|With Bill, my Lyft driver|
My flight from Portland to Burbank was very easy. A friend picked me up from the Burbank airport which made the trip even easier, thanks Mary! After a week with family in Los Angeles it was time to catch my flight to Bogotá, Colombia. I used Lyft for the 1st time to go the airport. In year's past, I've reserved a space on a Super Shuttle share van but the last couple of times, the drivers were annoyed by the trike even though I called and explained and wrote a description of the trike and my luggage in the ride request. It always worked out but I thought I would avoid unpleasantness and use a private car. Interestingly, Lyft doesn't make it easy to request a particular type of car. You can ask for a 4 seater but I needed, more specifically, a SUV type car or a car with a hatchback. A driver would accept my request and the model of car they were driving would be listed under the driver's name. I'm not a car expert and had to cancel many cars until one came up that I knew would have enough space for my folded trike. I called Lyft driver Bill and explained that the back seat would probably need to be put down and asked him if that was OK. Bill was driving a Prius V and he was great about the trike. In fact, he took the above selfie photo and sent it to me.
|Myrtle and gear ready for flight|
|Myrtle in a Toyota Prius|
I arrived at the airport early and wheeled Myrtle with my panniers to the Avianca, Colombia's airline, check-in
|Checking in with Avianca|
|Baggage Handler rolling Myrtle to the plane|
While I was talking to all the people to get Myrtle accepted, I was also going through the check-in process. I did a lot of research before deciding to tour in Colombia. I never saw anything that I needed a flight out of the country before I could check-in. This also happened to me on a flight to New Zealand. What I can't understand is how it is possible to buy a one-way ticket to a country that requires a ticket out. Just like my flight to New Zealand, I bought a refundable ticket online using my phone standing there in front of the check-in agent. Once the agent took my information and I received a confirmation email, I canceled the new flight to get my money back. The ticket agent who finally finished up my paper work and handed me my boarding pass also said everything would have gone smoother if I had requested a wheelchair. Even though I don't need a wheelchair, she suggested I request one for my return flight. Interesting!
|Myrtle tipping the scales at 14.8 kg (32.6 lbs) Tire pump, water bladder and side seat bar are under the seat straps.|
I always like to get to the airport extra early mostly to get the trike checked in before the agents become frazzled with customer requests. This flight showed me why getting to the airport is a really good idea. Another interesting thing I've noticed is for the last couple of years, I am always given TSA pre-check status. This makes going through security so much easier.
|On my flight to Bogotá|
Aside from this being an overnight flight and not sleeping, everything went fine. Myrtle was waiting at oversized baggage claim and I picked up my panniers from the carousel. In Bogotá, I am going to study Spanish for 3 weeks. One of the reasons I picked Colombia to tour is the Spanish is supposed to be easier to understand. Colombians are known for speaking slower and clearer. I figured that would be a real plus to learning the language. While I talked to the school about how long, what level of Spanish I should study at and what I wanted from my language classes - I also made arrangements to stay with a family and asked for a driver to pick me up from the airport. When I came out of security and passed through immigration, Hans was waiting for me holding a sign with my name on it. He was such a nice guy with a big smile and a lot of energy. It was as if he was genuinely excited to drive me. He didn't hesitate when he saw the trike. I had explained to the school that I need a bigger vehicle when being picked up from the airport but you never know how that things get interpreted. Hans drove a huge van that could hold at least 10 people. He carried Myrtle with ease and plopped her on a row of seats - no problem!
|Myrtle waiting in oversized baggage in Bogotá|
|Hans, my driver in Bogotá, and Myrtle in the van|
Soon we arrived at my homestay families home near the Universidad Nacional and Simon Bolivar Park. They have a 4 bedroom apartment in a nice neighborhood with a 24-hour doorman. Myrtle was shown her own large locked room off the garage. Maritza and Antonio Luis were very welcoming with big smiles giving me a tour of the apartment and showing me to my room. They have been married for 30 years and are very adorable. I could have asked to include 3 meals with my homestay but I only asked for breakfast. Maritza is an excellent cook and I can't tell you how nice it is to have breakfast prepared for me every morning. She also always makes good strong Colombian coffee which I love.
