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USA Reports

Friday 1st September 2006.

   I’ve been retired a year, wow where’d the time gone and what a year it’s been. Three weeks touring Europe on my own with the bike. Then just under four months touring Australia and Asia, returning from that and four months later we’re on this around the world adventure, you couldn’t fit in much more! Then I got some sad news via email from my old office at Acle that Janet, our cleaner, had died from cancer after fighting the illness for some time. I have fond memories of morning chats with Janet who was always cheerful and friendly, especially to me, ‘the new old boy’ in the office. My thoughts go out to Keith her husband whom I often chatted with at the office and when Janet was too poorly to come in. Keith, I hear you’re following our adventure and I hope you get some entertainment as we blunder our way around the planet!

We left Grand Teton Park heading south all day on Route 191 following winding roads through canyons and mountains. We stopped at Pinedale where we found a saddle-maker and bought a piece of sheepskin for the bikes saddle, which even after 13000 miles is slowly killing me! The sheepskin’s an improvement but isn’t the cure, we’ll keep looking! Looks pretty cool though! We stopped the night at Rock Springs and because we’d had a couple of freezing nights, treated ourselves to a motel.

2nd Sept 06...Happy birthday to me, half century completed!

From Rock Springs, Wyoming, we headed out on the 80, a short section of interstate turning onto the 191 and climbed up and around the Flaming Gorge reservoir, from burnt out desert scrub to red rock gorges; lots of deer and antelope. We entered Utah briefly and then into Colorado. After passing Vernal we moved into oil country with lots of those ‘nodding dog’ oil pumps. We stopped at Meeker in a valley with lush green pastures, cattle and horses. Les wanted to treat me to a nice hotel for my birthday but unfortunately after trying most of them in this small town it was a camp on the town’s playing field! Apparently the town was full of pipeline workers and hunters, but we did have a nice steak dinner and a glass of wine.

We left Meeker on 13 south following cowboys moving cattle down the town’s high street. We took the Interstate 70 east and the 82 towards Aspen and the mountains of Colorado. Fantastic alpine scenery, ski resorts and mountain passes, up and over Independence Pass and on to Leadville where our good friends Tom and Julia live. Here we’re going to have a few days R&R. The first problem I had was living at 10200 feet, if you move too quickly breathing becomes laboured, a bit like breathing through a straw! We’ve been made at home, shown this beautiful mountain countryside and had a day with Tom on the Colorado River, fly fishing in his wooden dory which he made himself. As one of Tom’s profession’s is that of a fly-fishing guide, both Les and I were glad we didn’t have to pay for this privilege normally associated with the rich! We’ll be staying at Leadville until Sat 9th when our biking odyssey resumes.

Leadville, Colorado, 10,200ft Alt;  4th September 2006

We left Merritt on the 19th Aug and followed the 97 towards Kelowna, climbing out of a 'red-hot' Merritt and into cooler climes, stopping briefly at Kelowner to see Les’s 2nd cousin, Dennis and his good wife Anna. We had to push on, so after a welcome cold drink we headed to Verona, just down the road to catch up with some more of Les’s relatives, only to find they had moved out over a year ago, I wonder who mother in-law’s been conversing with? Then we visited several campsites, as everyone’s on their holidays, we eventually found one at Coldstream.

After a restless night caused by a group of youngsters who didn’t go to bed, we left Coldstream and followed Route 97 back into Vernon for breakfast, got some gas and found another puncture, this time caused by an end of a spoke, not mine! Still, out came the plugging kit and in minutes it was fixed and back on the road. Then following Route 5 along side the Thompson River to Clearwater and found a great campsite at Blueriver, more a transit site for tourists and not a resort site like the last one. The day’s ride was another hot one surrounded with big hills, bleached sided hills and green valleys.

The puncture repair held up and the oil seal leak had stopped and yes there was still oil in the axle!!

We left Blue River and headed up Route 5 through the Columbia Mountains, turning right onto the 16 and into the Rocky Mountains. Mount Robson, a magnificent sight at 3954mts, big smooth roads and loads of traffic signalled we were getting close to the Jasper National Park and everyone was in a hurry! As we got closer to Jasper we re-entered Alberta and the clocks went forward an hour. We got into the park’s provincial campground, which appeared full to capacity, then went and had a walk around Jasper itself. It was very touristy, ‘kiss me quick hats’ and candyfloss that was not for me! On the campsite we met a couple of German bikers, we chatted and drank beer and I learnt more from a couple of well-travelled adventurers, who were heading in our direction and we were to meet again later. Wandering around the site were several big elk, and even though after lots of warning, - no bears.

Leaving Jasper on the 22nd and following the spectacular Ice fields parkway, Route 93, we headed towards Banff. With snow-capped mountains and several glaciers, a most memorable ride, until it rained that is!  We left Banff national park and rode into Kootenay Park, descending into a town called Radium Hot Springs where we camped the night. Overnight we had some thunder and lightening with heavy rain. Leaving town we followed the 95 south, briefly stopping at a place called Kimberly, where I got chatting to a resident who proudly told me the Ewan McGregor and Charlie Borman had ridden down the same road on the, `Long Way Round` movie.

Very close to the US boarder, we turned west onto Route 3 and camped at Creston, a big fruit growing area. We left Creston and after a short ride stopped at Nelson. As we were heading for the Horizons Unlimited Rally at the weekend nearby, we decided to stop here and have a hotel. Nelson is a great town, chilled out and mellow, full of hippies; I liked this place.

On Friday 25th, we left Nelson and found the rally site at Toad Rock. We stayed at Toad Rock camp-ground on the banks of the Kootenay Lake, near Nelson, British Columbia for the weekend of 25 to 27th Aug, learning as much as we could from the other adventure motorcyclists attending the ‘Horizons Unlimited’ rally; please visit their website. A brilliant weekend it was too, amongst the riders here there was a Norwegian who had ridden his BMW combo from Norway across Russia and Mongolia and eventually to Canada and this rally. We listened to presentations on the Friday evening and all day Saturday from people who had travelled the world by bike, we learnt lots. We also made new friends one being James who we’re hoping to meet up with for the Central American leg.

Sunday 27th we left Toad rock catching the ferry crossing the Kootenay Lake and rode a fantastic road following the banks of the lake heading south towards Creston and our crossing into the USA. We followed the 3A to Creston then the 21 south to the boarder at Porthill. The crossing was easy, in fact the boarder officer was more interested in advising us on the best bike roads than our documents, can’t be bad. The other thing we did was claim our Canadian Tax back having kept all our receipts, my accountant got on the case so we should have a bit of a bonus at some stage!

We followed Highway 1 south into Idaho, 95 and left onto the 200, recommended by the boarder guard and it was great. After a short time in Idaho we crossed into Montana, moose grazing and it was hot, very hot, fortunately our vented jackets work!

We camped at another National forest park site near Trout creek, and we lost another hour, another time zone crossed!

Following the 200, we left trout creek through Thompson Falls, which hasn’t got any falls! and then on to Massoula City. This was the first big city we’d been to for some time and I was aware the plugged rear tyre had done 582 miles as a temporary repair! We found, `Big Sky BMW` Massoula, a great bunch of people who dropped everything to fit our new tyre, another Avon Distanzia. We also picked up a lead for the Autocom and advice on how to repair it. Finding the city’s `KOA` campground, and after putting the tent up, I fixed the new lead to replace the melted one and now we can speak again!

In the morning we got up to find Half a dozen Harley’s and their riders scattered around in sleeping bags. With Soney Barger`s story’s in the back of my mind we left as quite as mice!

We left Missoula following the 200, 141 and 12 through big rolling hills bleached with the sun and a coating of trees, this was cattle country. After a brief stop at Helena for gas and meeting another enthusiastic resident of our trip, we carried on to Townsend and a treat of a motel for the night.

We had an early start and were on the road at 8am following the 12 east through a rocky gorge and up into cattle country again, wide open plains we could see for miles. Getting onto the 89 we headed south, and it got hotter. Coffee stop in Livingstone and a visit to a cowboy/Indian shop - come museum. I could have bought an original Indian arrow for a hundred fifty pounds! We followed the 89 south and into Yellowstone national park and another state, Wyoming. For $20 we got in and for another $18 we had a camp site for the night at the Canyon village. And this is where I got my first campground violation ticket! You’re not allowed to park the bike beside the tent; it has to stay on the roadway, woops! We watched a documentary on Yellowstone Park before we left home; it told us that this is one of the thinnest sections of the earths crust and could blow at any moment taking most of the USA with it. With that on my mind I slept like a log!

We awoke in the morning with half an inch of frost on nearby cars but the sun soon burnt that off as we set of to explore Yellowstone. Starting with the Canyon, which I would imagine is a miniature Grand Canyon, absolutely fantastic. From there we worked our way around the park looking at geyser’s, sulphur springs and mud volcanoes, ending with the famous `Old Faithful` This one erupted every hour, roughly, and we were just in time to witness the earth’s power as it spat a mouthful of steam 25/50mts into the sky. All Geyser'd out, we headed south out of the park and into another national Park, The Grand Teton. This was another beautiful park, big wide spaces and fantastic mountains as a back drop. Here we camped at Colton Bay campground and survived the visit without a ticket!

From Les

Leadville, Colorado, 10,200ft Alt. 4th September 2006.

   Doesn't time fly when you are having fun? We have been seriously chastised by our sons for not keeping in touch and apologise profusely to all concerned!

Isn't it amazing that when you think you have found that perfect spot to then discover it has a railway line less than 10yds away or that the local sawmill is on overtime and doesn’t stop till 4am... but always too late to move on! At least we now have darkness at night so can use the excuse of no light to go to bed early and catch up on our beauty sleep. While Nick did the research for the trip, he used where he found the answer to nearly all the questions he had regarding adventure travel on a motorcycle, we were in the neighbourhood, we thought we would go to their meeting at Toad Rock near Nelson and perhaps find out where we are going wrong!

On our way to the meeting, we stopped off in Kelowna and Jasper, where we had our 3rd puncture which Nick fixed quickly again. We followed people’s advice and took a ride in the Rockies along the Ice fields Parkway which was fantastic. To get to Jasper, (the Northern point) we headed north following the Thompson River between the Cariboo and Columbia mountains; highly recommended. Then we followed the spine of the Mountains from Jasper to Banff....Spectacular. But it all became a bit ‘touristy’ then, so we peeled off and headed for a provincial park in Radium Hot Springs and to Creston where I spent 3hrs doing much needed laundry. I have been neglectful of my duties! At least we were nice and clean and smelt fresh to go to the meeting in Toad Rock.

We met so many nice people at the weekend and listened to some really interesting presentations that any doubts we had have been dissolved. I particularly enjoyed the "Women only session", I’m sure ears were burning over the other side of the camp! We all come from different backgrounds and have different goals, but the common bond was the biking. A chilled weekend was had by all!

So now we are back in the USA. We dropped across the border at Creston into Idaho and Montana, straight into horse ranch country and pretty. At Missoula we replaced the puncture repaired tyre and managed to get the intercom fixed so now we will be able to talk again!

Yellowstone Park and Grand Teton Parks are a must! We were really surprised at the Lack of razzmatazz and the beauty of the place. You can go from fantastic waterfalls to hot bubbling mud pools and back to wild herds of bison on the plains, all unspoiled; marvellous! The downside was it was cold as....and under canvas it’s worse! People were complaining about having to scrape the ice off the cars at - 2deg. we had so many layers on, including woolly hats, just to survive!

Nick had a big birthday, (50) a low-key affair as we rode through Flaming Gorge Montana. It was an amazing canyon with layered rock in various shades of red and pink and made a perfect substitute birthday cake with 0 calories!

Oil pipelines and the inevitable pylons cover the area near Meeker and is having a serious effect on the locals. Pipeline employees are filling the hotels, motels and renting all available properties and are pushing prices far out of the locals reach. We met some who are now forced to live in trailers, (nothing like the RV's) on cheap sites or park land. In a year or so the pipeline workers will move on...I wonder what happens next?

Now we are gasping for air at 10,200ft in Leadville, Colorado staying with Tom and Julia and planning the next route. The mountains again are spectacular, and this area is the place to come for the soft powder if you are into snowboarding. We are so lucky to be on this trip and are loving every minute of it. We are even talking more than the intercom is fixed!

