Table of Contents    |    Who Is "Ranger Bob?"    |  |    Chapter Two

The Daily Grind
A Cyc-o-path Loose in South America
A Motivational Book About Cycle Touring Through South America

A Book by Ranger Bob Bob Lutsky

"Guts plus determination minus fear equal victory"

Chapter One

Bus Through Ecuador

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11:45 PM Quito Airport - Ecuador - Tired, groggy, a little nervous but when you have your pocket dictionary, you have nothing to fear. With my baggage claim ticket in hand, I went to look for my bike. Two hours later, still no bike box had arrived. I had just been informed that the plane was empty and everything had been delivered. Here we go, it's South America, its back to the daily grind. For me, travelling, and all the hassles that come with it, in addition to putting in all the hours on the bike, make up my daily grind. I think my favorite of all is lost luggage. So I go to the counter and fill out all the necessary paper work and give it to the airline baggage representative who tells me with a gleeful smile the baggage would be here tomorrow ...NIGHT... on the midnight arrival. SWELL! They were three or four days behind on getting baggage back into Quito and my gear, was left behind.

Picture it - You're in a strange land - no bike, no gear, no baggage and you can't call the airport to ask if your bike has arrived, and you can't afford to take the taxi - oh yeah, and did I mention that I don't have the language so all the communication is in pseudo sign language?

I wonder if anyone in New York noticed the HUGE FLUORESCENT sticker on both sides of the box that shouts to even the most dense unobservant passer by "PRIORITY!!". Still in bewilderment at the inconvenience (which will prove, like most setbacks in life to be advantageous later on) I stagger out into the street - No local currency and no idea where to go or where to stay and no Spanish. Just another typical long day at the office.

It's important to remember that things always work out. You cannot grow and your life cannot expand if you always live within your comfort zone and stay only in the familiar. With an air of confidence, I started asking where I could find an affordable hotel. The cheaper hotels run two to three dollars a night. People always try to send you to more expensive places, but I explained my situation, followed a few dead ends but finally found a place for $5.00 a night. The hotel owner agreed that I could pay him the next day. Sure some people may think it's hard to be wandering the streets in a strange land after midnight looking for a place to stay but these are the type of things you get used to. Its all part of the daily grind.

After a shower and a good night's sleep, I set out to explore my surroundings and inhale as much carbon monoxide as I could just to get a good feel for the experience. The 84 Octane Leaded fuel and no emissions control and millions of old buses blowing black dense smoke that you can't even see through let alone breathe coupled with almost 9000 feet elevation presents a challenge to even the fittest lungs. Holding your breath and running around the corner to get air usually helped. To add to this scenario, there appears to be a tacit agreement among all drivers that the horn must be blown nearly continuously or the vehicle will suddenly stop or self-destruct. People of South America seemed to have developed the skill of being completely impervious to noise and pollution. They also don't understand our need in the States for peace and quiet. At home if I play the music too loud, its not long before my neighbor lets me know about it. Down here is South America for example lets say a large truck or bus arrives in a small village or town at 3:00 am and repeatedly blows it's horn similar to a loud air horn with enough intensity to wake even a deaf person, and does this every night no one would even think of complaining. Since they don't have bus schedules this is the only way for the bus to let the town know that it has arrived. One night I slept in someone's house in Peru, and at 3 am a rooster started crowing from on the other side of paper thin walls. This obnoxious bird let out god awful ear piercing sounds at two minute intervals for over two hours. Needless to say sleep was impossible. The man who lived there told me its normal, happens every night. I didn't ask, but I suppose it just never occur to anyone to build a pen further away from the house for the rooster to live in. This is probably a much healthier attitude towards life, but for me it would take a long time to adjust.

