USA to Russia
During my 250,000 kilometre lasting R1 world travel from March 2001 until August 2006 I had to fly myself and the bike from Alaska to Russia.
About this transport I wrote the following text in my book ‘Life on 2 Wheels’.
While staying with biker couple Suzanne and Taylor in Phoenix, I look for a way to get my R1 to Russia, my next destination. Pushing it into a container and shipping it from the West coast proves to mean a three-month one-way ticket. So Taylor, who used to live in Alaska, calls his uncle in Anchorage, 6,000 kilometres away and a stone’s throw from Russia. His uncle does some research and discovers that Magadan Air is willing to transfer R1 and rider. But I have to move quickly, so Taylor offers me to help. He turns to Suzanne and says “I’ve still got some stuff stored at Uncle Earl’s. I can go and pick it up and take Sjaak with me.”
We load the R1 on the back of his pick-up truck and we leave the Arizona cactuses, heading for the cold of Alaska. For the first time in four years, I’m behind the wheel of a tin box. I wonder whether this method of travel is acceptable. …Maybe I’ve caught the American ‘trailer-transport virus’? …No, it’s definitely not cheating, because I have ridden along this road and back before, last summer. Besides, Magadan Air want me to arrive quickly. I simply don’t have the time to ride there ‘normally’… I’ve figured it out, got my excuse, but I’m far from happy with it.
Fresh mountain snow, ice floes in the rivers and many nostalgic views glide past us as we cover the distance to Anchorage. In three days, with only six hours of sleep in hotel beds, we reach our destination. Not worrying about whether there is such a thing as coincidence, we arrive exactly the same day as Paul van Hooff. He is there to start his journey around the world in the Americas, and I’m there to close that chapter and to continue my trip through another place on Earth that is close to my heart, the land of Perestroika. Paul has never met me in person before, but he has often had to dig through my stories, as editor of MotoPort Magazine. Is it possible that this released a deep desire in him…?
Past the dateline, after the flight from Alaska with a view of snow-covered mountains and white ice in the polar water, the Magadan Air plane lands on a rough runway at Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky. The houses are a dull grey and the sky is dark; I am back in Russia and that feels good, for some reason I can’t explain. The enthusiastic customs officers check the A5 form, where I have scribbled “2001 Yamaha R1 YZF” under baggage description. They stamp it without hesitation, after which we can continue our flight to another far-flung corner of the earth, Magadan.