In the Big Horn Mountains of Montana, bears hibernate in the fall, sleeping through the white snow of winter, until the warmth of spring. When bears wake, they focus on one thing, food. My sign is the Brown Bear. I went into a period of hibernation last fall, parking the Kawasaki KLR 650 I had prepared for a hypothetical ride around the world. Last month, both the KLR green machine and I awoke from our laconic wallow and focused on making a fourth motorcycle ride around the world. My food was global travel by motorcycle. Together we gulped a small portion. The first leg was to reach the carnival known as Daytona Bike Week in Florida. The Kawasaki and a spare set of tires were slinked into a shipping container for a float across the Atlantic. I arranged transport through a friend who shipped several containers filled with Harley-Davidsons from Germany to Bike Week for the owners to ride during the 10 days of annual March madness. After Bike Week, the containers, with my single breasted KLR snuggled between twin bosomed Harleys, left Florida to Savannah, Georgia, by truck, there to be boated across the pond. After it arrives in Germany, the containers will be trucked to Heidelberg, about eight weeks after leaving Florida. There I will free it from its abuse and ride south to North Africa, the next segment of my global ride.
Kawasaki ready for the shipping container and the next stage of our adventure.
Before Bike Week, I was invited by BMW of North America to attend their "GS Photo Shoot." A BMW advertising agency was collecting photos for the BMW 2003 catalogue, as well as using the forum to introduce the new BMW "Adventure GS," 1,150- ccs of mega weight and torque, outfitted to look like the older GS models favored by many adventures on world rides. BMW's new Adventure Monster showed GS riders what a mean-machine could be off-road, especially when wallowing through deep sand. One participant in the event broke his leg. Two weeks prior, BMW's Design Chief, David Robb, suffered a bone breaking experience at the West Coast press introduction of the Adventure. I was told by one of the motorcycle press gurus that the rumor floating around these planned photo events was the name "Adventure" for the new GS model had a two-fold meaning. First was the adrenalin rush when the prospective buyer sees the price tag approaching $20,000 with taxes, insurance, and a couple of accessories. The second was the element of not knowing when the beast was going to break your leg, whether on road or off. With serious crashes in two photo-op sessions, the Adventure GS may soon be likened to the "Widow Makers" of Brazil. Those were Vincent Black Shadow motorcycles the Brazilian government bought for their federal road police. The government later switched to Harley-Davidsons, but not before the Vincent's made widows of several of the wives of officers. I passed on the BMW invitation for my image to be in the BMW catalog. I told their media representative I would be on my "Team Green" Kawasaki and not a BMW, as I passed through Bike Week. I wrote that my appearing at the exclusive BMW GS event, riding a Kawasaki, would be similar to the new sheriff in the movie Blazing Saddles. I would be as welcome as bleeding hemorrhoids on Day 1 of the 10-day Ironbutt Ride. However, I did offer to appear on a BMW GS if they could supply one from their press fleet, which were in abundant supply. I thought I could stash the KLR for the day (change my color), and wearing my Aerostitch Darien riding suit and Combat Touring Boots instead of BMW togs, no one would know I had switched bikes. The media front man wrote he would get back to me if he could swiggle a swap. From him I heard nothing back. Possibly that was good. Neither of my legs were broken. I was working for two foreign motorcycle magazines during Bike Week, doing articles and capturing images on film about racing old motorcycles and the BMW scene during this gathering of predominately Harley-Davidsons. It was a different zone for me. In past years I was at Bike Week to race my 1936 Indian Sport Scout or 1971 BMW R75/5. This time I was on the other side of the fence, changing F-stops, interviewing racers and scribbling notes to later be printed in magazines. I had always been lucky racing the high-speed banking or twisting infield of the Daytona International Speedway. I never crashed, and only twice had a motorcycle quit before the checkered flag.
As a spectator, I sympathized with the racers who crashed or broke. For those that crashed and ended up hospitalized, often it was not only a sad end to a week of hope and fun. The adventure was life or career ending. Standing on a corner, with a 300 power telephoto lens, I shot photo after photo of a six inch section of the curve where I had, years before, seen a racer lose control of his motorcycle and crash, causing immediate death. The experienced racers who knew the history of the curve, and that specific dollar bill sized piece of tar, knew how to ride though it. They rode differently than did the novice riders. The veterans selected a line about four inches closer to the inside of the curve than did the new guys. Having once been granted a professional motorcycle racing license, I learned the best racers do not always finish first. The skilled riders often do not have the best equipment. Other elements beyond their control keep them from finishing first and taking home a trophy. For example, one of my heroes has been Dave Roper. I have raced, and watched, Roper for over 30 years. I do not know what twists and turns his life has taken, but had he been in the right place at the right time, he could have beaten Kenny Roberts or Eddie Lawson on the world Grand Prix circuit. In the American Historic Racing Motorcycle Association (AHRMA), Roper was the most talented racer in any class he entered. The AHRMA had a strange way of assigning the starting positions for the Daytona races. Grid positions were determined by how many points each rider scored with the Association in the prior year. If a racer did not race any AHRMA races in the previous year, he was assigned a position at the back of the starting grid, far back. If a racer finished in tenth place, in four or five races in the prior year, he was granted a starting position near the front of the starting grid. Anywhere near the front was an advantage because the four abreast grid lines narrowed down to one bike width in the first curve. A very fast racer girded in the back of the pack finds himself being held up by slower racers in the first two or three turns, allowing the leaders to easily move away from the rest of the pack. In a race with 50 - 60 riders entered, the racer can easily spend the whole race trying to carve through the slower riders, never seeing the front-runners. It can be maddening. I know, having once started in 61st position to finish a frustrating 12th. I was not a great roadracer, but was good, good enough to win some trophies, but never as good as Roper.
