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Part two ( New Zealand and North-America) of the 'round the world' trip on a 1950 BSA B31 will be sent to those clubs who would like to publish it.
LOSING A DAY IN YOUR LIFE, TO WIN A WHOLE SUMMER.
Belgium, somewhere in September '95, on an early morning.
Packed everything on the BSA, and said goodbye to Danny, a friend who's going to take care of my house for a year. A first ride to Leuven, 50 miles only, to pick up Linda. She will join the first day of my journey. We had an easy ride through the Ardennes, the hilly region in the south of Belgium. When dark fell, I put her on a train. After that, when I stepped back to the bike, I saw ice on the seat; the cold winter was coming. Time to go. Time to lose a day in my life, by traveling East, but winning a whole summer by going Down Under where it will be summer, while there is winter in Europe. I drove the whole night, only stopping to take petrol, making it through Luxembourg, Northern France, a bit of Germany, Switzerland, over the mighty Alps, and entered Italy.
"Bella Italy" is not anymore what it once was. I had to pay $3 for only 4 miles (6 kilometer) of toll road around Milano. In Bologna, there where lots of pretty young women hitch-hiking near the highway, many more than years and years ago, and with not a lot of clothes on. Still the oldest profession in the world. People do what they have to do when their president is a media-magnate or an actor (Berlusconi). He only cares about the very rich.
In Brindisi, in the heel of Italy, I took the night-ferry to Greece, and yep, I rode through the sunny country of souvlaki and ouzo. I came into a good travelling-atmosphere, and it seemed to me that the Greeks were in a good mood too. I hope they stay that way after Greece shares in the European Money Union. Greece is still an unhealthy member of the European Community with an economy based on olives and gold-cheese. Good to eat, but that's it.
In Thessaloniki, I visited Maratos. The man has an immense great stock of BSA spare parts. Yes, I have seen a heaven in his basement. He has also a big collection of old bikes, most of them are German made, and they are for sale. Next I came into Turkey, a country with which I share good memories. I rode up to Efese, where the old Greek philosopher Hiraclitus 2600 years ago used to live. In the old days, the Greek culture covered a big part of that what we nowadays know as Turkey. Nearly all the main ruins of the old Greek civilization lay in South-West Turkey. I saw ruins like the baths in the hot springs of Pammukale, where Cleopatra, the last queen of Egypt, swam with her lover Marcus, the kaiser from Rome, or was it Julius Caesar. I swam there also, only 2000 years later.
After the south coast, I headed east to the Metrut-dagi, a very special mountain covered with huge stone statues of warriors' heads, and eagles' heads. Between these 2 to 3 meter (6 to 10 feet) statues, you've got the most amazing sunrise of your life, and on the other side of the mountain, the most amazing sunset. There was a magical atmosphere. The Metrut-dagi was a first high point of my trip. The first low point followed very soon.
According to president Ciller, in East-Turkey nothing is happening. But the BSA gave me the opportunity to feel the difference between East-Turkey and West-Turkey very good. My poor bottom! Roads with more potholes than asphalt, poor villages, a very underdeveloped land. In the daytime, it's Turkey. In the nighttime, it's Koerdistan, and never it is safe there. But to me, there is more happening than only the Koerdisch problem. The problem is a big difference between a too-fast developing West-Turkey and a more and more declining poor East-Turkey..
In Turkey, I saw some old BMW's, but also a B31, with the cylinder and head of an M20. I still cannot understand how it ran. Stroke and bore between B31 and M20 are very different. Also the B31 has only one bearing on the timing-side's crankpin, while a M20 has two of them. But despite my shortage in knowledge, it was running as a thunderstorm.
About Turkey nowadays, maybe Hiraclitus was right when he said that you can't walk two times through the same river. The second time, water has been changed, and also you have been the subject of some changing. It gave me not less the great times that I used to have in Turkey in the past.
Up to Iran, a country that I have tried to visit many times, but every time something happened that crossed my plans. Or there was the revolution against the shah, the war with Iraq, problems in Afghanistan, which are still busy now, or the military junta in Turkey in 1980, or I had no time, or money, or both. Opposite all negative things that we hear in the west about it, Iran gave me a good time. And that was not only because of the price of the petrol over there, more than 10 gallons (40L.) for only ONE US$. The quality was not what it could have been, but for the first time in my life I went to the gas station with a big smile. In Belgium, before I took off, I read in newspapers that women were not allowed in Iran to sit on the back of a motorcycle because they have to sit with open legs. But the first motorcycle which I saw had a man, two women and two kids to carry. In fact, it's a strange society. It's not Arabic, even not the language. In the North, they speak Azerbyziany, which is similar toTurkish, so I could understand a little bit. In the South, they speak Farcy, which I do not understood at all. It's Moslem, but with its own accent, and in some ways very fanatic, in some ways not.
They are searching very strongly for their own identity against the overwhelming Western influence, especially cultural things. In some ways, Iran looks like the 1950's-60's in Europe. The dress, the haircuts of the men, the music, etc. It's a society which is ruled by what I can only describe as a cohorte-effect. We should not forget that a lot of those religious fanatics, who have now the power there, have studied in West-Europe, mainly in France. A common word for example all over Iran is "merci" They had also in Europe their youthful socialization years in which you pick up certain values. These western values are OK. All the later ones as for example pop-music or long hair for men are bad and evil. But they didn't bother about mine, or even about economically useful things from the West such as computers for example. It's funny to see totally covered women, looking as penguins, working with the new Window's 5.1.
