January, 2006

January 30, 2006

The Macba, Museum of Modern Art, Barcelona

Finally had a chance this past weekend to visit the Macba museum in the Raval area. It was formerly a crummy part of town but it's a lot nicer thanks to additional policing and newer construction. It's a Modern Art museum, but many of the exibits dated from the fifties through the seventies. You can find out more about this place here:


A shot up the chute between the main exibition hall and the bookstore/giftstore. I couldn't believe how many art and photography books were available! Sure wish it was a sunnier day, but hey, you get what you can!

I would've taken pictures of the interior and the artwork, but then I wouldn't have been relaxing. There was a large black rectangle, though, and that was some Mo-darn Art! It was a big black painting of a big black rectangle. I'm still thinking about it. Course, there was also a city made out of chocolate, but that was ancient. Here's a shot showing the new and the old in this part of town.

This is a very popular area with the Skaters. Every time I've been through here I've had an education on what's cool to wear when you're young! From baggy, to military, to ripped and shredded, to quasi-normal, it's nice to see the variety and diversity -- but I don't want my pants halfway down my ass!

There's only so much "Art" a guy like me can take! Just scouring the surrounding blocks turned up this *Beauty* from the right era and just sitting there, waiting for some love. I wonder if the tires gave up before the owner did. . .

January 28, 2006

My Secret Mission in Madrid

I only had a few days to do the tourist thing, and I was fighting a cold for part of the time. The weather wasn't helping, but I survived by drinking lots of pacharan. Early one morning I headed towards the outskirts of the city to meet up with a friend of mine named Javier. He lived a ways out of the city so I took the subway to it's final stop to meet him. While I waited at a bus stop the sky looked grim and the cloud cover wouldn't burn off for several hours.

The bus stop happenned to be right outside of a large Bull-fighting arena. I don't really condone it, but who am I to talk?

We drove for about forty five minutes listening to techno (wake-up music for Javi) and chain-smoking. We finally arrived at a very non-descript building in an industrial area. The doors were bullet-proof, and heavy!

The only thing that tipped me off that this building was special was this truck parked in the alley on the side. What's that sticker in the window say?

Upon entering the warehouse I immediately noticed all these shipping containers. We all know what fits inside of these, right?

Things like *This* go inside boxes like that!

You know, stuff like *This*

Crouching Tigers. . . . .

Welcome to the home of D'antin's racing headquarters in Madrid! It's a large warehouse building that is split into various storage and work rooms. On the main floor there are the Spanish CEV bikes in one room, and another large room dedicated to the MotoGP effort. Upstairs is mostly storage and was filled with all manner of things.

Lots of old leathers upstairs. The stories these suits could tell! Several Championships represented, and some old suits of Shinya Nakano, Norick "Norifumi" Abe, and more.

Another room was filled with almost a hundred magnesium wheels, and pricey parts were everywhere. Here's some of the old scooter and bikes that were tooked away in a corner under the stairs. I see an old Bultaco and a Montessa in there, somewhere!

These are the old Spanish Championship bikes, a couple R6's and R1's. Next season promises to be fun, and there was a beautiful ZX-10R stripped down and ready to be converted into a Superbike. . . and it looked just like the ones the Kawasaki USA team is putting together for the AMA series . . . . . .

I had fun wandering around, playing with parts, and giving a helping hand when possible. This chassis was missing something or other.

So I helped stuff this engine in. Gotta figure that when I'm around people are always asking me to do something or other, haha. Just kidding. It feels really good sometimes, really nice to be learning new things and not just stuck in the same routines day after day. You know what they say, you may have worked somewhere for five years . . .but chances are you only have one year experience.

That's all I can show, and all I can say about this really cool GP Mecca outside of Madrid. . . .

January 27, 2006

What's Madrid Got?

I was located in the center of town and the Majestic was to be my main landmark. I used this to find my way home day and night!

As on most of my travelling days, the skies were a mix of bright and dark. Sometimes I just felt like gettin' goin', and other times you just feel like sleeping. You can criss-cross to many tourist sights within a day or two if you don't spend too much time in the museums. This is the Oriental Garden outside the Palacio Real.

It's Big.

Really Big.

There are nice buildings in the surrounding area, and a large church. I can't remember the names right now because I forgot my travel book.

These doors to the church are at least 12 feet tall, and it's quite intimidating up close. The craftmanship is beautiful. . . . but I hear that Italy is the place to go for more like this.

Made it across the tourist/shipping area to a huge park in the city center. It's a great place to walk around and relax and there are cafe's strewn throughout so you can stop and have a cafe. There's also a lake in the middle and you can rent boats to cruise around on.

Here's a nice place outside the park. Such a contrast with the Coke truck. Although Madrid is definitely a large city, it reminds me of L.A. a little bit in that it's really spread out. The sprawl makes it hard to see a lot without a vehicle, but the subway system is pretty good. The downtown/shopping area didn't impress me much but some of the restaurants were outstanding. If you're in the area, check out El Armario. Great food, good prices, and ambiance.

