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December 4, 2017

Day 23 [Tue 12/05/17] - Paso Canoas, Panama to Panama City, Panama

Update: I am alive and well, having dinner and drinks at the swim-up-bar at the Riande Aeropuerto Hotel & Casino in Tocumen, Panama. (This is the same place I stayed last time I was down this way. I remembered this hotel...I was like...uh...yeah...I'm going back there again.)

Starting Odometer: 10,235
Ending Odometer: 10,581
Distance Traveled Today: 346 miles
Distance Traveled This Trip: 5,978 miles [10,581 - 4,603]

0 miles - Paso Canoas, Panama
152 miles - Santiago, Panama (3h:11m)
156 miles - Panama City, Panama (3h:14m) 308 miles

My ride today looks something like this.
Expenses from yesterday (December 3rd)

So, I wake up this morning in Paso Canoas, Panama. I did a good job last night of getting all of my tasks done. Like, every night, I have a series of tasks I have to do:

Daily Evening tasks:
O Record odometer on motorcycle.
O Take a shower.
O Wash clothes in the sink.
O Copy videos off of GoPro Hero 5.
O Archive tracks on Garmin Montana.
O Log expenses.
O Copy photos off of cameras onto laptop. Upload photos to website.
O Plan ride for tomorrow.
O Clean GoPro camera.
O Charge Canon EOS 50D batteries.
O Charge iPhone 6S+.
O Charge MacBook Air.
O Charge GoPro Hero 5.
O Charge Garmin Montana 600.

Daily Morning tasks:
O Oil chain in the parking lot.
O Clean mirrors, windshield, and digital instrument cluster on 2017 Honda Africa Twin.
O Gas up bike.
O Set trip meters.
O Log mileage, volume, cost.
O Program 1st destination into Waze.

So, what I've discovered is that, the more I get done at night, before I go to sleep, the less work I have to do in the morning.
It's a whole self-discipline thing. And, I pretty much have no self-discipline. And I'm pretty sure I'm not alone in that. But I
like that the adventure makes me more disciplined. Puts a structure/framework around my day. If I'm at home, I just sort of
drift in and out of consciousness, surfing the internet and watching netflix.

But on this adventure, there's no time for that. Zero. Nada. Every day, I'm riding all day, and then doing chores the rest of the
day, and for this, I am thankful. It's the best thing about the trip...that it wakes me up and makes me focus on a set of tasks
all day long, every day.

[Diatribe continues in the extended entry...]

So, last night, I got everything done that I was supposed to, and I got across the border into Panama. So, when I wake up this morning, I'm off to the races.
I get up at 8:00 a.m., and get busy. Steve said I have to put in 300 miles today, or he's going to have me arrested at the next border crossing.

So I get out early this morning....before 9:00 a.m. I'm rolling.

Now, the city of Paso Canoas is an "international city", in that, it basically straddles the border. And, it's funny because this is the same crossing I made last time. I remember the border crossing, which is kind of fun. And yesterday, when I came back into town for dinner, I noticed that the border runs through the center of town. And I clarified that point. That it is, in fact, possible to drive between the two countries at multiple points along the border. It's only about a 10' distance. Many of the crossing points have chains across them. Many others do not.

And because of this, Panama has a little checkpoint about 3 km from the border, where they check traffic, because, they know that they border is basically an open border, once they get past that checkpoint.

Also, to get to the north-west-bound lanes, when I leave my hostel, I have to drive across a little concrete footbridge to get to the NW-bound traffic lanes. I have GoPro footage of me doing this multiple times.

So I roll across the cocncrete footbridge of death, back into Paso Canoas this morning. Once I get there, I turn left, heading roughly south, following the border with Costa Rica and, just for grins, I cross back into Costa Rica. Then, I go about 100 meters, and cross back into Panama. Not that it really matters or anything, it just sort of seems silly, I guess. The whole concept of borders and checkpoints and crossings and guards.

