December, 2005

December 31, 2005

Motoliam does Lisbon, Portugal - The Dakar Rally!

This one was *NOT* taken in my room. I knew I wanted to do something cool this weekend since my roomates would be out of town again and I didn't want to hang in Barcelona by myself when I could be finding additional adventures elsewhere!

So I headed off to Portugal! It wasn't a cheap flight, but nothing is on short notice and especially during this season. I acquired some of the "local" flavor and made my way about the city earlier today. Remember kids, Smoking Kills!

This was supposed to be a "snow falling" shot because the building behind me was having a party and there were snow blowers dusting the crowded street below. The snow was partially made of soap, and left bubbles everywhere, on the street and all over the cars!

Thought about eating at this restaurant. . . . .until I read the sign!

Paused for a minute to take in the Triumph ad. If only they sold this model in the states! I think the Daytona 675 might have some competition here . . . . .

Umm. . . . you figure it out.

Enough goofing around! I saw this sticker on a car and my moto-juices kicked in. I had a feeling walking around that something in this town wasn't right. It was a restless feeling.

Just stumbling past a hotel on the Liberdad street something caught the corner of my eye. I walked in and was greated with this!

Walking around a bit more on the street brought about this beauty. I don't quite think this is your father's Chevrolet, in fact, I don't think it's a Chevy at all!

This was the sunset this past afternoon. This morning at 5AM the bikes will take off for the start of the Lisboa/Dakar Race! In the dark! It's almost 4AM now and I'm late. I'll let you all know how it goes, so stick around!

December 27, 2005

Merry Xmas and the Mr. T Dog!

Feliz Navidad from the crew at Zenit BCN! This is a fascinating company that works closely with Repsol and Movistar and handles events, promotions, and organizing al manner of things . . . . like the Dakar Rally! They also represent riders of all disciplines and some of the work they are commisioned to perform makes me think that the US is backwards when it comes to race team marketing. None of the AMA teams and factories do anything like the Europeans, and maybe someday they'll "get it". Though physically small, their office is amazing (better than Dorna's?) and I will try to post pictures and some interesting interview tidbits in the near future.

I don't know if I'll be able to post over the next few days (due to my wireless sources being closed for the holidays) but I spent the past week Christmas shopping with the masses and dodging errant baby carriages. Think the Europeans drive crazy? They SHOP crazy. What a frenzied mess the streets were and eventually I got out of the commercial areas and into the backstreets. Got some useful items for my roomates, like a windshield for a scooter, some D'ior Ja'Dore perfume, and some microwavable bowls. For myself I found a used English bookstore and got a collection of short Science Fiction stories from the greats (all around the 50's-60's era) and also found this neat little shop. They were closed so I wasn't able to *Check* anything out. I'm planning a top-secret trip in early January and I hope to be able to post up some great pictures and tales of new adventures. Once again, to everyone here at Barf and beyond, Merry Christmas, Bones Festas, Buenas Fiestas, Waht-Evaaarr!

Everyone! Thank you so much for the Christmas Wishes and the luck for the New Year. I´m off to travel for a week and although I have some cool photos to post, I haven´t had time to chop and load them. Plus, I´m not on my computer right now, I´m paying at an internet cafe. I will hopefully have some secret stuff for you guys very soon. . . . .

Weekend Update:
Well folks. . . . I´m in Lisbon, Portugal, for my New Year´s celebration. A lot is going on right now in my life but in a week things will have settled and I´ll know a lot more about my future and what it will have in store for me! Pictures and updates will be coming as soon as I can swing them and all I can say right now is that 2006 is looking to be a FUN year! I hope everyone is planning to spend time with their loved ones and I hope no one gets into any trouble on New Year´s Eve.

I haven't had a chance to really update since the places I usually go to for internet access have been closed for the holidays. Once again I'm up at 3:30AM in a hotel lobby checking my mail and keeping you guys posted. This past Christmas was great, and despite not having friends or family around, I made it one to remember. I had a roast chicken, some pink cava, and a monstrous salad. Add some fresh bread and a variety of finger foods and pate's and you have an idea of my Xmas Eve dinner! All my roomates were in Madrid visiting their families, so with nothing to do I went to the largest Catholic Cathedral in Barcelona for the midnight mass. I'm not very religious, but the Spaniards and Italians are, and they do Catholicism like nobody else. Scriptures were read out loud in Latin and the singing, man, the singing was like something out of a movie! I spent some time watching the people and not picking up anything the Priests/Bishops (who knows?!?) were saying. Lots of deep thoughts went through my head and I used the time to plan out 2006. I went home around two, stopped at Dos Trece for a drink, and promptly met the owner. He's a Mexican guy who was lonely around Christmas and we threw back a couple tequilas to celebrate the birth of Christ, the party lasting several hours after the bar had closed. I spent most of Christmas day sleeping and relaxing and used the next few days to soak up more of the city.

I'm starting to consider Barcelona to be a little small, but that's because I seem to have walked around forever and I'm finding my way around a bit easier now. I visit new places by underground train when I have to, but mostly I'm still on foot. I'm working on it, though. Here's a building I walk past a couple times a week. I know the color's bad, but it's been grey and cloudy for a while.

Shot of the roofline. I wonder if Gaudi was teased as a kid . . . . and called "gaudy"!

I visited the National Museum once again to see more art (couldn't get enough the last time) and on the way met one of the funkiest dogs ever. This little guy was casually cruising around without a care in the world, off the leash and stopping whenever and wherever he wanted. He had a combination of furs, moved very slowly, and I couldn't figure out what he was. I called him over and didn't see an owner so we hung out for a couple minutes. I think he was a mix of several things, like Furbies, Gremlins, and Yeti. Eventually I saw a guy with a leash and when he whistled the dog trotted off at 1MPH. Funky!

He had a mohawk! Not only that, his long fur was totally different than the short black fur, and it looked like he was wearing a strange winter jacket. I guess I really miss my dog, when I stop to hang with a mutt like this!

