My hot car! Combined with free Ducati motorbike repairs and free shipment from Christchurch to Melbourne.
As I said, but it didn't seem like it got any attention based on the email hubbub, Phil (Road and Race) is a nice guy, but I don't think he should be a mechanic. The many oil leaks started on the second day which describe the exacting standards the bike was built to. And from what I've heard, when he sells you something that isn't as described, he doesn't have a problem with returns. I'm not saying don't buy parts from him (that's another shop in Australia). Like everyone said in Australia, "Buy parts from him, just don't let him work on anything". I'm sure he's still pissed at me though but if I see him, I'll offer him a beer.
I didn't rev the hell out of the engine. It spent most of it's time in 4th or 5th at wide open throttle. Good for about 95 k an hour, although the plate Ian Gowanloch put in the engine to keep the piston from hitting the top end slowed the bike down to about 90k. You notice the difference on a slow bike.
Bob Brown, the crazy motorcycle engineering genius at Melbourne Desmo Center, said he'd fix the bike if I got it to him. And Dave Milligan from Get Routed said he'd ship the bike from Christchurch to Melbourne for free. So if anyone out there wants work done on their Ducatis, talk to Bob Brown. He works on the old stuff and the new stuff, and since Ducati ripped off some of his ideas for their bikes, you know he's good.
And if you're shipping your bike to or from Australia, New Zealand, the Isle of Man and soon to be Canada, look up Dave and tell him Dave Smith sent you.
Bob has the busiest shop I've seen and he works alone. There were 30 bikes in there, plus a couple engines, when I showed up. It's better if you go there, because he'll tell you what to do and explain what the problems are. But I think he'll take shipments. Maybe if I talk him up enough, he'll start working on singles on a regular basis again. Although most people don't ride them, they just collect them. No web page for Bob though, but I'll make a page of helpful links for other nuts to use with his address and phone number.
Enough about that, I hope.
Here's a bitching shot of my Nissan Bluebird for the next month that I'm in New Zealand. I bought it from Laura Ruhl and Johny Varsami, a German couple at a place that caters to tourists buying and selling cars. They just provide the space, not the buying and selling. I paid NZ$500 and told Laura and Johny that if I sold it for more in Auckland, I'd send them half of what I got. The car was in Christchurch and I'm in Amberely. It's about 50k away (an hour) and Laura and Johny didn't want to spend their last night in New Zealand by following me back to Nigel's house. I could've hitch-hiked into town, but I didn't. I thought of something crazy instead.
I wanted something that I couldn't buy in the US, but there weren't any Fiat Unos for sale and the late-1970s Valiant Charger with the hemi slant six engine with the 6 Pack of carbs was too much money. I came super close to buying a Wolseley (a rebadged Austin 1800 which is a Mini with a larger body so they overheat in hot climates) or a Hillman Hunter. Maybe I should've got a Honda City to fit with the micro bike theme. No point in buying a motorbike, as it's going to be winter here soon and it'd be harder for me to sell.
Notice the 1968 Suzuki 50cc? Nigel Marx lent me his 1986? Honda VFR 750 (Interceptor in the States) but that wouldn't fit in the back seat. So I borrowed his Suzuki and put that in the back seat. It fit no problem, although I did break the mirror because I'm an idiot.
I thought I got a picture of Valentine, the German hitch-hiker that I picked up, but it didn't come out. He fit in the backseat under the front wheel of the Suzuki. I should check the pictures more often and put the digital part of the digital camera to good use.
So my plan is still Blenheim for the WWI airplane show, then up to the North Island to drink beer with the local punk rockers. My Kentucky moonshine should've shown up by then, and I still have the banjo. Plus, Marletta, the last girlfriend who still insists she wants to ride round the world with me, sent me some Marshmallow Peeps and a 6-pack of Pabst Blue Ribbon. Well, 5 beers since she drank one of them.
