2/4/06 (Nederland -> San Jose) Denver - Phoenix = 2 hours Phoenix - San Jose = 4 1/2 hours Wake up at 7am to shower, take care of last minute things around the house and then leave by 8am. Meet up with Todd and Hubert at 8:30am in Boulder and then we take the Expressway around to DIA where we leave the truck-a-saurus in the Pikes Peak long term parking. When Hubert goes to check in at the America West automated kiosk, it lists his name as "Huberta". A nickname is immediately coined. The flight to Phoenix is uneventful although an elderly gentleman ends up seated between Todd and I so he gets to hear a lot of joking around on the flight. I read my Fodors Costa Rica book while Todd reads his Lonely Planet. We have a 2 1/2 hour layover so we spend little time walking around the Phoenix airport to stretch our legs, then settle into a Mexican place for lunch. I request the nickname "El Jefe", but Hubert and Todd aren't particularly accommodating in this regard. We spend lunch brushing up on important Spanish phrases like how to pick up women and slang terms for drugs. At the boarding gate, Hubert and I try to get Todd kicked off the plane but the women at the counter weren't going for it. I guess we are stuck with him for the trip after all. Todd spends the time trying to explain his newly founded Rubik's Cube meditation practice. We board 30 minutes late, and then spent another 20 minutes while the crew remove the luggage of some passengers that don't board the flight. We are nearly an hour late at take-off. Todd is supposed to be seated between Hubert and I but tries to nab my aisle seat... I sic the steward on him. Todd moves to an empty seat across the aisle and sits next to Sarah who was an American student living in Jaco, Costa Rica. The flight is uneventful and the pilot makes up some time, getting us into San Jose at 10:45pm, only 30 minutes late. We make it through immigration and customs without any problems and are met just outside the gate by Flash who had flow in about 1 1/2 hours earlier. Tony flew in around noon and we will meet up with him at the airport. We split a van to the Bougainvillea Hotel, which costs $22, and then split up the rooms with Flash and I taking a room and then Tony, Todd and Hubert taking the second room. After reorganizing my gear, I am in bed around midnight. Total distance traveled: 3041 miles Total time: 17 hours ----------- 2/5/06 (San Jose -> Montezuma) We are up at 6am so we can get an early start for the second longest day of riding. We grab breakfast at the hotel's restaurant (I get a cheese omelet). Todd takes the first spill of the trip by falling over a wire in the garden while walking to breakfast. The rest of us safely navigate the hotel and are ready to catch the 8am shuttle. This shuttle is free and drops us off at the Villa Tournon hotel in downtown San Jose. From there, it is a $20 van ride to pick up the bikes at Wilhelm's in Curridabat. Five '06 KTM 640 LC4s are waiting for us, two of them brand new with 0 kms on the odo. We load up the bikes, Todd and Hubert take the bikes with saddle bags, the rest of us just use the tank bags and tail trunks. Next we handle the paperwork and get directions and ferry times. Then we are on the road by 10am. We make it a whole 6km before Tony's bike starts overheating. We pull onto a side street and call Wilhelm. It takes over 1/2 an hour for Wilhelm to find us in the chaos that is San Jose but we immediately discover that the afflicted bike has no coolant. Wilhelm has a bottle of coolant so that, along with some water, cures the problem. We get back on the road and hit the Pan-American Highway out of San Jose. Traffic on Election Day is crazy but at least the toll booths are closed. The city is basically a bunch of traffic, a bunch of trash and a bunch of buildings. Just before the town of Naranjo we have some excitement when we come across a car broken down in the only lane. We all split around it in a mad dash to avoid an accident. Shortly thereafter, Tony starts having clutch problems with his bike. We pull into the parking lot of a lunch restaurant (a Soda). We take a stab at fixing it, and then call Wilhelm for help. While we wait, we order up lunch (cheese sandwich, fries and a Coke). Just as we are finishing up, Wilhelm arrives on his 950 Adventure. He takes the ailing LC4 back to San Jose and leaves Tony with the 950. Wilhelm looks particularly worried as Tony rides off on his personal bike. Back on the road, we continue west. One thing that strikes me is an incredible enthusiasm for the election that we see everywhere. Kids are lined up along the roadside waving flags representing the parties, free buses carry people to the polls and cars are honking their horns in celebration. We are stopped a couple of times due to the crowds around the roadside polling stations. Eventually, we make it into the port city of Puntarenas. We arrive at 2:15 for the 2:30 ferry. A local says he'll get our tickets and get us on the ferry first but he requires a tip. Hubert and I decide to handle it instead. Besides, we know bikes are loaded first anyway. When we find the ticket booth, Hubert picks the wrong line which would get us to Playa Naranjo instead of Paquera. I sort this out and we get in the correct ferry line. El Jefe to the rescue! The tickets are 2100 colones each, 700 for each person and 1400 for each bike. We watch the insanity as the incoming ferry unloads, then ride the bikes onboard. We pull our important gear off and head upstairs. No chairs are available in the shade so we set up shop on the deck benches. We strip off our gear, buy cold water and enjoy the view for the 1 1/2 hour long ferry ride. We cool off with the breeze and just enjoy being out on the water. Flash and I have a lengthy discussion about the book "The Earth is Flat". It turns out we are unprepared for the unloading process in Paquera and end up being the last ones off the ferry; we take a moment on the side of the road to get the bikes organized, and then head up the steep hill out of town. It is an easy one hour ride over badly pot holed pavement to the town of Cobano. We continue to see election stops everywhere along the route. From there it is a 20km ride on a rough dirt road to the beachside town of Montezuma. Montezuma is a hippie surfer town with lots of ATVs and lots of white people. We check into the El Jardin cabins and are given the cabin at the very top of the hill. It offers great views but involves a long, steep hike. We turn down the security guard's offer to watch our bikes for 2000 colones per bike per night. He has no interest in a counter offer and we have no interesting paying his outrageous rates. As we walk up to the cabin, some howler monkeys start barking at us. The view is terrific and the mainly open-air cabin is great. The heat and humidity take some getting used to. We change into shorts and walk into town. Because of the election, no beer or spirits are for sale but a guy on the street is illegally offering beer from a cooler for 1000 colones each. We get dinner at Cocolores where I have an excellent veggie coconut curry. The restaurant also sells wine, since apparently wine doesn't fall into their "can't sell alcohol during the election weekend" policy. We get one bottle of red and one of white for the table. Great food, good wine and entertaining conversation... On the walk back, Flash and Tony each buy a beer and neither get arrested. We head back up to the cabin where I share a room with Tony. Flash sleeps on a mattress in the kitchen and Todd and Hubert share a bed upstairs. Flash and I sit up until late swapping stories, and then head to bed around midnight. Flash, Tony and I all spend time snoring during the night. Total for the day: 180 km in 7 hours. ----------- 2/6/06 (Montezuma -> Montezuma) We crawl out of bed at 8am so we can get in a full day of riding. We thought heard howler monkeys during most of the night but decide it must have just been Todd and Hubert upstairs. We have a quick breakfast of coffee (not me, I skip the Joe), bananas and cookies...all free from the hotel. While eating, the ungrateful bastards depose me as El Jefe and award it to Hubert for the day. We are on the bikes by 8:30am. We don't even make it 1 km before we have to stop to collect the Touratech windscreen spoiler that vibrates off of Wilhelm's LC8. Jeez, we haven't even gotten out of Montezuma and already Todd is trying to break the fancy loaner bike! We bounce back up the dirt road to Cobano, fill up with gas and then head west towards the pacific coast. We ride a dusty, well used road down to the little surfer town of Carmen. Actually, it is two towns sort of siamesed together: Malpias and Carmen. It's basically about 5 kms of surf shops, bars