Haven't written in a while.... Well I'm allowed
not to. The whole point is to go with the flow, no deadlines and
all that. It is however time to put pen to paper and conjure a few
words of wisdom. The last African report was composed in Germany
chez mes parents. All is good there and seeing friends and friendesses
throughout Northern Europe was top stuff.
Everybody seemed happy to see me. All claimed to
have read all my reports and said that I should write a book. In
fact, everybody I bump into in North America asks whether I'm writing
a book. It would be very hard work and publishing and marketing
it, a pain in the botox.
Easter was spent at a superb Belgian Flanders GS
meeting. It could have been described as a tad muddy under foot/tyre.
One day was spent riding -and falling off- through the mud of Flanders.
I didn't encounter anything as difficult as this in Africa. When
the Europeans were dividing Africa, the King of Belgium took what
became know as the Belgian Congo/ Zaire. Absolutely no surprise
there. It must have reminded him of the mud of home.
What was amazing -or maybe unamazing- was that nothing
had changed in Germany/ England. Most said I was doing something
they wish they could do. Some truth in that I'm sure. So if these
reports create a little interest in the usually mundane lives of
people, it's worth spending the time to write them.
After managing to convince the body-shape diversified
check-in clerk at Amsterdam airport that I did not require a return
air ticket to enter the United States - the concept of driving a
motor vehicle over a land border seemed too much for her intellect
to fathom. At JFK airport, US immigration were only too happy to
give me 90 days without a return ticket.
What struck me about New York was that I was no
different to anybody else. This is a city of strangers. Nobody had
difficulty understanding my accent as in Brooklyn where I was staying
everybody only spoke Spanish anyway. It took a while to not to stare
at people who were doing 'You lookin' at me?' - Robert - Taxidriver-
de Niro impressions. At first I though they were taking the Michael,
but it was for real.
What this whole odyssey has taught me, that even
in this nasty world, there is human kindness. All the people who
helped me out through the Middle East and Africa, the good friends
I made, my family and friends in Europe and now the States and Canada....
so many people showing super warmth and kindness, giving me assistance
and enabling me to keep the wife on the road. There are so many
to mention, but Wendy in England, letting me stay at hers and allowing
me to bomb around on her XL250 and in the New York, Susanne for
allowing me to use her apartment and Michael for fixing the wife's
electrics and showing me the town were beyond the call. Thanks!!!!
When vaguely not inebriated, the US Customs formalities
were cleared with a minimum of fuss at their offices in the World
Trade Centre in Downtown Manhattan and the wife and I performed
a fond reunion. It did take a bit of juggling to achieve this though.
The Bruce-Springsteen-lookalike-wannabe warehouse foreman at the
docks in New Joisey first couldn't believe that I had got to there
by public transport and on foot and secondly would not allow me
to reassemble the bike on the premises. It had to be removed in
my own vehicle... He could not understand that my own vehicle was
in the box. As carrying a 2.5 cubic meter 300-odd kg box on my back
was too much, even for me, I was very fortunate that a Harley owning
trucker called Rich put the whole thing in his low loader and I
reassemble the wife in his warehouse on the perimeter of Newark
The drive from New Joisey through Manhattan to Brooklyn
was -apart from getting lost- quite simple. Disengage brain and
drive like a complete tit (sometimes described as driving assertively).
Cairo drivers are similar to New York drivers and even the majority
of African roads were better than what the Big Apple had to offer.
You would think it was New York that has had to endure 30 years
of post colonial mismanagement, wars and landmines etc.
Searching for Bigfoot
As you know, my Email address is firstname.lastname@example.org
(Ed: It was then, it ain't now). The woman who sold me
motor insurance asked in all honestly, whether I, as I was on a
big journey, was searching for 'Bigfoot'. She had heard something
on the radio that morning about someone searching for this creature
(where this search was to take place, I'm not too sure).... I rest
my case, m'lud.
For those not in the know, the wife is an 'airhead'.
This does not refer to her long peroxide blond hair or her lack
of mental faculties, but that the engine is aircooled, in contrast
to the newer 1100 and 1150 models, which are oilheads. Not many
men can refer to their wife as being an airhead without getting
Before leaving New York it was necessary to do the
obligatory photo shoot in Manhattan. Sam and Birgit, on the final
leg of a huge RTW odyssey (Sam's R80GS has 200 000 miles (!) on
the clock....) and I headed for Brooklyn Bridge to get some pictures
of the Manhattan skyline. First an attendant wanted 100 bucks so
that we could take pics from his parking lot. When I offered him
500 he seemed confused, the sarcasm lost on him.
In the park under Brooklyn Bridge (to do a James
Deans style photo. Ed: The skyline of New York is sadly now
very different) 2 hoodlums - sporting park warden badges -
commented that they did not care whether I was from 'Pluuuuudoww'
or not, when I explained what I was up to. No bikes in the park.
It did say something about no bicycles and rollerblades, but there
was nothing forbidding motorcycles (nor helicopters, nor nuclear
submarines for that matter). 2 fully loaded overland Beemers cruising
down Broadway to get as close as possible to the Statue of Liberty
did turn a few heads.
I had been warned about the etiquette of who greets
whom on bikes. Many of the Harley riders in the East don't greet
other non-Harley riders. Hey that's cool by me. My bike has rubber
engine mounts as standard and can be ridden for longer than half
an hour without incurring excruciating pain and walking funny afterwards.
What really did concern me though was the head attire of most of
these bike riders I saw. These incredibly - chamber pot-looking,
small skull caps that pretend to be helmets. Do these people not
realise that they look like total and utter plonkers?
Of even greater concern were the bikers in New Hampshire
who didn't wear anything, except maybe a bandana on their heads.
It is against the civil liberties to have to wear a helmet. I was
wondering how their civil liberties feel when they slide down the
road having been hit by a car or slipped on a slick of oil. Apart
from their brains which are likely to be of any use, their other
organs would be in a good state for donation.
A couple of days in the Catskill Mountains of Upstate
New York were a good tonic to the stress and smog of NYC. A Geordie
bleerk called Dave was very kind to allow me to stay in his shared
vacation home. The local -in the middle of nowhere- bar served on
draught at least 10 brands of brew including Old Speckled Hen, Nookie
Brown, Guinness, Schneider Weizenbier.... After that, back at the
house: Imagine the ultimate wilderness experience: lying in a hottub
under the stars drinking a pint of Guinness. Can't be bad.
The side trip to Boston was worth it, to see a friend,
Mark, whom I last saw on the Trans Siberian Train in 1992 and also
to narrowly missing getting mown down in a hail of gunfire by the
local Mafiosi. One definitely was the Godfather... Nobody could
be so un-well dressed, have a real bimbo on his arm and command
so much respect from everybody. I didn't dare to take a picture
of him or ask him if he was for real.
It wasn't difficult to work out why Vermont is called
the Green Mountain State. Possibly something to do with pine tree
Monsieur Jacques-Francois v d Boerwors
Jacques-Francois v d Boerwors, the Canadian Customs Cont-stabulary
Ossifer mumbled long and far about reasons why he couldn't let me
and my bike into Canada. After a great deal of bleating by him and
nodding and pretence of being respectful on my part, he let me in
without even giving the wife a cursory once over. Fine by me chief.
Basically what is fine for the Americans is just swell for the Canadians.