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Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Saying Goodbye to Beautiful Guatemala & Friends...

Yesterday I left new friends in San Pedro and made the ride back towards Antigua/Guatemala City.  I was in San Pedro for a week and had an amazing time.  I met great people and experienced lifestyles and ways of living that I hadn't before.  I had hippie conversations in San Marcos, met several shamans who gave me insightful advice for the road, was invited to hang with a traveling gypsy pirate band of ladies who toured me all around the village, and partied it up with loads of great friends.  Lake Atitlan has no natural outlet, which means that the water is currently rising.  There are houses, restaurants, and bars submerged.  In fact, in the last seven years the water has risen approximately 25 feet.  Regardless, the area is magical.  There is a vibe in and around the small towns that dot the banks of the water that can't be found elsewhere.  I met countless people who went to San Pedro for a week, but have stayed for years.  The silver water in Atitlan is a perfect analogy for the people who travel to the area.  They rain in, but can't seem to escape.  

However, I need to get moving.  I have 27 days to make it down to Panama to board the ship to Colombia.  Along the way I've had a few flat battery issues.  I'm 99% sure that I simply need a new battery, so yesterday I tracked one down in Guatemala City.  If you've never had the experience of navigating G.C. in rush hour, riding all over town from shop to shop, dodging all types of vehicles, people, objects, and animals, then you're missing out on an incredibly frustrating, but thrilling experience.  The city is an absolute mess of people, random streets, intersections that lead to nowhere, and buildings in a constant state of construction.  I finally got the battery, then made my way back to Antigua.  I left the bike and the charging battery at Taz's shop (MotoMundo) and found a Spanish school a block away w/ inexpensive rooms.  This morning I stripped the bike and electronics down and swapped out the battery.  I also repaired my windshield extension, and replaced my right side mirror (don't ask - I told you lane splitting in G.C. was insane!).  

Tomorrow morning I plan to wake up relatively early for the ride into El Salvador.  I'm a bit nervous about the border as the truckers are on strike, so apparently there is a 30km traffic jam leading to the crossing.  I can weave my way all the way to the front and pass through immigration without hassle so I hear, but we'll have to wait and see if that happens.  After crossing into El Salvador, I'll take the Ruta de Las Flores southeast and will end in El Tunco where I'll spend a couple of days enjoying the beach, locals, and surf.  After that I'll continue south and probably make my way to the colonial village of Leon in Nicaragua.  

The majority of my time here in Guatemala has been spectacular.  However, I got news on Sunday that Tommy Aquino, a fellow road racer that I've had the pleasure of meeting and riding with, passed away in a motocross training accident.  He was only 21 years of age.  Anytime I hear of a similar situation, and unfortunately there have been quite a few through the years, I get a sick feeling.  I think about the racing that I've done over the years (and hopefully get to do a bit of in the future), and the motorcycle adventure that I'm currently undertaking.  I think, "is all this really worth it?"  "Maybe I should choose a path a bit less risky?"  After thinking about Tommy for quite awhile on Sunday, and my best wishes go out to him and his family, I read a touching article by Pete Hitzeman.  I think it sums up some of the reasons we partake in racing.  It is also fitting for adventure motorcycle travel in my opinion...  Godspeed Tommy.  You'll be missed. 

"At What Price???  

Jones. Lenz. Tomizawa. Simoncelli....  Aquino...

Devotees of motorcycle roadracing find themselves bound to a cruel sport. We raise up our young stars as heroes, and cheer their every triumph. We stand with our fingers in the chain link of trackside fences, mouths agape at their bravery and talent. We celebrate their wins as if they were our own, and share in the frustrations of their losses and setbacks equally. That so many of us also participate in the sport at some level does not detract from the legend of these riders, but enhances it.
This is a sport that satisfies the mind and the senses like no other. The flash of colors and graceful lines. The smells of hot rubber and race fuel. And the sounds. Oh, the sounds. And the strategy, the struggle, the timeless story lines of young-kid-from-nowhere-makes-good. The Davids and Goliaths. In the decade since I discovered roadracing for myself, all other sports have become bland, sepia-toned diversions, by comparison. Roadracing satisfies the soul in ways that cannot be fully explained to the uninitiated.
I followed Tommy’s career since he debuted in the AMA in 2008, and had the pleasure of meeting him on a few occasions in the paddock. He was everything you’d expect from a California kid; easygoing, always with a smile or a joke, and everybody’s friend. He was also blindingly fast on the race track. I remember watching him in the Daytona Sportbike class, where he would qualify well every weekend, only to get shuffled back in the races. That changed in 2011, after an offseason spent sharpening his elbows. Suddenly he had an edgy aggression about him, and he began to blossom.But there is a price for attaching oneself to lives so lived. The very dangers and perils that make our sport so beautiful also bring tragedy. Yesterday, the motorcycling world was again rocked by the loss of another rising star, young Tommy Aquino from southern California. Another rider on his way up, just as he was beginning to make the name for himself that he seemed destined to make, was taken from us in a motocross training accident.
In 2012, he made the bold move to leave the United States and race in Spain in the CEV Moto2 championship, then last year moved to the British Superbike Series to race in the 1000cc Superstock class. He improved steadily throughout the season, scoring his maiden victory at the notoriously tricky Cadwell Park, and finishing seventh in the championship in his first season. He was going to move up to the premier Superbike class this year, and all signs pointed to him having a very successful campaign.
We won’t get to know the rest of Tommy’s story, because the book was closed before it was finished being written. We find ourselves again standing with our fingers in the chain link, tears in our eyes, wondering what might have been.
Why do we do it? Why do we attach ourselves so deeply to a sport that habitually breaks our hearts? Why do we subject ourselves to inevitable pain and loss? These are the questions on the hearts of mourning fans around the world on days like today. There are pastimes less fraught with danger, less likely to subject us to such trials.
But passion cannot be denied. It cries out to us to live fully, to look past heartache and sadness and find joy and excellence. It reminds us that seeking a life free of pain is not to live. Pain and loss will come anyway, despite whatever measures we may take to avoid them. The only recourse is to go on living in a way that makes the sadness bearable.
We will mourn Tommy and comfort his beloved as best we can. And then with heavy hearts, we will strap on our helmets, thumb the starter and go on riding, and racing, and living."
Tommy Aquino - Mid Ohio 2010  |  R.I.P.

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