I'm off to Japan for about 3 weeks. I'll apply for jobs and return to California. Once you're over 30, it's hard to get a work visa in most countries. Although Japan doesn't care. But in Japan, they have to hire you outside of the country. So I'll find a job in Japan (and do the paperwork in California) or I'll find a job in California or maybe Oregon for 12-14 months while I save up and figure out how to make it across from Asia to Europe in time for the 2006 Motogiro.
My credit card debt now equals my savings, and I don't want to put myself deep in debt while I find a job in Japan. Just hoping for $3,000 in debt overall when I find a job.
Don't worry, Chris. I'm not planning on kicking those hippies out of my apartment -- I have a place to stay while I'm in Sacramento. I'll bounce around staying on the couches of all my ex-girlfriends until they gang up and kill me by kicking my shins.
Thanks for all the birthday wishes and the donations. Ivan sent me $30 to buy a pair of pants with and Amy Monkeybutt sent me another batch of cash. Do all of you Grass Valley people know each other? Actually, I'm sure Amy Monkeybutt, or her family, knows Ivan. Grass Valley motorcyclists have to know each other.
Soriano, Bob B (not the Aussie Bob B who'll be working on my bike), Jay & Chikae Onyskin, and John Romano sent me cash too. I'll spend it all on fuel, a mirror, and a pair of pants and not the Guinness on my birthday, which was followed up by buying me a couple more pints on St Paddys Day.
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My Plan is sort of solved, and don't worry, I wasn't planning on tucking in my tail and hiding out at home. I'm far too stupid to give up. Otherwise Ivan will make fun of me, and I don't want someone from Grass Valley teasing me. Not since I went out with Grass Valley-Nevada City Jacqueline 15 years ago, although she should feel free to post explaining how we didn't Officially go out. Which is a-okay by me as I'm sure she's ashamed we hung out back in the Crazy 90s.
Everyone should go back and re-read the comments from the last post. Then skim past this crap to post comments about your weight loss plan and low-finance rates. It's long, but since I don't post often enough, take your time to come back several times.
I showed up in Oz with high hopes. Hell, I'm some kook doing something crazy but making it public. What better publicity could you ask for? You'd think you'd want a job done on a bike you built complete with a seat made from Royal Albatross feathers and tires made from the skins of the rarest of reptiles with tires inflated from from Phil Irving's dying breath. It's not as bad as the new Triumph turning down Ted Simon's request for a bike when he re-did Jupiter's Travels at age 70, but paying so much for so much Asian parts on an Italian bike hurts just a wee bit.
[I'd say that paragraph suffers from me "editing" while drinking Jamesons. I'm just a 35 year old guy who's favorite story involves repoing cars in San Francisco from a guy who I swore was going to shoot me and Brad. Which puts me about 30,000 miles away from anything Ted Simon has done. -- ed]
I wasn't trying for any character assassination, I'm just mentioning my series of problems. I shouldn't bad-mouth anyone except myself -- I'm usually my first target -- but I have a big mouth and stuff gurgles out through that hole in my face which is my mouth (quote randomized and swiped from the suicidal Lorri Jackson as published by Lainie who did Lime Green Bulldozers).
As Simmo mentioned, I ride like a grandmother, so no high speed reving. Although maybe I'm the grandma who starts off in reverse and smashes the garage, but I haven't noticed that yet. Maybe "Reverse" is what that gear shifting lever thingamajig bit does. I haven't poked at it yet. It's on the same side as the rear brake should be so I stay away and stick to my electric starter.
The oil leaks started Day 2 prompting one Ducati dealer to say from 10 meters away, "Wow, that thing is pouring oil, you should get Phil Hitchcock to fix that for you". I said I picked it up from Phil 6 days before. That was the only postive comment I heard about Phil's work. And trust me, it worried me as much as it should worry Phil. I thought he was the bee's knees. I'd say, "things went downhill from there" but the first problem I had was the lights dimming out on Day 1. Things went downhill from Day 1. Which is fine by me. It makes a better story.
Lately, I've been reading about some other kook riding a BMW with a sidecar around the world. First stop, the Arctic. It'd be nice if BMW was addressing his problems on his site, but the Italian world is smaller, so thank you Phil (that's not sarcastic on my side).
