June 30, 2006
Looking for money, found a good burger!
The day after Holland, I went around searching for Western Union places in BCN. According to the WU website, this was one of them. A long walk later I was there, but they were closed for lunch. I did what anyone would have done in my place, and had lunch myself. I should mention that there were no mentions of lunch hours posted, either on the web or the actual place itself. SPAIN!
Naturally, the place ended up not being connected to WU anymore, and that kicked off a whirlwind 6 hours of frantic searching and back and forths with VTRweasel, and eventually we got things right. Turns out WU spelled my name wrong in the computer and that was a screw-up of a collossal nature. Big FU to WU. But there's never time to have bad feelings. Life is too short to dwell on the negative, and besides, I got things to do! Like enjoy this great hamburger - best I've found in BCN. Too bad it's so far away from my house, and next to that useless travel agency.
June 29, 2006
Assen GP06 - Hollanda, here I come!
No time for a rest, because once I realized I was sans wallet, I spent all my remaining time dealing with my credit card and US banks on the phone. If it wasn't for Skype, I probably would be even farther up the creek, if you know what I mean. The Monday after the race, Hiro swung by and bailed me out with some cash to pay for a rearranged flight and some necessities. I hopped on the next flight on Tuesday morning - and I wasn't sure how it was going to turn out. Turns out I ended up waiting for our technical director, Dede, and our media guy, Jacopo, in the Schiphol airport. Before I left Spain, I picked up the latest Solo Moto and noticed this "other" magazine. Lots of people were reading it on the flight, like Carlos Checa (seated in front of me) and a couple other peeps from the circus. The common name for this person is "Hollywood" in the paddock.
I was soooo happy to be flying KLM, Koninklijke Luchtvaart Maatschappij voor Nederland en Kolonien (the Royal Airline for the Netherlands and it's Colonies - later shortened to KLM after WWII). The staff is exemplary, and I feel they are a top notch outfit. Plus, the planes are camo'd to match the sky in case of an alien attack from above! The Koninklijke predicate was granted to the airline, meaning that they come with the personal recommendation of the House of Orange!
Schiphol airport is probably one of the nicest around, with a large open air terrace on the upper floor so you can watch the planes and some neat little places to shop and eat. Everyone seems to be bi-lingual, so getting info and directions is fairly straightforward. I hung out for a couple hours and watched the hoards of Orange coming home to prepare for their match with Argentina. . . . which was solid! The bathrooms are immaculate (a nicety in my world), and the fixtures are very stylish and modern. Automatic, too. You all should definitely use the restrooms in Amsterdam. I didn't take any photos because I had my hands full.
The Dutch even have their own Harlem! Can you imagine how neat the world would be if they'd never gotten goosed for New Amsterdam? We'd all speak two languages and be masters of Global trade - unlike now!
Catalunya was hot! About ten Gatorades a day hot (without a bathroom break!). It's not just the weather that makes it hot, it's working in close quarters with the bikes, which produce tempuratures you're not likely to find with streetbikes. Add to that a full stand of tires that are busy baking away, and even the back of the box (the garage) get's really hot. And air conditioning? Ha! After Catalunya, I was looking forward to Assen because I know that Northern Europe is way cooler (in more ways than one!).
The circuit at Assen is flat, and it's surrounded by a large flat expanse of fields criss-crossed by the occasional waterway. In an effort to add viewing for the spectators, there are a couple earthmovers around trying to push up dirt to make little hills, but I think it was a failed attempt. Anyway, Assen is a beautiful track and the people were very polite and respectful. Unlike the last few races, people kindly got out of the way, and generally were a pleasure to be around. Here's a shot of the two level garage building - and it was sprinkling in the mornings a little. Just the ticket! As of race 8 in the series, every track has had rain at some point during the race weekend. I can tell you that this makes it very diffficult to find the best settings for the race, but ultimately, everyone rides the same track and the same weather, so whatever.
Work went without a hitch on Wednesday, and because Assen is traditionally run on Saturday, that meant we were ready to get on the racetrack by Thursday! I had a fantastic dinner at the hotel we were staying at (they can cook a steak!), and watching football in the evenings was the preferred routine. Everyone was excited to be working with Ivan Silva (from the Spanish Nationals), and although I was a little nervous, everything worked out great. The bikes were ready, we were ready, and the people in Holland spoke English! I was quite happy. One night I came back to the hotel to find this:
One of the first things that became apparent to me in Northern Europe, was the amount of big bore motorcycles running around. Whereas in Spain and Italy I saw a lot of small bikes, the Northern countries might have a little bit more spending money, and it shows, because there were a lot of trick bikes out there. MV's, full on customs, it was all great to see.
Still not exactly sure what this is, but it's cool.
They had some neat support races at the GP, too. Instead of the usual bikes, we had these things laying around. . . .
Missles on wheels.
These things had full on Superbike motors. . . . . . . or they sure sounded like it! Very cool. I wish I had more time to play around and inspect them, but we had our hands full dealing with all the changes to the bike to make Silva as competitive as possible on his first outing on a GP bike, with new tires and more importantly, the Carbon Brake systems.
People really don't understand what a difference these brakes make, not only in their stopping ability, but also the difference their weight makes with regards to the unsprung weight in the front and transitioning from side to side. All I can say is, "Incredible!".
The way it should be.
