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.

IMG_3287

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.

then

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(:

IMG-20130929-00434

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.

IMG_20140727_072613

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

then

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

IMG_7177

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

then

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.

DSC_8982

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.

IMG_7419

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

IMG_20141126_110744

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

IMG_20141210_145734 copy

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.

huka

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.

then

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

KR and NV take an early morning break before we begin the day’s ride. NV is very overloaded as I insist we can carry everything we bought that day. Mistake #1.

Twenty-two of our twenty-three days on the road were great.  The 23rd day wasn’t and turned out to be one of the toughest days we’ve had on a motorcycle.  It ended in a minor, but stupid crash late that night.  The scary thing is that it didn’t start out bad, hell, it was a beautiful morning and we’d just spent two fabulous days in Oaxaca.  That morning our plan was to stop in a small village outside Oaxaca to buy some (more) Mexican carvings and then head over the mountains to the coast and return to my favorite surfing town, Puerto Escondido.  It was going to be an easy 150mile-ish day…

Along the way we met another “Band of Brothers” member, David.  David is from Colorado and is taking a year off to ride down to the tip of South America.  I’m definitely jealous. His motorcycle is similar to NV, but bigger, faster and better looking.  We discuss the route over an early lunch;  he’s got a different set of GPS maps of Mexico than we.  His route is much shorter, yet we’re both unsure what condition the road is.  Up to this point, the road hasn’t matched either the paper or GPS maps.  We decide to take his 125 mile route over the mountains vs. our 150 mile over the mountain route.  Mistake #2.

Both maps and GPS show that the route climbs into the mountains to about 9000 ft., before descending to the ocean and Puerto Escondido.  About an hour into the ride Now Voyager’s front tire starts to slowly deflate.  It seems that somewhere on the way to Oaxaca I bent a rim on a tank-sized pothole.  I knew I had a bent rim out of Oaxaca, but it seemed to be holding air and I decided to go with it.  Mistake #3.  There aren’t any Pemex stations in the Mountains which means that each little village we enter I look for a tire store to put some air in the front.

Shortly after this Now Voyager stalls dead in his tracks.  It’s getting late and it takes a while to get him started again.  I guess that we have about 100 miles to go, which means I now have to nurse a front tire and a stalling bike for a couple of more hours.  I can do it, but managing those problems, trying to figure out where we are, and not going over a mountain cliff means that All Hands Are On Deck. We come to another junction and Dave’s GPS says its a short shot to the right.  My GPS and map don’t even show a road where Dave wants to go.  Since his GPS has been right more often than not, so we go right.  Mistake #4  This route is barely paved, which means we need to go real slow so that I don’t deflate the front tire any faster than necessary.  Before getting started down the road, we take a break.  I say something to the affect that “What else can happen!”  Mistake #5.  KR tightens the gas can and the bike falls over because I didn’t balance it right.  Mistake #6.  I silently vow never to say that again, although I’m convinced we’re through the worst of it

About 25 miles and more than an hour later we enter a small town covered in fog and mist.  We’re now 9000+ feet.   The town hangs on the mountain’s edge, but is the biggest town we’ve seen all day (which isn’t saying much).  We follow the GPS down a narrow street/alley and it ends into a Church parking lot.  What the F?!  I look left and there’s a Black Diamond pitch with rocks and cobblestones.  After more than 20 minutes questioning various locals (Dave speaks some Spanish) we conclude that our destination is “just” 25 miles down that road, but its all dirt, gravel and rocks. That’s not going to work for us, so we need to retrace the last 25 miles, then follow my GPS.  We are a good four hours from our destination and its about 4PM.  The GPS says we’re not getting off the mountain before nightfall, much less our destination.  We now start to motor “with vigor” hauling the freight off the mountain.  Frankly, I’m worried that I’ll make a mistake as the bike is really heavy and I’m dragging metal at each corner, its handling and stopping poorly, and we’re in 30 mph mountain rough paved road.  KR takes all this in stride, never saying a word about how fast we’re going.  It takes us about three hours to get down off the mountain, the last 45 minutes are in the dark.

Once off the mountain, KR and I abort trying to make the remaining 45 minutes  to Puerto Escondido and decide to go to a little beach town nearby.  Mistake #7 since if we had went to Escondido, we would have known exactly where we’d stay.  In Puerto Angle, we get lost immediately and can’t find a hotel.  KR finds a woman who agrees to take us to one of the finest hotels in the town.  Conveniently, its a close friend of hers:)  You got it, Mistake #8.  This place is an Italian-styled dump that hasn’t seen any rehab since Roman times.  It’s being run by the Italian woman proprietor who’s nice but way over her head in workload.  I feel sorry for her.  For a minute:)

The Italian-dump hotel doesn’t have a garage, but a parking lot protected by what looks like a moat.  “All” I have to do is ride NV over the bridge and we’re home free.  I agree and start NV’s engine.  This is Mistake #9 as I’m so tired that obviously I can’t think straight or, as it turns out, ride straight.  I crash into the dry moat and wedge NV between the moat  and bridge pretty badly.   It’s now about 9 at night and I have to unload all of NV’s bags and panniers and recruit three locals to help heave NV out, which we do.  We have a drink and retire for the night totally burnt — we barely get out of our m/c clothes.

Next morning I need to “reassemble” Now Voyager.  After going around the moat’s bridge, I get him on the street.  Ten minutes in and I load all the luggage/bags on one side first, unlike the normal balanced approach.  Mistake #10 as NV falls over again.  We have a new record of three tip overs in less than 24 hours.

That folks is how things get out of hand:)

then

You can see the clouds covering this little town as we enter. This is 25 miles down a very winding and rough road. These folks are ISOLATED.

 

then

Dave begins asking the locals whether the Black Diamond rock and dirt slope is really the road we’ve been riding on. It is..

then

Don’t look down! If I wasn’t so pissed, scared, and concentrating on riding, I would have enjoyed the spectacularly beautiful country.

then

This is happening so often its hard to keep up with all the locations. Dave is probably thinking “What’s with this guy and him falling over?” Yah, well let’s talk your high end made in Mexico GPS maps…

then

I’m thinking we’re going to end up sleeping with the sheep tonight we’re so far from shelter:)

IMG_5572

Typical road… Now before my Biker Dude Friends chuckle that the road’s not so bad, your just av wimp Walti, why don’t YOU try hauling ass down the mountain on a road like this with your woman on the back…

then

I didn’t make the bridge over the moat and needed lots of help to get NV out. Now this I admit was a wimp-out on my part.

then

A throne fit for a Roman Emperor:) It saves time that you can use the facilities and shower at the same time

then

I like to start every day with a tip over. It keeps one humble.

 

Status Update:  KR and I made it back to PV in one piece, if a bit tired.  I spent two whole days relaxing and then started off for LA on Now Voyager.  I’m writing this from a hotel in Los Mochis, about 1/3 of the way between PV and LA.  See you soon!

 

 

damed

This is just above the Mexican/Guatemalan border and the closest gas station of any kind is 50 miles away. Having the right tools/spares/know-how to make repairs on the road is mission-critical. A seemingly innocuous spare — straps — allowed us to repair the right pannier that was fatally damaged when it fell off while riding. We’ve had three panniers fall off during our trips.  Yet, all the spares, tools, and equipment put a lot of weight on NV.   Damned if you do, damned if you don’t.

 

I expect most of you will skip this post and I don’t blame you.  The nuts and bolts of how two people travel by motorcycle for extended periods is pretty dry stuff.  Those of you who do it, or will do it, or want to do it will find this fascinating reading, of course.  This is for you!

