Bucket List item #2

Obviously the Bonneville record attempt was a bit of a bust, however the road trip was great. I didn’t finalize the blog very well and promise to provide an update on the bike and owner. In the meantime, I’m off on another trip, this time to New Zealand with brother Phil. Renting bikes and touring both islands for about 18 days. Will try to keep the blog up to date and share the adventure as we go. Back soon!!

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Sunday – the bike meets the Speedway

After our shocking Saturday when we learned of the cancellation, we started off Sunday with a little more enthusiasm for the trip to the salt flats with the bike. Of course, nothing is simple. Early in the morning, as we were loading the bike into the truck for the 90 mile trip, we heard someone calling to us from the upper level of the motel. An elderly lady was calling for help for her friend who had fallen and couldn’t get up. Team Swift to the rescue …. Indeed her friend, also an elderly lady, was on the floor and unable to get up. She wasn’t injured so no medical intervention required. We helped her up, got her sitting comfortably and made sure she was able to stand up from the chair. Good deed of the day … check!

We finished loading the bike and headed out on the 90 minute trip to Wendover and the Bonneville Speedway. On the way, we passed this interesting “item” on the side of the road … can’t figure out whether it has some function or just looks cool.

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As we approached the turnoff to the Speedway, you could start to see the water lying beside the road and we started to recognize why everything had been cancelled.

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We unloaded the bike just as we exited the highway so Stuart could ride it out to the sign.

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And here it is … the sign at the end of the pavement where one would normally drive onto the salt flats …. Note the water!!

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We managed to park the bike in front of the sign for a few pictures …

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Including the “World’s Fastest Yorkshireman” ….

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And all of Team Swift ….

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Then a few more pictures of the bike …

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The Canucks …

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The Brits …

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And the bike again …

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As we mingled with the group of people at the edge of the salt flats, we definitely realized that we weren’t alone in our disappointment in the cancellation. As an example, here’s a couple of pictures of Hans Devos’ bikes that he brought from Belgium. A great sample of very gorgeous old bikes that he restores and sells. He planned to be the first Belgian to ride at Bonneville Speedway and with the oldest motorcycle!! You can check out his story at his website: http://www.hd-classics.be/

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Also spotted in the parking lot on their way home are two of the big names in speed records. Here’s Danny Thompson’s Challenger 2 which he’d hoped to break 500mph this year. Danny is the son of famous racer Mickey Thompson. His website is http://thompsonlsr.com/about/

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Also pushing to run 500 mph is Team Vesco with the Turbinator II.  If you want to see what it looks like inside a car doing 400+ mph, go to Team Vesco’s website and check the “Take a Ride in Turbinator II” video.  http://www.teamvesco.com/home.html

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Amazing to see these great cars sitting in a gas station parking lot, completely open and anyone can walk up to them and look inside or take pictures. To illustrate how much water was actually on the salt, here’s a couple of shots of a truck and trailer that had been on the salt before the rains, crossing the water to get back to dry land. No question that they made the right decision to cancel the event this year!

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Also a little wading in the water to show how deep it is!!

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We followed up this trip to the salt flats with a ride into Wendover, Utah and Nevada! Where we had a quick lunch and headed back to Tooele to start loading for the trip home.

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After we finished loading the trailer, we had some very emotional goodbyes as the Canucks were heading out the next morning for home and the Brits were off to Las Vegas for a few days… overall … huge disappointment that we were unable to chase the speed record but great camaraderie and saw some great sites and met some very interesting people. Will definitely be planning a trip back.

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Saturday – Catastrophe – a complete change of plans …

We were in shock. We had anticipated all sorts of issues that we might have with the equipment, the bike, the heat, the weather, etc but we had NEVER considered that the event would be cancelled. We spent several hours trying to confirm whether it was true and checked many other websites and facebook pages to see if it could be confirmed. As the day wore on it became obvious that it was true. Everything was cancelled. It was very hard to absorb.

