Wednesday and yes, the rain continues. Maybe not as hard as Monday but still discouraging bike travel After all Ricardos apartment is warm and dry. And the news from Limon and the Atlantic coast? Massive flooding, roads closed, people being relocated to higher ground and relief shelters. Our ride to the Atlantic must wait.
Thursday and yet more rain. And it seems cold. Seventy degrees may seem warm, but in this higher elevation and rainy San Jose, it seems cold.
Today we will begin some motorcycle maintenance and have lunch in the beautiful home of Ricardos mother, the elegant Delphine. And by tomorrow I must make preparations to fly back to Texas for Christmas. But yes, I will be returning here to Costa Rica in late February and March.
Monday morning, warm and clear, a great day for riding. And Ricardo and I were on the road early headed north towards the Costa Rican border. A brisk one hour ride found us sitting at the Panamanian Aduana quickly clearing Customs and Immigration. Then we were off about 100 meters to the Costa Rican Immigration and Customs. Within 90 minutes all was in order and we were free to ride north. Up the Pacific coast, past beautiful beachfront villages such as Tortuga Abajo, Quebrada Grande, Playa Uvita, occasionally seeing and hearing the furious Pacific Ocean crash into the beautiful rock formations only a short distance to our left. A surfers paradise, if only there were a sandy beach.
Lunch beckoned, I was hungry. And suddenly Ricardo swung to the left, darting down a broken pavement road towards a beachfront village. Beautiful banana, palm and mangrove trees dotting a quaint but beautiful beach. Raging waves, the roaring sounds of a furious sea, all sweeping up on the beach. Young people, older people, some Ticos, others gringos from both the USA and Europe. All surfers seeking total freedom and happiness. And they had found it right here in Playa Domenical! I immediately fell in love with it.
A beachfront restaurant beckoned. Delightful staff and a menu that was tasty, healthy but not inexpensive. Frijoles, rice, salad and grilled fish. All washed down with fresh pineapple juice. And of course a fresh baked brownie topped with coffee ice cream. I clearly am enjoying this healthy eating.
Back on the bikes, we were only about 180 miles from San Jose. Normally an easy three to four hour ride but the clouds had darkened, Thunder was making itself heard above the surf. Yes, rain, sometimes light and sometimes heavy. While I am experienced at riding in the rain, I still get nervous combining rain, a Costa Rican road, Latin drivers all together with me on a motorcycle. Wet, cold, tense but still riding northeast to San Jose.
Finally reaching the new toll road near dark, I relaxed a bit. But no! Darkness, hard driven rain and we suddenly were in the midst of early evening San Jose traffic. Cars change lanes in all directions, busses trying to run me over, motorcycle drivers who must have been Kamikaze pilots in another life. My life quickly ran before my eyes. Fifteen miles to Ricardos home. How can I possibly make it? Perseverence, a newfound belief in prayer and finally we were at Ricardos gate.
We are planning to ride to Limon Tuesday or Wednesday but first the rain must stop. And this evening? A warm shower. dry cloths and early to bed.
The road running east along the border of Panama and Costa Rica, twisted, winding, up and down, a challenge for even an experience Gringo rider. Today Gary Pitts led Ricardo and me along this curvy road. Five hundred seventy one tight, often hairpin turns in 38 kilometers. And steep hills. At times I was sure I would not survive the ride. Beautiful! Lush forests, waterfalls, tomato farms and vistas forever.
Suddenly the small indigenous village of Rio Serena, with its people all clothed in colorful native dress. A walk through the mercado, then off to a surprise. Suddenly Gary made a quick left turn, then a quicker right turn and pulled into the jardin of what appeared to be someones house. But no! It was a small native inn and restaurant. Filled with Gringos of that certain age. All adventurers who have found serenity and happiness living in this village near Rio Serena. Lunch, some conversation and we were off down another winding road to David.
