Assorted trip reports from assorted places

The Corner of Calle Corona & Miramar

Aren’t you afraid to live in Mexico?  Is it safe? What’s it like to live there?  Do you speak Spanish?”   One gets a bit tired of answering the same questions after telling someone that we live in Mexico, but everyone seems curious about life here.  Here’s the short answer: No, Yes, Very Good, and No.  A more descriptive answer requires getting a sense of what day-to-day life is like.  How do I do that?

Hmm.

Watching YouTube videos only gets you the tourist-eye view.  For us, day-to-day life in the El Cerro neighborhood of Puerto Vallarta takes place within steps of the intersection of Calle Corona and Miramar.   It’s just one corner in one neighborhood, so it can’t possibly be representative of life in Mexico.  Or can it?

I guess we need to start with the basics – where and what is Puerto Vallarta? Puerto Vallarta lies on a half-moon shaped bay just beneath the Sierra Madre mountains, in the center of the Bay of Banderas on the Pacific shore of Mexico.  Once a mining town, then a fishing village, and now a major tourist destination, Vallarta attracts Canadian snow birds, gringos, Europeans, inland Mexicans seeking an ocean vacation, cartel members, billionaires in huge yachts, and on-the-run Americans.

Like many Mexican towns, Vallarta is bright and cheery on the outside, but dimly lit below the surface.  It’s essentially lawless on the important stuff. Oh sure, petty crimes are pursued vigorously, taxes are collected, late night parties are sometimes quieted, and speeding tickets are given to many. Yet, for some, laws don’t govern what happens. Condos go up past the height limit with no fuss, people “disappear” with no trace or mention, mayors and governors own monopolies without restrictions (think taxis), and gangsters kill each other in broad daylight with no worry of being caught, let alone punished.  The best way to stay on the bright and cheery side is to make sure you don’t walk on the wild side.

The El Cerro neighborhood of Vallarta clings to the hills above El Centro.  Made up of tiny streets, walkways, alleys, a funicular or two, and an endless number of stairs, it’s the oldest barrio in Vallarta.  Most of the houses – everything from shacks to multimillion dollar villas — are open to the city’s prying eyes.  It’s too hot in Vallarta to live inside, so most of us live in indoor/outdoor houses so close together that one can knows what programs Grandma across the street is watching.

We live in the older, less prosperous section of El Cerro.  Entire generations of Mexican families live in the same adobe house that their ancestors have occupied since the early 1900s.  We know our neighbors and they know us, even though we speak little to no Spanish and they speak little to no English.  We live totally different lives, yet, somehow, we figure things out and take care of one another.

Sprinkled throughout the hood are a few expats like us full-timing it.  While most seem to be retired, there’s a bunch of us working from home. Most expats are not the well-off retirees of Gringo Gulch or Conches Chinas (the equivalent of PV’s Beverly Hills or Brentwood), but rather working class folks who’ve found their place in the sun and a way to make living here sustainable.  Others look to be escaping from something, someone, or some life, keeping a very low profile.  Airbnb has turned this residential neighborhood into an off-the-beaten path vacation destination like almost everywhere else. This gives us a supply of fresh faces walking down the street to check out.

El Cerro contrasts sharply with the neighborhoods either to the north or south.  South across the Rio Quale river is the Romantic Zone, Vallarta’s main tourist playground.  Known as one of the best gay cities in the world, its usually party time any time on its beach, restaurants, bars, and cabarets.  It’s good for a night out as Vallarta has some of the best restaurants we’ve ever been to.

Immediately north of us is 5th of December, named for Mexico’s revolution.  Mostly working class Mexicans sprinkled with working class gringos, it’s the place for hardware, appliances, auto parts, two funeral parlors, and the city’s best street food.

The corner of Calle Corona and Miramar, with its uneven cobblestones below and gordian knot of wires overhead, is the heartbeat of our part of El Cerro.  Accessible from the north only by a street so perilously steep that most neighborhood residents avoid driving up it.   To the south, Miramar’s uneven cobblestones undulate for five or so blocks (is anything level in Mexico?) between its mishmash of houses, apartments, villas, a five-star hotel and our bodega. Despite its narrowness and potholes that require a snail’s pace to not break a wheel, it’s one of the busiest streets in all El Centro as it’s one of only two southbound streets through downtown.

Calle Corona, also a main artery of this hillside enclave, runs uphill from the ocean in the West to the top of the peaks behind our house.  Like most of the streets and alleyways in El Cerro, it converts from street to stairs without much of a warning.  Streets here are so narrow that any wrong turn usually requires backing down as there is no room to turnaround.

All manner of vehicles pass below our living room windows overlooking this corner.  Cars, pickups, SUVs, motorcycles, trash trucks, gas trucks, taxis, police vehicles, ATVs and cement trucks rattle, bark, growl, and squeak by us at all hours of the day and night.  Since our second floor overhangs Corona a bit, neighbors often help larger trucks navigate so they don’t’ take another chunk of the house or one of four telephone poles on the corner.  Our neighborhood is tight.

