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A lot about what’s good about motorcycle touring is captured in this picture. This is a small town somewhere southwest of Valencia and we’ve just stopped after a full day on great roads. Yours truly is having a cup of coffee, we’re having a bit of pan with world-class olive oil, and we meet the owner of the pictured motorcycle. Neither one of can speak each others language, but we communicate none the less: these are great roads!  One of the waitresses and I get into a conversation about architecture and how hard it is to get a beginning job (I don’t know how we got into this conversation) as an architect.  So, in the meantime, she was working in the cafe while looking for a job in Valencia, about 100 miles away.  For some reason, people want to strike up a conversation with motorcyclists.

We woke up on the last day in Barcelona to find that NVII had been burglarized the night before.  This time the thieves pried open the locked pannier cases and stole my battery charger (again!).  This pissed me off even more than the ship burglary.  We immediately went to a m/c store and got the panniers fixed, then went down the street and bought 5 pad locks.  I’ve just begun the implementation of the FW Bullet Proof Security System:)

We left Barcelona late that afternoon and rode south along the coast to Valencia.  Valencia is probably prettier than Barcelona, certainly the street that our hotel was on was stunning.  After unpacking and cleaning up, we spent the night wandering around the jazz/bohemian section taking pictures of old churches (what else?)  finding interesting bars to have a pop in. Next morning, we thought: who needs more cities?  We were off with a different plan in mind.

No longer willing to ride on super highways along the coast of Spain, we made a sharp right turn and went into the hills and mountains, about 100 miles inland.  Now we were on narrow two lane roads meandering through the hills, which became mountains.  Sun was out, but very ominous looking dark blue rain clouds were always just over there, so we never knew when the fun was up.

One night we stayed in a spa/hotel in a tiny town in the middle of nowhere.  It was kinda weird as  everyone walking around in white robes, but I liked it as its not often are we the youngest in any group.

Perhaps its a sign of “maturing,” but we’ve changed the way we wander pretty significantly.  When we were in South America for three months, we rarely had a hotel booked anywhere as we weren’t willing/able to predict where we’d end up at day’s close. This resulted in some truly horrible scrambles for a hotel room late in the day after a long ride.  Not good for one’s mood at night:)

We now book a hotel online the night before in the town we think we’re going to make.  This constitutes a major improvement in our long-term planning routine and greatly reduces the tension (but not all tension as we may have it booked, but we need to find it to use it, a sometimes baffling problem).  But it also eliminates the “pure” wandering that I love most.  We always have a place in mind to head towards and we can’t really change half way through because we’ve paid for the hotel.  Truth be told, the pluses far outweigh the negatives as the line between end of day and first night’s cocktail is a lot shorter.

Technology that helps one travel has revolutionized the experience.  Or, perhaps more accurately, technology can empower one to go over there because its easier.  The GPS on NVII is a life saver.  I can’t imagine what it was like not having a good GPS for the majority of my motorcycling life. “Mrs. Garmin” as we call her, takes 80% of the worry of finding something off the table. Need a BMW dealer?, just hit the m/c dealer button.  Gas?  Same thing.  The Starbucks location App has been a bit disappointing since there never seems to be one close by:)

Booking.com, TripAdvisor, Airbnb and the lot allow one to find really interesting places that would have been impossible to find before.  Reviews give a lot of information about what to expect.  And its easy to check prices.  We’ve had just really really special times in all the bars, restaurants, and hotels that KR first found online.

We rolled through the mountains and entered Granada late one day, a city renowned for beauty and a huge Moorish palace, the Alhambra.  Finding our hotel became a challenge as Granada is mostly made up of tiny streets/walk ways that are occupied by people, dogs, bicycles, motos, cars, and trucks all at the same time.  Have you ever tried backing up a 500 lbs m/c with a passenger and another 100 lbs of stuff?  On your tippy toes as yours truly remains vertically challenged despite nightly prayers.

We spent two hours touring Alhambra’s palaces, gardens, a grounds, which I’ll admit  was great and worth the stop, but I couldn’t wait to get the hell out of dodge.  We were on our way to Tarifa on the tip of Spain to catch a ferry to Morocco, so we decided to take the back roads southwest.

This turned out to be a spectacular choice as we rode into the mountains on back roads with small villages tucked away.  This was the best motorcycle riding we’ve had so far (#1 was this day, #2 was the stretch out of Valencia, and #3 was the Pyrenees stretch along N260) with equal parts twisty roads, spectacular mountain views, and tiny picture-book villages.

Fifteen days after starting, we rolled into the tiny seaside village of Tarifa on the southernmost tip of Spain.  Now this place is beautiful, helped by bright sunlight, the mineral-colored waters of the Straight of Gibraltar, the totally white walls of every building in town, and a miles-long sandy beach that seems to be Sail Board Central.  All of this is wrapped in a hundreds-year old fort wall with turrets and everything.  This place could be good.  So good, that we immediately decide to stay for two days to prep for crossing the Straight to Morocco.

We were shocked to be greeted by a smile and an offer to carry our luggage by Carlos, the proprietor of the tiny “Tarifa Room” hotel.  In 14 days, not one hotel service member had offered to help with our bags.  And, frankly, we haven’t received very many smiles from restaurant/bar/hotel/shop folks along the way either.  We’re not that unlikable, making me believe there is some inherent reason that many of the Spaniards we encountered are not happy campers.  I have my theories, but will leave those for another time.

