Clancy – On Home Soil!

Geoff Hill’s latest update on – THE CS CLANCY CENTENARY RIDE – On Home Soil!

Supported by Adelaide Insurance Services and BMW Motorrad.

Recreating the first around the world ride 100 years on.

Bay-stay-at-San-Francisco-docks-smallWhen Clancy arrived in San Francisco and stepped onto home soil for the first time in over eight months, his first shock was that everyone was speaking English.

For while his head knew of course they would, in his heart it felt like sacrilege for Frenchmen, Italians and Chinese to be wantonly using his home language as their own.

However, he was in for an even bigger shock when he went to the docks to collect his Henderson to find that it had crossed the Pacific from Tokyo upside down, the Japanese for This Way Up obviously having been lost in translation.

As he was rolling up his sleeves and preparing to laboriously clean the oil off it with kerosene, he heard the sound of another Henderson, and looked up to see a young man called Robert Allen rolling up on his brand new machine.

Bob, as everyone called him, immediately set to helping Clancy with the job, and by the time they’d finished, had agreed to scrap his plans for a riding holiday and join Clancy in riding across the States to chart a route for a new northern transcontinental highway.

However, if Clancy had thought he was returning to civilisation, he was in for a shock, for after two days of hunting around San Francisco in vain for information on the road north, he finally tracked down the secretary of the American Automobile Association, who announced confidently only 40 of the 900 miles between San Francisco and Portland were poor.

If he’d said only 40 were good, he might have been closer to the truth, muttered Clancy grimly to Allen as they set off for Sacramento on dirt tracks which made the highways of Tunisia seem like ribbons of silk.

Right Way Up

Clancy-Allen-leave-San-Francisc0-smallAt least we arrived at the Virgin Atlantic freight depot in LA to find the BMWs the right way up in their crates.

Feeling like boys on Christmas morning, we freed them from their bonds of wood, gaffer tape and bubble wrap, brought the engines coughing into life and rode north to San Francisco to meet Dr Gregory Frazier, or Dr G, as he had become dubbed in our email correspondence.

After a successful motorcycle racing career, he had ridden around the world five times, the last time with a 63-year-old grandmother of six who had been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease.

In 2010, after 16 years off digging up Clancy’s original magazine articles on his trip and turning them into the book Motorcycle Adventurer which had inspired me to recreate Clancy’s journey, Dr G was off again around the planet with his friend Richard Livermore, with us joining them on a recreation of Clancy’s last leg to New York as a gentle warm-up.

Outside our hotel the next morning were two immaculate 30-year-old Honda GL650 Silverwings, and as we were admiring them, the doors opened and there stood a figure I had never seen before, but who was all too familiar, with his hair as black as the bird from which his Crow tribe ancestors took their name.

“Dr G!” I said, shaking his hand warmly. “Er, just out of interest, why are you and Richard wearing shirts and ties?” I said.

“Well, Clancy did, so we felt we ought to,” said Richard.

At the docks where 100 years ago to the day Clancy had stepped ashore, there were several bikers there already, and before long Dr G and Gary were ensconced in a conversation with the gathered throng about their respective bike collections.

By noon, all the photographs had been taken, and all the bikes in the world had been discussed, and it was time to go.

By teatime we were in Sacramento

Cruiser-The-SS-Persia-smallBy teatime we were in Sacramento, where Clancy and Allen were so delighted to find a hard driveway encircling the Capitol that they rode around it twice, then went around every motorcycle dealer in town trying in vain to interest them in stocking the Friel’s backrests they’d fitted before leaving San Francisco.

“Sacramento always has and always will be dead’, they’ll tell you in San Francisco, and they sure are right!” fumed Clancy, who at least got some solace when one of the dealers invited him to a hill-climb challenge on a nearby railway embankment.

When the dealer’s well known twin, probably a Harley, got stuck, Clancy whispered in the old boy’s ear to do his best, and the Henderson responded with pride, sailing past the dealer with ease in spite of its 14,000 miles on the clock. Only for hubris to strike with a bang: heading north out of town, they ran straight into 20 miles of deep sand, and a fall which broke off his magneto distributor. Wiring it back in place, they ploughed on through the choking dust of the horse-drawn wagons known as prairie schooners.

Covered in dust, they treated the bikes to fuel and themselves to ice creams in the mining town of Oroville, arrived in Chico just before dark, and after riding up and down the main street, found a local mechanic who spent the evening fixing the distributor bolts and giving them copious but erroneous information on the roads ahead.

The dirt track which Clancy and Allen had ridden to Sacramento is today a six-lane freeway, but Sacramento was as sleepy as they found it, with the only sign of life a solitary ice cream salesman and a handful of Sunday strollers.

Flagbearer-Dr-Gregory-Frazier-and-his-Honda-Silverwing-smallStill, the hard driveway around the Capitol, a fine neoclassical building topped by a dome glittering white against the deep blue sky, was still worth riding around twice, although our plans to challenge the local Harley dealer were doubly foiled by the fact that he was closed, and those twin spoilsports, health and safety, had fenced off the railway embankment.

The next morning, we were loading up the bikes when Richard pointed to a rough dirt mound on the edge of the parking lot.

“There you go. There’s the hill climb you missed,” he said.

Dr G needed no further encouragement, and within seconds he had his Honda firmly stuck halfway up with a wide grin on his face.

Keep up to date and up to speed with the CS Clancy Centenary Ride – the first biker to ride around the world left Dublin 100 years aqo – at

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Background information:

Main sponsor, Adelaide Insurance Services are motorcycle insurance specialists operating UK wide and in the Republic of Ireland.

In 2012 they were voted the UK’s number one for value-for-money in the Auto Express Driver Power survey beating all the UK’s best known brands.

This annual poll had responses from 29 000 readers.

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