Dave Roper, warming up for a "Go Fast" run at Daytona International Speedway.
This year Roper started his races at the back of the pack. To make matters worse, he had crashed several days before, crushing his right ankle so badly he was on crutches. He had to be helped onto his motorcycle at the start of each race. Normally the right ankle is not needed too much, as this is for the rear brake, which only does about 25 % of the braking. However, Roper rides a Matchless with a right side shifter and left rear brake. Hurt, and further handicapped by starting at the back of the pack, Roper raced with the heart of a lion. His road racing skills and grit captured third place, probably one of the most incredible racing efforts of the entire week. Another winner who did not take home gold was Ken Nemoto from Selagaya-Ku, Japan. He traveled from the furthest point on the globe to race his 1971 Moto Guzzi. Having to start near the back of the pack, due of having no AHRMA points in the previous year, he fought his way through a congested field to 5th place. Then the race was stopped due to a serious crash. When the race was re-started, Nemoto got off to a slow start and ended up going into the first turn with 20 helmets between him and the leaders, with only four laps left in the shortened race. A warrior, Nemoto pushed his personal envelope to the point of punch-through to regain, and finish, in fifth place. I watched him, through my telephoto lens, four times ride over the dangerous section of the killer curve. Each time I prayed his front tire would not slip, but could see it move sideways as he used maximum braking. Either Buddha or God was with him that day, because he was destined to finish. It took the help of one or the other to get the Japanese warrior back into fifth place. I do not know Ken Nemoto. Maybe some reader of these words will know how to send him a cyber message telling him where he can find these words, as well as his picture below. I know if I were he, I would like to know how some foreign scribe saw my roadracing adventure during AHRMA Bike Week 2002. He was one of the winners who went home without a trophy.
Ken Nemoto, Selagaya-Ku, Japan, winner at the Daytona International Speedway.
Dr. Gregory W. Frazier, from Bike Week, on the road, March 2002
July 27, 2000, Going Out Again - 'Round The World
October 4, 2000, Why Another Long Ride, The Plan, and Mr. Fish
October 10, 2000, the beginning, in America on an Indian
November 6, 2000, AMAZONAS-Tamed By Beasts in Brazil
November 22, 2000, Monster Cow, Wolpertinger and Autobahn Crawling Across Europe
December 22, 2000, Enfield 500 Bullet, India Motorcycle Dementia, Ozoned Harley-Davidsons and Gold Wings
December 25, 2000, Yeti on a Harley-Davidson, Nepal By Enfield, No Carnet Sexpedition
January 1, 2001, Haunting Yeti
January 25, 2001, Monkey Soccer, Asian Feet, Air 'em Up: Bhutan and Sikkim
February 12, 2001, Midgets, Carnetless, Steve McQueen on Enfield, Bangladesh
February 20, 2001, Higgledypiggledy, Salacity, and Zymurgy - India
March 20, 2001, Road warriors, sand, oil leaks - meditating out of India
April 8, 2001, Bike Cops, Elephants, and Same-Same - Thailand
May 1, 2001, Little Bikes, Millions of Bikes, Island Riding - Taiwan
May 15, 2001, Harley-Davidson, Mother Road and Super Slabs - America
June 8 , 2001, Crossing The Crazy Woman With A Harley-Davidson, Indian, BMW, Amazonas, Enfield, Hartford, SYM, Honda
January 1, 2002, Donged, Bonged, and Gonged - Burma
January 20, 2002, Secrets of The Golden Triangle - Thailand
March 31, 2002, Bear Wakes, Aims Green Machine Around The World
April 10, 2002, Moto Cuba - Crashes, Customs and El Jefe (Fidel)
May 20, 2002, Europe and The Roads South to Africa
June 10, 2002, Morocco Motorcycling, Thieves and Good Roads
July 30, 2002, Russia – Hard and Soft, By Motorcycle
August 30, 2002, USA – American Roadkill, Shipping Bikes and BIG DOGS
September 30, 2002, Good Times Roll Home, Riding With Clothes On, Team Green - USA
November, 2002, Mexico By Motorcycle - Gringos, Little Norman Bad Cock, and Bandits
March 2003, Laos by motorcycle - Guerrillas, Mekong Beering, and Plain of Coffins
July, 2003, Alaska by motorcycle – Deadhorse, Fish Story and Alaskan Bush
January 2004, Angkor, Bombed Out Roads and Dog Eaters - Cambodia
April, 2004, Minsking, Uncle Ho and Snake Wine
August 2004, Around The World Again, 1st Tag Deadhorse
February 2005, Colombia To The End Of The Earth - South America
January 2006, My Marriage, Long Strange Ride, Montana Nights
May 2006, Cherry Girls, Rebels, Crash and Volcano - Philippines
September 2006, Break Bike Mountain Ride – United States
March 2007, Kawasaki Cult Bike “No Stranger To Danger Expedition” - Thailand and Cambodia
November 2007, Lone Wolf Wanders: Bears, Moose, Buffalo, Fish
April 2009, Global Adventure Roaming: Burma through the USA to headhunters on Borneo
February 2010, Adventure Motorcycle Travel: Expedition to Alaska, then Java
Copyright © Dr. Gregory W. Frazier. 1999- All Rights Reserved.
Thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author,
and not necessarily Horizons Unlimited