Every night for the past three nights I went to the airport at 11 P.M. only to be told my bike has not yet arrived. On the third night I went to the supervisor and expressed a complaint about the delay and how it was costing me in hotels. I told him I cannot camp because the airline has all my camping gear. Airlines being so compassionate and understanding, expressed its munificence by actually offering me an official airline hygiene package. Inside was a razor (1), accompanied with a small tin of shaving creme which brought me great delight, because although I have a beard now, when I get home in about 9 months it will come in real handy! The small bar of soap will go well with the 3 I already have, and the comb will be a real real plus when my hair finally grows in. I shaved my head before I left home. Needless to say this more than compensated for the inconvenience.

I guess all things work out if we wait long enough and allow them to in their time and not ours. The next night the bike arrived and I was able to get back to the hotel and get a good nights sleep. The following morning I was fully rested and ready for the journey to begin.

I will take a bus to Bolivia before I start cycling because when I return I will back to Quito through Ecuador, Peru and some of Bolivia. And also I am in haste to make Tierra Del Fuego during the summer months. (Jan-Feb-Mar). I Decided to leave the bike in the box and discover the south American bus system down to La Paz Bolivia. They had three classifications for buses: Rapido, Express and Executivo - but they really only needed one classification - Shit Stinking Slow which would probably run faster than any of the other three. It appears that most buses run at night which is great because who wants to see the beautiful Andean scenery and besides buses are SO comfortable for sleeping I always feel good and rested after a night on the bus and I save the $2.00 from the hotel! What a plus! But the reality is that traveling at night is safer because you can see the lights from oncoming traffic in the distance. Now, this may seem like no big deal, but when you're traveling on a single lane mountain road with switchbacks, hairpin turns and no guard rails, there's a certain benefit to being able to see the oncoming traffic in advance.

My first bus story is about expectations which we all have. After the normal fights and hassles about trying to get a bike on the bus (which can be more difficult than getting a bank loan without collateral). Once this monumental task was achieved, I was reading through the bus company brochure displaying the great meals served with beverage. I was quite excited about this not that my usual stale bread and squashy fruit would be missed. The bus left about 4:30 PM so by 8:30 I was pretty hungry, or shall I say famished. I asked when dinner was and she said about an hour and I said GREAT! (She being the equivalent of a stewardess on an airline). At about 9:30, she places in my lap a Styrofoam container similar to what you get in a restaurant for a doggy bag. With great anticipation/apprehension I opened it up and there, inside, in the middle of the inside, away from everything else on the inside was a pink marshmallow. No, it wasn't the dessert, it was the FEATURE Item. I had to make a few comments to the person next to me about how I chose this bus company because of the meals it served en route. I couldn't stop laughing and telling others how great this meal is. Next time, when I'm really hungry, instead of going into a restaurant, I'll just take this bus somewhere. However, all too soon, the humor wore off and reality set in that this IS dinner. I tried the marshmallow and BOY was it good... NOT! Could very well be the most foul taste I had ever experienced aside from a few potluck surprises when I was in the army. The other two gourmet features (i.e. 2nd and 3rd course) were a small piece of pastry - very very soggy as if it had been soaking in something but I dare not ask what - and a hard piece of candy that had melted once before so unraveling the wrapper took the patience and persistence of trying to solve the Rubix Cube. After my thoroughly satisfying meal, they served a cold drink - something you only get when the temperature is at or below freezing, so this was perfect, because at night, it gets very cold despite its nearness to the equator. We were high in the Andes going over a pass above 12000 feet probably passing beautiful scenery but I wouldn't know because it was bloody dark out. Anyway this drink was, I suspect, a cup of those hard candies melted down with a cup full of sugar added for extra flavor. I told the waitress/stewardess how happy I was and with this drink not to mention how tasty the whole meal was. I continued to smile but with an air of sarcasm told her that the meal was not quite what they had presented in their brochure. She smiled, said thank you and walked away. Now fully refreshed, I can settle into my comfy seat of which did not recline for a good nights rest! Every seat on the bus was full, largely because everyone heard what great meals they serve, so there was no chance of stretching out and the guy next to me smoked. Now I truly feel like I'm in South America!

Ice Anyone?

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