August 19, 2006 GMT
(12) Brasil: Hondas and Santa Ines

Down here and in the rest of Latin America, Honda has put the common man on wheels. He has been given freedom of movement which he otherwise would not have and could not enjoy.

From the venerable Honda 50 that started it all, to its big sister the Honda 90 and its inbred children the 125, 150, 175, 200 and 250 Honda is King. For over 46 years Honda has not relinquished its stranglehold on the motorcycle market, to any of its competitors.

These singles are the heartbeat of the common man and woman. They provide economic, personal transportation...sometimes for entire families of 4 or 5 people. They serve as moto taxis, general delivery and Pizza delivery bikes. Add a side car for bigger payloads and supermarket grocery deliveries. Strap on a side bracket and carry your surf board. Build some saddle brackets and carry 2x50 lb propane bottles or multiple 20 liter water bottles. Make a 4-wheel semi-trailer unit by adding a trailer. Remove/modify the swing arm and end up with a trike to be used as a closed-in moto taxi. Honda builds these 3-wheelers especially for the South American market and probably for the Asian market as well. Take the front wheel off and weld the forks to a large, front end trailer and you have a vegetable wagon. These are more than conveniences. They are the life blood and work horses for an entire civilization. Honda you have done yourself proud.

Semi-Trailer Unit.JPG

Side Car Unit.JPG

Propane Delivery.JPG

In Santa Ines, Maranhäo, I stepped out of the hotel and into the street. People stopped and stared. They looked at me as if I was from outer space. I checked to see if I had forgotten to put my shorts on. Everything was in order. I guess they had never seen a white guy before. I flashed them my best smile and said "Good Afternoon". Nothing...just a blank stare...not even a smile.

I moved down the street and hailed a passing boy on a bicycle. He skidded into a 'U' Turn uncertain if he should flee or heed the call. I reached out and steadied his ride. The women on the sidewalk stopped and stared, not sure what I would do next, now that I held him captive. I asked him where the nearest Internet Cafe was. He looked at me blankly, his eye wide and wild. I repeated the question, more slowly this time. "Oh, just down block. There are two."
"Which is the best?" I asked.
"They are about the same", came the reply.

I released my grip and carried on down the street. I entered the first cafe and settled in at my machine. Five minutes later the boy opened the door and surveyed the crowd. Satisfied when he found me he closed the door and returned to his bicycle, probably to report to the astounded ladies on the sidewalk.

I flagged down a trucker today. I could smell brakes burning but there was no hill. Ahead of me, in the distance I saw the semi. As I drew near the smell intensified and the smoke increased. Oblivious to it all he motored ahead. Here in Brasil they dump the diesel exhaust out the side, behind the cab. They do not use the chrome stacks so prevalent in North America. If he did check his mirror and saw smoke he probably assumed it was exhaust smoke.

I pulled beside him and caught his attention and then pointed to his wheels. He quickly interpreted the gesture and pulled over. He jumped out of the cab as I walked towards him.
"What's wrong?", he asked, as he looked at the front wheel.
I pointed to the second set of duals on the tractor. A trail of smoke rose from the hub. One of his air brakes hadn't released. He shook my hand vigorously. "Thank you" (Obrigado), he said.
"Denada", I returned.

I left him to his chore. I would be on the air waves tonight. Breaker, breaker, 1-9er. There's a bear in the air and a gringo biker on the ground. My hub's a cook'n, but the gringo was look'n and now my bacon's saved. The brakes ain't died because he spied the smoke aris'n from my side. That's a big 10-4 brother.

Posted by Robert Bielesch at August 19, 2006 10:21 PM GMT

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