Dear Spain: We need to have “the talk”

Hey Spain, can we talk?

We just passed the 5 month mark, and I think we are getting to know each other pretty well, you and I.  I feel like we tolerate each others quirks and can appreciate our good qualities. And I really appreciate the slack you cut me in the airport travel department, for example, the full bottles of water, lighters, screwdrivers and pocket knives that you have let go through security in my carry on. All those things come in very handy and when I only have a carry on, well, there is no where else to put them, so thanks for turning a blind eye every time. Oh, and its nice that no one ever looks at my passport when I enter the country. Though the last time I returned from Italy, no one was even in the booth for non EU citizens, and that meant no line, which was excellent as I wanted to get home quickly.

But listen. I don’t want to push or anything, but I really have to know if this is going anywhere. I mean, I never expected it to get this far when we started out. But I have gotten to know so much about you and, well, the more I get to know you the more I like you. So I have to know if you want me to stay,  because sometimes I get the feeling that you don’t. You know, like the fact that I haven’t had any overhead lights in my flat, and none at all in my bathroom, for almost a week now. I know, I know, not a huge deal in the scheme of things, but OK what about your weather? I mean, it was Spring for two weeks and now what the hell? It was freezing today! And don’t even get me started on all these amazing racetracks that I can’t even ride. Well I can’t because I don’t have a bike because I don’t have a job. Which brings me to the point that you really need to get moving on helping me find a job, because, frankly, my eye is wandering. Oh yeah, it is. I’m no going to lie. I’ve been talking to Italy, did you know that? And you know how charming and good looking he is.

OK, now I’m not saying I want to stop what we have going on or anything, but seriously, you need to get your act together, because I cant stand this limbo much longer.  There, I said it.  Now come on, let’s hug it out.

PS:  By the way, your little friend Catalunya isn’t helping. That the whole two languages to learn thing?  That’s just bullshit.

More Scooterin’ for your health

Did you know that having two wheels in Barcelona rules? Because it does. Every stoplight consists of a race between you and rest of the scooters to get off the line first. Turns are taken at full tilt.  Turn signals are not used when changing lanes because lanes don’t matter. It’s mayhem but with a kind of understanding between the cars and motos. Essentially, it’s this: if a scooter can squeeze past/between/through to get in front of a cars bumper, it has the right of way.

So I have been scootering around town, to the beach, to the mountains, to meet friends, to the gym (yeah yeah, I usually walk there – I don’t want to hear it), giving friends rides, etc. Susanna and I went to Tibidabo again and hiked around. The next day I woke up early and rode up to the top of Monjuic. (I won’t bore you with more tourist photos but there is some crazy castle there I knew nothing about, and I finally saw just how big a port Barcelona has. Impressive.)

And finally, any of my activities involving traveling just wouldn’t be complete without getting lost. Oh this is a big part of my scootering escapes. I even schedule it in to every single trip on the scooter.  If you know me relatively well, then you already have witnessed my internal GPS isn’t merely broken, it never worked in the first place. I evidently have the power to bend time and space, because I could be tasked with traveling in a straight line from A to B and I will end up past the entire alphabet. Some call it a gift.

So anyway. Scootering = fun…but of course it is not nearly enough. I am really desperate to ride on the track or in the dirt. Somewhere without all the cars, where I can concentrate on riding alone. *If* I stay here (which means finding a job I can do from here) I would like to buy a track or offroad bike. I have a couple places I could store a bike, and a few people who could transport it with a van or trailer (I want kudos for this, this is no small feat).  I also do not need to register or insure a track/dirt bike.  My life will feel more complete and I suppose I will feel more like myself. So many problems solved, with just one bike.

Now, only need to know where I will be getting money to buy this all in one solution to my problems.

Scootering cures the blues

You’ll notice the title of this post includes the short phrase: Day 1. This is because scootering around Barcelona was so chock full of awesome that there will be a weeks worth at the very least.  I think I found the cheapest scooter rental in all of BCN. Not only that, but the name of the place is Mattias46. 46 as in Valentino Rossi 46. The Italian owner guy is a huge Rossi fan. So it helped that Susanna showed up with her Rossi face helmet, unavailable in Spain (look closely at photo below).

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Halfway up Mt. Tibidabo.

The first task on order was a trip up Tibidabo. I look at this mountain everyday and have been up it twice – its a fun road up to a 2/3 point where you can then ascend by hiking, mountain biking or for you lazy people, a funicular railway.  I die for two wheels everytime I look at it. It is totally impractical to even get there without a vehicle, or at the very least, a bicycle. So this became totally accessible in minutes with a scooter.

Sure, the scooters were cheap Chinese pieces of crap. All the more reason to take them off roading, which I did. (Sadly no photos of this exist but I will work on that.)

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Great views and fun roads.

