Arrived!

Well I’ve arrived here in Chicago at the start of Route 66. My fellow travellers will be gathering later today and the plan has changed slightly in view of the high temperatures around at the moment: we will be picking the bikes up on Sunday morning rather than Monday, so we can be on the road first thing Monday morning.

The flight was fine but it did take United Airlines 35 minutes to check my bag in which, coupled with the mile walk to the gate, meant I had no time to grab a coffee and breakfast at 6.00am. Grr!

US immigration was also sadly on a par with the UK Border Agency so more delay getting through there, exacerbated by an Air India flight which seemed to have mainly wheelchair-bound passengers…

Off to explore now, I think!

Blogging in the USA

So then. Blogging, Facebook, e-mails, etc.

Yes, we all like to keep in touch with family and friends when we’re away and I will be taking photos and attempting to update this blog as I go. Which all means lots of data. Now, on  monthly basis – without really heavy photo uploads of large RAW images – I’m using anything up to 5GB of mobile data with 3′s “All-You-Can-Eat” data plan at £25 a month, though they have one with fewer voice minutes and text messages for £15 a month.

When roaming in Europe, I’m now using their £5 a day Euro Internet Pass which is fab – in April in Ireland, it cost me £18 for a quick update one day – but sadly there’s no similar option for roaming in the USA. Instead, I face charges of £3/MB so even if I limit my data over the 2 weeks to, say, 500MB, that would be £1,500!

I was thinking of picking up an AT&T SIM when I arrived in the US, but there’s no guarantee I’d be able to find an outlet without going out of my way.

So last night, I tried something else, buying a Dataroam pre-paid Micro-SIM that I’ll load before I go. That should do in my iPhone. But then I thought if I want to start downloading photos from my EOS 7D onto my iPad and then uploading them, I’ll either need WiFi in the hotel – not guaranteed – or I’d need to tether to my iPhone. Sadly, that’s not an option with the pre-paid SIM, so I’ve also bought a MiFi Hotspot device that I can use with all my devices. That way, I can also keep my UK SIM in my iPhone for texts and talk from friends in the UK.

Sadly, Global Enduro had to cancel the Sturgis trip as a group had had to cancel. Thankfully, there was another authorised trip on Harley Davidson’s website: Route 66 Westbound – 2400 miles from Chicago to Los Angeles with more or less the same dates, so definitely do-able.

This was on my bucket list and whilst I still want to do Sturgis at some time in the future, doing Route 66 will be an amazing ride with some sights along the way like Las Vegas and the Grand Canyon.

So I’ve booked with Italian organisers Bikers American Dream and waiting to hear further details now. Still aiming to book a Road King but I may have to go for an Electra Glide if not.

Today was Kawasaki Day at the Ace Cafe London. It was also the Virgin London Marathon and where I live the roads close at 8.00am. Despite GT taking part in the marathon – she managed a 4:00:44 finish time! – I headed off before the road closures to the Ace Cafe for Kawasaki Day, celebrating 40 years.

Of course, 11 and 23 mile markers en route were too good to pass unnoticed so I hoisted celebratory wheelies as I drove through!

Getting to the Ace at 8.00am I grabbed a cuppa and breakfast and then decided to have the ZRX dyno’d again now I’ve put some miles on it and the results were very impressive: 163.2bhp and 98ft/lb which even beat some poor bloke with a shiny ZZR1400 and Akra pipes!

Here are some photos too:

So then: a change of plan. The cost of shipping Blue Rex to and from the States was working out to be too expensive and too complicated to arrange.

Then a friend of mine announced he’d bought himself a Harley Davidson Street Bob. As I didn’t know which model that was, I went over to the Harley Davidson UK website to have a look and saw their link to their authorised tours. One happened to sit perfectly in terms of dates when London will be at a standstill for the Olympics and it also ticked other boxes: luxury, because I like a bit of that; and Sturgis.

Now since I was a young hooligan biker, I’d always wanted to go to the Sturgis Rally so this seemed too good an option to miss out on. Deposit was paid and arrangements made for “The Ride to Sturgis” with Global Enduro.

Today, I’ve had a phone call to confirm my choice of ride and I’ve gone for the Harley Davidson Road King Classic. This should hit all the right bases: a screen to stop the bugs and any rain; not too visually heavy so I can still see everything around me rather than just a load of fibreglass; some storage capacity for waterproofs and my cameras; light enough to handle reasonably; and not a ridiculous riding position or tank range.

Harley Davidson Road King Classic

Harley Davidson Road King Classic

 

As something of a dry run for the US trip, three friends and I planned a week’s holiday to play in the Gorges de l’Ardèche in France. Sadly, Purge had to cancel a few weeks before the trip for family reasons so that just left Matt, Yox and me.

The trip started early – very early: 5.00am – on Saturday, 25th June with a quick dash to the Eurotunnel terminal off the M20. Cold and wet, so I put my Hein Gericke waterproof overjacket on, not bothering with the Belstaff waterproof overtrousers which had struggled to get over my Alpinestars SMX boots and the kneesliders on my leathers.

