Fourteen middle-aged couples from Ecuador rode into Hermosa Beach on their Harleys Tuesday noon, all eager for lunch by the pier. They parked their bikes behind The Lighthouse, paid for their spots by machine, and quickly headed for a look at the sea and eats along the Promenade.
Midway through their meals, they heard their bikes were being ticketed by a city parking enforcement officer. Dropping their burgers and tacos, the men bolted for the lot and buttonholed the officer, a young Hispanic who fortunately could field the barrage of questions from the visitors about their fines—multas in Spanish.
“But we paid for two hours,” said Guillermo Pinzon, 63, a retired businessman from Guayaquil. Others chimed in to complain that one of the fee-machines was broken or that they’d gone over the limit by just a few minutes.
The officer apologized but said his boss had come by shortly before the alarmed Ecuadoreans appeared and told him to “ticket them all.” A Spanish-speaking bystander told the officer who the out-of-town riders were, but apparently it didn’t matter. In the end, six of the 14 Harleys were each given $53 fines.
“They should be more tolerant of tourists,” Pinzon said. “We’re not familiar with the machines. It wasn’t the officer’s fault that we were treated badly. There was nothing he could do because his boss gave him an order.”
Whimsically calling themselves The Muppets, all the couples are from the port city of Guayaquil—known to most Americans as the “jumping off point” for tours to the Galapagos Islands. Riders include a range of occupations, from car dealership owner and gynecologist to office manager. Some of the women work for their husbands and some are homemakers.
For their 11-day trip away from home, the group flew to Miami and then on to Las Vegas, where they rented motorcycles. “We were treated so nicely that the rental company let us have our bikes a day earlier than we had booked them.”
The group visited Las Vegas, Death Valley, the Grand Canyon, and after their day in the South Bay, the entourage will drive Route 1 in one day to San Francisco, eventually returning from there to Ecuador.
As for the parking-meter episode, Pinzon, enjoying the rest of his meal after feeding the meter, explained with a chuckle, “Problems that are fixed with money aren’t really problems.”