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June 14, 2013

Postcards from Nowhere: Peoria to Panama - Day 26: Jacó to Uvita, Costa Rica

Above: The playa at Jaco, Costa Rica.

Update: I am alive and well and resting quietly in the La Posada Hotel in the seaside villa of Uvita, Costa Rica.

Friday June 14, 2013

Motorcycle Odometer (at start of day): 4,976
Motorcycle Odometer (at end of day): 5,066
Miles driven today: 90 miles

Local Currency: Costa Rican Colones

1 US Dollar = 500 Costa Rican Colones

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In the morning, roosters crowing pull me from my deep slumber. How I love waking to the sound of roosters. I have to get a chicken coop when we get home. I've got to make that my summer project. How sweet to have a rooster crow you awake in the morning. How primitive. How comforting.

When I wake up around 8:00 a.m., I sit in the hotel's restaurant because I can't access the internet in my room. But the restaurant is fine.

Wild parrots squawk loudly as they fly all around us. Two huge red parrots fly by, even louder still. Tiny ants crawl across the floor, so small you can barely see them. Bees buzz by my drink, as small as flies. A small mouse runs into the office.

"Raton! Raton!" I scream. Everyone comes running, but the mouse disappears, and no one else sees it.

The receptionist keeps a perrito locked up in the office. When she finds him outside, she scolds him and puts him back in the office. When she's not looking, he jumps out again through the window. I start to narc on the perrito to the receptionist, but then, I think. What difference does it make? Why should I take sides in this battle? I have no skin in this game.

My attorney finally figures out what all the charges against me are, and tells me I have to be in court on June 28th. I tell him it's not likely, as I'm in Central America on a dirt bike. He completely freaks out and makes it very clear that I was not supposed to leave the country when I was out on bond. I'm like...."It's all good. I can't make it June 28th. Make something up for me. You're a smart fellow. I'm paying you a lot of money. I'm going to need some more time on this. And, if I'm not supposed to be out of the country, how about you don't bring it up in court, seeing as how you're representing me, and all".

Of course, like most people, my attorney wants to kill me, but I pay him to keep me out of jail, and so far, he's done a pretty good job of it.

By noon, I've finished posting my story and photo from yesterday. This process is painfully difficult due to the way I upload my photos, and administer my home server/website. I do everything through an RDP tunnel, which is an insane bandwidth hog. You can get away with this in the U.S., where people understand how the internet works. Down here, it's a slow and painful death. What should take 1 hour, takes closer to 3-4 hours. Which sucks. But, it is what it is.

Check out and I follow a poor road down through an ecological reserve. In most of central america, this is code for a dump. But here, it's arguably an ecological reserve. The road follows the beach. There are signs not to dump trash, and I don't see any trash on the side of the road.

I drive a kilometer or two down this horrible, pot-hole filled road, and finally pass another moto. I flag him down.

"Es salida, amigo?"

"No. No hay," he replies.

I turn around. No point in following this dead-end road any further.

At the next playa, I turn out, and a motorist stuck in the sand. He's in an SUV, and has buried it pretty good, but they're digging him out. I stop, walk over, and offer to help push. First thing I do is check the tires. There's way too much air in them. They need to let the pressure down to about 10 lbs. I try to explain this to them, but they're pretty clueless. With all of us pushing, we're able to roll the truck out with no one driving, which I've never even tried before. But, in this case, it worked, and he drove off the playa successfully. They all give me a high-five and a fist bump and I leave the playa.

When I get back to the main road, I follow highway 34. It follows the coast for a while, but then 34 leaves the coast, and when we leave the coast, I really open it up then. This road is a dream. Like riding a green popsicle. Just this verdant run through the jungle. The road is marked the same as any two lane black-topped road in the U.S. Two double yellows, or a single dotted line, or one solid yellow and one dotted yellow. I have not seen this before in central america. Normally, if the road is painted, there is a single solid line, or a single dotted line There's no demarcation of which side is allowed to pass.

This road is smooth and well maintained. I'm rolling south at about 85. The thing is that, you have to be watching for the trucks that you're coming up behind at a much greater distance than normal. If you don't notice the slow truck in front of you until you're 50 yards away, you're probably going to hit him from behind.

So, you've really got to be looking down the road, for things to develop. Horses, dogs, pigs, cows, buzzards, kids, bicyclists, and stopped vehicles.

