Sunday, February 26, 2006

Traveling Solo

I never did go to sleep Friday, my mind wandering anxiously all through the night. So Saturday, I laid down for a "nap" at 6:00 p.m. and didn't awake until this morning at 7:30.

I finally got around to washing the bike, borrowing a garden hose outside the hotel. Took a closer look at a nail in the rear tire. (I first noticed the nail after checking tire pressures at a refueling stop between Buenos Aires and Mendoza. Knowing how difficult Metzelers are to patch (especially using the BMW tire repair kit), rather than attempt a roadside repair, I left it in, hoping to limp to Santiago, where it could be properly repaired.)

Through a film of water, air was bubbling up around the nail. I then began to inspect other areas of the tire and was shocked to find many tiny leaks. I easily located a dozen or more. Though still having two or three thousand miles of tread-life left, the tire was shot. The $250 German Metzeler wasn't quite as durable as expected. Would a $65 Brazilian Pirelli have done as well? I'm left to wonder.

Checking my notes, I saw that I've traveled 6,500 miles since installing it, many of those miles on tough road, so I guess it's not too surprising. With good pavement, I could probably run it down some more, just topping off with air as needed.

At "Tiramisu" tonight, I looked around and thought "isn't it odd to be the only 'solo diner' in this crowded restaurant?" I'm so accustomed to the condition, that I hardly regard it unusual. This time it felt strange.

Many people have asked, "isn't it difficult to travel alone?"

It certainly has its good and bad points. The most obvious weakness, the limited supply of motivation, creativity and counsel. There's no one there to give me a shake when I need it. And then there are the all-too-frequent bike-lifting exercises; much easier with company. Companions are also useful for keeping watch over motorcycles and gear at border checkpoints and hotel check-ins, summoning help in emergencies, etc.

But the solo traveler experiences fewer arguments and less dissension.

Being out here "solo" is not particularly hard. I've been on a solitary journey most of my life. (In reality, aren't we all on a solitary journey?) For those unaccustomed to viewing life this way, it might be difficult to accept.

I ordered a bottle of sparkling water and was served Pellegrino. The idea of such a basic necessity as water being shipped in little glass bottles from Italy to Chile (where there is an abundance of mountain-fresh spring water) is one example of just how odd, and unreasonable, our world is becoming. (There are many Chilean brands of sparkling water.)

I had an opportunity to try another Chilean wine (this one served by the glass): L'Apostle Cabernet Sauvignon. A very nice wine, full of "dark fruit", chocolatey and ripe, yet crisp. (I apologize if I occasionally lose you with the "wine geek" remarks.)

While seated at a sidewalk table, a young girl passed by offering roses. I declined, gesturing to the empty seat opposite me. "No tengo novia" ("I don't have a girlfriend.") She then asked for money, even if I weren't interested in a rose.

My pizza arrived and she returned to demand a piece. After four visits to my table, I was ready to drag her out to the curb, when the couple seated next to me silently put a slice of pizza on a small plate and handed it to her. I felt like a jerk.

She returned one more time, pointing to the tip I was leaving for my server. Her persistence has apparently served her quite well!

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