Motorcycle Investor magazine

Australian motorcycle stories by Guy 'Guido' Allen

(circa 2000)

The three-hour camera

Trials and trust in Utah…

We'd been on the plane for however long it takes to get to the USA - it felt like days because I simply couldn't sleep. However I could have given you a thorough critique of the Qantas in-flight movies from Melb to LA, as I'd watched most of them twice.

Ms M Jnr, who had slept, was firing on all cylinders by the time we landed. Though exhausted I was ready to battle with the LA cabbie, having been royally ripped off by his like in two other places (France and China) in recent times. Cabbies at international airports are often sharks. Within 20 minutes of landing in Beijing, for example, I was having a shouting match with a Citroen-driving thief. He understood no English until I said the magic word "police" - which reduced the rip-off from four times the going rate to double.

In LA the driver disarmed me by handing over a business card that laid out the accepted rates for various trips - including ours - and they were surprisingly cheap. He got a generous tip.

One of the effects of extreme tiredness (thank whichever god I didn't abuse the free grog on the way over), is you lose the plot on some details. Like which side of the road you're supposed to be riding on. So we'd picked up the GoldWing at Honda's HQ in LA, packed it, waved goodbye to the very kind folk involved, and headed out of the garage. Straight at another Wing being ridden back into the workshop by a Yank.

I instinctively (still in Oz mode) veered stage left, and he (from his point of view) stage right. Given we were heading in opposite directions, it was getting very ugly very quickly. So just slam on the brakes and watch the local veer around wondering what sort of laughing nutter would deliberately aim at him.

It's only a quick estimate, but at $10,000 (Australian) per foot (American) for eight feet I reckon it could have been the world's most expensive test ride. And the shortest.
 We survived that day, and another few in LA before heading into Nevada and Utah at the height of summer. Good planning, that.

Both times I've been in that neck of the proverbial woods, it's been 47 degrees plus, or much higher numbers on the Yank scale.
The first time I did it, I tried the minimalist riding gear route for a little while and - thanks to the wind burn - came close to needing a skin graft. This time, I already knew a full-face lid and leather jacket (no matter how stupid that might sound) was actually cooler and more comfortable than without.

Believe it or not, the full fairing on the Wing was a godsend because it prevented being blasted by stove-hot air at 70-80 miles an hour. A speed you can do over there, though it's over the limit, and plod won't even blink an eye.

We visited Las Vegas - accurately described by former AMCN Ed Chris Beattie as an adult playground in a desert - and headed east to Utah a couple days later. That's when things went a little awry. With severe hunger threatening by mid-afternoon, we pulled into the fast-food joint in Mesquite.

This town, and a few others like it, is nothing more than a pimple of casinos, fuel stops and trailer parks, that magically pops up out of the desert. We did whatever you do with burgers, paid and left.

A hundred-plus miles later, in Utah, I realised we'd left the camera gear behind. So, turn the air blue with every expletive known to man, plus a few new ones, and head back. One thing I didn't know at the time is that deserts - at least in that part of the world - have some very sudden and interesting thunderstorms.

In over 25 years of riding, this was easily the ugliest storm I'd ever encountered. The lightning was hitting the ground a hundred metres away at times (Morag reckons it was less), the rain came down in buckets rather than drops, and the wind gusts...they were something else. It was one of those times I was glad to be on a very big and heavy motorcycle. Something lighter, and they'd still be looking for us in one of those canyons.

Even so, on the broad six-lane freeway, we would suddenly be hit by a punch of air that grabbed the bike and shove us a lane-and-a-half right. There was nowhere to shelter and it was scary. For me at least - Ms M Jnr reports she thought things were a little weird, but wasn't worried. Which may be a vote of support for how secure the machine feels for a pillion.

We staggered back in to the Mesquite food dealership and enquired after the camera. Two sodding wet Aussies who looked like they'd been dragged backwards through a barbed-wire fence, on the world's most expensive mass-production bike. Now there's a picture.

It wasn't the cam itself I was concerned about, but the rolls of film we'd already shot. Replacing the gear (a halfway serious Canon set-up) was easy, if expensive - the images were another matter. A young woman who worked there part-time had rescued it for us, but was too shy to come out to be thanked, leaving the formalities to the shift manager.

Part-time workers in that sort of job in the USA earn sweet FA, but it almost came down to a fist fight before I could convince all concerned to give the lass the proffered US$40 in thankyou notes.

That night we stayed in the casino across the road, which was a palace charging something ridiculous like US$25 for a twin including a breakfast that had its own horizon. It had been three hours between being hungry and riding tarmac you could fry an egg on, then drying out in a motel room while listening to the local flash flood reports - camera happily in hand.

(circa 2000)

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