Insights on Travel from Costa Rica Expeditions’ Founder Michael Kaye and his Expert Friends.

How Do You Get to Cuba by Way of Prince Edward Island? Back to Cuba Again. Part #2

The first stop on our first trip to Cuba was Prince Edward Island, or, as the native’s invariable call it, PEI.  If you noticed that we were traveling in the wrong direction, you’re right.  The reason for this is that we did not know at the time that we were on our way to Cuba.

When we left the airport in PEI’s provincial capitol of Charlottetown.  We thought we were just on our way to a bike shop to have our take-apart tandem bicycle put back together, but we were actually on our way to Cuba.

Habitual readers of this blog have probably figured out that Yolanda and I travel with a tandem Bike.  Actually it is a Santana Titanium S&S coupled tandem bike, which is quite impressive for folks who are into bikes.

Whenever we go to a new place I call ahead to find a bike mechanic worthy of such a fine machine.  On my third or fourth call to bike shops in PEI I was getting desperate when I called MacQueen’s Bicycle Shop and got Danny MacQueen.

Our flight arrived late on Sunday afternoon, so I asked him if we could,  “…bring the bike to the shop right from the airport so that you can…”  Before I could say, “build and set up the bike while we wait,”  he interrupted and said, “Drool over it.”  I  knew we had our bike mechanic.  Little did I know how much more we had.  We started to find out that first Sunday in the store.

MacQueen’s Bike Shop

Biking PEI.  Photo Chris Parrott.

I was marveling at how fast and lovinglngly Danny  was building the bike and Yolanda was buying jerseys in the shop when we heard two women speaking Spanish.  We walked outside and met Danny’s Cuban Wife, Mirley and her mother.

Danny and his wrenches.  Photo Kristen Macqueen.

That was October, 2007.  Flash forward three months to January 2008.  I am in a Barbershop in Santiago de Cuba getting a shave.

Michael’s Comprehensive Third-World Development Index (CTDI) has only two parameters.

1.   Do Barbers routinely shave with a straight razor?

2.   Can you count on finding toilet paper in public restrooms?

If the answer to the first question is yes and the answer to second is no, the country is Very Underdeveloped (VU).

Cuba qualified on both counts.

In next weeks post, I’ll relate how how an ex downhill racer from Canada ended up marrying an ex international road bike racer from Cuba and how I got from talking to Mirley Macqueen and her mother in the Bike Shop parking lot in PEI to lying in a barber chair with a straight razor on my Adam’s apple in Santiago, Cuba.

I’ll also tell you what happened in the barber shop (besides surving the shave) that absolutely astounded me.

Click here for Part 1 of this series.

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2 Comments and 2 Replies

  • At March 16, 2011
    11:48:50 am
    Chris Parrott said:

    Ah, PEI. When they finally decided there was no commercial or social viability in having a railway which went right round the island, they turned it into a 100-mile leisure cycle track. A master stroke.

    I guess there are plenty of other places in the world where single track railways have met this pleasurable fate, but the only other place I’ve found that comes close to PEI is Brittany (France), with their Voies Vertes.

    People probably think I’m a bit of a saddo that, these days, when ever I see an under-used railway, I think to myself “Give it a year or two and that’ll be a Green Way”.

    Cuba’s got plenty of these, and the way oil is going these days, there’s an even chance that Cuba will completely bypass the build-a-high-speed-road-network phase of her developement, and either invest in railways, or turn them into cycle tracks.

    Now that would be progress.

  • At March 16, 2011
    6:56:37 am
    Kristen said:

    Oh, Michael, I’m LOVING this! Can’t wait for the next one!!!!!

    • At March 16, 2011
      12:45:43 pm
      Michael Kaye replied
      to Kristen:

      Hey Kristen, The next post is scheduled to go up on Tuesday, when Yolanda and I will be biking with Danny from Sancti Spiritus to Trinidad.

      We’re looking forward to Dinner with you, Abel and your friends in Havana Friday, night.

      Chris Parrot: Eat your heart out.