Unlike my machines, haha.
t was great to see some of the battles in the World Cup, and National Pride runs very strong in Europe. Think about it. We're talking about a continent that is smaller than the US, and each little section has it's own language, culture, and history. They fight for everything they've got, and in the World Cup (or the Olympics), it's their chance to put themselves at the top. I work with Italians, Spanish, an Argentinean, a Brazilian, and two Frenchmen on my team, and it was at the Holland GP that we had matches between all of these countries and more. Not to mention the Holland/Argentina game, the Spain/France match - you can be damn sure there was some hellish ribbing the next few days at work! I was really hoping the Nederlands would go further, but oh well, that's racing - Doh!
The campsites were well organized, and it seemed like everyone had a nice system going. Lots of BBQ's, and all the bikes were lined up streetside, so everyone passing by the campsites would check them out. Not only that, but people would wait on the side of the road with coolers and chairs to watch and wave to the teams as we went to and from the circuit. Literally, they would cheer and clap when we drove by, and it was super nice. I have so much more respect for the Dutch fans after this race, and it's safe to say I'm now a fan of the Dutch. We caught this guy completely wound out on the freeway - and we were totally speeding! Anyone know what displacement this little thing is?!?
After the race we packed up our trucks, and I was very, very happy that Silva had done as well as he had. The bike ran well, and that meant we did our job! It wasn't a night to relax, however, because we needed to switch hotels on the fly. We had been staying in a little place called Groeningen (sp? - everything is an SP? in Holland, harhar), but we relocated to a place near the Schiphol airport in Amsterdam. That was great, and although the food wasn't the best, the service was good. Holland is very green, and this may be because they're below sea level and have tons of water running across the countryside. We passed field after field of sheep, and cows, horses, and LLAMAS! Here's a quaint little place I saw from the Hotel entrance. All very rustic.
Ever since I met Cascadeur at the Valencia WSBK race earlier in the year, we've been good friends. He is from Amsterdam, and it only seemed appropriate that we get together to hang out a bit and see the sights. Although we were both exhausted from the races, a quick shower (and at 11PM they replayed the race on TV, so that was cool, too), and a couple phone calls later, and we were ready to go exploring. Actually, Cascadeur made my trip very special by taking me to through the historic districts in Amsterdam, and told me about the different architecture, from the 20's, 30's and more. I saw the first Heineken bar (and subsequent brewery) and I gotta admit, I always thought it was a german beer. Whoops! Anyway, the city was amazing, and it's on the short list of places I would like to live at. We stopped by a jazz/art music festival at a nouveau building on the water (had to cross a suspension bridge to get to the building - on foot!), and it was super cool. *Quick note, wherever you find yourself in Amsterdam, if anyone asked you what you're doing, just say you work with K-Swiss in some capacity!* We met up with some friends and decided to see a couple more places, like this fantastic club that had some of the most serious BASS and Beats I'd every experienced in person. Be sure to check out the Supper Club
if you're here. It was off the hook. Here I am with a Red Bull, trying to keep it rolling, haha. Like all special moments in time, it faded eventually and we had to call it a night. But what a night! Huge Thanks to Cascadeur!
Early the next morning, 8AM to be precise, we navigated our way back to the airport. Althought my flight wasn't until 12ish, I went in with the team because they had an earlier flight. I've always maintained that life moves in Circles, and a perfect example of this is shown here. On October 27th last year I was in this very spot, my first steps on the European continent. I flew from SF to Amsterdam to transfer to a flight to BCN, and this is where I was when I got off the plane and had my first smoke in Europe. Speaking of smoke, did I mention that everyone in Holland fires up with big green? We're talking people you'd never expect, like a couple of super chic and responsible looking asian girls (who looked like supermodel financial planners, hahahaa). My eyes popped right out of my head when they calmly opened their purses and started twisting up the gan-j. Incredible. Note all the Orange futbol support gear at the cafe. It was everywhere in Holland, and I regret not buying any of it while I was there. However, I'd just had my wallet knicked so shopping was priority zero at that point. Also bumped into KRJR and his girl (who's coincidently from the same small town in Northern Cali - anyone care to guess where?) and we talked a bit about the development chassis and future plans for Team KR. For everyone who wrote of Junior as a has-been without any motivation, suck it up and admit you're wrong! There's more to the story, naturally, and I'm hoping that Junior can continue to post excellent results and get everything they're working so hard for in the future. Best of luck Junior!
So here's my problem. I've been so busy with everything, and so much happens in a short period of time, that I find myself forgetting things along the way. Unless I can write it down, I'm sunk! I'm thinking that I'll find a voice recorder (cheapo) in SF so that I can make reminders to myself on the fly. It has to be small and work well. Anyone got one laying around? This comes up because I know there are a ton of observations I've made along the way that haven't made it into the posts because before I get a chance, something else is going on! All in all, I remember thinking that the Dutch were extremely civilized and cultured, and I really liked the place. Please treat the Dutch nicely, and they will do the same for you.
I mentioned the airport was cool, with super bathrooms, but how about these cool lounges overlooking the airfields?
A well deserved Heineken for a job well done (and also to help me crash out on the plane). I sleep through more take-off's and landings than I ever thought possible. Rad!
haha, forgot to show these cool little boxes of sprinkles that the Dutch put on their breakfast toast. There were about four or five types of sprinkles at the hotel breakfast bar, but I didn't try any of them. Because the Dutch had normal breakfast cereal!!!!!!! Yay!
June 27, 2006
OK, time to move on and backtrack to the Catalunya GP race held three weeks ago!
