Barcelona, Montmelo GP, part 2

So we last left this little cliffhanger with me arriving at the track as the MotoGP race started.

But let me back up a little bit. You will remember I was so late because I got on the wrong train from Passeig de Gracia downtown. That same platform hosts several different trains that go the same general direction, but some go much further than others and those that go further make fewer stops. Well, I was in a hurry to get to the track and  – I  know better than to do this  –  followed some Guiris in race fan garb onto the train, about 6 of ’em.

To make a long story less long, we watched as the train passed our stop and continued on for another 25 minutes before stopping. We got off at the very first stop we could, which happened to be the very same moment the only train going the opposite direction for an hour was pulling away. I called no fewer than 8 cab companies since it was Sunday and this town was kind out out in the boonies. Oh, and I was the one calling  since I was the only person in the group who spoke Spanish.  We had one cab driver make two trips there and back and gave him enough money that he probably just went home after our business.

So anyway…I get to the track and am at the nearest gate to the Paddock entrance. I call my friend who has a pass for me and she asks if I am at the main gate – no, I tell her, I am at gate 3, it is 4 minutes from the paddock entrance closer to where she was. So I wait. 15 minutes. The race starts in 20 minutes. I call. She is waiting at the main gate. Which is a 40 minute walk from where I am!  I tell her I am at gate 3…blah blah. She tells me she will put someone on a scooter to get me.  I wait 20 minutes and the race starts. I call. The girl is waiting at the main gate!! What the hell? So I head off for the main gate.

Its about 100 degrees outside and the path is uphill. I make it to gate #2 and am about to collapse, but at least I can see the jumbotrons through this gate, so I take a little break. (Oh did I mention that I have all my stuff with me for the weekend in a backpack?) I get all frustrated and head off again. FINALLY the girl calls and asks if I am near gate 2 – I gasp “YES” and run back. She is there on an scooter and I get to drive us through the crowds into the MotoGP paddock and hot foot it straight into hospitality where I watch the second half of the most exciting MotoGP race this year. So worth it. Then I drink a couple gallons of water.

After that, I wander around to see who I can find and say hi to some friends and eat an ice cream. At one point in my company hospitality station, I sit next to someone who I have never met in person but is a friend of a friend and he has helped me out with advice and recommendations during my time in Spain. We don’t recognize each other until Cameron Beaubiers father says my name. Then we figure out who each other is, which is funny because at Mugello we were both there and planned to meet but could never find each other. OK not funny like a clown funny, but – oh you know what I mean. The bonus is he has Limoncello and he shares it with me. Woot!

Kevin Schwantz introduces himself to me but not because he knew or cared who I was, he was being polite because I was at his table. Which makes me think I should have some kind of distinguishing characteristic to make me more memorable – like, I could sport Marilyn Manson makeup every day, or only wear yellow overalls or perhaps it could be a distinguishing smell.

I made my way back to the airport, unfortunatlely by walking 45 minutes to the train station with my big old backpack. At least it was downhill. Note: when someone offers you a ride into town, take it even if it is 30 minutes earlier than you would like. I very nearly (oh so very nearly)  missed my flight back to Venice.

But made it I did, whether that is good or bad remains to be seen.

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Barcelona – Montmelo GP

I flew to BCN from Venice on Friday night at 10pm and arrived at my hotel just after midnight – perfect timing for this city, as friends were just finishing dinners and were ready to roll. I met my friends Luca, Marco and Barbara out in El Born. I had never seen the barrio so busy. But I have only lived there in fall and winter.

These are not my photos but this is the area from two different angles. This plaza was packed with people as bars line the streets. I guess that is typical for summer in Barcelona.

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We all stayed out together until the bar closed at 3. The boys went on to a club with a couple of hilarious Norwegian girls  and I walked with Barbara to her night bus stop in Plaça Catalunya, then continued on to my hotel in Eixample where I ateth of the chocolate from my minibar.

Next day I met Barbara and Nico for coffee in Gracia where she lives. Nico gave me his Yamaha Tech 3 team pass for the day since he was not going to go to the track until 8pm for a meeting. This was the first time I had met Nico in person, having been introduced via email by JM’s good friend Ryan when I announced my plans to move to Spain. Nico lives in Pamplona (want to run with the bulls, anyone?) where he works for Inmotec on a super secret motorcycle project. I will likely pay him a visit there soon.

