then

Karen with two customers in an Ethiopian brew pub just outside Addis Ababa. One sip was enough:)

I’m writing this from a hotel room in Southampton, UK, awaiting a taxi to Heathrow and the flight(s) home after 46 days on the road.  How do I wrap this trip up?  As with most of our trips, this has been a trip of extremes, but in some ways it feels extremely extreme:)  We’ve been in the lap of luxury and in the very definition of poverty.  We’ve laid around and did almost nothing and dragged our bags/bike/whatever across more airports, ferry stations, bus stations, and city-scapes than I can remember.  We’ve been in mountains, desert, seaside, countryside, modern and ancient cities.  On planes, ferries, buses, cars, taxis, and a motorcycle — more than once each time.  We’ve gotten drunk on a beach and had a lunch hosted in our honor at the U.S. Ambassador’s residence in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia (the capital of Ethiopia).  We’ve been hot, cold, dry and wet, often in the same day.  We never knew the language of the country we were in, but somehow found ways to connect with the people there.

Maybe the best way is to go to the stats:

Trip Stats & Awards

  • Countries:  UK, Spain, Morocco, Ethiopia
  • Cities visited:  best guess is 21
  • Miles on a motorcycle:  2975
  • Overall miles: My guess is 20,000
  • Plane legs: 11 including prop planes landing on unpaved runways
  • Ferries: 4
  • Speeches made in Ethiopia:  24
  • Press interviews:  4
  • Ethiopian Officials met with:  Mayor of Addis, Minister of Water, Irrigation & Electricity, State Ministers of Industry, Science & Technology, Small & Medium Business, Investment and Urban Development
  • Least Friendly Awardee:  Any airport employee at Charles DeGualle airport with a special shout out to Air France employees
  • Most Accommodating New Friends:  Maureen and Miguel in Madrid who single-highhandedly made our trip to/from Madrid and Ethiopia painless and quite enjoyable
  • Best Beach Town and Beach:  Tarifa and Bolonia, both on the tip of Spain
  • Number of Motorcycle Problems: 0:))

The Beaches of Southern Spain

After five days in Morocco, getting back to the “civilization” of Southern Spain was needed.  A couple of weeks earlier a bartender in Granada had told us to go to a little-known beach named Bolonia on the southern coast.  He assured us it was worth it, but it wasn’t on any map or in the GPS.  As luck would have it, we found Bolonia and it IS one of the best beaches we’ve ever been on.  It was so great, we spent three nights there just hang’n at the beach and prepping for Ethiopia.  We met some folks there from the UK and had a great time partying Spanish style. It’s one of those places I could of hung for much longer, but we needed to get to Madrid.

Getting to Madrid

After Morocco, we needed to weave our way towards Madrid to catch the plane to Addis Ababa (Ethiopia).  We skipped Seville and spent some terrific nights in Cordoba and Toledo.  Both towns were in the midst of festivals and such, so in the space of a couple of nights we went to a rock & roll concert, an equestrian show, a flamingo dance show, and a couple of tours of old churches thrown in.  Each night was filled with something old and new.

Madrid

Before our trip, someone told us to skip Madrid as it was “just another big city”.  Well, our time in Madrid was terrific, mainly because we met Maureen and Miguel there.  Long story short, Maureen is a friend of Sam H.’s and she agreed to be our Logistics Command Center.  We left the bike and all our m/c clothes and gear with her, which made the entire Ethiopia leg possible.  More importantly, we had a couple of great nights out with them and thoroughly enjoyed the city.  I was even getting use to eating dinner at 10PM!  Madrid has a vibrant night life, which was a nice contrast to Morocco before and after Ethiopia.  Both KR and I could live there.

Ethiopia

IMG_20160615_160125There is no way on earth that I can describe Ethiopia to you.  This was our first trip to Africa (Morocco doesn’t count) and we didn’t know what to expect.  My purpose in going was to give a lot of speeches and take a lot of meetings extolling the business opportunity that clean technologies represent for Ethiopia and Sub-Sahara Africa.