I’m not sure why, but most buildings in El Cerro are painted white, usually with some color or tile work as trim.  I used to hate it as it seemed so bland, but now I’ve come to like it as all the buildings and streets glow from the ever present sun.  You can’t help but be in a better mood when everything sparkles.  Upon closer inspection, while most houses are white, they are very different because of trim colors, window shapes, tile work, wrought iron railings, etc.   Construction and size also differentiate.  Small brick and adobe houses still squeeze in between newer, larger structures.  A few are continuously “improved” as fast as money allows with new floors, walls and windows slowly popping up.

Our house, “Corona Adobe,” is one of the outliers in the neighborhood.  It’s hard to miss as it sits on the corner, is one of the bigger single family units, and is painted a pale yellow with patches of old abode brick still exposed. Its either a sore thumb or a gem depending on your taste.  It started out as a low, one story adobe home and stable built around 1900.  It became the seventh house on the electrical grid shortly thereafter and pictures of it in the 60s show little change. Around 2000 it was modernized on the inside, retaining its adobe hut look on the outside.

We tripled its size in 2012 adding two floors, a pool and observation deck.  At first, our neighbors viewed us as sinners for demolishing a large part of the original house.  Over time it began to blend in with the neighborhood as did we.  Now, it’s a regular stop on tourist walks through the neighborhood.

Our neighbors immediately to the west are Carmen and Eduardo and their extended family.  By extended, I mean Carmen/Eduardo, their two daughters, their six kids, their grandmother, two tea-cup Chihuahuas and frequent visits from other members of the family.  Their house is two stories not much wider than a one-car garage, crunched in between our house and the behemoth condo next door.  Tight, very tight.

All social activity in the barrio takes place on the street, usually on the steps or sidewalk in front of each house.   It’s also where Eduardo fixes everything from refrigerators, TVs, BBQs, various pieces of furniture and anything that needs to be repaired on his maroon Subaru station wagon.  He has the fullest set of tools in the neighborhood.  The man can fix anything and is a constant source of amazing ingenuity.

Eduardo, Carmen, my wife Karen, and I have shared many tequilas on the stoop in front of their house at all hours of the night.  We speak almost no Spanish and they speak almost no English, but it doesn’t seem to matter, especially after a tequila or two.

Like almost every family we’ve met in Mexico, they’ve been touched by drugs.  Our neighbor’s son was a low level dealer who didn’t come home one night.  Ever. Another son struggles with addiction and no longer lives at home.  Whether it’s a brother, son, uncle, or sister, most everyone in Mexico knows someone who is/was in the drug business.  Gringos think of El Chapo and other horrific cartels when thinking of drug dealers.  That’s not what it looks like at ground level here in El Cerro.

At the next intersection up from our house, which is maybe 50 feet away, dozens of tied together sneakers are thrown over the telephone wires announcing to those in the know that this is a drug dealer’s corner.  Transactions are so subtle that I’ve only seen a couple in the ten years we’ve lived here.  While the transactions may be subtle, the dealers’ presence is not.  Three or four guys are always standing on the corner, either just standing there, or playing their boom boxes, or having one of their frequent parties, or just making noise.

Selling drugs is both subtle and obvious.  A motorcycle will pull up, someone steps off the curb, greets the rider, shakes hands, and then said motorcyclist drives off.  This happens day and night, with cars, pickups, taxis, and police vehicles taking their turn.  Perhaps not surprisingly, the father of one of the dealers is a policeman, hence there isn’t much worry about law enforcement.  This has been happening for ten years.

The Main Man periodically sits on the curb or walks about, sometimes coming down the street to the local look-out point, making sure his presence is known.  He’s not big, he’s pretty good looking, and wears an expressionless look on his face.  I get the vibe that when he gets serious, things get serious.  Now that we’ve known each other for a couple of years his face lights up in a smile and we exchange “Buenos Dias, Amigo” whenever I walk the dogs or drive by.  It’s taken a while, but it’s always good to be “friends” with the Main Man.

Last night I was standing on our 2nd floor balcony looking up and down the street at around 10PM. More than a dozen kids under the age of twelve were running about, with the girls playing with their doll house and the boys either kicking a soccer ball or laughing on the corner below our house.

Just around the corner Elvira was starting up her street cart offering late night tacos to go with cold Coronas.  Elvira’s brother died last week, so a nine-day wake was taking place next to her taco cart, in front of his house.  Literally, families live and die in their houses.   Friends and relatives were milling about for hours, as the sound of prayers and songs were escaping from the house

Music was coming from all directions.  The neighbor’s roosters were crowing in the distance even though it’s night.  We have perhaps a half-dozen or so roosters within shouting distance, who seem to have around-the-clock cock-a-doodle dooling schedules.  Our dealers were entertaining guests, with what looked like a party on the second floor of their place.  Lots of people laughing and moving to the music under the streetlights. The normal assortment of traffic was driving by listening to their radio turned up loud enough to sing along.  This kind of night happens two or three times a week.  Sometimes it ends early, say 11 o’clock or midnight, and sometimes it goes to 7 in the morning.  After a while, it just becomes a background hum.