After the Mugello race, I had roughly a week to unwind and decompress. It was an incredible experience for me, and with the ambitious workloads, I was wiped out and needed a break. I'm very lucky that I had that week, because starting with the three week run of races would have been extremely difficult. Because this was my "home" race, the team didn't really make travel plans for me - telling me not to worry about it and just make sure I was at the track early Wednesday morning. Jeez, I couldn't even remember how to get to Montmelo, because the last time I had been there someone else had driven and I hadn't paid attention. I finally talked to my coordinator on Tuesday, and made the decision on the spot to make my way to the track on Tuesday afternoon so that I would be there on Wednesday morning without having to worry about the travel plans. That meant getting my luggage together and walking twenty minutes to the train station, lugging it along the whole way. The Sants Estation is hot, humid, and dark. Throw in a mildly confusing track layout and people who don't understand the concept of customer service (like much of Spain, harhar), and I was tired already! Tired, but super excited to be working with some masters of race craft, and working with such a special machine. Read on to find out more about this critical race - which would have tremendous consequences for certain World Championship title contenders.
A fairly short trip, forty minutes I think, and I was in the heart of Montmelo, the city the track is next to. According to the web research I had done, the circuit looked to be just a few minutes walk from the track - so off I went!
As I left the little town, I passed a couple of ancient drunk fellows walking their dogs. They seemed very nervous when I took out my camera to shoot the townscape, so I ended up moving down a couple blocks and took this to remember the hillsides surrounding the area.
Did I mention it was hot? I was sweating like a pig by this point in my walkabout, which was easily thirty minutes into it. During the race days, I would drink 10-12 gatorades and never use the bathroom!
Thankfully, as I was headed up a hill to approach the main entrance of the track, some Catalan kids spun a "U-ey" and picked me up. I think it was a guy, his girlfriend, and her friend, but they barely said a word - just asked me who I worked for and if I was a mechanic. Bear in mind this is Tuesday afternoon, and they were headed away from the track after going there to watch the first semi-trucks roll in earlier that day. Those are fans! I got dropped off in the main paddock area to find that none of my team had arrived yet, and a quick phone calll revealed that they had been held up in traffic driving up from Madrid. I was advised to head to the hotel, "three minutes behind the track", and wait for them to show up. I spoke with some of my Dorna friends who had already established their base of operations, and then headed through this nice tunnel, conveniently located underneath the beginning main straight. There were sheets of plastic about and the track was gearing up for what would be another unforgettable weekend.
The backside of the main grandstand. It is an imposing structure, and there's no doubt that the people who designed and built this facility are hard core racing fans. We're not talking about cheap and easy bleacher seats here!
I crossed over a sturdy, lattice framed bridge that went over the train tracks behind the grandstands, and immediately saw my hotel. Score!!!! Walking to work has never been easier - or so I thought.
We were deep in Catalan country, as evidenced by the national flag of Catalunya running side by side with the Spanish flag.
I managed to have a coke, and eventually the team rolled in. Also in the hotel were Factory Ducati, MVA Aspar, Repsol Honda 250, and a couple smaller groups. To my delight, A-stars way there alongside the Clinica Mobile, and every night the lounge was full of people watching the World Cup games.
I can't tell you how cool it is to be bouncing through Europe while the World Cup is on! Being in Holland, surrounded by Dutch Nutters, La Naranja Mecanica, when they were playing Argentina was awesome! And Spain, Brazil, Germany, and the usual heavy hitters were up that week. It's just really neat to be here for this time. We piled into our vans and made our way back into Montmelo to a quiet place to get some dinner. Yet another 3 hour dinner. . . . . and sometimes I wonder why I tag along when I could be sleeping, haha. The town/village of Montmelo is mostly industrial, and there is a trucker area a minute from the hotel that all the sideshows happen on during the race week.
Our Argentinean mechanic sits across from our Brazilian one, and they're constantly getting into it, haha. Not to mention they work with different riders, one with Hofmann, one with Cardoso, so you can see where it can get a little loud sometimes.
From the hotel entrance, I could see this bit of the track. I thought we'd be hoofing it, but we took the vans everyday. Seemed silly to drive for the same amount of time as walking, but when the crowds started rolling in on Thursday, I understood that we needed a buffer, and the vans didn't even help.
This was the hottest time I've ever spent working - indoor or outdoor, and the pace was incredible. You just can't imagine how these people operate. It's not like the work is consistent, steady, and measured. It's always at a feverish pitch, you work as hard and fast as you can without making any errors. There is no room for errors here. One night I had the room to myself, because my buddy went out for dinner with some friends, so I decided to take care of myself with a good old-fashioned one of these:
Through the course of the weekend, I ran into a couple Barfers, but didn't have the presence of mind (or the time) to get the camera out and make a moment out of it. Peter and Eric were there, as were Sara Walker and her parents, and I even met some Barf Lurkers from the Peninsula. Extra bonus points if you guys can figure out who these two are
As everyone knows by now, raceday was intense. We laboured through three different re-starts - unheard of!?! With all the drama on everyone's mind after the red-flagged first corner incident race, and the subsequent rumours and tension crackling through the paddock, it only added to an extremely hot and stressful situation. Huge props for everyone who kept it on two wheels in the race, because this one was definitely a doozie.
I'm looking exhausted, literally and figuratively! Seriously though, the fans were off the hook at this race, erupting into cheers whenever one of their heroes would wave at the camera before the start. When the riders would thunder by the entire stadium seemed to go crazy, and it seemed like the majority of people were in the Rossi camp, or the Pedrosa camp. I haven't seen anything quite like it. Everyone followed the race on some big screens and whenever something happened, you knew it from how the crowd reacted. Phenomenal.
After we had packed the trucks and prepared our luggage for the following day's flight to Amsterdam, we went in to Port Olympic, a newer, trendy area on the beach. Hof-meister and crew went along and we ate Gooooooood.
