I was thrown onto dry land at the east end of the Great Ocean Disappointment with a diluted faith in ever finding the one thing in Oz that would surprise the hell out of me. After all there was nothing left but the dreary coastal highway to Sydney. That’s when it happened; the Oh-I’m-bored-center in my brain made a coup d'état of my body, and I helplessly watched myself do a left turn in a crossing with no signpost. The road went up in the Snowy Mountains, and after two days and a very cold night I arrived in a place so seldom seen that it is called just that - Seldom Seen.
Seldom Seen was not much, just a very remote petrol pump run by the David Woodburn and an emu. In 2003 it became even less when a bushfire roared through the area, too far away for any firetruck to assist. David barely saved his life by sitting in a dam with a kangaroo. He lost everything including his roadhouse and emu friend. But nowadays he has a new buddy, the sheep Lamborghini, a new petrol pump, and two campervans where they spend their days making art of rubbish. David seemed happy to see me (ref: see somebody), fired up the coffee kettle, and we sat for hours in a pile of debris talking about this and that and then some more. It was all very weird and wonderful. Note that the petrol price at Seldon Seen depend on what football team you support (no kidding). If you're low on gas and support the wrong team you're f***ed.
David Woodburn has the bushiest eyebrows in Snowy Mountains
Snowy Mountains is stunning and far from the stereotypical Australian landscape. Imagine Switzerland with kangaroos... When roaring along a narrow gravel road carved into a steep mountainside in the middle of nowhere I knew that if I accidentally drove over the cliff nobody would see me or my bike ever again. It would be one of those mysterious disappearances that would never be solved. Heck, there was probably a couple of mysteriously missing motorcyclists down in that canyon already. I spent another two days in the mountains before I began the decent to Cooma and Brisbane, and then making the final run to Sydney where my camping kitchen quickly was replaced with the finest of metropolitan cuizine.
A chocolate lunch break with Dew, the chronically happy owner of Manly Beach House. Check out that giant truffle... nam nam
Sydney is not the average big city. With a few distinct landmarks and a laidback atmosphere it has an intimate feel only shared with a few other major cities round thew world such as San Francisco and Cape Town. I wish I had more time to explore it, but my exams were my first priority. I also had to arrange shipment of the motorcycle to the US, so I was pretty busy. I got a room at the Manly Beach House, bought a roll of scotch tape, and decorated the walls with queue words. The exams where held in the Norwegian Church, and with such an almighty exam guard it became impossible to cheat.
Priest Torgeir Vea and his wife Margit. Thanks for all your help!
Ah, United States of America – finally I would meet the finest people on the face of the Earth. Indeed, after watching the average American on Ricky Lake Show I had no doubt that their beauty and intellectual capacity would take my breath away.
OK, you’ve already figured out that I brought with me some of that silly European prejudice. Let me say right now it’s BS. America is a wonderful surprise. The custom clearance of Balto was hassle-free with friendly officers. They didn’t even bother to check my stuff. The third party insurance was easy too. Fifteen minutes on progressive.com and we were ready to go. But where? The US has the unpractical shape of a roadkill. Whatever route you choose you’ll miss out on many things.
How many times do I have to say it – it’s not a teddy, it’s a kangaroo
Susan who spent a year with my family as an exchange student in the early eighties welcomed me at the LA airport. We had not seen each other since we were children, so we approached each other as responsible adults by blowing up a number of Coca Cola bottles with Mentos’ on her front lawn. The rest of the time we drove around in the city in her Chevy while drinking vegetable juice. Hollywood, Beverly Hills, and a bundle of places I’ve never heard of. Just name it and we were probably there too. The biggest surprise was the Walk of Fame which I imagined was a wonderful showcase. In reality it looks like a suburb of Riga. One amazing thing about Susan – with no practice for more than 25 years she still speaks harstaddialekt, the sexiest kind of Norwegian language. That’s right; harstaddialekt makes French sound like an epileptic convulsion. Susan’s problem is that it is a rare dialect that most American men do not understand. If they did she’d probably be married twice by now.
My sister Susan
The original Route 66 does for most parts not exist anymore, thus driving it would be like going to the Louvre to see a fake Mona Lisa. I drove the last three kilometers of it, and at the end was the beach where they filmed Baywatch with the assistance of so much silicone that Palmela Anderson alone could fix 40 blown engine gaskets (and then we’re talking big BMWs). Ah yes, she had two of them - that makes 80. Anyway, the legendary Highway 1 which follows the coastline is much more real, a winding funfair for bikers, and I laughed all they way to San Francisco. There I stayed a few days in the penthouse apartment of David and Erika whom I met in Bangkok last year when they were on a trans-Asia cow-crashing expedition with a Transalp. Nowadays they have a V-Strom with – as David emphasizes with a hint of satisfaction – Wilbers suspension.
David and Erika was absolutely delighted to see me again
Together we had a serious look on the map. I knew I was in for some long stretches on surfaced roads, so to be ready for a cross-country I needed to give Balto some cruising abilities. I mounted long-distance tires. Then it was off to the seat maker Corbin, and during some productive hours in their factory they transformed my offroader into a Harley Davidson. Eh, not quite, but close enough. Two Harley footpegs on the engine guard and I was ready to go. Another rider on the spot said he really liked my motorcycle. Now, how often does the owner of a petit Japanese-Italian bastard hear that from a Harley-dude?
