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September 28, 2011
In Argentina the drivers are courteous and friendly but have an odd style of driving, particularly in regards to intersections. It’s said here that the moment that exists between the yellow and red light is called ‘adrenaline’. But what is funnier than that is that it’s their joke. What is not so funny and makes little sense is how they drive through red lights. Since everyone does it you can pretty much be sure that going into a red light at an intersection is near fatal, yet people here will start driving through the reds as though they just came to a four way stop, it’s nutty.
We set up our tent in Mendoza, this involved shaking out all the leaves from Uspallata, stowed our gear in the administration office and headed for Carlos’ shop. It wasn’t easy to find with our GPS and asking people on the street is often the same everywhere so here is the address and GPS coordinates: J. Lencinas 1158 Guaymallen, Mendoza;
S32o 53.214’ W068 o 49.596’
Once there Deya and I got started on the oil and filters change, the next day. Old hat by now with the oil and so the conversation moved to my tedious complaining of Deya’s clutch function and the rut like feeling her front tyre was producing. Carlos laid hands on it, adjusting the clutch to an optimal position. Deya asked if he’d take it for a turn and Carlos obliged, jumping on to check out that clutch and front tyre. He came back shaking his head, I knew what he was thinking, “Brian you idiot, there is nothing wrong with this bike!” To my cheer and dismay that’s not what he was thinking. The clutch is good, the front tyre is fine but the steering head bearing is shot. That’s what is causing the ‘riding the rut’ sensation that has been bugging me. I have never felt that before, not even on my bike when I had to get mine replaced…hmmmm….
We would have to figure this one out before we carried on but first we needed to go to the local BMW dealer to have this front disc issue resolved. There are things that are not a big deal, like the seal on the engine leaking a bit of oil.
As Professor Kai says, “If there is oil coming out then there is still oil, don’t worry about it” We headed to the dealership for some legendary BMW service.
When we got to the BMW dealer in Mendoza no one got up to figure out how to help us, we had to go looking. After telling them about the recall issue on the front disc we basically got the run around. First they weren’t sure if they could help us because we were Canadians with Canadian bikes, next their system was down and they would not be able to check to see if there was a recall. We were told that we would be emailed tomorrow (mañana) to let us know IF they could help us, then sent away. Helping us out would be to know what you’re doing in the first place, but I digress. Deya of course wanted an email contact but could only get a personal one which we only noticed afterwards, it tells you something eh?
The situation around the BMW dealer would eventually end up in Germany to which the response would be, as we’ve always experienced, immediate and without confusion, we love sei Germans. After we left the dealership that day we went and confirmed from our tent what they could apparently not confirm from their fancy office; the six screws on the front disc had the potential for failure and were being recalled.
Recalls are unfortunate but they make for an excellent opportunity to contact your customer and create the opportunity for a good impression, thus more work and better brand recognition. The dealership failed, the next day and the following five days they made no attempt to contact us until our Germany source stepped in, then the response was immediate. This is not the first time we’ve had this issue with dealers and I’m sure it won’t be the last. By the way, we don’t get paid to chase the dealership around for service they are required to perform or intelligently should perform so the five days wait is on their heads.
When we finally got the screws changed they once again failed to perform at an acceptable standard of service based on our expectation of the BMW brand. Any dealership from any brand or any ‘Joe’ mechanic shop could have performed as poorly. I’m not just complaining to be a jerk, we once again had to find them, ask for help and wait for someone to help us. What they didn’t bother to mention was the obvious, Deya needs two new tyre and front brake pads. A quick look would have revealed oil on the engine leaking from the old seal, “Hey what’s that Service light flashing for?” Oil and filter change, too late but a valve check, sure. Oh and what about that brutal steering, well throw in a new steering head bearing at 50,000 kilometres and you’ve got yourself some business. Are they going to get the work, no, obviously they didn’t want it. Done my rant.
Since we were visiting the famous Carlos Desgens from Mendoza and he was letting us use his shop to drop our oil we asked him if we could take him for dinner, something Argentinean. This is an ‘all kinds of good’ idea since we get to eat, hang out with a local, learn about the food and culture, repay the kindness and hopefully make someone happy. Carlos seemed happy to pick a place and that evening we headed back to the shop to drop the bikes off and head out for an evening meal at a restaurant serving typical food.
We ended at a place known to Carlos called ‘El Patio’, it was quiet as I think we arrived early for dinner at 8:30 pm, and he had to confirm that they would serve that early. We got the grilled meat course which started with a beautiful empanada, many cuts of beef, pork and veal and ended with a lovely lemon liqueur called Lemoncello. To accompany the dinner were a bottle of Malbec (most common in Argentina) followed by a Cabernet Sauvignon-Malbec blend. When the first cut of meat came out, grilled to perfection, fading from pink to blue in the middle, I took a deep drink of the Malbec and cut into the beef. When it hit my tongue tears gathered in my eyes and I was moved by the sensation of the expertly prepared meat, the salt and fat still liquefied over the browned and smoky exterior. I had to stop and sit back savouring the tastes and the care that had gone into the food and to stop myself from actually crying. It was emotional and I was grateful for the experience. It is seldom that I’ve tasted food and wine with such flavour in such an environment and at that moment it was like magic for me.
After a tremendous dinner we headed for an ice cream shop nearby. Deya and I both had two different flavours, some with chocolate. Easily the best ice cream I’ve ever had and I’ve had some good ice cream. Maybe again it was the moment but since I was already fully stuffed and emotionally drained I don’t think so. This was a good night.