Please note teh Shocker: Primitive Barfers in the 1300's.

A long day in the museum deserved a drink! I found a heavy metal bar in the Gracia area (go figure), called the Ballbreaker. They played concert videos of AC/DC, the Scorpions, and more, all night long. And they sang along, too! I found this neat device sitting at the end of the bar. It's a candy machine for drunks!

This can of Corn-nuts was filled with the biggest ones I've ever seen. They were literally the size of grapes. And they rocked, too!

I spent the other night practicing with my camera, focusing on little things around my room, and getting ready for the New Year party I was throwing for myself. Here's my little Walkie-bit (props if you know what it is and where it's from).

December 23, 2005

Xmas Dinner

Partly because of the time constraints, partly because the food was so danged good, we went back to VinoTinto. It's fairly close to the house and the prices are reasonable, so we decided to have our "holiday" dinner here. Because this is in the middle of the work week, the "holiday" party will be later on in the week, and should last for a long, long time (judging from past experience).

From left to right:
Nacho, Santi, myself, Patricia, Daniel, Mario, and Hiro.

Another great meal, another chance to splurge for the holidays. I'm thinking about adding some more social commentary, but that will have to wait until I'm completely confident and comfortable with my observations and judgments.

Who says Japanese people always use chopsticks?!?

December 22, 2005

Xmas Presents? Not for me!

Well, I've been busy the last couple of days trying to run Christmas errands and pick out a few things for my roomates. I got a little run-down, what with the weather, but now I'm rested and trying to plan what to do for the New Year. In the last week I've managed to go to an English Pub, the Philharmonic, to watch another futbol match between Real Madrid and Osasuna. Not the best game, but I gotta hand it to Zidane. That old frenchman's got great footwork, and because of him Real Madrid managed to break even and tie the game in the closing minutes. I haven't noticed any overt racism towards the black players in the any of the places I've watched matches at, but there is definitely a stigma concerning the Afrikan players, maybe because they don't speak the language. They're not necessarily teased openly, it just seems like everyone else gets a little quiet whenever they get the ball or when they're on-camera walking to their hotel or something. It seems most of the racial tension I'm aware of is in France at the moment, and here the tension isn't specifically white/black, but more Spanish/Catalan. . . . .and moreso. . . Everyone/Moroccan.
Dan- Buenas Fiestas! Jerez?
Mark - Thank you for the offer! It might look like I'm having too much fun, but one of the realizations I've come to is that satisfaction and sense of achievement can come from anywhere. You get to have experiences that I haven't even come across yet, like raising your children,which I hope to do one day!

Yesterday I got an urgent phone call from my roomate, Patricia, that said she needed me to get over to her office (will have pics and interviews in a couple weeks I hope) to help her carry something back to our apartment. I generally don't have anything pressing going on during the days so I skipped over and had to bring this home! It was a very special present for one of her closest work/professional friends, a wedding and Christmas present. Trivia Time! Who's replica is this?!?

Here's another angle on the bike. This is in the front of our apartment, which comes complete with one of my suitcases, a piece of corkboard we found on the street one night, and a mop! It may seem clutterred, but it's all about making due with what you have. After lugging this thing home, which I found out was the top of the line Polini (the expensive one), I fired her up right in the hallway. Two-strokes! Patricia was rushing out the door to go get some wrapping paper somewhere because we had multiple appointments that evening. Did you know in Spain that 8 or 9 o'clock at night is referred to as. . . . the afternoon? When do you want to meet? 8 in the afternoon? Ok! Yeah, the apartment I live in is kind of a dump. A total dump. That's the way my roomates like it, and nothing is going to change that, so that means I better get a job so I don't have to hang out here!

The end result. Patricia delivered this with Nacho (who had driven up from Madrid earlier in the day to do some promotional work with Dani Pedrosa) and within an hour they were back so that we could get everyone together for our "roomate" holiday dinner.

For some reason, Patricia gets all the cool presents for Chrismas. Every year she get's a variety of helmets and suits from the pilots she works closely with, and at some point I'm probably going to build our (soon to be) spare room into a moto-museum/home office. She has tons of leathers, from Alex Criville's to Mick Doohan's and so many other goodies, it puts my meager GP collection to shame. This is one of Pedrosa's older suits, which Nacho brought with him, but it was still pretty neat. I can't get over how small it is!

December 18, 2005

Christmas Time in BCN

The adventure here is so big that it's difficult for me to incapsulate every last little bit. For some, just being around some of the GP stuff I've seen or done would be enough. Others would simply enjoy the experience of being in another culture, and not as a tourist! I'm experiencing the "local" life, the nightlife, and more. Finding work in the paddock is frustratingly difficult and as more time passes I'm forced to consider alternatives. I really didn't want to be thinking so hard about my future over the holidays, but that's what has been going through my mind the last few weeks, i.e. should I stay planted or head back to the U.S.? Should I move somewhere else in the world? Part of my problem stems from a roomate leaving our apartment next month, which throws everyone's finances off a bit to compensate. With my own plans I'm not sure I should agree to commit to anything long term. Factor in my lack of comprehension with the language (which for some reason isn't progressing as fast as everyone said it would ), and the possibility that I might have to move for job related reasons and I feel very "unsettled" these days. In some ways I'm definitely a creature of habit. Having such an uncertain future is exciting and dangerous, but I sacrificed so much to leave California and chase this dream that I'm not sure I should return anytime soon. With my world all aswirl with potential successes and failures, I have to consciously choose not to get too wrapped up. I never really thought of food as a comfort item, but after living in Spain I can honestly say that I think red meat is the BOMB, and it's my best friend!

They do such an amazing job here making complex flavors and delicious meals from such simple, natural ingredients! From garlic and tomato mixes over raw Cod, to the endless variety of Flans, it seems like I am constantly trying new dishes. When it comes to meat, I find that one of the best ingredients is the same everywhere. Hawaiian Rock Salt! Well, here it's just Rock/Crystal salt. But it's big and burly and will make your steak pop!

