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Deals Gap 2006

If anything from previous weeks is to go by then I suspect the next few weeks are going to be a little strange, no real reason to suspect that, other than I am flying out to the U.S. with my pal Sir William Baxter. Bill has been over here to see the lads in the U.K. attempt to do some drag racing, I have a feeling that although he enjoyed himself the racing here is not quite as intensive as it is in the U.S.!

So, the purpose of my trip is to my now annual pilgrameage to the The Deals Gap Campground, situated at the top of a road that is called the “Tail of the Dragon” and to meet up with all my pals in the U.S.  . . . the ulterior motive of the trip is to wander to a dealership in Tennessee that is supposed to have a “new” 1972 H2 in a case ; ; ; the search for the holy grail continues!


Nothing too dramatic with my departure from the U.K. other than I have a tooth infection and am on strong antibiotics that mean absolutely NO alcohol for the next 6 days – Being a confirmed “drinker” this could be a problem but we set off on the trip and I am drinking lemonade on the plane – it’s all alien to me but I have no hair left to rip out so all is fine.


Once at New York, Bill and myself take separate flights, Bill goes back to Texas and I jump aboard a flight to collect my H2c and KZ1000 these I will take up to the Gap to ride -  the KZ1000 is very legal, the H2c is insured but not registered to me so I have no number plates for it, so I have a dilemma that with the reported large police presence I  may get pulled on the H2c and end up in small town Hicksville Tennesseee sharing a cell with Bubba  . . . . and squealing like that proverbial pig! 


The bikes are loaded up and after a 7 hour drive I am at Crossville in Tennessee to check out this new H2, there is a sign on it displaying the fact that there only 5 known NEW H2’s in the World . . . . Hmnnn  I’ve got 3, I have sold 2 more . . . . Anyway, a closer inspection reveals the bike is not quite new . . .  nor is it used . . . but neither is it anything like 100% correct, the rear passenger footrests are Honda, the bungs are missing from the rear grabrail, the clutch cover is off a H2c, and several more niggling faults  . . .  it then became apparent that the entire engine was a N.O.S. H2c item L  2cH2cHhhhhisdfvoi

 I am checking the bike over when “Scott” the shop owner appears and realises that I am looking VERY intently at his bike – I explained who I was and asked what the story was with the bike, Scott explained that he had bought it a few years back and that it was bought new in ’72 and the motor taken out for a ”project”,  over the years a few more bits and pieces were robbed and Scott bought the bike with the intention of  displaying it in his Kawasaki Dealership, he fitted the engine and replaced what items he had available. Scott asked me to point out what was wrong with the bike and I hesitantly did so, I was somewhat surprised that he actually listened to me and didn’t rant on about being a Kawasaki dealer for 20 years and “what the hell do you know anyway”, We checked over some other bikes that he had collected over the years and I have to say that not only was Scott a nice guy but he has a genuine passion for the Old Kawasaki’s . . . . oh, and fast cars . . .   and fast bikes, powerful trucks . . . .Scott likes his toys!


So, it’s late Friday afternoon and I reckon the gap is only 2 hours away, the weather is great (Mid 70’s) and I am really looking forward to seeing all the guys again . . . and this time a “Gal” – “Tripleschick” has made the long drive down from the North Michigan/Canada border to hang out with the guys for the weekend.  As I make my way to the foot of the Gap I am pleased to see various triples riding by, there were also a few cops that all seemed to be heading away from the gap, in fact FAR more cops than I had seen in previous years so I was thinking that the rumours were correct and THIS weekend was a cop clampdown on bikers at the gap – Just my luck . . . . I travel 4,000 mile to get away from speed cameras only to be faced with a worse clampdown on some of my favourite roads in the World! The slog up the mountain to the gap is a long one (with a truck and trailer)  if you havn’t  read about the Deals Gap before it is a 13 mile drive up the mountain with some 113 bends in it – hard work on a bike but very hard work on the engine, steering, brakes and transmission of a truck. I am forever slowing down as yet another bike comes up behind me and I want to let him get by – a couple of guys on triples blow their horns as they go by and I am eager to get there and meet up with my pals. I arrive at a reasonable 7.30 and am a VERY happy camper to see all my buddies, Cody, Russ, Gordon, Jeff, Lane, Alan, Steve, . . . . . . . . . Wink, to name but a few – I also finally got to meet Milton Soto, who without even asking had helped me out with an Ebay purchase that went sour – the somewhat “tenatious” Milton had liased with the seller on my behalf and finally I got the parts – in this particular  Ebay  case it wasn’t the value of the parts it was the principle of being taken for a pratt as I wasn’t in the same country – THANKS yet again Milton!  


