Thursday, 18 October 2012

United States of Motorcycling

With all the media hype and violence surrounding the Us - Mexico border I must admit it was with relief that I had this border crossing over and done with. The crossing at Tecate was not as smooth as hoped though. It seemed as if the Mexicans didn't care if you were leaving their country, this border was all about whether the US would let you in through the massive security fence which stretched away in either direction from town.

There was no Mexican Immigration to get our passports stamped out which is usual at all of the previous crossings, instead the US officers were already processing my entry visa and when I questioned where the Mexican Aduana was to retrieve my US $400 bond I was told not to worry about that just yet. So eventually I get my visa processed and while waiting over hear two armed officers talking about a video game that one played the night before where he had to shoot up a bunch of people, it just seemed a little in appropriate from some one who's profession envoles security and handling firearms!!

So I get specific directions from the Us Customs officer on how to find the Mexican Aduana. I have been told I must leave the bike in the US and walk back across the border. I find the Aduana and the guy needs to see the bike but get this, he can't cross over the border to look at It, what the hell, this whole process is just backwards. I have no choice but to cross back over to the US get the bike and bring it back into Mexico!! I try walking directly back to the bike the wrong way and a US security officer comes out of nowhere and he's not too happy, "you can't do that, you have to go back through US immigration" for the second time, bloody hell.

Meanwhile, Patrick is having problems getting his bond back as the credit card he used to pay for it had to be cancelled when it was lost. So, after a stupid amount of time and several "loops" across the border on foot and then again with the bikes we were finally through.

We called in at the Sidi boot Distributor in San Diego and I managed to get my beaten up boots replaced under warranty which cheered me up, thanks to Motonation. That was followed by a high speed freeway run into LA to Patrick's sister's apartment. Several days of City time and I was ready to get back to the Country. So after a couple of months with some company I was back on my own again. I have a couple of stops to make on the way out of LA. The GPS is a life safer as I am guided through what seemed like 70km of concrete jungle highways. I make Joshua Tree National park just on dusk for a nice camp.

Day two back on my own and I almost get stuck out in the desert! This trail near Joshua Tree National Park was steeper than it looks, and loose. I had to turn around and ride back up this after it become un-rideable. It took several attempts with the loose rocks, I dropped the bike a few times, and during one fall I ruptured my water bladder which I have mounted on the side of my tank. It's 40 degree C and I loose all my water, and I've almost broken my golden rule of off road riding, "never ride down something that you can't ride up" It was a close call.

The largest motorbike shop I've ever seen, lots of goodies here, Chaparral's Motor sports in San Bernardo, California.
I'm sure there's a TCK 80 front tyre with my name on it somewhere in here!

Time for some new rear wheel bearings, again!

On the classic route 66

No shortage of signs here in the states

With Grand Canyon not far off route I decided to call in for a look and find a free bush camp

