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June 30, 2006

Google EarthKMZ - Day 1-4

I forgot to add this last night...

Google Earth KMZ file of day 1 - 4

It opens in Google Earth

Cheers,
Nif

June 29, 2006

I like trucks.

Hola –

It’s funny. With this much time on my hands it’s easy to do a bit of writing and file keeping.

I cheated.

Wednesday morning Anton woke me up and announced that he was resting in Ica for a day and also wanted to get his stuff together. I persisted in questioning and it came out that he wanted to see how things would be solo and as I had been planning on going solo anyway it wouldn’t be a problem for me. So after breakfast together, I packed up my stuff, called David and my parents, and took off alone to Pulpa.

The first 20 miles or so went just fine. The terrain was sort of green and there wasn’t much wind at all. I passed a million and one fundos which I believe are farms of sorts. I cruised through Huancachina and then Santiago. Deciding that I would most likely be camping I stopped in La Venta to pick up some cooking supplies: pasta and oil and tuna fish and continued on. Crusing along, I ran into some Peruvian guys who were cycling to the Ocucaje turnoff. There were a few stands selling soda and a dog that nipped at my heels much to the glee of everyone – the highway police tried to make the dog go away, but to no avail. Even the handy dandy Dog Dazer didn’t seem to be doing much, so I just pedaled hard. Up over a little hill and then…NOTHING. It seems I had hit the desert.

So now it’s about 11am and all the fog (neblina) has burned off and it’s scorching hot. I am wearing my jacket and this Smartwool shirt (which is worth it’s weight in gold) and I have removed the pants part of my shorts. The cycling began to be difficult as the road was going, ever so imperceptibly uphill and there was either a crosswind or a headwind coming at me. I plodded along for about 4 or 5 miles and stopped in the shade of a road sign for lunch. Four or five miles is nothing but under these conditions with the long, gradual hills and the heats it seemed impossible. After the bananas and trail mix from home I hopped back on the tank and started pedaling again. Each time I crested a hill that took 20-30 minutes to climb I expected a little down hill at least, but no, there was not really any down, just the small curve required by highway design to start the rise of the next hill. After switching my jacket for the light colored pullover (I though I had lost my sunscreen) I started off again. This is when the truck stopped.

After getting the tank going again I rode up to the truck. There was a man who had walked around to the right side (the shady side) and was smiling. It was a nice smile that said “What the hell are you doing riding the middle of the day, alone and female?” I took it as a good sign and shook the hand that was stuck out at me. After some rudimentary conversation about where we were both heading towards, I made the decision to hitch a ride to Nasca in the camion. And what a good decision it was.

After taking off all my bags and storing them in the truck we lashed the bike to the tarp rope and set off. I’m actually surprised that the bike didn’t fall off. We drove on for kilometer after kilometer of desert where there were absolutely no water stands, no tiendas, no nothing but sun and sand. There was a huge descent into Pulpa, my original destination for the evening, and an even bigger climb out with another descent at the top. About halfway from Pulpa to Nasca things started getting green again, but the road was in no way flat as it seems from a comfy bus.

The ride with Miguel was a pleasant two hour or so event and we conversed in Spanish although I was talking in the present tense only and he was describing things using only nouns and baby sentences. It worked out just fine. He works for Gloria, which is a big company although I don’t know what the focus is. He was transporting canned or boxed milk, yogurt, and fruit punches. His route for this trip was Lima, Ica, Nasca, Arequipa, and Cusco. He did invite me to go the whole way with him as my final destination was Cusco, but I declined. It would have been fun though. His family lives in Arequipa: a wife and two children – one boy and one girl. I asked their names, but since I couldn’t spell them we will have no record.

Upon arriving in Nasca we were going to lunch together, but I needed to go into the center to find a hostel but the truck couldn’t go into the center. So we said our goodbyes with a handshake and off we went in opposite directions.

