I returned the hire car lunchtime today after yesterday when I drove 200+ miles up country to Thousand Oaks on the 101 the 5 the 10 and back, all Friday on the freeway huddled among infinite numbers of vehicles running about like ants in the hazy humid sunshine. The first bike was the furthest and on paper looked the most suitable. A 1993 FJ1200 same mileage as my old one I sold in 2004 same age too. I was dismayed at how badly it had been neglected and the owner wanted too much money for it so I went to a supermarket and chomped on a leathery burrito and fixed up the next appointment on my cell phone.
The second viewing took place in Garfield an east LA suburb consisting of endless chinese solicitors and dentists mile upon mile along the road I was to find my next bike. I irritated the seller by phoning to tell him I was lost as the numbers incremented north of the freeway and increments again south of the freeway so I did my u turn and eventually found him. He glared at me through his orange Oakleys and I cheerfully greeted him in my best English plummy voice – he led me to the garage where there were two Suzuki 750 both drenched in what best could be described as tar… its the rat bike look he explained. All I could see was the bald tyres, worn disks, sagging chain and blown fork seals. The bike was a mess and he was so proud on the phone. He smoothed back his lank fringe and wearily explained he was off to New York and needed to sell them in a hurry, the other one was already spoken for as a local bike mechanic had reserved it. I started up the bike and it immediately died. And again. And again. It was flooded but I persevered and we set off – I followed behind and revved the guts out of it to try and get the mixture leaner . I must admit that it did settle down but I explained politely that it really needed too much work on it to be worth it and said my goodbyes… you wont get a bike for 950 dollars in any better condition he snapped. He was probably right so when I got home I arranged to see the third bike at 9 am in east LA.
East LA, dusty and frightening, images of drug gangs and shootings raced though my mind as I circled the house where the Kawasaki Zephyr waited. At the top of the stairs a grim faced Mexican guy stared down at me. I greeted him as he held out an muscle-bound tattood arm – led me round the back… I expected to be pounced on by a gang of thugs so I left the money in the car. He turned out to be surprisingly meek and polite and was selling the bike for a friend. Again, the bike was terrible, leaky forks grimy and unloved. I fired it up and took it out onto the LA streets, it coughed and spluttered, firing on 2 out of the 4 cylinders. so I took it back and we shook hands and I left.
Back on Beverly Boulevard, Matthew suggested I see Tony, a car dealer selling Rolls Royces and Smart cars from his crowded lot … Tony is from Kent and showed me into his neat office and he tapped away on his PC -pointing out the arial view of his house in Kent and then on to help look for a bike, on www.bikez.biz and recyler.com… oh yes and I know Johnny Rotten he said and the other day John and Paul Cook and Chris Thomas all met last week to re-record some guitar riffs for a new computer game.. they had lost the original masters so they re-did it.. and it all went really well! He advised me to go next door to Swingers Cafe (a popular Hollywood eatery) and use the free wifi there. Really nice guy – he cheered me up and I thanked him and nipped next door. No sooner than my burger had arrived, I arranged to meet up with a guy a few blocks away to see a police department Kawasaki Z1000 – in under an hour the deal was done and I became the proud owner of a LAPD bike.