Friday, July 28, 2017

Instead of a random grouping of old Jags, I may have a real theme in my collection. Each of my cars appealed to me for  certain specific reasons.

"You talking about me? Because I'm the only one here!"

Through this collection of random models I have found a way to be a "participant" in a wide range of Jaguar's history and mystique on several different levels. None of my cars is the exact model that has become highly valued and therefore priced out of my reach, but they are realistic substitutes for those models. I'll admit it up front that almost everything is priced above my means! The challenge is trying to find the models that have the connection. They are all still worthy on their own merits. Let me begin my examination with my first acquisition, the '89 XJS convertible.

There is no reason to rehash the history of the fabled E type, It is well known. The XJS came along after the series three E type was considered to be obsolete. I have read reports that described excess inventory of this model that was stored at an airport near the factory. Why were these cars sitting around? Because the model had lost it's appeal. Recall that the Jensen Interceptor was introduced in the later '60s and it's more modern styling, luxury orientation and the use of brutish American muscle under the hood shoved the E type out of the limelight. The Interceptor was a bonafide luxury GT. The E was forcefully massaged by the factory into that mold, which seemed to dull the luster even more.

A great name and not a bad car.

The XJS was the answer. Svelte avant garde styling, great refinement and the fabulous V12 motor decisively stole the Jensen's thunder. It was so successful that it remained in production for over twenty years,  That, of course is part of the root of the problem, well over one hundred thousand were built! If familiarity doesn't always breed  contempt it surely will breed indifference. And that was where the XJS sat, for years.

A similar thing has happened to the XK8. How can these beautiful cars be so ignored?

This has book ended the XJS between the well loved, well valued, E type. A very strong pressure from below. Above the XJS the values of the X100 are steadily dropping, Instead of capping the values of the XJS , these lower values are allowing the XJS to rise through this permeable barrier. The X100 values are sinking around the rising XJS valuations. All of this is just my convoluted opinion that XJS values are slowly on the rise.

So what does this mean to me, or any other Jag hobbyist that would like to own one of these fantastic cars?

Well the XJS is finally being appreciated for what it has always been, a very attractive grand tourer. The styling, while unappreciated for so long, is being seen through new appreciative eyes.  So how do I perceive the situation?

Having my XJS convertible allows me to enjoy a true luxury GT car at a buy in price that was accessible to me. The XJS was considered just one step down from an Italian exotic. That Jaguar V12 engine installed in any model, E type, XJ12, or XJS makes for an interesting and worthwhile automobile.  A twelve cylinder powered anything is really something!

As with most collectible older Jags, there is usually a performance and racing pedigree that you can delight in. The XJS was the fastest four passenger car in the world at the time of it's introduction. It won the European Touring Car Championship. It was the Trans Am champion with Bob Tillus and group 44. Just think, it raced against Corvettes, and other American Pony cars and won! And then there is the Aston Martin connection.

The DB7 was built off the XJS platform. The design had originally been planned for the XJS replacement, The early DB7's used the supercharged version of the Jaguar six. Basically it was the XJR engine but in a higher state of tune.  Even though the DB7 was hand built in small numbers by TWR operations, the XJS roots are apparent.  I went to see a 2000 MY DB7 at a dealer in Studio City, and standing alongside and sitting in it, it sure felt like my own XJS. They are in truth, brothers under the skin. In my mind, my XJS is pretty convincing and attainable equivalent to the DB7, and best of all, I've got mine!

Jaguar has rightly been famous for building some of the most desirable sporting luxury sedans in automotive history. The introduction  of the XJ6 in 1968 led to a continuing design series that ran for almost thirty years. Grace, Space and Pace all wrapped up in fine Connolly leather and exquisite wood veneers. Jaguar moved to the XJ40 design which many felt was a bridge too far. That was rectified by the introduction of the X300  in 1995. This model combined the classic design cues with a more modern cabin design.

A redesign of the AI6 motor resulted in the ultimate and final version of the Jaguar straight six motor. An all alloy, dohc, fuel injected, four valve heads, and crank fired coil on plug ignition system. This great motor can only be surpassed by the XJR, boasting an Eaton supercharger. The first of a continuous series of supercharged engines.