It’s time to go.  It’s almost 10PM as I write this in my hotel room in the Moroccan town of Fes.  But Morocco is a whole ‘nother story, for another day.

Fred

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Touratech/Barcelona repaired our pannier locks for free.

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Street outside our hotel in the El Centro part of Vaencia

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Tapas bar/restaurant in Valencia

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Back on the road and we’re both looking forward

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Young grape vines in Spain’s smallest wine region, which is west of Valencia in the mountains

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What’s a trip without a tip-over?  I was trying to make a tight turn while going slow uphill and it didn’t quite work out.  Guy in the car down the street reluctantly came to our rescue and helped right NVII.

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Back to civilization and the famed “Alhambra,” which is reported to be the finest Moorish architecture still in existence. I was good with just this view, but KR wanted to actually see the inside. What’s the point in that?

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On the way toward the Alhambra, a modern city street:) Notice its angle. And yes, I was dragged up it by KR

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Wait , wait, its….. another old house! Wow, can we pretty please see some more

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Street scene in Granada

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I’m thinking she must be a relative as we’re both at the same level of excitement

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The Towering Tapa. Even the couple who ordered it  had to wonder at this architectural achievement

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OK, one last picture of beautiful Granada. Nice, but we spent one day too many there (two:)

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OK, NOW we’re talk’n traveling!  Just cruising along at an indicated 100mph:)

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Somewhere along N330 in the Spanish countryside

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Ohhh man, bring them on

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And on

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And on

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Communicating in the only language needed:  Motorcycle Speak!  We’re both feeling the same way about biking this day

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Karen kept poking me on the shoulder whenever she saw this sign.  Hey, braking is for wimps, real men pass.

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We finally arrive in Tarifa, a tiny little town on the very tip of Spain.   After conversing more narrow, uphill alley’s (without falling over), we arrive at the “Tarifia Room” hotel.  This was a great find, but but not because of the room..

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This is the view from the deck.  The Straight of Gibralter and the hills of Morocco.  You can see that the weather god has smiled on us finally as well.

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Super Highway in Tarifa, which by law makes all houses painted white.

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Morocco across the Straight.

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Tarifa is very very cute.  I like beach towns

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It’s also the wind surfing capital of Spain.  This beach is on the Atlantic coast

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Surfers make it look easy, but just getting in/out of the surf can be a challenge

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Just so no one thinks its all play and no work:))), my office in The Room.  Wrote first draft of my speech for Ethiopian leg

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This is how I’d like the Little Woman to think of her man:  A King among lions…

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Back to the beach scene again…

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I could get use to this.  Really.  With a little practice, I could get the hang of just hang’n and drink’n

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But no rest of the non-weary, we’re off on another ferry to Morocco.  I’m writing this post from a Moroccan Atlantic coast resort called Asilah.

Take care,

fred

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KR sprays protectorate on NVII’s destination stickers in preparation for another adventure.  We’re both really looking forward to adding more stickers to his panniers. The next day we put NVII on the ship to Southampton.

It seems like ages since KR and I were on a “serious” trip.  Mexico, DC, Dallas and the beach don’t really count.  That’s all changing as we’re flying to Europe for a month of riding NVII and then going to Ethiopia for two weeks on business.  Here’s the headlines of the “plan:”

  • Fly to London, take the bus to Southampton
  • Pick up NV II, ride to Portsmouth and catch the ferry to Santander, Spain
  • Ride east to through the Pyrenees, then to the Coast of Spain and Barcelona
  • Go south east along the Spanish coast
  • Catch a ferry from Gibraltar to Morocco.
  • Ride to Casablanca, make a u-turn and go back up the coast and catch the return ferry
  • Ride from Gibraltar to Madrid
  • Leave all of our stuff with Maureen in Madrid, pick up our (business) luggage
  • Fly to Addis Ababa (Ethiopia) for business
  • Take a 4 hour bus ride to Awassa and then back to Addis Ababa
  • Fly back to Madrid, drop our clothes off, pick up NVII and ride to Santander
  • Take the ferry back from Santander to Portsmouth
  • Drive NVII to Southampton, drop him off for shipping back to LA
  • Take a bus to Heathrow and catch the plane to Seattle and eventually LAX

Just your basic 42 day plane, bus, ferry m/c, ferry, m/c, plane, bus, plane, m/c, ferry, bus  and plane trip.

Of, course who knows what we’ll actually do as this itinerary is a lot like a battle plan- it won’t survive the first contact with the wifey:)

Our first planning session occurred the night before we left as we drove to meet friends for dinner.  Karen began reading from a used book she’d picked up that day, “Vagabonding”, by Rolf Potts.  Here’s the section that caught my attention:

…” Travel can be a kind of monasticism on the move:  On the road, we often live more simply, with no more possessions than we can carry, and surrendering ourselves to chance.  This is what Camus meant when he said that “what gives value to travel is fear–disruption, in other words (or emancipation), from circumstance, and all the habits behind which we hide” – Pico Iyer, “Why We Travel”

Pico, of course, never saw Karen’s suitcase, so we all know the bit about “with no possessions” doesn’t apply to us.  But the thought that travel is about fear and disruption rings true for me.  Fear and its companion, adventure, are the most important parts of travel for me.  Going over there and not knowing what’s over there is an adrenaline rush.