Development wise, Ethiopia makes India look like a fully developed paradise.  There is little infrastructure, even in its capital City, Addis Ababa.  Side walks? rare.  Electricity? 10 million people have been on a waiting list to get electricity for ten years.  Water?  They’re in a much worse drought than California.  Traffic?  Yes and its made up of cars, buses, cows, people, m/c’s, bicycles and tuk tuks.  With few traffic signals, no street signs and no addresses.  Modern buildings?  Well, yes and no.  There are dozens and dozens of new building part way finished (in Ethiopia, you build the basic structure, put a bank on the first floor, and hope you generate enough profits from the bank to finish the building.)  Yet none of them look new.

Aside from all of that, Ethiopia is a lovely country.  The people, despite their relative poverty, are generally a happy/smiling lot.  They are as honest as the day is long.  They’re colorful and energetic.  Addis is a dirty hub bub of a city, but there’s a lot of action.  The young people that I spoke to,  were bright, energetic, hopeful and determined to make things better.  The government officials seemed genuinely interested in making things better for their citizens.

I was only able to experience a tiny bit of Addis as most of my days consisted of getting driven around to various meetings in an Embassy car.  That’s literally how I saw Addis – through the windows of lots of Toyota Land Cruisers.

Over the weekend,  Karen and I took a plane to northern Ethiopia to see the “real” Ethiopia, which is the cradle of civilization.  The remains of the oldest human being was discovered in Ethiopia and dates back millions of years.  We went to Lalibela, a village in northern Ethiopia that has 12 churches carved into granite mountains, each church from a single piece of stone.  Took 14,000 people about 100+ years BC to build.

Ninety percent of the people outside the cities are subsistence farmers.  They farm the way their ancestors did — by hand and with donkeys.  Their key assets are goats and cows, live in grass/mud huts, with no running water.  With a few exceptions, of course:  cell phones and satellite dishes:)

It does beg the question:  how did one of the oldest civilizations on earth not develop further and faster?  What happened?

Damn if I know.

Both Karen and I would go back, and probably will because of business.  Now that we’ve had our first taste of Africa, we’re curious about the rest.  That’s for another day and time.

A Couple of Final Thoughts

  • If you’re going to Spain, go in May before everyone gets there. It only rained about a week out of five and was otherwise beautiful.
  • Maybe as a result of the above, Spain was incredibly cheap compared to the US, UK, France, Swiss, etc.  It was easy to find a decent hotel for less than 100 Euros.
  • Stay off the main Autopista’s and take the back roads.  Once we did that, we saw a wonderful countryside of small villages, rolling hills, and a few mountains.  The m/c riding is better that way, too.
  • If you take the ferry from the UK to Spain or France, spend the extra bucks for a room or mini suite.  It was lovely and a nice way of spending 24 hours.
  • BMW 1200 GS’s rule!  Long live Now Voyager II.

Here’s what everything looked like.

Take care, fred

SPAIN

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One of the most welcome sights on this trip:  KR bringing us drinks in Bolonia

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Tim and I are engaged in “lunch” Spanish style. That would be a couple bottles of wine, a couple of beers, two or three different kinds of pig, and a couple of tapas. Lunch goes from 12:30-4:30 in Bolonia. Then back to the room for a nap and ready to go by 7:)

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Bolonia was a great place to write the Ethiopian speeches

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Cows and horse roamed the Balonia beach

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Happy camper

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Versatile work horse:  NV II as clothes line

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Bolonia beach

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Rock concert in Toledo

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Maureen and Miguel in Madrid.  And I was just getting use to eating at 10PM

ETHIOPIA – ADDIS ABABA

Addis Ababa University Lecture 4

“Lecture” at Addis Ababa University

Girls Can Code 4

Meeting the “Girls can Code” group

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Speaking to the AmCham Steering Committee

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Getting out of the car at the Ethiopian Investment Ministry. Notice the “side walk”:)

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The information booth at the “American Center.” No kidding:)

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“Principles of Ethical Behavior” posted outside a minister’s office. While certainly needed in much of Africa, we could probably remind ourselves of these as well

Holding up the poster advertising my lecture at Addis Ababa  University

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Tanya and Yemi, from the U.S. Embassy, took great care of us.

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The Palace.  We stayed at the Sheraton Palace, by far the most luxurious hotel in Ethiopia.  The Sheraton’s lobby was the ad hoc meeting central for all International business meetings.

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Addis street

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The “shopping center” that the U.S. Embassy recommended Karen shop at.

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Shopkeeper. He’s probably smiling because KR bought something.

