It’s been 3 years since I have stepped back onto US mainland soil, this is the 2nd time for me, the first time was my honeymoon and since that day I have been dreaming about returning.
Shawn Hibmacronan picked me up after a short ride on the train, I spent July the 4th 2014 with Shawn and to see him again and hear about all he’s been up to over a few beers and some ramen was a welcoming and friendly start to this adventure.
I was pretty burnt after WTAC as the past two weeks have been non stop, I have had so much to think about and this moment was one of those playing on my mind, to be able to spend the night with friends and fall asleep on their sofa was all I could ask for.
After a quick coffee Shawn drove me to Phares Cycle Parts and I was about to see what I have been working on for the past 8 months.
I shook Jasins hand and tried to soak in the moment, it’s been playing on my mind for a while and I am lucky I have the right man on the job because Jasins knocked this out of the park.
With all the parts I sent over and Jasins narrowed big twin springer it looks totally perfect. I finally was able to decode the frame too, its all original Harley Davidson, most of the frames 1938-41 knucklehead except for the rear axle plates and toolbox mount which are 1955. So I guess the rears been replaced some time in its last 60 years.
I talked to Jasin for a while and decided to leave him to it, he still had to finish off the exhaust and also fit the internal throttle so I walked a 7 mile round trip to get registration from the DMV, it was the slow down I needed and the weather was perfect.
The rego was pretty straight forward, as was the insurance so tomorrow morning I should be right to finish off the wiring, take the bike to the DMV for inspection, load up all my gear on the sissy bar and head for the hills, literally! But more on that tomorrow.
Again a huge thanks to Shawn for giving me a head start on this adventure, I owe you a side mirror, RIP 🙂
Today started out different to all the rest, I woke up at 3am in my little budget motor inn and stared at the clock waiting for the chance to get back to Jasins workshop so I could make more moves on the bike.
I walked down to the gas station to get a coffee and something to eat, there’s parts of Vallejo you probably don’t want to spend to long in, I was in that part.
I met Jasin at the shop and we got to work right away, I had the wiring to finish (Although I pre wired everything at home so it was easy) while Jasin fitted the internal throttle.
After that was done I ran the oil lines and Jasin went out to get the gas and oil, we were close!
I spent some time removing and replacing every engine and transmission mounting bolt with loctite, Jasin safety wired the header flanges and after 3 quarts of fresh oil in her oil tank, 2 gallons of gas Jasin rolled open the door so we could get it outside for the first time.
With just a few kicks it came to life, 8 months of wondering if it would actually run and today was the day. I was madly checking everything over, no leaks, oil pumps working, adjust the idle mixtures, adjust the carb pump, then had the biggest moment of relief spread over me.
This crazy plan is actually working out, all those long hours at home making all these parts, shipping them over, having Dan Carr do his bit, Jasin doing the rest, it’s a reflection on everyone that’s had a hand in the build to do it right and care about this project as much as I do, it means a lot and it really shows.
Talk about baptism of fire, my first ride was through the city, foot clutch and hand shift isn’t the easiest way to break in a bike in city traffic, let alone rolling into the DMV.
I just had to get the engine number verified and it was ready to go.
It’s so far out of the ordinary I think they just signed it off with out really understanding it at all.
It had been a really long day but I was intent on getting some miles in today and getting out of Vallejo.
I made it as far as Sacramento and the ride was amazing, this bikes home is the highway and it handled it great, I did notice that it could do with a touch more fuel so I might wait till morning to get a jet kit for the carb. Oh and I had way too much stuff in my Biltwell bag so I need to repack lighter too.
I gave it a once over in the motel, fitted and adjusted a few things and gave it a clean. Sorry about those towels Motel 6.
I can’t thank Jasin Phares enough, he’s a hard working metal smith that cares about customers bikes as if they were his own, I had some pretty high demands and he absolutely come through with everything I needed, to be able to roll down the highway and see that front end work the way it does is testament to his craft! Thanks Jasin.
So I woke up in my Motel 6 room feeling like I had downed about 2 decks of darts, I got a smoking room because it was the only one left on the ground floor, I didn’t mind though I slept like a baby!
First things first I packed my bag and took out everything that wasn’t absolutely necessary, on my way to Starbucks I put some of my clothes in the charity bin. If you see a homeless man in a nice lined Roland Sands jacket then thats probably mine. I got a coffee then fired up the bike (roll starting it) and set my phone for a motorcycle shop that Jasin recommended.
