My Havana Visit – August 2018

“Visitors to Cuba are usually Havana good time.”

The following is one of several stories I plan on writing about my first impression of  Havana.  The last time here I was less than five and my sister was less than three years old.  In 1958, more Americans probably lived in Cuba than Cubans lived in the United States of America.  That all began to change around 1959 when the bearded one and his guerilla army of eighty (80) traveled to Cuba on a 60′ boat named Granma to start a little revolution and overthrow an American backed dictator in power at the time.  For a short while life seemed good with the Cuban people until the bearded one decided he preferred holding onto power; and what better way to do so than to install a communist government.

In the early 60’s the bearded one seized all American owned property on the island, and the rest, …….. well you can easily look it up yourself; and learn about an important part of American and Cuba island history that today, as I see it, seems to still be evolving.

To give you an idea of how big Cuba is; you can easily place Cuba atop the U.S. state of Tennessee.  You can also compare Cuba’s population with just one U.S. City – the City of Los Angeles.

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Above just some random pictures; art work; at the restaurant of the hotel you see in the final picture; my visit to the cathedral.

And all i brought back from a six-day self guided Havana trip are pictures and some memories.  People immediately began asking me how I liked Havana.  My short answer is, “it’s much more complicated than just a yes or a no.

The U.S. Customs guy with my last country surname was the first to ask how I liked Havana.  I found myself saying, it’s sort of a shithole place.  The Oxford dictionary actually gives the definition as an extremely dirty, shabby, or otherwise unpleasant place, i.e.”this place is a shithole.

Yes there is a lot of trash everywhere.  And yes things are very much run down.  But somehow the people put up with it all.  The last time that their frustration level spilled over and it led to social outbreak and dissent was around  April of 1980.

So is Havana all a shithole place you might ask?  Of course not.  Just think of LA and San Francisco then subtract the thousands and thousands of homeless.  Also back out anyone begging for money.  Now imagine no car or pedestrian accidents in a congested city where behemoth 60’s era cars are roaming around anytime of the day or night.  Safety is another honorable mention.  One feels safe anywhere.  Black and white in Cuba blends into people.  Only those looking in seem to see “color” differences.  In five days of walking around the city I personally saw only three guns.  Most wore holsters with no guns in them.  Surveillance cameras seem to be their preferred method of enforcement.

Endless jay walkers are usually within sight of the mostly unarmed police but, no tickets or accidents.  Just don’t try speeding.  That is a big no no.

If you want to visit the Havana I saw just remember that the good always comes with the bad.  There is just no way of getting around it.  First the flight.  If your flight is at 6 a.m. just don’t plan on any sleep due to the fact that travelers to Cuba arrive with lots and lots and lots of luggage.

When you finally arrive and plan on seeing the real Cuba plan on doing a lot of walking.  One good thing is that in Cuba unlike Mexico they learned hundreds and hundreds of years ago how to build sidewalks.  Those same sidewalks are still functioning today.  The majority of the buildings, well, that’s another story.

The hotel where my travel agency booked me was near the heart of Havana.  Old town Havana is somewhat cleaner but, run down and a lot of old buildings are falling apart from neglect.  Simple things like routine maintenance does not happen.

An easy blame the people will tell you is the embargo but, why does the hotel not just hire a good handyman to tighten up that grab bar or stop that toilet from constantly running or clean the A/C filter or …….  Get my point.  There does not seem to be any reinvestment in the hotel cash cow.

At the Havana airport the outside terminal toilets are missing seats and there is no toilet paper.  The inside terminal toilets are also missing toilet seats but, a bathroom monitor for a fee dispenses toilet paper for a small donation.

In old Havana on one residential street the sewer smell was so bad I turned around and took another street.  On the next touristy street everything worked just fine.  When you flush in Cuba, where do you think it all goes?  Walk by the malecon near the cruise ship terminal and you can probably come up with the answer.

