April 27, 2007 GMT
Finally tracked down a reliably-reconditioned gearbox in Ohio, which allegedly will arrive on Thursday. I'll be putting a new clutch plate in at the same time - ha'p'orth of tar and all that. Thanks to all who came up with suggestions and weblinks.
The squirrels here are black, and there's practically no traffic.
Ottawa is a little like Vientiane - about the size of Reading, which is extraordinary given that it's the capital of the second-largest country in the world. In the rush-hour there may be as many as three cars stopped at a red traffic light. It's a rather beautiful city.
It appears my gearbox is fine, despite the classic symptoms. The shaft has broken, which is highly unusual; the whole reason for having a non-Paralever model is that the shafts don't (usually) break. Sigh. Yet again I get a hitherto-unknown or rare fault. It's comforting to be able to swear in ten major languages.
I sorted the overcharging problem; as Phil surmised, it was the rather elderly wiring loom connecting the alternator, regulator, diode board and starter. So I constructed a new one and all is now well. I mean, I didn't mind having to switch all the lights on, but sometimes had to fire up the heated grips to keep the voltage down to a sensible level, which was a bit of a trial in Florida temperatures. I even fitted a high-wattage headlight bulb.
The licensing laws are even more arcane here than in the US. The only place one can buy Bombay Sapphire is a government liquor store; here it's the LCBO (Liquor Control Board of Ontario), who also stock a decent selection of South American wine. But one has to then find a supermarket to get the tonic and limes.
At least my plastic works here for buying fuel, unlike the US where foreign-issued cards frequently don't work. And I've had to turn my brain over to kilometres and litres, which are generally more familiar; in the US I found myself converting from US gallons to litres to Imperial gallons to calculate fuel consumption and pricing, which is good for mental arithmetic but makes my brain hurt.
Posted by Cynthia Milton at 06:55 PM
April 22, 2007 GMT
Forethought and Divine Retribution
Spring has arrived, all of a sudden. Montreal was at around 22C, which made the great piles of snow all over the place seem rather surreal.
And I've sussed the Canadian accent: it's quite subtle - sort of vaguely Scottish/Irish in that the 'ow' diphthong is pronounced 'oh'. For instance, 'aboat' for 'about' and 'oat' for 'out'. You have to listen quite hard, though.
So after some cogitation I decided to get myself on to the TransCanadienne and head west, more or less to see how far I can get.
After a snack stop west of Ottawa I was thoroughly enjoying the ride in glorious afternoon sunshine when there was a sort of bang and a graunchy noise, and the rear wheel tried to lock, which isn't ideal at around 75mph.
So clutch in, which didn't help much, and ground, literally, to a halt.
There is a particular, nasty, smell to over-hot EP90; the white smoke is a bit of a giveaway, too. I appeared to have a box-full of neutrals.
Put my helmet on the ground next to the rear wheel (standard N American distress signal) and practised swearing in ten major languages. A Vulcan stopped, and a nice chap called Rod took my details and went off home to ring for help, if possible from the BMW dealer in Ottawa. He came back having found the dealer and alerted them but unable to track down an available breakdown truck. While we were pondering, a police cruiser stopped and the nice young man telephoned Dwaine in Renfrew, who was out within 20 minutes.
Motor Sports World in Ottawa hung around to wait until we arrived at around 6pm and helped us get The Old Dear off the truck. She wasn't very cooperative, as the gearbox is either full of neutrals or has all the gears engaged at once depending on what you're trying to do. We discussed things a bit, and they reckoned 63,000 miles isn't bad for a gearbox really. I suppose so; after all they've been known to self-destruct at anything from 5 to 100,000 miles, or even never. I have one at home which lasted 90,000.
Thing is, when I changed the oil at Stan's place the old oil looked perfect - clean and absolutely no sign of water - and the magnetic drain plug had no more than the normal amount of swarf adhering to it. There have been no symptoms (like clicking when you wheel the bike backwards); no warning at all, in fact.
So now you know why I put the new gearbox in before I left home. So that it could explode somewhere civilised. And, of course, having bypassed Ottawa I've paid the price and have to be a tourist here for a few days.
Anyone know where I can get an exchange reconditioned box on this continent?
Posted by Cynthia Milton at 03:08 PM
April 17, 2007 GMT
I was always aware that the shoe company Bata was vaguely east European. There was a branch in our high street when I was a kid, and they were famed for their sturdy leather sandals. I confess I thought they were Polish, but they're actually Czech, and now Canadian, and huge. I've seen branches in almost every country I've been to.
I spent this afternoon in the wonderful Bata Shoe Museum here in Toronto. Totally fascinating, with footwear dating back 5,000 years. And there were links to a lot of my trip so far; for instance, sandals excavated from the pre-Inca ruins I visited at Chan Chan near Trujillo in Peru. They run a design competition every year, and this year the winner was a young lady from De Montfort University in Leicester.
Yesterday I ascended the CN Tower, which is the tallest building in the world (over 1,800 feet - more than half the height of Snowdon (or should that be a multiple of Nelson's Columns?)). The lower observation platform (over 1,100 feet) has a glass floor section - not advised for those affected by vertigo. The highest observation platform is at nearly 1,500 feet, and was swaying a bit yesterday; not a patch on 60 feet up a mast in a climbing harness, though.