As I get older, taking fear-inspiring trips is harder and harder as my urge is to seek comfort and (relative) safety.  Hence, we’re taking a m/c trip to Spain, not through the Bolivian jungle.  Let’s face it, this trip is for wimps:)

On the other hand, going to Ethiopia has a lot of unknowns.  We’ve never been to Africa, let alone Ethiopia, so it is both intriguing and fearful:)  You might be wondering why we’re going to Ethiopia in the first place, and the answer is the U.S. State Department.

The State Dept. is sponsoring a 9 day speaking tour for me since someone in our Embassy in Addis Ababa (Ethiopia’s capital city) thinks I’m a “world cleantech expert.”  I’m not telling her differently so we’re going:)

What’s the connection between LACI and Ethiopia, you’re probably wondering?  Simple, LACI has been hired by the World Bank to help make their Climate Innovation Center in Addis Ababa work better.  And perhaps help Ethiopia and other Sub-Saharan Africa countries go green.

As I write this, I’m not sure what the series of “speaking events” will be nor what I will be talking  about, but we have 30 days to figure that out and a bunch of miles and plenty of vasos de vino to figure it out.

I’ll keep in touch.

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Talk about a strange land, try hanging in the back of Tony’s bar in the Arts District on a Friday night. No one over 30ish. This is what constitutes planning in the Walti household before taking off the next day:)

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This is just the electronics we were planning.  I counted the need for 11 charging cords…

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The little woman looking bright and bushy tailed.  This would be categorized as the “before” picture.

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NVII at the Port of Long Beach, before being taken for a boat ride.  We’ll see what he looks like after his trip in a few hours.

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With Squirt in Mexico City.  Squirt has a big surprise when we get back.  See below:))

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KR and I visiting soon to be Dog #4.  One of these little guys will join the Walti Crew when we get back.

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Thor’s feeling left behind.  Next time Big Guy.

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

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

Here are the basic facts & stats:

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

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

Net Take Aways:

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

Thanks for keeping in touch with us.

fred

 

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

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

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

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Canterbury Cathedral courtyard,

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

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

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

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

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

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French country side.

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

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

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

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

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

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Boardwalk

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

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

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Entretat street

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Life size Pirate served as a merchandising display.

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

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The British have a slightly different approach to merchandising.

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

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

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The end KR:  “I want an RV!”

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

 

 

 

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The Isle of Man is all about being up close and personal with motorcycle racing.  On the lawn of a pub in the little town of Kirk Michael, we watch a racer flash by just a few feet away at over 100mph.  The Isle of Man TT (IOMTT) is a race over 37 miles of country roads around this island in the Irish Sea.  The lap records stands at 131mph and change.  That’s an average speed, as the racers on the big bikes are reaching 190+mph this year.

 

On the surface, the Monaco GP and the Isle of Man TT races have much in common;  both races are held on public roads, both are nearly 100 years old, both are the crown jewels of their respective worlds, and both are as much experiences as they are sporting events.  That folks, is where the similarities end.

The Isle of Man Tourist Trophy is at the other end of the motorsports world from Monaco.  No yachts, no Ferrari’s,  no playground for the One Percenters, no high style patrons, no $100 million factory race budgets, and no champagne for breakfast.

For a week each year, tens of thousands of bike enthusiasts cram on the ferry and cross the Irish Sea to the Island of Man, a tiny island that is a separate country within the UK.  Surprisingly, the IOM is being gentrified (is there no stone left unturned?) as its a tax haven whose major industry is banking.  But, there’s still a way to go as most of the island looks to be dedicated to sheep herds, which is logical given how many wool sweaters one needs even in June to come close to being warm.

The IOM is filled stonewall to stonewall with bikes, bikers, bike paraphernalia, bike clothing shops, biker pubs and bike museums.  In other words, this is Mecca for bikers and I’m immediately comfortable.

Imagine you’re a baseball fan and you’re in a city in which baseball fans– many in uniforms — are on every street, in every restaurant, and in every bar.  Moreover, every room you walk, whether it be a bar or a bakery shop, has at least one picture of a favorite player, both contemporary and those hero’s of another era.  Now switch out bike racers and their biker fans and you have a picture of what the IOM is like.

There is nothing in the world that compares to sitting on a picnic table on the front lawn of the Mitre Pub, having a beer, and watching, listening, and feeling the racers scream by just feet away.  We’re staying at a private home in Kirk Michael, a country village about half way round the 37 mile course, and its a perfect place to capture the feel of the TT.

The race itself is legendary for many reasons, most of which revolve the fact that its races are held over 37 miles of narrow country roads.  People get killed here every year.  Most often its a racer, but its also fans who are let out on the racing circuit every day (how else are the locals to get to/from work?) and play racer to disastrous results.

This is not a race for young men.  In fact, all the leading contenders would be old men in other sports.  Usually in their mid-30s or early 40s, the leaders have won many races each with one leading contender having 21 victories over the years.   Age is key because it takes a lot of experience to know where the road goes, where each turn goes, how fast you can take it — and more importantly how fast you can’t take it. The roads are most often lined with stone walls or hedges, meaning most corners are blind from the racer’s POV (you can’t see where the corner is going) and the consequences of a mistake can literally be deadly.

The big winner of this year’s event, Ian Hutchinson, is a hero because he spent five years recovering from a leg injury in which he almost lost his leg.  He then came back to win three races this year, averaging over 130mph in each.  He’s obviously grown some huge appendages while recovering:) This week’s favorite Michael Dunlop has had his father and uncle both killed on the Island.  His brother crashed on the first day and is out for the rest of the week.  Michael crashed as well, but he’s limping along.  He needs help to get on his bike, though.