The Corbin people had never made a seat for the TTR before, so they had to make mine from scratch
Then it was back on Highway 1 and continue north. Wow, the coastal road is so amazing, and the interest I received from the locals was surprising. Some places they were literary queuing up to ask questions. It was almost as in Asia, but instead of being asked the same question by everybody (e.g. in India: What does the bike cost? / in Indonesia: Where are you going?) the Americans has an impressive mixture of queries to throw at me, such as these: What kind of dangers have you encountered on your trip? What kind of weapon do you travel with for self-defense? Where do you hide your revolver?
And just before the ocean view starts to become habitual the Highway 1 ends at the junction to 101 where you all of a sudden feel like an ant. It’s the trees that do it. They are the biggest on the planet. A redwood tree adrift at sea could sink a supertanker. Or to put it more constructively; one redwood tree and your sauna will be hot as hell for the rest of your life. They are an awesome sight. Really, you’ll have to be there to grasp their scale. So when I crossed the border to Oregon I did a right turn and – spellbound by the many grand vistas - headed inland to see if I could find some really rocky mountains too.
Redwood trees made me lose all respect for bjørketrær
I was happy to leave the Californian fuel pumps. For some reason they have a kind of foreskin which you have to pull back to get the pump going, and then it’s either full ejection or none. In Oregon these problems were over, but I soon discovered that there always has to be another problem. Sometimes the pumps do not work because you’ll have to pay inside the station before pumping. Other times you’ll have to lift or turn a handle or push a secret button to get some action. To complicate things the octane numbers are different in the US. E.g. the highest octane is 91, but in reality it is not, and sometimes you get 10% ethanol, and you have no idea how much you fill of what because it’s all in gallons. Why can’t these bloody Americans adapt to the EU standards like everybody else?
Answer: Because this is the land of freedom
Ernest Hemingway, one of my favorite authors, spent his last years in the skiing village of Ketchum in Idaho. I was hoping for the Hemingway experience and went for his home, but the garden was off limits and the house completely hidden behind blooming trees. Thus I decided to be content with a night at the Sun Valley Lodge where Hemingway completed For Whom the Bell Tolls. But all rooms were occupied. With a growing frustration I opted for his favorite restaurant Christiania where he ate his last meal. But again, the door was shut and it would not open before late. Now, at that point I felt like chewing on a very expensive custom-made silver-plated Boss shotgun cal. 12 with a barrel so long that I’d had to pull the trigger with my toe. However in absence of such device I decided to wait. So I did, and the reward was great. That night I went to bed with a New York Strip Steak, a Cesar salad, and a bottle of Bordeaux in my stomach. It was spectacular, probably the best Hemingway experience I could ask for, and I bet I farted a lot in my sleep. Now I just have to wait for Graham Greene to die and I’ll have my next dining destination.
Wait a minute… Graham Greene IS dead. Yohoo, I’m going to Switzerland.
The graveyard where a Nobel Prize winner wannabe with a writers block spent last night
In the Montana countryside I came by a sign saying Rodeo Tonight. I pitched my tent right there and at sundown the show was on. First everybody had to stand up. A cowgirl rode around in the arena with a large and seemingly heavy stars and stripes while another girl sang the national anthem with a voice like a horse on helium, and she sang so slow that by the end of it the girl with the flag was so exhausted that she probably was shot in mercy in her campervan. Then it was a few cowboy stunts before the speaker told all veterans of the armed forces to stand up and receive acclaim for making it possible for the rest of us to enjoy this wonderful evening in freedom. Between the rope tricks and the bull riding the appraisal of the nation reached religious proportions, with the speaker constantly reminding the crowd – perhaps two hundred people or so - that they lived in the greatest nation in the world. I was tempted to point out to somebody that it is in fact a small country in Northern Europe that is, according to the UN, the best country to live in, and that it has been ranked so for seven years now. But I had a feeling that nobody there would say: “Oh thanks for straighten that out. Hey everybody, we’re not the best after all. This guy (pointing at me) can tell you all about it. Yes, this guy…”
I body would never be found.
Why isn’t it called horsesboy? I’ve never seen a cowboy ride a cow
Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming is just what the ad says - spectacular. It is the home of half of the world’s geysers, and since I’d never seen one I opted for the most reliable one, Old Faithful, which every hour and a half spews 30 000 liters of water more that 50 meters up in the air. Nice! Then everybody rushed to their vehicles to be first out of the parking lot. You see, in Europe the car is pulling the campervan, but in the US the campervan is pulling the car. They are called RV’s (Recreational Vehicles), and their purpose is for the owner to be able to watch satellite TV on different locations all over the country. They are kinda slow and difficult to bypass on zigzag roads. But only if you drive a car…
A few hours later; I was alone in my lane and came in a fine angle through a curve and jumped on the brakes. Straight ahead was something large, wooly and unhappy cornered by thick forest to the left, a canyon to the right, and a line of cars blocking the opposite direction. It was something I’d never seen before. I just knew it meant trouble. The animal had a massive forehead wide as the steering bar on my motorcycle. Even worse, it came straight at me.
I have to add that somebody, earlier the same day, told me that every year a number of people are run down and killed by buffalos, thus adding some excitement to the moment. But just before it hammered into my headlight it tilted slightly to my left, and passed me so close that I could have touched it. Phew… One car driver leaned out her window and shouted: “You lucky son of a bitch.”
With a sudden desire to leave the woods I drove over the rockiest of the Rocky Mountains with a headache. I didn’t expect it, but the abrupt ascent to approx. 3000 meters above sea level gave me some minor altitude sickness. At days end I descended on the other side with a low, orange sun to my left. It all became flat again, and soon there were industrial towns, neon lit petrol stations and a busy freeway where the drivers of colossal Mack trucks had just started their night shift. It was the end of the West; the beginning of the middle, and the odd experiences was queuing up.
The Rockies at 10.000 feet
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