Travel in Guam on a Harley-Davidson

By Peter & Kay Forwood

Guam on a Harley (29/1/08 - 20/2/08)
Distance 380 km (501142 km to 501522 km)

This is part of the fourteenth section of our around the world trip.
Background information and previous trips.

Coming from Micronesia

29/1/08 A small island, big population, American thinking, we arrived at the larger international airport and were issued a 90 day visa under the visa waiver program, were politely, but extensively, subtly questioned by homeland security, casually glanced at by customs and walked out into US territory. A few telephone calls to cheaper, not many here, hotels, and one with an airport pick up, almost essential with high taxi charges, and we were accommodated in Guam, half way between the airport and port. First impressions, we could be in a small US city, which we were, with all the fast food outlets, large free-standing shopping complexes, and big SUV vehicles filling busy roads. The driver from the hotel, a man from Palau, advised there are more cars than houses here and the people don't know how to spell Global Warming let alone what it means.

30/1/08 Our hotel arranged to take us back to the airport where the motorcycle landed on the Asia Pacific freight flight around lunch time. Air freight paperworkTuesday's get together at the Guam Harley Dealers was completed easily but the Customs officers were more difficult. Although we were allowed to import the motorcycle duty free on a temporary basis they asked for copies of our passport and onward ticket to ensure we would be taking the motorcycle out again? Also they insisted it was necessary to get Department of Transport approval to ride here before it could be released. We questioned the difference between Guam, compared to the tens of thousands of Canadian and Mexican vehicles crossing daily into mainland US territory, but it didn't help. It was a 15 dollar taxi fare or a 4km walk, I opted for the latter and hitch hiked to the DOT office, getting a lift about half way, but not till after seeing a stealth bomber flying overhead, Guam being a major US military base. The sight of a black batwinged plane seemingly suspended in the air without a sound was quite impressive. DOT provided approval for us to ride here for five days, which can be extended, a provision designed to give time to prepare the vehicle for full registration. Again we couldn't convince them we had ridden in the US mainland, crossing the borders many times without needing any paperwork, and wasn't Guam part of the US? The head of airport Customs hadn't softened her position on my return and despite us having DOT approval to ride here she refused to clear the motorcycleNatural swimming pool on the east coast unless we changed the km/hr speedometer to a miles/hr speedometer. After an hour's discussion of rejections we asked for her decision in writing so we could appeal to the head of customs for Guam. Why she had taken it upon herself to refuse the motorcycle's entry for a DOT reason, when the DOT had given us approval we couldn't understand, nor could her staff. Eventually she did a backflip and approved the motorcycle's release. Continental Airlines wouldn't allow us to store the crate in their warehouse and after the motorcycle was assembled in the air freight car park we paid a pickup to take it to the hotel where they happily agreed to store it. A long day made more difficult by an overzealous official reminiscent of Africa.

31/1/08 The clutch of the motorcycle has been giving some problems since the middle of India with engaging and disengaging at different positions. A noise had recently developed and pulling apart the area and investigating this morning we found some small metal rubbish wedged in the clutch hub. Guam has the first Harley dealer the motorcycle has seen in a year and taking the clutch to the shop to be opened they found the pressure plate, brass riveted together, had virtually disintegrated. Half the rivets had broken and had gouged two of the friction plates. The pressure plate is original, letting us know we can still expect some parts to break,Clutch pressure plate with rivets missing ones that haven't given us problems in the past. The friendly H-D shop also gave us a "take off" rear shock, one of ours had collapsed recently and we have been getting a hard ride from the remaining shock. On my walk yesterday to the DOT office I didn't see anyone else walking and again today there was no-one on the streets. Buses don't run far from the main city, and to get to the H-D shop we were offered a lift by the hotel, and a customer at the shop, who lived near to our hotel, brought us back. Without wheels, with taxi's expensive, buses almost non existent, renting or owning a car is the only transport option, different from all the other Pacific islands where share taxi's charge a dollar or less for a city wide ride, letting us know that whilst many people here have an island friendliness transport is definitely US mainland.  

1/2/08 The H-D shop had a replacement pressure plate but not the friction plates which they ordered from the US, and we reassembled the clutch area in the hotel car park this morning so we can ride, but will need to redo the job when the remaining parts arrive, hopefully in ten days time. Whilst we had this section of the motorcycle apart we continued with our cleaning and maintenance upgrade, rust painting, repairing a couple of stripped threads and just looked closely at worn parts. RecentlyChamorro Village, food and local entertainment there has been little let up to repairs and just as we think we have fixed one problem another one arises and we sometimes wonder if the motorcycle will make it to the last nine country's or ten if Kosovo declares itself independent and is recognised by the UN. While in Pohnpei we had chanced on a 1994 H-D, same year as ours, and while it looked in poor condition with a lot of rust, the engine sounded beautiful, no knocks or rattles with its low mileage, which perhaps made ours sound worse, with its intermittent sharp clicking noise, coming from our engine, it had us pondering. H-D has a factory engine rebuild program, reasonably priced and with a 12 month warranty, the idea of shipping our engine to the US for a peace of mind repair is gaining interest. They totally disassemble the engine, measure all parts and replace any that are outside specifications, repaint and replace chrome parts.

