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June 19, 2013

Postcards from Nowhere: Peoria to Panama - Day 31: Panama City, Panama

Update: I am alive and well and resting peacefully in the Hotel Riande at the Tocumen Airport in Panama City, Panama.

Wednesday June 19, 2013

Motorcycle Odometer (at start of day): 5,539
Motorcycle Odometer (at end of day): 5,602
Miles driven today: 63 miles

Local Currency: US Dollars

1 US Dollar = 1 US Dollar

I wake up in Panama City with a massive charley horse in my right leg.

I get them, I don't know why. They say potassium helps. I lay in bed trying to remember what I'm supposed to eat.

But I'm too exhausted to think. I haven't been eating enough on this trip. I've lost at least 10 pounds.

I don't want to tour the Panama Canal. 9 hours of scorching sun or driving rain surrounded by screaming infants doesn't sound relaxing to me. I think I'll stay in bed.

I keep going back to sleep, but I keep waking up also. Nothing changes. Mostly everything stays the same.

Bananas. That's it. If I ate bananas, maybe that would make my Charley Horse go away.

Everything hurts. I have a searing pain in my back that shoots through me like a arrow every time I move my left arm a certain way. My lower back is killing me from moving a glass table in the rain at Hotel Riana.

Now my right leg feels like it needs to be amputated.

I'm trapped in this city. I have to get out. When I was driving across the countryside, it was beautiful and fun and exciting. But now, it's just a nightmare of car horns, whistling whores, and feral cats. Somehow, I've got to escape from this place.

Last night, mi amigo told me, he said, "You know what the ladies do at 9:00 right?" And I'm like..."I assume they're home in bed". He told me he'd take me around to find some women. I'm like..."Oh, I think I'll pass. The last one I was with cost me dearly. Not so much financially, but she just drained me. Spiritually. Physically. Emotionally. I think I'm going to join a monastery. Or a convent. Whichever it is. I can never keep them straight."

I decide to check out and drive to the Tocumen Airport for the 3rd day in a row, and begin getting the motorcycle ready for shipping back to the USA. Then, I'll catch a taxi to the Hotel Riande, and plan my next move from there.

I could drive to the Tocumen Airport blindfolded, I think. Take the Corredor Sur (pronounced sewer) all the way out. At the first tollbooth, my new Pelican Pass works. But at the second one, it doesn't work. My guess is that I ran out of cash on it. The people behind me are honking, so I just run it. I've run it countless times since I've been down here. At least 10 times.

They clean up the trash on the side of the tollways here. Someone is picking it up and placing it into black garbage bags on the side of the road. It's what you want them to do all over Central America....you want to say "Look...you can't live this way...lets stop what we're doing, collect all the trash, and burn it at the dump. Then, anyone caught throwing trash out of the car window should be shot at dawn." That should fix it.

At the next toll booth, I pull over before the plaza and dig out my second Pelican Pass. (This is what I call them. I have no idea what they're called, but the tollway entrances always have this Pelican mascot so....)

Exit at the Tocumen Airport, and I'm just lane-splitting all the way. I've given up all hope of surviving this trip. I just lane-split...right up the zipper. I never really expected to live through this. I'm at least as surprised as everyone else.

But now, the Nacional Policia descend on me, like a flock of seagulls on a tourist handing out bread on the beach. Everywhere are Nacional Policia on their bright white KAWA crotch rockets. Red and blue lights flashing. Now, comes the military, in army uniforms on motorcycles, waving machine guns. My only guess is that they must have called ahead with the radios. But this seems a bit much. Machine guns? Seriously? I feel like they've gone a little too far with this. This is a serious over-reaction.

I stop, of course. Like..."please don't shoot me with a machine gun. I don't know what that feels like but it's got to hurt, and I'm already in a lot of pain."

But now, I see that it's just some insane motorcade escorting Lord knows who to the passenger terminal at the Tocumen Airport. They don't want me. They just wanted me to stop. And I did.