These friendly folks have a big mouth about the USA, the "big satan", but they will only change American cash dollars, and nothing else, no other country's currency.
Women, always with their hair covered, often have high positions in the society. So it was with the chief of the police station where I had to extend my visa. Under her long black dress, she wore Levi jeans and Niki's. Allah can't see there, I could.
Also, I saw some very beautiful BSA's, mostly A65's. But for the owners it isn't always easy to keep them running nicely. Oil doesn't sell anymore so richly as in the past, and to order spare parts has become quite difficult.
Iran is in fact mostly arid high plateau, and it's big. It has very good roads and very hospitable folks. Riding through it gave me spectacular views, and was an absolute must. But not everything there is heaven. There is opposition against those religious fanatics. People make for example, alcohol at home; there are illegal porno videos circuits,etc. All big sins against the Islam. But everybody needs an exhaust valve, just like every BSA four stroke motorcycle, and the stricter the social rules, the bigger that personal exhaust valve seems to be. There is still some corruption, but that is nothing compared with the time before Komeiny, and I met only one fellow through the whole country who wanted the shah back in power.
At the border of Pakistan, the asphalt stops, and also civilization, law and order. I had first to cover 500 miles (700KM) of Bauluchistan Desert, perhaps the last unspoiled piece of earth. Pure gravel roads, and the poor BSA and I had to eat a lot of dust and sand.68% of the tax income of Pakistan goes to the army and police, and they only control about 68% of the national territory. All the rest is tribe area and there are mostly just local and family rules. I met proud tribesmen, with big long beards, turbans around their heads, big knives on their belts and most times guns around their shoulders. What gave me a funny view was they wore shoes with high heels like the ladies wear here as evening dress. Those tribesmen saw the BSA and pointed at the 3-gun sign on the pushrod-tunnel. They knew BSA well from the time that Pakistan was ruled by the English, trying to keep it under control, but never succeeding 100%. In Quetta, a pirate city in the middle of the desert, I saw lots of beautiful Triumphs and BSAs and friendly local bikers took me around sightseeing the whole town. After that, I entered the overpopulated Indus valley, a pre-test for what India would give me later.
I felt there a first culture shock. I, who thought that he had already seen everything in this world. But lots of time to ask myself serious questions about the sense of life I didn't have. The exhaust valve system from the BSA had a worn out valve guide, and the two lockers weren't anymore on the exact place where they had to be. Was it caused by the bad petrol, which caused lots of carbon, or too much sand and dust, or a bad valve job done by my Belgium machine shop (I let them replace the valve seats with lead-free ones. They are very hard , and on their own, they are good. I can't replace them with my own tools at home). Maybe, it was the too old and weak valve springs? I don't know yet. Luckily, every Pakistan village, no matter how small it is, has a mechanic with some tools, so I made another valve guide and 2 lockers, which I hardened by heating them up, then dunking them in a local onlooker's cup of tea. After assembling, the bike was running again perfectly. After that mechanical adventure, I visited Dara near Peshawar on the Afghanistan border.
Dara is a special city. It is the gun-city of Asia. You find there gun shops with sometimes a hash shop right next door. Opposite of what you might think of me, I had no interest in the last. My interest went to see how the locals there make all by hand with some basic tools perfect replicas of bazookas, M16s, kalashnikov AK47, etc. The more you learn about the world, you will find out that in most countries, even those highly developed and democratic Western ones, final (and political) power comes out of the end of a gun. And in Dara, with a little bit of luck, you have even the opportunity to try them out. For example, for 10$, you can shoot with a bazooka, for 20$ you can shoot with that a sheep or donkey. I can give you the guarantee that you will eat the rest of the pieces when you go for dinner in the evening to the local restaurant. I shot an A47, but left the sheep for what it was. Years ago, I swore peace and refused my compulsory army service ( I had my socialization-years when there was a lot of protest against the war in Vietnam.)
After that wild experience, I rode to the Kyberpass, just on the Afghanistan border to visit an Afghan refugee-camp. It was a shocking experience which I still have to deal with myself before I can write about it.
Then north, over the Korakorum Highway, which is the historical and legendary silk-road taken by Marco Polo on his trip to China. The Korakorum Highway is not a highway like between here and there, but is an old horse track that the Pakistan army has blown wider with dynamite, the only big thing that they have done so far. With a shovel, they have put a lick of asphalt on it and your bum feels every bump. The road is so bad that I might as well have left third and fourth gears at home. No way to drive fast. But it is worth it to do it. What else could you want, if you can open your tent in the morning, and look nearly straight up to mountains like the Nagar Pakar or to Mount Goodwin, also known as K2, which is the second highest peak of the world, more than 25,000 feet high.
Through the Hunza-valley up to the Kunjerab Pass, nearly 15.000 feet, which is the border with China, and the final dividing between lands with camels with one hump and the ones with two humps. At this altitude, the BSA still ran excellent, which I couldn't say for myself. I couldn't smoke a cigarette. First of all, my fingers were frozen from the cold (minus 10 degrees C in the sun at noon), second, there was not enough oxygen to keep a cigarette burning. But I made a piss in China, which cost me my coffee spoon, and now the bigger Yellow River is worth her name. That piss on China was in fact to show my anger to them; to travel in China with a motorcycle, you have to hire a special Chinese guide who follows you day and night on his own motorcycle, and my wallet is not thick enough to pay for that. And your sponsors? I don't have sponsors, I have friends who help me a lot, but everything I have to pay out of my own pocket. The Kunjer Pass and the Korakorum highway were other high points of my journey.
