Once again, Mike and I are stateside, having left Costa Rica on Wednesday. We may be back in familiar territory, but that doesn’t mean we’ve paused our adventures. We have a very busy couple of weeks planned for this travel abroad intermission. I’m getting ahead of myself though, because I still have to catch you up on our last few days in Costa Rica.

We left Fortuna and the Arenal area behind as we pedaled our way toward the mountains and the airport embedded within them, some 120 kilometers away. The first day in our final stretch brought us to Ciudad Quesada. On our way there, however, we stopped to watch some crazy biker kids practicing their stunts by the side of the road. I had to hold Mike back from attempting the jump with his bike fully loaded. After all, I didn’t want a repeat of his stunt from a few days before (See the Side Note at the bottom of this post for a recounting of a previous incident). Anyways, back to the stunt bikers…

He didn’t stick the landing, but he didn’t break his neck either. This time.

The kid acting as a prop for this jump very nearly became a pancake…or tortilla…or something very flat and squashed. Unfortunately, Mike and I didn’t really see any carnage.

After reaching Ciudad Quesada, Mike and I went to bed pretty early because we suspected the next day would be a bit tough. It certainly had its ups and downs, but mostly ups.

We started climbing before we even left CQ since it was situated on a hill at about 2000 feet above sea level. Our highest point of the day brought us to 5400 feet, so as you can imagine we got a bit of a workout. We netted about 3400 feet, but we probably grossed about 5000 with all the twisty hills.

Luckily, the weather cooperated all day long, for a change. It was nice and cool when we left, which is perfect for climbing hills. True, it was so foggy that I couldn’t see the 1000 ft. ravines on the other side of the guard rails, but the fog also meant that most of the drivers were very cautious and courteous. If it had been hot and humid and sunny, I’m not sure we would have made it through the day. That combo does not complement steep and hilly.

I’m being swallowed up by the fog in this picture, and I’m only about 10 meters away from Mike.

I was a bit bummed that we were missing the spectacular views we were earning with every inch, but that slight was quickly made right once we reached the top. We must have timed things perfectly because the sunshine popped out as we started our descent and we could finally see the fantastic views.

A view of one small village (and the steep roads leading to it) on our way down.

Another hillside view.

We made it to Zarcero, our halfway point (kilometer-wise) of the day, at about 1:00. What a cute little mountain town! I’m sure I was in a fantastic mood because I’d already finished the hard part of the day and because I felt like Superwoman and because the sun was shining, but it really was one of the quaintest towns we’ve come across. We stopped for lunch across from THE central park of all Central American central parks. It was phenomenal! The church (a standard central park feature) was adorable, but the sculpted bushes really took the cake.

The church was so picturesque.

Here it is from another angle, with some of the sculpted bushes. The entire walkway directly in front of the church was lined with “M” shaped bushes, forming arches.

Yet another angle.

I love the crazy artsy way Mike has framed this picture.

Some of the bushes were shaped like animals and what-not. This one’s a stegasaurus.

The flowers were beautiful too, and Mike even caught a hummingbird in this photo!

When Mike goes on his photography missions, I watch the bikes and anything else within my view. This dog was lounging near me for a while. Looks comfortable, doesn’t he?

This van passed by as soon as Mike got back too. It’s advertising a type of hair gel. Supposedly it holds as well as gorilla snot.

We left Zarcero at a reasonable time, thinking that we could bust out the last 25 kilometers quite quickly since they were predominantly downhill. Our plan worked pretty well for a while. Then, on one of the really long downhills my tire stopped cooperating. Flat in seconds. As usual, Mike was zipping ahead of me down the hill and didn’t witness my predicament. He also had the tools I needed to repair the tire. Oops! With few options, I began to walk downhill looking for a random bike repair shop (a slim possibility, but a possibility nonetheless) or a kind soul with a pickup truck. A guy with a motorcycle stopped to help, but that didn’t do much good. I wasn’t about to abandon my bike to go find Mike, so the motorcyclist wanted me to climb on the back of his bike and somehow carry my bike under my arm as we went downhill. As if! That thing weighs almost 100 lbs. with all of my gear on it (as I discovered when I tried to check it on our flight back to the States). He then seemed to think that if I took all of the bags off and piled them onto his motorcycle we could make it downhill that way. After a few ridiculous suggestions, I thanked him and just started walking downhill again. Luckily, I finally flagged down 3 gentlemen with a truck. They pitched my bike in back and we set off to find Mike, who had faithfully been pedalling his way back up this extremely long and steep hill. My knight in shining armor. He didn’t just ditch me as I suspected he might. In fact he was quite worried since he saw a couple of ambulances pass him on the way up. I’m glad they weren’t for me! We were reunited, a bit more quickly than would have otherwise been the case thanks to the guys in the truck, but we still had to patch the tire. By then end of that ordeal we barely made it to Sarchi by nightfall. It was definitely one of our longest days!

