Posts Tagged ‘rocinante’

I bought Rocinante brand new at Boston Harley Davidson in the spring of 2006. We had moved to the US a year earlier and I had no life, I hated my job teaching at a rough public school, had no friends, was still mourning the loss of my company that I had to close down in Spain, and so on. I have been riding since I was 14, so I figured a motorcycle would be a good hobby and maybe even a way to put some adventure in my life and our marriage. Well, the second part did not work out, but Rocinante saved my life. All of a sudden I had something to look forward to, something to tinker with, and something that offered me a great feeling of freedom and adventure. I rode to school every morning, even when it was only a couple of miles away.

My decision was easy, living in the US I wanted an American bike, that meant a Harley-Davidson. But I still wanted a quick, agile, not expensive bike, not a big, fat, expensive couch. The choice was clear, a Sportster.

Rocinante as a name came easy: I love Don Quixote, and his horse was Rocinante.

In the summer of 2011 I rode from Boston to Austin, Texas and back visiting universities for my PhD. It was that trip that gave birth to this blog, so you just have to scroll back to read all about that amazing, life changing adventure.

Rocinante and I moved to North Carolina in 2012, and we explored that state. We checked out the beautiful Carolina shore, it was Rocinante’s first time on a ferry!! Then we moved to Florida, we only managed one quick excursion to Miami, but we had so many more planned.

On September 25 returning home from school, an 80-year-old lady turned her white Lexus SUV left into my green light without seeing me and I crashed into her. I flew and rolled. Fortunately the accident happened near the EMT station, so they put me in an ambulance and took me to hospital in a jiffy! I suffered a shattered pelvis, with its accompanying trauma, and a broken thumb and annular finger. I spent three days in the hospital. Of course my mom got on the first flight out of Madrid. As I write this I have three pins holding my thumb together, while the pelvis and finger heal on their own. With time, I will recuperate.

Rocinante on the other hand will not. Her front fork was destroyed to the point where repair would be more expensive than the value of the bike.

Those are the facts. The emotions on the other hand cannot be easily put on a blog post. Even if I was just going to make a quick market run for a baguette, the anticipation of riding was exciting. We loved making week-end lunch runs, normally to Five Guys. The longer the ride the more exciting the anticipation. Riding to school every day in Florida was a blessing; a way to really wake up on the way there, and a way to leave it all behind on the way home. Longer excursions left me with a deep sense of relaxation. You see, on a bike you are 100% immersed: you hear, smell, feel, see everything, something that can never happen in the air-conditioned, music filled cocoon of a car. Not only are you immersed but you are 100% engaged with the bike, the road, the surroundings, the traffic. I saw Joyce Wheeler approach the light, it was the fact that she slowed down and stopped before turning left that signaled to me that she had seen me. I fell for the most popular motorcycle accident like a stupid rookie.

I will miss Rocinante, I miss her every day, every day that I have to drive to school, to pick up some ice-cream. I miss the engine rumbling, I miss patting the gas tank like Don Quixote would have done on Rocinante’s side. I hope to get a new Sportster as soon as I can. Although no bike will replace the 11 years of emotions on Rocinante.

After two days of faculty meetings and an apparently endless number of  year-end parties I can finally say my academic year is over, and what a year it has been. Granted, the first year at any job is always going to be hard. Add to that coaching two varsity level sports, editing my dissertation for publishing, a new town, a new state, and more importantly a new climate zone – Sub Tropical, and it was quite an experience.

Naples is the southernmost town on the West Coast, the Gulf Coast of Florida. The city did not really develop until the second half of the XX C with the advent of air conditioning. To this day it is still very much a resort town which booms in size from December to May with rich northerners, mostly from the Mid-West spending the “season” here. They have beautiful homes and cars, go to overrated and overpriced restaurants, and play golf, lots of golf. There are 80 golf courses in Naples, apparently the highest concentration of golf courses per capita in the US. The beach, did I mention there is a beach? The beach is miles of silky while sand, and since it is protected by the Gulf, it has quiet waters with small waves. It is a beautiful town with palm lined streets and gorgeous homes. The municipal tennis courts around the corner from my apartment have decadent clay surfaces. There are cute coffee shops, bars, cigar bars, and even some interesting restaurants. Half an hour driving and you are in the Everglades, the world’s largest Sub-Tropical jungle, infested with alligators, Florida panthers, etc.

In my June 2016 post The Job Search Part II, looking for jobs in secondary schools, I write how what attracted me to Naples was Seacrest’s educational philosophy. With time I will reflect on my teaching experience, on coaching girl’s varsity soccer and tennis, on living in Naples and so many other thoughts that I need to marinate.