I rode back down and did an oil-change in Islamabad. While I was busy with that nearly ritual maintenance, some terrorists blew up the Egyptian embassy. I felt the shock-wave clearly. More than 60 people died in it. I don't like these jobs. And talking about jobs, I think that in Pakistan the labor-production is only 10% of the one we have in Belgium. In Pakistan, only little kids and little donkeys are working. The first ones, they like to sometimes throw stones at the moment that you pass with your bike (is maybe just a reaction of fear). The little donkeys, they have sometimes something against your nice, straight front forks. Just when you drive close to them, they decide to walk out in the street in front of you. So for me it was time to go to India.
India calls itself the biggest democracy in the world. I don't think that the millions of homeless and the beggars in the streets of the big cities of India know what democracy means. No job means no home, no home means no passport, and no passport means no right to vote. There are 940 million Indians (not red ones), and sometimes it seems to me that they all like to be on the street just when I arrive with the BSA. Traffic is absolute madness.
In Pakistan, there were still 3 main traffic rules.
First: NO alcohol (strictly forbidden, and that's no problem for me).
Second: you must have and use your horn, to warn every object around you that you are passing.
Third: you need to have GOOD LUCK
In India, you had only rules 2 and 3, and for rule 3, always more than 100 people a day run out of this good luck due to traffic accidents. Sometimes, I was not sure if I had to drive left or right. In the Koran, and also in the Vedas and Kama Sutra, there is nothing written about policy or traffic rules on the road! A life seems to be worth here 45 roepies ($1.50). That is the price that you have to pay here a year for insurance, and it covers nothing. Quality, social or technical, doesn't exist in India.
In Amritsar, in the Punjab, I visited the Golden Temple of the Sikhs. Sikhism is a religion between Hinduism and Islam. Only 2% of the Indian population is Sikh, but 35% of the air pilots are Sikhs. Compared to the rest of the people, the Sikhs have it good. The golden temple was the only religious place that felt spiritual that I found in the whole of India. In Delhi, I had to go to the wedding party of the daughter of Nanna, a good friend of mine, and perhaps the best motorcycle mechanic and restorer in all of India. As a present for the couple, I bought a cooking pan with in my mind the idea that love always goes through the stomach. I kept the aluminum lid, out of which I later cut a gasket for the base of the barrel for the BSA to lower the compression. The two extended families together at the party included 4800 persons. That also is India.
I did a service on the BSA and rode it up to Rasjistan Desert and the holy (or high) lake of Puskar. I was maybe the only not stoned person in the whole holy place, where alcohol and meat is totally banded, but marijuana is allowed. Another day I spent in Agra to visit the Tahj Mahal.
Back in Delhi, A Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant had been closed down because a sanitary inspection team had found 2 flies in the kitchen. Yes, only 2 flies. I'm not a great lover of junk food restaurants, but this shows the power of the mafia from Delhi who didn't get enough money under the table from that American multi-national. See, Delhi has already for centuries been ruled by 2 or 3 families, the absolute upper-cast. It's more difficult to find in India a restaurant with less than 2 rats in the kitchen than a Kentucky Fried Chicken junk food place. Rats are holy animals in India, and I don't like rats, just as I don't like cast systems, or the unexplanable carelessness. So, time to get out, but how? Land borders into Burma (Mayamar) are totally closed, and the ferry to Penang in Malaysia is out of order, and with the speed that something changes in India, that will stay so for a couple of centuries. I started dealing with air-cargo offices at the airport and Airo-Flot USSR was the cheapest to fly me over to Bangkok (Thailand) The BSA got a separate air-container. Nice job done boys!
In Thailand, everything went so much easier and faster. By the way, this goes only for the airport. The seaport, that is a nightmare, if you believe that biker from Holland who was already 9 days fighting against the administration there to get his bike free.
On Christmas day, I rode South, following the palm beaches, in t-shirt, with in my head the idea that all my friends in Belgium were sitting in the snow. A perfect Christmas on the road! Thai people are very friendly and, surprisingly, they're big bike lovers. I saw some nice and old BSA's, even one from 1929.
I entered Malaysia, which is a very fast developing country. It is a multi-cultural society with the same attitude as the Thai's. Also a great place to visit. A lot of people there are immigrated from India, and are average workers. Chinese are the ones who do the business and the Malaysians do the administration. I entered that little, clean, efficient and formal Singapore, where I didn't find a shipping company who would ship me with the BSA over to Indonesia, a country which consists of more than 2000 islands. The Singaporians didn't want to ship me over because I didn't have all the permits to enter Indonisia, a country ruled by army generals. To get all these permits, it can cost you more than a year of paperwork. Back to Malaysia, where the folks from the vintage motor club of Johor Buhara gratefully helped me out. I had there my New Years dinner together with a member from the royal family of Malaysia, also a vintage bike-lover. Where an old BSA can take you!
