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H2 for sale  H1 for sale S3 For Sale S2 for sale S1 for sale 1969 H1 for sale KH250 For Sale KH400 For Sale  H2 for sale  H1 for sale S3 For Sale S2 for sale S1 for sale 1969 H1 for sale KH250 For Sale KH400 For Sale 

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The wanderer returns . . Mid Ohio -  July 2002

I seem to remember looking at my calendar in early June and thinking that if I was going to try and get back to Michigan to try and secure that large stockpile of parts and bikes then it had to be just after the Rally as there were other pressing events for the remainder of the summer. A search on the Internet revealed that the airline business was not quite in such dire straits as it was 6 Months ago, flights were around the £500 mark and without some sort of funding I was reluctant to part with that amount. So, I sit down and ponder about the logistics of it all.

I STILL have a 1964 B8 125cc Kawasaki “omega” stuck in Boston Massachusetts, with the events of Sept 11th no carrier would fly it out. There is also a Meguro Kawasaki up in Iron Mountain in North Michigan that I would love for my collection, Plus, there is also the “Vintage Days” at the Ohio Speed circuit and I am led to believe that this is THE U.S. swap meet to visit! So, I hatch a plan, The guy with the Meguro also has a 1922 Henderson Excelsior that is a total pile of rusting and rotted junk that is worth nothing . . . . to anyone but an Excelsior collector! Luckily I took several high resolution digital pictures of the bike whilst I was there and after many mails I found a potential buyer for the bike in Detroit (a mere 500 miles from the location) after a lot more work I managed to secure a deal on the Henderson and the gamble is that it would leave enough profit for the airfare and vehicle hire etc.

So, if I can get the Omega to a location near to the “vintage days” then I can put some wheels in motion to book a flight. Some time on the Internet and I have booked the Omega on a “yellow” truck and will collect it from a depot in Ohio and take it in a UHaul to the North of Michigan where the Henderson and Meguro are located. The plot is thickening and the flight is booked! For the first time ever I am flying KLM, the flight leaves Brum at a very respectable 11am and then via Amsterdam it lands in Detroit some 11 hours later, this appears on paper to be the best flight times that I have ever had! 

The flight to Amsterdam was fine, the next flight on a 747 Jumbo was not so pleasant, it was to be spent cramped between a rather large lady and a guy on a laptop in the middle of the centre isle – 8 hours cramped like a frozen sausage in a straight jacket certainly won’t be fun! As I look up, I find it pretty ironic that after 7 and a half hours travelling I see on the overhead screen that we are just flying over Sheffield - a mere 30 miles from home! Still, there’s only another 7 hours to go L As we approach Detroit we are told the airport is closed due to storms! Some of the passengers make use of the “Paper bags” – finally after a turbulent hour we land to cheers from the passengers! Once down in Detroit I get in the passport control queue . . . for over an hour!  Once finally clear of passport control I make my way to the baggage claim and the realisation dawns on me after 30 mins of watching the belt that my second bag is not going to appear! Next it is on to Customs control to be met with quite literally hundreds of passengers and an obviously overwhelmed customs control – luckily after around an hour or so I am waived through pass the hoards that are waiting for close inspection. My next stop is at the “North West” airlines customer service (they are in partnership with KLM) I am told that my bag is in Amsterdam and will be on the a.m. flight – If I leave a forwarding address then the bag will be couriered on the next day - but I have no real schedule other than a room booked in Ohio for the first night.

I collect a “rent a wreck” (they have towbars fitted for the UHaul) and head on down to Ohio – the trip goes O.K. and I am in the Motel in a couple of Hours. Next day it is time to find out about my lost bag – after being on hold for 30mins whilst using a phone card in a gas station my patience is absolutely at it’s limit, I finally get an operator to be told that the bag has not yet left Amsterdam!