How we organize our stuff and where we put it

As faithful readers know, one of KR’s objectives is to makes sure we have everything we might “need”, or at least have the space to buy it on the road:)  We have 13 storage areas on Now Voyager moving from front to rear:

  • Two front soft panniers over NV’s gas tank:   Rain gear, bike cover, and first aid kit.
  • FW’s tank bag:  camera stuff, most often used tools, on-the-road charging stuff, GPS and phones.
  • Two rear hard panniers:  Left side contains all the spares and some tools, right side is the electronics and administration side
  • Two soft rear wet bags on top of panniers: left side is KR clothes, right side in FW clothes. All clothes are put in numerous soft containers which makes it easy to find, take out, and put back
  •  Three moto tubes under the hard panniers carry most of the tools and some of the spares
  • Two gallon gas cans hold one gallon extra gas each
  • Rear upper hard case serves as KR’s junk drawer

Of course, we can strap more stuff on top of this, which we have on this trip.  Here’s a more detailed description of some of this stuff.

Motorcycle Clothing

  • We each have a m/c riding suit, which we wear every day on the bike.  It’s heavy, rugged and most importantly — has armor that provides some protection of the elbows, knees, and shoulders
  • We each wear a back support best that provides armor protection of our backs
  • They make under with butt padding that we wear as well, for obvious reasons
  • M/c  boots and gloves (two pairs each).
  • M/c  helmets with intercom
  • Scarf to keep warm or dry
  • Rain suit
  • M/c goggles that have my prescription built  in and are reading glasses for KR

You can imagine getting dressed or undresses isn’t a five minute project:)  Here’s what I’d change/add:

  • New m/c suits.  Mine got fried on the muffler, KR’s isn’t comfortable
  • New rain suit for KR

Street Clothing

  • Flip flops for walking and use in showers
  • Walk around shoes
  • Socks, underwear, etc.
  • One pair of shorts and swimming suit
  • Long-sleeve and short-sleeve m/c riding shirts which can be washed easiy
  • Short and long sleeve shirt
  • Jeans
  • Packable jacket
  • Folding parka for rainy weather

What I’m going to change/add:

Electronics

  • Two computers, both the same kind for KR and me
  • Three phones:  my Blackberry, KR’s U.S. Cell phone, and KR’s Mexican cell phone
  • Headphone for Skype calls
  • Three cameras (not including phone cams):  Two small Canon and one G12 Canon.  ALL the same brand with the same software
  • Chargers for everything!  Multiple chargers allow simultaneous charging.
  • Adapters for every kind of socket
  • Flash drives
  • Charging device that connects to m/c and charges Blackberry when we’re riding
  • Several types of reading lights
  • Spares for important cables
  • GPS with maps

What I’m going to add/change

  • Video camera
  • Make all cameras water proof
  • Get KR a smart phone
  • Maybe a small iPad for travel planning on the road that KR could put in the junk drawer

Software (on both computers)

  • The basic stuff
  • The basic Internet stuff
  • Google Earth and Google Maps
  • Skype
  • All kinds of photo stuff
  • WordPress admin
  • AirBnB admin
  • Online banking and bill pay
  • Six email accounts: )
  • Dropbox

Spare parts and stuff

This is obviously m/c specific and related to your past experience with the bike:

  • Spare intercom parts and connectors
  • Fuel pump and fuel pump sensor controller (both have been lifesavers)
  • Two thermostats
  • Electronic key ring (I’m not describing it right, but it controls if the key works)
  • Spare keys for everything
  • Hose and rubber/steal cement
  • Clips of all kinds
  • Straps, two types of bungee cords and spare buckles
  • Temporary flat tire leak repair (cannister)
  • Pressured air to re-inflate the tire on the bead
  • Electronic air pump that works off the battery
  • Duct and electric tape
  • Plastic fasteners
  • Rags and surgeon gloves:)
  • I carried a spare chain for our South American trip
  • Subscription to an online BMW repair manual
  • Oil filters
  • Small rubber tubes that can serve as gaskets

Tools

I carry most of the regular type of stuff.  Here’s some of the not standard stuff

  • Flashlights
  • Full allen wrench and the weird-ass BMW wrench set
  • Tire irons and anything related to changing/fixing a flat
  • Special BMW oil filter removal tool
  • Swiss army knife with corkscrew:)

Administration/Planning/Medical

This is for a relatively short trip like the present one.  There’s a whole ‘nother layer of admin stuff for longer trips that require shipping, etc.

  • Passports (kept separately from everything else)
  • Drivers licence and credit cards (kept separately)
  • Fake drivers license, out of date credit cards and $20 bill in case we’re robbed.  This is kept in the most accessible pocket
  • Int’l drivers license for grins
  • 10x copies of:  title, registration, passports, drivers license
  • Fake “original” title and registration.  This worked excellently in South America, not so good in Central America.
  • I would now bring original title as well, but I would hide them and never bring them out unless absolutely necessary
  • Medical info
  • M/c insurance info for all relevant countries
  • Telephone numbers that you’ll need when your computer/phones get soaked
  • Business cards and brochures for Corona Adobe
  • A full set of Garmin maps (absolutely!)
  • A full set of paper maps (absolutely!)
  • Paper guide books that can be read where there is no Internet
  • All-you-can-eat data international plan from AT&T.  Watch these charges closely
  • Copies of numbers/contacts for all credit card stuff
  • A full supply of whatever meds you need
  • Medivac emergency rescue insurance

It’s Been Hard on the Equipment this Trip…

This is what we’ve run through so far:

  • Complete clutch assembly
  • Fuel pump sensor
  • Front wheel
  • FW’s m/c jacket
  • KR’s m/c jacket
  • Four maps of Mexico
  • Two Canon cameras
  • Right pannier
  • Lots of clothes

 Living Two Up on a Bike for an Extended Period

Three words come to mind when thinking about how we handle riding the bike for extended periods: comfort, communications, and entertainment.  Comfort is fairly obvious when it comes to clothing, etc.   Seating position is a little more nuanced.  For KR, we’ve constructed a Barko Lounger affect with back and arm rests made of soft luggage.  I’ve modified the seat several times and she’s pretty happy.  I’ve modified my seating position so that I “fit” on the bike.  Communications is the key to enjoying traveling two-up on a m/c.   There’s nothing more important than a clear, powerful intercom as KR and I are constantly chatting about all sorts of things, commenting on the scenery, occasionally singing, and problem-solving in real time (like navigation).  Sharing what’s going on before us, around us an under us is the primary reason we go two-up.  Entertainment is individual of course.  KR reads books, magazines and the like while riding on the back.  I can feel the book cover on my back.   She wants an iPad so she can look up hotels while we’re moving.  Sound right to me.  For me, entertainment is all about gadgets:  navigation, m/c dashboard, etc.  The more the better!  We have not taken full advantage of entertainment options, especially in the music department.  We will hook up the ipod/iphone for our next trip.

Navigating

Don’t laugh, but our biggest upgrade on this trip versus the South American trip is that I got good maps for the Garmin GPS for every country we entered.  It made a world of difference.  In fact, I don’t know how we survived in SA with only guide book maps:)  Still, we got lost in almost every city we entered as its difficult to match the Garmin real-time instructions with the real world flying by.  Good paper maps are critical as well since they give a larger view and can be cross-checked with the Garmin Instructions.

