A conference in Montreal in which I gave a presentation. Which is it, work or play?  For work I’ve been to India, Brazil, Toronto, Montreal, and DC. The play part has been Mexico and various environs around LA.  Why pick?

 

It’s getting more difficult to describe our life and its direction.  This has caused writer’s block, which is the reason you haven’t heard from me lately.  I’m still trying to figure s__ t out.

On the one hand I’m embarrassed that I can’t seem to hang up the spurs after promising everyone (including myself and especially Karen) that I could and would.  For god’s sake, I’ve started yet another company!  Is it hopeless?

The problem of course is I like working, at least this work.  And since resigning as CEO last July, I can pretty much bend the work schedule to my schedule.  Of course no matter where I am, I pretty much work off and on around the clock anyway.  Working may be the only thing I’m good at.  Did I tell you I started a new non-profit–the Network for Global Innovation?  Just last week:)

I’ve drank the cool aid of climate change, trying to help the poor, and helping young entrepreneurs.  In fact i’m pretty much punch drunk on this stuff as I can think of little else.  I’m writing speeches for conferences in Nairobi and Barcelona, becoming the Pied Piper of Innovation Will Solve All Problems.  It would be fun to chat about whether that’s true or not.

Karen no longer takes anything I say seriously.  We‘re moving out of Los Angeles by April!  Scratch that, we might need to stay in LA for another year!  I don’t want to work any more.  Honey, Saturday mornings are the best times for me to really concentrate and get some solid work done. She just kind of rolls with the punches and says “whatever!”  And she really means it.  How great is that?

For those of us in the 4th Quarter, figuring out how to play the end game is a tricky deal.  Roll the dice and play hard?  F__K the final few years (or is it a decade?)  How risk adverse should we be?  Will the odds catch up with us at some point, as I know we’ve burned through a more than a couple of Nine Lives already. Yet, Time Waits for No Man, so if I’m going to Africa and South America on NVII, it better be sooner or later.  Did I mention that KR and I are thinking about taking a Trans-Siberian train trip across Russia, Mongolia and China?

Its hard to hang the spurs up knowing you still have a couple of rodeos to go.  And riding the bronco pays for lots of other stuff.

I told you, its complicated.

We haven’t been staying in one place very long.  In the last five months we’ve been to..

  • India
  • PV (about six times)
  • Toronto
  • Baja
  • Brazil
  • San Diego

And tomorrow I’m about to make my first trip to The Swamp after Mr. Trump has drained it.  Should be interesting, but for us clean energy guys its going to be a lonely trip.

  • Right now I’m sitting in a Starbucks in the Little Tokyo part of downtown LA.  Last week I was in a Starbucks in Puerto Vallarta.  The week before we were in Brazil.  The week before that we were on NVII in Baja (yes, stopped at a Starbucks in Ensenada), the week before that I was in Toronto.  The week after next I’ll be in DC on another “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” trip.
  • KR and I are thinking about our three potential next big trips: (1) Trans Siberian Train  (2) Combo cargo/cruise ship around Tahiti; and (3) M/C ride from South Africa up the eastern coast of Africa’.
  • KR and I are really enjoying PV a lot.  We just came back from a fabulous 4 days at Corona Adobe.  We’re refurbished LBS.  I want to go back tomorrow, but…
  • I’m writing speeches for conferences in Nairobi and Barcelona.   I like writing and speaking about climate change and innovation ecosystems.
  • Also, who am I kidding, how can we go back to PV when I have a company to launch?  But…. I can pretty much work from anywhere that has an airport.  Maybe we will go back to PV next month?  See what I mean.?
  • Karen is caught in the middle of this twirling mess of stuff.  One minute its “pack up LA we’re outta here!” and the next is let’s buy some more art for Factory Place.
  • Have I mentioned the Dos Diablos?   Bogart and Squirt are a major part of our lives and KR pretty much makes sure they live the life of a Trump (OK, I take that back).  They’ve been in three different kennels looking for the right place to stay while we’re on the road.  When on the road, we watch the “Doggy Cam” every night making sure they’re comfy.

So here’s what the last couple of months have looked like in pictures:

 

Every trip to Mexico starts and ends with the Dos Diablos. Here Bogart (on the left) and Squirt await customs clearing in Puerto Vallarta

Home sweet home. One of the rare instances that there’s no action on the street (read noise).

I have two offices. This is the penthouse office

 

My office on the third floor overlooks the pool and the El Centro barrio

Super Hostess. We now rent out the Corona Adobe as a Bed & Wine. it does very well because of KR’s effort as this guest attests

Bogart approves of the new paint job

Speaking of paint jobs, yours truly painted LBS. LBS has been pretty much refurbished this year.

Even during an overcast day, the view of LBS is special

Dinner in the jungle. From left: Yvonne, Chuck, KR, Ken, Maryann, Chris and Bill. All or fellow palapa owners

Still in Mexico, this is a Trade Tour that we led to Mexico City. Very motley crew

Back at Corona, we did a three day strategic retreat.

Broken Arrow has been resurrected from the dead. Elias totally rebuilt him and he now serves his new purpose in life: taking me to/from Starbucks in the morning.

Outside was a street parade, this one held for the kids to knock the s__ out of the pinata swinging over the street.

One night we stayed out way past… 9PM and found ourselves in the local Mezcal Bar. Yes there is such a thing and the stuff’s pretty good. It gets better the more you try it:)

Whale watching in Baja. KR thinks I scared the whales away because of style choice. Hey, when in fishville, look like the fishermen…

The aforementioned whales.

Brazilian Chariot.  We’re on a business trip to Foz do Iguacu and this is our get around vehicle…

The helicopter is parked to the left as we land next to a swine farm to see the latest biogas generation. Here Kevin is explaining to Liz “when is tips over this much, you can kiss your….”

This is what the Iguacu Falls looks like from above and…

This is what it looks like up close and personal

Inside the world’s most powerful hydroelectric dam. It has 20 turbines the side of the circles in the background.

What do you do when you go to Brazil? Well find the nearest “Ice Bar” of course. About $20 gets you 45 minutes in the bar and six free drinks. We made it 14 minutes and didn’t finish the first drink:)  Here Liz and Karen wear the latest in ice wearables.

You don’t have to go to Brazil to see beautiful country. This is Big Bear Lake from the steps of Thor

 

Bogart is definitely a beach dog. This is from the Dockwieiler Beach RV park. Its on the beach, right under the LAX flight path, across the street from LA’s largest sewage treatment plant and just past the Chevron refinery. Only in Los Angeles…

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It’s probably appropriate that our trip begins with a plea to the Undoer of Knots…

 

Nine days in and we’ve traveled less than 900 miles by motorcycle, the only mode of transportation that counts on this trip.   Yet, it does feel like we’ve been on the road for nine days as 90% of said 900 miles have been in the rain or near-rain.  This is no big deal from a riding POV, but it does lengthen the amount of time it takes to get into/out-of the four-plus layers of motorcycle clothing required.

The biggest impact of the rain is that we’ve gone through my beloved Pyrenees Mountains in the rain and/or misty clouds, forcing me to go somewhat slower than I’d like on some of Spain’s best killer roads (that’s killer in a good way), but KR doesn’t seem to mind the lower speed:)

Here’s the headlines for those of you who have a life and can’t waste it reading this post:

  • It took us a very full day to get to Southampton, UK via plane
  • Retrieved NVII from a Southampton farm only to find that all of our m/c clothes and a bunch of other stuff had been stolen on the ship over
  • We took a 24+ hour ferry ride on the Queen Mary of ferries from Portsmouth to Santander, on the northern coast of Spain.  It was by far the best ferry ride ever
  • Left Santander and went northeast to Bilbao, San Sebastian, Pamplona, Jaca and then through the Pyranees and finally ending up in Barcelona
  • We ran where the bulls run in Pamplona without the bulls.  This worked for me:)
  • In Jaca, we met two friends of Sam (Fred and Debra) and experienced a full-on street party celebrating a Moorish/Christian battle from Medieval times.   I’m happy to report that there were no new casualties, although a lot of folks were trying to hurt themselves via drink:) Fred and Debra were great and its nice to meet some locals
  • We’ve pretty much eaten and drunken our way through this tough duty.  Nothing better to get one warm and toasty than tapas and vino.
  • No problems with NVII as he ran beautifully.  He’s waiting patiently as I’m slowly getting back to the Rhythm of the Road feel

Our general plan is to continue southwest along the Spanish Coast toward Gibraltar, but I have no faith that we’ll keep to “Fred’s Plan” as KR hasn’t really weighed in yet. I know I owe her lots of Medieval churches, houses, castles, and all things generally ancient.

Here’s what it’s looked like so far.

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Twenty seconds after arriving in Southampton and we’re on a tour of underground wine caverns.   This is riveting stuff.

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I came to learn that Europeans take their pigs seriously.  This is in the “Pig in the Wall” pub in Southampton.  The Spanish make the English look like amateurs when it comes to pig worshiping.

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Thirty miles into the English countryside and I arrive at this shed containing one studly motorcycle.  We were both happy to see each other.

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The Queen Mary of ferries as we exit to Santander

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NVII is stuffed in its lower belly along with a couple hundred other m/c’s.  Getting on/off ferries is never my favorite thing.

One of the smarter things I've done is get an outside cabin, which was very cozy.

One of the smarter things I’ve done is get an outside cabin, which was very cozy.