Life inside the walls of Corona feels like a world apart.  We hear, smell, and see the outside, but it rarely affects our cocoon.

I spend most of my time in my “office” on the third floor.  Most days are spent on Zoom calls with LA, DC, Logan (Australia), West Bengal (India) and several of our 30 members in 14+ countries.   Outside the balcony door to my right is our pool and the hills of El Cerro.  Straight ahead is a window to the Hotel Zone a mile or so away.  There’s a couch in the office too, where the dogs and I take naps.  There are days when I don’t come out except for lunch and dinner.  It’s at once insular to what’s happening in the world and totally connected to the neighborhood.  Sounds and smells remind one where we are.

Little things we take for granted in the States are missing here.   There is no mail delivery.  The phone company and other utilities send messengers into neighborhoods to deliver their bills.  Everyone else calls or texts instead.  The only way to send something to/from the U.S. is FedEx or one of their competitors.

The propane truck comes regularly with a speaker announcing its availability.  Trash pickup happens a couple times a week, but this isn’t your U.S. style trash system.  There are several corners that have been designated as the neighborhood’s trash collection points.  I have no idea why these points were chosen.  There are no trash cans, so we all just drop our trash bags in said area. Then a larger than normal pickup truck comes by and three guys work the trash:  driver, recycling separator and on the trash gatherer.  Its messy, but it happens without a hitch several times a week.  Each corner is spotless after each stop.

Every morning I take Bogart and Squirt for a walk.  All three of us walk carefully on the cobblestones, as we all suffer from tender feet and a lack of coordination.   It’s slow going, much like Mexico.  It gives one the time to ponder, to enjoy, to take in all the sights, sounds and smells of life.  Here’s what I think about on these mornings; its very very good here.  We’re very lucky to be here, to have a style of life that moves and grooves as we do.

So, let’s revisit those four questions.

Aren’t you afraid to live in Mexico?  I never think about it.  We wouldn’t live here if we felt unsafe.

Is it safe?  Yes, just don’t walk on the Wild Side.

What’s it like to live there?   Strangely enough, it feels like family.

Do you speak Spanish?  ¿Puedo tomar otra cerveza Corona, por favor?

The real purpose of this trip was to see if KR and I could get on our m/c horse again after a couple of years away. Our unstated goal was to make it to Catavina, about 400 miles south of the border, to see the extraordinary cacti and rocks in the Baja mountains. We found this horse wandering in the desert though I didn’t try to ride him.  But we did get on our m/c horse again and found our groove.

My strategy for this trip was to recreate our first motorcycle trip to Mexico thirty years ago.  Back then, Karen had never been on a motorcycle, so we didn’t take any freeways south to avoid going over 50mph.  It’s been a while since we were both on the bike so I wanted to ease us into it.  Karen had been giving me the “I don’t really want to go, but I’m not letting you go by yourself” vibes for the prior two weeks.   She didn’t start packing for this trip until the morning we left.  As she pulled on her helmet, she wasn’t a happy camper.

It was probably a blessing that it took me three full days to figure out how to operate our helmet intercoms, hence there was no f___ you’s”coming through the speakers.  Technology hasn’t always been my friend, but in this case silence was golden.

I’ll cut to the chase:  twelve days and 1,700 miles down Baja to Loreto (about 2/3rds of the way down) and then back.  It didn’t take us long to find our groove, both good and bad.  On Day Two we took our obligatory low speed spill, this time in soft gravel as we entered a Pemex station.  Neither one of us felt anything.  NVII just got a few more scratches and we were off.

The road (Mex Hwy 1) has pretty much been transformed into a smooth, Two-Laner snaking  through the desert and mountains, with only a few car-eating pot holes.  Even a Prius could make it: )   I used an incredible amount of restraint in our pace, not going over 80 (OK 85) but once.  Most of the time, I let everyone pass us as we sauntered down the road.  Not too long down the road and I heard my all time favorite sound — Karen “chirping” in the intercom and having a great time talking while seeing the sights. We had found our Rhythm of the Road.  Perhaps it was a bit slower and the days were shorter, but everything else felt exactly the same.

One of the great things when traveling by m/c is the daily routine.  Get up early, have a cup of coffee while packing up, carry all the stuff to the bike and strap it on, and shove off for the day’s sights.  Breakfast is about two hours out and lunch is later.  We typically rolled into our last stop and revered the process.  Unpack the bike, unpack our stuff, get cleaned up, and head out to see the sights and find a Corona.  Rinse and repeat.

