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Drop of a hat 2005 Pt 2
So, it’s late February and I am heading back to the U.S. on a flight booked on my return 5 weeks prior. Little did I know at that time that my circumstances would change somewhat in that I could no longer afford to buy the N.O.S.H2b – However, my pal Steve wanted the bike instead, so it is all systems go to continue with the plans to get the bike.
It is bitterly cold as I leave the U.K. but after landing in Michigan to find a foot of snow and the Great Lake frozen for many feet around the shore I rapidly change my opinion on what I consider to be cold! My plan is to collect my truck from the garage (after it’s gearbox repair) then drive down to Canada, I would then cut a corner and re-enter the U.S. into New York State to collect a rather cheap “Snowjob” that I had won on Ebay. Some of you will remember the word “snowjob” from the early 70’s, it’s basically a H2 driven snowmobile in that it is a framework with a pair of caterpillar tracks, you bolt a wheeless H2 onto the frame which in turn powers the two tracks
I head off into the snow on my 500 mile drive down to Niagara Falls, from there I cross the border into New York state to collect the snowjob, all goes well and I arrive in Niagara Falls early in the evening.
An early start for the days 600 mile drive and I take in the breathtaking scenery of the frozen falls, huge ice flows and massive chunks of ice floating down the river.
With so many miles to do I cut sort the “tourist” stuff and head on down to New York State to collect the snowjob, The frame is intact, the tracks look good and I am soon loading another piece of unique H2 history onto the truck.
With the nowjob loaded it is back up to Canada to endure the interrogation of Canadian customs as to why I was only in the U.S. for five hours and then up to Peterborough to collect Steves H2b
We loaded the H2b in the snow but before I covered the bike with tarpaulins for it’s 550 mile snow ridden journey, I had already purchased a couple of cans of WD40 and liberally sprayed every single accessible part of the bike to try on protect it from it’s upcoming journey.
Once back in Traverse City Michigan I discovered that the snow and road salt dust had found it’s way into and under the covers on the H2, I was now very concerned that this new bike could be a pile of rust in a couple of days – my plan was to wash the bike off and then keep it in heated storage for it’s 8 week stay in Traverse, but I was seriously struggling to find any suitable storage, You have to bear in mind that when it gets cold in Michigan it gets VERY cold - and stays that way! You can normally hedge your bets that there will be snow on the ground from late November right through to late March. So the chances of the bike getting dry and staying that way were pretty slim. As I uncovered the bike from it’s 2 day journey I was horrified to see a couple of yellow patches on the underside of the front mudguard, it was almost as if the salt had burnt it’s way straight into the metal! My only option was to try and jetwash all the salt dust off . . . I had a master plan, I went to a local Goodwill store (Charity shop) and purchased a small electric heater and a light bulb socket and a timer – my plan was to wash the bike, and then put it into storage, the light in the storage unit could be used to run a low wattage timed heater hopefully all would be well for the 8 weeks until the bike was to make the next stage of it’s voyage. I jetwashed the salt off the bike and stored it in it’s temporary home, I was somewhat relieved that this perfect specimen was now safe from the elements.
I went over to visit my pal “Z1” Gary, I told him the whole involved story of the NOS H2b and how relieved I was that the salt was jetwashed off and the bike was back in pristine condition - the look on Gary’s face had me concerned , he questioned me “what do you mean you jetwashed it?” I replied that I went to the local jetwash and cleaned the bike. “You stupid b****d that’s salt water that you have washed it with, why do you think it is still working in this temperature?” – he then went on to tell me that they use recycled water – SALTED water which is why they never freeze up (even though it is constantly minus something or the other temperature wise) . . . I felt myself drain – I had no clue what the answer was - all I knew was that I needed to get the bike washed with clean water and get it dried as soon as possible or Steve would not be a happy camper!!
The original plan was that I would stay up near Gary and spend 5 days working on the bikes that I had stored in his pole barn, the following Saturday I was due to fly down to Daytona bike week. While at Garys I set about doing a bit of work to One bike and it wasn’t long before I pretty damn cold out in barn, I certainly didn’t relish the thought of 5 more days of working in a freezing cold barn with no heating.
Today was Tuesday – I was due to fly to Florida and it’s 70 degrees on the next Saturday - Florida was just 1,450 miles and 3 days drive south – the bike could last 2 more days and at least if I could then get it washed in clean water and dried out in the warm Florida sunshine it would survive.