PS. It seems that in certain parts, checked shirts and denim dungarees are still the height of fashion! Also, the ‘Sunday Best’ cowboy hat has a few more feathers and shiny bits than the ‘weekday’ hats ...and, biscuits and gravy for breakfast? I just don't understand it. Later, Lesley.

Denver, Colorado; 22nd September 2006.

   Well, here we are in Denver, Colorado, having a few well-earned days off. 16,000mls done and the bikes had another service, a 30,000miel one, here at Denver BMW. The boys here at Denver were really great, dropping everything to accommodate us, and what’s more, the oil leak we had from the shaft turned out to be coming from two seals, one from the transmission end and one from the pinion seal from the rear axle area. The Denver BMW team completed the service and the seal replacement and only charged for the service claiming on warranty for the other work; it had started to worry me as they were working on it all day!!! Anyway, all’s fixed and after a couple of days wandering around Denver, staying at the Denver International Hostel, which was staffed by a great bunch of people, we visited the museum and generally chilling, we’re ready to get back on the road and head East.

When I left you last, we were staying with our friends Tom and Julia in Leadville, which was our last rest-break in the mountains. You have no doubt seen the photos fly-fishing on the Colorado River, with Tom guiding us in his boat with both Tom and Les ducking from my wild fly-casting attempts! Sadly, nothing caught but Les had a couple of bites.

We left Tom and Julia’s on Sat 9th and followed Route 24 out of Leadville to Poncha Springs and then west on the 50 to Montrose, another hot sunny day through mountains and lakes and onto flat plains. From Montrose we followed the 550 south, stopping at Ouray, a hot springs town. Tom had advised us to stop here as we have an awesome ride after Ouray and need to be fresh! We booked into a motel, (getting soft). Ouray is a small ‘western’ looking town sandwiched between sheer rock faces of mountains, my neck was aching from looking up all the time!

The following day we left Ouray on the 550 and climbed up higher into the mountains, and over Red Mountain Pass, Tom wasn’t wrong, wow what a road, hairpin after hairpin, scratch, thump, (from pillion) scratch, thump, life’s great! We followed this fantastic road to Silverton, the whole area covered in mines.

We followed the 550 to Durango, another ski resort and scene of the world mountain bike champs years ago when Tom was looking after the GB squad. From here we dropped out of the mountains and onto the hot plains down to Farmington, New Mexico. At Aztek, we stopped and had a look at some Anasazi people ruins, fascinating. At Farmington we had another Motel, too hot; Air-Con was great though!

We left Farmington on the 64 west and rode through desert and the Navajo Indian reservation. At Teec Nos Pos we turned north briefly to the only point in the USA where four states meet. There’s a little Indian market there and a plaque on the floor where Les went on all fours and had her limbs in all four states at once, Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona and Utah, I took a picture!

We followed the 98 to Page and booked into a biker-friendly motel, the `Page Boy`. Having been chilly at Tom’s, we were now in the pool and catching some rays!

From Page, Arizona, we headed towards the Grand Canyon and the North rim. Passing through Desert scenery, massive columns of rock sticking out in the desert and lots of little Indian settlements scattered about the desert. We followed the 89 climbing out of the desert into pine forests and Jacobs Lake where we followed the 67 to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. Parking the bike in the car park and walking through the ‘touristy’ lodge accommodation / souvenir shops to the canyon edge and wow, what a big ditch!  From where we sat and marvelled at this natural spectacle, we could see the south rim some ten miles away and some four thousand feet deep. We sat in amazement for some time taking it all in; photos just don’t do it justice.

We then rode back to Jacobs Lake and camped the night, not sleeping much of it, as we had a guest, a small mouse decided to run around the fly sheet nibbling shoelaces and generally having a good time!

We left Jacobs Lake and rode 184mls around to the south rim of the Canyon. More touristy and busy, but the view across the canyon was equally spectacular, beyond words. We camped again and had another restless night with barking Elk and the odd clashing of antlers not to far away from us.

We left Canyon Village and followed the 64 south and picked up a section of the old `Route 66` that followed interstate 40 west. After riding over the Hoover Dam in blistering heat, we stopped for the night at Boulder City, Nevada.

The next day we hit Las Vegas. We rode down the `strip` and ate McDonalds while watching the people from the ‘centre of the gambling’ wander past, and then we left!

We rode through Death Valley, California, 200ft plus, below sea level, and so hot. I liked it better than the `Strip` perhaps it’s better at night?

We had to ride back to Vegas across desert in a howling crosswind and onto the Interstate 15, and eventually found a motel at Glendale in the dead of night; it truly was a little oasis in the desert.

We left Glendale after breakfast with some drunken Indians, didn’t realise breakfast came with entertainment, the waitress was apologetic but it was all good fun.

We followed the 15 nth then turned off onto the 9 and through Zion National Park, Utah.  This was another fantastic formation of rocky canyons and twisty roads. We met a bunch of guys out on their bikes, Jim, Ron, Rich and Mike; took photos and chewed the fat. We continued through the park and onto the 89 towards Bryce, stopping the night at a motel in Panguitch and having dinner with Roy, a Dutch lad on a road trip.

The following morning we got up to freezing temperatures, ice on the bike, glad we didn’t camp. We rode to Bryce Canyon another natural phenomenon, beautiful Red Rock canyon and met up with our friends on their bikes from yesterday; great bunch of guys who forwarded me some pictures they took of our meeting.

From Bryce we followed the 12, which has got to feature as one of the best motorcycling roads ever, bends, mountains and more bends and as you possibly gather, some associated thumps from the pillion! At the end of Route 12 we turned onto the 24, rode to Loa and another Motel where we slept in the Ranch room!

Another freezing morning as we followed the 24 to the interstate 70, where we decided we would miss going to Bonneville salt flats, as it was a long way off our route, and instead head towards Denver and the awaiting bike service.

For a motorway, the Interstate 70 has to feature as another spectacular road, desert to start with then winding through the Rocky Mountains. We stopped the night at a town called Rifle where all the motel prices had been inflated as the oil workers and hunters were in town.

From here we rode into Denver, the mile high city, staying at the posh Radisson Hotel, using our discount vouchers to score a room for 55 instead of 159 dollars. The bike got its service and oil seals and we moved into the hostel.

On the 23rd, we head east eventually towards Nth Carolina and another friend, Glen, but before we get there some more adventure!

A rest is good but after a couple of days I miss my bike and ridding, fortunately Les feels the same.


A special Message from Lesley;

I have recently been asked, "What do you do about fitness?"    At the moment we are finding it difficult to get fresh fruit and vegetables, everywhere is fast food and breakfast seems to be the main meal of the day which consists of bacon, egg, hash-browns and toast; rarely do you get the option of fresh fruit or juice. I do often opt for the hot oatmeal which is good with raisins.  We are very restricted as to what we can carry, food wise, so unless we are close to a store when we camp we usually rely on packets of rice and pasta as they don’t weigh much or take up too much room. Huge supermarkets will have fruit and vegetables but we rarely find small shops or roadside stalls so our diet isn’t the best at the moment.

Fitness wise - Not good again! Our days now take on some sort of pattern but are becoming shorter at both ends.  When we camp we pack away the sleeping bags and gear first and then take the tent down. Recently there have been heavy morning dews so the tent has to be dried in the sun for a while before we can pack and head for breakfast and coffee somewhere. We are usually on the road between 9 - 10am and tend to ride for an hour and then stop for a stretch and walk about. Often we don’t bother with lunch as we are still full from breakfast but may just get a coffee somewhere. By 3.30pm we are usually looking for some where to stay, either campground or cheap motel (depending on weather and availability of sites). By the time we have put the tent up, unload the gear, cook our tea, or have found a hot meal if we stay in a motel it’s beginning to get dark and it’s not very safe to go for a run. I think we are going to take up Glen’s suggestion of using a skipping rope, that way we can at least raise the heart rate for a few minutes every day. Our webmaster Eddie is worried what effect all the skipping will have on the roof of our tent at night!

Some days we walk a lot more than others and when we have a couple of days in one place we tend to walk everywhere, exploring. I am coping well with getting on and off the bike. Andy, my Chiropractor, suggested I alternate the side I get on and off and so far it seems to work, no back aches or pains.  We have a duffle bag that is strapped on top of a side box so I just swap it each day and then get on the other side.

 We have also tried to do some of the basic yoga stretches...not always practical in the tent, but FUN. Maybe when we get to the coast we will try for a daily swim, but we really must do something. It’s all going south and Nick is becoming quite thin. If anyone has some fast fix ideas please let me know.

Eddie suggests plenty of Guinness and a big Ulster Fry every day.

Regard, Lesley

From Les

Denver Colorado; 22 Sept 06

   Where to start is always a problem. The beginning is the obvious place, but it doesn't always happen that way, some things stick in the mind more than others and push themselves forward. Here goes anyhow...

We had a really wonderful time with Tom and Julia in Leadville; it’s so much easier to relax when you are with old friends. The air is thin at 10,200ft above sea level so we didn't do anything too active. At times the flight of stairs to the lounge was enough!

Tom took us out on his wooden "Dory" to fly-fish on the Colorado River and I was pretty well hooked. Perhaps it was because I didn't get quite as tangled as Nick and I was the only one on the day to actually get a bite - the ‘one that got away’ story again! Then the snow came and sprinkled the top of the mountains, it was time for us to find some heat!

Our next goal was the Grand Canyon and to get there we went across the Red Mountain Pass. Nick loved the riding here as it was twisty, tight, ups and downs with totally blind corners and no edge to the road just sheer drops. It’s really hard to appreciate the scenery when you are on a "white Knuckle" ride. However, my vertigo problem seems to be fading away and along the gorge, which got narrower the higher we went, I could see the ruins and remains of mines and settlements built during the "gold rush" times.

In the New Mexico area we were in the heart of the Navajo Indian lands so we tried a local "speciality" of green chilli stew with fried bread, interesting and very hot. A visit to the Aztec ruins was also amazing.

The Grand Canyon....what can I say? I had seen many photos of this incredible area but none could really do it justice. It changed by the minute depending on the light and clouds and reminded me of Ayres Rock in Australia because of the beautiful colours. We viewed it from both the North and South rims and could have spent all day just sitting and watching. It is almost 200 miles via road from North to South rim but travelling passed the Marble Canyon and Vermillion cliffs themselves were worth the trek. The colours were quite pastel and ranged from grey through pinks, lilac and cream and blues, I just wish I could draw or paint.

The famous Route 66 was another must. Not much is left of the original route so we joined it at Williams, which was still in the 60's. Music from the likes of Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra was being piped onto the street outside the soda bar reminding me of the "Fonz".

Tom said you must go to Las Vegas so we did and I nearly fell off the back of the bike! My near fall was caused by the combination of laughing and trying to take photos of the tackiest (Yarmouth on steroids) glitzy, tasteless place I have ever been to. We did it in daylight so we saw it warts and all. Once along the strip was enough for us, but I did take several photos for laughs.

So, we were looking for heat, escaping the snow etc so where better to go than the notorious Death Valley, California, not a million miles from Vegas. Desert land and a howling gale were not the best combination for our 2nd really hard, long ride. Once we got clear of Vegas and the sprawling suburbs we were in desert. Lots of dust blowing about, cacti, road warning signs with pictures of Bulls, Donkeys and tortoises, long straight roads, more dust, heat and a strong buffeting wind that made you feel as though you where on a bucking bronco...and that was just on our way to the valley! It was actually worth it as the rock formations in Death Valley where completely different from those we had seen before and at one point we were -200ft below sea level and it was over 120 degrees hot.

Then we had to retrace back to Vegas....more wind, dust and cacti! By the end of the day we had done over 400 miles and were feeling battered, bruised and tired and because it was Friday, Vegas was full so we had to get out of town and settled for a motel.

The National Parks of Zion and Bryce in Utah are both stunning. We followed the Virgin River to Zion passing through narrow gorges with trees somehow attaching themselves to the rock face. The rock here is terracotta or coral coloured and the river was like melted milk chocolate. The rock formations in both parks are really amazing, quite often rocks are balanced on tall pinnacles and you just hope the sound of the bike engine won't cause an avalanche.

