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Mi Moto Fidel: Motorcycling Through Castro's Cuba [Paperback]

Christopher P. Baker
2.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)

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Book Description

13 Aug 2008
MI MOTO FIDEL: MOTORCYCLING THROUGH CASTRO'S CUBA is a unique, exhil-arating solo adventure into Cuba astride a cherry-red, 1000cc BMW Paris-Dakar motorcycle. Christopher Baker's moto journey took three months, sparking a love affair with the island and giving him instant entree to a people deprived of - and obsessed with - motorized wheels, especially ones covered by chrome. "Cubans rarely betray a sense of astonishment," he writes in Mi Moto Fidel. "Their lives are so topsy-turvy, there's not much that can surprise them anymore. But the motorbike held them spellbound. With its gloss-red tubular steel frame and armor plating designed to protect the moto from a rhino stampede, the Paris-Dakar was unlike anything ever seen. You'd think I'd landed in a flying saucer." With this opening, Baker met a tremendous variety of Cubans - tobacco growers and hookers, fishermen and santeros, soldiers and dissidents, teachers and shopkeepers - in every corner of the island. He describes the encounters with humor and insight, delves into history and politics, and from his singular vantage presents a close-up look at the island's towns, cities, and landscapes. "The soft texture of Cuba and the microwave heat got to me. It felt intoxicating. Just me and the bike purring steadily along a wide-open road, dipping and rising beneath a cerulean sky."

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Product details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: National Geographic Books; New edition edition (13 Aug 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0792264223
  • ISBN-13: 978-0792264224
  • Product Dimensions: 22.3 x 14.8 x 2.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 2.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,109,480 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Amazon Review

