Long distance motorcycling is like riding a bicycle, you do not forget, but there are a few wobbles as you start out. We have been on the road for only one week, yet it seems so much longer. The amazing first day still seems so unreal, going from Streak and Storm in a different city to watching the sun set on Niagara falls less than 10 hours later. Pure pleasure.
Reality the next day greeted us, overcast and raining as we crossed the border going over the bridge past Niagara Falls into the USA. Six months entry courtesy of our B1-2 visas suddenly made me aware of how little time we have to complete this journey. We can stay in the USA until 14 October 2017, which is after our planned completion date to be back in London! Rain increased and we had two hours on Interstate 90 (I90) at 70mph (110kph) testing our Klim waterproof clothing and new Sidi boots. All passed with flying colours.
We had considered heading to Nashville in Tennessee for a little country and western music, but a quick internet check showed the hotels are full, Easter holidays – it will have to wait for another time. As you know from Anne’s previous post, we headed south towards Pittsburgh to visit Fallingwater, so our westward journey has not even started.
When we flew into Montreal, we could see snow on the ground to the north and quickly became aware that Spring is not as advanced as we saw in Europe. As we rode southwards I watched the wind swirling last year’s leaves on the road as the first buds start to blossom into leaf amongst the the grey and black trees lining our route. We also noted that animals here have the same problems crossing the road as back home with the same sad result, everything from racoons to white tailed deer. Night riding is probably not a good idea.
After Fallingwater, which is approached by a lovely winding road (route 381), we backtracked to Ohiopyle for lunch where we discovered the Great Allegheny Passage, a wonderful repurposing of an old railway track for hiking and cycling. There are even campsites along the route for the hardy individuals who traverse the whole length. Any takers on the couch?
We walked a small section crossing the Youghiogheny river twice as it meanders in a horseshoe shape with great views of the river below. The old railway bridges have been converted to pedestrian/bicycle use and should be good for decades to come with the lighter payloads of feet and bicycle tyres.
Our westward push takes us in bright sunshine along I70 at a fair clip: here, all traffic moves at the speed limit, even the big trucks, it pays to keep pace with the traffic. The gently rolling hills give way to flatter country as we cross the Ohio river and enter the state of Ohio. Our destination of Bremen, Indiana is too far for us to cover in a day, especially since we do not leave until 11am. We are not called the 2slowspeeds for nothing. We chose Marysville, Ohio as our midway stop just over half way and beyond Columbus so we avoid the rush hour traffic the next day.
En-route we stop for lunch and meet yet another friendly person interested in the motorcycles and our journey. In the last week we have met many such people. While the government may have changed here since our last visit, the people we meet from day to day are the same as they were in 2015.
Marysville turns out to be the home of the first and largest Honda car manufacturing plant in the USA and has a heritage museum http://www.hondaheritagecenter.com, so a visit is planned. They also do a small group car plant tours twice a week, but this is booked out weeks in advance. We hide our BMWs at the end of the parking lot and are greeted with cookies and told there are a couple of cancellations for the car plant tour and we are welcome to join. Someone in the group took 2 years to get on the car plant tour and we get in without a booking, our luck continues.
Everyone dresses in white at Honda, to show that people are considered equal, reminding me of those futuristic sci-fi programs where you know someone will try to escape. I wait in vain for the alarm to sound. Talking of movies, I was reminded of ‘Willy Wonker and the Chocolate Factory’ as we prepared for the tour, those of you who have seen the movie will recall that not all the people made it through the factory tour. We had a brave couple with the surname ‘Ford’ who I said would definitely be the first to go.
The Honda Marysville Auto Plant, known locally as MAP, is approx 4 million square feet or almost 375,000 square meters in size and employs more than 4,500 people producing Honda Accord and Accura ILX and TLX models in two production lines. We are told that the tour will cover 1.5 miles or 2.5 kilometres within the plant. We are also told that while we will not be able to follow the process from start to finish in sequence, we will see all production stages except the paint shop. It quickly becomes apparent why, the plant is three dimensional, conveyors move parts above our heads as we see steel being cut out of a roll, the first stage of the car manufacturing process.
Here is a connection to Anne: in the early 1980’s, Anne was a steel broker in London purchasing tens of thousands of tonnes of steel from Eastern Europe for sale in the United States; some may have even ended up here in this plant! The cut steel then goes into the largest press I have ever seen, no photos allowed unfortunately but the size of a 3 storey building, stamping car body parts which are then taken by robots and welded together into the initial frame. Car bodies then disappear up towards the roof on our left side, to then reappear from beneath the ground on our right. Conveyors criss cross above our heads in a complex maze moving parts around. I hope someone knows how this all goes together in case of a breakdown. I could go on about the various fascinating plant processes, but will conclude with an interesting observation: while some processes are fully automated, manual checking at every stage exists in the plant. It is a strange combination of hi tech and low tech, which I had not fully appreciated before undertaking the tour.
As we depart this amazing place, we have seen rolls of steel become motorcars driven off the production line. This takes about 12 hours, including 10 hours in the paint shop, just 2 hours to construct, amazing. I find it somewhat incongruous to think that we leave here to visit our Amish friends who use a horse and buggy. Is there an opportunity for Honda here?
You must be impressed by the lengthy blog entry that I, Anthony, have crafted, but perhaps wonder what Anne does as I work my fingers to the bone on the virtual keyboard. Careful surveillance revealed the following:
The nexus between title and the blog content may seem a little tenuous at this point but while we have rolled on without interruption, a few niggles have emerged. As all our equipment is now over four years old, we are starting to see the first cracks emerge. We both have seats that have started to split and the waterproof tape inside the panniers has decided to go walkabout. Easily fixed by the appropriate glue. Small items appear to have gone missing, which probably means we, well I, have misplaced them. They will emerge at some time in the future as we use more equipment and start camping. I am also having to get used to the information displayed in front of me. I pulled over with rising tyre pressure, only to realise it was the reset milage counter! Maybe I need new glasses. Anyway, the cobwebs have been blown away and our feet are firmly on the ground in North America. 1000 miles or 1600 kilometres under our belts, we are on our way…
Stop press – All missing items found…..