For reasons you'll soon understand, I'm barely coherent enough to think, let alone write. I had a few ideas for posts to write, but since I don't currently have the wherewithal to do them justice, a summary of the past 24 hours of my life will hopefully give you a bit of entertainment.
It's the day before the cruise, which means that I have a bunch of stuff that needs to get done before I leave the states for a month. As I slide out of REM sleep I miraculously remember that today is the last day I can ship my failing RV batteries back for warranty service. Each one weighs 70 pounds.
So, before I have my pants on, I've got the battery compartment open in the "living room" and I'm disconnecting all the wires. I notice that the batteries are now "bulging" because they've somehow degraded. That might be a problem since it took a solid right-foot-stomp to get one of them to fit into the compartment in the first place.
The first battery comes out with no problem. Perfect. The second one seems to now be an inch too big to get out. Crap. I yank and tug and try every angle imaginable, but the battery is just not coming out. I'm at a loss for what to do.
Finally, an idea. I yank on the rubber surround of the battery boy opening and tear it away from the metal it protects. That just bought me at least half an inch. I try again, and although I'm much closer, I still can't get the battery out. I grab a pair of pliers and mangle the unprotected metal. Miraculously the battery comes out.
There's a text on my phone. "Have a good trip. See you when you get back."
Uh oh. It's the guy I'm trying to buy a motorcycle from. I was hoping he'd accept a Paypal deposit to take the bike off the market while I'm gone, but he isn't going to. My motorcycle is a 2003 Ducati Monster 620. His is a 2005 Ducati Monster S2R 800. Just as I spent a month looking for a good deal on my original bike, I had been checking craigslist every day for a good deal on an S2R 800. His was the best price I'd found, and the color I really wanted -- yellow with a black racing stripe.
I call him up to see if we can meet up to get a bike sold today. He lives an hour and a half away, and reluctantly agrees to meet me forty-five minutes away in Palo Alto at 7pm.
The two batteries combined weigh more than I do. How am I going to get them to the UPS store to ship? Electric skateboard. I put them in the middle of the board, straddle them with my feet, and blast down the sidewalk. I could probably skate to Montana if I actually had these giant batteries powering the board. I skate into the UPS store to a lukewarm reception. I explain that I need to ship the batteries, and the clerk tells me that they have to be shipped from the main UPS branch because they're hazardous. I try to explain to her the differences in battery chemistry and how sealed AGMs can be shipped normally. She keeps pointing to a sign that looks like it's from an illustrated children's book that has a NO sign over a battery.
I ask to speak to the manager, who I suspect is her father. He's nice, but won't stray from the law of the laminated sign. I skate my batteries back to the RV and begin to rent a ZipCar, when I realize that instead I can just use TaskRabbit for $10 more and have someone do the errand for me. Perfect for a day like today.
I'm at Samovar finishing up some last minute computer things when I get a call from the runner from TaskRabbit. We go over the details of the errand, and there's a slight pause.
"So, umm... I have a question."
"Are you the Tynan I think you are?"
"Uhh... yes, probably."
Nice! Nothing feels as good to a Z-list celebrity like myself than being recognized.
Skip a few hours of boring errands / showering / etc
I burst into Chilango, one of my favorite SF restaurants, and dispose with the normal pleasantries. "I need to eat super fast... Todd and I will both have the usual."
Just as Todd gets there, my six tacos and his half pound of carnitas hit the table. I wolf my food down, make tentative plans for a second dinner when I get back from meeting the motorcycle guy, and run to the train station. I make it, and make the connecting Cal-Train to Palo Alto, too.
I'm in Palo Alto. I don't see any yellow motorcycles.
Still in Palo Alto. Still no motorcycle. I can't call him, because he is ostensibly riding a motorcycle.
The guy is here. My flight is at 11 and I still need to go back to the city before hitting the airport. At this point I almost have to buy the motorcycle. The train schedule isn't robust enough to get me back in time. Only a real disaster of a bike will convince me to pay a hundred or so for a taxi.
I ride one hundred feet down the parking lot and back.
Transaction complete. I have a new motorcycle, and it's awesome.
I'm just starting out on my longest motorcycle ride ever-- forty five minutes. The guy who sold me the bike had removed the small bikini fairing from the front of the bike, which means that all of the wind hits me in the chest and tries to push me off. There are crosswinds, too, which bat my head around as I'm going 80 on the freeway. This is sort of insane.
I park the motorcycle, snap a few shots of it next to my old bike, and head for the train to the airport. I'm feeling pretty good about things-- errands run, new bike, and right on time for the airport. Little do I know that there's a disaster in my near future.
On a lark, one stop away from the airport, I check my bulk mail folder. There's an email from TripIt, telling me that my flight has been delayed by two and a half hours. AirTran, the official airline of plebians, didn't think to tell me about it.
I hop off the train and wait 20 minutes for the next one back to SF. I amuse myself by singing and dancing in the huge deserted train station. They probably have cameras.
I've just paid $5.20 for the privilege of riding the train back and forth for an hour. On the plus side, I now have time for a final meal at Gracias Madre, two blocks from the train station.
"Dude, we still have an hour to kill," I say to Todd as we finish eating, "let's go back to my RV and ride motorcycles for a while."