Once in Indonesia, no customs people asked me for any permit. They could hardly read a document. Don't forget that in a country where nearly all the money goes to the army, there is not a lot left for education. And so, I turned on the throttle and discovered the rain forest of Sumatra, camping at night and listening to the typical noises from apes, birds and other animals which you only find in that dense rain forest. I shipped over to Nias, an island west of Sumatra, only 60 by 30 miles big. A generation ago, and even perhaps today, they do there head-hunting and cannibalizing. There aren't many roads on the island, so I had to deal with real tracks. Some days, I made only 20 miles, more running beside the bike than riding it. There were rivers to cross with water knee-high, but the BSA made it each time, after greasing the Josef-Lucas electric equipment of course. And every afternoon, there were the monsoon-rains. They give you "free showers", even when you wear the best Bellstaf water-proof equipment. I reached Sirombo, where a Belgium friend picked me up and brought me to his island, 2 by 3 miles big. There, at the end of the world, he runs a small, but beautiful surf-resort. I, not a water-rat, relaxed a week in that paradise on earth. Everybody should once in a while, have a week off, right?
I returned to Sumatra, where I again crossed over the Equator, and rode through the magnificent rain forest. In Bukketingi, I saw some old bikes. Despite the fact that they use old BSA's with side-cars still as taxis, there aren't many left, and the ones still there aren't always in good condition. Luckily, they are not throwing away anything anymore. Many of the Indonesian classics are sold already overseas and it was definitely too late for me to find that immaculate Vincent or Brough-Superior, coming just new out of the crate. I don't blame the Indonesians. General Soeharto and his friends, who rule this beautiful country, and are also the bosses of the big multi-nationals which do the mining and oil-exploitation, prefer to build huge status and other monuments in the main capital. So you see in Jakarta hugh self-glorifying monuments surrounded by slums, where all the poor rabel huddle together, hoping to find a job and dreaming to climb up to the middle class.
Around Jakarta, there are some toll-roads. It was not allowed to go on them with a motorcycle. That was something else from Malaysia where the toll roads were free of fees for bikes and under every bridge across the toll roads, there were special motorcycle parkings for shelter against the rain showers. Later, in Australia, I would also see special conditions for bi-cyclists on the motorway. So I had to drive through the slums to reach the airport. And that meant hours in traffic-jams. If you walk 10 minutes in the streets of Bangkok, you will get a headache from the C02 in the air caused trough the traffic. If you walk 10 minutes in the streets of Delhi, you will get a black nose from all the dirt caused trough the traffic. In Jakarta, 10 minutes in a traffic-jam, you will get both. At the airport, I started dealing and bargaining again with the cargo-divisions from different air-companies. After a day running around, presenting cigarettes and drinking myself into a delirium from the offered teas, I found Sympati Air to fly me and the BSA ( for him a huge air-palette) over to West-Australia.
At Maddington near Perth, I found a restoration-shop, British Motorcycle Parts, and decided to give the BSA interior some good attention. They had there good equipment and nearly all the parts. So the BSA got new valve-springs, primary chain, oil (W25/60) and another second-hand Triumph 750 piston. That's what you can call 'recycling', and it gave the B31 about 420cc. A new valve guide was made out of the best cast-iron, perfect drilled and reamed. The results really showed. Later, in Alice Springs, after 2200 miles (3500km)of bloody hot roads, I had only used 0.75 liters of oil, and this is no lying.
My first road in Australia was bike-heaven: the Big Nullabor Plains along the South-Coast. Nullarbor means in Latin "without trees". It's infact not true, only a small part is treeless. The Nullabor gave me another ride of my life; spectacular views, nearly no traffic, hot and dry and good asphalt. A must for every bike-traveller, but don't forget to carry petrol and...water. At Port August, I turned North to Ayers Rock. I dreamed 20 years to see that piece of rock, and it was worth it to see it, but it was a hot (115*F at noon) and hard rock to climb (1000feet). To make it the ultimate experience like the Korakorum and the rain forest, it was too touristy. They make the Aboriginal culture bigger than it has been. I saw a beautiful piece of "original" aboriginal art, and yes, I nearly decided to buy it for my mother (Mothers are always happy when their dear son on a world trip sends her a nice piece of cloth as a souvenir), but a small label on the back said "MADE IN POLAND"!! I didn't know that we had aboriginals in Europe!
The knowledge of those native folks from the Australian outback to survive in that vast desert land was amazing, but now they are the black sheep , the niggers of Australia. They don't turn a hand the whole day, getting some money from the government, that they then most of the time spend in the white men's liquor shops or pubs, where they are by the rest not welcomed at all. Because they have nothing to do, nothing to be proud of, see no results from labor, it's quite easy for them to get into alcohol and behavior problems. And they can drink like a fish! Yesterday, they were living in the Stone Age. Today, it's hard for them to march in the hard white man's society.
Of white Aussies, a total of only 18 million, you in fact have two kinds. First the ones, nearly all of them, are those who live along the coast. Second, are the ones who live inside that vast country, farmers and miners, a very hard kind of people. I went in outback-pubs where compared to the local public, the Hell's Angels seem to be alter boys. No place to look for problems. After Alice Springs, I rode up North, and near Tennant Creek, the sun shone straight on my head. Eight liters of water consumption a day was just enough to protect you against drying out. Some days, I started riding at 3:30 in the morning, which was the coolest moment of the day, and tried to reach 200 miles before sunrise. At noon, I would be sitting in an outback pub, sweating, staring at what was going on at the pool table, trying to keep away the flies. And Australia has flies, 400 different kinds, and they all loved me too much.