This is the picture posted on the Speedweek website:


The rest of the day dragged on …. Mike and I had a quick nap and we all decided to meet up for the Team Swift dinner that we had planned to do. We decided we wanted a family type meal and ended up going to Applebee’s. Although the atmosphere was ok and the Coronas were good, the menu didn’t have much for our vegetarian driver to eat. The highlight of the meal came when Vicki was ID’d in order to get her beer.  Considering one of the reasons for the vacation was to celebrate her 50th birthday, the shock on her face when the young man asked for both her son’s ID and hers was well worth the meal … although I wasn’t quick enough to take a picture!!

As the cancellation sunk in, we discussed what to do next. Stuart definitely wanted to get the bike to the Bonneville Speedway sign in order to get some pictures. He also wanted to ride the bike into Wendover, so we planned out our Sunday. We’d all go to the salt flats with the bike and take some pictures….. post to follow.

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Friday – an impromptu road trip

Here’s the status report we saw on Thursday evening:

Course Condition Update

Salt Report Thurs Aug 7th

After reviewing the conditions, it appears that the courses are drying and we expect continued improvement. The board has decided to start site cleanup on Saturday Aug 9.

Participants will be allowed onto the salt Sunday for pit selection and inspection. We hope to begin racing on Monday Aug 11, based on course conditions.

The news on Thursday evening that registration was delayed to Sunday was frustrating to say the least. However, for those that know me well, I woke up in the morning thinking of the opportunity that had just presented itself!! An impromptu road trip ….

As some background …. I had purchased a 1991 Ducati a number of months ago and have been trying to find numerous parts in order to get it back to original and be able to register it as a collector bike in BC in 2016.  The only place I was having any luck was on eBay but prices have been quite expensive. Recently I found a bike that was the twin of the bike I had, but it included all of the original parts that I required. As I mentioned to Ann, I was going after a parts bike, but in fact it might be in better shape than the one I had. After promising to sell one of them if I did buy the second one, I ended up buying the second Ducati from another old bike guy in Los Angeles. Plans for this Bonneville trip included a route home through LA to pick up the bike.

You guessed it … the impromptu road trip was from Tooele, Utah to Los Angeles, California to pick up the bike in my truck, which would save a couple of thousand kilometers pulling the trailer. I mentioned it to Mike early on Friday morning and he was in. We confirmed with Team Swift that we would be back by Saturday night in order to go to the salt flats on Sunday morning for registration.

A quick email to the seller to confirm he’d be there if we showed up, and we were on our way. Thanks to 80 mph speed limits in Utah and 75 mph in Nevada and California, we didn’t have to speed much at all!!

The picture below is the first sighting of Las Vegas as we drove in from the north.

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Here’s the Bellagio in daylight on our way south.

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The highway from Las Vegas was crazy busy on a Friday evening  and check out the outside temperature and speed in that traffic.

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And of course … we hit LA about 6pm in rush hour traffic and we crawled across north LA to get to Woodland Hills.

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Picking up the bike went very smoothly, all paperwork was in order and we managed to load up in about an hour. The only issue was that the seller’s dog, didn’t like me pushing the bike down his driveway and jumped up and nipped me in the back of the leg. I guess he thought I was stealing the bike! Being biker guys, we had to take a few minutes to talk bikes, and the gentleman uncovered and showed us two very unique bikes he had…. A 1971 Norton Commando and a 1969 BSA Rocket 3 … very cool.

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After a quick refuel of the bodies and a little coffee, we decided we would drive as far back towards Tooele as we felt comfortable driving before stopping. So here’s the Bellagio again as we went back through Las Vegas.

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This one’s a bit blurry of the sunrise …. We were probably a bit blurry then too.

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We switched out driving on the way back, and even though the driving shifts got shorter and shorter, we made it back safely on Saturday morning. Total trip was about 2250 km in 26 hours. And the reason for the trip …

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In the meantime, the rest of Team Swift drove out to Wendover to check out the action and to confirm the timing of registration. They confirmed the water on the salt flats but had a good day looking at all of the vehicles and bikes that had arrived. Here’s a look at the salt flats covered in water.

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And then the bad news hit ….. before grabbing a nap after the 26 hour road trip, we checked the website for the status and it hit us front and centre ….


Salt Report SAT Aug 9th

The SCTA Board is currently on the salt, and has determined that the standing water will not dry in time for us to hold our annual Speed Week event. The Board is also discussing the possibility of extending our next event - 
World Finals (Sep 30 – Oct 3) into a full week of racing as a sort of delayed Speed Week. We Thank You all for your patience and understanding. We look forward to seeing you at our next event.

