Saturday, December 31, 2011

Friday, December 30, 2011

Enjoying the Coast


It´s an overcast day on the Chilean coast, and the waves crash with authority deligated by God.
Another Christmas has come and gone and I celebrated by making a trip to a small island just off  shore. The sights provided were of the unforgetable nature. Penguins, Sea lions, Dolphins, and innumerable species of Fowl.
My day on the water brought with it further appreciation for the absurdity humanity places on ¨being somebody¨, an endevor which is often intangled with nefarious calculation and great strife

From here, I will be heading Norte, into the driest desert on earth, the Atacama. I´ll miss my new buddy (Big Yeller). He has kept me company at the campground which has been home for the past 4 days, rarely leaving my side.
 

Monday, December 26, 2011

The Escape from Argentina and a Chile Christmas

My arrival to the Pacific coast of Chile last evening was slightly late for watching the sun set, however, its vestige still cast a warm hue over the city of La Serena. The Afternoon passed had seen the crest of the Pasa Agua de Negra, one of the world's highest passable roads (15,681 ft. according to my GPS), and the surreality of the environment there left me feeling as if I were traveling within a vacuum. The solitude of the Andes is a majestic thing and, following yet another seizure and release of my motorcycle by the Argentinian Government, I relished the serenity which they offered.



     The town of Las Flores, Argentina is more of a watering hole than a break in transportation, with internet, banks, and ATM machines, all being a little further down the road. Yet here, in this nothing, last chance for gas, town the officials leveraged their authority over me and sent me into the desert, short on cash and without a ride, seeking higher authority to appeal for my BMW's release. The whole ordeal was a case study in the impotence of bureaucracy. What purpose could they possibly have been serving? I don't think that even the customs officials knew what they were achieving, but eventually after sitting at the Aduana office in San Juan long enough (2 solid days), someone, somewhere, granted the release of my motorcycle. Thank God! Four days of uncertainty had left me a bit strained but, fortunately, unlike the last run in with the Argentinians, back in August, this time I'd not been shot at.

 I got my exit visa stamped on the 21st. The first day of winter back in Tennessee had little bearing on the temperature here, but 40 (104f) degrees C was made more bearable by my happiness to be back on the road. It was a long straight shot to the Andes and once I reached the twisty bits, the asphalt, much like civilization, disappeared into the upper regions of my mirrors. The ascent into a maze of rock saw the temperature and my anxiety both recede. I was once again dealing with obstacles which were more within my realm of patience and expertise.
     After about an hour in the mountains, as shadows began to grow long, there appeared a terrific sign across the road announcing the construction of  a great tunnel connecting Argentina and Chile. Much to my amusement, I though about the improbability of this project ever really getting off the ground (Cristina Kirchner (presidenta, phh, whatever) will never be seen as someone the Chileans can trust to jointly invest with). Aside from this product of wishful thinking, just to the to the left, there was another sign. This one made a more realistic promise. Campamento 30k. Knowing that the customs office in Chile was already closed for the night, this seemed the perfect place to set camp, so I took a rather long and rough detour deep into the mountains.

 With the light fading my motorcycle was met with an impassible barrier. My strong sense of curiosity led me to dismount and hike my camping supplies a little further in. The Mercury was dropping precipitously as I lugged my baggage to a suitable campsite just over 15,000' of elevation and hurriedly assembled my tent. The wind here was insufferable, and my habitation was thrashed about mightily. I worried that in this onslaught my tent wouldn't hold up, but it proved my fears unfounded. Though noisy, the Kelty Zenith 2 remained structurally sound ($60 at Target).

      The following morning wasn't an enjoyable one, I was suffering from a combination of food poisoning and altitude sickness. The blister pack of tuna I'd eaten the previous night had stayed with my motorcycle in Buenos Aries through the Fall semester but it was well within its expiration date. It was a mistake I'll not soon forget. It hurt to remain still, it hurt to move. I continually needed to vomit, however, there wasn't much to purge myself of. My eyes felt as if they were going to explode as I wrenched myself from the sleeping bag to trek for water.
   
    My strides, though forced at first, grew lighter as I went, and upon cresting the rise overlooking  my camp I was greeted by the sight of a glacier covered cirque which acted as a saddle, connecting the lines of mountains to each side of me. Though still feeling ill, I came to the conclusion that my long awaited, and seemingly elusive, hiking trip was to be made today. I filled my water bottle from the stream at the base of the glacier and began my ascent.
    At first, my idea was to skirt the left side of the ice formation, climbing my way up to the low point of the ridge and then hike up to one of the surrounding peaks. However, the glacier proved difficult to deal with and my plan was changed. Rather than first reaching the top of the saddle and moving on to the peak I would just just climb directly to the top. This approach wound up taking most of the
day. Careful consideration for routes and holds were required, and points of rest were frequent. Eventually, I did make it to the top, which didn't quite reach 18,000 ft, but the view was still very nice. The adjacent peaks were much higher, and didn't require the sort of climbing endured to get to this point, but with the sun beginning to set, and only water and cameras in my pack, I went off in search of a reasonably safe slide back down the mountain in order beat the sub freezing temperatures to my tent.
    Following another rough night camping, I once again rose with a splitting head ache. Slowly I packed away my camp and hiked back to the bike.

The trip up to and across the border brought sights previously unseen. The vibrant multicolored mountains were my companions as I covered the 80 or so miles back to civilization and I was left thinking about my two nights of isolation. It wasn't likely that there had been another human being within 50 miles of me. Certainly the harsh environment wasn't conducive to sustaining life, however, there was beauty in the freedom offered by this permissive, if unforgiving, land lord. Memories of my time in these mountains will persist long after my recollections of Buenos Aries have slipped into oblivion.  

  On a side note, just before reaching the customs/ aduana office for Chile I was stopped by a truck load of national police in their four wheel drive. After examining my passport, they told me that the Argentinians had reported me to interpol as missing. "Tres dios", one of the officers said while holding up three fingers. I mused merrily to myself, as the cops examined my bike. Only 3 days? Shit, man, I've been gone a hell of a lot longer than that.


Monday, December 19, 2011

Fun wizz zee Germans

Following the misadventures with my rear Continental, I happened across a few Germans heading north. Join the convoy? Oh yes.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

The search for a summit grinds to a halt on desert tarmac

Well, it wasn't pretty but the repair worked well enough, I covered the 50 miles to the next town without further drama. In every tire's life a little pressure must fall.

