09/29/12

A drunken ramble about nothing really

Apparently, i picked up a legitimate girlfriend in Mexico City. Legitimate except for the reality that I am transient at the moment, and she is Mexican of the finest variety.

I’m watching American college football in Antigua, Guatemala. Certainly not the unlikeliest place in this hemisphere, but an island of Americana in a country largely concerned with feeding the family tomorrow, not two days from now, but tomorrow.

This was the nice part.

The differences between the Mexican and Guatemalan markets are striking, and this is Antigua…the virtual Hamptons of Guatemala. Where the monied from Guatemala City come to play. And when I say monied in guat, i mean the equivalent of upper middle class stateside. Nice chevy SUVs. Lattes. Monoloco, this bar I watched the game at, is a retreat into an Applebees-esque atmosphere. A place where I can live under the illusion of belonging and with the pretense of comfort.

Down here, I can afford on a daily basis what most guatemalans would spend for two weeks-plus on a family’s provisions.

Is that right? No.

I guarantee you I have accomplished less in my life than the average Guatemalan. I guarantee you more people would show up to his funeral than mine.

Value is a subjective metric.

And though we may no longer be segregated by race, we still are by class and religion, which are more torrid bedfellows than you or I wish to acknowledge.

I just watched a commercial for Olive Garden. I haven’t seen one of those since Indianapolis!

Economies must reward people for value they contribute to an economy, not their location on the political map. How many fatcats sit around in America and other developed nations pushing buttons a few times a day as they cash their weekly five-figure check and log on to their brokerage account, where a bad day is a 5 percent loss on the 20-percent gain they realized earlier this year.

So out of touch. So divided. So human.

But of course, they’ve earned the right to do nothing and get paid for it. They… we have earned the right to participate in a fixed game.

Estoy American.

And that’s more than half the battle right there.

Technology is the ticket out of the disparity between third-world and developed countries. Technology. You love it, and so do I.

And suppressing technology is a new thing for we human folk. Do I have proof? No. I have instinct and hearsay. And my instinct has never failed me.

Right now, the third world has Florida State vs. South Florida on the telly. I’m going to watch and have another mojito.

Because I’ve earned the right in this sick sad world to do so.

09/27/12

Epic journeys have their ups and downs: witness my last month

Two thumpers

This white rabbit keeps the courtyard grass of my Antigua guesthouse well manicured. Two thumpers in love!

ANTIGUA, Guatemala — The landscape change in Guatemala was dramatic. From low-lying inland tropics, much of which has been cleared for farmland in the Mexican state of Chiapas, to a gentle ascension into puffy white clouds at 5000 feet on my first Guatemalan morning. After lunch, I rose another 3500 feet on wicked steep twisties, which, other than their geometry, were as nice as they were scary. Making a gentle descent back to around 5000 feet, I found Antigua, Guatemala—where I’ve been for the last week and change. Did I mention Volcanoes? One of which just erupted for the first time in over a hundred years…right in my path.

The Guatemala border was a long time coming. In the weeks leading to my successful crossing, I felt like a sharp knife repeatedly plunging into a freshly shot whitetail deer, but refused puncture.

My route in Mexico started in Ensenada, just south of San Diego. Baja was all desert and miserably hot at times, but also the start of exactly what I signed on for on this trip—new experiences.

Breaking down in the desert, of course, had to happen. If not, then I truly don’t experience Baja. Taking a hard spill on the Baja 500 course DURING THE RACE and getting trapped under the bike as gigantic 700-plus horsepower trophy trucks threatened to squash me was probably my first full-scale adrenaline rush since leaving Boston on April 20.

After a week and a half of beach camping on the playas near Mulege, Baja California Sur and a week of couchsurfing in the oven that is La Paz, BCS, I boarded the trans-Sea of Cortes (or Gulf of California as we call it in the USA) ferry for Topolobampo, where I paid my first bribe to a cop (at least I negotiated)! Wrong way down a one way. Classic-Barone-traffic misbehavior.

On the mainland of Mexico, it went:

–       Mazatlan, Sinaloa: Enjoyed sunsets and well-formulated painkillers as I nursed my badly sprained ankle back to health; attempting burn outs on a gravely Mexican gas station parking is not among those recommended new experiences.

–       Guadalajara, Jalisco: Hung out with some crazy Australian backpackers and banged an outrageously hot stripper named Fernandana.

–       Mexico City, DF: Went couchsurfing again with my new buddy Marc, who gave me the run of his Coyoacan (think Mexico City’s version of Brooklyn) apartment for a week as he flew back to the states for a trumpet gig. It was here that I met a girl named Paolina Margaret Parra, who continues to rock my world from over 1,000 miles away and counting.

–       Puerto Escondido via Oaxaca: Once again, I baked in the sun in this Mexican tourist-centric beachside retreat. One morning, I enjoyed a pleasant stroll on the beach, whose topography was brilliantly reshaped by a Tropical storm the night before.