2/2/08 Rode down to the H-D shop this morning where the mechanic listened to the engine noise, and booked it in for an inspection check after the weekend.

3-4/2/08 Expecting to lose use of the motorcycle, but not wanting to ride too far, we took it to the Japanese centre of town. Here all signs are in JapaneseDodd, the H-D mechanic, repairing the cam area first and English a smaller second, reflecting the importance of the spending power and volume of visitors. The DFS Galleria is unabashedly a Japanese shopaholics mall full of duty free, high end name brand shops, selling a predominance of handbags and clothing, aimed at Japanese women, who were there by the busloads, young, and brandishing a demeanour of wealth. Not all seemed willing to part with their yen easily though as the nearby McDonalds was the thriving lunchtime eatery. Our five day permit for the motorcycle was due to expire but another visit to the friendly Department of Transport had us walking away with a one month extension.

5/2/08 We were at the H-D shop at opening and the mechanics, by lunch, had identified the noise as coming from a collapsed cam follower. This is the same problem I encountered in Siberia two and a half years and 80,000 km ago. With the motorcycle over 14 years old most H-D mechanics no longer work on them and some younger ones have rarely if ever worked on an "Evo motor" which they stopped putting into new motorcycles about 8 years ago. Three of the four cam followers wheels had worn down their pins to be loose in the wheel, the fourth seemed unaffected. This has been a fairly regular problem and we keep a spare set, with cam and bearing, normally also needed, as the broken cam follower damagesChinese New Year's celebrations at a local hotel the cam. A phone call to our son in Australia and the parts should be DHL'd here in a few days, meanwhile we are again without transport. A crack was also noticed in the engine casting next to the cam bearing. Despite this we have decided to keep this engine, if possible, to visit the remainder of the world's countries, after which we think we will retire it, and buy a completely new engine so we can continue to travel, hopefully with fewer problems. Every Tuesday H-D Guam offers a free buffet dinner and drinks as a social event with live music. Quite unique in any shop we have visited, the offer seems open to anyone interested in Harleys. The American owner and his local wife offer a mixture of island and business hospitality and an equally diverse group of people, tonight about 80 including many children, mix and mingle bringing together their different cultures. 

6/2/08 A Japanese shipping company, Kyowa, has a three weekly schedule between Guam and Palau, and onward to South Korea, now our intended route, and with a ship sailing on the 15th of February to Palau, we made a tentative booking for the motorcycle. It is really our only option. The Asia Pacific Airlines tuna freight flights are infrequent at the moment and the only other shipping company, Matsons, doesn't collect cargo in Guam for Palau. This makes our motorcycle repair schedule a littleVisiting children at the Guam Hospital tight as the bike needs to be at the wharf by the 15th, but with losing a weekend it probably won't be repaired till the 12th. It's move quickly or wait three more weeks for the next sailing. We also delayed our flight out till the 20th, just in case some other parts, ordered through the H-D shop, are delayed in their arrival.

7-8/2/08 Hired a small car, rent a wreck, from our hotel, to finalise shipping arrangements and see a bit of the island, just the south, the road follows the coast through small villages, stopping at a small marina and a natural rock pool swimming hole.    

9/2/08 DHL had the parts at the airport early this morning, and we had them at the H-D dealer at opening and by mid afternoon the motorcycle was running smoothly. A few minor adjustments by us to get  the motorcycle running how we like it and it sounded and ran like a new engine, well almost. The cam bearing was left in place as we didn't want to extend the crack in the engine casing by trying to replace it, a new cam and cam followers were installed. 

10/2/08 We had an early morning breakfast with Joe and a couple of his friends. A retired military local, he had lent us his van to use for wheels over theDonating presents to children in the hospital last couple of days. He is new to Harleys in his retirement and is thinking of riding his motorcycle on a trip to Europe and America. The local Harley Owners Group, HOG, welcomed us at their monthly lunchtime meeting after which we all presented children at the local hospital with toys and then followed them on a ride to the top end of the island and to a small local biker hang out pub. Our older motorcycle looked a bit out of place with the newer shiny models but was now running smoothly.