We met Jim, Ron, Rich and Mike, (friendly bikers) at the entrance to Zion, got chatting and then kept seeing them at various vantage points. It was nice to have a bit of company for a while and handy to get our photo taken. (Hi guys. Hope you had a safe ride home and thanks for the photos).

Scraping ice off the bike in the morning is not a good sign and we have had to do it a couple of times now! There has been a big cold front passing through and has bought snow to the mountains in Colorado where we are now.

We have done 16,000miles and needed a big service so booked into the very friendly BMW shop in Aurora, Denver. The night before the bike service we had a night of luxury in a very nice hotel. At Tourist information offices you can pick up a brochure with discount vouchers for various hotels and motels. I chose a really nice hotel, fortunately they had space and for $55 we had a room that usually cost $159 per night!!!! I've stocked up with shampoo and nice smelling things etc and slept like the dead in our super king-size bed....and now we are in a "hostel" for 3 nights in Denver. The washing is done, emails checked, site updated, so tomorrow we head east. I think we will both be happy to be on the road again......who knows what’s around the next bend? Til the next time, Lesley

PS. Our latest wildlife encounters have been while camping at Grand Canyon. First night a mouse got in the front porch and frayed my trainer laces and made a lot of scuffling noises keeping us awake. 2nd night was Caribou barking and the clashing of antlers all night. Apparently it’s the beginning of the rutting season, also a big pile of mountain lion poo behind the tent but no lion; happily.

Robbinsville, Nth Carolina; 11th October 2006.

   Here we are approaching 19000mls and only in our fourth month on the road. We are staying in a small town called Robbinsville, Nth Carolina, just on the edge of the Smoky Mountains where there are some awesome roads, but more of that later.

I left you in Denver, Colorado. We left on Sat 23rd Sept heading east following Interstate 70 into flat grasslands, cattle and the odd tree or two. Leaving Colorado, where we’d been spoilt with the Rocky Mountains, we were now in scenic boredom and Kansas! I’m sure the State is loved by its inhabitants but in the rain and cold we dialled in the coordinates and engaged drive, after 357 miserable miles, we stopped at Hays, Kansas.

The following morning we left on Highway 183 and found ourselves in ‘real’ Kansas and the countryside; much better with some sun and blue skies and grassy plains. We then headed on HW 96 east to Hutchinson, passing several nodding dogs, better known as the oil pumps which are big in this area. At Hutchinson we visited the space centre and watched the IMAX film on Lewis and Carol exploring the US in the early 1800`s. stopping the night in a Down-Town motel.

We departed Hutchinson, Kansas the next day on HW 17 & 96 to Wichita, stopping at Yodah and Amish community, at their café/diner, for breakfast which was superb! Much fatter, we left on the 54 east, crossing boringly flat uninteresting countryside, the only thing worth mentioning was the road-kill which was an assortment of Skunk, pew! Racoon, Armadillo, Tortoise, deer and some very big furry caterpillars! With some very big birds gliding overhead there was no shortage of carrion. We passed into Missouri and stopped the night in El Dorado Springs, the gas is now getting cheaper at 2.09 dollars a gallon!

What a difference a day makes. Missouri turned out to be heavily forested with deciduous trees, good rolling roads winding around the big lakes of Harry Truman and Ozarks which were beautiful. Following HW 82, 83, 52 and 5 we stopped for lunch in a town called Warsaw where we watched snakes and turtles sharing the same river. Campsites don’t seem to be signed as much as elsewhere but, after asking at a gas station, we found one at Linn Creek on the banks of Ozark Lake and we had it to ourselves; the kind lady proprietor opened the campground especially for us. The fact that we collapsed in a heap on her floor crying must have helped!

We left Linn Creek, and our first nights camping since the Grand Canyon. After putting the tent away wet with condensation we headed east towards St Lewis. We found some of the best roads to date in Missouri as we followed HWs 42, 28 and 50 with a bit of Interstate 44 into the city of St Lewis, where we stopped in a motel on the outskirts. We decided to have a day off in St Lewis, so the next day moved into a youth hostel in the Soulard district. Sadly, it was a pretty run down and tatty place and we were not encouraged after the very friendly manageress told us she’d been robbed twice at gun point in the area, but still it was cheap, and we had a dorm to ourselves! The bike was reasonably safe in the back yard and the tent dried out. Later we walked downtown, watching our backs!

St Lewis is the gateway to the east and has a magnificent stainless-steel archway on the banks of the Mississippi. We walked the riverbank and explored the town centre, nothing much to report there! That night we went to the Busch stadium and watched the St Lewis Cardinals get thrashed by the Milwaukee Brewers. It was a fantastic stadium just for baseball, a real passion for a lot of Americans. Getting advice and guidance from the people around us, we soon learned that it wasn’t just a game of rounders, (a game of bat and ball played by grownups) but a serious tactical game and, NO, the catcher wasn’t scratching his balls; he’s giving instructions to the pitcher! We walked back to the hostel in the dark, initially with a crowd then suddenly on our own, nervously, pat wrap and attack, could be time to try it out but now, down death ally and back to the hostel safe.

The next day we just wandered around town looking for an internet cafe, there was one, but the computers didn’t work so we used the library just to catch up on emails.

Thanks everyone who’s sent them, it's great to catch up with you all, keep them coming. After a restless night jumping at noises and shadows, we left St Lewis and rode over the Mississippi and into Illinois. After a short visit to a prehistoric Indian site, the Cahokia at Collinsville, we headed east on HW 50 and through countryside very much like home with gently rolling hills, fields and clumps of trees, cattle and crops. Crossing another time zone, we entered Indiana and stopped at Washington.

My ear infection has come back, Argh I hear you say, and Les, once again doesn’t realise how bad I feel.

We left Washington and rode around some beautiful farming communities run by the Amish people, horse and buggies everywhere.

We turned over 17000mls and the oil leaks we experienced earlier in our trip have apparently stopped after the last repair in Denver. The saddle is still very uncomfortable though, an hour riding at a time being enough!

We followed HW 231 south and 64 east to Louisville crossing the Ohio River into Kentucky and another time zone, clocks forward 1hr. Following the roads through Kentucky towards Lexington was like being around Newmarket, big grassy paddocks with white fences and lots of horses. We camped at the Kentucky horse park.

We couldn’t leave Kentucky, a dry state, without visiting the Wild Turkey Bourbon, distillery and had a guided tour and bought a bottle! What a great smell of the fermentation!

Leaving Lexington on Interstate 64 east and getting off onto some fantastic back roads, HW 72 to Portsmouth and another state, Ohio, where we found a campground in Shawnee village where we were eaten by mozzies!

Still heading east on 139 we left Portsmouth and jumped onto the 32 to Athens, a big university town. I got chatting to a biker student who pointed us in the direction of some, `awesome roads man`. Following the HW 550 to Marietta and south to Parkersburg they were, as he said, awesome, three-dimensional biking! We once again crossed the Ohio River and into another state, West Virginia. I think that’s 17 states so far.

At the motel in Parkersburg, I met another Poole, possibly a long-lost relation? Mr Poole was with another group of bikers and after more advice; another adjustment of our route was made to fit in HW 16, and wow! Another fantastic road, thank goodness it was dry!

The trees are changing colour now and the autumn smells are fantastic. We followed the 16 to HW 60, a much wider road but just as much fun climbing over some mountains. We stopped in a lay-by and soon met another biker who pointed us in the direction of some more interesting roads and the New River Bridge. We found the bridge, the longest single span bridge in the USA. We dropped down into the gorge below and found a campground near Fayetteville and the Red Roof Rafting company site with a bar! We were thankful we used one of their already erected tents under a solid roof because, boy did it rain? Streams we had crossed the day before were now raging torrents.

Leaving the campground and, as ever heading east, we followed the HW 60 and the Interstate 64 to Buena Vista and another state, Virginia. We were ready for, what had been one of our objectives, the Blue Ridge Mountains Parkway; a 400 ml plus road down the spine of the Blue Ridge Mountains. The parkway’s got a 45mph speed limit so there’s no rushing, just kick back and shoot the breeze. We followed this road south. Fortunately, it was dry as we headed through the gently winding and undulating autumnal scenery with our helmets open, taking in the smells of autumn; this is what motorcycling is all about. So far we’ve done 18000mls now and climbing!

We got off the parkway at Roanoke and found a motel at Salem as it was once again raining. While we were near Roanoke we phoned the `Star City Power Sports` motorcycle shop asking after an Airhawk saddle cover, and they’d got them in stock. So, the following day on our way out, we gave them a visit. What a great bunch of people and very interested in our adventure. Adam, the parts manager spent some time with us, even offering us the use of his computer, and we walked out with the elusive Airhawk saddle cover and several free T-shirts, thanks Adam, that saves some washing!

We got back onto the Blue Ridge Parkway heading south again through some beautiful scenery, getting off and staying at a place called Galax, Virginia.

The Airhawk saddle inflates to spread the weight of my butt evenly and stop any pressure points developing and it does what it says on the box; gross improvement on the original BMW one, are you listening BMW?

We started our third day on the Parkway in thick fog, which after a few miles we were forced off and down into the valley where we could see where we were going. We stopped the night at Asheville and another state, North Carolina. From Asheville we followed the last section of the Blue Ridge Parkway and what turned out to be the most spectacular, climbing to over 6000 ft and in the gorgeous weather, we could see for miles. When we came to the end we stopped on an Indian reservation at Cherokee and a nice motel once again.

From Cherokee we rode through the Smoky Mountains national park following the HW 441 and got into a queue of traffic as everyone’s come out to look at the trees changing colour - the fall. This proved to be a painful ride through this spectacular countryside but stuck in a queue!  Still, onto HW 321, 411 and then off the roads spoiled by cars and onto the motorcyclists playground, HW 129, which led us to the fabled, `Dragons Tail`, which was just a small section of this fabulous road, and Wow, double Wow, 11 miles and 318 bends, most of which were hairpins, awesome and we lived to tell the tale, my words just wouldn’t do it justice, check out, I could happily live here!  Oh yes, we touched another state by the way, this time, Tennessee.

We decided to spend a day here at Robbinsville, just off the end of this fantastic road to catch up with the emails and write this update. We are in the local library and haven’t had any hassle even though I’ve been on for hours! The washing is also being done so all is well in the Poole household. Tomorrow we are heading up towards Raleigh, North Carolina to see an old friend, Glen, whom I used to work with years ago until he saw the light and got out to this fantastic country. But first we have to get new tyres en route.

From Les

Robbinsville, Nth Carolina. 11th October 2006.

   We have now been on the road over 3months and covered almost 19,000 miles, which does seem rather excessive! But there is a reason for this...honestly. Canada was so vast but has few roads in reality. The further North we travelled, the more remote and, ‘few and far between’ places became. Each Province had its own personality, particularly Quebec with its French influence. Ontario was huge and after a few hours you just want to move on and out, so 3 days later we reached the next Province. The Yukon and Alaska were beautiful and wild and crammed packed with all kinds of wildlife. You do have to cover big miles to get anywhere in Canada though but now that we are in USA we are slowing down as things are more compact.

Denver city, (Where we last updated) seems to be the division between beautiful mountains in the West and the flat lands of the East. We were told that, "the only reason you go to Kansas it to get somewhere", how true! It was windy, flat and bland with hardly a tree in view for miles! Fortunately, by the time we reached Missouri the landscape began to rise and fall and green patches appeared. Small settlements appeared, some calling themselves cities but only had a population of a few hundred people. These "cities" had more large churches of different denominations pro rata than any other place in the world. The record was 13 in a town of 2800 people! I didn't see any Mosques or Church of England though but did notice the WOW (Walk on Water) church! Next to churches are huge banks, there seems to be a lot of money about but also a lot of people living in mobile homes and caravans that look inhabitable, it is noticeable that some States are richer than others. The fuel prices vary, and the general housing and retail areas all tell their own stories.

Grass cutting seems to be a full-time occupation for a lot of homeowners. Neatly manicured lawns and paddock areas surround the houses. When you get to Kentucky, the heart of the racing industry, the paddocks are encased with pristine white fences. It reminded me of Newmarket but much bigger!