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My normal view of Addis– through the windows of an Embassy car

THE “SUBURBS” OF ADDIS ABABA

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Karen got a chance to get outside Addis in the countryside

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Karen insisted on meeting real people, so her tour guide knocked on a door of a random house.  K.aren spent a couple hours with a woman and her 19 children

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Their kitchen with the oven on the floor.

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A bedroom

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Mom making afternoon tea

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Some of her children, who brought

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home an English test they took that day.

 

THE FAR NORTH OF ETHIOPIA

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Two of my least favorite things:  prop planes and gravel runways.  We land way up north in Lalibela.

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Three men carrying hay for their animals.  When we caught up to them, they were easily a mile from town and almost race walking.

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House in Lalibela

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Lalibela is famous for 11 churches carved into the mountain, each from a singular piece of granite.  Built between 1000 BC and 600AD when Ethiopia was a large Christian empire spanning the Horn of Africa and much of Arabia.

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This is church #2, or is it 4….

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A visitor praying in one of the churches

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Each church as a resident priest.  For a pennies, you can get a picture with the priest

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Our guide took us to the Saturday market.  We started walking down this path, which had a lot of traffic.

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We rounded a corner and came upon this;  hundreds of people and their animals in the market.

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We of course waded right through the middle of the crowd.  Unbelievable.

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It was a very competitive marketplace with lots of people offering goats, cattle, donkeys and everything in between.   Not knowing a good goat from a bad goat, I wonder how one picked one over the other:)

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Spices

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Tools, knives and plow heads

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Stall after stall of grains, teas, spices, coffee, et al.

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Back to the Sheraton, and a toast among the crew to a great trip.

THE FINAL LEG HOME

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Back home on NVII on our way from Madrid to Santander on the northern coast.  We had one more great day of riding.

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We kept off the main roads and came across lots of villages like this

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Awaiting loading on the ferry back to Portsmouth

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One of my better decisions was to get a mini suite on the Mini Queen Mary. A great way of spending 24 hours.

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Back at Southampton and NVII is ready to be loaded on the ship back home.  NV II is one great motorcycle.

Until the next time.

 

 

Traveling by motorcycle was the exception this year. Mostly, we hopped on planes, trains, cars and the occasional bus.  In this picture Now Voyager sits at the Guatemala border in the rain, waiting for its paperwork.   NV has since moved onto bigger and better things and so have we.

When I was a twenty something Account Man working on Madison Avenue, I yearned to work on international accounts as I wanted to see the world, even back then.   But I was too career-obsessed then, as international assignments were often only a one-way ticket out of the Big Time. So I passed on “going overseas” and stayed in NYC, then LA, SF and back to LA. While I’ve always done a ton of business travel, two flights a week were not unusual, they were usually to such exciting places as Cincinnati (P&G), Denver (US WEST), Cupertino (Apple) and my favorite, Columbus, Ohio. Exciting travel was left to KR and my personal adventures.

As time marched along—shoot, its run at full trot, no? — KR and I have spent more and more time planning, prepping and going on more adventurous trips on bikes, cars, RVs, planes, trains and buses.   We’ve seen Nepal, India, Argentina, Alaska, Mexico, Chile, Brazil, Peru, Uruguay, Belize, Guatemala and all of the U.S. And like a junkie who gets his first shot of dope, I’ve been yearning to go further, longer and more adventurously every chance I get.

And then LACI came along and all thoughts of prolonged, wandering travel have pretty much been put on hold.   Instead, we did a “travel pivot” and decided to take advantage of whatever little opportunities came our way and not worry about missing out on the Big Kahuna of trips.

Voila! We took 24 trips to 35 cities in the last year for a combo of business (mostly) and pleasure. While I’ve traveled more often in my career, I’ve never traveled to as many interesting places in such a short stint. Here’s the stat sheet.

THEN

I‘m thinking, “How did this happen?”  Why now?  It certainly wasn’t planned. While I’ve never thought of retiring or slowing down, I didn’t think I’d become an International Man of Mystery at this stage:)  About a year ago I dreamed up the idea of a Global Innovation Network, linking innovation institutions around the world together.  Well you can’t build a global network without going global. And while we can, have, should, and will continue to debate why a little incubator in downtown Los Angeles is building such a network, we’ve been doing it for about a year and its starting to get momentum.