I turned East, and in Queensland, it became cooler, greener, and hilly. Once on the coast, I caught a real rain shower. Australia gave me all together about 5000 miles (8600Km) of riding pleasure of the highest quality. Despite the fact it's an expensive place to reach, you have to do it once in your life. I started in Sidney do deal again with the air companies, but that went wrong in this strict, by-the-book Western country. Here they haven't the same attitude as in Asia, and they kicked me out of their offices. Here were laws and rules more important than people and no reasonable deal was reachable. No flexibility! I was complaining about that illogical society which I met in India, but is India not everywhere in this world? We just do not recognized it directly (these words aren't mine, but from Tagore, a big Indian thinker and poetry writer). I had to crate the bike and send him over by ship. The customs came and took a 30-second look at the bike, which cost me AUS$75. They call that "government service". I call that a rip-off. I have never had anywhere to pay, for example , for a policeman when he wanted to have a look in my passport or insurance papers. Everywhere politicians have a big mouth about free trade and open borders, but on the other side they stop this freedom even before it exists!
And so, thanks to the inefficiency of Schenkers shipping division of Australia, I arrived in New Zealand without BSA, which gave me the opportunity to hitch-hike around for a week and in this way to see a little bit of Kiwi-land, meet the Kiwi-folks, taste the Kiwi-fruit, and hopefully to see the Kiwi-bird. Once I have the BSA, I hope to reach the International BSA Rally in New Zealand on time.
Just before I flew to New Zealand I paid a short visit to Dennis KTT services.
I met that man, who restores old motorcy-cle speedometers, in 1990 in California.
I was there that time on a BSA M20 at a small, but very plea-sant Vellocette rally.
When I arrived at that small airport in Auckland, I felt immediately the good and helpful atmosphere.
You just have to look lost, and some Kiwi (the nickname of the locals there) will ask you if you need any help.
Because I had to wait a whole week for the bike,I decided to hitch-hike to Wellington, about 500 miles south.
I should meet John, the organiser of the International BSA rally.
There was my post address for letters from home.
And believe me or not, hitch-hiking in New Zealand is still per-fectly possible.
People still trust each other, even if they don't know the other.
There's in a very relaxed and social atmosfe-re between the people in New Zealand.
That's something the rest of the world has to learn again. I tried to help John put a C15 together before the rally started, but like most of the time with the restoration of old bikes, it didn't go as fast as it should.
At this moment, that C15 runs again.
Without any problem I hitch-hiked from Wellington to Auckland where I visited Wayne, the vice president of the New Zealand BSA club.
Again I got a warm welcome.
And I had the opportunity to use his BMW 1000 until I had the chance to take the BSA out of its crate.
Before I could put my foot on the kick of my own bike, there was a civil servant to make the "agriculture control".
This is to avoid the import of farm diseases and strange herbs. So far, so good.
But that control was a silly joke.
He looked at the BSA for less than 10 secondes (which was cle-an), filled in a paper that cost them 60 seconds and all that together made my wallet about 100NZ$ (65U$) smaller. The same torture I as had had in Perth-Australia.
A real "govern-ment service ripp-off".
When I was in Wellington, I saw on the rally participations list that I was be the only Belgian.
So I had another job to do: to defend the Belgian honor. Fin-ding a nice present to give from the Belgian at the New Zea-land club.
It is a ritual tradition on International rallys.
Luckily Wayne had some Goldstar and A10 parts laying around so with some help, some glue and a bit of creativity I was out of problem.
Then came the New Zealand television for an interview, and after all of that I could hit the road.
New Zealand is motorcycle land.
When the lord created the world in 6 days, The 7th day He saw that there was something mis-sing.
So on the 8th day he created New Zealand, especially to ride bikes.
Compared to Australia, it's hard to find 100 yards of straight or flat road here.
But the road is good and there are many motorcy-cles in New Zealand.
Some statistics: I shouldn't forget to say that all figures in the whole travellog are third hand, magazines and papers. For example,there are 3,5 million Ki-wis (people) and 63 milli-on sheep in New Zealand, I haven't counted them all. Of cour-se!
To 100 cars in the USA, there is one motorcycle.
In Europe are 11 motorcycles to 100 cars and in New Zealand there are about....48 motorcycles to 100 cars.
I was so happy that I forgot to fill up the petroltank, and for the first time on this trip (and also the last time) I ran dry.
In New Zealand is that not a big problem.
Just dismantle the tank and put up your thumb.
In some seconds you always catch a car that drops you at the next gasstation.
Just a couple of hours before the start of the rally I arri-ved, half a year and half a world after leaving home.
The start of the rally whas located at the Maori community house.
A very special ceremony and the food, which was cooked on a traditional base, this means, in a hole in the ground, was so good that it was "tasting to more".
The other days of the week, about 200 participants of 11 different countries were busy with a range of activities. There were a lot of very old BSA's and they hadn't reached the rally on a trailer.
We went to some musea, and al though I feel myself on nationa-litic sence an orphan, I felt proud when I saw a Belgium made FN fourcilinder, from the beginning of the century. One evening I had to tell about my trip.
Sorry fast glimmer boys, chrome doesn't bring you home. For a world trip, even as it is only a half one like mine now, the best BSA's are the slow workhorses, or call them donkeys; M20, B31, or Batams.
And it is always better to have a "low tech" bike with you than a modern high tech 24 valves GSXR or something.
And if you don't believe me, ask those two German bikers I met and who were waiting for electronic parts and other pieces for weeks in the middle of nowhere in Paki-stan.
Internet, fax, UPS, etc are white ravens over there.
When you travel you can conquer the two big fysical borders were people always have to deal with.
Place and Time.