The afternoon was spent catching up with folks and a wondering how the weekend will go after Russ tells me he was caught speeding at a paltry speed TWICE within 20 minutes – If he had been caught One more time he would have gone straight to jail! The problem with speeding fines (even minor ones) is that they have a severe impact on the cost of your insurance in that they can easily add over a hundred quid to your premium, Russ was not a happy camper to say the least


Especially as he was less than 10mph over the limit!


I jumped aboard the Z1000 and took a leisurely ride down to the overlook, a wonderful sight and very photogenic!



After not seeing a single cop on the ride to the overlook I decided that they must have all gone to bed early and I took a FAR more spirited ride back up to the campground J  I have to say though that it was VERY hard work riding at speed with all those bends and braking etc. Once back at the campground it was barbeque time and an almighty effort to convince Wink that I really was going to stay sober! After a late (ish) night – it’s a mere 1.30am and I am pouring my SOBER self into bed – Yep, scary but true – I have not had so much of a sip of alcohol – and yet I REALLY enjoyed myself without it . . . If only I could give up smoking as easily!!


At a very respectable 8am I was unloading the H2c, as I approached the truck I could smell petrol and sure enough the carbs had been dripping all night, not only that but there was a pool of oil under the left fork leg, I assumed that the strapping down had forks the fork seals to leak. Anyway, I throw caution to the wind and swap the plate off the Z1000 and onto the H2 – The bike was insured but I would have to risk a fine for no title in my name, as I roll the bike off the truck it almost goes pear shaped when I grab the front brake and realise there wasn’t one! It then dawned on me that it was not fork oil on the bed of the truck but brake fluid! I top up the brake res’ and after a few pumps the brake is back to normal – not very reassuring though, ESPECIALLY considering the amount of braking required to go at any rate down the “tail of the dragon. The bike fires up like a champ and I soon head off to the overlook accompanied by Jay Davidson, Jay comes to the gap each year and was soon pushing me to ride harder, a few bends in and I accelerate out of a bend only to have the back end step out quite drastically, I think I need to let these old tyres warm up a little before pushing it again! A few more miles in and the rear brake is getting very poor, in fact it soon became non existent and I was convinced that the linings had separated! So, I am hammering down a mountain with no rear brake and a front brake that could spew it’s fluid out at any time . . . . Sounds like a challenge to me J


Once at the overlook it’s time for another photo session and a check of the tyres, the rear brake is just overheated and needed backing off a little, the front brake is contaminated with fluid and the tyres are VERY badly perished – I make a mental note not to push this bike too far on this occasion.


On the way back up the hill Jay runs away from me and I bite my lip as I have to let him, what is worse is that “Killboy” the Dragons photographer captures several frames on camera as Jay pulls past me . . . . Next year I will be back with vengeance!










Once back at the campground we all embark on a ride over the skyway and the chereehola, from memory I thought this ride was around 40 miles, I didn’t need to fill up as I had over Two gallons in the tank . . . this was later to be my downfall. We set off with around 25 riders and to be honest after a few miles it became somewhat tedious, everyone was terrified that a cop would be round the next corner so there was very little “spirited” riding, eventually a few guys broke away and the ride livened up a little,  we started climbing up the cherehola parkway and the roads were very sparsely populated, Milton started to have mechanical problems and was soon out of the ride, someone stayed with him to get him back to the camp, the ride went along  and the scenery was fantastic -it was a joy to be out riding!



Many of the group set off whilst I took a quick pic of Jay on his H2, the pace hotted up a little and as I rounded a bend I saw debris in the road, as I braked it became apparent that Roger Swartout had stuffed his KH500 into the Armco, Roger appeared to be O.K. and was walking back to his bike when all of a sudden Two more triples came round the bend and ploughed into Roger and his fallen bike, a KH400 hit the fallen bike and then hit Roger!

