Chapter 13
USA and Mexico
All over whatever that map is on your box

All over whatever that map is on your box

Excellent hospitality

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 and checkpoints.

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.

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Bodyshape diversified


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 runt.


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:

  • Honda XR650L: Good stuff.
  • BMW 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.
  • BMW R1100S: Impossible to redline... I tried!
  • Harley 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.
  • Excelcior 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 broke even.

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Ice in my bike jacket


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.

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