Along the freeway I swore it was running lean, but it didn’t seem to be backfiring out the carb as much as if it was lean. When I got there the guys helped me out right away, the plugs in the bike were junk, they were gapped incorrect, one was lean and one was rich, we fitted a new set of Autolite plugs and she fired right up.
In between cigarettes the guys also gave it a quick carb tune, bit more accelerator pump and a turn on the idle mixture was all it needed.
Off again and it was running like a dream, I made my way to the US Route 50 bound for Lake Tahoe, the last time I filled up it took $5.00 so the next time I put $7 in. That filled the tank and left about 1.5 litres for my Desert Fox fuel bag.
Id be stuffed without these bags, I love not having to care about where the next servo is, just run out of fuel, empty the bag and then pull in at the next one and do the same $7 fill up.
The weather was perfect and there was hardly anyone around, the road just got better and better, it wound through the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range in the Eldorado National Forest with a climb up to 10,000ft it got a little chilly (yea the regret kicked in a little that I gave that jacket away)
The bike started sounding a little off, at first I was worried it was coming from the top end but then discovered the head bolts had loosened, I re torqued them down and I was off again.
A few fuel stops later and I was coming into Lake Tahoe, a local sent me straight to the Emerald Bay and it didn’t disappoint.
Its a stunning lake.
In typical US fashion its crazy huge.
Leaving Emerald bay behind I headed East to get a room for the night.
The Ambassador Lodge is renowned as being Lake Tahoe’s last standing mostly unmodified mid-century motor lodge.
Its cheap as hell but has everything I need and I think it makes my bike feel young again.
I won’t forget today for a very long time, the clear blue skies, the fresh mountain air, the light flickering through the pine trees as a rolled along one of the greatest motorways in American history on top of a bike that I had designed and built for this very reason.
I always plan for the best and expect the worst but I couldn’t have even begun to imagine how good this actually feels.
I thought yesterdays ride was all time! Well today just trumped it (oh and by the way “Trump” is now a swear word in California)
But I was leaving Cali for a little taste of far west Nevada.
Leaving Lake Tahoe behind and crossing the state line I took the US 207 East dropping down from the Sierra Nevada mountain range.
It was cold, I was wearing everything I had in my bag. I stopped at the service station and got a scarf, sat my gloves ontop of the engine and had a turkey roll and and orange juice for breakfast. I spoke to a guy who had done a similar thing to me but in Europe on a 1969 Triumph Bonneville, he imported the bike and still rides it to this day. He warned me there was a storm coming but all I could see was blue skies.
My bike was running perfectly, it’s probably the comfiest bike I have ever ridden, the position of everything is perfect, Im not usually one to be settled with something but I haven’t found a single thing I would change or alter.
After dropping down 5,000ft Nevada opened up into long stretches of nothing, I don’t have a speedo but I would say I was cruising comfortably at around 70mph.
Until I run out of fuel, but running out fuel isn’t a problem now.
I took the US 395 back into California and pulled into a service station. A couple of other guys on bikes said that if I was planning to go to Yosemite via Tioga Pass then I better make it before they shut the gates in just a few hours for the next 8 months. Apparently the guy who told me there was a storm coming was dead right, it was going to be the first snow storm of the season.
Turning onto the US 120 Tioga Pass was a constant climb, at its peak the elevation is 10,000ft and there was still snow on top from last year.
There was no one around and the road was perfect, it wound around lakes and cliff faces on the way to the Yosemite East entry point.
I don’t think you can really describe Yosemite.
Nothing can capture it, you just have to take it in.
The road in from the east wasn’t really on my radar, I added Lake Tahoe in on my route only a few weeks before I left, I didn’t know if my bike was going to work properly or if I was going to be needing another day to finish it but I am glad I did as its been the highlight of my trip.
Dropping into Yosemite Valley is something else though, its on another scale, you can’t capture it, you just have to try and take it in.
When I was done in the Valley I took the road south on the 41 toward Fresno.
If things go to plan I will head to a Flat Track museum tomorrow and also start my three day Nitromethane diet at the Californian Hot Rod Reunion held at Auto Club Famoso, I can’t wait!
Waking up in Oakhurst there was a bunch of rain overnight, it was the storm that rolled through and I’m super glad I was a day ahead of it because I would of missed my opportunity to navigate Tioga Pass.
I followed a ridge line into the hills and snaked around San Joaquin River, the scenery was changing as I was dropping down into the flat lying town of Fresno.
I called past Bandit Town just to take a look, it’s a small village built on the Wild West and is used for events but I just had to call past.
