Day 2

The Famous James Tucker

Dylan George Field leaving the Famous James Tucker's house in Claremont, California, USA
Dylan George Field leaving the Famous James Tucker's house in Claremont, California, USA


I arrived 9:00am local time.

Customs and immigration was straigh-forward. I remember looking at a big American flag as I rolled down the escalator towards it. I applied for my (Esta)[] before I left. It’s like a visa-waiver program. They didn’t ask for my application number or anything. But I recommend taking a photo or writing it down just in case. My passport was stamped and I was given 90-days to leave. This includes entries to Canada/Mexico if I exit from the United States.

I scheduled my return flight on day 89, 2nd November. It was 6 August 2018.

My mission was to get to Claremont. The home of ‘the famous’ James Tucker. Self-proclaimed I supposed. It wasn’t anything short of it though. He’d prepared my motorbike in advance. I sent him $7000 USD to do so. All I had to to do was pick it up. He would meet me at the train station and take me to his place. I would stay the night in his bungalow before leaving.

I connected to the airport wifi. I didn’t have a clue how to get there. I found an email from James Tucker. Thank god he sent instructions. I had to get to Union Station. Apparently there was a bus from LAX. A train would take me to Claremont and he would meet me there. I charged my phone and asked the lady at the information stand about buses. She opened a book. “It will be $10, wait over there”, she smiled and kindly pointed outside.

It finally dawned on me that I was really in a different place as soon as those double doors opened. The cars were different. They drove on the wrong side of the road. I wondered what I had gotten myself into. It looked just like the movies.

There were no signs that said “Union Station”. There was a group of people waiting on a traffic island. I assumed they were waiting for a bus. I headed over and waited. Nothing happened. I pondered asking someone for help I as a large knocked about van or truck pulled up.

A sweaty, slightly stocky man pulled up. He was South American. He swung himself out from the handle of the door. “Union Station! Hollywood!”, he shouted as he paced up-and-down the bus stop. Was he legit? It didn’t look like a bus at all. The way he rushed about suggested he wasn’t. Naturally, he wandered over to me. Perhaps I had that fresh look on my face. “Union Station?”, he asked pointedly. I hate hustlers. Especially the ones that hang out at the Malaysia airport entrance looking for tourists to swindle. But the van didn’t look too bad and I didn’t know where else to go. “How much?”, I asked. “$10!” “Deal” He took my bags and I jumped in the van.

We circled the airport and picked up a few others: A couple, a group of asian friends and two girls. There weren’t enough seats so the girls separated. One sat next to me and the other in-front. The driver made chit-chat with young girl closest to him. He asked where they were going. She exclaimed, “Hollywood!” and threw her arms in a V.

We bumped around in the van as we rolled along the highway. Houses and palm trees poked over the barriers. We turned onto a raised exit of towards an interstate that faced directly to Los Angeles. As we rose, the silhouette of the city showed up with the San Gabriel mountains behind it. It was like the one’s I saw on TV. It was beautiful.

The girl next to me had the same look of awe on her face as me. “Amazing isn’t it? Your first time in Los Angeles?”, I asked her. “Yes, and you” “Same” “Where are you from?”, I picked her accent of her friends chatting with the driver. “Russia” “What brought you here?” “My friend and I are going to be waitresses, we’ll work and see as much as we can. You?” “I’m going to ride a motorbike around for 3-months” “Really?”, she paused and looked me in the eyes, “You must be brave”. “Likewise”

We arrived at Union Station. I grabbed my bags and paid the man with some US dollars my family gave me as a gift. The girl I sat next to, looking lost with her friend, gave me a nod as we departed.

The van drove off and I was alone. Out of the safety net of the airport and fellow tourists. I was in real America now.

The station was huge and impressive. Nothing to write home about but it had charm. I went to information who guided me to the ticket booth. A short older african american lady with greying hair faced me behind security glass. She starred at me behind glasses unimpressed. I’d never met a real American black lady before.. Like a real one who lives and works in America. I’m not talking about a tourist or anything. It was a big deal.