Prior to booking this Havana trip I found myself struggling with reasons for and against visiting Cuba.  Now that I’ve visited I can give you my personal assessment.

Don’t visit Cuba if you are in constant need to be on-line.  The locals all look like birds on a high wire hanging outdoors so they can get a signal.  I thought cigar or cigarette smoke from smoking countries would be a downer, it wasn’t.  People considerate in restaurants.  Imagine that.

Even in hot humid August the 60’s era classic American cars continue to run and spew raw fuel and foul-smelling exhaust but, there always seems to be a breeze in the air.  If you like historic buildings visit Havana.  You will never see them in this condition anywhere else in the world.

If you think colonial forts then just watch YouTube about old Havana.  That may be enough for you.  Not once did I need the immodium recommended.  I ate in restaurants, in houses, at the hotel, at a carnival like place however, I always bought bottled water.

Forget the mojito and go after the daquiri’s.  The Floridita is where Hemingway says it is the best served.  The malecon is only about a 10k walk in length.  Never did do the following so if there is another Havana trip in my future then I will add motorcycle tour of the city (possibly on a classic Harley, BSA or triumph); watching a Cuban boxing match and betting on the guy with no hair; and spend more time in museums.

  1. From indigenous cultures to colonialism to the Cold War to current events Cuba is filled with history and there is no way to escape it as you explore the country.
  2. The Malecon is the perfect place to people watch.  (Officially called the Avenida de Maceo).  Construction of the Malecón began in 1901, during temporary U.S. military rule and its main purpose of building it was to protect Havana from the water and the so-called Nortes, but in reality, it is a nighttime spot for the young and in love.
  3. And last but not least for now:  Best line heard on my travel to Havana by an American:

“If somebody is going to limit my travel to Cuba, then it should be a communist; and not my own government”.

Panama vs the Cuba hat; lunch at the Floridita; Hemingway hangout; sculpture.

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Last nights dinner – Quimbobo

quimbobo

 

Amazing to think of the variety of foods our mother cooked and served us as children.  The best and worse parts are that we always had to try the dish but, no one forced us to eat anything we did not care for.  This morning I think back at some dishes she served us like, liver and onions, fried bologna, duck and pigeon, chicken and rice with beer, caldo de gallego (spinach stew) and even quimbobo.

This last dish (quimbobo in Spanish) is known to us as okra.  I never cared for okra as a kid but, recently started reading about the cancer health benefits attributed to it.  I now buy it at home pickled and enjoy it as an appetizer.

Yesterday while shopping at a local Miami grocery store I see quimbobo stew in the deli section.  I take home a bowl of it and sort of forced myself to eat it for dinner.  Not a huge fan of quimbobo as I believe I heated it too long and it turned into a slimey and gooey mess.

Oh well, you can’t win em all.  Now on to my guava desert.

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My Mother

6/9/2018

Our beloved mother, grandmother, and friend Esther Perez left this world and onto the great adventure of life the day before yesterday.  Less than two months ago I visited and stayed with mom, in her Miami home for three weeks.  Almost every morning shortly after waking, I hear laughter, usually about the most insignificant of thing or events.  Her live-in caretaker Maya was like an Angel sent from heaven at just the right time.  My favorite quote, “If Maya is happy, then Mother is happy”, became her siblings mantra.  In three weeks a handicap ramp to wheel her out was built, several raised garden planters established and planted along with a chicken coop and hens with the future potential of laying eggs.  Sometimes crying or laughter may be the only options for an 86 year.  Mother choose wisely in laughing because it always made her feel better.  She also chose wisely in finding Maya on her own.

If you give someone your time, you are giving them a portion of your life.  The greatest gift you can always give a relative or an elderly person is your time.  Today, we close the window of life with mom and open the window of our future life without our mother, grandmother and friend.

