Fin and MechanicO: Last Boat To Cuba

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by FinTec, Feb 27, 2021.

  1. mazembe

    mazembe Adventurer

    Jun 4, 2013
    Brentwood Bay, Southern Vancouver Island
    Thanks for taking us along, great pictures and narrative. I think my biggest regret may be passing on a cultural exchange trip to Cuba in the mid nineties, still planning to get down there. Here’s a great road trip/comedy film from Cuba and a chance to practice Spanish.
  2. FinTec

    FinTec Been here awhile Supporter

    Sep 27, 2013
    This is my first real time ride report for ADV and I have to give a nod of respect to those who do these for long periods of time. For example, JamieZ who has been at it for months. These are REALLY hard to do and maintain while traveling. If I had to break it down, I would say 3 days of reportable riding equals ½ day to write up. The picture processing alone take a huge amount of time. My routine is now to get a Casa Particular for two nights and on the day between nights I spend that morning writing it up. The issue is if you let it slide, then you suddenly have 6 days of ride report and now that might be a full day to write up. Or you stop describing some of the details to shorten the report? We’ll see if I can keep this up.

    Using GPS I finally found what looked like some dirt roads right into Vinales. And I was right, it was a back way into town. I like this shot of the right turn I made down this road as if you look carefully, you can see the Condor (I think) flying off to the left. A good sign, right?


    I would describe a town much like where I live, very beautiful with mountains surrounding it and the economy is almost 100% tourism. Vinales is Cuba’s “Mountain town” in the west. Lots to do here as I see signs for hikes, zip-lines, cave tours, etc. Lots of restaurants and bars that look fun. But dang it, all are closed due to Covid.

    But the best part was the Casa Particular. This one is run by a couple called Mileidys and Papo. About a 2 minute walk into town. The place is amazing. It is wall to wall glossy white huge tile. Front shot of the place and I stayed in the upper unit.


    What I have found is Casa’s are like having an “Instant Mom” and Mileidys was just that. She watched over my like a mom would. Here she is with her name sign. She was always smiling but for some reason not for this one!


    And the food. As always, it was over the top. I am not one for food pics but I can see how you just can’t help it when at the time you are so grateful. And a great shot of what I look over while eating.


    And her son Mario showing me his pride and joy electric scooter


    Of course he had a lot of questions about MechanicO. Small world story: Mario pulls out his phone to show me a picture. It is of a Yamaha 1200 Tenere that once stayed at their Casa. I look at it and ask, “was this like 4-5 years ago and it was a couple with a guy named Paul?” Yep, it sure was, this is the same place RTWPaul and his passenger stayed at many years ago.

    And here is Papo with his pride and joy, the Lada! This was actually one of the best condition ones I had seen. Looked only a few years old but it was a 1989 (I think). Wanted to find out the motor size but the laungage barrier kicked in. Small 4 cylinder of course. Thanks for the history lesson as well on the Lada from others here, helps understand the popularity here. Talking to these guys they like the Lada as they are very easy to work on and last forever. But if they need parts they basically have to wait for someone to visit Russia and come back with parts.


    A word on internet here. Not the easiest to find. Most of the Casa Particulars I have been at have it built in. However, you still need to buy these government issued access cards from a spot in town. They get you an hour use so you buy as many as they will allow. You can also access wifi from certain locations in town and these are easy to find as you just look for people gathered around looking at their phones. This was one of the spots in Vinales you go to buy the internet cards.


    That said, what I would do is get a sim card for your phone that works in Cuba and load the crap out of it with data capacity. I use this to access my phone during the day riding and look things up or book a Casa. Without this, things would certainly be more involved to move around for an out of towner like me.

    The next day I decided to drop the luggage off MechanicO and do a day trip out to a far point on the coast North West of Vinales. About and hours ride and beach called Cuyo Jutias. But first I had to stop at the sorta-famous dinosaur drawings just a few km from town. Up a beautiful road that was very “Jurassic Park” like in terrain.