Ahhhh, Crema Catalana! This is one of my favorite Flans, a little softer than Creme Brulee, but in my opinion, tastier! Carmelized brown sugar topping and the requisite fresh fruit somewhere, and you have a recipe for awesomeness! I think I'll get myself a flan book one of these days, because this is a great way to get yer daily eggs!

The Christmas Spirit hasn't really hit me yet. It's probably because I'm away from my friends and family. There have been signs, lights, and tree's up since November but it just seems so odd to think that Santa exists outside of the US. Here, he's known as Papa Noel. I was out this weekend starting off at a bar called Glacier in the Placa Reial. The level of smoke was normal but I noticed this display hanging from the ceiling above the bar. Merry Christmas from Wolverine!

December 17, 2005


Finally got around to seeing a bit more of the city today. Although the weather appeared to be bright and sunny, it was mighty cold, in the high thirties. This is the Olympic Stadium on MontJuic. It is very impressive, not just the stadium but the surrounding structures, also. For something that was used for only a short while (a couple of weeks of Olympic competition) it showed a massive financial commitment by the Spanish government. It is still used for events and competitions but this afternoon it was a very lonely place with nary a soul.

A shot through the fence at one of the entrances to the stadium. Everything was fenced/locked off but I managed to focus through one of the holes in the fence for this picture. I can imagine what this place was like when it was packed to overflowing, with huge crowds cheering in various languages.

This was the Torch monument, and it was amazing. The sky wasn't as clear as I would have hoped but just seeing THIS rising tall above the cityscape was great. Beautiful, flowing lines. Since we're in Spain, I guess nothing is sacred. . . . that is, nothing is above commercializing on. On the lower portion of the monument, there is a big Telefonica sign painted on it! This totally reminds me of something I'd expect to see on planet Krypton.

The Park surrounding the Olympic Torch. I'm guessing the giant "batons" light up at night, but I'm not sure. Yet.

Walking down the hill revealed this beautiful building crouching in the trees, about ten minutes from Olympic Stadium. This is a huge museum and for a guy like me, it was a little intimidating. I don't know much about art, I only know what I like, and what I don't.

A second shot of the Museum. It was immense and I could have gotten lost in there for hours. Well, not really. The types of art I really like are hewn from aluminium and steel, typically :) Particularly, the trick minibike parts from Japan. So clean, like moto-jewelry.

Paused for a moment while walking to take in the Pavillion designed by Mies Van Der Rohe. I've seen better homes and pools in Hawaii! They wanted 3 and half Euros to go in and have the chance to buy books and postcards so I passed and crossed the street to check out the L'Art Nouveau exibit. Watched an education film (in English!) and tried to soak everything in. Lots of Porcelain and furniture. I thought this metal tree structure was pretty neat, but unless it has two wheels, it doesn't really move me.

An example of some over-priced, fancy chairs. I think in the future I'll keep my home styling minimalist and very Japanese.

Later that night I went to a great dinner at L'Acadamia with some old friends and then went to Club Trece. Two rooms with different music deep underground in a converted bunker! The music varied from remixed 70's to one of my all time favorites, Pump up the Volume, by M.A.R.R.S.!!! It's been about twenty years since that song came out, and it still rocked the house!

Straight to the Source

Still, I had bigger fish to fry. After a couple of boring weeks I decided to take it straight to the source! I received an intriguing phone call a couple days ago and I decided to follow up on it today. I hopped in a cab to go out of the city. I would've taken the bus, but I couldn't spare the time, and the cab ended up being only 12.85 Euros, or 16.06 USD. I knew I was getting close when I spotted this!

Nice Brakes :)

I ended up at this large building, known as the Media Center.

That's right, baby, I had made it to the center of the World Championship, the Media Headquarters of Dorna, the controlling organization for MotoGP! Dorna is based in Sant Just Desvern, just outside of Barcelona, and this office was comprised of several floors, each with restricted door access. The security guard in the lobby was very friendly and helpful, too.

The place will filled with all manner of memorabilia, posters everywhere, and little toy motorcycles dotting people's desks here and there. People were busy hustling at their jobs, and despite this being the official off-season, I got the impression that they never slow down. MotoGP is an international business, with upwards of 35 million viewers on race days. This is the back wall of their small office waiting room.

My meeting today was with Mr. Sergi Sendra, the man in charge of international TV feeds and TV production. He is the man that sits in the truck during the race and directs the action, which camera to use, which riders to focus on, you name it. He has complete control! We had a fascinating conversation about all manner of things MotoGP related, and what it takes to put on a successful show. He joked that he now has "many arms" that aid him in his production efforts, and Dorna has added a second TV truck this year to make his job easier. Not only does he watch the trackside cameras, he also monitors all the On-Bike cams (which include front and rear views, left and right hand views, back of the rider views, and also sometimes foot views!), and also surveys the entire track from the Helicopter view. It's a difficult job, and we eventually got around to discussing SpeedTV, and their creative choices for commercial placement. . . . He was quite surprised to find that Speed would cut to a commercial with three or two laps remaining, and also was interested to note that Speed didn't compensate for commercial time by showing what was missed during the commercials. Elsewhere in the world Motorcycle Racing is important! Please email Speed if you feel like offering some constructive criticisms. We talked about how much engineering goes into a bike camera set-up, and how hard it is to get it just right, that is, to make sure all the action is documented well, while it's going on "live"! During my time there I was interviewed by a Japanese guy who worked there, and for some reason I blanked out on half my verbs and must have sounded like a baby. But I tried my best to present myself well. I also caught the tail end of a meeting going on between Carmelo Ezpeleta (owner of Dorna) and several other international bigwigs. . . . . Would you travel to watch MotoGP somewhere like . . . . . . . . . . . Mozambique?!? Very interesting indeed. Unfortunately, Dorna's budget for next year is already set and they don't have any positions available for a guy like me. Sergi promised to keep me in mind if anything came up, and hopefully he knows someone in the GP world who can give me a chance. We'll have to see. One of the best parts of our talk was our agreement that one must have big dreams. He spoke about having soul, and what it takes to make life worth living. Great guy to talk to and it helped provide me yet another insight into the world of MotoGP. Thanks for your time Mr. Sendra! The Quest Continues!