If you know my younger sister and two younger brothers, then you know a big part of who and what my mother Esther was all about.  Esther was born in 1932, in a foreign land, yet only 90 miles away by sea.  My father, her first and only husband was born in 1918.  It was almost as if she had a chance to enjoy two separate families based on her siblings ages.  Son 62, daughter 60 both in Havana and a son 51 and 38 years of age born in Miami.

Linked to her 87-year longevity is the strength of her family and social life.  Her grandchildren almost always within a walls separation played a huge role in her well-being.  She was not a perfectionist or what you would call an educated woman however, that woman could butcher a hog, chicken or duck; make fire without a match or paint her own home.  Most of her life she cared for her children or grandchildren, always created a clean, safe, and comfortable home.  Anyone visiting always, never left without a drink or empty stomach.

If the good lord would’ve only granted her another 50 years of life; she could’ve possibly learned enough English to communicate with others, bilingually challenged visitors.  At around the age of 8,9 or 10 my mom tells me that today I am going with my father to Miami Beeeech”.  Father and I board the 7th Avenue and 36th Street bus to Miami Beach arriving around thirty minutes later to a law office building in Miami Beach.  Upon exiting the elevator my feet suddenly slip this way and that way; I kneel and feel inches tall thick and luxurious shag carpeting.  My first time stepping in a carpeted room.  It suddenly becomes obvious to me that I am the only bilingual one in this group of educated men; my task at hand, to translate a real estate contract for the purchase of our first apartment building and future home.

Perhaps in her past life she played baseball.  Almost with pin point precision a shoe lands squarely on the side of my head.  Weeks earlier I was her most trusted family translator.  Today I did something like break this or that; make my sister cry, piss her off or was just plain lazy or did not move fast enough.  Not even a zig zag course away from her helped.  If you escaped the first shoe better duck fast; the second was soon locked and loaded and shortly behind.

In her 70’s an elderly neighbor one day shares with me that one morning he looks out his window and sees mother staring at her duplex.  A short while later she returns with paint bucket, roller and brush in hand.  He watches with amazement at this elderly woman in her “bata” paint the entire side of this two unit duplex.  A “bata” is the most simplest of house dresses that she routinely could be found wearing but, only around the household.  Something you could easily picture your “abuela” in.

He continues to tell me that in the early afternoon it appears as if your mother returns for round two.  This time he thinks she is just going to put the final finishing touches on her paint job.  Again, she stares at her duplex.  He thinks she is admiring her work but, she is not pleased with her new duplex color choice.  Shockingly to him but not to any of her siblings he tells me she starts to repaint the entire building in a new color.  This woman could be found in the encyclopedia of life under the word stubborn.

My mom could also be the biggest gossip in the world.  Give her just one shred of information and it will make the rounds from sibling to granddaughter to aunt to friend and possibly back around again.  She always knows what is going on and is the biggest conspirator that I know.  This woman can also be the most short-tempered and stubborn woman you’ll ever meet.  If my mom does not like something or someone she will not immediately tell you.  Neither one of her four siblings were always her favorite.  For whatever reason but, mostly limited to her siblings chose of spouses we have all disappointed her, in her life, at one point or another.  What she would say now that she is most proud of is her ten grandchildren.

We will not always remember what you said to us but, we will always remember how special you made us all feel.  Thank you and may god continue to smile on you, always.  We knew this day would one day come.  And in her own way she even made her passing easy for all of us.

We will remember you always.

 

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Fruit and Spice Park, Homestead, Florida

Today we visited (third and final day) of the fruit festival fair, at Fruit and Spice Park, Homestead, Florida.  Nearly 200 types of mangos and allot more fruit on display.  The fruit and spice park grows 175 varieties of mangos.  Definitely worth a visit.  May through August is the peak season however, be warned, it is extremely hot, muggy and the rainy season as well.  Mango and Lychee season is NOW.   The lychee originated in Southern China and has been cultivated since at least 2000 BC.  Not to be confused with mamoncillo.  The mamoncillo (a tangy tropical fruit) is native to Mexico and Central and South America.  In the islands they also call it mamon mamones, lime, quenepa, limoncillo and a few other names.

