Menu Close

The Summer Trip

by Dr. Junji Yoshida

Did you know how much it cost me to make this trip? The conference registration fee was 350 Ir pounds, which was a bit over 500 bucks. The highest season air ticket cost me almost 270,000 Yen, which was about 2,250US$. Dublin hotel cost me almost 100,000 Yen / 5 nights, a little more than 800US$. Although the Cancer Research Foundation, which is laundering money contributed to the National Cancer Center, gave me 190,000 Yen, it was not enough to bring my family along all the way. Plus, Ai is still a very little girl who still needs diapers. But, hey, I found a Japanese colleague in Dublin who took along all his family, his wife and FOUR LITTLE KIDS! Oh, boy!

Carol Keuch, Larry Fears & Junji Yoshida cross the Potomac at White’s Ferry, just north of Fredricksburg, Virginia.

Leaving Narita a little past 18:00, August 8th, I arrived at O’Hare Airport, Chicago, at 15:30 on time, the same day.;-) Jon Diaz was waving at me at the immigration exit, and Mike Cornett was also there. In an unfamiliar place, it makes you feel easy when you find friends who are familiar with the place. I didn’t know what Mike was thinking of at that time…

A tram took us from the Terminal 5 to Terminal 1 where I was to transfer to the flight to London. I met there with Mike Lough and Chuck, whose last name I can’t remember. The four Ididots evaded out of their busy schedule and came to meet me only for 30 minutes before my departure!:-) Chuck had casts on his arm and leg, and I thought it a great idea to leave my signature on his cast in JAPANESE. Chat, song (This was the only opportunity to sing a Road Song together with friends, although I brought along some copies of Road Songs that I had arranged from Disney songs.) and photos. I was there in the States, where I was visiting for the first time, only for about 1.5 hours.

Boeing 777 took me to Heathrow in 7 hours, and I had a good on-board sleep with the help of a sleeping pill. I was nervous as I couldn’t find any BMW or IBMWR related signs at first, but Peter Young, Paul Hounslow and Adrian Stone welcomed me at the airport a little past 7 AM, Saturday, with a big Roundel in Peter’s hand. Great idea!

They took me to Peter’s Citroen BX and drove off to Birmingham to visit the National Motorcycle Museum. On our way, as Paul already reported, we had typical English HEAVY breakfast. OK, I can omit lunch today.;-) The problem was I couldn’t follow their conversation when they burst into rapid joking mode. Oh, my! Can I get along during the conference and the trip in the US? I was a bit dissapointed. There still are two weeks to go…

It was foggy on our way, but when we arrived at the museum, it was fine and getting rather hot. The museum was full of old gems, and Peter was very excited to see all those hand-shift machines. If you’re interested in historic M/C made in the UK, this place is a MUST during your UK stay.

After strolling around the museum, joined by Phil Knight, we went up to their coffee shop for refreshments on the balcony. Phil rode all the 360km only to meet me there! Frank, whose last name I can’t remember (sorry), joined us. Paul kindly offered me some bread pudding. Gosh, it was SWEET and HEAVY! That’s why I refrained from swimming in Mick Collins’ pool 11 days later.;-)

National M/C Museum in Birmingham with Adrian Stone, Peter Young and Paul Hounslow (from right to left).

They had a souvenir shop in the museum, and Peter was delighted to find a plastic model of the Paris-Dakar version of GS and some manuals. I think my visit gave him a good excuse to be there and to purchase some M/C goods.;-)

Oxford tea shop was a good place to find some tea cozies for my wife, Erika. I bought three of them!

Lancaster Hall Hotel, near Hyde Park, was a relatively cheap but neat place to stay in London. Fifty-two GBP, circa 75US$, per night.

Porter’s English Restaurant, Covent Garden, was a pleasant place to have dinner, and their dishes were HEAVY! I couldn’t deal with the side dish of mashed potato and asked Peter and Paul to have it.

After a long day, they sent me to the hotel and we said good-byes. It was a hot, busy, verbaly challenging and digestively demanding day. After a quick shower, I crashed into bed.

Sunday morning dawned fine and warm. I strolled through Hyde Park, walked by the Royal Albert Hall and visited the Royal College of Music, where Erika studied violin for about two years before our marriage. My sister was there, too, and it was when I was a junior high student…

Picking up my luggages at the hotel, I *tube*d to Heathrow. Brtitish Midland didn’t show which gate we were departing before the scheduled departure time. They kept us waiting after the time, and the lobby was HOT!