I took a train packed with race fans straight to the town of Montmelo. During the 30 minute ride, I listened to two 12 year old Spanish girls, donned in their favorite Lorenzo girlie Tees  (I believe Ms. Pinky Racer Schick bought the same shirt in Jerez), discuss Jorge Lorenzo’s racing tactics. I also was asked by a jumbo sized dude from Paraguay, who was drinking his maté from a jumbo sized leather matera (but a normal sized bombilla), who, after staring at me for 20 minutes, finally asked if I was South American. He was  surprised when I told him I was from North America. Saturday night I was asked again if I was South American by a friend of a friend. Usually people just assume I am Spanish or Italian, even when I am in the US, but recently I acquired a tan (and it is quite a tan, thankyouverymuch) so now I guess I am South American. As far as I know, I am 100 percent Northern European (my mother and brother are both blond/blue/fair) – and yet I can still dance! What are the odds? But I digress.

Saturday was hot:  87F (31C).  I debarked the train and walked through the town of Montmelo, which is quite nice – it  is still close to Barcelona without Barcelona’s craziness. They had the little downtown prepared for some big crowds and signs pointing the way to walk to the track, which mislead me into think it was close. I began with long strides through the towns shaded main town street, where hundreds of cafe tables were set out in anticipation of the crowds who would fill them that afternoon and evening, past all of the booths with all kinds of race fodder, drinks, food, beer hats. The walk turned out to be around 45 minutes, uphill. I was a sweaty mess when I finally arrived.

I met up with my friend Eduard and we visited absolutely everyone: Bridgestone press box, Ramon Forcada in Lorenzo’s box, HRC garages, Pepe World 250 team, Cafe Latte 250 team (though my friend there was busy), VIP media center, Pramac hospitality (but the friend to meet was not there) Moto GP VIP village. I did not visit my company hospitality suite on Saturday.

Eduard gave me a ride back to Barcelona around 9pm, where, famished, I devoured a the first food I found. Being away from Spain for two months has put me back on an early schedule and I could not wait for a 10pm dinner with Luca that I was invited to. I also have not been walking everywhere like I used to in Barcelona (I barely walk here at all – everyone drives – something I hate about this area) so my feet were ill prepared for the miles of walking I did. So I rested my poor feet and watched recaps of Qualifying and interviews on TV until midnight, when I headed to the beach for a party. I took a cab since my feet couldn’t take any more. (Remind me to bring shoe inserts at the very least next, ok?) I met a group of friends and we bought some wine and found our little party on the beach. It wasn’t a huge It was short lived, as the police came at 1:30am to clear the beach so it could be cleaned and watered! Yeah, I used to go to parties where cops would bust it up for the noise and drinking. Spain they bust em up only so the trash trucks and water trucks could do their job. We really just moved off the sand to the boardwalk and stood around there for a while. But I was exhausted to I went home (in a cab of course) at 2:30, while most of the crowd moved onto someones house party.

Sunday morning I made a decently early start considering my bedtime was 3am, but no matter, I got on the wrong train and was delayed getting to the track by 2 and a half hours. Yeah. The schedule said it made a stop right at Montmelo, but I watched as we passed the station without stopping … and didn’t stop again for another 20 minutes. The return train was pulling away as we arrived at the next stop, with the next one not for an hour. Awesome.

I arrived when the Moto GP race was just starting…

To be continued…

Italy has redeeming qualities.

I like Italy as a place to visit, but let me just say there is a reason why there are more Italians living outside of Italy than in Italy.

A very nice person here at work loaned me his Tuono for a while. He wants to sell it and lives just up the road so I had it for around two weeks. I got to take it out on a proper ride a few days after all my gear FINALLY arrived. I had to pay 50 Euro to have my own personal belongings delivered to me. This is after claiming the contents only were worth 200 USD. Had they calculated the stated value, the taxes (on my OWN, PERSONAL things) would have been over 1000 Euro. That’s not a typo, either. This is Italy.

It finally wasn’t raining one Sunday so I headed out without too much of a route, basically just “up”. My planned couple of hours ride turned into six. I only returned because I had no more money for fuel. Here are some things I wasn’t expecting to see.

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I had no idea this existed. Imagine coming around a corner and seeing this.

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Snow. Note the road I came through on.

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It was cold. There was snow on the ground.

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Almost to the border of Austria on the Passo Rolle.

So yes, there is VERY good riding here. When it isn’t raining.

