July 30th: Gibraltar from the gutter

Hi folks,
I have been really, really down for some time. You see, I arrived in Gibraltar last Sunday evening, without my bike. At the start of Stage 2, my bike seemed to have been stolen, and not by a petty thief, but by an airline.
Royal Air Maroc (RAM). They fly 787 dreamliners! But a search on the internet could easily lead one to the conclusion that it is a criminally run organization. According to anecdotal reports, they will sell the same first class or business class seat multiple times and stick the unfortunate flyers in economy, but not refund their money. Luggage disappears commonly, and without any compensation. They hide behind the fact that they are in Morocco, safely insulated from any real complaints. I am amazed that the US allows them to land, particularly with all of the fear of terrorists coming into the US.
I have copied pleas for help to every email address that I could find on RAMs web site; they do not respond. I called all of the customer support numbers–they do not answer. Eventually, I dialed an American 800 number for booking flights and got a rude and unhelpful man when he found out that I was not in the US. Eventually, I sent an Email to RAM offering to pay 1000 Euros to anyone who could bring me the bike. Nothing.
The staff at the Gibraltar airport¬†has been very polite and friendly. One woman in particular has seemed very willing to help me. I don’t want to publish her name, out of fear that she will somehow get in trouble from RAM. But she has the same name as my maternal grandmother, and that makes me smile. I really like her! The plan forward has been to wait: the bike will show up.
I am not very good at waiting. I decided to take matters into my own hands. I found a local bike mechanic–Thomas–who thinks he can make me a touring bike. Thomas is from Poland and takes great pride in his work. If you are ever in Gibraltar, stop in and see him at his bike shop. ¬†Meeting Thomas and experiencing his enthusiasm was one of the really positive things that happened to me in Gibraltar.


Thomas thinks he can get me a bike 5 days after I turn him loose, by adapting a bike he has in his shop. The are three problems with this idea, however. First, it represents a 5 day delay. Secondly, we are talking about $2000 which would really pain me to part with. My son’s university–Harvard–has already surprised me with an enormous college tuition bill that I was not expecting. Thirdly, the handlebars would not be ideal–they would be more of a mountain bike style, and I already have big problems with my hands. But it would work, and the components would be solid.
I was all set to do that last Thursday (its now Saturday) when I heard that “they had found my bike.” According to the report, it had been sitting in Casablanca for several days. Now, when I heard this, there was a RAM flight from Casablanca to Gibraltar in a couple of hours, so it made sense to me, to just put the bike on the RAM flight because I would have it that night. The baggage manager in Casablanca did not want to do this, however, because he didn’t think it would fit into the cargo hold. What? This is a plane with a beverage service; a huge high-wing turboprop. You could almost stand up in the cargo hold. Maybe if they were constrained to use those module things, or if it were a full flight? I suppose. And, that might explain why it never made it to Gibraltar in the first place. But the unwillingness of the manager to take a simple and direct solution to the problem should have been a red flag to me.
My Gibraltar friend decided to ask the manager to forward the bike to London. Once there, it would be in the system and could be sent to Gibraltar on a British Airways flight. Now, keep in mind that Morocco is about 15 miles from Gibraltar. But the plan was to send the bike is all the way to London and back again just to get it out of Casablanca and out of the hands of RAM.
It’s amazing how irrational the human mind can be. When you are desperate, with your back against the wall–this is when you should be the most careful and logical. But we tend to believe news that we want to hear, when at other times our first reaction would be skepticism. I have been bit by that so many times in my life. So now it’s Saturday and–you’ll never believe it, as I write this post–no bike. My fear is that the baggage manager in Casablanca made up the story about “finding the bike” just to get us off of their backs. (Don’t knock it–it worked!)
I am now facing something known as a “cost-sunk” fallacy. I’ve invested an entire week in the “magically recover the bike” plan. If I change my plan, I will have wasted all of that investment. In reality, once time or money is spent, it is gone, and should not enter into your decision-making strategy in the present. But it is really hard to accept the fact that I wasted an entire week on false hopes. What I need to do now is run over to Thomas and hand him a fistful of Euros, and get him started. Then towards the middle of next week, I could be touring again. But I just can’t seem to bring myself to do it.
So, like I said at the beginning, I have been feeling a bit down. I texted a friend and told him about the problem and remarked that “I owed it to myself to end up staggering and with my face in the gutter.” And, yes, I have been to a few pubs over the past week. My favorite has been The Horseshoe; its a local hangout for British Navy folks. The manager–a Gibraltarian–quizzed me the other night on all of the US state capitols!
Just so you know, I never actually ended up in a gutter. And the last pub I went to I didn’t exactly stagger out of either; in fact, I would have made it out fine if the fellow behind me hadn’t stepped on my fingers. (I’m joking! Actually, I stole that joke from the Kingston Trio, who stole most of their songs from others groups, so it sort of makes sense…)
But I digress. The fact is that I have been so incredibly down these past few days, because I have lost my bike. This ride has gone so different than I expected it to go 30 years ago when I first dreamed it. And, to be honest, I am not even that same person anymore. That man is gone. There is a lot to be sad about. Yes, that man and the original dream have been lost… but somehow, it is all redeemed by the fact that exactly 5 days and 23.5 hours after I arrived in Gibraltar, my bike did indeed show up and in perfect condition!
Yep! Tomorrow morning, I start stage 2, albeit 6 days late.
I’ve got a ton of stuff to show about the country of Gibraltar–I wasn’t exactly sitting around and doing nothing for 6 days, you know! I will talk about this in a future post. Until then, All is well! All is well.

6 Responses to “July 30th: Gibraltar from the gutter

  • P. J. Caldwell
    7 years ago

    Great news Scott. Hope it goes more smoothly from here on!

  • Dear Brother, I am so glad your bike is with you and you can continue on your journey! Please keep your mind set on the Highest of things, knowing all truly is working for the good. Be safe!

    Love you,


  • Scott, Great news about the bike!

  • You sure kept us hanging on that outcome! I was ready to set up a GoFundMe page for your new bike.

    Glad it arrived safely. On with the dream!

  • David Stischer
    7 years ago

    Glad you finally got your bike. Hope you have a wonderful tour through Europe.

  • I’m so excited to see the bike arrived! And I can’t wait to see the man evolve with the adventure! Or the adventure evolve with the man? Remember, life is what happens when you are busy making other plans. And thank you for taking us along on an incredible adventure.

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