Halloween is big in the USA and houses are already decorated for the occasion with a glut of pumpkins and scarecrows. Apparently, Florida has a Mardi Gras type celebration, and the streets are full of naked painted bodies dancing and celebrating, it sounds a bit too scary for me!

St Louis was memorable as we went to our first baseball match. It's like rounders but they get paid millions to play. Our hostel was a whole story on its own! We have recently had a mixture of accommodation overnight. There are fewer campsites in the areas we have travelled recently so we have stayed in Motels. The accommodation has varied from a super Hotel in Denver to dodgy hostels, motels with vermin in the ceiling cavity, platform tents in woods, to the nice cosy one we are in at the moment, but still, it’s all part of the adventure!

Autumn is now showing itself and by the time we reached West Virginia even the rain couldn't dull the wonderful colours and smells of the trees. We joined the Blue Ridge Parkway at Buena Vista, Virginia and began to head south along its twisty roads with its 45mph limit. Unfortunately, the visibility wasn't too good but between the clouds and rain we could see the colours. There are lots of places of interest to pull off and view along the parkway. We took advantage of these and at every stop met up with fellow bikers (and non-bikers) who had tales to tell and advice to give and roads not to miss! We followed the Parkway for 4 days, pulling off at night to find a bed but the weather was against us and one day we only managed a few miles as visibility was about 10-15ft. The last 2 days were superb and the views stunning! Every day the colours become more vibrant, and we understand that the next few days will be peak time for visitors. At the end of the Parkway the Great Smoky Mountains National Park begins and it is just as stunning. The roads are narrow but smooth and the scenery and mainly deciduous forests are at their best at this time of the year but anytime would be good.

At the end of all this beautiful scenic twisty stuff comes the added bonus for those not faint of heart.... The Tail of the Dragon!!! 11miles with 318 curves! Nick’s shoulder dropped and he had a little shuffle on his newly acquired Airhawk saddle cover, (Thank you Adam at Star City Powersport at Roanoke) and off we went! I understand that double yellow lines in the centre of the road mean no passing.... Nick said it meant no parking!! It is truly an awesome motorcycling road and I admire all that ride it unscathed. The Tree of shame is evidence that not all do make it, pieces of, (those that didn't) machinery and clothing hang from its branches. I think we were the most loaded bike at the finish, and many seemed amazed that we had made it, (obviously I had total confidence in my pilot.... we have come this far unscathed after all). From here we are heading to Raleigh, Nth Carolina for a few days and then south along the east coast. Until the next time.........Lesley.

P.S. I have had my second serious sense of humour failure.......For the first time ever I took advice and bolted my helmet to the bike overnight. There was a huge thunderstorm and the helmet morphed into a bucket, I cannot stand wet helmets! I may never take advice again...but will definitely never leave my helmet out overnight!

From Les

Key Largo, Florida Keys, USA, 26th October 06

   Since our last update we have experienced several, geography, the sublime and ridiculous!

After our day off in Robbinsville we continued along some of the best biking roads so far. The Cherokee National Park skyway and Natahala National forest areas were definitely roads to return to one day; had to fit new Tyres at Greenville, (too many bends). We then headed on our way to meet up with Glen and Kathy in Raleigh, Nth Carolina.

I think Nick and I are becoming jinxed as far as sports are concerned. Glen had arranged for us to see our first American Football game on Saturday; it was a college game between the locals, North Carolina State College and the Wake Forest College. It was all very exciting and the ‘tail-gate’ party with lovely vodka based cocktails, beer and real sausage hotdogs at half time made the time fly.....but our team lost. The stadium was full and the huge college band kept the spectators entertained along with the cheer-leaders and gymnasts but we still lost. Thinking about it, maybe Nick is the jinx as I went to watch Chris, (Glen and Kathy's son) play football in the pouring rain, (the pitch resembled a paddling pool) and his team won!

We had a lovely relaxing time with our friends, I even had some exercise on the treadmill and we all enjoyed a lovely walk in the nearby woods. The slogan, "I don't know where I am but I'm not lost" that Nick wears on his T-shirt was almost appropriate!

Time to move on again and heading for the South and some sunshine. A cold front was crossing the country and we felt it! We had our first sight of the ocean at Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. We had a sea-view balcony in a cheap motel and sat watching a pod of Dolphins...fantastic. Heading through South Carolina we passed cotton fields either side of long straight roads. The soil was becoming sandy so vegetation is changing, less deciduous trees, more pine. The housing was generally mobile homes or low bungalows which were quite shabby and often derelict; all in all it looked like quite a depressed area.

The road to Charleston was paved with stalls of swamp-grass basket weaving which were being crafted by the roadside, it’s times like this I wish I had some space for a souvenir. Charleston was busy and very pretty. I liked Georgetown more though with the cafes on the streets and the hustle and bustle as people prepared for the annual wooden boat festival at the weekend but my favourite by far is Savannah in Georgia.

About 12years ago we visited Tom in Savannah, (with the boys) and spent a lot of time in the parks and tree lined avenues draped with Spanish moss, it felt very familiar once we got our bearings. Savannah lies on the Georgia side of the River Savannah and has been a busy shipping centre since 1733, initially in the cotton and slave trade. Nowadays huge ships deliver giant containers from all over the world. The old Cotton warehouses on the riverside have been restored and now house cafes, bars, gift shops and markets but it is all very tasteful and the original huge cobble stones are still in place along what was the dock area. I loved just wandering around the historic area of the town and sitting in some of the 21 squares that are all cool and shaded by huge trees and usually have a statue or fountain in the centre. S.C.A.D, Savannah College of Art and Design has restored many of the old buildings and use them as classrooms or administration offices which have really made the City feel much safer and well worth a visit. Our one big disappointment was that we didn't get our breakfast at the Breakfast Club on Tybee Island nearby; the queue (or line) was halfway around the building so we left hungry!

St Augustine on the coast is the oldest European settlement in USA. The Spanish arrived in 1565 and all the buildings reflect the architecture found in Spain. There are some lovely alleyways and narrow streets but also a lot of tourists like us. The name of Henry Flagler kept cropping up both here and when we got to the Florida Keys. Apparently he was responsible for putting the railway through to Key West in 1912. Unfortunately a hurricane in 1935 destroyed a lot of the line so the bridges were later used to create the 126mile long road along the Keys to Key West.

Our timings have been a bit out a bit lately! We missed the October Fest Bike Weekend rally at Daytona Beach by a day and arrived just in time for the Fantasy Festival at Key West! We didn't stay! We had a ‘sightseeing’ wander around the old harbour area and through the streets with colourful wooden houses surrounded by palm trees and colourful plants. Fantasy Fest Week is the party week of the keys where anything goes and the more outrageous you are the better. We didn't stay long as I didn't fancy getting my body painted and Nick couldn't face wearing a thong and bra so we headed back to the comfort zone of Key Largo where we are chilling and catching a few rays and preparing ourselves for Miami ................. Until next time, Lesley.

From Les

St George Island, Florida; 9th November 06

   This is my 4th attempt to send an here goes......

We have met so many interesting, and interested, people so far on our 4-month trip. At Key Largo we met two couples that were on the road for a year having sold their homes and given up work. They were exploring Canada and the States with the view to returning to relocate in Canada. Richard and Anna May from Vancouver Island had 4 children aged 5-12 and Dave and Cheryl from Vancouver who had a 3-yr old and a 16-mth old. Even though none of us had met before, we spent a very pleasant evening with these ‘like minded’ folks; I hadn't laughed so much since Canada, but in reality, were totally in awe of them. What a challenge to travel with young's bad enough with one ‘big child’!

On the morning of our departure from the campsite, Dave and Cheryl kindly supplied us with toast and tea as we loaded the bike to head for Miami South Beach; what a kind thought.

We had stayed in a really nice Hostel / hotel in the centre of the ‘Art Deco’ area of South Beach. We were surrounded by very glitzy hotels, expensive restaurants and much bronzed bodies. The guys were gorgeous and their boyfriends even prettier and each couple seemed to have a dog that they dressed up in matching outfits. It was definitely the place to ‘people watch’ as well as take in the architecture, etc. We ventured out for a meal along the promenade and were hit by a heavy tropical storm which quickly changed nice dishes of pasta into soup; oh the joys of eating al fresco!

We enjoyed the ride across the Everglades and the short airboat trip. We actually saw more wildlife in the form of alligators, crocs, beautiful herons, kingfishers and egrets in the canal that ran along the side of the road.

At a motel in Naples we met Bob1, Bob2 and Ted. Bob1 and Ted were permanent residents at the motel and spent a lot of their time sitting watching the world go by and putting it to rights. As soon as we arrived they wanted us to go over to chat, so we did. We understand that Bob2 had arrived the evening before and had been cheered up by these 2 lovely men. I'm sure between them they must have had the answer to the meaning of life! Part way through the evening Bob1 made me stand up and gave me a huge hug which popped my spine all the way down. In the morning before we left I received another bear hug, a few more pops and, I have to say, I do feel a bit looser, (Don't worry Andy, I will be back!

The coastline of Florida is very built up and busy and neither of us enjoyed it too much. The best part was the ride over the Ringling Causeway and later the Sunshine Causeway in the Sarasota/St Petersburg areas where I had my first sighting of Dolphins in the bay. We had the evening at the cinema at Crystal River to watch The Departed, good but gruesome and bloody, Jack Nicholson was excellent again.

Many fellow travellers do their world travel in gentle stages. They often return home to earn more cash, recharge batteries and bodies and then continue where they left off a few months later. I was beginning to get to the stage where I need some chill time. We have been away from home four and a half months and on the road for four and I am in the need of some quiet time to absorb what we have seen and done and get my head straight...... So on the strength of that, and without too much resistance from the boss, we chanced upon a beach house for rent on St George Island. And WOW how great this is and it only cost £240 for a week. We are on the beach with the sea 50 ft away, with shark and Dolphins swimming by. We have slept, walked miles along the white sand, slept, eat, drink, paddled, watched TV, slept, caught up on the washing, spoken to our family and cooked a meal or 2. Nick would ride all day and night if he could as that’s what he likes to do but I think that he has also enjoyed this down time. We are both looking forward to getting back on the road again but in the meantime will enjoy this luxury and sun for another day or two.

Till the next time, Lesley.


St George Island, Florida; 9th November 2006

   We have just spent a few great days chilling in the Florida Keys with sun and blue skies for the most of it. We found a great campsite at Key Largo where we met a couple of Canadian families also on long breaks and having a tour around the planet. The only difference was that Dave and Cheryl were doing it in style in a motor home, and in a fifth wheeler van was Richard and Anna Marie. We spent a very pleasant evening drinking beer and exchanging notes on the adventures so far.

Using Key Largo as a base, we rode up and down the Keys and sat poolside at the campground soaking up the rays. On our last morning as we were packing up, Dave and Cheryl walked over with a pot of tea and some toast on a tray, tea-cosy as well, “thought this would remind you of home” said Dave. What great people and sums up all the Canadians we’ve met on this trip.

We left Key Largo on Sun 29th Oct 06, picking up the HW 1 North out of the Keys. We couldn’t make a mistake as there’s only one road following the Hw1 to Homestead and the A1A towards Miami. This was a grim ride in stifling heat, from traffic light to traffic light, took ages as we rapidly dehydrated.

Finding our way through Miami was easy on a Sunday and riding over the bridge onto Miami Beach was fantastic as we passed massive cruise ships, luxury homes with palm trees and their private yachts moored at the bottom of the garden. The scenes were so familiar, straight out of Miami Vice and CSI Miami.

We found the Tropic Hotel and Hostel which we had seen in a Florida hostel magazine, it was in the middle of the ‘art deco’ area and a stone's throw from the beach. In stark contrast to the massive luxury hotels surrounding it, it was so cheap!

We spent a couple of nights here walking around the area and mixing it with the beautiful people in designer clothes and dripping gold, I’m sure they didn’t even notice the two tramps! Another great thing about this hotel was that I could park the bike right next to the reception and the friendly staff guarded our iron horse.

Leaving Miami after a couple of nights we picked up the HWA1A and 41 West into the Everglades on long straight roads through ‘pancake flat’ swampland with long sawgrass swaying in the wind by the roadside. We stopped at the third `Airboat-Rides` sign we saw, something I had always wanted to do... For $20 each we had nearly an hour’s ride through the Everglades, the noise from the un-silenced Chevy V8 powered prop making my ears bleed; nearly as good as a Slip knot gig! This was a great experience, gators and other wildlife all over the place.