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Thursday – Mother Nature rules…

So the big storm we saw Wednesday night has done a number on the course. We woke this morning to news that the start had been delayed a day and registration would start Friday and racing on Sunday. This actually gave us a chance to get the bike finished and do some road tests.

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Stuart went through all of the set-up on the bike and made sure everything was ready to go. As you can see …. A thumbs up …

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He slid into the racing leathers and headed out onto the back roads of Utah to run in the engine and to see how it felt. Although he didn’t want to chance getting a serious speeding ticket and getting the bike impounded, he did manage to find a nice straight stretch of road with no traffic and ran the engine up close to redline in third gear …. That produced a speed of 107 mph with a couple of gears left to go !!!

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The results of the run showed up on the spark plugs … for those of you who can read a plug, you’ll see that the bike is running quite rich. This provides the opportunity to rejet the carbs and produce even higher power (and speed!!)

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So we had a good day, loaded the bike into the trailer ready to head out to the salt flats on Friday morning to register and set up the pit area.

And then we checked the website for an update … the course was still not drying and registration was delayed to Sunday with racing possibly starting on Monday …. Very frustrating ….

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A parking lot engine overhaul …..

When we gathered on Tuesday evening, Stuart confirmed that he thought he should change the crankshaft before running the bike, as he’d felt some vibrations the last time he’d ridden it. He didn’t have a chance to do it in the UK before the bike was shipped to Canada, but felt it should be done before attempting any type of speed run. So bright and early on Wednesday morning, Mike and I set up our “pit” in the motel parking lot …

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When Ian and Stuart arrived, out came the bike and we got to work. Mike and I certainly would never consider trying to do a complete engine overhaul in one day, especially in a parking lot, but we were certainly willing to help as much as we could.

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The bike came apart piece by piece and before long … the engine was sitting on the bench and starting to come apart.

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And when the crankcase was split apart …. A problem was spotted … oil sitting where it shouldn’t be ….

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A couple of tiny check valves were found to be faulty, replaced and the new crank prepped to be put in.

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After a brief break for lunch, the rest of the pit crew arrived. Here we have Kathryn, Ian and Mike …

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And here is Stuart, Vicki and Lewis ….

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All of us obviously working very hard watching Stuart!!!

With the engine back together and mounted back in the bike, we seemed to be making pretty good progress. One of the questions we had been discussing all day long was how and where to run the bike before getting to the salt flats, in order to break in the engine as necessary. With the bike legally registered in the UK and insured properly, we thought we should ask the local constabulary whether we would be ok to ride it on the local streets and highways. A visit to the local police station caused some head scratching but later in the day we had a visit from a very friendly Tooele Police officer informing us that we should be ok to ride as long as the bike met the legal requirements from the country in which it was registered. The officer was very friendly and wished us luck in our endeavours. He allowed us to take his picture with the bike but asked us not to post it. Smart man !!!

As with any mechanical process, the going back together seemed to take much longer than the coming apart and the rebuild continued into the evening. A late afternoon and early evening lightning and thunderstorm had us finishing a few tasks in the back of the trailer before shutting down for the night.

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Final bike assembly and first trip to the salt flats to be continued on Thursday morning. …. Although we did hear today that the pit area on the track was under water due to recent rains !!! We’ll see what that might mean tomorrow …

PS: I did manage to capture a video of the lightning storm but haven’t figured out how to post it yet ….

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On the Road to Utah …..

A very early start to the road trip saw us at the Coho ferry terminal in Victoria’s beautiful Inner Harbour at 4:45am. After clearing US Immigration we were finally loaded aboard and departed on time at 6:10am. As we backed away from the terminal, I took this very early morning photo of the Empress Hotel in all its splendor.


