Chris, why don’t you come down to Costa Rica? You’ve got a place to stay.
Well let me think about that…
A split second later I said sure, as long as I could confirm just a couple of things. Using Aeroplan miles for the flight and having some kind of motorcycle to drive when I got there was all I needed. Once confirmed, the flights were booked and I’d be away for most of April. This also fit in quite nicely between the births of our latest grandchildren. Jane and Jason’s son, Oscar, was born on March 18th. Kyla and my son George are expecting their son to be born around May 3rd. Costa Rica, here I come!
Flying from Victoria instead of Vancouver saves a lot of ferry and parking costs. When checking in I got two pleasant surprises. Since I was quite early and had to change planes in Vancouver anyway, the agent found me an earlier flight so I could spend the extra waiting time in the comfort of the airport lounge. Then I was told that I didn’t have to take my luggage through customs in Los Angeles. Both bags were checked all the way through to Costa Rica (CR) even though we had to change planes again in LA! In Los Angeles the agent showed me my two bags on a computer screen while he checked me through. Brilliant improvement! After leaving Los Angeles there was a surprise stop in Guatemala City for fuel and a passenger exchange. No mention on the flight itineraries. Surprise!
Now Tuesday morning and in CR. My first impression of this country was dealing with the customs agent. Not only was he a very pleasant and friendly fellow but he had a smile that just wouldn’t quit. Starting inside the terminal there were taxi drivers lined up three deep and continuing all the way outside of the terminal building. My friend Donna had her friends Wagner and Cindy drive her to the airport to pick me up and we were on our way by 10:00.
Leaving the airport and travelling west along Hwy 1, the Pan American Highway, we came to a dead stop. No signs or any indication of what was ahead, but there were several vendors walking up and down the lines selling snacks and drinks so Wagner knew it was construction. Just north of San Ramon on Hwy 703 we grabbed some lunch in a little place called the “Savory a la Thai”.
After lunch we continued north to the Angel Valley B&B, headquarters for my CR excursion. It’s driveway is just a few feet past the Mi Rancho restaurant on Hwy 702. Mi Rancho is a popular stop with bus loads of tourists stopping on a regular basis, therefore a great landmark for me if I ever get lost. At this point I was falling asleep so I crashed for a couple hours. Now rejuvenated and ready to eat something, we had some spaghetti and worked on the logistics for tomorrow’s journey. We had a bit of walking first, then rode three different bus rides before jumping into a taxi for the last short leg. All of this to pick up the motorcycles that we had just bought.
Wednesday morning was a little overcast and foggy but nice and warm. We left the BnB early enough to be at Mi Rancho for the 07:30 bus into town. The CR buses have schedules but can easily be 10 minutes early on any given day. The next bus didn’t go for three hours so the early start was imperative.
First bus took us the San Ramon bus depot where we grabbed our second bus to go south on Hwy 135 to Palmeras. In Palmeras now we had ninety minutes to wait until our next bus so we ate at the bus station. It was a great meal. Our third and final bus continued on Hwy 135 to Atenas and that’s where the fun began. Hwy 135 is so twisty and some of the curves so tight that in many places the bus was using the entire road just to get around the corners. On some corners the driver would honk his horn to warn oncoming traffic that he was coming and that he’d be on their side of the road. The bus provided us front row seats for some odd driving. Watching the traffic flow in CR has been very interesting, to say the least. Once in Atenas it was a short taxi ride to the motorcycles.
The vendor, Christine, was a bit off. I couldn’t put my finger on it but she was strange to say the least. We fired them up, did a quick once over and got out of there. We weren’t too far down the road when Donna knew her 150cc had some little issues. The clutch was slipping on some of the steeper hills and the throttle cable needed some lubrication. Not a huge deal but Donna’s 150cc had to pass a government inspection at a place they call Riteve, the next morning at 10:00. If Riteve fails then the lawyers can’t complete the final sale to Donna. My bike’s Riteve was good until October and this sale was already completed. There’s a Honda shop less than 10 km. from Angel Valley B&B so we stopped in on the way home.
Alejo had the clutch and throttle fixed in no T.J. Watt Authentic Jersey time so T.J. Watt Womens Jersey dinner at Mi Rancho on the way home. Friendly cheerful people every where you go in Costa Rica. Pura vida.
Wednesday night the wind howled fiercely again but by morning it was all calm and just a beauty of a day. Another early start and we were away before 08:00 this morning. We couldn’t be late for the inspection and still had to find exactly where it was so the early start. We ended up having plenty of time and good thing we did. On the way there I noticed Donna’s brake light never came on today. We pulled over, did a quick check, and now we needed a new bulb. With some assistance from the locals we got directions to a place that might have them. We found the shop and not only did they have the bulb but were happy to change it for us. Riteve was an easy find and we were fifteen minutes early. This should have been easy. After twenty minutes or so Donna came out and said, “Chris, the m/c failed. It’s too loud!” Everything else was okay but too many decibels out of the muffler. Now we had three days to have it fixed and rechecked at Riteve or the process has to start all over again…
Back to the Honda shop again. The owner, Adrian Jesus, was there today and had good English skills. Between him and Alejo they were sure they could fix it. They’d replace the muffler if needed but would do something on the cheap if at all possible. Adrian said to come back around 15:00 tomorrow (Friday) so Donna rode the bus home and I took off.
Every Friday and Saturday there’s a big local market in San Ramon. This is a big deal for the area residents and there’s was so much to choose from. I got some pineapples, mangos and a bit of bacon just for fun.
