« on: May 29, 2014, 12:22:34 am »
I wasn’t much of a motorcyclist. Just prior to this trip I was going to sell mine back home, barely stepping on the thing and, when I did, having an anxiety filled ride with death around every corner. And I thought back to my first days in Colombia, back in Cali, with my host happily whipping his Honda Pilot around mountain roads, heedless of the motorcyclists, ever present, ever daring. Ever crashing, actually, how many of them had we seen tossed to the side of the roads just since we’ve been here?
The day was waning. Doors to storefronts were shut for the lengthy lunchtime. People were in their homes with their families, eating hugely in the afternoon, resting a while before the remainder of their days. Eating, I couldn’t even remember the last time I’d done that. I was hungry.
I came to another intersection with a wide street and turned right down there. There were shops and signs lining it rather than the homes of the other little drives. That would have to be good enough to find a motorcycle renter. The hotel manager motioned some distance away, back in his office, so I quickened my pace, nearly running, long uneven strides with the fresh memory of one unshod foot and the very present feeling of stretching, healing, bandaged flesh. Zipaquira’s array of colors turned dizzying.
Just off to one of the side streets a woman patted out handmade arepas and threw them on a well heated grill made from a bisected oil drum. My mouth watered, forgetting my mind’s aversion to the food staple. I quickly ordered three of them and ate them still steaming and burning down the rest of the street. A motorcycle ride wouldn’t get me to Bogota much faster if I passed out from hunger on the way. I was practically choking on the last dry bit of the corn cake when I saw the row of bikes ahead of me.
I hadn’t ridden things like these since my license. Tiny 250cc machines, efficient as can be. My attention was split between looking the bikes over and trying to find a clerk to rent one from.
“Hello, my friend,” I heard. I looked around, seeing nobody. “I’ll be right down,” the man’s voice said. I looked up. He was leaning out the window of the second floor. He ducked back into the house and I could hear the footsteps leading off to the rear of the building. A door slammed and the thudding of boots hit the stairs. He appeared in front of me a moment later, jeans and black boots, a bright pink shirt and a smile. “What can I do for you,” he asked, his English heavily accented.
“I’d like to get to Bogota on one of these,” I said, and swept my hand out at the bikes.
“Sure, sure. Have you ever ridden before?”
“Oh, yeah, plenty, I have a Bonneville back home.”
He raised his eyebrows. “We don’t have anything quite like that, but…”
“That’s fine. Just tell me you have something with an automatic starter,” I said. I’d never used a kickstart before and this was not the time to try. “How about that Honda over there?”
I worked out a price with him that allowed me to ride the thing one way. He was going to have a cousin of his pick it up and bring it back for an extra fee. I climbed on the tiny machine. It was amazingly light. I could bounce it back and forth between my legs. I turned the key in the ignition and hit the starter. Nothing happened. I needed to go, I needed to get to Bogota. I hit the starter again, there was a dull rasping noise and no life to the engine.
I looked around wildly and the man was there again. He held up his finger for me to wait a moment, bent down next to the engine, and flipped down the fuel control valve. He backed away and gave me a thumbs up with a bit of a worried expression on his face. Of course. I hadn’t used a fuel valve since I got licensed.
When I hit the starter the engine came to life. I waved to the guy again and flipped down the visor on my helmet, instinctually missing my regular riding gear like gloves and a jacket, just briefly, before I eased off the clutch and moved it forward to Bogota.