One of my favorites, Pulpo de Gallega (Gallecian Octopus).
We had a little seafood, too. Actually, we ended up with four of these platters. Immediately following dinner, we split up to check out different parts of the nightlife, or go back to the hotel and rest up for the next race. I opted to stay in the city for the night, so I could pay my rent the following day before heading to Assen. Mistake? Definitely. John Hopkins and his buddy, Chris, met up with Alex and me, and we rolled into a chic place called C.D.L.C. for what was a "white" party. Think tons of tanned Spanish dressed only in clothes that were pure white. Strange, nice, fun, and ultimately the start of what was to be a terrible night for me - capping a terrible weekend of injuries and pain for several of the riders with championship ambitions.
I'm signing off for the night, I have a long week to think about. I wanted to let everyone know how grateful I am, and that I will be responding to everyone's thoughts and emails in the next coming days, schedule permitting. I just wanted to throw some pictures out there so I could start getting back to what this thread is about - grabbing life by the horns and enjoying, savoring every minute of it.
See the three guys in red Monlau shirts?
Monlau is a school, a training academy, for race mechanics based here in BCN. I've been through MMI, and it's nothing like that. Monlau is run by some ex-world level riders, like Emilio Alzamorra (125 World Champ) and besides the classroom and workshop studies, they actively participate in the Spanish Nationals and some other race series. I know a couple of the guys going to school there (and I work with a graduate), and it goes to show how much more committed and involved the people here are concerning racing. To recap, we have now seen the racing school, MotoGP Academy, run by Alberto Puig (that turns out riders like Dani Pedrosa), and the Monlau school, which turns out the people who will end up working in the World Series'. If they're lucky. Does the US have anything, anything at all, like this?!?
More stuff to come!
June 26, 2006
Western Union? Never Again!
Thank you everyone, for taking a huge load off my mind and digging deep to make sure that I'm going to be ok. I have the list of people who pitched in, and I've got something up my sleeve for all of you! I won't be able to tell you what it is, until we all gather at the Blue Fin on Friday night in Laguna Seca. I don't know many of you by face, or name (because everyone is using alias' these days on their emails), so please introduce yourselves to me at the track or at the party.
After a hectic day, I have received the monies sent by Jim, and what a day it was! I crashed pretty hard last night when I returned from Amsterdam, but not until after I had gone to dinner with the Aoyamas in the Port Olympic area. Seafood and salad, and all of us were tired from the weekend. I don't know how many of you saw the 250 race, but some riders crashed early on, and both Aoyama brothers were driven from the track and into the gravel, rejoining in 22nd and 23rd place (dead last). Both put in great rides to recoup positions, but Shuhei wasn't as lucky in the end. After dinner, we walked and talked for a bit, and in typical spanish style, the night didn't end until after midnight - at which point we were all walking dead and ready for sleep! A loooong night's sleep and I was up today to find the ever elusive Western Union location - because apparently the website for the company is quite outdated and several of the places I visited were no longer in business with W.U.
I received some monies from my parents, and that was good, however, I wasn't able to access the "barf fund" and no one could tell me why. A couple hours of walking around the city on a hot, hot day, and I made it to Planet Cafe to use the wi-fi and give Jim a skype call. We confirmed that everything was correct, and I went back down into the Raval (off las Ramblas area) to find a couple more W.U. locations. I was actually thrown out of one because an argument started with the teller, who was offended when I asked him if is was indeed a Western Union or not (shady place). He slammed his fist and declared that the computer wasn't working, so I walked out to find another place. At this point in the evening (thanks to waiting in lines and dealing with other hassles), several places were beginning to close and I was getting worried. I, frustrated as all hell, made my way back towards home, and chanced upon a place with the W.U. sign. I went in, waited, and put my information in once again. This time, the problem surfaced when the teller showed me that Western Union had my name mis-spelled in their database! WTF?!? @#*($^&)Q(*@#$^&*(!!!!!!!!
I quickly fought my way through the crowds of people mindlessly ambling about, and called Jim again to double check and have him call W.U. to see what was up. Jim was on the phone with them when I called him, and after things were explained, they pledged to get it right this time. Even after Jim gave me the ok, the website still didn't have any information about my transaction, so it was very worrisome for me as I went back to the Raval area (not known for being very safe). I made it back to the place, everything went through this time, and I'm back at Planet hanging with Kenny Noyes and Iana. Kenny has just returned from Italy from a Pirelli tire test, so expect an article in RoadRacing World at some point. I'm going to get some quality food in my system, but I expect to post later tonight about some of the races I've been to and some of the other cool experiences, meetings, and things that I've manged to do despite my troubles.
Once again, I want to thank everyone who helped me and I also want to say that "officially", I'm ready to put this chapter behind me and concentrate on the present and the future! A special, special thanks to VTRWeasel (JIM) for handling all the crap with Paypal and Western Union. It was far more difficult than advertised, on both sides, and if any Barfers here work with W.U., I expect an explanation.
Expect more race wrap-ups, reports, and glimpses into my life as the Wild Ride continues! It probably won't be quite the same as before, but I'm growing and learning every day, and I have a much deeper understanding of the way things work, and how I'm going to make my way through everything. The main difference will probably be less photos, as I'm busier now and don't have the time to get to all the corners like before. Putting together quality "reports" also takes me a lot of time, and sometimes, like these three race weeks in a row, there simply isn't enough time in the day. Also, because I'm in such close contact with people at the track when I'm working, it just doesn't seem appropriate or "right" to whip out a camera when I'm talking with my friends or having dinner with people.
