Tag Archives: CB500

An American Wereboy in Sudamerica: Year end recap.

One year on the road. Un ano. An excellent adventure and bogus journey. The throttle was turned and old New York was spied in the mirror in June of 2011. Since then we’ve spent most of our time in Latin America, through Mexico, down Central America way, over the Darien and into Colombia, then Ecuador, and now Peru. Patagonia was always the goal, and it still is, but I never really actually thought I would make it this far en serio. And indeed it is far and a long way to come on an old moto and in stinky boots.

Sure, few great truths are revealing themselves, few insights.

But look, it was never that kind of trip.

A great DJ once asked me, “Subcommandante, after all this is over, how will you adjust back to civilian life?”

The truth is that I never really adjusted to it anyway. So it’ll be more or less the same.

I’m just living my life, one peso at a time.

…but never mind that.

We’re in Peru now where the death roads bring new life when you’re staring into the eyes of the beast and crazy, muddy, rocky dirt roads with vertiginous drops blow us away like we’re listening to an old-school Maxwell tape.


On speaking Spanish:
After 8 months in Latin America I can faithfully say that I am a beginner level Spanish speaker. You hear a lot of people throw out the platitude that they can speak Spanish well enough to order food. The truth is that ordering food is one of the harder things to do while speaking Spanish in Latin America. It’s a process that is entirely different than ordering up a cheeseburger in the states. Every country and every different region of each country has different names for everything and, like an imaginary linguistic wall is set up between them, no one knows the words that other places use for different foodstuffs. Menus only exist in upscale joints and sometimes I don’t know what I’m going to get. It’s cool though and I don’t mind. The set lunch is a common thing down here and it’s something that I think we used to have in the states but disappeared a long time ago. It’s like the menu of the day but it’s super cheap, between $1.50 and $4 for the most part wherever you go and it comes with a soup, main dish with meat, starch and vegetable, a glass of juice, and sometimes a little something for desert. It’s really a great deal and it’s enough food for two people. En serio, my spanish is not that bad. It should be better, but I’m lazy. I never study my notes from Xela and I’m a loner man, a rebel, and care little for small talk anyways. And yet, I get by. Here I am.

But hey c’mon man, you got your whole life riding around in that rubbermaid top-box. What if somebody looks in there!?

Relax Billy, they won’t even know what it is man, they won’t even know what it is.

Che Guevara. Who was Che Guevara?

I dunno, some dude I guess. Latins and hipsters and gente the world over love their romantic losers, killed on mountaintops and emblazoned on t-shirts the world over. Best to die, but better to die for a cause.

I’m not going to tell you to go out and buy Che Guevara’s biography. I didn’t. I was going to, in a bookstore in Phoenix, but it was like 900 pages and weighed a metric ton. Couldn’t they have condensed it into a 200 page paperback? Louis L’Amour could’ve done it. I just wanted to know why those dreamy eyes are staring at me from a million t-shirts and car bumpers.

I read the wikipedia article and washed my hands of the whole thing. Fidel won his revolution, but there are no Fidel t-shirts and the reason is obvious. What if Guevara had won?

Che Guevara’s first name is Ernesto, but everyone called him Che because he used the word Che a lot. Che is like saying dude, or man, in American English. If Che Guevara grew up in Mexico instead of Argentina, everyone would have called him Guey Guevara. Because that’s what they say a lot in old Mexico.

I don’t care about dead revolutionaries and It’s not my fight anyway and so the mind drifts to other, more important things.


To go on forever, would be ideal.

The Salton and Camp Zero. One of the last great American wastelands which can never be forgotten.

Lusting for the sun on top of old Tajumulco down old Guatemala way, guey.

I was in Xela, Guatemala for nearly two months and everything revolved around the Miguel de Cervantes School of Spanish. They surprisingly had these neatly constructed ramps to get motorcycles up the two feet of steps and into the narrow hallway. I never fell but the thought of being pinned in the doorway with a hot exhaust pipe burning my leg to the bone was always there.

The Mexican experience summed up in this neat little sign, spied in San Cristobal.

Temascal, or Native American sweat lodge, had down in old Mazunte town.

Brain food baby. I miss Mexico…so long ago.

Free waffle breakfasts at the Roadrunner Hostel in Tucson taste alright to the desert drifter. Plans to dip south of the border materialized here. Who opens a hostel in Tucson?