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, Sam Hershfield was our Guiding Travel Navigator in the Sky (GTNS) and he has a powerful knowledge of how to use Google Earth and Google Maps for everything from route planning, to seeing what hotels are in a city, to checking out the weather, elevation and most other things one would be interested.  Sam has been giving me on-the-job training on these apps and I’m making progress:)

“Team” Responsibilities

Over the years, KR and my responsibilities have become pretty clear.  FW drives, navigates via GPS, makes mechanical repairs (OK, tries), packs and unpacks the bike, and keeps all electronics organized and running.  KR is in charge of all trip planning, selects the hotel and/or wanders the city streets looking for one, registers, keeps all the money, pays all the tolls, and navigates via the map.  I get her coffee in the morning and she gets me a drink at night.  Simpatico:)

 

 

then

Packed up and ready to go. NV stands ready to deliver… KR’s purchases.  This is a little store in a tiny village outside Oaxaca.

Sidewalk sales in Antigua

Sidewalk sales in Antigua

 

 

Most people agree that a picture is worth a 1000 words and this post puts that thought to action.   These are the people, places and things Karen has seen in our trip so far.  Most of the captions are by FW.

 

People

Sister and brother (?) in Antigua, Guatemala

then

Mom and son in Antigua

then

New Year’s selling blues.  Vendor at the main park in Antigua during the New Years celebration.

then

I can smell them from here.  Making fresh tortillas as you wait.

then

Guatemalan version of a hot dog cart:  corn cart.   She “schucks the corn, hammers it onto a stick, and offers mayo, mustard, coconut,lime  or salt.

then

Not in the mood for corn-0-stick?  How about grasshoppers  with lime and salt?  Mmmmm

then

The primary way Guatemalans carry things.  And, most things are carried by the women.  Men are the hunters after all:)

then

San Cristobal market

then

Selling drums by demonstrating your work.

then

Night life in San Cristobal was active, very active.  One of several bars we hit one night, all of which had live music.

Not quite yet, sweetheart

Not quite yet, sweetheart

 

Along the way

then

This bridge in Mexico looked like it just collapsed, which made us wonder how strong the temporary one is.

then

OK, here’s a test:  what  in the back of this truck?  Answer a couple of pics down:)

then

This is a very large bull in a Toyota Tacoma small pickup modified with steel gates.  More surprising than how the bull stands during this trip is how the helll he got up the 3+ feet to the bed:)

then

Service is brusque to say the least at this hotel.   Is this a retreat for couples who need an encounter session?

Answer to the above quiz:  We have a turkey top dead center, surrounded by chickens that are tied town.  At least two people are in the truck bed.

then

I’m thinking this is the beginning of a grass-roots movement to legalize pot.

IMG_4970

The road to one of our hotels. Try coming up this at night after 10 hours in the saddle

then

There were some rewards at the end of the road, though.

then

Our entry in the Duct Tape Unintended Uses Hall of Fame. The lower half of my left sleeve was burnt off by NV’s exhaust pipe.

then

This is more like what our first view of any city is.  This is Antigua.

IMG_3416

FW wimped out upon coming to this hill (which we couldn’t see just how steep it was) and tried to execute a U-Turn. Bad idea. But, we got to meet some of the neighbors.

And the result

And the result

 

then

These volcanoes have played a major role in Guatemala’s history.

then

“What kind of adventure travelers stay in a hotel like this?”   Well, the kind that follow their Garmin through the barrio’s of Salina Cruz trying to find a hotel to no avail and then get lucky by finding this Mexican business hotel chain, located next to a Wal-Mart and Toks restaurant.

IMG_5125

The art of motorcycle repair as practiced by FW. Take one large rock and pound pannier latch back into shape. This on the side of the road repair was needed when the right top of the pannier blew off in the wind.

IMG_5128

40 mph cross winds when going 60+mph makes for an adrenaline pumping ride

IMG_5134

Oaxaca straight ahead on the top of that peak. We’re about 140 miles away.

then

One of my all time favorites. Two-up riding into the mountains on the way to Oaxaca.

 

The art of selling

then

“Unique” display of mole in Acapulco

IMG_4986

This is just one wall in one market in Antigua. Selection was not an issue. Quality? Perhaps more of a challenge.

then

You want selection?  You want color?  How about beads and beads and beads and…

then

Roosters anyone?

then

For those of you who think macadamia nuts are mainly from Hawaii, try again. Buy a handful and the vendor uses a hammer on the street to crack their shells/

then

then

Surf board rental display in Puerto Escondido

then

You want fresh and organic? How about watermelon slice right here and right now!

then

Can’t figure out if this was a display or a flower delivery van.

then

Who needs merchandising? Stop the truck, open the gate and start selling lettuce..

 

Walls and other old stuff

then

Revealing centuries of layers

then

Storage of old Christmas parade cars in a ruined church

Color

Aged collage

then

More layers

then

The gathering storm

then

Built in the 1500’s, destroyed in the 1600’s, awaiting reconstruction

then

Awaiting

then

Awaiting

then

Awaiting

IMG_4976

A most unusual fountain

IMG_3660

then

then

then

 

Things

then

NOW we’re talking beauty. BMW R90S (I think) on display in a hotel in Guatemala. Father of the hotel owner road the bike until he was 85 when he became “too slow.” There’s hope for all of us:)

then

Romantic thoughts about flying yesteryear

then

Smoking not allowed, dogs are good. My kind of place.

then

Even Mexico is catching on. This is a sticker on one of the numerous plastic chairs that are the mainstay of furnishings in Mexico stating its made primarily from recycled plastic.

then

On a wall in San Cristobal.  Translates roughly to “Each day full of dignity”

then

 

A restless traveler

IMG_3588

this is what one looks like after making it back over the mountains from Ciudad Guatemala at night in traffic.

then

Half an hour later,  FW still hasn’t recovered.

then

There is nothing as good as chocolate ice cream after a long day in the saddle.

then

I’ve never had any shoes or boots as shiny as my scuffed up m/c boots after this young man got done with them.

then

then

Looking forward to the road ahead.

 

Progress Update:   We have made it to Oaxaca high in the southern central mountains of Mexico.  It’s Tuesday the 7th. We’re staying in a 100+ year old nunnery converted to a high-end hotel.  Our general direction home will be to drop back to the coast and its 90+ degree temperatures and retraces our steps back to PV.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

then

This is such a typical scene. We’re lost, trying to find a hotel. This shot is in Antigua, Guatemala. KR is on her computer trying to find the name of the hotel we think we booked, but isn’t at the address the Garmin GPS says it should be. Now repeat over and over again, except this happens mainly at night after ridding ten hours.

 

The pace of the trip has definitely slowed down a bit, at least the motorcycle riding part. We spent two days in Antigua and we’ll spend another two full days here in San Cristobal de las Casas (Mexico).   While the pace of the driving part of the trip has slowed, not much else has.  I’m writing this post on Saturday, January 4th and its the first day of this trip that I’ve had nothing to do.

Much of my activity is getting us from here to there and keeping Now Voyager running.  Frankly, the latter has consumed way too much time and energy.  KR’s activities revolve around finding/checking into hotels, crossing border administration, keeping up with her ever-expanding innkeeping activities and Keeping Her Man Happy.

So here’s the headline version of what’s happened:  We stayed in Antigua, which is a really charming and beautiful city in Guatemala.  While KR went shopping, I drove over the mountains to Ciudad Guatemala to have Now Voyager’s clutch replaced.  Next day we rode 300 miles northwest into the Guatemala mountains, hit a lot of rain, and crossed back into Mexico.   We made it to San Cristobal de las Casas late last night.  This is at least as charming as Antigua, but a bit bigger with more things to do.  In both cities, KR has hit the shopping tour heavily.

