2 Wheels To Adventure

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A Few Personal Notes---Very Few
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Alaska/Canada Trip--2006
Two "Adventure" Bikes

Ride boldly, Lad,  fear not the spills! (From "The Man From Snowy River," by Banjo Paterson) 
I'm not the man I used to think I was. (RBW)
"Cast a cold eye
On life, on death.
Horseman, pass by!"
(William Butler Yeats)

For a looong discussion on motorcyling in general and Adventure riding in particular, see the archives (or scroll down) for the first post on September 28, 2006.
It gives some opinions and ideas, along with a bit of philosophy; one (old) man's view of the world of 2 wheels.

New Scooter---2014 R1200RT
Cap'n Ron in the Straits of Georgia

Link to web log's RSS file

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Why We Live Here

Yes, our summers (and parts of Spring and Fall) can be miserable. Over 100 days with temperatures over 100 degrees. The coolest parts of the hottest days often exceed 95 degrees. Believe me, when you get up at 0400, one of the coolest hours of the day, and the temperature is 95, you know that it will be a brutal day ahead.

BUT—-BUT—-BUT—-WE DO NOT HAVE TO SHOVEL IT! And when November, December, January, February, March, and often April roll around, we are in our glory. The past few mornings have been chilly—-one AM greeted me with 29 degrees—-quite brisk when taking my morning pre-coffee walk. I even slipped on a pair of gloves on a couple of our chillier mornings. But, IT IS A DRY COLD! As if that makes any difference.

But, by 0930 or 1000, the temperatures are usually into the fifties, and we are able to fully appreciate what passes here for “winter.” Glorious! This is the time of the year when we can really enjoy being out-of-doors and enjoying fresh air, sunshine, and temperatures in the very enjoyable ranges.  

I whined about the unbearable heat of our summers for years, and repeated said moaning year after year, until it occurred to me to try something completely different—-I quit whining and accepted the high Temps as just part of the deal. We have the bake-oven months, but the advent of the nice months, mentioned above, make those 100 degree plus days and nights fade into dim memories while we revel in our balmy “winter,” watching the weather reports come in over the television, giving us cause to see things in a proper perspective. So it’s a little hot in July. At least we are not fighting snow drifts, slippery roadways, frost bite, and life-threatening temperatures.

I have learned to appreciate this great state. It has remarkable scenery (The Grand Canyon is The Prime Attraction, and never fails to impress, always different, always beautiful, always awe-inspiring.

I am contemplating taking the Tiger back up to Tortilla Flat and Roosevelt Dam tomorrow, then up to Young (more gravel roadways; about 35 miles), Kohl Ranch, Payson, and, depending on the weather farther north, either home via US 89, or north on 89 to the turn to Camp Verde, Cottonwood, and Jerome. After that, should I get that far, in to Prescott, down the Prescott Hill up the Yarnell Hill, Yarnell, Congress, and Wickenburg, then home. This whole trip is almost 400 miles, so completion depends on current conditions and the whims of yours truly.

I am awaiting handlebar risers, ordered recently, as well as pannier bags which will strap on the side panniers, and hold bike jack (on order and expected by mid month), a few basic tools, tire plugging kit, tire pump (12 volt), bike cover, and three gas bottles totaling 93 fluid ounces, or about three-fourths of a gallon. At 45 MPG, after running out and refilling with the three fuel bottles, that gives somewhere around 35 miles emergency range. Baja California may be next...


8:28 pm mst          Comments

Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Check Off One More Christmas

Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Evening. It looks like another Christmas is about to slide into history. It has been a pleasant day here—-sunshine, temperature reached 60, and there was no snow to shovel! This is THE time of year here in the Great Sonoran Desert. It is just cool enough in the early hours to make a light coat comfortable, but not what one would call “cold.”

We had a nice day at friends’ house for dinner, which was excellent, elegant, and very convivial. Merry Christmas!

So, 2018 is also about to slide down the ways and into the history books, or blogs, or whatever medium will contain the records of what were current events. And those records and analyses will be, as always, subject to the diligence, curiosity, honesty, prejudice and emotion, all of which make history more of a story or a tale than an accurate and complete historical veritude. I think the year we are about to abandon will be remembered in mostly negative terms and moods And rightly so! No matter what one’s political preference might be, I will wager that all sides would agree that presently things are messed up, and it is likely that any attempt to objectively view 2018 is bound to fail because of the frail humans who will make that attempt. So, in a sense, the history of a certain period is actually a tale of the past that is fraught with emotion, bias, inaccuracies, faulty memories, and some amount of imagination. But, the account often makes good reading, and is entertaining.

Let us hope that 2019 is a better year, and that it comes out well for us all.  

9:24 pm mst          Comments

Saturday, December 22, 2018

The Ride Home, Days 6 & 7

Day 6, Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Bidding adios to Van Horn, my next goal was Bisbee, Arizona, which was a bit off the most direct route to Scottsdale, but it took me off of the interstate and to the vicinity of the Mexican Border to one of Arizona’s former copper centers. Bisbee was big in the late Nineteenth and early Twentieth Centuries, when copper was king. It survives today by capturing the essence of a mining town and times long gone, now mining the pockets of the tourists who flock there (in season).  

I pulled in there about 1400, after an uneventful 400 miles, most of which were at cool low-40s temperatures. I took a room for the night at The Inn At Castle Rock, a very funky hotel that epitomizes what we expect those years to look like. Dinner that evening at The Copper Queen Hotel, where I had one of the best filet mignon steaks I have ever had, accompanied by a glass of $12 French Sauvignon Rouge—-not bad wine, but wasted on the likes of me—-they all taste pretty much the same to me, having just taken up an occasional libation after 32 years of teetotalling. I have decided that I may be old enough to handle alcohol wisely. I was one of only two diners that evening, and indication of the slow times in town at this time of the year. Lucí, my Filipina waitress said that she has been told that things pick up after the New Year. It is a picturesque little burg, and I was glad to revisit it. 

