Route 66, Ronald Reagan and Las Vegas – with Indians through the US

At the end of October 2018, me and my friend Michael came together to plan our “Indian US tour 2019”. After all, it takes time to plan a 40-day road trip: it was supposed to be a route with many things to see. We set goals for each day – in total, we wanted to drive 200 to 250 kilometres a day. Between June 20th and July 30th, 2019, we planned to drive from Denver, Colorado, via Wyoming, Nebraska, South Dakota, Utah, Arizona and Nevada to Los Angeles, California: about 8,500 kilometres of driving lay ahead of us.

Then, we had to put our plan into practice: applying for an ESTA, booking flights, engaging a forwarding company, insuring the vehicles. And this was when the first problems came up: US insurances don’t process applications from Germany anymore since the new European data protection regulation came into effect. From Germany, it is not possible to take out insurances in the US.

Additionally, the transport (from Weingarten to Bremen, then on to New York, then overland to Denver, and then from Los Angeles to Bremen and back to Weingarten) was not a piece of cake either. When we found a forwarding company, there was only one problem left: who would take care of the bikes in Denver until our arrival? Luckily, Michael knew an Indian dealer in Denver called G-Force. They were thrilled and offered us to integrate the bikes into their exhibition until we would arrive.

Then, the day had come: On June 20th, 2019, we took off to Denver. After we arrived, we hurried to the dealer in order to pick up our Indians. They were standing in the exhibition hall, shining side by side with their sisters. We pushed them outside, started the engines, and were immediately surrounded by fog. There was too much oil in my bike’s crankcase and it kept smoking for five minutes – that’s what I call a fitting start. We finally got insurances for our machines at a small insurance office around the corner. The red German vintage car licence plates didn’t matter to them because what counts for insurance companies in the US is the vehicle identification number.

Then, we could finally start our tour: on Sunday, June 23rd, we started on Route 36 and drove via Boulder and Longmont to Estes Park, which is already in the Rocky Mountains. On the second day, we drove from Estes Park to Walden. In Rocky Mountain National Park, when we were at about 3,300 metres, there was a complete closure because of a snow storm. So, we went all the way back and after a 200-kilometre detour, we finally reached our first destination – Walden. The next days went as planned: from Walden via the 3,175-metre-high Cameron Pass, then 80 kilometres along a canyon at Michigan River to Cheyenne in Wyoming; from there, we took Route 85 via Torrington to Lusk and through the Black Hills National Forrest to Custer – great curves, lots of sun, a perfect Indian day. When we arrived in South Dakota, we had completed our first 1,150 kilometres. Those old bikes worked like Swiss clockwork.

From Custer, we passed the Norbeck Byway in order to reach the presidents at Mount Rushmore. In Deadwood, we visited Jerry Greer, an Old Indian dealer, and then continued our trip towards Sturgis, where the world’s largest biker convention takes place every year in August.  The next day, we continued our tour on Route 385 via Hill City, passing the Crazy Horse Memorial, to Custer (we definitely couldn’t miss out on the Custer National Park Wildlife Loop).

 

On day 8, our route led us through three states: South Dakota, Nebraska, and Wyoming. At night, it started raining; it was basically the first bike wash. After that, we were ready to go again. The next days went wonderfully: from Lusk to Torrington and Laramie, then over Morton Pass and the Medicine Bow Mountains, via the 2,920-metre-high Muddy and the 3,140-metre-high Rabbit Ears Pass to Steamboat Springs, and then, for the last 60 kilometres of the day, on Route 40 to Craig. From Craig, we continued on Route 50 to Dinosaur and Mack and along Colorado River to Fruita – we completed 2,600 kilometres in total and we felt really great.

We definitely won’t forget day 12 of our trip, since we arrived in Utah at 30 degrees Celsius in the shade. We were travelling like the old settlers – we had neither food for our horses, nor water or a toilet. That day, we wanted to reach Arches National Park near Moab. However, there was the following sign on the highway: “NO SERVICE NEXT 68 MILES.” I was sure that after a few miles, according to my plan, there would be Cisco. That place, however, is a ghost town now, with a sign saying “NO SERVICE NEXT 60 MILES.” And we had one major problem: our tanks were almost empty.

About a mile from there, in the middle of the desert, we found a mobile home with a boat trailer on the left-hand side of the road. We took a chance: luckily, the elderly owner could help us out. He agreed to tap his mobile home for us. He got his water hose, cut off two metres and stuck it in the filler neck. The fuel ran. Quickly, 2 gallons of water were drawn off and our tanks were refilled. The elderly man didn’t want any money from us. Instead of charging money, he went back into his mobile home, came back with two bottles of water, and said, “You’re in the desert and you have to drink a lot.” Before we left, he had one last wish: “If you tell this to your friends, make sure you say Ronald Reagan helped you, because that is my name!” We continued our ride along a canyon of Colorado River to Moab. There, we went to the first petrol station we could find and although we lost our way and took a detour of 100 kilometres, we eventually reached our destination for the day: Green River.

