The global adventure officially started at the Los Angeles International Airport, to where we will return from Asia at some unknown time in the future, traveling around the world in a wild west-to-east direction.
Ripe feet? I never thought that stinky feet would play a role in a motorcycle ride around the world, but they did.
The first leg of my second attempt to circle the globe a sixth time started on June 1. My companion on this pursuit of two-wheeled adventure, Richard Livermore, and I departed from Los Angeles International airport, our official starting point. The plan was to test our motorcycles and ourselves on a 7,000 mile ride that would tag Seattle, Washington, and then across a northern route to Minneapolis, Minnesota. From there we would vector south to Chicago, Illinois, and then east again to New York City. From there turning south we would finally end up in southern Florida where we would park and store our motorcycles until we decided to push on further south to the southernmost tip of South America we could reach, Ushuaia, Argentina, and the end of Ruta 3.
While we would be looking at America for adventure as we roamed around the United States, we would also be testing our 1983 Honda GL650s. We knew that once we left the security of America’s plentiful Honda dealerships and parts depots we would be traveling without a safety net once we reached South America. If our equipment broke or our choice of travel gear was wrong we could expect long delays for replacements to be shipped to us, or possibly none at all.
A second test was whether we would be compatible travel companions, a key element in our joint venture to travel around the globe over the next years, covering between 30,000 – 40,000 miles during 6-12 months on the road. We agreed during our initial planning that if we were not compatible together and having fun, we’d rather abort the plan to circle the globe and maintain our friendship than have it destroyed on the road. Our goal was to mutually have fun while seeking adventure.
We agreed to use 1983 Honda GL650s for the North America and South America pieces of our global loop. They were purchased off eBay and freshened up, then outfitted with luggage carrying capacity and some wind protection. When all costs were totaled, including shipping, new tires and batteries, accessories, tools, spare parts, titles, registrations, insurance and some labor costs, we had an average of $4400 invested in each motorcycle. One had 16,000 miles on it, the other 30,000 miles.
(??Above?) The pile of riding gear seen here was what one of us felt necessary, until we tried to pack and stack it all on one motorcycle. Some of the gear was quickly jettisoned. (??Below?) High speed interstate driving likely constituted 50%-60% of the 7,000 miles we traveled around North America. Fully loaded and with windscreens, the 1983 Honda GL650s easily kept up with two 1200 cc “adventure” touring motorcycles.
One of our first discoveries was we each had planned to carry too much gear. Within the first 100 miles decisions were made to dump some of the gear and mail it back to our respective homes. We also split our spare parts and tools cache. When my load was lightened I had 60 pounds of luggage, plus my riding gear and 220 pounds of me (20 of which I dieted off while on the road).
Between 60-70% of the route we traveled were high-speed interstates or toll roads, where we were cruising at 65-75 mph. Much of the way we were accompanied by two BMW riders on new 1200cc adventure models. Our smaller 650cc displacement Hondas would have to make two gas stops for each one of the BMWs due to their larger tanks and our Hondas gulping considerably more fuel when we were at 70 mph or above. Between the four of us we decided that a stop for gas every 150 miles was acceptable to all, the BMW riders wanting to take a break and us two Honda pilots needing fuel.
While there was a bit of competition between the new 1200cc BMWs and our two older 650cc Hondas, I felt that both brands and models were performing equally well over the roads we traveled until we stopped in Butte, Montana, for the night. There I was slyly vodka-ized by the two BMW owners into a “big is better” way of thinking. It was a sad reflection of my weakness when under the influence that evil demon alcohol, and how the BMW riders played, or better stated, plied me.
As we had exited the I-90 and started looking for a motel I saw a 1982 Honda Gold Wing parked in front of a motorcycle shop. While the others went on to the motel I stopped and inquired about the price and when told $2500, about its history. I was told the owner had put it up for sale the day before, having been called up to serve in Afghanistan. Fresh tires, a new battery, low mileage and no scratches, the 1100cc Honda fit me well when I tried it and looked ready for a long ride. Parked next to my GL650 the Gold Wing clearly looked bigger and logically could carry more gear, like some of the fresh underwear and second pair of walking shoes I had sent home.