Both times we crossed the Border at Tijuana, which is usually the THE border crossing to avoid.  No papers or Temporary Tourist Visa necessary, but I did buy a week’s worth of m/c insurance.  Going down we went through the border and never stopped, probably not going slower than 20 mph as the border to TJ was empty.  Coming north, border traffic was pretty normal, which is to say daunting.  Various Apps were predicting 2-3 hour crossing times.  We did it in 20 minutes from start to finish by splitting lanes and dodging hawkers, cutting back into the line right before the guard stations.  The most difficult thing was not tipping over as the road was greasy and tough to get a grip with my “compact” stems.

We made it to Loreto which is 700+ish miles below the border, after a fairly grueling ride.  No chirping in the helmet on this leg as KR was Done going south:)  We stayed at a very nice hotel, Posada de Las Flores, in the center of town. We decided to spend a second night here as its so nice and I have a bunch of work to get done.  It’s very expensive at…. $103/night US.

The next day we made a U-Turn and headed back up.  We had some really great nights, a few not so great riding segments, and perfect weather for the entire twelve days.  This would be classified as a short trip for us, but I think we’ll look back on it with fondness with the realization we’re still young enough to be doing this kind of stuff: )

Here’s what things looked like so far.

 

There’s not a lot of love beneath the smile as KR suits up before shoving off

Believe it or not, we’d never been to downtown San Diego. It was a happening place this Saturday night and we were very happy to jump in.

Many hotels and AirBnB’s have eliminated human check-ins as a result of COVID. Here KR stands in front of a hotel in Coronado while texting to see if there’s any availability.

Typical small restaurant. This one in San Vincente, which is in Baja Norte’s wine country.

One of my favorite place ever, the Mision Santa Maria Hotel in San Quintin. We first found it 30 odd years ago, and while the name has changed, its pretty much unchanged

View from our room

The beach. See any people?

The beach stretches as far as you can in the other direction as well.

 

Motorcycle Dude needs a Corona at the bar.  I thought it was a look, KR not so much: )

We had a near-death experience, but it wasn’t on the bike, it was in a Mexican cab on the way to this famous old restaurant in San Quintin. The taxi driver was looking at his phone, playing with his kid, and talking with his wife on the 25 minute drive at night down a two-lane road. No one had seat belts.  I couldn’t stop thinking about  f___ing ironic if we got killed in a taxi crash on a m/c trip: )  I finally crawled over the front seat and shouted at him to shut up keep his eyes out front.

One of the coolest places on earth, mountains of Catavina with rocks and cactus

We took a walk down this dirt road/path behind our hotel. The Catavina Desert Inn is a great hotel with pretty shitty staff and an outrageous $30pesos/hr/128MB charge.

The 150miles between Catavina and Guerro Negro going south is pretty desolate with no “real” gas stations in between. Here, we stop at an abandoned Pemex station that is now manned by guys selling gas out of 1 gallon jugs.  A mechanical breakdown out here would not be a good thing.  Of course, NVII does not breakdown unlike his predecessor NVI.

On the other end of the scale, we stay at the Posada de Las Flores Hotel in Loreto for a couple of days. One of the great things about traveling by m/c is the extreme contrasts in surroundings and accommodations one can seek out.

While Loreto is small, its a pretty happening place. This is the town square on a Wednesday night. Bars, restaurants, music and dancing. Like I said, contrasts.

My Loreto office was on the pool deck of the Posada de Las Flores. And people ask me why I use a small computer: )

The next night all the beach hotels in Santa Rosalia were booked (we didn’t know it was Spring Break) so we stayed at this hotel in El Centro. Plastic table worked just fine as my office. Cost per night: $30US

The more mundane part of m/c travel: KR’s one pair of shoes broke, so we went shopping in a zapateria.

Motorcycle Stud. All systems worked well. Karen and I decided that our next m/c trip will be to South Africa this fall.

 

Getting ready for dinner in the jungle. Even here safety is all relative. Can we safely jump from the boat into the waves to get here? Am I going to step on a scorpion at night? Will I fall over the railing after too many Coronas?

What and where is safe?

Much of our lives these days is spent trying to figure out the balance between safety and having a life.  How does one get safe — from COVID, from crime, from storms, from financial disaster, from…?  I’m writing this from the safest place on earth we can get to – our palapa in the Mexican jungle which is off the grid, off the road, and generally “off civilization” — yet, even here safety is a question as I don’t walk barefoot at night for fear of stepping on a scorpion: ) Is there no respite?

No, I don’t think so.

2020 will certainly go down as the year we all tried to get (stay) safe.  The world learned the hard way that a virus can kill hundreds of thousands of people silently and invisibly.  Our home in Los Angeles isn’t even safe as COVD is spiking everyday with record numbers of infections and deaths.  Even LA hospitals are running out of beds!  And this is Los Angeles, not some third rate developing country like…Mexico.