Carrying on along the HW 41 west, with ditches both sides of us and full of alligators; it wasn’t a surprise to see some new ‘road kill’ to put on the list. This time it was gator, though someone might have picked it up to make a handbag or boots, perhaps it’s the sort of road kill you don’t go back to check if its dead? I think it was safer to go for the raccoon road kill.

We rode into Naples on the west coast of Florida and eventually found a motel to escape the heat and immediately found some new friends over a bottle of beer. Bob, part American Indian demonstrated his knowledge of Chiropractics and crunched Les`s back and shoulder with great success. Ted, a Vietnam Vet and good ‘all round’ biker, was quietly spoken with a great tale to tell while hiding behind a massive beard. Bob 2 was just passing through and was influenced with the wisdom of Indian Bob1.

The following morning we were up and away, waving goodbye to the boys who were already sat out the front of their rooms, bottles of beer in hand. We started the day by following the HW41 and the 865 crossing an island to Fort Myers. It was so hot today, one of the most uncomfortable days ride I’ve ever done. I can understand why the locals risk it in T-shirts, shorts and no helmets, but not us; it was jackets, helmets and our `hood` jeans, we were so, so hot. Being in busy traffic didn’t help so we jumped onto Interstate 75, by-passing Port Charlotte to get a bit of a breeze. We peeled off at Venice and HW41 to Sarasota and another motel with air-con, fantastic!

From Sarasota we rode HW 789 and island hopped around the city of Tampa and onto the HW19 north along the west coast of Florida. I thought this would be an interesting coast road but there was no sight of the sea, just trees and shopping malls. We eventually arrived in Crystal River where we found the Haynes Motel and the very friendly and helpful Lesley on reception. Armed with advice on travelling through South America and a box of chocolate biscuits, we went to our room. That evening we walked up the road to the local cinema and watched `The Departed` with one of my favourite actors, Jack Nicholson; also on the bill were Leo Decaprio and Mat Damon. I must say, this was a brilliant ‘cops and robbers’ movie, Nicholson at his best, plus the added attraction of air conditioning, not just a pretty face, eh?

On a cooler and more comfortable day we rode up the long straight HW19 through forested countryside stopping at the Suwannee River in Dixie County, now how did that song go? We rode off the ‘dual carriageway’ and onto a smaller country road, Route51 which, in any case, brought us back to the 19 to a town called Perry, where we arrived in the middle of a parade. For us I thought? I don’t think so.

We now heading west on the HW98 toward the panhandle area of Florida where we arrived at Newport and, after asking an old boy selling honey on the roadside, we found St Marks and the Shell Island Fish Camp, a fishing, boating and recreation area with nice self-contained cabins. That night as we watched the sun set over the River St Marks, we saw a Manatee slowly surface, take a fresh breath and dive into the muddy waters of the river, amazing. The following morning we left St Marks and followed HW98 hugging the coast, this time I mean hugging the coast with the sea close to the roadside for some of the time.

Not a long day’s ride today as we turned off the 98 at Newport, just short of Apalachicola onto St Georges Island which is a narrow sand bar at the end of a five-mile bridge. There were lots of rental houses on the beach, we just had to ask to see if we could afford it, and after talking with Helen and Linda from `Collins Vacation Rentals inc`, we weren’t disappointed. At £240 for the week we’re living on the coast, only 50 yards to the sea across our own sandy beach. We can watch pods of dolphins cruise by 100yds away while pelicans dive-bomb for fish, and still remaining within our budget. After a couple of grey and overcast days the sun eventually came out and our pale European skin is sun-kissed again.

We plan to leave the island on Saturday 11th Nov and head for New Orleans, but.....Will we be able to leave this island paradise, has the adventure come to a premature end?   

Don’t miss next week’s thrilling episode! Nick.


R & R on St. George Island, Florida    15th November 2006

   Hi. Just a few thoughts and feelings of the moment....For years we have been talking about our big adventure and now we are here!

With both our boys now being independent, and with their blessing, we are lucky enough to be on our trip of a lifetime. The time was right and surprisingly, without any hesitation, we disposed of our furniture and possessions, said farewell to friends and family, loaded the bike and off we went into the great unknown.  We have now been homeless for 5 months so it’s time we stood still for a moment to collect our thoughts, and what a place to do it in!

I don't think Nick realised just how much he also needed a break. He is obviously enjoying it as it was he who suggested we have the second week here!  We have now covered almost 22,000 miles, with Nick doing all the riding. In the early days he said the riding was similar to when he was running courses, intense and tiring but stimulating. I was finding it a bit frustrating being on the back, searching for viewing space and wished that we had brought 2 bikes but I am getting used to it now. In a way, I have more time to look about and take in the scenery as I don't have to look out for the elderly RV drivers and straying wildlife!

   With this unplanned 2-week stay on this quiet, peaceful Island we have had time to recall, evaluate and enjoy the experiences. I was beginning to feel as though I was on "Information overload" and needed to take stock of all our experiences, places and people we have met. It was beginning to become a bit of a blur and needed to be analysed and put into some kind of order in my memory. It does become harder the older you get...and that’s a fact, (so Eddie tells me).   I think my head is sorted now and I am now excited about the more challenging part of our trip as we head for Mexico and South America. I think that the fact that we don't know what to expect or what we will find around the next bend is one of the most exciting parts of the trip. It's all new and so far, mainly all good.

P.S.   A couple of days ago we sat on the beach and watched a pod of about 10 dolphins corralling a shoal of fish close to the shore. Two at a time the dolphins were diving into the fish to feed and when they had finished they were playing in the surf, jumping, swirling and putting on the most fantastic show. A while later I was walking on the shoreline alongside a 5 - 6ft shark, I was only a few feet from it, amazing stuff! I had to check over my shoulder to see where David Attenborough was! Lesley X


Everyday we have walked for miles along the beach, (part of our fitness plan) and I have become surprisingly accurate with the Frisbee so now it's time to move on and experience a true American Thanksgiving, New Orleans, Mississippi, Texas and our first non-English speaking border post before 28/12/06....Bring it on!!

   Just thought all you 'bike techies' out there would appreciate how the old girl’s getting on, no not Les, the bike!

Our BMW R1150GS Adventure now has 36281mls on the clock, 21781 on the trip, and all’s well. The only major problem we’ve encountered during this trip is the oil seals failing on the final drive; the transmission and the rear axle little pinion ends leaking. This problem was, on the second attempt, fixed at BMW Denver which was 6111mls ago. Apart from that the bike’s been sweet.

I replaced the tyres in South Carolina changing from the Avon Distenzia`s to the more 'road biased' Michelin Pilot Roads. This seemed the way to go as we didn’t think we’d be doing much ‘off roading’ for the time being. The Michelin's have now covered 2920mls and have felt really good, although I wish I’d had them on when we hit the ‘Tail of the Dragon’ bendy road. Sadly since fitting them we’ve not had too many bends other than the on/off slips on the Interstates so as far as grip is concerned, I can’t really comment. One observation is that the rear is wearing on the tread shoulders ether side of the centre pattern, this looks like a classic case of ‘under inflation’, although I haven’t changed the pressure from the recommended 42psi as this worked well with the Bridgestone and Avon tyres, or ‘tires’ as they say over here! Perhaps they were a stiffer dual purpose tyre? I’ll pump it up a few pounds and see what happens when we get back on the road. The front’s looking fine, running at the recommended 36psi though, (any comments Dominic at Central Tyres, Norwich?).

The engine’s superb with plenty of low-down grunt and with great top-end hustle, even when fully loaded. It’s sipping oil at about .25 to .5 of a litre every 6000mls between services so that seems fine. The engine braking is good up to a point then suddenly stops and it runs on, making accurate braking important to keep things smooth, (advancer rider speak, Ed).

The gearbox is fine although it has jumped out of 2nd and 3rd a couple of times which was possibly my fault! Gear ratios seem well spaced with ‘stump pulling’ low gears and a 6th economy overdrive. Overall we’ve averaged out at 45mpg, that’s an imperial gallon, using the, ‘middle of the road’ 89 octane. I have tried the lower and the higher octane at the pumps over here with no noticeable difference, other than financial using the bike as we have. There was also no difference in running at altitude; 12,000ft in the Rockies presented no problems.

I have to say, I don’t like the servo-assisted brakes, I have to be very gentle with the application as they suddenly snap on if you overdo it and when the engine’s not running we have poor braking which, until you get used to it, can catch you out pushing it around or through the garage door when its shut! Our bike’s got ABS which I haven’t really tried out in anger yet, fortunately, I have switched them off when we’ve been on the dirt roads.

BMW`s metal panniers and top box are great.; plenty of room for all our clobber and with the loops on top onto which more equipment can be strapped. I’m a little concerned about the plastic hinges though, how long are they going to last? I will keep you informed. I’ve really will have to weigh the bike with us on it one day, it’s got to be 8 or 900lbs wet and fully loaded, if not more? I’ve checked the Panniers and the top-box carriers along with the sub-frame for any cracks and, so far, it’s looking good considering we are two-up with all the luggage that entails.

On the front ‘mono-shock, telelever’ suspension, I’ve set pre-compression at half way, which feels good, even with all the weight, the front feels light. The telelever is supposed to reduce fork compression under braking, but I have to say, I don’t feel much difference compared to conventional suspension, although we are exceptionally laden.

On the rear mono shock and the paralever suspension I’ve got pre-compression set one mark higher than standard with the rebound at half way. This setting amazingly caters with our load and, two up, quite frankly the bike handles great and I’m sure we raised a few eyebrows on our descent of the `Tail of the Dragon`.

My only major complaint was with the saddle, the most uncomfortable I’ve ever had on a bike, now that we have fitted the bike with the `AIR HAWKS` front and rear, we’re comfortable again.

Our `AUTOCOM` communications are brilliant, getting a good clear reception right up to 70mph then the wind noise takes over. We both missed the coms when we had the ‘melt down’ accident; Autocom is a must for anyone touring seriously.

The CABERG helmets are wearing well, the flip up facility is invaluable and they are still comfortable even after five months continuous use, although we need to wash the inside lining from time to time!

Our `HOOD` jeans are also wearing well and very comfortable although very hot in the heat of Florida as are our jackets but once again, wearing well. That’s all for now on the tech front. On that happy note I bid you a fond farewell, until the next time, Nick.

From Les

Greenville, Mississippi Delta. 27th November 06

   Suitably refreshed, we continue on our journey along the Gulf Coast but we didn't particularly like what we saw! Yes, the sand is white and the sea is clear blue/aqua but....’The Forgotten Coast’ hasn't been completely forgotten as houses, condominiums and hotels are being erected in every little space available, soon there will be no white sand left! We stopped in Destin where we purchased the Mexico Lonely Planet book ready for the next phase of our journey. We were surprisingly tired after the day’s ride and it has taken a while to get used to being back in the saddle. It also gets dark earlier now, at 5pm, as a result of another Clock change so we are now planning to stop by 3pm everyday so we can explore in daylight.

It was nice to be travelling inland again and soon we were riding through the cotton fields and small friendly towns. We stopped in Mobile where we looked around the USS Drum, a submarine commissioned in 1941 and the battleship USS Alabama, a survivor of WW2; both were well worth the visit, I could go into all the facts and figures but I won't.

Heading North towards Memphis the countryside was really pretty. Many of the trees were still in the autumn colours and the landscape was gentle rolling. A lot of the communities were settlements of mobile homes, all in various stages of disrepair. The people we met on our various stops were all friendly and cheerful but it is taking a while to get our ears tuned into the colourful language of the area.

We joined the Natchez Trace Highway midway between Natchez and Nashville. The Trace is about 400mls long and was the Chicksaw and Choctaw Indian hunting grounds until 1785 when traders began using the tracks to get home after trading their goods and boats down the river. There is still evidence of the Indian campgrounds but the road was soon developed, though no commercial vehicles are allowed along it.