Another fun day. Back at the hotel before dark. And tomorrow? At 8:30 AM we are off to the well known mountain town of Boquete to join an outdoor jazz festival. But first, Gary has another challenging ride planned. And my friend Ricardo, he will be right with us making certain I am having a safe and fun ride.
Thursday morning, awake at 5:30 AM in Quepos and it was raining. By 7:00 AM it was pouring. Finally Ricardo and I donned our rain suits and braved the beautiful mountain roads. South, past the seacoast town of Domenical, then into the hills. Curves, past palm tree farms, over raging rivers, thru small busy villages. Rain, even more rain--we were soaked. But the Virago 535 and the V Star 1100, they were running perfect.
Finally by 1:30 PM we were at the Costa Rica-Panama border. Quickly exiting Costa Rica, with no problem. Ricardo stopped to show me the duty free store which sits on the border. As large as a Super Walmart, it is a favorite shopping destination for both Ticos, Gringos and Panamanians. The store, while huge, was packed. Everyone shopping for cameras, laptops, TVs and furniture. If there is a recession here it has been suspended for Christmas.
And then we were off to the Panamanian Immigracion, customs and insurance. Problems! It took two hours to clear customs. First Chuck Weaver entered Panama at this same border crossing in November, 2008. Customs documented he was riding a BMW R100GSPD, the Goose. But where is the Goose? There is no record he ever took it out of Panama. Yes, Senor Weaver flew out, but what happened to the R100GSPD? Did he sell it in Panama and fail to pay the required taxes. While Ricardo explained, I just stood there pleading ignorance (a natural state). Finally Ricardo charmed our way into Panama and we were on our way. Light rain, but better than pouring rain.
Arriving in David at 6:15 PM, we made our way to Hotel Puerto Del Sol, the same hotel where I stayed three years ago. A great double room, TV, air conditioning and hot water. All for $40 per night for the two of us. A call to Gary Pitts and he quickly arrived at the hotel. Gary has a number of great rides planned, so we will stay here until Monday.
So far this morning, we have enjoyed a Panamanian breakfast, had our laundry done, had both bikes washed and Ricardo is doing some shopping. And this afternoon, we ride. Another adventure!
A great two days! With my buddy, Ricardo, two fun motorcycles and nothing better to do than ride the Paqcific coast of Nicaragua and Costa Rica. We departed San Juan Del Sur early and by 11:00 had cleared both borders and were back in the land of Ticos. Our destination for the night? Playa Hermosa. Arriving in Liberia shortly after lunch we stopped for Pollo Frito (fried chicken) and were soon on our way. My bike was running great but suddenly a hugh backfire, some weird noise and ..........I had blown a spark plug completely out of the cylinder head.but not to fear, a Costa Rican serviceman came to the rescue. Thirty minutes later, after he did temporary repairs, we were on our way. And guess what? He refused any payment.
Back running good, we purred through the countryside, past banana farms, herds of cattle and horses. Suddenly Ricardo slowed, made a right turn and we were at the home and shop of Eric Lang, Ricardo's friend since childhood. Eric, a race car builder and driver, a automotive genius who build cars, from the chassis to the final touches. A mechanical wizard. Two hours later the bike was ready for us to continue our adventure. Payment? Do not even suggest it. I love this land and the Tico People.
Into Playa Hermosa, we quickly found a beachfront hotel, both elegant and within our budget. Run by a delightful man from Spain. All the facilities, right on the beach and it even came with a complete breakfast
Up early, We hated to leave Hotel Belmar, with its beautiful pool terrace and beach but other beachfront cities were waiting. Playa Coco was our next stop where we visited with 40 or so Austrians who were on a hugh abd striking sailing scooner. Then we made tracks to Playa Naranjo where we boarded a ferry for a 90 minute cruise to Puntarenas. Such a beautiful city, where Ricardo spent his summers, as a youth, at his Grandmothers house. And tonight? We are in the beachfront town of Quepos, safely in a nice family owned hotel, Cabias Alicia.