The reliability of this design has led it be a favorite of Jaguar hobbyists. The styling pays tribute to the earlier series of the XJ6 and maintains beautiful proportions. The body styling was successfully used on the successor, the XJ8, which debuted Jaguar's new V8 engine. My XJ6L features the extra long wheelbase that makes the interior capacity equal to any of the classic Jaguar predecessor. My '97 XJ6 is the final model in that series, and the final straight six powered Jaguar. And what a six!

Ownership of my XJ6 allows me to participate in the continuing history of Jaguar luxury sedans. While few were campaigned when new as racers, The XJ6 has found popularity recently as a historic racer. There is a special series for these sedans, The front pages of Jaguar World are filled with colorful photos of XJ6's and XJS' decked out in their finest racing regalia mixing it up on the track.

photo source race

My latest acquisition is the '51 Mark VII that I just  bought. It was the first saloon powered by the XK engine. I've got a lot to say about this car so I'll give it's own post.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Visiting the Peterson Museum. You do get your money's worth. Part One.

All photos sourced from the Peterson Museum website.
Yes, He was there!

I was having a bit of a problem on how I would approach this post. I wanted to cover some of the vehicle exhibits but I also wanted remark on how the museum brings people from all walks of life and levels of automotive interest together, in many ways just like the LA freeway system. I didn't want to cover every detail of the displays and exhibits but give you my reactions to them. I have my own feelings about visiting museums like this. I like the opportunity to study the cars closely, and at my leisure. I will spend a long time looking at the details.

Even though they have Lightning McQueen on display and an entire Cars themed exhibit, this is not the ideal place to take small children or most under the age of thirteen or fourteen. They will not enjoy themselves and will spoil your visit. Also do not take any adults that are not really interested in cars. They will quickly become bored at looking at one shiny car after another, that's fine, but they will want you to hurry up, move on, and let's get some lunch.

Do you see that fine little wire that is positioned about a foot or so off the floor? That is the only thing that separates you from these fabulous cars! You can lean over that wire and take a really good, close, look. At the interior, at the undercarriage , at anything that is exposed to view. I leaned over, bent down and knelt down then stood back at various angles to take in every possible perspective of the cars on display. You are free to take photographs of any of the cars on display, but you are never, ever, free to reach out and touch or handle any parts of the cars. Oh, you will want to, but please don't. The museum expects the public to respect the vehicles on display, there are many, many, many, vehicles that are on display there that are valued at multiples of millions of dollars. That is just for one car! I would hate it if the museum felt that they had to put up substantial barriers to keep the public away from them. I value the opportunity to really study these cars from inches away. And I take my time. It's best not to have someone waiting behind you, tapping their feet, bored out of their mind. So this is someplace that you might enjoy going to by yourself, I know I do. 

That said, there are quite a few different exhibits going on at the same time. I was aware that there was going to be an exhibit of Ferraris, and this was the first reason that I thought I would make a visit. I have been to the Museum three of four times before and besides the exterior remodel, the previous displays have been completely changed. I checked out the website to be sure that they were going to be open that day, and saw that besides the Ferarris, there was going to be a Lowrider exhibit, an exhibit on the art of the Bugatti,and a Harley versus Indian motorcycle display. That was good enough for me. 

Parking is now 12.00 for the entire day, The first half hour is free, but you will want to spend your afternoon, my visit was at least five hours. The museum has a bookstore and now a restaurant, that is open to the public. There is also a 
gallery that has several displays that are free. General admission for adults is 15.00. A bargain.

                                          This is the chassis of the last Bugatti. This body was designed as a tribute.

Gypsy Rose, recently featured in Octane magazine.

'39 Chevy Gangster Squad, a movie connection.

As you enter you will see the two pictured Lowriders, The '64 Impala Gypsy Rose and a '39 Chevy Gangster Squad. In an adjacent gallery there was a display of several other cars and a collection of artwork and photography on the walls. The El Rey is a '63 Impala that features a completely custom painted, chromed, undercarriage that featured engraved brake and drive train components. The amount of detailing of various components was very extensive. The quality of the bodywork, chrome and paint is impressive. Whether or not this type of automotive expression is to your taste, you would have to give the builder kudos for their attention to detail and  level of craftsmanship

                                 This is the El Rey, does chroming and engraving brake components raise it to art?

