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Back in the old days: Part 4

What it was like to tour on a motorcycle 100 years ago, give or take a year.

Getting Cash

Need some cash. That's easy, find an ATM, insert debit card and draw it out.

Before that invention something called the travelers check was a common form of paper that could be converted to cash. Simply pre-buy them in preset amounts and cash them at the local bank as needed.

Travelers checks were available 100 years ago, but another commodity was standard trade at any bank - GOLD. And some riders would carry it by the ounce, trading it into the bank for cash as needed.

Spark Plugs

The spark plugs of today are one of the most reliable parts of a modern-day motorcycle. Replace at their set interval and never think about them in between. Nowadays we even have all these fancy plugs that produce "hot sparks" and are reportedly better than the stock plugs recommended by the manufacturer.

There were no "hot spark" style plugs 100 years ago. The standard plugs that were around were often unreliable, especially if you were going to flog the bike on the kinds of dirt roads that connected many major small, medium and large cities of the day. Because that was the only way to ride between them. Ceramics were not as reliable, causing a plug to crack or simply fall apart after numerous rocks and pot holes the roads back them were dishing out. You always carried spares because it was common for a plug to fail before it's set replacement interval.

Museum Touring

Many riders who tour in North America will sometimes slip in a National Park along the way, or some other distinct geological formation. It seems less and less that riders talk about the great museums they visited on their journey. But they are out there, many better than ever.

Back in the old days, museums were one of the main attractions during multi-day tours, especially if you were riding through Europe, where many had been established much earlier than the dawn of motorcycling.

Today in North America, we have some interesting collections of both old and newer artifacts. In the Pacific Northwest alone, we have one of the largest collections calculators in Idaho, Rosaries in Washington and airplanes in Oregon. Next time you put together a tour, do a little extra research about where you're going and work in a museum or two. Happily, today, there are also some stunning collections of motorcycles to be viewed in just about any state or province you plan to ride. Catch one of them too.

Meeting other riders along the way

Today, if you were to ride your motorcycle across the United States, through Europe, down through Central and South America, during your journey you'd no doubt meet countless other riders along your route.

But 100 years ago this simply wasn't the case. The only riders on the roads back then where referred to as "Men of steel." Which translated means they were the only one's nuts enough to do cross-country touring on a motorcycle and be able to come out the other side in one piece. Today, if we need another person's help for a breakdown, there's almost always someone in our group, or a passing group who can lend a hand and get us back on the road again.

Back then, those who did extensive touring often did it alone and had to have all the mechanical know-how to get them through the tough situations, which would arise weekly if not daily.

Packing Heat

Some riders in America pack a weapon, while it's safe to say - most probably don't. When was the last time you heard of a rider you know needing to grab for his sidearm, let alone fire it in defense during a motorcycle trip? Yet in America, it is legal in all 50 states to carry one and has been since the Constitution said so.

Back in the old days it was more common overall for a rider to carry pistol or revolver. After-all, 100 years ago, America was still in it's wild-west stages where robbers could ambush someone. However, a motorcycle may have been a good way to outrun most of them since it was more agile than an auto or horse on the so-called 'roads' of the time for that matter.


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