Anyhoo, Bob Brown in Melbourne, said something like, "Send it over and I'll do my best. It's still a narrow-case, so it'll always be unreliable, just like the wide-cases." Eventually I'll win the lotto and buy up his old race bikes so I can say "Uh Roberto, this Kevin Magee bike needs ape-hangers and a sissy-bar". Funny, I can feel Bob's hands crushing my throat just like Darth Vader did to Grand Moff Tarkin.
Okay, back to where I was before getting side-tracked. Posting the post from a couple days ago.
My bike from July 10, 2004. 3 months before the round the world attempt.
And it on August 12, 2004. 2 months before rtw.
The Good, the Bad and the Dave
I tells ya', there's good with the bad. I'm still in Invercargill, and today is officially my birthday. March 14. I'm now 35 which is hard to believe.
When I turned 30 my Pop (Kentuckian hillbilly grandfather on my dad's side) gave me a card on which he had written, "Bet you didn't think you'd live this long". Which is true. Everything over age 30 is the Bonus Level. An extra ball. I can't remember how much of this I've previously written, but I'll figure it all out when I write a book about this trip. I was planning on keeping that card for life, but the roommate who thought I just had alchohol poisoning when I was dying of brain hemorhage on the floor of the kitchen threw my card away. I don't blame her for blowing me off, I wouldn't have thought I was close to death at that point either. I'm even more surprised than you that I've lived this long with so little scars and bone breaks and so many "coulda shoulda woulda" been deads. That old guy is planning on outliving me, I think. I should poison his moonshine. Ya' hear that, Pop?
I'm spending money I shouldn't be spending drinking beers at an Irish place called Waxy O'Shea's. Sitting here under the teevee that's showing rugby. New Zealand's past time. Right now it's tied at 9 between the Sharks and the Hurricanes in the 2nd half. It's my 35th birthday and it's not the worst birthday I've spent -- out here alone in a foreign country without another love-of-my-life who needs her ass pinched and me getting slapped for the effort.
They make Guinness up in Auckland. I should be drinking that since that makes it local. But, Kinky Friedman said something about a river of Guinness with Jamesons tributaries. I should avoid Guinness so I don't get tanked. I'd order a Bushmills tributary if I start on the Guinness River. Catholic background you know.
But if I order Bushmills I might find out I'm in a Jamesons bar. Fuckin' Irish with their religious whiskey and their religious fighting. If I was home, I'd be knocking back Irish Car Bombs. Irish Cream Liquer dropped into a Guinness. That might make the Irish scream, but it tastes great. I'm an American raised on Pabst though. Pabst makes Budweiser seem like a real beer instead of a canoe beer.
Definition of canoe beer: What's the difference between having sex in a canoe and drinking American beer? They're both fucking close to water.
New Zealand info: There's was many cuter kKwi girls than Aussie girls. Are you Aussies exporting them? I've been "recognized" twice on March 8. Back in those glory days when I had a bike that ran. [edited at posting: I'm looking into buying a Hillman Hunter or Hillman Avenger because of that unplanned hole in the head. I shouldn't but they're under NZ$1,000 and it'd be that or a NZ$400 Fiat Uno].
The first guy, named Dave, sees me on a walking path near some waterfalls in the Deep South on the South Island of New Zealand. Dave says, "Are you the nut riding round the world on the Ducati single?" He's also on Bevelheads (old Ducati email list) and Dave lives in Grass Valley. That's 45 minutes from my place in Sacramento. I'm pretty sure we've emailed each other, and Dave has some old Duc singles.
Of course I mention my good luck with the guy I bought my bike from and how much Ian Gowanloch and Bob Brown did for me.
The oil leaks and the bike made-up of random Japanese parts and the $9.345 cost has to be seen to be appreciated, but it's a long way round the world and you meet a lot of people in person who can take a gander and be suitably impressed. But the oil leaks were fixed by Ian and Bob before I made it to New Zealand.
Then a couple hours later some guy stops next to me at Slope Point and says, "Aren't you the guy ..." He's from Adventure Rider and has a KTM 640 which from one point of view makes a much better bike to ride. I can't think of his name but I remember the bike. If he reads this, I hope he'll email me just to say howdy.