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Traffic rules are pretty lax, scooters go anywhere, park anywhere, and get you there quicker than a car here. I realized pretty quickly that my world just opened up with a scooter. (For example, going shopping requires me to be able to carry everything I buy using a backpack and my hands, and be able to walk comfortably with all of it. OMG now I can go to the giant Carrerfour and buy all manner of crap I don’t need! And not have to plan my day around it! )

Next stop was my friend Luca’s place. We popped in for a visit and Luca finally met Susanna, and we met his mother who was visiting from Italy. And she fed us cake! So that was totally worth it. (Usually to get to his place from mine would take 40 minutes between walking and taking the Metro. Now I can drop in uninvited on anyone!)

I am planning my further adventures this week. For one, I think I will ride to the nearby beach town of Sitges, where my old boss lives. By scooter should take about an hour along the coast. Then, maybe I’ll go to Dorna offices to which are just outside of the city center, arrive unannounced and demand lunch from my friends.

I am undecided as of yet where else to go. Suggestions?

Supermoto, Con’t. AKA visit to moto heaven.

OK kiddies, this story continues.

So this place was a moto paradise. There is a roadrace track with a huge bridge you actually ride across.  A supermoto track, MX track, Trials (yes trial, not trail) riding area, offroad trails, and of course beautiful views and facilities. It was kind of crowded but of course there were quite a few tracks to ride on.

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We got there around noon (it was a late night and there were several stops to be made on the way) and met up with Gerards freinds. Joan Cosas (LCR Honda team mechanic) had one of Rueben Xaus bikes, along with an old helmet and a set of his gloves and his leathers (that were torn to shreds I might add) – the Catalans in the moto world are tight.

This bike was pretty sick.

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Joan on Ruebens ride

With plenty of fast guys already on the track, Marc Márquez showed up. Marc was the rider for the 125GP KTM team. Little guy was quick.

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Marc Márquez

I was a bit nervous never having ridden supermoto, not to mention sleep deprived, and now there was a whole slew of fast dudes who had been on the track all morning.  Gerard and I were sharing his bike so I let him go out first. He gets around the track pretty good.

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Then finally it was my turn. I asked a guy next to us to take me around for one lap so I could see where to enter and exit and also where the track went. My first session out was…confusing – I couldn’t decide to ride it like a roadracer or a dirtbike- but so much fun. In the four and half months prior to this day I had ridden a motorcycle exactly twice, both times on the street. Fortunately for my ego, I was not the slowest out there. By the second session I was probably twice as fast and chose better lines and had a better body position.

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The biggest ego boost (I know, right?) was when Joan and Gerard were watching my second session out. Joan turned to Gerard, eyebrows raised, and said “molt millor, no?” (which is Catalan for “much better, right?”). I was giddy when I heard this.  Not that the pressure was on or anything.

We barbequed some incredibly unhealthy food for lunch there at the track. I took photos and just marveled at the day I was having. We left around six and at Gerard’s place we drank of the beer and ate of the ice cream. And I actually got to watch Spanish cable television (I don’t have a TV) and ‘lo and behold…it was fucking good.  Can you say 30 mins of interviews with Jorege Lorenzo and Rueben Xaus on the random sports channel? And then the Worlds Fastest Indian came on (OK it was  dubbed into Catalan, so that part was gay, but I’ve seen it before). And then there were really cool and interesting news stories.  This is really the kind of day I should be having every day.

Instead of making Gerard drive me back to Barcelona with a trailer in tow, I took the train back to BCN.

Then I had one day to recover and prepare for my interview in Italy the next day (Which I know you read all about already and are not going to ask me to type every detail on Skype or instant messenger if you care about me at all).

And now….I am ruined. Riding is all I can think about now. When I had access to bikes and rode often, yes of course I thought about it all the time but, you see, the difference then was I could go riding whenever I wanted. So the thinking about it wasn’t painful, as it is now. And it is painful because I can’t have a bike. Why? The short story is I cannot legally put a bike in my name here, which messes up insurance, payments, and who gets blamed for traffic infractions. I COULD get a track only bike, but have no transport for it and more importantly, where would I store it? In addition, I no longer have a job and bikes are very expensive here. I kind of need to pay rent and also half my mortgage back in California…

So you know what I’m gonna do instead? Tomorrow, Susanna and I are renting 125cc scooters. I found a cheap place with beater scooters and I’m gonna rent one for 24 hours. And after that, I’ll probably end up renting one a week at a time when I need a fix and no one will loan me a bike. What? It’s almost exactly the same as a (insert name of acceptable motorcycle here). I’ll be livin’ large.

Hang on, kids. This party is about to get started. Woo.

And on this day, I went to Supermoto heaven

In case you were wondering why I did not go snowboarding this weekend with 14 other people, as originally planned (plans were made nearly a month ago), I will tell you.