Any fruit on the 37 acre site that fell on the ground was free for anyone that wanted to collect it and take it home.

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Our beloved mother Esther

6/9/2018

Our beloved mother, grandmother, and friend Esther Perez left this world and went on to the great adventure of life, the day before yesterday.  Less than two months ago I visited and stayed with her, in her Miami home for three weeks.  Almost every morning I heard her and Maya laughing loudly about the most insignificant of things or events.  Her live-in caretaker Maya was like an Angel sent from heaven at just the right time.

Our most recent favorite quote, “If Maya is happy, then Mother is going to be happy”, became her siblings mantra.  In those short three weeks a handicap ramp was requested and built so Maya could wheel her out to see her garden; a chicken coop and hens with the future potential of laying eggs was also added.  Sometimes crying or laughter may be the only options for an 86-year-old whose mind was still functioning at 100%.  Her body however, started failing her in recent years.  Mother chose wisely in always laughing because it made her feel good.  She also chose wisely on here own in finding anything from a handyman to a repairman to even a caretaker.  She made up her mind a long time ago that she was not leaving her home in anyones terms but hers.

If you give someone your time, you are giving them a portion of your life.  The greatest gift you can always give a relative or an elderly person is your time.  Today, we close the window of life with mom and open the window of our future life without our mother, grandmother and friend.

If you know my younger sister and two younger brothers, then you know a big part of who and what my mother Esther was all about.  Esther was born in 1932, in a foreign land, yet only 90 miles away by sea.  My father, her first and only husband was born in 1918.  It was almost as if she had a chance to enjoy two separate families based on her siblings ages.  Son 62, daughter 60 both born in Havana and a son 51 and 46 years of age both born in Miami.

Linked to her 87-year longevity is the strength of her family and social life.  She always had a constant stream of phone calls and visitors, perhaps only to gossip or enjoy a novela.

Over the years grandchildren were always within a walls separation of her.  Grandchildren always played a huge role in her well-being.  She was not a perfectionist or what you might call an educated woman however, that woman could butcher a hog, chicken or duck; make fire without a match or paint her own home.  She always saw a meal in her pantry or refrigerator where others might not.  Her cooking talents have certainly been passed on from mother to daughter and granddaughter.  Most of her life she cared immensely for her children and grandchildren, always creating a clean, safe, and comfortable home.  My father while alive always complained about coming home and finding furniture relocated or things never left in the same place days in a row.  Anyone visiting was always fed, no one ever left her home without a drink or empty stomach.

If the good lord would’ve only granted her another 50 years of life; she could’ve possibly learned enough English to communicate with others, also bilingually challenged.  At around the age of 8, 9 or 10 years of age my mom tells me that today I am going with my father to Miami Beeeech”.  Father and I board the 7th Avenue and 36th Street bus to Miami Beach arriving around thirty minutes later to a law office building.

Upon exiting the elevator my feet suddenly slip this way and that way; I kneel and feel inches tall thick and luxurious shag carpeting.  My first time stepping in a carpeted room.  It suddenly becomes obvious to me that I am the only bilingual one in this group of educated men; my task at hand, to translate a real estate contract for the purchase of our first apartment building and future home.  I continued to serve as the family translator until that task was handed down to my younger brother who subsequently passed that task on to the youngest.  So you see, she was always thinking, planning, or scheming.  She savored life in her own way.

Also, perhaps in her past life she played baseball.  Almost with pin point precision a shoe lands squarely on the side of my head.  Weeks earlier I was her most trusted family translator.  Today I can’t remember but, did something like break this or that; make my sister cry, piss her off or was just plain lazy or did not move fast enough.  Not even a zig zag course away from her helped.  If you escaped the first shoe better duck fast; the second was soon locked and loaded and shortly behind.  She was the sole family disciplinarian.  My father rarely if ever got that opportunity.  If her children were not well-disciplined then it was a direct reflection on her.  It’s a wonder all four of us did not become cops; two out of four did.