At Tupelo, we visited the tiny 2 - roomed home that was Elvis's birthplace and walked around the memorial garden and Church. We were told that none of the furniture was originally from the house as, "we didn't know he was going to get himself famous". We also spent a pleasant morning at Tupelo Automobile museum which houses over 100 cars from 1886 - present day; Nick really liked the 1948 Jaguar Mark IV as its tool kit sported a hefty hammer and screw driver, his favourite tools! It was also very nice to meet Chasity, our friendly host.

Tom had booked us into a hotel in the centre of, ‘all that’s happening for tourists’ in Memphis. Opposite the famous Peabody Hotel, 2 blocks from Beale Street, the FedEx Forum and Blues and Soul museum, we were so lucky to be in the middle of it all. The Peabody has a group of ducks that spend their day swimming in the fountain in the foyer of the Grand Hotel. At 5pm the ducks walk along a red carpet and into the lift where they are transported to the roof for the night until they come down at 11am, we saw it or we wouldn't have believed it!

As we strolled around getting our bearings the first sensation to strike you is the music. Every few feet the pace changes from soulful blues to more upbeat rock. Strangely the sounds do not interfere with each other but seem to blend and compliment each other; the place is so alive and is never still. Tom and Julia met us and took us for dinner at the famous Rendezvous Rib Restaurant for dried ribs, mustard coleslaw and beans, how good was that? After drinks in a bar with a live band we went back to the hotel bar were we rubbed shoulders with some very important people in suits who were also enjoying the live blues session. Thanksgiving is a big day in the USA; I think it has something to do with the Pilgrims and Mayflower; all families get together and share an enormous Turkey dinner. Wayne and Anne, Julia's parents kindly welcomed us into their home and we spent a very enjoyable day with about 20 members of the family; Nick and I looked upon it as our Christmas for this year.

After a good nights sleep we ventured out to the Sun Studios where many great artists have recorded, inc Elvis, Ike Turner, U2 and BB King. It was a real privilege to stand on the spot where all these great musicians have performed but I did manage to hold myself back and didn't try to sing into that, now famous, microphone.

I have never been to a museum where everyone is dancing, swaying or tapping their feet! The Rock and Soul museum certainly had this effect on everyone as they strolled around with headphones playing the tunes they all wanted to hear. It certainly is a venue well worth the visit!

Bearing in mind that we have so far managed to jinx baseball and football on our travels, Greg and Melody kindly invited us to their box at a Basket ball game and the home team won, to celebrate, we went to BB King's Bar to listen to more music. I think we needed to spend some more time in Memphis but we really must sample some other sounds in the Delta areas. We had a lovely evening at Ground Zero Blues Club in Clarksdale with yet more live music and there is still more to come!

A special thank you must go to Tom and Julia, Wayne and Anne, and Greg and Melody for making our stay in Memphis so enjoyable, good friends and lovely people!

It is good to be back on the road again. I think the pace will be slower because of the short days but we are still enjoying every minute of it. Unfortunately my co-ordination hasn’t improved any ... but I can still tap my toes!

Until the next time, Les.

Lufkin, Texas; 4th Dec 2006.

We left St George Island after two brilliant weeks on the beach. We just needed a break from the continuous mental input; Les, always the wise one, made me stop. From now on she is named, `squeaky` as her boots squeak as she walks, and they’re paid for! As for me, I only want to know what’s around the next bend and the next and the next!

St George Island was the perfect tonic, sun, sea and sand. One minute we’re watching dolphins corral fish against the beach, taking it in turns to snack as they worked like sheepdogs. Next I watched Les Walk a shark down the beach, the shark swimming in the shallows parallel to the shore where I had been swimming just a few hours prior!

We then had a tornado narrowly miss us, passing by at night amongst a fantastic thunder and lightning storm with howling winds. No real damage done locally but, on the news, several deaths were reported with homes destroyed leaving devastation in its path as it headed north east across the country. Anyway, we said our farewells to the beautiful Helen from the `Collins` rental and hit the road heading west on the HW 98 to Panama City, the road being forested, long and straight with occasional glimpses of the sea. We picked up HW 30A which hugged the beach where we observed a continuous construction site as block after block of holiday apartments are being built, the beaches were, after all, beautifully white with fine sand so I guess I can understand the attraction. We found a motel at Destin for the night.

With time changes it’s now getting dark by 5.30pm – yuck, and with our enforced early nights we are at a loss as to what to do? The following morning we left Destin and followed the coast on HW98 to Pensacola then inland cutting a corner towards Mobile. Passing through agricultural country, cotton fields and small towns and into another State, this time Alabama, that makes 24 so far. We rode into Mobile and saw the war ship, the USS Alabama, must take a look I thought. After finding a motel on the edge of town, with the very helpful tourist information office in downtown Mobile, we rode back to the ship in the Battleship Memorial Park. We also looked around the submarine, the USS Drum. Both these vessels were built in the 1940`s, just in time for the second half of WW2 and walking around the exhibits provided us with a very interesting tour for a few hours.

On Mon 20th Nov we left Mobile on a cold but dry day heading north towards Meridian, starting on Interstate 65 and then HW 19. It was so cold, 39deg f, I wish I’d put my thermals on. It was nice to be back in the countryside again, fields and trees, working people from the land and not tourist related industries on the coast. Everywhere we stopped; local folk would come and chat, a complete contrast to the coast where not much contact was made with the natives. We rode into Meridian and into yet another state, this time Mississippi, number 25. Once again, thanks to a very helpful tourist information office, we found a motel and warmed up exchanging body heat in an effort to stop hypothermia!

Next day was another cold start with blue skies as we headed towards Tupelo following HW 19 nth, though his time we were prepared with thermals and jacket linings. At Kosciusko we joined the Natchez Trace Parkway. This was a route used by the Native Americans and later by traders and now was a manicured highway with no commercial traffic, much like the Blue Ridge Parkway. This turned out to be an excellent ride through rolling countryside, green fields and forests. We eventually turned off the Trace and found our way to Tupelo, where, with our discount coupons, we found a cheap, clean motel. Once unloaded, our first visit was to the birth place, home and museum of the `King` of rock and roll, Elvis Presley. In the little chapel we discovered to our horror someone had recently stolen his first bible, rumour has it the FBI are looking into it!

I had noticed something whilst riding through Mississippi; we were getting a lot of waves from oncoming trucks and cars, something I hadn’t noticed elsewhere, friendly people indeed.

On Wed 22nd Nov, before we left Tupelo, we visited the Car Museum. This was a fantastic collection of cars over the ages from the first internal combustion engines to the present day. My favourite’s were a 1948 Jaguar MK 4 and a 1938 Packard, which would fit nicely with the hot rods on the road today. Getting back on the road we did a short hop across on the interstate to Memphis, and yet another State, this time Tennessee, that’s 26.

On the way, we stopped at a McDonalds for coffee where I glimpsed my first sight of a bloke openly carrying a pistol on his trouser belt. He was a scruffy guy in jeans and sweatshirt, the diner scene from Pulp Fiction came to mind, I thought it was time to move on! Our good friends, Tom and Julia, had booked us into a downtown hotel in Memphis, which after a wrong turn and a tour through the hood, we eventually found. The Best Western was perfectly positioned for the music scene on Beale Street and opposite the Peabody Hotel. After booking in we walked across to the Peabody and watched the daily show, Ducks! Yes ducks live in the foyer fountain during the day then they catch the lift onto the roof for the night, bizarre!

We then met up with Tom and Julia and their friends, Greg and Melody and we all had a feast of ribs followed by the Blues on Beale St, we’d arrived. On our return to the hotel, the resident band was still playing so we had to drink some more and chat to the Political Commissioner and his wife, all in all it turned out to be another nice day.

Thurs 23rd Nov is a big day for the Americans - Thanksgiving. We joined Tom and Julia at Julia’s parent’s house and their big family for a slap up dinner, roast turkey and all the trimmings cooked by Wayne, Julia’s dad, supervised of course by Anne, her Mum. We had a great meal and it was a real privilege to spend such an important family day with friends in the USA. The following day we did the tourist thing downtown, visiting the `Sun` studios where Elvis started his career in 1955, and where Howlin Wolf, BB King and Ike Turner made recordings. This was an excellent tour around the studios and we felt we had stood on hallowed ground. We then followed this with a visit to the Rock and Blues museum and a wander around Beale St as we absorbed even more music. That evening we joined Tom, Julia, Greg and Melody at the Fed Ex Forum and watched the Memphis Grizzlies NBA basketball team play Washington, and we didn’t jinx the home team, this time who won! After the game we went to BB King’s Blues Club on Beale St for some more music and rounded off another perfect day. Thanks, Tom, Julia, Greg and Melody for you’re hospitality.

After watching the local news, I observed some very worrying statistics. As of 23rd Nov 06, the city had had 144 murders for 06, that’s 3 a week and they were hoping to get under last years total by the end of the year!

We left Memphis and headed south into the Mississippi delta area. Picking up the HW 51, we rode to Grace Lands, Elvis’s resting place, only to be met by hoards of tourists so it was a quick photo at the gate and we continued south on the 51. At Senatobia we rode onto Interstate 55, then off on the 278 east to Clarksdale and found another cheap but comfortable motel.

That night, more Blues with a ‘Juke joint’ called ‘Ground Zero’, an old warehouse converted into a blues club where a fantastic Delta Blues band played all night. As it was the weekend, we decided to stay another day at Clarksdale, Mississippi and rode around the area passing Muddy Water’s home and the Parchman Penitentiary, which held many a bluesman in those early years. Everywhere there were fields and fields of cotton being harvested, bailed and waiting to be collected beside poor ramshackle communities with rusting vehicles, and we got chased by a dog!

Before we left Clarksdale we visited the Delta Blues museum which housed an excellent collection of memorabilia covering the history and characters from the early blues scene. Did you know that Muddy Waters’ real name was McKinley Morganfield, and that Mick Jagger and the Rolling Stones contributed their success to Muddy Waters along with ZZ Top?

We then followed the mighty Mississippi south on Hw 61 to Cleveland, then west to Rosedale and along the banks of the Mississippi to Greenville where we found another down-town Motel. We ate the local delicacy of Catfish which completed yet another memorable day. Next day we left Greenville in the rain, at least it was warm! We rode to Leyland and another Blues museum. Here we met one of the exhibiters, Pat Thompson who was following in his father’s footsteps; we chatted for a while and took a photo before getting back out into the rain and heading south, eventually arriving at Vicksburg. Just outside town we stopped for food and got talking to the local Sheriff, Leroy Williams who’s a fourth generation Police officer, respect indeed. Vicksburg played an important role during the Civil war in 1863 being besieged for 47 days by the Union army.

We found a motel on the edge of town after chatting with a very friendly lady from the tourist information centre. After unloading the bike we rode downtown for dinner and on the way back in the dark I made my second big mistake and somehow found myself on the wrong side of a dual carriageway, woops!!  As you can imagine, a few horns sounded and, in the next gap, I managed to do a ‘U’ turn, no drama at all. I think from now on we’ll avoid riding in the dark!!

A restless night followed with a neighbouring couple having a domestic which lasted the whole night, no, not us, honest!

We left Vicksburg, Mississippi en route to New Orleans, Louisiana, which will make 27 States so far. After suffering the rain from the previous day, today turned out not too bad and made for a nice ‘bike riding’ day, mild and dry with blue skies. We followed the Interstate 20 to Jackson then the I55 south through rolling countryside, paddocks and woods, leaving Mississippi and into Louisiana’s swampland. A little further on we crossed a bridge which must have been about 20miles long which took us into New Orleans. We’d stopped at the Welcome Centre on the Louisiana state line and booked a downtown hotel in advanced.

Following the instructions given by the very helpful staff, we rode directly to our hotel, the `Place de Armes` in the French quarter. This hotel was only a couple of blocks away from Bourbon Street, where all the music and action was! The French quarter is, as you’d expect, very French looking in its architecture, buildings with wrought iron railed balconies on the first floors, we could so easily have been in Paris. This was indeed a great hotel with a courtyard in the centre with pool and fountain, and very reasonably priced. Our room, with a ceiling some 20ft tall, gave us plenty of room to skip! That night we walked to a nearby Jazz bar and listened to some excellent musicians, a change of pace from the blues.