The way the weather breaks down is that June to September is hot, humid, rainy and stormy. But the rest of the year it is “Endless Summer” always the perfect weather to enjoy the outdoors. I enjoyed riding my bicycle, running, walking on the beach, as well as riding Rocinante to work every day.

One of the highlights of my first year here has been discovering Artis Naples. Artis Naples is the home of the Baker Museum, a cute, little museum with some interesting pieces, and of the Naples Philharmonic and their fantastic concert hall. One of my fears coming to this remote corner of the world was that I was not going to find the cultural stimulation I had in Boston, Madrid or Chapel Hill. I was mostly wrong. Someone had told me that if I wanted to enjoy any culture I had to drive two hours across Alligator Alley to Miami, when in fact, groups like Miami City Ballet, or the Vienna Philharmonic come to Naples!

The season started with some nice amuse-bouche chamber music concerts in the museum. But the real season started with Elgar’s moving  Cello Concerto. After that it was Grimaud playing Brahms, Joshua Bell playing the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto, Opera Naples performing Turandot in the Fall and The Magic Flute in the Spring, Handel’s Messiah, Dvorak’s Eighth Symphony, Abbado conducting Beethoven and Wagner, the Vienna Philharmonic, and the ballet Giselle –which is one of my favorites. Some concerts, like Anne-Sophie Mutter I had to miss due to coaching. Fortunately the folks at Artis are very nice and you can call in and change your tickets if you need.

On top of that the museum has a free late night on the last Wednesday of the month, so you can just go walk around, something I did most months!

A lesser known cultural gem in Naples is Opera Naples. They operate out of a refurbished warehouse in a bit sketchy industrial area of town. The artistic director is Ramon Tebar one of those wunderkinds who was conducting orchestras at 12 years old. He is a hot-shot from Valencia, another reason to love him! On top of the two operas performed at Artis, they did a few events at their home. Master classes and recitals with mezzo-soprano Renata Scotto, recitals by Gregory Kunde…

Sadly, there does not appear to be much more to choose from beyond this. The locals seem more interested in the size of their homes and their cars to be really culturally restless. Also, since the town lacks a university there are not many young people. There seems to be mostly families with young children or older folks, but little age diversity.

With my busy schedule, I had little time to explore the area, so that is one of the many things I am looking forward to.

Despite being Rocinante’s 10th birthday, it has not been her best year. We can blame my PhD for that. For the last four years I basically only had time to ride to Trader Joe’s for some groceries, or for a quick ride (about half an hour each way) to lunch in beautiful Hillsborough or Saxapahaw, although mostly we would just ride to Five Guys just outside Chapel Hill. The only trip we made was to explore the North Carolina seashore, at the end of my first year at UNC in the spring of 2013. After that, between my dad getting sick and the pressure of my studies, there were no more long rides.

Although we would have loved to ride down to our new home in Naples, Florida, there was no money for the logistics, nor the time, if I was to make it to my nephew’s first communion in Madrid. Rocinante just rode inside a truck with the rest of my few belongings.

But we have great plans for our new life in Florida. Starting with a leisurely exploration of the Keys, a trip I have wanted to take for years, ending in Hemingway’s home in Key West. Then there is the West Coast and the East Coast, even “the panhandle” to explore. All very exciting.

The winter of 2006 was a tough one for me: I was still dealing with having closed my company in Madrid, with moving to the US, with not making friends. I was struggling with my first year teaching at a public school, and I was looking forward to Tracy getting well after her long sickness. I have been riding since I was 14, so getting a motorbike seemed like a worthwhile hobby to get me out of that slump

. I did a lot of research, made a few visits to Boston Harley Davidson, and had a massive tiff with Tracy. Ten years later I can safely say Rocinante saved my life.

So hopefully Rocinante will forgive me for my neglect over the last four years.

My granddad´s family was in the horse and carriage business, but my grandfather Antonio soon saw the advantages of the new automobiles. So he sold his shares in the family business back to his siblings and went into the car business, moving to Barcelona and buying and selling cars, driving, whatever he could do to live his passion.

He eventually moved to Madrid where he became a driver for the US ambassador, driving US Generals and dignitaries to see the Civil War front. After that he became the driver for the British ambassador – he always claimed they had better cars. There he transported allied pilots and crews rescued by the Resistance from the Pyrenees to Gibraltar in neutral, but really Axis friendly, Franco ruled Spain.Changing cars in different locations and sometimes carrying my father and uncle Antonio as decoys. For that job he got a medal from the Queen of England which he bequeathed to me. Although most importantly, with infinite patience, he taught me to drive.

So my dad and my uncle grew up in embassy garages, driving around, tinkering with, and washing, lots of washing, cars. They both grew to embrace motoring both of the four wheel and two wheel variety, and both passed that passion on to me, which I have continued to cultivate. This makes me a certified petrol head. When the Newburyport High School where Tracy taught needed a van driver, I was in. When a friend wanted me to drive their car from New York city to Boston, I jumped. When a friend in Boston needed to pick up some luggage she had left in New York city we drove down, picked them up, had lunch and drove back. I jump at the opportunity to give anyone a ride. I love driving.

