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June 20, 2013

Postcards from Nowhere: Peoria to Panama - Day 32: Panama City, Panama

Update 2: I'm safe at my sister's trailer in Madison, Mississippi, relaxing in the shade beneath the porch with the possums and a hog snake. Molly says the electricity should be turned back on when the government check comes at the first of the month.

Update: I am desperately trying to flee the country of Panama, via the Passenger Terminal at the Tocumen Airport in Panama City, Panama.

Thursday June 20, 2013

Update: I am desperately trying to flee the country of Panama, via the Passenger Terminal at the Tocumen Airport in Panama City, Panama.

Thursday June 20, 2013

I'm sitting here on the floor of the Tocumen airport, trying to escape from the country. I was so concerned that I'd have a problem with Aduana that I woke up at 5:00 this morning. I was in the shuttle van at 5:18 a.m. I have my passport number and my frequent flyer number memorized. At the airport, they're handing out those absurd little immigracion forms to fill out. I fill mine out and get in the First Class line. She prints my boarding pass now, I'm in line to clear Immigracion. Walk though a metal detector and Immigracion at the same time, I think. I dunno. It's all a blur at this point. Somehow, I don't have to go through Aduana? This was my greatest concern. That my motorcycle paperwork wouldn't be right. I think that, since I'm flying out, they're less concerned about Aduana? I dunno.

Everything hurts. My back is killing me. I feel like if I could just die, it would feel so much better. Just fall asleep and never wake up. But life is not so easy. We must trudge on. Shoulder to the wheel.

They give back massages at the airport. Maybe I'll go down there and see if they can fix me up for a few Panamanian Dollars.

Yesterday, we crated up my motorcycle and left it in a warehouse at Rex Cargo at the Carga Terminal of the Tocumen Airport. I couldn't figure out what to do with my helmet, so finally, we just tied it onto the bike.

It was so sad to leave it there. So hard to walk away from it. I mean, I'm sure it sounds stupid, but I'd been riding that bike every day for the last 31 days. Over 5,600 miles in one month. Through 6 states and 8 countries. And now, I've got to turn it over to someone else.

You want to say..."be careful with her....treat her gently...slow down in the rain...remember that, if you're going 96 mph, you're already in 5th gear...don't try to shift up....lube the chain every day...be careful going over 120...lots of animals on the road.....watch out for yellow birds, dogs, goats, horses, cows, pigs...watch out for the police in Panama...be careful blowing through customs on one wheel...don't drive on pedestrian overpasses...

Just ridiculous really, but when I paid the guy at ServiCarga to take her, and he gave me my change, I was about to start crying. I don't even know why. It's not like it makes sense. It's just a stupid motorcycle for God's sake.

One the entire trip, I have emerged essentially unscathed. I never wrecked. One time I dropped the bike while turning around on a muddy road in the rain in Tulum, Mexico. A total stranger stopped in the driving rain, got out of his car, and helped me stand the bike up. Another time, the bike fell over one time when I stopped at a roadside vendor. I'm not really clear what happened. I wasn't on the bike...it just fell over. Maybe the weight of my gas tank bag shifted, maybe the kickstand sank into the ground. I'm not clear.

I was never injured as a result of my riding, aside from some light sunburn on my arms in Panama.

I never hit any animals. I dodged countless dogs, cats, goats, pigs, cows, horses, pedestrians, raccoons, iguanas, but, to my knowledge, I never hit anything any larger than a butterfly.

On the entire trip, I only lost the following items: 2 pairs of gloves, 2 disposable ear plugs, 2 Canon battery chargers.

Of the electronics I took on the trip, nearly everything failed. My canon cameras are all broken, in various stages of disrepair. Two GPS units failed. My iPhone camera quit working once I left Belize, as they don't have CDMA in Central America. The only thing that worked right consistently, was my MacBook Air.

The KTM was a dream. I bought the bike, sight-unseen over the internet as a present to myself at Christmas. It is a 2010 model that was never sold, and bought at auction from KTM. I purchased it, off the showroom, essentially. I won't say what I paid for it, but the MSRP is over 14K, if I'm not mistaken.