After our meeting it was off to catch the bus back to Barcelona. I walked a couple blocks and came across this neat looking nightclub, called Walden's. It was smack dab in the middle of an industrial area.

This is one place I wouldn't mind checking out in the future, because I love looking at citylights at nighttime.

(it goes up)

Caught the #63 Bus back to the city center. The trip took about an hour (versus 30 minutes in the cab!) and by the time I debarked I was hungry!

*edit* yes, this is a Mercedes bus.

I went to one of my favorite cafe's for a delicious meal of bread, 3 cheeses (with Brie!), and some ham. Can't forget about Trina, that special orange soda, either! Tomorrow, the adventure continues! Where will I go? What will I do?

December 16, 2005

Nachete comes to town

So today was a busy day for me, relatively speaking. I was to meet a young guy named Ignacio in the morning to discuss the Losail Cup, which is a six race series going on in Doha, Qatar, through April. D'antin is heavily involved but I couldn't get a ton of info because of the language barrier. I started my day by waiting at the Plaza Universitat for a bit since his train was late. Ahhh, a beautiful, brisk morning, and I needed it to help wake up since I had trouble sleeping the night before and had woken up several times, starting at 3AM.

Ignacio "Nacho or Nachete" Dorenzana works for a 125 team in the Spanish Championship and knows a bunch of people in the GP world. He first fell in love with racing in 2002, and he goes to the big Spanish events when he can. We talked about a number of things, and compared friends in the paddock. One of his good buddies is Tony Escoda, who has worked in GP since '88. Currently, Tony's teaching a young rider in World Superstock, Max Bergeron, I think. We agreed to touch base later in the week to talk some more. I bought him a coffee and overall it was nice to meet another fanatic like me, doing whatever he can to get into the series.

December 15, 2005

MotoLiam appears in Road Racer X

My buddy TIm (Bishop on Barf) alerted me to the fact that a small photo of myself was published in Road Racer X magazine. How cool is that?

And with Randy Mamola, too!

Music on my Mind

I've had music on my mind lately, and part of this is due to the incessant dance music that is pumping from all the nightclubs here. MTV and VH1 play the same seven songs over and over: Hung Up, by Madonna, some Robbie Williams tune, and a really catchy hook in the song, Love Generation, by Bob Sinclair. There are committed dance radio stations and the happy, poppy beats are addictive. I sure could use a guitar about now, I feel like writing music again. I have started using my iPod more, on the street, and I blend right in.

December 14, 2005

The Nightlife?

Had a great time today wandering around, will post pics later. In the meantime, I'm off to a nice dinner and some nightlife! Songs for the night?

I can't wait, for The Weekend to begin (Michael Gray).

The Weekend. . . Starts Here (Bosco).

Nice Bikes, dude.

Mine's Faster, cause it's red! Sometimes people ride on the back, but oftentimes there's a bike trunk mounted. This guy must have bought the "sport" package. M-Scooter.

Another shot of the new "Gentleman's Express".

Speaking of the Express, I think this little bike is just perfect for the city. I've only seen a handful of these on the streets here. Beautiful bike that initially faked me out. I thought it was a small bore Ducati. . . .but I was wrong! I think this would be a great bike for real world riding, and I wish I could afford one here! I'll try to get more detailed shots in the future, because this is one sexy machine. I was in a crowded area and because of all the scooters parked everywhere I couldn't get a good shot of this bike. Next time, next time. Anyone know some technical specs on this bike?

Although Honda is not making two-strokes for their streetbike market, there are still plenty of them running around here. I believe this is the '02 model NSR 50. I've seen a couple buzzing by, tricked out, or street-fightered! Lowest price I've found for one of these in dubius condition is about $1500 USD. Not bad, but still pretty pricey for a little bike. While race replicas are not uncommon, they still bring a smile to my face. My roomates think they're stupid because "Repsol isn't paying me to ride their bike". They've got a point.

December 13, 2005

Dos Trece and weird Coffee

I searched for a while and finally found it. Dos Trece! Great ambiance and I immediately felt comfortable. How strange would it be for two motorcycle mechanics who worked in Redwood City to knock a couple down deep in the heart of Barcelona? Anything can happen!

Why don't the coffee cups have holes big enough for your finger?!? I don't know why this is, particularly because Europeans love to drink coffee. You end up pinching the handle and maybe it looks more dainty and metrosexual. I miss American Coffee, but more than that I miss my regular Boba's in Cupertino!

When's the last time a Roberts moved from Dad's team to Suzuki?

The redhead gets a ride! Well, a test at Valencia, that is.

Kurtis Roberts got a chance to ride the '05 Suzuki GSVR at the Valencia tests after the final race of the season, maybe because KRJR had been let go and wasn't able to compete in the last two races owing to injury?

The Redhead rides again! As of now, KRed doesn't have a ride lined up for the '06 season. Hmmmm?

December 10, 2005

MotoLiam tackles the Snow, with Nacho!