Worlds tallest flag pole (it isn’t) in Calipatria, California. It was well over a hundred degrees that day and I was alright with that.

Saguaro cactus at the Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument. Just south of Why, Arizona and bordering old Mexico, thousands of Saguaro reach and twist towards the sky in all sorts anthropomorphic shapes. I was camped out here, under a million stars, awakened by a Black Hawk border patrol helicopter hovering over my tent.

The Cabazon dinos and the end of the road for the great American adventure.

The Alvord desert. We had finally done it, reached the true West after the Alaskan adventure. A memory never fleeting, the Alvord will always reign supreme.

Dude, the Arctic Circle. Way up North. An incredible day really. I would do the Dempster in the rain and in the mud all the way up to Circle and back without pause. Over 500 miles and skies that stretch forever.

Hyder, Alaska. No small feat indeed. Hyder is this little thumb of America reachable by road that juts into British Colombia off the Cassiar Highway on the way to real Alaska. It felt good to be back on American soil, if only for an hour or so, and out of stinky ol’ Canada.

Ah, the melodious mambo beats of Captain Louis Prima. Who can forget lil’ Kevin and his homestead up in Northern Maine? I can’t, what with all his pianos and what not. This guy was a real surprise. An original.

It’s hard to beat Abi’s Adirondack cabin for a first night’s lodging’s. First day out was cold and wet and awful and my rain pants ripped to shreds, a harbinger of things to come.

This weird tomato from Morelia still makes me giggle and the memory of seeing a little girl that looked like French actor Jean Reno just minutes after purchase will forever be intertwined.

Ceiling of the LA Metro. Thousands of real reels line the ceiling for as far as the eye can see. I thought this was a nice touch. Each station has something different adorning the ceilings or walls.

Canyon of the Gods. No great American road trip can ever be complete without visiting the Grand Canyon. Check it off the list dog.

Teacup terrier shots are the thing to do on one’s 29th birthday in Los Angeles.

Why, Arizona. A great campsite under a great tree. The CB looks so cleeeeeean, a handsome ride.

Where’s the beef? The food in Mexico was amazing, inspirational even, the best in Latin America and the best I’ve seen yet in the world. I haven’t seen anything like it since, not even in Ecuador where they gobble down guinea pigs for breakfast. Sure, that’s different, but I don’t really want to eat guinea pigs. I just ate one because it’s the thing to do. But I could eat head tacos everyday. American food is boring, bland even, but the things we do we do well. New York pretzels and pizzas, a cheeseburger at any diner in America, a cheap fat steak, and a good beer are the things I miss most here in Latin America. They sell pizza in Latin America, but it’s universally terrible, and usually expensive because of the price of cheese. Most of it is sort of like Elios type stuff. The pizza place I used to work at on Long Island would cut the good cheese with the cheap to save money, the good sauce with the bad. I don’t want to know what they do here. Beef is expensive here too, and the hamburgers and cheeseburgers are always thin joints, all slathered in sauces and messy, salty, and disappointingly small. They use “super” a lot to describe the ones that come with cheese but they’re never super, and I always feel just a little bit sorry for my latino brethren because their super cheeseburgers aren’t super at all, but sad. Pitiful even. Maybe  as we inch closer to the pampas the beef situation will get better. No se che, vamos a ver.

But yea, I just miss the regular stuff about being an American in America. Bacon and eggs for breakfast, taking a shit in a clean bathroom, being comfortable and warm and snug, and even the law and order of it all I miss at times. Les extrano mis amigos and amigettes.

But I wouldn’t be here in Latin America if I didn’t want to be.

I’m going to miss Latin America wherever I go next. A lot. The people here might be xenophobic dicks sometimes(who isn’t?) but they are unpretentious and you can ride a motorcycle nearly anywhere. On the sidewalk, through buildings, or down one-way streets and no one cares. Motos are looked at here kind of like the way bicycles are in the states. And go ahead and climb a live volcano if you want to because no one will turn you away.

And when all this is said and done, I don’t know where I’ll end up. Probably America. There are no jobs down here in Latin America anyway. You can teach English and make $5 an hour and scrape by, or rent out your abs to washerwomen for less, but neither is a real option; maybe for a little while.