I'd never even sat on one before. The bike is insane. Rides like a dream on the road. It's a much smoother ride than the Honda XR650L, which I've driven from Alaska to Cabo San Lucas, and back and forth between Denver and SF more times than I can count.

With it's liquid-cooled twin cylinder engine, the bike will run 130 mph all day long. With the ABS disc-brakes, front and rear, the brakes can get you out of trouble as quickly as the engine will push you into it.

The electronic fuel injection means the engine doesn't run lean at sea level or rich in the mountains. It's perfect for both environments.

The fairing creates a nice airspace where the wind does't beat you to death when you're riding 400 miles a day.

I did zero maintenance to the bike. The only thing I did was oil the chain every morning in the parking lot.

So far as the authorities go, I was never arrested. Never charged with a crime. I was stopped many times....Once by the State Police in Illinois I got a written warning. I was stopped many times in Central America, for speeding, driving over a pedestrian bridge, riding without a helmet, but I was never given a ticket. I never purchased any insurance for the bike, except in countries where they required it to get the bike into the country. (Panama and Costa Rica, I think).

I never had any immunizations for the trip. I never planned the trip at all. I never looked at a map before I went down, or planned which route I'd take. I made most of the trip without the aid of a CPS or a cell phone, navigating by the sun, paper maps, and the kindness of strangers.

I never had a plan for how far I'd go each day. Each day, I drove as far as I felt like driving, and then stopped for the night.

The parts I liked best about the trip was that, you could pretty much do whatever you wanted to, without fear of going to jail. So, you can drive as fast as you want. No one cares, really. I liked the road-side vendors selling fresh produce and trinkets. I love speaking Spanish. And I suck at it. Don't get me wrong. But I love trying to speak it and trying to understand it. In Belize, where English in the primary language, I always spoke Spanish because that's what I like doing. It's great for me.

Love all of the foreign currency. Saved some from every country, even Panama. Although Panama technically uses the U.S. Dollar as their official currency, their coins are all completely different. Sometimes they'll give you U.S. Quarters. Sometimes, you get Panamaniam quarters. You never know what to expect. (The coins are the same size, weight, etc.)

I like traveling through a country that's so dangerous, (ostensibly), that they have military checkpoints and soldiers with machine guns. I love when they ask to see my passport, cause it makes me feel like James Bond, rolling through some foreign land.

The best part for me, always, was driving through the countryside, through the mountains, and down the coast of Central America. This was always the best. The cities are a nightmare of traffic, confusion, honking, beeping, lane-splitting, intersections with no clear right-of-way, razor wire, poverty, graffiti, stray dogs, stray people.

I never liked being in the cities. I always loved being alone, rolling down some beautiful two lane black topped smooth road in the middle of nowhere. Wondering if I'd run out of gas before I came to the next town. (I never did run out of gas, but I came close several times. The KTM has a low gas light, when I can only go about 10 more miles. I saw that light many times.)

I never broke down. I never crashed. Never ran out of gas.

I never got caught completely out in the open in a pouring rain storm. I was always able to find an overpass, a house, or even a tree to get under. It's true that I didn't have any rain gear, per se, but it's also true that, even with rain gear, when it rains like it did on me in Costa Rica, rain gear wouldn't help. If it's raining so hard you can't see through your visor, or through the fairing on the motorcycle, then you're going to have to stop. I don't care if you're wearing scuba gear.

Along the way, I never met anyone that had seen a KTM before. Every person that filled the bike up with gas had never seen a bike with "dos tankes" before (two tanks).
They'd never heard of a KTM. My thought is that I may be the first person to drive a KTM 990 Adventure alone across Central America. Possibly not, but I did not see other motorcyclists doing what I was doing. Driving alone through central America on a motorcycle. The only person I saw that I was sure was doing this was my buddy Stefan that I met on the way to the Tocumen airport.