and buff white people. It's obviously a party town for Americans and Europeans...not really our scene. We beat feet out of there and continue north along the coast. The road is rougher along here but there are little beach cabins and surf spots all the way so you just sort of plod along in the dust. While the riding isn't great the views are terrific. The road runs just a few meters from the beach so it is one continual panorama of waves, tide pools, reefs and beaches. We stop just before the little town of Ario and hang out at some tide pools for a bit. It is cool parked up in the trees and the warm sea breezes are so completely different from the cold and snow I left in Colorado just a few days ago that it feels exotic. North of Ario, the road turns inland a bit. This means less traffic, less development and better riding. It also means we start the first of many water crossings. There is no point trying to differentiate between stream, creek or rivers in here because there are so many. Some are narrow and deep (with perhaps 18 to 24 inches of water), some are wide and shallow (6 to 12 inches). Some have sandy beds, some are gravel and others are rocky. Over the next week, we'll probably do 20 or 30 water crossings but only one ends up being challenging. You basically just dip the front tire into the water, pick a rough path across and then just stay on the gas. Getting splashed is actually very refreshing given the heat and the humidity. I decide to stay in the back of our group so that I can stop and take photos without bothering anyone. This also has two side benefits. First, it allows me to get drop far enough behind that I'm not always riding in a cloud of dust and second, it gives me an opportunity to really wring the bike out catching back up after taking a photo. This makes for some great riding where I can just focus on road and the bike. I come around a corner and see Hubert riding his bike out of a ditch. He says he just ran wide and didn't crash but a broken front fender and muddy hand guard seems to indicate otherwise. After our loop through the inland farm land, we then head back out to the coast at Point Coyote. This is a big wide beach with a couple of restaurants and bars set back among the trees. It is almost completely empty, with only a few people on a 2 km long beach. We stop here for a bit to enjoy the view, then retrace our steps back up to the main road. (It turns out we could have ridden up the beach to the north and then taken a different road east but we didn't know that at the time...) It is back inland, but this time into a more mountainous area toward the town of San Francisco de Coyote and then to Jabilla. (As we soon discover, there are multiple towns with the same name and our three different maps often have three different names for any given place). There is a particularly beautiful area near Punta Islita where the road is about 200 ft above the water looking down onto a beautiful crescent of beach. There is a fancy resort here, in this isolated area, with its own private air strip. Probably an expensive and insulated way to experience Costa Rica but it would certainly be a pretty place to do it. We near the beach again at Playa Camaronal, then do another loop inland to Estrada. When we decided to head north we knew we were on a time table. Many of our books had said that the crossing over the River Oro is deep and can only be done at low tide. Since low tide was scheduled for 3pm, we aimed for a 2pm crossing with the idea that we could hang out while the level dropped if it was too high. When we get there, the river level turns out to be no big deal. Maybe it was because we are here during the dry season or maybe it's because it is close to low tide but we all ride across without any problem. In fact, it is anti-climactic given how much we'd been anticipating this as the trial of the day. Just north of the River Oro we are back along the coast for a long ride along the multi-kilometer long Playa Carrillo. Like Punta Coyote, this wide clean beach is nearly deserted. There is a bridge at Playa Carrillo that crosses over a crocodile invested creek but I don't catch a glimpse of any reptiles as we ride over. Then it is just a short hop and we arrive in Samara. This town is a slightly more commercialized, and thus slightly less hippie, version of Montezuma. There is a main drag with lots of restaurants and hotels. We cruise down to the beach, then head back to a pizza place called Hotel Guido Pizza and Pasta for lunch. We have, naturally, pizza and pasta. A fellow from Canada, who apparently races as an amateur in the Canadian Superbike series, rides up on a Honda Transalp and tells us about how he spends his winters in Costa Rica. He is heading for Panama the next week... Not a bad life! After lunch we ride a few kilometers north of Samara for gas, then retrace our steps back to Estrada. We veer inland to higher elevations and to less used roads. Our first destination is San Pedro and then we go even more inland to San Ramon. Rather than taking the main road from there to Zapotal, we instead turn onto a little used road that climbs hundreds of feet up to Cerro Azul. This is just a blast as the road seems to go up forever. At each turn, you think it has reached the top, only to find another ascent. The road surface is surprisingly good. Rain has washed ruts in places but overall it's good enough that you can carry momentum to deal with any rough spots. The road finally reaches it's crest and then runs along a ridge for about 5 kms. From here you can see east towards one of the Nicoya Peninsula Nature Refuges. To the west, we can see down into the River Oro valley. The other notable thing is that here we are in the middle of nowhere and on top of this high ridge is a little farm. All of us agree that it is probably the most perfect home in all of Costa Rica! After getting directions in Cerro Azul we find the road to Jabillo and start back down. Just as the road up was exciting so is the return to lower elevations. The descent goes on for about 7 kms. A few of the switchbacks are particularly tricky since they are hidden by the jungle foliage and end up being pretty exciting when you're carrying a little more speed than needed. I get a lot of practice sliding the rear end of the KTM into corners dirt track style. By this point, it is getting late and we start getting worried about being stuck riding on these lonely dirt roads in the dark with just the weak headlight on the bikes to guide us. We start riding faster which means that road from Zapote to Rio Frio and then back to Cobano is lots of fun. During this point, I start noticing that I've got a constant ringing sound in my ears. Uh oh, I think this means tinnitus. I've been wearing ear plugs but I guess the open faced dirt helmet is just too loud even with ear protection. At one point between Rio Frio and Cobano there is a deep little g-out that is almost completely blind because you are cresting a hill at the time. All five of us are surprised by this and we all laugh about it at the next intersection. We have a lot of "oh shit" moments during the trip but this one becomes particularly funny...fortunately the KTM has a great engine and a great suspension so just cranking on the throttle mid-air lets the bike soak up the rough landing without any drama. We get back to Montezuma just at sunset, all of us dirty and happy. We decide to stand around in the street after locking up the bikes just laughing and joking about the days riding. While there, a bombshell blonde walks up and starts talking to Hubert and Tony. Her name is Desi and she is a massage therapist who has been hanging out in Montezuma for the past year. Needless to say, Desi becomes another running joke all during our trip. As we start up to the cabin, the hotel manager gives us the message that Wilhelm is having the replacement LC4 delivered at 9am the next morning. To give some perspective on what this means from a customer service standpoint, Wilhelm is paying one of his employees to leave San Jose at 4:30 am and spend 4 1/2 hours riding a bike to Montezuma. Then he'll get on the 450 LC8 and ride the same 4 1/2 hours back to San Jose. Sure, it's a great day at work for the guy riding the bike and it's probably also a relief for Wilhelm to get his expensive LC8 back ASAP but it's also an excellent way of taking care of the customer. Full marks to Wilhelm for this! We all take showers, just to remove the 1/2 inch thick layer of dust, then sit out on the patio in a giddy state re-telling stories from the day's ride. That's always a pretty good yardstick for measuring the success of a ride. Oh, fortunately the ringing in my ears stopped shortly after we got off the bike so that