When you travel you move from one Place to another Place in a certian Time and you become conscious of the diversity of Things, and you learn to put them into perpective.
At the end of the week there was the traditional dinner and dance, and when everybody was testing his fysics on the dan-cefloor, I tried to move out as quietly possible.
I had to leave for the ferry to the South-Island. But some had seen me, and they collected some coins which they drop-ped in the tea-kettle on top of the luggage.
Thanks folks for the dona-tion.
On the South-island it was colder, but it is even more impres-sive, with beautiful glacierss on the west coast and the Alps. The New Zealand Alps.
The bridges on this scarcely populated island are great! They are sometimes almost 300 yards long, there is only one lane for both opposite traffic and also the train has to go over that one lane!
The BSA brought me to the deepest point of New Zealand.
There, in Bluff, I thought of a funny story from the time I started to be involved with old motorcycles.
Years and years ago, when I was a kid and had always dirty hands from working on those old bikes, a very civilised man of my village told me that those 'dirty' motorcycles woukld bring me very 'deep'ones (he meant a couple of feet under the groun-d,... dead).
At this moment, I can't go deeper on the motorcycle.
Under Bluff, there are only the Stewart Islands and.... Antar-tica.
In Dunedin I visited a friend Margo and in Chist-church I had to visit Gretta and Melville, also BSA folks.
We visited the Britten race motorcycle 'factory'. Brittens always win the 'Battle of the twin races'. Very 'high tech' bike compared to mine!
In Christchurch I also found original pictures and other docu-ments from the 2 BSA V-twins that made an around the world t-our in .....1927!
Already in that time, when roads and servi-ce-stati-ons were more seldom than tracks what I have had to do now.
In the meantime the rally in Wellington had finished, so a lot of participians were riding around the beautiful country side. Always great fun to meet other BSA riders on the road in the middle of nowhere.
When I was back in Wellington I picked up a pair of new plun-gersprings, the ones who are useal for sidecars at Britich motorcy-cle parts in Loyd Street. using.
Also a free reartyre went on the BSA to replace the one of which saw the wiring.
And Steven from Walnuiomata tel (04 564 5718) and Malcolm helped me to make the frontfork finally work like it should be.
I hadn't fixed it well in Belgium during the restoration . Thank you folks!
It is always a nice feeling to travel with a bike for which you can find every part what you need everywhere, and if not, you can always make it yourself.
It's a very trusty feeling.
Back to Auckland, where the BSA was put in his little crate again and sent to Los Angeles - USA, by ship.
I was visited Waine again, where we definitely fixed his A10 tank against leaking.
Let's hope it stays that way.
With pain in my heart I left New Zealand, It is so far away from everywhere, but it's doubble worth a visit.
The airplane wasn't totally with all its wheels on the track on the airport of LA, and I wished I could fly to New Zealan-d again.
LA is not a city like any other.
It's hell.So big, so crow-dy.
It has more people than Australia and New Zealand toge-ther! Just like the rest of the world, also LA has four seasons. We have Spring, Summer, Autumm or Fall, and Winter.
In LA they call them Earthquakes, Mudslides, Fires, and Riots. There are thousands of homeless in LA.
Maybe they lost their way in such a big city, to their home, to a job ( minimum wage is 4.25U$ for one hour), to their car (to park your car cost sometime 3.75U$ for one hour), to a normal life.
Life in LA is a bigger cynical show than anywhere else (maybe except Japan).
There are lots of big four wheel drives around in the city. Those cars have a very silly life: they never catch any mud at all.
There are also a lot of pick-up cars arou-nd.
They also gonna have a silly life: they never have any stuff to carry around.
I took the Greyhound bus to San Francisco, to visit some friends from the BSA club.
They gave me a warm welcome.
I got a nice job, cleaning an airplane (with a teethbrush), flew with them ( in fact, I didn't fly by myself), even over the Alps.
This time the californian ones.
With the airplane we went to dinner in Coffee Creek where there was one car on the road during rush hour.
Population of the town was I believe, 32 people. And I got a bike to do rallies at the weekends. A Triumph Bonneville from Walter and an Ariel from Don. Walter went with me on a sociological tour throughout the slums, the gettos. Compared to them our problem areas are peanuts. Alcohol is not the biggest problem there, but the white pow-der.
There's a real "no hope, only dope" atmosfere between the mostly black population from the big American cities. In Indonesia I had met headhunters. In fact you meet them here, too.
If somebody likes to go higher up in a gang (=tr-ibe-), he has to kill somebody from another gang. Every 6 minutes the-re's a minor killed by gun violence in the USA. Civilisation, I start to doubt it.
Maybe the old Greek Parmenides, the big opponent of Her-aclei-tos, was right when he posed that all change (progre-ss) is only an illusion.
In spite of all my musing I had to go back to LA to pick up the BSA. There I had to wait again a couple of days. Luckily I found a shopping cart, threw my luggage in it and started wal-king through the streets. I even slept near the roads.
To play the homeless for a couple of days is a very special expe-rience, although I will advise nobody to do the same. Finally I went to a backpackers hostel where I fixed one of the folks' Yamaha. So I had a bike to use and could arrange all the paperwork for the BSA. Schenker, the cargo company didn't feel any shame in asking me to pay 250$ just to put one stamp on a document, besides all the other bills to pay for the transport of the BSA. A real hold-up on my wallet. After a lot of discussion and dirty words which I'd better not write here in your magazine, I could bargain the price a little bit donw. It was not the homeless or the black getto people who stole from me, no, it was a big international company. When God created the men, the Devil created a three part suit. They will never see me again there. But I had the BSA and I went to a swap meet of the southern Californian BSA club. It was in open air. There's always sunshine in Califor-nia. I found two "441 victors" (victims?) which I sent home. Then I rode to Stark Lite in Perries, an Indian dealer. My '47 Chief at home still needed some parts. And then, on the road to Mexico I visited John and Stuart from the British Connection in Lakeside near San Diego.