I got a hotel pretty quickly and set of to inform Anton of the conditions and to email David and the parents of my change in plans. On the truck ride to Nasca, I also made the decision to bus up the Andes until Abancay. It just seems to make more sense as I will not be able to make more than 20 miles a day going uphill at altitude. Abancay to Cusco will take me at least a week. I will deal with staying in Cusco, when I get there. See everyone, I told you I would be smart about this. While I will miss the ascent and the privilege of saying that I rode up the Andes I will still have lots of time riding around in the Andes under my belt by the time this is all said and done. I will stay in Abancay for two days to try to get used to the altitude – it is at approximately 4,000m more or less. I think that is about 12,000 ft. Also, the terrain, from what I’ve heard, is pretty dry up to Abancay and after that it is verdant. I don’t know about verdant but it should be green at least.

Today I did something that I have always wanted to do – fly over the Nasca lines. Alas Peruanas books flights for $40 USD which is a fortune here for a 35 minute flight over the major glyphs. I started talking to the people in the van on the way to the airport who were from Holland, Slovakia, and Italy and we hung out and chatted while waiting about an hour and a half for our 11am flight. No matter. It turns out that they were all speaking Italian in the van as the two women from Holland and Slovakia had both lived in Rome and the guy was Italian. Even with a year of Italian I didn’t understand much. That’s ok – they were nice enough to switch to English most of the time. I envy that ability. We had all taken motion sickness pills as we had heard how many people throw up due to the heat and the tight curves, but surprisingly, we survived without throwing up. The lines and geoglyphs are amazing if only because they were made so long ago and they are everywhere. There are straight lines all over the place and the shapes apparently have shamanistic meanings. The represent shaman imagery from all of Peru: the desert, the ocean, and the jungle. We saw: the whale, the triangles & trapezoids, the astronaut, the monkey, the dog, the condor, the spider, the humming bird, the Alcatraz, the parrot and the tree & hands. They are quite far from each other and you can only wonder how in the world they were made. By the end we were all feeling just a big queasy and were all red in the face (with our pale skins). Tonight we will meet for dinner and a beer and tomorrow I will set out to find a bus ticket to Abancay.

Things eaten today:
Two rolls with marmalade
A taste of chicharonnes (meat – maybe pork, onions, corn of sorts and onions - I’m getting it for breakfast tomorrow morning!)
A cup of instant coffee
Two more rolls
A yummy pastry sort of like short bread with dulce de leche filling – yum!
An orange
A few crackers
Lots of water

June 27, 2006

Day 3 - hot and stinky

Howdy everyone. I’m in an internet café in Ica, Peru typoing on a machine that TOTALLY SUCKS so my spelling will be pretty bad.

We have been riding for three days now and things seem to be going well. The first two days we got about 35 miles and today it was ummmm, 78 kilometers what ever that is in miles. I’m beginning to think in kilometers and have set the GPS to use such. On Sunday, we took a bus from Lima to Cañete at about 6:30 in the morning and I think that even though the bus stations may be dens of iniquity, they are much nicer than any bus station that I’ve seen in the US. They are clean and while full of buracracy they function quite well. You see, everyone rides the bus here.

The first day was sort of grimy. Grey skys actually mists/fog and sand dunes made of dirt. Not very pleasant, but ok. There are a lot of buses and trucks on the Pan American highway. At mile 32 we had just descended a huge hill and there was a “resort” hostel and restaurant. Well, it turns out that the hostel was closed for the winter (it is winter here at 60-80 degrees F depending on where you are) but they let us camp. No restuarant though so Anton went down the road a bit and got some eggs, pasta and potatoes. Let me tell you, peeling potatoes with a dull knife is not a very fun task. The funny thing is I was using his Russian made knife as I could not find mine. When I did find it he proclaimed that it wasn’t that sharp. Hmmm, it is straight from the manufacture and it beats the hell out of that piece of crap without a handle. The next task was starting the stove. Cecilia and I had going on that trek to find kerosene and I’m glad we did. The stove lit, but doesn’t really work correctly, but it worked enough to cook the pasta. Oh – cooking with kerosene is stinky. So for dinner we had a delicious concotion of fried potatoes, scrambled eggs and pasta allll in one dish. It was the best food ever.