I think I’d better change my sig like, YOSHIDA, “Heat-Man”, Junji.;-) It was hot in London, Dublin, on the east and west coasts…

My BIG Thank You to Peter, Paul, Adrian, Phil and Frank for spending their motorcycle-Saturday for me.

Part 2

You can see the central Dublin, the O’Conner (sp?) Bridge and the surroundings, through a live-camera at The city appeared to me very similar to London, a bit smaller and older. The two-storied buses are not London-red, but army green. No London taxi cabs, but Toyota, Mitsubishi and Nissan. Unlike London, I met no black (sorry, but I can’t think of any other expressions) people in Dublin except the conference delegates.

They showed us the traditional Irish dance and played thier music. It wasvery strange. They danced kinda tap-dance, but they did as if they had no hands. Their hands were almost always on their sides. Their music was very similar to the country-western in the US. Considering the bunch of immigrants from Ireland to the States, they may be the origins of their US analogus.

I had the time to visit Trinity College, famous for its 12th century Christianity textbook, The Book of Celts, and New Grange (sp?), famous for its megalithic monuments that were built before the pyramids were. But I have very little knowledge to describe them in detail.

Irish breakfast was great but heavy. Based on the two dishes I had for dinner there, I have a simple suggestion; Avoid beef in Ireland. Peter and Paul told me to enjoy Guiness during my Ireland stay (They told us “Guiness doesn’t travel more than 3 miles.”), but I found Marty’s Stout more tasty.

Other than these, I was soaked by speeches, discussions and conversations in English, and have very little to refer to. Oh, my poster presentation was referred to in a reviewing session by a famous surgeon in Lodon, which I thought a success.

After a brief international call to Erika and to my resident in the ward, I left Dublin for Heathrow, where I changed planes to Washington DC. I was amazed when a ground attendant asked me lots of questions; Did you pack your luggages by yourself? Did anybody asked you to bring anything with you during your Ireland stay? Has your luggages all been under your control? etc. etc…. It was the first time for me to be asked such questions during my overseas trips. But it turned out to be the common questions, even for domestic flights, in the US.

Another surprise was that, soon after I sat down in my seat, this middle-aged guy came up to me and shook hands with me, saying “Hello, Dr. Yoshida. I’m a friend of Mike Cornett’s in Chicago.” I was so astonished that I forgot to ask what he was doing there. Shortly before the arrival at Washington DC, the chief purser came up to me and gave me a big bottle of sparkling wine and their name cards. It turned out that the guy was the captain and the purser was his wife.=8O Oh, I should have asked the pilot to let me have a look at the 767 cockpit! Mike, talking with the pilot, found out that his flight schedule happened to be mine.:-) I didn’t forget to ask a flight attendant to hand them my name cards.;-)

The cross-Atlantic flight arrived at Washington DC on time. The customs and immigration office was far vacnat than it was in Narita and in London. You have too much space in the States! I didn’t dare to wear my hat with some IBMWR badges and a VI badge on it before I got through the immigration. Good move, eh?;-)

Brian Curry easily identified me with the help of the hat, but, you know, we had known each other with the help of the cyberspace for almost two years! He took me to his SAAB (Not that nasty brand from Sweden) with a manual transmission (!) and a trailer hitched to it. The trailer had his EC K75RT on it.

We drove to Don Graling’s estate close to the DC international airport (We did see a 747 fly above our heads VERY low). You know, Don’s place is huge! FIVE acres (=20235 square-meters)!! Bordered by a forest, next door neighbors can’t be seen. And it cost him 500,000 US$. Hmmmmm. You have too much space in the States, I have to say…

Talking all of these, I found another difficulty for Japanese in listening to English conversations. Not only the meter-mile & kilogram-pound unit diffenrence, we also have differnet system for powers of ten in Japan, which makes following such conversations difficult, converting one system to another.

While 1,000=thousand, 10,000=ten thousand, 100,000=hundred thousand,1,000,000=million, 10,000,000=ten million and 100,000,000=hundred million in English, 1,000=Sen, 10,000=Man, 100,000=Jew(phonetic, that’s 10) Man, 1,000,000=Hyaku(hundred) Man, 10,000,000=Sen Man and 100,000,000=O-ku in Japanese. Naturally, we put commas like 1,0000, 10,0000, 100,0000, 1000,0000 and 1,0000,0000 domestically. Now you know where we Japanese have difficulties in English conversations, please be kind enough to your Japanese friends.:-)

Part 3

One thing planned for this trip was the purchase of an Aerostich. You know, shipping to Japan costs a considerable amount of money. Plus, I had an intact 100,000 (or Jew Man) Yen (circa 830US$) travelers check, which I had made for my first overseas trip in 1990, in my desk, and Erika didn’t know this.;-)

I talked with Brian and the guys at Rider Wearhouse, and they made up a plan to send two Roadcrafters to Brian, to let me try both at Don’s and to have us send them back if a retouch was necessary. Unfortunately, the two Roadcrafters that departed RW at the beginning of August got stuck in the UPS pipeline due to their strike. So RW immediately made another two and sent them FedEx to Brian, which arrived him in time.