The IOM TT is a race for real, crazy-brave men.

Here’s what the week looked like.

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The trip to the IOM starts at 2 in the morning as hundreds of bikes line up to get on the ferry. The ferry company announced it set a new record this year carrying about 20K bikes across the sea.

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The routine for the 3 hour ferry ride is cram into the ship’s bar, drink as many beers as you can handle, then pass out sitting up.

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A tiny castle in the middle of the harbor greets visitors to the IOM

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Douglas is the IOM’s capital and biggest city.  Its cute and well kept, like everything on the isle.

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We stayed in a room of a family in Kirk Michael, a little village out in the country.   They were very gracious and helpful, giving us useful tips on how to get around when the TT course is closed.

We spent a day watching the races from the front lawn of the Mitre Pub in Kirk Michael. Since the roads close for hours at a time trapping one in the same spot, being close to booze, food and bathrooms was a good strategic move. Plus it was great fun.

We spent a day watching the races from the front lawn of the Mitre Pub in Kirk Michael. Since the roads close for hours at a time trapping one in the same spot, being close to booze, food and bathrooms was a good strategic move. Plus it was great fun.

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Everyone on the island is into the TT races, especially if the track is in front of your house.

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Viewing areas varied, this one on a picnic table.  Nippy and

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occasionally rainy would describe the weather pretty well.

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Down the road from Kirk Michael we watched the races from a sheep pasture in which the farmer had erected a grand stand.  Here a motorcycle side car racer tears by at well over 100mph.  Spectators sit on the hedge just feet away from the action.

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Action is not constant.  Long delays to clear up accidents, etc. leave room for catching a few zz’s.

Notice the gloves.  Even bright sun was nippy when there was a wind, which is most of the time.

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Walking back to the house on the old train tracks we encounter this church and grave site, which is easily the neatest graveyard we’ve ever seen.

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Sheep and lots of them

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The house we’re staying in is over that bluff behind KR

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Castle in Peel, Isle of Man.  KR is in the foreground looking for “interesting” rock, which she claimed there were thousands of:)

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IOM’s idea of a super store

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Races, what race?

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The IOM TT week is a Buddy Holiday, as this crew shows sitting on a bench having lunch.

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The Groom at a wedding we happened by

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Which was held in this pub in downtown Douglas.  Pubs are flexible facilities, obviously.

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Karen went up to these two fellows,  KR: ” You’re the only guys I’ve seen in a suit on the entire Isle of Man.”  Guys:  “We’ve just come from a funeral:)”

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We took a day to ride around the island on the back roads, which proved many a visitor’s point that the IOM is worth seeing without the TT races.

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A golden blurr..

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The island is very mountainous, most of which are filled with farms of one kind or another.

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Stone walls line the TT course

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Wisdom on display at the Isle of Man as well.

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Street scene in Paris, which we spent a whole day and two nights in.   Even in this nano-second time frame, Paris is a great city full of interesting people, buildings, traffic, vehicles and restaurants.

When we last wrote, we had just arrived in Strasbourg, France from the Alps and were unsure of our next route.   Long story short, we decided to hang a sharp left and go to Paris for a couple of nights.  We then drove almost straight north to the French coast, which we bounced along for a while before going through the Chunnel (“The European Tunnel” is its official name), then went east to Sandwich, Kent England for a night and we’re now in Burford, Oxfordshire in the West of England.   We have to meet the ferry to the Isle of Man in two days time.

It’s hard to narrow down what to tell you about as every city we’ve visited has had its own special appeal.  It’s also difficult as old churches and buildings are my equivalent to Karen’s “you’ve seen one Swiss chalet and you’ve seen them all.”  How much charming old stuff can one look at?  Apparently a lot, for KR.

We have been lucky on almost every front.  Only two days of rain while riding during a time that much of France and the UK have had rain.  We’ve had no bike problems, which is like unbelievable given our history.  We’ve met some very nice people who’ve given us good advice along the way.  For the most part, the places we’ve stayed have been above par given our habit of not looking for a hotel until about five o’clock the day we need it.  We’ve had some missteps, but have worked our way around them with little hassle.

Our biggest nightmare was trying to enter Paris at 5PM in what turned out to be horrific traffic.  A traffic accident while on a Parisian freeway ground all lanes to a halt for 4-5 miles.  We followed four Police trucks as they cleared a path, which was immediately taken up by a full array of scooters and motor bikes of all sizes.  At one point I just chickened out trying to split  and hop lanes like every other two wheeled vehicle was doing.  Miraculously I didn’t scape a car, fall down, get punted by a car or truck, and after three tries, found our hotel.  Well, more accurately, we tried three different hotels before finding “the” winner,  the Petite Madeline, which is very aptly names.

Riding through through the countrysides and cities of France and England, we both notice the difference yet its hard to describe what it is beyond the obvious — driving on the left side of the road is a pretty good wake-up call that something is different:)  France has lots of farms/vineyards while England has fields that seem to be used for animals. The style of the buildings are different as well, but an “English Cottage” and “French Village” don’t seem that far off, especially in the north of France.

The English are certainly more talkative than the French, at least to Americans.  Ask a French shopkeeper whether he or she has an item, and if not, where might one find it and you get a “no.”  Ask an English shopkeeper and you get an apology for not caring it and three or four suggestions.  Not sure if the response is due to us — Americans– or their different natures.

So far, we’ve driven about 2300 miles through France, Italy, Switzerland, Lichtenstein, Germany and England.  Here’s what the last few days looked like in pictures.

