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August 7, 2022, 10:10 pm
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Day18–The Ugly Truth–Fri. Jan 14, 2011

Border Crossing #6, Eight hours at the Nicaragua/Costa Rica border!

Thursday, Jan 13 (Flash Back)

The line for immigration.

A bus load of europeans who are riding bicycles around Nicaragua.

Our motorcycle permit had expired by 2 days. Lisa had to walk back and forth between 4 offices in a 1/4 mile radius to pay fines and get all the paper work stright.!

Lisa: Remember when I said that if Dean didn’t shape up I might leave him at a border?  Well Wednesday was that day.  I left him at the Nicaragua/Costa Rica border and continued the ride south without him.  Before you get all wonky, here’s the story.

As I told you things went well at the CR border up until the time Dean’s paperwork was looked at and then the wheels fell off.  Apparently Costa Rica does not allow “Salvaged” vehicles to enter the country.  Ever.  For any reason.  It was like time stopped and we just stood there in the surrounding chaos staring at one another.  What-The-Heck?  It just never occurred to either one of us that this might be a problem.

We went to speak to the big boss and still nothing doing.  He told us we could ship the bike in a truck through Costa Rica but it could not be unloaded until it reached Panamanian soil.  Oh, and we’d need to do that in Nicaragua.  You remember Nicaragua?  The country we had just exited in “only” 4 hours?  And now this dude is telling us to go BACK there, meaning we have to un-do the whole day.  PLUS there are no hotels anywhere near the border so now what do we do and where do we start?

We had no choice so we crossed back.  Kill me now.

Dean: I’m glad to participate in this event as the perfect example of “How Not To Travel on a Motorcycle through Central America!, by Dean Tanji”.

Lisa: At the first check where the man looks at your passport and then collects money to fumigate your bike, the guys there recognized us.  Duh.  Everyone recognizes us.  The tall blonde running to and fro in the border mess, asking stupid questions and continually apologizing for “no espanol”, with the Danish guy who just lounges around looking pretty.  When we told him our dilemma he told us to not go any further, to wait there in what is officially no man’s land.  Well, dontcha know, after a few moments someone shows up who can fix this.  Is there anything in Central America that you can’t buy your way out of?

Dean: And for this, it will only cost you a “wad of moolah”.  We sorta hemmed and hawed and eventually agreed on a slightly smaller wad of moolah.  Still more than I wanted to pay obviously but we were officially screwed and these guys acted as though it was a done deal.

Lisa: Well this next part took 4.5 hours to unfold and involved me going into a back, back office to meet some shady dude who spoke Spanish on the phone for 15 minutes or so until he hung up and sadly told me there was nothing he could do.  Since we had talked to the boss directly, now no one could go around him to sneak this paperwork through.

Back out to the parking lot where they assured Dean they’d get him on a truck that night and to Panama the next day.

Dean: This was only going to cost me the wad and a poke more moolah.

Lisa: By now we have burned available daylight and I still have my Costa Rica permit, having made the decision NOT to officially exit CR when we crossed back into NI.  I don’t feel like following the truck in the dark so at 4:30 PM I left Dean at the border. It was weird and sad and awful.  It was a strange ride, alone, for a lot of reasons.  Not the least of which was knowing that my darling husband would not be amused (sorry honey!!!).  45 minutes later I arrived in Liberia – our plan for the day – and checked into a hotel.

Dean: Lisa was gone!  We discussed every option but with me riding in a truck with the VStrom through the entire country of Costa Rico there was no other option.  While I waited outside the CR customs for the truck to arrive, the agent came back and said there was a shift change and the new customs supervisor would “fix” my “Salvaged” problem for the same price as trucking the bike to Panama.  Did I just get scammed again????  Sure enough, my fixer came back in 30 minutes with all my paperwork completed and no mention of “Salvaged”.  More important, my ride continues and I’ll hopefully meet up with Lisa in Liberia – 71 km south of the border.

Lisa: Took a quick shower to get the border grunge off me (literal and figurative) and then sent an email to Dean, Dean’s sons Colin and Derek as well as our mutual friend Steve Hobart.  I told them what was up and to please text Dean where I was and that I was not moving farther south until I heard he was under way.  About 5 minutes later a text popped up on my computer screen – Dean was in Liberia at McDonalds. OH MY GOSH!! – the truck got there so fast and McDonalds was one block from my hotel!!!  I figured they were grabbing a quick bite so I grabbed my room key and literally ran and skipped down the street, hoping to catch them before they left.  Sure enough, there were a lot of big rigs parked so as I stood on the sidewalk out front I was scanning the scene and right there, in all its glory, was Dean’s V-Strom.  I laughed out loud and looked to the right, seeing Dean himself sitting on the low wall looking at his iPhone.