Along the way I got lost in Ciudad Guatemala for the second time, this one in my attempt to find the BMW motorcycle dealer.  After two different people led me there, I spent the whole day getting Now Voyager’s clutch replaced at a wonderful BMW dealer:  Bavaria Motors.  Now Voyager seems to be repaired as we’ve had no problems in the last 300 miles.

We hit rain, fog, clouds and muddy roads riding northwest toward the northern border crossing back into Mexico.  This crossing was easy and painless.   We rode 300 miles and crossed a border in one day — which is a distance record this trip.  We then hit San Cristobal de las Casas at 6PM on a Friday night with no hotel reservations and pretty frozen (it got down to 47 while raining which is pretty damn cold).   With Sam, Karen and Fred all looking for a hotel in real time, we found the weirdest hotel yet.  It was so bad, we changed hotels today and added an additional day to warm up before pushing north again to Oaxaca.

Sitting on Now Voyager feels like home, finally.  I’ve got KR’s seat cushion duct-taped so it doesn’t move around, providing a living room Barko Lounger affect with our bags serving as arm supports.   With KR and bags, there’s just enough room for me to squeeze in.  Once squeezed in, it feels comfortable and familiar.  Frankly, its the place I like being the most.  Getting on is pretty easy for both of us, but getting off is still a chore.  When you have so much clothes on and packed so tightly, it takes some effort.   The glances we get from passersby are priceless.

We didn’t experience (see yes, experience no) much of Guatemala, but it was totally different from what I expected.  Aside from the beaches, which we didn’t get to, its a very mountainous country.  Beautiful with clear bright blue skies and green, green mountains.  It  feels much older than Mexico, but that’s probably because we stayed in its most acclaimed Colonial town, Antigua.  Antigua has had a hard time of it, being leveled in the early 1700’s by an earthquake and hit by a volcano eruption 30 years later, among other natural disasters. This of course makes for some wonderfully old, partially restored Colonial buildings, which are spectacular.

Guatemala is much more colorful than Mexico.  Their traditional dress reminds us of Peru’s and most of the women in the countryside dress in similar clothing, again much like Peru’s.  The buses are works of art in themselves, like those we saw in Nepal and India.  95% of private 4-wheel vehicles on the road old Toyota Tacoma pickup trucks that would not be allowed on US streets because of their condition.  All these old trucks, buses, Tuk-Tuks, motorcycles and cars make for some pretty bad air quality at ground level.  On a motorcycle, its hard not to notice and the last thing I wanted to do was hang behind one of these for any amount of time.

Like everywhere on this trip (and our past trips), Guatemalan’s went out of their way to be kind to us.   We’ve been shown the way — i.e. led via vehicle– at least three times when we were lost.   Kids wave when we ride by, old women giggle when KR take’s their picture, and people at the BMW dealership couldn’t have been more helpful.

We’ll be back to Guatemala to take in the rest.

then

Where we last left you, at the Casa Maravelle high in the Guatemalan mountains. Here KR is attending to her innkeeping duties in the morning. Nice way to have breakfast

 

then

A central square in Antigua

then

Motorcycles are the primary method of transportation by private citizens in Guatemala — and most of the developing world.

 

then

We arrived in Antigua on New Year’s day. That night was pretty festive.

then

One of the many markets that KR roamed.

 

IMG_3500

While KR was shopping, I was preparing to ride NV to Guatemala City to get Now Voyager worked on. First problem, how do I find the dealer in a very large city. Here hotel assistant writes the address down on paper so I can show it to people when I get lost. Not exactly showing lots of confidence.

then

What a handsome, if unreliable bike. Minutes later we’d be on the way to the BMW doctor who…

 

then

Yanked out and replaced his clutch. This was a very well run and stocked dealer. Watching the mechanic work on him was a real pleasure of precision.

IMG_00000622

The Bavaria crew: Hero lead mechanic Freddy is in the center. Jose, marketing director on the left, led me out of the city so that I wouldn’t get lost a third time in Guatemala City.

IMG_3597

Time to go my little Biker Bunny.

then

Pretty spectacular scenery

then

Bus pulling away from a busy intersection. Guy on the top loads/unloads cargo up top, jumps off and stops traffic when required, and probably collects money as well.

 

then

Typical riding situation, behind two fume-spewing buses and trucks, requires constant passing whenever/wherever you get the chance.

then

“Organic” merchandise display on the Pan American Highway running north toward Heuhuetenango.

 

then

30 minutes later and we hit rain and fog. Since we’re high in the mountains, its really cold.

IMG_3653

We pull over to put on the rain suits and this mother/children watch us. They’re separating the corn kernels from the cob before grinding. All by hand.

IMG_00000625

Border crossing? No problem. Chief Border Administrative Officer is displaying confidence.

then

Now Voyager, who at the beginning of the day was sparkling from his dealer-wash, is now appropriately adventure-bike-dirty. Tarp is over the helmets and stuff.

then

This is what San Cristobal de las Casas looks like on a busy Friday night when you’re trying to find a hotel.

then

Sunny morning on one of San Cristobal’s streets. Happy camper is hiding on the right

 

 

then

KR sitting in Customs compound yard with NV and two of her helpers standing by waiting to help.

We’ve crossed a few borders in our day, but never with an entourage of half a dozen adoring helpers:) Welcome to border crossing Guatemalan style.  As we rode toward the border, dozens of men and boys ran in front waving their hands and urging us to stop.  Since we knew the drill, I picked the oldest guy I could find who happened to be in a bright red shirt (note to self, bright colors do work in advertising).  Cesar would be our Head Border Administrative Officer.  His entourage included a boy to run in front of the bike clearing the traffic, a money exchanger (“You don’t have anymore dollars to sell?  How about Euros?”) and two other groupies who kept an eye on us while Cesar did his work.

All in all, it took about 2 hours and 40+ US dollars to get through both Mexican and Guatemalan immigration and customs.  That’s just the cost of Cesar’s crew, of course, as Guatemala charged us somewhere around $250 to bring the bike in.   While certainly confusing and at times tense, this is the way all border crossing should be handled:)

Our original target for the day was Antiqua, about 140 miles due east, but since we didn’t get started until 11AM and the border chewed up two hours, we found ourselves riding into Guatemala with no clue of what to expect.  Moreover, the map showed a road that was as squiggly as any we’d seen, so I assumed it would be all mountainous travel.

I was right in spades.  The northern loop to Antiqua (and any city in the east, including the capital, Ciudad Guatemala) immediately took us into mountains that were very different from those of Mexico just of a few days ago, but hard to explain why.  They were a unique shade of vivid green, feeling like a rain forest as there was mist in the air.  We wound slowly into the mountain forest, feeling like we’d been there before, yet not quite knowing why.  One thing was for sure, it’s beautiful.

As we bumped along through a dozen tiny tiny villages, it became clear that Guatemala had not only mastered the art of Tope Speed Control, but taken the art to a whole new level – multiple sets of topes for a village of two stores.  While this gave us a chance to see the locals up close and slow, it definitely slowed our pace.  We found ourselves winding ever further up the mountains in the late afternoon.