My favorite part of the park, the Palacio Crystal:

A shot from the other side of the Palace. There was another little lake filled with ducks, geese, and even a couple swans. The best part was when a little Jack Russell ran through the bars of the fence and promptly got the smack-down from an angry goose, wings outspread and hissing.

Wait til you see tomorrow's stuff!

January 26, 2006

Madrid's weird vehicles

It was a good trip to Movistar, and seeing everyone was really nice. However, I was really interested in seeing what Madrid had to offer! I always like seeing new places and faces, and the quirky sights here always make me smile. Thought your hatchback was small?

You may have noticed that I like to take photos of vehicles I like, and food! I really think this is a guy thing, because most of the women I know are always rolling their eyes when I have to stop for a shot. Here's a couple of pics of some bikes that caught my eye as I walked through the city. I'm surprised no one has pointed out what this is yet, after I posted a photo of a red one earlier.

These CBR 125's are quite popular in the city. Repsol replicas are more common than you think and also cross manufacturer boundaries. I've seen Repsol everything, from NSR's, CBR's, Scooters, RS50's, you name it.

I wonder which bike Gilera patterned this after?

Hmmm, the Ducati always marks it's spot!

Here's a neat Urban Steed! Top notch components and trick design are sure to make this little screamer a lot of fun to throw around. Malaguti!

Suzuki-esque headlight.

Not all the bikes were nice, haha. I wonder how much of this bike is original?

No matter where you are, this is P.I.M.P.

Here's an example of the Koreans copying the H-D V-Rod and Honda VTX designs, and decently at that. The Hyo-Sung Aquilar!

Whew, enough bikes for now, on to some of the rest of Madrid!

January 25, 2006

MotoLiam does Madrid, Spain. Telefonica, Ho!

After the Qatar race, I thought it might be a good idea to check on some things in Madrid. I basically wanted to see the biggest city in Spain, and with my good friend, Nacho, living there, why not? Travelling solo is always good for introspection, and I've had a bunch of time to think about things since I moved here.
I guess I'm used to the American way of doing things; where hard work and dedication pay off! One of the things I've noticed through my travels is that Americans work A Lot! We spend all year working, lucky to have two weeks off (and even then, getting the time off in total is difficult), and we work long hours. I really expected something to happen, or pay off by now, but one of my flaws/faults is a stubbornness that rivals a donkey's. That said, I am also getting to a point in my life where I am realizing the importance of stopping and being grateful for everything I have and everything I've done. It's important to be thankful and feel everything fully before focusing on the next goal or challenge. On my way to Madrid, my flight was delayed so I took some time to have a drink and a sandwich. Europe!

As of January 1st, Spain instituted some legislature that bans smoking in public places, like restaurants and bars. That means there are a bunch of cranky people wandering around. Basically it's the same laws in effect in California, but the loop hole here has to do with square footage of the establishment. Nonetheless, I was happy to see this in the airport after my flight.

The smoking zone was a scant twenty feet from the baggage carousel! Maybe less. Ahhhh, Spanish efficiency, hahaha.

Although it's the middle of winter, and Madrid is in the middle of the country, I didn't expect to see as much green as I did during my stay. The airport is clean and very nice and here's a shot I grabbed while crossing through a tunnel to get to the Metro station.

I arrived in town and immediately got situated. I decided to go see Nacho and some of the guys at Telefonica/Movistar and here was the little roadster that made it possible. Believe it or not, it actually says "Slingshot 16V" on the tank. Nice to see the family connection concerning this engine!

The Headquarters for the sponsorship and marketing departments is in a suburban area and I think commuting through the tree lined boulevards is really nice.

The complex is massive, and I fudged my credentials to get a passcard (thanks Nacho!). Security is very tight. For such a large company in a nice building, the lobby is non-descript and a little boring.

However, the offices are bright and airy, and much more modern than I expected. People were running around everywhere and there was a positive vibe throughout. There seemed to be trinkets, dolls, and merchandise everywhere. I spent some time talking with some of the managers and saying hi. Their marketing strategy is a little different this year but I have no doubt that they'll have fun. Almost every Movistar person I'd ever met was in the office that day, so it was very nice to be able to talk with everyone and say thanks for last year's experiences. Hi Vito, Rocio, Davide, Elena, Frankie, and everyone else!

A timeless classic!

January 17, 2006

Losail National Cup, Doha, Qatar Rd. 1

Little Nacho had called me and asked if I was working for five races in the Middle East. I was a bit nervous, but thought, why not? We were contracted by D'antin MotoGP, and were acting as an extension of his group, which competes in MotoGP, the Spanish Nationals, and also preps and maintains the racebikes for the Losail National Cup.

