While in the desert of California we decided yet again to change our plans for the trip. One of the few scheduled events that was really set in stone, was Char's return home to the UK in July. Flying from New York meant a certain distance to cover over the coming 3 1/2 months. We enjoy the slow pace travel so much, and freedom to stop and explore, that the idea of riding all the way to Central America and back seemed too much.
This gave us the chance to relax into such a sedated pace that we were barely moving at all.
We stopped for a week or so on the bank of the Colorado river, on the Californian side close to Parker. Cheap BLM camping, and days of doing whatever we pleased.
We then meandered up to Lake Havasu, where plaques collaborated with local stories that the London Bridge had in fact been moved here stone by stone in the 1970's. Very odd to discover something like this in the Arizona desert.
We then continued North, taking in some of the old Route 66 as we made our way to the strange little town of Oatman. Traveling around like this you sometimes come across places that feel like a genuine experience of culture and lifestyle. Oatman was nothing like this at all, more of a resort facade made up to give tourists what they are looking for. But we happily play dumb and say all the right things. A friendly local biker chap points me in the right direction of dirt back roads, as Char takes the paved route to Bullhead City.
Here again we stay for days, happy with cheap camping and large quantities of Gin. Another interesting place, where its Indian reservation status has allowed the creation of huge casiono complexes. From our camp spot 6' from the riverbank, the view across to the city is dominated by enormous high rise blocks and the night sky is flooded with neon. We enjoy this funny juxtaposition of the rough camp living, and proximity to a modern cityscape.
The intention was to follow Bullhead City with a visit to the Grand Canyon, but all reports promised low temperatures and heavy snow. Char is a willing camper, but quickly looses all enthusiasm when it drops below zero.
When we entered the United States, we had some problems with the nice folks at border protection, and were granted only a months entry. With the new plan of exploring America as we head to NY, this meant problems for us, and we decided to head to Phoenix to see what could be done.
I am a dirt riding nut, and relish any chance to leave the paved roads in favour of anything more interesting. Char is pretty forgiving of this obsession, and does her best to accommodate this into our plans. As we head South from Kingman and through the fantastically named town of 'Nothing' we pick a course that leads us along un-maintained dirt tracks towards Alamo lake. The GPS cleverly navigates us along this network of trails, promising to delivery us South and back onto the highway.
Char does fantastically, and gradually starts to see the attraction of this way of traveling. Virtually no traffic, a constant supply of ups and downs, corners and amazing desert scenery. The trail is often flanked with floods of wild flowers in vivid colours. We come across three water crossings, that Char and Stanley manage without drama. I'm proud of you Char. Adda girl.
The GPS seems so confident in its route back to the highway, it comes as a genuine surprise when all the trails end abruptly, leading directly into the lake.
We find a friendly family that has lived out here in the middle of the desert for years. Ultimately cut off from the world, they've not actually been into town for seven months! They confirm that the lake is flooded above the level of all the local routes.
As dusk approaches we retrace our tracks, and as night falls we find a little community of RV'ers. They are from all over North America, but meet each year to travel together for 4-6 months, sharing their love of quad bikes and exploring the wilds of America. As kind as anyone we've met, they are quick to invite us to join camp with them, and as we put the tent up they prepare hot drinks and snacks for us!
A great bunch, it is a pleasure to spend the evening with them. With most of them in their 60's, they are not your typical off roaders. I only hope I'm doing something like this in my retirement.
In the morning we are encouraged to try their ATV's, and it really is a scream. Sand and obstacles that would slow me on a bike can be attacked with full throttle. These things are serious machines, 700cc or more, and shortage of bells and whistles. This is off roading with style and luxury. Point and shoot!
Big thanks guys, it was great to meet you. Thanks for the great hospitality.
In Phoenix I changed the oil in both bikes.
The amazing Honda I've been riding for over a year, seems to have embarked on its first real mechanical problem. Which is a bit of a pain, but it's done so well up until now that I can't find it in myself to be pissed off.
It was extremely fortunate really that it happened under such suitable circumstances. We were staying with the Wonderful Scott and Deb, and had access to Scott's dizzying array if workshop facilities. We also had parts and mechanical expertise in the local area.
Scott and I were out on a ride, when I started to hear noises from the engine. Pulling into a big Honda dealer we consulted the mechanics, who shared my very grim view of the situation.
"That sounds like something very bad, big end or main bearings or something. I think the chances are very slim you'll make it 'home' without destroying the engine, we'll give you a lift in our truck" Very kind of them.
Scott and I stripped the engine down to the crankcases and found nothing at all, in fact besides the deposits in the combustion chamber, the engine was in remarkably good condition. Cleaning and putting back together didn't do much, and horrible sound was back.
With considerable help from Dillon (of Zen Motorcycle) I rebuilt the engine again, but with little effect.
Eventually I switched the new, thin synthetic oil, back to a thicker SAE. Remarkably this made everything good. I guess there is still an underlying imperfection in the engine, that thin oil revealed, but as it's now running great on standard 20W/50, I'm happy with this for the time being.
We ended up staying weeks in Phoenix with all this faffing about. But every cloud has a silver lining.
We got to know Dillon, Allen and Joy, keen adventure motorcyclists. We were also treated to our first game of baseball, which we found to be a great way to spend an afternoon.
Char visited all the local tourist traps while I tore into Honda engines. The shots above from the 'Desert Botanical Gardens'
As if Scott hadn't already done more than enough for us, he got me into the Overland Expo. A truly huge adventure travel event that was going on near Tucson, about 150 miles South of
We helped out on the 'Black Dog' stand with Kurt and Martha, the great couple that run this bike accessory shop.
It was a great weekend. Almost certainly the largest overland meeting in the world. The two wheeled turn out was a bit low, but what lacked in quantity was made up for in quality.
For the first time I had the chance to get to know Austin Vince and Ted Simon, two motorcyclists I have great respect for.