I guess the other reason is that just as in business the ability to “pivot” is often key to long term success, the ability to pivot in life is at least as important.  All my life I’ve been a Man With a Plan, but most of the time the Plan gets thrown away as soon as life happens along.  So, Karen and I pivoted off the Adventure Plan to the build a global cleantech ecosystem plan. Go figure:)

So, in celebration of the New Year, here’s what’s struck me as interesting during our Year of Traveling Continuously…

  • I like airports, especially big, new, shiny international airports. They’re all the same in that you can figure out what to do and where to go no matter what far-away-land you might find yourself. And now they’re good places to hang with Wi Fi, Starbucks, pretty decent food, comfortable lounges and lots of stores.  I feel at home in an airport. Sad, but true.
  • There is one international language that most everyone knows and responds to: a smile. While cultures, values, life styles, dress, standards of living, and governments vary widely, the human spirit doesn’t.   People are often surprised that my grasp of Spanish doesn’t go much further than “Mas Margarita’s, Pour Some More,” yet we spend so much time in Mexico,  Central and South America without speaking much Spanish. How can you live in a country you don’t know the language? My answer is, “Are you going to restrict your travel to only those places you speak the language?” Of course not. We like people, we look for ways to connect in physical and emotional ways, and we treat people with respect.   I admit we try not to go to places that are steeped in conflict and hatred, so I’m not sure that our international language will work everywhere.
  • Like the pull of gravity, KR’s search for things to decorate Corona is an inexorable force that can’t be fought. No matter how small, light and swift-footed we start any trip with, we end up pulling the equivalent of a 20 mule team across Death Valley by its end: ) And I will always lose this debate because well, the end result is pretty damn neat. Corona is alive with stuff KR has carted back from all over the world and its great.
  • From my perspective, China’s people have made an unspoken pact – give us a middle class standard of living and we’ll do what the government says. It’s a bargain most of us would make if in the same situation. China’s middle class looks prosperous, active, educated and pretty happy to this outsider. The same bargain is being struck with Hong Kong’s middle class; let us makes lots of money and we’ll look the other way as Beijing gets rid of the two systems, one country bargain made in 1997.
  • This year’s trip along the Pacific edge of Mexico took us through the most notorious parts of Mexico without even a whiff of trouble. In fact, we spent Christmas Eve 2013 not too far away from the area where the 43 students were kidnapped and killed. Two points here; once again we see no signs of the crime and drug cartel behavior that is splashed on the front pages of U.S. newspapers.   We love Mexico and its been a safe place for us. Yet, Mexico’s government and criminal justice system is totally corrupt and not to be trusted. If Mexico is ever going to take its place along other developing nations, it needs a deep-rooted cleansing.  No one can predict if this will happen, but I keep thinking Columbia cleaned up its act, so Mexico can too.
  • KR and I have settled into a new rhythm of the road in which we move often, stay in a city a day or two, and get just enough of a taste to know whether we want to come back or not.  These trips are pretty strenuous, often lasting 18 hours a day rushing from one meeting to the next, usually in a different city.  Yet, KR doesn’t complain as she gets to explore a new place a bit while I do business.   She’s fearless and curious, which usually makes for a good time.
  • Often the best part of the trip is riding up front in the leather.   On really long trips we use frequent flyer miles to sit in Business Class as one of our many guilty pleasures.  It’s amazingly comfortable with food at the push of button, more movies and TV shows than you can possibly watch.  When was the last time you could hit the keyboards for 14 uninterrupted hours?  It’s productive time in the lap of luxury.  Does it get any better?

So, here are a few of our favorite pictures from 2014.

 

BERLIN.  KR is ready to go on Day One is Berlin.  Berlin is a stylish, creative, prosperous city that reminds me of Wash D.C.

BERLIN. KR is ready to go on Day One is Berlin. Berlin is a stylish, creative, prosperous city that reminds me of Wash D.C.

PV-LA-PV:  1500 miles and 3 days drive.  You can tell this is a LA to PV as the Iron Duke is loaded with goodies for Corona.

PV-LA-PV.  1500 miles and 3 days drive. You can tell this is a LA to PV drive as the Iron Duke is loaded with goodies for Corona.  Lilly and Squirt and Fred and Karen are in there somewhere.

