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Old 05-22-2013, 06:04 PM   #106
Panama OP
Gnarly Adventurer
 
Joined: Dec 2007
Location: Jacksonville Beach, FL
Oddometer: 127
5-11, 12, 13 Ride to Lago Atitlan & retur

5-11, 12, 13 Ride to Lago Atitlan & return



Saturday morning we headed to Lago Atitlan and the town of San Pedro de la Laguna. Lawrence, the motorcycle guy we met at the hostel decided to join us. He is somewhat new to traveling on the bike and wanted to ride over with us.

There are two routes to get to San Pedro de la Laguna. It is on the southwest side of the lake and we are coming in from Antigua which is east of the lake. Blake's friend Andrew who works at the hotel we were going to stay at recommend that we take the northern route, which is longer. He said that if we took the southern route which rides along the south side of the lake there was a 99.9% chance that we would be robbed. Blake's friend Julio came by and recommended that we take the southern route bu insisted that we get a police escort thru the dangerous section. The ride was supposed to be nicer and Julio goes this way often, always taking the escort.



We chose the southern route but the problem was that we didn't know exactly where the dangerous section was. Whenever the was a police station or patrol we would ask if it was safe and did we need an escort. They all said it was fine, the road was well patrolled and we would be ok. Finally as we arrived at a small town of Santiago del Lago the police caught up to us with their lights flashing and told us to follow them. They escorted us through ltown and when we got clear of the town they stopped. They explained that the next section was the worst and that there were assassins ahead, they should escort us but they didn't have much gasoline for the truck. We told them we had some gas money and to take us on. The next few Kms. we're unpaved, there was some road work ongoing and the going was tough and slow. Just as we got back onto the paved road there was a car stopped and the people were waving for the police. It turned out that they had just been held up at gun point just 5 minutes prior. The police kept us moving and within a few minutes they stopped and said we would be safe to proceed from here. We gave them a few bucks and continued on.

When we arrived at San Pedro de la Laguna we were surprised to see that the main road went right into the water. It turns out that the lake level has been rising and is swallowing up the towns along the shore. There are houses that have been swallowed up by the water.

We met Andrew and he took us to the hotel were we would be staying. We had secure parking for the bikes and the hotel was quite comfortable. They have a restaurant on the the top (3rd) floor with a beautiful lake view. There are three volcanoes visible from the hotel roof. We had a nice pizza dinner at sunset while Andrew and his girlfriend Sarah told us about life in the area.



We stayed two nights in San Pedro then decided to head back to Antiqua. This time we took the northern route. The road was interesting. We climbed to almost 9000 ft. The bikes we really noticing the thin air up there. Not much power at that elevation (the KTM is injected so it didn't notice). We ran into road construction where traffic was stopped for about 30 minutes, twice.

At one of the construction sites they called us to the front of the line with some other motorcycles. Once the road was cleared of machinery and debris they let us go, they did the same for the traffic at the bottom of the hill. As we approached the oncoming traffic they slowly merged into their lane and we passed in our respective lanes. It was like the start of a demolition derby until each side got into their own lanes.

We got into Antigua about 3:30 and went back to the Black Cat Hotel. We know the place and the people plus the bike parking is good.



















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Old 05-22-2013, 06:05 PM   #107
Panama OP
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Joined: Dec 2007
Location: Jacksonville Beach, FL
Oddometer: 127
Departure Antigua, Guatemala May 16th / Arrival El Impossible, El Salvador May 17th





Upon leaving Guatemala we were thinking about all our friends we met and had left. The first two that come to mind are Julio and his wife Luisa who are avid motorcycle enthusiast with a BMW GS 1200 bike. Julio helped Blake sort out a problem on the grasshopper in respect to the introduction of a rear shock spring into the country and practically hand delivering the part to Blake. We rode with Julio around Antigua to catch the views of the picturesque town. Later that evening we enjoyed a home cooked meal with him, which by the way was amazing being that one of his passions was being a professional Chef. We shared bike stories which they have topped because of their 10 month trip to Alaska and back from Guatemala. We were blessed to meet these Great Ambassadors of Antigua and already miss them. We also ran back into Joseph who we first met at a hostal in Semuc Champey. We had a run of the town with him one night in Antigua, it was loads of fun. Maybe well see him on the next go around.



Departing the Black Cat Inn Hotel in Antigua we had some problems. The bikes were parked in the court yard garden and we were pushing the bikes onto the street. I pushed on grasshoppers top case and broke the mounts. Shitskies, we were trying to get to the border of El Salvador early and now this. We ran to a nearby Yamaha shop and found a replacement case that took 2 hours to get squared away. We were now on way and crossing the border was a bit of a lengthy process with the high temperature in full swing.



We left the border looking for a National Park called El Impossible. Wondering why it was called that it may have been because there was no sign to indicate the dirt road leading to the mountain town. :) After asking some people we got led to the right road and we hauled butt up there as the sun was getting ready to flash green on Pacific Ocean. Headed up the road was a few KM of rocky roads that would maybe rival tooth decay to rattling our teeth out. Maybe this was the birth of the name, El Impossible?



The next day I headed out at dawn to hike the National park and learned that the name was derived from a mountain pass in the park that was extremely dangerous between two mountains. It was a narrow hand made pass where many animals and humans were lost to a ravine. Years later a bridge was installed the pass was now deemed no longer impossible. The park had lush jungle hikes riddled with amazing birds. A guide took me through a 12 km loop in the park showing me items I would have surely missed. Reaching a look out and then hiking to the birthplace of a set of rivers included a 400 meter descent, free of charge. I looked for a zip line of which there was none. Just a hand cut trail, tended to once a year was challenging but being that it was early morning, it was not too bad in temperature. I suggested to the tour guide that he should advertise his services not a sight seeing guide but rather as an ecological exercise consultant. :)



En route we were aching for some seafood and we found some in a town called la libertad. Our food was delicious, fresh and huge. We talked about the couple on bicycles we met and the awesome road were just on which ran through tunnels and beautiful coastlines. We frequently see "abnormalities" with respect to the USA. Note the picture of the guy sleeping on the truck. After which we gassed up the ponies and off we went.