Alright, time to eat - but I'll be back later!
June 22, 2006
Barfers to the rescue!
Thank you everyone for pitching in and getting involved. I know this isn't anyone's problem but my own, and I'm grateful that people are willing to jump in and help when I'm down.
What a ride it's been so far! The emotions have gone the the whole gamut, up, down, all around. This is one of the worst experiences I've ever gone through and it won't be over for quite a while. Part of the problem is the lack of time I have, and the lack of cash on hand to handle the day to day necessities. I'm cross-posting this on my Wild Ride thread, so hopefully the right people will find it. I'm going to be back in Barcelona on Monday, and that's the only day I'll have to pick up money from [B] Western Union [/B] . I found a location in the city and the time schedule matches up. All told, I'm out 500 USD for rent and 250 USD that I borrowed from Hiro to insure that I would get to Holland, and also some pocket money for food and trivials. I don't know if the team will cover any of the flight change penalty, since it was my fault I missed my flight, but regardless, it's a debt to Hiro that I will honor. Jim (VTRWeasel) is the connector in this puzzle, and his phone number and email are:
Jim's number is 408-309-9526 and his email is listed above.
I know this makes a short time frame because it's almost the weekend already, but I don't have any other alternatives at the moment. Can't screw up like this again, and hopefully it'll never happen to any of you. I want to send thanks to everyone who has paypal'd me, and I wish I could Western Union myself! I won't be able to respond for approximately 24 hours, at the earliest, so good luck Barfers on putting something together. It means a great deal to me that everyone is banding together during this time. I'll reserve something special from my GP experiences just for you.
I'm off (and by the way, Assen is incredible).
Jim, here's the way to do it with Western Union:
HOW TO SEND CASH:
STEP: 1 Visit an Agent location
Visit a nearby Western Union Agent location.
STEP: 2 Complete Form
Complete the To Send Money form, including:
Your and your receiver's first and last name (as shown on identification).
The city and country to which the money is being sent.
The amount you wish to send.
Any additional services requested (subject to availability)
STEP: 3 Identify yourself
Give the form and valid identification documents to the clerk.
STEP: 4 Present Payment
Give the clerk the money you want to send plus the transaction fee.
STEP: 5 Collect the Receipt from the Clerk
Be sure to save the receipt with your MTCN (Money Transfer Control Number) and share the MTCN with the receiver. The receiver may use this number to collect the funds, however, it is not required.
STEP: 6 Check Status
To obtain the status of your money transfer, you can check the Order Status.
The name is William Shubert and the city/country is Barcelona, Spain.
Once again, a huge thanks to everyone for digging in. In the meantime, I'll keep the wrenches in the trenches. Neat [URL=http://roadracerx.com/article.php?article_id=18]Article[/URL] here which tells a little about being a mechanic in the AMA - sounds like fun :)
Once I get a little more time and my head has unwound a bit, I'll have the peace of mind to put together some wrap-ups from Catalunya, Assen, and Donnington Park.
The saga continues, thanks to you all.
June 21, 2006
Down, but not out!
I don't have time for a long post so just the facts this time around.
I'm in Holland, and thanks to a small loan from Hiro Aoyama, I was able to make it. I had to pay for the flight change in person at the airport and without his help, I never would have made it. I didn't even have money for the bus to get there. Ironically, the flight was full of GP people, like the Aoyama brothers, some team personnel, and Checa was sitting in front of me.
My online accounts have been frozen, so I can't tell how bad the situation is, financially. I know that some of my credit cards were used, and worse, my debit card (which goes to my checking account), but that's about it. I had a ton of difficulty trying to explain what happened to the club people, as Barcelona is notorious for these types of things happenning. No Sympathy, and it made it hit home harder. I'm so upset with myself for letting this happen, and I'm just gutted. It took me a full day to clear my head and refocus on what I need to do to get back up on my feet. First of all, I came here to work in MotoGP. I have two race weeks before a couple days break, so work is what I'm going to do. Now that I have spoken in person to the team directors they understand what happened and know that it's just a shitty deal all around. I just hope some of my co-mechanics can understand that I wasn't bailing on them - but regardless, I'm here to work hard and make positive things happen. I know that they will see the value of my work ethic and commitment, and hopefully this makes the difference. Before I arrived in Holland and spoke with everyone, I was certain that missing the flight and "screwing up" was going to cost me this job. As it is, I still feel like it's tenous, but there's nothing I can do except do my best. Rather than sink into a depression about this, I am going to work through it and get things rolling. My cards have been cancelled, and in a couple weeks they'll be reissued and that will handle that. It will take longer to get another driver's license, but hey, I'm not driving much out here anyway, and I still have my international DL with me. My permanent MotoGP pass? I can get that replaced. My rent money? That, too, can be replaced, it's just the timing of the month that sucks, and my spanish banks inability to take transfers from US banks. La Caixa - Fie on you!
I want to give a big thanks and I wish I could show my appreciation more to the people who have paypal'd me to help me get through this. I can't get the money from paypal to my BOA bank account (it's frozen) and I also don't have a bank card to even access my account (if it were open). I know that it will help a lot towards recovering the rent money that I lost, so to everyone, thank you. I need to get to sleep, as I've been deprived lately, and sleep is what I need to fix my heart and get back on the horse. Those of you who had had something similar happen will know what I'm feeling and going through - it's more complicated being in a foreign land, and travelling so much of the time. Thinking back on the night, I remember being on a crowded dancefloor, and feeling bumped from behind. I thought it was just another drunk guy, but the lesson is, don't let anyone near you. Most of all, I am coming to the conclusion (thanks to an email I received), that I cannot let this get me down.