Day 7, Wednesday, December 12, 2018.

I planned to ride to Globe, then Roosevelt Dam, and down the Apache Trail to Tortilla Flat (22 miles of dirt and gravel, giving the bike a chance to perform off pavement), but somehow got cross-ways with my GPS and had to abort the Apache Trail portion and head for home from Globe due to impending darkness.

When stopped for gas a few miles short of Globe, I realized that I didn’t’ have my phone. I unpacked my IPad and exercised the “Find My Phone” App. Bingo! It showed the phone at The Inn At Castle Rock! I pushed the option that sounded the phone, and supplied whoever had the phone to call my dear wife’s cell #. Then I texted her that a call should be coming from Bisbee to get the address of where to send the phone. 

I arrived home in Scottsdale at 1600, safe and sound. Another successful bike trip—-No One Got Hurt!

I love this bike!    



9:08 pm mst          Comments

Friday, December 21, 2018

The Ride Home: Days 4 & 5

Day 4. Sunday, December 9 2018.

I missed the most direct route to Austin while in the freeway maze of the Houston system, so continued on Interstate 10 until Texas 71, which cut straight to Austin. Arrived there, found a nice Holiday Inn Express Hotel fairly close to the medical supply where I hoped to get  replacement nose piece for my travel CPAP.  

The ride was uneventful, although cool until approaching Austin—-41 degrees t the onset, close to 55 arriving. Traffic was fairly light, and I made good time—-480 miles in 9:45.

Day 5, Monday, December 10, 2018.

I got to the medical supply by 0900, got the nose piece, and was on the road west by 1015. I took US 29 until it intersected I-10 near Junctrion, Texas. I had not refueled in Austin, so stopped in Fredericksburg (about 75 miles) for gas. The fuel stops along this route in Western Teas are not close together, and this little 800 CC engine winds up pretty tight at Freeway speeds (80 MPH limit on select Texas freeways)——6000 RPMs or a smidge above. On this day they were not ideal—-upwards of 45 MPG.

MY instant MPG readings on the first leg out of Austin were in the mid to low 30s, mainly due to a quartering headwind. I estimate the component at about a 15 knot direct headwind. Distance from Fredericksburg to Fort Stockton is 260 miles. With my burns running well  below 40 MPG, it was clear that I would have to gas up well before Ft. S. Did I mention that the tiger has a 5 gallon tank? At 153 miles (Dist. from Fredericksburg), even Ozona was becoming a stretch. I could chance it at 80MPH, risking running out, slow down, or stop short for gas. The only stop between Fredicksburg and Ozona is Junction, a mere 62 miles. So, not wishing to run out nor to slow down, I stopped in Junctiion. After Junction, it would be another impossible leg; 199 miles go Fort Stockton, so I opted to stop in Ozona; 92 miles. Whew! After Ozona, it is 226 to Van Horn, so I made the 92 miles from Ozona to Ft. Stockton. Then, finally, I could make it from Fort Stockton to Van Horn without range anxiety—-120 miles. And Whew! Again! This pointed out the difference between my R1150 GSA. my R1200RT, and this Tiger, range-wise. The two Beemers can make 250-300 miles between fuel stops easily, wind or no wind.

It emphasizes the need for a safe way to carry external auxiliary fuel on the Tiger. I am working on that, and think I have a workable solution, to be discussed on a later post. 

Van Horn enjoys several good motel/hotel choices, and I found a Hampton Inn on the western outskirts with a suitable restaurant within walking distance (about a mile one-way).

Day 6 tomorrow, and Bisbee, Arizona the proposed destination. 

8:22 pm mst          Comments

Thursday, December 20, 2018

The Ride Home, Continued: Day Two

Saturday, December 8th, 2018. Dried out, well-rested, and full of breakfast, I hit the road for Austin. I had carelessly left the nose mask to my portable CPAP in Diamond Head, but a bit of internet searching found a medical supply company in Austin that stocked the right appliance, and I figured that I could swing by on Monday and pick it up before launching westward once again. The rain had moved on east, and the only minor travel condition of note was temperatures in the low 40s; 41 when I got on the road. Found a Holiday Inn Express Hotel just a few miles from the medical supply company. Distance for the day: 480 uneventful miles. 

3:36 pm mst          Comments

The Ride Home, Continued

Friday, December 7th: Up and at ‘em early, to get to Delta General Offices for that retired employee I.D.

That done, the time was 10:00, and rain threatened, so I found my way to I-85 toward Montgomery, Alabama, 160 miles down the road. At Montgomery, a slight left turn took me toward Mobile via US 65, after which I was on I-10 and headed west and home.

The forecast nasty weather seemed to be behind me, but a new storm was forecast approaching through Texas and along the Gulf Coast. At least I was out of the forecast freezing temperatures.

I stopped for the evening in Diamond Head (Who knew?) Mississippi, for a 413 mile day.

The next morning, Saturday, December 8, I checked the forecast, and it was not nice. Heavy rain due in Houston, Beaumont, Baton Rouge—-all along the Mississippi and Louisiana Gulf Coast, with flash flood warnings. So, with some trepidation, I loaded the Tiger, as it began to rain hard, and rode back onto the I-10, and into the teeth of some steady and moderate rain.

By around 11:30 I had been on the road for four hours, and stopped in Hammond, LA for some breakfast. Once inside and un-coated, I realized for the first time that I was very wet from the waist up. My vaunted Transit Suit leather jacket had let me down as it let liquid sunshine through. I had not felt wet because I had my electric heated jacket and glove plugged in and turned on, and the warmth belied the wet.

Discretion sometimes prevails, even in a stubborn little old man: I called it a day and found a motel, arriving the several blocks from my IHOP breakfast stop in what was then a driving rain. As much as I hated to waste the better part of a riding day, I acknowledged that to continue under the wet conditions I then enjoyed was true folly and asking for some kind of unpleasant incident, not to mention another several hours of wet, soggy wet riding. So, that was a mere 150 mile day, one of my shortest “trip” days since South America.