A few hours later I returned to the Hostal and we packed up and prepared to head through to the town of Usulutan. We promptly found a cheap hotel where we immediately medicated ourselves. Being on the road is not all fun and games so Rum and Coke with one ml of lime, helps us deal with the solitude from our family and minimalist pains incurred throughout the ride?



We all think about our families during the ride. Technology has made it easier to deal with the seclusion but still we miss family and home. We enjoy receiving our support via emails and think about all of those praying for us and wishing us good luck. With out your thoughts and prayers we may have run shit out of luck long ago. Daily "almost incidents" remind us to give thanks daily. We also are able to view and meet unfortunate families and animals which give perspective to life. It's said that we loose people we love to ensure we know how much they meant to us. In that same fashion we see people with less so we appreciate what we have in our life. I compared this trip to being disconnected from our families to that of a person who has to leave their family to serve abroad. We don't do any fighting here but we miss our homes and families just as well. So with that we can appreciate military service members abroad. First one, of many, that pops to mind is Ian Goodrich, who is a close family friend to the Thomas boys and an old neighbor. The amount of bravery and sacrifice it takes to do what Ian did and has had to go through, we are thankful here. When we get home, Ian, lets all go have a beer together.



Riding motorcycles gives only time to think of very important things as we have to keep our head in the game. Yesterday I thought about our fighting forces at home and abroad. Not sure what the boys were thinking of... Hugh probably thought of Eileen, Blake surely thought of Bree, Colin was thinking about Layla... :)



We hope to see you all soon.
































































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Old 05-22-2013, 06:06 PM   #108
Panama OP
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Joined: Dec 2007
Location: Jacksonville Beach, FL
Oddometer: 127
5-18 leave El Salvador, cross Honduras, enter Nicaagua





We spent Friday night in Usulutan, El Salvador in a low rent hotel. There was good security for the bikes because they closed the more than 10 ft high gates at 9 pm. We were in for the night.

On Saturday morning we got a fairly early start and headed toward the Salvador/Honduras border. As we arrived at the border town of Goascoran we were met by a guy who was a friend of one of the guys who helped us get through the crossing into El Salvador. We made a cheap deal with him and started into the crossing. We cleared El Salvador easily and crossed over to the Honduras side. Things on this side came to a near complete halt. Our "helper" had turned over our papers to another guy who was supposedly more knowledgeable on the Honduras side. We sat in the midday sun and waited while our "helper" was off doing whatever it was he did. Finally he came back and explained that things were delayed because today is Saturday and the banks are closed. By now we were drenched in sweat and our patience was wearing thin. He had completed everything but explained that there were three final steps before we could leave. We would have to pony up $20 each to pay off the officials at these next 3 stops. It sounded fishy, we were too tired to get screwed any more so we grabbed our papers and paid him the $10 each we owed him. We proceeded to the next stop where there was no charge at all. This was the final stop and we were free to go into Honduras. We were so happy that we didn't pay those bandits the money they were trying to get.



So now we were free to ride through Honduras. We didn't really have much interest in being there and within 2 minutes we got pulled over at a Honduran police checkpoint. Of course he wanted to see all our documents. They were still warm from having just been processed. After several minutes of detaining us and trying to coerce funds out of us we refused to pay and were allowed to proceed.



We beat our way along the crappy Honduran roads. These roads are miles of potholes strung together by thin strips of broken asphalt. Vehicles swerve all over the road to avoid the holes and they are not moving out of the way for a motorcycle. We had to drop our speed to avoid smashing into these seemingly never ending traps.



We got stopped again at the next police checkpoint. Same drill again. He looked at the docs and licenses and walked away. Finally he came back and returned everything and we were free to go again. By now we were tired of the Honduran harassment and the crappy roads. We continued toward the southern border town of Guasaule. About a kilometer from the immigration office we were stopped again by another cop. This guy knew we were coming because of "helpers" from the last crossing had called ahead to let him know we were coming and to give us the business.

We were detained for about 20 minutes while this guy tried to convince us that our docs were not in order. By now we were done with these corrupt cops and we held our ground. Eventually we got our docs back and headed on.



We went thru the Honduras side in short order, partly because the power was out in the town and we couldn't get copies made. We were just about out of Honduras with literally a few feet between us and Nicaragua when another cop raced up on a pizza bike and pulled us over. He needed to see all our docs again. Holy crap was this ever getting old. He tried but we weren't giving in and we got to proceed.



Finally we got to Nicaragua. It was a bit slow but much more civilized. We got out in about an hour and a half, not bad considering we are four bikes and it just takes awhile to process that much paperwork.



By now there was only about 30 minutes of daylight remaining and the next real town was about an hour away. We hauled it as quickly as we could but the number of cows and horses on the sides and in the roadway required that we slow down. We encountered unlit ox carts, dogs, horses, cows and people in the roadway and the darkness was upon us. We never travel at night and this was the exact reason.

Finally after 30 minutes of very difficult night riding we made it to Chinandega, Nicaragua. We found a really great hotel and due to the late hour and the stress of the day we all willingly ponied up the big bucks and went in. What a major treat this was. We were in the nicest hotel of our trip and we decided immediately that we wouldn't be checking out until the 1 pm checkout time.