In her 70’s an elderly neighbor one day shares with me that one morning he looks out his window and sees mother staring at her duplex.  A short while later she returns with paint bucket, roller and brush in hand.  He watches with amazement at this elderly woman in her “bata” paint the entire side of this two unit duplex.  A “bata” is the most simplest of house dresses that she routinely could be found wearing but, only around the household.  Something you could easily picture your “abuela” in.

He continues to tell me that in the early afternoon it appears as if your mother returns for round two.  This time he thinks she is just going to put the final finishing touches on her paint job.  Again, she stares at her duplex.  He thinks she is admiring her work but, she is not pleased with her new duplex color choice.  Shockingly to him but not to any of her siblings he tells me she starts to repaint the entire building in a new color.  This woman could also be found in the encyclopedia of life under the word stubborn.  When she gets a bone in teeth, which she literally did at times, she would suck out the marrow.  She also in my opinion did this with her life.  One thing she hated with a passion was to fly and oh, she was also somewhat claustrophobic.  If she entered an air-conditioned room without seeing a window she would quickly look for an escape route.

My mom also qualified as the biggest gossip in the world.  Share if you will jut one shred of information with her and it will make the rounds like a fire storm from sibling to granddaughter to aunt to friend and possibly back around again.  She always knows what is going on and is the biggest conspirator that I know.  This woman can also be the most short-tempered and stubborn woman you’ll ever meet.  If my mom does not like something or someone she will not immediately let you know.  Like a festering wound.  Neither one of her four siblings were always her favorite.  For whatever reason but, mostly limited to her siblings choice of spouses we have all disappointed her, in her life, at one point or another.  What she would say now is that she is most proud of is her ten grandchildren.

We will not always remember you for what you said to us but, we will always remember how special you made us all feel.  Thank you and may god continue to smile on you, always.  We knew this day would one day come.  And in her own way she even made her departure from life the easiest way that she knew how.

Mother Esther.  We will remember you always.

 

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My Third Baja Bash

Just back on the grid after a week at sea with no service. Quickly penning these words before we check out of Mexico and make our way home.

My sunrises following a daily routine of night watches from 3 a.m. to at least 6 or 7 a.m.

Jasons pictures below on moonless nights after a daily routine of night watches from midnight to three a.m.

And if you only see a black screen then welcome to our world.

Now throw in a pounding 48 foot catamaran making its way up the pacific from cabo to Ensenada, half the time on only one engine.

More adventures to write about when i get back home so patience please. I can only tap so fast on a smart phone screen.

So what is a baja bash? And if its such a nightmare of a trip in the boating and sailing community then why do it at all?

Thoughts to ponder, explore and possibly write about with possibly some highly exaggerated accounts of rats weeks earlier destroying and eating the wiring on this near million dollar catamaran. Next I may throw in how we cheated the piper, near death experiences and accounts of losing an engine. So be patient.

The whales and dolphins finally show up to greet us just as we make one final turn into Ensenada. More to follow.

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Day 14 of 14 – Key West to San Diego Trip

Yesterday one of our group noticed an orange peel size chunk of tire missing from the rear tire of the BMW1200 affectionately called Warthog. Had he not spun that tire earlier it may have gone unnoticed.

And so with the final 300 miles to go to our finish at Imperial Beach, California. The hare in our group was so worried about that tire and the fact that he might be overtaken in the final end by the two slowest of riders that he departed at 0’dark thirty. No one saw or heard him leave. It was a sort of tortoise and the hare type finale where the hare (Terry) is very confident of winning and to be done in by a blow out at the very end; as Scott and Tom come rolling across the Imperial Beach line.

When I ask the other riders if they saw this? The non locals say no.

When I ask everyone in the group at dinner if they saw this?

Or this?

They say no. So, you stop for a moment and wonder who stipped to smell the roses along the way!