I haven't slept more than an hour in the last two and a half days. The night before I left BCN I was up late packing, reading, and generally puttering around because of my nerves. Then following night was aboard a luxury plane headed for Saudi Arabia, in a large group of rambunctious Spanish kids! No one slept. Got off the plane at 6:30AM and snapped this quickly as I debarked down the stairs. Welcome. . . . . . to
Doha, Qatar! Just moments before the plane touched down, we actually flew over the Losail International Circuit and it was a unique perspective to gain, not only of the track, but also of the surrounding desert and how the city meets the sea.

This is Tony, a Nigerian working at the super hotel that d'Antin put us up in, the Grand Regency Hotel, Doha (no stupid Craigslist Nigerian crap replies, please).

Always nice to have some Barf gear stashed away, thanks Budman! Can anyone guess what it says under my name? I got some great pics at the track today, and some of the job I'm involved in, but unfortunately, it's about 10 Euros per half hour of internet use here so I won't be updating and posting that often! I got work to do!

On to the Qatar stories! This is where I am, somewhere off the peninsula of Saudi Arabia. That's where Ali Baba is from.

This trip to the Middle East was one of a kind, and I learned a lot. In fact, I'm still digesting everything and haven't fully settled back down to earth yet. It'll be hard to encapsulate everything so I'll just start at the beginning and hopefully everyone will get a clear picture of how things went.
Starting at the top, I first heard about this job in the Qatar a couple weeks ago from a kid I met through a former employee of Dorna (it pays to make as many friends as possible, because you never know. . . . ). I wasn't sure at first if I should go, but after some small checks I decided that it was safe enough (as if safety bothers me, haha). Many people spoke English, and in fact, it was a small requirement of the job. I fit the bill perfectly and I wondered if I was really hired because I was an English speaker or because I was a mechanic. I would soon find out. This is inside the airport, and I was a little worried because everyone was wearing long shirts (guhtra) and head cloth (shumagh). No fear, though, and my passport was promptly stamped after the visa fees were paid. Apparently, you have to pay up front before they let you through the exit. It was approximately 18 Euros for my entrance.

Before I got to Qatar, I first had to meet some of the group of mechanics who would be my teamates for the next couple days. They came from all over Spain (literally) and half of the group lifted off from BCN and the other half from Madrid. We flew via Qatar Airways, first to London's Heathrow airport. It was a short flight and I now know how bad Heathrow can be. Throw in some flight delays, some busses, multiple levels, poor signage, and a wacky Gate arrangment, and you have a complete hodge-podge ripe for screwing up in. Add the crazy Spanish and we were in for a frenzied time just trying to meet and navigate through the mess that is Heathrow. I got separated from one group due to my non-EU passport and although I knew what my next flight was and where to go, my group members kept freaking out and calling me every two minutes. For an hour! Finally, we boarded our plane to Qatar and it was quite likely the nicest plane I've ever been on. Beautiful flight attendants, free drinks, great food -- it was a great way to start this adventure. For dinner I had Lamb Tikka with cabbage and pea curry, basmati rice, and several bottles of wine. I should point out that we left Spain at 3PM and were due to arrive in Doha around 6:30AM the following day, Thursday. As I mentioned earlier, no one slept, and it was a party atmosphere the whole trip. The flight was not even half full, so everyone was moving around, joking out loud, throwing girly magazines at one another, and generally being very unorthodox towards the girls (who were very patiently dealing with them). I did my best to distance myself from all the trouble making because I didn't want to upset any Islamic principles before I even arrived in the Middle East. Meanwhile, the spanish kids were involved in all manner of "terrorism", like hanging three page girly fold-outs in the bathrooms, and things like that.

Anyway. I arrived in Doha with no rest and the sun had just started to shine. I was here to work for Luis d'Antin, a former GP rider and since '97, a team owner who has campaigned with Norick Abe, and Shinya Nakano, among others. d'Antin currently has the Ducati Satellite team, Dantin Pramac, and you might remember that last year his rider, Reuben Xaus, was regularly beating the factory Ducati team. He also runs a team in the Spanish National Championship. Qatar hosts it's own National Cup racing series, and you must first be a Qatari citizen, and also qualify to race one of the identically prepped machines, in this case an '05 Yamaha R6. Some of these guys are pretty fast and the bikes are well set-up, with suspension modifications and some other bits. Qatar contracted d'Antin Racing Service to build and maintain these machines for their series, which runs from December through April. Like everything he does, d'Antin is hands on and involved, and even in Qatar he was busy directing all the action (while simultaneously making and receiving calls concerning his other teams and organizing this week's testing in Sepang, Malaysia). I can't figure out how he gets it all done, without an assistant. As you can see, this is box #16 of 28. Ten of the boxes were lost in transit, and this would prove to be very problematic for me in the coming days.

We waited for the next flight to show up, hoping the boxes would be on board, but no luck. I walked outside to check things out, and already the day was heating up. This is a neat "cup" that was built next to the airport. The 2006 Asia Games (something like a smaller scale Olympics) are going to be held in Doha, so I think that's the reason behind this.

I figured it was going to be a loooonnngg day, so I decided it was best to start hydrating immediately! I didn't have any Qatarees, but they took my Euros, so it worked out.