The next morning at breakfast we met another guy (Jeremy) who is traveling south on a bike. He's been traveling for 7 months so far and is going around the world. He was only an hour or two ahead of us all day and had similar experiences with the same Honduran cops. He was having some issues with his bike so Eddie offered to take a look at it.

Later that day we decided to move down the road a few miles to Leon and Jeremy rode with us. In the course of our stay we traded stories became good friends.

The following day we decided to ride to the south end of the country to the beach town of San Juan del Sur. Iit turned out to be a full day of riding and we arrived at San Juan del Sur as the sun was setting. We found a nice hotel and had a great evening.



The next day we moved down the hill closer to the beach. The town is really quite quaint and relatively neat and clean. There are loads of restaurants lining the beach and seafood is plentiful. There are lots of tourists and surfer types everywhere.

There is a statue of Christ on a high hilltop overlooking the bay and town. We rode the bikes almost to the top and then walked up to the statue and took some nice pictures just before sunset.









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Old 05-23-2013, 07:16 AM   #109
GuateRider
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Joined: Jan 2008
Location: Antigua , Guatemala
Oddometer: 1,374
Quote:
Originally Posted by Panama View Post



Upon leaving Guatemala we were thinking about all our friends we met and had left. The first two that come to mind are Julio and his wife Luisa who are avid motorcycle enthusiast with a BMW GS 1200 bike. Julio helped Blake sort out a problem on the grasshopper in respect to the introduction of a rear shock spring into the country and practically hand delivering the part to Blake. We rode with Julio around Antigua to catch the views of the picturesque town. Later that evening we enjoyed a home cooked meal with him, which by the way was amazing being that one of his passions was being a professional Chef. We shared bike stories which they have topped because of their 10 month trip to Alaska and back from Guatemala. We were blessed to meet these Great Ambassadors of Antigua and already miss them. We also ran back into Joseph who we first met at a hostal in Semuc Champey. We had a run of the town with him one night in Antigua, it was loads of fun. Maybe well see him on the next go around.





Riding motorcycles gives only time to think of very important things as we have to keep our head in the game. Yesterday I thought about our fighting forces at home and abroad. Not sure what the boys were thinking of... Hugh probably thought of Eileen, Blake surely thought of Bree, Colin was thinking about Layla... :)



We hope to see you all soon.








It was great spending some time with you guys, thanks for letting us be part of your journey .
Maybe you guys change your mind after all and decide to ride back north...that would give us the chance for another dinner.
And good luck with the pastry chefs on your way down south
Ride safe !!!
Julio
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Old 05-25-2013, 10:37 PM   #110
Panama OP
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Joined: Dec 2007
Location: Jacksonville Beach, FL
Oddometer: 127
5-20 San Juan del Sur and 5-23 Isla Ometepe





It turned out that San Juan del Sur was a really nice little beach town. The streets were surprisingly clean. It seemed that everyone we met was helpful. They know that tourism is important to the local economy and are trying to keep the tourists happy. There are numerous restaurants lining the streets and along the beach. Seafood is the main theme in the local restraunts and it was surely welcomed by our group.





We spent two nights in San Juan del Sur then decided to go out to Isla Ometepe in the middle of Lake Nicaragua. We rode down the nice smooth blacktop road out of town toward the highway. We headed toward the town of Rivas and then into San Jorge where the ferry out to the island departs from.





Something really strange happened as soon as we got close to the water. There were millions and millions of small gnat like bugs everywhere. Fortunately the bugs don't bite but they will drive a person crazy. We stayed in our riding jackets and covered our heads with bandanas so we didn't breath in too many bugs. Before too long we were loading the bikes aboard the ferry. We parked the bikes along the rails inside the ferry and within a few minutes the crew came by and began securing the bikes to the rails. They wanted to be sure that they didn't shift or fall over while we were underway.

As it turned out no cars or trucks came aboard but we had our 5 bikes and about 5 others on board. The trip out to the island was smooth and once we were underway we got away from the damn bugs. The trip took about 45 minutes and as soon as we arrived the bikes were untied and free to go.









We took a left turn and rode around the west side of the main island. We passed around the Conception volcano and past numerous simple rural shacks. There were cows and pigs grazing along the sides of the road. The road was paved for the first few kilometers then turned to volcanic rock and gravel. The going was not smooth and after almost an hour we arrived at a paved road again. This time we took the left turn and went to Playa Santa Cruz on the north shore between the two volcanoes.

We found a nice hotel on the beach and parked for the day. The lake is a comfortable swimming temperature and the bottom is almost all sand. It remains shallow for a long way and when you are almost a hundred yards offshore you are still in chest deep water. There are bull sharks in this fresh water lake but they have been overfished to the point that they are not an issue. The locals say there are still some in the lake but they stay out in the deep water. This may be to keep the tourists more comfortable while swimming, it works.









It was warm and the lake was a refreshing break from the heat. After awhile in the water the huge swarms of gnats blew thru. Again, they came by the millions. You had to face downwind to avoid breathing in or swallowing the bugs. It was almost like being in a sandstorm. We sat in the water and watched as the small fish jumped into the air to catch the bugs as they blew by.



We had dinner in the hotel restaurant and everybody was satisfied with their meal. We slept well that night. The next day we took a ride around the eastern volcano, Volcan Maderas. This ride was not so much fun. It took well over two hours and was a rough, rocky, unpaved piece of a road. There were mud holes where pigs wallowed in the nasty water. The little towns were the poorest we had seen on the trip and there just wasn't much to like about the ride. We did see a few howler monkeys in a tree overhead and a few parrots and urraca birds flew by. Each time we came to a town we all hoped that this was the end of the rocks and where the pavement began but it never seems to happen. Eventually we reached the paved road and all were happy.


















