Tour de San Luis: Día Cero
We had to launder 5,000 American dollars through a group of Argentine friends in town.
I Today MFS Woke Up in Argentina
In rooms 128 (Daniel & Keiran) and 132 (Emiliano Granado) of Hotel Huarpes (yeah, jaaaust like herpes) located at 1568 Belgrano in the town of San Luis, a name that literally translates to St. Louis. According to the internet, Hotel Huarpes is a three star hotel. Team Cannondale-Garmin, along with several other teams, is staying at the completely booked Vista Suites. Vista Suites is also the official Race Hotel, as in that’s where the Race Organizers have set-up, that’s where the press conferences are, that’s where the press room and media offices are located, that’s where all the staff, officials, and support are posting-up. At approximately 12:30 PM Team Manual for Speed met in the desayuno area in the lobby of Huarpes to prepare for our ½ miles drive to Vista Suites, but first we had to launder 5,000 American dollars through a group of Argentine friends in town to casually lurk-tate the first race on the 2015 UCI World Tour Calendar, maybe it’s the second race, maybe the Tour Down Under is (holler @alex_howes!!! and @nathanhass95!!!), either way it’s one of the first races on the 2015 UCI World Tour. Oh and speaking of Alex Howes,
II Tour Down Under Update #1
III Argentina: On the Ground Basics + Street Meat
Emiliano is from Argentina. This is what Emiliano has to say about the exchange of goods and services in Argentina, though please note that Emiliano has only been to San Luis once before, and it was an utterly unremarkable experience due in large part to the fact that San Luis is utterly and absolutely unremarkable by all accounts/metrics/matrices. The point is, they do shit a little differently down here, as compared to the rest of Argentina, where people actually live.
If you pay in cash you save roughly 20-30% right off the top. The whole country offers a Cash Discount.
- Many business are cash only, regardless.
- The exchange rate at banks and through official channels like ATMs or whatever is currently 8.6 Argentine pesos to 1 US dollar.
- The Argentine peso is unstable and fluctuates so much that saving money in US dollars makes a great deal of sense. In fact, because of the instability of the Argentine peso, there is a healthy black market for US dollars.
- Because it’s an illegal black market the exchange rate is typically much better. Sometimes as high as 13.5 to 1.
Our Black Market Money Laundering Event might have been a welcomed educational reenactment-type experience if we weren’t already late to eat street meat with Ted King, Joe Dombrowski and Tom Danielson. In the end, here are our highlights;
- After some negotiation we arrived an exchange rate of 11.5.
- The main dude, the dude doing most of the talking, wanted to buy my white Oakley Radar XL blades. Attempted #disruption!!
- We were only able to exchange $1,000 due to the fact that the ad hoc laundering consortium wasn’t prepared to handle our level of business, and therefor didn’t have enough pesos on hand. We postulate that this issue may stem from the fact that the highest denomination in the Argentine Pesos is a 100, the equivalent of 10 American Dollars. Neither party brought a briefcase.
- We made tentative plans to meet the following day for a Black Market v2.0 sesh.
Wait, they’re not going to that cart we saw last night, the one you asked me if I would eat at, and I said maybe, but I was thinking the whole time no? Are they? I mean, how low are these guys down to go?”- Emiliano Granado
We were supposed to meet for our Street Meat expedition in the lobby of Vista Suites (VS) but we were late and so our Garmindales had already left and were presently at “the spot.” Joe Dombrowski texted us the directions: Go to the roundabout and turn left, we will be there. From the front door of the Vista the only visible roundabout was to the right, so we went to the right, toward a pile of tires and a vacant bombed out building complex that was probably, at this very moment, bidding for the 2015 Parkour World Championships.
It turns out that the cart, located on the corner of Av Lafinur and Junin, is called Carrito Bar El Ray Del Pancho (The King of Dogs). We found the dudes behind the cart, sitting in the shade atop a low wall. They’d already ordered Lomos. They recommended we do the same. So we did, we ordered Lomos too. First of all they’re greasy, and they come wrapped in paper and embedded in a plastic bag. The bread is flat,dense, and extremely white, it’s basically a sandwich cut in two, the centerpiece is Philly Steak-style steak (Lomo is a cut of beef), then you have some ham, an egg, ketchup, mustard, mayonnaise, some onions,a few slices of tomato, and cheese.
IV Manual for Speed's Street Meat Lomo Sandwich Highlights
- “Yo, I gotta para llevar.”—Tom Danielson
- “Have you ever seen a lomo this big?”—Joe Dombroski
- “Local knowledge man, this is my third time around.”—Ted King
- Watching a moped go past with a woman sitting on the back breast feeding a baby. Just to be clear, including the operator/driver that means a total of 3 people were riding on the back of a single moped, one of which was providing a vital service to one of the others.
- Watching Ted King sweat onto his lomo. Side note, it was 85 degrees today but with windchill, humidity, el sol, and whatnot, it feels more like 101.
- We determined that in San Luis, tires and rims are basic unit of trade like gold and walrus tusks.
- Ted king offered to pay us 10 US dollars for the Starbucks VIA Ready Brew Colombia we hand delivered to him from America.
We had an appointment with Nate Brown to do a photoshooting called either The Other Tour of San Luis or Nate Brown: Meat N’ Greet. In preparation we consulted the Vista Suite Concierge Desk for glossy brochures and local tips. The guy told us that San Luis has this one Plaza, and this other Plaza, and that if you’re willing to drive 15 minutes out of town, there is a Hotel Casino & Horse Track. We took Nate to one of the plazas, bought him some juice, a green apple flavored lollipop, and a double-scoop cup of vanilla ice cream. First we went to the Fountain, then we met a cop who told us about the Statue of Liberty and how the driver’s right-of-way works in Argentina, which we need to know because 67% of intersections here don’t have traffic control of any kind—here’s the deal, the car on the right has the right of way, orrrrrr, whoever is más macho. Side note: After photographing Nate with the cop and the cop’s partner, after we talked about motor vehicle laws and etiquette and all that, after he told us about the Statue of Liberty, basically after we were done you know, interacting, the cop continued to follow us around town from a respectful but slightly awkward distance for the rest of the photoshoot because A.) he was curious! or B.) he liked us and wanted to protect us? Then we photographed Nate inside a tree. That’s when Emiliano said, “Nate, can you move your hand a little bit so I can see the whole lollipop?” Then photographed Nate in front of a church. Then on the way back to the car we asked him to take off his top and pose in front of a mural. Then we brought him home to the VS where we needed to have Koffee With the Kings and attend a mandatory Drivers Education Course.
It’s actually not a Drivers Education Course, at least not exactly, it’s more of a Technical Meeting Media Thing where the Race Organizers talk about the laws, rules, codes, ethics, mores, obligations, expectations and whatever associated with being media at this tournament. It’s a requirement if you want to get on a moto and/or get a Prensa sticker for your vehicle—speaking of our vehicle, Alamo Rental Cars in Argentina is significantly different than Alamo Rental Cars in America. First of all it’s just a guy with a handwritten sign, there is no counter or computers or “space.” Second of all the guy lets you “rent” his cousin’s car for as long as you like. His cousin’s car is a 1986 Fiat Palio. In silver. Second gear doesn’t work and it requires manual, or “artisanal”, locking of each door one at a time—in order to do a complete round of locking or unlocking of three doors, an elaborate and well-choreographed baton-like key shuffle is required. On the upside the faceplate radio has an AUX hole. Oh and later we went to the team presentation, more on that here.