Wednesday, December 27, 2017

A Trying Day – 19 December 2017

19 December 2017 – This Auto Hotel is really nice. It was decorated in the Christmas theme: everything in red, colorful lights, poinsettias and even a complementary condom. The farther south I go into the tropics I have found that clothing left on chairs (socks, shirts and pants etc.) are damp in the morning. Even my wrist sweatbands that I wear, left out overnight will be damp. If you get into bed late at night you can feel the dampness in the sheets. A peculiarity with Auto Hotels is that they rent their rooms by the hour, and they are very particular about when you leave. They usually are very security-oriented. In other words, when the garage door closes, you’re locked in. If you are to leave at 6:00 a.m. they will call your room to give you a wakeup call if you’re not up and moving. These hotels are basically love nests and the participants usually like to take souvenirs. So before you’re allowed to leave, the cleaning lady comes in and counts the sheets and towels to see that none of them disappeared. This particular hotel had monogrammed towels and sheets. So, you can see their concern.

This hotel was located about 5 Yards / 5 Meters off of the Autopista. Right in front of the door was a pothole about 1 Yard / 1 meter in diameter. It was about 4 Inches / 10 Centimeters deep. It was right in the wheel track of the Autopista. All day and night the trucks bounced through that pothole. What a racket!  When a semi-truck that was loaded heavy drove through it, it would shake the building. These are solid concrete buildings and you still feel the building shake. The noise died down after 11:00 p.m. when the traffic died off and they closed all the doors for the night and shut the lights off. That’s kind of the down side of Auto Hotels, and they usually don’t have Wi-Fi. Aside from that it still was a nice hotel.

Anyway, I left by 8:00 a.m. per my agreement and programmed Blanche to take me back into town to find another ATM to purchase Guatemala Quetzals. She took me back downtown to the exact area I was in yesterday afternoon. All the streets were crowded with people selling their goods and produce. I found a street I was going to turn down. Guess what? Right on the corner was a bank. The bank didn’t open until 9:00 a.m. and I was early. The security person said I’d have to wait until 9:00 a.m. So, I did. The bank staff started showing up about 8:30 in the morning. Within about 10 minutes, about 9 employees showed up. Everybody shook hands and gave faux hugs and kisses. I watched and said to myself “I can’t imagine seeing that in the U.S., let alone in the work place.” They were all waiting for someone to show up with the key to let them in. Eventually the door was unlocked and they went in. I had to wait probably another 20 minutes to allow the bank to get organized. I was then let in and searched for weapons. Both security people were carrying shotguns.

I went up to the counter and said I’d like to purchase Guatemalan Quetzal with a credit card.  The girls gave me the deer in the headlight look. Then they started giggling, about what I’m not sure. They had to talk to their supervisor and they came back. Their reply was nope, no way, we can’t do that for you. So I asked them through my translator if they knew where an ATM was located. They wrote down 2 banks and their names. I asked them if they could draw a small map where these banks were. The location was three blocks away from this bank. I asked them if I could walk and they said yes. They said the banks were next to a small city park which was in front of a old Catholic Church. The security guard said I could leave my motorcycle where it was parked. I thanked him. I’m off on another adventure.

I started walking and counting blocks. Now, I know you’re all thinking these were paved streets with curb and gutter. These were streets that could handle a single car driving down it comfortably, usually one way only. As I was walking down the street, I was the tallest person. I stick out with my red riding suit. One particular car was coming down the street and was putting a squeeze on the walking pedestrians. So, I stepped back to get out of his way. The lady about 3 Yards / 3 Meters away sees my get-out-of-the-way maneuver and instantly reached down to grab her purse. Then she gives me that look that says “you’re not going to get it without a fight!” Once the car went by I stepped out and continued on my way.

I eventually counted off three blocks and arrived at the small park the bank teller was telling me about. I staggered around looking for a bank. I’m not having much luck seeing either one of the banks. They have police patrolling and directing traffic downtown because the traffic is so heavy and the pedestrians are elbow to elbow. It’s the market area of the town. All you would need is to have one person get mad and start throwing produce or clothing around and World War III would break out. Anyway, I show the police officer my note and he pointed out the banks. The bank entrance has 10 people standing in line waiting to get in. It works like a crowded nightclub: one person leaves and one person is allowed in. Then you’re checked for weapons with a metal detector. While I was standing in line, this lady ran up and stood beside me. I guess she thought I was pretty tall. She really didn’t say anything and then left. It finally was my turn to enter the bank. I was searched for weapons and then let in. I picked a chair and waited until someone became free who I could talk with. I gave them the same note saying I would like to purchase Guatemalan Quetzal with my credit card. The same deer in the headlight look. That’s not good. So, he went and talked to his supervisor. Nope we can’t help you with that. I asked if they had a ATM. They said, yes outside. I asked him to show me. It was behind a metal door out of sight for security reasons. I put in my debit card and typed all my information in. It didn’t accept it. Damn, what now? I re-tried the card in case I made a mistake. It rejected the card again. Now what? So, we left the ATM and he pointed at the other bank saying it had an ATM too. I thanked him for his help and walked over to the other bank.