Ninety minutes later, after a bit of a bumpy trip across the Straight of Juan de Fuca, we arrived at Port Angeles. We were one of the first vehicles off the ferry but when we got to US Customs, we offered up our passports and the Carnet for the bike. (for those of you like me who have no idea what a Carnet is – it’s a Temporary Import document that allows the bike to travel into and out of multiple countries for a short period of time). All Customs agents are supposed to know what it is … but we got the one that didn’t. After he checked with another officer, we were told to pull over and park and bring the paperwork to their office. No problem … except then we had to wait until all other vehicles cleared before anyone was available to help us. Finally an officer who knew what the Carnet was came to assist and after much flipping of paper and questions on what we were doing with the bike and equipment, he stamped the document and we were legally imported into the US.

An absolutely stunning morning had us driving down Highway 101 towards Olympia on some of the greatest motorcycle roads you could imagine … unfortunately we weren’t riding but driving with a trailer. The almost total lack of traffic ensured a very relaxing drive until we hit the freeway at I-5.  Luckily after a brief stretch on the busy Interstates we crossed the Columbia River into Oregon and followed the Columbia River Valley east. It’s quite a beautiful drive along the river with multiple dams and locks for the river tugs that are pushing barges up and down the river.


Once we pulled away from the river we drove in 40 C temperatures towards the Blue Mountains. Here’s a view looking back westward.


After almost 800km driving, we stopped overnight in a State Park and continued on our journey early in the morning. Here’s a view of the sunrise at the summit of the Blue Mountains.


We continued the drive through the rest of Oregon and into southern Idaho (note the speed limit – in mph):


In late afternoon we made it into Utah


and after fighting the incredibly busy roads through Salt Lake City, we arrived in Tooele to this sight.


Late on Tuesday evening, the Team Swift Crew got together for some introductions and planning for the next few days. We’re all here and ready for this crazy week to begin.


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Final Prep Week – the bike and equipment

So after many months of emails, phone calls, government forms, dealing with shippers and trying to think of all the things required, we are down to the final week of prep and getting ready to leave. Smiler shipped the key spare parts for the bike when he packed everything up a couple of months ago, but you can never remember everything … hence a spare crank for the engine managed to fly in his luggage this past weekend to join its friends in Bonneville.


The Canucks have been gathering up all of those bits and pieces and tools and oil and sealants and ramps and stands and …. you get the idea!

We think we’re all ready to go but no doubt we’ll have forgotten something and will be visiting some parts store in the US. Also trying to remember that we’ll be spending many hours every day in the extreme heat of the salt flats and need to hydrate and feed everyone for a week or more. It’s been suggested that every person will likely drink 12-15 bottles of water every day!! That doesn’t even count the obligatory beers in the evening when we’re telling stories and writing blogs!!

Here’s what it looks like to pull together a team and pit for an attempt at setting a world speed record!

The bike – the showpiece. This is one beautiful machine and Smiler should be extremely proud, regardless of results achieved. Some pictures:

In race trim:




On the street in the UK:


Loaded in the trailer with my Honda 125 “Pit Bike”:


The Gear ….. all of the bits and pieces gathered together for inventory …



and Loaded in the Trailer …



Ready to Go …..


And so we’re off ….. updates and pictures to one …

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Team Swift …. The adventurous Brits with some tagalong Canucks ….

When I’ve mentioned to people over the last number of months that I’m off to Bonneville Speedweek, many have commented that they saw that movie about the old guy from New Zealand! That’s right …. this is the same adventure where Anthony Hopkins portayed Burt Munro in the “World’s Fastest Indian”.

The passion, the bike, the mechanical and driving ability all comes in the form of Stuart Swift …. better known as Smiler. Smiler’s brother, also known as Swifty, may be better known to many of you reading this as Ian Swift, a friend and colleague who worked for many years with PwC and IBM in Victoria, and who recently returned to the UK along with his family, his bikes and an AC Cobra!

The happenchance meeting that got the Canucks involved, was an opportune email that I sent to Ian saying that Ann and I would be ending a cruise in Portsmouth and if he were around, would he and Kathyrn like to meet for coffee. The timing and travel gods worked out and we met for coffee where Ian mentioned he and his brother were off to Bonneville in the summer of 2014. Of course, I said right then and there that I’d love to go and watch them as good friend Mike Cameron and I had discussed this as a trip we’d both like to take someday. Further correspondence and the opportunity to be part of the pit crew was offered by Smiler …. And I signed up Mike and I without even checking with him!