From the mountains to the desert, wandering through Argentina

I have had an interesting few days. Currently I sit at a cafe in San Juan, about 200 miles from my motorcycle (there is a story here). I will be posting videos to document the timeline of events. Here is the first one, shot at the base camp of Mt. Aconcagua.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Two Dogs

There sat two dogs, one on each side of the U.S. Mexican border, imploring the border guards to allow crossing into the other countries.  The scruffy Mexican perro looked passively at the U.S. border guard and sheepishly asked for entry. The guard replied, "why do you want to go to America"? The not quite mangy mutt replied, oh you know, maybe I find a wealthy master. I could get a fancy collar and a nice food bowl that is always filled with the good food, that would be so nice. The border guard, thinking this a reasonable request, allowed the little dog by. On the other side of the fence the Mexican Border guard  looked in disbelief at the American dog as it asked for entry, replying, "Why in the Hell do you want to come down here"? To this the healthy looking mutt stared assertively at the guard and said "I Want to Bark"

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

High speed on the salt flats from a cafe in Mendoza

 I hang in limbo here in Mendoza, awaiting some information concerning a place to keep my bike while hiking, so, I thought I would edit video to pass the time. The Bolivian salt flats are not to be missed and it's a shame that I'm only now posting this, but better late than never, enjoy.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

A full moon and an empty soul

 The wide strips of land along the straight roads of Argentina are mostly desolate and lacking in points of commerce, however, they lend themselves to amazing rest areas, though not of the typical fare. Every 20 miles or so the main route passes beaten paths which lead into small but dense patches of mature hard wood trees. During the day these offer travelers some respite from the sun, and I passed many families picnicking, some under the watchful eye of Difuta Corea whose shrines were prevalent on my journey (several of these were comprised of plastic water bottles, thousands of them, she had died of dehydration), and generally enjoying a simple existence which didn't reek of poverty. Much like these Argentinian simpletons (no offense implied) I too was looking for utility maximization as I rode through the night. The full moon was giving quite a stare when I pulled from the road in search of a spot to camp, there wasn't a cloud in the sky. This wasn't too surprising, though this was farming area there are only about eight inches of rain per year here. I decided to forgo the tent and simply toss the sleeping bag atop one of my tarps, taking a moment for pictures before retreating for the night.
   The thunder came loudly at around 2 AM, and from a deep sleep I was somewhat slow to respond. This was going to be bad, I thought as I weighed my options . I had yet to test my tent's rain worthiness and was worried it would not be not up to the task at hand, but looking for another, more suitable, place seemed out of the question, the storm was moving too fast and it was angry. The lightening had struck something in the distance which had sparked an inferno, a towering glow shot out of the ground in stark contrast to a black cloud drenched sky. This should have been of major concern to me as I was camped under an outcropping of lightening rods, but my groggy condition led me to be more worried of the imminent prospect of myself and all my possessions becoming drenched to the core. The patter of rain was overwhelmed by the gusting wind as I assembled my tent on a mound just behind the bike. Upon my entrance into the domicile light precipitation was quickly replaced by a relentless barrage of rain, joining the vicious wind, which lasted well into the day.
    There are lessons to be learned here (I noticed the following morning that all the trees around me were charred,but obviously not dead, from a previous lightening/soaking attack) and they leave me a bit apprehensive about my next endeavor. The weather here is clearly a capricious beast at times and under the right circumstances can be the death of you, as Difuta Corea found out first hand.
      My next goal is to reach the summit of Mt.Aconcagua, though by comparison to the peaks in Asia, it's 23,000 ' are easily achievable, the swings in weather are often deadly. My life to this point has been an interesting mix of charm and failure, my fuck-ups have yet to cost me anything more than progress (as defined by prevailing B.S.)and girls. My chances to succeed here are pretty good, and as achievement and love pass me by (or by default, exclude me), what do I really have to lose?


Saturday, December 10, 2011

From the air to the asphalt, the long road to Mendoza

  After landing yesterday I was a bit disheartened to learn that Argentina has what they call a "reciprocity fee" which is only applicable to Americans, Canadians, and Australians. I didn't have to pay this when I crossed into Argentina over land in August so I was a bit blindsided by the attack on my wallet, $150 gone forever. This was small change in comparison to the parking fee for the bike which came to a staggering $1,000. My compulsion to run up on the curb and around the booth was tempered a bit by my desire to avoid the police on this trip. I did some negotiating and got the charge down to $750.
  I was happy that my bike was where I'd left it but there were a few things needed to get it running again, fortunately I'd brought all of them with me, much to the TSA's chagrin. The trip to the salt flats had a lasting impact on the BMW and the brake pads had rust welded themselves to the disks, eventually WD40 and a screwdriver did the trick and the old girl was rolling once again.
  I spent the remainder of the day in Buenos Aries drinking cheap wine on the river front as a steady stream of pedestrians strolled by. Of particular interest to me was the popularity of skates here, there were hundreds of  people of all shapes and sizes rolling around, perhaps it has something to do with most of Argentina being as flat as a pancake. I've become well acquainted with this geographic (non)feature and as the photo illustrates my path has been following a straight line. This won't be the case for long though as the 1000 kilometer trip to the Andes is almost over. I'm looking forward to higher elevations and lower temperatures that Mendoza will bring.
   

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

A return south

  Earlier tonight I finished my last exam of the semester and I'm trading my regulated industries book for a map of Argentina, the flight from Atlanta leaves at seven tomorrow night. My bike has been at the airport in Buenos Aries for over three months now and a I desperately hope it is still where I left it.
   I wanted to edit and post a a cool video tonight, however, I am suffering from diminishing marginal returns and this brief clip is all I could muster, it's still pretty cool though, documenting a a first in my life.
   My next post should come from Argentina, though I have no idea what is in store for me it will certainly be more interesting than horizontal mergers, network externalities, and vertical restraints.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Supply, Demand, and Thanksgiving.

I'm spending this mild Thanksgiving day in Atlanta with planks of oak (nearly as hard and obstinate as I). My austere friends provide little in the way of insightful intercourse so my thoughts turn to introspective reflection and burgeoning calculation. I have found, amid my musings, much to be grateful for, Family, Friends, an amazing Dog, and more opportunity than is available to most. In addition to these I'm particularly thankful for my association with the Economics department at UTC, an esoteric crowd whose unwillingness to cower to the wills of the Business School got them banished to the School of Arts and Sciences. I have been treated well there, receiving superior instruction and liberal access. They have made me more dangerous than I was before arriving and I can easily say that it's the best educational experience I've ever had. If I do manage to reach Law School it will be due, in no small part, to the Economics department at UTC. Gobble, Gobble!!!



Friday, November 4, 2011

Into Bolivia

   I'm revisiting this post from August 20th and adding a video documenting my entry into Bolivia.  

