Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Quito, Ecuador

Parched and headachy during the night, probably from the altitude. The guys were all up early, 6:00, making a hell of a noise. A cold-splash shower. No clear plan for the day. Overcast and hazy. Not good for riding, so a good opportunity to get the 6,000-mile periodic service done on my bike. Had to get over to Alvarez Barba BMW as soon as possible to see about getting a slot in the day's service line-up and find out what the story is on new tires.

Breakfast of some strange scrambled eggs and jugo de tomate (a sweet creamy tomato juice.) The server poured a cup of hot milk, and I helped myself to what appeared to be powdered cocoa. Three heaping teaspoons. It was instant coffee. (One of the country's chief products is coffee, and we're drinking instant???)

With the help of the hotel owner, received directions to Barba, only a couple miles away. As I drove in to the dealership, I immediately spotted a familiar face: Anne Girardin was back in the motorcycle repair shop, having some work done on "Bilou", her GS650. She too was happy to see a friendly face and came out to greet me. Before doing any work, they first washed her bike, which really annoyed her, as a clean bike only draws more attention.

At Alvarez Barba BMW in Quito, Ecuador, world traveler Anne Girardin gets her hands dirty.

Anne looks a bit skeptical of the work being done on her beloved "Bilou". (Note the gnome on the handlebar. That's "Annish", Anne's mascot. He seems a little distressed right now.)

The news for me was not good: they have absolutely no tires in stock here, and it would take three weeks to get any. Absolutely ridiculous! I counted six R1200GSs in view and they have no tires for the bikes. And they would be unable to work on my bike until Friday, since tomorrow and Thursday are holidays (not listed in Lonely Planet.) As I watched them work, I began to have doubts that they'd even get to it Friday. It could be a risk leaving it with them.

No back-up plan in mind, I just "hung out" with Anne as they puttered about her bike. She was to have the steering head bearing replaced and headlight assembly repaired. It was a real mystery what goes on at this dealership. The technicians disappeared for long periods ("maybe they’re having a company meeting?”) Then, for no apparent reason they might stop working on Anne’s bike, and move to another, while she stands there scratching her head. She is in their face, wanting to know everything they’re doing to her bike, and assisting where she can, but they didn't seem to have any parts, so I don't think much was accomplished.

I went to a grocery to gather some ingredients for lunch: a baguette, sliced ham and cheese, bananas, soda and (of course) chocolate. We used the customer lounge as our picnic area.

While wandering through their shop (they didn't seem to mind us being in the work area), I saw a brand new GS with the Metzeler "Tourance" tires that I want. I offered to buy them off that bike for a premium. "You can order replacement tires for it," I argued, but they refused to consider it.

Finally, I felt I better take care of some of my own business. Tracked down an internet café. In my e-mails, I finally received an answer from someone at Barba, advising of the lead time on tires. Worked on the blog for about three hours. The internet connection was slow, and the owner thought it might be due to our different operating systems: his server was using "Windows 2000" and my computer uses "XP". I have no idea.

Tried to hook up with Anne and her friends for dinner, driving down to the old city. It was fairly cold, and the traffic insane. My brake light was out again due to the missing mud guard. I almost got nailed as a sandwich between two cars. Here, they seem to use cars as weapons: “you’re NOT going to get into that space”. Finally found the “Margarita 2” residence hotel on Los Rios. Saw "Bilou" parked inside, but Anne was gone. Looked in at a few local restaurants, then moved on, getting lost. At length, I found a huge new mall and cruised around the parking lot, marveling at what a huge draw this place was.

Dinner at “Hamburguesas de Rusty”, a hamburger shop much like our fast food chains, but unlike home, parking lot attendants directed traffic and the clientèle was clearly upper middle-class. People were all dressed up (coming from the nearby shopping mall). At $6.32, this was one of the more expensive meals lately.

Tonight, I watched “Voice of America” broadcasting for the first time. It was my only English news option.

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