Day two was difficult. Stiff muscles and a little bit of contention between the two of us as to how to find a hostel. I was not in the mood for searching around for the cheapest dive when I had a guide book right there to tell me where to go. Oh, and I got scolded for being rude to the 3 people crowded around me shoving papers in my face telling me that they had the best hostel for us. Me, rude? The whole situation was rude, but we eventually paid the $10 (US) for a room in a recommended hostel and had a warm shower. The food this second day was great. Breakfast was some snacks and about an hour into the ride we stopped for breakfast/lunch and no it wasn’t brunch. I had a great chicken sandwich with papas. The condiment of choice is aji – chili sauce – and it is yummy. We then had cebiche which was different than the stuff I had had in Lima. It was little tiny fillets in a yellow lime juice so there must have been a spice in it. The corn looked more like our corn rather than the choclo and the requisite camote (sweet potatoes) were included. Finished our beer and water and we were on the road again. For 5 minutes.

Then Anton discovered that his derailleur was bent so we went to some back street to find the “bike shop” which was a little stand. As soon as we stopped about 7 people crowded around us and the guy wrenched his derailleur a little more in line. Then we got the hell out of there up a one way street. We are following the traffic rules about as much as the locals.

Dinner was parradilla – steak. And a damn fine steak it was with fries of sorts and a beer for about $7. Just about as much as our hostel. I also bought my first empanada which I ate along the road today (Tuesday). Delicious – even cold.

Today we covered a lot of distance and made it to Ica. The terrain has changed to mostly desert but somehow they are growing things here as there a oranges and mandarines sold all along the highway closer to Ica. And the area seems to be known for olive oil too. Today was hot and we broke out the sunscreen. I think I still got a little sun and by the end of the day we were both sapped by riding for hours in the sun. Ica is quite big. This hostel is in the $7 dollar range rather than the $10 range and the bed sags, there is no towel, no hot water (I took a hooker bath in the sink), no toilet seat and as far as I can tell no one else in the hostel. It is cleanish and we did get toilet paper and a tiny pink bar of soap. In the distance obscured by either dust or smog was our first glimpse of the foothills. They are very dry – much drier than the foothills of the Northern California Sierras. We will start up in about three days.

Some interesting things along the road:
A lion in a cage on a truck
A dog eating a dog
A donkey with a hose as a bridle and reins
Lots and lots of trucks and vans who LOVE to beep at you

I think that is enough for now.

June 24, 2006

¡Muy rico!

Today is my last day in Lima. Stacey left this morning and I am trying to pull all of my crap together into the smallest amount of bags so that I can get it all on the bus without having it be stolen. There are so many little things like lighters and pens that can get lost in the bags and for the bus ride I actually need to use my backpack as there are some expensive things that I would like to keep for at least a little while.

I am to meet Anton at 6:30am tomorrow morning at a bus station in Central Lima. Not the ideal place to be at 6:30 in the morning on a Sunday, but with mucho suerte I will be just fine. We are going to call tonight to arrange for a taxi in the morning as getting one off the street at that time in the morning isn’t the best idea. I’m ok with a little more money for a lot more security.

No one seems to drink water here possibly because tap water is not potable and it either needs to be boiled or bought. Our family boils it and since Stacey and I felt guilty for constantly asking for water we bought ours. Instead of water though there is a variety of liquids at the various meals. They have this weird breakfast drink which I believe is just really, really runny, fine oatmeal called Avena. Everyone here calls it “quicker” with the accent on the quick but what they are really saying is QUAKER as in Quaker food products. Avena means oatmeal, but it’s not like that lumpy bowl of goo that many people eat for breakfast. It’s more like a thick, frothy breakfast shake. It is made with Avena mix, vanilla, milk (most likely evaporated as I have yet to see an actual bottle of milk), and chocolate. Sometimes it’s apple instead of chocolate. I much prefer the chocolate. Also at breakfast is freshly made juice from fruits that I have never seen and cannot spell much less pronounce. One I can both say and spell is grenedilla and it is damn good. I think we had papaya and mango on other mornings. So far there is juice and Avena. After those two calorie laden liquids you get a cup of coffee or tea. With all this liquid to drink we were usually a minute or two late for our class.

