Monday, January 09, 2006


In Santiago, American icons: a 1997 Harley Davidson Heritage Softail Classic 1450cc and "Hooters"

Holiday Inn Express, Santiago, Chile

Slept until 9:00 - damn! Thought I was going to get an early jump on the day.

Received driving directions to the BMW dealer, Williamson Balfour Motors. Drove eastward, out Avenida Presidente Kennedy toward the mountains. The smell of freshly-cut grass along the parkway, a memory from the distant past, many miles ago!

Williamson Balfour is a very large dealership, but typical of BMW dealers, their service department is over-extended. "Tons" of staff, but, in my opinion, in the wrong departments! I'm critical of BMW's focus on making the sale, and much less on the service that follows. Maybe this is more apparent in Santiago, where people are celebrating a thriving economy.

I presented a "task list" to Marcelo Böhm, the service representative. Primarily, I was here for a 36,000-mile (60,000-kilometer) service, and, of course, repair of the leaking rear drive seal. I also intended to finally replace the right-hand pannier damaged in Panama (which has been a distraction ever since.) The price estimate for the pannier: $525.

To help translate, Marcello introduced me to the Service Manager, Paul. The service department was fully-booked today, but if I have the bike here tomorrow at 8:00 a.m., it should be ready Thursday. At Williamson Balfour, Paul said, foreign travelers are a priority.

Back at the hotel, I received calls from James Ackerson, a fellow biker, and Max Mills, an acquaintance of my brother Drew. Max and "Jim" are good friends, and Max alerted him to my arrival and suggested we hook up.

Jim said he has a hotel for me: the "Park Inn", a "property" that suffers from a low occupancy rate, which at $50 a night represents a good value. Jim said he'd call later to arrange a meeting place for a beer.

Max was calling to make sure all is well. In the next few days, I'll be visiting him in Viña del Mar, about 70 miles west, near Valparaiso.

(A car alarm on the street thirteen floors below makes me realize how rare they are here! And there are few horns. Chileans is so polite and civilized!)

Arranged to meet Jim at Bennigan's, "a good American establishment." "I'll look for you," I said.

"You'll hear me before you see me." He would be riding his Harley to the restaurant.

He rolled in on a pristine chrome and burgundy 1997 Harley Davidson "Heritage Softail Classic" 1450cc. When I remarked how this Las Condes area reminds me of Beverly Hills, Jim laughed and told me the locals refer to this district as "Sanhattan".

Over a mushroom burger and beer, I learned that Jim's the general manager of Valle Nevado ski resort just outside Santiago. Coincidentally, he's originally from Waitsfield, Vermont, just a few miles from Waterbury, where my brother Jeff lives.

A life-long skier, Jim started coming to Chile twenty-five years ago and was eventually hired as an instructor by one of the resorts. We were briefly joined by Jim's friend Louis Byrd (who's in charge of facilities security at the nearby U.S. Embassy) and Louis' co-worker, Jay.

Jim gave me a list of places to go in Argentina: the towns of San Martin de los Andes, Villa Angostura, Bariloche, and the city of Mendoza ("stay at the Hotel Alcor.") He also said I must try Chile's "Montes Alpha M" wine, and, in general, the wines of Chile's Colchagua Valley Apalta region.

After dinner, Jim offered to lead me out to the Park Inn, where he had made a reservation for me. I inspected a room and it looks fine (if empty!) I'll move tomorrow morning, just before delivering my bike to the shop. I followed Jim back downtown, and waved as he headed off home. Back in the Holiday Inn area, and not quite ready to turn in, stopped at Starbucks for a coffee.


Dicky Neely said...

I am listening to Taj Mahal "Giant Step" and "De Ole Folks At Home" on CD Guy copied for me and I look at the Harley pic you posted I'm drooling, just like the "wave" pic!

timtraveler said...

I'm afraid I don't know the songs, but don't drool on your keyboard. That will cause problems.

Dicky Neely said...

Ha Ha! You're right!
When you get home I highly reccommend that album/CD, if you like country blues anyway. Some great roots style stuff!
Buen viaje!