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the old man 08-05-2009 02:47 PM

Spain and a Triumph Bonneville
It seems like about 50 years ago-hell, it was almost 50 years ago, that I got discharged from the Navy in Spain where I had been stationed. I had ordered a new 1965 Triumph Bonneville 650 and after some wrangling I managed to get discharged at Rota, Spain.

In the months before I got discharged I fabricated some bag guards and mounts and mounted a pair of canvas suitcases to the rear of the Triumph. A discarded 16mm fiberglass projector case was mounted behind the seat and my camera was in a bag on the gas tank. I was suppose to be discharged a few months earlier but due to the Cuban missile crisis I got extended a few months. Finally free and with passport in hand I headed east along the coast of Spain to Gibraltar.

I had managed to accumulate a fair supply of gasoline coupons so gasoline purchases weren't a problem. I crossed into Gibraltar and encountered my first problem. The Triumph had license plate number areas on the front and rear fenders which came from the factory as black plates. I had simply registered the bike and received a list of my numbers. I bought some white numerals and stuck them to the black plates, not realizing the proper plate was a white background with black numbers.

The guards at the border were actually quite nice about the whole mix-up, whereas today I might be tossed in jail. I had a friend at the public works section of the submarine base and he had some of the Spanish workers on base repaint my license numbers. I took a ferry to Morocco, intending to tour a bit of Morocco too. I had been told that I could buy insurance when I got to Morocco but that turned out to be wrong. I wasn't suppose to be let off the ferry without proof of insurance for Morocco. I had some sort of green identification card that resembled the green International insurance card so they let me off the ferry. I quickly discovered that perhaps Morocco wasn't too American friendly.

Morocco had just gotten their independence from France and the money was a nightmare. There were French francs and Moroccan francs, The French francs being worth 10 times the Moroccan francs. I found a nice large hotel and the girl at the desk (who spoke excellent English) insisted that I park my motorcycle inside the lobby. I was really beginning to wonder about travel in Morocco. That evening I walked down to the bazaar and visited a few of the shops. I got to watch the fine art of bartering. On the way back to the Hotel I picked up a tail of 3 or 4 men who were following me. I made it back to the hotel but decided to perhaps it might not be wise to tour Morocco, especially without insurance.

I spent the next couple of months wondering the back roads of southern Spain, many of the roads were practically trails and would have been more suited to a scrambles bike than the Triumph. At one point I was cruising along the coast when I noticed the high points along the road were sprouting armed officers of the La Guardia Civil. A little farther along I was motioned off the road and a few minutes later a motorcade with a blacked out limo raced past. It wasn't until I returned home I discovered that the U.S. had lost a nuclear weapon off the coast of Spain at that time.

The Spanish people were very helpful and friendly and I never once felt I was in any danger during my trip in Spain. Although I had been in Spain for about a year and a half I soon discovered that ordering from a menu could bring some surprises. I did eat a lot of ham and cheese sandwiches when in doubt.

I did have one close call at some unknown intersection along some unknown highway. I came to a "T" in the road and after stopping at the stop sign I parked across the other road and was leaning against the bike studying a map. A van ran the stop sign and pulled out directly in front of a huge truck carrying large glass wine containers in wicker baskets that was approaching the intersection. I heard the squeal of tires and then the crash as the truck careened off the van and began sliding sideways towards me. I dove for cover in the ditch. The truck slid up to within a couple of feet of my motorcycle when it slid off the edge of the blacktop down to the gravel shoulder where I was parked. The glass and wicker baskets crashed against the side of the truck bed breaking several of them. The truck had stopped close enough that the wine was running out of the side of the bed and down onto my bike.

I finished my bike tour without any accidents to me or my bike but the real problems would be after I finished and was ready to head home. I arranged to have the Triumph shipped from Cadiz back to Philadelphia. A shipping company was suppose to build a crate for it and remove the from wheel for shipping. I checked back with them a few days before the shipping date and found the bike still sitting at their shop. There was a misunderstanding about my not paying for the crate materials in advance. I rode the bike back to the Naval base and with the help of some friends we built a crate and hauled it back to Cadiz in time for shipment. The crate was stored on deck and it wasn't until the ship docked that I learned they had encountered a severe storm during the trip. The crate had been soaked in sea water. I was suppose to have drained all the oil but actually all I did was drain the gas tank.

I claimed a salt water soaked bike in the middle of warehouse on the dock in Philadelphia and no gas station within miles. I got the front wheel put on and finally got most of the cables and freed up enough to run. One of the warehouse forktruck drivers' slipped me enough gas to get the bike off the dock and I started for Kansas. It now dawned on me that it was still winter, I was almost broke and I had a long, cold way to go. I can remember trying to drink coffee to warm up and my teeth were chattering so much I couldn't hold the cup to my mouth. I hit an oil slick coming into an intersection somewhere in Ohio and the bike slid out from under me. The damage was minor to both me and the bike. Later, while riding at night because I didn't have money for a motel room I encountered some sand on a curve and was forced to either run off the road or wreck the bike. I went off the road, down through a shallow ditch and I can remember trees in the woods along the side of the road zipping by both sides of the bike. I missed every one.

It was a wonderful adventure, I wouldn't want to try it again today but when you're young and stupid you don't know any better.
Keep the oily side down.

pplassm 08-06-2009 05:12 AM

Interesting story, but, paragraphs, man, paragraphs!

SmokeU 08-06-2009 05:36 AM


Originally Posted by pplassm (Post 220926)
Interesting story, but, paragraphs, man, paragraphs!

He's an old man, give him a break.

sarnali2 08-06-2009 06:40 AM

neat story but ditto on the paragraphs.....

SmokeU 08-06-2009 06:46 AM


Originally Posted by sarnali2 (Post 220932)
neat story but ditto on the paragraphs.....

So edit it for him!.......:wink:


Kenneth_Moore 08-06-2009 09:17 AM

It sucks that you can't really get away with being young and stupid these days. If you want to tour around foreign countries on your bike you have to hire f'cking visa consultants or risk going to prison. You might find a guy on a dock who'd toss you a gallon of gas to get you going, but more likely they'd impound your bike and charge you $350 a day storage.

Old man take a look at my life. I'm a lot like you were.

Not really, I just like that song.

mscuddy 08-07-2009 03:23 PM

Spain was a great place to be a Sailor in transit. I was trying to catch my boat (U.S.S. Indepdence) for about 3 weeks, flying all over the Med. I was in Rota for about a week, and "borrowed" of a 175 Montesa street bike that was rotting away in the parking lot next door, somehow got it started with my baby Buck knife. (Mogas & 30wt Govt. oil helped too).

It had a base sticker on the front fender that was expired, so I peeled a number off someones bumper to bring it up to date.

Anyway, after riding it for about a day, it seized up on that long road that goes from the base, to the waterfont. Hooked a ring.

I just left it there, and took the bus when it came by. I made my ship two weeks later, after some idiot personnel officer at NAS Sigonella sent me to the Kennedy, instead of the Indy. At least I got an arrested landing, and a cat shot out of the deal.

Ahh, the sea stories can never end. I wouldn't mid retiring in Palma de Majorica, now that's a beautiful city.

the old man 08-09-2009 08:39 AM

Sorry about the poor story structure. We got company just as I was finishing so I failed to edit it. It won't happen again.

mscuddy 08-09-2009 10:39 AM

Hey, fuhgetaboudit. Great story, and since most of the moderators here are ex-Navy men, we've got you covered shipmate.

angllee 10-12-2009 02:34 AM

:p :rolleyes:
click here to know more

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