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One of the two clear days we’ve had on the trip so far was at sea

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It was clear, but windy. KR pretty much stayed inside with the rest of the landlubbers

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Just an FW art shot. It’s my kind of ferry — big

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Whether on land, sea or air, KR is always looking to find the next place to stay or next thing to do. This process, called itinerary planning by normal folks, does not start for KR until the trip has atcually commenced

 

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Portsmouth is a university town.  This group of professors and students discuss the only class I did well in, “Beer Master Class”

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FW looking like an international man of mystery…on a motorcycle

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A street scene as the citizens of Pamplona start to awake

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Now they’re starting to rock as

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we tourists ogle the sights

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Remember the love of pigs I was referring to earlier?  Well, this is a whole shop dedicated to the fine swine

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Tapas as art.  KR and I had the best meal so far, one little plate at a time.

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We arrived in the northern city of Jaca on the only Friday to find an all day street party with multiple processions celebrating some battle in Medieval times between the Moors and the Christians.  These guys are the Moors

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and so are these

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Only to be greeted with a happy Christian warrior

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We were lucky to be introduced to two of Sam H’s friends, Fred and Debra Hart. Fred’s a great guy with a great name.  Deb was equally great, but without the name:)  They showed us around Jaca, including this bar that had its own special concoction of cocktails.  Of course I tried one.

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Finally, we get to go motorcycling. Here’s the Hero of this Blog

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And his traveling Adventure Woman

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Lots and lots and lots of motorcycles and scooters in Spain.  I’m getting good at parking in tight places.  This is San Sebastian.

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Now some would say, what all do you have in there?  Just the bare essentials, I assure you.  The left pannier has spares and tools, the right pannier is full of electronics and FW’s brief case.  The two black bags are our clothes – one for each of us.  The two red things are spare gas tanks.  The big box in the center is KR’s “junk drawer”.  The two round things below are more spare tools.  Like I said, just the essentials:)

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This fellow motorcyclist takes a different approach.  60 year old Harley with a 60 year old owner has nothing but a duffle bag strapped on the handlebars…

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Before we go too far, we need to make some repairs.  On the ship over to the UK, someone stole every stitch of clothing on NVII, his spare battery charger, the good tools, AND the additional driving lights and horn.  The latter item they had to cut out.  This fine gentlemen is wiring a new horn into NVII and putting a new tire on the front.  We also purchased new rain suits for both of us which were also stolen.

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Village in the Pyrenees

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For the bikers reading this post, write this down:  N260, which is a great road that winds in, along side and through the Pyrenees.

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Sun is still out, but not for long

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Clouds and rain start

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“Just” another mountain road

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We eventually make it to the Mediterranean town, Cadaques.  In addition to being one of the hardest places to find, its a cute little village that Salvador Dali had a vacation house.

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KR taking a picture of… who knows:)

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Friendly weather makes you want to stroll down the beach.

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Next day we got into Barcelona later the next day. More rain awaited

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Who says that I don’t appreciate culture? (my wife).  We spent a whole day visiting the works of Antoni Gaudi, Spain’s most famous architect.  This is the outside of a house he designed around 1900 that takes its inspiration from a dragon and the skeleton of its victims..

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The inside of the dragon bones house

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This is the work Gaudi is most famous for — the La Sagrada Familia church, which he worked on for 40 years and its still far from done. There is a team of 20+ architects working to finish it, which they promise will be by 2016, the 10oth anniversary of Gaudi’s death. Seeing this alone is worth going to Barcelona.

 

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One shot of its interior, which is impossible to capture.

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One more shot will kind of giving you the sense of the place – a parachuting in Jesus

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Street in Barcelona

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KR taking a picture of one of her favorite items…

Karen's is of two minds about getting back on the road...

Karen is of two minds about getting back on the road…

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Karen converted to Islam this trip… not. She needed to put on this robe in order to enter a mosque in Kuala Lumpur.  She wouldn’t tell me what she was praying for, but I like to think she was thanking Allah for Her Man:)

KR and I just spent 14 days in Malaysia, Singapore and India as I tried to add to the Network for Global Innovation membership roster.  Singapore is one of the more go-go places we’ve been to, very similar to Hong Kong and Seoul in feel.  Kuala Lumpur is a Muslim-run country stuck halfway between modernity and the way it use to be.  And India, well India is a whole different bag with huge swaths of the very poor surrounding pockets of extreme wealth (the richest man in India has built himself a real skyscraper as a home in downtown Mumbai).

We’ve now been to Hong Kong, Shanghai, Beijing, Seoul, Tokyo, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Delhi, and Mumbai in the past year, which is a pretty good sprinkling of Asia. One can’t help but notice that air pollution is a pan-Asian problem as each of these places wears a gray blanket of smog that literally blocks the sun most of the time.  Gray is the new black in Asia.   Asia is creating pollution on a scale that’s hard to imagine.  (BTW, many Asians think its “their turn” to industrialize in order to catch up with the West.  They argue we polluted big time during our industrial revolution and now we’re crying foul when we started the problem.  There’s  some merit to this argument).

Most of these places are huge.  Delhi is the second most populated city in the world with Shanghai, Beijing, Mumbai and Tokyo all having way more than 20 million people each.  China has 1.3 billion people and India has 1.2 billion.  Their 2.5 BILLION+ people are burning fuel as fast as they can find it to build their middle classes.  This fuel is mostly coal;  incredibly cheap and incredibly dirty.  To get a sense of the scale we’re talking about, take a look at this chart.

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The scale on the right hand side says it all.  And this is just China.  Not India, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, and the rest of Asia which have the same needs and usage patterns.

Looking at how China and India are handling this problem is reflective of their systems of government.   China’s central government is making sweeping changes, calling for things like the  shuttering of Beijing’s last coal plant in 2016.  India can make no similar move as India has a strong local democracy in which 29 states determine energy policy to a large extent.  The Prime Minister can set the vision, but Modi can’t decree it like the Chinese Commi’s.  Authoritarian governments can make things happen… or else:)

Singapore is an interesting case in point on how “control” can deliver good things.  While Singapore has a form of democracy, its a society that’s notoriously rule-oriented.  For instance, Singapore doesn’t have a traffic problem because it costs $150K just to get a permit to own a car.  You want a taxi?  You can stand out in the street until hell freezes over watching empty cab by empty cab drive by.  Walk to a taxi stand and presto a cab appears immediately:)  Everyone jokes that its illegal to chew gum in Singapore because the residue might end up on the street, but it is illegal!  But the streets are damn clean.  And Singaporeans actually drive in the lanes that are painted on the street unlike Malaysia and India in which lane markers are totally ignored.  Singapore is working pretty well for Singaporeans as one out of six families in Singapore have a net worth of at least one million dollars.  We’ve never found more knowledgeable and happy cab drivers than in Singapore either.  I received our best economic lesson from one happy cabbie as he explained the difference between Singapore and Malaysia (Singaporeans care about one thing in government:  will the policy work?  Malaysia cares whether it corresponds with the Muslim faith… whether it works or not is at least second in priority.

We spent the most time in India – about a week first in Delhi (the government capital) and then Mumbai (the financial center) and Ahmadabad (university town).  I’m still conflicted about India and frankly don’t know what to make of it.  On the one hand there are so many poor people everywhere that we were a constant target of the street hustle.  It’s part of the way of life;  if you don’t ask for it, push it, seize it or drive through it, someone else will:)  Yet, we were taken care of really well by Indian citizens that we met and the entire staffs of every hotel we stayed in.

I could never figure out if there was a middle class in India.  There was a ton of squalor on the side of almost every road and street. There were dilapidated apartment buildings on crowded, narrow streets that we American’s would consider part of a ghetto.  One out of a 1000 buildings had paint on it, fresh or not.  But, maybe this is their middle class, much like grading on the curve.  Is it fair to compare the US’s idea of Middle Class with Indians?  I doubt it.

More than anything, India strikes me as a place in which infrastructure of any kind — roads, electricity, waste, water, buildings — was hopelessly overrun long ago and it will never catch up.  60% of the liquid human waste in Mumbai is dumped directly into the sea.  Every building of any size has its own generator and even these aren’t enough to deliver electricity all the time.  Most places have regular 2-4 hour periods of no electricity.   In India, 350 million people — the size of the US’ total population — will never experience electricity in their life times.  In a world like this, what do you do?  Fend for yourself.

Perhaps because of this striking contrast, the rich live very well.  The hotels we stayed in were world class — the Taj Mahal Palace (Mubai), the ITC Maurya (Delhi) and the Majestic (KL).  BTW, we could never have afforded these hotels except that the dollar is ridiculously strong against almost any currency in the world — go travel now while its cheap(er)!  We were treated to a new level of service that frankly we’ve never experienced anywhere in the world.  Service happily provided with genuine warmth and thoughtfulness.  I admit it was nice to come back from a day of meetings/traffic to the cocoon of the Taj or ITC.  One could get use to this:)

Here’s what the trip looked like in pictures…

 

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Most trips west to Asia start late at night. Our flight left close to midnight on Friday and we arrived in Kuala Lumpur mid afternoon on Sunday.  Here KR stands in front of our apartment in downtown LA awaiting a taxi.

 

We had a half day free in Kuala Lumpur and KR wanted to do some sight seeing.  So, we came here to a huge Buddha statue with a unique temple inside the cave up those stairs.  And yes, we humped those stairs in 90 degree heat.  This is fun?  I’ll take that meeting now, thanks.

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Gee, this is my kind of place:)

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While KR is looking at the temple, I’m getting the financing in place for our next vehicle via texting.