It's Hurricanes up to 17. Sharks at 9.
I walked to the toilet, and saw the framed photos of JFKennedy. I've heard about that back in the Jesuit education days. Every Irish home will have 2 framed photos. One of the Pope and one of Kennedy. That's if they're Catholic -- the Protestants just have Kennedy (a Catholic, but an IRISH Catholic none the less).
I talk to Bob Brown and we figure it's best if I ship the bike back to him. Of course I should sell Linda Blair and find something that'll last. I've been up late at nights thinking I should hawk the POS for the $400 it's not worth with a broken up engine and a bike made out of random parts. And then buy a Japanese bike. I've got a narrow case frame with a welded crack and wheels and brakes. Any idea of what's that worth? The beat-up Monza tank is mostly rust and the 18 liter 175 tank has busted open twice (the 2nd time 50k after getting it "fixed"). I'll try it a third time though because I'm an idiot.
A Spanish Ducati should hold up. But isn't that cheating? No. It's not. But since it might be, I won't try it. Of course, I dismissed the idea of a Japanese bike. It'd be cheaper, it'd hold up better, but I wouldn't meet the same people I meet.
An Italian narrow case Ducati ain't the most reliable, but hell, if the bottom end survived a trip round Australia, a freshened up one should at least take me to the Ducati factory where some poor guy is going to have to find me a good Ducati singles mechanic. The factory isn't heartless even though it is owned by Americans.
I'll save heartless for the Special Someone who put this bike together in 2 weeks from parts he pulled out of his something or other. I figure I should say "something or other" instead of "ass" so my dead Granny wouldn't get upset. Although I think she'd just send me a copy of Strunk & White's Element of Writing because I'm way too wordy and she'd say jack-shit about my potty-mouth. Although, she'd say something funny about me saying she'd say "jack-shit" and I'd feel embarrased.
Ordered a Guinness and asked if it was a Jamesons bar or a Bushmills bar. The barmaid said neither poured me a pint like she's an American.
If that's not making sense, Bushmills is Catholic and Jamesons is Protestant. Or do I have that backwards? But I do know that you DON'T pour a pint of Guinness in 15 seconds. She did put a 3 leaf clover in the head but you still shouldn't pour it straight into the glass without giving it a bit of air. If you don't know how to pour a Guinnness and the difference between Bushmills and Jamesons, find a real Irish bar and order one. You'll find out if you order the wrong whiskey. At least I did in Chicago.
I noticed at The Travelers Bar in Dunedin that they just sold Jamesons. I asked the Scottish bartender why they didn't sell Bushmills and he said in his best Scottish brogue, as if he was impressing the ladies, in my favorite answer to this question, "What's that? I didn't know the Irish made whiskey. At least not worth drinking".
I must've been drinking. This has been about whiskey, which I haven't had, instead of about a beat-up 40 year old Ducati with a blown up engine which I have had.
Bob Brown, a nut, says "send it over and I'll do my best". He's only going to get 14 months with the bike instead of the 2 years Phil had, so I don't expect much. He obviously won't have enough time. The rear sets might throw him off.
I really owe that Bob. He said he'd supply me as much Scotch as I can drink if I can pull this ride off. It'd be cheaper for him to buy me the Mike Hailwood Isle of Man Ducati instead of buying me a life-time of Scotch.
Thanks for all the offers, Robert, Doug, Ian, and Brendan. But this poor bike got selected from the bike gods to haul my fat American ass round the world as I eat pork and translate American by speaking LOUD and SLOW. I have a feeling that I'll end up pushing this thing from New York City back to my apartment. Other people will live there by then, but I hope they'll meet me on the porch with a beer and a banjo.
Back to Australia, which is what I meant to talk about. Happy Birthday to me!
I'm not sure where left off in Oz. I think I'm around mid-December and I've talked about The Cute Aussie gal in Sandfire. Maybe Masato and Port Hedland.