And did not miss out on his pie along the way.

H

A little history of the area by

Patrick Daugherty

Imperial Beach was originally part of an 1846 land grant from the Spanish Crown to the benefit of one Pedro Cabrillo. Queen Victoria was on the throne and Grover Cleveland was president when the first American settlers arrived in what is now known as Imperial Beach, then called South San Diego.

And since those settlers were American, and this was California, what instantly happened was commerce, particularly real estate, most specifically, subdivisions.

R.P. Morrison filed a South San Diego subdivision plot with the San Diego County clerk in June of 1867. His plan ran north of Palm Avenue between 13th Street and Fifth Street and west between Palm Avenue and Imperial Beach Boulevard from 17th Street to Ninth Street.

Maps of Imperial Beach made in 1910 show subdivision plots running all the way down Imperial Beach to the mouth of the Tia Juana River. George Chaffey purchased many of these plots, hoping to sell them, at a modest profit, to the good citizens and farmers of Imperial Valley. Another subdivider, Frank Cullen, erected several buildings on the 900 block of First Street, which remained until a municipal fishing pier was built in the 1960s.

Early subdividers established a drill. First, file for a subdivision; then, build a hotel so people would have a place to stay when they came to look at the land; then, the key part of the process, hold a land auction, and then build a community.

There were no guarantees in any of this, particularly the building of the community part, and most of the early subdivisions were written off within 15 years.

Monument City was built on the U.S./Mexican border where the international boundary is today.

The San Diego Weekly Bulletinreported that “the town has been laid out, buildings erected, a school started, and a post office applied for.” The United States Census of 1880 disclosed that Monumentville, San Diego County, California, had residents born in 15 American states, Canada, France, Ireland, Italy, Hamburg, Hanover, Mexico and Norway.

By 1888 most of the South Bay had been claimed. The editor of the San Diego Record wrote, “At the present date, there are nine cities laid out about the south end of the bay. They are as follows in order: Otay, Tia Juana, South San Diego, South Coronado, Coronado Heights, Pacific Park, International City, and Head of the Bay. Add to these Monument City, Imperial Beach, Nestor, Palm City, and the “Little Landers” section and you will see that promoters planned to cover the area with towns.

By 1900, Imperial Beach got its first sidewalks. Dennis Orlanger was there on the 900 block of First Street, along with the Orlanger family, who owned a general store. Down the street from the post-office and soon, a branch of the San Diego County Library. Lots were going for $25 down and $25 a month.

In 1910 the South San Diego Investment Company put up the first fishing pier in Imperial Beach. This purpose was to lure investors. There was also a two-block long boardwalk and a bathhouse. Both washed away during winter storms, the bathhouse in 1949, the boardwalk in 1953.

E.S. Babcock, the man who built the Hotel del Coronado, had a channel dredged through the mudflats in South San Diego Bay in 1910. The channel was 8 feet deep at low tide and 75 feet across. The boats servicing South San Diego Landing were up to 45 feet long and could hold 50 passengers.

Ralph Chandler bought the Grantfrom the U.S. Grant Hotel. The boat was piloted by Captain A.J. Larseen. The excursion route went between H Street in downtown San Diego to the South Bay Landing. The Grant made two trips a day and occasionally a night foray. The following is a snappy advertisement encouraging the public to climb aboard.

And that as they say folks, is the rest of the story.

Now all i gotta do is make it home in one piece.

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Day 13 of 14 San Diego to Key West ride

One more day and a wake-up is all that is left and then this ride is in the books. And the best part is that we are only around 300 miles from San Diego.

This morning we lost two more of our original group of 11. One is riding home to Phoenix and the other to the San Francisco area.

One is recovering well sporting a new short leg and the other took a flight home from El Paso to mend his broken wrist. Both initially planned to complete the ride in San Diego then ride home to their respective states, Indiana and Florida. My how life certainly always gets the last say.