Displaying these Lowriders in the same gallery as the next exhibit is an interesting juxtaposition. While the Lowrider is a mass produced vehicle that has been elevated to an extraordinary level of finish, the Bugattis were produced as singular works of automotive art.

                                                       There were artists, sculptors, and writers in the family also.

                                                                             The pure essence of the automobile.

                                            These little blue cars have been immortalized as VW powered kit cars.

                                                           The Buggati Royale, the Mag Opus of the marque.
                                                           It looks like a limo out of a Betty Boop cartoon!

Following the curvature of the gallery will lead you to the display of Bugattis. There were many models on display and these have always been considered some of the finest cars that were ever built. They were not produced in large numbers and they could be considered individually crafted. The marque did not weather the storm of the second World War and the line of true cars ended. The exhibit chronicles the history of the family. They were a creative bunch. Engineers, artist sculptors, writers. A Renaissance family if there ever was one!

Upstairs there was the Indian and Harley Davidson display was in the center area.

                                       1957 HD Sportster, 900cc, the first, and for so long the fastest thing on two wheels.
                                       (Well, except for the occasional Vincent Black Shadow!)

This Indian was displayed without the sidecar, in slightly different form.

This is the HD Sport Model, a fore and aft oriented, opposed flat twin motor of 350cc powered this popular, but now forgotten cycle. Note the enclosed chain. 

If I could only build a modern custom with this vibe!

The bikes were displayed in rows in the center of the room and along one wall. Plenty of room to get close and check out the details. My favorite bikes are the board track racers. These were brought to life in the recent History Channel special, "Harley and the Davidsons".

There was an exhibit of Dan Gurney Eagle racing machines. If you like racing cars you would be in heaven.

There is also a large display devoted to technology. It showcased the platform of a Tesla, and a naked Alfa. 

On the third floor was the display of the Cars replicas. I just kept on walking.

Besides the general admission to the museum there is an added tour of "The Vault" available for twenty bucks. This is a tour of the basement of the building where cars that are awaiting their display, or being in the process of rotation are stored. There is also a reconditioning shop area. This tour runs about an hour and is well worth it. I recommend it, you are probably not going to return to the museum that often.

Part Two coming up.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

I guess you could say that I'm a glutton for self punishment.

Replace that whip with a spanner and you get the picture!
photo source:  atomic archive

I recently finished up replacing the transmission on my XJS. That was very tough. A couple of months back I changed out the control arms on my '96 Mustang. That was no picnic. Actually neither of these jobs were. Now, on the heels of those two triumphs, I need to change out the suspension bushings on my XJ6! There was a lot of controversy about what spring compressor to use, my own experience has taught me that it does make quite a difference.

I also need to rebuild the front suspension on the XJS, (Surprise, Surprise!) So lessons learned will be quite applicable.

I priced out the Jaguar spec compressor available from JagBits and really couldn't get excited by spending five hundred bucks. I had seen another compressor available that was around one hundred and fifty, although one of the forum members had used it, I got the impression that it still didn't make the job as easy as it could have been.

Several members had described how they built their own tools: actually it looked fairly simple.  I called my local guy at Jaguar Specialties, to inquire about the compressor and he told me that best thing is just to make your own. So that's what I decided to do.

I also plan on using that outside, mounted  u-bolt secured spring compressor that I used on the Mustang in conjunction with my home made tool. Several members also like to run some all thread through the spring mount plate as added insurance, so I might do that too.

Awhile back I posted about the author Henry G. Felsen. I decided to re-read "Boy gets car".  It's still my favorite, although it was a bit embarrassing seeing my self as the naive youngster Woody gushing over some old heap. (Although I just discovered another old heap to gush over!) The ultimate truth is that once your friends abandon you, you are alone with that old wreck. And that clutch ain't gonna change itself! In fact. nothing is going to fix itself, by itself. It comes down to grabbing those wrenches and undoing one part at a time.