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We got lucky and happened on a practice session for Malaysia’s independence day celebration. A couple of thousand people were dancing, marching, playing instruments in 90 degree weather.  It was impressive.

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Senior staff of the primary clean technology government agency within Malaysia.

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My new love; afternoon tea British style. Nothing like scones and tea with jam and clotted cream. At the Majestic Hotel, no less.

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It took some guts to try and figure out the KR monorail system, but we did.

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Especially with all the rules.  We messed up on the second one from the right

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Typical KR picture –having a good time with the shopkeepers

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This is as close as we came to the world’s second tallest building.

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Of course, we always find the night life in any city, and Kuala Lumpur was no different.  Big English speaking population and thus lots of restaurants with names we could read

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I took the Little Woman shopping for some new outfits.  Modest perhaps, but certainly colorful.

 

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Singapore still has visages of the British colonial feel.

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but these are being rapidly crowded out by things like this

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The Marina Sands hotel/casino on the left consists of three towers topped off by a three football long infinity pool.

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This pool probably makes the hotel stay worth it!  We snuck in for a look before getting kicked out.

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This sign was in the bar next to the pool.  Yes, I would agree.

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This young lady insisted on taking a picture with Karen. Check out the shoes:)

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Technology at work:). In a Singapore taxi on the way to a meeting while Skyping with Dan W on my computer while connected to the Internet via a mobile hot spot.

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This poor lady had to withstand an hour long “brainstorming” session in which I drew the thing on the white board:)

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Guess where we are now?  Delhi, India of course.   This is a normal family “sedan.”  I count five people on this scooter.

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This is a “people’s taxi,” Tuk Tuk. They’re all over India and can easily take ten people.

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Roadside fruit and vegetable stand. Typical side-of-the-road shop.

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Neighborhood shot in Agra, a town 3 1/2 hours south of Delhi by car where the Taj stands.

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Siesta time,  guess.

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And then there’s the world of the rich and foreign.  My favorite hotel among many great ones, the ITC Maurya in the Diplomatic Enclave in Delhi.  The ceiling is a painted mural that is perhaps the most beautiful painting I’ve ever seen.   Service is in another stratosphere.  Karen got sick and in less  than 30 minutes there was a doctor at our door on a Sunday afternoon.

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Any great hotel serves Corona, known far and wide as the “1.8 on a scale of 10” for quality.

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If its good enough for Obama, its good enough for me:)

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Karen wanted to take the Taj home.   20,000 men worked 22 years on building the Taj in the 1600s.

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Lots of people, but the place is big enough it doesn’t bother you until you get inside the tomb.

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The fine detailing of the gems set in the marble aren’t appreciated from afar.  Karen and our guide talk art.

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One of the four towers on each corner of the Taj, whih is built on a river in the background.

The Taj is on this river. Those dots in the water are cows taking an afternoon swim

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Back in the other world, I have dinner with an Indian executive at this country club.  Here he greets business associates just hanging after a hard day on the links.

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Our hotel in Mumbai (Bombay) was the Taj Majal Palace. Aptly named.

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View out our window was a park and bay

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The staircase ceiling

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Five minutes walk from the Taj is this neighborhood apartment building.  Since there are cars in the parking lot, I  assume its a middle class apartment building.

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Another Mumbai street

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Scattered throughout the neighborhood are these very large colonial mansions falling down.  They’re inhabited by dogs, birds and a guard.  Anything worth stealing was gone long ago

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Sidewalk barbershop

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Indoor spice merchant

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Outdoor market

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They take their beer drinking seriously in Mumbai. A gumball machine that dispenses beer instead

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Baaaaahhh

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We travel literally half way around the world so KR can find some window latches for Corona Adobe.  Go figure.  We bought 30+ latches in this small hardware shop.

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Just a street in Mumbai.  Turning left and

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we see a funeral procession

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Another street with another market

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Cafe/bar

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At first I wondered why bikes only had panniers on the right side, then I saw this rack on the left and I finally figured it out — the rack is for women in India who almost all ride side saddle

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You cant’ fall asleep in this cab

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Best I could get of the Mumbai skyline

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Fifty feet outside the Taj and this guy came up wanting to give us some flowers and put a red mark on our foreheads for luck.  The red dot on the forehead has nothing to do with luck, it just marks us as easy-targets for every street hustler in Mumbai

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Options at a Mumbai airport. I strongly suggest you pick the door on the left, though neither is a day at the beach…

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Stopping over in Hong Kong, KR awaits the final 14 hour leg to LAX.

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Less than an hour after landing in LAX, KR is at the kennel awaiting the arrival of Squirt. Squirt somehow survived the two week stay in her OWN PRIVATE ROOM…

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A little bit of everything, from the French Riviera to the coasts of the Isle of Man; our south, north, west, east, north, south, west, east route was half planned and half we’ll figure-it-out-as-it-comes.  This Google Earth route map was prepared by Supreme-Navigator-in-the-Sky, Sam Hershfield.

We’ve taken a lot of trips, but this one’s had the most contrasts.  We’ve partied on the French Riviera with the One Percenters (OK, we were in the same town:) and drank beer with hard-core motorcyclists on the roads of the Isle of Man.  We’ve stayed in tiny towns in France, Switzerland and England and visited one of the world’s great (big) cities — Paris.  We’ve seen the rolling countrysides of England and France; the mountains of Switzerland/Italy/France/Germany; and the ocean cliffs and pastures of the IOM.   We’ve been on autobahns at 90+mph and tiny tiny mountain roads at 9 mph.  All in all, a jammed-packed 30 odd days.

Here are the basic facts & stats:

  • NY II shipped to & from:  Zeebrugge via RORO on Wallenius lines
  • 36 days, 19 travel days on the bike
  • 3500 miles (<100 miles per day total and > 180 miles per travel day)
  • Methods of transportation:  plane, train, bus, ferry, taxi, subway, m/c
  • Countries (9): Belgium, France, Monaco, Italy, Switzerland, Lichtenstein, Germany, England, Isle of Man
  • Problems with the bike:  0
  • Tip-overs: 1 (while packing him up one night)
  • Electronics:  two computers, two iPads, two cameras, one GPS, one video camera, two phones, two helmet intercoms, and one mobile Wi-Fi hot spot
  • Longest # of nights in any one city: 4 – Nice
  • No. of pubs/bars slept above: 2
  • No. of rain storms encountered while riding: 3
  • No. of Westies sighted: 12+
  • No. of “old” churches visited:  too many to count:)
  • Best hotel: La Mirande, Avignon France
  • Worst experience:  Iberia airlines — 12+ hours in one of the last analog planes + lost bags

We spent the last week of the trip meandering from the IOM through England, staying a couple of nights in Canterbury.  We then crossed the Channel and spent two nights in Normandy on the French coast, wandered through the French countryside and spent another day/night in Brugge.  I rode NVII back to Zeebrugge and put him on the boat.  KR and I then took a train to Brussels airport and caught a flight to LA via Madrid.   Simple:)

Net Take Aways:

  • The Little Woman no longer likes 500 mile long days on the m/c.  Go figure.
  • Too much space allocated for tools, not enough for personal electronics.  NV II is rock solid, so I don’t need to carry a mini tool chest.  You can never have enough electronic toys, however.
  • There are no hotels in Europe for less than $100 that the Little Woman wants to stay in.
  • BMW rain suits suck
  • We need a bigger “junk drawer” (top box:)
  • RORO (roll on, roll off) is still the best way of shipping a motorcycle.  But, one needs to make sure not to put any small value items where freight handlers/shippers can steal them as they will.
  • God bless Garmin and GPS.  How did we ever travel before them?
  • Ditto for Schuberth helmets with intercom/radio/phone.  They’re expensive, but flawless.
  • Wolfman water proof bags are the best.  When you combine them with separate, shaped mesh containers for clothes it creates an easy to pack/unpack clothing system.
  • BMW’s electronic suspension pretty much solved the short guy problem of putting two feet on the ground.  System can be used as an instantaneous lowering system when in traffic by putting system in “Soft” mode, “Hard” mode when on the highway.  Technology can be your friend:)
  • Contrary to going-in perceptions, motorcycle parts/accessories in Europe (not England) are cheaper than here.  The devaluation of the Euro is probably the main driver of this short term bonus.

Thanks for keeping in touch with us.

fred

 

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Dogs were a big big part of this trip. KR took dozens of pictures, which we’ll make a Dog Album from some day. Among other things, we saw lots of Westies, which made us decide to get a new Westie ourselves.

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Everybody’s happy when KR asks if she can photograph their dog:)

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There are a lot of bikes throughout Europe.  They come in all shapes and sizes.  This was my favorite, captured waiting for the Ferry to IOM.  It’s from Spain and its the best Rat Bike I’ve ever seen.

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Canterbury Cathedral courtyard,

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Inside.  I promised KR I’d put a couple of pictures in.

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Canterbury,  located in the south east of England,  was really really beautiful.

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Surprising what a couple of days walking around old churches does to KR’s mental state.  Hard to imagine this woman just spent a month on the back of a motorcycle:) Canterbury was a very good stop.

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First thing upon arriving in a hotel for the night is immediately plugging in our various electronics.  Helmet intercoms are plugged while were at dinner, the rest over night.

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Northern coast of France and we hit our most serious rainstorm.  2-3 hours of riding in the rain, getting totally soaked and pretty cold.  Yet, we’ve done it so often, its no big deal.

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French country side.

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Who says I don’t recycle?  Duct tape over the two holes in my right hand glove perfectly matches the left one.