Masato and I camped at the tourist info booth and he's heading for a National Park. I'm not, so we split. Keeping up with a bike that goes 60k/hr is hard work. I don't know how people can ride with me at my top end speed of 95k/hr.
It's hot out in Port Hedland. About 40-45 C and I call up Porky. There's a toy run on the 18th so I'll wait up here for him 2 days instead of riding down to Dampier for a day to come back up to Port Hedland.
I roam around in the heat and meet a South Afrikaan on a 250cc. If you've ever seen Kids in the Hall. you'll get this. He's just like Dave Folley doing his French cafe guy, only he's doing a South Afrikaan accent. He even looked like Dave Folley. He moved out from South Africa looking for work and a wife. There's about zero women out in Port Hedland, so it'll be a tough job.
He complains about how racist the Australians are. "Sure, I'm South Afrikaan. so of course I'm racist. The SA blacks have all the minerals in the world and if they tried they'd make billions but they won't work. But the Aussies keep the working blacks down and they drive by yelling 'Fuck you, you black cunts' as they walk home from work. You'd end up in jail for yelling that out."
Who the hell am I to know about a white South Afrikaaner complaining about racism in Oz? It's a crazy world, so I try to ride to the fishing boat dock. Just a small bit of unpaved road. It's still about 105F/45C and I say screw this, I'm going to hide in a pub and nurse a beer in the air conditioning. So of course, I make a U-turn and the chain breaks.
Alrighty then, I started with 2 pairs of pants, and one pair I cut down to make shorts. So these shorts become the Sacrificial Rag and I use it to wipe grease off me after screwing with the chain. It's caught up in the front sprocket, so I start pushing. This is push number 2. The first push was in Brisbane because Phil didn't have enough time with this bike to re-set the timing after not having enough time to break in the engine.
It's hot and I'm by a shipping dock watching Aussies drive by. I'm surprised because I'm half-way around Australia and this is the first time people have just driven by me when I'm stopped, without stopping to see if I'm okay. But then someone stops. He's got his wife and his baby in the car, but he rides a Ducati and can recognize an old Ducati. Pretty rare that a guy with a 90s Ducati can recognize a 60s Ducati.
He gives me a ride to the bike shop, which is still open. I meet a man named Thespis. Actually he gave me his real name, but he likes Thespis better. Even though he's known by Only by the local bikers.
Thespis finds me a new chain and cuts it down to size. He asks where I'm staying that night and I say camping out, so he invites me to his place. How can I pass up air conditioning?
Thespis looks like a biker (bikie in Oz), and he has a collection of all the known Greek tragedy plays in the world. He writes Greek Tragedies and is fun to hang out with. I should've stayed there longer and I regret that I didn't. Tons of plays everywhere and he's working on building a Harley Sportster with a foot clutch and a hand shift since arthritis is catching up with him. If Jack Nicholson wasn't JACK NICHOLSON, he could've been Thespis.
The next morning I piss off to meet Porky and Chook and we drink a few drinks before the Toy Run. This Toy Run turns out to be a pub crawl, so I can now say I've ridden legally drunk in 2 countries. I wasn't drunk but the limit in Oz is .05%.
I pulled out of a pub, looked left, and moved into my lane. But in left-driving countries like Australia, you look right. I didn't see the car that almost hit me, but at the next pub 3 guys came up to say, "I thought you were dead". I didn't know what they were talking about at first but I drank water after that. Well water at the next pub or two then back to beers followed by water.
We drove back to Dampier and poor Porky and Chook had to ride s-l-o-w to keep up with me. It was getting dark, which isn't a good time to ride in Australia, and my lights still weren't working well.
Australia has something like 7/10 of the most poisonous snakes and spiders. Plus there's crocodiles (both salt and fresh water), and jelly fish that can kill if you figure you'll just go swimming in the ocean. People die of the heat and dehydration in the outback. Driving at Night angers the Kangaroo God so he smites your car with them (in pairs in case the first one misses you). There's also a Cattle God, a Sheep God, a Wombat God and a Road Train God. None are happy and they're Angry Gods.