I learned to drive – as did most of my friends in an old Citröen 2CV “La Petra” in the countryside outside of Madrid where there was lots of driving around, tinkering with, and washing, lots of washing, cars. That simple two cylinder, air cooled, beautiful car is still in our country house waiting for some tender loving care to get her back in running order.

My uncle used to work for Exxon in Spain so he had a fleet of Land Rovers at his disposal. When some of these where decommissioned and auctioned off, he got one for me when I was 18 or 19. It was a topless short wheelbase V6 and it was a blast. That started an ongoing love affair with Land Rovers which progressed to a Defender 90 in 1992 and to a Discovery in 1998.

When I moved to the US in 2005 we got a Toyota Highlander, I didn’t like it so much, so when I hit an ice patch and crashed we found a great deal in an Audi A4 to replace it. I loved that A4 so much that when the financing deal expired I traded it in for the same model – only station wagon. That is Helmut, still with me seven years later!

In between there have been Renaults, Seats, Fords, VWs, etc.

When my dear friend Alfonso got involved in car racing – he even raced in the 24 Hours of Le Mans, it was great fun to follow him around to his races around Spain. Eventually he would start his own racing team and is now a successful competitor in GP2, the class right under Formula 1.

At UNC I was in the founding group of the UNC Gearheads Club. It is now floundering a bit, but in its heyday we had great fun going to car gatherings and to a great Porsche exhibit at the North Carolina Museum of Fine Art!

My dad’s old V8 Mercedes is still sitting in the garage, waiting, like “Petra”, for some tender loving care. But the days of blasting down the autobahn at 200 km/h listening to jazz are not going to come back, so who knows what will happen to the old Bismarck.

The best time of the week for me is Mondays from 6 to 9 pm when I volunteer at the Ronald McDonald House of Chapel Hill. I love my team: evening manager Michelle, night manager Antoinette, volunteer chair masseur Bill, and my shift partner, the Batman to my Robin, the Ginger Rogers to my Fred Astaire, the Ying to my Yang, etc., Margaret! There are also the Therapy Dogs with their owners and the different dinner groups that cook for the families.

The first question people ask me when I tell them I volunteer at the House is what do I do there. Well, on a typical evening there are families to welcome and check into and out of the house, there are rooms to set up for incoming families, there is always tidying up to do, vacuuming, helping out volunteer dinner groups, cleaning the kitchen and dining room if the dinner group has not done so, I also manage the ADP Sorority volunteer girls that come in to help out – they are great! I am also the official announcer of dinner on the PA. I do this in English and Spanish for our Hispanic families and I occasionally throw in the accent of whatever geographic area dinner is from! I am also the official receptionist for the people who bake goods for the house, mostly high school kids that get Community Service hours. A big part of that job is making sure the quality of the baked goods is up to the high standards of the House. Another part of my job is just to hang out and be there. Sometimes you chat with members of the families because they need to talk, so you listen to their stories.

You see, we get so caught up in our lives and we think our lives suck and we bitch and complain. When you listen to a parent whose kid is in the hospital for whatever reason, or you get the privilege to actually hang out with the kid, and you realize that maybe my life is not so bad. It is not unusual, when I finish my shift for me to leave the house crying. So if the weather allows I prefer to ride Rocinante to the House so my tears dry in the wind.

Speaking of Rocinante. The other day was a quiet evening in the house (some rooms were closed for renovations), and the House had just launched a fundraising campaign selling Ronald McDonald socks. The campaign asks those who purchase socks to take an “interesting” photo with them and post them on the House’s internet site. So we wheeled old Rocinante into the House to take our pictures with the socks on. Good times!!

Then there is the annual volunteer recognition brunch in which we celebrate the volunteers that have been there since forever and have worked literally thousands of hours, amazing!

So now you know where to find me on a Monday evening. Come on down and I will show you around.

Rocinante hanging w a '59 Chevy at the post office

Rocinante hanging w a ’59 Chevy at the post office

Warm and clean covered Helmut (and Rocinante)

Warm and clean covered Helmut (and Rocinante)

Rocinante @ 5 Guys

Rocinante @ 5 Guys

Rocinante and Helmut

Rocinante and Helmut

Burguer at the Saxapahaw General Store

Burguer at the Saxapahaw General Store

Rocinante has complained that this blog is titled antonioyrocinante, and yet it mostly mentions Antonio and not Rocinante. So here are some news on old Rocinante.