So I got off my haunches and cleared out the garage, again. I bought the supplies and started making the spring compressor. I drilled out the rod, taking my time through successively larger bits, then smoothed out the area round the hole with a rotary stone and a hand powered tapered hone. Reduce those stress points! I found a slightly domed, circular pipe mount flange that will work as the bottom compressor plate.

Doing that drilling by hand reminded me why I used to have a drill press. I liked and used it, but the motor quit after a bout a year. I wasn't too upset, it had been pretty cheap, from HF of course, where else! I'm going to get another one because they are so useful and it makes your home garage workshop look more like an actual repair shop.

Only 80.bucks on sale. Hopefully this will work as is. If not, fairly detailed plans for improvement were found in the review section. photo source: Harbor Freight Tools.

I had gone down to Harbor Freight Tools and bought a bench top 6 ton hydraulic press. Hopefully it will be big enough to handle the job. I assembled it all by myself without any problems. Several reviews of this product described how difficult it was to assemble. I'm used the little landing of the concrete garage steps as my workbench area during assembly. I figure I can use this same spot when pressing out the bushings. If that doesn't work out I've still got the front porch steps.

All this work is being put off until I return from vacation. But all plans are subject to change!

I came back from vacation and what  did I do? I found another old car to drag home. So now my priorities have changed. Since my garage is currently being used by my Wife to "organize" her stuff there is no chance for me to put the XJ6 in the garage for the suspension overhaul. When the Mark was dropped off in the driveway I had it lined up so that I could roll it directly into the garage, Even if there were space in there I would be loath to place it in there. That Mark was a field car for a long time, no telling what kind of critters had been hiding inside, usually spiders and such. I hadn't seen any indication of mouse infestation and those tell tale signs are easy to detect, droppings and the unmistakable odor of mouse urine. I also haven't seen any sign of rodents chewing up the wiring, the harness under the hood looks quite well preserved. I cleaned out the debris that were in the car and vacuumed it thoroughly especially under the seats and in the trunk. I've looked under the car and haven't seen any indication that there is a nest of black widows under the car. I've looked every day so far, but this really hot weather we've had might show something.

I once bought a '67 Riviera that had been sitting in a driveway for several years and put in the garage right away. The next day I found a rather large spider in my foyer and went into the garage to investigate. I found another large spider hiding under the air cleaner and those thick Black Widow webs under the car. That's when I pushed it up and out of the driveway into the street, I was much younger than! I did the bug bomb thing.

I haven't seen any reason to bomb the Mark, but I have sprayed Ortho under the wheel wells. I'll probably spray the suspension behind the wheels when I go through the brakes.

Since I know that the motor will easily spin, I have to go through the fuel system and carbs, change the oil, check the radiator, electrical system, rebuild the brakes, clutch hydraulics, and see if I can get the motor to actually run. It should be quite exciting.

While the interior of the car is still a little dirty, I cleaned all the windows. What a difference! It looks so much more inviting. The car has that funky old car smell, it kind of reminds me of the old Cadillac smell. I can't say that I find it repulsive at all.

The biggest problem aesthetically with the car are the large areas of surface rust. If the car was a solid dull color of paint it wouldn't look too bad. Actually the paint on the front half is pretty intact, just dull. I wonder if the front half was shaded as it sat out side for years. There was red primer or paint brushed on the car, I imagine to protect it from rust. I used a shop vac to knock all the flaking paint off and keep it off the driveway.

If I was a real restorer I would just drop it off at the body shop and have them strip the body down to metal, repair the sheetmetal and have them do a complete respray. Well that is the plan, but I'll be doing it the Better Beater way. I've got to keep costs down. Just replacing the tires is going to run close to a grand! I have a more frugal plan. Since the car will probably stay out side the rest of the summer I just can't sand it down to bare metal and keep it in the garage to cut down on flash rusting.