I walked inside the bank and asked where the ATM was. They said it outside and around the corner. I checked outside and around the corner, and sure enough there it was. This setup was a little different. You had to reach through the bars to access the ATM. I got in line again and waited my turn. I get to the ATM, put my card in and all my information. The card was rejected. I tried a second time and it was rejected again. You know I’m getting worried right about now. What am I going to do? Then I thought I’ll try using my credit card. Remember, you’re standing in a crowd of on lookers. So you’re always wondering what if?????  I get this card out and run it. Everybody is watching. It was rejected and my heart sank. It said wrong password. So, I typed in another password, put all my information in and waited. It’s grinding away and all of sudden it says it’s accepted!. Praise God. I make another transaction and off I go. I hate people standing there watching, even in the U.S.

I walked back to the bank where I had my motorcycle parked. I went in and asked for some small bills and told the girls working the counters / tellers that I was able to purchase Guatemalan Quetzal from the ATM they mentioned. They were happy for me and I thanked them and the Security Guard for their help.

I’m off to Guatemala City. It was a long day of driving winding roads, speed bumps and potholes. I had my route planned out the night before so it was just a matter of getting Blanche back on Pan American Highway CA1. I thought I was still some ways out of Guatemala City when I stopped at a McDonalds and ordered supper. It was about 4:00 p.m. I ordered a Big Mac meal. It was good to eat some good old McDonald hamburgers. The first in months. I was able to use their Wi-Fi to find a hotel. Actually, I found three hotels. I left McDonalds about 5:00 p.m. in peak rush hour traffic. I don’t think I’m going to drive rush hour traffic in these cities again if I can avoid it. It’s pretty cut throat driving and it makes me want to cut my throat.

Within 2 Miles, I got caught up in stop and go traffic and then had to drive stop and go residential traffic. I arrived in the area and in the middle of a city market with crowds of people. The street was crowded with people and only wide enough for my motorcycle. I believe I found the hotel. It was pretty seedy and looked like working girls were hanging out on the stairs into the hotel. I typed in the second hotel and proceeded to drive more stop and go traffic to get to it. Again, it was a repeat of the first hotel. Cops were patrolling the area with shotguns. More residential stop and go traffic. I was blocked in by a barricade for about 10 minutes. A cop was sitting in his car right next to me. I finally got tired of idling my motorcycle and used my front tire to push the barricade out of the way so I could get through. Then somebody grabbed the barricade and pulled it off to side of the road. I was able to get through and back moving. I followed the motorcycles back out on to the highway again.
This is the third time I went back out on to the highway to reach another hotel. More diesel smoke and fumes. I’m about to gag. My nose is running and I’m coughing and hacking. On top of that, I am totally soaked inside of my red riding suit. I exit off the highway again following Blanche’s directions, and she leads me to this third hotel. Of course, I miss the location of hotel because there are no street signs. I spend 30 minutes going from block to block looking for this hotel. I’m within 200 Yards / 200 Meters of this hotel and I can’t find it. It is also getting dark. That’s not good. I thought I finally found it but it turns out it’s some kind of private property behind heavy steel doors. I asked the guy if he knew where there was a hotel around here. He pointed down the street. I looked back and then for the third time I set about driving stop and go residential traffic to get to this hotel. The guys working on the street start to realized I don’t know where I’m going and I don’t like that. I got all the way to the end of the street, then reprogrammed Blanche again for a fresh start. It clears any confusion in her mind. I start following her directions again. She says turn right, drive to Calle 1a and turn right. It was little lumpy but I made the second right and there was the hotel.

I drive in and park. I can’t believe I finally found this joint. It’s another Auto Hotel. I spoke with the person managing the parking lot / receptionist. I said I would like one room for the night. He said we are full for the night. And you know what my words to myself were at that moment. So I said, through my translator that I have been looking for this hotel for over one hour. He suddenly began to be more friendly. I stood around drinking water thinking about what I should do. I finally asked him if he can help me out. He asked me if I could wait. I told him yes. He said in 30 minutes a room will open up. I told him I could wait. The 30 minutes came and went and apparently there were other people waiting, unknown to him. His parking lot had cars coming and going. This place was doing a brisk business. So he came to me and said “you can have a room right now and you have to leave at 6:00 a.m. in the morning or wait until 8:00 p.m. and leave at 8:00 a.m. in the morning.” I told him I would wait until 8:00 p.m. I had a one and half hour wait ahead of me. What will I do to keep myself busy? I texted Mary and I checked my route on my GPS for tomorrow. That pretty much kept me occupied until my room became available. 8:00 p.m. rolled around and he came and got me. I asked him to speak to the lady on the garage phone and tell her I do not speak Spanish which he did. So, I pulled my motorcycle into the garage, closed the door and went upstairs to see my room.

I encountered a green metal door at the top of the stairs. I’m standing there and I hear some Spanish. I didn’t understand a word of it. Pretty soon, a small door opens up like I’m suppose to put something in it. Eureka! I’m suppose to put my money in it for the room. I put in 300 Quetzal and wait. A minute or so later the door is unlocked, rotated 90 degrees, locked and I am allowed into my room. I walk into my room. It’s nice enough and comes with a Jacuzzi and other amenities, none of which I will use. I unload my bike and haul everything upstairs. The stairs were a little weird. The height of one step to the next is about 12 Inches plus / 20 Centimeters plus. I used the handle so I didn’t trip and fall while I was carrying my bags up to my room. All I did that night was turn back the sheets on the bed, drink more water, take off my clothes, get in bed and sleep. I was sleeping before 9:00 p.m. I was tired.

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