Mexico is no day at the beach relative to COVID either.  While the official data show Mexico is ranked #13 in the world both in total infections and infections/M pop, can you really trust a corrupt government to tell the truth about this?  Nope, I don’t think so.  Yet, I feel much safer here than anywhere else.  Check that — I feel safest on my motorcycle, but this is a close second.

And what about another kind of safety — from crime or other sources of violence.  2020 will go also go down as the year video cameras provide proof that some police are killing people needlessly.  George Floyd sparked the kinds of street protests and riots that I haven’t seen since 1968.  Karen and I stood outside our loft in  downtown LA and listened to the protests and helicopters flying above.  Even in our skid-row-adjacent neighborhood in downtown LA, we moved all vehicles behind the fences as looters made a pass down our street.

Last week the x-governor of Jalisco was shot dead next door to my favorite Puerto Vallarta restaurant.  Even his 15 security guards weren’t enough.  Purely by accident of course, the restaurant workers quickly cleaned up the bathroom he was killed in, thus eliminating the remaining 1 percent chance anyone will be caught for this crime.  Most of Mexico is a prosecution-free zone for gangsters.

Karen and I weren’t affected by any of this.  We’re not a young black man, we’re not poor, we don’t deal drugs, we don’t party to two in the morning (oh, those were the days!), and we keep away from places that are questionable.  Mostly.

Millions and millions of people are fearful of not being able to feed their families.  From no fault of their own — they didn’t under perform, they didn’t show up late, they didn’t steal — millions of people are out of a job because of the economic havoc that COVID has brought.   I don’t think of myself as a “socialist lefty liberal,” yet shouldn’t everyone who wants to work be able to work?  Or, be able to survive while looking for work no matter how long that takes?  This is the United States of America, for goodness sake.  What’s the point of being the richest country on earth if we can’t take care of our neediest?

This past fall I rode my motorcycle (unknowingly at the time) through the worst forrest fires the West has ever encountered.  The fear of out-of-control-fires was palatable from people across the eight Western states engulfed.  If you want to see what its like, watch Rebuilding Paradise, a movie about the devastation of Paradise, CA.

Most of us in the clean technology/climate change/environment business are fearful that its too late to turn the tides and prevent the meltdown of our planet.  This despite that most experts estimate that we have 30 years to make the transition to a carbon free economy.  Seems like plenty of time, no?   Its less than a nanosecond relative to what needs to get done.  Fear of climate change isn’t some made up, existential fear of a warming planet.  This isn’t ‘Turn on the air conditioner Sweety as its a bit hot today,” type of warming.  Forget the idea of warming and think about energy because that’s what’s being created by green house gases.  Heat is energy and energy needs to get spent — floods, draughts, hurricanes, fires, tornadoes, melting ice, etc.,etc.  The World Bank estimates that 100 million people will be thrown into poverty just by climate change alone.

Our Balancing Act

We’ve tried our best to find a balance between safety and living. Despite the above, 2020 has been a good year for us on a number of fronts.  Like many of you out there, Karen and I have rediscovered that we can actually live together for 24/7!  Even if its a 600 sq. ft closet-sized loft.  We spent five months locked in said loft and the last six here in Puerto Vallarta. While we miss all of you out there, we found that Karen, Fred, Bogart and Squirt can be happy campers no matter where we reside and how small our social circle is.

Without COVD, Karen and I would never have spent this much time in Puerto Vallarta.  Until now, it was a place we went to a couple of times a year in between everything else.  Thats changed totally:  PV is now our home and we’ve enjoyed a style-of-life that is remarkably stress free.   In fact, I feel guilty with how good a life we have.  At least for a minute: )

We try to use our head when living this new style of life.   All work men who come into Corona Adobe must wear masks and stay socially distanced. For five of the months we’ve been here, Corona Adobe has been more construction site than resort, meaning we’ve had carpenters, A/C men, tile layers, window makers, etc.,etc  on a daily basis.  We go to the store at least once a week, hitting La Comer, CostCo, Petco, the bank and the nursery in our normal swing.  We normally eat on our observation deck, but go out to a restaurant/bar once a week (mostly outdoors, but always socially distanced).  Lots of hand washing and surface cleaning at all times.

We didn’t travel nearly as much this year (we’ve averaged 20 trips per year ), yet we still did 10 trips to Paris, Thailand, Mexico, Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Arizona, Nevada and New Mexico.  We went by plane, RV, motorcycle and boat.  Aside from sitting in the coach section of an airplane, we never felt more at risk while we’ve been on the road.  In November we took a nine day RV trip around central Mexico and discovered a whole new area we’d never really seen before.  It was fun, interesting, and safe.