Next stop: Austin, Texas. 

12:49 pm mst          Comments

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Neglect Is A Terrible Thing

Yes, and the neglect that I have allowed on this site of mine is indeed terrible, but of course, Sloth is one of The Seven Deadly Sins, and we are all sinners, this old man being no exception. 

 By way of atonement, I can only promise to expend more attention and effort to this humble enterprise.

I just returned Wednesday last (December 12, 1018) from a trip to Simpsonville, South Carolina, where I purchased a very slightlly used 2018 Triumph Tiger 800 XRX motorcycle. Simpsonville is a small community just outside Greenville, SC. My former sailing mentor, RJ located this scooter on Cycle Trader, and recommended that I try the Tiger 800 as a lighter and more easily handled “Dual Purpose” bike than my old standby, Der Klunkenschiffter which has carried me so faithfully for so many happy and a few not so charming miles. I have been forced to admit that the ravages of time have taken some of the vitality from my bones and that I should find myself a more easily piloted ride. Hence, why not the Tiger? This was tricked out with many appealing farkles, in addition to which it was the ‘Low” version with a 29” seat, just right for my 31’ inseam. It is not only low enough for me to straddle it flat-footed, but is a full 164 pounds lighter than the Beemer. 

I must admit that as time has galloped along, I have become increasingly uncomfortable on that big GSA, and reluctant to go off the pavement in areas seldom traveled, because when the inevitable strikes and she goes down on a side, I am very hard-pressed to get her back on the rubber. It happens maybe one out of four time that I can exert enough remaining leg power to “getter done.”

 So,  I boarded Delta—-full fare no less—-and flew east. I probably needn’t say how painful it is for a once airline pilot to pay full fare. Those in the know regarding said pilotos are fully aware of the “cheap” phenomenon that accompanies nearly all of we Sky Gods. But, I sucked it up and paid the price.

Here i must interject that my experiences with Delta since they absorbed NWA have been without exception excellent, and this trip east was no different. We did depart PHX an hour or so late, but Pax were notified by text and by e-mail well in advance of scheduled departure. Ticket purchase online is painless and check-in at the airport is a dream. I transferred in Atlanta, a very imposing terminal for the inexperienced trraveler, but quite efficient and easy once the intimidation of multiple wings, underground train and gate that can be training grounds for marathoners becomes familiar.

 I made the connection to GSP with time to spare, rode the 50 minutes in the last seat of an MD88 (no real complaint here, but not my first choice), and by the time I got to baggage and located a luggage cart (not free—-Boo!), my large duffle containing my leather riding suit, tank bag, heated jacket liner and gloves, riding boots, changes of clothes, extra tie down straps, long johns, and sundry was ready for my departure to my hotel for the evening. So far, so good.

The next morning, after a nice hotel breakfast buffet, the very gracious seller, Mr. KW arrived to pick me up. The bike was exactly as he had advertised—-and more. It had these advertised farkles: Touratech Zega Pro side and top panniers—-top of the line and not cheap—-engine guards, OEM running lights, Ram Mount for GPS, including cradle for Garmin-BMW Navigator V GPS (I bit another bullet and bought a new one—-$900+). In addition, he had put on Bark Buster hand guards and Touratech pannier liners for all three panniers. Before I rode off into the sunset he threw in a nearly new bike cover!

We conducted our business without incident, and after I discovered that I had lugged the wrong tank bag, Mr. W. took me down to FedEx to ship the bag and some other superfluous items back to PHX. Mr. W. was as I said, very gracious; a straight shooter and a gentleman in the best sense of the word.

Weather forecast for the area were not calling for balmy clime, and i beat it out of town at 1315, bound for I-85 and Atlanta. MY GPS did not work, and I milled around Greater Atlanta for an hour or so before locating a decent motel not far from the Delta General Offices, where I would secure a new Retired ID the following day (Friday, December 7). It took nearly an hour of stop-and-go to negotiate through downtown ATL. Traffic is choking the cities and some of the smaller municipalities to death. Said GPS worked well once I put the battery in! Duh!

This Tiger 800 is a nice replacement for the R1150 GSA Beemer. It winds up pretty tight a freeway speeds—-a smidge over 6000 RPM at 80 MPH (GPS speed; 85 on the speedo), but there are RPMs to spare, and it is still well below topping out the torque band. It has an excellent cruise control, although the TFT display on the instrument panel is non-intuitive. I took me over a thousand miles to figure out some settings, including resetting the clock. Due to that complication, I failed my usual almost compulsive record keeping: MPG, miles per day, per  the Odo and the GPS. After about 1600 miles and a conversation via phone with RJ back in San Diego, I figured out that the wind screen is adjustable up and down with just quick flick of the wrists (while stopped, for safety).

More on this pleasant trip next time... 


9:40 pm mst          Comments

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Home Sweet Home

We got to the airport in Guatemala City at about 10:00, fully four and a half hours before ETD. Check-in was almost as streamlined as in the US, and by 10:30 I was able to find a seat in the main terminal and have a cup of coffee.

Got through security fairly fast, and boarded right on time. Flight to ATL was perfect, and we arrived a bit early.

I was fairly quick getting off the plane and into baggage claim. My bag came off quite early for once, and I went through the automated Custom/Immigration and out onto the main terminal in less than twenty minutes.

This system is the most efficient I have ever seen. Put your passport into the machine, pose for a photo, get a slip of paper for the officer to compare your snapshot with your passport photo, collect your bag, and give the slip to the exit officer---quick and painless. BTW, the allowance now is $800 USD duty free.

I than had a couple of hours to kill before my flight to PHX. Could have caught an earlier flight, but decided not to take it, because my one checked bag wouldn't arrive until my originally scheduled flight anyway.

Flight home was also perfect. Bag collection took about 20 minutes, and Presto! I was outside waiting for Sweetie-Pie to pick me up.