John is building beautiful café-racers besides normal vintage bikes there. He was quite busy, even so busy that I stayed for two months to help him.
I worked there with a lot of pleasure, with a look on the beautiful 'El Capitino' mountain and very near the biggest wall of the world. Isn't that in China? No, it's the new iron curtain between the USA and Mexico. I even think that they have used construction material coming from the nowadays broken down wall of East- and West Europe.
I picked up a better idea about the immig-ra-tion problems. For the work I didn't get any money.
I 'm not a hooker, I don't do funny things for money. I got two basket cases. I also sent them home. Thanks a lot, John.
And so I have fun again at home on lonely winter evenings: work on bikes. What is a man wit-hout a pro-ject? It's like a man wit-hout a future.
At the weekends we always went to rallies (San Diego), vintage races (Perris, Hanford) or swapmeets (Anaheim, Hanford). On one of those events I met Max Bubeck, a living legend. To cele-brate his 75th anniversary last year he rode from San Diego to New York, a distance of 3000 miles on an Indian,.... as old as himself.
I took the decision to ride to Mexico, otherwhise I'd be still working at John's place now a days. I visited Death Valley first, before the great heat was co-ming.
But Red Mountain (population 93, without me 92), just before the Valley of Death was the death of the BSA.
At night, in the shine of the moon, I took the cylinderhead off and I was able to see the stars between the burned valve and valved seat.
Of the valve guide wasn't left a lot and even the piston had a scratch from all the dirt.
So I went back to John's place with the BSA .....on a pick up. We took a serious look to find the cause of the problem. I had ridden nearly around the world with an oil feeds screw to the exhaust valve that was too small, in fact the one which is good for the inlet.
Also the jet was too small. And that with the dry and hot burning gasoline of California.
John Gardner(619 258 0158)of Santee, an expert on aircooled engines helped me to adapt a Harley-Davidson valve, spring and guide and a second hand Triumph piston (Japanese aftermarket!) went into the BSA, and a bigger jet. After some kid diseases it was running like new. Then straight to Mexico.
At the border the third world starts again. The customs officer asked me first, even before my passport, if I had no wife. He saw me waiting alone by my little motor-cy-cle. Wasn't this Azia again?
I had heard that question more than 100 times. Those questions started in Turkey. Whenever you stop for exam-ple to take gasoline, or to eat something, there is always somebody who can speak some friendly English, or German or so. "Where are you from?", "What is your name?", "Where are you going?"etc. ..... And then the big question "Do you have a wife?" When you say "No", then you see the disappointment on their faces, even on the ones who don't understand any foreign langu-age at all! Then you see them thinking "Oh, what a poor boy, he cannot afford himself a wife, only a motorcycle, and that is such an old and little one". To keep happy faces around you, you answer next time when you stop somewhere that you have a wife. But then they have a next question "Do you have kids?" When you say "No, I don't " then you can read on their faces "Oh, there must be something wrong with that poor boy's dick." So you learn to say that you have a wife and 10 kids, and at least 7 of them are sons.
In Indone-sia, an old man asked me "How look your wife?" I took an ima-ge in my head, something like Claudia Schiffer, B.B., or P.B.
Somebody who had surely stood on the first line when the Lord created woman.
So something were every biker from here shoud leave his bike without an eye for more than a minute.
She was tall and slim, blonde, with big blue eyes. Not one with split eyes like the local ones. "Blonde hair" he said, "like dry grass in a de-sert". "Big eyes, like mad cow" , "Slim, slim nose, like axe to cut the wood" . You see that taste can be different.
He said that I had to marry an Indonesian one, they are much better in everything than 'my beautiful European wife'. But I didn't want to bluff anymore and so I said to that Mexican customs officer that I didn't have one. Sorry for the disapointment, boy.
I follow the Mexican west coast throughout the dessert of Baja. Again a highlight of my journey. Lonely roads, not in very good condition. But you don't have to follow everybody else's speed like in the USA.
Big 30 feet high cactusplants, small villages with cheap restaurants (burritos & tacos) and the always friendly and happy Mexicans.
Specially when they know that you are not a 'Gringo', a USA citizer.
It's a shame that people all over the world thing that every-body from the USA is from Hollywood or from Dallas. It is a perfect example how mass media can give totally wrong ideas to people.
One day I took a walking trip to see Indian caves with beauti-ful paintings.
But I coudn't stay in Mexico long. I had still a lot of ap-point-ments in the USA.
There is an expresion that says that the coldest winter is the summer in San Fransisco. I felt that clearly when I rode near the west coast up to the Red Woods in northern California.
But where I stopped and visited BSA-friends, the welcome was warm. But that didn't mean that I have to burn your toastmachi-ne, right Walter and Peggy?
The 300 feet high and 1000 years old Redwoods are still very impressive, even after three visits. But I didn't had a lot of time to stay between these living worldwonders.
I had to be on a rally in Ohio. There was a big show this year around BSA and the Ohio Vally club, which are very good frie-nds of mine, had invited me there.