appears not to be an issue. Then we walk down into town for dinner at Cafe Montezuma. This is the last night they can't sell beer or liquor but just like last night tonight's restaurant can sell wine. We order pitcher after pitcher of sangria as we sit on the beach about 10 meters away from the water. Tiki torches burn, a soft wind blows and the stars twinkle up above. I have an excellent eggplant parmesan then take a short walk on the beach (since that is what my wife Jonna would have done) and then return to the table for a Nutella and banana crepe desert. Then we all waddle up the hill, stuffed and content. After a last round of story telling and my evening journaling, I collapse into bed at 10:30. Total for the day: 210 km in 9 hours. ----------- 2/7/06 (Montezuma -> Montezuma) We all roll out of bed at 8am, most of us having had a restless night's sleep...it was hot last night and we all over ate at dinner so those were undoubtedly contributing factors. There was another round of Howler Monkey screams during the night but Todd and Hubert still aren't fessing up. We get ready to go but figure we'll be waiting on the replacement bike for awhile. Flash and I walk into town to by postcards. Flash decides to buy beer to stock up the fridge for when we get back this evening. This bit of foresight earns him the El Jefe title for the day. Rather than the anticipated late arrival the replacement bike, an '05 LC4, shows up promptly at 9am. Wilhelm's assistant has to replace the tail light bulb and fuse, then pronounces the bike good and takes off on the LC8 for his return ride. We quickly load up the bikes and are off by 9:30am. Instead of taking the direct route back to Cobano, we instead ride further south along the coast to the end of the Cabo Blanco Nature reserve. Bikes aren't allowed inside, so we turn north and take a back way up to Malpais. This road is the roughest we've ridden yet. This is a true 4WD drive with stream crossings and lots of baked hard mud with tire tracks and rain ruts through it. Todd tries to use the helmet cam to capture it but we quickly get to Malpais and there is so much dust coming off the roads that he isn't getting good video. Then we turn east and retrace part of yesterday morning's route to Cobano. Tony's new bike is already without a tail light so one of us will have to ride behind him since he doesn't have a working brake light. We gas up and try to get some money from the bank in Cobano. Unfortunately, the ATM link isn't working for foreign banks so we have to move on without replenishing our money. We head north out of Cobano on a little used one lane road that goes to Pachanaga. It turns out that the road is either still being built or under major repair. One of the bridges is out and the stream crossing is made through a lot of very soft mud. It is fun trying to keep the bike upright while the rear tire is spinning through the soupy banks and then making the climb back up to the road. I really get into a groove in this section and have great fun trying to keep up with Todd as we zoom through this deserted area. We end up just south of Rio Seco where we end up back on the same part of road we'd taken yesterday. We zoom south for a short ways and then find that same G-out that surprised us all the day before. We all hit it wide open again and are now really laughing when we stop at the following intersection. It has gotten us twice in a row. We then turn north towards the little village of Piedades. After a few kilometers we then turn off onto an even less used trail just north of Piedades. At first I'm not even sure it is the road since it just heads through a field but then it turns into an incredibly rough 4WD road that climbs up a steep hill. Like yesterday's ride near Cerro Azul, this road just keeps going up and up and up. However, unlike that climb, this one is gnarly. There are 18" deep rain ruts criss-crossing the road and big rocks are everywhere. I have the KTM down in first gear and just pick out a line as I go, standing on the pegs to absorb the big hits and driving the rear wheel upward. After what seems like a half hour of hill climb, we finally get to the top. The view is again spectacular looking east into another nature reserve and then with another to the southwest. We start back down the back side through a series of big switchbacks. The road on this side isn't as rough but is covered in a fine layer of pea gravel. On one of the slow, left hand turns Flash loses the front end of his KTM and goes down. Naturally, today was the day he'd decided not to wear his motocross elbow guard and came down directly on a sharp rock with his left forearm. This bashes up his left hand guard but also takes a one square inch chunk out of his arm. Todd goes to work getting the bike straightened back out while Tony gets out the med kit and takes a look at the wound. It is pretty nasty looking with a big blob of fat pushing its way out of the hole. Yuck! Tony has a great syringe for flushing out wounds (I gotta get me one of those) and then puts on some antibiotic salve and a bandage. Flash is pissed but is otherwise okay. The bike is mostly undamaged so we continue on down to the town of San Ramon de Rio Blanco. Yes, this is the third town called San Ramon that we've been through, all within 30 kilometers of each other. We try to go east through the Refugio La Celba to Rio Grande but again bikes aren't allowed in the national park. Flash takes a break under a very cool gazebo like thing while Todd and Hubert sort out another route to get Flash back to the medical center in Cobano. We return to San Ramon de Rio Blanco and stop at the only store in the little village to grab a snack. We get cookies, crackers, ice cream bars and sodas, then we sit in the shade of a little tree across from the town's church to eat. Four little girls from the Catholic school attached from the church come over to sell us 1,000 colones raffle tickets for something we don't quite understand. We aren't going to be around to collect the prize but Tony gives them the 1,000 anyway. We ask if we can get a few photos with them instead of getting the raffle ticket. They get embarrassed when the other girls in the school start giggling but the photos turn out nice anyway. All the kids seem really interested in these funny dressed white guys that have suddenly appeared in their secluded little village. As we leave at 2:30, all the girls come out of the school to wave goodbye to us. Cool! We head west back to Zapote. Somewhere along the way, the luggage rack stabilize bracket on Todd's bike falls off. I see something in the road but don't register what it is the bracket at the time. By the time I make the connection, we are too far away to return to look for it. From Zapote, it is a quick 30 minutes back to Cobano on the same road we were on yesterday. Todd, however, wants to try out a different road that goes from Fresca to Rio Seco. Just a little ways down the road is a section where the hillsides on both sides of the road have been terraced in the distant past but are now overgrown. I wonder if this was old agricultural work before the surrounding towns changed over to raising cattle and growing more traditional gardens. This "road" turns out to be a little single track donkey trail that climbed up over the same ridge we'd come over going into San Ramon de Rio Blanco but further to the west. The hill side has tried to wash away in some places, meaning we are basically climbing up ruts instead of a real trail. This is the best riding of the trip but Flash is obviously not happy taking this challenging ride with his banged up elbow. We finally get back down the other side to Rio Seco and then shortly thereafter re-join our route from yesterday. Flash and I split off to zoom straight back to the medical clinic in Cobano. While flying down the road, we both recognize where we are and finally manage to take the correct line over the hidden G-out. We may be simple apes but we do eventually learn. We get to Cobano at 4:30 and I sit outside with the bikes while Flash goes in to see the doc. Half an hour later, the others catch up. Tony and Hubert take over guard duty while Todd and I take my and Flash's bikes back to get gas. Not long after we get back, Flash emerges all patched up. He got six stitches and a script for some antibiotics. The grand total for the medical work? $60 plus another $20 for the drugs from a pharmacia right next door... Let's hear it for the advantages (?!?) of the US medical system. We head back to Montezuma and on the big dirt switchbacks I almost rear end Flash because I'm not paying attention. Opps! I do a spectacular broad slide all the way around the right-hand corner with a move straight out of a