Absolutely amazing! It is like magic. At 2:00 in the afternoon, I am in Guatemal, and by midnight, I am standing outside the Phoenix terminal 3, waiting for my Dear Wife to take me away home. After all those years doing this sort of thing, I am amazed at how easy it has become---security issues aside. That is one thing in ATL I found a bit annoying. We had gone through good security in Guatemala, prior to departing. It was as good as any security I have seen, except for the profile scanner, which they lack there.

But, we had to go through security again in ATL, and they do have the scanner, which I do not wish to go through. I opt out, and go through the pat-down procedure, along with the very careful briefing by the inspecting individual, who outlines exactly what he is going to do before every move. Inside the collar, inside the waistband of the trousers, up each leg into the groin, each arm into the armpit, and sweeping the entire front and back of the body. No problem. I was clean, and passed along to get dressed again. Belt, shoes, pockets re-filled, watch back on the wrist, back to a more dignified persona.

The saga is over for now. I hope any perusers were informed and maybe entertained. I'll let this blog simmer for a time, but will be back now and again to throw in a few more observations, ideas, rants, and generalities.

Ciao for now. 

2:10 pm mst          Comments

Sunday, December 27, 2015

The Scorpion (El Alacrán)

Last full day. Beautiful weather. Sun, mid 70s, a bit of a breeze. I am going to hate to leave, but will be glad to get back to the USA, whatever the state of affairs there. It is home, has always been my home, and it always will be such.

I'll make my final visit to Antonio this afternoon, say "adiós," or maybe just "Que nos vayamos pronto" (We'll see each other soon).

I found a scale here, and WOW! I knew that I had lost some weight, but not this much! I am at 146.5, and that is with clothes on, including my hiking boots. I can safely take a couple more pounds off that number, and call it 145. I haven't weighed that since I can't remember when. That is at least a 10 pound loss in these two months here in Guatemala. This life has been something completely different, with lots of walking, and very little in the way of sweets like candy and ICE CREAM. I have sneaked (no, not 'snuck') some chocolate bars and a couple of times had ice cream cones, but this is unexpected and welcome!

Maybe three moderate meals a day contributed. I normally do not eat breakfast, and that probably leads to overeating at lunch or dinner. While here, I have been partaking three meals a day; fairly light breakfast, big meal at lunch, then lighter fare for "la cena" (dinner). Have not been snacking. At home, I snack throughout the evenings after dinner, sometimes right up until bed time. Cheese, ice cream, cookies, whatever is available. I can go out for ice cream, come back with several pints of Ben & Jerry's, or Haagen Daz, and often finish off one or more of them. If there are goodies in the house, they do not last long. Got  to stop that!

Now, if I can just keep this regime when I get back to PHX. Will have to take a grip on the self-control and promise myself to quit bringing goodies home from the grocery store. NO SUGAR! NO ARTIFICIAL SWEETENERS! That's the secret, that and WALKING! Lots of walking. I think I am back to a 30 inch waist, and I haven't been there since high school, sixty-four years ago. 

On the down side, I am more than ever looking like a shriveled up old man. My paternal Grandfather was a smaller version of my present persona. I think he was about 5'6", and probably weighed 115 Lbs. Thin and wiry, and as I remember him, feisty and opinionated. I come by it naturally. I'm like the scorpion hitching a ride across the river on the frog's back, having promised he would never, never sting. Mid-river, he stung the frog, thus dooming them both to die, him by drowning, the frog from the poison sting. The frog asked, "Why did you do it?" and he replied, "I can't help it. It's my nature!" 

1:47 pm mst          Comments

Saturday, December 26, 2015

8:57 pm mst          Comments

"The End Is Near"

Friday was the last day at Hogar Patricia, and it happened to also be Christmas Day, so there were gifts, a grand lunch, and then I made my goodbyes as best I could in my fractured Español.

Lunch was almost American tradition, with roast turkey, done to perfection, a very nice fruit salad, with grapes, apple, raisins, and of course, steamed rice, gravy, trimmings---sans cranberries however---"black" tortillas, followed by fruit punch and postres (cake).

Then to Antigua, where I had told Mary I would be for lunch. By the time I left Hogar P., it was two O'Clock, and I fully expected lunch at Casa M. To be over. But, arriving at 1430, I found that it had not yet begun. There were ten or twelve people present, including Boris, their youngest son, and his wife and two small kids.

Lunch began at around 1500, and was more roast pork---the second leg from the night before---Guatemalteco tamales, mashed potatoes, gravy (I hate gravy, but eat it at TG and Christmas. This was dark, like the giblet gravy my mother used to make---no giblets here---and quite delicious.

After lunch, I escaped upstairs to take my accustomed nap. No visit to Antonio, because he had been invited to dinner at the casa of "una Gringa" that he knew. He went with a couple of other residents of the hospital, and today when I visited him, he said that he had a very nice time, with a dinner of roast pork, salad, rice, and postre.

After my visit today, I spent a few minutes in the Plaza Mayor, enjoying the pleasant afternoon and viewing the fountain and the beautiful buildings surrounding the park. An Indigenous woman came along and sold me a couple of tapestries that could be used for wraps, or maybe for a tablecloth center runner. Quite pretty, and only cost Q300 (about $20 apiece). I dickered a bit with her, but she took my first offer of Q300, Q50 below her "best price". I cudda dun better! But, she needs to make a living, and another $5 would not have made much of a difference on my end. And our little conversation made it worth a bit more. She told me that her mother had died just last Saturday. She has four children, the oldest at 15 years. As Spanish is likely her second or third language, she spoke quite clearly and slowly enough that I had no difficulty understanding her. Progress!

 Tomorrow: Final Day

7:15 pm mst          Comments

Friday, December 25, 2015

It's Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas---In America.

Christmas here in La Antigua, Guatemala is just about over, and the interesting thing I found about it is that it is considerably more like Christmas in America than I remember from my last visit here in 2006-2007.

