Before I kick off, I would like to sincerely thank
all the many kind people in North America who helped me on my way
and showed such excellent hospitality. All those who offered accommodation
and assistance, but whom I managed to not drop in on, thank you
too. Maybe we can catch up with each other another time?
Anyway, yours truly has finally departed the Land
of the Whopper-and-Lard-bottom, only to now be found in Refried-bean-and-
cowboy-hat-and-pointy-cowboy-boot-land. All is good at my end and
the wife is running well -that is, until the next major component
failure-. Norman is attracting a great deal of Mexican merriment
and he works well as an icebreaker when attempting to circumvent
run-ins with sunglasses-wearing and gun-touting Latinos at roadblocks
As far as I can recall, the last time I wrote was
chez Bob in Roberts, Montana, where wifey was undergoing major internal
organ replacement. From there the route took me east via Yellowtail,
Montana to the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally. Then it was south to Colorado
and the Canyons of Utah to Las Vegas. After the prohibitive heat
of Phoenix, Arizona, I crossed into Mexico and headed for the Copper
Canyon and on to my present location of Zacatecas, the pleasant
silver mining town 600km north east of Mexico City.
After paying US$1500 for one of Bob's T-shirts and
getting a free gearbox, rescue, other parts and labour, I cruised
over the Beartooth Pass and Chief Joseph Highway to Yellowtail on
the Crow Indian Reservation to meet with Dr Greg who plied me with
beers and good laughs. What is particularly annoying about the wife's
illness episode (the route I was meant to take had to be substantially
changed), is that I now didn't manage to meet one or two of Greg's
other friends. Being in this part of the world did however allow
me to witness the 'event' known as 'Sturgis'.
Sturgis, South Dakota is a small town which for
51 weeks a year does not have a great deal to shout about. My visit
fell during the 52nd week when every man, woman and dog arrives
on their motorcycle to this 'mardi gras' of bikers. A lot actually
don't ride there, but trailer their Harley Davidsons and only pose
up and down Main Street. This year being 2000 and the 60th one meant
that about half a million bikes, mostly polished chrome Harleys
with loud exhaust pipes congregated in this one small space.
It was great fun. The spectacle of rows upon rows of Harleys thundering
and shuddering around, posing, seeing and being seen was hilarious.
Many people (particularly of the female variety) should have been
forced by law to wear in more clothing rather than less. Why are
there (worldwide this is) a disproptionately large percentage of
fat (or should we say 'bodyshape diversified') members of the fairer
sex who park their buttocks on motorcycles? This is particularly
shocking/ glaringly obvious when the guy on the front is a skinny
I rode my very unclean, unpolished and battered
looking wife down Main Street with the best of them. Most people
didn't seem to know what to make of me and my rig. One bloke inquired
whether I 'had been all over'. 'All over what?' I retorted. 'All
over whatever that map is on your box.' I decided to adopt the Albanian
Buddhist mode. (Editor's interjection: 'The map' referred to in
this dialog looks remarkably similar to an outline of the world...
As all the major bike manufacturers were present,
I took the opportunity to spend a day testing their products. Here
is what I tried and my comments:
XR650L: Good stuff.
F650GS Dakar: Nice paint job and OK if you have a support
lorry following your overland trip who can repair the ABS brakes
and fuel injectors.
R1100S: Impossible to redline... I tried!
Davidson Softtail Springer: I can now reliably conclude,
having ridden one (previously all my opinionations (sic) were
not based on real life experience), that HDs are uncomfortable
and overrated to put it mildly and politely.
Henderson 1500cc (with non standard straight through pipes):
The first person around the world en moto went in 1913 (or thereabouts)
on a Henderson Twin. The technology does not seem to have progressed
much since and it is of no coincidence that in the intervening
years, 70 were spent not in existence and today the company is
again in receivership. The most DEAFENING exhaust noise.
Iron, Lion, Zion
The drive south led via Mt Rushmore and the 4 Preses
over some super twisty roads and a couple of days in Grand Junction
where I stocked up on tyres. For one day I carted 2 rears and 1
front tyre on my alli box. Looked different. The road from Cisco
to the west side of (Iron, Lion,) Zion National Park led past and
through some absolutely magic scenery. Totally unmissabe. I really
am glad I took the detour. Each canyon and rock formation different
and genuinely deserving of the description 'awesome': Arches, Canyonland,
Glen, Capitol Reef, Bryce, Grand, Zion. I have every intention of
returning and riding a dirt bike from Denver to Las Vegas: NOT in
the heat of summer though!
Las Vegas was good to see, but probably one of the
saddest and most soulless places on Earth. So much tackiness. Even
the grocery stores have slot machines/ one arm-bandits in the entrance
areas. Imagine a slightly depressed individual going to buy the
week's food and 'just having a quick flutter' and ending up not
being able to feed the kids.
An old friend, who is a pilot, from home, Ben, just happened to
be in Los Angeles and jetted in for an evening of chat and beers.
Great stuff. I refused to gamble, so in Caesars Palace Ben changed
20 bucks into tokens and gave me 10. He lost his 10 and 7 of mine!
My first token won 2 dollars and the second one 50 dollars! The
third lost and I stopped playing immediately. After paying back
his original outlay and the cab fare back to the hotel I just about
Phoenix, Arizona only exists because of air-conditioning.
In summer it is far far far too hot there. I drove there with a
bag of -rapidly melting- ice in my bike jacket. Chris and his friends
were great and visiting a pro-league baseball game where the Phoenix
Something-or-others beat the Chicago Cubs 11-2 was fun. In one innings,
the Cubs pitcher gave away 3 homeruns in consecutive throws. He
was bad enough to get signed for England at cricket. Every other
British 'sports import' (with the exception of Lennox Lewis) has
been an abject failure, so why not the Cubs pitcher too!
Tucson and Bisbee led to Douglas and the border
crossing at Agua Prieta. It was quite straight forward and I was
through in an hour with the bike sporting a shiney happy hologram
temporary import permit. I will regale you with my Mexican adventures
next time, suffice to say, the Americans have a slightly stilted
view on Mexico (and many other places):
If I were to heed the warnings I received from a
huge cross section of people, I would not have entered this allegedly
nasty barren waste land.... Yeh right boys (and girls). Nothing
of the sort: So far, touch wood, pleasant people, great culture,
some spectacular scenery and good value. My personal opinion is
that every American should spent a year or so overseas, to help
him/her acquire a certain worldlywiseness that is missing in the
largely insular and paranoid (of anything 'foreign') American society.
Britain and Europe does have small-mindedness too, but no way on
such a grand scale.
A little summary of my North American trip: Positive highlights
included: New York (a city where everybody is a foreigner), the
Canadian Rockies and Northern BC and Yukon (Dawson City is a must),
the ferry down the Inside Passage, Vancouver Island, Mt St Helens
Park, Jackson Wyoming, Sturgis and Utah. Lower points were: an ugly
half-German in Montreal, the Canadian Prairies, Alaskan mosquitoes
and blown up gearboxes. So.... all in all, an overridingly good
time was had, but as with everything in life, it is time to move
on to pastures new.