Cuba journal - 2:00 am Friday morning

It's 2:00 local time, but I think that's only midnight Denver time.

What a day!

Last night I asked my host if he could find someone to take me for a tour of Havana, starting at around 10:00 and going for a couple of hours. I asked about breakfast and he said that breakfast would be here at the casa; he said 9:30 would give me plenty of time before my tour might start.

At 9:20 when I was just ready, he knocked at my door to tell me that breakfast was ready - and what a spread! There were scrambled eggs, sliced something-with-pork-in-it, rolls, a sliced tomato, sliced watermelon, sliced some-other-kind-of-tropical-fruit-with-seeds-in-it, some kind of fruit juice, coffee, milk and water. For me.

I ate as much as I could and before long my host introduced me to Amable, my driver and tour guide. We stepped outside and I saw that our car for the day was an old Chevrolet (did he say 1951?) - sounded like a diesel and the shifter was on the steering column. It did a fine job.

He took me everywhere: the University (we went into a building for math and science), the Hotel Nacional (where I was last night, but not during daylight suitable for photography), the Grand Synagogue of Havana (I taught him what Bet Shalom means; he had never seen the synagogue and was grateful to me for showing it to him), the Forest of Habana where we saw some people of African descent performing a religious ritual with a chicken (hint: it did not end well for the chicken), the Plaza de la Revolucion, the area around the Capitolio, Hemmingway's favorite bar for mojitos (I bought us each a mojito), past the military museum, the Cathedral where JP2 and one other Pope have come and through a tunnel under the channel that leads into Havana's port so that we could go visit the military base where they have Jesus of Havana.

By then we were pretty much out of time and we came back.

Our tour took a bit longer than I had planned, and though he repeatedly told me that he wasn't worried about the money, I think I should have paid him more. I paid him the $75 we agreed to before setting out and gave him some razors (about which he was not so excited), toothpaste (again: not such a big deal) and some Advil and Tylenol, for which he seemed really grateful.

Still: If I have any of their money left by the time I head home, I'm going to leave some for Amable with my host.

I went to the Nacional with a little while before our group was set to meet. Found the "business center" and spent $5 emailing my kids, Mom and Caroline, then sat near the entrance to the courtyard with a beer, my book and my ever-so-subtle Ironman backpack. Sure enough it did its trick and one after another the group came together.

We had a couple of rounds there (the mojitos at the Nacional taste good but lack punch) before heading out to La Roca for dinner. Really reasonably priced (the chicken soup appetizer - which was spectacular - cost $1) and pretty good (the salsa picante helped my fish a good bit). Many of us decided to go Out for the night, but first we stopped at the guest house where a few of our athletes are staying.

Just inside I noticed that the sign for their hostess included some Hebrew discussion of breakfast, and sure enough there was a Mezzuzah on the doorway (it's in a large building and SeƱora doesn't own the whole thing). She's not Jewish, I guess, but a ton of her guests are so all rooms have Mezzuzahs on the doorposts.

Back out we went, found a couple of cabs and headed to La Casa de la Musica, a club that had been recommended to me for music. It was 9:30, and homie said that they wouldn't open until 10:30 but we could sit in this bar and drink if we liked.

At 10:45 a couple of our team peeled off. We finally went in at 11:00.

TWO HOURS LATER the band began to play. Very energetic young men doing their MC Hammer posture and salsa dancing. A good show but by then we were all pretty tired and thinking about the morning.

In the morning I need to go get my bike, head down to the race venue to pick up my packet and then I think I have dinner plans with Peter, the fellow from whom I am renting my bike.

I really should be at the bike rental place in six hours from right now, so I think it's time for me to turn in.