So, on with the journey – I need to get a UHaul trailer and the closer I get to “Mid Ohio” the more unlikely my chances are of finding a one. After contacting the control centre one is located just 5 miles from where the “ Omega” has hopefully arrived. Some luck is finally coming my way as I also get the last room in a hotel a few miles from the meeting, not only that but I also beat a potential customer to the last UHaul trailer for miles! As I checked in to the hotel the lady on reception comments “nice accent, where are you from?” “England” I reply, “neat, how far is that?” “Oh, around 3,500 miles”. “Wow! Did you fly or drive here?” . . . Duuuuh . . My luck runs out as I go to the “Yellow” transport depot (in an absolute torrential thunderstorm) to be told that the shipping is not £220 as I expected but as I gave the incorrect weight it was now in the next category at £400! I am not a happy camper but as the power is out in the depot there is little I can do about it. Back at the hotel calls are made to customer service and after some pleading the cost is reduced to £350.

Once back at the Yellow depot with the car and trailer it becomes apparent that there is no way the crated bike is going to squeeze in - I rip apart the crate that I had paid £150 for and finally get to see the little bike that has caused all the trouble – what a pile of crap!  Admittedly it is a rare little Kawasaki Omega, in fact just number 56 off the production line – or so I think. This little bike was One of Kawasaki’s first venture into the U.S. market, the bike was actually sold under the name of OMEGA – “Built in Japan for Ken Kay” – in fact now that I see the B8 for the first time I realise that this is not a great bike! The silver painted exhaust held on with old rubber and jubilee clips give a hint of the general condition of the bike – the silver paint on the spokes and 70% of chrome peeling off the rims confirms that this is not the best buy of my life! It dawns on me that this bike has cost me something near £1,500 and it is not even home yet! Oh well, some you win  . .

As my body clock is totally messed up I find that waking up at 6am is a bonus as I can be at the Great Mid Ohio swap meet before 9am, the entry fee is a surprising thirty quid but Once inside the event is pretty huge! I would liken it to be like the auto jumble part of Stafford show doubled and put inside the infield of Cadwell park! I am so lucky in that I have parked very close to the main concentration of Kawasaki purveyors. This show is so much like the October Stafford show, the vast majority of the stands are Japanese orientated as opposed to Harley and old U.S. Iron. I soon come across a stand with several triples for sale – all are reasonably priced IF they were back in the U.K. but to add the cost of shipping and taxes made any further enquiries prohibitive. A root through the guys waterlogged stock revealed several items that we could deal on – A pair of N.O.S. H2b/c headlamp brackets, a Z1 rear mudguard and many small parts to fill my rucksack – so Onward and the sun is starting to blaze down and dry the soddened ground, I come across a guy selling some triple parts that seems to have an idea of what he is talking about, after a couple of leading questions it becomes obvious that this guy is Kevin Knedler and as I tell him who I am his face lights up and he is shocked to say the least – from there it is just a walk around the corner to meet Joe Veal, these names won’t mean much to you unless you are an Internet Junkie and a triple addict but Two nicer guys you are not likely to meet – unfortunately time is not on my side and I have just a few hours to cram this huge event into, some bikes of note were a couple of severely rusty H2’s at £160 a piece! A half rusty One at £300 and several more requiring restoration at around £1,200 - £1,600 a piece – all good stuff IF the bikes were on U.K. soil!

There are some nice parts available but all the bargains were snapped up by the professionals on the Thursday preceding the show, One guy shows me some N.O.S. H2 parts but $50.00 for a front indicator stem is out of my league - It later dawned on me on my return home when I saw these same items on EBAY that the guy was Jenni@frognet (it’ll make sense to you ebayers) I have to think about heading back up to the upper peninsular to try and do a deal on the Henderson and Omega. As I walk into the infield I come across a display by the N.A.K.T.C.  I get to meet up with Y.T. but again time is a severe constraint and I am forced to leave early -  as I walk back to the car I come across rather tidy Brown H1f, at £900 the bike would be quite a good deal back in the U.K. but the vendor shrugs off my offer, I better the offer and talk cash and he seems to respond – but I leave without a deal.  A walk around the lot and I come across the same guy – I tell him to think of the cash and the next thing I know I am loading the H1f up to keep the B8 company on their 600 mile drive North!

