4th Oct 92
Seem to have lost all interest in writing letters recently. It was good to get a letter from you [Paul Mullis] after all this time. I'd left Daytona by the time it arrived but Wyatt and Tina sent it on to Prince Rupert, British Colombia where they knew I was going to call in at my mate Steve's place. I finally got it in September. It sounds like nothing changes too much back there. I would love to go to some good English rallies with proper beer instead of all this fizzy piss. They really have no idea of the concept of our sort of rally. I went up to Ontario in July for one that sounded more like ours, but called in on somebody near Ottawa (Roger, the feller on the Harley I went to Key West with) and ended up having what amounted to a week-long party and never did get to the rally.
Since Florida everything seems rather tame compared to South America with no "adventure". Not much anyway. While I was in Daytona the bike got a new cam-chain, re-bore, yet more 4th and 5th gears and other odds and ends as I mentioned before, and then I set off north to avoid the heat and humidity, leaving at 10pm and riding all night up to the Smokey mountains in North Carolina to avoid the daytime heat.
There was a BMW rally near the Blue Ridge Parkway so I went there in an attempt to discover life outside Harley Davidson (what do dogs and Harleys have in common? - They both like riding in the back of pick-up trucks.). The Parkway is a nice bendy mountain road, closed to commercial traffic and built specially for tourists. I forgot how long it is, 3 or 4 hundred miles, and if you attack it in sections early in the morning or in the evening, all the motor-homes are gone and it's empty. The 45 mph speed limit has to be treated with the contempt it deserves of course. The rally was OK and I met some interesting people. 1000 miles in a day is quite common over here, and there are some serious long distance people about. Mostly on Interstates out of necessity because of the distances involved, but it's quite some going with the ridiculous speed limits, always watching the radar detector.
After the rally I stayed at 'Turkey Tom Thomson's High Country Cycle Park’, where Tom asked me if I knew Geoff Wilson. He stayed there once and mentioned it in an article he had printed in American motorcycle mags. Tom showed me a copy - typical Geoff stuff. He had a few good digs at the U.S. lifestyle but they probably didn't realise it. To a fellow Brit it was obvious what he was saying. Good stuff. There was also a couple on holiday from Leeds at the rally who know Roger Bennett. I gave them a message. After that I said I was going North till I had to wear both a jacket and a sweatshirt, and then I would turn left. That happened round about Niagara, so I turned left into Canada, didn't like it so I went back to New York State the same day, and went East round Lake Erie and up to Ontario.
There was another BMW rally - a small one - on lake Erie on the July 4th holiday weekend. That was good. Then I went on a Vietnam Veterans dice run and got the long distance award. This lot were all on Harleys but unlike the Florida crowd they have nothing to prove and were a great friendly crowd. Everybody, without exception was friendly and didn't care that I was on a Japanese bike. I stayed the night with one couple and then took off next day.
After Roger's place near Ottawa, I headed on back roads back through New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana and Illinois to the BMW National Rally near St. Louis. It was further than I thought, 1300 miles and I ended up having to hurry a bit. I still get caught out by the size of this country. It's over 1000 miles from St. Louis to the East Coast and St. Louis was known as the gateway to the West, where all the wagon trains set off from. Another couple of thousand miles, plus crossing the Rockies and Sierras must have been a bloody long way on foot walking beside your wagon. I keep stumbling across famous names from the cowboy films, and it's no wonder they could leave town and disappear if they wanted to. From Laredo to Deadwood is 1500 miles. El Paso is 1000 miles south of Deadwood etc. etc.