I will be buying a bike this week. I have put it in someone else’s name – a girl at work, her boyfriend owns a business. We will sign it to his business name and I will pay the insurance to him. It is the only way as a US citizen that I can own a vehicle because it would take 18+ months to get a residency card, even though I work here legally and am sponsored by my company.

I am nothing if not resourceful.

The Beach.

Dear Italians:

I know it’s the weekend and very shortly you will no longer be able to resist the urge to mentally just check-the-fuck-out and bake in the sun for 8 hours straight. You can go ahead and spend 3 hours in single lane traffic to get to the beach. By all means, pay to park on the street because you are in a hurry to get to that narrow strip of sand and the waveless, salty sea that looks  like a lake. You might come back to find a movable sign that says No Parking where your car used to be (this happened to me – the cops do it – nothing you can do about it), but that isn’t the point.

No, I know you are eager to get your 10 Euro umbrella and 5 Euro beach chair and find space near the bar so you can hear the music and a grilled sandwich and a beer is never far away. It’s all good.

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But I want you to take a moment, take a deep, cleansing breath and prepare your sunbaked brains to absorb some crucial information.

No matter how much of a rush you may be in …
No matter what your friend Flavio Flav says …

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Do not carry that fanny pack slung over your shoulder as a man-purse. Even if it is a Prada fanny pack. In fact, just don’t carry a fanny pack at all.

Trust me on this. It will totally fuck up your game at the rolling gelato stand.

OK pumpkins?

Now go play.

Mugello GP

Always go with your gut instinct. No really. Just do.

I wrangled a one day pass for Mugello. I had the loan of a motorcycle for the weekend but unfortunately, I caught a ride with my coworker instead. This girl is 33 but she may as well be 75 for all her caution – and the way she drives. We followed another coworker in his car the 3+ hours down there. I knew I was in trouble after the first 10 minutes, when she commented on how fast he was driving (he was doing the speed limit). I can see why she usually drives so damn slow though – I had a death grip on the oH shIT  handles through every single roundabout we went through, and there were plenty. Turning the car commenced thusly:
1 -grab side of steering wheel with both hands
2- yank hard
3- try recover control of car by stomping on brake

Grandma had never been to a race, after working at this company for a year and a half. So I snuck her into everywhere we were not supposed to be. I asked a mechanic friend to take us through his team garage, since this poor girl didn’t know what was in them. Seriously. These are the people I work with. She nearly had a heart attack every single time I told her we weren’t OFFICIALLY supposed to be in certain places. She hyperventilated when she saw some mechanics smoking about, oh, 50 meters from someone pouring fuel into a container. I didn’t even make the connection  between the two things because I had to turn my head so far to find where the dude smoking was.

At the very LEAST, I figured we would stay in Florence if we did not find passes for race day. Once at the races it’s not such a hard feat. But Grandma was ready to go home at 10pm after having 4 drinks and no dinner in the MotoGP hospitality suite. (Side Note: this was a fun little party that featured a Freddy Mercury look-a-like singing funk tunes).  So we drove back (really fucking slowly) but not before she ran into our boss and pulled out work printouts from her purse with shaking hands. It took 4 people 45 minutes to reassure her that yes, she could take Monday off like she had planned, and no, she didn’t have to go back to discuss a tiny detail she just remembered with our boss at 10:30 on Saturday night in the Mugello Moto GP paddock!

It was a long, long drive home. I spent much of it telling her to pass people and to drive faster, I couldn’t help myself. She wouldn’t let me drive.

At 7am the next day I get a text from another friend saying he had a paddock pass for me. So I think – perfect –  I have a bike for the weekend, I’ll just haul ass down there, get there in two hours! So I get up and look outside to check the weather. What do you suppose I saw? Brilliant sunshine like the day before?

Uh, no. POURING RAIN. That stopped by the end of the race day. Thanks Universe. I hate you.

Anyway, here are some photos from my Saturday at Mugello.

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3 Americans and 1 Spaniard. One of these things is not like the other...

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Heading out, we ran into two coworkers with whom I COULD SHOULD have ridden to the track with.

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This photo may not be all that interesting, but it might have some significance in the future, so you will just have to stay tuned.

My friend Francesco.

My friend Francesco.

 his set up was at a gas station an hour from the track. I asked for the life size cardboard Simoncelli, but the sales people said no. He and his hair are really that big in person.

his set up was at a gas station an hour from the track. I asked for the life size cardboard Simoncelli, but the sales people said no. He and his hair are really that big in person.