Just remember that wherever you go, people are going to be the same, no matter the tongue.

Predictable.

There are scant originals out there, though it’s been told that but a few hooligans still roam the roads, searching for something that they will never find.

strangers in a strange land

…with thoughts of the West continuously swirling inside their heads.

That’s it yo.

No regrets…well, maybe a few, but the trip isn’t over yet and they will be made up for.

The heat is on and it’s never been hotter.

See you in Patagonia putas.

Meet me across the sky.

A Job Half-Done

The CB500T straddles the equatorial line.

 

Waiting for the Sun

Alaska was never a real destination for me. It was a trophy. The real aim of this journey was to see America, to bathe in the sun of an endless desert, and weep at the feet of the Dinosaurs from Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure. I’ve been in the North for over a month and I’m coming home to the USA. I’m cold and wet and tired of being cold and wet. Alaska is not America, it’s Alaska. The Yukon isn’t Canada either. Both exist unto themselves and each has earned its rightful place upon my imaginary mantle, bathing in the heat of the internal eternal flame of the quixotic loner. I’ve conquered the North and I feel it is a better place now.

Dawson City, Yukon. A cool place no doubt with a beautiful vibration. Deadwood should take lessons here, although the only thing that prevents Dawson from becoming more of a tourist trap than it already is, is its isolation. People still mine here and the locals still drink. A great place to drink to get drunk and then drink in the history of the gold rush. There’s a hostel here, but be forewarned that it has no electricity or running water. There is a sauna however that is somewhat proper, in that it gets hot enough for my tastes, and a “prospectors bath” in which one heats up water to a boil in a wood furnace, then creates a lukewarm mixture with cool stream water, and finally douses himself to a sudsy cleanliness in a wet-room. Methinks Dieter, the German owner, is just a cheap fuck. A man of my own ilk really. I tip my hat to you sir.

From Dawson, the Top of the World Highway garners one entry into mainland Alaska. Here it is folks, the culmination of a long midsummer’s dream. Pick up that trophy polish in Boundary, population 4, and don’t forget to stop in Chicken, the next town over, and grab your visa to Alaska, the Land of Misfit Toys.

Alaskan Travel Tip: Remember, you can’t run away from yourself.

From Chicken to Tok and from Tok to Fairbanks and into the arms of kindhearted Ukrainian host-dolls Igor and Sveta. These real-life living dolls are an attraction unto themselves and they let me set up shop in their wall-tent for a few days, killing time and seeing the sights. It was here that I dined on boiled moose, feasted on Muktuk (whale’s blubber), supped on fried Chum Salmon, sampled Cloudberries from heaven, and munched on mushrooms. Delectable! An early morning hike even saw your author down on all fours culling wild blueberries like a real spirit bear.

Chena Hot Springs: 55 miles or so one way from the fair shores of Fairbanks. A nice diversion but I wouldn’t do it again and wouldn’t recommend it as a destination. Hot Springs should be held sacred and be as minimally developed as possible, if they are to be developed at all, which they shouldn’t. See: Liard Hotsprings. If moose is your thing, there’s a lot of them to see on the way.

 As noted previously, Alaska is the truly the Land of Misfit Toys, a giant lost and found bin of souls. Most people come up here to escape something, to run away, but remember people, you can’t run away from yourselves. About a third of the people who live up here really love it. Another third openly hate it. The last third hate it but delude themselves into believing they like it. It’s called cognitive dissonance. There’s a lot of insanity up here, a lot of drug use. The winters here are long, cold, brutal, and dark. Auroras flash the sky like psychedelic nighttime wallpaper. A perfect recipe for mental illness.

I expected grizzled bearded men, lumberjacks, and bawdy dames to make up the majority of Alaska’s population. Of course, I knew that wouldn’t be the case, or would it, but I was real curious to meet real Alaskans and check them out. To me that is the real wildlife. Like I said previously, there’s a lot of craziness in Alaska, but I expected that. I mean, just to make it up here and live takes some character and that sort of ambitious insanity will always be married to that. But I didn’t expect to find such a glorious, tremendous amount of white trash.