We got into our swim trunks and hit the lake for a rinse and cooling off. We were all beat by the pounding and the heat. We made our plan for an early departure based on the ferry schedule.



That night tropical storm Lucinda blew thru and we had the first big rain of the season for several hours that night. By daybreak the rain had mostly subsided so we loaded the bikes and hit the road in time to make the 7:30 ferry.

When we got to the ferry dock we learned that the ferry would be departing at 9 am. Somehow the gal at the hotel had misread the ferry schedule. We killed some time by having a very simple breakfast at a small restaurant near the dock. Soon it was time to load the bikes and get underway. The ferry ride was pleasant enough. It took about an hour to get across so we visited with our new friend Jeremy who would be returning to Managua while we headed south to cross into Costa Rica.

Once the ferry landed it was a bit of a race to get the bikes out of the way of the few cars and trucks that were also on board. We headed out of town and back to Rivas at the Pan American Highway. We gassed up and bid farewell to our new friend then headed south toward Costa Rica.



Clearing Nicaragua was a piece of cake. Leaving a country is always much easier than entering. We finished with the Nicaraguan side in about an hour and proceeded down to Costa Rica. This was a very orderly border crossing. The stages are all well defined but there were loads of buses and every one of the passengers had to clear as well. We got in the line and slowly made our way to the front. Finally inside the work there was prompt and efficient. Costa Rica has signs saying that all public services are free and no money should be paid to anyone. Nice! Very different from so many other countries we passed thru.

Importing the bikes was a bit of a different story. The process was efficient but required us going to different locations to get a paper or insurance or a copy of something. I wonder when they will get copy machines in the offices that require copies. Simple concept but not adopted yet.








Anyhow, after 3 hours we got into the country. We headed south and ran into a big rainstorm. We turned around and found a nice lunch stop. By then the rain had passed so we continued south to the town of Liberia. We got into town just as the sun was setting. We stopped at the first hotel we saw and got a room. A bit of a long day, we were pooped.
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Old 05-25-2013, 10:40 PM   #111
Panama OP
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Joined: Dec 2007
Location: Jacksonville Beach, FL
Oddometer: 127
Quote:
Originally Posted by GuateRider View Post
It was great spending some time with you guys, thanks for letting us be part of your journey .
Maybe you guys change your mind after all and decide to ride back north...that would give us the chance for another dinner.
And good luck with the pastry chefs on your way down south
Ride safe !!!
Julio
GuateRider,

If we decide to head north you will be the first to know. I know another CA ride is in my near future. Thanks again

Blake
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Old 05-26-2013, 09:50 AM   #112
Panama OP
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Joined: Dec 2007
Location: Jacksonville Beach, FL
Oddometer: 127
Puda Vida

We woke up in Liberia just south of the Nicaragua border after a long day of border crossing the previous day. Liberia is a descent size city with all the American shops and restaurantes. One corner had McDonald's  Burger king  Papa Johns, and Pollo Tropical. The prices here in Costa Rica are the highest we have seen so far on the trip.

That being said we have experienced nothing but vibrant and happy Costa Ricans.

















From Liberia we had a choice to either head to the coast and see the amazing beaches or to the mountains to see the cloud forest. We chose the mountains for the excellent curvy roads and cooler climate.



About half way up the mountain road we stumbled upon a motorcycle gang of 50 bikers doing one of their anual rides. We visited for nearly an hour sharing our experiences. We each got stickers of the gang's logo put on our bikes and received invites to stay in San Jose with one of the members.















We made it ti Tilaran just south of Lago Arenal where we stopped for lunch. A few dark clouds appeared and we all decided to stay for the night.



Not long after checking in to the hotel the sky cleared so we decided to go explore the mountain roads. We quickly found Volcano Brewing.















We sampled all of their craft beers and explored the resort. The resort is a great deal for vacationers but a bit steep for long term travelers.









More Soon.....
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Old 06-24-2013, 09:34 PM   #113
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Joined: Dec 2007
Location: Jacksonville Beach, FL
Oddometer: 127
5-25,26,27 Liberia, Tiliran and La Fortuna

5-25,26,27 Liberia, Tiliran and La Fortuna



We got a good nights sleep in Liberia. We took a few minutes in the morning to get our directions and seek out breakfast. By about 10 am we packed up and flipped a coin on which way to travel. The flip of the coin said we would go down the center of the country. We traveled down the Pan American highway and turned off toward Arenal Volcano.

Only a few minutes down the road we came around a turn and found about 40 Costa Rican bikers picnicking on the side of the road. We stopped and immediately became friends with everyone. We visited for an hour or so and continued on.

By time we arrived in Tiliran we were ready for some food so we found a nice lunch stop. By the time we finished lunch the rain had begun, rather than ride in it we decided to just stay so we got two rooms. This was a very unusual stop in that we had not traveled very far and it was still early. The difference being that the rainy season had just begun in Costa Rica and riding the rain was not an appealing option.

The next morning we headed north of the lake toward Arenal and La Fortuna. The ride around the lake was really interesting. The views of the lake are superb. Sometimes it reminded me of the view from the old Gamboa golf club. There were loads of interesting looking restaurants and snack stops all along the way. By the time we got to La Fortuna we were ready for some lunch. We pulled into Luigi's Pizza restaurant and ordered lunch. About the time lunch arrived Luigi came over and introduced himself. We spent an hour or more eating and getting schooled with first hand information on the area. This area is almost like being in a tourist area in the USA. The attraction here is the thermal springs. There are loads of high end hotels and resorts lining the road. Although this isn't their busiest time there are still quite a few tourists in town.



Luigi gave us directions to the public side (free) of the hot springs. We got a cab to take us so we wouldn't have to worry about the bikes. It's such a strange thing to see this beautiful jungle stream with very warm running water. We found a nice pool and just relaxed there for over an hour. Our taxi picked us up just as it got dark.