  Following a prolonged fix for the bike I departed Arequipa late in the afternoon, just in time to catch a desert sunset.  The bike still possessed a slight vibration which I found disconcerting, however, it seemed to me that stopping to check it was no longer an option so I continued across the desert. The cold night eventually saw me make it to Puno but in reaching the town it was was impossible not to notice how run down and filthy it was, so I kept riding. I curled southwest along the edge of lake Titicaca periodically passing through little resort towns, each more decrepit than the last, and my search for a safe place to stay was a difficult one.
        After a total of seven freezing hours on the bike I found myself in yet another desolate town on the Peru/Bolivia border. High pressure sodium bulbs were casting a dingy orange light on the deserted streets and I wondered, what now? The only thing preventing me from getting into Bolivia were two lengths of chain stretching across the road, both of which I could have easily bypassed. The first of these was mounted out front of a very abandoned looking National Police Station which a black lab had claimed as his. The perro negro barked in protest as I dug through my luggage, as if to say, "I'm the only stray sleeping here tonight". I imagine his dismay was great as I produced a tent from my left side pannier. Overwhelmed with sadness he rose and lumbered slowly down the road while offering up a couple of half-hearted howls. I made camp and at 3AM I was asleep in front of a police station on the Bolivian border.


The 5 days spent here were the most Adventurous of the trip and there is plenty to show. Here is the first of 5 videos  

Monday, October 31, 2011

33, Behind and Ahead

    I’ve been thinking about writing of late but have done little of it (other than the considerable amount required for my classes). However, watching the clock strike midnight, in a very cold Economics lab, I grow older, 33 to be exact, and I’m taken by an overwhelming urge to tear words from within, if only a few.
    Looking back over the time that’s passed since my trip south was interrupted by school, there have been some ups and downs. Readjusting to school life took a bit more time than anticipated but I’m now, more or less, back on page. My issues with court were resolved on the 10th appearance. What I was told would be a trial had become yet another plea deadline. Unwilling to miss anymore class for such crap, I took a deal which saw four charges (including aggravated assault on an officer and felony reckless endangerment) dropped while pleading no contest to disorderly conduct (30 days unsupervised probation with all court cost taxed to the state, ($1,500)).  When Judge Robert Cupp asked the criminal court DA, Dennis Brooks, why all the charges were being dropped (while itemizing them) he responded that after listening to a copy of the preliminary hearing,(in which I represented myself and, though persistent in asking, have never been provided with a working copy of its audio), he had come to the conclusion that I wasn't guilty of any of them. Indeed, I was not, nor was I guilty of disorderly conduct, but fighting them was costing my GPA and it couldn’t stand their assault. This concession has left me a bit discouraged but school keeps me moving, so I don’t think too much about it.  
  
                                       Looking Forward to my Return to Argentina,
   I eagerly anticipate the start of this year’s Dakar Rally http://www.dakar.com/index_DAKus.html , which I have found begins on January 1st,, just south of Buenos Aries. There is perhaps some opportunity in this and I am trying to use my blog to help secure a press pass. The Rally lasts 14 days, passing through Chile and concluding in Lima, Peru. Following and documenting such an event could be an extraordinary thing and I hope to make it happen.
   Here is to 33, I made it.                                                                                                              –Izzy
P.S.   There is much footage from the trip in need of editing, for which I have not the time, but here is a brief video consisting of snippets taken from 10 odd minutes in Peru, ending with what was likely the closest death came while on the road. Be warned, there is some profanity, but you will understand once you see the video. 

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Monday, August 29, 2011

The trip continues.


    Following a 24 hour, 1,200 mile marathon finish of a Latin American journey I found myself boarding my flight with only minutes to spare, leaving the BMW wrapped with a tarp in the airport parking lot . What had spanned 2 months and covered 13,000 miles was at an end and I was ambivalent in my emotional response. What was I leaving and to what exactly was I returning? These questions still weigh heavy in my mind as I scurry around the campus of UTC attempting to meet with professors and straighten out schedule conflicts. The precipitous shift in setting is somewhat overwhelming and I'm uncertain whether I am happy or discouraged to be back home. Though I wrestle with my current state of reality in these familiar but somehow alien surroundings, it's clear that this place hasn't changed at all, I, however, surely have. 
    Maintaining this blog has been a great source of comfort for me during the course of my trip. Seeing the followers and hits grow helped reinforce belief in myself, a belief which at times in my life has faltered. So, being as there is still much yet to say and show of my trip, over the coming days I will carry on sharing parts of it with you. I hope you will continue following my exploits, for although my nearest motorcycle is 8,000 miles removed, my uncertain ride continues.

Friday, August 26, 2011

In too big a hurry to elaborate

My trip is ending with a bang, several actually. Argentinian police fired several shots at me yesterday for crossing the border without proper insurance. It was all on camera but alas after I got away and stopped they took the SD card and erased it.
This is a long story which must be told at a later date. I am in the midst of covering 1,200 miles over 27 hours in order to catch my flight home. 350 down 850 to go.

Monday, August 22, 2011

The Bolivian Death Road





   After arriving in La Paz, a city with a serious lack of signs, on Saturday, I struggled to reach the Northeast side of town and the route which leads to the infamous Bolivian Death Road. Following two hours of navigating city traffic, which was heavily constricted do to the vendors which had encroached onto the streets (often 3 lanes had been narrowed to 1), I was out of town and heading in the correct direction. It was getting late, but I thought I might be able to finish my ride by nightfall.
   As has oftentimes been the case during this trip, fate held alternate ideas than my own. I drove off the Altiplano and the clear weather gave way to thick mist as I descended into heavy clouds. The moisture was dense and though it wasn't really raining I was soaked. In wet darkness I saw some heavy road equipment parked to the side of an abandoned school. This seemed to be a good spot to set camp. There is always a security guard for the valuable equipment in Latin America, and the school, with its busted front doors, offered sanctuary from the abysmal weather.
    The following morning I was a bit dismayed to find that the dense cloud cover hadn´t subsided in the least. I packed up my motorcycle in a rather lethargic manner and headed out into the haze. In departing, I communicated with the fellow guarding the Caterpillars and found that the entrance to the death road was a further 10K. The fog was thick, and the going slow, but after 15 minutes of following a poorly tuned diesel truck I found a precipitously sloped road branching off to my right. It was marked "Cola del Diablo" which isn't Death Road, but Tale of the Devil was close enough.
   The path down was obscured by clouds, however, the foggy conditions had subsided for the return. This offered a better view of the deep abyss lingering beneath the road's edge. The winding route is indeed deadly if you fall. Fortunately, remaining on the road is quite easy. Overall its condition, though unpaved, was pretty good. The only tricky part was passing large vehicles.
 The remainder of the day was rather fruitful and my return trip through La Paz was more orderly than the first. Eventually, I found myself 150 miles south of the Capital with a suitable place to camp, once again amongst construction equipment.
  I have 5 days to reach Buenos Aries, about 2000 miles away. 400 miles a day isn't that much, however, there will be lots of sandy paths between here and there. East Bound and Down is playing in my head. I'm always ready for a challenge.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Into Bolivia