"Don't be idle.
Challenge yourself and your growth. Everyday.
Stop yourself from thinking in sentences that begin with "I can't", stop rationalizing yourself out of things. You can! And you will do whatever you are brave enough to take on. You might fail, but it's always worth a shot.
Be grateful that you are loved, cared for, healthy, privileged, and doing what you have dreamt of for years.
Attempt to be humble.
And love. Purely, fearlessly."
I've come too far, done too much, to let something like this beat me. I never give up. I refuse. I will take more time to plan ahead, in case of another disaster.
I'm on borrowed internet time, so I'm signing off in a minute, but once again, thank you to everyone who has made a difference and helped me, and thank you for the happy thoughts. They have gone a great way towards helping me see things better. I'm sorry I don't have time to respond to everyone individually, but my time is short and I can't spare it at the moment.
June 20, 2006
My wallet was pickpocketed on Sunday night after the Catalunya GP. It has been a horrific experience trying to cancel my credit cards from overseas and deal with the intense feelings of loss. I can't believe it's happenned and I just don't know what to do. I'm unable to transfer money from my US accounts to my Spanish account and because I'll be travelling for two weeks with the races, I don't have time to fully take care of this. No ID, no credit cards, no cash! I am just devastated. This comes after one of the strangest GP's ever, with three restarts, multiple crashes and injuries (in all classes) - just a completely messed up time. Everything is in a state of chaos for me at the moment, so I just need to focus and get my head on straight and the details will fall into place in the future. I hope.
June 13, 2006
The Spaniards are fanatical about their motorcycling heroes. I had a moment last night to visit the grand opening of a new store here in Barcelona, Mundial Motors, and it was kicked off with an autograph signing by none other than Dani Pedrosa!
I made a long loop, walking around the city to find this place, and about six blocks away I started seeing young girls clutching new style Pedrosa hats and wearing his shirts and colors, and crying. Yes, crying - like they'd just met the Pope. I followed the waves of young girls towards the shop and found a huge crowd of people waiting in line outside. Security was pretty good, maintaining a orderly procession of people to the autograph table.
Can you imagine your neighborhood Cycle Gear looking like this?
It was a private party on the inside of the store, and I was able to get inside thanks to some people that I knew. Just more dumb luck.
It was hot! Fortunately, there were free drinks and I managed to snag a coke.
I spent time talking with Alberto Puig and it's very apparent how seriously he and Dani are looking at the season. They are optimistic but not overly confident about their home GP. I also asked him a little bit about Le Mans, the circuit which claimed his career as a rider with a bad crash that ruined his leg. Does he feel nervous/worried when Dani is riding that track, in that same corner? Nah, every year the feelings are less strong. We also agreed that Arai's are f'ing expensive. Raul Jara showed up with his girlfriend, and we shot the breeze a little about work. In the next couple weeks, we're probably going to get crunched, workwise, but overall it was nice to talk a little with everyone away from the track.
Touched base with Dani, and he was smiling and at ease. I've seen some of the bicycle routes he trains on (and some of the vertical stuff), and there's only one thing to say. Any doubts about his physical conditioning should be erased. I tried going up one of the hills that he powers up in one go, and I only made it about a tenth of the way.
Good luck to everyone at Catalunya - especially me! I'm looking forward to seeing some of my old friends, and this is my "home" race in Europe, so it's particularly important to me. It's cool just to be able to say that. "This is my home race."
Actually, I will always consider Laguna Seca to be my home race, but the Catalunya GP? Hell yeah!
I'm leaving for the circuit sometime in the next twelve hours or so, and depending on my situation, I don't know if I'll be around (the web). Those of you looking to meet up, give me a ring and I'll see what's possible.
+34 696 78 69 55
I'm staying at a hotel 3 minutes walk from the track, simplifying a lot of things.
Anyway, I'm off to the circuit in a few hours, and I've got to find my own way there. Instead of the usual flight, I think I'll take a train to the town of Montmelo and then walk. Should be fun.
June 12, 2006
Bicycling through Tibidabo, and other kooky Bicycle Things.
So. You think you're in shape? This weekend Hiro decided that it was time that I finally got out with him and hit the trails on Tibidabo mountain (and it's surrounding hills). I'd managed to squirrel out of things like this before because we always have goofy, conflicting schedules, but this time I actually got up and made it happen. I ran downstairs after oversleeping a little bit, and found Hiro waiting with the car and also his brother, Shuhei. Instead of riding to the mountains, the boys gave me a break and we managed to squeeze all three bikes in the car with a little room to spare. Once we arrived at the parking lot at the bottom of the hill, I thought, man - so this is why they wanted a mechanic along!
Flat tire fixed, and we immediately started up a gentle but unrelenting grade. That's me dying in the background.
Not even this helmet could make me feel worse than I did. On the plus side, it was better to have it than not, so thanks guys. I'm like, are we there yet?
Actually, no. I forgot my decent gloves, and combined with some other technical issues (like my being out of shape), it was a little rough to say the least. We would crisscross back on forth between fireroads, single track, asphalt, and brush. The hill never gave up, and it always seemed like we were headed up.
We were up there. I couldn't see straight enough to enjoy the view, I was concentrating on survival. We rode for about two and a half hours, which was an hour and a half more than I'm used to. Plus hills and offroad. I'm dizzy just thinking about it - but it was still fun.
More of the Vista from Tibidabo.
Yay!!! Downhill! You can see that Hiro has taken my GT, while I'm riding a tricked out KTM. After my heart popped out of my mouth, I swapped bikes with Hiro because my GT is built a little bit beefier - and weighs in accordingly.