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Strasbourg has what else…an ancient church.  This one was built over a three hundred year period by Lutherans

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Details were exquisite

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We found the other side of Strasbourg, of course.  We walked into the “American Bar” located in a Muslim neighborhood only to be greeted by Algerians

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Security reminded us of home… Mexico:)

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Paris might be the City of Lights, but its also the City of Scooters and Motorcycles too.  Two-or three – wheel transportation are the primary modes of transportation for citizens of all types

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Most popular motorcycle was actually a three-wheeled scooter, offering increased stability with all the advantages of a scooter

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You can see everything in Paris…

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We had dinner with friends Chuck (on the left) and Lois (on the right) in a restaurant in their neighborhood.  I know its not a great picture, but I like the atmospherics

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Even Paris has tent cities, this one down the street from the President of France’s home.  Here I’m locking NVII up for the night

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Breakfast set in our Parisian hotel compared to

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Breakfast set up in our Sandwich inn:)

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Northern France at speed

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Driving onto the European Tunnel car train.

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Like a long moving car park.  Cost was about $115 Euros.  Took about 35 minutes to go from one end to the other

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We’re obviously in England, now:)

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This is the first pub we stayed above, which perhaps not surprisingly, was one of my favorite stays.  Located in Sandwich, its big claim to fame is one of its sandwiches was named the best sandwich in Sandwich:)  Beer wasn’t too bad either.

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Sandwich

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Stylish biker refreshed after a late morning start in Sandwich

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History is everywhere on the Continent and UK

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Burford, Oxfordshire.  Cute, ohh-so-cute

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Calm waters and soul.  We chill in Burford for two nights

Tomorrow we start the final leg to the Isle of Mann.  We need to catch a 2AM ferry from Hesham on the 7th.

More as it happens.

 

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Rossberg on the left, Hamilton on the right.

 

Sometimes luck trumps talent with heartbreaking results. Nico Rossberg, the Lucky One, drank champagne Sunday night after winning the Monte Carlo Gran Prix. Lewis Hamilton, the supremely talented F1 driver whom the CEO of F1 called “our only true rock star,” was probably chugging straight shots after losing the Gran Prix because his team blundered, thus handing the victory to Rossberg.  Hamilton and Rossberg are fierce rivals… and team mates. There was little celebration in their team’s garage as the mighty Mercedes Benz team snatched defeat out of the jaws of victory for one of their drivers, and did the reverse for his team mate. I am a Rossberg fan, but Hamilton’s stolen victory broke my heart.

To understand what was lost, you have to understand what was on the line.‎ There are three crown jewels in auto racing: Monaco, Le Mans, and Indianapolis.  It can be argued that Monaco is the most important as F1 is the premier global series. No matter, to GP drivers its THE race to win. The very very rich, beautiful, and stylish gather in this tiny country (you can walk from one border to the next) to watch the fastest cars and the best drivers careen off its curbs of this street circuit.  There are no income taxes in Monaco, so it attracts the very rich.  It’s not by coincidence that both Rossberg and Hamilton live in Monaco and consider it their home race.  We saw no apartments for sale for less than a couple of million Euros.

Besides its prestige and glamor, Monaco is a driver’s circuit.  Monaco is a street circuit in the true sense of the word.  Even though its the shortest circuit on the schedule at two miles, drivers hold their breath through much of its narrow, blind, up and down hill twisting streets (used by mere citizens 361 days a year).  Even so, drivers average 120 miles per hour over its two miles.  Win Monaco and you go into the history books with Fangio, Moss, Clark, Hill and Schumacher.  This win is Rossberg’s third victory in a row (the other two were a triumph of talent rather than luck) and Hamilton has one to his credit.  He will have to wait for next year to get his second.

My feelings of sympathy for Hamilton didn’t last long.  He just signed a three year contract for $45M a year.  He won the world championship from Rossberg last year and he will do it again this year, just without a win in the Monaco GP column.

Karen and I spent three days at this vortex of rich, famous, stylish, fast, outlandish, and over-the-top people.  It was great, but assuredly from another world.  Only on this weekend are the ninety-nine percent allowed to mix with the one-percenters in their home turf.  And their home turf is full of equal parts incredibly beautiful homes and restaurants right next to the “what were they thinking?” over the top, butt-ugly-but-covered-in-gold palaces.  All of this is in a country three-quarters of a square mile in size crammed onto a mountain side.  The effect is stunning.

Here’s what the weekend looked like in pictures.

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We stayed in Nice, one town south on the French Riviera and an order of magnitude cheaper. Even the train ride between Nice and Monaco was interesting.  We ran into this group from LA that had just spent the week at the Cannes Film Festival and were going to check out the GP.

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Ferrari, Rolls, Mercedes in front of a hotel in Monaco.  A weekend stay costs around $12,000.

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Only service shop in downtown Monaco.  That car peeking out is a very rare Ferrari F40.  There were two in this garage.

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On the walk from the train station in Monaco down to the race circuit in Monte Carlo we catch a peek of the harbor.

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Looking to the right, we have shoulder to shoulder apartments

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Perhaps you’re interested in some casual footwear?

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Or a little something from the sea for a light lunch?

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Moored to one of the docks next to the race track, the serious money is showcased.

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Monaco street scene during race weekend.

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Even yesterday’s hero’s must make room for the event.  A statue of the greatest racing driver of all time, Juan Fangio standing next to his Mercedes in the ’50’s, is surroundd by the grand stands

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A stylish lady struts the streets of Monaco.

