Thursday, December 25, 2014

Snapshots from Colombia

The direct flight to Bogota from Houston is four and a half hours, almost enough time to watch one and a half movies.

Bogota is an international hub, well positioned where South America starts. The city occupies an altiplano, a high moorland also known as high plains, in central Colombia. Though close to the Equator, the high altitude of over 8,500 feet gives the city a constant early spring cool type weather. 

Here are snapshots from Bogota Colombia, a world class city with an estimated 8 million inhabitants.
The major streets are clogged with traffic, waiting for the light to change so they can slowly crawl to the next intersection.

Besides having to watch out for trucks, cars, bicycles and motorcycles, street vendors wander among the traffic selling their wares. With slow moving traffic, their risk of danger is low.

As the Christmas season approaches, the vendors offer games for sale. Other vendors are selling the chinese style straw hats to fellow vendors. 

If you think about maybe taking a side street to avoid the snail paced traffic, 
others are having the same thoughts....

While motorcycle are everywhere, they are most often found zipping along, splitting lanes 
between automobiles and trucks. 

Motorcycles are mainly the smaller displacement 100 to 175 cc oriental made brands. 
Anything and everything is delivered around the city via motorcycle.

  Motorcycle parking lots are a common sight. 

By law, motorcyclists must wear a helmet with the bike's license numbers in large letters across the back.

The local constables with their hi-viz jackets and helmets patrol the city via motorcycle.

With so many motorcycles traveling between lanes of traffic, sideview mirrors are frequently bumped or knocked off. 

Another common city sight are the push cart vendors occupying sidewalks throughout the city. Not only do they sell fruits, drinks and snacks, but also minutes for your cell phone.  

Some vendors specialize in clothing. Tight stretchy blouses and even tighter print pants for the ladies are in fashion this year, to the delight of the male population. 
Obesity does not seem to be a problem in this Latin country. 

Construction cranes dot Bogota's skyline.  Today the economy is booming.

The ingenious use of 55 gallon drums, linked together to make a trash chute down the side of new construction. As the building grows taller. just add a few more drums at the bottom.

Older traditional homes of stucco and red tile will eventually be torn down for mid-rise brick residential buildings.

Older colorful store fronts will soon be gone.

The construction crews will move in.....

 Giving the city modern high rise residences and shopping centers.

Inside the malls, the tropics are still here, decorated with christmas lights, from floor to ceiling. 

Having visited Colombia at various times over the past forty years,  Bogota today is the cleanest I have ever seen it. No trash blowing around, no street beggars and never felt endangered or threatened while there.  Getting your shoes shined is a relaxed event, with no worry of petty thieves or criminals.

Maybe because security in the city has been enhanced in recent years. 

For the final shot from our short time in Colombia:  a saxiphone playing Santa tooting out christmas tunes on a busy street corner, hoping for a coin or two.

Merry Christmas 2014 from all of our family to all of your family. 

May your 2015 to full of life and adventure. 
Ride safe, ride long and far.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Colombian Wedding

Last month, Amparo, my BB (Beautiful Bride), and I traveled to Anapoima, Colombia to attend her nephews wedding.The setting was at Los Altos de Chicala, a private club in the lower mountains of central Colombia. Lower means warmer temperatures than Bogota which can be quite cool, even cold. Anapoima is sunny, warm and tropical.

Every morning there was fresh tropical fruit, omelettes and Colombia coffee for breakfast in the open air dining area.

The popular pool area during the day was to be the dinning area for the wedding guests.

Lush greenery and candles decorated the tables.

The soon to be ex-SeƱorita Calle is escorted down the aisle by her proud father, Luis.

As the sun set on coffee trees dotting distant mountains, vows were exchanges under a white canopy while musicians filled the cooling breezes with romantic melodies.

Freshly married, happy and blessed, are Susana Calles de Rueda and Jaime Andres Rueda. Their new lives together, born in Colombia, will start in Houston, Texas.

Candles lit, silverware set, tables await the couple and their guests.

Even the pool was lit up for the occasion. Soft music while guests dined was replaced with fast paced Colombian music for dancing. Dancing and celebrating continued until 3 AM. 

Celebrating a distant wedding with family and loved ones is always a joyous occasion. More important was the opportunity to renew, refresh and cement relations with distant family through the telling of stories, jokes, remembering the past and looking toward the future. Welcoming new members to the family, the circle grows. Remembering those who are no longer with us, the circle shrinks. The circle of family is ever changing, enriching our lives, giving it depth, heartaches and joy.

Amparo and I had a fabulous time, thanks to the open hearts and homes of her family.