The coffee. Yes, coffee in Peru is as bad as they say it is. It is instant and for a culture that has no problem peeling the rind off everything that they eat for some reason feels that making a pot of coffee takes too much time. Not sure about that logic. The only thing that makes the coffee palatable is the evaporated milk. With the milk – it isn’t bad. At the school however there was no milk but there was chocolate mix. Unlike the US where chocolate milk mix has sugar in it, this doesn’t so when you make it you need to add sugar to taste. My drink of choice at the school was 1.5 spoonfuls of instant coffee, 1 spoon of chocolate mix, and 2 spoons of sugar.

Chicha moreda is the drink of choice at the big afternoon meal. It is purple and made from big purple corn. There is another chicha that I would like to try which is more like Kentucky moonshine and is homebrewed in the Andes. Can’t wait.

Finding water along the way will be a little more difficult. I think that the key is to buy it when you see it and farther up in the Andes (how exciting, THE ANDES) we will probably have to carry some extra water for cooking and drinking when camping. We can’t always drink beer and beer is in those heavy glass bottles anyway.
Finding food on the way without having stomach problems will be the next new experience (after the bus station, and the first night camping or in a hotel). Apparently, something like 70% of people have some sort of food related problem when traveling and it isn’t fun. Cecilia, my friend from the homestay, suggested the following tactics for finding good food along the road.

When selecting a place to eat look for the most populated places. She said that the townsalong the way, which are few and far between, have restaurants for the tourist buses and places like that are better than the little carts. Since Anton got dysentery (maybe) from one of these little carts I think that avoiding them is a great idea even though everything looks so good. The more people the better and the more non-tourists even better. Also, this is not just a foreigner thing; it’s for everyone traveling in Peru which was a little surprising, but rotten meat is rotten meat.

It is also ok to find a woman who is cooking for her family and ask to buy a meal from her. If the food is good enough for her family it is good enough for me. Also, this means that the ingredients have a better chance of not being spoiled – rotten meat and the like. I would have never really though of this but she said that everyone is so poor that a knock on the door means potential income. It should cost about 5 soles for dinner which is about $2.25 or so. I can deal with that.

The language barrier should not be considered a problem in my mind. Maybe that’s because I am now speaking Españinglish. No one can understand my English, no one can understand my Spanish. So there will be no difference in the Sierras where they they don’t speak Spanish or English but speak the Native languages of Quechuan and in some places Amarya both of which I’m sure are misspelled. We won’t run into this for a week or so and truthfully, I don’t see it as being a problem. Communication in foreign countries, for those of us not so luck to be polyglots, is very tiring, but it is a great conversation starter. “No habla español (fill in the language)? Where you from?” See, perfect conversation starter.

Let me tell you about my lunch today. Meals always consist of a main plate, a soup, and a dessert. The main dish was another variation of rice, papas, chicken, a pea here and there in a yummy vegetable sauce made with carrots and tomatoes – more carrots than tomatoes. The soup was when things started going downhill. Usually, we have had a light soup (also called caldo) of chicken broth with a potato or two, a little piece of chicken, a piece of chocolo (a type of corn with huge kernels) and about ten noodles. Today the soup was yellow and had something in it that looked like fish. Well, after asking, I discovered that it wasn’t fish - it was an egg. I ate my first ever bowl of egg drop soup – or at least I think that’s what it was. And no Mom, it’s not really my favorite thing. Then to top things off was dessert. I knew what I was in for today because I had “talked” with Ana Marie yesterday while she was making it. Dessert in this case was rice pudding, otherwise know as Arroz con leche. While food is one of the main things that I am very excited about learning about, I am not so excited about the desserts here. I will stick to chocolate.