Fresh tires, new battery, and full Vetter accessories helped me show my lack of loyalty to the GL650. The cassette tape player in the Goldwing fairing even worked. I made a deal with the seller, but committed myself to finishing the first leg of our world tour on my GL650.
Our group had decided earlier that day to celebrate upon reaching Butte, a town once famed for drunkards and brothels. We would loosen up a bit, try to taste Butte as it had been 100 years earlier, and I would have my first alcoholic drink while on the trip. The BMW riders bought me vodka, a swill I had told them I had acquired a taste for after riding across Russia. While they were forcing me to imbibe with their proffered swill by implying I was being a wimp and party-pooper for not keeping up with their swilling speed they made light fun of my 650cc Honda. It was an ugly affair when I fell for their vodka brain washing and did the deal the next day for the Gold Wing. My riding pal Richard, an extreme Honda 650 aficionado, spit in the dirt when I told him I had succumbed to the big is better mentality and displaying my disloyalty to our Honda GL650 adventure plan. When I told him I was going to continue our ride and test to Florida on my GL650, he said, “Now I know why you haven’t been having beers with us in the evenings. You’d be buying big motorcycles in every town we stopped in for the night.”
Another strain that bubbled to the surface during the personality and compatibility part of our test was Livermore’s GPS dedication versus my aversion to electronic gizmos in general and preference for paper maps when traveling. One hot afternoon during rush-hour traffic our group spent over an hour following the GPS dedicated leader through the lower bowels of an ugly city, first looking for a non-existent gas station and then a motel. Had there been a river near when we finally parked at the motel I may have taken Livermore’s GPS from him and thrown it in for fish to follow.
I updated my Nolan motorcycle helmet halfway through our adventure. The old Nolan had lost some of its integrity by my landing on it a few times and failure to attend to liner maintenance with soap and water was causing my eyes to water at slow speeds from olfactory overload.
One mistake I made was starting the trip with a well-worn Nolan motorcycle helmet, thinking like a cheapskate traveler that I could get one more long trip out of it. Not only did it have the smell of open sewer mold in it from my lack of hygienic maintenance over the years, it was also visually dented and cracked from my having dropped or landed on it. I replaced it with an updated version while on the road and vowed to start the next road trip with a new helmet.
Another mistake I made was starting with a well-worn pair of motorcycle boots. They fit comfortably but knowingly leaked. When I pulled them out of their storage bin before leaving I noted some green mold inside that I brushed out. To take them saved me a few dollars and I felt I could get a last few miles out of them.
A stop at Bob’s BMW (www.bobsbmw.com) in Jessup, Maryland, found me re-united with a 1981 BMW R80 G/S that I had donated to Bob’s BMW Museum. Livermore and I were comparing our 1983 GL650s to the R80 G/S while business owner Bob Henig listened in, me noting that the BMW had broken in some of the ugliest or toughest places on the planet. I recounted the story of it leaking all the engine oil out in Alaska when I was on a lonely dirt road and had to spend the next two days unsuccessfully trying to kill birds to eat by throwing rocks at them. Another time I told of a long hot and sweaty afternoon replacing a fried clutch plate in the jungles of Panama. The best received tale was of the night I spent sleeping in a closed hearse inside of a garage where I was during the day replacing the clutch plate, again, in Bogota, Columbia, while the owner’s Dobermans freely roamed around and guarded the garage at night.
I stopped to visit an earlier ‘round the world motorcycle and riding gear that I had donated to Bobs BMW (www.bobsbmw.com) Museum. Bob Henig reminded me that the road weary 240,000 mile 1981 R80G/S had blazed much of the path Richard Livermore and I would be covering on our two years younger 1983 Hondas.