After the killer workout, we dropped the bikes off at Hiro's place and made our way towards the beach for a well deserved Coca Cola Light. I was wiped out and ready to fall asleep, and the guys agreed that was a nice, little warm-up. We didn't get any cool pictures of the offroad, really hairy stuff, but if this was a light workout for them, I don't want to know what the real deal is! At the beach, there was a long procession of bikers who passed our way.
Some kind of social statement? I have no idea. What I do know is that the bashful ones were wearing backpacks.
Now if I could only work on this:
June 09, 2006
First Shot in Solo Moto
The Spanish take their motorcycle racing very seriously. As such, the largest motorcycle publication in Spain is a weekly magazine, Solo Moto , that focuses heavily on racing. With such talents as Dani Pedrosa and Sete Gibernau leading the Spanish charge in the MotoGP World Championship (and other Spaniards routinely winning in the smaller categories), it's only natural that the local people look forward to their weekly dose of cool. Other people may have mentioned how commonplace motorcycle racing is here in Spain, and it's true. Whenever something significant happens in the racing community, it often makes front page news and also hits the TV in the evenings. What kind of cool stuff can you expect to find in a magazine like Solo Moto ?
I woke up early on Tuesday morning, in time to verify I'd packed up all my gear, and quickly ran downstairs to meet the rest of my team - who were already in the van and ready to get to breakfast - 15 minutes early! A cappuchino and some cheese and we got on the road towards Firenze, and the airport. Italy's largest bike mag, Moto Sprint (also a weekly), debuts on Tuesdays, so everyone picked up a copy to see the pictures from the past weekend and relive the glorious race. The main group left for Madrid, in order to start preparing for the Spanish National race this weekend in Jerez, but two of us stayed another hour+ in the airport waiting for our flight to BCN. Turns out it was a crowded flight! KRSR, KRJR, Chris Vermulen, Hiro Aoyama, and a host of mechanics and workers from the paddock were also onboard. I had some cool talks with Chris, who lives in Andorra - alongside Gary McCoy, and Hiro and I opted to share a cab back to his apt in BCN. Once there were ran into his brother, Shuuhei, and also 125 KTM rider, Julian Simon, who excitedly started telling me to check out Solo Moto (which coincidently also arrives on Tuesdays). Page 59 - I'm a rockstar, baby! Big ups to Jaime Olivares (photographer) and Manuel Pecino (editor) for making this happen.
I then took Hiro out for a fantastic pizza and lambrusco lunch to say thank you for the help in Le Mans, and later in the week we celebrated again with some Salmon at my favorite little restaurant, Sazzerack. Hiro, and the rest of the boys, are very happy for me, and we arranged to train and celebrate this weekend - but that's another story, and I don't have the photos yet from the fiestas.
June 08, 2006
Mugello was the most amazing race I've ever attended, and it was more profound because I was actively working on a Ducati at the Italian factory's home Grand Prix! Along the way I spent time with Miss Italia and her friends :)
You should see the rest of the trip! It's all in the extended entry - click below.
I flew to Florence, Italy on Tuesday, mid-day. The weather in BCN was nice, and I was excited to see Italy and work with my new team. I wasn't sure what to expect, and I was more than a little nervous because Pramac is Italian and all the sponsors would be at the race. There was a huge vibe of anticipation coming from the team coordinator, Luis Solano, and it had me on edge. I was ready to do my best, so I wasn't too worried, but still, it was a little stressful knowing that we'd be performing for the race, and also for everyone special who was going to be visiting with us at the track.
Flying in was magnificent, and provided views of the landscape that I didn't realize Italy had. Such a crazy coastline, and interspersed with lakes, rivers, and colorful valleys. The patchwork of the land must be experienced to be understood, as every parcel was segmented into farmland or some other use, most likely for hundreds of years.
I think the town the aeroporto is situated at is called Firenze, and it's also the home of Pinocchio! We took a shuttle bus from the plane to the tiny baggage claim area (two carousels!).
Welcome to Italy, Baby!
While we waited at the aeroporto for one of our team members to arrive from France, we had a snack. Naturally, I went for the fast food, haha (that's all this little airport had!). I gotta admit, it was a good pizza, and a great way to start this adventure off.
Fiat produces really cool little cars, like the Fiat Panda Monster, a collaboration with Ducati, and also this bizarre looking thing, which I've seen all over.
We ended up with two vans to haul us around, plus a couple cars for the more important types. Remember, I was here to work on Ducati's, not Ducato's!
We drove up through the mountains surrounding Firenze and off in search of our rustic hotel. The weather was a little intimidating, but we soldiered on.
Then it started raining. That normally wouldn't be so bad, but we were on one of the twistiest, nastiest, mountain roads I'd ever seen. I don't think a supermoto could have hadn't it well, as it was so filled with potholes it might has well have been a goat-trail.
It took several hours to find the place, criss-crossing through several villages and over streams, to grandmother's house we went! I hadn't realized it, but it was cold up in them hills. I jumped out of the van around 7PM, to find I was standing in snow!
Immediately following the "check-in" process, we hightailed it for the racetrack to meet up with a couple other members of the team. This was my first sight of the famous Mugello Autodromo circuit, and it is an amazing place.
We ate at a cool little spot near the track called Il Rustico, a pizzeria and restaurant. It is apparently tradition for the big teams and riders to eat there, and several were present.
Following the entrance, there are photos of the owner with a very young Valentino Rossi, and an even younger Max Biaggi at the start of his career. The doorways are decorated with race stickers that are decades old.