flat track race. Uh, I meant to do that! For the second day in a row, we return to the hotel dirty and happy. Happier, in fact, than the previous day because there is cold beer in the fridge this time. We share stories and Imperial beers on the patio. Atter winding down we walk back into town and grab pizza at Pizz@net, a pizza joint in the middle of town. I get the yummy medium size "Vegan Honeymoon Pizza" and a Bavarian beer...oddly enough, the "vegan" pizza comes with cheese. The waitress tries to stiff me on the bill but thanks to Hubert's excellent command of the language (and my stubbornness not to produce any more money) we get it sorted out. On the way back up the hill, I walk past the street vendors and find a Tico lady selling handmade jewelry. I bum some money off Todd and pick up a pair of silver and garnet earrings for Jonna. Back at the cabin Flash starts his antibiotics which means he won't get an infection but also means he can't have alcohol for the next four days. At least he had one beer tonight between the election black out and starting the antibiotics. I grab a much needed shower, wash some jerseys by stomping on them in the floor of the shower and then climb into bed at a relatively early 9:30. Total for the day: 180 km in 7 hours. ----------- 2/8/06 (Montezuma -> Jaco) Today is going to be our longest of the trip, since we have to get all the way down to the Osa Peninsula in southern Costa Rica. As a result, we drag our tired butts out of bed at 5:45am. For me, it was another terrible night's sleep so I'm dragging even more than I usually would be at 5 freakin' o'clock in the morning. We had packed last night, so we are ready to go from the moment we roll out of bed. We grab a quick bite, pack up the bikes and are climbing up the dirt switchbacks for the final time by 6:30am. We have a spirited ride through the fields of the southern Nicoya since we have to get to the Paquera ferry in time for an 8:30am departure. If we miss it, we'll have to do a 2 1/2 hour loop around the Bay of Nicoya and we don't have enough time given todays ride to do that. The ride is fast, despite these paved roads having as much surface area covered with pot holes as with asphalt. A few times during this week's ride, we have ridden through areas covered in animal crap but have always been spaced out enough that it isn't a problem for the following riders. This time Flash almost gets me by hitting a cow pie during a left hand corner. Somehow I deftly (or just luckily) miss the spray. Nonetheless, I call him a monkey for the morning since he's out flinging poo. We get to Paquera a half hour early and have time to hang out at the dock. Hubert gets our tickets and, unlike our trip over three days ago, this time we don't have to pay separately for the bikes and riders. We save about 1,000 colones, or $2, each. Flash, who is taking antibiotics anyway, decides to brave the daily taco special at the ferry terminal. The rest of us make do with Power bars and bottled water. The bikes are loaded in two groups by the load master to balance the boat. As a result, Hubert and I are the last two vehicles put on the ferry. By the time we get unpacked and upstairs, the group has already bagged benches under the boat's awning. Good plan but unfortunately, they got them on the wrong side of the boat so we were in the sun anyway. We relax for 1 1/2 hours on the ferry. I write postcards and call Jonna on Hubert's cell phone. Todd tries to record some more video but when it turns into us bitching about our non-direct route back to Cobano the previous day, he decides to cut the interviews short. This time we have the ferry process down pat so we are ready to unload when we arrive in Puntarenas. We stop briefly on the street to get organized and are immediately approached by a guy offering to protect us from gangs while we're parked. We decline and quickly get moving. In fact, we get moving so quickly that I forget to take my ear plugs off the top of the tank bag and end up riding without them for the first time this trip. We do some aggressive urban riding through traffic but our stunts are nothing compared to both a taxi and bus which pass us in heavy traffic! I immediately shift back into the style of riding I've done in Italy and Spain. Looking for openings the width of a bike and going for it. I am riding caboose on the group, since Tony is still without a tail light, and a few times I run right up on the back of him when he hesitates on a close pass where I am already wound up to go for it. It's frustrating, even though Tony is doing the right thing by riding at his comfort level. We turn onto CA-23 and start heading south. The road runs along the coast for awhile but the beach isn't nearly as nice as those we've been seeing on the Nicoya. Then the road turns in-land where it meets up with CA-34. We are still making good time and it's made easier by the fact that all the traffic makes room for the bikes. Like Europe, it is so nice to ride in a culture that lets bikes take advantage of their speed and size. We regularly get the thumbs up, headlight flashes and big waves from car drivers. This is in stark contrast to the US where bikes would get run off the road for this kind of riding. We stop momentarily at the bridge over the River Tarcoles to walk out and see the crocodiles sunning down below. Todd stays with the bikes and takes a look at both Tony's tail light and Flash's mirror. The mirror turns out to simply be out of alignment after the crash but Tony's dead tail light is a bigger problem that we can't fix. One thing I notice is that despite riding without the ear plugs my ears aren't ringing today. Odd...I'll have to read up on tinnitus when I get back home. Once finished with the big reptiles, we continue with our fast riding down the coast. These LC4s are just perfect for Costa Rica...able to run down main roads at 100 kmh but yet were able to do the single track yesterday. We stop in the touristy town of Jaco and look for a bank. I try to get money from the ATM but it find the same problem of being unable to contact the international ATM network. Instead, I walk into the bank and take out a $300 advance on my credit card. At this point, I'm back to being financially fluid so I feel more comfortable. Since we are still an hour away from lunch, I grab a frozen fruit bar and some bottled water from a snack shack. We mount back up and continue south from Jaco to the town of Parrita. We get to the first of the one lane bridges along this road but fortunately only have to wait 15 minutes to cross. These big one lane bridges aren't controlled by traffic signals or anything so traffic on one side just backs up until there is a gap in the oncoming vehicles. Then this side empties out until there is gap in this traffic for the other side to get started again. Apparently these waits can sometime take an hour or more. Once on the other side of the bridge, we are into an area where farm raised palm trees are grown make palm oil. This agricultural area means you have to stay alert on the bike. At one point we are come around a sweeping right hand corner to find that our lane is blocked by a herd of goats which are lying down in the road. We all get slowed down in time and get around but it is just one more example of how riding in Costa Rica is so dramatically different from the US. We also ride past one of the plants used for cooking the palm down to its essential oil. Black smoke belches from a big smoke stack and drifts across the road blinding drivers. Luckily, there are no goats hanging out here. We continue on south and come upon a line of traffic backed up at the one lane bridge at Quepos. The folks ahead say that it will probably be over an hour before we can get across. It's not looking good for us to get all the way down to Puerto Jimenez before dark. Then, a white Toyota 4Runner in line in front of us pulls out and makes a U-turn. He stops next to Flash and says that he knows a back way to Quepos that only takes 20 minutes. He plans to drive fast but figures that the motorcycles can keep up. We go on Mr. Toad's Wild Ride following him. We first go out through the palm groves. During this section I'm convinced that this guy is leading us off to some desolate area where he'll rob us and hack us to bits with a machette or something. Then we turn south and start coming across the workers and work trucks that take care of these fields. We are flying at this point. I am reminded of the video footage I recently saw in the movie Dust To Glory about the Baja 1000. We're doing about 90 kmh on these little one-lane work roads. Each palm field is irrigated by a series of ditches which have these rickety little bridges going over them. We are hitting