Update: Dinner was a little different this evening. We had rice of course, but instead of the normal leftovers from lunch we had a delicious omelet which had tuna, onion, oregano and a little, tiny bit of flour. It was like an egg pancake. Second course was the soup again. It is actually made out of a squash call Zapallo – Crema de Zapallo. Squash soup with egg. And for dessert we had the most delicious fruits: chirimoya and granadilla. The chirimoya, with a green skin like an armadillo, can be ripened much like bananas. The flesh is a creamy white with some fibers and big black seeds. It is a very creamy and rich tasting fruit. The granadilla on the other hand has to be gently peeled like and egg. It has a semi-hard orange shell which is peeled away to reveal a white pith. Under the pith is a seed pod – similar in idea to pomegranates. You eat the seeds and the flesh around the seeds and drink what ever liquid is left. Muy rico!


Another difference is that they call nuts dried fruit. This concept caused great confusion on me and Ceclia’s walk back from a not-so-great part of town where we bought kerosene from a corner store. This adventure was necessary because having known that white gas no existe in Peru I followed the suggestion of the Footprints guide book and bought some Ron de Quemar (literally rum of burning). I pulled out the stove to try out this new fuel and much to my dismay discovered that “keys” on the pump bushing that holds the plunger in is broken – thank god for duct tape. (Guess what’s on the list for Cusco honey).

Anyway,the kerosene was in a big container by the door in a small bodega on a corner. The man put one scoop into my fuel bottle but for some unknown reason he would not fill the bottle to the fill line – he would only fill it to one scoop. No matter, the ron de quemar experiment wasn’t working so hopefully this will work better.

No photos because I was stupid and forgot the password!! Until the next internet cafe.....

June 22, 2006

¡Claro!

Lima. Peru. I arrived at the airport in Lima very early Sunday morning after having a very uneventful flight. I made the acquaintance of a Peruana Sandra who works at Ernst & Young, Lima. After telling her every word that I knew in Spanish and clapping my hands every time I understood a word she said we retired to sleep on our respective chairs. We were awakened at something like 5 in the morning after having slept for about 5 hours to a delicious breakfast meal of bread with ham and cheese. I’m not being sarcastic here – I really like bread with ham and cheese for breakfast.

It’s taken about 5 days of being timid to finally break out of my shell and just ask anyone, and I mean anyone on the street for what ever it is that we happen to be looking for. Mind you I’m saying things like “How I arrive store” for “Where is a bookstore” and “The cat” for “ice”. And Stacey is saying “Walk four pictures and turn left”. Stacey and I have taken to calling our speech “Chinese Spanish” based on my experiences with ESL students in grad school and all those tourists in NYC. All niceties are banished and sentences consist of a pronoun (sometimes), a verb & a noun. The great thing is that everyone will work with you to figure out what you are trying to say.

We were in Wong, a supermercado not a giant Chinese import store, and I was trying to find a lighter for my camping stove. I asked for a encendedor and one guy sent me with another guy and we walked alllll the way to the back of the store. Apparently, they thought that I wanted a Zippo lighter so I kept saying “No, plastico, plastico” Then we went back up to the front, in front of the register to a separate counter where I was shown the .50 sole and the 1 sol lighter – they were not accessible to the customers but kept behind the counter for some reason. I tried to ask, but could not understand the answer. There was only a slight difference in size so I got the 1 sol lighter. The nice boy carried the lighter to a register where I paid for it separately. Don’t ask me why – I don’t know. Then came the exercise of paying for my items. I wanted to use a credit card and Cindy, the register person, seemed to be telling me that I couldn’t use Visa. What she was actually saying was that if it’s a credit card they need to see identification.