    So I believe the story goes like this, but please correct me as cannot look up directly on internet as I write this. A long time ago Fidel commissioned a known artist to create something on this rock wall that was apparently beautiful and tasteful. Then at a later point, as I am guessing, someone had too many beers, grabbed the most brightest paint they could find and made what you see in the above pictures. Looks like a child with huge crayons made it. So not sure what the point was with the second version. But fun to drive to and describe I suppose.

    Sad part is no one was here. I had the place to myself and it was a Sunday. Just me, MechanicO and some goats.


    I continue on to me beach destination but stop for some good old Cuban billboards


    The road out to the beach spot was, as expected, especially bad. So bad that the following day I was talking to a visiting family in the casa next to mine and they had tried to go to the same beach the same day and ended up turning around in fear of destroying their rental car.



    There apparently is a resort at the very end of the road that was only acceptable to non-Cubans. You must have a non-Cuban passport to enter. OK. Apparently it was at one point a favorite launch point for Cubans on homemade boats to make attempts to float to Florida. But when I showed up it looked closed to everyone due to Covid.


    However, there was a great beach just 100 yrds before this sign that was fantastic


    It was only me and one Cuban family in their car from the 40’s. They were just leaving and honked and waved as they drove out.


    And screen shots from a video I am going to all “The Worlds Whitest Guy in Cuba”.





    Had dinner that night at the Casa and made plans for the next day. Again, if in Vinales, you MUST stay here


    And my favorite shot of the day. Mileidys had her son take this shot and she kept saying she wanted it so she can send to all her friends and say I was her new husband, Ha!


    Now it is time to camp in Cuba!
  3. FinTec

    FinTec Been here awhile Supporter

    Sep 27, 2013
    Two goals this day, travel as far West as I could in Cuba and to camp on the beach. Sort of successful.

    Here is one of my favorite shots so far, as I leave Vinales I pass through a Covid check point. I get the usual questions of where am I going, etc. Afterwards I was given the nod to proceed followed by a solute mb the soldier in command! Hell yea! I did not know what to do so I gave a half assed attempt at a return salute while wearing my helmet. Can barely see in my mirrow. No shots fired so I think I nailed it.


    Cuban traffic jam as I leave town


    Took as many back roads as possible as I headed West. Small and rough roads but worth it. I think someone here is Italian? I did run into a few Italian speakers in Cuba.


    OK, another embarrassing moment on camera. The road really deteriorated to the point where this bridge was not even usable to four wheeled travel. I stopped to check the condition of the bridge and make some calculations on load capacity vs wood degradation vs consequence of possible failure. Even MechanicO was hee-ing and hawh-ing doing this. When suddenly I hear a two stroke behind us. This guy just blazes past and does not even stop or slow down. We tried to look cool and not concerned, like I was just fiddling with the GPS, but I know we failed. No issues, bridge was fine.


    As mentioned before, lunch has been a challenge. This time I packed some left overs from breakfast at the Casa that morning, I just needed a quite shady spot to eat. But I also needed to take a piss big time. So I saw this perfect bus stop bench in the middle of nowhere.


    Well, the issue with Cuba is there is ALWAYS someone nearby at any point. Just when I thought I was alone, up the road comes a dude walking. Hola. Then a guy on a horse surprises me from field behind me. Hola. Then a tractor with 6 people on it drives by. Hola. This went on for way longer than it should have. Finally a break and job complete.


    Another Covid checkpoint with some fans



    At this point I am getting WAY off the beat’n path. Towns and people are getting scarce and on the final stretch to the west I rode the road below for like an hour and saw no one. Nada. Crazy road as well as it was just carved into the thicket of the terrain. If I stopped my bike and tried to walk off the road, almost impossible, dense, think, jungle like terrain. Nice canopy though keeping the sun of us. And this went on for a long time.