We crossed 9000 feet and it’s f__king cold.  Isn’t Central America supposed to be tropical, I’m thinking?  Fog and mountain mist make it feel even colder.  While cold, all things were going along fine until rounding one corner Now Voyager dies with no notice.  Unlike the previous dozen or so episodes, NV doesn’t start back up.  Hmm.  We’re a couple of miles outside of San Marcos, the first sizable town along our route, so we move into Plan B – somehow get NC to San Marcos and find a hotel.

Not quite so fast, there, son.  First, while NV finally starts again, he quickly stalls a half dozen times as we coast down the mountain to San Marcos. Second, there aren’t any hotels in San Marcos as its another one of those gritty, commercial, drab Latin American towns that we’ve been through often.  In the helmet intercom KR is making it clear that she has no interest in staying here!  Great.  Have you ever tried to drive fully loaded bike, over really bad cobblestones, in Latin American traffic, and with a bike that’s stalling every couple of blocks?  And, oh by the way, you’re lost.  This is not fun.  The tension meter rises as quickly as the mountains.

So, we push on to a town whose name I still can’t pronounce –Quezaltenango – which is about 20 more miles east through the mountains.  Surprisingly we make it with no further bike problems, except yet again we enter a sizeable town with no hotel reservations and no map.  In high-traffic time on streets that are so narrow that there’s not room for a car and a bike side by side.

All during this time, our Internet Guide and Travel Assistant in the Sky – Sam Hershfield – kicks in with lists of hotels, navigation help, and general counsel. He emails me directions (god bless ATT and Blackberry) in real time and I put them into the Garmin, which then attempts to guide us to said hotels.  Except as wonderful as Garmin’s maps are, they still can’t tell you which streets are one way, etc.  We weave around the center of Quez… for a good 45 minutes until we give up motoring.  We’re lost in this small town of intertwining cobble stone streets.  KR dismounts and walks around a corner in the direction of the hotel.  I’m stuck guarding NV and wondering what I’d do if KR gets lost.  Ten minutes later KR rounds the corner with a big smile on her face.  She’s not only found the hotel, but it’s great (in KR’s lingo, that would be charming).  Fifteen minutes later we’re checked in our room at the Modelo Hotel and NV is parked in a garage down the street.

Since its 5:30ish I have no time to waste to perform brain surgery on Now Voyager’s fuel system.  No surgeon wants to perform an operation in the darkJ No time to change into clean whites or for that pre-operation scrub, I rush into the operating theater, also serving as the car parking lot for our hotel.  I pull the tools out and (this is the truth, I swear it) in less than 10 minutes I’ve installed a new fuel pump controller!  Voila!   Drinks and dinner here we come!

Sam can’t believe I’ve done this, so he’s still emailing me mechanics all over Guatemala to help fix NV…  Sam, Sam, I’ve got this one, really!  (Time will tell, of course).  Before I can even get to the bar, Sam’s found the Hotel’s most popular cocktail via its online menu.  This Internet Travel Assistant thing has promise: )))

Next day (New Year’s Eve) we’re planning on making Antiqua, but we don’t have a hotel.  All seemed booked, but we finally find one that sounds good – terrific really—and it’s got a room.  All right!  But, why does this gorgeous hotel have a room on New Year’s Eve?  Hmm.  Note to self—always look closely at address. The Casa Miravalle Hotel is at best Antigua Adjacent as Culver City is Beverly Hills Adjacent too. Our hotel is in a small (tiny) town is the mountains above Antiqua – somewhere between 5-25 miles away.  Anyway, off we go.

I’m going to make this very short.  The day didn’t work out quite as planned.  It took us a good hour to find our way out of Quez… (You laugh now, but you try it sometime), we fell over in the process necessitating a neighborhood help squad to get us upright and going again; we made a wrong turn and got real close to the Belize border which added another hour to our drive time;  went through Antiqua and into Ciudad Guatemala looking for said Antiqua Adjacent resort only to realize we’d passed it miles back.  Finally, we pay a cab driver 14 bucks to lead us to the road, upon which mountain goats would find it hard to climb, only to arrive at a beautiful boutique luxury hotel in the mountains with a spectacular view.  “Reservation?  We don’t have no reservation for you Mr. Rutherford…: )”

We’re now about 15oo miles from Puerto Vallarta and 3000 miles from LA.  We’ve been in the saddle for nine days and we’ve had the following events happen to us…

  • Now Voyager has stalled at least two dozen times, but keeps limping along.
  • Of the eight nights, we’ve had really special places to stay in seven of them and had a great time each night.
  • Wal-Mart is a good predictor of upscale business hotel locations.
  • Lost our Mexico map (which could be a problem on the way home).
  • Fried most of the left arm of my m/c jacket necessitating a repair job that will go down in Duct Tape Hall of Fame.
  • Have gotten lost entering EVERY city we’ve stayed in.
  • Experienced temperatures ranging from a high of 94 to a low of 60.  You can feel the difference on a bike.
  • Have developed a real craving for OXXO coffee, rivaling my affection for Starbucks.  OXXO is Mexico’s Seven Eleven…

Our trip plan has changed pretty radically since starting off.   We now realize there’s no way we can see anymore of Central America as it took way longer to get down here than originally guessed.  We’ll spend a couple of days in Antiqua (“the cutest, most colonial town in all of Guatemala!” my Road Bunny exclaims.   I don’t need Google Translate to know this means shopping: ) and then make a U-turn and start heading back.  Sam is working on a new route back as I sleep.

IMG_3379

The Guatemalan Customs yard.  Every vehicle you see here — and 95% or small pickup trucks — are from the US and are being sold at the Mexican/Guatemalan border. A constant flow of bigger trucks towing/carring what look to be clapped-out pickups arrive from the states.

then

This is history in the making. KR is typing her first ever Blackberry message to one of the local PV real estate rental agents. December 30th 2013.

then

Buses are ever-present, generous polluters, and painted and customized to the T. This one zooms by as KR grabs the pic. While the skies are crystal clear, pollution is so thick that one is constantly breathing in diesel and gas fumes.

then

Just one of several volcanoes in the mountains of Guatemala. This is a rare view in that just a small portion of the peak is covered in clouds.

 

then

I think this captures the feel of a bike breaking down high up in the rain forests with no one or thing in sight. I’m taking a picture of the GPS coordinates with the Blackberry so that I can send to Sam just in case we can’t get NV started again. Luckily, we did.

then

The surgeon is in. Holding NV’s old fuel pump brain. LIke all surgeons, operating gloves are essential. The operating room could use a bit more cleanliness.

 

then

One of the many pleasant surprises of this trip was Quezaltenango.  Very charming, lively and cosmopolitan little town.  This is the Center Square.  We found out later that this is also the coldest place in Guatemala, making the five heavy blankets back in the room a necessity, not an option.

then

KR says that I always find the good bars/restaurants and this was a great place we found down an alley off the square. Pizza was fabulous because of the cheese.

then

This may not look like it, but this is a demonstration of restraint on my behalf. I’m the one holding the single bottle of beer, the person out of the picture is giving me a toast with an entire bottle of wine. You see, someone CAN change.

 

then

The Hotel Modelo, a great, charming, buried in the heart of the city hotel. A real pleasure and doubly appreciated after the day we had.

 

then

New Year’s Eve in Quezaltenango and the place is deserted.  Just hours before, you’d have a hard time walking down this street, let alone driving down it.

 

then

Happy and ready for a new day. KR in front of the Modelo

then

Less than ten minutes later and I’ve dumped it over trying to make a U-turn on top of a very steep drop. Quick as you can say “Crazy Gringo”..