Following we would go to a vineyard for an ‘asado’ which means grill and I think of as a BBQ, though I’ve been sternly corrected that it is NOT a BBQ. The gang was a lot of fun and we even got up to some mischief, good clean fun. Among the goodness was more interesting food, see The Road Sandwich: www.theroadsandwich.blogspot.com
We would take a tour of two different vineyards and wineries, an olive factory and an olive farm. Just going around the city is nice and making the occasional run to get meat, wine and beer is always enjoyable. The new group of friends would have us over to ‘El Piezon’, a motorcycle rider only group where Deya would have been only the second girl to have entered the premise in 30 years.
Later we would attempt to cook for the group and regale them with tales of adventure, sully and fame, or something like that, I hope they liked it.
Our campground was awesome, Deya and I really enjoyed our time there and we could easily spend seasons. We’ve had a couple of asados and hung out drinking wine and chatting late into the night, when in Rome… We interviewed another winery and had a fantastic tour.
I think as kids we all want to have our own ‘bat-cave’ but as adults, at least me anyways, we would like to have a stocked wine cellar, awesome! The good times for us have been one after another and the people we have been meeting are simply fantastic. I would even liken it, for us, as being similar to the Maritimes in hospitality except different, like Professor Kai says, “Same-same but different” totally cracks me up.
On one of the tours and on a couple of other occasions we witnessed the stereotyped behaviour said to be typical of Argentineans, arrogance. We learned that the bulk of this comes from Buenos Aires for some reason and heard an infamous quote to support the idea:
“The best business in the world is to buy an Argentinean for a fair price then sell him for what he thinks you must have paid.” -Peter Apel.
Despite what we’ve heard, the people in Argentina have been in every aspect, fantastic, friendly, professional, courteous and helpful. I’m going to miss this place when we are gone but we need to either go now or stay until next year, I am not too sure of the right answer. We met some other riders and there are no shortages of fine folks to spend time with. The family we spent our final night with in Mendoza, the first bed we have slept in since entering Argentina was simply fantastic. We had more good food, wine and conversations; there is a theme here which I’m sure you are starting to read into. The only bad part is not spending enough time with people, there are so many interesting things to do and learn about the people we’ve met here that it’s a shame not to have more time for them. We missed more than we shared and we shared a lot.
Gas shortages and import supply problems seem to be rampant here, we were told it was political issues, but I don’t understand why that is. Gas, when it’s available is a cash only transaction, even if the station normally accepts credit cards. This is because the delivery drivers will only accept cash, I don’t get that either. Regardless, we get gas whenever we have covered over 100 kilometres or can find it. We understand that as we approach Bolivia it’ll get worse and when we enter Bolivia we’ll be using 85 octane whether we like it or not.
As we headed North of Mendoza along what seem to be an endless stretch of desert highway we found something really cool. It was Sunday and it would seem that any tree large enough to shade a whole family was supporting a picnic, usually with an asado and vino, at the roadside. Two hundred kilometres of families out in the desert is a strange and wonderful sight and the smell of grilled food and scene of people enjoying the afternoon a real delight. The road changed from desert to forest as we approach the mountains, our route would take us from Mendoza through Valle Fertil, Tafi del Valle to Cafayate.
En route we would stop for a nap under a tree, there was a police trailer there. As we prepped for a twenty minute nap the police officer came out and offered the shade of a nearby building. After a short rest in the 35oC heat the officer would offer us some cold water, mate or coffee as we desired. He told us we just missed the asado, darn. We talked a bit before heading out, it was another good experience. We heard that the police in Argentina were not good but that hasn’t yet been our experience, typically only getting a friendly wave as we pass through.
By now we’ve arrived in the lovely little town of Cafayate, touristic with many Bodegas and Fincas de Vino. It’s a lovely place and we decided to spend a couple of days camping near town to catch up on our blogs and other details including researching our route and borders into and through Bolivia. When we finally checked our emails we found out that a fellow rider we met in Cartagena was killed making a left turn in Alaska, R.I.P. friend.
I’ve been in many situations where an intersection that should seem simple, seems totally alien and entering it can be sketchy at best. Whatever made this Toshiaki’s last I feel for him and understand. What is tough is thinking about Carlos, who if you recall we enjoyed time doing maintenance at his father’s shop in Quito, Ecuador, and what Carlos has had to deal with on the spot and since then.
Carlos is returning alone to Ecuador, I’m not yet sure how or what condition he is in but if we can find a way to help him out on his path home we will, our thoughts are with you Carlos.
The news’ clip from the Daily News – Miner in Fairbanks, Alaska:
“Truck not at fault in fatal motorcycle accident
by Sam Friedman / firstname.lastname@example.orgFairbanks Daily News Miner
Aug 31, 2011
FAIRBANKS — After reviewing Tuesday’s fatal traffic accident in downtown Fairbanks, police have concluded the pickup truck driver who hit and killed a motorcyclist was not at fault.
The accident occurred in late afternoon at the busy intersection of Cushman Street and Airport Way when a red Ford-150 going west on Airport Way collided with a motorcycle making a left turn to go north on Cushman.
The motorcyclist, 64-year-old Matsuura Toshiaki of Japan, was pronounced dead at Fairbanks Memorial Hospital. The Japanese consulate has contacted his family, Sgt. Eric Jewkes with the Fairbanks police department said. A second motorcyclist at the scene told the News-Miner he and Toshiaki had been returning from a ride to Deadhorse at the time of the accident.
A review of the accident showed both drivers had either green or yellow lights, Jewkes said. In either case, the pickup truck had the right of way. There was no evidence the truck’s driver Jonathan Blevins, 21, was speeding or under the influence.
“Unfortunately everyone is the victim here,” Jewkes said.”