In fact, those people like the Kubenas and so many other are the ones who made it possible for me to do this trip. They made me believe that is was possi-ble to ride around the world on a clas-sic bike.
I have ridden their dream.
When I left Don's house (from the Northren California BSA club) after a very fast valve control, I said to Don that I woudn't open the toolbox anymore until I had reached the East coast.
I had better kept my big mouth shut. Only one mile away the clutch cable broke.
But 5 minutes later I was able to close the toolbox for more than 3000 miles.
First came Yosemite Park under the wheels, and there I went over the Sierra Nevada mountain range.
Then I went down to Death valley, more than 200feet under sea level, but dry and.... warm, or is it better to say just HOT. Now I understand why they have so funny place names as 'Stove Pipe Wells', 'Devils Cornfield'and 'Dantes View'.
Dante was a medieval writer who wrote in his 'Divina Commedi-a'about a journey to the hell.
To the place like his view of hell I escaped on the 4th of July, the national day of the USA to relax a little bit, far away from all those party people. But the footprints in the sand of time they were not made by sitting down. I also didn't do that there too long. I saw on a thermometer ....122-*F, or 50*C. I wish I could ask the BSA how he was feeling and thought about the heat, but he was still running like always. I didn't turn the throttle too far, of course.
Via Las Vegas, Hoover Dam and a little piece of Route '66, (a big piece of Americas history) I went to the Grand Canyon. Another worldwonder, although there were far too many folks who were running around with cameras. I also like to take pictures, but the best memories stay in your head. To enjoy the experience by itself.
After that I went to one of my ultimate places on earth: Monument Valley.
Between those impressive table mountains I stayed for a day. I had a long talk with 2 young indians. We talked a lot about motorcycles, and maybe now they have one. Does it mean that there are now two indians less becau-se they have made a change to an "iron horse" instead one of flesh and blood?
I dont think so, we haven't become a black man after eating a banana, either. Via Cortes up to the Rocky Mountains, the last big climb. Then through the big plains from the American Mid West, over small country roads between endless cornfields, crossing small towns.
People were always in for a friendly talk, especi-ally older men.
They were born here in a world, grew up in that world, and saw that world disappear, vanished by pro-gress. In the BSA they saw their world back, sometimes with tears in their eyes.
On Monday morning I left from between the foot of the Rockies, on Wednesday evening I was already in Ohio, or more than 1600 miles on the Smith speedo meter.
When I arrived at the house of the Kubenas in Penn-sylvania, I was feeling I had leather under my bum.
The Kubenas have been already friends of mine for years, we have visited each other more than once.
Together we dis-mantled the BSA nearly totally to the last screw to make an inspection on wearing out. In all, with more than 30.000 miles on the speedo since I left home, it was not too bad at all. There was a little bit of side play on the crank, the chain, needlejet holder, contact points and wheelbearings had to be replaced.
Only the last one still has to be done. About the Lucas equipment I had no reason to complain. The Prince of Darkness was always bright at dark nights and never left me never alone!
They say in the USA that Josef Lucas said that "gentlemen don't ride motorcycle in the dark." Maybe I'm not a gentlemen.
After putting all together it was high time to leave for the Mid Ohio Vintage Days.
A whole weekend of races, auction, BSA show and swap meet. And 15000 participants! Too much of good things together.
Not on Sunday evening when I was kicked out on the street like a dirty street dog by the guards. Now way to treat visitors like that, boys.
After that I went together with Jessie (from Texas) to Michi-gan.
There I put another tyre on the BSA and shipped a Triumph home.
Then I visited the "Days of Glory" in Weedsport New York. It was the same thing as last week in Ohio, but much smaller. On the other side the atmosfere was much bigger (read: bet-ter). I hope I can go there once again.
Then I went, after visiting Dick, to something totaly diffe-rent.
I went to the graze, to the field were once, in 1969, was that big pop music festival; Woodstock.
There were no more hippies, so I had to ask to a policeman to take a pictu-re of me and the BSA at the memori-al stone. Wood-stock is also a piece of the young American history. (old American histoy is for example Medicine Wheels - Big Horn Mountains, or Mesa Verde - Calorado).
And it has had a big, but indirect influence on the origin of many festivals which we have in Belgi-um every sum-mer. From there I went to another graze, another field. To a place which is for me the same as the happy holy enternal hunting-fields are for an indian.
To Jim Cable's campground to cele-bra-te the yearly, the 15th Annual British/European MC Ralley from the Ohio Valley BSA owners club.
That rally was the end of this trip.( for a while in fact). There where a lot more participants than other years, but the atmosfere was still intimate.
And it was a great fun to be there. After a public talk about my trip I started to swap my silver jewels for spare parts. These silver earrings I had b-rought in India, in the Rajastan de-sert, and I hid them in the bike as an financial reserve in case of emergency, for example a hold -up. But travelling in the world is not dangerous, if you meet the right people.
To meet these, to have an old BSA with you, is the best pas-sport
Then, after the rally, before I flew home,I made a last short run throug the rolling hills of Ohio and Pennsilva-nia.
Tears were rolling over the rolling hills.
More than 30 000 miles of joy from to aim something, the same distance joy from the experience by itself.
I parked the bike at Jim's place.
The trip is not done yet, there is just a little break now.
In the spring of my life I went away from home, 30.000 miles later and around the world, I came back home in the summer of my life.
theo, october 1996
tel 011 /63.48.94