Mi Moto Fidel, Christopher Baker's intriguing account of his three-month romp through Cuba on a fire-engine red motorcycle is perhaps the most thorough portrait of this faded Communist country to date. Baker leaves no stone unturned as he revisits Ernest Hemingway's haunts in Havana, checks out a secret cave in the foothills of the sierras that once served as Che Guevara's command post during the Cuban Missile Crisis, and sips motojos at a thatched-roofed beach bar on Playa Los Pinos. On this exhaustive journey, our leather-clad "yanqui" interacts with a myriad of characters from artists to farmers to fisherman to prostitutes and engages in lively discussions on everything from politics, sex, cigars and, of course, on the ageing revolutionary himself, Fidel Castro. Baker effectively captures the essence of the Cuban people--primarily their generosity and resilient spirit and his various dalliances with beautiful habaneras (Daisy, Sonia, Juanita to name a few) will pique readers' interest (men's more than women's, perhaps). By the time Baker winds up back in Havana he has covered some 7,000 miles on his cherished bike. After reading Mi Moto Fidel, you'll no doubt be inspired to hit the road. --Jill Fergus --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
18 of 20 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars poor light reading 21 Nov 2001
By A Customer
I did not enjoy this book particularly as I found it did concentrate a little too much on Baker's libido rather than his journey. His powers of description are weak too, especially for a journalist. So much of the descriptive narrative, when it comes in waves is rather predictable. It was the author's personality that shone through to spoil this book... He does not really travel with an open mind, his dealing with the people he comes across on his travels shows this. Consequently he does not seem to be hugely beneficial from those peoples generosity.
It is a shame, otherwise it could have been a decent read, in my opinion. The political and social commentary come as a light relief from the author's testosterone driven riding. I do think this is a mid life crisis book, so as a young and not terribly macho man it's not for me. In any case, i urge you to wait for the paperback.
Please read Chasing Che for a more sophisticated read with a latin bike flavour, or Jupiter's travels for the definitive bike travelling book. Although If this book was up your street you might enjoy Richard La Plant's Hog Fever.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Mixed feelings 2 Jan 2008
As I say in the title I have mixed feelings about this book. The descriptions of the country and the people are good, but the underlying theme of the book appears to be how many women the author can sleep with on his way around cuba. I agree with the previous reviewer that this is a shame as it detracts from the overall enjoyment of the book. At times the author seems to slip into a state of abject whingeing and again this is not necessary. I did keep reading the book until the end but was disappointed overall, despite the authors obvious ability to "paint a picture" of Cuba which is real, when he tries.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Mi Moto Fidel 13 Oct 2011
I have not yet read this book but the reviews are all good and the preface looks inviting. Looking forward to the holidays when I can read loads of books again.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 3.7 out of 5 stars  40 reviews
26 of 29 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Mid-life fantasy masquerades as travelogue... 4 Aug 2001
By L. Alper - Published on Amazon.com
Christopher Baker, the author of "Mi Moto Fidel" won my heart in the first chapter by choosing a BMW motorcycle instead of a Harley. He then spent the rest of the book losing my sympathy. What could have been a fine dissection of a country in transition instead becomes a male mid-life sexual odyssey.
In the introduction Baker tells us he will detail his amorous conquests because "it illustrates the sensual nature of Cuba". Unfortunately he finds it necessary to include every sideways glance, every swished hip & every complementary female remark he intercepts. It gets a little tiresome for a reader to hear constant reiteration of how good a lover Baker is, what beautiful eyes he has, how every female bedded feels her life will be empty without him, etc. etc. ad nauseum. He must be the most gullible man around!
When he manages to get to the business at hand, ie writing of Cuba's scenery & people, things improve immensely. For most Norte Americanos, Cuba is Havana & maybe Trinidad. There is much more to this large island, & Baker rides thru most of it. The older people sound generous & dignified while the younger generation seems focused on extorting as many dollars as possible from every passing tourist. We are treated to excellent descriptions of beaches, mountains & agricultural areas. Baker also gives brief lessons in Castro & Cuba's history. Unfortunately, altho the author mentions almost every photo he stopped to take, none appear in the picture section. Those that do are so generic as to seem standard Cuba Board of Tourism releases. There's not even a good picture of the title motorcycle included!
Most men will enjoy this book unreservedly; my partner is ready to book a flight to Cuba this minute! Women will probably end with finding the author unsympathetic & vain. Take this book under advisement!
12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Mi Moto Fidel 1 May 2001
By El Rey - Published on Amazon.com
I used one of Christopher Baker's guidebooks over a year ago during my own 1 month adventure through Cuba. I found it to be an excellent book that was accurate and politically balanced (rare in most guidebooks). While in Havana, one of my friends told me he met Mr. Baker in a bar and that he was quite the "character". Naturally, when "Mi Moto Fidel" came out I bought it immediately. I had to know the story behind the writing of the guidebook and the man who wrote it. Other than Baker's initial political take on Cuba, his impressions were similar to my feelings about the island. He is able to love Cuba and it's people while still recognizing it's problems. He was also very honest about the change he experienced on his view of the current system. He gives a fair and balanced way of looking at the Cuba "situation". He essentially evolves and gains a much deeper understanding of Cuba and himself during his trip. I can understand how some readers might think Baker is a tad arrogant and self-centered, but he also was able to openly and honestly write about his mistakes and misconceptions; and actually grow from this. A rare quality in people. The book is also a great adventure story that will appeal to those who have or have wanted to travel independently. My only criticism is Baker's apparent disdain for most of the other foreigners he meets. I too despise many of the obnoxious package tourists I meet when traveling, however Baker seems to have trouble finding any redeeming qualities in most of the other tourists/travelers he meets. It seems he won't even give most of them a chance. He looks onto a beach and refers to fat, white skinned tourists. I am not sure how one can judge another person without actually speaking with them. Baker doesn't seem to realize that the content of someone's character has nothing to do with whether or not they have a tan or are thin (Although, I must admit, some of the tourists he meets do give arrogance and ignorance a new meaning). At times it seems he has the maturity level of a Southern California "frat" boy. I have no problem with his sexual adventures. After all, he was single and traveling in a very erotic country. But, I am confused as to why he seems to look down on other men who do the exact same as he. Maybe only tan men on motos have the right to enjoy themselves in this manner? I sometimes get the impression that Baker thinks he is "cooler" than other foreigners. Despite all this, I still highly recommend this book. It is well written, entertaining, insightful, funny, and accurate. Baker knows and understands this island better than most. He maintains his deep love for Cuba despite some unpleasant revelations during his trip. I look forward to his next book.
16 of 19 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A little sugar in the tank 6 Feb 2001
By Fred Bals - Published on Amazon.com
Mi Moto Fidel starts off promisingly enough, but sputters to a weak stop. Baker relating his apparently endless series of amorous conquests quickly becomes wearing (except possibly to 20-something males), as does his litany of complaints about Cuba's food (or lack thereof), heat, dust, and accomodations (or again, lack thereof).
While all probably true, I quickly tired of Baker's self-centerness and whining writing style. Except for sex, Baker seems not to have all that much liking for the Cuban people, his claims throughout Mi Moto Fidel notwithstanding.
Mi Morto Fidel belongs to that strange genre of travel books where the writer, after finally achieving his/her life-long dream. discovers that it wasn't worthwhile pursuing. You may find Mi Moto Fidel interesting if you think one man's pursuit of one-night stands is worthwhile reading. If you buy Mi Moto Fidel, as I did, to learn more about Cuba prior to traveling there, I think you'll find the book disappointing and depressing.
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Self-absorption rather than self-discovery 5 Aug 2003
By ArtoBeck - Published on Amazon.com
I read this book a week before my trip to Cuba, so the anticipation of realizing a 5 year traveling dream could make the most boring travelogue exciting. However, my thoughts always drifted away from the subject, and ran into the author. Each situation was a refection of himself, rather than a foil for understanding the the country and the people. Great that he left his utopian ideals for reality, but what does that mean for the people? Does he see the people differently as they are not part of a great experiment, but rather a totalitarian regime? It does not require an anthropologist to point out that people living in hard conditions but joined by a visible future and a stake are quite different than those realizing their lives are out of their control and often forceably reminded of that. I found both those people in my two weeks there, but in his book only found them rationalizing Mr. Bakers own political beliefs. People, and Cubans specifically, are more than just subjects under a political structure, no matter how dominant that structure is. Mr. Baker never brought that side out.