Nice landscapes between Flagstaff and Durango

Historic Durango - Silverton train
After 11 months and 45 000km looking for the ultimate ride I may have found the place. Durango, Colorado! Durango and the surrounding towns of Siverton, Lake City, Quray and Telluride are stunningly situated in the San Juan Mountains and steeped in mining history.
I guess you could argue that the culture experience in South and Central America would be hard to beat, but as a Kiwi I find the American culture here just as interesting. The "saloons"and dinners where you get dished up a big feed of eggs and hash browns, the hot waitresses with their cute accents, the big old gas guzzling pick ups etc all adds up to creating a atmosphere that was a world through the TV as I grew up. These towns have a mix of old time miner types, hippie's and lot's of outdoor enhusist's making use of all the incredible outdoor recreation available. And the people are just really, really helpful and friendly.
Anybody keen on mountain biking would recognise the names Durango and Telluride, these place's are single track heaven. Being a keen mountain biker myself it would have been painfull to be here without a mountain bike...but hang on a minute, unbelievable a lot of the single track bike trails on forest lands are open to motorbikes. With the luggage removed the DR is transformed into a single track weapon, ......well actually it's a long way short really with the highway gearing and porkyness but it's surprising what I end up riding and it's some of the most fun I've ever had on a motorbike. Single track riding back in NZ in the forest is just not available.
There's so much riding that I start worrying about how I'm going to ride it all! I find myself riding technical gnarly piece's of trail on my big dual purpose bike just because you can!! I can't ride past a trail like that and not have a go!! My bash plate is paying for itself here.
And it's not just the techy single track that makes this place so great for motorcycling. The hills are just fill of old gold mining relics from a 100 or so years ago and what's been left behind is a incredible network of jeep trails up over high passes linking up all these sites. It's a superb combination of scenery and riding. It's a bit like the areas of central Otago, Qweenstown and Wanaka all rolled into one on a big scale, and I'm lucky enough to be experiencing some beautiful Autumn weather. For once I'm at a place at a good time of year!!
It's not all good however. My trusty bike is not so new anymore. She's starting to burn lots of oil on start up, I check my valve clearances and one exhaust is out of spec for the first time on the trip. I keep riding for a couple of weeks thinking I may just have worn valve stem seals which is not such a big deal.  My bike is now notably way down on power which gets me worried and at the next opportunity I go to shop and get a leak down test done. The results are not good.
I've been struggling to decide what to do about the bike for the last two weeks, should I just keep on riding, it's running OK after all, or should I open it up and prevent any possible further damage. It's a difficult decision. My undesirable pessimistic nature gets the better of me and assuming the worst after the leak down test I decide to go ahead and pull the engine to bits. So the good/bad news is the leak down test may have lead me astray, on first inspection the engine doesn't look too bad at all!
I'm now waiting on a new cam chain, piston ring set and valves. It's not all bad, Durango is a great place to hang out for a while and I should have a sweet engine for another 50 000km!
First sample of single track. I have to look at the sign three times to convince myself that I'm not going to get shot for riding my motorcycle down this trail
Not a place to go over the edge!
Autumn is a nice time of year to be in Durango 
Tim and Randy riding Husaberg 570's take me on an awesome day out riding single track and jeep trails
Tim slicing it up
A little trail maintenance on the way
Lunch break at Ricco
Base camp, Junction Creek Durango. That's my camp companion Nick in the background. We hung out for a week and cooked up some good meals on the open fire and exchanged a few yarns. It was great to have some company in the evenings.
Tight single track and....
Fast open quad bike trails, and....
Amazing scenery
Engineer Pass on the Alpine loop
Lots of interesting mining relics
California pass at 12 000 ft and some hard as old timer hauled that boiler up here 100 years ago
Beautiful colours on the passes
The nicely set town of Quray
Wouldn't mind a hut like this myself

Oops, got it wrong on Black Bear Pass trying to ride up it the wrong way, it's steeper than it looks and at around 12 000ft both the bike and me are struggling for air!
....and that's Telluride way down there in the background
After the struggle with "the Black Bear" I have a nice relaxing coffee in Telluride, that's the pass up there in the centre background.
Greg from Fun Centre Motorbike shop takes me out on nice evening ride near Durango
I'm riding up over the top of Ophir Pass on my way back to Durango and meet Tess and Evan two up on there BMW 650. Before you know it I'm invited to stay at there house and end up staying a couple of nights, they feed me awesome Mexican food and I get to hear Evan have a jam session with a friend. Was a really enjoyable time, thanks a heap.
Things are getting serious, head and cylinder about to come off
hmm, what am I doing!!
Quality control officer's, Fern and Zoe keeping a close watch
Transportation for town and parts running
And this is Susan and Omar who have opened up there house, garage, and given me the pushy to get around town on while I do the work on my bike. Omar is a keen biker and owns 3 BMW boxers  and a Yamaha WR 400 trail bike. You guys have just been Fantastic, it's so nice to have a place to get the bike sorted. That's us cleaning up a concrete floor that Omar intends to polish up in his new house.


  1. bike riding is having lot of fun

    pictures are really sparky

    car transport

  2. Hola JOE ¿¿como estas?? soy CLEMENTE, nos conocimos en un recorrido de moto en MEDELLIN y luego nos volvimos a encontrar en la casa de RICHY, en la escuela de parapente BUCARAMANGA.Buenas fotos y lindos los lugares.
    Yo sigo viaje a ALASKA, ahora estoy en centro america EL SALVADOR.saludos y BUENAS RUTAS AMIGO

  3. The photo's are incredibly good Joe. I admire the fact that you are a motorcycle enthusiast. It see's that you guys had a lot of fun. Thank you for sharing.