  Following a prolonged fix for the bike I departed Arequipa late in the afternoon, just in time to catch a desert sunset. The stretch between Arequipa and Puno is about 200 miles. The bike still possessed a slight vibration which I found disconcerting, however, it seemed to me that stopping to check it was no longer an option so I continued across the desert. The cold night eventually saw me make it to Puno but in reaching the town it was was impossible not to notice how run down and filthy it was, so I kept riding. As I curled southwest along the edge of lake Titicaca I periodically passed through little resort towns, each more decrepit than the last, and my search for a safe place to stay was a difficult one.
   After a total of seven freezing hours on the bike I found myself in yet another desolate town on the Peru/Bolivia border. High pressure sodium bulbs were casting a dingy orange light on the deserted streets. The only thing preventing me from getting into Bolivia were two lengths of chain stretching across the road, both of which I could have easily bypassed. The first of these was mounted out front of a very abandoned looking National Police Station which a black lab had claimed as his. The perro negro barked in protest as I dug through my luggage, as if to say, "I'm the only stray sleeping here tonight". I imagine his dismay was great as I produced a tent from my left side pannier. Overwhelmed with sadness he rose and lumbered slowly down the road while offering up a couple of half-hearted howls. I made camp and at 3AM I was asleep in front of a police station on the Bolivian border.

There is video of the marching band which awoke me but the posting will come later

Monday, August 15, 2011

Illumination in a Desert Night

   I awoke yesterday morning wrestling with a conundrum, go back, go forward, or stay put. All
options posed problems that there didn't seem to be answers for. My, perhaps slightly overladen, BMW had once again pulverized a set of wheel bearings (I suspect the replacements used back in Costa Rica were of the, cheap and weak, Chinese variety).
Returning to Lima added 1,400 miles of tough roads to my trip, and there was no guarantee that once I reached the BMW dealer there, if I made it at all, that they would have the parts needed. Staying put would mean waiting for parts from the States and the time and expense of this would have been great. DHL wanted $300 dollars to ship a bag to Cuzco from Bogota in a week. All this was in addition to the fact that I had nowhere to make the repairs once I got the wheel bearings. The motorcycle repair shops in Cuzco were not acquainted with shaft driven motorcycles so I wouldn't let them touch my bike. Going forward (the only real option if I was to reach Argentina in time for my flight) was still somewhat silly. Though La Paz was only 300 miles away all the (drug) money and dealerships are in the eastern part of Bolivia in Santa Cruz, over 1000 miles away (connected by what I'm sure are only the finest roads) and finding a mechanic familiar with BMW's along my route seemed less likely than experiencing complete bearing failure followed by a precipitous plunge from a Bolivian mountain (a la Butch Cassidy).   So, as I prepared to pack my bags and head to Lima I saw a reply to my plea for help on advrider.com from a Canadian fellow who gave me the Address and # of a motorcycle tour and rental business in the city of Arequipa, only slightly off my path to Bolivia (4 hours total),they have a few BMW's in there fleet of 35 bikes and after talking the owner, a Dutch fellow named Lars, who seemed to think he could help, I hastily departed South.
    A full day of riding ,with elevations over 12,000', gave way to riding in the desert night with absolute darkness and temperature plunging into the 20's. After an hour or so of painfully cold riding, on a road unknown to the GPS's map, I began to see a light on my tail in the rear view mirror. No matter how hard I pushed the incandescent glow only strengthened. With the ground around me visible I pulled to the side of the road to allow the pesky car by. I waited, but nothing passed or overpower the auditory charm of the clickity klack emanating from my Beemer's horizontally opposed engine. I turned to see what had happened to the tailgater to find the brightest Moon I had ever witnessed. Where had it come from? Only moments before, in a cloudless sky, there was nothing but stars. It had quite literally sneaked up behind me to cast light on a barren desert. I'd never seen anything quite like it. I stopped to take a picture and suddenly it didn't feel so cold anymore. The desert gleamed in a very welcoming fashion and I knew that my trip was safer than before.
     Sometimes you don't see the answers coming and the outlook is bleak, however, the light is there behind you, hidden just out of sight. Keep looking. Whether you are rising with the sun, or riding through the night, there is nothing quite like the surprise of a full desert moon.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

What to do?

Here is a post I made on the adventure rider website a few minutes ago
-I'm in Cuzco, 700 miles from Lima (the closest bmw shop that I'm aware of) and the wheel bearings which I replaced in Costa Rica are failing. I am/was on my way to Bolivia and don't wish to return to Lima but my attempt to locate the bearings here today didn't pan out and I don't know what to do. Even if I decide to backtrack there are long desolate stretches between here and Lima which would be awful to break down in. I'm tired, frustrated and in need of help.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

A falcon, a frenchman and Israel Eugene Gillette

Here is another video with some music. It documents my accent up the mountain overlooking Quito and has some good footage of a rare bird. Enjoy.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Above the clouds till tire service brought me down.

   It's always interesting to look down and see clouds, especially while on the road. This was taken yesterday before the day took a turn for the worse.
   Time to get caught up. My friend Hilary met me in Colombia and has joined me for a leg of my journey (to Peru). Being a Spanish profesora (quit helpful on this trip) her schedule is much less flexible than mine and she flies from Lima on the 12th of August. With the setbacks along the way, there is now a long way to go and a short time to get there and the BMW maintenance department in Quito did little to alleviate this problem. I'd asked for tires when I dropped the bike for service but when I returned the following day they told me that if I wanted them that they would have to be ordered, perhaps taking till Monday to arrive(far too long). They did mention where the distributor was located though (roughly 350 miles to the south), and it was on our way. So in passing through we stopped in Cuenca and after a prolonged search found the Continental tire distributor. They said  they had just the ones I needed (knobbies) for heading into Bolivia and told us to wait 15 minutes. 15 minutes turned to an hour and finally the tires arrived without the afore mentioned knobs.  I found this disconcerting but decided, amid much persuasion, that these were the tires I really needed anyway, that there was little other choice and took the damn things. They then directed me to a motorcycle shop to mount the tires which due to the long wait was in the process of closing. I begged them to mount the tires for me, but to no avail. They sent me to to a small tire shop down the way 2 blocks. The rubber stained tire monkey running the establishment leaped into action and I watched as he swiftly changed and then mount the front tire. Having gained some confidence in the primate's abilities I left in search of a red bull to ready myself for another 200 or so miles. Upon returning, full of caffeine, I saw that the rapscallion was having some difficulty remounting the rear wheel. He was aggressively attacking the new $95 brake pads in the rear caliper with two screwdrivers and yet he couldn't get them around the disk. While he swung away for a moment I put on my headlamp, looked at the caliper and immediately saw the problem, one of the pads was slightly out of it's keeper. After fixing this the caliper slid right on, but unfortunately the damage done by the prying screwdrivers went beyond the substantial marring of the pads and once I started the bike I saw this


There are those times in life when something happens that leaves a sour and empty feeling inside of you. You know that things could have easily been different and yet then, through no serious fault of your own, you are powerless to change what has transpired and things will never be the same. Maybe it's finding yourself in jail on $22,000 bond for pissing off some asshole cop, or losing the favor of a lovely girl for being an embarrassment after the local paper publishes a fallacious story about you, but yesterday I had the same sort of hole etched into my soul by paying $8 to watch a scamp destroy my ABS.