The exchange rate and the prices here have almost nothing to do with each other. Costs seem to be more related to usage. Books cost about the same if not more and there are definitely less of them. Food costs a little less in the local grocery stores, but in restaurants meal cost a lot less. We had a HUGE lunch today for about $6 a piece. Now, 8 hours later I’m still not hungry and am beginning to have a stomach ache. There is a lot more to say about the type of food, but not at the moment. The deal is that the prices for us seem about normal, but for a regular Peruvian family they are super expensive. The Peruvian tourist products in Lima, like sweaters and pottery, cost a lot and I think that I can find some of them in other places for much less but Stacey does not have that luxury. Of course, I can’t actually carry anything more on the bike so it’s kind of a moot point.

This afternoon I went to the bank to get money for the weeks of cycling in the Andes and while I don’t know if I got out enough I felt like a millionaire. Anton (more on him later) thinks that he can use an ATM on the road from Nazca to Cusco, but I’m not so sure. No one here really seems to have any idea what commodities are available. I had a wad of 20 sole bills shoved in my bra, 10 soles bills in my top pocket and about 100 soles in 5 sole coins in my pants pockets. I only had about $150 American dollars, but it felt like so much more.

What else. The internet.is everywhere and it only cost $1.5 soles an hour. That is about $.50. Not bad except that I have all these intricate things that I would like to do with a flash card. Now, after about 4 trips I think that all the necessary pieces are in place. The photos are uploaded to the flash drive and named correctly for upload. I finally read the directions and got the Portable Thunderbird email program talking correctly to the internet. I did crash three computers while trying to get my USB drive to work. You try reading error messages in Spanish and then getting the blue screen of death. If all goes well there will be pictures in the Photos section to accompany this posting.

Tomorrow is the last day of school and the La Rosa sisters, Cecilia and Anita, are going to show us around Central Lima. It will be fun to get out and see some things here with our new friends. Cecilia and Anita have been so helpful and the entire family has been very patient with us and or. I’ve just begun to get my Lima legs and it’s almost time to move on.

PHOTOS ARE POSTED!!!! Michelle - there is one especially for you.

June 18, 2006

In Lima

buenos dias everyone -

Stacey and I both arrived in Lima safe and sound. In fact, I was at the airport about 4 hours before the flight was to leave and managed to drink only one beer while waiting. Stacey however didn't get any beer.

The bike box is a little squished - even with the "secure wrap" that David and I discovered at JFK. It is where these nice people wrap up your luggage with somethat looks like a blue spiderweb and is used when you are afraid that your luggage won't make the trip much like mine. Let's just say mine was well used and will not be returning home with anyone.

The bike is still in the box and I will survey the potential damage tomorrow - the blue spiderweb actually squished the box and the fork/headset had a lot of pressure put on it during the flight.

And David, you were right, up does not mean up on an airplane.

We have been well fed this evening with arroz con pollo and yes, flan. I ate flan. Those of you in the know, know just how much I like flan.

More later after we meet up with Anton the 18 year old and I figure out how to get access to a USB drive. Otherwise, there will be a lot of text entries and not many picture or GPS.

Ciao ciao.

June 17, 2006

On a jetplane

I leave today. It has been one hectic week and thank you everyone that helped me out through bike stuff and packing stuff and "oh shit, where's my passport" stuff.

It's been a noisy week with the workers outside our apartment window and I've gotten lots and lots of walking in and a fair amount of riding to boot.

Sid's bike shop and IF frames have been great in helping me pull it all together. Thank you Zoltan, Tim, Darius, Marcus and Lloyd at IF.

I'm very sad to be leaving David for months but excited about the adventure to come.

Ciao!

The bike all loaded up:

154_5494_sm.jpg

June 06, 2006

Google Earth kmz w/geocoded photos!!

I think I've done it. That is, created a kml file with links to my photos which are geocoded to the gps route.

