The next day is sunny and warm as I head down the road. After Santiago, the road becomes a four lane freeway . Panama is wonderful. The people are friendly. Gas is cheap. Pretty nice country in my book. They use American dollars so that makes it easy. And a coke costs 35 cents. The prices are half what they are in Costa Rica.
I continued through the sugar cane fields down the freeway. A lot of straight line riding in this part of the country. And finally come to the Panama canal and cross over the bridge of the Americas.
Further along the way I was dropping into Panama City only to see people driving at me on the wrong side of a six lane freeway with their emergency flashers on. I threaded through five miles of stopped traffic on the freeway to a road block with protesters wearing hardhats, waving flags and chanting slogans. There were hundreds of them and they were totally blocking a six lane freeway. It was WILD! So I ride up to the blockade and the dudes ask me to turn my motor off and I do and they cheer, and the one guy gives me a flag and lets me wave and they cheer, and then as I hand him back his flag and they start another chant, I start the bike, whip a U turn, jump the curb into oncoming traffic riding down the shoulder on the wrong side of the freeway until I reach a point where I can hop the curb and get back across the grass median strip onto the right side of the freeway and it is smooth sailing. But that was only the first blockade. Heading through downtown Panama City there is a massive traffic jam, so I thread through traffic only to find another major roadblock with flagwaving hardhat dudes. It looks like IŽll have to whip a Uturn, but just then the little cab in front of me hops the curb and I follow him DOWN THE SIDEWALK and drop down into oncoming traffic on a oneway street to the left. The little cabbie dude has his emergency flashers on and I tuck in behind him as we ride the wrong way down a one way street across three lanes of traffic, hop the curb onto another wide sidewalk going down a street blocked with traffic and drop back down on the other side of the striking workers where it is smooth sailing. I LOVE riding in these wild central american cities.
I keep cruising east of Panama city. I'm not sure how far I'll get. I have seen the pictures of red clay rutted mud on the road to Yaviza with ADVriders standing next to their wallowed bikes covered in mud with their hands on their hips. But I figure what the heck. Maybe a little Sherpa can make it to Yaviza a little easier than those big ADVpigs. It is only another 180 miles, and according to my map, only the last 90 miles are unpaved. How hard could it be?
So I keep cruising and waiting for the good stuff. And it never comes. IT"S PAVED THE WHOLE WAY! And nice paving at that. So a lot of straight line riding through mowed down teak forests. I have to stop at two mandatory check points where they write down my passport number. I get to the end of the road as the sun is setting.
I MADE IT! ON A FREAKIN' 250!
After I take this photo a drunk dude comes across the street and wants to be my guide. No thanks, this place is a bit edgy. I ride down the street into town and it is crowded with folks. I was thinking about staying the night but it is a little too wild west border town, so I head out back the way I came. It starts pouring down rain, so lucky the road is paved I guess. After 50 miles I come to the first gas station, and the nice man tells me it's dangerous to be out at night. And directs me to the nearest guesthouse in Torito. I head there and get a basic room for 6 dollars. There is no distraction out here since no TV or internet. So the guesthouse folks are sitting out in front of the place shooting the breeze. Really nice folks. A couple from Venezuela that can't stand Chavez. And a nice man from Chile who is the rep for the dairy and drives around Panama visiting his dairymen. He went to Calpoly San Luis Obispo for a 9 week course on dairy equipment maintenance about 20 years ago and doesn't remember much English, but by now I am getting better at Spanish conversation. Enough to speak simply. And then everyone goes to bed. Quite a pleasant day.