Dean: It was great.  We were back on the road.  I can never return to Costa Rica with this bike!!  Lesson learned the hard way.

Lisa: So now you know the sordid tale of how I left Dean at the border.

Friday – Jan 14, 2011

Border Crossing #7, Palmar Norte, CR to Panama City, Panama- 377 miles (607 KM)

Lisa: Another day in the life.  The little place we stayed in last night was incredibly cool – Quebrada Grande – little casitas, very rudimentary but clean, right on the huge river gorge smack dab in the tropical jungle of Palmar Norte, Costa Rica. The lobby, restaurant and bar area were contained in a covered patio, surrounded on all sides by the lush green and different colored flowers. Wood floor and roof, no walls at all. Super nice people there and we ate some great ceviche and fresh fruit for dinner.  Some of you know that we’re bringing a bit of our friend Eddie James along with us, leaving a few of his ashes in fun places he would have enjoyed. This was one of them.  And yes, we took pictures.

After coffee and more delicious fresh fruit this morning, we headed south again and I have to say, so far, Costa Rica is my favorite place.  While it may be my imagination, it feels safer, the roads were good, people were very, very nice and super helpful – many of them tried to help me with my Spanish and that was much appreciated.  It was clear and cool and a beautiful ride as we headed into the chaos that is every border here.

Dean: Whine, whine, whine.  I don’t remember all that drama but again I meet new friends, money changers come by with huge wads of money, and everyone wants to talk to me.  Mostly, how I get Lisa to do all the paperwork!

Lisa: We’re finally getting the routine and even though there is lots of retracing of steps, asking multiple strangers for help and shooing away the paid helpers, it’s not nearly as painful as it was in the beginning.  Plus it’s forcing me to try to understand more of what’s going on around me.  Meanwhile it allows Dean lots of opportunity to rest, chat up strangers, , hand out the blog card, take cheesy photos of me standing in line, send SPOT OK messages and generally relax.  How great is that.  Occasionally I’ll annoy him by asking him to sign a paper or perhaps go so far as to show his face at the window but since that annoys him so much, I try to give him some down time to recover from this difficult pace.

Entering Panama the scenery changed yet again, with rolling hills and an undulating road, taking us from 100 ft above sea level to about 1,200 and back again several times.  We made pretty decent time considering we had a leisurely start and a border cross.  We meant to stop around 4 but as usual, that didn’t work out well.  Instead, we kept riding, looking for a hotel that wasn’t a highrise beach resort (out of the budget) or a backpacker hostel down a dirt road (I just wasn’t feeling it).  And more riding, several u-turns to check out places that *might* be a hotel but no joy.  100ish miles and no hotel. How does that happen?  Then, as we approached the outskirts of Panama City, suddenly the Pan American Highway was closed  – all 3 lanes coned off – and the detour took us thru the industrial section/barrio of Panama where, you guessed it, no hotels. By now it was dusk and Friday night traffic was in all its glory.  Stop-and-go on the crowded streets where seemingly every other taxi tried to take us out.

We saw one gas station but it was seriously right next door to what were obviously the projects and there was no way I was pulling in there to get out my laptop and Kindle to call a hotel on Dean’s iPhone.  Yeah, this is not my natural hair color.  But that didn’t sit well with the DeanMeister and things went downhill from there.  I finally spied a McDonalds and asked if he could merge the 3 lanes to the left to make that turn. I got no response and I went for it. No worries, I learned to drive in SF and ride a bike in LA – I can handle Panama.  Dean is still mad at me and it’s 4 hours later.  He’ll get over it. Or not.

Dean: We found a hotel out of Lonely Planet.  I’m madder than a wet hen at Lisa.

Lisa: Yawn…g’night all!

19 comments to Day18–The Ugly Truth–Fri. Jan 14, 2011

  • Ira

    Man, you guys must really be in a time warp – everywhere else in the world, Thursday was January 13th and Friday was January 14th. I can almost hear the Twilight Zone theme music in the background!