The guys were all excited about being here, and the whole flight they were telling me about the cars. I saw everything on the road, from Bentley sport coupes, to lots of Hummers and Land Cruisers. I don't think I've ever seen such a variety of road vehicles in one place. Not too many bikes on the road, but the ones that were were crazy, and fast. I think crazy must be a box you check when you apply for a license here, because people don't use the brakes. It's either GAS or HORN. Most of all, the Spanish guys seemed super excited about the Yellow School buses. Yes, they run the standard yellow buses here that took us to school in the mornings!

Qatar is known as the Pearl of the Middle East. With good reason! The average per capita income here is the highest in the world, roughly 30K USD, making Qatar the richest country in the world! Based on the fact that there are some very, very poor people here in the desert, that should tell you how unbelievably rich some of the other people are . . . . .

We stopped at the hotel to drop off our bags and take a quick shower. It was a rush, but everyone made it. We all managed to have a coffee before leaving the hotel, and we would surely need it, after travelling all night and not sleeping. Here you see part of the room I was in, and the carton of Malboros I bought on the plane for the princely sum of 10.50 Euros, or about 13 dollars. How this would become the most expensive box of smokes I ever bought will come out later. . . .

Thirty minutes after arriving at the hotel we were loaded into four cars (about 20 of us total) and speeding towards the circuit (pronounced theer-Quit). Once again it was like driving in a rally race, with former racers and testosterone taking over. Our caravan made *excellent* time and stopped once for fuel, where I spotted this.

I wonder if I'm the first Barfer to make it here? I'm definitely going to be back at some point! The natives are friendly, and the food is great! Well, mostly the food is great. The circuit's cafeteria left much to be desired, but then, I was spoiled by the hotel's restaurants. In the background is the Losail Cup coordinator, Tony Escola. He's been around GP for more than ten years and recently raised up Max Berger to compete in World Supersport. He's got some history.

Walked in to the hangar like pit area to find a couple of these! These two bikes were some of the spares, though frames, swingarms, wheels, engines, and more were situated nearby if necessary.

Actually, there were lots of bikes, all needing love and attention. The bikes were used the previous year and had about 1700 Kilometers on them, all track time. That's about 1100 miles. They were in decent shape, but nothing to write home about, haha, just kidding. We spent the day cleaning them up and changing fluids, checking torques, and generally just making sure they were race-worthy. The day finished about 6:30PM, an hour to drive back to the hotel (we got lost), and dinner was at 7:30. Everyone needed sleep, including me, and 8 hours was not enough. We were up at 6 the next morning and due at the track at 7:30. Enough time for a shower and some breakfast, though smart cookies like me showered the previous night. Who wants to get in bed all nasty?

The following day was rough! I had gotten some sleep the night before, so I was better prepared for the long day. And it was long! We got to the track around 8AM, after a breakneck romp through the desert highway, and the adrenalin was pumping when we jumped out of the cars. There was a trackday scheduled that day so the locals were out in force. It's about forty Euros a day, as much as you want to ride. I met with some ExPats there and they explained that this is the only way to go. You can either buy a boat in Qatar, a dune-buggy, or a motorcycle and race/tracktime with it. There are about thirty expats and thirty locals who regularly use the track. . . several times a month. Who wouldn't like to have their own personal track?!?Everything is relatively cheap there because people get paid so much so most of the Expats were decked out in some pricey gear. One of whom was wearing a Colin Edwards Laguna Seca helmet! I grabbed some photos, but mostly I was busy working and I didn't want to be spotted with a camera in my hand, so I didn't take a ton of pictures. I'll have other chances in the future to capture some neat shots The day became night, and because of the missing boxes lost in transit we didn't have all the pieces to put the bikes together. They arrived late the second day and by the time they got to the track it was early evening. Naturally, we stayed to make sure the bikes would be ready to go the next morning. 20 guys, no radio, all working hard until 4:30AM. Then it was another race back to the hotel (again we got lost) and by the time we got to sleep, it was for an hour. Up at 6 on Saturday for another day . . . .More pics of the event to come, I haven't downloaded a bunch from my camera (and others). Here's a neat picture of how the Qatari also like to illegally hide their license plates like back home! Squids are international, too!

Friday was to be our longest at the circuit. I took this shot early in the morning before the heavy work began. It's totally surreal to be at a big track when no one else is around. Mystical, really. After getting eight hours of sleep the night before, my batteries weren't recharged, but I wasn't hurting as bad as before. I knew that I would have what it takes, for as long as it would take because plain and simple, I love bikes! Something kicks in whenever I start working on them, and this has enabled me to spend many a night working right up through dawn until I have to go to my "day" job.

This was my bike, #14, in the line. Each rider was assigned one mechanic and although we were all technically "teamates" there was definitely a feeling of competition going on as far as servicing the machines. Since this was my first time working on an R6 I took my time, and soon enough I was discovering little tricks and shortcuts to make my life easier. Not to mention, I was the only guy to bring a couple tools on my own, and let me tell you, Snap On is the bomb! Thanks to some of my rachet wrenches, trick ratchets, and more, I was able to breeze through things and I knew I was going to have a good time.

