Tour de Panama

Post La Ruta is a weird time as the body and mind experience an aftershock something like what a drunk experiences when they try and sober up. This year the days of post La Ruta started in the small village of Puerto Viejo on Costa Ricans east coast. This town has a plume of marijuana smoke coming from it with everyone and there dogs trying to impersonate Bob Marley. The overall attitude is “nobody moves, nobody gets hurt.” Pretty much the reverse motto of La Ruta.

On our second night we headed off to the beach to get away from the reggae noise and check out the crashing waves. After 4 minutes of tranquility we were ambushed by 8 policia with machine guns as they figured 4 gringos on the beach must be smoking the ganga. I couldn’t stop smirking at the robo cops as they tried to act tough. I thought it was a goodtime given I was probably the only person in the whole town who had never smoked marijuana. I wasn’t too sure about the history of my friends but we all escaped without incident. I have nothing against marijuana or people that smoke it. I figure it has a much better overall effect on society then alcohol but nonetheless I rather get high off my bike. After an unsuccessful search, the robo cops wandered away rattled. I’m pretty sure they would need the whole Costa Rican police force to deal with the weed problem there.

Having enough of that gong show we headed off too Bocas Island in Panama for Spanish school and living on the ocean for $10 a day. We learned some very important Spanish phrases which will come in handy.

“A donde Chica’s picante?” and “Bueno Culo”

This Panama island was a proper place to relax although the weed was still everywhere. As we walked down the streets the locals would walk up to us saying their three words of English “weed, weed, weed”. After the 8th time of this I confronted one of the weed men and tried to sell him pills of vitamin C which I had in my pocket and hassled him till he walked away. This tactic probably wouldn’t last long before we got into trouble but we were scheduled to ride off the next day so we made full use of it.

The 110 km ride inland Panama is epic as it tours along Panama’s poverty stricken Caribbean coast and then climbs over the continental divide through lush jungle. The last two yrs I did this ride it went somewhat smoothly with no confrontations. This yr I was being told it was dangerous and not to do it alone. I figured info coming from drunken American ex-pats wasn’t legit so I headed off on my ride. Three km into the ride a man in the ditch began yelling at me while whirling his machete overhead. Ten minutes later 8 seventeen yr old punks walking down the highway with there hats on backwards and skull t-shirts tried to stare me down. A little later I stopped at a store for some water and 6 punks surrounded my bike and tried to look tough. I bought a bag of M&M’s to share with the punks and pretty soon we were friends. Seven hrs later I rolled into the Lost and Found hostel unscathed and still a firm believer that people are good wherever you go in this world.

After two nights of Snoreathon in the 13 bed dorm room I talked my friends Jeff and Karen from New Zealand into moving onto the quite mountain town of Boquete for some proper rest. 2 days of riding later we came on the peaceful little town. What we didn’t know was that it was Panama’s independence weekend and they had set up speakers throughout the town to insure everybody was involved in partying till 4 am for 3 straight nights. Night 1 we gave in and headed down to the party where we found a no cover charge, no liquor charge party zone. This = trouble. We couldn’t understand who would give away liquor in these quantities for free but nobody complained.

Trying to fight off a cold and a still a little fatigued I headed for Costa Rica the next day as I signed up for a road race called the Vuelta de Costa Rica which needed proper training. As the daylight faded I opted to hop on a bus so I could meet my Tico friend Ronald and his family at there cottage on the Pacific Coast for the weekend.

Buses are a great idea but I have a long history with them and we don’t get along. This bus was no different as there were over 70 people on the 50 seat bus. After standing in an aisle smelling BO for 45 minutes people began complaining “Much Frio, (were cold)” and everybody started to close the windows. “What??? You guys are drunk, this is a Much Sauna.” After another 10 minutes of dripping sweat and trying not to puke from the twisty pothole ridden road I got off the bus at the next stop which was very soon given we were on the milk run. It was dark out and my 7 hr bus ride only lasted 1.5 hrs so I had no clue where I was but that bus was a rolling gong show that I had no interest in being involved in. I spent the night in a ½ star Chinese hotel, woke up at 6 am and rode 180 km, close to my friend’s house and received a nice surprise as Ronald and his girlfriend Angela gave me a ride the last 20 km of the way. The next two days were spent getting a 100% pure Costa Rican sunburn, practicing my hammock swing and tossing peanuts to crocodiles.

Since then things have been calm as I have rented an apartment close to San Jose for the month and have settled into a proper routine of training in the mornings and studying to be a nutrition consultant in the afternoons. Looking at ridiculous weather reports from Canada I’m content as I transform from a mountain biker into a road racer for the 12 day Vuelta de Costa Rica starting on the 16th. I will be racing with the Tour de Quebec team from Quebec. Apparently the race has around a 50% attrition rate and theres National teams from Colombia, Ecuador and Guatemala coming. Not too sure what I’ve signed up for but my friend Ronald has been looking after me and has been showing me how the Ticos train down here (25% climbs, 25 km climbs up volcanos and high end bike skills in an attempt to survive on the roadways.)

One Comment on “Tour de Panama”

  • Dallas December 12th, 2009 5:56 pm

    I really admire you dude. Wish I had the 'sight' to think that big when I was younger.

    the 'Tour should be KILLER. You'll be the biggest guy in the peleton. LOL.

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