June 21, 2007 GMT
One week to go

Hi, I’m Les Kay and my travelling partner is Cai, my 18yr old son. We live in a small village in North Wales, UK. Cai has just finished his pre-university exams and is spending his gap year on a fairly epic bike trip covering a great deal of the American continent. Me, well I’ve spent the last stage of my life self employed, doing a variety of jobs; from posing nude for artists, to delivering bouquets of flowers. Recent summers have seen me associated with local friends and their Glastonbury festival escapades, they’ve had me leading painting workshops for kids, building giant caterpillars (see Creative Recycling ) and even driving a three wheeled trailers. Despite the offer of another manic festival this year it’s my privilege to be accompanying Cai.

I’ve ridden bikes for thirty years. Mostly for the enjoyment but also as in instructor, this eventually detracted from my enjoyment. Cai’s early experiences never progressed beyond sitting on bikes under someone else’s control. Though he always liked being the one to operate the throttle, as he sat in front of me on the tank.

That all changed a few months before his 17th birthday when he got an early Christmas/birthday present, a cheap and nasty Chinese copy of the XL125. But hey, it did the trick! We’d take it round the fields at a friend’s, playing at locking the rear wheel under control, falling off and slow delicate stuff. By his 18th birthday he’d passed his test and gone onto an old CB250 RSA, then a Cagiva 500 Canyon. The progression was timed to bring his riding standard and confidence up to scratch for starting this trip.

The intention is to start in LA and head north along the coast road, Highway 1. Somewhere between Vancouver and the Yukon we’ll turn right and ride up into the Rockies; where following the continental divide south will eventually spit us out towards Mexico. We’ll try to follow our own noses and cover Central and South America before returning home. Our ideal is to stay off main routes and tarmac as much as possible. We're going to show our route and some of the sights we see along the way on our Google Maps page

There is so much behind organising a long distance journey on a bike. It’s generally believed the better organised, the less that can go wrong; yet often it’s the things going wrong that make a journey more memorable. I find the unexpected generally provides more variety in life than the expected; it’s less tainted with your own preconceptions. By far the better way to ride is to keep your eyes and mind open; its not that you look for the obscure or profound experiences, just be aware of them when they occur. And boy do they occur!

The intention is to start in LA and head north along the coast road, Highway 1. Somewhere between Vancouver and the Yukon we’ll turn right and ride up into the Rockies; where following the continental divide south will eventually spit us out towards Mexico. We’ll try to follow our own noses and cover Central and South America before returning home. Our ideal is to stay off main routes and tarmac as much as possible.

We’ve planned this for the last eighteen months. With only one week to go now it still doesn’t seem very real. There’s too much to get our heads round and too many people who want to know everything we plan to do. How do we know what we’re going to do? We won’t get bikes till we reach LA; which ones, we don’t know. It will be nice to get a couple of XR650's but I'll not buy without seeing the bikes first, so it has to wait until we get to the states. We have our luggage and all the equipment we’re taking packed! Now all there is left to do is pack the rest of my household goods away and throw a massive party to say cheerio to all our friends. Aren’t all trips started with a healthy hangover? I hope not!

Posted by Leslie Kay at 11:44 AM GMT
June 22, 2007 GMT
Farewell party

Well, it could be said a good time was had by all! I certainly hope so, it went on for long enough and there was so much consumed. Mrs Doubtfire made a very good impression and I'm glad to say I retain my reputation for coming up with a damned good costume. My apologies to those who will never see their grannies in the same light again. Didn't they bounce so well when I danced?

Our appreciation to all who attended and the effort they all put in. Marilyn was on form and all our friends definately showed clearly what Hollywoood should be all about. Johnny

Depp was such a nice guy, even if he did appear to be a bit effeminine. And I don't know what was going on between him and Velma, it all looked a bit dodgey from where I was; but oh, so sweet!

There was an abundance of Cleopatras and definatley not enough milk to go around. Despite the fear and loathing and there being more Kong than dong it went very well. A very well celebrated end of an era, thank you all and good luck.

There is now only two days left and so much still to sort out. Was it really wise to put my house on the market just before leaving? Who cares, I won't be here!

Posted by Leslie Kay at 06:34 PM GMT
June 28, 2007 GMT

Wow, what a journey! Delays at every possible opportunity. First at Manchester for three hours, then four hours at Chicago. We got into Los Angeles at 3.30 am Thursday, instead of 5.15 pm Wednesday. That was a trip lasting nigh on thirty hours, thanks to British Midland! Immigration wasn't as bad as expected, neither were customs. But there were plenty of small minded people in uniforms strutting around barking orders, Never mind, we got here and drove alongside a lovely sunrise over the telegraph wires of the Californian landscape.
It was amazing how well I managed to perk up on arrival. I'd only had about four hours sleep in over 48 hrs, yet when we finally got the hire car I was feeling excited, alert, and raring to go. I only felt slightly let down when we were given a damned Ford Focus as our hire car; all the way to the States and get a boring car like that. Though it was cool having completely empty roads, being so early in the morning; it made navigating out of LA really easy. I could just swing across any number of lanes to take the right route. I even swung a great U-turn on Lincoln Bld. We got to Ojai by 6.30 am, absolutely knackered. Cai grabbed some sleep but I hung on till evening to give myself the best chance of getting over jet lag.

Being welcomed into someone's family home like one of their close friends is such a nice experience. We're staying with Al and his family, even though we've never meet them before. Lovely prople and such a great little spot they have in the reaches of the Ojia (pronounced O-hi) valley. We've been given the guest quarters (doesn't that sound grand?), an old second world war Nissan hut. As you can see its a nice wee pad! They used to live in it themselves until they built their earthquake and fire resistant house.

Oh boy, is it hot here or what? And that's me saying that; the sun king, god of the tan. Its actually a pleasure to get up at 5.30-6.00 am to get some things done; even if it is only poring through motor trade mags for motorbikes. Though we feel we need to take things easy it isn't possible to leave searching for bikes till later. Its the most important aspect of our journey, so it takes priority over everything else. Even if we have to undertake the arduous task of reading bike adverts while resting in the shade.

Posted by Leslie Kay at 06:56 PM GMT

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