245: Dice Man Crashes Second Motorcycle Deal
The little Boxer who just wouldn't. Photo: Isaac Stone Simonelli
Daily Updates are not edited and function more as daily journal entries – so if the plot seems to be all over the place or missing entirely and the tenses changes faster than a kaleidoscope, well, that's just the way it is.
Charles is pissed. His sparkling blue eyes seethe beneath his long, sun-kissed hair.
The deal is off.
I shouldn’t have snapped at him, but my time is not for him to continue to squander.
Am I being unreasonable?
I don’t think so.
On the drive over to pick up the motorcycle from his place, when it was all supposed to be done and dusted, I was hounded by the uneasy sensation that somewhere in the deal screw was loose.
The working title for our joint project is Driven: Africa on 150cc. The goal is to develop a multi-media campaign separate from Dice Travels that is connected to Charlie’s Travels tour agency with a focus on motorbike adventures.
Several days after I returned from the alleged Amboseli National Park motorcycle safari, Charles was able to find time to meet up at Spring Valley Oven so I could hand over the drone footage. We also planned giving new life to the idea of collaborating on the Driven project.
Only a couple days prior, I was clear that it didn’t seem like the project was going to work.
“Hey Charles, how's it going?,” I wrote on Facebook. “So I've been thinking about the media project together. I'm not sure the bike is a good fit for me and I'm worried that the portion developed specifically for you is going to be pretty time consuming. Just wanted to bring you up to speed after having had a few days to consider my options. However, if you any other ideas on how we can work together, I'm all ears.”
After doing some research and hitting up a couple helpful members of the motorcycle facebook groups for Nairobi riders, I was starting to look at the possibility of tracking down a used Yamaha DT175 enduro-style bike instead of going with a 150cc Chinese bike. The DT175 would be nothing like Rocinante, the Honda CB500X I sold in Thailand, but DTs are known to be bomb-proof, two-stroke machines.
The bike might be a very good fit.
Already, Yuri, one of the motorcycle guides from the safari, put me in touch with a guy by the name of Sam, who specializes in buying and selling DT125s and DT175s . The bikes are a little out of my financial range, 1,500 dollars. I explained to Sam that I only had 1,000 dollars; he thought that was something he could work with.
“Fair enough. Should be a win-win,” Charles wrote back, sparking my hope that perhaps we could still make a deal that saved me the hassle and costs of buying a bike.
“I guess the option would be to see what 1k worth of bartered content would look like for you instead of an in-depth multimedia project,” I write.
“What about we get the bike kitted to go and I put together one 1-2min video a month for you while I'm on the road. All I'd need is the branded intro and exit you want,” I suggest.
We agree to meet up and talk further. Yet, even with me sitting on the awesome drone footage from the safari, it takes days to set up a meeting with him.
His messages on Facebook were all levelheaded and reasonable – he’s a businessman with hustle. This could work.
It’s hard not to be optimistic, but I’ve managed harder things.
On paper, it all looks good, like a house built along a Thai beach. It’s not until later, after everything is laid to rest, that government officials start banging on your door claiming that despite due diligence and the land department signing off on the property, the title deed for your million dollar property was forged.
Nonetheless, getting access to a free motorcycle for the remainder of the Dice Travels journey would be huge.
Finally, we nail down a time to meet.
I wait for Charles to call. The click slips past the time we were supposed to meet. I message him. He’s still taking care of other things; can I postpone. Yes, I can.
I wait for Charles to call. The click slips past the time we were supposed to meet. I message him. He’s still taking care of other things; can I postpone. Yes, I can, again.
The day begins to slip away with me twiddling my thumbs in the house, waiting for him to meet with me five minutes down the road at the café.
How many appointments for one meeting can you miss in a day?
The call comes. He’ll be there in ten minuets.
“So how was the trip?” Charles asks.
I didn’t hold back.
“Honestly, like I told you on Facebook, it sucked.”