So, in any event, I leave the surreal international city of Paso Canoas, and head back east on my journey.

Of course, the first thing I come to is that little quasi-legal border checkpoint that Panama runs about 3 km from the actual border. As always, I just play stupid, and try to go around it. Like, at first, it's pretty scary to be carrying $10K in cash when you've declared that you have $0.00 in cash, and then keep running checkpoints all day long. Part of me always thinks...this is it. They're going to take me and put me in prison and I'll have my own episode of Locked Up Abroad. But, I try to drive around the checkpoint. They whistle for me to stop. And he wants to see my paperwork, but you understand that I have all of my paperwork in order. I always do. I'm meticulous about this. It's too risky not to be. So, I may not grasp what all of the papers mean, or who gave them to me, but I go to each point where I'm instructed to go, and I do what they tell me, and I pay all of my fees. So, when they ask for my paperwork, all I have to do is open my manilla folder and all of my documents are there. Every time.

So, he asks to see my paperwork, I show him my manilla folder, and he checks my license plate number. And he lets me go. And I'm off to the races.

Now, I did check the forecast for today, and I what I see is isolated afternoon thunderstorms for the foreseeable future. So, my plan is to get up early, gas up, roll out of town, and see how far I can make it before the rain starts.

So once I get past their little border checkpoint, I gas up. I don't like starting off the day empty. Gas up. Get moving.
But when I gas up, I notice that I've gone through yet another time zone change. This prompts me to update the time on my camera and my bike. I'll update the GoPro later tonight. I know how to do it, but it's a little more complicated and it's locked into my helmet, so we'll deal with it tonight. Update: Sure enough...Panama is yet another timezone change.

Then I take off, hell-bent for leather. Now, what I'm noticing is that, Panama has the best roads I've seen in Central America. Like...I'm driving down a 4 lane interstate with a divided median and occasional acceleration lanes for traffic entering from the side/shoulder. And, what's surprising is that, if I open the throttle a little, I find that I'm actually making good time, today. For once in a long time. Like...I'd almost given up on the fact that I might be able to ride 300 miles a day. It seemed to be a skill that had escaped me.

But now, I'm just rolling like mad across panama. Running like 80 mph, making good time, for once. Today, I go mostly east, but also slightly north. This is a change for me. This whole adventure, since I was in Tijuana, I've been rolling South, and East. And all points in between South and East, but primarily headed that direction. Now, for the first time, I go slightly north.

The Panama Canal doesn't run East/West. It runs North/South. The north end, in the Carribbean, is slightly west of the south end, in the Pacific. So, the west end of the Panama Canal, technically, is in the Carribbean, and the east end is in the Pacific.

In Santiago, Panama, I stop to gas up at 11:30 a.m.. I'm always surprised in Panama that they take U.S. dollars as currency, but they speak Spanish, and sell gasoline in Liters. Like....it's kind of surreal. So close, but so far.

I've gone 150 miles already. Always, I mess this part up. Waze is trying to route me to the center of Santiago, when I should switch it to take me to the next destination (Panama City). I always mess this up. I am not a smart man. So I update Waze to take me to Panama City, do a U-turn, and I'm back on track....leaving Santiago now. Heading East.

One of the things that's interesting about Panama is that they have foot-bridges for people to walk across so they don't get killed crossing the road. Mexico, and most countries in Central America, have "Velocidad Reductors"...massive speed bumps that will take the frame off your car if you don't slow down to about 10 mph. But Panama doesn't really have these. Instead, they put up signs that say Zona Escuela, but that's about it. And precious little else. Although I have seen cops on motorcycles with radar guns down here. And they stopped me for speeding last time I was down here.

But, there really aren't nearly as many small towns down here, for whatever reason. In the rest of Latin America, I was going through little villages ever 10-20 kilometers. But now, I really hardly see any small towns.

Also, I hardly see any quasi-legal military checkpoints like I saw in the other countries. There are some checkpoints, but not nearly as many in Panama.