The following day we had long walks zigzagging our way around the French quarter in our T- shirts, lovely and warm. We even managed to get some laundry done and ended the day in the Preservation Hall just off Bourbon St where we listened to some traditional Jazz played by a group of old guys with a youngster on the trumpet. Beautiful sounds indeed, must find my trumpet and start again! Bourbon Street’s ok for a lad’s night out with lots of bars and strip joints, the good music scene, in my opinion, was just off this tacky strip

After last years Hurricane Katrina the local police have support from the State police. The ‘guest force’ working the night shift brought back memories of my times during the infamous miner’s dispute in the UK. At night there we police all over the place, in cars and on horseback, we didn’t see any damage in our area however. News reports on the TV showed very unhappy people still homeless a year later, waiting for their homes to be rebuilt, some left the city and have no intention to return.

On Fri 1st Dec 06 we left New Orleans having been on the road for five months and covering 23000mls. Passing through the suburbs we caught an occasional glimpse of the devastation caused by the hurricane, sites were now cleared ready for new construction. We got onto HW 90 following the banks of the mighty Mississippi heading west and eventually crossing the river onto HW49.

What a difference a day makes, yesterday in T- shirts, today was freezing at 39deg F, still it was dry and sunny. We rode through big sugarcane plantations in the process of harvesting. Lorries were speeding around spilling their cane load all over the road, makes a change from sugar beet though. While drinking coffee to warm up, I gazed across the car park towards my bike only to see a small shiny dot on my back tyre. On closer examination I found another flippin nail, that’s puncture number four - ho hum, it didn’t take too long to fix as I think I’m now getting good at it. By the way, the BMW plugging kits are excellent. Turning off 49 we picked up the 14 to Abbeville, Louisiana. These were flatlands totally unlike the other Abberville I know in the French Alps! Here we found another motel for the night.

Sat 2nd Dec, we left Abberville on the 82, heading south into Cajun country. The area settled by French people from Nova Scotia after the British kicked them out, oops. In 1755 it was called L`Acadie and changed by the native Indians to Cagian and then Cajun.

Following HW 82 through swampland we spotted the odd Alligator and loads of bird life. More devastation from hurricane Rita, which followed Katrina in the Sept 05, was also very evident, complete towns were missing and other buildings destroyed. Land owners who eventually returned were now living in RV`s and trailers. We spoke to a waitress who told us that the people are only just returning, a year later! On a short ferry crossing we watched dolphins play in the river as we crossed yet another border, now we’re in Texas, our last State in the USA before Mexico. Following Interstate 10 west, we stopped the night at Beaumont, another motel in another town!

On another freezing but dry and sunny day we headed north on the HW 69 through flat rolling countryside which was mostly forested, broken only by a field in the occasional clearing. We stopped at a town called Woodville for coffee and got chatting with Officer Ryan, a local policeman working the Sunday shift. Then, like policemen all over the world, he got a call to attend a domestic, nothing changes! We rode on and stopped the night at Lufkin and eventually warmed up. I didn’t realise it could get so cold here in Texas, I mean it’s level with north Africa and at sea level!

What a difference a day makes. We had a great night’s sleep and awoke friends again after a slightly touchy afternoon and evening the previous day, it happens! We were now on beautiful roads, rolling with some steep climbs flanked by massive pine trees leading into ranch country which seemed populated only by horses and cattle; we followed the 103 to the 7 then headed west. We were now going through Davy Crocket Forest to a town called Crocket, where we stopped for lunch at a Cafe owned by Erwin and Imogene; we ate the best catfish we’d had on the trip so far. After exchanging ambitions and dreams with them, we carried on along the HW 7 to Chilton, then nth on the 77 to Waco and another motel room. It was still very cold, too cold to camp - honest.

Since July 1st 06 we have covered 24,000mls on this trip and rode through 28 States. The bike’s booked in for a long-overdue service and new tyres at `Lone Star` BMW in Austin, Texas next Tuesday, the 12th. We then we have to make our way to the Mexican border and a whole new adventure, Bounas deas senoir, dos cavesa por fabor. I’m sure my Spanish will get better after we’ve been back to school in Mexico!

All the best for now chums, Nick.

From Les

Llano, TEXAS; 5th December 06.

   While browsing one of the many small museums along the Mississippi delta area, we bumped into Pat Thomas a musician and local "artist". For crossing his palm with a couple of "green backs" he drew us his favourite cat and let us take his photo! We then continued in the rain to Vicksburg. I don't know if it was the rain but it was a pretty depressing place to be. The homes were barely standing and everywhere was run down. This is one of the poorest states in the USA and it shows in every way; (There is a lot more to be said but I won't)

Vicksburg lies on hilly ground by the Mississippi River and is undergoing a lot of renovation in the "Downtown area" It was a Confederate stronghold during the civil war and also is the site of America's worst maritime disaster where 1700 soldiers were lost in 1865 due to a faulty boiler on the ship. This is also the place where teddy bears got their name!

On the way into New Orleans we rode along roads raised above the swampy water for about 20 miles, we were beginning to observe some of the results of Hurricane Katrina. The French Quarter of N.O. is intact and very touristy. The luxury liner, the QE2 had just docked and the place was full of Brits on tour, we now consider ourselves as travellers so try to avoid their haunts. Bourbon Street was very disappointing with its noisy pop music bars and strip clubs, but just around the corner we spent a great evening in Preservation Hall listening to traditional jazz played by some fantastic musicians. Our hotel had been the original boys’ school and was very pretty. The ceilings in the room were at least 20ft high, unfortunately those in the garage were a lot lower and I nearly knocked myself out when trying to mount our trusty steed; we rode away quickly before the roof collapsed!

Hurricane Rita hit west of N.O. a week or so after Katrina and as we rode along Alligator Alley we were shocked by the devastation caused. What buildings were left were just twisted pieces of metal and vehicles had been discarded in streams and swamps. We spoke to one lady in a café, (the only one open in miles) and she told us how she and her family had left the area taking 15hrs for a 5hr journey and when they returned they didn't know where their home had been as there was nothing left and no existing landmarks. They are still living in a cramped fifth wheeler/trailer as are most people in the area. We hear that until Rita this was a beautiful area, very popular with fishermen, birdwatchers and hunters. One good thing that has happened is that the salt water killed a lot of the strangling weeds in the rivers and swamps and now wild millet is flourishing and attracting migrating birds in their thousands.

Heading north we stopped off in Beaumont and had our first taste of live country music but it’s still not in my top ten!

A cold front hit us as we left New Orleans and we have had to put on all our layers as the wind chill brings it down below freezing at times. We always thought it was hot in Texas but I suppose it is winter after all. The countryside has become far more interesting with rolling hills and a bend every half mile, Nick’s getting quite excited so I hope he remembers how to do bends!

Until the next time, Lesley. X


Austin, Texas; 12th December 2006.

   The 5th of December was a cool but sunny day as we left Waco. We looked like a couple of high plains drifters as we headed west on Highway 84. We were now on gently rolling roads through countryside covered in scrub trees and fields of goats. We followed the 16 south from Goldthwaite, through a southern European landscape, into Llano, and with the assistance of another helpful tourist info centre, we found a motel room. I’m starting to miss camping but at the moment it’s too cold, believe it or not but Texas does gets very cold sometimes!

The following day we were still heading south chasing that elusive thing we call heat! As we carried on down the 16, the terrain got hillier; big rolling hills which meant having to drop a gear to get over a couple and at last, some bends. We’re entering the `hill country` of Texas, ranch after ranch, real cowboy country with horses and cattle. We even saw a ranch with my name `Poole` on it, should have stopped and introduced myself to the long-lost relation and claimed my horse!

We turned off the main road onto Hw 965, a small back road that took us to `The Enchanted Rock` a State Park with what looked like a miniature Ayers Rock. We stopped and had a short look around the visitors centre, then carried on down to Fredericksburg, a town settled by German immigrants in the 1800`s. Even after all this time it still maintained its German influence in architecture with shops with Christmas presents, wooden toys and shiny bobbles, I quite expected to see someone in lederhosen, (Ed says, Mmm, kinky old Nick). We liked it so much we stayed the night. We walked around town that evening and found one street very Christmassy with the lights on and Christmas tunes playing.

Leaving Fredericksburg on Hw 16, we rode through more ranch country to Kerriville and found the countryside consisting of hills and sweeping bends, great. Dropping into a small canyon and switchback road induced some scratching, “this is more like it” I said as I detected one or two nervous murmurs from the back seat, I’ve been on straight roads for too long!

We stopped at Medina and sampled some of their famous apple pie. There we met Tom and Nancy in their beautifully restored Austin Healy soft top sports car. On leaving we found some more bendy roads where I left them as we headed for Bandera, the cowboy capital of the world, or so the sign said.

At Bandera we found the tourist info office and the very helpful Patricia, who steered us in the direction of motels and ranches. Something I’ve always wanted to do is ride a horse with a western saddle, so we booked up there and then with the `Running R Ranch`, tomorrow we’re cowboys! 

We settled into our motel and took a walk down another ‘one road’ town. Once again it was very cold so we wrapped up warm like it was winter back home. We found cowboy souvenir shops, bars and restaurants, what more do you want? That night we walked downtown to find a bar and sampled some country and western music. Passing one particular bar, we’re called over by Patricia, from the tourist info office who buys us a beer. She then introduces us to some more bikers, from the real-estate profession and `Frosty`, the local bike shop owner. They were all great guys who listened patiently to our story. The next minute we’re introduced to the local newspaper editor, Carl, from the Bandera Courier, before we know it, we have an appointment for tomorrow for pictures and an interview. Meanwhile in the background, the country and western band played on, and I’m sorry, I just can’t get into the C&W scene, perhaps more beer will help?

The following day we’re up bright and early and after a short ride in the freezing cold we arrive at the, `Running R Ranch` where, us, another couple and our guide are the full compliment of the session. Ever so gently we were lead through scrub and juniper trees, and I have to say I found it very uninteresting countryside. Two hours later we were brought back to the ranch and hot coffee; I didn’t even get to lasso one cow, shoot at anything or even allowed to break into a trot!

Now chilled to the bone, we ride our iron horse at a gallop back to town and the Bandera Courier where we’re interviewed by Stephanie and photographed by Carl. Steph kindly offered us her spare room if we couldn’t find a room in town; we were lucky though and found a cabin by the river. Though it was Friday night and slightly over budget we didn’t take up Steph’s offer. We sat in a downtown restaurant and watched the sleet falling, the locals watch in fascination as it obviously didn’t happen too often here.

While we were back at the cabin, another reporter from the Courier tracks us down, David gives us more advice and guidance for travelling through Mexico. This has got to be one of the friendliest towns I’ve ever been to, we made so many friends in such a short time.

That night we walked through town and visited a couple of bars. While listening to more country and western we chat to the locals and drink beer, what a life. The last pub we stopped at, the band played while the dance floor was virtually empty and, a rather inebriated Jim, takes Les for a dance, I wish I had the camera!

Sat 9th Dec, we reluctantly leave Bandera, and picking up the roads recommended by Tom in Medina, we head for Austin on HW 16/46 to Boerne, then 474/473,281 to Blanco. Here we found a selection of more twisty roads which brought us to the outskirts of Austin, and a traffic backlog caused by an accident. Finding an alternative route we get on Interstate 35 and find a motel on the city’s outskirts.

Here we are in Austin, the capital city of Texas. The bike is having its last service in the US before we enter Mexico. We’ve decided to get into Mexico before Christmas and chase the sun south.   All’s well in paradise.


From Les

Austin, Texas; 12th December 2006

   Well Texas is a bit of a surprise! I thought it would be all oil wells and desert but the hilly area around Austin is really pretty.

From Llano, we passed by the Enchanted Mountain in the National Forest. It was made of pink granite and looked rather like Uluru, (Ayres Rock in Australia). The countryside was gently rolling hills and creeks with quite a lot of juniper bushes and some seriously gnarled trees.

We stopped in Fredericksburg which was full of Christmas cheer and decorations. The strong German influence there was immediately obvious in its architecture, boiled sweets and sauerkraut; it was almost like being at one of the German Christmas markets. If it stood still, it sparkled!