This week was important for a couple reasons. First off, there are two national holidays in the middle of the week, Tuesday and Thursday. This means that many people took a couple days off and travelled all week! Secondly, since I wasn't getting many work-related responses before this week, I knew for sure I wasn't getting squat this week either. I had just celebrated my birthday and getting out of the city sounded like the perfect thing to do. Nacho had called me and said he was spending the week in the Pyrenees, and that if I could, I should make a trip out there and check out the mountains. Growing up in Hawaii, I have never been very fond of the cold. In fact, for all the time I spent in the Bay Area, I have only been to Lake Tahoe once -- by bus, and that was in early 1995! The majority of my cold weather experience came from driving my little truck to Reno, Nevada, once a year to race the Regional Arenacross series. . . the A-RENO-Cross! My roomate, Mario, wanted to tag along, so I agreed to pay for all the tolls we would incur by driving (his car, naturally). We packed up the car late Monday afternoon, and by 6 we were headed out of Barcelona! The sun was setting and we had a long way to go. A couple Cokes and a bag of Cheeto's and we were on our way! If you ever get the chance to buy Cheeto's in Europe, don't bother. They are horrible; super puffy and the flavoring is way off.

See the rest of this Amazing Trip in the extended entry!

I hadn't seen Nacho since the Valencia race, and I wanted to touch base with him to discuss some of the teams I had spoken with and some other possibilities I had in mind. The same way I'm into Motorcycle racing, Nacho is into Skiing. He and a couple friends rent an apartment in Baguera for the winter season. The drive took us approximately six hours, and during the drive we went through the town of Lleida, up into the mountains, and finally to Vielha, the largest village in the area we would be staying in. Our car stereo was a tape deck with two three inch speakers, and while this doesn't sound too bad, imagine having only one tape full of warped dance music. I didn't realize there were so many of them (the mountains, that is), and driving such a small car (on 13's!) was difficult. We stopped half way there at a truck stop in the hills before the mountains proper. Mario said that truck stops were the best because the food would be good, but my dinner of grease, ham, and cheese didn't cut it. Still, it was rural enough that the restaurant actually made it's own bread, and it was good! We didn't pass a single car, and our top speed on the straights was 110KMH. Going up? Sometimes we drove for twenty minutes at 40KMH. That's really slow. The snow began to fall as we approached the mountains and between the rain, ice, and snow falling, we had quite an adventure just making it through the mountain passes. Near the top of one of the larger peaks we went through a series of tunnels, 16, to be exact. Most of them were small, maybe between 1/8 and 1/4 mile long. The last one was 5 kilometres long! That's HUGE! I think it's just over 3 miles, and we collected quite a few cars behind us because they weren't allowed to pass in the tunnel. Once we were through the mountains, we crossed several small villages, each with twisty, winding roads, and tried to navigate via cel phone with landmarks, because there weren't road signs or street signs. Plus, we didn't have a map of the area -- they didn't make one! I don't know how we did it, but we managed to find the cathedral in the town of Baguera and attempted to park. It was a sliding contest which gravity won and the little car lost. I ended up pushing for a long time to get the car rotated around and into a spot. Like elsewhere in Spain, there are no parking spaces, just spots where you can be creative. You simply find a place you think your car will be safe, and out of the way enough, and leave it there. I heard some yelling, looked up, and saw Nacho waving from the top floor of this place. He came out in shorts (!) and helped get our things inside the apartment.

The apartment was unbelievable, made of stone and wood. I really like natural wood homes, and combined with the fire place, this place was sure to be warm enough! It was near 0 or -1 degrees celsius when we arrived, and for me, this was dammed cold! I met with Nacho's friends and roomates from Madrid and they were all great people, very friendly and laid back. Alejandro, in particular, was really nice, and he began teaching me how to say "slang" words from Madrid. Instead of saying "That's Cool!" , they say "Sweet!" Except, instead of the literal translation of sweet (dulce), they use the word for little pear. Perdita, I think.

Another example of how the wood beams are structured throughout the place. Very solid. Despite the cold weather, the doors and windows were single pane, and as such there were heaters in every room. Thank goodness!

I really like this shot because it shows the small stairway leading up to the attic level (where most of the bedrooms were). Lots of colorful wood and the chimney goes straight up the middle. I decided to sleep downstairs next to the fireplace, so my (potential) snoring wouldn't shake the house down. The couched fit me just fine and since we had arrived late at night, everyone wanted to go out and party! There was so much snow falling, and the weather forecast indicated the next day would be storming as well. Everyone thought that there would be poor conditions the next day (low visibility, etc) so they decided to show me some of the village nightlife.

First stop? The town of Arties, which is very rustic, but filled with modern conveniences (like hot water and bathrooms!). There's also a Parador hotel there, which I visited later, that was really nice. The Parador series was set up during the Franco era in Spain, when he decided to renovate many historical buildings/castles/forts and make them into luxury hotels. We went to a nice two level bar called La Luna, and I met some more friends, one of who was a girl named Christina Harmon (sp?) who was the Spanish National Champion 3 times for moguls. I joked with Rocio (who also was there from Madrid!) that everyone in Spain seemed to be a champion of some sort. She suggested I adopt some sort of title myself, but when I told her I was the Hawaii State High School Chess Champion she didn't think that would be very cool. Oh well. We went to another place, caught some more drinks (they were flying around pretty fast!) and then headed out to a place called Pacha. It's a world famous dance club with places in unique spots around the world, like Buenos Aires, Argentina, Ibiza, and here in the mountains, on the border between France and Spain! Anytime I see the Cherry symbol I get a little nervous. Just like a big white girl with a Rock-a-billy flair and old-school bangs, you have to be very careful! We danced all night long, I broke up a fight on the dance floor (with my mighty American muscles, haha), and enjoyed ourselves until about 6AM. The little car, which I christened the Trooper, made it back up the hill and we all went inside the house to warm up while Mario parked. I forgot to mention this earlier, but the car's heater didn't work, so it was cold rollin'!

No, it is not another beer! Since it was a long night, and I was worried about wearing myself out too quickly, we whipped up some chicken soup to help battle the elements.