Miracle in a can? Yes,

I plan to use an  electric palm sander with 60 grit sandpaper and strip one section at a time. I have a rust dissolver and metal prep treatment that I will treat the section with. I will then brush a light coat of blue Rustoleum enamel on. This will protect the metal from rusting but should be easy to remove later on. It will also make the car pretty much the same color all over, a real improvement. As I encounter heavily rusted areas I will treat them with POR paint and epoxy putty. The idea is to preserve the car and protect it from further damage. Luckily there is no real collision damage but there is a dent on the top of the left fender like some thing heavy fell against the car. Not in a hurry to fix that. I will be very careful not to scratch or otherwise damage the brightwork. I'll put a couple of layers of masking tape on the trim before I start sanding. I might hit exposed nuts holding on the trim with Liquid Wrench so removal can be possible later.

Harbor Freight to the rescue

After I've sanded the whole car and it is a patchwork of brush stroked enamel, then I will put the car in the garage and sand all that blue Rustoleum off, just before I deliver it to the paint shop. I hope to document my progress here for all the world to see. In many ways that Mark is going to be the ultimate Better Beater. I've had responses to my forum post about the car where I am being warned that the car will cost a fortune to properly restore and then will be worth quite a bit less then I will have spent.  I've replied that I don't plan on restoring the car. As I told the seller, I'm just going to fix it up, get it running and have an economical respray done. Just like I said about that XJ6 in an earlier post.

Can this really be done? Will this result in something that I am satisfied with, and can actually be a little proud of? I think so. It may shock, appall and offend those that have the money to spend, but I hope that it will cheer those who don't.

And I've still got two cars lined up after that.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Pennies from Heaven?

photo source: penniesfromheaven.

Maybe not, but sometimes things seem to drop into your lap even when your not expecting them or even looking for them.

Have you ever had the experience of losing out on buying a car that you wanted, then finding an even better car, at a better price?

I started looking for my first Jaguar XJS and found a non running Hess and Eisenhardt convertible conversion for sale locally. The car had been reupholstered and had a nice set of wire wheels. The seller was also going to include a bunch of extra parts. I was pretty excited about the car, it was a coach built conversion. It had some obvious problems in build quality, but the price seemed pretty cheap to me. I did a lot of research on the Jaguar Forum and read Kirby's book. I helped the seller to get the car started so that I could access the motor. It started and ran with a clattering sound from the valve train. It was the dreaded dropped valve seats. I had spoken with an automotive machine shop and the owner had told me that they were easily fixable. After someone pulled the heads off and brought them in. I still thought that the car was worth it. The seller was asking two grand for the whole thing. I had been hinting that I would pay less, he hinted back that fifteen hundred might seal the deal. It was a convertible with a new interior and the wire wheels could be sold for at least five hundred bucks alone. Still I waited and thought about it. Finally I decided that I would make one offer only. A grand for the car and the extra parts. Thankfully when I decided to call with the offer he didn't answer. I tried again and he told that the car had been sold. You could say that I dodged a bullet. I later saw the car on CL a year or so later and the buyer was trying to flip it. He hadn't done anything to improve or even preserve the car.

This poor car deserved better.

Why are these cars so cheap? Just look at it!

After looking around on CL I located my XJS down in Southern Calif and bought it for twelve hundred bucks. That was the full asking price, I didn't even try to haggle, the car was worth all that and more. I found a placard in the trunk where the owner had tried to sell it for 4,995.00 at the Pamona Fairplex swap meet. I have invested much more labor than money into the car but it will be worth it. I then decided that I needed a daily driver Jag . After doing my homework on the Forum I decided that an X300 model XJ6 would be the car to get.  My ceaseless CL cruising  turned up what looked like a good candidate for sale in Fontana. It looked pretty good, the seller said that it ran well and he was only asking 2,200 bucks for it. It was BRG, with wire wheels and a mesh XJR grille. Could it be an XJR? The seller did not mention anything about it being supercharged, maybe he didn't even know. I called the seller and told him that I would check back and if the car was still available I would be down to see it next weekend. I called him just before I left home. He knew I was coming.

This car would have made a good driver. 