So, it’s back along the route of 5 months ago, last time it was blizzards and ice – this trip it is 80+ degrees – isn’t aircon wonderful? I call in to see Harry and yet again fail to convince the stubborn git to lower the price of his N.O.S. and New bikes! (for those of you not familiar with this long running saga, Harry had two shops in Detroit in the 60’s & 70’s – in 1976 he shut the shops and moved the entire stock and new bikes up to his land in Northern Michigan, I have now been trying for Three years to buy this stock at a reasonable cost). As I drive away from Harry’s place I came across a Harley Dealership that has a Z650 parts bike at the side, I stop off and ask if they are breaking any old Kawas (they are Kawas in the U.S. not Kwaks) or know of anyone else local has any Kawasaki parts or bikes for sale? I am directed a few miles away down dirt roads to a guy that “sometimes has a few old Kawas for sale” I pull up at the house in the middle of no-where to find a guy of my age working on his sons two Kawasaki Dirt bikes, as we walk round the side of the house I am shocked to be met by TWELVE triples! All were in a pretty poor state but what are the chances of stumbling across a hoard like that, some are for sale but to be honest nothing was worth crating and shipping back to the U.K. I head off back on the trail . .

The next problem was soon overcome as I found some rented storage for the Two bikes that I already had on board, small lock up units are in abundance and for Twenty quid a Month I get a 15 x 8 secure unit, the bikes will be safe until I can work out different transport arrangements. Back on the road and it’s onward the 350 miles to Iron Mountain, luckily petrol is still cheap at around a Pound a Gallon J The next problem comes remembering just where the old boy lived in Iron Mountain, bearing in mind I had followed him for miles through a forest that was knee deep in snow, however, in the lush colour of summer I was struggling to get my bearings but within an hour I came across him on his ride on mower “Iron Lung” and all!  Jim use to be a bike dealer until he got fed up with the trade (I can sympathise) when he got out of the game (he is 70) he just kept Two bikes, the 1963 Meguro Kawasaki and the 1922 Excelsior Henderson that his father use to own, last ridden in 1947 the Excelsior had suffered the ravages of time and was severely rusty, the rims were rotted through as were the bars and many other items, Jim was convinced that this bike was worth £20,000 restored or £4,000 as it was now! Alarmingly he also valued the Meguro at £2,500! Alarm bells started ringing as I realised this may well be a wasted journey, if I paid him those sums then not only would I be only break even I would be losing any money that was going towards my costs. I have a closer look at the Meguro – it’s in remarkably good condition for a 40 year old bike, the spokes are still shiny and the only restoration required will be a darn good clean and maybe a re-chrome of the exhaust.

Finally Jim saw sense and I scurried of down to a local bank to get some cash (you can keep your plastic, the smell of fresh cash oils far more cogs!) ever tried to get a bike out of a basement that has rotten rims, tyres hanging off and seized wheel bearings? A little determination, patience and thought saw the bike finally in the trailer without either of us dying from exhaustion, now it is time for the 650 mile trip down to my potential buyer in Detroit. I drop the Meguro off to keep the B8 and the H1f Company and arrive in Detroit just 3 hours before I have to catch a plane. Nerves are at breaking point as I meet the potential buyer of this ancient pile of rust, we actually meet up at my counterparts house in the world of Hendersons, this is a guy I can relate to but things are not looking good as he gets a brass bush on the vital organs of the bike, the chain covers are missing or rotten, the rear wheel is off a 1920’s Harley and is impossible to replace, the engine is locked up, the fenders are not rotten but they are battered and will cost $1,000 a piece to restore – doom and gloom and the clock is constantly ticking away. Finally we come to a deal that has paid for my flight and helped with the purchase of the Meguro - but there is another bike in the U.S. that I want to buy so I have minutes to get to a bank and try and get a bankers draft drawn up to post before I leave - heading the wrong way up the freeway and desperately trying to find somewhere to dump the UHaul did nothing for my stress levels! But all is achieved and I finally fly out of Detroit back to Amsterdam and then onto Birmingham  . . . . where I go to baggage claim to find that another of my bags did not make the trip! It did however turn up at my door later that night complete with smashed bottles of wine and claret coloured clothes and electrical equipment!

One point constantly crossed my mind is that at no time during my 2,000 mile trip that took in some dodgy areas in Detroit - I didn’t see a single burned out car!  . . . . . . Is Britain really so ”Great” anymore?

El Presidente