There was a Brit on a Paris Dakar at the rally so we decided to travel together for a while. When he said he came from Southampton I asked him the obvious question, and yes he knows Codge. There was also a Canadian there who I last saw in San Jose, Costa Rica. Pete (the Brit) and I went to St. Louis for him to get his bike serviced (under warranty still - do you believe 3 years unlimited mileage on a Bee-Emm over here?). The dealer there has a flat especially for people like us to stay in - free. We stayed 2 nights and I left with a free rear tyre. Nice people. They were expecting a German to arrive on a Super Tenere going round the world sponsored by Yamaha and Dunlop, and thought I was him when we first arrived. His next set of free tyres had arrived and they were to fit them. Where am I going wrong? That struck me as a good deal. Pete paid a couple of hundred dollars for a service and I got 2 nights and a tyre for free and wasn't even on a Bee-Emm. We headed west to Dodge City then Colorado via Missouri and Kansas. Then up through Laramie, Wounded Knee, and Badlands to the Harley rally at Sturgis, South Dakota. You've never seen so many Harleys and some people actually rode to and from the rally. Not too many though. Most come on pick-ups or trailers. We camped 18 miles out of town on a site used by the BMW club and they laid on free barbecues and drinks - pretty good once again for someone on a Yamaha. When I first met Pete he had been travelling over here for 4 months, and when people asked him how much longer, he had said 4 more months. He had no camping gear and was staying in motels. By now I was noticing a change. I'd got him sorted out with a tent and sleeping bag, and now when people asked him how much longer, he said he didn't know - as long as he could. He's learning.
I decided I was going back to Alaska and Pete rather fancied that idea. When his next service was due in Montana they couldn't do it for a few days, and I didn't want to waste that much time in a town, so we agreed to split up. It was actually quite nice to take off alone again. The bike had never felt quite right since the re-bore - the bottom end didn't seem too happy with a tight top end and it didn't settle in for about 5000 miles, and even then it didn't feel 'right’. Nothing I could pinpoint. Fuel consumption was getting worse, the carbs were quite badly worn - they were the original 94,000 mile ones and had had a lot of grit and dust managed to get through the filter. Also the front disc was distorted, and both discs were worn down to almost half their original thickness. The wheel rims were both buckled too much to pull completely true. I'd already rebuilt the back wheel twice, but it kept going out of true. Basically the bike was about knackered.
I went to stay with somebody I'd met in Alaska on a Bee-Emm who lives near Vancouver (on the way South again after visiting British Colombia and a couple of the islands.) and on the spur of the moment I bought a brand new 1990 model XT600 which has the same engine as mine. I figured it was best to replace all the worn stuff before I go to Asia, and North America is cheaper than Australia. I got it delivered in the crate to Myles's house, where I was staying, for about £1,800. I built the engine, forks, swinging arm, wheels, controls etc. etc. into my Tenere, then built all the crap into the new one which still looked like a new bike. That got sold for £700, and when I left Canada I claimed the tax back as I had exported the bike. A simple paper transaction, the invoice was marked "sold for export" and nobody looked at the bike. They paid the money in cash in the duty free shop at the border - amazing. Sometime soon a computer is going to hiccup when somebody tries to register this 'exported' vehicle. Everything goes on a 15 digit "vehicle identification number" which is on the frame; the engine number doesn't seem to matter. Ho-hum, not my problem, I've got a brand new bike that looks like my old lived-in one for £l,000 ish. Not bad. The new engine now has about 1,900 miles on and is just settling in nicely. Fuel consumption has improved dramatically, travelling at the same speeds, or faster, than before and at 4,000-5000 ft altitude most of the time, it's improved 15-20mpg. There really was something not right with the other one but it happened so gradually, that I just put it down to altitude or headwinds.
Since I flew to Vancouver in August 1990 the bike has done 60,000 miles in the Americas. Time to move on. Heard that before have you? At the moment I'm staying in the guest chalet of a house in the Nevada desert, which belongs to some people I met in Baja at Christmas 1990 (remember the ones who bought the ex Kenny Roberts TT600 for me to play on). They are not actually here at the moment, but that doesn't seem to matter - the dog is friendly. The neighbours a mile away, who share the well at this place, and who were feeding the dog told me stay here. There was a note saying that they may be back today, but it hasn't happened yet. This is not a problem. I love the desert and have the urge to travel around Nevada, Utah, and Arizona and then go back to Baja as the weather gets colder - but I really should go to San Francisco and start chatting up sailors.
Trouble is I now know so many people scattered around over here, that I could start visiting a few and end up doing the same trip again - not the idea. Only time will tell. On the subject of Nevada, they have a very realistic outlook. Prostitution is legal and there is no income tax. Talk about getting the basic things in life properly organised. Dear Mr Major... Oh well - that's your lot for now. Try not to fall in too many campfires.
All the best