Luigi had told us of a canopy tour (zip line) that he was partners in. Its one of the largest in Central America. After seeing some of the you tube videos we all decided we would give it a go. As it turned out it was a great morning. The staff was super nice and the scenery was just fantastic. They really have done a nice job of maintaining the natural beauty of the jungle. One of the longer runs was over half a mile long. Our group had about 35 people's in it, about 25 were high school students and chaperone teachers from California on a class trip. We met two girls from Ireland (Laura & Fiona) who were near the back of the pack where we were. They were good sports and didn't seem too fazed by the heights or the speeds.



When we got back Luigi suggested that we take a ride on the road south of the lake to Monte Verde. This is a lush natural area with lots of wildlife. One of the drawbacks of the south road is that the road ends and requires crossing a small river. Luigi thought the river would still be low since the rains have just begun. As it turns out it was about 3 feet deep and running pretty fast. Eddie and Blake waded out trying to find a shallow crossing spot but it wasn't to be. Rather than take a chance on dumping the bikes in the river we turned around. We still had a good ride and enjoyed the views of the volcano, jungle and streams in the area.



That evening as we came out for dinner our new friends Laura and Fiona were eating at Luigi's. We visited for a bit and then Luigi arrived. He used to cook at the restaurant and decided to put on a good show for us. He rolled out a cooktop and got the girls involved in making a fruit flambé. It was quite a show, everyone enjoyed participating and once it was done he served it over vanilla ice cream. What a special treat for all. Thanks Luigi !



We made a plan to get an early start in the morning and continue heading south.




































































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Old 06-24-2013, 09:35 PM   #114
Panama OP
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Joined: Dec 2007
Location: Jacksonville Beach, FL
Oddometer: 127
5-28 Leave La Fortuna, arrive Jaco

5-28 Leave La Fortuna, arrive Jaco



We got a fairly early start leaving La Fortuna and headed south toward Ciudad Quesada. We climbed to over 6200 ft. and passed through some of the most scenic and beautiful towns any of us has ever seen. We passed through a cloud forest and the fog was so thick we could only see a few feet ahead at times. Probably the most beautiful town was Zarcero. This was like something out of a storybook. The Central Park looked something out of Disney, fantastic shrubbery and flowers everywhere.





We neared San Jose and the traffic picked up. We took the toll road toward Jaco and as soon as we got off the toll road Blake got another flat on his rear tire. The boys had the rear wheel off in no time and Eddie jumped in and did his thing on changing out the tube and remounting the tire. Just about the time they got it all buttoned up the rain started. We donned our rain gear and got back on the road.



We rode for about 2 more hours in the rain, sometimes very heavy. Eventually we got to the coast and started seeing signs of major development. There were signs everywhere advertising high end hotels and real estate developments. The natural flavor of Costa Rica was gone. It was still beautiful but the commercialization of the area detracts from the natural beauty. Eventually we got into downtown Jaco. We searched a bit for a hotel and got directions to a very cheap place. It wasn't what we wanted but the weather wasn't cooperating and it was getting dark so we took it. It worked out but definitely wasn't the nicest place we have stayed in.



That night we walked down to a taco place and had some of the best fish tacos ever. The place had a real honest to goodness salad bar. It was a nice treat after a long wet day of riding.

Rainy season has set in here in Costa Rica and we have been rained on for the last four days. In our eight weeks of travel we had only been rained on one time until now. It really here. Maybe we should have finished up a week earlier.




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Old 06-24-2013, 09:36 PM   #115
Panama OP
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Joined: Dec 2007
Location: Jacksonville Beach, FL
Oddometer: 127
5-29 leave Jaco, arrive Boquete, Panama

5-29 leave Jaco, arrive Boquete, Panama



We got away from Jaco about 10 am. The plan was to head toward the border on the new coast road and then turn north and enter Panama up near Rio Sereno. We chose that crossing area because we wanted to go into Volcan and the Cerro Punta area once we got into Panama. Also we had read that it was a quick passage because they generally aren't busy.



Well about 2 hours into the ride we got caught in heavy rain. We pulled over to wait it out. Eddie decided to go on and would meet up with us on the other side. After about 45 minutes the rain subsided a bit and we decided to go on. We traveled slow since the roads were wet and at many points washed out.



The rain never really stopped and then it got really bad. We were up in the cloud forest and the fog got thick. By this time it was getting late and we were completely soaked. There was no sign of the rain letting up so when we reached the town of San Vito and saw that it had a hotel we jumped at the chance of getting out of the rain.



We checked in to the El Ceibo hotel and we pleased with our room. It was very clean, had great wifi, nice shower with hot water. It was all we could have hoped for after a tough wet cold day of riding. We knew we were close to the border but decided that this was the best option. We would cross tomorrow.



We got an email message from Eddie, he had made it to the border just before closing. He got through in record time since they were all trying to go home. He made it to Volcan and was waiting for us at the Bambito Hotel.



We decided if the weather was good we would be on the road about 8 am and would try to meet him by noon. When we arrived at the border and saw the Costa Rica and Panama flags it was with mixed feelings. We had arrived at the final border but it also meant that the trip as nearing the end.



Clearing the Costa Rican side was easy, quick and efficient. Within minutes we were on our way to entering Panama. This however, was a different story. The immigration was easy and quick but at this point everything came to a screeching halt. Something we hadn't counted on was the one hour time difference between the two countries. It was now 11 am Panama time and people were starting to think about lunch. We had to buy insurance to bring the bikes into Panama and as we passed by the Aduana area they were closing the doors. We went to the insurance shack down the street and got our insurance for $15 (American). Next we went back to Aduana to do the paperwork for the bikes. Oh, no. The lady was gone, it was lunch time and she wold be back about 1 pm. Bummer, there was a big rain closing in on us and we were going to be stuck here for awhile.