In hindsight...things I would have done differently had I a magic wand to start over again....I would have taken more battery chargers for my camera batteries. And more cameras. I would have taken a GSM cell phone, instead of a CDMA phone. As far as the GPS, i'm ambivalent about a GPS. That doesn't mean I don't care, it means I have strong feelings both ways. I'm conflicted. I remember in Mexico using the iPhone as a GPS and being deliriously happy when it got me out of a urban cesspool. But, aside from that, I think something is lost if you always know what's around the next turn before you get there. I used paper maps, and they worked just fine for me most of the time. I always sorta figured that....this may or may not be the right way, but I'm not in a hurry...the road goes somewhere...judging by the sun I'm going roughly the right direction, and I was OK with this. It also forced me to interact more with the locals, an improve my Spanish, to stop and ask for directions.

So far as going through a rain forest during the rainy season, well that was just part of it. This was the time I had in which I could do my little adventure. Jennifer was winding down at school for the year, and planning a trip to New Mexico, Breckenridge, and Georgia. So, it was the time that I had available to make the journey. So what if I got wet and ruined some cameras? It never really bothered me, honestly. I mean...it's all part of it. If I wanted to stay indoors, I could have stayed in Colorado. Or SF. Or MS. Or anywhere for that matter. But when you go outdoors, things happen...you get scratched, bitten, sunburned, wet, etc. This is all part of it.

I never really planned on having the adventure end this way. I mean...I never really had a plan of what I would do once I got to Panama. First of all, I was never sure I would make it. I was nearly killed by a dog on a bridge, a free-range horse crossing the road, a lunatic in a BMW chasing me through the mountains of Honduras, etc. Many times I thought I was a goner. So, I didn't ever really concern myself a lot with what I'd do if I made it. But, as I got closer and closer to the destination, I began to realize that driving home was just not a serious option. If it was just the miles, then maybe you could turn tail and run 500 miles a day for a week and get home. But going through Immigracion and Aduana over and over was just more torture than I could begin to consider.

One idea I had was to get the bike down to Peru, and then go back in October to run in the Paris-Dakkar Rally. I'm not against riding in the rally in Peru. I'm just not sure that, four months from now, I'll be ready to go back on the road again. Carrie is out of my life. She's slowly working her way out of my head. This is a good thing.

She kept telling me that she needed time to consider my marriage proposal, and I told her I'd give her all the time she needed, but she couldn't be going out with gorilla arms while she was considering the proposal. Like...fine...have all the time you need, but you can't be going out with another guy. Because, if you're going out with another guy, then the proposal is off the table. She could never understand that, for whatever reason.

I would love to see a CAT scan of a woman's brain when she's trying to piece together logic like this...trying to stitch it all together inside her brain, like a patchwork quilt. Or when she's trying to read a map. I bet it would make a Pink Floyd laser show look tame.

Carrie gave me peace when I was standing in a parking lot in Matamorros Mexico. She'd been telling me she needed time (away from me and with her new boyfriend, apparently), and I finally got her sister to explain to her that she could have all the time she needed, so long as she wasn't going out with gorilla arms. Even her sister understood this simple logic But for Carrie, it was too much. Her brain finally snapped and she texted me in a parking lot in Matamoros Mexico in the most dangerous city in the most dangerous state (Taumalipas) in Mexico, and told me we were through. And that was the beginning of the journey, for me. The motorcycle doesn't run on "hope" or "maybe" or "I need time". The bike runs on pain and now, I have two tanks completely full of pain and now the journey can begin in earnest.

Now, if you're truly lucky, maybe your ex-fiance will find someone else to screw while you're out of the country and when you get back, the festering nag can focus her angst and hatred on another poor soul. Something there is in the soul of a woman that can't stand to see a man be happy. If she sees a bounce in her gate, she'll throw a fit to try to cull it out of him. To pare him down to size. A man needs a woman like a fish needs a basketball. And to think that I didn't see this clearly, if only for an instant, only shows that I'm getting weaker as I grow older. I need to be strong, and independent. I don't want to come home to some nagging house brow and get called on the carpet for some perceived transgression, real or imagined.