When I arrived I found the car to be a little rougher than I anticipated. A few dents and scrapes that weren't that obvious in the photos. The interior was good, and in truth it was an XJR! The car fired up and sounded quite healthy. I stepped on the brake pedal and felt no resistance as it went all the way to the floor. Why hadn't he fixed this before I got there? The seller was kind of a dealer/broker and he assured me that he would get it fixed. I told him that I could return tomorrow and that I would call in the morning. I returned to my hotel and what did I do? I got back onto CL to see what else was available in the LA area. I found a very clean XJ6L for sale. The seller was the owner of a mechanic's shop and this was his personal car. He had done some recent services on it. It was clean, and in great shape. The next day I called the owner of the green XJR. He told that he had sold the car as is, to someone after I saw it. The truth is, it would have been  a good buy for a grand or so.

I went to see the white car and loved it. I bought it, drove it home and have had over a year of fun with it so far.

Me an my XJ up in Santa Rosa.

I've written about the problems with the transmission in my XJS. And I tried to solve them in my penny- pincher manner. Oh, I even crawled around under that thing for awhile. I had resigned myself to a transmission rebuild and was trying to find the right shop to do the job while I saved up a bit of money. That didn't stop me from cruising the webs looking for manna from heaven. Sure enough I look on site one morning and a good used transmission shows up, right at my keybord. Even better the seller drops his price to 180.00, He gave me first crack after he lowered the price because of my previous inquiry. Score! It just took a lot of wrangling to change it out.

picture shown for illustrative purposes only. 

Back to cruising CL on a daily basis. I was going to be up in the Santa Rosa area with my Wife for an event she was attending. So I took a look at what could be for sale in the area that I could check out while I was there.
There is just something about a Jag on wires.

I was looking for Jaguar parts and found some Dayton wire wheels for my XJS for sale at what seemed like a good price. Three wheels for 150.00. That was only fifty bucks a piece! I figured that they would cost new around 250 bucks apiece. I went to the website and confirmed my estimate. Why were there only three? I'll bet that someone probably ran into curb hard enough to damage one wheel. Lots of times I see one or two wheels offered for sale. If a car slides into a curb sideways in a collision it can ruin both wheels on one side. So I'll just keep cruising the web and I bet a stray wheel or two will pop up eventually.

Yeah, this isn't THAT car, but I think everyone is sick of seeing that other car.
photo source: Craig's List

I had seen that Mark VII that was for sale in Southern California. I liked it because it was a four speed car and it was reportedly running and driveable. The interior was very rough, the windows and trim were disassembled. The body looked pretty straight and the seller reported that there was little rust. It was priced more than I wanted to pay, but I felt that it could be negotiated down. Then the ad ran out. I had contacted the seller and had his e-mail address. That's a good idea, to establish contact with a seller whose car you're interested in. Then if the ad runs out you can still contact the seller with any further inquiries.And if he hadn't sold the car, he would probably be an even more motivated seller. Sure enough,  the car hadn't sold and it was relisted, That's pretty common for most unpopular cars. I left the idea of the Mark on the back burner.

I had decided that I was going to sell my '96 Mustang, then I changed my mind.  I was just going to keep it, and forget about buying anything else. I really like that Mustang!  I had it aligned and my Wife drove it. So now she says that she would rather drive it instead of the old Explorer. That's perfect, I bought the Explorer for my Daughter to use in her business. Then what happens, as usually does when you compulsively cruise CL? You find cars that you like, that you can afford to buy because they are really cheap, and now you can convince yourself that you can't live without them. (Of Course!)

Well my (new?) Mark VII shows up and I'm completely obsessed by it. So I buy it. It was one third the price of the car down south, and this one has a great story. So a giant rusty penny fell from Heaven right into my path.

Seek and Ye shall find.

The moral of the story is: Stay off of Craig's List. At least for a while.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Special Fourth of July Extra! Enjoy your holiday!

photo source;

North to Alaska! At least that was the plan.

image source:

Summer of 1977.

My partner in this adventure Rick, was riding his Yoshimura equipped Honda 750. The plan was to ride the length of the Pacific Coast on Highway One and cross into British Columbia. The weather had turned cold and foggy and we arrived south of the Oregon Border in Gold Beach looking for a motel room. There weren't any. We learned from some locals that a movie crew was filming a program in the area and had booked all open rooms. It was dark and cold and it seemed like it was going to rain soon. I thought about our options: just keep riding. This didn't look too appealing. I saw a school bus parked alongside a gas station, maybe we could just pitch our sleeping bags under that? I had even contemplated asking the attendant if we could sleep in the bathroom, (hey, we were desperate!) The attendant said if we wanted to we could sleep in his car. It was about as bad an idea as it sounded, but it was dry, although smelling a bit like spilled beer, and it did keep us out of the rain that night. I stuffed a ten spot into the ash tray as we left at daybreak.