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We arrive in Fecamp on the Coast late in the evening, looking for a hotel.

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Next morning really crazy Germans go for a swim in the English Channel.  It was f__king freezing, but at least plenty of blubber to keep them warm.

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Frequent event;  people gather around NV II and want to know where we’re from, we’re we’ve been, etc… “We picked the bike up in Belgium and rode it to Nice…”  Guys usually are all smiles.  By the time I get to the Alps, women are less interested.

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Beach at Entretat, a charming town on the northern coast. Lots of history around these parts…

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Boardwalk

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How they sun themselves on French beaches.  Whether its Nice or Entretat, all the French beaches we saw were gravel.

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Dinner in Fecamp.  I wanted a change-up from my normal French Rawhyde (steak) and went for the seafood platter.  Big big mistake.  This was the worst meal of the trip.

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Entretat street

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Life size Pirate served as a merchandising display.

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I was more attracted to the woman Pirate, despite the hook for a right hand.

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The British have a slightly different approach to merchandising.

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On the way back to Brugge, we stayed in this wonderful little B&B in the French countryside near Arras.

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The end — FW.  “OK, when and where are we going next!”

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The end KR:  “I want an RV!”

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Until the next one, its been terrific keeping in touch.

 

 

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I was expecting to see Julie Andrews singing around any of these bends as the Alps were really Sound of Music green. “Typical” shot of the road and Alps, this one in the Swiss Alps.  We were extremely lucky weather wise as we skirted rain every day only getting caught once in the Italian Alps.

Riding through the Alps is a primal draw for most motorcyclists.   We’ve spent our entire lives looking at pictures of soaring peaks with roads winding up there sides, each with captions like the World’s Best Motorcycle Road!  It’s a motorcyclist’s dream to ride the Alps.  Well, it’s no longer a dream for me as we’ve spent the last several days riding through the Italian, French, Swiss, German, and Lichtenstein (yes, even tiny Lichtenstein has Alps).  It’s been terrific.  For me.  For Karen, a little less so.

Lets just say that Karen doesn’t lie in bed at night dreaming of riding the Alps.  Old charming medieval cities?  √  Cozy cute cafes to have a pop? √  Little streets crammed with interesting shops? √  Soaring motorcycle roads over the tops of mountains with lots of death-defying curves?  Not so much.

Hence about 2 1/2 days into our scheduled 10 day Alps tour de force motorcycle ride my intercom crackles, “I never want to see another f__king swiss chalet!”  This could be a problem given I think we’re just getting into our “stride” and I know we’re going to see a lot more Swiss Chalets before we’re finished:)  Time for a little route rethinking.

For those of you keeping track, we were last on the French Riviera, in the seaside town of Menton, which is a short drive in your Ferrari north of Monaco on the Italian border.  We headed due north into the Italian Alps for a day, then swerved west and then north back into the French Alps for a day or so.  Then due east again into and through much of the Swiss Alps, then north through Lichtenstein and north west through the center of Switzerland.  We left Switzerland through its north border with Germany, enjoyed a brief spurt up one of the Deutschland’s Autobahns (using only the middle lane at a mere 93mph).  We are now nestled in the French town of Strasbourg, rethinking our route and doing some much needed wash.

Our choices are four fold:  (1) Continue toward the Chunnel at a snail’s pace, then head toward the ferry to the Isle of Mann to catch the TT race;  (2) Vere sharply north through Luxemborg and to Amsterdam for a couple of days, then to the Chunnel, etc.;  (3) Haul ass to the Chunnel and then spend 3-4 days in the South of England; and (4) Vere sharply left, go to Paris and hang for a couple of days before going to the Chunnel, etc.

I’ll let you know what happens next time.

None of this is to take away from a great couple of days.  Highlights include

  • More great roads, mountains, and (yes those f__king) swiss chalets than you could wish for.  Just like British Columbia, Peru and Alaska; beautiful scenery becomes the norm…
  • We spend two days in the town of Annecy in the French Alps, which rivals Brugge for beauty and charm.  Like Brugge, we find the bars and scenes that present a less-than-normal-tourist experience:)
  • We– KR, me and NVII — take a train for the first time with no problems through the part of the Alps that are still closed due to snow.
  • The Germans know how to build highways and they like to drive fast.  93 mph doesn’t allow you in the left lane.  Always drive with one eye on the rear view mirror.
  • We’ve seen a ton of bikes on the road, but can’t seem to connect with any of them.  They come in all shapes and sizes, but 1200GSs are the most common.
  • Bike-wise, NVII has run like a champ.  Not a single problem.  Put on a new rear tire in Annesy and waited less than an hour to get it done.

Life is good.  Here’s what it looked like in pictures.

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All layers are in force as we get ready to go into the Swiss (higher up) Alps

 

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On the road

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Despite what you might be thinking, its not all stress and adventure.  Here KR takes a nap on the bike.

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Alps and more

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This shot is in the Swiss part of the Alps at about 6000 ft, which was the highest we got.  Yes, it was nippy.

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Midway in the afternoon we start to think about where to go/stay for the night.  A couple of pops, reading guide books, looking at maps and doing route calculations on the Garmin are the tools at hand.

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Road hazards of a different kind;  getting peed on by a passing cow:)

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We take the train through a very long tunnel to avoid a closed pass

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Successfully got NVII off the train.  Not as easy as you might think.

 

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VII as Dressing Room Table.  KR applies makeup from her cosmetics drawer, NVII’s back box.

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One of many many many many church steeples we see throughout Europe

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I had to put in an old door shot

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Reward after a long day is getting a pop at a local bar and catching up on email

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Does he look familiar?  Reminded us of Lotus, a great dog of ours.  We vow to get another Westie soon.

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Night shot of Annecy, one of many many many charming little old towns we ride through and/or stay in.

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Annecy looking toward the lake

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The world’s hardest to find hotel in Annecy.  Garmin couldn’t find it.  We had to walk the neighborhood to find the place.

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The lake. How could I be happier?

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Every town has its vagabonds.  This young crew traveler with their pets.

 

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More potential art for Corona Adobe.  You’ll have to ask KR what she has about decorative skulls.

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Things pick up in Annecy as we come across a really good rock & roll band.  French band plays nothing but American R&R hits to loud applause

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Another route planning session.  Looking at the map and Miguel says “its a looonnng, looonnng, looong road!”  We’re all laughing despite none of us speaking the other’s language.

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Route comes into focus with a glass of wine and a plate of crustaceans.  Maps help too.

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In a more sober state, route planning continues

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Beauty shot!  Now Voyager II stands ready early one morning in Bad Ragaz. Hey, if you don’t like bikes get your own blog:))

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France KR and I head out looking for dinner in Strasbourg, France. KR has pleaded that we spend Two Whole Nights here:)

 

 

IMG_6276What city is this?

The answer is Los Angeles, as viewed from a dive bar in Skid Row-Adjacent.  We haven’t had the opportunity to hang in said bar much because I’m not in LA a lot lately.  Here’s  my travel schedule of the last couple of weeks:  LA, San Antonio, LA, Phoenix, LA, Berlin, Milan, Verano, Revoreto, Milan, Turin, Legnano, LA, Mexico City, LA, Puerto Vallarta, LA.  Ninety-nine percent of this travel is LACI related because we’re building the Global Innovation Network (GIN), which will link together a couple dozen premier innovation institutions in key world markets.  More about this is a bit.

KR and I are preparing to move further south into the industrial core of Los Angeles.  While our current place is Frontier Land for most people,  its becoming too gentrified for me, so we’re moving to an old fabric manufacturing building that’s being converted to lots of (even smaller than Factory Place) lofts.  It’s in a good neighborhood: across the street from a strip club, next door to a marijuana dispensary, and it’s freeway close because its under a freeway.

It wasn’t easy to find because of its prime location:) We found it during one of our regular Sunday drives through the deserted streets of Vernon and surrounds.  Vernon is best known for a Pedigree dog food plant, Jimmy Dean’s Sausage factory, and its the world’s metal recycling capital.  I’m afraid these lofts will become a hot as well since Gino, the developer of said lofts, taped a telephone number on the side of his building to advertise leases and got over 100 calls for his 50 apartments in two days.  He took the number down the next day.

Building GIN is rapidly becoming a full time gig in addition to my day job as ED of LACI.   We now have partners in Germany (2), Italy (3), Sweden, Finland and Mexico.  Next up is the rest of Latin America and Asia.  Our goal is to have 12+ partners signed by the end of the year.  Many of you may be asking the question that I get a lot from LACI’s stakeholders, “What the heck is a small incubator located in downtown Los Angeles doing building a global network?”  I’m stating it much nicer than its usually asked.

Here’s the short answer:  our goal is to make Los Angeles into a world-class innovation ecosystem and huge green economy.  We believe we can’t do that without connecting to the world.  What better way to connect to the world than placing LA in the center of an international network?   The long answer would include that the environment and energy sustainability is a global problem, therefore its a global market that our companies need to take advantage of.  One of LA’s key strengths is that it’s a leader in international trade and hence our efforts are in line with LA’s future.  If we succeed in doing this, we will position LA’s economy for excellent growth for the remainder of this century.

As most of you know, I prefer to travel by motorcycle or at least by RV or fast car.  Our European trip involved taxis, buses, trains, and planes over 5 days of 13 meetings in five different cities in two countries.  Whew.  We were always running for a train or bus and made all of them.  I thought I was getting the hang of train travel until I took the wrong train in Northern Italy and came close to crossing the Austrian border before realizing that I had just spent 1 1/2 hours going in the wrong direction.  Bottom line: lots of buses and trains, but I haven’t been on NVII in over 30 days.  He barely has more than 1300 miles on him (I put 500+ on our first day together).