This trip was a chance for me to do something alone. To see if I could make it through Central America, alone, on a dirt bike, in 2013, at the age of 47. To see if I'm still sane. If I'm still sharp as a marble, as Lisa always claimed.

Not everyone could make this trip, I posit. It required a lot of skill, considering I did it with paper maps, no saddlebags/panniers, etc. Before anyone else runs off this and tries it on their own because, "Hey, Rob Kiser did it and he doesn't have the sense to come in out of the rain, so I'm reasonably sure I could make it and in half the time for less money."

There are a few things which uniquely qualified me for this adventure.
I've ben riding motorcycles for 28 years. This cannot be overlooked or dismissed. When I'm driving the bike, it is nothing to me. I don't even think about it at all. My hands and feet are doing things the head never knows about. Constantly changing gears, upshifting, downshifting, breaking, turning, accelerating...all of this happens without my notice. This all is automatic to me now. I couldn't tell you at any point in time what gear I'm in, but it doesn't matter. I know how the bike feels and what gear it wants to be in. Learning to ride a motorcycle in a 3rd world country would be, in my opinion, suicidal.
I've travled a lot my whole life. I'd already been through almost all of the states, plus the Bamahas, Jamaica, Cuba, Mexico, Peru, (I'm not even counting Europe.)
I've worked in some of the most dangerous cities in America. I've worked in Philadelphia, Detroit, Los Angeles, Cleveland, D.C., Dallas, Houston, etc.
I speak Spanish well enough to get by.
I have a good sense of direction.
I'm 6'2" tall and weigh 200 pounds, so I'm not the first one that the average latin american would choose to attack.

So, before anyone else tries this, you should consider

I took nothing but the clothes on my back and a small handbag I kept perched on the gas tank. I washed out my clothes every night in the shower with soap and hung the up to dry for the morning. In the morning, if they were still wet, then I rode in wet clothes until the sun dried them out. ( I learned this trick from Igor.)

I have learned a lot from other people that I have ridden with over the years. Doug taught me about the "cramp buster", essentially a "cruise control" for a motorcycle, so you can control the throttle with one finger, or the palm of your hand, etc. I would not have made it without the "cramp buster". A godsend that I never knew existed until I ran into him at Port Hardy, B.C., Canada, on Vancouver Island. On that trip, I apparently had a woman invite me to spend the night with her, but I was so clueless that I missed it. Doug explained it to me later. I never claimed to be good with women, of course. I sure missed that opportunity. Oh well. Ceste La vive.

While I was in Central America, I never ate at a single chain store. I ate food primarily off of the streets. I frequently stopped and purchased or sampled things I've never seen before. At every gas station I'd try a different drink or a different snack. Some of my favorites were CocaCola Light, De Valle Naranja, Pipa (chilled coconut milk), palleta sandia (watermelon popsicles), mango and passion fruit ice cream, fresh bananas, mangoes, papayas, coconut meat, raw honey, pineapple, watermelon.

In each country, I'd drink beer made in that country: Panama = Panama, Belize = Kalik, etc.

I didn't do a lot of touristy things, like zip lines, cave tubing, etc. I did go snorkeling in Belize, went out in the Pacific Ocean in a fishing boat in Costa Rica, I went to Chicha Itzen to see the Mayan pyramids in Mexico, in Panama, I saw the Panama Canal. So, I did a few things that I'd always wanted to do. But my main goal, I think was just to go down there and look around and see for myself what the place looked like. Just go down there and check it out, find some places that might be worth coming back and visiting in the future with Jennifer.

The country I liked the best was Costa Rica. They have hardly any military checkpoints. They actually have a recycling program, unheard of in the trash-strewn Central America. They don't have a standing army. They don't have policia crawling all over you. There's a lot of ex-patriots down there.

The big city I liked the best was Panama City, Panama. I'm not clear why they have so much money, and I'm sure I'll research it when I get back and have some time to regroup. But their skyline is insane. Much more impressive than LA, San Francisco, Portland, Seattle...even...dare I say it?...Vancouver? Of course, the police were the worst in Panama. Hand down. In no other country did I see police with hand-held radar guns on motorcycles. Their Nacional Police force needs to stand down.

