Monday, June 3, 2013

The Big Trip

Almost three years ago Christopher Scheirer and I began taking motorcycle trips together in Guatemala.  Christopher got his first motorcycle and his brother-in-law taught him to ride, and gave Chris detailed safety tips.  Christopher took to riding with a near mania.  He was fearless, and fast.  On the trips we took he was always in the lead.  He would get miles ahead of me, turn around and ride back to check on me, getting some extra distance.

We rode north, south, east and west.  Into the mountains, over volcanoes.  To  beautiful colonial cities and to modest, and poor, pueblos.  Trips were usually for a day, but there were over- nighters, lasting two, three, or four days.  From the outset we talked and imagined longer excursions.  After awhile the idea was to take THE BIG TRIP, at least a week possibly more.

There was always a complication.  Rainy season set in twice before we could get underway.  Christopher had medical emergencies with children, and the birth of his third.  There were delays while he took care of his coffee business and I labored in the darkroom.  We made plans.  We got awfully close to leaving, then the unexpected would happen, an important coffee business trip to New York for Christopher.  We delayed, re-scheduled.

THE BIG TRIP became a matter of much discussion and we hashed-out venues, travel times, routes; and, importantly, how much time could we do photography and still make our daily destinations.  We temporized, and delayed.

Two weeks ago we finally acknowledged the obvious.  We had to set a date and stick to it.  Just leave, no matter the circumstances.  We were to be on the road this week.  Then, a Facebook message from Christopher; he was in hospital, ruptured appendix.  But he was feeling better, even with four tubes in his belly.  I dashed off a quick note to him and scolded ironically (he understood better than anybody else my quirky writing ) that he was going to great lengths to get out of the ride this time. (How, now, I wish I could take back that bit of so-called humor.)  He wrote me again that he was up sitting outside on a patio, that he was feeling better; in fact, he said, he was expecting to be released during the weekend.  He inquired about my health.  We said nothing about THE BIG TRIP.

Christopher, as a rider, was a near-perfect companion.  He liked to chat up complete strangers, especially in the pueblos; this made my work much easier.  We were complimentary.  He stopped willingly when there was, to my mind, a good photo opportunity, or when my butt was getting sore.  We enjoyed good meals at each of our destinations, we searched bookstores, and stayed in inexpensive hotels.  Christopher preferred spending his cash on good food and wine.  I have to point out there was one aspect of travel with Christopher that could become tiresome: his endless telephone calls home.  We stopped for gasoline, he called Zaida.  We went to restaurants, he called Zaida.  We stopped on the roadside, he searched for a signal -- call Zaida.  He and I could travel for a single day, he would call home a dozen times.  (But, truly, who could fault him?  -- if you know Zaida and the boys you will  understand.)

If you have read this far you will know the outcome.  There was no THE BIG TRIP.  As I write this Christopher is on his way to Colorado, a last earthly trip.  Then, for him, the really big one.  I will miss him; the real trips and even the BIG one that I can continue to dream about. 

 Below are some images that might give you an idea of Christopher and his travels.  All images can be enlarged for easier viewing.  These, for me, are bitter-sweet.

Christopher near Chichi looking for an old mask maker.

Near Godinez.

Always a leader.

We often had tire problems.  Chris looking for a repair shop.

Talking coffee.

Christopher during negotiations to get a cow moved.

With an ice cream sandwich.

Chatting with an old finca worker.

Exploring an old ,nearly abandoned coffee finca.

At the end of Lake Atitlan, a few miles from Christopher's home.

On an old dirt road from Los Encuentros to Totonicopan

We stop in route to Totonicopan