I saw no option but to make the drive, not only that but I thought I would go for broke and try and do the 1440 mile drive in One hit – My plan was to make a 4am start and if all went well I could make the trip in less than 24 hrs of constant driving – it would be a landmark in my driving career that I wouldn’t wish to repeat but would beat my previous daily driving record of 850 miles (Aberdeen and back) by some 600 miles!
I had an early night and left Traverse City just after 4am, the snow was falling and the roads were yet to be ploughed, just getting over to the interstate was interesting to say the least – no street lights, unplowed roads and often a case of just guessing where the road was in the virgin snow – thank heavens for 4 wheel drive! Once on the Interstate things were not much better, the road was yet to be ploughed and the lane that was open had a couple of inches of snow on top of ice! I soon caught up with a truck that was struggling to maintain 40mph in the falling snow and poor road conditions, I had been travelling for 90 minutes and had covered just 40 miles, averaging it out at around 28 miles an hour – at that rate it would take 50 or so hours of non stop driving to get to my destination! I made the decision to go for broke and overtake the truck. I changed lane and was immediately aware that I was driving in 4 inches of snow on top of ice – the road ahead was barely visible with the snow being blown around by the 18 wheeler, I slowly built the speed up to 60 mph and just headed for a hole in the blizzard – having driven well over a million miles in my life I have to say that this was turning out to be the scariest drive ever! After what seemed like an eternity I edged past the truck and carefully changed over lanes. After breathing a HUGE sigh of relief I then built the speed up to a constant 60mph, hoping that the further down South I got the clearer the roads would be and I could go a little faster to make up time. I had already worked out that with no breaks and only fuel stops I needed to average 75 mph to be in with a chanced of doing the trip in a day. Mile after mile tripped up on the speedo and I saw little sign of the weather getting better. All the way down through Michigan, Ohio and Kentucky to Tennessee was covered in snow, accidents were minimal but Once in Tennesse there were trucks and cars off the road every few miles – it appears that they are just not use to the unusual snowy climate.
Just 500 miles in and I stop for my second gas stop, as I pull off the freeway I am aware of a rather loud grinding noise from my transmission, I have no clue what it was but as I reversed into a parking slot to check it out there was a loud bang and the noise disappeared, I filled up, crossed my fingers and hit the road. Mile after mile at 80mph soon got my average back up to 75mph, I pulled off again at 300 miles (my average tankfull) and the darn noise was back again, again I reversed, again there was the loud bang and again the noise disappeared. The snow finally disappeared as I got into the Knoxville area in Tennessee, it was mid afternoon, I had been driving for 12 hours and had covered some 750 miles with 700 still to go. The next state was Georgia which seemed to be endless, finally I was in Florida and arriving at my destination at 2am! 1,430 miles in just under 22 long hours, I was a very happy chappy to have a truck that was still alive.
9am the next day and I am back at a jet wash, the difference being it is a sunny 75 degrees and I am washing the bike with pure water! The old waxoil and WD40 was proving difficult to shift, but with a little determination and some degreaser the bike was again looking like a brand new showroom bike J
I knew the flight that I was no longer taking from Traverse City to Tampa was over booked so I called Continental to tell them I wouldn’t make the flight, I asked if there was any refund available? They told me that not only was there no refund but if I didn’t make the flight I was deemed to have cancelled the whole trip and would need to buy another ticket out of Tampa for my leg home! I was struggling to comprehend the fact that if I didn’t make the internal flight then I would have to buy a new homeward ticket on the same plane in the same seat that I had already paid for! After speaking to a supervisor I was assured that this was the correct procedure and that I had the choice of driving or flying back up to Traverse City to catch the flight back down or I could buy the ticket that I had already bought for my homeward trip for the princely sum of $1,100! I did neither and decided to think about my options when I was in a more rational frame of mind.
The bike was still on the back of the truck as I headed over to Deland where there was a bike show as part of the Daytona bike week. The show was typically Harley based, in fact out of the 1,000+ bikes on the street I would think that there was just a single handful of old Japanese bikes attending. I went over to the bike display / competition and stared in awe at the amazing work that went into the Harleys that were being displayed. I stopped by the organisers booth and saw that there were prizes for the Best Artwork, Best Chop, Best Sportster, Best Chrome, Best “this” and best “that” and also a category for “most original bike” – well, there was nothing in the rules that said it had to be a Harley right ? So, I entered the H2b! Whilst I didn’t sit by the bike I did sit within earshot and was pleased to hear that the bike was creating a lot of interest with some wild tales of how “they use to wheelie in 3rd gear and kill one in five of the owners” I avoided temptation to correct such statements and just mused over the realisation that these bikes really are a legend – maybe for all the wrong reasons but they will have a place in history as the wildest bike of the 70’s.