We worked through the day, checking and re-checking things and waiting for our parts to come in. Lunch was uneventful, another day at the cafeteria (which is also open to the public -- if you're ever in the area). Dinner was another story! We didn't have time to go back to the hotel for food so we split into two groups to go eat. D'antin took us to the Doha Golf Club, an exclusive resort style course with fantastic food. At dinner I had a chance to speak with him at length, and also I became friends with Manuel Pescino, who basically runs the biggest Spanish motorcycle magazine, Solo Moto. It's weekly!I suggest the Australian Sirloin, and I even managed to have a couple of Guiness', too! Finished the meal off with some espresso, naturally, and made our way back to the track around 9PM. We all knew it was going to be several hours before we'd be headed back to the hotel so the mood was a little quieter than normal.

You know you were looking at it! This is how the ballers in Qatar roll when they hit the greens!

Around ten we finally started adding some bodywork, and it couldn't have been too soon!

Bit by bit the bikes started to come together. The paint was *fresh*, and if your weren't careful. . . . well, you get the idea.

Ahhhhh, just about wrapped up. We worked past 4:30AM that morning, and some guys weren't close to being done so they stayed straight through the night! I wouldn't have minded staying, but my work was done and applying the decals is delicate work, not suited for large groups of guys around a single bike. Of course, we got lost on the way back to the hotel (no landmarks in the desert!) and by the time my head hit the pillow, it was just after 6AM. I know that race mechanics can expect long hours, but to be frank, I wasn't expecting it to be like this from the Qatar Nationals!

Bright an early on Saturday the support races started. I want to say it was "run whatcha brung"! I was confident that my bike was working fine and in good shape for the race, so I took a moment to run out of the garage and snap this off. Vroom!

This guy literally blew the doors off the rental car on our way to the track that morning. I forgot to mention, since the desert is long and relatively flat, when we raced in the rentals, it was always at WFO. As soon as we'd pass 120 KPH, the door dingers would start ringing. Ding-Ding-Ding-Ding, and we kept on going! There is nothing so fun as playing spit on the car you're beating at 180 KPH on a two lane desert highway. At least, the Spaniards thought so. I earned my "cool" stripes by getting everyone in my car to moon two of the other mechanics' cars as we were taking the lead, but it got even better once we started off-roading. I think we cracked an oil pan; because it sure did stink. . . .

Finally, my race came around, and I was on deck to receive the rider on the track. Row four, position one. I tried not to give him any advice, other than to have fun, but he was a little sad because his parents hadn't shown up, and neither had his brother. I let him know that I had his back, ran back to my pit board, and got ready for one of the kookiest starts I've ever seen.

How many wheelies can you count?!?

Some of the race fans were normal.

Some of the race fans were *intense*.

I spent the race monitoring my rider's times and position and making sure my pit board was visible and the information was correct. We were doing pretty good I thought, and even though the lead guys took off and left everyone else in the dust, my guy was creeping up slowly on a pack of four riders. Eventually there was some dicing going on! The race came to a close and these are the winners up on the podium.

I had hoped my guy would do well, but alas, he lost the fight with gravity and slid out. I knew something was up when one lap he was there. . . and the next, he wasn't! He came back in an ambulance, a little embarrassed but no worse for wear, and I started preparing my tools while I waited for the truck to bring the bike back to the pits. It's doesn't look that bad in this shot, but he snapped a steering stop off the lower triple tree so I ended up having to change that, too, before I could go home after the race. So much for my plans to go shopping at the mall! I didn't have enough parts to completely repair the bike, but I did the best I could and eventually everyone had to leave the track and go back to the hotel. Zoom! Had a shower and some dinner and then we had almost two hours to figure out how to have some fun in Doha. . . . .

It's not so much that they "don't" let you drink there, it's just that it's not encouraged. Muslim culture is strict, and I was very impressed by certain aspects while I was there. In particular, I was amazed at how well spoken they were (in English, no less!) and at their high level of intelligence. I had a misconception before, I underestimated the Arabic peoples; that maybe because there wasn't much to do in the middle of nothing, people wouldn't be very interesting. Boy, was I way off! I think being in an environment like that can cause people to go one of two ways. . . . . one is to meditate and ruminate on things all day long, the other is to go the way of the midwest! There are Thinkers in the Middle East! While it's true that not everyone was well educated, the ones that were were eloquent, passionate, and had a particular kind of grace that I hadn't encountered before.

I got a xeroxed map of the downtown area of Qatar from a Roumanian girl who worked in our hotel and marked off a couple spots. Finally ended up at the Ramada!