Mercantilism is surging, and the rituals are less about the birth of Jesus than about gifts, turkey, decorations, Christmas songs (mostly American imports, sung in English more often than Spanish), Santa Claus (an import from America via Germany or some ancient pagan worship), and the rest of the trappings we Americans revere as the real "Christmas."

I have, for many years, wondered just how the Christians square their religion with all of this materialism and clearly non-religious clap-trap.

Thursday there were a lot of people at the orphanage, visiting and getting some pleasure from holding babies, playing with children, and celebrating "La Navidad." Except La Navidad was little examined, and the emphasis seemed to be on goodies, presents, decorations, and "stuff." Not much sentiment paid, at least that I could see, on the birth of a savior.

One of the visitors was a young German woman. She turned out to be a pediatrician, and we had several very interesting conversations regarding MaximoNivel, volunteerism, voyeurism, among many others.

She wondered, since I have been around Hogar Pat for a couple of months, what I thought of the idea that people like her come in for just a couple of days or weeks and then go, leaving perhaps, the children with another series of losses in their young lives and experience. When she first broached the topic, I answered gingerly, because she had not yet given out this potential negative effect. I responded that I thought perhaps it was worthwhile in that it gave these children, somewhat sheltered from the outside world by the four walls and locked outer door, exposure to different looking, sounding and cultured people. In that, it seemed positive.

Then she brought up the negative, and I admitted that it had been in my thoughts, even including myself, and probably more so, because my tenure here developed some kind of bond with the children, and now suddenly I was going to be gone, leaving them with that separation that has been such a large and negative thing in their lives.

This woman was very thoughtful (spoke beautiful English, BTW), and added that she wondered just how much real good some volunteering does, when often the volunteer him/herself gains a false sense of altruism---"I spent two days/weeks/months and made these little lives so much the better for my 'sacrifice.'

It brought out my cynicism, and I had to agree with her, and said that we could only hope that the benefits of whatever volunteers do outweighs the self-indulgence and self-congratulations. She is very interested in coming to one of these countries and contributing, but is wary that she may come as a "white person dictating to 'them' how to live their lives." She has a skill that is sorely needed in many of these places, but the paternalism she fears is certainly a factor, and her sensitivity and intelligence that many could apply to their own motivations.

Later, we had a conversation with another visitor, a Guatemaltecan now living in New Jersey, where he has been for over ten years. He is an employee in some capacity with Hasbro, the toy maker, and we had a lively discussion regarding the toy business, during which Hanna showed some polite disagreement regarding toys and their affect on children, and the lucrative nature of the business, which Mattel, Disney, and Hasbro dominate entirely. I moved physically and conversationally into the center in my often pusillaminous retreat from argument, but I am clearly in her camp. The conversation did not delve far, and the subject changed to something innocuous before any feathers were ruffled.

I mention this because William Rivers Pitt has a column today, which can be found online by Googling his full name and December 25 (I hope). Harsh, biting, but very incisive, it is well worth a read, because I think that the toy world has exploded into meaningless plastic junk that robs developing minds of imaginative and creative ideas. When I was a boy, lo, those many, many years ago, we had toys,  but most of us made do with sticks and imagination. A forked stick could be a gun,  a tree limb six feet off the ground the cockpit of an airplane, or an old rowboat, high and dry, a steamer on the high seas. Now it is all done for them, and imagination is stunted.

Besides which, as Pitt notes, the plastic toys, soon shunted into the toy box and forgotten, are gained at the expense of underpaid workers from countries like---Guatemala. Go figure. 

But what do I know? I could be wrong... 


6:14 pm mst          Comments

Thursday, December 24, 2015

T'was The Night Before Christmas...

and all through the house was the sound of Spanish conversation. Mary and Salva's younger son, Boris and his wife arrived with their two children. Boris is working in Honduras as an architect, but they are here visiting, staying in Guatemala City with Boris' in-laws. They came by for an afternoon and evening with his parents. 

We had a fine dinner of roast leg of pork, mashed potatoes, salad, and trimmings. It was very nice, and the pork was excellent. Salva arose at 0600 to take the leg(s), seasoned and stuffed with green pimento olives, to a nearby panaderia (bakery) where they have a wood-fired oven large enough to accommodate two (2) fifteen to nineteen pound pork legs (bone in). Cooked for eight hours, it came out succulent, sweet, and just right, with a nice crusted outside. ¡Fue muy buena!

 That was at 2000. Now, we will take a bit of a rest until la media noche, when we'll have traditional tamale and poncho. (Fruit punch, warm, with Apple, raisin, coconut, prunes), along with some gift opening. 

And, to all who travel these blog pages, Have yourselves a very Merry Christmas and a very Happy New Year! 

8:45 pm mst          Comments

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

2015 Donations---Not Too Late!

Not much new for today. Salva and Mary delivered me and the sack of presents to the orphanage shortly before 0900.There were quite a few people there already; the new director of MaximoNivel, Colin, and some visitors, about eight people in all. Then a couple of vans arrived with local people, all loaded with supplies and gifts for the children. They all had a grand time, holding and feeding babies, playing with the children, and getting acquainted with the operation.

Everyone I have talked to who has come to the site agrees that it is very well run, and that the staff are all quite dedicated to the welfare and to loving these tykes.

Which brings me to this suggestion for anyone who is so disposed to make a late 2015 donation, or for that matter a donation at any time to a very worthy cause: Go to their website: theloveofpatricia.org    Any donation made through PayPal or credit card sends ALL of the money directly to Hogar de Niños del Amor de Patricia, something that a good many charities fail to do. It takes money to run charities, and staff need to be paid, but in this case, there are few middle men. The money will go for essentials. Of course the staff are not there strictly for their own health. They have to make a living, and they need to be paid. I am sure a lot of the cash donations are for general upkeep and expenses such as staff salaries, but it is really one of the charities where your money, should you decide to donate, will not go to supernumeraries or others who profit from altruistic donors.

I mention this as an on-site observer who has seen, every day for two months, excellent and loving care for unfortunate children who deserve this chance to have a decent life. Your money could not be better spent. 