I woke up the next day to a beautiful, snow filled paradise. Seeing all the snow the night before didn't do the place justice, and because we had travelled by night, I didn't realize how many mountains we'd actually driven through. Everyone was moving slowly that morning, and apparently everyone had woken up at 8AM to check the conditions and declared them to be unski-able on the mountain, because there was zero visibility. What to do? I started my day with a hot shower and took this picture from the window above my sofa. It seems like no matter how small a town or village is, there is always a church or cathedral.

Threw the big lense on my Canon and grabbed a shot of the little car, which Mario had parked in a bad spot the night before, haha! I don't know if it was because the snow had covered the no parking signs, or he just wasn't thinking, but the next morning he was pretty upset when he saw that his car had been boxed in by the snowplow. I took a shower while he went to find the snowplow driver to beg for some assistance in rescueing his wheels. Everything worked out in the end because the snowplow driver was from Argentina and Mario was able to use some native expressions to convey his appreciation (one of our other roomates is also from there).

Despite how old these villages are in the mountains (some are several hundred years old!), there is still construction going on. This ski resort area is one of the most expensive in all of Europe, and although the Alps are higher in elevation, Bequeira Beret attracts lots of rich people because of the atmosphere and relative exclusivity. It seemed like everyone but us had a nice Audi Quattro, Range Rover, or BMW or Mercedes SUV. Seriously. Please note the cranes in the background. I walked for a bit to survey the construction of the homes and was disappointed to find that they were building modern style Chateaus. Concrete everywhere and wood framing. So much for mismatched stone walls, which to me look so much better and "fit" better into the feeling of this place.

On my hike over to the new buildings I found this older home. It didn't look any different than the houses nearby, but this sign says it all. 1763. Maybe it was one of the newer homes on the block

After a bit of walking, it was early afternoon, and everyone wanted to go into town for some lunch. We stopped in Arties and had a fantastic meal with salads, Chorizo (YES!), Morcilla (blood sausage), sizzling platters of beef, you name it. I thought after two hours we had had enough, but the food just kept on coming! Since there was no skiing to be done, the only thing to do was "hang out" and have coffee, Pacharan, and good conversation. Pacharan is a spiced liquor that is really good for warming you up. Think cough syrup with some Vick Vaporub, add licorice, herbs and whatnot, and you end up with a reddish pink drink that is really nice. After our three hour lunch, which was considered normal, we headed further down the mountain to Vielha, to sightsee and have coffee and wine at a great little place. Here's a shot of Vielha's church.

I have this thing about running water. I love it! The soothing sounds, the idea that life is always moving, never stagnant. I used to fish from the rocky shores in Hawaii and have been around the water for most of my life. Despite living on the mainland for more than five years I have never gone fishing at a lake. Gross! The thought of trapped water is really depressing and dirty, and I feel bad for the water, since there is so much lost potential just sitting there.

I took this picture because I like the roofline, with all the different portals for heat and smoke to escape. I don't know how Santa is supposed to get down all these little chimneys, but he does! Interesting cultural footnote; in the Catalan Nativity scenes, there are the standard barn animals, the three wise men, baby Jesus with his parents, the normal stuff. But, there's an added person off to one side called Caga Nei (sp?), who is a man squatting on the ground and doing his "business". This is portrayed in every nativity scene and represents the Catalan "down to earth" nature.

We had relaxed almost the entire afternoon, and since the weather looked to be getting better we all decided to have a quiet night in preparation for the next day's activities! We hit the supermercado and bought some pasta and Nacho made an amazing meal with a white sauce and natural bacon and mustard seeds. Damn good, and just what I needed to warm me up and make me sleepy. We woke up early the next morning, grabbed our gear, and headed out to the mountain! One snowboard rental, a pricey lift ticket, two very long lift rides up, and we were almost at the top. Everyone was an accomplished skiier, and I have only had one other day in the snow, back in early '95, so I opted for the snowboard. I thought, hey, I can surf, right? The last time I had tried it the conditions were really bad and everything was hard packed and icey. All I remember about the first time was that I fell and fell, and then fell some more. Still, I wasn't expecting to do well today and was there to hang out and have a good time in the snow. We took a picture to commemorate our first outing together in the snow and then Nacho promptly dropped off the "course" and into wild terrain. I watched him disappear down the mountain and strapped up, anticipating my first snowboard ride down to be in the form of a rapidly enlarging snowball!

The vistas from the mountain were incredible, and I think this was the farthest I've ever been from civilization. Bequeira Beret (also know as Baguera Beret) was deep in the Pyrenees on the France/Spain border. I knew that Hannibal had crossed this mountain range with elephants, on his way to kick some ass in Rome, but I didn't know how big this place really is! I think this is as far from Hawaii as you can get (climatically), and I wonder if anyone else from Hawaii has ever been here.

After a couple trips down the hill I paused for a coke and a candy bar. This coke (which looks like the same size as the US cans but is actually a little smaller) was about $2.65. Another strange thing about the cans here is that they're beefier than the US cans, both stronger and heavier. I always get faked out when I'm drinking from one because it feels like I have a ounce or two still left in the can. I had crashed so many times that this candy bar was in a million frozen pieces. It was still super tasty and provided a small recharge for me so that I was able to go on several different runs later in the day and try to take every lift I could. At this point I was merely surfing the backside of the board and was having difficulty negotiating turns. Tricky stuff! I was having a great time, though, and with the elevation and thin air, I was getting really worked!

Late in the afternoon I was super tired, from all the crashing, hiking around, and excitement. I went to the peak of the mountain and meditated for a while. Here's a shot I took looking towards the people I love in California and Hawaii.

Another shot to the Southeast, to the people I love in Singapore.

Those of you who have been paying attention know that I have been jonesing for a bike for a while now. I've been going crazy without a bike! I mentioned this to my friends when we had lunch on the mountain and they smiled and said we had to hurry home after skiing all day to get ready for a special dinner. Great, I thought, here I am ready to drop dead on my feet from exhaustion, and I have to go drinking again! At 5:30 or so we dropped off the gear, piled back into the SUV's, and motored out! We drove for what seemed like a long time, and I curled up in the back seat and took a nap with my head against the window on a rolled up sweatshirt. When we started off-roading I woke up, and we proceeded to head deep into a valley in the middle of nowhere. Bouncing along, sliding in certain places, our three vehicle caravan finally came to a stop and I have no idea how anyone knew where they were going, since there wasn't a real road around and it was pitch black out. We piled out of the cars and the first thing I saw was this!