I had tried to ring Kathy from the Flat Track Museum is Clovis but she wasn’t home, I called past anyway in the hope that she might be around to let me into the extensive museum set up in her back yard. It’s the work of her late husband and she is continuing the legacy.
Another tank of gas and I had somewhere to go, the Californian Hot Rod Reunion! I jumped on the highway for 100 miles and just flowed with traffic, the whole time I was praising my bike for just being so damn good at this travelling thing.
When I pulled up in the parking lot it was probably 2pm, I fumbled through my bag looking for my cameras and raced inside. I’m going to leave this event for now and write a post in full when I get home because I have over 400 digital photos and 2 rolls of film to go over. It really was like I had died and gone to heaven, I met so many great people saw the cars that I had been obsessing over for years and filled my ears, nose and mouth with enough Nitro to keep me going for years.
I had booked this place in north Bakersfield for three nights thinking I’d stay there and do the whole three days of the event but the place was sketchy to say the least, I got a refund the next morning and then stayed at Wasco the next night, at least the shower worked but there was cockroaches everywhere. Seems a decent room for under $100 is getting harder to find in America.
I am checking out in the morning and will spend Sunday on the road, my feet are blistered and I had a great two days at the strip but I miss riding, with some more time I can fit in some more sights as I go south to LA.
Checking out of cockroach ville alive was a good feeling, the sky was clear and the air was crisp, I had a short ride from Wasco to Buttonwillow Raceway where there was a an Motorcycle event happening.
The track was dead flat and seemed pretty fast.
But out of everything I saw this bus really did it for me.
Back on the road and it was the US 33 South into the mountains. It’s oil country round here and its dry this time of year.
Looking back on where I have come from.
The US 33 led me into Las Padres National Forest, being a Sunday there were a heap of bikes enjoying the roads.
You can see why, it was a perfect ride on a perfect day.
Out of the forest and into Ojai, a nice little town based at the foot of the mountains I refuelled, took a couple of layers off and headed for Ventura and the coast.
I took the Pacific Coast Highway along the Californian shore line, the sun was shimmering off the water, there were dolphins and I was in heaven. I passed Neptunes Net which is a popular bike hang out and there was a guy in the middle of the road that had been run over by a car. I kept going and turned onto Mulholland Highway, a road that is famous to any Californian that’s ever been into fast cars and bikes, if you don’t know it look it up!
As the sun set I headed for some accomodation in Calabasas, tomorrow I head for the big smoke, LA.
What a day, LA turned the heat up to 100 degrees F and I was loving it! I left my motel, filled my bike with fuel, got a coffee and headed to Galpin Autosports, I was going to finally meet Doug Breuninger who drew my Hilux for one of his notable ride masterpieces.
Anyway I took one step inside the door, shook Dougs hand and realised that I’ll do this tomorrow.
That’s because my dads flying in and he will love this tour just as much as I will. So I jumped back on my bike and headed south into Venice to grab a coffee at Deus and check out the new Iron and Resin store.
LA traffic being LA traffic makes jumping from location to location difficult but not on a skinny chopper, lane splitting is legal here and I just blasted right by.
Back in Venice I decided to head back out the Pacific Highway for some lunch, I had organised to pick up a UHaul van at 5pm so I had some time to kill.
Lunch at Neptunes Net didn’t disappoint and being a Monday it wasn’t as crazy as yesterday.
Back into LA I turned off the highway on my way to UHaul in Inglewood, I sat at the lights and looked down at my fuel line, it was dry, I gave em a tap, yep they were dry! So I quickly turned down a side street and knew that I had about 50ml of fuel to find a gas station, turns out I went the wrong way and ended up having to walk the bike to 5 blocks to the nearest servo.
I made it to the Uhaul pick up point, got my van, just as I was wondering how to lock my bike up while I went to get the supplies needed to put it in the back a really nice man by the name of Tom offered me some help. He had a shop next door and restored 60s and 70s Ford Broncos, now I love these things and Tom politely offered to show me round, I just love this place!
Anyway Tom lent me the stuff I needed to throw the bike in the back of the van and helped me get it in there, we chattered for a while and ended up working out we followed the same people and loved the same things. Anyway I left for Home Depot and bought a 10 foot lump of wood, nails, a saw, a hammer, 8 tie downs and then got to work in the parking lot making up a nice ramp to put the second bike in the van and then pick dad up from the airport, but more on that tomorrow.
I will continue the journey but break it up into separate posts as things get a little picture heavy from this point onwards.