I said goodbye to these two amazing people this morning. I met them on the Internet and they didn’t know me from Adam, but they collected me from the airport, put me up for the night and sold me the best damn chopper I could ever want for my road trip. Then they rode with me for almost six hundred miles of the Pacific Coast highway, just because they wanted to see me off on my journey and “it seemed like the right thing to do”. Hope our paths cross again, Mr and Mrs Miyagi.
I can’t deny that the plan for today was bothering me a bit. My itinerary had the mileage down as over 360 miles and after yesterday’s ride, I had realised that getting fifty miles done in an hour was about as much as you can expect on Highway 101, so that equated to at least seven rolling hours. Seven hour on a rigid framed motorcycle. Seven hours on a rigid framed motorcycle with very loud exhausts and an engine that vibrates like a rampant rabbit with fresh lithium batteries. Yeah, I was a bit apprehensive.
As expected, jet lag woke me up at about 2am saying, “it’s morning time, Charlotte – up you get!” Jet lag is not my friend, so I gave her the finger and went back to sleep. At seven, I came downstairs to find Steph and Suzanne already packing their bikes, ready for the off. All we needed to do was to be down at the DMV for 0930 to get my title and plates sorted out and we could be off…
In a couple of days, I will be getting on a a suspiciously cheap (like about £200) Norwegian air flight to Seattle. When I get there, I’m being met at the airport by Steph, the very lovely guy who’s selling me the bike I’m going to ride and he’s driving my an hour north to his place in Anacortes, Washington. Amazingly, not only is he selling me this beautiful bike that he custom built, he’s collecting me from the airport and putting me up for the night before I set off on my ride south. But get this – last week, he offered for him
Earlier on this year, at the motorcycle show in London, I met a hero of mine – the globetrotter, motorcycle adventure guru and all round splendid chap Mr Austin Vince. For anyone not acquainted with his work, Austin’s motorcycle expedition Mondo Enduro was the first recorded crossing of the Caucasus, Central Asia, Russia and Siberia making his team the first Europeans to reach Magadan after the collapse of the Soviet Union. He makes Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman look like a pair of Johnny-come-latelies.
Right at the beginning of Easy Rider, as a metaphor for the irrelevance of the straight world’s conception of time to the journey he’s about to undertake, Captain America throws his watch in the dirt. Clearly, if I’m going to do this thing right, I need to do likewise just before I ride out of Ballerat, CA. My ethical dilemma for you this morning: although this is quite obviously littering, it is also a pilgrimage – can I be forgiven? If so, what sort of watch ought I discard? I only have two wristwatches, neither of which I’m willing to leave in the desert.
Last week, I put a deposit down for the bike I’m going to ride on this trip. It’s a 1978 XS650 engine, rephased to 277 degrees, in a one-off custom hardtail frame. The guy who built it lives up in Washington State, north of Seattle, where he runs a little custom shop, making all sorts of cool stuff. He originally put the bike together for himself, as a lightweight, long-distance machine, so it’s set up with an air shock on the tractor seat, a decent size gas tank, sissy bar and luggage racks. Better still, it’s got highway pegs, a comfortable riding position and even
I’ve been riding motorcycles since I was in my teens. My first bike was a Kawasaki KE100 that I bought before I even had a license and I’ve had more bikes than I can remember since then. Road bikes, race bikes, big trail bikes, muscle bikes, tourers – all sorts. I’m lucky in that I’m tall and strong, which means that I’ve yet to find I bike I can’t physically handle. As soon as I could afford it, I worked my way up to bigger engines because I loved the power, the speed and the adrenaline.
Easy Rider. A film that needed to be made at some point. Two disaffected hippies ride across the land to the most awesome soundtrack that money can buy; it’s too good a formula not to. Like some kind of cinematic theory of evolution, I’m convinced that if Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper hadn’t made it, then someone else would have done something similar eventually. So why Easy Rider – what’s the deal?