    Nuts. So I finally make it to eh entrance to the state park that gets me to the most Western point in Cuba and closed due to Covid!


    The guys here were very nice and talkative. I think they might have been a bit bored and lonely with such a far out outpost. I did make one attempt to persuade them and in my best Espanola I told them I had sailed the seas, riding my motorcycle over treacherous roads, fought battles, all to just visit this famous state park (Peninsula National State Park). No go. But they kindly showed me on my map where I could go to camp for the night as an alternative.

    The road out to the spot was semi-washed out but ridable



    Based on my map, I am pretty sure that would be Florida only 90 miles that way!



    I found lots of great spots in the mangrove trees out of the sun. However, when I turned off my motor I could hear this steady hum. Above me, in the canopy must have been a bazillion and one half bees (Eric the Half a Bee. Anyone?). At least I think bees. They looked like bees and sounded like bees. And then I would notice in a nearby tree a huge hive, the size of a duffel bag. But then I found a spot with no hive, minimum bees and all was good. I made a pack with them, you stay up high, and I’ll stay down low, and we’ll get along just fine.


    View left and right on beach. No one. No buildings. Nada.




    And thus the first time camping on the beach in Cuba and as far West as they would allow me.

    Finished the night sipping whiskey from a flask and singing along to songs on my phone as I watched the sun set.

  4. steved57

    steved57 Long timer Supporter

    Dec 31, 2007
    East Texas
    Haha Fin - loving your report / pics so keep em coming when you have the time
  5. Animo

    Animo Been n00b awhile

    Dec 1, 2009
    Playa del Carmen
    Pure gold, Fin :thumb

    Thank you for putting in the effort to show us your adventure. I don’t know how you guys do it.

    btw, Mechanic0 looks bad ass.
  6. mpusms

    mpusms Been here awhile Supporter

    Nov 21, 2015
    Saint Simons Island GA
    I spy arroz blanco, frijoles negro, pollo al horno, papitas frita, ensalada and maybe boniato (bottom right). I’d give my left nut for that plate. Great pics and RR.
    Joris van O and liv2day like this.
  7. FinTec

    FinTec Been here awhile Supporter

    Sep 27, 2013
    The next morning I had made the decision to head East. Mainly due to I had run out of West. So I did a Churn and Burn to Varadero. Not too hard to do because at this point I would be getting on the main interstate in Cuba (the A4) and cranking it to almost Havana, but peeling right just before hitting town. I did NOT want to deal with Havana traffic again. So not a ton to report on this day as mostly moving on faster roads.

    Another cool billboard


    Found a solar project off the side of the road. I am in the solar industry now so I am looking for these during my travels.


    But this one did not make it. At least not yet. Hard to see in this picture but all the racking is up but no solar panels installed. And judging by the weathering on the racking and the height of the grass, it has been a while. Note: I have passed maybe three other solar projects fulling operating on this trip.


    Random screen shot from the A4. Me and this driver exchanged thumbs up. And his girlfriend totally flirted with me from the passenger seat. Maybe.


    When I was looking at this route the night before I saw a town just off the A4 I absolutely had to stop at. It would be right around lunch so perfect timing. Here is what I saw rolling in.


    So good, they named it twice! But as Cuba had shown, dreams need to be adjusted as needed. No tacos in Taco Taco. The town was super small and I pulled into the below road side stand and asked the lady, “Dos tacos por favor!”. In this pic I am literally holding up two fingers for two tacos please.


    “No senior, only pan”. Nuts. I think another scalding letter to the municipality of Taco Taco is in order when I get back home for their grossly misleading town name.

    And some more great billboards along the road. These guys are rock starts in Cuba!




    Time to learn your Espanola!


    And then I rolled into Varadera just in time for dinner at my new Casa.