Olympia Washington

Rick snapped my favorite photo of my motorcycling career. 

We really never thought about reserving a room in those pre cell phone and pre internet days. The smart plan was to stop earlier and find a room.  This time we splurged on a room at the Sheraton in Olympia Washington. It was worth it. We had dinner at a Chinese restaurant. I told Rick we would eat at a Mexican place the next night. Believe it or not, we couldn't find a Mexican place throughout the rest of the trip. (How things have changed!) We took a tour of the Olympia beer plant and this time we both took the time for a few snapshots. That photo Rick took of me in front of the Capitol building is an all time favorite.

It is the water.

There weren't too many  problems with the bike. Due to the lack of Locktite, my bulb horn vibrated off, the top motor mount followed. Luckily I could retrieve the motor mount from the middle of the highway. Vibration took its toll. Those curly wires all broke at the connections, and the rear chain guard mount cracked off. I stopped at a welder to get the guard fixed and an auto supply store for some Locktite.

We were at the Canadian border. "Now if you'll just answer a few questions!"

At the Canadian border we were given the command "pull your bikes over there and wait for an inspector." We complied, we didn't have anything to hide. Our hair was a little long, but neither of us had any tattoos, we were both Catholic school graduates and good law abiding guys at that. They asked us to unload our bikes while they took a look. We were escorted into a little office and interviewed by some border agent. Neither of us was into dope or carrying weapons although we were asked, and they did look. "Empty your pockets!" Hey, we were just a couple of motorcycle tourists. They took our IDs and returned in a few minutes. We were given the green light  and had to repack and load our stuff. Wow! We were actually in Canada!

Our route would take us up the Yellowhead highway, eventually to Prince Rupert BC. From there the plan was to take a ferry over to the south border of Alaska and to ride the Alcan highway as far as we could. Now this was about forty years ago and it was much less populated than it is today. Once you left the bigger cities the countryside was pretty wild and empty.

Rick at a pet "comfort station" somewhere hot in BC.

Busted down in Boston Bar. Not really. Do not order pork chops.

Even Hondas break down sometimes. Nah, just a flat tire

For once, I wasn't working om my bike.

My bike had settled into a pretty good groove running like a champ. The only problem was with the small gas tank.  My range was limited to a maximum of around seventy miles, and I didn't want to run out, like I said, it was lonely out there! At one point Rick's bike got a flat rear tire and he pulled the wheel and we rode off on my bike to find a bike shop. He clutched he wheel in his lap. Between that and holding on for dear life the sprocket left a greasy imprint on his white T shirt! Quite funny.

The distance from the last small town and gas station to Prince Rupert was around 125 miles. There was no way that I could make it on that small tank. Scrounging around in the trash I pulled out two empty one gallon, anti freeze containers. I rinsed them out and filled them up with gas. My mileage was around 35 mpg. and seventy miles was really pushing it.

Skeena Crossing Centre. a quant little store. Mr Freezes cost only .05.
Dirt road into Terrace. Everything under control.

What followed is the most memorable ride of my lifetime. We were riding through the most beautiful forest road. The exhaust note of each bike echoed off the trees and hillsides as we blasted down that empty forest. I am partial to Harleys, but the sound of a Yoshimur equipped Honda four is just as unforgettable.

We finally made it to Prince Rupert.

Somewhere over there Alaska awaits. Someday...

For some reason we realized that we couldn't fulfill our plan to go all the way to Alaska. I really can't recall why. I think it was because we were running low on money and maybe time. The trip was probably taking more time and costing more money than we had budgeted for.  At this time neither of us had a credit card and we never even considered calling home and having our folks wire us some funds. We plotted out a return trip that was the best consolation prize we could have wanted. From Prince Rupert we took the ferry to the top of Vancouver island. We would ride down the length of the island and re-board a ferry over to Port Angeles Washington.