Soggy and chilly at Eurotunnel Terminal

Soggy and chilly at Eurotunnel Terminal

Matt and Yox

Matt and Yox

But we arrived and filled up with petrol before heading to find our train had been cancelled, setting us back half an hour before we’d even set off. The plan was to be in Joyeuse around 6.00pm if possible…

After the first few “splash and dash” stops to fill the bikes with petrol and us with coffee, it had warmed up and dried off so we could stash the waterproofs.

Sun Shining on the Righteous!

Sun Shining on the Righteous!

We soon arrived at the Hotel les Cèdres in Joyeuse despite being a little late – the hotel rang me to see if we were arriving soon when we were 150 miles away but that didn’t take us long… – and we checked in to a warm welcome and were told where the bikes could be parked safely. I’d stay there again.

Hotel les Cédres

Hotel les Cèdres

The most precarious toilet in the world?

The most precarious toilet in the world?

Sunday 26th and we went off to play in the Gorges de l’Ardèche: a great ride up and down the twisty roads of the Gorges de l’Ardèche – max 104mph – then three beers, a very large vodka before more beer. And Dinner… We’d also stopped earlier for a light snack lunch. Matt had managed to cut his arm overnight and Yox managed to get stung by a wasp en route.

Bikes at the Gorges de l'Ardèche

Bikes at the Gorges de l'Ardèche

Panorama: Gorges de l'Ardèche

Panorama: Gorges de l'Ardèche

Matt's Wound!

Matt's Wound!

Yox's Sting

Yox's Sting

Light Lunch...

Light Lunch...

Monday 27th and with temperatures still in the high 30s, we decided to do an even longer day: heading up to Le Puy, then Mende, then Villefort and back and all by the twistiest, most scenic routes we could find. And we weren’t disappointed. Neither were we disappointed by the ice creams at Rosiere when we got back.

Bikes in the sun

Bikes in the sun

Lozère

Lozere

Omnomnom!

Omnomnom!

Tuesday 28th and we decided to go for a few hundred miles again to see the Foster-designed Millau Bridge. Millau Bridge via Ales then Mende, Villefort and back. 39C+ Lots of twisties to enjoy. Cold beer and hot pizza to finish it off!

Yes it was as hot as it looks

Yes it was as hot as it looks

"How lost are we?"

"How lost are we?"

Heavy Engineering

Heavy Engineering

Millau Bridge

Millau Bridge

Panorama: Millau Bridge

Panorama: Millau Bridge

Matt had turned French...

Matt had turned French...

Wednesday 29th was our rest day. So we spent it whitewater canoeing for 24km down the Ardèche itself navigating a few sets of rapids along the way. Fortunately, we were taking our protective clothing seriously…

We took our protective headgear and eyewear very seriously...

We took our protective headgear and eyewear very seriously...

Matt had some issues with droopage

Matt had some issues with droopage

Compare and contrast

Compare and contrast

Yox pops his cork (note shorts torn to shreds when we capsized earlier)

Yox pops his cork (note shorts torn to shreds when we capsized earlier)

Alpha Bateau

Alpha Bateau

So yes, we did capsize in one set of rapids and I was hit by another canoe whilst scrabbling over the rocks (still underwater) to steady the canoe for Yox and me to get back in. Fortunately, the sun was out and despite the suntan lotion, my battered shins got sunburnt! Which meant I didn’t need to concentrate on the bruises and cuts or the aching arms :)

Thursday 30th and we went for a bimble about back in the Gorges de l’Ardèche again, stopping more frequently for photos this time. Still managed 80+ miles.

Once a Rexer, always a Rexer...

Once a Rexer, always a Rexer...

Yes, it was very hot

Yes, it was very hot

Ah, the usual!

Ah, the usual!

Journey's end for the whitewater canoe trips

Journey's end for the whitewater canoe trips

Friday 1st July and we realised we’d enjoyed the twisties in the Massif Central so much we should do them again and there were still a couple of routes we’d not tried before. So off we went for a 160 mile ride…

Bloody taggers!

Bloody taggers!

Saint-Julien-du-Tournel

Saint-Julien-du-Tournel

Yox's boot: proof of twistyness!

Yox's boot: proof of twistyness!

Saturday 2nd and back to the UK. Leaving a little after 8.15am, we made it back to the Eurotunnel with a couple of hours to spare, so we caught an earlier crossing. According to the TomTom SatNav unit, 688 miles on Saturday, average speed of 75mph, maximum speed of – cough – 122mph. That’s 2,111 miles that week, average speed of 59mph and a maximum declared speed of 135mph. “Declared” because the TomTom doesn’t display maximum speeds over that, so the 155mph and climbing I saw on one section of road – private, obviously, Officer! – didn’t register.

Well today I went to collect the ZRX from PDQ post-fettling. And yes, I think it looks great!

Larry mentioned that Nick had test-ridden it just to be on the safe side after they’d achieved their best-ever dyno results for a ZRX1200R on standard carbs/bores. I’d asked for a 44T rear sprocket as before and Larry suggested it would be sensible to go back to a 42T at some point as Nick had come back wide-eyed and declared it a tad berserk… We’ll see tomorrow!