Saturday, August 9, 2008

Still lost....

Spain is warm. AC is scarce. Internet access is scarcer. Europe is expensive!


-Decided to see Rome instead of Venice due to Margot’s time constraints and Spanish desires
-Rome was dirty, HOT, expensive, FULL of tourists, scam artists and shit food
-Three hot days in Rome and we hit an overnight ferry destined for Barcelona
-Hit the road south to parts unknown in Spain
-Incredible roads along the coast keep leading us to cheap hostels and the BEACH
-Rode back to Barcelona and Margot’s unfortunate departure back stateside
-Plans for next few weeks are shaping up
-Barcelona is feeling more and more like home
-Flight home is all but booked out of London soon…

I last wrote that we hadn’t decided on Rome or Venice as our next destination. The next morning we looked at the calendar and decided heading back south to catch an overnight ferry out of Rome made more sense than roaming around northern Italy only to then be forced to rush back across the South of France to just barely make it back to Barcelona in time for Margot to fly home.

Rome was beautiful and disappointing all at the same time. I made the mistake of letting my expectations guide my level of contentment and it simply didn’t live up. Yeah yeah….the Colloseum is beautiful and humbling as are the other Ruins, but that wasn’t enough to overcome the constant badgering by street peddlers and tour guides wanting to give me a “great deal”. Almost all were full of nearly impossible promises and exaggerated offers. Every restaurant (except one street pizza vendor) sold cheap nasty food on their posted menus and then screwed you with a “cover charge” to sit at their tables. One restaurant wanted 5 Euros for a pizza and when we ordered house beers, whose prices were purposely not posted and avoided when we inquired, we realized they cost us 6.50 Euros! It was such a sham and so obvious that it was an intentional ploy to screw the tourists in any way possible.

In a word it was just LAME. I wish we’d had time to head to Southern Italy as recommended by Kendra and several others. Next time maybe? We moved on, but determined that seeing Rome was simply a checked box. I’d rather have doubled back to Austria or something else rather than be hounded by swindlers and overrun by millions of rude and stinky sweaty tourists. Yeah….I’m a tourist, but I feel like I have a better ability to blend into the crowd rather than make one as the tourists in Rome seem to.

The truly cool thing that happened to me in Rome was a totally random one. As Margot, Cienna and I stumbled through the back neighborhoods of town on the long walk from the Vatican to our Hostel we ended up on another tiny lane with lots of interesting offshoots and buildings. One just barely caught my eye as one with a small window looking into a tiny room with a few vintage motorcycles. As I spotted it, Cienna just waltzed in the door of the place like she owned it. Margot and I hesitantly followed and found a room with 3 people and 12 or so random Italian bikes hanging out. I noticed that several were Moto Guzzis (my current favorite) and I made eye contact with the people sitting around and simply pointed to the tattoo on my arm as my Italian is less than useful. The main guy saw my tattoo and instantly realized that it was from a Moto Guzzi Galleto and pointed to one sitting in the corner. His eyes lit up and he excitedly began asking me where I was from and just laughed and smiled as he loaded me up with free literature and posters of a Guzzi focused artist whose original works were hung all over the walls. Apparently it was not a shop, but simply a neighborhood moto club that focused on Moto Guzzi. We chatted in the little way that we could….he made me an honorary member of the club and I moved on with a sense of bewilderment that we had somehow found what is likely the only Galleto in Rome and the first one I’ve ever seen outside of a museum in Alabama. Strange coincidence and a really cool one as well….

After a few hot days in Rome, we jumped the ferry an hour outside of town destined for Barcelona……an overnight air-conditioned room and 20 hours on a huge ship sounded like a better idea than covering old ground in 3-4 days and spending MUCH more on petrol and lodging. The ferry experience was more like a cruise and it was nothing less than the best decision made with Margot’s time here. A healthy night of sleep and some time spent sunning on the boat the next morning got us directly into port in the middle of Barcelona less than 2 miles from our favorite hostel. We crashed there and prepared to explore more of the town we loved so much the first time around.

A visit to the impressive modern art museum, BEACH time, tons of cheap street food, lots of walking and fruit hunting, Chilean food, some late night riding through town and we made the decision to head south via the coast and see what we found outside of Barcelona. With barely any riding, but lots of uncomfortable heat and sweating, we stopped short in a coastal town called Sitges and found a hostel to stash our stuff while we hit the beach again. It was really just more family-oriented than Barcelona and smaller. We lounged on the beach and that night we managed to split a bottle of rum mixed with Fanta Limon…..mmmmm….fancy. I felt like I was regressing, but in hindsight it was quite perfect for 4 euros. The town was bustling with people everywhere and we felt lucky to stumble across such a busy scene with way more going on than we’d expected to see.

The next day we moved on to an even smaller town another a bit down the coast. We dubbed this town “Ghetto Beach”, as we didn’t know it’s real name and just took it in. We could have ridden further, but the beach was just too damn tempting and I still feel a bit guilty for wimping out on riding further into the wild, but it really worked out. We spent that day at the beach and somehow spent the evening sitting with an old Spanish guy with no teeth who spoke zero english, but offered us his homemade moonshine that the Spanish call (roughly translated) “Water with Teeth”. He told us it was over 90 proof, but I think that was underselling the stuff. It was like drinking Everclear, but better? Great night….great time trying to tell stories in Spanish and truly memorable.

One afternoon we did manage to find some deserted road near Ghetto Beach and I gave Margot a moto lesson. I’m pretty sure I was more scared than she was, but I promised her that I’d give her a shot on my bike, so I had to do it before she left. She rode the KTM quite well, but learning to drive a manual transmission with your feet AND how to handle a motorcycle for the first time isn’t easy and a lot to absorb in an hour. She did MUCH better than I expected and we had no mishaps worth mentioning. It did help me to realize just how little I think about how to ride my motorcycle….I just ride, but there are more moving parts than I’d realized… wonder an afternoon off road can totally wear me out as it keeps you busy every step of the way.