Remarkably, my company, the Network for Global Innovation, is up about 60% in revenues this year and we have projects in California, Australia, India, South Africa, Ukraine, Morocco and Thailand.  Why?  I think the act of staying connected to what’s happening around the world is a counterbalance to the isolation we’re all living through.  Our members and partners are much more active.  And, Zoom has made us much more efficient as we deliver all of our services virtually now.  All in all, NGIN has nothing to complain about.  Except, I miss seeing what’s going on in the world firsthand: )

Finally, while we’ve had our health challenges this year, they didn’t include any COVID issues and nothing serious.  We are very very very blessed on the health front.

I am actually pretty optimistic on what 2021 will be like.   I see the light at the end of the tunnel and it isn’t a train, but the sun.  Please take care and have a terrific holiday and great new year.

Here are some recent pictures.

 

Home sweet home – Corona Adobe today. Subtle, its not: )

The Dos Diablos on the Malecon. I’m getting into the habit of running along the Malecon three times a week.

Seeing double

OK, maybe its not all work and no play. The only bar we’ve been to is a Cuban place with lots of dance action.

The last dog picture, I promise. Bogart on the top deck

We went to Mexico’s best surf town, Sayulita, on one of our RV trips. Sayulita isn’t on lockdown: )

Thor parked on the street in the El Centro part of Morelia, Mexico.

We stayed in a hotel on Election Night. Spent it in this room on Zoom with friends keeping all body parts crossed: )

RV park in Lake Chapala. This is typical of many RV parks in Mexico which have permanent residents, hence this Tahitian structure as our neighbor.

KR and dogs walk along Lake Chapala

Very tall cactus. Didn’t stop Karen from climbing up and getting a “cutting”. Now planted in our cactus garden

Thor kissed this guy’s car on a very very narrow street in Queretaro, Mexico. We settled up via email. fw

A beach on the other coast of Mexico. Karen and dogs walking on beach north of Veracruz

I made a solo dash up to Los Angeles and back to take care of some admin stuff. I listened to all 32 HOURS of Obama’s book. And it only covered his first term.

Peter, Cindy and I partied at Factory Place. It was very cold for a warm-weather kid like me

Newest member-to-be of the Walti stable of vehicles. I bought this 87 Jeep Grand Wagoneer for Karen as an early XMAS present. Its 9 years older, but 30,000 miles fresher, than the vehicle its to replace, the Iron Duke. Yet unnamed member of the family is in Texas awaiting refurbishment.

13 days through the west on a motorcycle shows me what Left Coaster Life will be like for the foreseeable future.

From Kazakhstan to Paris, with Mexico, DC, Sacramento and Los Angeles in between.

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I told you, its complicated.

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

I have two offices. This is the penthouse office

 

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

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

Bogart approves of the new paint job

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The aforementioned whales.

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

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

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

This is what it looks like up close and personal

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

Here’s what it’s looked like so far.

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

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

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

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The Queen Mary of ferries as we exit to Santander

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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A street scene as the citizens of Pamplona start to awake

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Now they’re starting to rock as

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we tourists ogle the sights

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

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

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

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and so are these

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Only to be greeted with a happy Christian warrior

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

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

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And his traveling Adventure Woman

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

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

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

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

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Village in the Pyrenees

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

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Sun is still out, but not for long

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Clouds and rain start

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“Just” another mountain road

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

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KR taking a picture of… who knows:)

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Friendly weather makes you want to stroll down the beach.

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

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

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The inside of the dragon bones house

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

 

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

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

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Street in Barcelona

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KR taking a picture of one of her favorite items…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here’s what the trip looked like in pictures…

 

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

 

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

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Gee, this is my kind of place:)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Typical KR picture –having a good time with the shopkeepers

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

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

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

 

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Singapore still has visages of the British colonial feel.

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but these are being rapidly crowded out by things like this

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Siesta time,  guess.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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View out our window was a park and bay

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The staircase ceiling

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

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Another Mumbai street

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

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Sidewalk barbershop

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Indoor spice merchant

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Outdoor market

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

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Baaaaahhh

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

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Just a street in Mumbai.  Turning left and

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we see a funeral procession

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Another street with another market

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Cafe/bar

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

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You cant’ fall asleep in this cab

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Best I could get of the Mumbai skyline

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here are the basic facts & stats:

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

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

Net Take Aways:

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

Thanks for keeping in touch with us.

fred

 

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

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

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

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Canterbury Cathedral courtyard,

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

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

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

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

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

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French country side.

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

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

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

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

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

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Boardwalk

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

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

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Entretat street

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Life size Pirate served as a merchandising display.

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

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The British have a slightly different approach to merchandising.

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

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

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The end KR:  “I want an RV!”

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

I’ll let you know what happens next time.

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

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

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

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

 

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On the road

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

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Alps and more

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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I had to put in an old door shot

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

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

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

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Annecy looking toward the lake

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

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The lake. How could I be happier?

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

 

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

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

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

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

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In a more sober state, route planning continues

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

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

 

 

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This is very close to heaven. Riding in the Sequoia National Park, on the General’s Highway (all tall trees here are named for Generals), at 7AM with No One on the Road and the smell of camp fires in the air. Thirty extraordinary minutes.