With his usual charm, Charles took on board my more constructive comments about the trip, apologizing for the failure to adequately take care of Mustafa and me. We transfer the drone footage. (I didn’t mention the animal shots I got on my own time until he’s already rushing away – a compromise between not telling them and not giving the footage.)
“I dig the idea, but I think we need to find a better balance between what I’m expected to provide and what I’m getting in return,” I say.
“I understand,” Charles says. “What are you thinking?”
“Like I said, I’m glad to do a 1-2min video a month or even supply all the raw footage to you -- editing takes a lot of time,” I say. “You did say that you had interns coming in from Europe to help with video production, right? Maybe they could work with the raw footage.”
Basically, at this point, Charles is bargaining the usage of a 150cc Chinese Boxer motorcycle for the remaining five or so months of Dice Travels for my drone content. New, the Boxer costs about 1,000 dollars. It’s no Arabian stallion, but my bank account is looking drained, more like the infamous Quakeress after consecutive losing races around the track.
So how much does Charles get for a 1,000 dollar loaner bike? A loaner bike that has been crushed at least a few times by the Dutch kids on the safari.
“Yeah, but there’s more important things for them to do,” he says, the faintest of flinches fluttering across his face as he realizes his mistake – he clearly puts absolutely no value in my time or effort.
I let it go.
“Okay, well, what are you thinking?”
With broad strokes we paint a plan, where he sets up a separate website for Charlie’s Travels motorcycle adventures and I supply content: writing, photos and videos. However, the caveat is that he’ll pay me for the published written posts.
“Okay, so we can pitch stories both ways and I’ll get paid for what you decided to publish,” I say. “How much are you thinking?”
Charles gives some vague answer that seems to rattle around the 100-dollar mark. The ability to fund the trip while on the motorcycle, re-working blog posts to fit what he needs is ideal.
“Hey, man, it’s great chatting, but I really got to get going,” Charles says, checking the time on his phone.
“Okay, let me type up what notes I have in a Google Doc, add you to it and then we can hash out all the details on there.”
Back at the house, I should be exhilarated, but instead my heart remains beating at a steady, plodding pace. It’s an ideal opportunity, but don’t even peek into the basket, let alone start counting eggs.
The Google Doc goes live. It includes the project’s mission statement: Promote African motorcycle exploration of off-the-beaten track locations, as well as iconic landmarks, on smaller bikes (150cc).
Guaranteed deliverables are established: Charlie’s Travels - Freshly serviced 150cc Bajaj Boxer motorcycle use for duration of trip. Bike is to be painted Orange and Black with one side available for Charlie’s Travels branding and one side for Dice Travels. Bike prepared for trip: equipped with 12-volt socket, USB plug and luggage rack. Insurance for bike. Dice Travels: Usage rights for raw drone footage and photographs of motorcycle in locations and situations connected to target markets.
Optional deliverables –the blog posts -- are referenced and the responsibilities of both parties clearly outlined.
Under additional thoughts I write: If there is a significant crash, it all goes to whatever insurance is willing to pay you.
Despite Charles’ charm, the previous safari left no doubt that absolute clarity is essential for this project to move forward.
A couple days later, I received Charles comments on the document. I promptly answer all of them.
Mostly, there’s only the need to explain what certain wording means. Though he also clarifies that he will not be co-branding everything with Dice Travels, but will only occasional give my personal project a shout-out on Social Media.
“During the trip, I think you should cover the costs of maintenance and should bring the bike back in good condition,” he writes, calling me out on trying to slip costs of maintenance into his list of responsibilities.
“Obviously, the goal is to bring the bike back in a good condition,” I write. “However, if I get run off the road by an 18-wheeler or smashed up by some truck, there isn't much I can do about it at a certain point. I'm a very cautious, defensive driver. However, there is always the possibility that things go terribly wrong. I think in such situations, we have to rely on insurance to cover whatever it covers. As for general maintenance, I guess I can cover those costs.”
A day passes. I make sure Charles has had a chance to review my comments, in case there is a need for further clarifications.