Around 4  hours before we were due to leave Friday afternoon, I get an email from my friend Gerard inviting me to ride supermoto at a nearby track on Sunday. Gerard has been a camera technician for Dorna/MotoGP for a few years now and is friends with a lot of the team mechanics,  so he was going to meet a couple guys from the MotoGP LCR Honda team out there there too.  Is that a good enough reason to bail on my snowboard trip? Do you think I hesitated?

The track was Castelloli, in the mountains about 30 minutes outside of Barcelona. This place….it’s like a paradise. Can I just show you some photos?

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Supermoto track

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Roadrace track surrounding supermoto track (can you see the bridge?)

And this is why I can’t make plans.

More to come……

MV Agusta cure all

A hurting unit. That is how I began this day. And no, my liver was angry not with me, as you might suspect. No, I had a head cold and had slept all of one hour and a half the night before.  (Okay, I DID stay up until 3:30 but it was Saturday night and as you may have figured by now, that is early for a weekend.) But no, I am back to not being able to sleep well but every third night, the explanation for this being my head is continually occupied with things for which staying awake all night is the only possible solution. Except that doesn’t seem to be working out for me so well.

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One hour of sleep – it’s evident
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How fabulous is Susanna’s riding jacket??

Anyway, I finally got to ride a proper motorcycle here in BCN, with Susanna to boot.

Because I did not bring one stitch of moto gear back with me at XMAS time from the US, I had to buy a helmet and a jacket. Gah. I had some gloves shipped but no way was I was going to buy new gear here, with prices around 40% higher than the US, and a closet full of gear in California. Even shipping the gloves was far too expensive. What was I thinking? That I wouldn’t be riding over here? Universe, would you please switch my brain back to ON, along with my penchant to enjoy solitude and my general aversion to uneducated men? It would solve a lot of problems, thanks.

With the help of my friend Josep, I found a second hand Dainese womens jacket in my size and a decent AGV helmet in XS (I have a tiny melon) in time for this day, both incredibly cheap. Just needed a new visor – good to go.

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Italian struggling to change the visor on my lid
First group going out
First group going out

We waited for the rest of our friends to arrive and went out in the third group. The weather had gotten better, is wasn’t exactly sunny but the roads were no longer damp. 20 MV Agusta Brutales thundered out into traffic. Our Demo ride guides, being Italian, owned the road: weaving through traffic, passing cars anywhere they could, crowding past trucks and cars and scooters in the roundabouts and signals. The Spanairds had no trouble following suit (nor did Susanna and I),  I am just glad we were following because I have no clue what the traffic rules are here, though I suspect we broke a few of them. People are always crying here about the police and how strict they are here now, but I want to know – as compared to what? Total anarchy? Because no one seemed to care about anything except getting there in whatever space was available. Oh that and passing each other in the group. I was like a fucking race to get to the front of the pack.

We took the highway out to one side of “the” local mountain Tibidabo.  A dude on a vintage Montessa, vintage helmet, goggles, all of it, tucked in and drafted a car to pass our knot of swerving squids stop on the highway. I didn’t have earplugs and was reminded of the other reason I only use the best helmets (besides how much I value my head) – yeah this helmet wasn’t very wind proof. Eyes tearing, hair tangled (nothing to pull my hair back with either) snot running out of my nose, we raced each other up the mountain. On the mountain it got colder and my visor fogged so completely I had to ride with it open. Yeah this helmet sucks, it will be an “in-town” helmet (its an AGV Airtech if you want to be warned).  I didn’t care, this road is seriously awesome. I don’t care if I have to ride a friggin scooter, I will be riding this mountain all summer.

After the ride, we couldn’t help but scheme on how to get hold of a couple of bikes. There just aren’t  that many “big” bikes here (read: over 250cc) as the town is best gotten around on a scooter. My friend Simao has a Kawasaki ninja 750R (one or two years old – not imported to the US, correct me if I am wrong) that if he better let me borrow.

Portugese wonder boy, Simao

Portugese wonder boy, Simao

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Where's Waldo? (that would be me)

So, that was by far the best demo ride ever.  To top it off, the whole shindig was run by incredibly hot Italians, who were actually taller than me. Here we are with Fabio, who only spoke Italian. While it would have been nice to chat with him,  we could say dirty things to him and then watch him  nod and smile. Which made for a pretty good conversation in the end.

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The day would have only been made better if we actually had a place to watch the first World Superbike races of the year. Here in moto crazy Spain, there is a bar called the Paddock very near me. Here they have an R6 engine made into a beer tap, a Bultaco in the corner, various bits of crashed bikes and other parts all over the walls and ceiling, and 4 large screens for viewing whatever race is on. And yet it was closed on the day the first WSBK races of 2009 were televised.

With all your good intentions, Spain, you are really lacking in the follow through department.