Not to mention they eat things like Musk Flavored Lifesavers and Vegemite. The heat, combined with US and Europe hiding the ozone layer makes it hard on people so they age badly. Crocodile Dundee is only 22.
But there's something about the water that makes so many Aussies so friendly. Or maybe they share my madness. What?! Riding around the world on a 40 year old bike? Great bloody idea, mate! Have a stubbie!
So Porky and I pull into his driveway. Deb, his wife, comes out and opens the gate so we can park his Harley and my Duc next to his Norton Commando. I'm sure I shouldn't mention that the Ford driving guy who rode his Harley on Route 66 going to Milwaukee for the 100th Anniversary (skipping out on the party as Elton John in one of the worst corporate fuck-ups since McDonald's hired Michael Jackson as Ronald McDonald), and drinks Jack Daniels like it's water has a Norton. It might be bad form in the States. Which might explain his apprehension of the US. But as Porky found out, we're not all bad. Can't judge a country of 280 million people on Paris Hilton.
Porky spent a lot of time fixing up some of the problems with the Ducati. I'm sure by now you can't believe the Ducati had any problems, but oddly enough, it did.
I tend to let strange people work on my bike, although Porky wasn't strange. Sure, I can do it myself but people want to be helpful and I don't mind most of the time. It's rare that I stop the person from "helping" although I have gone back to fix the non-existant problem that someone else has spotted to make it right again.
The exhaust flange was stripped. It was my fault after Pat and I pulled off the top end to fix some of the oil leaks and I didn't tighten up the flange enough, I think. I put a lock-wire on it, but it still rattled itself around and stripped the head threads. That's the Darwin story but John Otley's bush-fix didn't last long. So Porky fixed it up enough to where I probably could've left it until I made it around Australia. Instead I took it to Brook Henry from Vee Two where he put in a brass insert.
Porky and Deb were great. They have a guest house and they insisted that I eat right. No more pasta and pesto or bread and pepperoni for me. A full on roast, plus they showed me Stone. It's an Aussie B-movie biker flick of guys on 900 Kwacks (and a lovely Norton Commando) that Jack Green showed me parts of.
And this is odd to say, but Porky showed me his home movies of his trip to the Harley factory. It's amazing to watch home movies of your own country from a foreigner point of view. Most of his trip went great, but the Canadian Customs (and this is the Canadian side) were bastards when they went back from Canada to the States.
It can't work well for Canada having to deal with Customs that's worse than the US. I'm sure you're thinking they were hassled for looking like bikers, but that wasn't the problem. They got set aside to wait for being bikers, but while they waited for 3 hours, an all-male Canadian Customs Crew stopped a car load of 4 teenage girls and made them strip to their underwear.
Porky wanted to document it, but figured film would get him in trouble. Three of the 4 stripped, the fourth said go to hell, so they let her slide. Canada slips one step closer to becoming our 51st State. They should know better.
And after a few days, I head South for Perth and another of Ian's McPhee's other friends -- Tony Hines.
Ian McPhee, since this story is beat to hell and doesn't make much sense, was one of the guys who helped me out in Brisbane. I know I talked about him, his wife Coll, and his amazingly nice daughter Sharni and his son Ross, who I didn't meet. Sharni is the nicest kid I've met -- even nicer than my own neices although my own neices will kick me in the shins once they read this. Which'll prove my point.
I think I forgot about going to Broome. I met a crazy blonde on a Norton Commando and asked her where I could camp without getting spotted. She gave me some advice about how it wasn't Tourist Season so I could camp without having to worry about John Law waking me up to keep me moving. I think she gave me the once over twice, but figured some random Yank on an old Italian bike wasn't worth the risk of inviting me over to her house to camp. Of course, I hadn't shaved or showered for a few days so I'm sure that had something to do with it.
I camped in the shrub over by Camel Beach and met a guy who camped next to me. I didn't see him but he heard my bike start up. It's a bit loud. I like meeting heavily tattooed retired sailors in a campervan. He reminded me of Alex McPhail only much older.