11/2/08 With the motorcycle running well we looped the island, clockwise this time, stopping at Jeff's Pirate Cove. A local character Jeff runs an outdoor experience for Japanese tourists, swimming, snorkelling, wagon rides, restaurant and souvenirs but it was his association and literature that attracted us. Following WW2 some Japanese soldiers were left behind in Guam's jungle interior, hiding out waiting for the return of their army, some continued attacks on locals long after the war was over, and many were in return killed. Shoichi Yokoi managed to outlive all his compatriots and stayed hidden for 28 years, till finally captured in the 1970's. How he lived in caves and ate forest foods, and managed to avoid capture, and subsequently befriended Jeff, is a remarkable story. We took time out from our "arduous" island ride for a snorkel at theRiding with the local Guam HOG chapter natural rock pools of Salugula, another popular spot for locals and tourists. Further around the coast early history is identified at the landing place of Magellan during his around the world voyage, his first landfall after crossing the Pacific, and only a couple of months before his death in the Philippines.  

12/2/08 Continuing to enjoy a motorcycle that is now working well we visited the memorial site overlooking the landing area of US forces recapturing the island during WW2. A beach head assault, defended by Japanese hillside guns, it was an expensive landing in terms of lives lost but gained a foothold on a valuable island, with a good harbour. Having had a great time at the last week H-D dealer's midweek dinner we returned to another enjoyable evening, and hope to be there again next week before we fly out to Palau. 

13/2/08 Breakfast again with Joe and a ride to his beachside property. Right at the northern end of the island, backed by limestone cliffs, is a flat strip of densely vegetated land that had been occupied by local tribes for centuries. It is now used by a few city locals for relaxation, a place where tourists and the military don't come. There are many latte stones there. Believed to be the foundation blocks of village houses they are all that remainsMagellan's landing point in Guam of a past forgotten culture. A cave at the rear of the old village was used to escape hurricanes and the local caretaker still hunts coconut crabs, wild deer and pigs. It is a beautiful setting, away from the busyness that Guam has become. Cliffs always promote legends and Guam's Two Lovers Leap is no exception. An unhappy couple is supposed to have once tied their hair together and jumped starting the importance of what is now a cliff top stopping point on Japanese tours of the island. 

14/2/08 A rainy morning. The motorcycle needed recrating for shipping to Palau. We had arranged a truck but discovered they were sending a van with a rear lift, and a trolley jack forklift to move the crate about. Placing the crate on a couple of pallets before inserting the motorcycle solved the loading problem, but a delay in collection and last minute problems with paperwork had the motorcycle almost missing the 5pm port closure.

15/2/08 Joe had again offered us his van to use now we were without the motorcycle, but it is not the same as sightseeing on bike. 

16/2/08 An AmericanJoe and Kay looking at latte stones on Joe's property contractor, Doug, also a H-D rider, has been on island for the last month, staying at the Hilton Hotel, and invited us over to enjoy the facilities there for the day. Coinciding with Kay's birthday we indulged in the restaurant, had a few beers, snorkelled, and relaxed poolside and oceanside on the banana lounges, and watched the evening dance show. A cut above our usual standard of living it was also interesting watching the mostly Japanese tourists, snorkel for the first time or trying their hand at pedal boats or kayaks.

17-18/2/08 Quiet time around our hotel.

19/2/08 The boat carrying the motorcycle to Palau has been delayed but left today, the motorcycle as deck cargo. Taking advantage of a Harley shop we had ordered some parts, most arrived today, but unfortunately one of the clutch parts didn't, making the rest of the planned clutch area repairs not possible. We are leaving Guam tomorrow so the clutch repairs will have to wait till the next H-D shop. In the evening we again enjoyed the Tuesday get together for dinner at the shop, giving us an opportunity to say goodbye to everyone.

20/2/08 We neededDoug, Kay and Peter at the Hilton for Kay's birthday to be at the airport by 4am for the 6am flight. Joe was there to meet us and collect his van we had been using for the last few days. Amazing generosity from someone we had just met. Continental Airlines insisted we purchase an onward, at least fully refundable ticket, out of Palau before they would let us fly. We had hoped to make that purchase in Palau when shipping information was clearer, and we were more certain of our onward destination, either Korea or Taiwan. The purchase apparently flagged us as suspicious in the post 911 airline world and we were singled out for a thorough screening by airport security. During the patdown and bomb residue swabbing of ourselves and luggage security advised, if you have a one way ticket, pay for a ticket in cash or made last minute changes to a flight, the computer flags for extra screening. As we were in all three categories, we were obviously a bomb threat?                                 

Move with us to Palau



Top of Page

Story and photos copyright © Peter and Kay Forwood, 1996-
All Rights Reserved.

Hosted by: Horizons Unlimited, the motorcycle travellers' website, with more Travellers stories, a great Travellers Newsletter, and a Bulletin Board for all the latest On the Road Information! Webmaster: Grant Johnson