There were several Artic Cat two seaters and this Kawi 700cc two stroke beast! We met up with a snowmobile guide and he led us through the controls and how to operate them properly (heh heh heh). Thumb actuacted throttle on the right and left lever for the brakes. Pretty simple stuff. . . . . or so I thought! We formed a line and proceeded to rip through the hills and over little streams into the night. The headlights provided plenty of light and the two stroke power was amazing. I'd never had a hit quite like this before and the traction from the track was awesome. I didn't know you could "wheelie" a snowmobile, but even if the skids never left the ground (super long suspension in the front) you couldn't control it because there wasn't any weight on the front skis. BBrrraapppp! We stopped for a second to drop one of the guys off on the side of the "road" and continued on deeper into the night. Eventually, we came to a full stop in a secluded valley and took some time to look at the moon and the stars, the mountains, and listen to some history about the area and the people that lived there. This area was known as the Muntanya Negra (black mountains, or something like that) and was very dangerous because it was full of wolves and black bears. We were advised to turn off all the lights and not use flashlights because they would attract unwanted attention. Additionally, the lead guy's snowmobile had slipped a track and was out of commision. We rolled it over onto it's side and between myself and two other guys we managed to lever the track back into place. Thank goodness, because I had no idea where the heck I was and I didn't want to go exploring to find out. Funny how you least expect to be working on a "bike" and then here you are in -6 below conditions working in two feet of snow on something you've never even seen before. But we did it!

We had stopped at the base of a famous mountain that separated Spain from France. France! Due to all the switchbacks in the area, I didn't know how many times we technically crossed any borders, but it was really cool knowing that we could just aim north and be in another country in a few minutes, by snowmobile! How's that for international evasion! We continued along for a bit and I had fun waiting way in the back of the line, only to hit it before entering the corners to really get a feel for the machine. Woo-Hoo! After a couple turns I realized I was instinctively counter-steering and ruining my lines a little. I would be hanging off with everything I had and punching it and Sha-Zam, these things would rocket away! Awesome fun, and if I could deal with living in a cold place like this I'd definitely own one of these. We ended up at a small cottage in the trees, which was the home of Jordi Galindo, one of the top ski instructors at the resort and also known at the Yeti of the Mountain. We had met the previous day over lunch and he was really cool, full of warmth and a hearty laugh. We got in the house and tried to warm up next to the only fireplace and I walked around to take some pictures. I was really happy my camera was still working, because I fell down on it a lot while snowboarding, and I still have a huge bruise on my ribs to prove it! These old pieces of wood were hanging around and no one knew what they were for. I assume they're for pelts or making something. Anybody know what these are?

Another shot of the wood things. The house was built by Jordi's grandfather and was well set up. There was a satellite phone and a huge stereo in place and we started to party as we warmed up. We hooked up some home made skiing video's that Jordi and his friends had made and had a great time listening to music, enjoying the drinks, and waiting for dinner! One of the videos was of Sete's cousin and family getting helocopterred to a remote mountain and featured footage of all of them kicking butt and doing tricks. I guess when you're cousin is Gibernau and gramp's owned Bultaco, your family has enough time and money to become good skiiers, much less use a helocopter when you want to go somewhere!

This is Jordi, who was busy cooking all manner of things, from eggs, to sausages, to lamb chops, all kinds of things! The food was prepared over an open fire and was delicious. The courses never stopped! We had homemade Pate, butifara (a spicey sausage), more Morcilla, salads, more stuff than I can remember. Lots of wines and pan con tomate with lots of fresh garlic. The food was the best and everyone had a great time because the flavors were so potent and nothing was store bought it seemed. You just can't beat fresh, home cooked food! When everyone was referring to Jordi as the Yeti of the mountain, I thought that was just a friendly way of saying he was a real mountain man. I mean, sure, he was really big and burly, but a Yeti?

This is where Jordi got the nickname, though this says Yeti of the Month!

Here's a shot of everyone enjoying the food. It was a little crowded at the table but the conversation was lively and I could barely follow what was going on! We ate for another three hours and ended the night playing drinking games from the mountains. Everyone had a blast and being in the wilderness with such good people was awesome. I still can't believe how much good food there was, and how much Pacharan and other spiced drinks we made it through! There was a tasty lemon liquor and many of the drinks were made in the small villages, the same recipe for hundreds of years with old recycled bottles and homemade labels. Really makes me look down on Bud Light now.

Eventually the night wound down, but not before we had squeezed every last drop of life from the day that we could! Rarely have I had such a complete and mind-blowing day filled with totally new and fantastic experiences. Thanks to Jordi Galindo and Nacho for the incredible hospitality and phenomenal food!

Woke up early the next day to find another "snowed-out" morning. Had a coffee at this cute little hotel in the mountains and read some of the local magazines. Turns out in the Spring there's a BMW ride that sees 3000 riders turn up in Vielha for a rally. The roads around here are really long and twisty, and it's easy to see why one would want to ride a bike around here in better weather. Beemers are really popular bikes in Spain, and they even have a cool scooter with a roof (like the Mercedes one). The only problem with the roofed models that I can see it that the rider gets the roof and the passenger hangs on back and holds on for dear life! I'll try to grab a photo of one the next time I see one parked.

Grabbed a photo of this dog I had seen all week. He was constantly sniffing the snow and rolling around in it. I'd never seen a dog playing in the snow and it was really fun to watch. He didn't seem to mind the freezing temperatures at all, and was growling and wuffing away without a care in the world.

