Seven Dragons Across Asia

A dream that became an adventure!  

By Bill Pratt

The Seven Dragons finally hit the road and found the motorcycles liking these fast, well-paved, roads out of town.  Our stops included another treat cooked up by Rusty to visit an ancient Buddha that was carved into a hillside.  Access to the site was by high-speed boat.  We had to go through the usual hassle of some official person making an executive decision about which boat and which driver would have the privilege to pilot us to this holy place.  After the arm waving and gestures were over, we were finally put into a boat and whisked to our next stop.  An hour later, merchants selling rocks and souvenirs greeted us.  As we walked up the trail we were told not to talk pictures.  If we did take pictures there would be a charge, or we could buy pictures.  Rusty, in his finest debating form, asked, “why can’t we take pictures?”  He was advised by one of the guides, “if you take pictures, then everyone will take pictures”.  Rusty was laughing inside and unable to debate any further. 


We all took lots of pictures, in spite of the guides request not to, and returned to the boat to enjoy the ride back to town.  The ride gave us an opportunity to catch a short nap and prepare for our next part of the adventure. 

Each day we loaded our motorcycles with camera gear and daily must-get-to stuff, proceeding back on the road.  Our riding style was not fully developed and we found ourselves weaving in and out of traffic, whacking the throttle to pass slower cars and trucks and grabbing the brakes to avoid pedestrians and tractors.  There was always a tollbooth about every 30-40 miles.  It did not take long for our escort vehicle to get the message that we could blast through the toll and they would pay for us.  It worked perfect and there were no questions asked.  But, at one of the tollbooths, Ken decided to change lanes at the last second.  What he did not know, there was a van/truck heavily loaded with rocks.  The van had bad brakes and could not avoid hitting Ken.  Ken was an old road racer in the Northwest and had experience getting clobbered by other bikes.  This time it was a truck and he went down.  Ouch!  This was our first accident.  We all rushed to get Ken extracted from underneath the truck’s bumper.  Within 15 seconds there were people running up with a jack to lift the bumper as Ken’s KLR650 was pinned to the ground.  Ken’s leg was stuck briefly and as he got up we asked, “Are your OK”?  Ken replied that he was fine.  I knew Ken well enough to know that when he said he was OK…he was OK.


Know for the bad news.  Ken survived the accident, but his KLR650 did not.  It seems that when the KLR goes down hard, it has a nasty habit of pushing the fan into the radiator.  This causes the motor to twist the nylon fan and disintegrate the fan shaft mounting.  We disconnected the fan and Ken rode the balance of the day with no fan.  The KLR ran quite well in spite of no fan.  But, we knew this would not last.  That night we organized our thoughts on how to fix the bike and get back on schedule.  We asked our local contact what kinds of motorcycle shops were available for locate parts. 


Randy, our handy engineer, took the fan replacement job.  In short order he had a rebuilt motor and fan, and a hand made aluminum fan that was designed and manufactured to precise fit and finish.  He was proud of his solution and as it finally turned out, we used all the parts later in the trip.  My solution was a large 12volt computer fan.  Since I arrived back at the hotel first, Ken elected to install the computer fan with nylon zip ties.  Presto…the bike was finished and ran just fine for the next couple weeks.


We made lots of friends and got our first experience with the young children of China.  They were most helpful retrieving dropped gloves and motorcycle parts.  As a reward, Rusty gave one of the boys a ride around the hotel parking lot.  What a guy!


The Chinese have placed dams on many of the rivers for hydroelectric power.  This dam prevented easy access to some of China’s religious history.  You could only visit by high-speed boats.



Rusty gives a ride to one of the local boys.  The young fellow spoke English and was very helpful finding items we dropped.  Notice the clean KLR650 motorcycle.



Here are two of the cutest young girls you could ever meet.  They were just as interested in the motorcycles as the boys.



This precision made fan was handcrafted to Randy’s specifications.  It was perfectly balanced and was installed later on the trip.



The final solution was a large 12volt muffin fan from a surplus computer.  Ken was happy with the fix.


Ó Copyright, Bill Pratt, Mill Creek, WA – March 2001