Let me guess: It’s never occurred to you, has it? Cuba, for many of us, still feels forbidden, cut off, and slightly dangerous. It feels as if we could end up on some “government list” if we even so much as stand on the shores of Florida and look out across the water in its direction.
Cuba remains an enigma, an unknowable, mysterious, and exotic land that’s hidden behind a dark curtain of political machinations and propaganda, even to this day. For most of us, thinking about touring the island of Cuba on motorcycle, let alone visiting there, is loaded with questions, anxieties, and hesitations. But, we can forget our fears, because, guess what?! There’s a man who has done it and continues to do it. He also takes other people with him when he does it. And, he’s done it alot.
Allow me to introduce you to an amazing individual, who, in early 1996, courageously roped his 1000 cc BMW Paris Dakar motorcycle to the sagging, cracked, and heaving stern of a 58-foot boat and sailed with it to Havana so he could find adventure, document his travels, discover love (and lust), and lift the fog on Castro’s mysterious Cuba. Better yet, this man wrote an incredible book about his travels so we can share in the adventure. More on that in a minute.
Who is this crazy-brave, intrepid motorcyclist? Why, he’s Christopher P. Baker, award-winning travel journalist, photographer, author, adventure seeker, and pilgrim of the rarely explored, whom I was lucky enough to meet, by chance, at a gas station on my way to the AMA women’s conference in NV this year.
Christopher spent three months traveling by bike in Cuba, riding some 7000 miles all over the small island, meeting the locals, and gaining insights into a dynamic, sensual, full-of-life, but largely poverty-stricken people and culture. And, what a book he wrote!
Mi Moto Fidel, Motorcycling Through Castro’s Cuba is a seriously entertaining, amusing, intelligent, and down-to-earth read. Christopher is such an excellent writer. (And, this, coming from a several-decades-long, professional writer (me) with incredibly high standards, is really saying something.) I sat and devoured some 100 pages of the book, the very minute that I unwrapped it. I just couldn’t stop reading Baker’s entrancing story. I’m now pacing myself and slowly savoring the rest of the book, because, for just a little while longer, I want to live in these pages, feel the wind, taste the salt air, hear the near-constant, thrumming music that’s everywhere, experience the colors and the sultry heat, and feel the motorcycle rev beneath me through the pages of this masterful tale. I have to tell you that pacing myself with this delightful read is incredibly hard to do. Christopher’s sentences are lively and buoyant. They ripple with imagery, details, deeply felt emotion, and levity. His spirit is a joy to read.
But, back to the ” motorcycle touring in Cuba” part of this whole story. Yes, Chris holds 10- and 14-day motorcycle tours in Cuba through his business, MotoDiscovery. As his Web site states:
“Author of six books about Cuba, Baker has visited Cuba more than 50 times and has met Fidel Castro. He has been privileged to address the National Press Club, National Geographic Live!, and World Affairs Council. He has appeared on ABC, CBS, Fox TV, NBC, NPR, & dozens of other radio & TV outlets. Christopher also serves as a travel consultant and tour escort for such prestigious organizations as National Geographic, and has assisted many organizations in their applications to receive OFAC licenses for travel to Cuba.”
Further, “MotoDiscovery is the only company licensed by the US Department of Treasury to provide motorcycle travel through Cuba for U.S. citizens. Fly direct from Miami and tour Cuba legally.”
Um, yeah. This dude is the real-deal. His upcoming Cuba tours are: November 29 through December 12, 2012 and in the new year: January 26 through February 8, 2013; February 14-27, 2013; and March 2-10, 2013.
My goal is to be able to do one of these tours. But, due to my recent “death-match” with lung embolisms and blood clots in my leg (not to mention having to be on blood thinners for the rest of my life), that will take some serious coordination and planning. Sigh. Getting old really sucks. But, I digress.
One day, when my doc clears me for air travel, I will take one of Chris’ Cuba motorcycle tours. And, I encourage all of my Biker Babe friends to do the same. You’ll fall in love with Cuba and there is no better way to do that than with a tour guide who feels exactly the same way and happens to kick-ass at his job. (When you girls get back, post photos on the Biker Babe Tours Facebook page for the rest of us schlobs who couldn’t yet make it. LOL!)