THIS MAN is Canadian, and so is the 10-speed he holds, an iconic Supercycle from the Canadian Tire retail chain. But this isn't his bike. It would have arrived in Cuba, perhaps years ago, with one of his countrymen. It's long been a practice for Canadian visitors to bring old bikes, ride them for the duration of their stay and then leave them on the island in the hope that Cubans can put them to good use. And the Cuban who now owns this Supercycle has done just that, renting it to tourists such as this gentleman for 10 CUC a week. Good deal all around.
(December 2012 note: See update link, below.) GUESS I'LL have to set aside my search for the younger Batista’s 1956 Corvette. An even tastier trophy has emerged – a Mercedes-Benz 300SL, better known as the Gullwing. Even on the Island of Surprises, I’d be astounded to come across one of these rare beauties. But in a brief section on Cuba in Automobiles Lost & Found (Haynes Publishing, 2008), I see a photo of a battered 300SL observed by author Michael E. Ware outside a private garage near Havana. The Gullwing, unmistakable lift-up doors in place, is dented and rusting and missing its engine, yet still would be prized by collectors the world over . . . if only they could extract it from Cuba. Restored, the Silver Metallic example with Lipstick Red interior might be worth more than $700,000 U.S. Reached in England, Mr. Ware tells me he was holidaying in Cuba when an acquaintance brought him to an unnamed community to see the car. “I never asked whe
Toufik Benhamiche faces a four-year term in a Cuban prison. Family photo. IN CANADA and other developed countries, we're accustomed to safeguards. Open the door of a microwave oven in mid-cycle and the device shuts down before damaging electromagnetic waves can escape. Lose your grip on a zip line and a harness keeps you from crashing to the ground. Such fail-safes are there to protect us from injury – and protect manufacturers and service providers from legal liability. Sometimes the measures and warnings seem ridiculous – "Do not use lit match or open flame to check fuel level" – but we accept them in the spirit of too much is better than too little. It's when we carry our assumptions about safety elsewhere that we can get into trouble. Toufik Benhamiche would have expected that driving a small boat with a big engine was simple and straightforward – otherwise, why would a Cuban tour operator allow a novice to take the controls after a few moments of docks