The next days should lead us towards Arizona. In beautiful weather, we started in Green River, drove through San Rafael Swell, and crossed Capitol Reef National Park in order to arrive in Torrey. We passed beautiful landscapes and enjoyed the sun. From Torrey, we drove to Bryce Canyon City, through the Dixie National Forest and the Circle Cliffs – there, we covered a distance of 50 kilometres. Afterwards, we drove through the Red Canyon to Zion National Park and on to Hurricane. From there, we went to Page until we finally crossed the border to Arizona.

In Arizona, after 17 days, we took our first day off. We visited Antelope Canyon. The canyon is only 50-100 centimetres wide at the top; inside, it is 20-25 metres deep and about 1-8 metres wide. The incoming light created an impressive play of colour – this visit was one of the most beautiful highlights of our tour.

The next day, we took Route 89 from Page via Bitter Springs, The Gap, and Cameron, to Flagstaff, until we finally reached it: the Mother Road 66!  Obviously, we had to take a day off here, too. At our arrival in Flagstaff, we stopped at “Mikes Bike” in order to have our machines checked. We spent all day maintaining our Indians: changing the oil, lubricating, tightening the chains, and cleaning the bikes.

 

We had been on the road for 19 days, it was half-time, and we had already completed 4,000 kilometres – without any problems. The weather: still sunny. On our way from Flagstaff to Williams we visited Flagstaff’s Harley Davidson dealer. Afterwards, we took Route 66 from Williams via Ash Fork, Seligman, and Hackberry to Kingman. We also stopped at the old petrol station in Hackberry. Then, we took off toward Sin City – Las Vegas. In Henderson, we had to wear our helmets for the first time because we had arrived in Nevada. We took another day off and visited “Atomic Bike and Cars”. They have a considerable collection of old vehicles. Then, we dove into the Las Vegas nightlife.

The next day, we drove through the Spring Mountains to Pahrump and through the desert to our next destination: Death Valley Junction. There, we spent the night in a more than 100-year-old motel, the Armagossa Opera House. We had to recover as we had big plans for the next day: we already started at 6 am – after all, the temperature in Death Valley was at around 42 degrees Celsius in the shade; the lowest point: 65 metres below sea level. After we left the Valley, we had the snow-covered mountains of the Sierra Nevada on our right-hand side. In the afternoon, we reached our destination of the day: Lone Pine. Then we drove along the Sierra Nevada, via Big Pine and Bishop to the Mammoth Lakes ski resorts. From there, we continued to the 3,300-metre-high Tioga Pass, the entrance to Yosemite National Park. We passed rivers, lakes, and peculiar rock formations on Route 120 to Oakdale. At our arrival in the city, we had to weld Michael’s footrest at a mobile home workshop. The footrest had been damaged by applying too much pressure to it.

The next day lead us from Oakdale to Highway 120, and then via Oakland to San Francisco on Interstate 580. There, Kalle Hoffmann, a passionate Indian driver, and his family were waiting for us. We used the time for an extensive sightseeing tour. On our way from San Francisco to Kentfield, we visited Kalle’s friends Dominic and Denice Magri. Dominic presented his motorcycle collection to us, including an original Vindian, some Indians, many Vincents and lots of other motorcycles of the time between the 40s and the end of the 60s. In Kentfield, our destination for day 29, we visited some of Michael’s old friends, Brooky and Jörg – they had invited us for two days. Here, we got offered a little sightseeing tour through the Muir Woods National Monument.

On day 31, we drove from Kentfield to Monterey: on Route 101 via the Golden Gate Bridge back to San Francisco, then on Route Number One via Pacifica, Half Moon Bay, and Santa Cruz to our destination for the day, Monterey. From Monterey, we continued to Morro Bay. On Highway 1, we drove through Big Sur, San Martin, and San Simeon – always along the Pacific – to Santa Barbara. It was a really beautiful route. The weather: sunny and dry, as always. After a night at a vintage hotel, we drove from Santa Barbara to Riverside. The next day, we were planning to complete a long distance: We started on Route 101 in the morning, then took Route 210 north of Los Angeles, then Route 71 and 60 to a motel in Riverside.

At our arrival in Los Angeles, we had an appointment at Kiwi Parts – a paradise for Indian lovers: they had all types of Indians, a giant spare parts store, and a large workshop. Kiwi is able to reconstruct Indians from many different construction years. In the afternoon, we took off to Los Angeles, where we had booked our last motel. However, before, we wanted to visit the Garage Company by Yoshi Kosaka: motorcycles of the past 80 years.

Then, the last day of our US tour began. After 36 days of driving through the States, it was time for the transport back to Germany. The next day, we had to catch our flights to go back home. In the end, we completed 8,500 kilometres without any breakdowns (except for the loose footrest). During our tour, we got to know lots of kind and cooperative people. All in all, it was a great Indian US tour 2019.

Greetings from your Indian drivers Michael and Wolfgang!

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