The 40L one-piece, gray with silver patches on it, fit me great, and I made an instant decision to go for it. No retouch was necessary.

Don’s BBQ party started. Don, his wife, Lynne, and their kids were doing an excellent job. Bunch of people were arriving. Now, here came another difficulty for us Japanese. As I wrote in the list before, we usually don’t call a person by his/her first name. I always had to try to be keen on memorizing people’s names. And they still spill out of my brain, and I won’t list their names, because I’m sure I would miss someone.

Mike Dulany made a banner welcoming me both in Japanese and in English. People gave me bunch of gifts. Among them, a bagle cutter brought me a chuckle. When I took it back home, Erika turned it into a music holder for kids.;-)

Don’s daughter, Caroline, let me use her bedroom for two nights. She had a bunch of horse-riding awards in her room. Great lady, Caroline!

It is simple to refer to the Saturday ride with 10 other IBMWR friends; It was HOT!! I heard that it was almost 100F in the afternoon. Aerostich did an excellent job. As long as I was running at speed, it stayed cool enough inside the suit. I put it on and off every time we stopped, so I soon became an expert in putting on and off the suit.;-) I bought two books on medical instruments in the Civil War period in Gettysburg. Let me warn you one thing. Don’t try to argue about the Civil War with Larry. He’s a real CW craze. Just listen to him.;-) Oh, thank you very much, Larry, for buying me a video on the Gettysburg Battle.:-)

Rather exhausted, we returned to Don’s and found Jon Diaz and Susan already there. And they said they were returning to Chicago right after the dinner! What a couple! I was tired and couldn’t concentrate on the conversations, but Susan was kind enough to talk to me rather slowly.

Sunday *Power Tour* in the DC was also simple to refer to; It was HOT!! And Brian kept me walking, walking and walking. You know, when I returend home, I was a bit lighter than I used to be, despite all the HEAVY foods during the trip…

During the drive to Philly, I was fortunate enough to see both a thunderstorm and a *downpour*. The SAAB front tires actually hydroplaned during the latter. Brian seemed to be rather tired after the power trip, and we almost tailgated when we came to a tail of a traffic jam near Baltimore. He was too busy explaining this and that…

Joe Dille allowed me to be on-board his side car in a drizzle on our way to Mike Dulay’s from Jarettown Inn. The low view point was helluva interesting, but it was noisy without helmet on.

Mike’s son, Kevin, and his daughter, Melissa, let Brian and me use their beds for a night. They slept in the VW camper that Mike had bought earlier this year. They, like Don’s, had a reptile pet at home, and they told me that they fed their pets wth live crickets.:-( 30 crickets / 1.5 US$, I seem to remember. Hmmmm, we enjoy listening to their *music*, did you know that?

Monday dawned rainy and cold. But the restaurant we had breakfast was airconditioned VERY cold. Oh, please don’t waste energy on this! I was almost frozen. But when we arrived in Philly, it was getting fine and another hot day began. I was again dissapointed that I could understand only 40% of what a voluntary guid spoke rapidly during her speech in the Independence Hall, although Brian and Mike tried to ease me by saying she was a bad speaker…

Part 4

Mike was a considerate husband to buy a bouquet of flowers for his wife, Jill. She and their daughter, Melissa, were excellent cooks and, thanks to Jill’s Italian origin, her Lasagna was an excellent dish.

Joe Dille showed up later with his son, Joey, and his dog, Casa, in his side car. He named the dog Casa, as it was bulky and he found a Japanese word Kasa meaning bulk in a dictionary. Yes, and the word also means umbrella in Japanese. And be advised; when you mean bulk, put an accent at “sa”, when umbrella, at “Ka”. Have you imagined you could learn Japanese in the LIST?;-)

To refer to Brian’s driving, let me use the phrase which he always says; He drove *like crazy* on our way from Mike’s to Brian’s that night. How many times did I have to stamp the floor when he was flipping into corners?!