My chopper got a lot of attention from other motorists as we waited on the dock to board.  Rick and I rode down the ramp and secured our bikes to the deck for the trip.

The first leg of the ferry trip was incredible. We hadn't booked a stateroom for the overnight trip through the inland passage. Like most of of fellow travelers we were gong to spend the night on the deck or sleeping on the floor of the large upper cabin. There was a little cafe and bar available. That night we stood at the deck railing looking up at the infinite stars and watching the show of falling meteors. Like I mentioned, this was forty years ago and the land was empty and wild, and Boy was it dark!

The Inland Passage. A truly unforgettable experience of a lifetime.

Motorcycles had been the last to board and were the first to unboard. There were several motorists gathered around my bike, waiting expectantly for it to roar into life. I got up on the pegs and starter and assumed my best macho biker kick starter pose. It fired once, then burped and back fired. I quickly tried to clear the motor by vigorous kicking but was unsuccessful. My moment of glory had passed and I was told to push the bike aside and wait until the others were done. Of course it finally started and sounded pretty awesome as I rode it out of the boat.

We were on a tight schedule and had to ride the length of the island to catch the last ferry to the US that evening. It was a pleasant but hurried ride and luckily both bikes ran fine without any problems. When we arrived in Victoria I thought that we had enough time to grab some dinner before boarding the ferry. We found an Italian restaurant and had spaghetti. I asked the waiter how come he hadn't brought us any sour dough French bread. He asked where we were from. When we told him that we were from the SF Bay Area he told us that was the only place that it was available. It wasn't sold outside the Bay Area. I never knew that.

Dinner had dragged on a bit longer than anticipated and a mad dash ensued as we tried to make it to the dock in time to board. It took some frantic questioning of the natives, it  was close, but luckily we made it in time. This ferry ride was much shorter and not nearly as impressive as the Inland Passage.

It was our first day back in Washington and I was getting a little sloppy in repacking the bike in the morning and I let one of the canvas ammo bags hang in a position where it could tilt inwards going over bumps and hit the side mounted valve stem. I actually think that Rick pointed it out to me. So what? Who cares? I didn't feel like stopping and adjusting it. Later.

So who cares? I sure did when the valve stem broke off and I sustained a rear wheel blowout! Boy did those bars start to wiggle, as I slowed down the frequency increased to what could be described as a tank slapper. Slowing even more the bike started weaving from one side of the lane to the other, Luckily I made it to a safe stop on the shoulder.  I limped a half mile or so to a gas station. We found a concrete block that we wrestled the bike up onto. After removing the inner tube I looked in the yellow pages for a bike shop. There weren't any close by but then I had another great idea.

For years motorcycle magazines had remarked that the 5.00 x 16 Harley tire looked like a small automobile tire.  So why not use an automotive tube? The VW tube, while designed for a 15 inch wheel could obviously stretch a bit, and the valve stem could be twisted to the side. No problem. We rode off, got the tube, and put the bike back together.

The next morning I was blasting down the highway and BANG! Another blow out! More pulse pounding excitement until the bike was finally stopped safely. This time we limped off the highway to a nearby motel. The Pullver Motel, "quiet as a mouse." The only bike shop, a small Honda dealership wouldn't be open until Tuesday, and today was Sunday afternoon. The VW tube had been folded over and I'm guessing the friction inside the tire caused it to abrade and blow. So no more car tubes. Luckily the shop carried some of those 5.00 x 16 tubes for the occasional chopper rider in town. By Monday afternoon we were back in business.

The rest of the ride home is even less memorable and we didn't make any stops. I remember passing by a roadside attraction called "Trees of Mystery." We couldn't see any mysteries from the road, but there were a couple of giant statues of Paul Bunyon and Babe, the Blue Ox, located in the parking lot. A few years later on another trip I stopped to check out the attraction. It was just a forest trail with a bunch of somewhat unusually shaped trees you could look at.

Like all road trips the most important thing was to make it home safely. Which we both did. This had been the most challenging trip so far, it was long, the road was unfamiliar and wild, there were problems with my bike, and we even ventured into another country. Rick and I decided we would take another big trip the following summer.