In Latin America, if someone breaks down they will just stop in their lane. And expect you to go around. This can be a problem, if they're around a blind curve, this can be painful. So, these will sneak up on you. You really have to watch for this.

Additionally, people will use your lane. So, you have to look way down the road ahead of you, and determine if the people in your lane are coming towards you, or going the same direction. It makes a difference. A big one. Trust me.

Now, at the same time, every sign you see is going to give you distance in kilometers. Every time I see kilometers, I do a little trick to convert them into miles in my head. Cut it in half, and then add 10%. That gets you a conversion rate of 1 km = 0.6 miles, which is pretty close. So, for 80 km, that would be 40 miles + 8 miles = 48 miles, which is pretty close to right. The problem is that you have to do this math while you're going 85 miles an hour, dodging children, buses, and goats. You start trying to figure out your miles per gallon from kilometers per liter in your head, and you're going to die in a fiery crash.

So, for about 90 miles or so, the road leaves the beach and goes inland closer to the mountains, and the whole time, I'm sort of racing this rain storm. I mean...I'm racing the storm...in all probability, the storm clouds don't realize that we are racing each other. Maybe they do, but I sorta doubt it. Occams Razor and all.

By the time I get to Uvita, it's starting to rain lightly, and threatening to unleash another monsoon. I figure I've gone far enough that I can stop for gas and a light lunch.

Lunch at La Posada in Uvita, Costa Rica.

My go-to Mexican meal is always carne asada. It's a grilled flank steak, essentially. Just something that most places in the U.S. will server, so you don't get overwhelmed and end up ordering beef tongue or something like that. But down here, not everyone serves it. And the other things they offer, I'm not really clear what they are. And most of these places I'm eating don't have menus. Or even signs. So, this chic explains what they have and I'm just like...."uh huh...yeah....that one...perfecto....uno por favor." So, they bring me this plate of food...I'm not clear what it is... a pork chop, apparently. Scratch that. It's like a fried piece of ham, that's lightly sweeter, like with can syrup. Insanely good. Arroza, frijoles, ensalada trio, plantains. Yum. OK. They said it's called Chuleta armada.

Now, I have no idea how I ordered this animal, but somehow they served it to me. Good enough. Maybe it's like a fried thick-cut slice of glazed ham?

The rain comes down, and I'm sitting here eating lunch...the kid rolls up on a 2 stroke Yamaha. His buddy comes out, takes his helmet, and takes off down the road.

"Es su amigo?" I ask.


He comes over and checks out my bike. I used to tell people I was going to Panama, and they'd be shocked. But that doesn't fly any more. I'm not far from Panama at this point. Instead, I tell them I drove it from Chicago, Illinois to here. And they laugh. Like "Solo?". "Si." And they laugh some more.

The rain comes into the restaurant to join us. Like another friend. Ola, amigo? Como estas? Bien bien! Y tu?

The rain down here is just sort of omnipresent. There may be times when it doesn't rain here, but it would be hard to imagine when. Maybe at night, while I'm sleeping.

Now, it's raining much harder. Like a cow pissing on a flat rock, as someone once said.

I'm going to have to start driving in the morning, or I'll never make it to Panama. It rains every day at this time. You can set you watch by it. At 3:30 p.m., it's going to be raining. That's just all there is to it.

The funny thing is to watch the jungle, as I go further and further south. Now, when something grows...when something has the temerity to rise from the jungle floor, it becomes a stepping stone for every other plant around it thats seeking sunshine. Vines crawl across there roots, up the trunk, and into the branches, aspiring to reach the sun. In the branches of the trees, grow lichens, ferns, and other plants. Entirely different species. On the power lines, even, grow these plants. Moss? It's hard to say. And even the vines that crawl up into the trees, have vines again, and so on infinitum.

I'm beginning to think that I'll swim next door and get a room for the night.

Finally, when I decide that there is no sky, or if so, that my view of such shall remain obstructed in perpetuity, I ask them at the restaurant....

"Esta es hotel?" I query, pointing at the restaurant across the parking lot. I'm hating it, but I may have to dash across the parking lot in the driving rain. At least, by the grace of God, I'm next door to a hotel.

"No. Solo restaurante," they reply.

I point to the sign...that says "Hotel La Pasado" in the parking lot.

Like..ok..then wheres the hotel?

"Amigo...hotel is aqui" and they point right behind them. Under the same roof to the recepcion. I won't even have to get wet. Woohoo!"