8:07 pm mst          Comments

Tuesday, December 22, 2015


Yesterday, Salva and Mary picked me up just outside Maximo Nivel, where I take my daily dose of Spanish and also where International volunteers HQ is based in Guatemala. They were kind enough to take time to take me to the Central Market, where Mary negotiated my purchase of 27 little Christmas gifts for the niños at Hogard del Amor de Patricia. We had a list of names given me by Tia Yaki, with ages noted. It took awhile, and negotiations were heavy, but we got 'er done, went back to the car, unloaded, and then sallied back into the market for a few things. 

Mary wanted some grapes and apples for the "ponche" she will make for La Navidad, but while there she picked up a couple of fresh papaya, and some other fresh produce items. The market is just overflowing with old-fashioned groceries, the kind that my paternal grandfather had in his grocery store back in the thirties in Visalia, California. Fresh everything. Barrels of nuts, grains, rice, condiments, and bins full of bananas, papaya, mango, apples, pears, grapes, along with just about every vegetable you can think of plus a lot of local veggies that none of us have ever heard of, but are delicious when presented in typical Guatemalan meals.

There were also beautiful flower stalls, with an abundance of cut flowers. There are several large flower growers in the Antigua area, but most of those are for export (to the US, mostly). A lot of our cut flowers in the supermarkets in the US come from Colombia, but we get some from here in Guatemala.

After that, a trip to the supermercado for goodies for baskets for the daughters of the López' former maid, Tea. She has three daughters, one of whom is Juanita, the present maid. This family is of indigenous origin (they do not use the word "Indio" here, as it is viewed as a racial slur). They are indígenas. Salva and Mary made up very nice baskets with foodstuffs, a few toys and goodies for the three daughters' families.

When we finally got home around seven, we grabbed a bit of dinner, then Salva set to work to wrap all of the presents. We had discussed it, and I thought it would be too much work, favoring just dispensing the presents by name, but Salva insisted, saying that the kids really love to rip open packages---he is quite right of course. It was very kind and helpful of him and of Mary to do the buying for me.

He spent a good hour and a half expertly wrapping each package---dollies for the littler girls, a couple of diaries for the older girls, toy cars for the little boys and little watches for four of the older ones. The sixteen-year-old boy (who visits, but is not a resident) gets a T-shirt with a Superman "S" on the front. 

Incidentally, the supermarkets here are very much like the ones we know, except for a lot of local types of processed foods instead of our usual---but there are lots of those as well. They are a cornucopia of "stuff," and when you enter one here, they are just enough different to give you a new perspective, seeing it in another light---many, many things begging to be purchased, promising whatever it is you want to believe they can deliver, be it slimmer profile, better looks, good health, happiness, or success in life.

My current Spanish teacher, Evelyn tells me that many US holidays are creeping in, like Thanksgiving, Halloween, Valentine's Day, and maybe, others. Tourist and expatriate influence is powerful. Antonio, my amigo from Hermano Pedro Hospital says that many young people flock here from Guate and other cities around about to drink, go discotequeing, and live the wild life. These imported "holidays" are but an excuse to carouse. Not that Antonio disapproves carousing, but merely his observation, to use a term that does not apply strictly to a man without sight. 

To return to the mention of Indígenas, racism here is alive and well. Indígenas are treated with varying levels of prejudice, from overt to subtle, not unlike our own brands. I think that a good many non-Indígenas here, if not all, look at them as people with limited education (largely true), and therefore lacking the capacity to understand, to learn, or to prosper. Their background certainly is against them, but my untutored opinion is that, given the chance they are every bit as capable as any of the rest of us. A good example of an educated and forceful advocate for Human Rights, especially the rights of her people, is Senora Rigoberto Manchú. She presently holds a position in the Guatemalan Government. She is bright, articulate, and fearless in her quest for equality.

During the 36 year Civil War here, many Indígenas resisted, sometimes with force, and were dealt with summarily by the various governments, most especially the three-year reign of dictator President Rios Montt, a particularly nasty man who encouraged large scale ethnic cleansing. The US was involved, but never brought to answer for our role in supporting these governments. It was all done to rid the country of "communist elements" that threatened to undermine law and order. Over the period, at least 250,000 people were killed, most of them Indígenos. 

The US backed the World Bank and other International lenders in granting over $5 Billion for a large hydroelectric dam, a dam that heavily impacted indígenos land. Resistance was futile, and more than a couple of villages were completely erased by Rios Montt's government, including all of the residents---men women and children. The dam was built, never mind the human suffering,  and forget that the United States of America looked away. Not our problem... 

7:53 pm mst          Comments

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Ah, There's Joy In Mudville Tonight!

We left shortly after 0800 this morning, the three of us, Salva, Maurice, and me, for the fútbol game. It was scheduled to start at 1130, but in view of our hour-and-a-half wait in line last time, and the fact that this game is the final for the championship, we wanted to beat the crowd.

The line was huge, spiraling back for several blocks, but, true to Guatamatecas, we cut the line without a murmur from those behind (try this in America!), and were through the gates in about 20 minutes---only to find the stadium nearly full already. We got seats just about mid-field, but on the first step above ground level. This sentenced us to standing for most of the game, as the people sitting at ground level had their view blocked by people passing in front, along with, by game time, people standing at the fence separating us from the pitch itself. So, to see any game play, we had to stand, as of course so did every tier behind, clear to the top, about twenty or thirty steps up.

The game started almost exactly on time, and the home team, enthusiastically supported by over 9000 screaming, horn-blowing, flag waving, noise-making fans, scored a goal in the first five minutes, bringing the roar of the crowd to a ear-splitting level that barely diminished for 85 minutes.

The two teams, Antigua, the Green Monster, against Guastatoya, in brilliant yellow, were pretty evenly matched. This from my expert judgment, having watched all of three matches live, a few during the last World Cup, and my granddaughter's high school team in Buhl, Idaho. Looked pretty even to me.