Here’s what all this looks like in pictures.

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This is what most people see when in San Antonio

 

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This is what I came to see: a very very long meeting with various  State Department and  Mexican staff discussing a new alliance

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KR ready to go on our first day in Berlin

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Just a street in Berlin

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Where I spent most of my time

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One of the few forms of transportation we didn’t use

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Could be my favorite train station in the world – Milan’s Centrale

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A bullet train awaits us

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An international man of mystery

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One of the reasons I loved Milan is that its a city of motorcycles/scooters.   Everyone uses them.

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If you can’t live in the country, crane some trees up your skyscaper.

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The Duomo cathedral in Milan — it took SIX centuries to complete by 1400.

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KR’s picture from the top

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Milan Plaza

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Very funny guy

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KR’s attitude about train travel may be changing:)  “Why  do I have to get here 30 minutes before the train comes?”

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I’m not sure what KR’s point with this picture is aside from saying something to the effect that we had similar expressions

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This was a large cigarette factory in Rovereto that was converted to a very impressive cleantech incubator focusing on green buildings

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Great shot out the window of a train in Northern Italy.  Don’t have the slightest idea where this is as I spent hours on the train going the wrong way.

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This is what I needed after another 17 hour day.   Dinner and drink(s) in the center of Verona, a beautiful little city.

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Verona street close to our hotel

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If I didn’t know better I’d say this was Mexico with similar aversion to 90 degree angles.

US Ambassador to Mexico speaks to entrepreneurs in Mexico City

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Lots of happy campers sitting in Mexico City airport

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Back at the ranch we are taking green literally.  Some of the team have planted a vegetable garden.

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The alley next to our new home.  The “Arts District Healing Center” is a pot dispensary.  Very convenient.

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Future home for the Bullet and NVII.  Parking lot underneath the 10 Freeway.

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How the Other Half live —  a car show in Beverly Hills.   I was thinking of buying a Morgan 3-Wheeler like the one above until I found out it cost $85K.  I don’t think so…

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Back to reality. The Iron Duke on the way from PV to LA.

 

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Just to prove that I haven’t lost any of my fix-it-while-on-the-road talent…

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This is what happens when you cross the border in the “wrong” lane — that of the Semi’s.  We were searched by three different teams in addition to a dog.  Their thinking was probably something like…”Anybody this dumb must be dangerous..”

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The King is Dead. Long Live the King! Our last episode ended with Now Voyager making it back to LA. One week later he had a new owner.   Before moving on, he set a new record: 730 miles in one day and averaging about 100 mph for more than an hour.  He acquitted himself with honors on his last mission.  Here he gets his first wash after getting back from Guatemala by our neighbor in Puerto Vallarta.

It’s difficult to summarize this past winter’s events.  Where’s the theme in it all?  It started with the following  two-week travel sequence:  DC – LAX- PV – Mexico City- PV – Guadalajara- LAX.  The trip included meeting with the White House’s most senior energy staff and being told…”We talk about LACI all the time here.  There’s no one doing anything like you guys…”  I know that and $1.65 will get me a small Starbucks, but it was nice to hear anyway and certainly a 180 degree change from just three years ago.  The trips also included signing an MOU with the Mayor of Los Angeles in Mexico City and being told “You’re exceeding expectations, Fred” by the Mayor.  Please remember that when we’re asking for more money from the City to support LACI,  I’m thinking:)  Oh, and we began building a Global Innovation Network (GIN) which now has members in Germany and Mexico, soon to add Italy and the rest of Europe.  And I’m part of the Mayor’s delegation on his upcoming trip to Asia this fall.

South of the border, KR has become a world-class inn keeper as the Corona Adobe/Little Big Sur vacation rental business has exploded.  No one is more surprised than KR and I at this new development.  Corona Adobe has become a very popular B&W to the point that KR has had to escape to LBS because the house was fully rented.  That option soon disappeared as well since the Corona Adobe/LBS “metropolitan living and jungle escape combo package” has been very popular.  Last week KR had to stay in a PV hotel because we had no space in our own home or out at LBS.  KR is coming to LA for the month of April partly because there’s no room in PV.  And to see Her Man, of course.

All work and no play makes for a dull boy (which I’ve been accused of being), so there’s been a fair amount of that including a couple of days in PV with friends (Puerto Vallarta is just a great, great town),  a Saturday night bar crawl like I only vaguely remember in my youth, and….. A NEW MOTORCYCLE!

We welcomed Now Voyager II into the family about a week ago.  He’s a 2014 BMW GS with every gadget, gizmo and option that the German’s could think of:)  I spent about two months evaluating various choices for the Walti’s new DreamMobile, but settled on the biggest, fastest, heaviest, and most expensive alternative.  Go figure.  He’s so big that I’m thinking of getting special elevator shoes made:) None the less, he’s handsome, fast, comfortable and handles great.  Why has it taken me all these years to man-up and get a GS?  Go figure.

Maybe the theme for this winter is it’s been a time of transitions.  LACI is growing up — in size, footprint and reputation.  One of these days it will be a real force to be reckoned with.  Our life in PV has transitioned to that of part-time/ full-effort inn keeper which has pretty much changed what KR does south of the border.  We’ve shifted to a new motorcycle, leaving the stressed-out Now Voyager behind and welcoming the fully-capable Now Voyager II into the fold.  And, as we all face the challenges of growing up (finally?), we lost two of our friends this winter.  One, Jack Foster, was one of the greatest creative people I’ve ever worked with.  He certainly set the standard for how to have fun and do great work.  Not a bad legacy.

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The year started with my first ever Chinese New Years (its the Year of the Horse ) formal celebration.  This one was given by Hong Kong’s Trade and Invest group out of LA.  It was quite a fascinating experience as I was one of the few non Chinese heritage folks.  Pretty crazy dragons manned by young women danced and danced.  I got tired just watching.

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“Fireside Chat” with the new Secretary of the Department of Energy in Washington DC at the ARPA-E conference. It’s a great conference, brimming with mind-boggling innovation.

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Walking past the White House after a meeting at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building.  It was sunny, but nippy out.  Barack asked me to stay for dinner, but I had something already booked.  Next time.

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How can the coolest motorcycle themed bar that I’ve been in is located in Washington DC?  The Iron Horse Tap Room has the best collection of pristine 60’s and 70’s era motorcycles that I’ve come across.  One of my all time favorite bars, but I doubt that there was a motorcyclist in the place.

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Reception in Mexico City welcoming the Mayor’s “Invest L.A. “delegation”  It was held in Carlos Slim’s museum named after his wife.  Very, very nice.

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This is what it looks like from the outside.

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The Mayor, Eric Garcetti, giving the last speech of the day.  His schedule was packed — eight meetings each day for two days straight — and he was brilliant in each and every one.  Antonio was pretty damn good on his feet, but Eric is better, giving off a lot of warmth.

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The signing ceremony in Mexico City

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I didn’t get much chance to see Mexico City aside from a brief walk in Polanco, one of Mexico City’s most upscale neighborhoods.  Walking the streets you’d think you’re in some European city as well-off Mexicans are very stylish people.   This is the view from the Argentine steak house that I had lunch at.

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Outside Carlos Slim’s museum in Polanco, Mexico City’s version of Beverly Hills.

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The sweet smell of cement.  LACI’s 60,000 sa. ft. La Kretz Innovation Campus under construction.  Move-in date is summer 2015.

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Morton La Kretz and his daughter Linda visit their namesake.  You haven’t lived until you’ve walked around a site in a DWP hard hat.

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The neighborhood’s most popular Bed & Wine stands over its domain:)

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The two views of inn keeping.  To get the cash, you

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need to make sure the place is spic and span for the guests.  My favorite inn keeper preps for new guests

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Street life in Puerto ‘Valarta

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It’ can  be dangerous in Mexico; you never know what’s going to jump you.  Here a man-shaped iguana gets ready to pounce.

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This is the face of someone who’s going to pick up his new motorcycle.  At the train station waiting to go to Orange, CA.:)

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Picking up NV II at Irv Seaver BMW.  Not sure who’s the most handsome, but the other one has 125 hp.

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New parents document their baby’s first step, I document NV II’s first meal.

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The second stop after NV’s meal is Ryan Reza, the ultimate BMW doctor.  We (OK, he attached I watched) extra gas tanks and tool tubes among other gadgets and gizmos.

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(Almost) fully outfitted NV II overlooking the Angeles Crest forest.

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You can never have too many shots of the new baby

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There are few better moments in life: a screwdriver and reading over the new owners manuals after a first day’s ride:)))))

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

150+ adventure motorcyclists came to the Horizons Unlimited meeting in Cambria, California for a weekend of presentations, how-to clinics, bike goggling, and old fashion story-telling.  It was heaven.

 

 This past weekend I felt like I was arriving home, even though I was hanging with 150+ motorcycle adventurers, most of whom I’d never met.  This was  the fifth Horizons Unlimited USA meeting that I’ve gone to in the past four years.  Those regular TRT readers will remember that it was the 2008 HU meeting in Silverton, Colorado that started this whole “we gotta get out of here” thing for KR and me.  This s a meeting of,  for and by serious adventure bikers.