Presentation time duly arrived and I was amused to hear the Master of Ceremonies stumbling for words as he said that the “most original” category was somewhat of a puzzler, he told how they had to call in extra judges and eventually decided that the most original bike was the “Kawasaki H2” – I was somewhat relieved to hear applause rather than beer bottles breaking around me as I walked to the stage to collect my rather large trophy J
Next day was another spare day, I checked into flights and found that rather than pay the $1,100 one way ticket back to the U.K. I was better off to buy a new return ticket to the U.S. and save $400 into the bargain! My ticket was booked and I saw that there was an auction / autojumble and Japanese only bike show organised by the V.J.M.C. near Daytona. I headed on over there and there were some NICE old bikes there, I duly parked the H2b in line and went to look at the bikes in auction. There were many bikes and several hundred parts lots for sale, the autojumble was limited to a handful of stalls. I hung around in the auction and was amazed at the huge prices the NOS Suzuki and Kawasaki parts were commanding – I appeared that just one U.S. guy was paying maximum money for everything! I was after a box of NOS Kawasaki bolts that I had figured would sell for $350 this guy went to $400 – I was pissed at him and kept bidding – common sense kicked in at $900 and I breathed a sigh of relief that I didn’t actually buy the stuff! Once back outside I was pleased to see another trophy sitting on the H2b, it was somewhat relieved to see it was for the furthest travelled. Whilst I think that the H2b was the nicest bike in the show I would have been very unhappy if I had won any other trophy, we all know how much hard work and dedication goes into restoring an old bike and I would certainly have given the trophy back if I had won a more prestigious award.
The following day it is back down to Daytona to watch Dave Crussell race, once at the stadium it is obvious that all has not gone well in practice, Dave has holed a piston on the left pot and the race is on to see if he can get a new piston flown in and fitted for the race the next day.
So, whilst in Daytona you have to drive on the beach – I was a little shocked to see the repairs still going on after the hurricanes of 2004, hotels with roofs and walls missing, steps down to the beach finishing half way and re-construction work going on everywhere. I was bemused to see a shark fin just 50feet out into the sea and pulled off the hard sand to look – BIG mistake, I now found out that my 4 wheel drive truck was now a 2 wheel drive (Hence the gearbox “bang” back in Kentucky) Luckily a couple of guys saw my dilemma and pushed me back onto the hard sand J
The following day sees Two pistons arriving from Two scources “Pro Flow” in California have expedited a piston out and as a back up I called Sir Bill Baxter in Texas to see if he could help, as it happens Bill’s piston turned up first (just 16 hours after asking for it) –unfortunately it was all to no avail as Daves crank went out in practice on the same cylinder – guess the motor was tired and asking for a full rebuild.
I have just One spare day left and decide to call at a driving test centre to see how I could go about getting an American licence. I have an annoying problem that I can’t insure or register my truck or a bike in the U.S. without holding a current U.S. licence. I ask the girl at the counter how to go about it and 30 mins later I am taking my “written” part of the Two part car test, the test is 90 multi choice questions of which you have to get 75 correct for a pass. 15 minutes later and I have passed! I ask about the bike test and it is the same scenario, 20 minutes later and I have passed that one as well. I ask the girl about taking the actual driving test and 20 minutes later I am on the road with an examiner! I passed the car test but could not take the bike “skills” test until I had a physical licence in my hand. The total cost of these Three tests? $25.00! Yep, under fifteen quid!
Yet again, my trip is over all too soon and I am at the airport in Tampa ready for my flight home. My return flight is scheduled at some of the best times ever – I leave Florida and in theory arrive just 13 hours later in sunny Brum! – The flights are on time and the only thing that REALLY pees me off is that in the last year “Continental” have gone from selling Californian Red wine @:£3.00 for a 187mlbottle to French red wine, to Chilean red and now finally to Portugese red – at the same £3.00 a bottle – no doubt if the decline continues it will be Bulgarian next . . . . Those of you nearer to 50 years old than 20 years old know why I am moaning!