Before too long the Aduana lady returned, she explained that she had not gone to lunch but had just returned from the bank. There was one man in front of us so he went in. About 15 minutes later we got to go in. Now the lady went into great detail telling us that she wasn't feeling well and hadn't had lunch yet. She proceeded ever so slowly and finally finished Colin's paper in about 45 minutes. I was next and tried to explain that we were trying to beat the rain. She was unfazed and completed my papers in about 30 minutes. Blake's took about the same. There didn't seem to be a learning curve here. Although all the bikes are the same she treated each one like she had never send these papers before.

We rushed over to fumigation and then over to the police to give them a copy of the papers and we were free to proceed. We had reached this sleepy little border crossing about 10:30 Panama time and it was now about 2:30 and yes, it was raining. So much for the quick border crossing in the back country.



We got into our rain gear and headed on toward Volcan. The road is in good condition but it is blacktop with loads of very tight turns and steep hills. We proceeded cautiously. About 3:30 we got into Volcan and called Eddie and he met us in town and we headed off toward Boquete in the rain.



Finally after a wrong turn or two we got into Boquete about 5:45 and called Steve Clarke, who we would be staying with for a few days. Steve showed up, we made introductions and headed up the hill to his beautiful home. Steve and Frieda have been here since October and have a spectacular home overlooking Boquete. What a great treat it was to get into the hot shower and get cleaned up after another long, very wet day. Yes, rainy season is in full swing here in Panama.






















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Old 06-24-2013, 09:37 PM   #116
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5-30 through 6-1 Chiriqui Highlands

5-30 & 6-1 Chiriqui Highlands



We woke up to a fantastic view from the rear patio deck at the Clarke's house. We could see the city of David miles below and on out to islands in the Pacific Ocean. The lush mountain sides all around are covered in coffee plantations and because of the recent rains everything is green. The view changes as the clouds and fog roll off the mountains. At times we were above the clouds and then it would come through and obscure all the view.



We decided to go down into Boquete for some breakfast and then explore the area. We got a nice breakfast in town then drove around just catching up on things in the town. We had planned a big dinner at Steve and Freida's so we went to the public market and picked up some fresh produce. What a great thing to be able to buy such fresh produce and such reasonable prices. Eddie was going to be making guacamole for the meal and he got everything he needed. We bought some really nice colored peppers and yucca, the selection was fantastic.



About this time the light rain began. We had about a 15 minute ride up to Steve's house. We made it back to the house before the heavier rain started.



That evening we had a nice BBQ filete dinner with the trimmings. Our hosts turned over the kitchen to us. We hadn't really been in a kitchen in awhile so it was a nice treat. We had a nice meal and made plans for tomorrow.
















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Old 06-24-2013, 09:38 PM   #117
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6-1 Boquete, Cerro Punta (PANAMA) and more

6-1 Boquete , Cerro Punta and more



The Volcan area is one of our favorite places in all of Panama so we made a plan to ride back over there for the day. When Steve heard that he invited us to come back and stay another night at their house. It was too good an offer to pass up. We would be able to travel without all our gear and we could stay another night at their nice house instead of a hotel on the road .





Eddie had already spent a day in Volcan while he was waiting for us to enter Panama so he decided to head back toward home. He had not seen his family in a year and was ready to get back so he packed up and headed out early.



We awoke to a slightly overcast day but since it was going to be our last day in the mountains we loaded up and headed off. We swung through Boquete and picked up a few empanadas at a bakery that Blake knew of. They had just come out of the oven and hit the spot. After that we went south out of town toward Dolega. Just before Dolega the new road to Volcan starts. This is a nice road that winds through the mountains. It only takes about an hour to get to the Volcan from Boquete on this road compared to over two hours on the old route.







Just a few minutes out of the Volcan we were phased by about 8 or 9 high speed Ducati super bikes. These guys were really moving when they passed us. When we got into Volcan they were parked on the side of the road in the center of the town. We pulled up and had a nice visit with them. They were from San Jose, Costa Rica and were down in Pamama for the weekend. We exchanged stories and got to see the latest in Ducati sport bikes. It's a totally different machine than what we are riding. These are very impressive bikes and only for experienced riders.























From there we went up the hill to Cerro Punta. We made a quick stop at one of the fruit stands and got some strawberries and cream. We passed the Bambito hotel and Cabanas Kucikas. We have fond memories from times past at these places. We continued up the hill into Cerro Punta. Blake knew of a little restaurant just in town so we pulled in to see what the special of the day was. We had a nice beef soup and and a few sides for a few bucks. Nice deal!



We spent the next hour or so riding around just seeing what was new in Cerro Punta. Truthfully it is pretty much the same as we remember it. Loads of plots of vegetables everywhere, maybe a few more greenhouses than before. We stopped at a field where they had just pulled up the onions. It was very impressive to see how many onions they got from this field.



We decided to go back to Boquete. The weather had turned nice and we were just glad to be out today. When we got back into Boquete we took a ride up the mountains on the back side of town. We rode all over up there enjoying the views. After a while I noticed another bike in my rear view mirror. I stopped to see who it was and it turned out to be 2 park police guys on a Honda 650. We asked about other good roads to ride so they offered to show us around. We rode all around with them. It was kind of nice to have them with us, just knowing that where ever we went was ok.

Eventually we made our way back down into town. We stopped to buy some nice coffee at Cafe Ruiz and then went by the PanaMonte hotel just to see how it is holding up. It still looks pretty good considering it was built in 1914.

We walked around and took a few pictures before heading back up to the Clarke's house.