Had a snack at the Parador in Arties, which consisted of Spanish Tortilla (which is actually a thick omelette) over pan con tomate (which is toasted bread with fresh tomato rubbed on it, with olive oil and sometimes garlic). It was great, and was a welcome addition to my usual breakfast of cigarettes and beer! Just kidding.

It was time to head back to Barcelona, and I was tired and ready to sleep for a couple days. The lifestyle here in the mountains is for truly hardy people and with all the cold I was ready for a change. I met some fantastic people here and also from Madrid, and overall the trip to the snow was inspiring, educational, and not one I'm likely to forget. Spent some time at this stream and then pointed the car in the same direction and headed out! It was a long and peaceful drive filled with Cokes and Doritos, and the little car held up just fine. Tonight I'm watching a futbol game on tv and then going out with the roomates. Don't these people ever quit?!?

December 05, 2005

Back to the grind! (with Paella!)

So I woke up to a beautiful morning today, the sun was shining, everything was nice. The bed was cozy and I didn't have a hangover, so what caused me to wake up so early? Ahhh, the upstairs neighbor was clomping around in her cowboy boots and blasting some 80's music. I guess since the construction workers aren't cutting tile at 8:30 (!) in the morning outside my apartment door on the weekends, she's decided it's her job to wake me up instead. It wasn't so bad, usually the construction guys are jack-hammering the old tile/marble stuff off the cement, and that is noisy as heck! Quite possibly the noisiest apartment I've ever been in. Still, it was a nice morning and my roomate, Mario, wanted to work on his bike. He's always pushing me to do something or other to his bike, and today it was maintenance day. Yippy for me! We walked over to the garage where he rents a stall and I proceeded to get some work done while he watched and asked questions and applied European logic to changing oil, removing body panels, you name it. Phew. Here I am working on a 650 Honda Dominator replacing the turnsignals in front after removing the side fairings. It's quite an ugly bike when it's naked, but then, I thought it was pretty ugly to begin with. Ahhh, the snobbery of a guy without a bike! I changed the oil and filters, fed and bled the brakes, general stuff. Actually, it felt really good to be getting some work done on a bike since I've technically not been working for a couple weeks. It's not that my hands missed it, I think it had something to do with my self-worth.

Click Below

Here's a neat thing about the garage. It's so small that even compact cars have trouble maneuvering through it and into their stalls. So they installed this cool, rotating platform in the center. People pull up, get out, spin their car around, and then park. I'd never seen anything like this before but I didn't get a chance to fool around with it on the bike. I can see it now -- coming home on the bike and losing the front or the back because of the ground spinning, haha. "I don't know what happenned, the column came out of nowhere!"

forgot to add that the center car (the red one with the vertical reflective license plate) is only 50cc's! 50! And it was jam packed full of gear! I can't wait to see something like that on the road trying to leave the stoplight.

After a couple hours in the dungeon (el garage), we went home. Mario's girlfriend, Thoci, was preparing lunch for the house and I was hungry! She's a strange girl, with a very animated style of speaking. Furthermore, this is the longest skirt I have seen her wear (and she comes over several times a week). I took this picture to show everyone the Muppet Babies stockings she was wearing.

Still, Thoci cooked a great meal. Valencia Style Paella!! This was my first authentic paella and it was fantastic. I could eat it everyday. It had mussels, clams, octopus, prawns, shrimps, lots of goodies! Two glasses of wine, two helpings of food, and I was ready for a siesta!

Boo-YAH! *We don't need no stinkin' burgers*

Though fries are quite common and popular here in Spain.

More cool roadsters from the streets. This one had a neat tank that was half chrome, but the rest of the bike was filthy! yuckO!

Side shot of the Cagiva Planet. You can totally see the monster influence except for the frame.

Well, the weekend flew by and I'm headed out to the Pyrenees later this afternoon. It's a 500 KM drive in a
tiny car that displaces .65 liters. 650cc's! It motors along pretty well, for a FIAT, and even has power windows, locks, stereo, and AC! Here's a picture of some drinks I had at a Tiki Bar in downtown. The straws were three feet long! It was alledgedly a Hawaiian themed place, but was strictly stuck in the tiki tiki days and the locals here don't know the difference.

December 03, 2005

It's Seriously Mainstream

Just to give everyone an idea of how mainstream motorcycling is here in Spain I took these photos earlier this evening. I went to a local mall (gasp!) to get something to eat and walked by this store filled with Auto/Moto gear. Mostly Rossi, Alonso - the F1 Spaniard and current world champ, and some Ferrari swag. When was the last time you saw an actual store, a permanent one, that catered to high speed fans? Thing is, I've seen several stores like this selling GP gear, pit shirts, every kind of sweater you could want, hats, etc. Who's that hanging out in the back?

I think the lights were too bright, because my head is so shiney. So is Valentino's hat, but he didn't seem to mind in the least!

December 02, 2005

Looky, Birthday Presents!

Check out my cool stuff, haha.

I got a couple small things from my friends for my birthday, the best of which was this! I also got some great music from the Baz Luhrmann movies, like the speech song (everybody's free [to wear sunscreen]) and many more good songs (seriously, check the album out)! Had some great chocolates, too, my favorite being the Cadbury Fruit and Nut bar, and I just wanted to say a deeply heartfelt Thanks to everyone for making my brithday special!

Can't think of many companies that know how to market themselves as well as Repsol, in terms of sheer numbers of free goodies!

At first I thought it was a CD case, but then I realized it was too small. Minidisk maybe? Nope. Opening it up revealed a wealth of small gadgets designed to simplify my life. Que Perfecto! Patricia knows I'm always carrying my computer equipment around and this is really gonna clean up my backpack! It's got an optical mouse, a USB camera hook-up, a 4-way USB splitter (which is awsome, since I can't do anything when my iPod is jacked in!), and best of all, a headset for speaking and listening. Really cool stuff, but not as cool as genuine American Peanut Butter!