“Alaska” (or Oakie) packing was very impressive. But it turned out that lots of Japanese were coming back to Narita with BIG cardboard boxes to accomodate their shopping stuff.=8O I packed all the gifts I had gotten on the EC to obtain a space for my Aerostich in the suitcase. Brian put on a tie-down-belt-like thing around the box and it made a good handle for the box. Now I had FIVE luggages, 72cm-height suitcase, the BOX, backpack, fanny pack and Shoei hat. Yes, I hauled my helmet all the way from Japan. A guy at the security checkpoint in Heathrow smiled at me when he noticed a helmet tumbling out of the X-ray machine.;-)

Tuesday, 19th, morning dawned fine. Brian’s estate is on a small hill and is spacious, too. Two acres! The next door neighbor can only be seen far away on the next hill. Great place to visit!!

We headed to a local bank to do the Aerostich payment. It was my surprise to be told that there was no nation-wide bank in the States. We have several banks that have their branches all over Japan. One of them, Dai-ichi-Kangyo Bank, aka DKB or So-ka-i-ya problem bank, made my travelers checks 7 years ago. The ladies at the bank were rather upset to welcome a Japanese customer with TC’s that they had never seen before.;-) They seemed to be familiar with Japanese 1-Man (That’s ten thousand, you know?) Yen note, though.

We hugged each other to say good-byes at Philly airport. I didn’t imagine a bit that I would meet Brian 3 days later…

Big thank you to Brian, Don, Mike, Larry, and all the Presidents on the east coast and their families.

The bird-eye view of the mountains was obstructed by lots of clouds during my cross-continetal flights, but I could have a great look at the California Desert. Transferring at Denver, I arrived at San Diego on time. I was a bit scared when the plane approached the airport, as I could see the skyscrapers right beneath the wing.

Butch Hays welcomed me and took me to his brandnew cute red MB C220. Arriving at his house, I found another MB wagon in his garage. He also owns a house to let. I had to say “You’re a rich man.”, but he didn’t seem to realize it. Hmmmmmm.

Wednesday morning, we headed out to ride in the Valley. Butch let him ride his R1100RS, and he was on Mick Collins’ R1100RT. We met Mick on his Norton and Skipper Brown on his R80GS at a parking lot, and Mick led the group. It was helluva view of the Valley up from a mountain top 6000ft high!

Mick allowed me a ride on his RT, and I have to say it was a GREAT bike! It requires no effort to flip into corners, while RS does require considerable effort. And it was rock STABLE. I was seriously thinking of changing my riding style and of purchasing one in the future. But that is when I get older and find my self no longer a RS kind of guy, and if the two-up prohibition on expressways in Japan is abandoned. Did you know it was prohibited by law to ride two-uo on expressways here?

During the ride, I happened to put out my right foot out to cool it in the airflow and noticed extraordinary air flowing into the boot. Oh, my right boot *blew out*! I hauled the 13-year-old pair of Sidi boots all the way from Japan, too.

Fortunately, Jim Brown brought me a Motoport catalogue and I was very much interested in their Gore-Tex boots. You know, I was a water-proof craze after buying the Aerostich.;-) I dropped an e-mail to Kari asking him to quote their Gore-Tex boots price, as I was visiting him two days later.

Part 5

Butch, his wife, Esther, and I visited Motoport on the morning of the 21st, but it turned out that their Gore-Tex boots were discontinued and they didn’t have my size in stock. We also visited Motopro, but it was unfruitful.

We headed for La Jolla and enjoyed some Mexican dishes for lunch at Hotel Valencia. My Quesadella (Butch, help me to describe the dish, please) was great! I purchased some gifts for my family at the shops Esther and Butch recommended, and Erika and Ai appreciated the gifts *like crazy*.;-)

In the evening, we visited Brattin’s in San Diego to get together with local BMW riders for a ride in the Valley. The Brattin’s happened to have a pair of Alpinestar Gore-Tex boots in size 44, which fit me great. They even gave me a little walk-in discount and I bought it at 266.09US$ including tax. I put on the boots and was on the road again on Butch’s RS. He kindly let me ride his bike, while he was driving his C220 with Esther.

Stacey, a young firefighter on R1100GS, led the group. Gosh! He runs fast!! I didn’t want to be left behind in the country where they drive on the *wrong side*, so I pushed hard to catch up with him. But he flipped into blind corners almost without braking and waited for me where traffic was heavy. I heard later that John Hermann, who was among the group and 60+ years old, ran even faster.=8O

After being fed up full at a BBQ place in the Valley, we headed home (I mean Butch’s.;-) Oh, his dog was blessed to get lots of bones from the BBQ place.). Brilliant stars above the head, crispy cool night, riding along with friends whom I had never met… I was feeling that this ever-unforgettable trip and the summer was approaching an end.