these like jumps while trying to follow the SUV which is invisible in a cloud of dust ahead of us. Then we start hitting stream crossings, presumably the water that feeds the river which resulted in the main bridge that we were avoiding with this detour. Finally we come across the main branch of the river itself. It isn't very deep but it is flowing very fast and the bike is continually pushed downstream while fording it. I come out about 10 meters downstream from the road and have to ride back up the bank to get back on the road. All the while, the bikes are strung out over a lengthy distance trying to follow our leader at such a challenging pace. We have cut inland a ways, up near the hills and come across a small village that is having a funeral. We all slow down and try to pay some respect but it doesn't appear that the 4Runner was so thoughtful and we're now starting to lose touch with him. Thankfully, he eventually stops at an intersection and explains to us where we are. Flash mentions we are going to get some food in Quepos and they lead us to a restaurant called El Jardin in the middle of town. (Like the towns of San Ramon on the Nicoya, every third building in Costa Rica appears to be called El Jardin). I'm so hungry at this point that I'm spacing out from low blood sugar and dehydration. That ride was fun but it chewed up the last of my concentration and I'm just operating on auto pilot now. We pile all of our gear in the corner of the cafe and settle in around a big table. I order a cheese sandwich, some fries and a large bottle of water. We are all covered in dust but Hubert's contact lenses are bothering him particularly bad. He gets his backpack from the pile, removes his content lenses solution, leans pack against his leg and washes his eyes out. When he goes to put the fluid back, his back pack is missing. Some bastard has nabbed his pack and disappeared out the front of the open air cafe. Hubert goes out into the street but can't see anyone. The restaurant staff mention someone asking about ice cream and then hurrying out so the guys in the 4Runner offer to drive Hubert around Quepos looking for someone that fits the description from the waitresses. While they are out, Flash flags down a local cop and tells him what is going on. When Hubert returns empty handed he gives a report to the police. Meanwhile, Todd and I put together a plan. When Hubert is done with the cop, he calls his credit card companies to close the accounts and calls the US Embassy to get the info for a new passport. Hubert heads over to the police station to get a copy of the report while Todd cancels our reservation in Puerto Jimenez and makes us a new one back in Jaco. We wait two hours for Hubert to get back and then immediately get out of Quepos and head north. In retrospect, it's not really a surprise that this happened in Quepos, all the signs were there. The banks all have armed guards, the place generally looks pretty run down and there are a lot of rough looking people wandering around the streets. Still, we have generally been pretty careful with our stuff so far this trip and it is a bummer that we still got stun. We make pretty good time heading back north, making both the Quepos and Parrita bridges without lengthy delays. In fact, we basically haul ass back to Jaco and manage to get there by 4:30. We ride through town but it's a crazy tourist hot spot with people everywhere. We check into the Hotel Mar de Luz which is run by a Dutch family and turns out to be a very nice place, probably the nicest place of the trip. Todd, Tony, Hubert and I go for a swim in the pool but Flash can't join in because of his arm. No beer and no swimming...the moral of this story is don't crash on motorcycle trips. After the refreshing dip in the pool, we walk into town to find a place to eat. On the way, we step into a little strip mall to look for some things at a pharmacia. They don't have the contact lenses case for Hubert but do have some bandages for Flash. It also turns out that despite all the ads in the window they don't have Viagra stocked on the shelves, though no one asks to see if it is available over-the-counter. We also spot a sex shop which leads to another round of jokes. A few blocks further down the main drag, we dodge out of the crowded sidewalk and step into the Los Amigos restaurant. They have outside seating along with a big blank white wall upon which they are projecting surf videos. We order margaritas (well except for Flash who is still out of luck with the booze) and look over the fantastic menu. I order a veggie massaman curry which turns out to be incredible. Even though I'm not a surfer I also get a kick out of watching the videos...or maybe that is just the margaritas kicking in. Tony and Hubert regale us with stories of their dating adventures back in the states. After dinner, Flash and I head back to the hotel since, yet again, we have an early morning planned. Todd, Hubert and Tony go out for drinks and stagger in sometimes later. I'm out by 9:40, but not before we leave Hubert and Todd some gifts. Flash gets out some ear plugs for Hubert to replace the ones stolen with his backpack. I get out a condom and some lube, something I always carry thanks to having a wife who does sexual health education for a living. We leave the packages on their pillows like mints. More laughing and jokes take place when the bar goers finally return in the night... Total for the day: 275 km in 9 1/2 hours. ----------- 2/9/06 (Jaco -> La Fortuna de San Carlos) As has become a trend, we are up early. In order to get to the US Embassy in San Jose when they open at 8am, we plan to leave Jaco at 5:30am. This means the alarm goes off at an annoying 5am. Honestly, I don't know how morning people stay sane doing this day after day. I had already packed last night, so all I have to do is get dressed once I pry my eye lids open. I try to lay down on the bed and get a little nap in while the other guys pack but end up being the butt (no pun intended) of a joke as Todd sticks a candle holder up to my butt while Hubert snaps a photo. No doubt revenge for the sex shop and condom jokes the night before. I stagger out to the bikes and get everything situated pretty quickly. I can't be too sleepy because I also remember to get out my spare ear plugs to replace the ones I lost in Puntarenas yesterday. The sun is just barely above the horizon and for the first time on this trip I'm actually chilly. The First Gear Kilimanjaro Air Mesh jacket has been the cat's meow for the hot weather but once we're moving in the cool morning air it's not doing anything to keep me warm. I have the liner but don't have time to stop and put it on. Fortunately, this is Costa Rica so I don't expect this to be a problem for long. I'm riding on autopilot this morning because I'm tired and we've been this way before. We think we are making pretty good time on CA-34 but then a Suzuki Hayabusa rolls past and, with a wave from the rider, disappears into the horizon. At Coyolar, diverging from what we did yesterday and turn east on CA-3 toward San Jose. The first bit of this road is another straight highway but then at Orotina it starts to climb up into the mountain. This is a fantastic road! Freshly paved, very curvy and the slow moving traffic is easy to pass on the inclines. Once at the top things change because we are now heading east into the rising sun. It is blinding at times and, even though the road is still great, we end up spending a lot of time in long lines of traffic because it is too difficult to see to make safe passes. We drop down near the town of Atenas and then go into town to get gas. The central gas station is closed but a local points us to another gas station that is open. Want an example of why riding in Costa Rica is different from the US: I am riding down the main street where there are two buses parked on the curb. As I am going past, they both start to pull out. This forces me onto the center line. Oncoming traffic don't even flinch and a big delivery truck actually moves over a bit to make room. I end up shooting down the middle and even get a wave from the truck driver has he goes by. In the US, I'd probably have been squashed flat or had folks giving me the finger. Now that we are fueled up, we head on up to the Pan American Highway, which we used to exit San Jose four days ago, and head for downtown. Rush hour traffic in San Jose is a lot like any other big city but even more chaotic since the road signs and lane markes don't mean anything. The speeds vary from an overloaded, four decade old pickup to a fancy new sports car that is cutting through traffic like the proverbial hot knife through butter. Passing happens wherever there is an opening and