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SOUTHERN MEXICO. Christmas Eve in the Guerrero state of Mexico having a family meal with a family we don’t know. PS, this is the most dangerous part of Mexico

GUATEMALA:

GUATEMALA: Public transportation is colorful, if not too environmentally friendly.

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GUATEMALA.  After spending a few days in the colonial city of Antigua, KR isn’t quite ready to get on the bike.

NV afterwards

RECORD BREAKER. The day after setting a personal record of 750 miles in one day, NV is cleaned up and ready to meet his new owner.

WASH DC. I go to DC at least once a year to attend the ARPA-E conference and to confer with The Big Guy in the house in the background:) OK, confer might not be the right word, more like beg-for-some-of-that-government-money-that’s-being-spent-on-everything-else type of public crawl.   And it’s not with The Big Guy, but with some guy/gal who has a picture of the Big Guy on his /her wall.

MEXICO CITY.  My first  delegation with Mayoral Garcetti.  We signed a GIN MOU with GreenMomentum

MEXICO CITY. My first delegation with Mayor Garcetti. We signed a GIN MOU with GreenMomentum

SAN ANTONIO.  Meeting with various government and private agencies to discuss Mexico/US trade. Perhaps the single most unproductive meeting I attended all year and that's saying something

SAN ANTONIO. Meeting with various government and private agencies to discuss Mexico/US trade. Perhaps the single most unproductive meeting I attended all year and that’s saying something

MILAN Milan Centrale is the coolest train station we came across in our European stint

MILAN. Milan Centrale is the coolest train station we came across in our European stint

VERONA  Beautiful city in Northern Italy deserved the more than 12 hours we gave it.  We're definitely going back to Northern Italy.

VERONA. Beautiful city in Northern Italy deserved the more than 12 hours we gave it. We’re definitely going back to Northern Italy.

TURINO Less than 12 hours here, but we visited Environment Park, which was pretty interesting, and is another example of Italy's leadership in technology parks.

TURINO. Less than 12 hours here, but we visited Environment Park, which was pretty interesting, and is another example of Italy’s leadership in technology parks.

MEXICO CITY AGAIN.  Here I have dinner with the GreenMomentum guys.  I tried to sell GIN's Landing Pad program to a bunch of Mexico City entrepreneurs.  No Sale(:

MEXICO CITY AGAIN. Here I have dinner with the GreenMomentum guys and a US diplomat. I tried to sell GIN’s Landing Pad program to a bunch of Mexico City entrepreneurs. No Sale(:

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HOME SWEET HOME.  The Corona Adobe sits proudly on its hill. It’s always good to be home, all 6200 square feet of it.

THIS IS NOT LA.  KR and her favorite house guest, Larry Jones, go to PV's Home Depot to plan another project.

THIS IS NOT LA. KR and her favorite house guest, Larry Jones, go to PV’s Home Depot to plan another project.  Copper pipe will be used as curtain rods in LBS some day.  Probably the next time LJ visits:)

 

MAMMOTH:  KR takes Squirt on her first camping trip.

MAMMOTH LAKES.  KR takes Squirt on her first camping trip. Here they sit in our RV camp ground. KR is probably not happy with something I’ve (not) done:)

THE WAY WE ROLL.  KR, Squirt and Lilly enjoy the sleeping bag while Yours Truly drives back from Mammoth

THE WAY WE ROLL. KR, Squirt and Lilly enjoy the sleeping bag while Yours Truly drives back from Mammoth.

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NORTHERN CALIFORNIA. Now Voyager II gets his first trip up and down both sides of California. Great, great bike and a damn good trip.

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SHANGHAI. We visit Shanghai twice and still haven’t seen enough of it.

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SHANGHAI. KR in a restaurant in the French Concession section of Shanghai

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HONG KONG. Easily the most beautiful city we’ve visited in Asia (so far).

BEIJING.  Parks are really used in Beijing as social gathering places.  Here a  group dances on a Sunday morning in Temple of the Heaven's park.

BEIJING. Parks are really used in Beijing as social gathering places. Here a group dances on a Sunday morning in Temple of the Heaven park.

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BEIJING: Our biggest day on the mayoral visit to China was a formal MOU signing in which Mayor Garcetti witnessed.