This was a very strange bar that was filled with Filipinos! In fact, many of the hotels and service industry jobs in Qatar (and on their airline) are full of Filipino and Thai people. Yet another bizarre touch to this place. There were these three little Filipina girls up on stage singing and dancing and doing a really good job pulling off songs by Destiny's Child and other hip-hop songs. Whiskey and Tequila. . . and a couple rounds in it was time to go! We jumped in our cars and blasted back to our hotel to catch a shuttle bus we had chartered to get us to the airport in time for our 2AM flight.

Something was decidedly wrong at the airport, because all flights had been delayed by two hours! Two! That meant a couple hours of sitting around, and sweating while we guarded our belongings in shifts. The Duty Free shop was the only thing keeping people occupied but I managed to squirrel away and have a drink at this place:

Remember that carton of Malboros? Well, at the Duty Free, everyone in my group picked up another one because they were so ridiculously cheap. We eventually boarded our flight, much to the consternation of the uptight Germans on the way to Munich, and had some celebratory drinks once we were on the move. Arrived in an icey Munich, Germany, and because of our delayed flight in Doha we had to really hustle to make our flight transfer back to BCN! We had some snags at the passport checks, because they just wouldn't take "Tourist" for a straight answer, instead, repeating the same questions over and over. Add to that what I suspected was some racism towards the Spanish, and it just wasn't a very cool scene. We boogied downstairs, missed our turn into the connecting flight aisle, and ended up wandering around the baggage claim. We passed this really cool BMW ad and based on the blurriness of this photo, I think the guy that took it was still partying a little bit!

This display belonged at a car show, it was so cool. Large, three dimensional, just slick all the way around.

Anyway, we were lost and someone in an official looking uniform waved us over to him. I tried to explain we needed to find Terminal G but he escorted us into a room and proceeded to search our bags. I was a little worried because boarding was supposed to be taking place at that exact time, but he wouldn't let us go. Instead, he confiscated our passports and said we were each 200 Sticks over the limit and that because we entered the room through the "green" entrance, instead of the other side of the room, the "red" entrance, we were also going to have to pay fines instead of taxes. I was trying to get it through his head that we weren't even staying in Germany, or trying to leave the airport, or trying to smuggle cigarettes, or whatever, I just wanted to get to my plane. I told him to hand the stuff back and I'd go outside and walk around the room and come back in on the Red side, but noooooo wayy. The guy wouldn't even let us throw the smokes away. He was very "by the book". By now there were about ten customs agents surrounding us and watching from behind glass windows. They were primed and ready to kick some ass over some cigarettes. I detected some perverse satisfaction from them, that hahaha, we had broken the rules and he was going to set us straight. The taxes came to 30 Euros per carton, and another 30 Euros for the fine. It adds up! He cheerfully took our money and then escorted us directly to the Gate we were looking for. I have only one word for the way things went down but it's not suitable for the board. So, Thank You Germany! Now I don't have to visit any wartime museums!

This little baby finally got me out of there!

Phew, what a rush! An incredible trip where I would meet some of the people who would make a difference and work with me in the future.

January 13, 2006

Cycle World? February?

Anyone catch the latest issue of Cycle World? The one that looks like this?

There's something cool inside!

Like this secret spy shot I took of a very tall and famous b-baller. . . . . . . . on track at Valencia after the GP race last year. No one will cop to it, but does anyone remember a certain person taking a ride on the Ducati last year wearing the same suit and helmet? Just a thought.

January 11, 2006

Highly Recommended!

Well, just picked up this as an in-flight diversion. Unfortunately, I couldn't sleep last night and ended up reading it through in one sitting.
*Highly Recommended!*

January 10, 2006

Off like a Rocket!

I am off to Doha, Qatar in two days to work the Losail Cup, a promotional race series run by D'antin. I will be working on Yamaha 600's in superstock configuration I believe. I will be achieving a small success in doing so, as all my accommodations, food, and flight are paid for. Yess! I'm getting paid to travel the world and work on Motorcycles! Understandably, I am somewhat disappointed to not have a GP job (yet!) but the enthusiasm I feel right now for Qatar overshadows that. I will pay my dues in the desert and see what develops.

If anything, the ride will be worth it, and I'm learning to take small steps, building towards a goal -- not just a dream.

I'm off like a Rocket! Desert -- look out!

January 09, 2006

Name that bike!

Here's another fun motorcycle-related ad that I've found. This is in a large print catalogue for Tommy Hilfiger. I found it at a mall in Lisbon and the helpful girls at the store gave me the whole book. It's quite large, about 16"x24" closed. I was excited to see this bike. . . . . because it's very special.

Ye Olde Castelo, Lisbon

There's a nice castle overlooking Lisbon, and if you make it up there on a nice day, it's truly something special. It gets pretty cold out here so unless a Castle was well equipped and insulated I don't think people would be living in them these days. On one of my trips I came across this guy playing the most beautiful guitar. It was crisp and bright and his notes sang through the castle walls and wafted gently on the winds. His name was Pedro Godinho and I bought his cd for 8 Euros. Magnificent!

January 07, 2006

Sintra, Portugal

I heard about a magical place a few hours outside of Lisbon. Naturally, I had to check it out!