The areas I liked best were Tulum, Mexico, Ambergis Caye, Belize, and Punta Uvita, Costa Rica.

The craziest county in Central America that I visited (I only missed one - I didn't go through El Salvador) was Nicaragua. They seem to be solidly in last place as far as...welll, pretty much everything. They are truly , a stone-age culture. They wash their clothes in the rivers. Hang their laundry to dry on the lines. Walk outside naked to choose a new outfit from the clothesline. They have women splitting wood by hand with an axe in flip-flops. For transportation, they use horses or oxen, bicycles, or they walk.

Looking back, it's hard to imagine that I survived the trip. I had many close calls with death, but none of it related to the fears they peddle about Central America. The people down there are at least as nice as they are in the United States. I frequently stopped and talked to complete strangers all over Central America. I never had any problems. They were polite and friendly, almost to the person. No one ever attempted to rob me, kidnap me, or steal anything from me. In fact, people went out of their way to help me. They offered me their porch or veranda to get in out of the rain. Offered me Pipa and Carne Asada for free. Gave me directions and free samples of their produce on the side of the road.

And I very nearly didn't go. I can't stress this fact enough. When I rolled up to the border at Brownsville, and saw that no other cars were crossing into Mexico, my self-preservation light went on and said..."Dude....it's too dangerous. There's no shame in turning back. You're too smart for this. Don't do it. It's not worth dying over. People will understand. You couldn't go. It isn't safe."

The guy at Customs said "If you don't have to go, then don't go." And I almost took his advice. I almost listened to everyone that was telling me not to go. But then, I decided...I'm going. I think I can make it. And, I was right. I did make it.

It is odd, rolling through the countryside with soldiers stopping you every so often, asking for your passport. It's different to see the soldiers with machine guns telling you not to take pictures, and not to be on the roads after dark. All of this.

But, survival in a third world country is a lot about how your carry yourself. How you act. How you handle the situations you find yourself in. A lot of things I do I don't talk about. I don't tell people I have a lot of tricks. Like, for instance, simple things like...when I stop at a light, I leave enough room between me and the car ahead of me that I can get away if I need to. I leaded this in Detroit.

When I talk to people, I speak in Spanish, and introduce myself as Roberto. This catches a lot of people off-guard. When I stop, I'm usually at a gas station. I never stop at someone's house unless it's my last option. Normally, I stop at gas stations. It's much safer.

If there's a lot of people moving around, in the streets, I'm not going to be there long. I don't trust a crowd. There are piranhas down here. I limit my contact with the cities. I check into hotels and get off the roads at night. I post every night where I am so people know where I last was if I disappear. Also, I'm 6'2" and weight 200 pounds. So, I'm not like Gorilla Arms, but I'm not the first person that someone that's 5'2" is going to tackle.

Although I currently have 2 XR650L motorcycles (and I've had so many that I long ago lost count), in the end, I decided against taking the XR650L on this trip. The reason is that the bike left me stranded twice in California over the last 12 months. Once, down in the middle of nowhere on an un-patroled stretch of the Pacific Coast Highway. Once, in downtown San Francisco. But both times made me think....What if this happened to me in the Punta Prieta desert? Or in the Owyhee desert? Where would I be then?

The suggestion to go with the KTM 990 Adventure was from a guy at 831 Cycles in Monterrey. He was spot on in his suggestion. Many others corroborated this decision including my good friend Will Pace.

The reason that I didn't go with a BMW GSA1200R is that I think the bike is too heavy. Money has nothing to do with it. I'm not clear that, if I dropped it, I would be able to stand it back up on my own. Plus, I just don't like the way the bike feels. And I've driven them. I was sure I needed one when I got back from Cabo. I looked at one for sale, and drove it, and felt like I was riding a coffin. I don't like the way the bike feels. Plain an simple. Plus, I always feel like BMW is kinda the College Fraternity guy vehicle, and I never felt like I had a lot in common with that crowd.