This had been one of our best days of riding. First off, we were in one our favorite places on our bikes and had no particular plan or destination. The weather was perfect and we had met so many interesting people along the way today. We all felt good about staying the extra day and reaping some of the rewards of the trip.



We returned to the Clarke's and Steve ordered pizzas for dinner. They were very good and it was an easy dinner. A nice end to a great day.
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Old 06-24-2013, 09:42 PM   #118
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6–2 Riding in to home

6-2 Riding in to home



Sunday morning we woke up the most beautiful morning we had seen in the last few weeks. The sky was absolutely clear and free of clouds. There was a fresh breeze and we knew it was going to be a perfect day to travel.



We visited with Steve and Freida on the deck overlooking the valley below and enjoyed a cup of fresh Boquete coffee. Soon it was time to load the bikes and hit the road. We said our goodbyes and went down the mountain to the highway.



There was almost no traffic this Sunday morning as we rode down the hill to David. We gassed up in David and continued on. We had heard there were lots of police so we stayed right at the posted speed limit. The ride was just as pleasant as we could have ever wanted. The sky remained perfectly clear and temperature remained cool. This was such an easy ride because we all knew the roads and landmarks. Even my little Garmin Nuvi GPS with its US maps had Panama's main roads. Even though I knew where we were it was nice to have the GPS working so well.



We were impressed with all the development, especially once we got to Santiago and every town after. There were McDonald's Golden Arches in many of the towns now and new businesses were everywhere. Panama has really grown, even in the year since we were last here.



We gassed up in Divisa and continued on. When we got to Rio Hato we were a bit surprised when we went under the old military runway. This is going to be the Rio Hato International airport and they can't have cars and trucks driving over the runway. There were several new hotels in the area as well.



Before we knew it we were passing the beaches. We went right by Santa Clara and didn't even recognize it. Before we got to Rio Mar beach we could see the new high rise apartment buildings. There was so much new development that we had to work to get our bearings.











Coronado looks like a small city now. There are banks, jewelry stores, restaurants and every other kind of store there now. It has totally changed. It was very crowded around Coronado and traffic began to build. By the time we got to Capira we were in heavy traffic and it was beginning to slow. Soon enough we were in stop and go old school Sunday afternoon beach traffic. It continued this way until we got past Chorerra. Finally we were moving again. We took the exit to the Centenario Bridge. This was not our first time across it but the scenery is pretty impressive as you cross over it and it was a landmark for us on the motorcycles.



We passed along the bank of the canal at Pedro Miguel locks and was really starting to feel like home again. We crossed the train tracks and rode by Pedro Miguel. The town is really showing signs of age and time. Before long we passed Chiva Chiva lakes and were arriving at old Fort Clayton. The barracks have been renovated and it is now the Ciudad de Saber (City of Knowledge). We passed Miraflores locks, Morgans Gardens, the Chinese Garden and Corozal Cemetary.

We turned into Corozal and went to Eddie's house. We had made it, we were finally here. Eddie and his parents came out to meet us and celebrate for a few minutes. We left Blake at Eddie's and continued on to our final destination, Mark & Lauri Goodrich's house. As we turned up Hospital road we passed the Los Rios swimming pool and next the house I grew up in. This was really home for me. As a kid I delivered newspapers in this neighborhood and knew every house on the street.



What a great feeling of accomplishment this was. We had traveled so far and here we were back in the neighborhood I grew up in. After about 7,500 miles we had made it. We were glad to be here but sorry the trip was ending.



It's been a great ride. I'm so grateful that these fine guys let me ride with them. I don't know how I could have had a better group. Each guy had his strong suit and the chemistry worked well. When I was a bit down they were patient. We will cherish these memories and remember them always.



Thanks for following along.

We should be adding a group of new pictures so check back in a few days.






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Old 06-24-2013, 09:43 PM   #119
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Gear that worked well, some not so good.

Gear that worked well, some not so good.



On this trip we had some gear that just worked so well we felt it had to be mentioned.



For starters, the bikes performed absolutely perfectly. The three KLRs never missed a beat. Initially I was not a fan of the KLR but after a few days I realized that these are really great bikes, super durable, versatile and economical. We got up to 56 mpg on them, fully loaded and riding hard.









Blake's bike had the original cheap, readily available glass fuses that came standard on the bike from the factory. I have to think Kawasaki used those cheap, fragile fuses because they are available everywhere. There can't be any other logical explanation. The glass fuses and the cheap connectors were problematic and did cause Blake some grief.

One day in Mexico we pulled into an auto parts store and bought beautifully designed blade fuses and holders. We did the conversion right in front of the store with borrowed tools and from that point on there was never an issue with these bikes.

Anybody with an older model KLR needs to change out these fuses. It's a simple and cheap fix. Do it before you start out on a trip.



The KTM 990 never had any issues. Eddie had gone over it from top to bottom before it left home and honestly, I think the only thing he ever had to do was add some coolant. The KTM was brand new but there just weren't any issues with it. Eddie did complain about the seat being too hard. That is something that he will change now that we have finished the trip and he has time.







Ex-Officio underwear. We wore Ex Officio Give-N-Go Boxer Briefs. Initially we balked at the price of these underwear but after trying them on we realized they were going to be good. We never expected them to be as good as they were. They were super comfortable. They dried in less than an hour and we wore them everyday. We washed them in the shower each night and hung them up near a fan and they were ready to go the next day. We had other underwear but these were so good that we just wore them. I'm thinking of going to these exclusively when I get home. Just can't say enough good about them. We got them at Amazon, best price we could find.