In adding insult to injury, about 10 miles out of town, in the foggy night, my mudguard came loose(it was taken off for the tire change, then poorly replaced) and lodged itself in the rear caliper and I experienced complete rear brake failure(which has persisted).
No knobs, no rear brakes, Incan ruins here we come.


Thursday, August 4, 2011

Israeli graffiti at the top of Ecuador

This was quite a hiking trip, the thin air had me a bit loopy but overall it was an amazing time.Once I have a bit more time with a good internet connection I'll post video of the accent and descent (It's good stuff).

Friday, July 29, 2011

Killing time, overlooking Bogota (in a restricted area)

This video is sort of a test of my replacement camera (use the 1080p setting on youtube) and holds an explanation of my prolonged stay in Colombia, the end is particularly fun. Israel in Classic form (there wasn't a sign).

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

A missing bike and an uncovered beer, trial and consolation in Bogota

I am stuck in Bogota without wheels and though this photo might indicate that I'm unconcerned, it's because last night I thought for sure that my BMW would be here this morning(shipping went from Saturday to Sunday and finally to Tuesday morning) , which it is not. Thus far, attempts to locate my missing friend have netted nothing and I'm becoming slightly ill. The phone is evidently a useless tool in Latin America and I may just have to go to the airport to get some answers, but it looks at the very least as if I will be here one more day.

  At least I know where to get ice cold Duff, which will offer some temporary comfort.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Panama, a country on the rise

  It's amazing what a break in transportation can do for growth, and Panama's economy, much like the buildings here in Panama city, is on it's way up. I found building and infrastructure projects to be widespread, from skyscraper and road construction to roadside garbage removal (something sorely needed in the rest of Central America). Though there were still pockets of poverty and the percentage living under the poverty line is still around %25 the past few years have seen a shrinking of income inequality, Panamas GINI index, which measures income distribution(0 being perfectly equal and 1 being perfectly unequal), has dropped from 56.1 in 2003 to a respectable,by Latin American standards, 51 in 2010. The real per capita GDP is $13,000 (the highest in central America)and the GDP has continued to grow even through the global economic downturn, at the moment it is about 8%, down a bit from the 10.1% of 2008 but still very robust. The outlook for the future here is bright indeed with the canal expansion project, started in 2007, due to be complete in just a couple of years, commerce will only be bolstered and it stands to reason that strong growth will continue.
  Oh by the way, their economy is Dollar based.
                                      The Canal, as seen from the seat of my BMW at 50MPH

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Cheap accommodations and early morning fishermen

   Following a long, but good night of riding, I saw that the highway was close to the ocean so I kept a close eye for roads to my right which might lead me to a secluded beach. I was successful in my search and a treacherous access road led me here. After setting up camp and popping open a 60 cent beer (they must subsidize it here) I was mildly disturbed to see the bounding illumination of a flashlight and hear a multitude of voices approaching, it was 2 in the morning. As several men emerged from the thick overgrowth I noticed that one was pushing a wheelbarrow. They were as surprised to see me as I was to see them and one said camp followed by fish. This perplexed me, I was certainly camping but how the hell were they going to fish with a wheelbarrow? I watched as they walked down the beach a bit and then turn back towards the brush, it was here that they uncovered three canoes and carried each to the water and departed.
  I awoke this morning to find the boats in the distance and one guy on shore with a huge fire raging. As I curiously looked on something exploded in the fire and all the canoes began to make their way back to the rendezvous point. This is when I snapped the picture.
  It's going to a full day, I'm about 20 miles from the world largest break in transportation and I'm really looking forward to seeing the canal.
  Wish me luck with the shipping business, it's possible that the bike and I could be in Colombia tomorrow.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Escape from San Jose, Take Two

   I am officially out of Costa Rica! After another costly repair of a part due for replacement at about 100,000 miles(The bike had 99,350 on it) I departed San Jose yesterday in the early afternoon. The mountains in southern Costa Rica proved chilly and I was happy to reach flat ground and warmer temperatures.After a clear night under the stars, this morning I was stopped for speeding for the first time during the 4,500 miles thus far, the cops were on a massive straightaway hidden behind trees next to a sign with children on it and a 25kph speed limit. I was clocked at 115kph , the policeman shook his head as he said mucho , mucho and pointed out the sign which I hadn't even reached. He told me that the fine would be $600.00. After a while his buddy(riding a BMW too) spoke to him and he let me go with a warning. Aside from the close call with the hidden Federali's there was even further good fortune today, crossing the Panamanian border proved to be a breeze, I spent less than one hour there, which must surely be some kind of Central American record.
   The roads here are rather nice and I was able to manufacture some time(if you follow my meaning) this Afternoon, which is good, it's a long stretch to Panama City and I need to be there early in the morning to sort out the details of shipping my bike to Bogota. After the week long ordeal in San Jose I'm having to fly the motorcycle to South America, this more costly but far quicker than a boat ride.
   It's now time to blow this Mcdonalds and ride into the night. Panama city is about 120 miles ahead and it will be fun trying to use every drop of gas in getting there(they drain the tank before loading on the plane)

On a side note, but very much related to my adventure, I wish to publicly thank my cousin and friend,  Jimmy Burkhardt who threw down a passel of cash to help with the repairs to the BMW. The bike is now running perfectly and my journey to Argentina continues

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Just when I thought I was out.......San Jose pulled me back in.