    Briggski, DaveTrips, EmmEff and 53 others like this.
  8. FinTec

    FinTec Been here awhile Supporter

    Sep 27, 2013
    Thanks PukaWai, that make sense. I have been running the "Especial" (94) as much as possible. When I have gone lower then this I have heard some mild pinging under sever load and hard acceleration. Not to bad and easy to control with throttle. However, I do wish I had gotten around to making the alternate ECU map for low octane fuel. Pull back timing, lower Lambda, all the safe things to do to save a motor at the expense of performance. Next trip.
    timja1, ilten, steved57 and 4 others like this.
  9. dano619

    dano619 Long timer Supporter

    Sep 4, 2011
    sunny san diego
    This report is FN great!! Thanks....check in when you can!!
  10. Pete_Tallahassee

    Pete_Tallahassee Grampy Supporter

    Sep 12, 2006
    Tallahassee. FL. USA
    Thanks, I appreciate your time and effort to make this report. I understand how much time it takes.
  11. Cafeguzzi

    Cafeguzzi Been here awhile

    Aug 8, 2011
    Brilliant RR! thanks for all your work, Fin
  12. eakins

    eakins Butler Maps

    May 29, 2002
    Fort Collins, Colorado
    Excellent! I enjoyed that same rock wall art in Vinales.

    I'm sure I posted this before, Cubans can travel to Panama and bring back 2 electric scooters among other goods. They then are legally allowed to sell 1 right away for profit and to supply the island. They are everywhere. I'm sure the other one gets sold too and some travel to Panama often for supply. I asked about certain goods I saw for sale and was told they are mostly from Panama but sometimes the US. Small containers of Pringles were common.
  13. eakins

    eakins Butler Maps

    May 29, 2002
    Fort Collins, Colorado
    That's cool that @rtwpaul stayed at that same Casa in Vinales. @EvergreenE would have been there too with him.
  14. Roaddawg

    Roaddawg MotoLoco

    May 22, 2008
    Great journey. I noticed the GPS. Do checkpoint officers ask you any questions regarding it?
  15. Essbee

    Essbee Been here awhile

    Jul 10, 2009
    East Coast, South Africa
    Loving this RR, thanks, Fin.
  16. Looper

    Looper The Dude Abides!

    Oct 6, 2008
    I bet they are distracted by the silence of the lambs GoPro mount, the laser blaster holder and Fins IrishColoSpanish.

    Excellent RR Fin! Keep em’ coming and enjoy the ride!!!
  17. pitbull

    pitbull Long timer

    Aug 24, 2004
    You're killing it with this RR, Fin! Your pictures and descriptions of daily events are just fantastic.

    It's been 8 years since I last visited Cuba as a tourist, but I'm dying to see the country by motorcycle. Thanks for providing a way to do it vicariously for now.
    Mofrid and dano619 like this.
  18. liv2day

    liv2day Life is about how you handle Plan B Supporter

    Jan 19, 2016
    Sherwood, Oregon
    Catching up after being mostly off-grid last week and have to throw a sincere thanks at you @FinTec! Your candidacy in what your experience has been like is amazing and I'm going to adopt the mantra of being comfortable with being uncomfortable - both for my future adventures and life in general (gone very sideways of late). I can't imagine what it must have been like trying to find your first casa with the group of people building around you. What a trip - amazing; crazy to buy internet access cards for an hour at a time.

    The pictures of the cars, infrastructure, buildings, and people are truly incredible man. I am thoroughly enjoying this RR and appreciate you taking the time to document so well. Had a good hard laugh at the whitest guy in Cuba movie title, look forward to getting some popcorn to watch that.

    Going to catch up on the rest now, keep the knobbies down.
    Natgeo14, Mofrid, and 2 others like this.
  19. demondog

    demondog n00b

    Aug 24, 2007
    Great RR Fin!!!
    Thanks for sharing
    orv likes this.
  20. Firenailer

    Firenailer Still Ridin'

    Mar 30, 2010
    I am SO lovin’ this RR! What an adventure, thanks for taking us all along!
    steved57 likes this.