The Non-Essential Essentials I Carry in My Motorcycle Camper

Every motorcycle camper has a list of personal essentials to take on a trip. In addition to the real necessities, like a tent and a sleeping bag, for example, there are a couple of things that add enough to the experience that you just have to find a way to bring them.

For me, those non-essential essentials are two items that I can trace back to my childhood. No, I’m not talking about a blanket and a Teddy. My two must-haves are a small battery-operated fan and a shortwave radio.

The fan is a habit I developed at an early age, simply because we didn’t have AC until I’d almost left home. That meant many summer days and nights spent within the blast radius of a box fan that noisily recirculated warm, moist central Virginia air. I became so accustomed to the movement of air and the sound that I find it hard to sleep without it today. It doesn’t take much room, and my little fan puts out just enough to keep a breeze stirring.

If you didn’t pick up the fan habit, you probably grew up, as I did, with a transistor radio. Something small enough to hide under your pillow or the covers, so you could listen at night when you should be sleeping. (Did you ever accidentally bump the volume dial and get busted by your parents? I did.)

Time spent scanning the AM dial or shortwave bands meant you could pull in signals from stations around the country, or the world. Even today, there’s something less magical about clicking a link that takes me to a webpage in Brazil or Germany than listening to music from a different culture that I know is coming from a broadcast tower thousands of miles away.

Sitting under the stars at my campsite, panning the broadcast dial I realize that I spent my youth wondering what would happen in the years to come. Now that I’ve arrived at that future, I spend time looking back the other way.

It’s understandable, and natural at this point, I suppose, to reflect both on where you’re going and where you’ve been. I do that best when I’m removed from the dither of everyday life, which is why motorcycle camping suits me so well.

And all it takes to move me back and forth through time is a little staticky accordion music and a light breeze.