Tomorow we will ride three hours south to the border of Panama. Hopefully, we can clear customs in a couple of hours and be in David, Panama by mid afternoon. Our friend Gary Pitts and his wife, Jennifer await us.
The Cruise Inn in San Juan, Nicaragua is a great small inn, owned by a Harley Rider from Wisconsin. Joel, the owner, rode into town two months ago and found home. Now he and his wife are running this boutique Inn two blocks away from the beach. You can reach the inn by telephone, 8879-5451. Rooms are only $15 per night for one person, $20 for a couple or $30 for two beds. Secure parking, biker friendly. Air conditioning for $5 extra and your laundry washed, dryed and folded for $5. You canīt beat it. Breakfast included!
Ricardo and I decided to stay for another night or two so today we took a day trip to the beautiful colonial city of Grenada, sitting on the shores of lake Nicauraga, the largest lake in the Americas. Granada, A city of great history and some of the most beautiful colonial buildings in Central America. While there we feasted on fresh fish, cooked whole with rice and fried plantains. The reason I love to ride with Ricardo is that we have similar appetites.
Granada, less than 110 kms from San Jual Del Sur. Past rolling hills filled with cattle and banana plantations. The roads filled with horse carriages, ox carts and even the occasional herds of beautiful cattle.
Tonight? Maybe just lobster cerviche and a long sit on the beach. But again.....I just saw a neat ice cream parlor. And tomorrow? Maybe ride south, maybe stay one more day. We donīt have to decide tonight.
A restless night and I was up early in Liberia, Costa Rica. A cold water shower and a quick breakfast at Mc Donalds and Ricardo and I were off to Granada, Nicaragua. Did I say Grenada? Then why have I spent the afternoon sitting on the beach in San Juan Del Sur, an idyllic cove on the beautiful Pacific Ocean? Simple, after the frustrating two hours spent at the border crossing, we decided we needed lunch and Ricardo had an urge for lobster. So why not take a 20 km detour to the Pacific surfing village of San Juan Del Sur, Nicaragua?
Over hill and valley, past rambling brooks, the occasional cow or horse in the road, such a beautiful ride. Then suddenly before us lay the most manificient view of the Pacific cove. Miles of beach, surrounded by beachfront hotes, thatch roofed restaurants..........! We loved it. Picking a nice hotel, with oceanfront pool, restaurant and bar and we were home. And what? Only $65 per night for a double with air and a sitting area.
Lunch? Something simple! Lobster cerviche, salad and two freshly caught lobster tails. Plus two Coke Zeros, All for $20. How will we ever leave?
As usual, Ricardo had an idea. Up early tomorrow for a day trip to Granada and then back here to San Juan Del Sur tomorrow afternoon for more beach and another lobster dinner. The next day? At this point, we have no idea.
Departing Ricardoīs house early Friday morning,we had to ride east to west across the entire city. one hour later we finally passed the International Airport. Traffic was frantic. I am still getting accustomed to Latin drivers. The only traffic rule in Latin America is that there are no rules.
Suddenly we were on the road that would take us into the mountains to our destination town of La Fortuna. This beautiful city sits right at the base of Volcan Arenal, the only active vilcano in Costa Rica.
With little traffic, we wound our way over beautiful hills, over rivers and bustling streams, past coffee and pineapple farms and numerous cattle farms. Then suddenly we were in Zarcero, a town famous for the amazing topiary park right in the center of the town. Topiary more delicate and beautiful than any that I have ever seen.
Then off again towards Arenal, but first we must stop along the river in Muelle to see the magnificent Iguanas that live in the river bank. Ten, maybe 20 or 30. large, some a meter or more in length. And guess what! They would come right up and eat out of your hand (maybe even bite your hand).
Back on our bikes, we were off heading to La Fortuna. And suddenly we were there, in one of the nicest tourist destinations in Costa Rice. Searching for a hotel, Ricardo led the way 16 kms north to Tacotal Ecohotel where we booked a beautiful room, all glass front, looking right up at Arenal. But the clouds were heavy and the weather misty. Not to be deterred, we paid a visit to La Fortuna and enjoyed a typical Tico meal and then were off to bed early.