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There is a whole other side of the GP weekend which is spelled P_A_R_T_Y…

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Dancing on a table top at a bar set up on the race track the day before the race.  Monaco is not for the shy or meek.

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The most unique bar maid of the trip (so far)

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A parade signals the race is about to start.

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Hamilton leads Rossberg around the Casino Square corner

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It was loud and everybody was wearing ear muffs:)

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Harbor side view aboard their yachts, enjoyed by the rich and their friends.

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Surprisingly, we weren’t invited over to the yachts and had to settle for seats in the grand stands across the track:)   None the less, these seats costs as much as Super Bowl tickets:)

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Ferrari wanted me to help with their pit stops, but weren’t happy that I was wearing a rival team’s jacket.   They were recruiting young female talent as well.

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Sitting on the podium, Hamilton tries to figure out what happened.

We are now off to the Alps, although we don’t know where and how.  Asked if she wanted to stay another night on the French Riviera, Karen replied, “I’m ready to move on.”  And so we will.

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Bar scene in Brugge, Belgium.  Fellow on the right is a member of the Belgium “North Shore” chapter of the Hells Angels.  Guy on the left is a convicted cocaine smuggler on his last night out before reporting to prison the next morning.  Both nice enough guys. Joerg – the Hells Angel — both loves America and is pissed that he can’t get in because of past mistakes.  Seems the US thinks he’s a terrorist.  Gary, the smuggler, swears on a stack of bibles that he didn’t do this job , that he’s taking the hit for his best friend.  All of this takes place in the most charming town we’ve ever been to.  This is the last place on earth I’d expect to meet a Hells Angel.    You cant’ make this stuff up.

We’ve never had a smoother re-entry into motorcycling than this trip;  picked up the bike on the docks of Zeebrugge, Belgium with zippo hassles,  loaded him up in 45 minutes, and were hauling south before we could say “that was easy.”  Fifteen minutes into Day 1’s ride Karen says, “I don”t have my normal first-day-riding nerves.”

This could be good.

In fact, the first week has been smooth as silk and as beautiful.   First stop after 18 hours of plane/train/cab rides was Brugge, Belgium, often called the Venice of northern Europe.  They weren’t lying as every street is drop dead gorgeous and dripping with charm.  Put Brugge on your list, its worth it.

Our route is basically pretty much directly south through Belgium, keeping east of Paris in northern France and riding through the French countryside, which was a brilliant shade of green.  We stay at Reims, Dijon, and Avignon along the way.  All of the riding is on major highways as we need to haul to Nice by the 21st,  about 820 miles south of Zeebrugge.  We have skirted the rain covering the rest of France, but its still three-layer cold.

NVII has run like a champ.   No ill effects from sitting in various docks and ships for almost two months as he starts to get into stride at 80+mph (which is below the speed limit on the A5:).  I think it may be a good sign that many of my tools packed in NVII were stolen somewhere between LA and Zeebrugge.  Could this be the first ever no-problem-with-the-bike trip?  So far, so good.

The biggest noticeable difference in riding this time is the availability of good GPS maps.  Unlike South America, the Garmin is really precise and confidence-boosting.  My route planning has consisted of entering the Nice hotel’s address in the GPS and hitting the “Go!” button:)  I’m beginning to use it for everything;  finding gas stations, hotels, and restaurants are all a search away.  Very cool and very easy.

None of this means we were trouble free.  Basically, three days preparation for a 30 day motorcycle trip yields missteps.  I forgot the half-dozen really expensive maps at home, which were right next to the battery and charger for the new camera left behind.  We brought way too much stuff, which we had to leave behind in Zeebrugge.  And the aforementioned theft not only got my tools, but some goggles and other good stuff on the bike during transit.

Here’s a short list of our impressions so far:

  • Brugge — there couldn’t be a more charming place on earth
  • Reims — well, this is pretty damn nice as well
  • Dijon — OK, this has to be the cutest town
  • Avignon —  Wins hands down for tiny tiny winding streets with great, huge churches and sunny plazas

Maybe there’s a reason the French are a touch arrogant?  It’s just prettier here:))

 

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Four days before we’re set to leave, KR and I spread the maps on the floor and contemplate the always present question:  “Where?”  I then promptly left those maps behind:)

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In the Brussels airport, the Little Woman can’t wait to get going…

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to Brugge, which is called the “Venice of Northern Europe.”  It’s hard to argue.

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KR chased various horse-drawn carriages looking for the perfect picture

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Not a beer drinker normally, I try to do what the locals do; drink Belgium beer. I’m always eager to fit it.

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“Just” a plaza in Brugge, one of many many equally cute plazas.

Brugge is known for chocolate and lace.  This Chocolaterie combines both.  Picture taken by Karen

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KR insisted on going into a quaint looking bar only to find it full of Hells Angels and their friends.  We met the Angels the same night we were hearing about the biker shoot out in Waco…

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Even in Belgium, Hells Angels like Harley’s.

 

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The reason for being in Belgium is to pick up Now Voyager II from the docks of Zeebrugge.  “Certified” pilot delivers NVII outside Customs.

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First stop on the first day of riding.

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Karen’s first suggestion for a hotel in Reims.  Not surprisingly, they didn’t have any rooms for the likes of us.

Reims

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The biggest church in Reims is their version of Notre Dame. Pretty impressive

Just another biker tourist on the street of Reims

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Karen’s always looking for new art for Corona Adobe:)

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The patio bar of another hotel we didn’t stay in

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The French take their Champagne seriously.

