own moto-maintenance mumbo jumbo. Here’s my opinion: If you’re like me and are not the biggest fan of being stranded on the side of the road wondering why your bike is broken down, find a mechanic that you trust and GET IT SERVICED BEFORE THE TRIP. Also, STICK TO THAT MECHANIC. Every bike and every motor has it’s own weird tendencies. If you constantly go to different people to have your bike looked at, there’s a good chance they won’t notice something that the other guy (or gal!) did. You wouldn’t switch up your personal doctor with every visit would you? Don’t do it to your bike. Get it serviced by a trained professional, and eliminate the chance of something happening that could have been easily prevented. If you have a friend who knows the ropes, watch them service it, or better yet, let them shadow you and do the service yourself. Seriously, learning how your bike works is the most useful tool of all.

Bring tools on the road. I personally carry tools that I know I can use, such as specific Torx bits, Allen Wrenches, Vise Grips, Wire Cutters, Phillips and Flathead screwdrivers, etc. My buddy Dave over at the CVRST Project makes really great handmade tool rolls as well as travel bags for your clothes and other junk. Good ol’ Google also can probably tell you exactly what tools your bike needs if you still have all the stock/factory hardware on it. (I’ve tried to switch most of my hardware out to screws with allen heads. Makes carrying tools a little bit easier.) BLUE LOCTITE IS YOUR FRIEND! I carry a tube of it in my tool bag at all times. All the Zip Ties, all the time. Stash a few in your tool bag, you never know when you’re going to have to rig something back together. A tire plug kit is handy too. They’re pretty tiny and can save you a ton of time if you get a flat tire.

In all of my travels, I’ve only been “stranded” twice. The first time my stator went out on my 2011 XL, the second time my ignition started having issues on my 2003 XL. Both of these things are a little hard to predetermine their time to go, but out of all the problems I could have dealt with on the side of the road, I’d say I’ve had it pretty easy in the 70,000 miles I’ve ridden in the last 4 years. If you ride a newer model Harley, look into the Extended Service Plans being offered by the Motor Company if you’re not mechanically inclined. They’re worth the dough if you plan to ride your bike all over the place.

What to Pack on a Motorcycle Trip
The must haves for every trip: Leather Jacket, Sleeping Bag, Hammock, Raingear, Phone Charger, Gloves, Gasoline Reserve Bottles, Tools, and a Handgun

Step Four: What to Pack
For this part, the quickest advice I can give is to learn a little about the backpacking culture and the importance of packing light and efficiently. I can pack everything I need for a 2-week trip into my 28-Liter Herschel Supply Duffel Bag with space left over. If you’re on a budget, army surplus stores have good quality top loading bags for under $20. However you pack, just make it easy to get to your tools, jackets, etc if you need them in a pinch.

Pack light, and be sure to pack things that you can make multiple outfits out of.

CLOTHING
Pro Tip: Learn to military roll your clothes into little adorable burritos. If you aren’t using a dry sack to keep your stuff dry, I highly suggest packing important items in ziploc bags just in case you hit some rain.

  • DO always pack: Leather Jacket, Hoodie, Gloves, Full Face Helmet, Rain Gear (mine doubles as my pillow when I’m camping), extra shoes (if you don’t wear boots, its nice to have a dry pair of shoes in case it rains)… Always pack extra socks and undies–take it from someone who packed one pair of socks with them to Mexico. Long story short: I sacrificed my moto insurance papers over my one pair of socks at the gas station when I realized there was no toilet paper. Lesson Learned. We all have those “last leg” undergarments. They have a purpose. This is it. This is what they’re still around for. They aren’t always meant to make it back home.
  • MAYBE pack: Climate-sensitive items, such as Thermals (real ones. not the ones that you buy for five bucks at the mall) and other gear for cold weather riding like Gauntlet-style Gloves with built in goretex, thick socks (cold riding), etc. You can always add clothes on to feel warm, unless you don’t pack them like a dummy. If you’re headed to warmer climates or places where the sun is a little overbearing, think about some lighter colored clothing options that still protect your skin.
  • DON’T pack more than 4 T-shirts, regardless of how long your trip is. You’re more than likely going to buy one or two, or you’re going to find a friend along the way with a washer and dryer. PS: when you’re on the road, you smell, even if you change shirts every day. Just sacrifice one shirt and save the others for when you get to a stopping point.

Girls are known for making 20 outfits out of 5 articles of clothing. Work it out!

LADY ITEMS

  • DO ALWAYS PACK: TRAVEL SIZE EVERYTHING. Seriously. It saves room. Buy the itty bitty tooth brush and the itty bitty razor, tooth paste, deodorant, hair brush, and anything else you can find. It saves room. If you plan to stay with friends along the way, keep that in mind. I normally don’t pack shampoo and conditioner since my friends will normally donate theirs to the cause. Yay, Friends!
  • MAYBE Pack: tampons and other hygene-necessary items if needed. You’re an adult. I’ll leave this part up to you.
  • DON’T Pack: Your entire makeup collection. Seriously, you’ve got bugs in your teeth. Put the makeup away until you get to your destination. Pack only what you need for a typical night out if you absolutely feel the need to bring it.

SURVIVAL SKILLS
DO….