 

Every once in a while, a man has to be a man.  A biker has to be a biker.  No more meetings full of smiles.  No more doing the laundry.  No more taking the dog out for a walk.  All these and many more are all necessary parts of life; no argument here.  But what about one’s inner Bad Ass Biker Dude self?  When does he get to play?

Today, right now.

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Typical planning session. ” I’ll have a screwdriver.” followed by the two most relevant questions: Where am I now and where do I want to go next?

Well, at least the older and slower-moving version of my Bad Ass Biker Dude self is out amongst them on my steed.  I decided that a mini-trip around California was in order to make sure all things were still working.  My Biker Babe couldn’t make it as she’s in Mexico playing Innkeeper to the World. This was an opportunity to do exactly what I wanted to do, when I wanted to do it.  Men, read that again and try to memorize it.

Most of our trips answer some question beyond the most basic of all, “What’s over there!”  This one is no different:

  • What will NVII be like to ride?  Can I get comfortable on him? This will be NVII’s first real trip of any length.  A: Simply stated – NV II is the best bike I’ve ever owned.  He makes riding easy.   Even though he’s pretty heavy, NV II feels stable as a rock in corners.   Having 125 HP means never having to say “Move over!”  as acceleration eliminates all arguments.
  • Can I still ride a bike?   Not as dumb of a question as it might seem.  In fact, it’s probably the question.  Can I get back to being a smooth riding dude?  Can I get over being sick-to-my-stomach on a bike?  Will I ever get my confidence back? Will the little voice in my head always whisper, “The front!  The front won’t stick and you’ll end of up in the bushes!”  A:  See above for much of the answer — NV makes riding fast, easy.  But, it’s also been days and days of nothing but riding twisting roads and I now feel as one with NV.  The tires are getting scuffed on the side walls and I’m wearing out the new-tire-nipples on the sides (Biker dudes will know what I mean).  Yet, I’m still rusty as things move a lot faster than I remember at 120mph.
  • What’s it going to be like traveling without my Biker Babe?  This is the first significant m/c trip I’ve taken without KR.  Will I cry like a baby from loneliness?   Or will I be the m/c equivalent of Bear Grylis, fending for myself no matter what is thrown my way?  A: Well, I haven’t cried out loud, but its much better sharing with the Little Woman on the intercom.   KR wouldn’t have liked the first three days — ride hard, ride fast, don’t stop until you drop.  After that, she would have loved experiencing travel vs. riding.

I also discovered some things that weren’t expected:

  • Riding with a helmet-mounted radio and mobile phone is pretty damn cool.  Up until now I’ve been a purest, only wanting to hear the sound of the engine and wind in my face (OK, that’ not counting the melodic beats of KR telling me to slow down).  Not anymore.  There’s nothing like listening to good tunes cruising down the Coast Highway.  Or taking a phone call and having the caller not know I was on my bike.
  • California still holds surprises.  I’ve lived in California for decades and have ridden most of its roads lots of times, yet there are still places that seem like another world.  Take the little towns of the Eastern Sierras, or the Way-Back-Time-Machine of Garberville with today’s hippies looking as grungy as I did when their age.  What other town would have an annual Reggae on the River festival?
  • I like camping (still)!   Just for giggles, I took our camping gear along just in case.  Good thing as  I used it in a deserted camp ground on the Lost Coast.  Was able to pitch the tent et. al. pretty easily and even figured out how to light a fire. All the while consuming alcohol and listening to music.  National Geographic eat your heart out.
  • I tried every electronic gadget on NVII and didn’t see the point.   I couldn’t tell the difference between the “Road” and “Dynamic” settings.  Changing spring rates didn’t seem to make much difference either.  Maybe that’s the point — they’re not there to be effective, just more toys to play with while riding.  Works for me.

My trip plan was pretty simple: Go north along the eastern edge of California, make a left turn at some point and go to the Coast, then turn left again and head south back down the Coast.  Basically an inverted “U”.  I went north staying in the Sierras and avoiding any Freeways,  past Tahoe and up to the fine city of Susanville (Susan must have been a hell of a chick as her namesake even has a Starbucks, which is my first measure of a City That I’d Want to Visit).  Then I hung a left and sprinted across the Volcanic Legacy Scenic Byway running 100+ in mph and degrees Fahrenheit.  Stayed in Eureka and then went down a combo of Hwy 1 and 101.  Pretty simple.  And pretty great.

Here’s what the trip looked like in pictures.