–       Tapachula, Chiapas: A series of unfortunate events begins for the Rumble Bee. While attempting to navigate my way through the correct order of immigration administrivia to check out of Mexico, I managed to pick up a passenger—a gigantic three-inch nail in my back tire! Once fixed, Rumble Bee’s coolant thermostat seized, causing Bee to vomit like an antifreeze-guzzling frat boy all over a parking attendant’s shoes. Coolant thermostat removed, I set off again…still overheating. Tom at MAX BMW Motorcycles in New Hampshire, who’d been coaching me through the issue, informs me I best seek out professional help. The nearest BMW Moto shop was back in Oaxaca…12 mountainous hours away, which I surely would not make in this condition, in this lifetime, riding the Bee as circumstances would require: a couple miles…overheat…wait 20 minutes to cool down…ride another couple miles…overheat, wait, and so on. Not to mention the obvious strain all the constant overheating would put on the engine. That ride would surely have been the funeral procession for Rumble Bee. I chose the alternative…

–       A $1,000 truck ride back to Oaxaca: Two Mexican drivers, me, and the Bee in the bed of a brand new made-in-Kentucky F-350 flat bed for 12 hours. A professional set-up usually in the business of moving furniture. More-or-less, the limousine of emergency motorcycle transport. Very safe. It was either that or stand on the side of the road with a sign offering pesos for a 12-hour lift. Not so safe.

–       Oaxaca…Ciudad de Amore Mexicana: OK, it’s not Venice. Or Paris. It’s more like a Tootsie Pop, nice in the middle but forgettable on the outside. But…Pao showed up, and for that, I now thank the Bee for getting sick. I’m gonna keep my waxy poeticisms de Pao to myself until the book comes out, but rest assured…la chica es poesia.

–       Bus back to Mexico City to pick up a new radiator fan: Upon further inspection, the radiator fan was missing a blade and seized, so it was me and Pao on the most pleasant eight-hour bus ride of my life back to Mexico City, where I visited the largest BMW Moto dealer in the country to pick up the part I needed. I stayed with her, her mother, and niece Ali in their Tlalpan (a borough of Mexico City) apartment. I coached Ali up on salary negotiation for her first job as an architect, had some of the best huevos of my life thanks to her mother’s skills de desayuno, and of course spent more time with Pao.

Pao is the one on the left. On the right is the bard-poet-minstrel extraordinaire of Oaxaca, Oaxaca, Rey Oh Beybe…AKA Cafe Caliente (Hot Coffee). I picked up his two CD’s and his Johnny Cash-like ways have been reverberating around my head for the last month.

Check out Rey Oh Beybe’s anthem, “Cafe Caliente

Pao and I at El Árbol del Tule near Oaxaca.

I Thought I said goodbye to Pao, only to break down again: Solo, I boarded a bus back to Oaxaca, where I successfully installed the new radiator fan. Then, I got hit by a dump truck on my way to get a new rear tire before heading out of town. Thankfully, I only needed a new front rim, but that meant another week in Oaxaca, attempting to locate one. Enter my new buddy Lance from the ADVrider online forum, fearless leader of the ADV Cartel. Located near Mexico City, he had F650GS with a good new front rim and tire—exactly what I needed—and I had a bad-ass chica in Mexico City about to board a bus back to Oaxaca again to see me. Again, exactly what I needed. Pao—the tiny thing—met up with Lance, got the tire, and lugged it onto the bus with her. We had an all-too-short four-day weekend together with lots of great food, drink, and space-time continuum shattering. Long live love and The ADV Cartel!

–       Time to leave Oaxaca and Pao for real: I left Oaxaca, headed for Guatemala. I made a wrong turn, which put a few extra days on my route to the border crossing. No sweat. Wrong turns are like unexpected side dishes that come with a meal “just because the manager appreciates your business, sir.” I ended up in the oil-exporting/importing town of Coatzacoalas on the Carribbean coast of Mexico. From there, I bounced over to Catemaco, where I took a boat ride to check out some monkeys living Lord of the Flies-style on their own little islands in Lago Catemaco. From there, I made my way to Palenque, where I saw an extremely bad-ass set of Mayan ruins. A huge Mayan City of which only 10% wasn’t still shrouded in jungle. I took a photo that apparently included a UFO…or something. Here it is…

Taken while standing in the “palace” of Palenque, an extraordinary set of Mayan ruins near the Mexican city of the same. I don’t know what that is in the sky, but it was there in two consecutive photographs I took, maintaining its spatial relationship to the ruins, so it wasn’t dust on the lens. That’s all I can tell you…

–       Three days of Ruta Maya: From Palenque, it was a three-day ride down a highway that ran along the Guatemalan border, but due to insufficiently-staffed border crossings along the way, which did not include a Banjercito, where I could get the $300 deposit returned on my temporary vehicle import permit, I rode nearly all the way back to Tapachula. I crossed into Guatemala in La Mesilla, Mexico. My last night in Mexico was pretty sweet, too. I found a camping spot on this blue water lake in the Lagunas de Montebello National Park.

In Antigua, Guatemala…I have found my first subject of innovation in an third-world/emerging

Ecofiltro is working very hard to solve the drinking water crisis in third-world communities of the world.

economy. The company is Ecofiltro, an expat-led firm that manufactures and markets ultra-cheap water filters for use in the poor, rural villages that abound in Guatemala. They turn ordinary river, lake, or rainwater into a clean and great-tasting vaso de agua for less than 1/10 the cost of bottled water and zero of the health concerns of drinking untreated water. It’s a compelling story and a great example of how capitalism, which has gotten a bad rap of late in some circles, can truly add value to a culture and an economy…when it’s the right kind of capitalism. Capitalism based on innovation and developing innovation into a business model, i.e. human creation. I’m very excited to have found my first story. Now, I just need to query the right publications to get it out there in the world. They just opened a new factory back in March and are at the beginning of an eight-year plan to plant 99 more factories in 99 more third-world/emerging countries around the world by 2020. Indeed, it’s an exciting time to be Ecofiltro CEO Philip Wilson.

And of course, it’s also an exciting time to be Adam Barone.