Programs used:

Picasa (with StopDesign photo gallery template) - to create photo groupings
PIE (Picture Information Extractor) - to rename photos with correct date format
WS_FTP - to upload photos, htm file, kml file
TextPad - to "save as" UNIX file
do.php - to DO something to the whole shebang (part of Photo Gallery)
Movable Type - to publish photos into StopDesign Gallery
Garmin MapSource - to get the gps log off the gps
gpsbabel - to covert from MapSource file format to gpx file format
RoboGeo - to tie gps tracklog and photos together
Google Earth

That's a hell of a lot of programs - dontcha think?

But witness the result: TEST RIDE KMZ (opens in Google Earth)

Am still having a problem getting the kmls to open in Google Earth from the website. The browser wants to open the kml file as xml text in a Firefox browser. Comments on this would be appreciated.

June 02, 2006

A Bittersweet Arrival

Let’s see, so much has happened over the past two and a half weeks that if I were a good blogger I would have posted updates daily. Instead, I am going the route of posting after the fact. It’s better this way, believe me. If I had posted updates, I would not have had the necessary time to dull my anger. And anger doesn’t always serve a purpose; in fact, it almost never gets you anywhere.

So the bike arrived and David and I trotted on over to the bike shop on a nice Saturday afternoon eager with anticipation. I brought the Bruce Gordon along so they could use as many parts as possible on the new frame. David got measured and the BG fits him so instead of selling it like a good girl and trying to make a buck, we will get it build back up for David to ride. Then we can go touring together!

The new frame was packed away under other boxes and Zoltan could only get the fork out for us to see (apparently it had been there for two weeks but due to the vaguries of email I could not be reached). What a pretty fork with its pearly dark gray sheen and pink and white decals. Ahhh, the fateful fork.

While we’re going over parts, Zoltan shows me the rims that I specified and said that he had ordered the LX hubs for the wheels. “LX hubs,” I said? “But I specified XT hubs.” Apparently, he hadn’t remembered the email that I send listing all the components that I thought I would need. So with the promise of a fitting on Friday and the excitement of a new bike we headed home and even celebrated with a deliciously wicked Frapucchino. The jubilation would not last.

Fitting Friday came quickly and I scurried off to the bike shop, tires in hand. I asked to see Zoltan and was informed that he was most likely getting some food. He was actually upstairs but no one bothered to look for him while I sat there, minutes ticking by - five, ten, twenty. Why should they – they aren’t his keeper, right? I don’t know – would it have been so hard to check on his whereabouts? And during my wait it was intimated by a certain member of the shop that mesh covered chamois bike shorts were perhaps only for “people like them” in the bike shop. What the fuck? Because I have nothing clever to say about ugly shorts covered with mesh and sewn with red trim I know nothing about bike shorts? Right. Finally Zoltan showed up and we took a look at the progress.

The bike was wheeled out and we went over the components. I would need the following items on top of those already ordered: stem, seat post, and front derailleur. The stem and seat post I understood because of tube size difference between old and new bikes, but the front derailleur was another casualty of not paying attention. If we did as I had wanted and brought the BG into the shop while setting up the order for the new frame that expense could have been avoided. Whatever,it's water under the bridge. I left with the expectation that the whole thing, wheels and all would be ready to take home on the following Monday – May 22nd.

The fateful day arrived and I went to the shop, cutting out early from work, excited about the bike. This was an expense for me, this bike. I went this route because my BG is a 700cc wheel base and by all accounts a 26” wheel base is more sturdy and dependable for the types of roads I expect to encounter – namely boulder strewn dirt paths. Zoltan was there and available for our 4pm appointment and we got started. The bike was together with its new derailleur, the wheels were together with the right number of spokes and the correct hubs, new seat post installed and all the other bit and bobbles from the BG. The stem was a loaner as a lighter, just as costly stem was still on order. The bike was latched into something like rollers and I got on and started pedaling and shifting. It felt good. An adjustment here and there with the saddle and snip, the fork tubing was clipped and capped and I was good to go. But there was a problem.

