Sidewalk sales in Antigua

Sidewalk sales in Antigua

 

 

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

 

People

Sister and brother (?) in Antigua, Guatemala

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Mom and son in Antigua

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

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

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

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

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

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San Cristobal market

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Selling drums by demonstrating your work.

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

Not quite yet, sweetheart

Not quite yet, sweetheart

 

Along the way

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And the result

And the result

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

The art of selling

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“Unique” display of mole in Acapulco

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

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

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Roosters anyone?

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

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Surf board rental display in Puerto Escondido

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

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

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

 

Walls and other old stuff

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Revealing centuries of layers

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Storage of old Christmas parade cars in a ruined church

Color

Aged collage

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More layers

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The gathering storm

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

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Awaiting

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Awaiting

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Awaiting

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A most unusual fountain

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Things

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

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Romantic thoughts about flying yesteryear

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

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

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

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A restless traveler

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

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

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

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

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Looking forward to the road ahead.

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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A central square in Antigua

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

 

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

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One of the many markets that KR roamed.

 

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

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

 

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

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

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Time to go my little Biker Bunny.

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Pretty spectacular scenery

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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Somewhere in the countryside

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

Adventure riding is tiring business, necessitating the occasional nap

Adventure riding is tiring business, necessitating the occasional nap

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

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

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

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One type of Acapulco taxi which KR particularly liked.

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cows and wind turbines in the southern tip of Mexico

Cows and wind turbines in the southern tip of Mexico

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

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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.

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The “Cleantech Los Angeles Global Showcase” starts up early on November 4th. More than 70 speakers from 20+ countries talked global groping with 400 guests.

Some thought it was the height of conceit or stupidity (take your pick) to think that a 6-person nonprofit housed in a converted bus repair garage should put on a conference focused on the globalization of the cleantech business.  Moreover, professional conference planners cried,  “You’re ____ crazy!” to start planning this conference only three months out, rather than the one year planning period that’s normally taken.  Our thinking was simple: we’re addressing global problems, it’s a global business, hence we need to start thinking about it in a global fashion.  And, by the way, no one else was stepping to the plate, so why not?  How hard could it be?

Well, the answer to the last question is its really, really can’t-sleep-at-night, this was my dumbest idea yet hard.  More than once we thought it would be a disaster.  Two weeks out and we only had 25 registered guests!  And the cost of putting on a conference at the JW Marriott/LA Live facility was easily 5X more expensive than anything else we had done.  Which, of course, requires generating 5X more sponsorship dollars than we’ve ever generated.  We achieved a lot of these not so good “firsts” along with a few very good firsts.  For example, we..

  • We went from 25 to 400 attendees in less than two weeks.
  • Had more than 70 speakers from more than 20 countries over two days.  The Mayor,  DOE Under Secretary, California Air Resources Board Chairman, the past President of the Int’l Brotherhood of Longshoreman, the Governor’s senior adviser on the Environment, three of the most prominent VCs in Southern California, 20+ leading entrepreneurs, the City’s Director of Import/Exporting, among many more.
  • We raised more money from more sponsors than at any previous time
  • We have been contacted directly by Germany, Mexico, Hong Kong, China and Israel to create formal MOUs.  I’m flying to Berlin to review how they do incubators and to provide them with some best practices.

Not bad for six guys in a garage.

Five of those six guys got on a plane early the day after the Showcase for our first annual LACI South of the Border Strategic Retreat.  Said retreat was held at “Corona Adobe” and “Little Big Sur”, both in Puerto Vallarta of course.  First reports indicate no brain cells lost due to alcohol poisoning  (though all the tests aren’t back yet), intense strategic discussions took place in between snorkeling, drinking, eating, and repairing my motorcycle, one jelly fish sting was incurred during an underwater expedition, and we found out that several of the team had pretty good pitching arms.  All in all, we did a lot of work on vision, mission, strategy, business model, revenue-generation programs…

 

JW Marriott is a pretty happening place as its part of the Staples Center/Nokia Theatre/LA Live complex.  I’ve never needed a drink more than the night the Showcase ended.  Unless it was the night before the Showcase:)

LA’s new Mayor, Eric Garcetti, gave his first green economy speech at the Showcase and it was stellar.  You don’t get to be Mayor of a large city without being able to woo a crowd.

Around the world in one day.  We held presentations on the cleantech markets of 20+ countries from China to Chile.  This is the German market presentation.

Around the world in one day.  We held presentations on the cleantech markets of 20+ countries from China to Chile. This is the German market presentation.

All aboard for Mexico. Ian Harris, Neal Anderson and I on the way to LAX.

Strategic Retreat begins discussing our vision,  appropriately on the observation deck of Corona Adobe.  Left from semi circle: Ian Gardner, Erik Steeb, Ian Harris, and Neal Anderson. The crew was overheard quickly reaching agreement, “Walti doesn’t know shit about cleantech, but he knows how to throw a strategic retreat…”

Culture is important for any organization’s health. Here, Ian #1 and Neal stand outside one of the art galleries we cruised.

An effective organizational vision needs to take into account many different views.  The Strategic Retreat advances to LBS to get another such perspective.

LBS, our palapa in the jungle south of PV, was still standing after almost a year of non-use.  Of course, during that year we put new support beams under the floor, repaired the railings, rebuilt the outside bedroom, repaired the refrigerator, and fastened the toilet to the floor again. This is a picture of the entrance.  Front decks are on the other side.

Green, very green. The path to the “big beach” is luscious after a summer of rain.  Hose across the path is our life line water supply to the mountain spring miles away.  We had a lot of water interruption problems during our two days at LBS.