I shoot a few photos because, we don't have cops on motorcycles patrolling the USA with machine guns yet. We will, of course. It's inevitable. But we're not there yet.

I follow the flashing motorcade to the Passenger Terminal, and now, turn off of the paved road onto the path through third world cauldron of hell's fire to the Carga Terminal. Everything is under construction. Torn asunder. Buses bounce through school crossing lanes (Peatones Cruces), sending uniformed catholic children skittering for their lives. Stray cats peak from beneath collapsing buildings. Packs of stray dogs roam the streets.

This third world hell is the path to the Carga Terminal.

Eventually, I bounce down there, somehow without getting killed. Just blow through through customs again. They just wave at me now.

At the second customs checkpoint, just blow through, and there's my buddy Fernando selling Pipa out of his moto cart. He sells me a cup of Pipa and it's freezing cold. It helps. It's all I've had to eat today, and it's 1:00 p.m. Everything time I stand up, I nearly black out. Not sure why that is. Maybe food would help. It's hard to know.

We talk for a bit. I show him that he's on the webpage www.peeniewallie.com and he's rolling. Thinks it's hysterical. He sells Pipa for 5 hours a day, but he leaves the Carga Terminal and drives through the streets, apparently. So, that's why I can't find him sometimes.

Now, on to ServiCarga. I show up, walk in. "Let's do this thing. Let's FedEx this bike to Jackson, Mississippi."

No hay problema.

First, back to Rex Carga where we have to drain the gas, let the air out of the tires, and unhook the battery. When we manage to get the gas to come out of the tanks, they spill so much that I run out of the warehouse, fearing an explosion. They laugh. I don't really care. I've made it this far. I'm still alive.

We're technically supposed to unhook the battery cables. I can't even find a freaking battery on the thing. And I've already FedExed my owner's manual and the tools back to the USA, so eventually, we say "close enough" and they strap the KTM down to a pallet, wrap it in cardboard, and then wrap everything in plastic. Not really what I had in mind when they talked about a "shipping crate", but I honestly don't care. I just want this slow-motion nightmare to come to an end. "Si. Perfecto. No hay problemo."

Now, Oda wants me to pay him. I pay him $25, instead of $125, and then act like he's trying to rip me off. Just messing with him, of course. He starts laughing. I love messing with these people. Playing ignorant and teasing them. It comes so easy.

Now, back to ServiCarga. He's typing up some invoice. I need this paperwork to get out of the country, I think. I dread going through Immigracion and Aduana in the morning. If they screw me over I'm going to snap. God as my witness, there will be a bloodbath at the Tocumen Airport. I'll bludgeon everyone in sight to death with my rear-view mirrors. It will go down in Panamanian history as they day they decided to close the Tocumen airport due to the massacre.

OK. I won't really do any of that, but it's so hard going through Immigracion and Customs

All of this is paperwork for Aduana is being typed out, very slowly, methodically, on battered typewriters at ServiCarga. The noise is relaxing. Like a hard rain on a hot tin roof.

Carrie emails me to point out that gorilla arms is coming over to her trailer again. I'm like..."thanks for sharing. stay classy. ;)"

I dunno. Maybe this adventure has to come to and end. Maybe it's time for the next adventure to begin. Maybe it's time to but some distance between me and these horns and whores. Maybe it's time to move on.

Posted by Rob Kiser on June 19, 2013 at 7:10 PM


Re: charlie horses - LISTEN TO ME - sit straight up in bed, legs extended in front of you, reach forward and PULL YOUR TOES TOWARD YOU. The toes on the leg that has the horse, not the other leg.

Posted by: TL on June 19, 2013 at 9:08 PM

Will that actually help?

Posted by: Rob Kiser Author Profile Page on June 20, 2013 at 4:25 AM

Are you sneakily disputing my word? What is your agenda? Yes, it works. Picture the trainer on the sideline with the athlete prone, one leg extended straight up, while the trainer then pushes on the athlete's foot/toes. Same thing, except you can do it without help. Stretches out the cramp.

Posted by: TL on June 20, 2013 at 8:39 AM

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