IMG_3413

The neighborhood emergency squad springs to action. The man in the foreground was  waving us on and  apologized for not helping to push, as he noted he only had one arm.  And he was about 90.  99% of the response from locals to our various travails have been similarly helpful.  The guy pushing NV is a taxi driver the One-Armed Man called. :)))

IMG_3429

Somewhere in the countryside

then

We met a Guatemalan couple on the road riding their GS. They offered to lead us to Antiqua. They felt sorry for us as the look they gave us said, “You got lost and almost went to the Belize border? Geez, these folks need some help” It was much appreciated, but the day wasn’t over just yet. Here they lead us into Antiqua.

then

We arrive at the mountain-goats-have-a-hard-time-getting-up there Resort — the Casa Maravalle.

then

Casa Maravalle on News Years Eve. The “celebration” started a couple of hours later. I’ve been to more fun New Year’s parties at Denny’s: )

surfer dude

Surfer dudes hang after a hard day riding the outside waves in Puerto Escondido.

I want to be a surfer dude, with a surfer chick, hanging ten on my surfboard, which is tied to my surfer dude van.  I’d take said chick and board, climb into the van, and cruise way down here to Puerto Escondido, one of the few towns in Mexico where surfer dudes like me are king.  Once in Puerto Escondido, I’d ride my board or buy a new one in one of the surf board shops, get even more tan, and prance my surfer chick around.  Then we’d hang in surfer dude bars that play videos of surfer-dudes-who’ve-eaten-the-big-one and hang out with dudes and chicks like me and talk about today’s waves.  I’d be a king in Puerto Escondido.

In the meantime I’ll settle for being a biker dude, with a biker chick, hanging out with all the dudes and chicks in this once sleepy surfer town gone wild.  Eight years ago when we first started to think about a place in Mexico, we researched Escondido.  We concluded it was too remote and small.  It might still be remote, but its reputation is international as we saw surfer dudes from all over the world.  Unfortunately, I think it’s on the way to being a surfer dude version of Cancun.

(As of Friday) We’ve gone south roughly 1000 miles from PV and the border is still nowhere in sight.  This is a bit of a surprise as KR and I thought we’d be at the border in a couple of days, but then again everything is a surprise given our extensive trip planning regimen.  We’ve taken Hwy 200, which shadows the coast but rarely reveals it, which cuts through really thick jungle and small, luscious farms mostly growing coconuts (first fun fact that KR screamed into my helmet speaker:  the state of Guerrero is the premier coconut producing region of the world.  I can’t tell you how much this running commentary through my helmet speaker adds to the scenery).

Every few miles there’s a small town — village really– that usually possess the bane of our existence:  topes.   Topes are raised bumps in the road constructed to slow traffic.  Much cheaper than traffic signals and just as effective, provided you see them or know where they are beforehand.  If you don’t see them, then one slams over them and I get a “uggggghhhh!” in the helmet speaker.  We’ve developed a staged Tope Alert System in which KR announces:  “Potential Tope,”  “Tope Alert” Tope!!”  Pretty exciting stuff, but it’s the little things that make travel safe:)

These first five or six days have all been twisty motorcycle-friendly roads.  No more than 10% were in a straight line.  This makes for great motorcycle riding as one is quickly forced to find the “rhythm of the road.”   An impossible task if one’s passenger wasn’t into finding that rhythm, but I’m very lucky here, as for some reason, KR and I got into the groove of traveling by bike very quickly.  There were still early-trip adjustments that needed to be made (think seat, think clothing, etc.).  All’s well with biker chick, biker and bike.

Well, not so fast, as what Walti motorcycle trip would be complete without motorcycle problems?    30 miles north of Acapulco, Now Voyager began stalling, especially in traffic and when its hot.  Riding a full loaded motorcycle in rush hour we’re-going-to-party-all-day/night Acapulco traffic brought up butt-puckering images of a certain tunnel in Argentina.  Nursing NV to Acapulco was a challenge on all fronts — keeping the bike running, avoiding the kamikaze drivers, trying to find our hotel, and keeping the biker chick informed of when NV stalled so she could become an immediate Caution Flag was fun. Not.

To save us, our International Rescue Crew sprang into action again!  Bruce Conrad, Ryan Reza and Sam Hershfield.  First was a roundtable discussion (via email) on what the problem was (probably something to do with the fuel pump), then a city-wide search for a mechanic (on the internet again), then a wider search for BMW expertise in ANY city close by (there were none) and finally all kinds of advice on how to replace said fuel pump/filter by Yours Truly.    Which I did in the front of the Holiday Inn Resort in Acapulco.   More on this in a bit.

We stayed in Acapulco for almost two days making repairs.  We’d never been to Acapulco, not heard anything good about it on the news (its full of Narco Gangstas!) and no one we knew had ever  been.   Well, its still not our cup of tea as its too big and too commercially touristy, but the physical place is stunningly beautiful, rivaling cities like San Francisco and Rio for beauty.  Aside from the mechanical problems with NV, we had a thoroughly great time.

Next day we headed toward SurferVille, which is where this post was started.  Here’s a recap in pictures of the first week on the road.

then

We try to start all our trips with an offering to the gods

then

Karen tells one of our neighbors where we’re going. “You’re going where on that thing!” he graciously replies

then

Road Warrior (early version). You gotta love a woman all suited up for adventure 🙂

 

IMG_3264

We’ve stayed in a lot of hotels, most of them good. This was the brightest one, in a beach town south of Manzanillo.  Pool was bathtub warm.

then

Road hazards of all types… these were very large bulls. Goats, man-eating roosters, lazy dogs, and pigs were also encountered along the way.   The bulls were so big that they stopped buses.

 

then

Kidnapped pinata on the way to a Christmas party. There were two more pinatas and a family of five inside the car.  I read later that the poor pinata was tortured beyond recognition.

then

It’s great to spend Christmas with family, even if its a family one meets in a roadside truck stop. There wasn’t a Christmas tree, but there was a

Santa, singing “ho ho ho!” Our family Christmas was a great laugh. Santa was feeling no pain, notice the beer bottles under his chair:)

 

Adventure riding is tiring business, necessitating the occasional nap

Adventure riding is tiring business, necessitating the occasional nap

then

We finally made it to Acapulco and were beyond thankful that the Holiday Inn had room for us..

then

This is what a Road Warrior looks like after he’s made it to the fortress. It’s been a long time since KR and I stayed in a resort-like hotel.

then

KR liked the lunch overlooking the Acapulco bay. We could get used to this..

then

One type of Acapulco taxi which KR particularly liked.

then

When in Acapulco, you gotta see the cliff divers, no? Well, apparently hundreds of other people had the same idea. This is a shot down the stairs toward the rocks lit like a Christmas tree. The divers jump off from there…

then

No way would I ever do this. It’s probably not an accident that all the divers where kids — teenagers at the oldest. They timed their dives to match the tide. Scary.

 

then

Almost as scary was the prospect of Yours Truly having to take the fuel pump out of NV in front of the Holiday Inn.  This didn’t endear me to the resort guests who were wondering why should they have to endure this on vacation too?

then

The patient lived through the operation as can be seen here. I found a problem with the fuel pump and repaired it. I was hopeful that I had found THE problem, but that was not the case.  But, hey there weren’t any parts left over and NV started up afterwards.

