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Tuesday Edition

MotoDiscovery Cuban Best of Run

With the Magnificent Marilyn Stemp

By K. Ball and Marilyn Stemp, photos by Marilyn Stemp

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Marilyn with a Hamster...
Marilyn with a Hamster...

Marilyn Stemp, the most significant Senior Editor of Iron Trader News and one of the original founders of Iron Works Magazine, a tentative rider and FXR owner, recently encountered the opportunity to ride across Cuba. I will give you a teaser from her most magnificent article, and then you can fly to Iron Trader News to reads her full report.

“The 45-minute flight from Miami to Havana was a time machine,” said Marilyn. “Upon arrival passengers are instantly thrust into a time warp that juxtaposes one’s own modern-day reality with mind-bending cues from the ‘50s.” Apparently it was not an unpleasant sensation.

“Thanks to the recent easing of the embargo,” said Marilyn, “Americans are now learning what Canadians in particular and Europeans in general already know: Cuba is the place to go.”

Their team of six riders signed up for a MotoDiscovery best of Cuba tour. “Our guide, Luis Enrique, a past president of the Classic Motorbike Club in Cuba,” said Marilyn, “is likely the best-connected Cuban Harlista (Cuban Harley rider) in the country.” Luis appeared in Cuban Harlistas, the Art of Harley-Davidson Maintenance in Cuba, an Italian-produced film made in 2009.

Tour Character

Primarily on paved roads with occasional unpaved sections and areas of maintenance or disrepair. Easily navigated by any experienced touring enthusiast. Very moderate pace.

Cuba...No Better Time Than Now

Motorcycle Cuba with MotoDiscovery
There is no better way to engage the people of Cuba than by traveling on two wheels. A ride through the Cuban countryside, stopping in rural villages, tobacco farms, music and art schools, etc., will prove a truly enriching and rewarding experience as we engage in our comprehensive schedule of People-to-People (P2P) exchanges designed to inform, educate and promote meaningful interaction with Cubans from all walks of life.

Havana, our point of arrival and departure is Cuba’s sensual time-warp capital and a UNESCO World Heritage Site— Leaving the capital city we head east through the provinces of Matanzas, Sanctus Spiritus, Villa Clara, Ciego de Avila and Camagüey.

No matter your motorcycle brand preference, Cuba’s harlistas (owners of pre-revolutionary Harleys) are legendary and enjoy a near celebrity status even in their home country.

We’ll arrange encounters with members of this affable clan and learn, one-on-one, how they, too, have managed to keep these machines alive through economic deprivations and a lack of spare parts.

Everywhere we ride we’re surrounded by music and dance—the pulsing undercurrent of life in Cuba. We’ll begin to understand why as we witness a lesson for gifted young musicians being tutored in violin at the Escuela de Arte in San Antonio de los Baños.

Plus we’ll enjoy a thorough immersion in popular culture, from son and salsa to santería—the island’s syncretic religion fusing African and Catholic faiths.

And as to the rum and cigars! If you have a friend who lights up he (or she) will certainly beg you to bring a few home. At this point, you are allowed to bring home $100 total of rum and cigars.

Tobacco has a long and fascinating history and to witness the maestros hand rolling the beautiful cured leaves is an essential activity while in Cuba. Certainly you cannot leave Cuba before enjoying a puff on a puro, washing it down with fine añejo rum.

Havana, Playa Larga, Trinidad, Camaguey, Cayo Coco, Santa Clara, Cienfeugos and back stateside via Havana once more.

“There are only about 66 Harleys in all of Cuba and Luis knows where they are,” said Marilyn.

Cuba exists in a state of gentle decay. 

“We were made welcome as Americans but even more so as Harley riders,” said Marilyn. “In fact, never have I felt more noticeable on a motorcycle! From toddlers to grandmas, heads turned and hands waved at the rumble of V-twin exhaust everywhere we went.“

The MotoDiscovery agent took them through 500-year-old Spanish Colonial towns, Ernest Hemingway’s sandbox, and the casino playground of mid-century mobsters, to the scene of the Bay of Pigs invasion and remnants of sugar cane plantations.

“There are no commercial businesses,” said Marilyn, “hence no commercial signs, just civic messaging that touts revolutionary leaders, significant dates and quotes from Fidel.

Horse-drawn wagons and carts are common, as are scooters and small-cc motorcycles of various foreign marques, many rigged for extra passengers and cargo carrying.

Women rode side-saddle in tight skirts, merchants hawked wares, and three-wheeled bicycle taxis filled town squares. “We encountered fork lifts and wheel barrows, jeeps and military cargo trucks, state-operated tour buses and of course, many classic American cars,” said Marilyn.

“Cuba feels ready, perched on the edge of monumental change. Groups of Wifiteros – young people with smart phones – are prevalent anywhere a wi-fi signal might be snagged,” said Marilyn. “As many restrictive regimes learned, especially in this global age, people simply won’t be denied access and information, that includes Cubans.”

Read all of Marilyn’s impressions, her riding experiences and her thoughts regarding the island’s history, future and folks in her report. Plus, you will witness all her shots.

And don’t miss her chance meeting with an amazing character related to Che Guevara, his son.

Ernesto "Che" Guevara: June 14, 1928 – October 9, 1967, was an Argentine Marxist revolutionary, physician, author, guerrilla leader, diplomat, and military theorist. A major figure of the Cuban Revolution, his stylized visage has become a ubiquitous countercultural symbol of rebellion and global insignia in popular culture.

In Mexico City, he met Raúl and Fidel Castro, joined their 26th of July Movement, and sailed to Cuba aboard the yacht Granma, with the intention of overthrowing U.S.-backed Cuban dictator Fulgencio Batista. Guevara soon rose to prominence among the insurgents, was promoted to second-in-command, and played a pivotal role in the victorious two-year guerrilla campaign that deposed the Batista regime.

Following the Cuban Revolution, Guevara performed a number of key roles in the new government. These included reviewing the appeals and firing squads for those convicted as war criminals during the revolutionary tribunals.

He instituted agrarian land reform as minister of industries, helping spearhead a successful nationwide literacy campaign, serving as both national bank president and instructional director for Cuba's armed forces, and traversing the globe as a diplomat on behalf of Cuban socialism. --Wikipedia

"Luis made at stop at a small corner bar in Havana and it was there we met Ernesto Guevara, Che’s son, a gregarious and delightful man," said Marilyn. "His easy welcome and ready smile made us comfortable, and the Harley-Davidson 45 hanging above the bar—surrounded by signs that honors an American icon—was as surprising as it was paradoxical. "

Many will call me an adventurer - and that I am, only one of a different sort: one of those who risks his skin to prove his platitudes.

--Che Guevara

I know you are here to kill me. Shoot, coward, you are only going to kill a man.

--Che Guevara

Companions on Marilyn’s Cuban trip included Sue Super, Dan Super, Karen Erby, Phil Erby and Greg Johnson. 

Watch for Greg’s version of the story in an upcoming issue of Thunder Press, with images by M. Stemp, of course.

Check the Iron Trader out.
Check the Iron Trader out.

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