There are only 2 things I would change about the KTM. Both rear-view mirrors are threaded backwards, so that the wind can occasionally loose them if enough force is applied. When you're going 130 mph, this is not a good time for your mirrors to start swinging wildly in the wind. Honda has this figured out so that the wind actually tightens them instead of loosening them. This is a small, but significant, oversight. The other problem is that the chain tension adjustment nuts and bolts are not standard US or Metric sizes. I'm not clear who's idea this was, but I was never able to tighten my chain on the road, and it got so loose I could have made a necklace out of the slack I had in it by the end of the trip.

The inspiration for the trip was Peter DeLeo's journey from LA to Peru on an XR650L. He was the inspiration for my joyride through Central America. I first learned of his adventure through a wedding of some ex-friends who no longer speak to me. He wrote a book called "Survive", (if I'm not mistaken on the title). Amazing book. I read it to Jennifer a few years back, as I recall.

In any event, he had an incident occur in his life that caused him to sort of drop out. And he wandered very slowly, alone on a dirt bike through Central America, finally ending up in Peru. When he returned, he disassembled his motorcycle and mailed it back to the United States. He flew back on a plane, carrying the front fork tubes of the bike onto the plane, and placing them in the overhead bin. I wasn't really up for disassembling my Naranja Dream. (I couldn't even find the battery when they said we had to disconnect the batter cables.)

I have half-heartedly attempted this journey more than once. But there's many a slip twixt a cup and a lip. I would never have made it if it weren't for the sage words of other road warriors I met along the way. The failure of others only encouraged my success. Particularly, one gentleman I met on the road while driving to Alaska....I forget his name...it's on my website from that trip though...I met him, as I recall, on the ferry from Port Angeles Washington to Victoria, B.C., Canada, on Vancouver Island.

He had turned back, short of his goal. And never gone as far as he'd planned. The problem is, and this is an enormous problem, is that...when you're on the road, you're spending a lot of time inside your own head. All you see is wind and rain and sun and highway and cactus and desert and mountains....and there's no one to talk to....you're all alone, sailing across the planet like a ship on the ocean. And the doubt creeps in like beetles beneath the door in Nicaragua. The doubt creeps in and fills the dusty corners of your brain. A voice forms and it says..."who are you do this? no one else is doing it. doesn't that mean it's not a good idea? Doesn't that mean we should turn back? Think of your cozy bed. Your television. Your oven and stove and refrigerator. They're all there, waiting for you. Your friends and family. They miss you, do they not? Why are you out sailing alone through foreign lands? Who are you to do this? Why not turn back? What difference, at this point, does it make?"

So, there is that doubt, of course. It's out there. When I first attempted this trip, my plan was to drive to El Salvador. I left from SF in a Honda Prelude and drove as far as SLO-twon (San Louis Obispo), and spend the night between SLO-Town and Pismo Beach. The next day, I got up and drove to the Mexican border (Chulavista, U.S. and Tijuana, Mexico, aka Chulajuana). But driving across LA made me want to hang myself. And you see all of these warnings at the border. The fear creeps in around the edges and obscures your thinking. There's all these signs...No Firearms in Mexico. No Ammunition in Mexico. One Gun = Life In Prison. And, I chickened out. Spent the night in Chulajuana, never did cross the border, turned around and fled to San Francisco. Pulled the plates off the car and left it at the airport in Short Term Parking.

This failure has haunted me for some time. So, maybe now I've got this monkey off of my back. I dunno. Part of me wants to rent out my house and travel the world for the rest of my life. Part of me wants to go back to Colorado, climb in bed, and never do anything like that again.

If I were to do another big adventure like this, and I"m not saying I am, then it would probably be in Asia. I'm not terribly interested in rolling around South America at this point. I've been all through Peru, and I can't imagine that the rest of South America is that different from what I've seen already. Whereas Asia would be a completely different experience, I would think.