The Great Walls was ....great

NORTH OF BEIJING. The Great Wall was the highlight of the trip. No picture does it justice, in much the same way that no picture does Machu Picchu  justice either.

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SEOUL. Seoul has a great vibe, not sure I can tell you why. Another 24 hour stop gets on our must return list.

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TOKYO. “Typical” apartment has a single room that serves many purposes: living, dining, kitchen, bed, and prayer room.

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STRATEGIC RETREAT. We end the year with an LACI Strategic Retreat at Little Big Sur in the jungle south of Puerto Vallarta. Despite how this picture looks, we actually got a lot of good work done.

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PUERTO VALLARTA. By far the most unique night was spent in a Hooka Lounge in downtown PV. Entire lounge is covered by pillows and inhabited by kids who couldn’t possibly be older than 16 at the high end. KR, Debbie and I had a great time talking, drinking, and watching the kids suck on the water pipe.

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CURRENT COMMUTE. PV routine is developing – I take Broken Arrow to one of the PV Starbucks to hit the keyboards.  In this case, I’m going to the Starbucks that’s furthest away as Broken Arrow likes to run.

 

Take care and have a great 2015!

 

 

 

 

then

Flying west, high over the Pacific, on my to the East.  Rarely have I felt as much trepidation about a trip as this one.  I suppose having to turn back three hours over the ocean because of mechanical problems didn’t help.  But that wasn’t really it.  No, I was worried because China was going to be so…. foreign.  And somehow I needed to figure it out quickly as I wasn’t flying half way around the world for the fun of it.

 

China has never been high on my list of places to visit.  Crazy perhaps, but if I can’t ride my bike there it’s not a priority.  Not a particularly helpful attitude, however,  if one’s building an international network of cleantech organizations given that China is a huge  market. We’d already found Global Innovation Network (GIN) partners in Finland, Germany, Italy, and Mexico; now it was time to look toward China.   So I flew to China for a week to expand GIN’s small footprint on to Asia.

Our usual approach to a trip wasn’t going to cut it for this trip.  KR and I never plan where we’re going, leaving most of the specifics to the wind and chance.  Planning for this trip was different;  I spent a month trying to pack as many meetings into five days as possible.  I was fortunate enough to make contact with some folks in China (thank you Diane , Tony and John!) that took pity on me and helped arrange 12 meetings in both cities. Preparations included getting a Visa (China wins the contest for easiest and fastest visa ever – three days for a six month visa), getting GIN documents translated to Mandarin, reading every “How to do business in China” article I could find, and arranging the logistics of a schedule that had me arriving in Shanghai on a Sunday night and leaving Beijing the following Saturday night.

I was actually looking forward to the 11 hour flight there, chilling out while hitting the keyboard is a real treat (no comments, please).  I could read and get some work done in peace and quiet.  I might even find the time to read a book, something I can never seem to finish.  So, I settled into my seat at 3PM on a Saturday, waved goodbye to LA, and got to work, expecting to land in Shanghai the next night 11 hours later.

Three hours over the Pacific the plane icon on the flight path tracker started heading in the wrong direction — back to LA, not China.   Must be a glitch in the system, it was a 777 after all.  Wrong. Long story short, the pilot finally informed us that we had an electrical issue and we were going back to LA.  This started a series of events that included rebooting the trip for the following day, cutting my stay in Shanghai a day short while lengthening my stay in Beijing an extra day.

One of the results of the one day delay was that I was switched from American Airlines to Cathay Pacific.   For those of you thinking about going to China, write this down:  Cathay Pacific is one great airline experience.  It makes you wonder what the f__ happened to US carriers?

It’s impossible to get an accurate impression of a 1.2 billion person country in just six days, but its also impossible not have lots of impressions from such a different experience, whether accurate or not.  So, here are my net takeaways, which I reserve the right to change after more investigation:

  • Shanghai and Beijing, huge cities of 20+MM people each, are both very similar to other large cities and very different.  Different language, style of dress, cultural heritage, history, race, forms of transportation, and of course a totally different system of governing.   Yet, they’re full of people just like you and me, hustling to get somewhere, stuck in mega traffic, everyone reading their smart phones, lots of stores we’d recognize, and more people willing to smile than scowl.
  • China isn’t as “foreign” a culture as say, Nepal, or some parts of South America.  Everyone pretty much stays in their lanes while driving in China, except using the right or left shoulder is a congestion-beating technique widely practiced.  Try driving in Kathmandu or Arequipa, Peru to experience the thrill of anything-goes-anywhere-cut-and-thrust traffic.  Shanghai and Beijing may be in a developing nation, but these cities look and feel prosperous and grooving.  Pretty much everything works like electrical grids, subways, etc.
  • China has a huge middle class (by number of people, not by % of the total population) that seem pretty happy.  While business customs are a bit different, business is business.  Kids wear weird outfits.  Commutes, kid’s education, electronic toys are all subjects of conversation.  Things seem pretty normal.
  • The presence of a controlling government is everywhere, but subtle, and its a “given” to the Chinese.  Want to get on Google or Facebook?  Nope.  Lots and lots and lots of security check points in public places.  Pretty much only good news reported in the newspapers.  Government is business in China.  Freedom of speech, thought and protest are only missed when you realize that most other folks in the world don’t have them.
  • What’s not normal is the scale of things.  Massive office and government buildings for as far as you can see or as long as you drive.  Parks are big and jammed with people.  Roads are six lanes.  Beijing has 24M people, 6 million cars, and 15 subway lines.  No one lives in houses so there are high rise apartment buildings everywhere.
  • International airports, no matter where, are all the same.  Hong Kong, Shanghai and Beijing airports are all modern and pretty well run.   Most signage is in Mandarin, but there’s enough English to get by.  Starbucks, Apple, Armani, McDonalds, et. al are all there, pretty much recognizable.  Chinese airports are also remarkably fast in the security and immigration processing department.  In fact, one pretty quickly  realizes that China has systems that move lots of people very efficiently (not counting street traffic) in most areas.
  • Waiting in line is a contact sport.  Don’t take offense, its just part of everyday life as  you’re as likely to be elbowed aside by a 70 year old grand mother as a 16 year old.
  • To state the obvious, air quality is appalling, affecting everyone, everywhere, all the time.   It’s just always grey and overcast unless it rains, in which case its only overcast.  Everyone knows this and the Chinese will I’m sure attack this problem with the force and scale that they’ve build a new industrial economy.

I’m going back to China in November with the Mayor so I’m going to get a second chance to experience China.  It should be interesting to see the place after the initial shock has worn off.

Here’s what the trip looked like in pictures.

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If you’re going to spend 14 hours on a plane, this is will you want to do it:  Cathay Pacific Business Class.  First Class “seats” are bigger than many hotel rooms I’ve stayed in.

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Command Center.  Dozens and dozens of movies, a Barko lounger seat, always-on-call room service…

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I flew to Hong Kong, then Shanghai, then Beijing on the way there.  We’re taxing on the Hong Kong runway here.

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All big international airports are pretty much the same.  This is Hong Kong and notice  what the lady is doing while on the moving sidewalk:  reading her phone.

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Bullet train from Shanghai airport to downtown Shanghai.  301 kph = 180mph

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I was in Shanghai for about 24 hours.  This is the view of the skyscrapers along the Huang River at night between rain storms.

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Same area from my hotel .  No sun was seen during my 24 h0urs.

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This is the “Knowledge Community” technology park in Shanghai.  Very cool.

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CEO Richard Tan and I pose in front of a map of their nearby properties.  Each of those little green squares to the right of my head represent huge buildings — commercial, residential, academic and retail.

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Room at the Waldorf in Shanghai.  Nice, very nice.

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There’s something comforting about being greeted when you walk into the bathroom:  light automatically comes on and the toilet seat raises, beckoning one to the throne.

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Settle into the heated seat and peruse the cleansing options.  Seat’s heated, newspaper is delivered.  This is good.  Wait!  What’s that red “emergency button”?  What kind of emergency are we talking about here?  Less than confidence building…

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Starbucks are the same, except outlet is different and you need a local cell phone to get on the wi-fi.

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This is the biggest rent-a-bike stand I’ve seen so far.   Scale baby, scale.

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Parks are in fact used by everyone as central community gathering places with all kinds of groups activities; here its  Tai Chi.

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John Zane from the American Chamber of Commerce/Beijing took care of me and accompanied me to various meetings.