Second half: scoreless until 25 minutes in, and Los Verdes scored again, making it 2-0, the exact number of goals Antigua needed to win the championship. Knuckles were gnawed for the last 20 minutes, but the line held, helped mightily by the home town crowd, and Antigua prevailed. If I understood Salva, this was their first national win in about 45 years. The crowd was delirious. Well, they were delerious-er, having been just delirious throughout the game. Good sportsmanship prevailed after the game, and as the losers made a circuit of the stadium, they were applauded by the happy Antiguans. A bit of a difference from the game itself, when the Yellow was cursed roundly from time to time with shouts of "¡Va, Puta!" "¡Chíngenles todos!" And other words along with many, many extended middle fingers---universal disapproval. The curse words are mere approximations, because my Spanish does not yet reach the fluency level required for thoughtful and heartfelt cursing.

After the game, we stopped at a street cart for really yummy tortillas; barbecued beef slices, guacamole, fresh tomato and lettuce or cabbage salad, around which we wrapped fresh, piping hot corn tortillas. Yeah, yeah, fresh veggies at a street vendor are risky,  but Salva showed no hesitance, so, following his lead, I pitched in and gobbled mine down in my usual record time (it is now 1740, and no adverse affects yet). Friday I accepted a glass of delicious strawberry punch at one of the poorest houses which we delivered bunk beds to, and held my breath, but it seems that at least up to now, my Gringo estomago is withstanding any ravaging ecoli. 

Mary and Salva have gone to 6:00 Mass, and will stop by after to pick me up for a walk to Doña Luisa for an evening snack. 

4:46 pm mst          Comments

Friday, December 18, 2015

Speaking of Haircuts...

Today, around 0900, José arrived to cut the boys' hair. They were pretty excited, and he had a large selection of hairstyles pictured on his cell phone. He let the boys sort through them to decide what cut they favored, and then he set to work.

I don't know if he was there as a charitable barber, or if he was paid by the foundation, but he toiled away for over three hours, and gave each niño careful and undivided attention, as though they were important clients. He cut, shaved, shaped, primped and pampered. After each cut, he blew the cuttings out of their hair and clothes, applied pomade (the style here is sort of spiked without being extreme), and powder.

Some of them had sideburns squared off, and others, depending upon their choice of cuts, tapered to a fine point. He treated these kids like paying customers and was calm and controlled, even with the two or three little ones who were terrified of the clippers and the feel of the straight razor against their skin. He was gentle, kind and understanding.

After the boys, he did me, for which I paid him---the charge---Q15! That's between $2.00 and $2.95! I tipped him another Q20. He did a good job on me as well, trimming all needed areas---mustache, eyebrows, Etc.

The kids were thrilled with their cuts, and we told them they were different people afterwards.

Around 1245 I said my goodbyes to Debbie and Phil, the couple from Delaware, along with their son Christian, and made my way back to Antigua and lunch at the house. They will be leaving Hogar Patricia to spend a week or so with Guatemalan friends in Guate before heading for home.

Afterwards, a stop to see Antonio at the hospital  (Obras Sociales de Hermano Pedro---Google it for more information), and a short chat. I offered to take him for coffee again tomorrow (Saturday), but he allowed as maybe not, as the last visit there was a bit taxing, causing him loss of breath and a pounding heart, so we agreed that I would stop by at the same time as today, and we would have time for a longer chat.

Then, off to Spanish lesson at 1500, home at 1615, and ready for the weekend---BIG fútbol game on Sunday for the championship. Antigua has to score two goals, or win by one goal. If they score two, apparently they do not have to win. They are playing Guastatoria again, the team that beat them 2-1 on Thursday. It should be a real thrillah, and Salva says we will leave the house at 0800 so as to get there in time to get good seats. At a brisk walk, it is about 30 minutes to the stadium. I expect that the line will already have formed, so let's figure 30 minutes in line: 0900. Game starts at 1100. Has every indication of being a long day.

Salva somehow picked up tickets for face value---Q80 (about $10.00) Scalpers will be all over the place, and I hesitate to find out how much they are going to get.  

7:48 pm mst          Comments

Thursday, December 17, 2015


Yesterday I took Antonio for a haircut. He wanted it before I took his picture. The barbershop was a little far for him to walk, so we took a tuk-tuk. That is a three-wheel motorcycle (two in back, one in front), with a cloth enclosure, complete with side curtains. It is a cheap if rough way to wend through the cobbled streets of Antigua when one is not disposed to Shank's Mare. Now there is a term that is dating! Said haircut took all of seven minutes, and cost a grand total of Q30 (about $4.00US). Guess I'll have to get one before I leave.

Today, there was a big delivery of bunk beds to poor people. The Patricia Orphanage has been receiving and storing these very nice beds, complete with springs and mattresses all along, and I got a chance to go along today. We went in Lesley's nice Toyota Van, ten or so of us, mixed between adults and niños. We drove first to Lesly's gated community to pick up her two kids, then another hour or so to San Jose Piñula, a suburb of Guatemala City. This was out in the sticks, and we stopped at another orphanage, also privately run, to pick up the beds. It was a beautiful site, with a large lawn and several new and modern buildings. It looks very well funded and staffed, with a large contingent of volunteers, mostly from the US.

We followed a loaded pickup to the delivery site and pitched in, unloading and then hammering together the bunks in the various houses chosen as recipients. Now, these were beyond "modest." Very crude buildings,mostly open to the out of doors except for roof. They did appear to have running water and electricity, but no plumbed bathrooms were seen. I do not know if they rely on outhouses, or if there are plumbed toilets. The last one we went to had dirt floors.

Many children were around, and the women (no men around, I presume they were out earning a living), mothers, aunties, and grandmothers, were most appreciative. The beds are quite nice, but the fitting of the springs to the head and foot boards was not exactly finely finished, and a good amount of pounding with hammers was required. This was definitely a case where "get a bigger hammer" applied.