lane discipline is non-existent. Fortunately, bikes are small, fast and allowed to do whatever they want in this country. We weave through traffic and make really good time all the way to the airport. At this point, we exit and start heading south on regular city streets because we have to get to the Pavas suburb where the Embassy is located. The side streets are almost parking lots. Buses, cars, trucks, motorcycles, scooters, bicycles and people are all crammed into jam packed lanes. We work out way through the Benel area, then wind south through an industrial area. Most of the time we ride on the shoulder of the road following motorcycle riding locals who know the area. After an hour of working our way towards Pavas following the directions of kind car drivers, Todd decides to invoke the Malcolm Forbes technique. He pulls up to a taxi and asks the driver to lead us to the embassy. If the 4Runner escapade in Quepos was Mr. Toads Wild Ride, then this was another Disney-esque E-ticket adventure. The cabbie starts slicing his taxi through traffic and eventually gets to CA-27, a divided four lane going east into downtown. He then takes off like a bat out of hell, with us all strung out behind him trying not to get cut off by traffic. Cabbies worldwide know the best way to get from point A to point B, and this guy was no exception. In 15 minutes, he has us at the front gate of the Embassy. The clock shows 8:30am. Todd pays the fee and gave him a hefty tip as well. The guy is thrilled and gives us his card in case we need anything else while we are in San Jose. We park at a photography store so that Hubert can get his 2x2" passport photos. While waiting, we realize there is a little coffee shop right next door which is directly across from the Embassy. Even better, it has a parking lot security guard. We send Hubert on his way equiped with a walkie-talkie for communication and then move the bikes over to the Spoon coffee shop. We set up camp at a window table and order breakfast. We figure it will take Hubert around two hours to get the replacement passport. After eating, Tony decides to go walk around the neighborhood. First he gets to play frogger getting across the main road. I provide a little video game noise but fortunately he makes it safely across without me having to add the "Bwaaa whaaa whaaaaaaa" failure noise. Having successfully gained the far side he disappears into a mini-mall. For those of us at Spoon our server is a guy William. He turns out to be awesome. He is friendly, helpful, loaded with personality and quick with the coffee. In fact, we get pretty tanked up on the coffee...I rarely drink the stuff and pounding down four cups is enough to have my eye lids fluttering. To our surprise, Hubert comes walking out of the Embassy after only 45 minutes carrying a temporary passport in his hand. Flash goes off in search of Tony and returns with the news that Tony has taken off on a long walk to the nearest post office. Hubert orders breakfast and we come up with a plan for the day to ride north to the Arenal Volcano area. We had originally intended to ride through this area on our first day but the bike problems and the need to catch the ferry to Paquera meant we had to abandon that portion of the ride. Todd had spent time in that area last summer so he calls the hotel he'd stayed at in La Fortuna de San Carlos. They have rooms available, so we make a reservation and now have a plan for the remainder of the trip. Tony returns just has Hubert finishes eatting so we load up to head north. William spends some time giving us road suggestions. He is great with descriptions but like so many other locals we meet, he can't relate this knowledge to a map. Just getting back out of San Jose turns out to be a trial. We make a couple of wrong turns, including doing the entire cloverleaf of an exit, before we are finally back on the PanAmerican highway. Traffic is still heavy but we can again filter through pretty quickly. We ride past Naranjo, where Tony's clutch crapped out on day one, and take the next exit for San Ramon. Gee, that name sounds familiar. We take a quick break at the MegaSuper grocery store then go into the town of San Ramon itself to get gas. Now we can start north for La Fortuna. Almost immediately, this road is incredible. It climbs up into the mountains called the Cordillera de Tilaran and it seems to have been specifically made for motorcycles. The road is super twisty but all the curves are very predictable. Flash isn't in the groove but the rest of us are rocking on this section of pavement. Again, the KTMs are great bikes in this environment...we just ride them like large super motard bikes. The wide handlebars, torquey motor and good suspension let us flow through the curves. I again take up the back of the group so that I can stop periodically for photos. This again gives me a chance to play "catch up" which is more fun that anyone should be allowed to have. It is during his stretch that I find that the front brake on the KTM LC4 is not meant to be used to repeated haul the bike down from high speed when entering corners. I end up overheating the front brake and have an exciting corner entry when the brake lever comes all the way back to the bar. Fortunately, we get into some traffic which gives me a chance to let the front brake cool back down. The weather is perfectly clear and we can see north all the way to the Arenal volcano, as well as east to the volcanoes of Platanar, Porvenir and Poas. The three to the east all have well defined craters at the top but Arenal looks like a perfect cone. As we ride north near San Isidro we come across a bridge that is another example of why riding in Costa Rica is so entertaining. There has been a rock slide on one side of the bridge that has nearly blocked the entrance. Cars have driven over it, making a little path to get onto the bridge. This bridge is one of the largest we have seen but the driving surface is in pretty rough shape and has been patched numerous times with big steel plates. In the US, this bridge would probably have been condemned years ago but here it is the main way north. We are getting closer and closer to Arenal and it looks more and more impressive the further north we go. Finally, we get to the town of La Fortuna de San Carlos and check into the Hotel San Bosco at 2:30pm. We unpack the bikes and set about catching up on some chores. Most of us hit the hot tub for a little relaxation. Flash borrows a BFH from the hotel staff and beats his hand guard back into shape so that it no longer fouls the compression release lever. I take some time to wash my clothes in the sink. Todd helps Tony disassemble his replacement bike to see what is leaking oil down the right side of the motor. I also have a chance to buy some more post cards at a gift shop across the street. With our chores complete, we walk two blocks to the main square and start looking for a place to have dinner. We pick one place but the obnoxious host drives us away. Then we walk down a dark alley and find a place called Nenes. They have smoked pork ribs hanging in an open air wood-fueled stove and that is all it takes for the beast eaters to decide. I order some penne noodles with pesto and a beer. It turns out the ribs aren't ready yet so Todd, Hubert and Flash reluctantly order steaks instead. Hubert orders a Brazilian drink called a caipirinha which turns out to be so good enough we all order a round. At this point, we've had different drinks with each dinner so why not continue the trend? I try to top off the mediocre pasta with a desert but the strawberry cheese cake isn't very good either. At least I enjoyed the caipirinha. We slowly walk back to the hotel enjoying the warm night air. Flash and I retire to one room with two double beds. Its nice not having to share a bed with anyone for the first time this trip. We watch some American TV, then I grab a shower and sit up for awhile writing postcards. Just as I'm falling asleep around 10:30pm, I hear some loud noises from next door but then drift off to deep sleep. Total for the day: 275 km in 9 hours. ----------- 2/10/06 (La Fortuna de San Carlos -> La Fortuna de San Carlos) Up at 8am and find that last night Todd had some kind of asthma attack or an allergic reaction at 10:30pm and then another just after midnight. He seems fine when we wake up in the morning but it is certainly something we are all concerned about. I'm doubly concerned because when we were in Jaco I mentioned that there were five things that could really complicate our trip: Mechanical problems, crashes, being robbed, becoming sick and getting arrested. Tony covered the first, Flash the second and Hubert the third. I was willing to take one for the team and