The rack didn’t fit the fork mounts. I asked why not and was told that it was an old style rack and they didn’t make them like that anymore. Old style I though? It was a Bruce Gordon rack and hell, how often do rack specifications change? I had said “Bruce Gordon lowrider rack mounts” over and over again during the ordering process and here I was with a fancy new bike and a well made, expensive rack that JUST DIDN’T FIT? I left in a cloud of annoyance, numbers running through my head – new rack, new packs – the packs were made to fit that rack no others. And on the way out I’m told to “take good care of it.” Huh, what would you do if you just received a custom frame? Throw it under a truck? OK, OK she was only trying to be nice. Sorry.

Walked the bike home – too much crap in my bag to ride and remembered that I had broken the lamp that morning so there would be no test ride for me. Lumbered off to Home Depot where the same crappy lamp was now being sold for $40 or more, off to Bed, Bath, and Beyond where there no good, cheap halogen lights, and then to some crate store to buy whatever looked the least crappy. My mind was in a fog of money. I had just spent an unmentionable sum on a bike and I now needed to buy a lamp that used to cost $20 and now cost $40. I couldn’t think. Shivering in my tee shirt in the coolness of the evening I got the lamp home and started assembling itand guess what? It was defective. Now I had the lamp and the bike rack to fret about.

The rest of the week was a blur of phone calls and emails to the bike shop (“Are you sure you requested the BG low rider rack mounts as I specified?”), Bruce Gordon (the bike and rack maker), Robert Beckman (the pannier maker), and the wonderfully helpful Wayne at The Touring Store. It was true – BG has his racks designed for 7.5” about the hub mount and most other racks are at 6.5”. Why would Independent Fabrications even offer different rack mounts for BG racks if there wasn’t a difference?

My main source of information and support for this period was the Bike Forums Touring list. These guys (sorry, it’s mostly guys) were so supportive and helpful. There were offers of extra racks and packs and a design of a very sturdy adapter if things didn’t work out with the bike shop. I am very grateful for their support and it made it easier to stand up for myself, knowing I was right and knowing that if the bike shop gave me a hard time there were other options available. THANK YOU!!!

So to wind this up, on Tuesday, May 30th, the bike shop decided to just get me a new fork from IF with the BG lowrider front rack mounts instead of drilling additional rack mount holes into the existing fork. I have to honestly say that I’m not sure that I’ll ever understand this decision as the other most viable option was to just buy me a rack and packs of my choosing (the BG and Beckman stuff is some of the best out there) but it fixes the problem and no one had to get mean. However, the fun of getting a new bike was lost in the stress of trying to figure out how to fix the bike shop’s error.

I’m glad I stuck up for myself without getting bitchy and it was good to work with Zoltan to fix the problem instead of just screaming about wanting my money back. We need the bike shops and bike shops need us so there is no reason to burn bridges, especially if they are willing to work with you, but it’s good to know the facts and how to back them up.

This new fork will work and the bike should be ready this Saturday – just in time for our party!

June 01, 2006

Stacey and Spanish

So - as luck would have it Stacey was able to get a decently priced flight to Lima. We wil be taking semi-private Spanish lessons at El Sol and they are going to let us, the two married 37ish year olds, stay in the same homesta! Apparently, they usually don't like to put two people of the same nationality into the same homestay. I understand the reasoning - promote Spanish immersion - but you know, I'm very glad they made an exception for us.

We are staying with the La Rosa family which consists of:
Father, Architect
Mother, Housewife
Daughter 1, Actress
Daughter 2, Architect

Very exciting - and the sent a picture of the man who will be picking me up from the airport. What a thoughtful idea - it will be helpful for finding him when I am freaking out about the bike and luggage and trying not to look too much like a rube or a stupid, rich tourist.

TO HELP WITH MY TRIP EXPENSES:

Thank you for your Support

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