    This morning was fabulous, blue sky's hung overhead, scrambled eggs filled my breakfast plate, and great news made it to my email, the bike was ready. I hurriedly packed my luggage and took an excruciating, traffic jammed, cab ride over to the ritzy part of town (complete with a new national stadium, funded by China) and happily paid the silly $15 fare (there is only one cab company in town). My good humor grew even greater after I saw the my bimmer glimmering clean. Aside from the new clutch and starter work, the guys in the service department at Motocicletas Bavarian had really cleaned her up (from left to right, Adrian, Izzy, Adolfo, Alexander).
   After fully loading the bike and saying my goodby's, I hit the road. Not far into my ride I noticed a bit of vibration but thought that it was simply the knobby tires, or a side effect of the new clutch. Surely it was all in my head. I briefly considered turning around but thought that if there was indeed something wrong it would become more clear with time. Once I reached the mountains, about 25 miles away from the dealership, it became very apparent that the vibration was becoming worse, to the point of making noise. I pulled over and this is what I saw.
 Following a cathartic yawp (which was unsuitable for tender ears), I pulled a card from my passport and called Adolfo. After an hour or so, Alexander and another fellow arrived and helped me to load my injured BMW onto a trailer and we then returned to San Jose.
   The preliminary diagnosis is wheel bearing failure, however, the impetus of this is as of yet, unknown. Unfortunately they don't have the wheel bearing kit in stock, so my departure from San Jose is.... UNCERTAIN

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Time and Rain in San Jose: Dusting off old Memories








     This afternoon, as I sat overlooking a soggy central square in San Jose, Costa Rica I contemplated what to do for the next few days till my motorcycle is repaired (Wednesday at the earliest).Though I will likely devote at least one day to bus rides and a national park possessing monkeys and exotic birds, much of the down time will be spent searching for something cheap to do.
   I've taken up residence at a strange hippie commune of a hostel close to downtown (last night there was some sort of secretive "pacifists" meeting(?!!)), the rate was a rather steep $25 a night but my room and attached bathroom are private and the wireless internet connection while in the commons area is strong so computer use is rather easy.
   I have, for a while, been contemplating writing down some of the better stories from my ,shall we say colorful, past and perhaps this is the time to begin. The first of these I'll post has already been written. It transpired in sunny Jordan, the two years between then and now leave my mind ambivalently uncertain whether it is recent past or ancient history, however, there is no doubt that I am not the same today as I was on 9-9-9.

                                 A Straight Road, A Crooked Innkeeper, and A Crazy American:
                                                            Israel in the Middle East



9-9-9    6:20 P.M.
    I am in the ancient ruins of Petra’s Central Temple.  The searing sun has hidden itself behind a massive rock formation adorned with marvelous architecture.
    It has been a trying couple of days.  Monday after a tedious trip I was led to a hotel my travel guide warned was often rude to patrons (amongst other gripes), however, tired as I was it seemed prudent to at least examine the room.



    The proprietor of the Valentine Inn called for a petite Polynesian looking girl to show me the room.  As I followed her up a set of stairs then down a corridor, she made small talk, asking of my origins, travel plans and name.  We reached the door of the room I stepped inside, though it was reasonably clean I was a bit disheartened by the apparent lack of air-conditioning.  As I searched the walls for an A/C unit my guide hastily approached me and asked in a firm but conciliatory voice, “Please help me"