Sleeping a bit late, we departed the hotel about 10:00 AM headed towards the beautiful Lago Arenal. A lake high in the nountains with a beautiful winding road going around it. Then in the early afternoon we found our way to Tilaran, a town more magnificent than I could imagine. A three hour stop to watch Tico children dance to native Tico music. This weekend is the 2011 Telefon, A time that Costa Ricans stop to raise money for the benefit of childrenīs health. What a great idea!
Then finally riding into Liberia, the city where my father once lived and near where he died at such a young age. A rustic hotel, at a reasonable price, but no hot water. Ricardo picked this one but tomorrow, I will select the hotel and hopefully we will have hot water.
And tomorrow we are off to the border where we will enter Nicaragua headed to the striking colonial city of Granada. I hope Daniel is keeping dinner for us.
Eight A.M. this morning and Ricardo and I were riding out of San Jose on a short ride to familiarize me with the Yamaha I will be riding the next two weeks. Out of town, over beautiful hills, past coffee farms, through picturesque villages and then into a cold mist. Had we gone further it would have been a cold rain. Then back to Casa de Ricardo to prepare the bikes for an early Friday departure.
Suddenly the temperature began falling and I was chilled., What happened to warm sunny Costa Rica? Suddenly Ricardo received a phone call from his cousin who has a farm near Limon. Rain, hard rain and flooding over much of the road along the Atlantic coast. A quick change of plans. Tomorrow we will head north to Volcan Arenal. Then after a day or two, on into Nicaragua and a stop at the wonderful colonial city of Grenada. Who knows? Maybe even a coke with the newly reelected President, Daniel Ortega.
Then back southward to the Atlantic coast in search of the ideal vacation spot for another visit in March. But wait! Panama! How can we not ride all the way across Costa Rica and visit Panama. After all my old friend Gary Pitts is sitting astride his Yamaha Tenere waiting on us. I know he has an adventure in mind. And his terrific wife, Jennifer Daniels, MD. A vegen and weight guru, maybe she can help me get on a healthy diet.
But today Ricardo spent most of his time preparing the bikes for this exciting ride. And me? I stood around supervising and shivering. But tomorrow, we ride! Through some of the most beautiful countryside in the Americas.
Tuesday morning! Brisk, but sunny in beautiful San Jose, Costa Rica. Back with my old riding friend, Ricardo Collado. This adventure will find us riding Costa Rica, Nicaragua and Panama. Riding both the Atlantic and Pacific coasts and crossing at least three mountain ranges. All this over the next three weeks since I must be back in Texas by Christmas.
Ricardo is riding his trusted Yamaha V Star and I will be on his Yamaha Virago. Both well maintained and strong runners. We will not be leaving San Jose until dawn Friday. Then we will weave our way out of San Jose, riding over the beautiful hills and mountains to the rustic and bustling city of Limon, Costa Rica. Limon. a city of 200.000 nestled on the Atlantic coast. The only city on the Atlantic in all of Costa Rica. From Limon, we will head south, down the wild and undeveloped coast towards Panama. Perhaps a bit of rain each day, certainly some beautiful countryside filled with new adventures.
The past two days have been spent with Ricarso and his friend Gabby. A lady that Ricardo has told me so much about, but I had never met. A lady of beauty and great enthusiasm. And once again I was in the company of his daughter, Prescilla and Ricardo's three delightful grandaughters, Emily, Jessica and Katelyn.
Today I visited with Ricardo's mother, Donya Delfina, a shocklingly beautiful, sophisticated and articulate lady. A lady who has traveled Asia, Australia ,Africa, Russia, China, all of South America and North America.
But tonight? A fine dinner with Ricardo and his son Ricky. Then off to bed witrh a good book. My days may be filled with adventure but my nights are for time with friends and rest.