Klim riding pants. Rhymes with lime, klim is powdered milk. We all had them. Three of us had their Mojave model which are made of heavy mesh, which was nice since the weather was mostly warm to hot. They have waterproof pockets and lower legs. There is some thin padding in the knees and hips. There is also some really nice flexible material on top of the knees that allows the pants to stretch thru the knees. We rode in hot weather and just wore Ex-Officio underwear and then the Klim pants, everyday. The pants held up well and were top performers. Highly recommended.



Columbia shirt- I used a long sleeve polyester baby blue Columbia shirt that I had worn in the Bahamas for two summers. The shirt was my favorite in the Bahamas because it was cool, comfortable, washed easily and dried quickly. Although it was more than two years old and not designed for motorcycle riding this shirt really held up well. I wore it almost everyday. It was exposed to wind and bugs at highway speeds almost daily and held its shape well and always cleaned up. At the end of the trip there were some wear marks where my camelpack water bottle straps rode against the fabric and there may be some slight fading. Considering the use and abuse, this shirt is a great value and highly recommended.











Camelbak- just before we departed Bob Medinger offered me a sweet military specs 3 liter camelpack. I wasn't sure I would need it but Bob insisted. It turned out to be a lifesaver for me. The pack itself is heavy weight camo ballistic nylon super tough. There is some insulation in the pack and often we would load up with ice then top it off with water. I would generally have ice cold water most of the day. Good performer!



Garmin Nuvi GPS- although Garmin didn't have maps for Central America I figured it would at least be useful to have GPS coordinates, time, elevation and direction of travel so I devised a mount for it. This little unit was super sweet. I worked perfectly in the US. Once we got into Mexico it as not as good but did have all the major roads. In the other countries it always showed the major roads. It was a great help and would have been better with the right maps but it did way more than I ever expected it to. It was especially good once we got into Panama. We knew the route but the Garmin plotted our path the whole way.







Kenda tires- we had these on all the KLR bikes. They are mid priced but performed well. They held up well over the 7,800 miles. My front tire showed some odd wear which we attributed to under inflation. We later read that the front tires like to be inflated to 32 psi, I ran it at 28 max. For the money they were fine.



Happy Trails pannier boxes-Colin had these Happy Trail aluminum panniers and they were great. They were strong, lightweight, durable, secure and most of all, waterproof. They are expensive but very worth it.









Frog Toggs-rain gear. We bought the bottom of their line but were fairly pleas with what we got. We only had to wear them a few times but they did pretty well. Eddie had the slightly more expensive model and his were really good. Good products.









Chatterbox communication system. We all had them. They mount to the outside of the helmet and have ear speakers that stick into the helmet. They don't tell you that only 3 units can communicate. We had to program them in sets of two. They worked just ok. The sound was not clear at speed over 50 mph. Often the wind was a factor and we would have to repeat things many times. The range was about .25 mile. At slow speeds and around town they were helpful and good to have. The buttons are all on the box that mounts to the side of the helmet and pushing the buttons was tricky with gloves on. If there is one with a control on the handlebars it would be better. I really can't recommend the one we all had. Thumbs down on this one!
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Old 06-24-2013, 09:44 PM   #120
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Bikes sold!

Bikes sold!





We didn't give much thought to selling the bikes in Panama before we departed. It sounded like a fairly simple idea and was an easy way to finish in Panama. We completely underestimated the bureaucracy and implications of selling a vehicle in a foreign country.



As it turned out, the offers were few. Colin's bike was a 2009 model and was the best looking. He listed it on Panama's Encuentra 24 website and had pretty good response. In Panama there is a Craigslist but the Encuentra 24 is a pay to list site and is much more popular. Colin sold his bike within a few days of listing. It turned out that the buyer, a nice Panamanian businessman was a high school classmate from Balboa High school in 1998 and 1999. This guy arrived with cash and knew how to handle all the paperwork. He would have to pay the import duty and transfer the bike into his name. He wasn't concerned, he was familiar with the system and the sale was super easy.



Blake had been advertising his bike for more than a week before we arrived in Panama. The response was very slow. People were more interested in the newer bike. Eventually we dropped the price and we got two great buyers.



The process was not really difficult but there was a slight snafu. Upon entering the country our passports had been stamped and a note made that we had brought the bikes in. We would not be allowed to leave until we had another stamp indicating that the bikes were properly imported and the duty paid and the proper paperwork had been done. We really became aware of the importance of having this stamp the day before we were to leave the country.



It became a mad scramble to get everything in order. Thankfully my old friend, Gregg Abbott owns Tansbal, a company that has a legal bonded facility where vehicle are stored until the import duty is paid. Gregg had his people waiting for us as we arrived. They took care of the paperwork then we rode out to the facility in Chilibre and dropped off the bikes. We got some other paperwork there that we now had to take back to the customs office in Curundu. It was now minutes to 3 and they close at 4 pm.



Gregg called ahead and the lady was expecting us when we arrived. There were the usual copies and required stamps but eventually, minutes before closing time, we got the passports stamped. I was even able to convince (wink $20 wink) the nice lady to stamp Colin's passport too. This was a remarkable day. We had accomplished in just one afternoon something that would normally take 2 or 3 days. My buyer had driven us to all the places and couldn't have been nicer. He wanted to get the paperwork done right and know where everything was for when it was time for him to pick up the bike but he went beyond the call of duty for us. Thanks Sjef.











This was our last night in town. Mark had prepared a wonderful dinner for us. We got home and he had everything setup. We had time for a few drinks to take the edge off the stress of the day and to celebrate the final day of our now 10 week long trip.







Before long Eddie showed up with Jeremy, our Canadian friend who we rode with thru Nicaragua. Jeremy had just arrived in the city and it was great to get to visit with him some more before we left. The dinner turned out great. Mark did a fine job and we all ate more than we should have. I think we may have had

another drink or two before the night was over.



What a fantastic ending to our saga.
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