After a few days with Ian & Coll's friend's Porky and Deb, I headed south to Perth. So I could meet up with their friend Tony Hines. Tony lives close to Vee Two and I needed my exhaust flange fixed. Plus it was close to Christmas and I was alone in a foreign country wondering what the homeless population of Perth was and if they'd mind a Yank showing up for Xmas dinner.
I was supposed to be in Melbourne by now staying with the horny blonde girl, but the leaking fuel tank held me up for a few weeks and I was behind schedule.
Tony and my trip south of Perth coming up.
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14,857 miles. 23,771 k. 145 days. October 15, 2004 to March 10, 2005. RIP
AU$9,345 for the bike.
As I worked 2 jobs for 18 months, 7 days a week, day, swing and graveyard shifts (can't stress that enough because it was fucking miserable), I must've heard from friends, family, co-workers and strangers, "How can you trust the guy?" about 1.48 zillion times. My answer, "If he wasn't trustworthy, people would talk."
A month before I left I heard a couple warnings about the reliability. Well, it's paid for so no turning back. I show up and he wants more money. In Australia, EVERYONE seems to know his reputation -- buy parts from the guy, which are often misrepresented, but never let him work on anything. I had a stranger come up to me on the street because he saw my bike and he said the same.
"Who'd you buy the bike from?"
"Phil Hitchcock", I say.
"Funny, I've never heard of him".
Someone else says. "He means Phil the Fuck-wit".
"Oh, you just buy parts and don't let him blah blah blah". I heard it all over Australia, and the joke, "Did he see you coming or did you phone ahead?" several times. It gets better with age, that one does.
But youse pays your moneys and youse takes your chances.
Ian Gowanloch and Bob Brown both put in many hours of work that that wouldn't charge me for: you've been had, but good luck. They both also said, "Changing the oil every thousand miles is too often but that's probably why the bottom end hasn't given up the ghost. Hope for the best".
On March 11, she breathed her last. With 143 miles before the next scheduled oil change.
I should've known it was coming. For the last 3 weeks nothing had broken. Ian and Bob had worked on it and no problems. No oil leaks. The lights were working. Carb problems fixed with a wonderful Amal instead of the used and abused DellOrto. Just the slipping clutch but they were used plates and I've been on the hunt for replacements. The bike had me worried it was running so well.
When I first picked it up, it broke 2 hours later. Nearly everyday something would break or rattle off. Riding through the bush fires with the leaky tank was my favorite. I was expecting trouble, otherwise I would've taken a Japanese bike. I kept it running around Australia with duct tape, zip ties and bailing wire, but I don't think a ziptied duct tape piston would provide much compression. All I was after was the reliable engine I paid for -- which this one wasn't from the get-go.
Yes, everyone on Earth was right and I am wrong. I should've built my own bike knowing that it'd break rather than overpay someone else.
The POS clutch lever brace snapped on the morning of March 11th. Nice timing, though. About a mile before a Suzuki dealership. I got a used one and the bike ran beautifully. I think having a good clutch lever helped the slipping clutch. Finally something broke so it'll be fine for the day, I thought. Not knowing the bike bought me a birthday present.
Fizzle. Ka-chink. It blew the birthday horn, centrally located in Middle of Nowhere, New Zealand.
I knew I'd run out of money in New Zealand. I'd get a job in Japan for a year and head from Japan towards Italy. But now I'm screwed which will set me back more than expected.
The head came off and it wasn't pretty. Broken rings and the piston skirt crumbled. The sleeve has some scorch marks. I've seen worse, but I haven't done worse. It's the best birthday present I could expect in a foreign land.
I've got a round trip ticket from Christchurch to Japan for Jay and Chikae's wedding in a month. Then what? Two years working in Japan? Fly back to California and find a job? Make my way to Oregon for a job? Find $10,000 lying on the ground? Marletta, my last girlfriend, wants to join me. She'll strangle me within 500 miles, but it gives her something to think about.
Ian Gowanloch told me, as he worked on my bike, to sell it at a loss and write it off as a learning experience. He said, at best, it's a AU$5,000 bike. Ian didn't say this next part, but I suppose I paid the Septic Premium that I heard about all around Oz. Inflate the local price if an American is buying.