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Dijon

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KR contemplates the next photo on a street in Dijon

Artist at work

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Dijon plaza

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Screen shot of a Skype session with Sam H.  Using Google Earth, he’s showing us where we are in the old section of Avignon.  We’re somehow close to the yellow pin.  Not sure how we got there and, more importantly, not sure how we’re going to get out.

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The Garmin led us to a hotel in this maze of tiny streets, only to be told there was no room at the inn. This photo doesn’t really capture how narrow the streets are.

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What the view looks like from the saddle of NVII.

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Our hotel, the La Mirande next to a gigantic Catholic church.

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This is a shot of just part of the church in Avignon.

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A typical street scene at a plaza next to some Roman ruins from the first century.

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KR quickly snuggled into the hugely-expensive La Mirande.

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Meanwhile, NVII is relegated to the basement “garage” awaiting his next jaunt.

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Another morning, another chance to ride. KR says after five days, “I’m tired of always unpacking and packing each night. I want to stay in one place!” Voila – prayers answered as we’re going to NIce for four whole days:)

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We take this super highway out of Avignon:)

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Three short hours later, we arrive at the Hotel Boreal (the pink building). Tomorrow we’ll take a scouting trip to Monaco to see where our seats are:)

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Skyline in Abu Dhabi is typical of the United Arab Emirates region.  Low key isn’t an adjective used often as design direction.    The largest source of pride in Abu Dhabi — and rightly so — is that EVERYTHING has been built out of the desert in just the last 40 years.  Among other things, that feat takes money and lots of it.  Even so, there is a exuberance to economic and real estate development that is almost palpable.

 

This year began where last year left off; lots of work and lots of travel.  Berlin, Abu Dahbi and Dubai weren’t enough to scratch KR’s itch to travel, so she went to Copper Canyon and Cuba without yours truly.   Eleven trips, 12 weeks, and 14 cities kind of says it all.  I’m on the hunt for new business.  And, if truth be told, new experiences.

In the Book of New Experiences, there are few newer experiences than going to the United Arab Emirates for the first time.  If I were a good travel writer, I would think up words to describe this place.  Honestly, words escape me;  I just don’t know how to describe the Other Side of the World adequately.  Think the Cantina scene in Star Wars to get an impression.  I don’t mean this in a negative way, but things are just so totally different that its hard to draw a comparison.

It’s pretty apparent there are basically two types of people:  residents and citizens.  Residents are there to work on everything from research institutes to driving taxis.   Typical stay for a knowledge worker is about three years.  The planes and airports are 90% full of residents from all over the world.   Because of the UAE’s location, there are as many people from Asia as Europe.  Dubai has just become the world’s busiest airport.

Citizens are a different thing altogether.  They dress differently, practice a different religion, and generally live a dual existence trying to integrate Western ways in the Arab culture.  Pretty interesting.  As with most places we’ve traveled, most people are friendly and happy to help.

People that live in the UAE (and I suppose Saudi Arabia) live in a protective cocoon.  There is no sense of the trouble just hundreds of miles away in Syria, or Yemen, or Iraq or..  Pretty amazing really.  I don’t know how they do it, but one feels 100% safe.

Our stay in Abu Dhabi and Dubai was just a couple of days, so we weren’t able to sample much of the place beyond my meetings and our hotels.  Yet we were able to… see the most outrageous hotel in Abu Dhabi (The Palace Hotel, which also serves as a palace); drive 100 miles through the desert between Abu Dhabi and Dubai, stopping at a roadside McDonalds; go to the old part of Dubai and wander the markets (called Souks) in which we bought a camel; and get a glimpse of how the super rich and hipsters live in their Lambos and rooftop bars.

And the possibilities of doing some business with the Emirates seem reasonable. Lots of opportunity, we just have to figure out how to take advantage of it.  I’ve been invited to speak at a conference in Dubai in April, so I’ll be going back and we’ll see.

The whole purpose of this trip was to go to Berlin, not Abu Dhabi or Dubai.  We put on an “Expert Work Shop” for 35 GIN members from all of the world.  For two days we worked on best practices and learned about how folks from Shanghai or Tokyo or Italy or Germany or Finland did things.  Pretty damn interesting.

A not so pleasant experience happened at 4 or 5 in the morning, strapped into my seat, sleeping. Everything is quiet.  I’m in a very long, dark, quiet tube of an airplane  We’re flying from Abu Dhabi to London and we’re over the Mediterranean.  I don’t know where the f___ we are.  Never been here before. Then the plane starts bucking. Very significantly.  The captain comes on in a clipped manner;  “Buckle down!”  Didn’t he mean buckle up?  And here’s what I’m thinking:  this must be exactly what the passengers in the Air France plane from Brazil or the Malaysian Air passengers felt right before it went down.  Dark. Quiet. Somewhere over an unfamiliar ocean.  We stop bucking and I go back to sleep.  But I’ll never forget this feeling and mental image.

As I write this, Karen is in Cuba.  I guess the Little Woman couldn’t wait for Her Man, so she and a girl friend flew from Mexico to Cuba.  I’m awaiting her report, but this is what she wrote in an email:

From a day trip out of town. tobacco farm, cave, countryside. Pretty good.  Free day tomorrow. Looking forward to spending the day in Old Havana!! Had a taste of it yesterday and I can’t wait to go back. No pictures because I used my camera. Will use iPad tomorrow.