As a regular customer Donna’s coconut guy chops them open and pours all the water into a big container that she brings. This coconut water will later be frozen in cubes and used in future smoothies. After dropping my stuff at home we went to see what Adrian and crew did with the 150cc. When he brought the bike out and it was so quiet I didn’t realize it was running at first. Perfect. We planned for Riteve on Monday and had the weekend to ride.
Temperatures have been fluctuating between 20° and 30° C each day and no rain yet. Everything looks so green to me right now but I was quickly corrected. During rainy season it gets so unbelievably green and plush that it doesn’t even look real. Saturday was a cruise to Zarcero, a quaint little CR town with some interesting gardens in the front of the town’s central church.
The road to Zarcero is just like many of the roads here. Twisty, narrow, with no shoulders and every bridge you cross is one lane only. So the riding here is quite enjoyable. It just takes a little longer to get anywhere. Interestingly enough, there was a motorist going the other way flashing his headlights. Well if we didn’t go around three or four more corners and there was a road block set up. Five policemen were working it at the time and they didn’t even look at us as we drove through. Flashing your headlights appears to be a universal warning sign. Zarcero’s church in the centre of town draws tourists from all around to walk through these high maintenance grounds.
After walking the grounds and looking inside the church it was time for some lunch. We found this little café a short distance away. Burritos and a strawberry milkshake hit the spot nicely. Wondering a bit about the road block on the return trip, and only because my Spanish isn’t very good, but it was long gone. Perfect.
On the was back to San Ramon we took a gravel road short cut going west for about a dozen kilometers. At one point we stopped at an overpass to look at the new highway that’s been under construction for over four years now. Nobody’s in a rush to do anything down here.
One of the Costa Rica things that I’m now getting used to, daylight lasts twelve hours per day, and over the course of a year it might fluctuate forty minutes. So it’s good to plan to be home between 17:00 and 17:30 because by 18:00 it’s black. Donna was meeting her best friend Joanna over at Joe’s place at 16:00. Joe owns this lovely piece of property and over they years has opened up and run several pubs. So when he bought this property he put in his own personal bar. It’s not a business, but he does love to entertain and many neighborhood folks frequent his humble abode. Sure glad I went. Joe was a very interesting man with lots of stories. While the girls visited inside Joe stepped outside to smoke his cigar. As we talked somehow we got into politics. More than once he said that he didn’t like talking politics, but he was getting right into it and enjoying our exchange of political viewpoints. Front and center of course was the “Trump” factor and what kind of mess he’s going to stir up on the global stage. From where I sit I told him I’m much more concerned about Kim Jong-un of North Korea. That kid is a wild card that could be extremely dangerous for all of us. The way the American people have been standing together and revolting against some of Trump’s misdirection, I really don’t think he’ll be able to do much damage. Of course only time will tell and from my place in Canada it has been quite entertaining to watch, so far.
Here’s another first for me, Joe was at Woodstock. His ticket cost him $18 but it ended up being a free concert of course. He’s the first person I’ve met up close and personal that was actually there. When I asked him about the music, he said he saw a bit of it on a big screen somewhere, but said the music was just a bit of background stuff. The real deal was all the people and all the stuff that everyone was doing. And I quote, “It changed my life” he said. On a personal note, I’ve always wanted to talk to someone that was there. I remember going to see the movie when I was in high school and Woodstock has always fascinated me. So meeting Joe in the heart of Costa Rica to hear his stories was well worth it and since he’s lives only a five minutes away from Angel Valley B&B and we got back before dark.
Monday morning now and time to deal with Riteve for hopefully the very last time. Donna’s machine was super quiet now and we were feeling pretty good about getting it passed. Re-inspections don’t require appointments, but there is a small fee. Once that was paid it was show time. It seemed to take a long time, like everything else in CR, and when she finally came out it was bearing bad news. Flunked again. The muffler was only quiet because the shop had just shoved insulation inside the muffler to make it quiet. The Riteve inspector said that modification is not allowed. Now it’s finding a place somewhere close that can put on a new muffler. Another one of life’s little curve T.J. Watt Youth Jersey balls or just a little bump in the road as I like to say. By now I was getting a bit hungry though, but we had to deal with this first. First we went to the muffler shop that was close by and was recommended by the Riteve inspector.
The first shop sent us to a second shop and they couldn’t help either. Then we found a big motorcycle shop on the side of the highway and we were in luck. With the help of her son Nick on her phone, he acted as an interpreter for her and we found out they could replace the muffler right away and it would be ready to go in about forty minutes. Another CR thing is that you pay for the work ahead of time. It cost about $70 when you work out the exchange with her US money and because it would be ready so quick we decided to just wait and go for lunch afterwards. Have I mentioned how slow things go here? It took more than 2.5 hours to get it finished and we still had to get to Riteve before it closed and get back to Los Angeles, CR that was close to an hour drive away. Turned out the extra time was because they had to make some modifications and do some welding to get the new muffler on. That’d be one advantage to paying ahead for the job. Now to Riteve, the m/c passed inspection, and we had to get going. We got maybe half way home before it was dark, but success! Almost exactly one week later we now finally had two legal motorcycles instead of just one.
Without really eating all day, a stop at Mi Rancho for some dinner was a must. Tried their ribs and what a very nice surprise. They were very really thick and quite tender. Notice the knife and fork ‘in a bag”. So far so good.
Pt.-1 is now complete.