    My petite guide went on to tell me of her misfortune.  She was Philippine, her name Abigail, her employment in Jordan, a modern form of indentured service.  The proprietor of the hotel held her passport, overworked her, assaulted her, and withheld her pay.  She pleaded for me to take her  to the Philippine Embassy in Amman.   I agreed, but first wanted to visit the ruins of Petra.  We walked back to the lobby and Abie whispered, “Please sir, please don’t tell them.”  I was convinced her story was true.
    Upon my asking the nightly rate of the room the proprietor responded, “Sit, sit and drink.  Bring him a coffee.” To this I asked to retrieve my travel guide from the car using its less than flattering review to bargain with.
    After striking a deal for two night’s room and board, I procured a bottle of Scotch and ventured out onto the balcony.  There was quite a diverse collection of folks lounging around the seating area.  A few Brits, an Asian lady, a brother and sister pair of Belgians, and there was even a fellow from Atlanta, Georgia.  I started pouring drinks and before I knew it everyone was around one table exchanging stories and laughing.  It was a great time.  But as the hours grew later, our group dwindled.  In the end a Belgian, Peter, and I remained.  Having emptied the first bottle of Scotch, I went in to retrieve another.
    Though most of the rooms were accessible from the exterior, my room required passing through the lobby which was locked.  After beating on the door for what seemed to be quite a long time, the innkeeper’s very rough looking henchman answered.  He informed me that the door was to remain locked and I need to go to my room for the evening.  I found this unacceptable.  The pesky Jordanian bellhop attempted in vain to argue with me as I marched upstairs to my room.  I hastily snatched the bottle of Glenlivet  and headed back outside.  As I reached the front door, I noticed Mr. Congeniality had walked away having left the key in the lock.  This was a tantalizing opportunity.  The devil on my left shoulder said, “ Go ahead take it.”
    The angel on my right shoulder then said, “Yeah, man.  Take it.”  And with that the deed was done.
    I showed my plunder to Peter and we had a good laugh followed by a drink.  It did not take our host long to appear searching for the missing key. 
    He matter of factly asked, “Where is the key?”
    To which I answered, “What key?”
    I saw the anti -American sentiment mounting in his eyes as he pointed and stated, “The key in the door.”
    I told him, “I only have the key needed to get in my room.”
    He asked again, and my answer was as redundant as his question.  Peter and I watched as he left in a tizzy.  After finding another key and locking the door, he produced a bedroll and laid down next to the door.  Another good laugh was had and we speculated on the future confrontation.
    The next couple of hours spent in conversation with Peter were some of the best I have ever had.  We covered it all, politics to religion.  Alas, all good things come to an end and though scotch remained, we were finished.
    Having said goodnight to Peter, I stashed the pilfered key and went to the locked front door.  Initially I knocked, but the door Nazi remained silent.  As my frustration increased so did the persistence and firmness of my knocks.  Nothing, my knocks changed to kicks and finally, a response, he sat up and looked at me as I kicked, telling him to open the door.  He shook his head as if he could not understand.  I went from lightly kicking the glass of the door to straining my thigh kicking its aluminum frame.  The entire assembly was shaking in the wall as I bluffed to my adversary intentions of breaking the door down.  Erring on the side of caution, he swiftly rose and unlocked the door.  By this time, there was a definite look of concern, if not outright fear, on my sand dwelling friend’s face and he was very non-confrontational as I entered.
    Feeling a tad haughty, rather than going to bed I remained in the lobby using the computer a while as I swilled upon my Scotch.  I stumbled up the stairs to my room around 4 or 4:30 am.
    I was awakened from a dreamless sleep by persistent knocking around 8:00 am.  I answered the door to find Abie going above and beyond to insure I did not miss breakfast and the first microbus ride to the ruins, or so I thought.
    As I walked down the corridor, somewhere between drunk and hung over,  I noticed my walking, talking indentured alarm clock looked stressed, however, she said nothing.  We reached the lobby and Abie retreated, informing me she was getting me a coffee.  I was then quickly accosted by the owner and quizzed over the missing key.  “Do you have the key?” he asked sternly, pointing at the door.
     I responded, “No.”  Which was true in a roundabout way.  Unsatisfied, the proprietor’s inquisition continued.
    I attempted to point out that I was locked out of my room to little avail.  Finally, I relented, fetching the key from the balcony.    I passed Peter and his sister who were in the middle of breakfast and offered up a woeful shake of the head.  Peter grinned and I continued on my way back inside to face the music.  I was intercepted by Abigail and handed a cup of thick Middle Eastern coffee.  She then quickly disappeared.
    While handing the key to the laird I was informed I must leave.  I had been there less than twelve hours.  It seemed my trip to the Philippine Embassy was to be moved forward.  Needing to buy some time, I complained I deserved a refund having paid for two nights.   The innkeeper gave a begrudging nod of the head dispatching his minion.  As his flying monkey collected my reimbursement, the owner continued with his condemnation, complaining, “You think you can do whatever you want?”  My frustration, having built to critical mass, I responded assertively as possible, “Fuckin’ A right, I paid for a room and  I’ll get into it when ever I please!”
    He then stated, “Get out, get out.!”  The lackey quickly reappeared bearing one fourth of what I originally paid.
    Possessing more persistence or math skill than they credited me with I asked in my most indignant voice, “ What the hell is this?  I’m not going anywhere until I get a full refund for at least one night’s rent.”
    The owner blasted back, “You owe me for the coffee!”
    I snickered and stated, “I didn’t ask for this, tastes like piss anyway.”
    I seldom lose when if comes to battles of will and soon received what I wanted.  The innkeeper followed out the door onto the balcony reiterating his contempt for me as we passed the breakfasting patrons.  I turned looking intently at him as he yelled, “Get out, get out!”
    My retort as I pointed was “You sir, you are a taker!”
    “It’s true.” This from a middle aged British lady as she covered her full mouth.  A more ringing affirmation I have never received.  Hastily I collected my things from the room and made a bee line for the car. Then pulling into a dead end alley beside the hotel I was approached by one of the maids and told that Abie was on her way.  I told her “I’ll slowly go to the end of the alley and turn around, tell Abigail to hurry.”  Hurry she did, carrying a bag nearly large as she.  I opened the passenger side doors from the inside.  She shoved her baggage in the back, shut the door and nimbly slid into the front seat.  As we pulled out of the alley I saw we weren’t the only ones in a car. The bastard had wheels.  This was going to be FUN!
    The chase is always my  favorite part of a story.  There are few things in life which I enjoy more than driving fast and I relished the opportunity to demonstrate my skills behind the wheel.  Initially the hotel owner in his Toyota having missed the chance to block our exit fell closely into line behind us.  We approached a series of down hill corners which grew increasingly steep and tight.  My Hyundai had a commendably gutsy V-6, however, suspension dynamics and handling must still be a bit of a black art in Korea and we found ourselves in slide after slide each one more lurid than the last.  I looked over at my passenger clasping tightly her oh shit bar as we drifted through a particularly long tight left hander, smiled broadly and said “don‘t worry, this is fun.”  She forced a  smile in return which was betrayed by the rest of her countenance.  Though I did not slow down, our pursuer had disappeared from the rear view mirror.  The direction of the roads in town made little sense and I found myself lost, Abie, having seldom left the hotel was of little help.  Delighting in the thought of my adversaries undoubted frustration over losing his chattel to the infidel, I neglected my inner compass, turning from  street to street.  Remembering I’d followed a cabby down the hill to the Inn the previous evening I knew to go back up.  The only problem was that the hotel was up hill as well, and as Murphy’s Law would have it, we turned up back at the Valentine Inn.  The owner. still in his car. once again gave chase.  Taking the same route descending as earlier, this time there was less sliding and more corner speed.  The second chase was over as quickly as the first, but this time I found my way out of town.  After about fifty kilometers of two lanes, we reached the four lane running north and south the expanse of the country.  Amman, here we come!

