Sunday, June 17, 2012

Returning Home

Leaving South America.  Returning home?  We were ready; however, apprehension of the oncoming onslaught of emotion of the transition and work yet to commense piled up into our minds as we emerged back into a world which had been very far away for a very long time.  We would soon find out if we were even the same people we had been when we had left.   

Landing in Knoxville, Tennessee is like sweet tea on a hot afternoon. It is a wonderful place for us to get our feet back under us after launching ourselves off the planet that we had previously known. Coming back to "reality", as so many people say, found us in good hands.  Below is Mike watching Mikey Barillaro try to start a bike that had been in hybernation for many months.  They had hope, for "I sprayed the kickstand!", Mikey said.

  First order of business: transportation.
We needed wheels, and they lay around in garages or in pieces here and there. So, it was time to dig up anything that could help get us going, for there is no time to waist when the excitement of an epic adventure drips from your fingertips.

 The Lead Sled. 
It is getting very close to time to introduce you to an event of extreme proportions, or at least extreme fun intertwined in bad ideas...but not yet.  The Lead Sled is the first hint.  This is a 1972 Honda CB350 that was brought to life last summer.  The sidecar was built from scratch and attached for a cross-country run from Knoxville to Portland, Oregon in the fall of last year.  Mikey and Mike created this articulating contraption for less than $500 in total. 

 Mikey Barillaro.  He is a 3rd generation welder whose rapid fire wit and mechanical skills are amazing inspiration for some really terrible ideas.  They got the rig fired up and we were off for a spin before pulling off the car for everyday transport. 

 The sidcar rocked a fully functioning '57 Ford Fairlane tail section.

 Oh yeah, and this is an articulating pivot, so the bike can still lean.

Mikey's garage is a hot rod haven.  Note the bike in pieces sitting on the shelf in the back it: is the beginnings of something great to come.

 Mike Fairman's Green Pile is another project that is in the works that you will see again in time.  There are some interesting ideas at work here.

 Mikey has his own projects up his sleeve.  He's not shy to make something out of nothing, literally.  By his own hand, he restored, customized, and painted every inch of this 1956 F-100.  The only other hands on this truck were that of the pin-striper and the leather interior which he did not have the time to learn himself.  Their Hot Rod shop is the Barillaro Speed Emporium ( )

 So with the Led Sled running and the side hack disconnected, we have one bike ready for the road.

Next stop:  the house of Who the Hell is the Handsome Headless Kansas City Dave Walker (KC or other variations for short, or longer).  He has been holding a pile of mine that has been handed down from a friend.  Not running, it has some major repairs to look forward to.  This bike has some history as well. 

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Post Motorcycle

A bus took us from Uyuni to La Paz overnight. This trip in reverse took us at least 4 hard days of brutal cold, rain and hail. From the bus we emerged sleepless into a huge city, and we had to carry ALL of our things. We understood immediately why our racks had broken every other day. The burden those bikes had carried was an amazing feat.

Our last week in South America was a game of waiting for the inevitable, our flight home. Meanwhile, we wandered through tight market alleys and crowded narrow streets that climbed the mountain in search of anything of interest. There are fabrics of all colors, intricate carvings, huge bags of coca leaves, presidential parades, and far out drugs in dirty little bottles that were gnarley even to look at. Through the Witches' Market you can find all these things wrapped in an explosion of color. My favorite, I think, are the llama fetuses that are sold for offering for "tu Pache Mama", Mother Earth. They are creepy, and I wanted one. However, I don't think customs would have been as thrilled as me. We got haircuts and straight razor shaves.  By the look on the face of the barber, I guarante that my long blond locks were the first to ever see the floor of that shop.  We stayed up late and ate our fill of weird food.  Then we called it good, for we were ready to move on to all the things that had been rattling around in our helmets for the past year.

We waited for our flight for a week with nothing to do.  The morning of our departure, the alarm was set to a different time zone causing us to scramble from our South America in a frightened pace, chewing our nails to the airport and sweating in the long line that stood between us and our ride home.

We squeezed onto our flight, all of them in fact by the skin of our teeth. On one, the guy had to check to see if the runway was still connected to the plane. In one way or another, whether our fault or not, we almost missed every flight we had from La Paz, Bolivia to Lima, Peru to San Salvador, El Salvador and finally to Los Angelas, California. It had taken us over a year to get down there and 13 stressed-out hours to get back...and of all places, to L.A.
However, our trip was not ending, only transitioning into a different form... and this time on our own turf and in our own language. Connecting with some wonderful friends in LA, we were very lucky to arrange a visit with a famous motorcycle builder, our hero, Shinya Kimura.
He invited us to visit his shop, and we were honored to ablige.  Above is the wheel to his 1917 Indian which he was working on and is in running condition for the upcoming Cannonball Run.  That bike will take him across the country in September.  Our utmost respect for Shinya's ideas and his work left us giddy with excitement as we weaved through LA traffic to get to his shop, Chabott Engineering. We were blown away by the kindness and humbleness of he and his partner, struck silent by the artistry of his shop, and left punchdrunk by the quiet power of his craftsmanship and handbuilt bikes.  Meeting these two was a pleasure and a highlight.  Please visit his site at  You will be doing yourself a favor.

There are so many things yet to come. We may be broke and having to start again into this crazy North American life, but we will be hitting the ground running. With fresh ideas and renewed courage from the insights, inspirations, and friends, our lust for travel, especially on motorbikes, will forward us into even more terrible two wheeled ideas.  Stay tuned, you might like it.

to be contined...