“I need ticket to Claremont station”, I asked unsure. Her brow furrowed “Over there”, her eyes pointed to something behind me. I turned around and saw an empty wall and a small Starbucks 10 meters behind me. “I don’t see anything”, I said sheepishly The lady exhaled. “There’s a ticket booth to the left” “Ohhh, thank you”, I smiled. I’d watched Oprah and Southern Women in movies. It was completely different to talk to them. I was being polite to combat my anxiety of not knowing if the media portrayed them correctly or not. I walked to the counter around the corner.

I was met by a young large African-American girl. A huge smile spread across her face. “How you doin’?” It made me smile. “I’m trying to get to Claremont”, I asked. “Sure”, she tapped on the computer and made friendly banter with her colleague behind her. “There you go hun, that will be (something) dollars”. I handed her some of the $500 US Dollars my sister and the family gave me for the trip. “Ahh, where is it?”, I asked. “You head that way”, she pointed, “and when you hit platform 14 you turn left”. “Thank you so much”, I replied as I grabbed my luggage and swung around to the platform.

The train left in an hour. I connected to the Starbucks wifi and sat on in the waiting area scattered with old wooden seats that looked like they were made 100 years ago. I messaged James to tell him the schedule while a woman yelled at her son next to me. I was asked by a guard if I had a ticket. Apparently, these seats were for genuine ticket holders only. After an hour, I found the train and boarded. It was a big old double decker. I sat down and the train began to move. There was a map of stations on the wall. I counted the number of stations to Claremont and sat back down. I began to nod on and off from the jet lag from the plane flight. I somehow managed to keep tabs on the number of stations left before Claremont.

I arrived. I was nervous to meet James. I didn’t know what he looked like or what car he drove. We only spoke over email. I wondered if he’d find me. I didn’t even have his phone number. I crossed the tracks with everyone else to the carpark. There was no one behind me. A short grey haired balding man walked towards me. It could only be James.

He didn’t say much. He grabbed my bag and moved it towards a yellow Volkswagen Beetle. It wasn’t the car I expected. He put my luggage in the back. He used an elastic bungie strap to hold the boot down. We made awkward conversation until we hit the house. He seemed more interested in the motorbike than me. The gates opened and we drove in. He told me he didn’t like people knowing where he lived.

The house was huge. Old but huge. It was apparently an old citrus farmhouse. It had concrete stairs I had never seen before. It was cheap and solid for the workers boots that walk up and down them all day. James converted the attic himself into an office. It was impressive.

It had a little bungalow out the back. It was an extension of the shed. He fitted a bathroom with shower for all the adventure riding guests like me who came through the property. He does it as a job. He sources motobikes for international travellers to ride the country on. Six motorbikes sat out the front of the double garage and bungalow. I recognised two Suzuki V-storms of a couple who were coming from Australia after me. Then I spotted my DR (650).

He was proud of the bike. It was spotlessly clean. He spoke about all the modifications he did for me. He lowered it, put stiffer suspension on it, installed racks, changed the wheels and tyres, welded a big kickstand foot, a USB charge, and popped a lockable ‘fake pelican-case’ from Harbour Freight. It was a great deal. It already had a modified exhaust, headlights, long-range tank and hand-guards. He started the bike. It ran perfectly.

You can learn more about the DR here and the story of the famous James ‘The Gremlin’ Tucker here.

We had some chit-chat about bikes. I remember turning the throttle of the DR a couple of times to see if it would ‘snap-back’ quickly. “Don’t do that!”, James snapped at me. “Why not?” “You’ll flood the engine”. James proceeded to start the bike. Sure enough, it was flooded and struggled. It eventually did. “I didn’t know it was carburetted, I’m used to EFI I guess” I don’t think James knew how unprepared and inexperienced I actually was.