For those of us who dream of adventure travel on a motorcycle, there isn’t a  more interesting group of people to hang with.   For those who don’t have such dreams,  this might be a painful weekend.  I was even smiling while watching Grant Johnson (the founder of HU) give his “how to change a tire” seminar for the fifth time.   Knowing the right wrench to break “the bead” during a tire change is interesting:)   Over a two day period, there were about 50 presentations on everything from trip reports to how-to-tune your suspension.  This is heaven, beaten only by actually taking a trip on a m/c.

I counted no fewer than ten people/couples who had or were in the process of traveling around the world on their motorcycle.  That’s a pretty high concentration even among a group of 100+hardcore adventure bikers.  These meetings become destinations for people in the middle of their trip.  There “local” travelers  from North America on their way to South America and points East and West.   There were lots of accents around the dinner table too with bikers from Wales, Australia, France, and Spain, among others.  This year’s crew was noticeably different than past years’, as the age mix was broader and there were a lot of families with children.

I felt a bit like a charlatan amongst this crew as we’ve not taken a serious bike trip since South America, almost 18 months ago.  Yet, I was asked to give two presentations this year.  One was the “2 Up, 9000 Miles in 90 Days” presentation on our South America trip that I’d given last year.  For some reason, this year’s presentation was given to a standing-room-only crowd and got lots of laughs and questions.  It was a lot better feeling than giving an LACI presentation to a group of politicians in LA.

I had to write a new presentation for this meeting, “Rewiring Your Life for Travel: A Work in Progress” which I was pretty apprehensive about because I didn’t feel much like a real expert in Rewiring.  I wondered if anyone would come as it wasn’t about the fun stuff of travel, but the more mundane part of getting your act together so you can travel.  I was really surprised with a standing room only crowd and lots of applause again.  I even picked up a new consulting client for TPG from the audience!

It’s been a while since Now Voyager got to stretch his legs.  This is on Hwy 58, a terrific road from the San Joaquin Valley over the mountains to the Coast.

Lunch on the first day.  This camp ground on the cliff overlooking the Pacific is the best HU facility so far.  Food was always good, if a bit on the “family style” side.

Typical presentation room.  This guy was giving a talk on how to travel cheap, real cheap.  It was well attended and full of good ideas.

An outdoor amphitheater serves as the “big room,” reserved for well known authors and famous travelers.  This is not where I presented: )

A “for women only” seminar on traveling by bike lasted for two hours.  Closed session, so I don’t have the slightest idea of what they talked about.  I’m sure it was something long the lines of  “How to make your man happy while on the road”

Must be a Republican

Nor do well behaved men

I liked this guy as he’d traveled a lot south of the border

My kind of license plate.  I think I’ll get one for KR at Christmas

Couple from Wales going around the world.  I was envious of all the space to store stuff on a sidecar versus Now Voyager.  It’s the first time I actually thought about owning a sidecar.  For a brief moment.

All kinds of motorcycles show up. This is an old restored Indian

And this is Craig Vetter’s latest design.  Vetter is a m/c pioneer as he was one of the first people to sell fairings for m/cs.

This is a BMW like Now Voyager, but with a backup mode of transportation in the back.  We could have used something like this in South America.

Lots of fog surrounds the “dining hall.”

Grant Johnson demonstrating the right types of wrenches to use changing a tire.

This is another old Indian, in slightly rougher, but more patriotic condition.

“Lucy” was ridden all though out Vietnam.

After dinner cocktails on the patio overlooking the ocean.  Some of us were smart enough to bring a thermos of Screwdrivers…

 

The sun sets on another great HU weekend.

My kind of Sunday breakfast;  a cup of coffee, a bear claw and a NYT perched on NV.  I was awaiting the sun so we could get on the road again.

Roads through the hills of Paso Robles are made for bikes and bikers.   Five hours door to door, including getting lost in said roads and having a sit-down breakfast in a diner on Petroleum Blvd, in downtown Taft.

 

 

 

The one room in La Corona that won’t have a view is my office/Man Cave, which is quickly turning into a Man Dungeon. This is the view up through the “sky light.”

It had been a very long month since visiting KR and La Corona.  It took a trip to Toronto to find the time to fly to PV (long story) and see if all was well.   I’m happy to report that “Lefty” (KR) is doing remarkably well, Lilly has found new enthusiasm for the beach, and La Corona keeps rising toward the sun.   Despite being in the heart of the off-season, PV was still gorgeous and I felt at home for perhaps the first time.  Funny how seven trips in seven months will do that for you.

Sometimes you get to pay back people for their deeds, and this summer I was able to pay Sam Hershfield back for a deed he did for/to me twenty-one years ago:  I convinced him to buy a motorcycle again and his subsequent cross-country Trip Report is published here.   Fortunately he didn’t kill or maim himself, thus shielding me from the wrath of the entire Hershfield Clan. His Honda Pacific Coast now makes five (5) PCs we’ve owned between us.

KR is rapidly recovering from her broken elbow and subsequent operation.  The stitches came out and the sling was tossed aside a couple of days before my arrival.  Resilience is the only word I can describe KR in dealing with her misfortune.  She’s about to start physical therapy so we expect her to be up to full strength by the Fall.

Fun or no fun, we were selecting tiles within minutes of me landing in PV. Here KR gets up close and personal with some alternatives while overseeing what Isidro and I were considering.

This trip was actually fun and as-close-as-one-can-get-to-relaxing given we’re building a four story Goliath in a country not known for on-time, on-quality, on-budget delivery.  Not that we didn’t have lots of stuff to do and decide, which we did, but we actually got to spend one out of the three days I was there just hang’n.  La Corona, or more precisely its neighborhood, now feels like home after 2+ years.  While I’m sure the neighbors still think of me as the Crazy Gringo Who’s Letting His Wife Build the Four Story Museum,  I know most of them and vice versa.  We found a new restaurant that was great and visited some old favorites as well.

I was expecting PV to be hell in mid July, and it was hot and humid, but only in the mid-afternoon.  The mornings were quiet, calm and really nice.  Evening were breezy with the threat of thunderstorms never far off.  While I couldn’t imagine living there in July without a monster fan or air conditioning unit, it was surprisingly pleasant.  And here’s the real surprise:  the plane coming in was packed and the Malecon was still pretty full.  Maybe the economy is turning up…

Back to the business at hand, progress on La Corona is happening in every area big and small:

  • Raphael’s Tower is now structurally done.  KR’s studio will be the best room in the house.
  • The solar hot water system is installed and operational
  • The pool is done and operational
  • There are terraza’s on both the Observation and Pool decks
  • The Observation deck is 90% done
  • The ground floor living room and original master bedroom are almost finished
  • The basic layout of the kitchen is done

My couple of days in PV were spent deciding the following:

  • Selected all floor tiles (third time)
  • Decided what to do with the roof of Raphael’s Tower (implement his new design of course)
  • Came up with the design for the second floor bathroom (now just two to go)
  • Refined the kitchen design
  • Agreed on the position of the first floor windows
  • Came up with the initial concept for the courtyard

The biggest issue facing us is the design of the two remaining bathrooms on the third floor.  Isidro looks increasingly uneasy about the pace of our design decisions as he’s warning that we have about two weeks to make it happen.

Time is marching on as we’ve now been in the construction phase of La Corona for 6 1/2 months , with another 6 months prior to that spent in the planning stage.  Now that all the structural work has been done, and 75% of the design decisions have been made, I’m seeing the light at the end of the tunnel appearing late September or early October.   I guess time will tell…

 

 

Architectural files…  KR has gazillions of pictures of things she likes; yours truly attempts to organize them for a day.  Each pile represents a different room.

 

The front entrance is getting close.  Still lots of detail to add.

Isidro and Jaime consult with carpenter (center) on where to place window in downstairs bathroom.  EACH window and door for La Corona is being made by hand.  Try that in the US.

This is the old living room, which will become the Guest Sitting Room.   While it may not look it, this room is almost done.

When you walk through the front door, this is what you see: what’s left of the fountain and courtyard.  This will be totally redone, but is probably the last area (besides my Man Dungeon) to get worked on.

Looking up from the courtyard. That’s Raphael’s tower going up on the right, the living room/master suite up on the left.  In the upper center is the covered bridge from our bedroom to KR’s studio.

Looking at Raphael’s Tower from the pool area.  Room directly across is KR’s studio.

Who says that Mexican’s aren’t technically savvy.  Pulley system is used to move buckets of cement to the top of the Tower from …

Here.  Ropes descend through the Man Dungeon’s ceiling to the cement mixer.

Observation deck terraza.  This shot is taken from the “secret garden” on the roof of Raphael’s Tower.

View from Observation Deck is still pretty good, even in July.

View of the top of the Tower from the Observation Deck.  What was once suppose to be a not so secret “Secret Garden” has evolved into a combo of outdoor bed and potting bench.

View of the pool deck’s terraza.

The pool equipment.  Only Hershfield knows how to work it.

Standing in the living room, looking towards the outdoor living room extension between main house and Tower.

Living room remains pretty much unchanged.

On the way to the airport we stop in a shopping mall to look at refrigerators.  Instead, we catch a quick meal and I buy a couple of suits (they were on sale!)

Our longest-running PV tradition is having our first cocktail together on the beach at a restaurant called La Palapa.  We’ve been coming here since 2006.  There’s nothing like getting a bit sloshed looking at Los  Muertos Beach.

[blogroll]

We thought getting on and off this ferry would be the major challenge ofthe day. Boy were we wrong.