Fairbanks is a complete dump. It’s a city but it’s all spread out and there’s nothing there anyway. A ghost town. Another pseudo-city of the North. The most happening place is Wal-Mart and it’s rife with Melungeons. Same as anywhere else really. There’s a free museum in the old city hall and a decent coffee shop next door to that, that’s it really. I discovered pulltabs in Fairbanks. Pulltabs are advertised everywhere, in every store window and on every corner. There are even whole stores devoted to them entirely. Well, what are they? They’re like scratch off lottery tickets, but instead of scratching them you pull back a little cardboard tab to reveal whether you won or not. They are ubiquitous and everywhere. Alaskans are gaga over them.

 

Ah, Denali National Park. What can I say? Fuck you, I guess. Another clusterfuck of fools. Chock FULL of motorhomes and old codgers! DNP is the home of Mt. McKinley, the tallest mountain on the North American continent. If you want to see the mountain you don’t have to actually go to the park. You can see it from the road, if you’re lucky and it’s not ensconced in mist, for miles. It’s the biggest thing out there. It’s white and looks like a big ol’ scoop o’ ice cream plopped out on the horizon. You’re not allowed to drive within the park and if you want to go anywhere you need to take a bus. A bus trip to the base of Denali costs about $100.

Holed up on the side of the parks highway under picnic area enduring 16 hours of rain.

My quest to find the real Alaska led me to the Talkeetna Blues Festival. For the last 30 years, armies of Alaskan white trash have descended upon a gravel pit off the side of the Parks Highway each summer to listen to Bluegrass for 3 days. That is the theory of it really. It was a weird scene man and a sloppy, muddy rain soaked mess. No one was listening to the music. Tarps a plenty. Rap music blasted from shitty car stereos  in the muddy parking lot. People getting completely fucked up. The tar stink from the gravel pit mingling with people burning anything they could was pervasive. Fires constantly hissing out from the rain. A weird apocalyptic scene. I drank gallons of coffee and finished a bottle of cheap whiskey, picking up on the vibes and going crazy in my tent from the rain and the cold. Hating Alaska.

Anchorage: Most liberal Alaskan city and completely overrun with homosexuals. The San Francisco of the North and America’s new Gay Mecca. Stay away, or not, if that’s your thing.

 

Gakona, Alaska and HAARP: This is your future. High Altitude Auroral Research Program. Let me in!

 

I holed up in Tok for a couple days before striking for Haines and the ferry, my ticket out of this wasteland. Listen, next time your in Tok, Alaska don’t pass up a chance to visit Mukluk Land, home of earth planet’s biggest Mukluk, and say hello to George and Betty. A true slice of Americana in the separate nation of Alaska. Don’t forget to play skee-ball while you’re soaking wet.

Destruction Bay: Caviar wishes and Yukonian dreams. For the most part, the weather in the Yukon was always cooperative. It is like an imaginary wall is erected between Alaska and British Colombia and the sun always shines there, in the Yukon. When I got to Destruction Bay, it was the first time that I had seen the sun, and taken off my rain pants, in two weeks. Note that Yukon government campsites are pretty nice, and well stocked with free firewood, water, and covered shelters with wood stoves in them. No one, it seems, ever comes to check that you paid. So don’t. But also note that it is unnecessary to utilize the one on Destruction Bay, for ample bush camping opportunities abound. The setting was entirely picturesque, almost comically so, and the Beardar remained silent. I threw up the tarp in a mad dash, such is paranoia of the rain and the wet.  

Haines: Wildlife abounds in Haines, Alaska, a land of super natural beauty. Grizzlies munch on salmon and bald eagles swoop about. There are too many bears here. On my way into town I stopped at a river overlook to snack on some delicious nutritious sardines. I was watching a black bear cavort on the other side of the river when he looked up and spotted me. Our eyes met and he bore the expression of a curious dog! He jumped into the river and started swimming, coming to say hello! I jumped on the bike, furiously kicking it over until it finally started, the bear having scrambled up the bank.

I was able to snag a couchsurfing gig here, so grateful for an actual insulated walled structure with roof and to be out of the rain. Gina took me to see the bears, fed me delicious nutritious halibut and sourdough hotcakes, and clued me in to her soap making operation. One of the few fond memories of Alaska. Seriously, it rained everyday I was in Alaska and I didn’t see the sun for two weeks. Is it gay to want to fellate the sun when it comes out? The ancients, man they were on to something with that sun worshipping business. I’m tired. I’m going to Mexico.