We bailed out of Ghetto beach after two memorable nights and made the short trek back to Barcelona. It was truly laughable. What had taken us at least 3-4 hours of riding time on back coastal roads and 4 days of lounging, took us less than an hour on the toll way… much for exploring the depths of Spain. I could use up a few months in Spain and Portugal easy…Ahhhh…next time. We did find time to wander off the pavement onto dirt roads and into a national park, but it was tough going with what is likely 100 pounds of gear and an extra person. Every bump felt like we might lose something or worse yet someone. We found our way back to the smooth and safer pavement and I determined that I need to find a lighter way to take an off road trip back home. Off road riding on a bike like this is amazing fun. It just glides over the bumps and eats up the miles with amazing ease. It’s almost bullet-proof feeling.

So….it was back to my favorite hostel in Barcelona and MORE time on the Barcelona beach. We managed to hook up with our Australian friends that we met in Rome….two gals, Daina and Cienna, who have been traveling Europe for 2 months. It was like seeing old friends that we hadn’t seen in a while even though we’d just met them. We had a great Chilean meal with Duck as Dessert and cooked up our own espressos back at the hostel to top off the evening. (more on that little jewel later) Great time…..and even more great people. I think I’m destined for Australia at some point as I’ve met more Australians on this trip than I would have ever thought possible. I finally figured out that it’s mainly because they are locked into winter and mostly take their vacations now to escape the cold shitty weather back home. I realized that being gone from Texas during the long hot summer has been of similar benefit to me. While it has been hotter than I prefer, I haven’t encountered any stifling heat here even though Barcelona has apparently been experiencing its hottest days in 6 years these past few days. (highs of 91) I keep finding AC when I can and thank the heavens every night that my cheap hostel will freeze me out at night if I want it to.

This is a long update as I’m obviously feeling motivated….. and I realize that it may be annoying to some that I just rant on about the boring details of my trip here, but I really can’t even come close to relating what all happens here. And besides…..isn’t that what you’re reading this crap for? Why does it seem that so much more happens when you are on holidays? Maybe it’s simply because I’m not locked into daily routine, but even here I sometimes crave routines similar to home to feel normal again…only it’s just got a different flavor. For instance….last week Margot and I found a tiny local coffee shop tucked away on the tiny streets of Barcelona’s Gothic hood and to our surprise the coffee was cheap and the atmosphere inspiring. So….here I sit alone on a beautiful sunny day writing my blog and business plan instead of taking in more sun and swimming on the beach or amazing architecture and people watching. I mean….even the “Boards of Canada” are playing through the speakers of this place! They were the instrumental band that I listened to while studying with headphones for hours on end to get me through finishing my degree. I’ve NEVER heard them played anywhere except Tony’s house. How random and obviously beneficial to my concentration…..

Anyway….routines are missed, but random stories abound of what seems to happen when your only agenda is to experience something new every day. Tonight I’m taking a Spanish cooking course with my Australian buddies simply because it will teach me something new and the price of the class included food and all I can drink for way less than it would cost to have a nice meal out here. I’m pumped and primed to cook more and more these days and I’ve never been that way before. Traveling just has a way of doing this to me I suppose. I’m inclined to look with different eyes and move with different feet.

Ok…cheese is over. Who needs heartfelt introspection to ruin a perfectly good pointless blog where I’m really only supposed to brag about how much better my life is than yours? Blah……

On to the business end of traveling…..I did intend to keep it to myself until I hit home again, but it now seems that I’ll be headed home soon and word is out regardless of my not wanting it to be. I just sorta liked the idea of rolling back into Austin when I felt like it as that’s how my trip has almost always been. “Soon” to me is a few weeks away, but that just seems like tomorrow in terms of how long I’ve been gone. Money has MORE than run out and I found another buyer for my moto in London who seems keen to plop down the cash for such a rare bike over here. So…it looks like I’ll be making the long trek back north to the land of cold rain and reversed roads where the European leg of this odyssey began. The good news is that I’ll be headed to my friend Sam’s place in Cornwall for a visit and hopefully some quality time on a vintage bike before I ride on to London. I also hope to see Frankie and family between Cornwall and London and to stay with Catherine and Jay in London at least one night to finish up the trip and show them all some love. Just a thousand miles more and I’ll be back in the splendor of air travel and the comforts of home……mmmmm sounds good.

I’m currently stuck in Barcelona with a broken clutch cable and the HUGE KTM dealer is on Holiday….so they close the entire shop down. NOT good timing for me. I’m currently working on a patented Gashole Bodge…..may Stefan’s genius of rigging envelope my soul…..otherwise I could be stuck in Barcelona for much longer than intended.

More good news is that I should be home for Mark, my twin Michael and my birthday. A party is in the works so keep an eye out for an invite or email me if you don’t get it….you know I’m bad about distributing the details sometimes. EVERYONE is invited….I wanna see some familiar faces!

So…in the coming weeks I hope to serve up at least one more update here and a few more choice photos. I have a ton of snapshots to upload from my last week or so here with Margot, but Wifi is still rather hard to come by for long uploads like that. For the blog update I simply write this all in Word and then copy and paste it onto the webpage when I get a few minutes of internet to do so.

By the way…. the pics are, unfortunately for some, filled with photos of yours truly as Margot seemed to hold the camera more when she was here and likes to take photos of me when I'm not looking….I’m just not as inspired for photo time as I was when this all began. I know that pics of me are seemingly egotistical, but they make Mom happy so I’ll keep them coming mainly for her and my growing fan base. ☺

Wish me luck….I look forward to seeing you all soon!

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