We’ve talked a lot about what it takes to prepare for a pro national weekend. Of course there is the practice, the training, the diet, the bikes, the haulers and all that. But we haven’t touched on one integral part of the weekend… getting there. That’s right, the pure, unadulterated bliss that is air travel and ground transportation in a strange destination is a big part of the game. Maybe you travel enough to understand how awesome it is or maybe it’s been a while since you’ve flown the friendly skies. Either way, I’m going to cover a few key tenets to weekend travel.
First, you have to consider how much crap you need to take with you. For riders, a gear bag is usually necessary along with a smaller bag for clothes and a backpack for travel necessities. But remember that long before the molesting at the airport security line, you are going to get violated when checking bags. Yep, $25 per bag is the going rate now, which translates into more people carrying on their bags and we all know how awesome it is to get smacked in the head by a fellow traveler trying to shove a Volkswagon-sized duffle bag into the overhead compartment. But I digress. Enough gear has to be packed for at least three different motos. Unless it is muddy you can get away with the same gear for the two timed-qualifying sessions and then you’ll need new gear for each moto. The same goes for goggles, socks and helmet liners, though many riders have a rep or a friend that takes care of those things. By the time you pack your boots, knee braces, neck brace, socks, knee brace sleeves, chest protector and whatever else you need, a pro rider's gear bag can get quite heavy. The clothes bag varies, depending on how meticulous the rider is with his wardrobe. I’ve seen riders pack one pair of shorts and just change tee shirts and I’ve known other guys who change two times each day. Remember that all liquids and gels must be removed from your bathroom bag and placed in a plastic baggie, because, you know, somehow it’s safer when it’s in a Zip Lock baggie. The backpack is the last piece of equipment and usually contains a laptop, Skullcandy headphones, iPod, and a couple magazines. Usually Racer X.
Going through airport security these days is more irritating and invasive than surgery on your colon. Thanks a lot, Bin Laden.
Riders need to stay hydrated while traveling, but that is difficult to do since the TSA thugs forced you to throw away any liquids you had. Thank goodness riders do make decent money or they wouldn’t be able to afford the bottled water in the airport. What is it, holy water from the Vatican?
The flights themselves are much more crowded than they used to be. The days of having an empty seat next to you are long gone so start getting your mind around how you’ll consume your bag of peanuts and water with your elbows pinned to your sides.
Once in their destination city riders must rent a car and travel, on average, an hour to their hotel for the weekend. And if you think you can find a Hyatt Regency in a map dot-town like Utica or Binghampton next weekend, well, you’d be wrong. Do you have a Red Roof Inn membership card?
After a long and physically taxing day of racing, riders will climb out of bed at the crack of dawn on Sunday and repeat the process to get back home. It’s an exhausting siege that can truly drain you of your will to live, especially if your flight gets cancelled and you have to spend four extra hours in the Pittsburgh airport having a staring contest with a CinnaBon across from your departure gate. Ricky Carmichael used to say that race day was his easiest day of the week. I would wager that the most difficult days were Friday and Sunday.