Fourteen days to cross the USA on motorcycles, staying in hotels from a one star to possibly one or two nights in a near 4+ star is not really something to brag about. Not getting bed bugs in the process sure is. Another noteworthy event is that for the most part everyone got along. Non of tge 7 brand new motorcycles experienced any problems.

On several nightly occasions our organizer, gpskevin would hold what I started referring to as nightly court.

Kevin would start proceedings by first filling up on his favorite plastic water bottle with a mystery drink and then take out and place his folding chair in a conspicuous location.

The other riders rallied around with their own chair and drink of choice. Those not in attendance were often times the subject of discussion. The tie dye shirts came up just as frequent as both rider accidents. No blame was ever placed and seldom was anyone found guilty or innocent.

Televison watching played a very small role in our nightly entertainment except for last nights television entertainment, Survivor, naked and afraid. We fell asleep while it was on. The fact that we had the bar to ourselves for several hours may have played a role. This morning most everyone is up at 0500, welcoming in west coast time.

Our normal evening meal at times included the areas dessert, be it flan, key lime pie, pecan, or ice cream. The road warrior motorbike riders worked up an appetite.

Today I was the first to depart Douglas, Arizona. Russell and I checked out the area surrounding the historic Gladsden hotel. A great place to stay and highly recommended.

The most riders I ever rode with was two. Most of the time Scott rode with Tom; Chris rode with Joey and the foot accident kept Russ alternating between three riders hoping to find one that cruised to his liking.

My flea market special phone charger gave out and I headed to Tucson to find a Verizon store. While there I called up an Army buddy. He offered up a room at his house but, I declined on account of him still a busy working exec.

I next filled up the bike with premium fuel. In my travels I have yet to put in more than $10 worth of fuel for a fill up. Today premium at $3.04 gallon in Tucson. Tomorrow California high fuel prices here we come.

Since the Verizon store did not open till 10 a.m. and I am now on west coast time I had an hour to kill so….. I got a 90 minute foot refexology massage. My soorest spot turned out to not be my butt but, my shoulders.

Today we spend the night in Gila Bend. “Located on an historic route of travel, for centuries Gila Bend has has been a place for weary travelers to stop and rest.

The small town of 1,900 people is in the southwestern portion of Maricopa County, 70 miles southwest of Phoenix.

The Butterfield Overland Stage had a timed stop in Gila Bend. A large Hohokam settlement once thrived here and remnants of their platform mound and canal system remain.

Those that stopped to rest and regroup in Gila Bend include famous guides Father Kino, Juan Bautista de Anza, Kit Carson and Jean Baptiste Charbonneau, the son of Lewis and Clark Expedition guide, Sacagawea.

Well-known groups of travelers that stopped and rested include the Mormon Battalion and numerous 49’ers on their way to the California gold fields.

The Butterfield Overland Stage had a timed stop in Gila Bend. Known as the Gila Station, the stop was built in 1858, burned down by marauding Apache and then rebuilt.

The Oatman family tragedy occurred near Gila Bend. Of the family of nine, one survived the massacre, one died in captivity and one, Olive Oatman, was ransomed from the Mohave’s with whom she had lived in captivity for many years.
When the railroad laid its tracks in 1879, the town moved four miles southwest to its present location to take advantage of the economic opportunity.

Portions of the 1879 Wagon Road and 1920’s unpaved ‘highway’ from Yuma to Phoenix are still visible today.

Travelers in the 1920’s and 1930’s enjoyed rare ice cold drinks and fresh ice cream when stopping at the Stout Hotel in Gila Bend, which had its own ice generating plant.
Recently celebrating its 50th anniversary of incorporation,

Gila Bend is memorialized in song, Los Lobos’ The Road to Gila Bend; in film, The Man Who Loved Cat Dancing starring Burt Reynolds and Sara Miles; and more recently was in the international spotlight when Prince Harry of England’s royal family called Gila Bend home for a month while training at the local Gila Bend Air Force Auxilliary Field.