Anyway, I'm off to Montréal tomorrow, where I gather it's a hell of a sight easier to buy une bouteille de vin (must be the French influence).
Posted by Cynthia Milton at 03:07 PM
April 13, 2007 GMT
I managed the escape to Canada: 1200 miles in three days from Florida, and no snow; just loads of rain and bloody cold. But at least there was some scenery to look at once I entered the Carolinas and Virginias. Got a bit delayed by a magical mystery tour in Ohio (thanks Garmin) which was picturesque but chugging along slipping the clutch in first gear behind an Amish horse-and-buggy with double yellow no-overtaking lines for several miles when busting for a pee and nowhere to stop isn't really my idea of a nice ride in the country.
True to form, there was absolutely no immigration/customs bit in Detroit, so I paid the toll to cross the bridge to the Canadian, organised (at least as much as Mexico who are very very organised), friendly side, where the nice immigration man even took my green card and put it on a pile to be sent back to the US (they get fierce if they don't get it back and can refuse you re-entry).
The joke is that no-one on the US side checked my passport, so in fact as long as I was leaving by a land border such as this I could have overstayed as long as I wanted instead of worrying about getting out by Monday and risking deportation and refusal of re-entry (easy to lose the green card thingy). And judging by what I saw at the US side of the bridge, it'd be a challenge getting yourself and your bike stamped into the US. The whole system is complete bedsocks.
So that's 62,633 riding miles, 37 countries, 6 continents, 2 years 227 days. And I'm not even fifty-two-and-a-half yet. What on earth am I going to do when I grow up? And before anyone else gets in there, _IF_ I grow up. Nah nah nah-nah nah.
Only in America:
Do you buy booze and cigs at the drugstore/pharmacy.
Could there be a chain of fast-food joints called Fatburger.
Is it impossible to walk 200 yards from your motel to the nearest shop except on the road because they don't have pavements (sidewalks).
Are most of the TV ads for all-you-can-eat diets and heart drugs (and pacemakers).
Do gas stations advertise the fact that they have diesel (it's rarer than LPG in Europe except for the dump pumps for trucks which, clearly, are a bit, well, robust, for a car. Not that Americans have cars, of course. They all have these enormous SUV things. They need them. They have to shop at Wal-Mart.)
Is 24mpg (30mpg Imperial) regarded as excellent.
Does the self-scan checkout have Spanish as the default language (obviously excepting in Spain and Latin America). (Mind you, I seem to remember English being the default there once or twice.)
Are motels located miles from anywhere to eat or drink (and no taxis or buses either) because EVERYONE has a car, don't they, and doesn't mind driving another twenty miles down the road after a bloody long day? And that far from what passes for civilisation, what passes for a pizza won't get delivered.
Is the standard of driving so appalling (possibly excepting Iran where the lunacy is a bit off the scale but the country is otherwise totally harmless. Oh, and Bolivian and Equatorian bus drivers, who are raving lunatics).
Are the road signs so clear. Phew. Well, apart from most of Europe, obviously.
Is international TV news devoted exclusively to places there are US troops, so currently restricted to Eye-rak. Rest of the world? Is there one? Never heard of it.
And now I've been rude about them they probably won't let me back in. But despite their paranoia I have to say that's it's really, really easy to get into the US without papers or anything. Just do a land border. They haven't a clue; I had to go and find an immigration bod when I entered from Mexico and tell him what to do and which forms I needed to fill in. If I hadn't I'd have simply ridden through in the same queue as everyone else; you remember, the one where I asked the customs guy to sort paperwork for The Old Dear and who couldn't even get her number into the computer so gave up and waved me through. Same by sea. So long as you enter and leave by land or sea you can get away with anything. So much for the Department of Total Obscurity, oops, Homeland Security. Just don't try to fly there except in bare feet. Well, I think they allow socks.
The Canadians are really friendly, and you can taste the food because it's half the size of the US portions but the same price so you get extra flavour instead. Stan told me to be wary of the fierce Canucks, so I will, but hey, he's an Amurrican (his words, not mine, honest).
Been a long day. G'night
Posted by Cynthia Milton at 03:04 PM
April 06, 2007 GMT
The Americans are claiming the credit for forcing Iran to release the prisoners. Naturally. And if you don't believe that, the other story is that the British grovelled and let the side down. Of course.
I also thought you should know that it's a really, really bad idea to let fire ants get inside your helmet.
Anyway, Stan took me to Stan's last Saturday to return the bearing extraction tool and get the bit you always forget when you order the new bearings. Stan extracted the spindle from the bottom yoke and said we should to get the orientation right when refitting because of the lock, but Stan pointed out that I no longer have a lock due to a road malfunction in Patagonia. Stan expressed surprise that the bearings had only lasted since then, upon which Stan explained the conditions obtaining in that neck of the woods and after that Stan seemed happy enough.
I'm on the RAC's radar, in the person of Paul Gowen who deals with such things, to sort out a new carnet for me, and I'll be calling in at the BMW dealer in Atlanta on my way through to make sure they keep a relatively-undamaged crate for me when I come back; the shipper flies from Atlanta (via JFK) to Cape Town with BA (still almost my favourite airline) so that seems a sensible course of action. Not something for which I'm particularly famous, but I have my moments.
Nine days left and counting; the nearest border is two hard or three reasonable days away. And, of course, it's started snowing around there again. Deep joy.
Posted by Cynthia Milton at 03:03 PM