The longest day:  175 miles of thrills, near spills, high anxiety, confusion, Carnival celebrations, and ultimate survival

After getting through a three-hour, three-bribe  border crossing on our way to La Paz , we thought everything would be downhill from there.   Then, when we muscled our way on and off a rickety wooden ferry without falling into the lake, we were ecstatic to be on solid land again. We just knew it would be smooth sailing into La Paz, just 70 miles away.  After we were led through the worst traffic of the trip on the outskirts of La Paz by yet another good Samaritan to our intended hostal, we thought we were minutes away from a cold one in said hostal’s in-house brewery.  Not so, but two hours later KR came back with good news from an on-foot reconnaissance trip :  we had a hotel just down the street.  Wow, we  had beat the zero occupancy of Carnival weekend!   Forty minutes later I had bobbed and weaved my way through traffic to make it the five blocks to our hotel only to be confronted by… a garage entrance that was smack in the middle of this neighborhood’s Carnival celebrations.   With KR holding back the the traffic, I felt like an Indy 500 winner as I successfully charged between two street vendor’s stalls, jumped the curb, and dissapeared through the door down into our underground hotel parking garage.  High fives all around as we had somehow made it through this day with no new scratches to person or machine.  We celebrated with a glass of vino at a pizza shop (pizza is Bolivia’s favorite type of restaurant) 13 hours after leaving Puno.

Bolivia had always been on my “be careful” list, as in be careful of the lack of good roads, of rain, of street protests, of poverty, of the gasoline, of their corrupt officials and petty and not so petty thieves.  KR was worried too and had been combing other motorcycle  blogs for road conditions for weeks prior to our going to Bolivia.  Yet none of these worries proved to be too challenging.   Yes, the roads weren’t terrific, gasoline stations were few and far between, it rained as often as the sun shined.   Moreover, we had searched for, received and taken all the advice we could get about how to handle Bolivia.  None of these efforts and cautions were worth a damn.  As we know so very well, sometimes shit happens and you just need to deal with it…

  • We went off the main route to an out-of-the-way Peru/Bolivia border crossing because we were advised that it would be deserted, quick and hassle-free.  Not so fast for us.  After convincing a Peruvian immigration official  that our lack of tourist card could be remedied with a $20 bill, and helping a Peruvian police official agree that a digital proof of insurance card would be acceptable (it wasn’t stampable) with another $30,  and paying $270 for a Bolivian visa, and waiting 90 minutes for the Bolivian customs office to open after lunch, and finally agreeing with a Bolivian police officer that he indeed deserved financial remuneration ($3), he lifted the  bar blocking the road and we rolled into Bolivia.  A scant three hours later 🙂
  • We were also advised that this alternate route would be shorter, faster and more beautiful than the normal Panamericana Highway route.   It would also avoid all the traffic of Julicaca. a well-known traffic nightmare.  The only hitch would be a short ferry ride across the lake to the north side.  The road was indeed wonderful and the view of Lake Titicaca shimmering below as we rose to 14,000 feet was awe inspiring.  We were encouraged as we came off the mountain and saw a small flotilla of ferries scurrying between shores.  This was obviously a water transportation system.   That proved total bull shit as we were hurried past all the inspectors and were directed toward an awaiting ferry.  As I approached said ferry,  I  was surprised mid-way through the curb jumping that there were significant gaps in its floor boards — gaps large enough to swallow an entire wheel.  Somehow I avoided falling into these gaps only to notice one of this ferry’s most notable features — unlike every other ferry we’d been on in the world, one had to back up to get off the ferry instead of simply driving forward.  So, after wallowing across the channel, KR, the “captain,” his mate, and I muscled NV back and up the ferry’s deck, once again avoiding all gaps, jumping the exit curb, and maneuvering down the ramp without dumping said vehicle in water or on the ground.  Relieved doesn’t describe how we felt having met this latest challenge.  Although it was getting on toward 4:00PM, we were comforted that La Paz was just 70 miles away, all on terafirma.
  • About 10 miles outside of La Paz it started to rain hard and the traffic started to slow. This made it difficult to see while lurking along in the stop and go.  Instead of getting better, the traffic just got worse as we got closer to the city.  There was a lot of partying going on next to the road (heck it was happening in the road too) with people dancing, bands playing, and people getting totally blitzed.  Pretty impressive neighborhood party we thought, having no idea or sense of time/date.  Traffic was now a real-time nightmare.  One side of  the divided highway had been closed off for the party’ers, squeezing all traffic on just one side.  Which side was open to traffic alternated every few blocks, making  kamakazi kinds of lane switching into on-coming traffic a frequent occurance.  We couldn’t see an end to this mega-jam as we were squeezed in between buses, trucks, cars, taxis, SUVs, ambulances, police vehicles and anything else that would move.  A red SUV with a family inside jerked up along side us.  “Where are you going?” I think he said.  “La Paz” we answered.  Duuhh!  He motioned for us to follow him and, not having a better plan or other option, we tried to do so.  For a couple of miles we swerved through traffic, down little back streets, and made a couple of U-turns to arrive on a wide divided highway high in the mountains.  As we entered the highway, there spread out below us was La Paz — a huge city built over dozens of hills at 12,000+ feet.  Our good Samaritan pulled over, suggested we take a picture here (we did) and then offered to take us to our intended hostal.  Five minutes later we were in front of the hostal and our friends in the red SUV were waving and driving off. 
  • KR walked out of our intended hostal with a frown on her face. Did you know it was Carnival this weekend? They don’t have any room!” Hell, I wasn’t entirely sure what month it was, let alone remembering that Carnival was the first week in March.  More specifically, this Saturday night was the big Carnival celebration in La Paz. We had no pre-selected hotel alternatives, it was closing in on 6:00PM, and we didn’t have the slightest idea of where we were since we had no map of La Paz. We got a couple of recommendations from the folks who turned us away, so we tried to erase the disappointment of no brewskies yet and began to navigate to the alternatives using a small advertising map of the local area. One thing needs to be emphasized here: La Paz is built in the hills and mountains. There are few flat stretches, most roads are going up, down or jagging across steep, steep hills. For the next 60 minutes we ride up and down these hills (executing two perfect U-turns on steep, steep hills in the process), without finding our intended targets. Finally we get a tip that a hotel across the canyon has both a room and a garage for NV.
  • It was now dark and the city was afire with Carnival celebrations. The traffic, or more accurately the cut and thrust of anything with wheels, was beginning to make Kathmandhu’s look tame. Horns honked, buses rumbled into too-small spaces, pedestrians drunkenly played chicken, taxis stopped at any moment to take on or disembark passengers, fireworks shot off from all directions , bands were playing in the street and … into the middle of this we plunged, just trying to find a street sign, an address, or a hotel sign. For once, I was calm inside without the usual OH-SHIT anxiety that comes from dangerously slow-speed muscling of NV in crazy cities. But on this night, at this time, I was on my game. Making moves that were unthinkable just weeks  before, we avoided buses, people, taxis, man-eating potholes, and everything else that could be thrown at us. I approached everything matter of factly.   Bus about to run over my left foot? No big deal, hit the horn, lift the foot, and hit the throttle to spurt in front. Need to make a U-turn from uphill to downhill after hitting a dead-end? No big deal, KR’s gets off and helps guide us back down the hill to make a perfect Y-turn. On this day and at this moment, we were good.

So, on this “short” 175 mile day, KR and I had earned another Adventure Guy stripe. It wasn’t like we had waded through rushing rivers, or swagged our way through a jungle, or plowed mile after mile down a sandy wash. No, for us, we had simply survived everything that had been thrown at us and handled it. It wasn’t always pretty, it certainly wasn’t done with bravado, but we handled whatever “it” was with a calmness and a resoluteness we didn’t have two-plus months ago.

Geez, I need a drink just thinking about it.

After successfully getting through Peruvian Immigrations, Customs and Police offices with just two bribes, we thought it would be all downhill on the Bolivian side. The police officer taking this picture was smiling too as we had just contributed to his kid's college education.

KR descends into the Bolivian Immigration, Customs and Police stations. We were done a short 2 hours and $270+ dollars later.

The fleet of ferries looked professional from afar...

KR holds Now Voyager steady as we roll across the straight.

Our captain uses modern equipment to keep our vessel pointed in the right direction.

The road from the border to La Paz was scenic and made for easy riding. La Paz is near the snow capped peaks in this picture.

Our La Paz traffic nightmare begins about five miles out. This is one of the few "action" shots as KR was too busy looking at maps and giving me real-time directions. Oh, and she probably had her eyes closed most of the time: )

We had no idea that the San Pedro neighborhood that we drove into was party-central for Carnival. Streets were jammed with revelers for days and nights.

This shot is taken from NV as we're parked waiting for KR to come back from a hotel scouting run. A continuous stream of taxis would pull up, their passengers would pop out and run into one of the stalls pictured here, and return with arms full of booze and ice. It seemed that we had parked on Liquor Store Row with stall after stall of booze. I looked on jealously.

La Paz's Carnival reminded me of Mardi Gras as groups/clubs/teams would dress up and dance in the streets. This guy kind of looks like the Joker, while

these folks were dressed more traditionally.

Some of us didn't have to dress up to scare anyone. Most of the time people looked at us like we were from another world anyway.

Police officer appears to be saying, "Are you going to walk the line or not?"

Even huddles of more "Mature" women got into the spirit of things. These women were passing around large bottles of beer.

This is shot from our hotel room on a SUNDAY morning..

The target. The brown double door in the center is where I had to put NV through at night, with the street jammed with people, stalls, cars and bands.

The first thing one notices when crossing from Peru to Bolivia is that building materials change from the stone/adobe of Peru to big, solid red bricks in Bolivia. This shot of a La Paz hill is typically dominated by red brick structures, giving the entire city a monotone look of dark red.