  • Jerry W

    Nite nite, kiddies. Sleep tight. Tomorrow is another adventure. I’m loving your story.

  • John C

    Amazing story. Glad it worked out. Thanks Dean and Lisa.

  • Carroll

    “Lumpy & NB Travels Abroad”, damn this is a soap-opera….I love it!!!

  • chuck hickey

    see – I warned you – that beautiful serene airplane ride is paying you back in spades. Good airplane karma is always countered with costa rican hassles. It is a beautiful country though – easy to get coast to coast – via rain and cloud forests, just don’t travel off the road without a compass as you may never find pavement again. I hope you like bananas, too.
    glad you were able to rendezvous even if it was over a el biggo mac-oh. McGrande?
    loving the story it is one for the ages though I will warn you now….
    as soon as you break out the picture album I’m going to point my iPad at you and make you look at 1700 Swiss Alps pictures of one beautiful road after another and how you can drive right through the Italian border without showing even the hint of a passoporto.

  • geri carey

    hi lisa.

    finally—dean gets a big sister at age 65. happy birthday, big brother. i think it is great! welcome to the family and thanks for keeping dean in line and for doing all the h-a-i-r p-u-l-l-i-n-g work. ;-)

  • Steve Aikens

    Wonky – ah, new word for my Funkn-Wagnalls. You guys wanted an adventure – I can’t wait to read the book……

  • Chris McGaffin

    I thought I was reading the screenplay for that film with Steve Martin and John Candy. Lisa, Dean needs to be more productive at border controls. Maybe he could sell a few trinkets and dvds to other travellers at each border while you are working your magic.

  • …we just had our 2nd cup of coffee, lying in bed. reading your ‘escapades.’I would like to tell you that I’m jealous of your trip, but that, unfortunately, would be mis leading …as there is a certain ‘schadenfraud’ to waking up to a beautiful day, knowing your 1st bloody mary is moments away!

  • Cal H

    Boy, things were a heck of a lot simpler when a vehicle transfer document “Carne de Passage” worked at the borders down south – wonder why that no longer gets you through without the BS – or perhaps that is why it doesn’t… The more BS, the more the opportunities…

  • Amy E

    so look forward to reading about your adventures, hang on every word.

  • Tirzah

    Lisa, love your way with words in relating your adventures. Safe travels. Glad I’m caught up again. Can’t wait til the next installment. xo

  • lisa

    RVD – i don’t begrudge you your Schadenfreude moments for a minute. When I finally get to your age, I too will indulge. Let’s share a pitcher of spicy Marys when I get back

    T – love you lots and glad you’re following

    Geri – you know i love your family and sometime even Dean. Looking forward to seeing you all again soon!!

  • Nancy O

    Who listens to their husband with regard to crew cuts? Never thought I’d call you a wuss, Lisa! ;-)

  • Brian R

    Dean – it is now time for me to say …… wait for it …. I EFFIN TOLD YOU SO!!

    Yup – you had to pull the front end off your Unsalvaged Bike and put it on the Salvage (that had a good engine) (sure, it seemed easier at the time), when I advised you to go the other way and pull the engine out of the salvage and put it on the “good” bike. This is the exact reason I said to do that, because when all was done you would have a bike with a good, not salvaged VIN. I faced the same issue when I put together two Vstroms to make one good one, but I put everything on the frame with the unsalvaged VIN (and I even offered you the special tools to do the job), aaaaargh!!

    Lisa – you always looked good in red, even if it is mud. Hope you are enjoying your pants!

  • jimmyv

    Ok, It’s Monday morning, it’s a work week – you’ve had the weekend off on posting, I’m bored at work, no new posts and wishing I was riding…
    Your fans demand an update!!
    It’s work doing a blog, isn’t it? lol – but this is all Deans fault.
    Have a save travel pass around the gap.

  • Kirsten T-S

    As I read along, I just keep shaking my head wondering what will happen next. I know you aren’t lying ’cause one just can’t make this kind of stuff up!

  • Bounce

    Thanks for sharing this with the rest of us. Excellent write ups that always make me smile. I remember the “questionable gas stations” I used in the middle of the night thanks to certain RMs. This makes me smile too. I especially like the give and take of the story as it unfolds. It’s like sitting around the camp fire and listening to the two of you play off the other’s memory of what actually happened.

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