 

then

Every good surgeon needs training and mine was found on the Internet in the form of a BMW service manual.

then

A drink is called for in one of the dozens and dozens of tourist bars…

then

After a while, its difficult to tell the real pirates from the fakes.

then

These bunnies probably won’t be invited to The Mansion, but were friendly none the less

then

Continuing south from Acapulco, the mountains occasionally reveal the coast. Between developments, there were miles and miles of deserted beaches like these.

then

We went to the town of Ometepec as we heard it was settled by escaped slaves. Instead  we found this Wedgewood style church. Nice church, but unfortunately Now Voyager’s stalling problem re-emerged, making the next 130 miles close to a religious experience.

then

Karen tastes some Mezcal at a roadside artsy booze store. Afterwards, she remarks that I’m driving much better. Who’s to argue?

A couple of hours later and all's right with the world.  Honey, you really are a good driver...

A couple of hours later and all’s right with the world. Honey, you really are a good driver… Now, are we there yet?

Cows and wind turbines in the southern tip of Mexico

Cows and wind turbines in the southern tip of Mexico

 

IMG_4855

We arrive at Puerto Escondido in time to see the surfer dudes leaving the beach for…

then

A surfer dude bar.  This place was one of the most unique bars we’ve been in (which is saying something) as we were practically the only non-surfer dude types and everyone was talking surfing in many, many languages.

then

Dudes and dudettes watched an endless loop of Famous Surfer Dudes and waves that didn’t make it.  It’s the first “memorial” video I’ve seen in a bar.

 

then

There are no bicycle racks in Puerto Escondido, just surf board racks.  The place has a pretty unique vibe.

then

We had morning coffee, caught up on email and thought about what’s next from our room overlooking the beach.  Generally speaking, surfer dudes aren’t morning dudes.

then

In between shopping for surfer dude stuff, I ponder… “Can I do it?  Just grab the board and run into the waves…”

then

Eight hours later and I look like the worn and torn biker dude that I am.  How we got to this business hotel in the middle of a town I can’t remember is a story in of itself, but for a later post.

 

This just in — we made it to the Mexico/Guatemala border on Sunday night!  According to our official GPS-oligist, Sam Hershfield, we’ve made it 3100 miles from LA.  See below for route.  Sam’s sent me a link to monitor live-on-the-ground trip progress, but I don’t know how to imbed it yet 🙂

then

This is the trip’s route as of Sunday, December 29th, courtesy Sam Hershfield

Today — Sunday — has been a challenge on all fronts.  We broke pushed our mileage record to 275+ miles at a record short  6 1/2 hours, due mainly to all straight roads allowing 80+MPH speeds.  Unfortunately, once our speed got back down to earth as we entered the border town of Tapachula, NV went into fits.  We then went to three — count them three– hotels to no avail and finally ended up at the Holiday Inn Express.  All of this was happening as our first CoronaAdobe guest was having the visit from hell — five days of rain, no hot water, etc.,etc.  It’s almost as tough being an Innkeeper as it is being an Adventure Biker Dude.  Almost:)

then

I can’t argue with this young Acapulco vacationer: )

 

 

 

IMG_00000410

All trips should start at 5:30AM:) Now Voyager is loaded and ready to go outside my Factory Place apartment, in the Arts District of downtown LA. “Light” load included two spare tires, KR’s m/c clothes, my clothes, assorted electronics, spare parts and tools.  Oh, and two spare gas cans.

I’ve been wanting to go south on two wheels ever since we got back from South America almost three years ago.   Can it really be that long ago?  Seems like a lifetime ago, but that’s a whole ‘nother tale.  Exploring the remaining parts of South America and all of Central America feels like unfinished business.  So, early this summer I came up with a plot to take Now Voyager to Central America during the holidays and sprung it on KR.  I was half expecting her to say “have a good time,” but of course she said, “Great!  When do we go?”  “Sometime in December,” I replied and that was pretty much the extent of our planning for this trip.

Well, guess what?  December’s here and we’re a couple of days from shoving off.

IMG_1193

This is the second new member of the family – Izz the iguana. KR found him on one of the trees in the courtyard and has since adopted him. When he “got out,” KR and the neighbors chased him into one of the neighbor’s houses, found him on their Xmas tree and “trapped him.” He’s now hanging out in the garage watching over Now Voyager.

Preparation is concentrated on getting our house and business in order.  LACI is now a burgeoning little enterprise that’s going …(hold your breath as this is really true) global.  Ian H. and I recently spent a week in Berlin setting up the European leg of our Global Innovation Network (GIN – shaken, not stirred of course).   When we get back its off to Mexico City with the Mayor,  Washington DC to the ARPA-E Summit, and eventually the Far East with Mayor again in the Fall.   Anyway, the good news is that one is never really disconnected in our world no matter how far you go or in what way.  Which means one can always pull on the Oars of Commerce.

Getting our house in order has taken on new meaning around Corona Adobe, aka our Bed & Wine.  Karen is working hard to be an Inn Keeper and has booked Corona for Christmas, New Years and much of January.  Most of this will take place while we’re away, which adds a whole other level of complexity.  We’re also renting out Little Big Sur this season which has necessitated a whole range of repairs and refurbishments.  LBS now represents the ultimate in luxury camping:)

Getting Now Voyager ready consisted of buying a spare set of tires, changing his oil, and buying new maps for the Garmin.  Done.  Paperwork consisted of a temporary m/c permit for Mexico, some m/c insurance, an int’l drivers license for grins and copies of all documents that someone might want to take a look at.  Done.  I didn’t even have time to wash the guy.

 

IMG_3166_1

What stuff? And this is BEFORE KR moves in:)

IMG_3174

Sunrise over the northern Mexico desert on the way to PV to pick up Karen. I broke two personal records this trip: (1) 88 miles in one hour; (2) 689 miles in one day.

IMG_3176_1

This is the face of a happy camper. First serious motorcycle trip in three years. My god, it feels good to be doing nothing but hauling ass down the highway.

IMG_3182

Extra gas is a good thing, especially when I’m only getting about 30 mpg (see comment on 88 miles in an hour) and a touch more than 120 miles to the tankful.

IMG_3178_1

The Paradise Hotel in Culiacan (see picture below) on the second night offers close parking facilities.  This is a bit of a long story, so hang in.  The night before leaving for PV, I saw a new documentary, “Narco Cultura,” about the music and musicians celebrating the Narco Life in Mexico.   Think the Mexican version of Gangsta Rap and you get the idea.  Fascinating and disgusting at the same time.  Anyway, I find out that the headquarters city for this particular cartel is Culiacan, which I’ve never been to.  Now fast forward and I’m on the road and read the GPS incorrectly thus getting stuck out on the highway late at night. This is the day I do 689 miles.  I drive another 100 miles at night and pull into the next town… Culiacan:)

then

So, I hit Culiacan which is a very large city for Mexico late at night AND CAN’T FIND ONE HOTEL.  Dozens of farmacias (I don’t get it), but no hotels.  I spend 30 minutes driving through this Cartel Capital and nada.   I backtrack to the  highway and find one hotel.  This one:)   Well, I got charged 450 pesos ($37USD), had a clean room, a pretty damn good dinner, and the coldest Corona south of the border.  Go figure

then

On the other side of the scenic scale was lunch in San Blas.  Almost home (2 more hours).  Not speaking Spanish has its downsides.  It took me 15 minutes to convince my fellow diner that I wanted him to take MY picture, not the other way round. He had about four cans of Corona on the table, so it wasn’t all my fault.

 

then

Close to 1600 miles later, I pull into my Man Cave.   10 minutes later I was taking a swim and less than an hour we were on the beach having cocktails.