But, I mean, it's not like a have a plan or anything. It's not like I have anything to do next, really. I don't work or anything. So it's sort of hard to imagine what comes next. I guess I go to Mississippi and hang out for the summer. Fortunately, my concealed carry permit came through while I was out of the country so I can legally carry the M1911A1 Colt 45 on me now when I'm riding.

So, that should help to kind of keep the loonies at bay.

I'll get to see my daughter, Jennifer which will be fantastic. Haven't seen her in a long time. This is the longest we've been apart in our lives, I'm pretty sure. She's in Georgia now. Was in Breckenridge earlier this week. And New Mexico before that. I've hardly seen her since we were in Cozumel in April.

So, that will be nice. Plus, my bike should show up at the airport in Jackson tomorrow afternoon, so I'll be giving free bike rides to anyone that wants one. I think I'm qualified to drive people around at this point. If I can make it alone across Central America on a dirt bike, I'd say I should be certified to drive the nieces around Madison.

It's so hard to come back into civilization after spending the last month amongst the Stone Age cultures of Latin America. It's like a culture shock. I'm used to seeing people fish for a living and sell their catch on the side of the road suspended from a string from a bean pole. When he starts to dry out, the wet him down again from a bucket of water to make him look fresh. I watched a woman split wood with an axe in flip-flops. I had a child beg me for the rest of my CocaCola Light, and he drank it. In Nicaragua, they used bean poles for utility poles. The're using horses for transportation. They're clearing the right-of-way along the road by hand with machetes.

And now, I'm suddenly escaping from it all in a time machine airplane. It's just so surreal. Yesterday, I was watching a man using a typewriter. And now, it's all MacBook Air's and iPhones and iPad Mini's. They're serving us lunch and drinks and I'm remembering the little 16 year old mom at the border that couldn't afford to eat lunch. It's so hard to reconcile all of this. So hard to believe it's real.

For the last month, I woke up every morning not knowing where I was. What country I was in, etc. I never knew at night where I landed. Always, I had to ask the people at the hotel..."Como se llama este ciudad?" Which is roughly, "what is the name of this town?"

It's so beautiful to be driving down a road you've never seen before. To be racing down the road, not knowing what lies ahead. Hoping to stumble onto a town before the gas tank goes completely dry. I think that part of me wanted to run out of gas in Mexico. I certainly pushed the limits there, but I never did run out. Many times, however, I was thrilled to roll into civilization on fumes. So odd to be so far away from civilization, that you're happy when you see it. Normally, I bounce across the planet in an airplane. But it's so much more comfortable to be down on the ground, seeing the earth from eye level, instead of flying passively overhead.

But now, that's all behind me.

Sic Transit Gloria

Glory fades. Everything fades and even now, I find it hard to believe what I've done. People I don't even know are contacting me about the story. Stunned that someone drove a KTM alone through Central America. I'm shocked myself.

When I cleared Immigration in the Atlanta airport, the guy couldn't believe it. "Where did you go while you were out of the country?"

"Mexico, Belize, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and Panama." There were so many countries I couldn't fit them all onto the lines they provided to list the countries you visited. My passport, which is brand new, is somehow already half-full.

"You went through all of those countries alone?"

"Yes. I did. On a motorcycle."

"Where is your bike?"

"I shipped it back via FedEx."

"How much did that cost?"

Like, it's starting to get a little personal. I don't want to answer, but these gurs are border patrol. They will ruin your life. That's the truth. So, I tell him.

In Latin America, this is very common They frequently ask how much the motorcycle cost. In the U.S., that would be impolite. But in Central America, I don't think that they see things the same way. Everyone asked how much the bike cost. Just like they would ask what time it is.

"Wow," he says. "Welcome back."

Posted by Rob Kiser on June 20, 2013 at 5:38 AM


Glad you made it back. I enjoied keeping up with your progress each day. Congrats!

Posted by: Jason in Chatt on June 21, 2013 at 4:55 AM

Thanks Jason. Glad to be back in the USA.

Posted by: Rob Kiser Author Profile Page on June 21, 2013 at 6:49 AM

WOW! :-)

Posted by: sl on June 24, 2013 at 8:49 PM

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