  • Pack heat, if you’re okay with that sort of thing. I’ve never met a single sketchy person on my travels that made me feel the need to grab hold of a weapon, but that doesn’t mean I trust everyone I meet in the middle of nowhere, either. If you’re traveling across state lines, be sure to know the laws. The last thing you need is to get heat for packin’ it. Knives aren’t so bad to have either. I typically travel with at least one of each. (Shameless plug goes out to my friend Matt Farris who makes some killer knives!)
  • Snacksidents will happen, and the Burger King dollar menu isn’t always your best option. Bring Cliff Bars, Trail Mix, or any other sort of food a backpacker would bring on a trip. Keep your energy up and STAY HYDRATED. Seriously, it can make or break how many miles you can accomplish in a day. Either buy a bottle of water and refill at every gas stop, or invest in a camelbak. Drop the sodas and gatorades and monsters, they’re all just going to dehydrate you. If you need a pick me up, grab a bottle of Orange Juice or something.
  • If your bike doesn’t have one yet, look into getting a battery tender/pigtail installed. Phones die, but you can keep them charged while you’re riding just in case you need to reach someone in an emergency situation. Zootfresh is out of Austin, TX and makes some adapters that can charge your phone on the go. If you want to get real fancy, you can also use heated gear in the winter time to stay cozy and this is where you’ll plug it in to your bike. Yay, technology!
  • Gasoline Reserve bottles are the cheapest insurance you can get. Sometimes there’s long stretches without gas, and the worst thing to do is hear your motor sputter to a stop without a gas station in sight. If you have a peanut tank (2.5 gallons or less), or you’re averaging 100 miles or less to a tank, I highly suggest carrying at least a Liter of gas on you. Lowbrow Customs and Biltwell both carry Fuel Bottles, however if you want to make sure you don’t lose your bottle to the road gremlins, buy one from REI that has a built-in locking mechanism so it can’t unscrew from the cap. (Again, speaking from experience.) A little baby bottle of Octane booster isn’t a bad idea either. You can pick these up at AutoZone or any other auto parts store.
  • If you are going to use bungee’s to strap your stuff to your bike, pack at least two ratchet straps in your bag somewhere just in case something happens and you need a tow. Also, know how to use them. You’d be surprised how many people can’t properly tie down motorcycles.

CAMPING GEAR
I’m going to go ahead and say this is where things get a little expensive if you want to save space. But here’s my two cents.
DO….

  • invest in a good mummy style sleeping bag with a temperature rating for at least 30*F. I purchased one from REI along with a membership and it’s been the best idea I’ve had yet. Ditch the mexican blankets/serape rolls. They look cool in photos, but they don’t keep you warm on cold desert nights. Function over fashion. Get into it. More importantly, get one that packs up to be fairly small. You can also purchase compression sacks and make super fluffy, warm, sleeping bags the size of a spaghetti squash or smaller.
  • One person tent? Two Person Tent? Hammock? or Straight up on the ground with a sleeping bag? That’s up to you. One person tents are perfect for you and only you. But if you plan to share the road with a friend, perhaps share a tent. This also can free up space on both of your bikes. No need to double pack–again, this is backpacking 101. If you want to be extra comfy and know there will be trees or sturdy stuff around to hang a hammock, I HIGHLY suggest purchasing the ENO 2-person hammock & straps from REI. (Dont share it though, keep that big cozy hammock to yourself. PS: You’re welcome in advance.) These also have optional rain and mosquito/bug tarps that you can buy if you really want to go all out.

STEP FIVE: Pack it up!
This part really depends on how your bike is set up. If you’re on a sporty or a bike of similar stature, look into having a sissy bar made that has various hooking points for bungee cords and whatnot. The Haifley Brothers and Slims Fab both make some great sissy bars that can be installed on your bike with the quickness. If you’re on a Dyna, Softtail, or if your bike is equipped with Saddlebags, you probably have plenty of room and storage figured out by now. I have LeatherPro’s retro FXDXT bags on my FXDL, and I highly recommend them. If you’re on a rigid…I’m going to assume you’re a packing pro by now and have the 5-foot tall sissy bar with the monkey hanging out at the top.

My 2003 XL Packed up for a trip from Arizona to Texas: Duffel Bag, Gas Reserve Bottles, Camera Bag, REI Sleeping Bag, and a ThermaRest Sleeping Pad roll on my handlebars.
My 2003 XL Packed up for a trip from Arizona to Texas: Duffel Bag, Gas Reserve Bottles, Camera Bag, REI Sleeping Bag, and a ThermaRest Sleeping Pad roll on my handlebars.

Shake down runs are important. Seriously, go do a little test run and see if your pack shifts around before you set off on your trip. I still do this every time I change my packing set up.

HUZZA!

All the “hard” stuff is over. Time to boogie! It’s all in your head at this point. If you tell yourself you’ve got this, you’ll do 700 miles with a smile on your face. If you don’t…well….bummer. But here’s some final tips for the long haul:

  • Try not to stop too long. Get the blood flow back to your booty and go. If I’m on my sportster (which is damn near rigid) I try to keep gas stops under 15 minutes. Gas, Chug Water, Eat a snack, use the bathroom, and jam outta there to the next stop. If you’re with a group, this will probably end up being a 30 minute stop. It is what it is. Enjoy the ride.
  • When planning your trip, I would say the ideal amount of miles in a day is 300-400. However 600 is totally doable. Look at a map and get your route planned. If there’s stuff you want to stop and see along the way, keep the miles low.
  • When camping, I typically stop in whatever little town is close by and eat at a mom and pop restaurant for dinner. I honestly don’t sit and make smores and roasted weenies at my camp spots. I’ve lucked out a few times and have been invited to share meals with families and other campers staying in the same park. Use your best judgement, but most people are friendly and just want to hear about your trip.
  • Ride hard, ride fast, and have fun!