Pizza! Don't get anything that says Wurst/Wurstel, because it's just a hotdog. The Salamino Piccante was the real deal, though, and it rocked!
Found this little critter in the sink in my room when I got back to the house later that night. Brrrr.
Driving the the track in the mornings was difficult, and early (to beat the race traffic), and sometimes things would pop out of nowhere - like these goats who were wandering around without anyone else around - just a sheepdog! If you look carefully, you can see the special Black Sheep.
The weather was hit or miss, and this would prove troublesome when trying to set our bike up. Some mornings it was absolutely gorgeous on the way to the track, other times, it was crap.
Along with the spectacular hillsides filled with people and tents of every color (which looked like fields of strange, domed flowers), the first thing that you see when entering the circuit is this.
Here are some shots of the castle/villa we stayed at up in the mountains. 20 people? No problem. 3 bathrooms? Mierda!
A quick shot of the room I was in shows it is well equipped and, oddly enough, well lit!
The grounds were outstanding - lush and full of life. Wild boars were said to be roaming about and I felt like a medievel warrior just walking around the forest.
Heated springs provided a nice resource for this outdoor swimming pool. Unfortunately, I never got a chance to use it!
Even the picnic tables are influenced by Italian design, and this one was quite stylish.
At the track, this is the only time I had enough people together (and not busy!) to justify a group photo. Although we took a large team picture on the racetrack later in the weekend, I thought some smaller, more normal, photos would be cool, too.
A nice shot of an empty racetrack, before the madness would ensue. While we were busy taking our new team photo, I snagged a shot of the photographer while he was prepping for the shot. One morning we buzzed by him on the street (early, early in the morning) and one of the guys leaned out of the van and yelled, "Cabrone!". You should have seen him spin around and try to figure out who was yelling at him, face red, everything. Hilarious!
While the MotoGP teams, and 250 teams, usually have full boxes to work out of, the 125 teams usually work under tents set up at the end of the paddock. When it's time for practice or to race, they roll up with these mini-garages on wheels, and handle changing tires/suspension right outside in pit lane. I hopped out for a quick shot.
The race was incredible. If you haven't seen it, get a subscription to MotoGP.com, or heck, just do whatever it takes to watch it. Unfortunately for us, Alex had a little crash on the eigth lap, and that ended our race. All this build-up, and regrettably, we didn't bring it home. After we had gotten everyone to leave the box, about five minutes after the race ended, we got to work fixing things and getting ready for Monday's tire tests. Since the Hospitality centre was already being broken down, and we had so much work to do, my crew elected to stay at the circuit and just continue working. Not to mention that traffic was backed up until 9PM that night! My victory meal after successfully making it through my first MotoGP race? Yummy! You can also see my Viceroy watch, which I'm supposed to wear at all times because they are one of our team sponsors.
My headphones are the bomb! Full hearing protection, but built-in external microphones on ear ear pod allow me to hear in stereo if I want to turn the system on. Adjustable volume levels, too. Way cool!
Since I officially work on Ducati Desmo's now, I thought it would be smart to really take my time and check out the new Desmosedici RR in person - and it is without a doubt the trickest streetbike ever. It was stunning! My goal now? Build a chopper out of one, haha.
Another nice group shot of us, this time with my chief mechanic, Lele, who has worked for factory Yamaha, Honda, Aprilia, and generally just seems to know everything.
Italian Flag? Mexican Flag? Not really, just some more good eats.
Time to kiss my girl goodbye until the Catalunya race in two weeks. My new girl is H-O-T!
We fired her up on Sunday night around 11PM, to check a couple things out, and it was amazing to look down into the exhaust pipes and see them glowing and whispering flames. Not many people get the chance to see such a thing, and it was beautiful.
Finally, the week came to an end, and I had a moment to enjoy Italy's finest before boarding my flight back to BCN. I slept through take-off and landing, so it worked out perfect. See you next time at the Catalunya GP!
Other cool things? I had dinner and joked around with Shinya Nakano on my last night in Italy, and the next morning at the airport I hung out with Chris Vermulen a little bit. Turns out he lives in Andorra, along with Gary McCoy, and flies in through BCN. He seems to be in good spirits and hopefully as he gets more time on the bike, and also more time on these circuits, he'll be able to put his skills to use. Also on the same flight as me were a bunch of Repsol guys, a Gresini member, some Showa racing guys, and KRSR and KRJR. Oh, Hiro was onboard with me, too, and we shared a cab back to his place and then had a great celebratory lunch. I wanted to pay him back a little for Le Mans, but he was just happy I had found work in the paddock (me, too!). We ended up having some kick ass pizza and we checked out photos of his crash. He was taken out of the race in a racing incident with Joseph Smrz. Five stitches in the elbow and some road rash, but otherwise, he's ok. We had dinner later in the week to check up and celebrate a little more (I'm still on cloud nine). As we get closer to the weekend, I am hastily preparing for the coming weeks - 5 races in six weeks! As I'll be on the road most of the time, I think getting things taken care of in the US is going to be difficult. Try, try, try.
June 01, 2006
Liam joins Pramac D'antin MotoGP for the '06 season!
Starting at the historic Mugello race in Italy, Liam will be joining the Pramac D'antin MotoGP team as a mechanic working on Alex Hofmann's Desmosedici! This represents a fantastic opportunity for everyone involved and I'm proud to be a member of this amazing team!
My smile kicked in from 1000 watt, to 10,000 gigawatt for this one. When I finaly held it in my hands in the IRTA truck, I just sat there for a minute staring at it. I still can't believe it.