A pick-up date for the bike is set.
“Can you come pick the bike up and then take it down to the mechanic to have the welding, painting and branding done?” Charles asks, he’s swamped with arranging his new house for the pile of interns about to descend from Europe.
“Can do. When do you want me to come buy?”
“Day after tomorrow work?”
Weld, paint and brand, that’s all we have to do; it sounds idiotically simple. But, if that’s it, I could be on the road in a few days and Dice Travels will be back on a roll.
Of course, the day of the appointment, Charles isn’t there. He made the appointment time – at his own house – and he still manages not to able to make it in time.
Lovince, a Kenyan friend I met in Kilifi, is kind enough to give me a ride to Charles’ place. Even after being lost, we still end up waiting for nearly 20 minutes on the side of the road waiting for him to get back from errands and lead us there.
A wide driveway opens up into a sprawling Spanish-style villa on a large property in Old Kitisuru. Thick tropical plants remain in there respective gardens, a huge, grassy yard trundles down a gentle hill in the back. Inside, however, the place is barren besides for a few sticks of furniture. At first, what in my head is a mansion for Charles and his girlfriend is quickly downsized to the reality of a shared living space. He’s still getting everything ready for the more than ten interns who will also be living and working in the house.
In a long run of black asphalt, next to the driveway, are all 15 of Charles’ motorcycles – the same bikes the Dutch guys were crashing on the safari.
“So, which one?” I ask.
“I just picked up the paperwork for this one yesterday,” Charles said, sending Ibrahim back into the house to dig up the registration book or one of the blue Boxers.
“Awesome,” I say, as Lovince and poke around the bike. “Do you have a road-safety vest and a helmet I can use to drive the bike down to the shop?”
“Yeah, here you go,” Charles says, handing the orange vest to me. “So what did you want to do about a deposit?”
The word deposit falls hard on the ground in front of him, landing with the thud of a miss thrown bowling ball.
“Deposit?” I ask. There was no mention of a deposit in any conversation. More importantly, there was no mention of a deposit in the Google Doc that clearly outlined the details of our agreement.
“Yeah, I’m a very trusting person, but I can’t let you take the motorcycle without a deposit. How are you on cash flow?”
“I don’t have any cash flow. That’s why I’m interested in making this trade. If I had the money, I’d rather buy a motorcycle myself and sell it when I’m done,” I say. “At this point, all the money I have is being put toward keeping me on the road for as long as possible. Even as it is, I’ll probably run out of money and have to find a job in several months.”
“Okay, well, maybe we can work something out where you leave some money, and then can just pay me back the remainder of the money if the bike is stolen or totaled.”
Hold on. This was clarified in the agreement. This specific point was crystal clear. What the hell is he doing trying to pull?
“I’m not comfortable with that idea man,” I say, my voice picking up intensity. “I don’t want to be financially responsible for the bike, that’s why we’re bartering.”
“You’ve got to be somewhat responsible,” Charles shoots. “Here, take the bike and we can work something out later.”
We’re now moving away from the bike. Moments ago, I had been about to kick a leg over the motorcycle and drive away. Lovince is already in his car, the engine running.
“Man, why are you bringing this up now? We outlined everything in the Google Doc,” I snap. “Now you’re just wasting my time.”
I can see that I hit a nerve. It’s true, the dude has shown no respect for my time since the moment I met him, but still, I don’t want to be burning bridges.
“Go, just go,” Charles says. “No deal.”
His eyes smolder.
“Okay, but think about it. If you change your mind, let me know,” I say, waving down Lovince before he drives off.
My hearts thumbing, a heat is radiating from my blood as it pumps through my body from the quickly burning words. I take a deep breath.
I quickly tap out an apology to Charles on WhatsApp. There really is no need to be burning bridges.
“That was it man, as soon as I heard that, I was over it,” he writes back.
Charles doesn’t change his mind, which leaves me scrambling back to the possibility of tracking down a bomb-proof DT175.