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Trip 3 May – Deals Gap 2005


This trip has started out badly, in fact the trip has only just managed to get under way at all! I arrived at Birmingham airport (along with local pals Steve and Darrell who were also going to Deals Gap). My initial flight to the U.S. was actually the return leg of my previous trip, the immigration guys wanted to see my schedule for the return leg back out of the U.S. They then said that the schedule was not enough proof that I was intending to return to the U.K.  According to their records an actual paper ticket had been issued and they needed to see it before they would let me fly! I naturally assumed that they could just bring my schedule up on the screen and maybe issue an E ticket – this wasn’t the case, so with 85 minutes to go I called Dean back at the office and had him search for the ticket, when he drew a blank I realised that the ticket must be 4 miles away at my mums house! Dean jumped in the truck and headed over there, Dean got hold of the tickets and with an hour to go before take off he headed on the 1 hour drive down to Birmingham airport, meanwhile I am heading for the departure gate and keeping my fingers crossed that there are no hold-ups on the M42. Dean made the trip in 45 minutes .. . no doubt there will be a speeding fine waiting for me on my return!


So, I arrive in the U.S. and just a few hours later I am loading my very nice standard H2c bought a couple of Months previously from New Orleans onto the back of the truck to take it to the driving test centre where if I pas my test I can then get my own bike insurance rather than having pals in the U.S. insure my bikes for me, I arrive at the test centre at 9am only to be told that the last test was 8.30am! Apparently there is a glitch with the “online” booking, but the lady lets me carry on . .  until she sees that the bike I am using for my “ride around cones in the car park” is not registered in my name – the test is cancelled. I look into an afternoon test 30 miles away and head for the local courthouse to get the bike registered. Each state in the U.S. has a different titling (registration / log book) system and the lady at the courthouse hauls out a huge book of rules. My bike is from New Orleans and although the title has been “signed off” by the previous owner his signature had not been witnessed and signed by a public notary so the only way to get that bike registered in my name would be to send the title back to the owner in New Orleans to get his signature verified, looks like my luck had run out. My riding at Deals Gap depended on this bike and I figure that as long as I am insured I could bluff my way out of any other problems, I get insurance (6 Months $160) on my “provisional” licence and have 30 days to pass my test.


I load up my bags and head off with my H2c for the 650 mile trip up to the Smoky Mountains on the Kentucky / Tennessee border. The location of Deals Gap motorcycle campground is a couple of thousand feet up a mountain that is reached by a 12 mile road that has 112 bends of varying difficulty. Half way into my journey and I get a call to tell me that “Shifty” (Eric Shepard, a fellow triple enthusiast from New Zealand) ended up in the hospital the previous evening after hitting another bike head on when he failed to make a bend. I make a few calls to guys that have Internet access to see if there is any news, the major problem with Deals is that it is so remote that no mobile phones work up there!


I make good progress but within 60 miles of Deals my power inverter overheats in the engine bay and my Sat Nav and computer die. With no clue where I am going I pull off the freeway to search for a gas station to buy a map, less than a minute later I have blue lights in my mirror and a cop is pulling me over, he informs me that I was doing 59 miles an hour in a 45 mile an hour limit, sure enough just up ahead there is a speed limit sign – the FIRST after exiting the freeway, most roads are 55 but this cop knew just where to hide to catch the unsuspecting motorist. It’s the first day of using my U.S. drivers licence and rather than risk getting an endorsement on it I hand him my U.K. licence and hope that I can bluff my way out of it – not a cat in hells chance as I see him walking back to the truck with the ticket already written out, this cop was obviously after funds for the policemans ball and he gave me the ticket for eighty eight dollars and thirty seven cents.

An hour later and I am pulling into the Gap and am quite relieved to see that Shifty is “walking wounded”, he’s bruised and battered with a heavily bloodshot eye but he still takes the constant ribbing about his tumble in good heart. It turns out that shifty trashed not One but TWO bikes the previous evening, by all accounts he just couldn’t get used to riding on the wrong side of the road and came off THREE times in a couple of hours! The evenings weather is lousy so we all settle in for some talking and food and beer, great company made for an enjoyable evening. It turns out that Shifty was not alone in his misshaps, there was also a S2a from New York that took a tumble and Gary from Canada was hit on the rear of his trailer on a freeway with such force that it bent the tow hitch double causing the trailer to come away from the Bronco towing it an poor Gary was forced to try to slow the huge trailer down from 60mph whilst just being connected by a safety chain!


The next morning sees intermittent showers and the opportunity for me to try to get my H2c running properly, I had already checked the timing, changed the plugs and cleaned the jets. The baffles were taken out and checked and I knew that someone had fitted #95 main jets to get it to run cleanly, It appeared that there was also a nice new grey airfilter fitted. With an abundance of willing labour we stripped the carbs again and checked float heights and changed the mains for the correct ~102.5’s All the time my pal John Aylor was moaning about the darn oil pipes to the float bowls being a lousy Idea. We started the bike and I took it up the road – it was worse than ever, a good 125cc bike would have seen it off! I returned to the campground and quite literally held it wide open at a standstill and it wouldn’t even redline. I removed the bottom air inlet rubber and instant performance! I ripped off the new airfilter and was stunned to find that the problem was solved – Once out it was apparent that the airfilter was far too fine a grade and wouldn’t allow any airflow!