Arriving at Butch’s feeling sentimental, I realized that it was time to say good-bye to my 13-year old Sidi boots. Being imported all the way from Italy, traveling a lot together with me in Japan, now being trashed here in the States… I barely saved tears in my eyes and asked Butch to take a last picture of the boots with me. He gently wished me good luck with the new boots.

After enjoying a chorizo dish with BMWOCSD members at a local Mexican restaurant, Butch sent me to the airport and we said good-byes. As my backpack didn’t accomodate Aerostich and boots, I had to unpack my suitcase in the airport lobby in San Francisco to get them out. Sam Lepore and Victor Kimura kept their eyes on my belongings.

Sam asked a UA guy at the baggage claim, and we went to the UA reception in the international terminal to leave my suitcase and the BOX till next morning. But the lady there told us that they wouldn’t accept the baggage and to go upstairs to the airport cloakroom. They were afraid of baggage bombs and they had an X-ray machine at the cloakroom. A young skin-headed in front of me was arguing angrily with the cloak guy, being told that they wouldn’t accept loaded guns. Horrible…

Sam, Victor and his wife, Karen, kindly cooperated for me to get three bikes at the airport by the time I got there. Sam’s R100RT, Victor’s R1100RT and K75 for me. After a quick sightseeing ride in SFO and having a short look at Sam’s computer through a window on his house in the middle of the city, we rode south along the coast.While riding at speed, the coast breeze was rather cold, but once we get inland and came to a slow traffic, it was HOT again!

We visited California BMW Triumph, where I had bought my front fender extension almost 2 years ago. The parts guy, Kevin, kindly put their T-shirt in the extension parcel, and I was lucky enough to meet him in person at the shop. Victor told me that we should be on the road again to avoid traffic jams. But we were caught up in a jam on the way to santa Cruz, and Victor didn’t dare to lane-split. After the jam, he was almost catching up with a police car in the twisty section of the state highway 17 (probably), though.;-)

Part 6

Victor’s house was big, too. My bedroom seemed to be about 30 square meters. No wonder they expected 20 or more guests that night. It relieved me that they had decals ready to write first names on it and put it on the shirt. You know, it had always been tough for me to memorize people’s names in parties.

That’s why I lost my concentration and the names slipped out of my brain (sorry), but while I was chatting about medical stuff with a couple of a nurse and an emergency paramedic, there was another pair of guests arriving at the doorstep. They were BRIAN and Joey in their riding gear!! I was so astonished that I didn’t have words to say. He had flown to the west coast the day before and rode to Santa Cruz on his WC K75RT with Joey. Cool…

More food, beer, chat, champagne… But the guests seemed to be less hungry than Karen and Victor had expected. I’m not reckless enough to refer to what Rooz ate during the party.

While we were out in front of Vicotr’s house taking photos, two girls came up to us and asked “What are you doing here?” Brian explained the Internet-craze story and said “I’m from Philly. And where do you think this guy came from? From Tokyo!” “Cool!” they said and went away…

While we were out, I was barefooted. I was getting used to the US way of doing things, but we usually don’t go out barefooted. The US citizens didn’t seem to ditinguish shoes-on / socks-on / barefooted and outside / inside, but we do. You are usually expected to put off your shoes when enterning houses here. Plus, in most Japanese houses, you are expected to put indoor-scuffs on while you’re on carpeted or wood floors and in rest rooms. You are usually allowed to go barefoot only on Ta-ta-mi floors. I don’t know why we have Tatami distinction, though. Kinda sacred place? I’m not sure…

Saturday morning dawned foggy. Victor and Karen sent me to the airport, and, while Karen was looking for a parking space, I asked Victor to keep an eye on my baggage while I re-pack my suitcase in the airport lobby. Now, it was time to say the last good-bye. Karen was expecting three soccer games in a row that day.

BIG thank you to Butch, Esther, Mick, Sam, Victor, Karen and their families. They were always very kind to me.

Here comes the end of my story. I was relieved when I sat in my seat on the flight back to Japan. I no longer had to concentrate listening to English. Speaking of seats, UA gave me a window seat on all the 7 flights during this trip, thanks to the membership of their frequent flier programme.

After the meal, I took a sleeping pill and had a good on-board sleep till the meal prior to arrival. The flight arrived at Narita almost on time. But the immigration and customs were so crowded that it was about 1.5 hours later that I met Erika and Ai at the airport.

Ai had become a ballet-craze when Erika showed her a Nutcracker (Tchaikovsky) video while I was away. She dances to the music, full of emotion in her face. We bought her a pair of toe shoes last Saturday and she’s expecting to get a skirt with lots of frills on it.;-)


YOSHIDA, Junji, M.D.