                                                                                                               -Intermission-
   -Intermission-
                  

 There’s nothing quite like a desert highway, ribbons of asphalt narrowing as they stretch onto the horizon.  It’s with this setting that my story continues.  Amman lies some four hundred kilometers or two hundred fifty miles ahead.
    Now there is no shortage of police presence in Jordan.  On the four lane you pass a station every forty or fifty kilometers.  At each of these the cops would run radar and monitor traffic.  Upon deciding to stop a vehicle they would walk out onto the road wielding a stop sign resembling a giant lollypop and wave them over.
    At the first of these police stations Abie and I passed on our way north, we were stopped.  Realizing I had not been speeding, I had a good idea what was in store.  The two spindly Jordanian coppers peered inside as I rolled down the windows.  Immediately they asked for my passport.  They’d found their man.  “Out of the car, please,” one of them stated.
    After I emerged the other policeman then in an innocuous manner took me gently by the arm and said, “This way.”  He was leading me over to what must have been the only Crown Victoria in the entire Middle East.  I’d been somewhat lulled by these law dogs’ subdued natures, however, the sight of this Detroit behemoth gave pause and I looked back at my rental car to see the first police man placing his A K-47 in the back seat then begin to climb behind the wheel.
        “Fuck this!” I thought, jerking my arm from the grasp of the diminutive Jordanian officer.  As I ran to the Hyundai wagging my finger I said  “No, no, no.  You’re not leaving in my car.”  The policeman relented and rode in the back seat as I drove he and Abie to the police station across the highway.  I felt good about the fact that Abigail and I hadn’t been separated but pensively apprehensive over what was in store.  The architecture of the police station fit the stark desert scenery like a glove.  It was a white and tan concrete structure, having austere features which exposed  its soulless character.  “God, working here must suck,”  I contemplated as I entered, Abie and armed escort in tow.  Every eye in the house was trained on us as we walked by.
    Abigail and I were taken to an office with a sole occupant.  We sat on a couch along the right side wall, there was an empty desk to our right and on the other side of the room, in front of us there were two more couches.  One which was inhabited by an unusually tall local.  He was clad in a full white robe and topped with a flowing kaffiyah The years of sunlight had not been kind to the man, his leathery wrinkled skin likely making him look far older than he actually was.  One of his green eyes was locked upon me in an intent stare, while the other wandered eerily in no discernible pattern.  His expression was clinched and unwavering as if he were being assaulted by ulcers of which I was the cause.  This man did not like me.
    After a brief span of time the police captain arrived with a few officers and assumed his position behind the desk.  Initially speaking to Abigail in Arabic their conversation became increasingly aggressive.  I just shook my head and began talking to myself.  They switched to English and it became apparent that the police were accusing me of kidnapping.  Abie continually went over her story, always ending with “He is good man, he is helping me.  He is taking me to the embassy in Amman.”
    To which the captain would point at me and say, “This man, this man is a good man?”  This volley went on for a while and then finally they changed the story.  Telling Abigail she left the Valentine Inn with her American boyfriend.
    “This was unbelievable, just how deranged are these people?” I thought to myself as I laughed aloud.
    The phone rang.  The captain answered. The call was brief and one sided.   He replaced the receiver into its cradle and conversed with the mean old bastard in the kaffiyah prompting his exit from the room.  He appeared unhappy.  This was surely a good sign.  No American for lunch today!
    The captain then left the room as well.  One of the rank and file policemen sitting across from us took the opportunity to whisper “Is OK.” My head  throbbed as I thought of water.
    The captain returned.  There were further tales of Abigail and the American boyfriend.  Mercifully, the phone rang once again interrupting the senseless use of oxygen.  The phone was passed to Abie, she went over her story for the faceless visitor, said thank you, then passed the phone to me.
    “Hello?” I said.
    A voice questioned, “You are helping the girl?  Taking her to the Philippine Embassy in Amman?”
    “Yes,” I responded, “this is crazy!”
    The voice on the other end continued, “I am sorry.  Continue on.”
    I pulled the phone from my ear and the captain threw his hands up and out disgustingly shooing us from his sight.
    I quickly found myself back in my now beloved Hyundai and wasted no time putting the Justice Center in the rearview mirror.
    The remainder of the trip north was spent getting to know Abie and telling her about myself.  It was interesting, the music on Jordanian radio was good and I shared in Abie’s blissful optimism.  It was nice while it lasted.
    Finding the American Embassy was the first order of business.  Walking through the security in front of the consulate, I could feel my optimism begin to falter.  Politics is not a game with which I have much luck and the law of statistics weighed heavily on my mind. Upon entering I took a number and watched the others around me trying to discern how their days were going.  Most looked as if they were experiencing mild annoyance in what might be obtaining a replacement for a lost passport.  One lady looked particularly pleased, for what I can’t imagine.  And there was one man who appeared to be in complete misery, the kind reserved for the passing of a family member or beloved friend.  It was a reminder that things weren’t that bad, however, they could always get worse.
    After a few minutes of contemplation I was beckoned to a window.  The lady helping me was intelligent and well spoken.  My story was easily understood and all too familiar.  She asked the name of the hotel and when I told her, “ The Valentine Inn,” she replied, “Oh, yes, we know them.”  She went on to enlighten me as to the particulars of Abigail’s predicament.  Since Abie was there working in a business agreement she was bound to stay and finish said agreement, the terms of which were sketchy at best.  There existed a buyout of roughly $3000.00 but Abie was penniless and I wasn’t much better off.  I was told that with this hanging over her head, the Philippine government wouldn’t issue her a new passport.  There had for a while existed a moratorium on Philippine labor in Jordan but this had been lifted a few months previously.  And the trade of human capital was again in full force.  As I thought of the worthlessness of the Philippine government I asked aloud, “What sort of shit is this?”
    To which the envoy responded, “It’s the Middle East, man.” with an expression underlining her helplessness.   I expressed my thanks and salutations and walked away feeling rather impotent.  I returned to Abie in the car and told her the bad news.
    Ever the trooper, she held hope that someone at the Philippine Embassy would help her.  I was far less optimistic.
    Finding the Philippine Embassy was quite an ordeal.  There were multiple addresses and the real one was almost impossible to find, which was just as well, as they would prove to be as useless as a football bat.
    The Embassy was overrun with twentyish year old Philippine girls that possessed keen interest in our situation.  They followed us around wherever we went much to Abie’s chagrin.  The severity of her situation was becoming apparent.  She did not care for the prospect of joining this contingent of refugees living at the Philippine Embassy in Amman.
    We were shown to the diplomat’s office and our newly found friends followed.  The ambassador entered the room parting the sea of youthful Philippine girls.  He was bald, portly and possessed a slimy quality reminiscent of Jabba the Hut.  When he spoke, the girls hung on his every word.  It was evident he liked the attention.  He placed the blame for Abie’s situation on her employers and the Jordanian government  insinuating that his hands were tied when it came to issuing another passport.  To which I called B.S. citing that were I in a similar situation the U. S. government would quickly and easily issue me a replacement passport.
     With sluggish disregard the pustular bureaucrat continued on with his off base ramblings.  I tuned the Jerk out and thought of the food that, due to Ramadan, I could not have.  Mmm, two all beef patties, look at that waste of space, special sauce, how stupid does he think I am, lettuce, he smiles.  Cheese, and chuckles, pickles, looks at the girls, onion, Abie starts to cry. On a sesame seed bun, you fucker.
    I’d seen enough , got up and walked out.  What to do?  If I were to make it back to see Petra before departing Jordan, I needed to leave Amman the following morning.
    It’s difficult to not feel deflated when even your best is not good enough and I felt awful.  Another failure.  Poor Abigail.  I couldn’t do a thing for her and now I had to leave her.  What was I going to say?  What could I say?  She was about to be alone in a land of greedy blood thirsty wolves.
    Abie and I left the Embassy as the sun was setting, it had been a heck of a long day.  We found a grocery store followed by a hotel.  I gorged, flipped through the hundreds of Jordanian television stations, finding no shortage of Allah, half were religious, and finally fell into a deep sleep at about seven thirty p.m.,
    Sleep was great, I dreamed I was in another car chase and though it was far closer than the real ones I had had the previous day, I still got away in time to rise with the sun.
    During the night Abie had talked with a guy at the hotel who could supposedly get her work and a place to stay.  This made me feel a bit uneasy, but he seemed nice enough.  He asked if he could catch a ride with me to Petra where he would bargain with the innkeeper for the passport.  I agreed but thought it to be an exercise in futility.
    He got off work at eight a.m. I hugged Abigail, said goodbye, and departed south.  My new passenger talked incessantly and smoked nearly as much.
    During the three and a half hour trip I did quite a fine job disregarding the idle chatter.  Thinking of the past couple of days I was unsure whether the world was a better, or worse, place due to my actions.
    I reached the Valentine Inn, my passengers exited as I told him “good luck”  I then hastily departed.
    I found Petra to be an amazing place. I spent what was left of the day hiking around this marvelous city and as I hiked I pondered. Though debatable, on many fronts, the effect I’d had on the world over previous days, whatever my role, that of saint or sinner, an adventure it surely was.  One worth writing down.

P.S.
    I have managed to keep up with Abigail and the unraveling of the rest of her story. After further complications involving the Jordanian judicial system she has been reunited with her family in the Philippines. (we are Facebook friends)