Later that day the weather picked up and finally a small group of us set off for a ride around the mountains, 4 miles into the ride and I decided to step up the pace and overtook Bobby S at around 65mph, all of a sudden the back end went out and I could have sworn that Bobby had rear ended me! I slowed and he passed me, I accelerated to catch him and as I caught him there was a squeal as the back wheel locked solid. I pulled over and dropped the clutch, the engine sprang back into life. . . . . but not for long, again the back wheel locked and I pulled over, as I looked down I saw my left boot covered in oil, a closer inspection revealed that the oil pipe to the left carb was hanging on by just a thread.



So, by a simple process of elimination of the people working on the bike earlier young Mr Aylor was heading for an earbashing on my return L

But, if you are going to break down it’s nice to break down with wonderful scenery!



Cody came back to see what had happened to me, The engine had cooled and freed off, we could have just tightened the bolt and I could have ridden back but better safe than sorry Cody was soon heading back to the campground to fetch his recovery van, with help from the injured “Shifty” we soon loaded the bike and headed back



Once back at the site the bike was descended on and everyone waited for John to return to face trial, my own plan was to tell him that the bike had a problem and see if he could me find the cause – that plan was quashed as a huge notice was fixed to the bike accusing John of negligence! I was pretty peeved at the situation after putting in so much work to get the bike legal and up to the Gap, however, In hindsight I have to say that I will stick to my philosophy on life and say that everything happens for a reason, John in no way left the bolt loose deliberately and I can only thank him for what I assume was saving my life! You see, last years ride at the gap was the best ride of my life, but looking back I got totally carried away with the adrenalin and rode faster and harder for the 15 mile downhill ride than I had ever ridden in my life, I suspect that this year I would have tried to top it – the simple mistake that John made stopped me riding the bike and possibly saved me from a serious crash.  What did however make me wince was the eventual removal of the seized cylinder to find that the pistons and bore were NEW which made a little more sense of why it siezed so easily,  It seems that the previous owner had tried everything to get the power back to the H2 and failed – all due to a $10 airfilter being too restrictive.

So, the afternoon was spent trying to ride a H2 hill climber, what a tall, long, uncomfortable bike it is! The motor was “Paul Gast” tuned and with minimal gear lever I can hardly comprehend how anyone can go up a vertical hill AND change gear – it went like hot snot though!


The afternoon turned to evening, the rain fell and barbeques and drink were the order of the day, a VERY enjoyable time only dampened by the weather.

Next morning a guy turned up from Knoxville (25 miles away) and asked if anyone was interested in a couple of H2’s that he had for sale, I headed back up North and stopped off to see him, it turns out it wasn’t just Two H2’s but Two almost assembled, a H2c parts bike and Two more H2’s in bits! I rushed to the local U Haul and rented a trailer – My poor little Sonoma now had a 900 mile journey ahead dragging a load of 7 H2’s!

Sunday evening was spent on the North Carolina and Virginia border, an early start on Monday had me checking out all the local Kawasaki dealerships before heading back North through beautiful West Virginia, Ohio and finally back into my 2nd home of Michigan.

Once back in Michigan and my pal Gary K had found me a Suzi GT750 to buy, next day it was up to see Bill in Cheboygan who had found me a very early rough H2 to buy. The plan was to spend some time at Garys fixing up the bikes I had purchased, the relentless rain soon ended the plans of working on the bikes.

Next day it was a few connecting flights to Florida, great weather as is often the case but more important a drive down to Sarasota to borrow a bike off Ed “Z” (aka Triple Ed) and finally take my bike test to hold a full U.S. bike licence, the 160 mile drive down to Ed’s was hum drum, but Once at Ed’s the joy of getting on a bike in warm weather was exhilarating  - Ed lent me his VERY nice low mileage S3 400, the same bike I rode last year just a great original bike, and as I have always said – the BEST all round triple. I have master plan that I will wear a helmet (not compulsory -  and also WAY too small so I look like the local looney) and also gloves for the test – all over the top stuff but it may impress the examiner?

So, a short ride to the test center (or centre) and I am faced with a middle aged lady (the wrong side of 50) to test me. As she looks at the bike she tells me that she use to have a very similar “450” version of the bike I am on, I suggest it was a 440LTD and she says no! She goes on to tell me that it was a 450 three cylinder two stroke – I am puzzled . . . I suggest a Suzuki GT380, she says no,   I ask “was it Red?” she confirms it was, “was it back in 1972?”  she confirms it was, in that case I tell her it was a 350 S2 – she agrees with me that it was indeed a 1972, 350 Kawasaki in red!  - The test is in the bag! From here on it was plain sailing – although I am glad I had a nimble 400 to do the test on, I didn’t envy those Harley boys that have to do the same manoeuvring and braking test riding an overweight slug!


I am pleased to say that she passed me and that I now hold a full U.S. car and bike licence (for as long as I have a current VISA)  A quick meal with Ed’ and it is back in the car for the 100 mile drive back North to make my flight out of Tampa the next day.

Once at the airport I find that my flight has been cancelled due to bad weather in New York and rather than spend 18 hours waiting for the next One I head up to Jacksonville (Fl) for a flight back the next day – yet another trip comes to a close but, hopefully, I will be back in six weeks

Rick Brett