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Day 12 of almost home

Twelve days ago we began our cross country motorcycle ride from Key West to San Diego. We are now in Douglas, Arizona, staying at a respectable historic hotel.

Things are looking up in all manner. The scenery. We left Texas and briefly rode across New Mexico, then when we crossed into Arizona, a smile fell upon my face.

Maybe it was the blue skies, the cowboy like scenery, the golden grassland, or the fact that we are that much closer to home.

Yes, we are this close to Mexico.. Note the sign above.

If you think riding cross country on a motorcycle is impressive. Don’t. A group of 70 and 80 year olds left our hotel recently on bicycles.

They left San Diego sometime ago and and are traveling to…….wait for it……….to key west!

It will take them something like 3 weeks to cross Texas. Took us 3 days with only one casualty.

Along the way I learned a little history about each area we visited. For example, Douglas, Arizona was first settled by the Spanish in the 18th century.

It was founded as an American smelter town for the prosperous copper mines in Bisbee, AZ, and was incorporated in 1902.

An incorporated town will have elected officials, as differentiated from an unincorporated community, which exists only by tradition and does not have elected officials at the town level.

Douglas also had a front row seat to the Mexican uprising that began Nov. 20, 1910.

In April 1911, fighting broke out in Agua Prieta, Sonora, just across the border from Douglas. Madero sympathizers attacked Diaz troops as Douglas residents gathered, despite whizzing bullets, to watch.

The rebels defeated the federal troops, a crushing blow to Diaz, who was deposed and fled the country a few weeks later.

Madero was elected president and had a loyal general in Francisco Villa, aka Pancho Villa.
In the early morning of March 9, 1916, several hundred Mexican guerrillas under the command of Francisco “Pancho” Villa cross the U.S.-Mexican border and attack the small border town of Columbus, New Mexico.

Seventeen Americans were killed in the raid, and the center of town was burned. It was unclear whether Villa personally participated in the attack, but President Woodrow Wilson ordered the U.S. Army into Mexico to capture the rebel leader dead or alive.

My sole ambition is to rid Mexico of the class that has oppressed her and given the people a chance to know what real liberty means.

And if I could bring that about today by giving up my life, I would do it gladly.”

Pancho Villa

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Day 11 of 14

The town was named for the nearby Sierra Blanca Mountains, which were named for the white poppies which grew on them (sierra blanca is Spanish for “white range”).

Today is our last day in Texas. Last night it was still 96 degrees in the shade when we returned from a fantastic dinner. Thank goodness for air conditioning. We are far from any restaurant chains at the moment but, we have a full tank of gas to get us far from this desert climate fast.

T

Truly beautiful to look at and enjoy. Someone took a great amount of time to showcase their place.
Sierra Blanca has served as the junction of the Southern Pacific and Missouri Pacific railroads.

When Hudspeth County was formed in 1917 from El Paso County, Sierra Blanca was named the county seat, and has the only adobe courthouse in the state of Texas.

The 10 freeway took the town out pre 70s timeframe. Hotel owner tells me it is starting to make a comeback.

If you ever happen to be driving through Sierra Blanca — the dusty West Texas town (pop. 553) just 30 miles from the Mexican border — leave your drugs at home.

Since 2010, a slew of entertainers including Willie Nelson, Snoop Dogg, Fiona Apple and actor Armie Hammer (The Social Network) have been busted at the U.S. Customs and Border Protection checkpoint there. The motel owner telks me that Dogg was so upset that he refused to take his limo back. It was auctioned off.

We are this close to home now. Tody we lost our broken wrist bmw rider, tomorrow we lose the Ducati and bmw hooligans. I say this affectionately as those two are the salt of the earth, the rock of Texas, the …..you get the point.

Our rooms have gotten to the point where an outhouse is in the motel square. We are about 68 miles from El Paso now.

This was a great sign today passing through Marza, Texas.

The winds in Texas. We shall not miss you.

Our final night in Texas.

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