So there it is …. Team Swift …. Stuart and family, Ian and family, Mike and myself. We are off on an excellent adventure with the guys feeling really great to have the support and blessings of our spouses – Vicki, Kathryn, Laurett and Ann.

To keep the pictures coming, here’s a picture of a young Smiler with his first bike …

Young Stuart

And here he is recently posing on the Bonneville bike.

Stuart on Aprilia

Over the last number of months, Smiler has rebuilt the bike several times, tested it, packed it up and shipped it to Victoria. It’s now safely in the hands of Mike and Dave and ready to transport to Bonneville in early August. We are well into all of the paperwork required to transport bikes and equipment through three countries on two continents and to have everything and everyone come together on August 7th to test our mettle!!

If you want to learn a little more about Bonneville Speedweek and setting speed records on the salt flats, here’s a link


More updates to come …..

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A Journey 50 years in the making …..

During the school summer holidays of 1963, I was enjoying the freedom and adventures that nearly every 13 year old boy desired growing up in a small town in Central Alberta. Days consisted of bicycle rides, pick up ball games, organized playground activities, exploring the local woods and swimming in the “swimming hole” – just a bend in the river. In today’s terms, I guess we were just “hanging out”!!

There was one activity though, that I was motivated to do every day! I was one of the lucky kids who had a paper route and every day about 4:00pm I went off to pick up my bundle of papers and deliver them. Independence! Although in today’s terms I wasn’t making a lot of money, what I did make was MINE! I could spend it, save it, waste it, whatever I wanted. My parents obviously encouraged me to save some and not waste my money (I’m not sure I ever really learned that lesson) and I managed to save some every week because I had a goal in mind….

My paper route was on the outskirts of town … I was lucky enough to deliver to about 6 city blocks ….. gave me the volume that I could get done in a hurry …. But I also delivered to about 20 homes in the “country”. This was a rural road with acreage homes that seemed to be miles apart. In actuality the total distance of my rural route was probably not more than a few kilometers, however it seemed a long way if I had to walk it while carrying those papers! My salvation was my bicycle. That ride in the country on gravel and dirt roads, cutting through ditches, fields, treed areas and along the riverbank became the greatest part of the day.

BUT ….. I had caught the family bug!! My father rode a motorcycle … my mother still tells stories of riding to country dances in England with her skirt hitched up and sitting on the back fender of my dad’s bike! My grandparents rode motorcycles! Can you see what’s coming?? Of course I had to buy myself a motorcycle to deliver those country papers.

So I saved the money from my paper route and late that summer I went into the local Honda dealership with my dad and bought my first bike – a 1963 Honda 55 Sport – red! 55 cubic centimeters with a manual clutch and four gears. What a dream come true.


So, you say, what was a 13 year old going to do with a motorcycle that he wasn’t old enough to get a license for??? Ride it of course!! Every day that sweet bike took me on my rural route and I tackled the same ditches, fields, woods and riverbanks that I did on my bicycle … oh yes … and the roads … I had to learn to ride well enough on the street to be able to get my license. Of course it was a different time and the cops didn’t bother young kids riding motorcycles on country roads … so I learned to ride before my 14th birthday. And on that December birthday I rode my bike to the License Examiner’s office totally confident that I’d have a license in my hand and be totally legal when I rode home …. It didn’t cross my mind that I might not pass and that they wouldn’t let me ride home! And no-one told me that you had to pass an eye test !!! And more specifically a colour-blindness test!! So I learnt that I had a red-green deficiency … couldn’t see some of the numbers in those silly dot things they make you read. Luckily my helmet had a bunch of different coloured stickers on it, AND the examiner was in a good mood, because he asked me the colours on my helmet, told me that was good enough, and I rode away with my motorcycle license in hand on my 14th birthday!!

So back to the 50 year journey – obviously it’s about motorcycles. This summer of 2014 – 50 years after buying my first motorcycle – I’m joining a group of friends and taking a motorcycle to Bonneville Speedweek in an attempt to break a World Land Speed Record for a 250cc production class motorcycle. Team Swift has so far prepared the bike, shipped it to Victoria and on August 4th, it’ll be on its way to the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah to make the attempt.

Stay tuned ….

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