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Mad Max, the artist. Mel Gibson’s latest creations include a hood-full of battle ships — both the sea and space variety. Max has evolved into a trusting sort as he’s in the back room bar, not worried too much that someone will steal his gas or art… BTW, Mel is hanging out in the forest south of Three Rivers:)

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Get over it ladies!  No biker post would be complete without a Beauty Shot. NV II in the Sequoia National Park at 7:00AM. God, I could kiss him…

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I spent a night in Tahoe.  I highly recommend this little motel.  Charming, well-run and right across the street from the action…

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Speaking of which, there was a lot of partying going on in Tahoe this Sunday night.  I, of course, being a man of judgement, just walked on by without even having one itsey teeny weeny drink.  Pretty damn impressive or depressing…

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This is the Volcanic Legacy Scenic Byway, which stretches from Susanville on the East to Redding in the West, way up toward the top of the State.  It’s the northern most road in which you can go from side of the state to the other.   It’s one of the most beautiful areas I’ve been to  (well, more accurately, one of the most beautiful places that I’ve been through)

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Great road as far as one can see.  I chickened out at 120, although NV II was still pulling strong.

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Road Warrior.

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For three days straight temperatures were 109, 107, 108.   Then I hit the Coast and the temp went down 50 degrees in 30 minutes.  This is a picture early in the morning as I climb the mountains that surround the Lost Coast.

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In addition to the above, large parts of the Lost Coast were clear cut for timber to rebuild San Francisco after the 1906 earthquake.

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As close to an art shot as I’m going to get.

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Coming down from the mountains to the Coast line.

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It takes close to 1  1/2 hours to get from the 101 to the Lost Coast, partly because one has to wind  through the Kings Range park.

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Almost five years ago, KR and I went to the Lost Coast for a Horizon’s Unlimited meeting.  We wandered around and found a remote camp ground on the beach.  I some how found it again this trip  (its not marked on the road) and decided to try m/c camping for the first time in ages.   Making like a Camping Machine, I set up camp in 15 minutes using a tent that KR and I first used in 1993.

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After a quick run to the store to get provisions, I’m settling in for a night of getting close to nature.

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Bear Grylis Rule No. 1 is to be  creative in solving problems.   So, out goes the computer and other electronics, and in goes the ice, beer, wine and.. voila, we have a moveable cooler.:)

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This coast looks beautiful from afar, but up close, it looks real cold.  Even Bear wouldn’t be dumb enough to go in the water here.

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This is the Travel and Leisure photo of Man Taking a Coastal Vacation article.

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This is the its “F__king Cold and I need some fortification for the night ahead”  shot in Biker Dude magazine

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Problem:  aside from the beer and sandwich that I bought, I have no other camping supplies with me.  I need a fire.  So, who say’s newspapers are dying?  I use a couple of days worth of the NYTimes, some lost-and-found wood, a borrowed lighter and…

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I have the strongest fire at the camp site, which is not too difficult to achieve as my fellow campers are all in their RV’s/trailers and not dumb enough to be outside.

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Tent up?  √  Fire started√  Beer and wine in use √  Night vision goggles ready √  What’s missing?

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Tunes, of course.  Fellow campers are thinking this biker dude is crazy as he’s playing his music way too loud and dancing around…

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On the way home,  this is the typical view.  Just miles and miles of I-want-to-soak-it-in scenery.  At 60 mph of course.   This shot is somewhere north of SF.

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I have a weird relationship with the town of San Luis Obispo.  Seems I’ve ended up there on numerous m/c trips.  I know the hotels, the Starbucks, the  movie theaters and the places to eat (CA Pizza Kitchen above).

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No m/c trip  on a BMW would be complete without a visit to a BMW M/C dealer for service.  NVII’s Cray Computer Sized Brain had some electrical seizures, so I thought I’d stop at a dealer on the way in to get an MRI.   Service department is booked to September.  Not really a confidence-giving signal to a new BMW owner.

 

2100 miles in seven days is kind of wimpy, I admit.  On the positive side, there were no crashes, breakdowns, robberies, or bear sightings.  And we’re ready for the next one.

IMG_6276What city is this?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here’s what all this looks like in pictures.

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This is what most people see when in San Antonio

 

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

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KR ready to go on our first day in Berlin

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Just a street in Berlin

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Where I spent most of my time

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

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

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A bullet train awaits us

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An international man of mystery

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

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

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

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KR’s picture from the top

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Milan Plaza

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Very funny guy

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

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

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

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

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

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Verona street close to our hotel

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

US Ambassador to Mexico speaks to entrepreneurs in Mexico City

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Lots of happy campers sitting in Mexico City airport

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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This is what it looks like from the outside.

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

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The signing ceremony in Mexico City

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Street life in Puerto ‘Valarta

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

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

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

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

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

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

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You can never have too many shots of the new baby

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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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.

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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.

 

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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:)

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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

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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.

 

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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.

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

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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.

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

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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…

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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.

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

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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.

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Must be a Republican

Nor do well behaved men

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lots of fog surrounds the “dining hall.”

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

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

“Lucy” was ridden all though out Vietnam.

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

 

The sun sets on another great HU weekend.

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

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