Like...OK....I only went 90 miles today, but at least it didn't rain on me. I've decide though, that I'll never make it to Panama at this rate. I'll have to get up and drive in the morning. Which means I'll have to post my story/pics tonight before I go to bed.

Walk into the hotel, start talking to the guy behind the counter. He quotes me a number, but I'm horrible with numbers. So, I ask to see the calculator. Much easier this way. Instead, he runs off to get the owner. She comes out, and I'm apparently speaking perfect spanish to her, and she ask him what the problem is.

"I'm like....'no hay problema, seniorita." She's baffled at why he said I didn't speak spanish, when I clearly do. All my fault, I'm sure.

But I tell them I need "EEN-ter-net, agues caliente, y air conditioning," and she's got me all dialed in.

Finally, they show me a price printed on a piece of paper. That always makes it seem more legitimate....if it's on printed material, for whatever reason. Turns out they're wanting 17,500 Colones. That's $35.00 USD. I'm like...."ooooh yeah....that's more than I was wanting to spend".

Now, sitting out on the balcony in a rocking chair, on the second floor of the Hotel La Posada. The rain seems to have merged with the earth now, so that it's hard to imagine if ever there was a time without rain. Rivers of water run down the roads. Cars drive down the roads/rivers, splashing water 12 feet into the air all around them, like a rolling carwash.Water

The Policia Fuerza Publica sits in the rain with his blue lights flashing, watching the bus depot to see who gets on and who gets off. This is not the town to do anything funny, his lights warn.

Lightning flashes and thunder shakes the balcony. I have to leave at sunrise tomorrow if I have a chance of ever seeing Panama. It seems as I go south, it gets wetter and wetter. The jungle grows stronger, deeper, and darker.

What will Panama be like?

Above: The playa at Jaco, Costa Rica.

Above: The playa at Jaco, Costa Rica.

Above: The playa at Jaco, Costa Rica.

Above: Playa Hermosa, Costa Rica.

Above: Playa Hermosa, Costa Rica.

Above: Playa Hermosa, Costa Rica.

Above: Playa Hermosa, Costa Rica.

Above: Playa Hermosa, Costa Rica.

Above: National Refuge of Vida Silvestre at Playa Hermosa, Costa Rica.

Above: Playa Esterillos Oeste, Costa Rica.

Above: Playa Esterillos Oeste, Costa Rica.

Above: Palmas Africanas havesting near Quepos, Costa Rica.

Above: The guy said this was Palma Africana, and you eat it. They were harvesting it from palm tree farms in little trains that drive down the road.

Above: The guy said this was Palma Africana, and you eat it. They were harvesting it from palm tree farms in little trains that drive down the road.

Above: The guy said this was Palma Africana, and you eat it. They were harvesting it from palm tree farms in little trains that drive down the road.

Above: PanAmerican Highway near Quepos, Costa Rica.

Above: Palmas Africanas havesting near Quepos, Costa Rica.

Above: Not often you see cattle grazing on ocean-front property. You're supposed to figure out what's the "highest and best use of the land". Hard to believe this is it.

Above: Rio Baru (The Baru River) as seen from Highway 34 in Costa Rica.

Above: The playa near Uvita, Costa Rica.

Above: The playa near Uvita, Costa Rica.

Above: The playa near Uvita, Costa Rica.

Above: The playa near Uvita, Costa Rica.

Above: The playa near Uvita, Costa Rica.

Above: The playa near Uvita, Costa Rica.

Above: The playa near Uvita, Costa Rica.

Above: Lunch at La Posada in Uvita, Costa Rica.

Above: Lunch at La Posada in Uvita, Costa Rica.

Posted by Rob Kiser on June 14, 2013 at 6:19 PM


I'm going to guess -- please correct me if I'm wrong -- that the whole attorney/out on bond issue is the result of some chain of completely avoidable incidents. Like, say, getting a traffic citation,

and then not paying the ticket.

And then ignoring the summons.

Or some other, similar, avoidable sequence.

Posted by: Doug on June 15, 2013 at 9:59 AM

Actually, no. This is a case of over-zealous law-enforcement that don't care about the laws or the constitution. They charged me with something that is completely legal, and I have an attorney to fight them in court. :)

Posted by: Rob Kiser Author Profile Page on June 15, 2013 at 6:55 PM

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