Alex Moore is one of those affable, easily met guys.
Alex just returned from the first American motorcycle group trip allowed since the Cuban Revolution. He spent 10 days of cruising the roads of Cuba on motorcycles.
In addition, he works for National Geographic on trips in Cuba, travels to other areas of the world, mountain climbs in the Rockies, and runs an imaginative new language school he started called the Language Lounge in Fort Collins, Colorado.
Because I advise Mr. Moore on occasion, I had the opportunity to interview him recently about the amazing Cuba journey and his invigorating viewpoint on an adventurous life.
What was your part in this Cuba trip?
Alex: My job on this first run was to bring together and unify the other three guides: Luis – President of Cuban Harley Club was our lead rider. [Also on the trip was] guide Ernesto, bus driver Carlos, and the two government employees in charge of U.S. trips to Cuba.
I had to make sure we complied with the person-to-person travel regulations, to handle mishaps in the ever-changing itinerary, and keep us on schedule. I played sweeper: always the last bike in the line, picking up stragglers, stopping to wait for photo takers, helping folks who got separated from rest of group.
In addition, to help improve logistics for future trips, I kept track of mileage, gas stop options, ride times etc.
It was a great trip because it really focused on the person-to-person aspect. Guys ride together or they meet with people on the way and they make a lot of connections with the culture.
They weren’t just riding. For instance, they visited José Rodriguez Fuster, the “Picasso of the Caribbean” who’s not only made paintings, mosaics, and sculptures but decorated houses all around his place. It’s something like 80 buildings.
Another of our stops was to visit with Julio Muñoz, otherwise known as “Cuba’s horse whisperer” at his 18th-century home called Casa Muñoz. It’s amazing to meet someone with a connection to animals like that guy.
Have you ridden motorcycles for some time, then?
Alex: Yeah, for a while. My first motorcycle was a 1981 Kawasaki KZ550. I rode it ‘til it died.
Who went on this trip?
Alex: 13 men from the United States.
What was different about this from when you’ve gone before for National Geographic?
Alex: The smaller group and individualistic nature of motorcycle riding made the experience very personal and authentic.
What were some highlights of the trip?
Alex: There were a lot. One was riding alongside the “Cuban Harlistas” who have near-celebrity status. They escorted us through difficult parts of cities, stopping traffic, keeping us together and helping us from getting lost.
A really special picture in my mind is riding our motorcycles along the Malecon (a long, open area and seawall) in Havana with the sea spray coming up over the sea wall and dousing us.
Every trip to an interesting place like Cuba is going to bring you views of things you’ve never thought you’d see. For example, on this trip, I watched a farmer and his two oxen lumbering down an exit ramp onto the 3-lane “autopista” (a high-speed, controlled access highway.)
The last night of the trip, we surprised the group with four classic American cars. You know, Cuba’s got a lot of classic cars. These four were excellent cars in excellent condition. You should have seen some of the guys drooling over them.
This is far from the first exceptional thing you’ve done. What are some others?
Alex: After earning a degree in Spanish and International Business at C.U. Boulder, I joined an expedition to climb Mt. Aconcagua: an Argentinian peak that is the highest mountain in the Western Hemisphere. In 2001, we achieved the successful summit of Polish Glacier direct. That’s 22,834 ft. We each had our tasks in the four-man team. Mine was translator and facilitator.
After that, I got a gig guiding high school students on adventure backpacking trips on the Hawaiian Islands. That led to a position with the Lowell Whiteman school in Steamboat Springs, Colorado. I was in charge of their rock climbing program and a Spanish teacher. I’d take kids to South America for expeditions and stewardship trips in Chile and Bolivia.
I chose to devote some time in my life to studying abroad in Guanajuato, Mexico, Buenos Aires, Argentina and Sevilla, Spain. What a great way to build up language skills and, you know, being in other countries and interacting with a lot of different people is an excellent way to learn more about people and cultures as well.
That’s where I started getting the idea for the Language Lounge. Seeing how much I improved by finding low-stress situations with lots of language, I created a language school in Fort Collins, Colorado where there are no tests, and the teachers learn to adapt their teaching to the needs of the students.
But, we don’t want it to be directionless, either. It has to be relevant. That’s why we follow our “Three R’s”: Relaxed, Responsive, and Relevant.
If the learning experience doesn’t follow these, it needs to be adjusted. It seems to be working; we gained 90 students in the last two months alone.
You’re not exactly following a conventional career path. What started you on this life of adventure?
Alex: I grew up with a mom who was an international stewardess for Pan Am. She was born in Istanbul and raised in South America and the Philippines. She grew up speaking Spanish, French and Arabic. That got me started on languages and cultures.
My father just visited his 70th country on business as a fire and explosion specialist engineer working in remote mines and petro-chemical facilities around the globe. That influenced my interest and knowledge of other countries and work outdoors.
What would you say is the most useful thing you learned that made all of this possible for you?
Alex: Multiple languages were always being spoken in my house growing up and then I was attracted to Spanish. Because I was a climber and a Spanish speaker, I got a job guiding and building ziplines on the Pacific coast in Costa Rica in 1999. That job was very influential in opening my path to other things I did, and I couldn’t have done it without knowing Spanish.
Eventually, I ended up doing things like working for National Geographic and this trip with MotoDiscovery.
So, what’s next?
Alex: Aside from my continued work with the Language Lounge and, hopefully, more work with organizations like National Geographic and MotoDiscovery, they say in Spanish, “A la occasion la pintan calva”: you have to make the most of the things that come your way.
© 2013 Mark Dorr, All Rights Reserved
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