get sick but Todd seemed reluctant to get arrested. With Todd suddenly getting sick, that put the onus of getting arrested on me! Flash and I walk a couple of blocks to the post office and buy some stamps. I also pick up a few more postcards. When we get back, the whole group walks over to Mus-Anni, a nearby bakery, for breakfast. Todd also goes to a pharmacia next door and buys some cough syrup and an asthma puffer. They may not have Viagra handy but you can get asthma medicine over the counter that is prescription only in the US... I also hit the bank and finally successfully withdraw some money from an ATM, proving that the international bank connections do in fact work sometimes. We get back and suit up for the day's ride. My socks are still a little wet after yesterday's laundry but everything else has dried out nicely despite the humidity. Out of the parking lot at 10am with a quick stop for gas. Then we go west out of La Fortuna to the Arenal National Park boundary. Just before we get to the Park, we round a corner and find traffic stopped. There is a herd of about 20 white nosed coatis running around and a similar herd of about 20 tourists following them around taking pictures. Naturally, we join in and also take photos of the cute, furry little critters. Just a few kilometers short of Lake Arenal we turn off onto a small dirt road that runs around the southern edge of Lake Arenal. After a brief stop to ask an enthusiastic local for directions, we are off onto a rarely used 4WD road. This road runs between the volcano and the lake, probably just 5 km from the northern edge of the volcano. The road is incredible! Lots of rough surface with rocks, ruts, stream crossings and double track trail. The highlight is a big river crossing over the River Cano Negro about 10km down the road. When we get there, Todd charges in and makes it about halfway before coming to a stop. Then Flash goes in and gets about 10 ft away from Todd before slowing and then digging a hole with his rear tire. Tony and I wade out into the thigh deep water to help out and find that Todd's chain has popped off. Tony, Flash and I lift the back of Todd's bike up while he puts the chain back on the rear sprocket. Todd then carefully rides the rest of the way across. We then get Flash moving again and he also makes it across. Todd comes back and takes Tony's bike across since Tony is still new to dirt bikes and we don't want to risk him drowning the bike. Todd gets almost all the way over, then fells over and dunks the bike. Doh! Fortunately, it doesn't suck water into the motor but does fill the airbox. Then Hubert gets across with some spotting from both Todd and Flash. I was last and make it about half of the way across before hitting the tough section. There are some bowling ball sized, moss-covered rocks in about two foot of fast moving water. As if the rough river bottom wasn't tough enough, after the halfway point the water changes direction so that I am riding "downstream" for the last half which makes it nearly impossible to see what is under the water's surface. Todd and Tony help spot me and I am able to get the rest of the way across. It is a testament to the KTM that the clutch doesn't get burned out because I was working it pretty hard hopping the bike over those big ass rocks. We are all soaked to the bone from the waist down after this...so much for my clean, dry laundry. Still, it is exhilarating and a great example of what we were looking for when we decided to come riding in Costa Rica. After dumping out our boots it is back on the trail. Another 10km later we cross some horse riders and stop to talk with them. We then get the idea of doing a group photo, so we retrace our steps to a beautiful overlook just a couple of clicks back. After a few false starts I figure out my new camera and get a great photo. Flash gets the GPS coordinates, N 10' 26.478" W 85' 47.347" and an impromptu plan comes up of having T-shirts made with both on them. From there, the trail stays challenging for about half the trip around the southern dirt portion of the lake then gradually improved as we get closer to the town of Tronadora. Just before we get to the town, we stop because we hear some howler monkeys up in the trees arching over the road. I turn around to point them out and slowly the bike tips over to the right side. Graceful! Fortunately, both me and the bike go into some soft bushes with no damage to either one of us. We are back on the pavement after Tronadora, though at times it is rougher than the dirt! We race around the northern most point of the lake and then start back south along the east side. We stop at La Rana near the town of Arenal for lunch. More pasta for me, but some German food that had Hubert sitting back in culinary ecstasy. While having lunch, we get to watch wild Tuccans and other tropical birds who are hanging out in the trees outside the restuarant. Back on the bikes, the road is rough for about half the distance back to La Fortuna but then becomes newly paved once we pass Mata de Cana, about 10 kms before the man made dam that created the lake. I stop for some photos and then do the major super moto blitz to catch back up to the group. This time I don't cook the front brakes but do have a blast riding this twisty, new pavement. Wow, what an amazing section of road! Once over the dam, a big SUV tries to take out Hubert by suddenly turning across the road in front of us...probably a damned tourist since it is turning onto a side road that goes to a bunch of ritzy resorts. We get back to La Fortuna at 5pm, once again returning before sunset. After a bit of clean-up, note taking and bike checks it is time to walk around town. Todd and Tony hit the Internet cafe while I try, unsuccessfully, to find a better pen for writing my post cards. We then head to La Brasita, a mexican place on the edge of town, for dinner. I have some good veggie fajitas, a strange cheese filled bell pepper and a couple of weak pina coladas. Our conversation is also drown out by a talented but *loud* pair of Mexican folk singers. Back to Hotel Bosco and asleep by 11:00pm. Total for the day: 146 km in 7 hours. ----------- 2/11/06 (La Fortuna de San Carlos -> San Jose) We are awake at 7am since we, once again, need to get an early start. We grab a great breakfast at Mi Casa cafe. I get the desayuna typical with eggs, beans, rice, toast, OJ and coffee). We walk back, pack the bikes and hit the road at 9am just a little later than forecast. From La Fortuna we head due east. I start out in the back since Tony's tail light is still not working but within 20kms I almost rear-end him three times because I mis-predict his passing (once passing a group of bicyclists, once when a dump truck yielded us the right-of-way at a one lane bridge and once when he stops for a red light...silly rabbit!) The road is mainly through agricultural areas until we reach Aguas Zarcas. Just fields and small towns, so we make good time and get caught back up to our original schedule. At Aguas Zarcas things get real fun, real fast. The road turns south and starts climbing up into the mountains. This road is a blast all the way to San Jose, meaning we are in for a great afternoon of riding. The road climbs really steeply from San Miguel to Isla Bonita. Then goes right by a spectacular water fall...probably dropping 150 ft through a natural crevice. We then continue to climb, until turning west to go up to Volcan Poas National Park Somehow the road gets even better here: Freshly paved and super twisty...1st and 2nd gear on the KTM. We pay $7 to get into the park, go to the motorcycle parking right by the visitor center and then split into two groups to walk the 600m to the rim. Flash, Hubert and myself go first, the clouds blow across the top mostly obscuring the crater but periodically they clear enough to see the lake and smoke vents down in the caldera. We walk back to the bikes, checking out the giant plants along the path, then feed Todd and Tony a line about it being perfectly clear but that clouds are closing in. They hussle off down the path trying to beat the clouds. Our plan backfires though since they stay gone for nearly an hour waiting for the clouds to clear. In fact, they get a better view that we's seen. Meanwhile we sit around chatting out our favorite vacations, including Hubert describing his trip to Tortuguero on the caribbean coast of Costa Rica a few years back. This sounds like an awesome vacation spot to bring Jonna if I ever get back to Costa Rica. When Todd and Tony finally return, we head back down off Poas which is another great ride. While passing some cars just north of Cinco Esquinas, Hubert kicks up some cow dung off the road and pelts me in the helmet and