This hotel was built in 1930. 19 people were killed in the lobby in the 40’s by Battista’s men during a coup attempt. In the 50s, Lucky Luciano and Meyer Lansky hosted the biggest ever gathering of Mafia men under the guise of a Frank Sinatra concert in the hotel.The Mafia was responsible for bringing gambling and prostitution to Cuba. If the walls could talk.

I can’t get enough of the cars. I’d say 70% are from the 40s and 50s. Some are tied together with rope and  are running with Russian, etc. auto and tractor parts.  Mechanics are looking forward to US trade so they can get our parts. Or enough of the architecture-magnificent old mansions built by the sugar barons and taken over by Castro and turned into government/social service office- all in disrepair and sad looking.  But there are many preservation efforts. Raul has loosened many restrictions and seems interested in change.

Will send photos tomorrow. We are leaving Wednesday am to stay at a famous beach resort. Yuk. I’ve opted for a day trip (6hours on a bus) to visit one of the best preserved colonial cities.

That’s all for now.  Here’s what it looked like in pictures.

 

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It always begins here, at the Admirals Club at LAX.

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Business travel isn’t all work and no play. Here the LACI “GIN” team has dinner in Berlin.  MIke Swords, VP Partnerships on the left, and Marlayna Demco, the-person-we-will-all-be-working-for on the right.

 

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The Berlin GIN “Expert Work Shop” — 30+ people from Germany, Shanghai, Italy, Finland, UK, Beijing, Tokyo, and Hong Kong share notes and solve problems together.

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Nippy would be one way of describing Berlin in March.  KR in front of the Brandenburg Gate

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No trip anywhere would be complete without visiting a street art fair.  No, KR didn’t buy all the stuff in those bags.  But I bought another 1930’s era globe that we then had to take to the UAE..

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Germans like their potatoes, a lot.  This potato was all dressed up.  Appropriately so as it was one of the best tasting potatoes ever.

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My vote for the weirdest airport in the world, the current Abu Dhabi airport.  Now this was Star Wars stuff.  Abu Dhabian’s are pretty upset about it too, so they’re building what looks to me to be city-sized new airport.  One has to keep up with the neighbors you know, especially if your neighbors are those folks in the Arab world’s Las Vegas, Dubai.

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Arabian penitentiary?  No, this is Masdar City in Abu Dhabi.  Masdar City is a “Zero Carbon” mini-city built to test sustainable technologies.

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I had to take this shot quickly to capture some people.  Not a lot of people here.  I came to Masdar to talk with the folks at the Masdar Institute, their hope-to-be MIT graduate school.

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Awaiting a taxi with one other person.

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One of the most opulent hotels I’ve ever been in (note, I didn’t say stayed in).  The Palace Hotel is also a palace.

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Pictures of His Highness Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nnahyan, the President of the UAE until his death iin 2004, are everywhere.  Here, KR takes his hand in the lobby of the Palace Hotel which

 

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looked like this.  This is just ONE lobby of a dozen or so

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Most unique ATM in the world:)  Probably pretty handy for visiting despots who need to get a hold on some of that Swiss stash

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Slightly more modest hotel , the Radison in Abu Dahbi.  Overlooks the Marina’s grey haze, which the locals say is the result of the dust storms this time of year.

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So close, but so far away.  The Formula 1 circuit in the Yas Marina, Abu Dhabi.  At least I got to drive by it.

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We took a taxi between Abu Dhabi and Dubai, which is about 100 miles.  The drive is the equivalent, scenery-wise , between Barstow and Vegas, without the good stuff.  Drive stopped for gas and KR got us lunch at the McDonalds:)

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View from our hotel in Dubai, which we didn’t really get to see.  We were in town for slightly more than 24 hours and never really got close to downtown.  But, this building is representative.  Lots of very very tall buildings in grey skies.

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Our hotel was on  the Dubai Creek (more on that in second).  Weather was absolutely beautiful, really welcomed given we were in Berlin for a week and froze.  This is a restaurant at the hotel.

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KR wanted to go to the “old Dubai”, so we did.  I didn’t even know there was an old part of Dubai.  This is outside a really neat museum of Bedouin life.  Anything old puts a smile on KR’s face

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Acting like a Sheik, I bought Karen a camel to take home…

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Gentrified street in Old Dubai

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This is the reason there’s an Old Dubai — Dubai Creek.  Unlike Abu Dhabi, Dubai has been around since the late 1800’s as a village on this pretty big creek.  This is a dinner cruise boat that we decided “next time”.

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Old Dubai is primarily made up of a bunch of “Souks”, their word for markets. There’s the Gold Souk, the Fabric Souk, etc. Wish we could have spent more time exploring here.

 

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Half a world away and KR is in Cuba while I write this.  Haven’t actually spoke to her, but pictures sometime tell the story.

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Cuban cars — I think these are taxis

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The primary reason that KR couldn’t wait to get to Cuba was to see the old Colonial buildings before they were torn down by the Modernization that is sure to come with normalized relations.

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Another type of taxi

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Pictures of Che are everywhere

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A pickup truck ran into the left front of the Bullet.  Not good.  Almost 30 days later and I’m still waiting for my trusty stead to get back

 

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Even looking at this picture makes me smile. About a week ago I took NV II to the Long Beach Port so he can be shipped to Belgium. KR and I are riding him for a month through Europe this summer. Wow wow wow!

 

 

 

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.

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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!

 

 

 

 

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..”