Two hours after leaving Lisbon, by trains, I started an uphill ascent that took nearly an hour. These are some photos along the way. What kind of plant is this? I used it quite a bit as a child because it grows wild in Hawaii.

These next photos are some of my favorites, and some of the best I've ever taken. Nothing's been retouched or 'worked-on'. Gorgeous!

Cloudy days, cloudy days.

The Moorish influence runs deep in Portugal. This was a way stop going up the mountain. I could have waited for a bus to take me to the top, but that was nearly four Euros, and I wanted to really soak everything in.

Ideally, this would have been the way to travel!

A common sight on the way up? A castle in the foothills. The lush vegetation and stiking differences in the buildings buried in the hills made sights like this that much more intense.

The sun started shining the higher up I went. What a place to try and attack!

Nice little Rook, too bad the moat wasn't in full effect.

When you make it to a far away castle in Portugal, I highly suggest bringing along a bottle of Vinho de Porto. It's a little sweet, but combined with cheeses and dried meats, it's a great way to unwind, unfocus, and absorb.

Still standing, after all this time. The wind was most impressive, rushing up the mountain side and whipping about violently. I wonder how often they replace the flag?

Crawling along the battlements, looking back, and realizing that this place was so big that to run downstairs for a sandwich was a half day affair, at best! That's it for now, more to come later.

January 03, 2006

Peter Pan lives, in Lisbon.

The day after the Lisbon Dakar race started, I met Peter Pan. He's pretty nice in person.

January 02, 2006

Lisboa Dakar, part 2

The start. One race day, there was a crowd of thousands waiting in the dark. I had to stand very far away, wrapped in my American Flag, and using my 300 lense. Many people stopped to talk to me (because of my flag toga) and take pictures. I was conscious to flash the peace sign a lot.

The whole she-bang. There was a great monument across the street from the Museum and for two Euros you could take an elevator to the top. If the weather was better the pictures would be outstanding, but as it is, the winter won and the gloominess only added to the foreboding feeling and the challenge of the Dakar.

This baby castle was situated on the shore facing the Atlantic. I assume it's an early warning station for ships entering the harbor and heading up the bay into the Lisbon Peninsula.

The dark of the Start.

This building provided the most light, and it was a really classy touch to an otherwise dreary morning. Then the rain started falling.

Here's Rauseo and Krynock gearing up for the beginning. I have more Dakar photos but I'm anxious to begin posting other pictures!

January 01, 2006

Lisboa Dakar, Start!

This is what the start of the Dakar race looks like. Riders go up a special ramp set-up to the "stage" start and stop to have their names and countries read out loud to the audience. Then they wave, get the nod, and roll out! Pete threw on his goggles and took off quite carefully. About 5-ish in the morning it was pitch black and it started raining. Everyone was quite nervous because they were all on new knobby tires and the wet asphalt made things treacherous. Many riders commented on just making it through the streets and were scared of falling down in front of everybody.

December 31st, approx. 6:34AM.

Can you imagine what's going through his mind as he sets off into the unknown? It's not about the race. . . it's about survival. Endurance, focus, navigational skills, everything comes into play here. I would estimate most of the riders were in their forties! One, it's an expensive race to undertake, and two, they have the maturity to run their pace and not crap out. Younger riders may be very fast for a couple days, but they never seem to make it to the final stage.

#119, Pete. It started to rain while we were talking so if the picture looks blurry it's a combination of rain, poor camera action, and the fact that the race started in the DARK! Scary stuff people. It was amazing seeing everyone before the start of the race because the wealth of motorcycling experiences they had achieved already was incredible. Seeing some footage of the race environment really made it evident how stark and alien the landscape is in Africa. I spoke for a long time with a woman named Sally (Sally Rally, and other nicknames, haha), who hold numerous records for a female motorcyclist, like climbing the highest on Mount Everest. I didn't even know you could do such a thing, much less have a competition for it. As I shook Pete's hand I told him the same thing I said to all the Dakar participants:
"God Bless and God Speed."
It seemed appropriate.

I arrived in Lisbon on the 29th, just in time to get a quick dinner and walk around a little. I knew the Dakar Race wasn't starting until the 31st, and I spent the the 30th touring through the city a bit and just getting a feel for the people. I did make it down to the exibition of vehicles, though, and despite the heavily overcast weather, I had a great time checking out all the colorful cars/trucks/bikes/and really, really, big trucks! The Dakar was kicked off from the grounds of a famous museum with classic moorish structures intermixing with machinery of the highest caliber.

I had a great time checking out the grounds of the event and just walking around in general. The people weren't necessarily rude, but they seem to have a problem getting out of the way. . . .
Nonetheless, I took a lot of pictures, talked with a couple Americans (I eventually met 6 American non-racers over the weekend in Lisbon), and kept my eyes and ears out for anything interesting.

The surrounding fields and parks were fenced off and under constant surveillance from both armed security guards, local police, and Dakar officials. Gauloises was well represented in all categories.

