Wednesday, September 2, 2009

The Moped Diaries: Part 2

The Moped Diaries (2:2) from Forest Woodward on Vimeo.
The second part of the journey. Early morning ride out of the Sierras and down to the Mediterranean Costa del Sol...

Day 3: 6:00 AM -John wakes me up in the morning to shoot sunrise. "Hey man, I don't think I'm gonna..." is all I need to hear. When we wake up next the sun is well on its way. Exploring the town we are informed that there is no mechanic, but the old campesino running the gas station might be able to help us. You get funny looks riding a scooter. The looks are even funnier when you only have one scooter to share. Pulling up at the gas station, we find Jorge, a taciturn old fellow with the bronzed and weathered look of a man who has lived life a bit closer to the sun and the earth than our sevillano friends in city. He's not impressed with our moto, or I imagine, by the fact that we pulled up looking like lost newly weds. Having explained our predicament Jorge responded with the open generosity that is still lived and taught in small communities where living together means helping one another, and where strangers are treated with equal generosity. Looking our scooter over he gives us the appropriate socket wrench and instructions for how to remove the muffler in order to get at the punctured tire.

Thanking him, we scoot off up towards the pass. Locating the scooter we lug it back out of the underbrush and set about removing the tire. Tire removed, John runs up and down the mountain on the moped while I explore what may be one of the most magnificent places I could have hoped to be broken down. Heading back to town in time for gazpacho and a siesta.

5:00 PM and we're on the road to Zarah. On the road there, John and I throw ourselves into the turns with a childlike glee. We are the most shameless of scooter riders. We stop a couple of times to explore and shoot some stock of John running.
Arriving at sunset, Zarah is guarded by an old castle perched on the overlooking cliff and proves to be yet another beautiful stop in the chain of pueblos blancos.

Day 4: 4:00 AM John has somehow tricked me into getting up and pushing through the Sierras and down to the Mediternean Costa del Sol for sunrise. When we left Sevilla it was sweltering hot. High in the mountains the night air is cold. Dawning every article of clothing we had, and downing copious amounts of coffee from a mysterious espresso machine in the hostel, we take to the road, winding further into the mountains. John is fun to travel with, but a bit over prepared. He wasted precious moments of sleep gassing up his moped last night because he was afraid of running out in the morning. How boring I thought.
5:30 AM I pull over, ashamed. My scooter's running on fumes. I had hoped to keep going without having to say anything to John, but we're a good half hour past Rhonda and heading towards the last pass before we begin our descent to the coast. We decide to keep climbing and see how far we get. As the sky begins to lighten, and long after my needle has stopped falling and sits at the bottom of the fuel gauge, we crest a ridge and are greeted by the welcome sight of a gas station. Closed. John, good natured as ever, waits with me.

7:00 AM: Refueled and back on the road. We wind through high rocky country, looking back we can make out los pueblos blancos - white smudges tucked amongst the folds of the mountains. A full moon follows us along the ridge. The morning is a pastel wash of color, until suddenly cresting the last ridge we look out over the vast glittering expanse of gold that is the Mediterenean.

Mid-morning: Finds us sitting in a bit of a daze at a cafe in San Pedro. What the hell are we doing here? Culture shock. After our laid back experience in los pueblos blancos, the high rises tastefully sprinkled with swimming pools and golf courses seem strange. It's not that though. It's the people. They're different here. No friendly greetings, no gas station mechanic waiting to lend us tools. The people here are worried. They got a taste of something good, they know they did. And they'll be damned if they're not going to eat the whole thing.

They got nicer cars, they built bigger houses, and they got dogs that clearly declared what unique and classy individuals they are. But something had happened. Maybe they got here too late. Maybe it wasn't their fault. Maybe San Pedro was drying up already. Maybe they dug too deep to set the foundations for taller high rises so that they could see over the old one's they used to live in. Maybe they got greedy when they put their swimming pools in the way of the ocean. But who can blame them? Who wouldn't want to go swimming in the ocean from the comfort of their very own private swimming pool? The health department probably didn't understand that. Investors didn't understand why their resorts were getting shut down. Even Mr. Tan, sunbathing next to the giant fake elephant, didn't realize he was tan enough already. And sleeping beauty didn't realize how hard it is to look beautiful when you're lying two feet from a manhole. Somewhere along the line crusty met chrome in San Pedro, and the people seemed to be having a bit of trouble coping.

Down on the beach we met Luise. He was from Mexico. If his story is to be believed he is probably the first man to walk from Mexico to Spain. And if he follows his dreams to meet up with his girlfriend in Australia, he will likely be the first man to have walked from Spain to Australia. He said sometimes he swims too.

Early Afternoon: Pleasantly full and satiated after lunch, I nap for awhile. Becoming bored with John's interminable phone convo with his gf back in the states I pick up the camera and wander up the beach. I'm in a horribly aloof mood today. Do I really think I'm better than all these people? I guess riding a scooter for three days will do that to a person. I slap on the wide angle and set out to capture the ridiculous parade of pooches and their owners on the boardwalk. While the dogs sniff the lens the owners smile proudly, oblivious to the fact that I'm actually taking their picture. How clever I must be. Most of the people I meet are genuine and harmless and I start to feel bad. Maybe it's not San Pedro that has the problem here. Does beauty need to be certified "all natural" and cut out of a calendar for me to see it? I give up my pedantic pooch project and look for people who're more my speed and might have some insight into what this San Pedro place is about. Enter Micah and his Kite Wing. An extreme sport junky he had moved to Spain some 15 years ago to escape the violence in South Africa.

After shooting him hucking off the sea wall for a bit, John and I encourage him to piece together a bit more of the San Pedro story for us, "You see it used to be beautiful. Pristine white beaches. All up and down this coastline it was open. Now, well, you can see." But more to the point was this anecdote, "I was windsurfing one day and all this sludge was splashing up on me. It took me a minute to figure out I was in fact surfing on shit. Actual shit man. It didn't used to be like that." I agree, it probably didn't. San Pedro is too much for me to try and wrap my head around today. We accomplished our goal to make it to the sea. Now I want to go back to the mountains.

The Mediterranean at our backs we climb into the late afternoon sun. Dusk finds us back in Rhonda. Discussing our options we decide we can push all the way back to Sevilla tonight. Coming back down out of the sierras the night is a swirl of smells. some familiar, some completely distinct and exotic. The ambiguity of the road at night brings back memories. Splashes of brightness in the pool of night. I'm a kid again, swept back along roads traveled with my family. The cool sweet smell of evergreen brings back the canyons of Colorado and Utah. A mix of exotic smells i can't quite place sweep me through the mountains of Chile and memory connects to another, branching tangentially in the pool of light splashed out across the racing asphalt. Vague memories hide in the silhouettes of old drooping trees against the night sky. I-pods off. I breath in the night. New memories tucked greedily away. Mind clear and open. As we come back into Sevilla, the smells become rank, sewerish and the memories associated are few. Cars fly by and i concentrate on the road again. Midnight find us back in Sevilla. Still vibrating from the road we stumble off of our mopeds, and attempting to regain feeling in our limbs. Looking at each other across our scooters and from under our astronaut helmets we begin to laugh. It's a good laugh. The shameless laugh of one friend enjoying how ridiculous the other is, knowing full well he sees in him his own reflection.

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