Unfortunately, the truth is that there is not so much to say about lovely, trustworthy, tough, old Rocinante. It has been a quiet semester for her. The only noteworthy outings we made where to Raleigh, the capital of NC, a mere 30 miles away, Cary, a nearby village some 20 miles away, and Saxapahaw a lovely hamlet with a reconditioned old textile mill and a General Store that has fantastic food!! It is a lovely ride on back roads to a great lunch, coffee, cigar and read!

Other than that I try to take Rocinante out at least once a week, even if it is down the road to grab a burger at the local 5 Guys or to run some errands! When not out and about, she sits on the driveway keeping Helmut company or – if it is raining, she comes inside with me until the sun comes back out and we can ride again!

Rocinante’s highlight, if you asked her, would probably be getting an oil change and her 24 K service done at Rommel’s Harley Davidson in Durham. She also got a new right hand (gas) grip, apparently they did not have the left hand one…

Neither one of us can wait until the Spring and getting over this exam to be able to go on a good ride!

As for Helmut, little can be said, he sits on the driveway, bored to tears. I was so remorseful that I bought him a nice cover so all the leaves from the tree he lives under would not fill his engine bay. We go to Trader Joe’s once or twice a week, and to the Ronald McDonald House when the weather is too bad to take Rocinante. I feel bad for Helmut, used as he is to blasting around New England enjoying 3 digit speeds. Now in our old age, the three of us live quiet lives – although occasionally we do stretch out our legs.

Besides the enriching experience of teaching, the other benefit of being a teacher is the holidays it comes with. No, we don’t make bank, but not even French government employees get our kind of time off. So after unwinding in Chapel Hill and going on a nice ride with Rocinante (see previous posts) I jumped “the pond” to visit my family in Madrid.

I know I am not original when I say that cities are like people, at least my relationship with them is similar. My relationship with Madrid is that of an old friend and lover. We know each other’s dirty little secrets, but we respect each other like the old friends we are. So coming to Madrid is always special.

One of the first visits I do is to Patxi Navarro. A dear, dear friend from my financial services days. We share a twenty three year friendship. Together we founded the Asociacion A. de Amantes del Escorial since we are both passionate about that monastery/palace/school/village. It is always great to catch up and hear about his life. Another obligatory meeting is with Andrea, another dear college friend who has been there through thick and thin, we had a nice lunch at a neighbourhood “menu” restaurant. A third key friend and one that deserves extra credit when I see him is Felipe Pérez de Madrid, “Pipe”, “The Pipe”, as he is from Valencia. We had a quick coffee in between trains for him, just enough to make sure everything is ok and have a quick laugh. Gracias amigo.

After a few days in town, I was blessed with the visit of Mark Miller and Matthieu, two of my dearest, closest and best friends. We went to university together, Matthieu was a groomsman in my first wedding and Best Man at my second wedding, where Mark was the usher. I had not seen Matthieu since celebrating New Year’s ’08 in NY when Mark, the most gracious and generous host, arranged a spectacular party. Since he is in NY I have had the chance to see Mark more regularly, but not since moving to Chapel Hill.

We spent three days together, eating, walking around the city, drinking, smoking cigars, eating, walking around the city, drinking and smoking cigars. We had paella, roast lamb, jamón, tortilla, garlic shrimp, lots of tapas, wine and coffee. We went to my favorite places, including Del Diego where we met comedian Leo Harlem! It was fantastic to catch up, to share some of the secrets of my old friend Madrid with some of my other old friends, to have a good laugh, good discussions, reminisce and talk about our futures.

Besides the enriching experience of teaching, another benefit of being a teacher is meeting students that eventually become friends. Two days after Mark and Matthieu left, I reunited with Jenny whom I had not seen in a year and a half. Since she graduated from Walnut Hill and I went to see her dance at Mount Holyoke. She is spending the summer in Valencia and came to Madrid for the weekend. We had burgers at my favorite restaurant in Madrid, Alfredos Barbacoa and it was great to catch up, have a good laugh, a good discussion, reminisce and talk about our futures.

My visits to Madrid are few, far between and shorter than I would like them to be, so I never get to see all my friends and family. But one morning coffee I always have is with my godmother Isabel, “Isita”, she is brilliant, funny and wonderful and her advice is always spot on, prejudice free and caring. I love her.

So in one week in Madrid: I reunited with the city, the oldest of friends, I reunited with old, university friends and with new friends – and with my godmother.

Tapa

Tapa

Casa Botín

Casa Botín

Tapas

Tapas

Comedian Leo Harlem

Comedian Leo Harlem

Fernando jr. and Fernando del Diego

Fernando jr. and Fernando del Diego

Del Diego

Del Diego

Plaza Mayor

Plaza Mayor

Julieta en Alfredos

Julieta en Alfredos

Here is to friends, I salute you.

Photo creds: Mark Miller (except Julieta)