IMG_00000449

Ye of little faith, count the motorcycles in my Man Cave.  True, there’s all that stuff on the left…

IMG_00000448

Once in PV, first order of business was getting the tires put on NV. Go to Honda dealer (we can’t do it), then Yamaha dealer (we don’t have the right machine), then a “real” retail tire store (we always give our m/c tires to Gordo down the street) and finally to “Gordo’s  place on a little street in some part of PV that I’ve never been to before.  Picture is of his showroom of his current stock for sale.

IMG_00000444

It takes Gordo about 30 minutes to change both tires with modern day tools. Total cost: less than $20 US

IMG_00000454

It’s been a very long time since I’ve gotten to work on my m/c in my garage. OK, perhaps not the neatest guy around and with a limited set of tools, but if Gordo can do it…

IMG_1141

Remember I said we had TWO new members of the family? Well, meet No. 2, “Squirt.” Another long story, but I’ll get even with Debbie H once I get a chance. Seems Debbie rescued Squirt from two down and out kids on the Malecon only to immediately bring him/her? home to Karen. Case closed… Lilly now has a bed mate.

IMG_00000463

Road hazard Puerto Vallarta style. Close the street, put up a gigantic screen and have a party on a Wednesday night.

IMG_1003

Calm before the storm? Still three days left of prep before shoving off, but there’s always time to gaze at the Bay and dream of what may lay ahead.

Los Angeles-20130927-00385

The Walti family prepares for another South of the Border expedition.  Where’s the kitchen sink, you ask?  Well, no kitchen sink but there is a kitchen faucet,  two TVs, one sound bar, one CD player, two end tables, one desk, one chair, one tool chest (the only thing of mine), and more decorating “jewels” than one guy can count.  We also had a roof rack, of course.  We were searched once at the border, but no problems.

Where did it go?  Those lazy,  hazy days of summer?  I’m not sure its ever been that way, but there was no lingering this summer, as we seemed to be on rails to ….  A pattern is now developing in which KR comes up to LA during the ungodly hot summer of PV, spends four months buying and packing things to take back, and then we reverse the trek in September and drive back to PV.  Which is where we are now.  I’ve just dropped off KR in PV and am winging my way back to LA to pick up the oars-of-commerce once again.

Spending four months together in the same 900 sq. ft. loft worked out pretty well as we didn’t fight (much) and enjoyed hanging together.  KR tells friends she hasn’t seen me that much as I’ve been in the office most weekends, which is true, but we found enough time together to “get things done”.

We both like living in the urban jungle life of the Arts District and continued to explore it until the very last week.  I’ve been living there for two years,  but we just found a new bar three blocks away that I didn’t know was there.  It’s address says it all:  “Skid Row Post Office Box.”  KR found that she was a couple of blocks from the fashion district, which means she could buy fabric for furniture.  And I found a El Pollo Loco (the world’s best chicken) even closer, just over the 6th Street Bridge in Boyle Heights. Its surprising what one gets use to calling “home.”

But, let’s stop the kidding.  This summer was all about prepping for going back to PV with the right stuff jammed in the back of the Iron Duke.  Which meant weekly (daily?) shopping trips to all parts of the region, looking for the next treasure.  I focused on refurbishing the Iron Duke, who was looking and feeling a little down and out when we rode him up north.  This time, no (minor) expense was spared: new shocks, the right headlight was a-fixed with something other than grey tape, tune-up, fluids changed, his habit of stalling was fixed and I even washed him once.  KR actually got him legally registered in both countries and presto – he’s ready to rock and roll down the road.

Rolling into PV after  2 1/2 days on the road (a record) and four months in LA was a welcome sight.  Green, glistening, and pretty deserted as we were just at the end of  “Hungry September,” (i.e. no tourista money) PV was just as pretty as when we left.   The town was deserted of most tourists, which gives the place a whole other vibe.  Most restaurants close for part of the off season, there’s no lines at the bars, and lots of retail refurbishments are underway.  Eveyone’s poised for the new season.

As are we.

Los Angeles-20130927-00384

Chaos as camorflauge. Packed to the ceiling with junk, I mean KR’s treasures, keeps the border guards away. Would you want to touch this mountain of mess? Hidden in the center was the good stuff — TVs, boom boxes, tables, chairs. We barely had room for Lilly and there was no room for suitcases. Plastic bags had to do.

IMG-20130928-00391

We’ve mad the trip often enough to know which motels have the best beds, which towns have restaurants we like, etc. This is one of KR’s favorites in Gila Bend, Arizona.

IMG-20130928-00393

The key to a record run is getting moving at sunrise. We were rolling out of Gila Bend at 5:30AM.

IMG-20130929-00399

Beasts of burden. The Iron Duke’s ass still sags under the weight, despite new shocks. Top “rack” was full of sheets, blankets, towels and the like.

IMG-20130929-00402

The summer rainy season brings new shades of green and roads consumed by the jungle, which is one reason it takes 3 hours to go the last 100 miles over the mountains to PV.

IMG-20130929-00434

Relief. We pull around the corner on Corona and see the Corona Adobe still standing.

IMG-20130929-00436

A quick inspection reveals the pool in good working order.

IMG-20130929-00438

The view is still there

IMG-20130929-00446

As is the kitchen, sans the “Jaguar” class faucet that broke almost immediately

IMG-20130930-00459

Getting ready for the crowds. Here a couple of guys clean this day’s catch of oysters and clams

IMG-20130930-00475

It’s still the rainy season. Most evenings, the sky darkens as the clouds slide over the mountains onto the Bay. Heavy downpours don’t last long towards the end of the season.

Los Angeles-20130728-00303

At lease one of the Walti clan is ready for an adventure…

Los Angeles-20130831-00325

First planning session for our next trip to Central America. I thought a multimedia approach would get KR’s juices flowing. “I don’t want to watch videos of traveling, I just want to go do it!” So much for planning…

this is a test

Back to pulling on the oars of commerce, I get to visit the Tesla factory in Fremont, California.  I even get a ride in a Model S, which is pretty damn quick.   The most impressive feature?  The computer-sized screen streams the Internet.

 

Follow their trail using the Google Earth. You will need to have the Google Earth Plugin installed in your browser for this to work! See the system requirements below….

Here are some directions about using this map:

  1. Use your mouse to click and drag anywhere on the globe
  2. Drag to the middle of South America to start following them
  3. Zoom in, either by double clicking your mouse, using your mouse wheel if you have one or using the vertical slider on the screen’s top right
  4. Look at all the legs and places where they stayed each night
  5. Click on any leg to see date and length in Kms and Hrs
  6. Zoom in all the way in with the slider or holding down your wheel and moving your mouse forward or backward the angle will change so you can see altitude and terrain
  7. Use the  “compass” on top right to rotate around a place, city or route

Need the plugin? Go here
If you are having trouble with the plugin, uninstall the plugin completely. Return to this page and follow the directions that appear within the Google Earth View below.

More Information on Machu Picchu
3D Modeling of the site
Wiki

System Requirements from Google:
While Google Maps may work for other browsers, we recommend using one of the following for the best experience:

  • Microsoft Internet Explorer (IE) 7.0 and later (for Windows) Download
  • Firefox 3.6 and later (for Windows, Mac, and Linux) Download
  • Safari 3.1 and later (for Mac and Windows) Download
  • Google Chrome (for Windows and Mac) Download

If you’re having problems, check that you’re using the most up-to-date version of your browser. If that doesn’t work, don’t fret! We’ve got detailed troubleshooting guidelines to help you get back to your Google Maps journey!