I think that the organization supporting Patricia gets the money for these beds. Since I came, there have been several deliveries to and from.  I estimate that fifty or sixty bunks have come and gone in the last seven weeks, so I presume that they are finding good homes. 

But, the work took most of the day, and I missed my lunch at Casa Mary, my 3:00 Spanish lesson, and a date with Sandra and her family to go to San Juan, where they live, and distriburt Christmas packages to poor kids there. This bed business was worth it. Oh yes, and I got another blister hammering beds together.

On the way back, Lesley treated everyone to late lunch at---wait for it---McDonald's! In my best Spanish, I thanked her for the lunch, a "typical Guatemaltan lunch." 

It was a very nice day. 

8:44 pm mst          Comments

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Some Very Nice People

Yesterday, Monday, when I arrived at Hogar de Patricia, there was a couple there from Delaware, along with their nine-year-old son. They have been to Guatemala several times, and acquired their adopted son, Christian here when he was just nine months old. Unfortunately, none of them speak any Spanish, a situation I find most unfortunate in that Guatemala is his heritage. But, it is difficult when living in the USA, raising a child as an American, with little incentive or opportunity to learn a foreign language.

They first came here eight or nine years ago with a Christian mission, working in some medical setting, assisting with patients in some way. They are very nice people, and we got on quite well. When Debbie asked me my religion, there was quite a shocked look on her face when I told her that I am an atheist. She had trouble accepting that, and gave me the usual Christian pitch about how I might be living a good enough life, but the hereafter would be closed to me without accepting Jesus. As politely as possible, I told her that I had given it serious consideration for many years, and this is my conclusion, and will remain so until someone or something presents me with solid evidence contrary to my un-belief.

Today, arrived another couple, these were Guatemalans, friends of the couple from Delaware. We had a pleasant conversation, getting to know one another, and they flattering me with my "buen español."

Then things turned to religion. The gentleman is a pastor in some Protestant denomination---a former Catholic, of course, being a Guatemalteco.  But on one singular occasion, he had what I can best describe as an epiphany, and "saw the light." He became a member of that religion, and has apparently been ordained a minister. Asked my religion, once again I caught the shocked look of disbelief---not unlike my American acquaintances when they find out the awful truth regarding my apostasy. 

This was my first experience of receiving the "hard press" in Spanish. I didn't get it all, missing a few phrases, but the gist is pretty much the same as in English. I am doomed if I don't accept Jesus. I told the gentleman that I have lots of doubts about a lot of things. He, when asked, said that he had absolutely no doubt that not only does God exist, but that there is a reward awaiting him at the end of this current life. He said, again when queried, that nothing would ever change his mind.

I told him that I await solid evidence that God does exist, and should it be made available to me, I am ready to change my mind. I need evidence.

These are all very nice people. I would not insult them in any way. Their faith is pure and unshakeable, and I am not interested in changing peoples' minds even if it were within my power---it is not. I have never convinced anyone to change their mind about anything.

However, were it possible to do so without offending anyone, readers of this blabber included, I would offer this: Only a fool has no doubts. Only a fool is so certain that NOTHING will change his/her mind.

And I must put myself in that class, as I am sure of one thing: I am going to die. Nothing contrary will change my mind on this. As to afterlife, who knows? I surely do not, and neither do you. 

Oh, yes, before I left for the day, the pastor said, in accented English, "You are a very good person." 

8:16 pm mst          Comments

Sunday, December 13, 2015


Thanks to William's connections, he got us four tickets at face value to today's semi-semi-final; Antigua against some team from Guate---they were the ones in the yellow jerseys, the ones roundly and soundly booed when they took the field.

We left the house shortly after 0900, the four of us: William, Salva, Maurice and me. We trudged through town to the soccer stadium. A line a mile long awaited. We entered, and stood there, inching forward toward the two (2) entrance gates, where everyone was perfunctorily checked for guns, knives, bombs, drugs, poisons, had their boletos (tickets) checked, and entered the stadium, already---now 10:55---nearly full. An hour and a half in line.

We found seats at the far end, near the Antigua goal, and gently simmered in the sun waiting for the kickoff (whatever). The place was jammed, and the noise incredible. Horns, drums, screaming, yelling, green smoke (signifying Antigua's team color), bedlam!

And then the teams entered. There may have been loudspeaker announcements, but who could hear? Bedlam became BEDLAM. So, it began, and the heat crept upward. Sitting there on concrete seats (steps), fully in the sun, I was glad I had worn long sleeves and the ¡Yo Apoyo Antigua Cien por ciento! (I support Antigua 100 %) brimmed hat Salva had bought me at the previous game. We were not in the best place to watch most of the action, low on the tier, so that people on the next level down, striving to see over the people passing at ground level and standing most of the time blocked even more of our view unless we too stood, thereby blocking a couple of rows behind.

Up, down, up, down, most of morning, striving to see the field of play, shouting when the crowd shouted, and outraged when our team got penalized for fouls.

Half-time, and no score. Then, forty minutes into the second half, a header into the net by a green jersey clinched it for Antigua with the first and as it turned out, only goal in the game.

¡Antigua ganó! The wild crowd went wild.The home team won, and their place in the semi-final next week is secure. By some arcane calculation, they do not have to win either of the remaining games, but have to score as high as possible. Apparently, as near as I can tell, having had it explained in Spanish mixed with some English, is that the championship will be determined by total goals scored either in the playoffs or for the season. It all escaped my ken. And a very good time was had by all (Antigua supporters). 

We get to do this again in another ten days or so. Maybe it will rain this time. 

5:05 pm mst          Comments

For future use

Our New Best Friend, TRES

My Hero, Uncle Pete, two days short of his 90th birthday.

Meet Mort--- Mortem "mors me cum equitat"
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The Old Guy At The Helm Of "OH MISS"
Adventure Bound
The Old Guy, Back Home Unscathed
2005 BMW K1200LT, long gone to bike heaven
"Der Klunkenschiffter" at age 4, 102,000 miles