Todd hems and haws for a minute, not because he doesn't want to ride, but because he's concerned about time. We agree to just ride for 20-30 minutes.
We pull up to the first stop sign on the bikes.
"God... this is so fun!"
I launch off the stop sign at a reasonable clip. I'm not going over 35 or so, but I sure do get there fast. Todd zooms by me and heads for a turn. He's going too fast, I think... I hope he knows to lean and not hit his brakes.
Todd is sliding across the pavement. So is my bike, leaving a shower of sparks behind it. As I pass him I hear a crash. I pull over at the first stop and run back towards the accident.
The first thought that crosses my mind is that Todd might be dead. If he's not, he's probably severely injured. He had a crappy helmet with no face protection, and regular street clothes.
He jumps up and walks towards me with his (bloody) hands in the air. All I can think is that he shouldn't walk if he has a broken spine or something. The motorcycle is under the rear bumper of an SUV, gasoline is pouring out, the engine is revving high, and the horn is blaring. The handlebars are so mangled, that in our shocked state, we can't figure out how to kill the bike. A neighbor runs out and does it for us.
Bike is clearly totaled. The gas tank is shredded and pouring gasoline everywhere. The handlebars are now shaped like a U. We need to stash the bike somewhere so that we can call a tow truck, leave a note for the not-really-damaged-SUV, and get to the airport stat. If we stick around too long, police will come and cause us to miss our flight.
How did the police get here so fast? A paramedic is trying to get Todd to go to the hospital and a fireman is dumping kitty litter on the spilled gas. There's no way we're making this cruise, but we also have bigger issues on our hands: neither of us have valid licenses (I'm STILL waiting for Texas to send me mine and Todd doesn't have a motorcycle license), and neither of the bikes are registered.
If I can be honest about it, Todd and I are handling the police situation like champions. Just the right mix of humility, respect, cooperation, and remorse. They've discovered that he doesn't have a motorcycle license, but let it slide. I get roped into the ID showing somehow, but the officer doesn't notice that it's expired by a few months. We're lucky.
Initially they won't let us move the motorcycle and want us to wait for a tow truck. We try to move it, but the cops aren't happy that we're creating a gasoline/asphalt slip-n-slide. Finally we realize that if we unhook the tank, one of us can lift it while the other pushes the bike to a parking spot across the street. After a small amount of debate and contacting the owner of the SUV, they let us go.
We're behind Todd's car and I'm pouring water and soap on his hands as he tries to disinfect them. It hurts, apparently.
Too late to take the train now. Taxi time. We do a quick last minute check to make sure we have everything. Computer? Check. Charger? Check. Camera? Check. Passport?
Todd stares at me in horror. He has no idea where his passport is, and we're running out of time.
Luckily it's in the one spot in his car worth checking. If not there, it would have been at his office, which we wouldn't have time to go to.
Airport. I check in and realize that because of the delayed flight, I'm going to miss my connecting flight. AirTran has taken the liberty of booking me on a flight TWELVE HOURS LATER.
"Sorry, that flight won't work for me. I need to be on the ship by three pm."
"I'm sorry, sir, but that's the only flight we have."
"No it's not."
He clicks a few keys.
"Ahh, you're right."
There are at least five other flights before the one they've automagically booked me on. Thanks for just assuming there was only one, buddy.
"What flight are you on? This checkpoint is closed."
Apparently (and logically), TSA checkpoints close at the same time as the last scheduled flight.
The TSA agent takes pity on us, possibly because I make sure they know Todd totaled my bike an hour ago, and we make our flight. I get a solid three hours of sleep on the plane and nearly miss the connecting flight because I'm too tired to pay attention to the time.
I don't mind high stress environments, but I will say this: I'm looking forward to not worrying about anything for the next couple weeks.
Todd and I are now laughing about the whole bike thing, mainly because it's so insanely lucky that he's not injured. He's going to take a bike safety course when we get back and buy a motorcycle.
In a stunning display of forward thinking, we decided to go to the Vietnamese embassy to get visas. Ideally we would have gotten them for China as well, thus enabling us to take the train all the way through China to Hong Kong, but there wasn't time for that.
We went on Friday. It takes four business days to get the visas, so we'd have them the following Thursday morning. The train through Cambodia runs only once a week. To catch it we'd have to leave on Saturday.
Submitting all of our info for the visas was no problem once we found the embassy, which was inexplicably on the opposite end of the road than we expected.
March 10, 2010. Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Late morning.
I pulled on my swim trunks, trainers, and a tank top and walked out of my little guesthouse room, sliding through the cramped restaurant strewn with tables, and out into the hot, dusty air of Phnom Penh. It's a hot day. It'll be good to swim after lifting weights.
I said, "No no, thank you" to the tuk-tuk drivers offering to take me somewhere in the city, pushed through the little crowd, and out onto the street. The streets in Cambodia more resemble alleyways than streets, and I navigate around people and vehicles.
I went down to the end of the street, turned left, and skirted along close to the local restaurants, half-tent half-storefront type places to get food. I stepped into the crosswalk, the Hotel Cambodiana rising in front of me. I check right and then left, and I watch left as I cross, watching for oncoming traffic.
A loud scream rings out. AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH.