Follow Nick Sanders' "Incredible USA"-tour: Key West to Deadhorse - the journey so far.
So, we've made it to the top of the Dalton Highway, yes, we actually got there - the place where other motorcycle groups fear to tread - yes, we got to the oilfield village of Deadhorse next to Prudhoe Bay jutting out into the Arctic Sea. Environmentally a disaster zone with a population of 25 that swells to 5000 in the summer, is as you might imagine anything to do with the extraction of oil, like mechanical intestines spilling into the road in a Mad Max film. If you like earth moving machinery and drill bits it's spot on and somewhere I actually quite like, with the friendliest of people doing the dirtiest of jobs and one of the great destination locations a motorcyclist can ride to in his life.
Back to the beginning and having left Miami and Key West on the 1st June, Florida was wet and there were a lot of alligators. Texas was dry and hilly whilst New Mexico with its population stuffed into trailer homes had the feel of a nation on the move. Thinking umbrellas on the beach and pouting women gliding on rails, cocktails in hand, I expected the Sunshine State to be, well, sun drenched and glitzy, but no. Instead, private security patrolled the grounds of our hotels so we turned inland and headed west across the Everglades.
Geographically Texas is my favourate state but this is also where the cops are the toughest. Iron Butt and Expedition Rider John Baggaley got nicked for crossing double yellows in the face of an incoming patrol car and along with John Dawson sheepishly handed over $170. Scotsman John Bruce left his passport somewhere (it would have crossed the Mexican border in minutes) so shot off to Los Angeles to persuade the British Consul to give him a temporary document and he would rejoin somewhere in Idaho, or Missouri, or British Colombia, or somewhere else. I think this is called adventure and what a jolly good story it is too. But, like thinly layered spread, the group is scattered slightly. There's enough experience amongst them for each rider to know how to get home - that is the hotel booked for the night, because this is all we have left - that and our bikes.
There is an impression in the group that nothing exists but the now - the next mile, the next plate of chips with lots of ketchup, the next anything other than a thought of where they come from and what they might have to do to get back. The trip is too intense to think of stuff they've temporary left behind because they know it'll be there when they return; the ticking clock, the unpaid bills, the sameness they paid to escape from, the real life that right now is not very real at all.
Anyway, Jim and the support vehicle pulls up the rear in the way you herd small things in a large field that won't do what they're told, when at Salt Lake, Scotty Williamson's Triumph 900cc-something-or-other died. Sad, but expected. It suffered an electrical stroke not having left Florida - the rectifier and stator giving up the ghost when support driver and general all round mechanical genius Jim strapped a truck battery on the rear rack and wired it into the loom. It was now an electric bike which got charged by a long cable attached to the battery terminals and plugged into the wall socket of the nearest Super 8.
By Salt Lake it was all over for Scotty and his very cross wife, not because the electrics didn't exist, no, there was something else and I think Mrs. Williamson would happily have eviscerated him as he sat there puffing on his pipe. The bike - which he bought on Ebay (or was it swopped for bits lying around in the garage) had the spring settings of an old sofa. Yep, the shock had gone and he was almost sitting on the floor. So after a duty of care we left him in a Motel 6 by the interstate. He said he'd catch us up, and amazingly I didn't doubt that for a minute. Scott's ridden with me in South and Central America, across Asia to Mongolia and if anyone could find us on the way down it would be him and hopefully a less cross wife.
Me, oh, I'm just ambling along - Dr C on the back - emailing hotels, cajoling riders, posting briefing notes over breakfast and generally being back-office to keep things on the roll when up the road somewhere in British Colombia, next to a lake surrounded by trees and bears, Alan Clunnie's Super Tenere 750 suddenly stopped, sort of abruptly. The very same bike that somehow managed to scale the length of the Americas, almost without Alan's help, was now a memento rather than a motorbike with some bit called a cam-chain tensioner having had a washer welded onto it's end. It couldn't tension a well written story let alone something that you sat on to get somewhere and poor trusting super nice Alan who I like an awful lot bought an engine off some bloke who said it didn't have many miles on the clock and was a "solid bit of kit." Well, perhaps not quite true and back on the support truck it was for him and his washer adapted part.