 I’m on the ferry now, headed for America.

A pod of killer whales streaked past me this morning and dolphins playfully jump and twist in the air.

Fuck you Alaska.

The Great Alaskan Soap Company: Run by Gina St. Claire: Haines resident, Alaskan, and a St. Chrisopherette who protects solo adventurers from the storm and cleanses them with handmade soaps. Fisherman’s Friend, made with anise and smelling for all the world like fresh licorice is a personal favorite. Listen, by all means buy all you soap here! Made in Alaska by a real Alaskan.

 

Thompson’s Eagle Claw Motorcycle Park: Located in Tok, Alaska, Thompson’s Eagle Claw provides tent sites and various forms of enclosed shelters for bottom dollar. I spent the night in a kitted out ambulance to escape the rain. They also have a wall tent, cabin, and bunkhouse. Ah, and don’t forget the motorcycle workshop, free for all to use, and steamroom, which doesn’t quite get hot enough for this steamqueen, but is a welcome respite from the punishing Alaskan cold. Thoughtful host Vanessa provides all that one might ask for and more, except running water and electricity, which is fine because there is water in jugs that one can drink. Touch lights abound!

Cain’s Cause: Father son duo travelling around on bikes to raise money for some cause. MS I think. Yes, it is MS. A worthy cause. But listen, I forgot to put on my Dad-repellant and met Steve, the Dad, on the Cassiar Highway in the “town” of Bell II, really more of just a super expensive soapstone fireplace equipped $200 per night lodge.  But, they have terrible, buggy campsites for $22 per night. Steve was all despondent because he’d been riding for four days in the rain and his son’s bike broke down in Portland, meaning that they would never be able to complete their dream goal of riding to the Arctic Circle and back. Happy endings would ensue when I ran into Steve weeks later in Fairbanks, reunited with adoring son and covered in mud, having just completed that fabled run to the Circle. Congratulations sir!

Kev and Lorraine Hatchet: BMW riding power couple form England met at Thompson’s Eagle Claw Motorcycle Park in Tok. They smoke, drink coffee, and drink beers. Lots of each. And they’ve been around the world, taking their time and seeing the sights at a snail’s pace, but in a good way man. They made me coffee.

Present State

The CB500T presently sits, in all its glory , right outside my apartment window. I can just see the brown of its tank from where I sit typing this blog. Look, it just plain looks great sitting there reflecting the light from inside and I’m falling in love with this little beast all over again. I’ve been breaking her in again gently and my confidence in the vibrous monster grows with each passing day. She’s smoothing out and we’re gonna treat her to some more new parts. But first, lets do a bit of a rundown of what’s been done thus far:

  • new fuel filter
  • fork gaitors
  • starter clutch relegated to the dustbin of history
  • new sparky plugs
  • front break system flushed and gone through
  • wheels trued
  • new fork seals (well, 2009 new enough)
  • new (to me), more functional rear rack
  • LED voltmeter installed
  • new sprockets all around and chain
  • complete tune-up: valves, timing, points
  • carbs taken apart, cleaned, and gone through
  • new gel battery/bettery
  • all electric connections gone through and greased
  • modern rectifier
  • headlight kill switch
Yea, I think thats it. God will forgive me if I forgot anything. Moving on, we’ll need a few more things to shore the bitch up and take care of everything that needs to be taken care of before our rideabout. 
First and foremost, we’ll need to take care of that little muffler crack and get it all welded up. We don’t want that falling off between Yellowknife and Fort Simpson or wherever the hell I’m going. Ditch that crossover box, toss on a pair of CB450 headers and you’re golden.
Figure out that luggage boyo and figure it out soon. Keep that dorky rubbermaid plastic box that saw James Bay, or ditch it for something else? Stay with the army surplus green softbags, or figure something else out? And where to store the soccer ball and surplus gas tank? Decisions decisions.
Will time allow for the drilling of the front rotor? Only time will tell, and the clock ticks on. It waits for no man, nor manboy. There is only so much time left.
Regardless, time must allow for the ordering of some new parts, if only to please the machine Gods and give the CB its due diligence and every chance to make it to ends of the earth. We’ll need to secure:
  • carb rebuild kit(s)
  • new wheel bearings 
  • new tires and HD tubes
  • front break pads
Eh, I think that’s it really. I can figure the rest out on the road right?
I’ll do a little camping/personal gear rundown in due time, but as for tools/spares my basic kit will look a little something like this:
  • vice grips
  • tire irons, tube patches, etc.
  •  needle nose pliers
  • stock tool kit (will handle 99% of fix-its)
  • chain breaker/press
  • volt/ammeter 
  • extra bulbs
  • extra clutch ball bearings (real easy to lose)
  • assorted screws/nuts
  • fuses
  • spare cables
  • extra points/condenser
  • wire
  • duct/electrical tape
  • JB Weld/Epoxy
That’s pretty much it, I’m sure I’m forgetting something. But we will check and double check and rack our brains for anything that might be forgotten so that it will not be forgot before departure, such as extra valve caps.