He did pique my desires as a 32 year old single man and solo traveler, even though the stories seemed like the braggadocio of young men in his telling, missing crucial details. Him picking out the Tropicana girl at the tourist-only show and saying there was a connection on sight, and that is why she went with him is self-delusional, if not disingenuous. But for this reason, his book is no travel book. After one "date" with a woman my second night in Havana, and all female interactions that followed, if not through Cuban friends, I realized that Mr. Baker was omitting the main reason that he was so desireable; his wallet and that valuable dollar that is between 5-10% of a monthly income there. There is a story there on how prostitution could be different in a country such as Cuba, as I believe it is, verses other stops of the sex-trade (which Cuba is, although never mentioned in his book), with refections of the women who are involved and what it means to them and the price they pay emotionally, spiritually and socially. But he chose avoid those prominent questions and play to his ego for us the reader. But after a visit there, you realize his glaring omission of what passes between lovers before they part, and he begs the question of why would someone so in love with a country treats its daugthers that way? At least bring it to the attention of us the reader and traveler. Alas, he rivals the tourists he so often slanders, using a country for its beauty, oblivious to the ramifications.

I give this two stars because without traveling there, the power of Cuba can sustain mediocrity, and the premise of riding a BMW through such a poor yet vibrant country is quite vivid. A digital camera has similar effects on the populace. And I do give him respect to realize the failure of Communism, against his desires. But his realizations are from his mirror, not the beautiful country he travels or the complicated but ultimately inspirational people he's met.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Mi Moto Fidel 8 Mar 2001
By lee daley - Published on Amazon.com
Whether you're traveling to Cuba or just dreaming of exploring this enigmatic island, "Mi Moto Fidel" is a remarkable read. Encounter by encounter, author Christopher Baker's adventures and insights travel deeply into the long-shrouded avenidas of Cuba's psyche. Initially infatuated with Castro's grand commitment to communism, Baker's explorations gradually cause him to experience a profound, political shift. After surviving a near shipwreck crossing the "widest, deepest moat in the world," the ninety-mile stretch of sea separating Key West, Florida from Cuba, Baker exclaims, "Havana! I can't wipe the grin off my face." Havana is Baker's jumping off point for a 7,000 mile trek across Cuba, his chariot a bodacious red BMW Paris-Dakkar motorbike. Baker's black leather get up, his exuberance, his flaming red motorcycle fascinate all who encounter him. Part travelogue, part memoir, part political treatise, Baker unabashedly records not only his impressions of Cuba but also those of his more private thoughts and experiences. This was not the writer's first attempt to uncover the reality of today's Cuba. As the author of two comprehensive and practical guidebooks about the island, he had made several previous trips. But, in the more personal "Mi Moto Fidel," Baker cuts to Cuba's core, laying bare the island's more intimate ways. He calls his travels both "disheartening and uplifting." Baker is at his best on his motorcycle, his senses completely at one with the island's unfolding landscape. Transporting the reader with him, he cruises the country's coastline and inland terrain. Impressions riff and rumble, creating verbal snapshots of Cuba's people and places. As one recedes, another more vivid unfolds. During his three-month odyssey, Baker and his bike consistently engage and attract the locals. Farmers, fishermen, former doctors, flamenco dancers, all contribute to the writer's political " coming of age" in this sweet and sour stewpot of police state and sultry paradise. Ultimately Cuba itself, its people, its history and geography propel the narrative. Too, Baker's "moto fidel" proves itself a fitting companion as it comes to represent the journey's one faithful and sustaining relationship. Often poetic and poignant, "Mi Moto Fidel" illuminates the dynamic mix of socialism and sensuality that is Cuba.
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