A H2 just about managed to stop in time and toppled into the mess, Roger received a nasty gash to his knee but with help from tripleschick he was soon limping back to his bent bike to try and get it back to the campground. We all set off again to catch up with the guys that had gone on ahead, by this time I had been on reserve for 10 miles or so. We caught the rest of the pack up and when I asked how far it was to the next gas station I was somewhat perplexed to hear that it was 45 miles!  I found a plastic pint bottle and set off ahead of the gang ”feathering” the throttle and not daring to go over 50mph as I knew there was no chance of me making the distance to the gas station, I soon caught a guy on a Harley and just stuck behind him for many miles – eventually the H2 died and I was somewhat pleased to see that I had covered nearly 40 miles on reserve! Some more of the guys caught me up and we filled the pint bottle with petrol and again I set off, this time I wasn’t going to go over 50 mph and was lying down flush with the tank, some 12 miles later we came across the gas station, I still hadn’t run out of fuel so that means I was achieving at LEAST 80miles to the gallon!!!!!!!!!!



Once back at the site I was pleased to see that Milton had made it back O.K. – but in a slightly novel way, he ended getting towed back home with a length of hosepipe that he find in the graveyard across the street!



It was mid afternoon and I managed to scrounge a ride on Gordons new ride, a VERY smart looking bike with a well ported motor and one that should have run like a scalded cat, I was disappointed but can only put it down to something being mismatched or poor carburetion – Gordon doesn’t cane his bikes and as it was freshly built there had been no time for setting up. As I came back up the hill the police were stopping at a scene where a bike had gone over the edge and into the trees (this was 4.30pm) a while later there was a report of another bike down two miles away, a woman riding a Harley had binned it on a bend and broke her leg, Deals gap isn’t really the place to have an accident, it is at least 30minutes away from a hospital and as there is no mobile phone signal in the mountains you can figure on at least a 30minute wait before ANY official help arrives! After a barbeque I decided to take a leisurely drive down the mountain, it’s 8.30pm and the police and rescue squad are still trying to get the biker up and out of the woods some 4 hours after the accident!

At least my waiting time is up and I can have a drink, surprisingly I didn’t go over the top and had a pleasant evening with the guys, unlike the boys in the U.K. the Americans do tend to call it a night a little early and by midnight most have called it a night.



The campsite was then lit up with amber beacons flashing, a wrecker pulled in with the Suzuki that had gone over the edge! This was SEVEN and a half hours after the accident, the wrecker was followed by the owner of the bike who had apparently escaped with just a broken shoulder and rather than face huge medical bills he had been assessed at the scene and would make his own way to hospital.


So, Sunday morning and I am heading out to head South to meet up with some friends and call in on Tony Nicosia. I arrive to find it is a wonderful 90 degrees and great for riding a bike, I leap on the Z1000 and head off to a local river that is supplied by an underground spring that is a year round constant 73 degrees! Once in the roped off swimming area I do a few lengths and climb out to sit on the deck, there are just two Mexican guys swimming and another fella climbing out, as he passes by me the older guy says “watch out for that alligator over there in the bushes!”  I smile at him and he realises that my smile means I am not taking him seriously, he points at some bushes 50 feet away, I am not convinced but after hearing on the morning TV that a girl was killed by an alligator on this same river 12 miles downstream just 24 ours ago I get back in for another swim with a little trepidation, no sooner had I left the deck when all hell broke loose and I had two Mexican guys swimming towards me like there arses were on fire shouting ALLIGATOR! A quick U turn and I am safely back on the deck as this 10 foot alligator comes swimming thru the roped off area just feet from where we had just been swimming – I was so mesmerised that I forgot to get the camera out and take a pic!


After the brief encounter I sort of lost the enthusiasm for swimming and decided to take a ride back to town, 3 miles in and I have a horrific pain in between my big toe and the next one – after wobbling to a very quick stop I extracted a Hornet that was firmly wedged in between my toes! – That’ll teach me to ride in sandals!  The pain was soon relieved by my newest pocket held item – an “Anti-Bite” stick.


I am due to fly out of Tampa in the morning and decide to spend my last night some 50 miles south at the small town of Englewood, what a great choice, wonderful sandy beaches, superb clean, VERY warm water and a great sunset over the gulf of Mexico.


Yet another trip is over all too soon . .



Rick Brett

 The H2c was later shipped back to the U.K. I stripped the rear brake, only to find that the rear linings really HAD come off and I was riding a round the mountains with a rear brake that could lock up or disintegrate at any moment!