Kachunk…Kachunk…Kachunk

Ah, I knew it would not be long friends before the CB took its first illegal cruise around Levittown under the guise of night.

Audio in the clip is shitty but our little friend is fucking loud and sounding good! It will need new plugs of course, and the forks will need to be aligned. Chain and sprockets are on after some slight consternation, but the immutable roar of a once dormant engine trumps all!

CB500T Update

The CB500T still languishes in my parent’s garage. Know that it has been difficult getting over there to fix it and therefore, it remains in it’s garage cocoon.

However, know that some work HAS been done and it should not take much more than one extended session of blood, sweat and muscle to winch the beastlet from its state of dormancy. This is such a little whore of a machine and has required more attention that we once figured necessary. Just a little more though, not too much. I’ll give it in spades if the bitch can get me to Alaska.

Recent work has seen its engine tuned up to obsessive perfection. Points, valves, and timing are absolutely perfect. Front brakes have been completely gone through, flushed, and cleaned. Fork gaitors have been installed and look so adorable I want to scream. The electrical system has been gone through and all important connections have been greased with dielectric grease. A tuning session at Machina Cycles taught this guy right here how to true a wheel and my wheels will never lie again (Special thanks to Allan Albert, professional wheel truer and proprietor of Westwood Cycles. Giotta di Bondone could not true a more perfect wheel). A new gel battery has been sourced and had, and placed gingerly within the frame. A new fuel filter has been installed to replace the useless original. A new front sprocket has been installed. Know that a new rear sprocket and chain are patiently waiting their turn. Seems like a certain rear sprocket decided to arrive with it’s bolt holes a tad too small. It’s as if I tried to drill them out to their correct size but the drill was only sharp enough to do one hole and the hardware store was closed. So thats where the CB sits, wheel off and chain dangling, the tramp. We are on our way, eh?

There is, of course, more work still to be done, say replace the wheel bearings, toss on some new brake pads, etc. etc.

But first things first. Lets get this trashy little slut on the road and shaker’ down some, shall we?

CB500T Resurrection update

Know that nothing is more satisfying than hearing a dormant engine come to life, no matter how many kicks.

A recent trip to the parental compound yielded some garage time with the venerable CB500T. A fierce winter has prohibited much face time with the CB, but thankfully we are dealing with a 70’s Honda here, albeit the most cantankerous of the lot, and there is not much fuss to be had. Many kicks and many moons witnessed the CB sputter and start. A tune-up and down will need to be had: the carbs cleaned, points set, and valves checked before she is to roar once again.

She was not properly put to sleep lo so many moons ago and the discovery was made of float bowls full of gasoline, although there did not appear to be any gelatinous deposits; for which the motorcycle Gods can be thanked.

NMBP

She would not hold a throttle, and as such will require some tenderness.

The following work will need to be completed in order to right this ship:

  • Clean Carbs
  • Tune up: set valves, set points, set timing
  • True Wheels
  • Fix Headlight/Shore up electrical system
  • Install New Chain
  • Tune Down
  • Square Away Brakes
  • Fix/Weld exhaust flange

Non-essential but important nonetheless:

  • Change fork-oil and toss-on fork gaitors
  • Drill front rotor
  • Remove starter, garner and install block-off plate
  • Source CB450 headers and toss crossover box
  • Tires and tubes

Important spares to garner and carry:

  • throttle cable
  • clutch cable (have already)
  • rectifier/regulator (running one from OMP but best to be prepared)
  • points (have (gl1000 points are the same))