October 16, 2006 GMT
The Dead Sheep Died

It's always great to see old friends again, especially when they plonk a pint of Bombay Sapphire and tonic in your hand before you've even got your kit off.

Bruce (Grove, ex-colleague from Sun-IMP) lives in a gorgeous house on the outskirts of Austin (Texas), complete with cat and a garage big enough for several bikes (he has a Triumph at the moment).

Entering the US was fun. As I stopped at the Mexican border post at Ojinaga I realised my sidestand was hanging off. It's mounted on the rear engine mounting stud, and the nut had disappeared somewhere along the way. So I found a lamp-post to lean the bike against, kicked the stud back through properly, and tightened a cable-tie around the thread to stop it moving until I can do it properly. Meanwhile the customs man checked the bike out of Mexico, and all I had to do was cross the Rio Grande.

Big queue on the bridge. So I did the usual passing to the front, dumped the bike outside immigration and went inside. There was no clue as to queuing procedure or what paperwork was required, and most of the signs were in Spanish. Eventually I caught the eye of the sole immigration officer. Waving my UK passport I convinced him I wasn't either American or Mexican, and he grumpíly gave me the the green visa waiver form to fill in, the same one you get when you fly in. But he had to brighten up in the end because he kept addressing me in Spanish and having to apologise.

So I went back to the bike and merged into the queue of cars and trucks waiting to enter the US. There's no temporary import paperwork for the bike, but they're supposed to put your registration number into their computer system. Except that it can't cope with the number/letter format of British plates. So the guy gave up in the end. So I'm here but the bike isn't. Hope that doesn't cause a problem when I leave.

When I arrived in Creel for the Horizons Unlimited do the Dead Sheep was clearly past its best. It never got tanned, and I could never quite bring myself to pee on it. Oh well, never mind. But a nice chap from Guadalajara appeared and gave me Dead Sheep II, this time properly tanned and likely to last much longer. In fact I spent the whole week being completely spoiled by lots of US and Canadian riders; other than them and the Mexicans, the only foreigners were me, Lars from Norway on a 100GS outfit, and three British lads who turned up on Friday on a couple of F650s and (I think) a Transalp, all of them heading south.

I sang for my supper with some presentations, which were quite fun as people actually laughed at my jokes and asked sensible questions. The interesting thing was that of around 100 bikes, more than half were 1200GSs and half the rest were KLRs or KLXs. Only a couple of other airhead boxers, one being an original 1981 R80G/S like mine and actually the property of the rider's mum. Oh, and an immaculate Cossack Ural outfit.

There were even a couple of guys who recognised my name from the Chris Scott book (The Adventure Motorcycling Handbook) and asked me to autograph them. It was nice for me as well as I left the UK before the latest edition was published, so although there's a copy waiting for me at home I hadn't seen my words/pix in print before.

So, for the record, that's 50,828 (riding) miles, 2 years 47 days, 6 continents and 36 countries. And Rotary Clubs and geraniums are still top of the ubiquities list.

Posted by Cynthia Milton at October 16, 2006 08:48 PM GMT

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