The next morning brought the last biking day of our trip as we intended to get to Alajuela, just a few short kilometers from the airport, that evening. The central park in Sarchi featured a giant Carreta, which is a traditional wooden ox-cart. They generally have very elaborate designs, and this one was no exception.

Here’s the ox-cart, complete with a yoke (that’s what they’re called, right?).

I couldn’t get it to budge. I suspect Paul Bunyan’s blue ox Babe might have managed, but we couldn’t find it.

We passed a few more interesting sights on our way to Alajuela, then finished up our day with some last-minute souvenir shopping and some repacking.

An elaborate front gate depicting a cock fight.

Lychee-like fruits for sale by the road.

Our bikes all folded and stashed in some boxes that we picked up in town. We looked crazy hauling those boxes down the middle of the street, I’m sure — especially since Mike’s beard already makes him look homeless.

We caught an early morning cab to the airport and left Costa Rica behind on Wednesday morning. Now I’m in Iowa City and Mike is in Buffalo. I’ll fill you in on stateside happenings in some other post.

I hope you’re not expecting a neat summation of our 3 month bike trip in Central America, because I can’t imagine how I’d sum it up. All I know is that it was fantastic and we’re looking forward to the rest of our journey as well (both here in the States and later in South America). I hope you keep traveling with us!!

Side Note: I almost forgot! I have to tell you about Mike’s accident the other day… Let me start by setting the scene:

[The opening shot pans through the luxurious Tabacon Hot Springs Resort and Spa. The image glides slightly out of focus past steaming waterfalls and tropical foliage, eventually coming to rest on the pool featuring a wet bar and several hot springs patrons. As the image comes into focus, you can see that the guests are having a fine time sipping their pina coladas and chatting with the amiable bartenders. The camera then pans right, zooming in on an animated conversation between the two lead characters, Mike and Jackie:]

Mike: I am a champion underwater swimmer and I challenge you to a contest that will put your aquatic abilities to the test!
Jackie: Uh-huh…
Mike: I doubt you have the strength of character to complete the daunting task I lay before you.
Jackie: You do, do you?
Mike: Here are the terms: we shall dive beneath these steamy waters and propel ourselves forward without breaking the surface for as long as possible. We will take turns and the victor will be the competitor who has conquered the depths and vanquished the other by covering the greater distance. Undoubtedly, I will prove the master in this task, which requires much skill and moral fortitude.
Jackie: Right-o. So, you want me to go first?
Mike: I am a gentleman, and ladies always go first. You may commence your attempt now, but remeber that you will have only one chance to prove your competence in this complex task.
Jackie: Here goes. [She dives beneath the water and resurfaces very near the opposite side of the pool. She waits for Mike to make his attempt.]
Mike: M’lady, your aquatic journey seems but a feeble attempt to challenge my underwater prowess. Observe as I best you in this competition of physical stamina and psychological manipulation. [With dramatic flair he launches himself from the starting line. Before traveling more than 5 feet he resurfaces, sputtering and moaning as the water turns red around him.]
Jackie: What the hell? Are you okay?
Mike: ‘Tis only a flesh wound inflicted by the fierce creatures of the deep.
Jackie: Bullshit, we’re in a swimming pool at a fancy resort. It has a wet bar, not sharks.
Mike: Can you not see how the skin has been torn from my lip and noble chin? My handsome whiskers have been stripped from my visage!
Jackie: Yeah, I can see alright. What did you do? Scrape your face on the bottom of the pool?

[End scene. The camera fades to black.]

2 Responses to “Stateside”
  1. Mike says:

    That’s a GREAT script! Not quite how I remember it, but I’m sure that’s how the Made for TV movie version will go down.-Mike

  2. Dr_Omega says:

    Nice post. The details of the underwater challenge sound just like Mike! Jobe well done. D

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