I met with Peter Brock, who works with Robby Gordon, and we discussed Gordon's plans for the Dakar. He's running an experimental H3 "truck" that was still being worked on the day before the race. We joked about his involvement in Nascar, and quite bluntly I was told that he only races Nascar to make enough money to race off-road. I guess it does pay the bills :) Gordon has signed up for three years with this team and that shows some serious commitment by all parties. As of today, day three, he's 1:30 seconds back off the leader, and that's pretty good for an American driver. The giant screen in the background was playing highlights from the previous Dakar races constantly, all the way from the first run in 1979! A fantastic history lesson in itself.

One shot of Gordon's vehicle. More info can be found at

Robby Gordan's website.

I found some neat freebies, like this bottle of vino!

Actually, it was a wine shooter :)

There were tons of local police cruising around on these old Beemers.

Is this a Lotus Elise on Steroids?!? I didn't know who made these cars, but there were quite a few and they looked the business!

Believe it or not, this is the factory grill off a street legal H3.

Enough with the four wheelers for now, on to the bikes! There were literally hundreds of them sitting, waiting. Most of them had the GPS equipement removed and when the riders showed up early on Race morning, many were carrying their gear in plastic bags. A couple of them forgot things at the hotel and there were frantic taxi rides back and forth to insure everything was exactly where it belonged. Once the riders entered the fenced off area on race day, the rules kicked in. No Assistance!

To my complete delight, Yamaha had decided to run their 50th anniversary colors, the Barda Bee scheme!

Who's bike is that in the background (#42) and how is he doing currently?

As far as I could tell, this was the lone Suzuki entry. . .

Hog Wild Racing!

These guys were a little crazy, building their own frame and front end to run the Dakar in the sidecar category. Overall, it was a burly beast, with HUGE tires. No other sidecar has successfully navigated the Dakar, except for one. And they cheated by circumventing the Sahara and taking a time penalty. I'm not sure how they're doing right now, since I haven't seen any coverage. Speaking of coverage, every night at 10:30 here there is a Dakar Update on Eurosport. Several channels always seem to be playing footage from that day's section and I'm glad to see motorcycling getting some airtime!

I have to get some rest, it's late at night over here (again!). I'll leave you with this since I probably won't be posting for a day or two:
What is this, where is it from, and who makes it?

I had a fantastic time in Lisbon, and the outlying areas. I had some good food, met some interesting people, and really got a kick out of the architecture, the rich history, and dipping a toe in the Atlantic for the first time! Naturally, documentation of the journey will make it to Barf, just not as rapidly as normal. I have a hectic couple of days coming up and within a week I expect to be somewhere very unique. . . .

Where will I be on January 15th? Yes, it's motorcycle related, but not related to the Dakar. . .

This was really nice to see. A message in French from the rider's daughter and wife. Watching the start of the race in the morning, I saw a group of people (obviously family members of the pilot) who broke down in sobbing tears as he took off from the first checkpoint. It must be extremely nerve-wracking to know your partner is going to be in the middle of nowhere for the next two weeks battling the elements and mother nature in some of her worst conditions.

Here's Rauseo's and Krynock's bikes before the big test.

More of Yamaha's 50th party! One of these bikes was piloted by a very attractive woman. Rawr - Sexy!

Here's Rauseo's bike's MUG. On every bike I saw, the pilot's name was next to his country's flag. In this case, Charlie and crew were running the Skull and Crossbones. . . . . why?!? Privateers!

Who's a Dakar fan?

Some shots from the museum/conference hall next to the bike parking. What's that in the background?

This will sound strange, but Lisbon reminds me of SF in a big way. There's a replica Golden Gate, and across the bridge it totally reminds me of Sausalito. It's kind of creepy, really, how similar this place is to SF. You need to see it to understand.

This is art, and in the right place, too! The perfect blend of relics!

Total Insecticon Street Cleaner!

DC, Yo! Support your local skate shop, fools! So good to see this level of support from the extreme industry.

Some last Dakar shots, before I delve into the Lisbon and Castelo trips. These race trucks are unbelievable. I think this particular one hails from Japan.

Watching the coverage on TV every night makes it seem easy, but seeing three crew members scrabbling in the sand trying to dig their trucks out brings it all home. Sometimes the trucks are so stuck they attach a rope and literally "roll" their truck down a dune. . . .
Sideways! They flip over several times and hopefully land on their wheels.

Gotta love independent tire pressure, controlled from the cab with remote inflator/deflators.

This armored car looks like the A-Team designed it.

One of my favorites, the UniMog!

Did I mention that these Trucks are HUGE?!? That's a full size Toyota Land Cruiser sitting there. And these trucks and cars sometimes blaze past the bikes (we're talking clipping distance!). Can you imagine splitting traffic with these big boys? I had dinner with this crew the night before at a seafood joint. They were all relaxed and smoking up a storm. Hailing from the Netherlands, most of them spoke halting English, and I wished them luck. Haven't seen them on TV yet, though.