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My kind of conference room — the offices of Azure International are in a converted Chinese restaurant in the middle of a public park.

 

 

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Lobby of the Waldorf/Beijing.   I got the feeling that she was always watching me…

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Across the street from the hotel is the world’s largest Apple store.  Three+ floors.

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Because the Waldorf is located in the very center of Beijing, close to all  the tourist attractions, there were lots of malls and stores for Chinese and foreign tourists.  Best deal I found?  $32,000 U S Dollars for a pair of green shoes.  And no, they don’t come with a Hyundai.

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Shopping malls look pretty familiar, no matter where one is.  Jurassic Park anyone?

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Not far away from Tourist Central, one comes across an outdoor Chinese food court …

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With a full range of delicacies.   I wasn’t brave or hungry enough to sample the local fare.

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I did eat in a non-tourist restaurant a couple blocks away.  I know they don’t get many white guys dressed in a suit as everyone kept looking at me and then laughing.  I wonder at what?

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Menu had this popular dish.  Picture really helps.  No, I didn’t get this one, but did order something that I didn’t recognize and was pretty good.  Took me a while to eat, though, as only chop sticks were provided:)

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I literally only had a couple of hours to try and find the “real” Beijing.  This a narrow lane/alley called a Hutong.  Crossing guard was obviously on his lunch hour.

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And another

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Lots and lots of small electric bikes and motorcycles.  This one seems to have the optional luxurious passenger seat option.

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This is a typical traffic sign/signal in Beijing.  Go figure.

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Chinese division of Walmart

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Boulevard in Beijing.

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On the way into Tienanmen Square.  South Entrance to the Forbidden City is on the right.  This shot was on a Thursday afternoon.

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Tienanmen Square is the largest public square in China.  The world?  Lots of security at all entry points.

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One of the exquisite statues depicting the People’s struggle.

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This is a typical building in downtown Shanghai built by various European colonials. Inspiring, no?

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If I were an architect, I’d want to design buildings in China.  Every possible weird, wild and wonderful shape populates Beijing and Shanghai’s skyline.  Bold. Big, Outrageous.  This is just a one example.  Makes one wonder how come our skylines are so damn dull?

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Beijing Convention Center is located across from the Olympic Park.

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I attended a two day conference, “The 5th Global Green Economy Prosperity Forum” in Beijing.

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How often do you go to a conference and you have a seat at the front with your name on it?

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Literally band starts playing when the VIP speakers march in. While their style of delivery was forehead-on-the-table dull, the content of their speeches were pretty impressive. Some of these guys could get elected in California with their environmental policies.

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The park surrounding the Temple of Heaven was filled with group activities this Sunday morning.  Square dancing anyone?

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Or perhaps listening to traditional Chinese opera, which sounded wonderful.

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Dozens of domino or card games took every available space on the temple railings

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In front of the Temple of Heaven. It rained the night before and the day’s sky was pretty clear and actually a color of blue rather than its normal gray.

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Despite it being 7AM on a Sunday morning, there’s still a crowd just out of sight of the previous picture.

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A couple of hundred year old painted ceiling, just for KR.

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Leaning against the outside wall of the Forbidden City.

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The Forbidden City was built to house the royalty of numerous dynasties hundreds of years ago.  Once again, the scale of the place is hard to grasp.  This is one of numerous squares in front of another palace.

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ONE MILLION men worked on the Forbidden City over a 14 year time frame.  There are 9,999 1/2 rooms.

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One of the inner palaces.  Keep moving or you’ll be swept away.  Despite the crowds, the place was pretty interesting and I’d like to go back when I have more time than an hour.

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This was my shopping highlight.   Best store I visited is in this underground parking lot, through that unmarked door across this parking lot.

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Walk in and there are famous brands of watches, gold flubs, purses, luggage, shoes — whatever.  I was in the mood for a watch, so I bought a $50,000 watch for $400.  Looks pretty good from 5 feet away and is “guaranteed” to run for a whole year.  Comes with the highest quality battery too 🙂

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Flying back was another all day affair.  Spent over 16 hours in the air plus endless hours waiting in airports.  Flew into Shanghai for a connection just in time to experience an airport-closing thunderstorm.  At least I was able to have dinner on the plane while waiting on the runway.  It was good to be home, but I’m ready for China Two Dot Ohh in November.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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:)))))