And I'm making pretty good time, finally.

By noon, I've gone 175 miles, when I see a motorcycle cop on the side of the road, and he flags me down. I stop and turn on my GoPro.

So he tells me to pull ahead into the shade, and wait for him. It's so hot I saw a dog chasing a cat and they were both walking. I'm roasting. I'm glad he told me to pull into the shade. That was a smart move, IMHO.

He walks up and acts all upset about how fast I was going. He says the speed limit is something like 60 km an hour, and that I was going 80 mph? I'm not clear. I don't really care. I drive as fast as I want to. All he's doing is generating revenue and we both know it. He tells me he's going to write me a ticket for not having insurance, when I point out to him that I do, in fact, have insurance for Panama. I bought a policy at the border for $15.

So, he asks for some document, and my passport, and my driver's license. And I hand him all of these documents. Like...OK. So, I was speeding. But other than that, I'm 100% following the law. So he lets me go and tells me to pay the ticket in Panama City. And I'm like...for sure....I'll get right on that. Douchebag.

He lets me go, and now I try to ride a little slower, but after a while I'm going 80 mph again because, it's just more fun, and fuck the pigs anyway. I'm on a 4 lane interstate with a divided median. It's certainly not an unsafe speed, and also it looks like it might rain again. It spits on me a tiny bit.

Somewhere before I get to Panama, I see a sign indicating a playa is just 2 km down the road, so I turn off to check out the playa. Eventually, I find it, but it's not pretty. Dog tied to a tree with a rope, barking at everyone that comes down to the beach. Homeless people living in tin shacks in hammocks on the beach. Sort of like Slab City if it was on the ocean, I'd guess.

So I turn back to PanAmerican Highway 1, and keep rolling into Panama City.

It was threatening to rain earlier, but now, it's just sweltering hot. Every time I stop, I feel like I will melt. With an 80 mph headwind, the climate is almost tolerable. But stop the bike, and I begin to melt down very quickly. It's so hot down here. Hard to describe.

As I come into Panama City, I follow the signs for Centro Panama CIty. But then, I realize...this isn't the way I came into the city last time. Not at all. So I get all crossed up, turn around, double back...drive through like the grossest part of Panama City I've ever seen...on the west side in the slums. Not pretty. But eventually, I get onto this road following the coast, and it makes the broad sweeping turn, giving me a fantastic view of the skyline. So I stop to shoot some photos. (There's like...2 feet of shoulder, maybe...on a concrete bridge.)

Now, I come up to the city, and see a bus lane and a park. And a guy selling snow-cones. So I stop for a snow-cone because I'm about to roast I'm so hot. And I've not eaten anything all day.

Snap some more photos. Then I think....I'll go see how much one of these high-rise hotels costs per night. I'm shocked that they want $175 USD per night.
And I just bolt from the place. Now, I'm not really sure where to go.

I want to buy a Canon EOS 50D if I can find one on Craigslist, because one of mine dropped twice yesterday. It wasn't my fault. I have it connected to the 100-400mm lens and, for whatever reason, it fell off in the streets twice yesterday crossing from Costa Rica into Panama. But, I'm not overly concerned with this. If you take gear into the field, it's going to break eventually. This is how things work. Everything breaks, eventually. So, that's not a problem, but I do need to replace the camera. I've done this one the road several times. It comes with the territory.

I decide to head for the Tocumen airport, because I stayed at a hotel there last time with a swim-up bar that was really nice. And I'm able to find it without too much effort. Exactly as I remembered, and I check in for the night. $110 a night, which is the most I've spent on the trip so far, but Panama isn't cheap. I saw signs advertising apartments for $99,000. So, it's not exactly Mexico.

I get a shower, wash all of my clothes in the sink, and swim up to the swim-up bar and ask for a menu.

Posted by Rob Kiser on December 4, 2017 at 5:16 PM


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