jacket. A direct hit! Another damn monkey flinging poo! The road is still great with tight curve after tight curve, though the road surface is back to being highly variable. We work our way east and south, hopping from town to town. We eventually reach Heredia, where we stop for lunch at Fresas. Heredia feels a bit like Quepos and is crazy busy. We are all pretty paranoid and spent a lot of time at lunch looking over at the bikes. Still, the restaurant served a great cheese sandwich with salty white farmer's cheese and fresh juicy tomatoes...reminds me of the bocadillos I had in Spain last year. Over lunch, Flash agrees to act as judge in the "Todd is trying to kill me" case. Because of my superior logic, plus my sharing my french fries with him, he rules in my favor. Hah! Naturally, Todd is a sore loser. We need gas but after nearly losing Hubert in the heavy traffic we give up and get the hell out of Heredia. We end up going too far east, so we hit highway 32 at San Isidro rather that at San Juan. Fortunately, there is a gas station at the junction, so we are able to fulfill our duty of filling the bikes up with gas before returning them. From here it is a straight shot down 32 to San Jose. It isn't totally safe though, I almost get run off the road while leap frogging through traffic when Tony zigs just as I zag. Todd does an excellent job of getting us to within a few blocks of Wilhelm's, then Flash's GPS leads us the rest of the way in. Wilhelm and his crew are waiting for us and are very efficient in taking over the bikes when we arrive exactly on schedule at 4pm. We are finished returning the bikes by 4:30. Hubert has to pay $25 for the broken front fender he's had flapping all the way across Costa Rica for the past week. Flash pays $60 for half a pair of hand guards and for a replacement disk lock (which had bounced out of his tank bag somewhere on the Nicoya). Todd is let off the hook for the broken saddle back mounts and likewise Tony isn't penalized for the oil leaks or the non-functioning tail light on his replacement bike. Oh, and my bike? Perfect, not a scratch on it. We hire a van back from Wilhelm's other company Costa Rican Trails and take it back to the Bougainvillea hotel. After checking in, I take a *long* shower and it feels awesome to finally get a week's worth of dirt out of my hair and beard. I send my "flying clothes" off to be laundered since they have become pretty smelly after being packed away at Wilhelm's for a week inside my gear duffle. This means I have to wear my motocross pants and a used jersey to dinner. We meet at 6am in the bar for drinks (pina coladas and caipirinhas) which I buy for the group as a "thank you" for being such a fun gang to ride with. Then we take the hotel van to La Puebla, a food, shopping and disco area near downtown. We have dinner at Papa Pez. Probably the best meal of the trip for the meat eaters but the worst meal of the trip for me...bland spaghetti noodles with canned, steamed vegetables and no sauce. Blech. I also didn't need the two beers that I orderd with it... We walkl around the mall afterwards. I think I look like a rock star in my moto-cross pants and tiva sandles but the gang seem to think I just look like a grimy dirt biker. Shows how much fashion sense they have! We decide not to hit the discos, nor hit any of the strip joints that Hubert has been asking around about...after all, as is our tradition we have yet another early morning tomorrow. We catch the 9:30pm shuttle bus back to the hotel and I'm fast asleep by 10:30am despite Flash snoring away in the other bed. If you ever travel with Flash and he feeds you some line about how he "only snores lightly", remember this trip report as evidence to the contrary! On the plus side, my clothes come back from the laundry all fresh and clean so I'll actually smell acceptable on the plane flight back to the US tomorrow. Total for the day: 197 km in 7 hours. ----------- 2/12/06 (San Jose -> Denver) We have a 5am wake up call so that Todd, Hubert and I can make our 8:30am flight. Flash's flight is an hour later but he decides to come on to the airport with us so we can all split the cab fare. I again sleep horribly, something that has been hit or miss on this trip. In this case, I was worried I'd fall into a deep sleep and miss the wake up call so instead I tossed and turned for most of the morning. We check out at 5:30 and catch the van to the airport. As a final joke, Hubert sets up a series of wake up calls for Tony (whose flight isn't until noon) with the front desk. In fact, he requests one per hour. That should guarantee Tony doesn't over sleep. At the airport, we pay our exit tax and then wait for the America West desk to open so we can check in. We all get picked to have our bags searched by security but the awful stench emanating from our riding gear keeps the inspection to a minimum. As a bonus, the security people then have to schlep our heavy gear duffels the rest of the way to the desk. As if this wasn't enough, Todd then gets picked at the security screening gate for a carry-on bag inspection. Even security knows the guy is dangerous. Once inside the concourse, we meet back up with Flash and grab breakfast at a Burger King. Todd and Hubert spend the last of Todd's money on greasy sausage biscuits while I get bland cheesey dough thing. Our flight boards at 8:23 and is a smooth, uneventful flight to Phoenix. We all have exit row seats so it was actually comfortable too. After a quick layover, we catch the final flight home. The plane touches down in Denver at 4pm and by 6pm I'm having dinner in Boulder with Jonna, my Aunt Gail and my Uncle Bob. Just like that, the trip is over. Total distance on bike: 1470km Total riding time: 55 1/2 hours. Total time in Costa Rica: 8 days ----------- Prologue: We each stocked up on travel books, maps and various other bits of information for the trip. Here is my breakdown of what worked and what didn't: 1) Books: I bought the Fodor's Costa Rica (2005) book. Plain and simple, this book sucked for what we were doing. It gives a brief discription of most of the major towns but nothing useful about the things we cared about like the roads, banks, ferry times, etc. Todd had the Lonely Planet Costa Rica (2005) book and it was much more useful. We booked all our hotels after the Quepos fiasco using the Lonely Planet book and I generally thought it was better for a traveller. Hubert had an older edition of the Lonely Planet but we mainly just used Todd's newer version. Flash brought the Rough Guide Costa Rica (third edition), and seemed to like it but I never found the time to look through it myself. 2) Maps: I bought a National Geographic Adventure map of Costa Rica and had mixed feelings. When we were on the Nicoya Peninsula, I thought it was horrible because so few of the town name matched what was listed on the signs. However, on the mainland it was very accurate. Additionally, I liked the fact that it even had the little 4WD roads listed and marked as minor roads. I always like maps that use colors to show topographical changes and this map was great for that. Finally, it was tear and water resistant. Great for durability but sucked when I was trying to mark our path with a highlighter. Todd used the International Travel Map of Costa Rica (1:330,000 scale) which was by far the most accurate when it cames to roads and city names. However, it didn't show landscape variations as clearly as my map and the plain paper tore really easily. Hubert had the Berndtson Costa Rica map which split the differences between the two. Town names were fairly accurate but the topo markers were non-existent. However, it was a laminated map which meant it very pretty durable. 3) GPS data: Both Flash and I downloaded the free GPS maps for Central America from Richard Smith at http://rwsmaps.griffel.se/. Garmin doesn't offer any official map packages for central america, so this was the best we could do. That said, the data isn't all that usable for Costa Rica. Most of the towns and villages don't show up at all and those that do are usually mis-named. The coast line data for the Gulf of Nicoya is all screwed up and extends inland about 15km further than the actual coast. Don't rely on this data if you're planning a trip to Costa Rica. 4) Bike rental: There are a lot of companies renting bikes in Costa Rica. We chose to rent the bikes from Wilhelm von Breymann's company the Costa Rica Motorcycle Rental Company (http://www.costaricamotorcycletours.com/). We had a great experience with Wilhelm and I heartily recommend him to anyone interested in riding in Costa Rica. The KTMs were the perfect bike and Wilhelm did a great job of taking care of us. Well, that's it. I hope you enjoyed the write-up.