Too soon we were back in Houston. Work awaiting, stacked high in the office. Now to get the house ready for the holidays with our sons and their families, and a little shopping too.

Happy holidays to you and your family from Amparo and I. 

p.s. Next post will be street scenes from Bogota.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Meet Da'mu, the white whale

Introducing Da'mu, son of Da'mit, sired by Shamu II*.  He is a great white whale of a motorcycle rig. On the open road, a killer of interstate miles and miles and miles to go

This 1994 Honda Gold Wing GL1500 motorcycle with a Champion sidecar was waiting for me in Belton, Texas at what I thought was a reasonable price. For a twenty year old machine with 58,000 miles, it was in great shape. The test ride revealed however it would need a few repairs, adjustments and modifications for my intended use. As always and once again, one underestimates the actual $$$ and time for modifications, adjustments and repairs.

By now Da'mu has doubled in cost to own and set up properly for Iron Butt challenges. He is 96.7% ready for some serious long distance riding.

Some of the maintenance repairs were to clean and adjust carbs, sort out electrical gremlins, replace auxiliary fuel tanks and change all the fluids and filters.

The modifications for long distance riding were:
First was to go to the darkside, by installing an automobile tire on rear wheel, a rear motorcycle tire on the front and replace the automobile tire on the sidecar.
Then remove sidecar windshield and have a custom rain cover made for less wind resistance. i.e. better gas mileage.
Next was to replace the three gallon auxiliary gas tank with a five gallon tank so I would have more saddle time between fill ups.
Added Rigid LED driving lights for better nighttime visibility.
Mounted a larger display GPS and iPhone mount.
Removed the CB audio system, replacing it with a solid mount for the map case and tank bag.
Finally changed the front rake with an EZ Steer for less tiring all day riding.

Da'mu does not have two wheel drive or the higher ground clearance of Da'mit, but he does have reverse. We are now mapping out destinations, routes almost ready to roll.

So if you are wondering exactly where we are planning to go on our first big adventure together, let me give you a hint....

So many empty boxes to fill in and so little time... come May 2015, we hit the road, Da'mu and I.

Ride safe, ride long and have an adventure or two.


* For those questioning minds, the original Shamu was female.  Shamu II was a male.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Falls Colors in the Rockies

In October, Amparo and I traveled to northern New Mexico to enjoy the changing colors of the aspen trees.  Mother nature put her best foot forward for us.

We drove some of the mountain back roads...

On the Picuris Indian reservation,  crossing a ravine was part of the aqueduct system.
It was two hollowed out logs carrying water from an irrigation ditch, across the ravine to a catch basin on the other side. We wondered how long those logs lasted before having to be replaced. 

The aspen were not the only part of nature showing off their colors. Where Angel Fire gets its name, the sky set ablaze by the setting sun.

The next morning we were treated to a sight of fresh snow on the highest peaks, high above the treeline of aspen and spruce below.

While driving around we spotted numerous wildlife. Though I gave up hunting several years ago, I still enjoy spotting wild animals, then quietly sitting and watching their behavior.

We spotted a hawk looking for its next meal.

Later we came across a hawk pinning a gopher to the ground. Looks like he caught a fresh meal. We got too close, frightening the hawk who flew off leaving the gopher behind. Shaking itself off, the gopher jumped up and dashed for the nearest hole. 

The mule deer studied us as we looked at them.

The pronghorn antelope seemed to cross the roadway unconcerned with traffic.

In the final hours of light, a herd of elk came out of the timber to feed. We counted 43 heads.

Our good friends, Mike and Laurel drove up to join in the tree watching. By the third day we were ready to see other sights, so we drove down to Taos and on to Santa Fe.

In Santa Fe, we took our friends to the Loretto Chapel to inspect the famous winding staircase.
Google Loretto Chapel for the full story and mystery behind this staircase.  It is hard to image this staircase, but everyone who sees it is in awe. How it that possible? How was it built? Who built it? All the questions that remain unanswered after a century and a half.

There is no center support or column for the staircase. The railings and side supports were added several years later as the nuns found it too scary to climb the stairs to reach the choir loft. To descend with no handrail, the nuns would sit down and slide down the stairs on their bums. Safety above modesty.

On our return drive we saw remnants from the frontier days of New Mexico history. 

The wheel on this ox cart was cut from the trunk of one tree. Must have been some rough riding, being out of round and all. 
This wagon has reached trails end. Our trip was relaxing and enjoyable with good friends and greats sights. We never get tired of visiting norther New Mexico even if it does take two days of driving to get there.

Ride on Brother,