Bandera is allegedly the "Cowboy capital of the world" so we had to stop. It is a small, feel-good town with one main street of eateries and accessory stores, antiques and gifts. It’s a popular tourist destination and the two motels prices unfortunately reflected this, especially at the weekend. We paid a visit to the Tourist information office where we met Patricia who gave us lots of helpful advice. Later that evening as we were promenading to find a music bar, Patricia found us, dragged us into the bar, gave us beer and introduced us to lots of the locals including Carl the local newspaper owner and the owner of Rusty’s Bike Shop.

The "Patsy Cline" Tribute band had the locals up and dancing while the Police had to clear the car park opposite as the owner a 4th generation Bandera man didn't like people using his property, even though his shop was closed!

The weather showed no sign of warming up but we had committed ourselves to a horse ride we will. We arrived as directed by 9:30am and I was so glad we had our motorcycle gear on, exchanging my helmet for woolly hat! The wind chill made the temperature rise to about freezing. After all the practise I have had mounting horsepower, I think I should have mounted "Zak" with far more grace! The dismount was almost disastrous and definitely not elegant! We had 2hrs riding through part of the national forest, crossing totally dry creek beds. There has been a serious shortage of rain here for the past 2 years so most of the rivers and creeks are on trickle and they estimate that over a third of the trees will have died. The rivers that are still running are crystal clear probably as they are running over granite beds and rocks. I think my horse was the only one that managed to break into a trot (3 times) and Nick was becoming slightly frustrated as it was the first time in 24,000 miles that he had to follow me, ha, ha.

Our next appointment was with Carl at the Bandera County Courier newspaper. We had our photo taken and were interviewed by Stephanie who also kindly offered us a bed for the night if we couldn't get anything in town. People in Bandera have all been so kind and friendly. In the evening we thought we would try some more country music and visited a couple of venues. It was so cold that the locals were not inclined to leave their fires, hence a quiet Saturday night, though I did get ushered onto the dance floor 3 times by Jim. I don't think either of us would gain any points on Come Dancing but at least we helped swell the numbers to 3 couples dancing and 3 observers!

Now we are in Austin; arriving in the rain but here on a mission, the final bike service before Mexico! We are spending our time getting up to date with washing, correspondence and planning as we hope to be in Mexico several days before Christmas where the adventure really begins. Best wishes to you all and Seasons greetings, Love. Lesley. X

San Antonio, Texas; 16th Dec 2006.

   Remember the Alamo? Yes we’re in San Antonio, Texas, preparing for the final push to the Mexican border on Sunday, ready to cross first thing on Monday the 18th.

Our four nights in Austin were four too many, but necessary, as the bike had its last major service before we head off into the unknown territory of Mexico and Central America.

I really enjoy the smaller towns and the characters we’ve met there, cities are just too busy, and hey I’m a country boy from Norfolk after all!

We got into Austin and stayed the first night in a motel alongside the Interstate 35. The following day, which was wet, we moved on. The roads were glazed and slippery, they don’t get much rain here and folks are obviously not used to it, demonstrated by the scooter coming to the traffic lights sideways and the car wheels spinning away on green!

We met the very helpful Jimmy at the tourist information centre downtown who pointed us to a motel close by.

After booking in at the `Super 8`, we enjoyed a twenty minute walk downtown.

The first thing that surprised me with this city was all the beggars. At most of the major junctions you’d see them walking down the rows of stationary traffic with a card stating, “homeless need food” but when on foot you could see his mate under the nearby bridge with his can of special brew! I have to say, we did see a couple of people sleeping rough in the city, huddled up in doorways with a blanket, but enough of us, this was `oil rich’ Texas after all!

We found a good bookshop and are now armed with a map of Mexico, so now we’re ready to go!

The following day we rode a short distance to the edge of town and found a Harley shop open with at least 100 bikes out front for sale!  Les found a hair dresser and had a really short cut, now she’s called Squeaky George; George being a childhood nickname. Being somewhat of a tomboy, apparently! Her boots still squeaking and she now looks like a George!

After chatting to a guy at the Harley shop, who’s a keen cyclist, it turned out we just missed Lance Armstrong, of Tour De France 7 wins fame, signing autographs in a nearby cycle shop, he has a ranch nearby. Also his old team, Discovery are in the area on a winter training camp.

On Tues 12th Dec, we were up early to deliver the bike to `Lone Star` for its 36k service. There we meet the very helpful, Randy and Joshua, and booked the bike in. It’s a big service and its 3k overdue so it sounded expensive.

We caught the bus back into town with a promise they’d phone when she’s ready for collection, so in the meantime, we headed straight to the public library to send another update to Eddie.

Buses and libraries, great places to meet and to observe the real people of an area!

We caught a free bus, `a dillo`, that runs tourists around the sights in town. This turned out to be a nice, neat and tidy city except for the beggars of course. It boasted modern architecture with sky scrapers built using lots of glass. The streets were lined by some fine older buildings, tastefully restored I thought, and of course the Christmas decorations are up everywhere. The normal level of street noise is occasionally punctuated by a distant alarm; the emergency services seem busy here with sirens wailing frequently.

We receive our awaited phone call and return to the bike shop. Waiting for us is Merle Grall, whom we met on the north rim of the Grand Canyon some months ago; he’s been following our adventure on the internet and is looking forward to our next phase.

As for the bike service, I nearly fainted. When I eventually came round after the smelling salts I gazed at Les in astonishment, the bill was just too much for me to take in. It was $ 987 and I must have passed out again, only joking, but ouch and double ouch! This was the 36k service and two tyres.

I’m back on the trail tyres again, Michelin Anakee`s this time, which looked chunky and ready for some of the dirt roads I expect to find in Mexico. The rest of the service included all the oils, filters, plugs, the alternator belt (required at 36k), tappets and a general tune up. Sadly, as I rode away, it didn’t feel any different and, annoyingly, we rode out straight into the rush hour traffic and proceeded at a snail’s pace!

We had been hoping to receive a package sent from home to Lone Star but it hadn’t turned up, Josh and Randy assured us they’d phone when it arrived and could send it on to us, really nice guys.

The following morning we’re up early and back to the shop to get my service book stamped, we’re getting quite a collection now. While we’re there, Josh helps us with some photocopying of documents. We head off into the hill country and pick up a selection of small roads which eventually brought us onto the Lime Creek road that runs alongside Travis Lake, a nice twisty, scratching road ideal to scrub the new tyres in! There were also big rolling hills thick with juniper trees and burnt grass, surviving just, in the bleached dry soil. The roads were fawn coloured and patched with tar over-banding, which they call cedar snakes here; all in all, it makes for an exciting ride! We get on Interstate 431 and the 29 to Llano, and then south on the 16 through ranch country to 281, stopping a nice motel in Blanco; we’re just booking in when our phone rings, our parcel’s arrived!

The following day we return to Austin. On the way, we draw alongside another GS rider and we arrange to meet later. Back at the shop we pick up our package and a small bell. I’d noticed several bikes with a small bell hanging under the sump area. The story goes, it attracts any gremlins from the bike’s engine, but when they get to the bell they’re sent mad by the ringing and fall out onto the road and that’s where the potholes come from!  Well its Christmas after all and we haven’t got any decorations on the bike!

Armed with our package and the bell, we go to `Woods` fun centre, an American power sports shop selling big boys toys! Here we met David, the manager, who had recently been to Mexico with his wife on bikes. He passes on more information, and very positive and encouraging it was too. Then we just jumped onto Interstate 35 and rode straight to San Antonio, staying the first night in a motel just north of the town. The second day we ride downtown and find a motel closer to the centre. We arrive too early to book in so find a nearby cafe and drink coffee. The chef, Julian, who rides an immaculate Yamaha YZF 750 goes AWOL from the kitchen and talks travelling, bikes and VW`s, all things close to my heart.

We eventually book into `La Villita Inn` and have a short walk downtown. It turned out to be quite a nice town with the main attraction being the `River walk`. This consisted of a river network through the town centre with footpaths ether side lined with bars and restaurants, and music. Of course we cannot forget, we must remember The Alamo! This is a small fort in the centre, where in 1836, Davy Crocket, Jim Bowie, amongst other Texans, held the Alamo, heavily outnumbered, against the Mexican army for 13 days until eventually the Mexicans won, killing everyone except woman and children. Later on, the Mexican army was caught by Texans who reaped their revenge, shouting, “Remember the Alamo”, Texas then got its independence from Mexico. Anyway, we’ve had a very pleasant couple of days here, but it’s another city tomorrow.

On Sunday17th we are riding to Del Rio where, on Monday, we’ll cross over into Mexico at Cludad Acuna, and then ride down towards Monterrey where, I hope, we’ll find a small town to stay and immerse ourselves in the Spanish language and Mexican culture, just in time for Christmas.


From Les

San Antonio, Texas; 16th December 2006

   Poor Nick! He went quite pale and quiet when he was presented with the bill for the bike service, it may have been cheaper to fly home but I'm not ready to go yet! To save money, we stayed in the motel room and dined on breakfast bars and banana while Nick had to have a little lie down.

The next morning we headed back to the BMW shop to see Randy and Joshua and get the service book stamped and to check if my package from UK had hadn't. So we decided to head for the hills again and cover some of the best roads in Texas. It was a lovely bright sunny day and the scenery around Travis Lake, Marble Falls and Round Mountain was very easy on the eye. We popped back into LLano again and had the buffet meatloaf lunch, (Yummy), and then continued to Blanco where we stayed the night.

As we were booking in I received a call from Randy to say our package has arrived! So next morning, on the 50-mile trip back to the BMW shop, we pulled up alongside a fellow GS rider on his way to work. He turned out to be David Pearson, the General Manager of a huge bike shop in Austin. He told us to drop by, so we did! He had just been with his new wife, (a seasoned traveller,) through Mexico on their honeymoon on bikes. He gave us more info and ideas of places to visit and assured us we will love it - and I'm sure we will. David has a sense of humour and hails from Canada! He has been over to the UK before and done the ubiquitous "ABC tour"...Another Bl***y Church - Another Bl***y Castle!

A bit later than planned we hit the road again and headed south for San Antonio where we stayed on the outskirts for one night, then moved downtown for another two nights. Our room wasn’t quite ready so we rested a while in the Southtown Cafe where we met Julian, a fellow biker and VW owner.

The room at the La Villita Inn doesn't provide breakfast but it does have a computer with internet access in each room for free – what a bonus! So after I dragged Nick away from it we strolled towards the Riverside where, ‘it all happens’.

The Riverside area is purpose-built to entrap tourists and is very successful. The river itself is only about 20ft wide and flows through a shopping Mall and in a loop in the centre of town. Both sides of the river are jammed packed with bars, restaurants, hotels, gift shops, etc and it is particularly busy in the evenings when the narrow uneven footpaths are full of locals and tourists.

At this time of the year, like towns all over the world, the riverside is full of bright, colourful decorations and lights which seem to drip from the trees and buildings. The flat barges, full of tourists or Santa-dressed carol singers, float gently along the river, following a trail of candles in small white sandbags on the edge of the footpaths. The 2,500 + candles are for the "Fiesta de las Luminarias" symbolising the journey of the Holy Family, and are there to light the way. Every few yards the music changed from Carols to Jazz, Traditional Spanish to Blues and a bit of gentle rock, (and no country music)? We stopped now and again to listen to the different sounds, ending our evening with some Blues.

No one can visit San Antonio without visiting "The Alamo"! It looked very familiar when we did see it though it was very busy. The Alamo was originally a home to missionaries and converts until in the early 1800's, when a Spanish cavalry unit was stationed there, establishing the first hospital in Texas. In 1835 the Texans took it over but the Mexicans took it back. In 1836 the Texans, including Davy Crockett and Jim Bowie, were hugely out numbered but managed to hold the fort for 13 days before they were defeated by the Spanish and Mexican soldiers. I understand the fort was then blown up and the fort we now see has been rebuilt using the original brick and plans. I was surprised to see several English, Scottish and Irish soldiers named with the Texans who lost their lives in this famous battle. To boost the tourist trade this weekend a local USAF training centre held a passing-out parade for new recruits on Friday. The boys and girls, all neatly dressed in uniform, were showing their friends and families around the town. How young and innocent they looked; I’m so glad our boys have not joined the armed forces!

Anyway, It's time to move on and be totally confused by new language and road signs....but it's all part of the adventure ... and we are still having a ball.

Here's wishing all the best in 2007 and Seasons Greetings….Lesley, X

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