There are lots of colorful markets in La Paz. Here one of the sellers takes stock as a potential customer approaches

What is it? I didn't ask nor did I volunteer to taste.

Given its monochromatic background, La Paz's streets are wildy colorful at ground level is colorful stalls, food, flowers and dress.

La Paz won't win any "most charmingly beautiful" city awards. Most of what we've seen is either red, really ugly, or downright weird. This shot is typical. Aside from aesthetics, La Paz is a vibrant, kind of gritty big city that feels much smaller because it fills the mountains/hills nearby. The neighborhood we're staying in -- San Pedro-- is a weird combination of San Francisco's Haight, NY's Little Italy, with the outdoor market feel of Mexico.

Is he real or made of wax? KR's growing collection of Peruvian and Bolivian children is amazing.

About 10 miles outside of La Paz it started to rain hard and the traffic started to slow. It made it difficult to see while lurking along in the stop and go.  Instead of getting better, it just got worse as we got closer to the city.  Pretty soon we noticed that there was a lot of partying going on next to the road (heck it was happening in the road too) with lots of people dancing, bands playing, and many people totally blitzed.  Pretty impressive neighborhood party we thought, having no idea or sense of time/date.  Traffic was now a real-time nightmare.  One side of  the divided highway had been closed off for the partiers, squeezing all traffic on just one side.  This side alternated every few blocks, making  kamakazi kinds of lane switching into on-coming traffic a frequent occurance.  We couldn’t see an end as we were squeezed in between buses, trucks, cars, taxis, SUVs, ambulances, police vehicles and anything else that would move.  A red SUV with a family inside jerked up along side us.  “Where are you going?” I think he said.  “La Paz” we answered.  Duuhh!”  He motioned us to follow him and, not having a better plan or other option, we tried to do so.  For a couple of miles we swerved through traffic, down little back streets, and made a couple of U-turns to arrive on a wide divided highway high in the mountains.  As we entered the highway, there spread out below us was La Paz — a huge city built over dozens of hills at 12,000+ feet.  Our good Samaritan pulled over, suggested we take a picture here (we did) and then offered to take us to our intended hostal.  Five minutes later we were in front of the hostal and our friends in the red SUV were waving and driving off. 

About Us


After years of writing emails to friends about our various trips, I’ve finally gotten around to creating a blog about our restless travels. TheRestessTraveler (TRT) is a website about and for people who like to take the road less traveled. It’s ground-centric as Karen and I like to wander, following our instincts rather than a set plan, and that’s easiest to do on a motorcycle, RV, car, bus, train, taxi (ground or water), horse, wagon and — god forbid — our feet.

We’ve been traveling together for more than two decades, yet we are still beginners in getting to know the world. We’ve just scratched the surface with entire continents still a mystery to us. We intend to work the problem vigorously.

Blogs are suppose to be about what is happening now, yet much of the initial content for TRT will be a mash-up of where we’ve been rather than where we’re going. We need to catch everyone up fast. Where to begin?

Maybe my most recent trip chasing the Dakar off-road race in South America would be a good start. Or the life-changing (literally) trip to Nepal that I still think about almost every day even though its been 18+months ago. Many of you have read my notes on the trials and travails of building Little Big Sur, our jungle palapa south of Puerto Vallarta.

I should probably just cut to the chase and get to what everyone’s wondering: our planned trip to South America on our motorcycle, Now Voyager. As preparation, we’ve put thousands of miles on NV trying to get ready; in the mean time going to Colorado (what’s not to love), New Mexico (pretty much the opposite of Colorado, because we spent four whole days stuck in Albuquerque), Northern California’s Lost Coast (most descriptive name of any place we’ve been), Nevada (best seen at 85+ mph), and Arizona (what’s riding a motorcycle in 125 degree heat like? Don’t ask).

Trying to sell one’s house is a trip of a whole new flavor, probably deserving of a blog of its own, but chronicled here in Rewire: Fixing What Isn’t Broken. None of our adventures and terrifying experiences have cast KR and I closer to blows than remodeling and selling our house in Hollywood, commonly known as Hollyridge. Accomplishing this little task was the one prerequisite to starting our Big Motorcycle Adventure.

So there, I’ve done it. No more embarrassed silences as friends ask, “Why don’t you have a blog!” Here it is, all for you:)

Geez, I hope somebody comes.

Fred

October 2010

About Karen


Karen (KR as in Karen Rutherford) is a woman of many, changing passions, of which there’s only room to touch on a few of them here.

KR is first and foremost an adventurer in life and travel.  She’s always wanted (indeed insisted) that we try new things, move to different places, go over-there!  Twenty-sevven years ago she persuaded me to get our first motorcycle and we’ve been traveling on them ever since.  Fifteen years ago she said let’s buy an RV and live in South America for a couple of years.  On our twentieth anniversary she insisted we get on a plane and fly to Puerto Vallarta and buy a palapa in a jungle preserve.  In 2011 we spent three months riding through parts of  South America on a motorcycle.  We’ve been through 24 countries on motorcycles since.  She’s accompanied me to China, Japan, India, Ethiopia, Korea, Germany, Italy, and countless other places as I traveled for the Network for Global Innovation.

Independent to an extreme.  When I took yet another unexpected job, KR had to go to Puerto Vallarta supervised the construction or our home in PV, mostly by herself, without speaking any Spanish and working with an ever-changing cast of architects.  The Corona Adobe B&B is the result.

Speaking of You Know Who, no one, and I mean no one, would have stuck with a man who’s made chaos and change an everyday thing.  For years it was normal to pick me up from the airport every Friday as I worked in SF and we lived in LA.  She never blinked when I called her one day and said, “How do you feel about starting a company in our house?”  Six months later we had twenty-five people working in every room in the house.

I’ve been “unemployed” more times than a GM factory worker and just one more bad month away from working in the Home Depot paint department.  She’s said, “sure” to all the companies I’ve tried to start including the fast food chain, the chain of motorcycle dealerships, the buyout of the RV company, and all the Internet ideas.  Standing by your man is not just a slogan for KR.


What are you waiting for? Let’s go!



Life’s always a party with FW

About Fred


Here’s the speed dating version of getting to know Fred: boy motorcycle racer, adult AdMan (no, it was nothing like Mad Men), Internet Titan (for 30 seconds I was worth $40Million), serial entrepreneur (some things are hard to shake), founding CEO of the most successful cleantech incubator in the world, and amateur writer (pretty obvious).

Along the way, I raced on the banks of Daytona and didn’t get killed, worked on Madison Avenue long enough to know better, somehow met The Right Woman the second time around, went to more universities than a classroom full of kids before persuading NYU to fork over a diploma, was the only guy I knew who took two briefcases to work every day — and I mean every day —  and have always been a rabid fan of going fast in/on anything with wheels.

LETS GET THE BAD NEWS OUT FIRST. Here’s a list of the Moves-I-Wish-I-Hadn’t Made…

  • Picking Berkeley over Harvard.  It was pretty much downhill from there as bookish-nerd discovers sex, drugs and rock & roll.  Have never recovered.
  • Pounding on the table to the Executive Committee of a Really Big Ad Agency proclaiming that, “Interactive TV is the future!  We need to invest more to stay competitive…” at almost the exact moment that every major media company from Time Warner to Sony were stopping all work on ITV technologies.
  • Not taking the job at Microsoft.  For obvious reasons.
  • Not selling the aforementioned stock during the 30 seconds it was worth $40M.  Still wouldn’t change the experience of shopping for a vacation place in Jackson Hole.
  • Buying two Pontiac Fieros.  One would have been enough.
  • Selling Emma, our ’63 Jaguar MkII.  Karen still hasn’t forgiven me.
  • Not telling my Mom and Dad that I loved them dearly every-day-they-were-alive.  Don’t make the same mistake.

If you’ve got this far, I’m presuming YOU WANT THE FULL STORY.  Here’s a list of the things I’m most proud of:

  • Walking into the right New York bar and finding the Love of My Life.  Sometimes you just get lucky.
  • Somehow keeping Karen, Lotus, Lilly, Squirt and Bogart fed and housed all these years during thick and thin.  There have been lots of both, as my curriculum vitae includes Teamster, motorcycle dealer, unemployed adman, Internet pioneer, Entrepreneur in Residence, management consultant and nonprofit CEO.  I wouldn’t change any of it.
  • Having the guts and (yes) vision to see The New Media Age was coming and to somehow transform myself from being an Old Media Guy to being a New Media Guy.  Ditto for convincing much of Los Angeles they needed to build a huge green economy.
  • Building a small company, Full Moon, that even today some people remember as being the best place they worked.
  • Surviving my various motorcycle escapades:  winning 70+ races and numerous club championships, racing two legendary killer bikes — the Kawasaki Z1 and Yamaha TZ750 — and not getting killed or maimed, riding a bike for four days in Kathmandu’s traffic, and somehow getting over the Andes on a dirt road crammed with Dakar competitors.
  • Co-founding the Los Angeles Cleantech Incubator and taking it from a bus repair garage to a state of the art 60,000 sq. facility that houses one of the world’s leading incubation programs.

Fred Walti
fred@therestlesstraveler.com

Living life in places that are anywhere-but-the-middle-of-the-road, naturally cuts off modern tethers. So, while we’ll do our best to respond to you quickly, please be patient while we wipe the dust of our faces, get our motors out of the muck, and finish up in the local outhouse…. here’s how to reach us.

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