Video of my flight to Bogotá
The next morning, on Sunday, I went down to the garage to check on Myrtle and put her together after the flight. She handled the flight like the champ she is. The only casualty was a small plastic piece splintered that holds two parts of one of my flags together. This plastic part was totally unusable. I have a feeling this was just bad luck and a coincidence to find after the flight. It is very possible the plastic part was splintered before the flight. I think I can repair this with a few zip ties. After unfolding the trike, removing all the bubble wrap and attaching the side seat mount bar - Myrtle was ready to ride.
|With my Bogotá family - Antonio Luis, Maritza, Luis jr and Grace|
|Cycling a main road during Ciclovia|
|All kinds of bikes on Ciclovia|
Every Sunday and on all holidays there is a ride called Ciclovia in Bogotá. Miles of roads are closed to car traffic and made safe for walking, skating and cycling. There are many Ciclovias around the world and, I think, this is the original. I took off from the apartment and joined the Ciclovia route very close by. Maritza had suggested I try to find some zip ties from one of the many bike mechanics on the route. Unfortunately, they didn't carry any zipties. While on the route I had many interactions with people. Recumbents are unheard of here. I didn't see even one. I did see one other trike which was very exciting for both of us. It was a homemade delta type trike that looked really good and the rider was, understandably, very proud of.
|Pro Bikes guy who gave me zip ties|
There were thousands of cyclists and the route went through el centro. It was extremely busy. There was lots of construction as well as venders lining the route for many blocks making the path extra crowded. I looked at the map to find a bike shop close by and turned off to get some zip ties. The guys at the professional, Pro Bike, were very nice and generously gave me a handful of zip ties. I actually have some zip ties but wanted to have extra. Using duct tape and zip ties, I repaired my flagpole. I expect it will be strong enough to last the whole tour.
|Coco vender on Ciclovia|
|Cooked meat vender in Plaza de las Mariposas|
On my way back to the Ciclovia route, I stopped at a big plaza, Plaza de Las Mariposas, to get something to eat. There were lots of people selling food and clothes and many, many other things. There was even a dressed up llama waiting to make money from pictures. I saw a guy selling cut up watermelon and stopped for a snack. I was using my K1 video camera while riding and put it in my side seat bag to eat. While I turned to pay, another man quickly and stealthily opened my handlebar bag and took my camera. Wow, that was fast! I jumped out of the trike to chase the man and I caught him quickly. Unexpectedly, he turned and handed me back my camera. He didn't drop it, he didn't throw it - he handed it to me. Once the camera was safely back in my hands, I yelled at him 'hombre malo, hombre malo!' and hit him over the head a few times. As I was doing this, I suddenly thought - what if this is a diversion and someone is stealing my tricycle right now? Luckily, no one was and Myrtle was exactly where I left her in front of the watermelon man. I had given the watermelon man a good tip and wonder if he didn't chase off people who might have tried to steal my trike.
|Niños in a cargo trike|
I made my way back to Ciclovia and then returned to the apartment after my big adventure. Later, recounting the story of being robbed to my house family, I learned that Plaza de Las Mariposas is one of the most dangerous places in Bogotá and they couldn't believe my luck at getting the camera back. They said everyone gets robbed in that plaza. There are teams of robbers that probably saw me as easy pickens. Wow - I had no idea the danger I was in. Lucky for me all that happened is I have a good story to tell.
On Monday, I started Spanish school. Whee Institute is very small with only a few classes. There are 4 others in my class. One student is from Brazil, one from France and 3 are from the United States. I love my teacher Camilo. He is young, smart and has an easy style. He speaks fast but very clearly. For this week, we will be going over conjugating verbs in 2 past tense forms. We played fun games, did various exercises and after 3 hours I was exhausted. Speaking in the past tense is so important. We are always telling stories in the past. It would be amazing if I could get comfortable with these 2 past tense verb forms by the time I leave.
|Clowns out on the street|
Trying a new fruit
|Halloween with badass maestros at Whee Institute|
At Whee, we took a break between classes to have a halloween party