Henig listened to my tales, and then opined it was pilot error that had brought on my misery, not BMW mechanical failure. He submitted that the oil would not have run out of the engine after I holed the oil pan hitting a submerged rock in a deep muddle puddle is only I had walked through first to check for hidden obstacles. As for the adventures in Panama and Colombia, he professionally stated that had I not started the trip with a tired clutch plate I would not have fried it in the jungle, and had I also changed the tired pressure plate at the same time I would not have had to do both in the garage of the funeral home several days later.
BMW Bob was an entertaining and enlightening fellow that afternoon. As we stood in his BMW showroom looking out at the two Honda GL650s in his parking lot, he demonstrated his master salesmanship by suggesting to Livermore and me that he could sell us two new BMW R1200GS Adventures that would serve us well through our next 30,000 miles. Livermore quickly turned to me after Bob’s suggestion and said, “No vodka for you tonight!”
A stop at J & P Cycles (www.jpcycles.com) in Ormond Beach, Florida, found me looking at a replica of the Captain America Harley-Davidson in their museum-like showroom. I remembered in the film Easy Rider the only luggage strapped on the back looked like a rolled up sleeping bag. Livermore and I had gone in search of America but looking at my Honda and the 60 pounds of luggage and assorted gear I wondered if we had missed something, or maybe our choice of motorcycle had been wrong. But then I remember Livermore and I were on a far different adventure. Rather than search for what adventure we could find in America, we were searching for what we could find around the world.
The inside of J & P Cycles in Ormond Beach, Florida was as much a motorcycle museum as it was a retail outlet, with enough motorcycle eye candy to easily consume an hour of shopping and gawking.
My Honda had not burped once in the 7000 miles. Livermore’s had popped the end off a clutch cable, but his carrying a spare made that minor breakdown little more than a chance to stretch our legs. Both motorcycles had passed every test we had put them through.
Before storing my motorcycle for an indefinite period of time I wanted to change the oil and filter. Busy schedules and high price quotes from several local motorcycle shops found me looking for a financially reasonable Plan B, which I found at a local Wal-Mart. Inside I purchased three quarts of oil and a plastic bowl. At the check-out counter I asked for a couple of extra plastic bags which the clerk gave me. Under a shade tree in a nearby parking lot I lined the plastic bowl with the plastic bags, and then drained the oil into the bags. The oil filter was next. I used a new oil filter I had been carrying in my spare parts. While I was changing the oil I gave the motorcycle a close inspection to see if anything needed attention before I stored it and found nothing needing repairs.
The bagged oil and filter I took to the auto repair section of the Wal-Mart and offered to pay for them to dispose of it. They mechanic working at the service counter looked at my Honda and asked, “Is that an ‘83?”
I told him it was, and he asked, “Where are you coming from?”
“I started in Los Angeles with a riding buddy, kind of testing ourselves and our machines while looking at America, making plans for South America.”
A business card served as a funnel for adding fresh oil. The total cost of the parking lot oil change was less than $15.00. The automotive service department of Wal-Mart accepted the old oil and filter and would not take any money for disposal.
He thought about my answer for a few seconds, and then asked, “What did you find?”
“I found that my buddy and I travel together okay, and the motorcycles were solid runners. The only complaint I had was my buddy and his GPS might have made the adventure too easy or soft in some cases, other times too hard. My buddy’s only complaints were about my drinking vodka and ripe feet from the old boots I had chosen for the ride in our shared room at night.”
The service mechanic refused to take any money for the oil and filter disposal. While we were dumping them in a disposal container he said, “The vodka part seems easy, drink beer. Those GPS are okay, but I’d take two if you’re going to South America, in case one breaks, which they seem to do on motorcycles. I had one of those GL650s before I started riding Harleys. I couldn’t kill that Honda. As for your stinky feet, pour the vodka you’re not drinking in your boots with your feet in them in the morning.”
As I was parking the GL650 for its anticipated long rest I decided it had the South America adventure in its bones. I would let the 1100cc big bike Gold Wing go on to another owner. I also decided that rather than stress my relationship with my riding buddy I would invest in a new pair of boots and break them in before we left on the next leg of our world adventure.