Ian did say sell it said he'd build me a Duc single that would make the trip. The later Spanish built singles were reworked from the larger twins instead of built up from small 175s. It's more reliable to work down than up and he'd start from one of those. An over-engineered single should last forever.
Bob Brown told me, as he worked on my bike, dump the bike in the ocean as a learning experience and he'd build a bike that'd work. He suggested a Pantah 650.
Brook Henry just laughed after Vee Two worked on it and said good luck.
John Romano told me, sell it and he would ship a Vincent Comet.
Doug Towsley, who I still need to find an Aussie Playboy for, said show up to Oregon and he'd get me a job and teach me how to work on old Brit bikes and I could build my own.
Scary John said, "I'll trade you straight across for this Rickman-framed Matchless 500" at Bob's shop.
I almost regret turning down the offers for the stompings offered by bikers (bikies in Oz) for the guy I bought the Duc from, but without the drama around this Linda Blair bike, I wouldn't have met the great people I've met.
What to do, what to do?
I meet a guy named Matt in Dunedin. He's going to ride across Australia with his friend Doug and then up from Argentina to Canada. They're both mechanical engineers with matching Honda XR650s. I stayed at Matt's house a couple nights as I explored Dunedin, as I left he gave me Doug's work number.
It took me 3 days to go from Dunedin to Invercargill and I spend the day finding Burt Monro's house (torn down but there's a new house there), talking to his neighbor and finding his bikes. Burt Monro bought a 1920 Indian Scout and after 40 plus years he broke 200mph on it when he was 67 years old. Unrecorded at Bonneville but his highest recorded was 188mph. Equal crazy speeds on a Velocette single with a Vincent head. 141mph on a 500 single. There will be a movie out sometime and you should see it.
I call up Doug, we meet at a bar for a beer and he shows me around, buys me a steak dinner for being crazy and puts me up for the night.
The next day I leave headed toward's Milford Sound riding in the rain. The bike makes a knocking sound and I pull over ready to yank in the clutch if anything spooks me. I'm thinking, if I was in California, I'd put this in a truck. But I'm not. I'm in New Zealand, far from home and all alone.
The knocking stops and it smokes a bit. I tell myself, just the oil ring breaking knowing the big end was performing Last Rites but you have to have something to hope for. I'm in Te Anau and I think, well fuck Milford Sound (that's like if the Grand Canyon was at Yosemite and I backed away 25 miles from being there). I'll go slow and head back towards Amberley.
I did about 50k when the knocking starts again. I'm really in the soup now. I kill it and coast into a deer farm driveway. Pull the plug and push the kickstarter by hand. That doesn't sound right. It's a death gurgle. And then, I think, one of the piston skirt refugees worked itself into something and declared itself a political refugee. Engine seized.
I walk up to the deer farm and call Doug. Hey Doug, I know you don't know me but my bike is FUBARed and do you mind taking a 4 hour detour on your 10 minute way home from work to pick me and my bike up? He says sure. Russel McDonald, the deer farmer makes a call and arranges to have my bike freighted to Invercargill for $28. I call Doug to say nevermind, suck down a quick cup of coffee, and the truck shows up.
Doug and I yanked the head off my bike and we put it back on last night. He fed me again, and we worked on his Honda XR650. It's a lot nicer working on a running bike and ending up with a running bike.
Matt is coming down today. They were going for a ride on the XRs but instead we're going hunting. I get the idea that "hunting" means "out to the bush with whiskey and beers". Although there is a bagpipe band competition that I was interested in this weekend, I'll just drink in the hills.
Monday, my birthday, I've arranged a van rental. I'll take my bike up to Nigel's in Amberley and need to have the van back on Tuesday. I'm in a small town and can't use a van for a one-way ride. 8 hour drive each way when I take the slow boring route. Then figure out how to get from Invercargill to Amberley again.
And at some point, I'll catch up with the stories since I'm still at the mid December part and I'd like to talk about Porky & Deb and Christmas with Tony & Liz Hines and the 5 kids.
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