May 09, 2007 GMT
Back Into Meldrew Mode

Do you remember that BBC programme years ago with James Burke, called 'Connections'? You know, the chap who was the sainted Raymond Baxter's straight man on 'Tomorrow's World'?

Well, there's a branch of Hakim Optical opposite my motel.

"Gosh, that's interesting" I hear you say.

Not so fast; cast your mind back to My Caribbean Adventure, and a stupendous floating gin palace in the marina on Isla Mujeres. It was owned by that jolly nice Iranian chap Hakim, aka Sir Karim Hakimi, who is not only a motorcyclist but owns a chain of giglamps emporia here in Canada. The one and the same. There's a thing. There's always something with a link to something else in this trip.

And due to one's clothing's propensity to disintegration, from the bottom:
Sandals from Las Vegas
Socks from Chile (a gift from Fabiola - Winnie-the-Pooh, of course)
Trousers from Brazil
Knickers from Texas
T-shirt from Mexico
Shirt from Tokyo

Not to mention consumption of a frame, front suspension, a front wheel and brake disc, an engine bottom, a driveshaft, nine pairs of tyres, two GPSs, three windscreens, a mirror, a crash helmet, a pair each of summer and winter gloves, a tankbag, a dead sheep, a set each of valves/seats/guides, piston rings and rocker shaft bearings, but only one headlight and stop/tail bulb; around 8,000 litres of fuel, about 400 litres of engine oil (never mind transmission and fork oil), quite a lot of wine, and a modicum of Bombay Sapphire.

Anyone who says they can do this on the cheap is riding round a completely different planet.

So, the new shaft arrived, and (eventually - lack of appropriate special tool, I gather) was fitted this morning. The UJ on the old one was a complete mess. Anyway, having recovered from the shock, stashed the spare clutch plate I'd ordered just-in-case, and ridden back to the motel, I was doing a little light luggage rearrangement. "I'll just have a little check over things" I thought; "Can't be too careful".

There's a big rubber boot covering the join where the gearbox output flange is bolted to the shaft. There's a socking great split in it, on the top. I cannot believe the mechanic, sorry, technican, didn't notice it. Possibly he did and thought I wouldn't. One very fierce phone call to the dealer later and they're having one couriered to arrive tomorrow morning. I'll have to fit it myself as they're booked solid, but I'm past caring.

Posted by Cynthia Milton at 06:57 PM GMT
May 14, 2007 GMT
Not A Man From Porlock

I stayed at Wawa. Can't believe that.

(Remember, pix are here.)

The western part of Ontario is stonking. The TransCanadian winds its way through forests and beside lakes. Brilliant. Then you get to Manitoba and Saskatchewan. Almost as boring as Texas. Prairie, flatter than Norfolk, featureless, windy, dead straight roads, Patagonia is more interesting, and not only in the Confucian sense.

But when one of my ignition leads gave out ten miles from Moose Jaw, I plodded on one cylinder to the petrol station and the owner opened the huge workshop door and helped me push The Old Dear inside out of the rain so I could construct a new lead and get going again. Lovely chap, kept giving me coffee and cigs. And I'd stopped earlier, just out of Regina, for a broken Harley, and the guy was gobsmacked because everyone else (including the local H-D dealer) had passed him by. Broken drivebelt. Chums on way so OK, but he was ever so effusive in his thanks that I'd stopped.

I always ask for Senior Discount - worth at least 10%, and I've only been asked for proof of age once. I imagine the grey hair is fairly convincing. There are definite advantages etc. etc.

There was a man from Truro at Wawa. Usual conversation "British numberplate, where are you from, how did you get here" etc. Nice chap.

But the Canadian radio journalist said "Obviously, you shipped the bike here." Er, no, actually. No shipping since that little flight over the Darién Gap. "Where's that?" etc.

Forest fire in Ontario. Helicopter carrying buckets of water. Apparently it had spread from Minnesota or somewhere (geography's a bit hazy, omigod I'm not turning into an American am I?).

So, in Medicine Hat tonight and on into the Rockies tomorrow where I hope to bump into Don and Pauline and their daughter and son-in-law, somewhere near Lake Louise but I'm not sure. A bit knackered 'cos I've done over 2,000 miles since leaving Ottawa on Thursday afternoon.

Posted by Cynthia Milton at 07:01 PM GMT
May 26, 2007 GMT
Dead White Males

Been a long way this week.

Left Canada on Wednesday morning with the 11th pair of tyres and an oil change (thanks to SouthWest Motorrad in Kelowna, lovely people). Did battle with US Customs and Immigration. I was the first alien of the day so they had to reboot their computers. After much consultation they still can't give me temporary import paperwork for The Old Dear, so I'll have to do it by the seat of my pants to get her out. It all took an hour so was nearly like a proper border crossing.

Got snowed and hailed on in Montana, but the scenery was spectacular. I missed Idaho 'cos I blinked. Wyoming was nicer weather (not much rain and not quite as cold), completed with a Close Encounter of the Umpteenth Kind. Saw four Dead White Males in South Dakota. And now I'm in Iowa. That's only 1630 miles in the last four days, but the shoulders get to me. Only one time zone to go to Florida and the shuttle launch on June 8th. Memo to self: ring Stan to check that my ticket's arrived.

"That's a British numberplate."
"Well spotted."
Chap from Birmingham, goldsmith, living in Kelowna (BC), with jewellery shop. Very interested in my Peshawar/Singapore earrings.

"Do you know about Horizons Unlimited?"
"See the back of my helmet."
Chap hosting HU meet in Canada later this year at Toad Rock, encountered at a petrol station in Kaslo.

All the inland ferries in Canada are free - the one from Kootenay Bay to Balfour is five miles and half an hour, and the longest free one in the world, apparently. The coffee's good, too.

Oh, and I had a great couple of days with Don and Pauline, and Dana (their daughter) and Alan and sprogs, at Kootenay Lake in the Rockies in BC. Don and Pauline live 200 yards from me in Thatcham, are also BMW owners, and are in the process of emigrating to Canada. Sensible people. I favour Argentina myself; the weather and wine's better.

What the USA does really well:
- Beds (fantastic)
- Road signs (generally superb)
- Abstruse licensing laws (more impenetrable than South American one-way systems)
- Patriotism (although gets a little wearing at times)
- Getting really, really close to interesting stuff without having to leave your vehicle (saves time if you're on a tight schedule and wetness if it's pissing, but I could do without the obligatory McDonald's drive-thru on the way)
- Strange nomenclature (e.g. our biscuit is their cookie; their biscuit is our scone; gas may be petrol or it may be propane, or both, who knows)

They're up in arms about the sky-high price of fuel (again, still) but it's only around 40p a litre ($3/USgal) which is the global average in my experience. They regard 30mpUSg (=UK 36mpg) as really good consumption. They'll get the plot in the end, no doubt.

Posted by Cynthia Milton at 07:04 PM GMT

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