I was tired from jet-lag so I threw my stuff in the bungalow, took a shower and a nap. It must have been 30 degrees celsius inside. I was sweating by the time I got up. It was around 4pm. The bungalow was an odd place filled with old carpet making machines. There was a fridge loaded with beer. I wasn’t the first one here. In fact, James and his wife would later tell me a story of a man who stayed in the bungalow for a week. Presumably too scared to set off on his adventure. I don’t blame him. It’s not for the feint of heart.

I had to find a sim card and some food. James was outside tending to the bikes. I asked him about the wifi and I found a nearby AT&T store on Google Maps. He suggested I pickup an extra duffel bag as I wouldn’t be able to fit everything I had on the bike. He said there was a motorbike store nearby. It was about to close. I’d go there, then the mobile store and some groceries. James never mentioned if he would cook dinner for me.

I took the bike out for the first time. James warned me about leaving the property. “Watch for cyclists and look both ways”, he said. I’d never ridden on the right hand side of the road before. I popped it into gear and gently released the clutch. I rolled to the end of the driveway just before dusk. I looked both ways and considered how to stay in the right lane. I released the clutch again and the bike moved forward. I turned the throttle and the bke lurched forward. The suspension rolled backwards as it accelerated. I lifted off before I kicked it up a gear and rolled back on the throttle. The bike pulled and I repeated with more throttle. Wooo hooo.

I did a u-turn and did it again. The bike had some power! I recalled the set of instructions to get to the motorbike store. It was a right at the lights, then a couple of blocks and a left again.. Oh, I don’t know. It was impossible without the internet and turn-by-turn navigation. I had to keep stopping and reading the offline map. I eventually got there and made it just before close. The boys helped me with a duffel and took me to a section. I saw it straight away. “This should work”, I pulled a rubber 60 litre bag off the shelf and inspected it. It was 80 dollars. How cheap! Until I found out American’s display the price pre-tax 🙄 $96..

I took the bag and somehow found the AT&T store. There was a lone kid in there. He sorted me out. He was confused as hell as I didn’t have a fixed address in the USA but he managed to sort it out. I picked up an unlimited phone plan for $60/month. This would get me through all the Google Maps, FaceTime with my partner, Facebook posts and looking up various things as I travel. It didn’t work straight away.

I stopped at a Supermarket I saw on my way to the AT&T store. I gathered noodles, fruit, muesli bars and observed all the odd foods on the shelf I’d never seen before. I was intrigued by the huge cabinet of Arizona ice tea. I sat in the carpark eating a banana and drinking ice tea and wondering if I would be robbed. I didn’t.

I rode back and cooked the noodles for dinner. I was sorting my items out for the day when James came in for a beer. He asked me about the trip, where I was going and the plan. I suppose he knew, I didn’t really have one. He told me the places he’d been with his wife, Colleen, and how they travelled. He showed me his bikes, the tools and tricks they’d learnt over the years. One of them was the ‘lightbulb socket powered powerpoint’. It was basically a cable that screwed into a standard lightbulb socket and on the other end was a power socket. It was to steal power from places like public toilets. You unscrew the lightbulb and screw the device in its place. Free power!

He wasn’t impressed with my lack of knowledge in adventure riding. But hey, you gotta start somewhere!

Colleen swung by the bungalow and explained her tips on eating on the road. This included cracking eggs in a plastic sandwich bag to save space and cook later. It was all rather dizzying. I hadn’t prepared a thing and the internet on my phone didn’t work. I was so jet-lagged and I had to set off tomorrow.

God knows where.


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Day 1 - Today I took a solo flight to the USA to begin my 90-tour by motorbike. I set this goal 4 years ago. When my partner Azar Zamani's visa was rejected to Australia, we decided I would go with only 1.5 months to prepare. I've arrived safely in Claremont (Los Angeles) and made contact with 'The Famous James Tucker' who exceptionally sourced, purchased and prepared my bike for the 14,000km+ journey in short time. Tomorrow I set off in the San Gorgonio Mountains and head North to discover the country. This ride is dedicated to my Uncle Shane Senini who passed away last week. Forum: Personal blog:

A post shared by Adventure Rider | Melbourne 🇦🇺 (@dylan_george_field) on


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