Sunday, February 28, 2010

Day 9

Despite our early night 3 am still seems early. We shuttle to the airport and fly out to Newark. In Newark our Montreal flight is delayed and we decide that we have enough time for a quick beer. As I am leisurely sauntering back to the gate after a quick pee I see Charles waving at me frantically. I see the ticket agent put the mic up to his mouth and then my name booms through the PA system. Seems our flight was not boarding at 3:40 but leaving. We rush down the aisle to the two remaining seats as they slam the door closed behind us.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Day 8

Awakening from a sleep not induced by Tequila has us both us feeling good. We have to return our two steeds today. We thought we could source some metric bolts to repair the bike but upon disassembly discover that they are a special hollow shoulder bolt.

We remove some body work and using our luggage straps create support for the rear frame.

Charles with the tools of the trade zip ties and a multi tool.

We have been using GPS throughout this trip and once again it proves invaluable. We make our way through narrow streets and roundabouts in a way that would be difficult with a map on a bike. The first gas station has no fuel so we move on to the next. It is a multi level affair and as the Super flows we notice several men prowling the grounds with 12 gauges at the ready as well as automatic side arms. These are not sleepy security guys leaning against walls. Their heads are on swivels, the guns are held with the finger on the trigger guard. No one else seems to notice. We the weave through some rough looking areas, some with piles of smouldering trash at the roadside until we are greeted by Hernan’s smiling face. His smile doesn’t last as we point out the structural failure we encountered. As the company mechanic I’m sure he wasn’t happy to have yet another bike join the two others he was already repairing. One had been in an accident and another was a bundle of exposed wires as he was trying to trace a pesky electrical problem. Nonetheless he waved us off and the shuttle bus returned us to the Britannia. We quiz our driver about the safety of the hotel area and he mentions that this an area frequented by the local transvestites. Charlie had mentioned to me on the night we arrived that he thought the tall woman on the corner was a man. Good eyes. We head into the city square for food and souvenirs. It’s Saturday and everyone is out. We meet a man at a shop who speaks good English and has spent time in Montreal. With a quick shoulder check he lets slip that he prefers us to our neighbours to the south. Mexicans are apparently the worst… Stocked up with trinkets we seek lunch. The shopkeeper’s recommendation looks a little touristy to us so move one. Then in a city of over a million who do we see walking towards us? Tony our hydroponics expert pops out of the masses with a look of surprise on his face to match ours. We make our excuses and shortly thereafter see a little corner restaurant where we try to bluff our way throght the menu. I end up getting a big plate of chicken and rice with a side salad. Charles receives a tiny stuffed pita like sandwich. The waitress seems to appreciate the humour when she is flagged over and another order is placed. Going with the non tourist theme we find a back alley bar where we soak up a little local flavour before nap time. For dinner we stroll down the street half a block where we are the only patrons at a Moroccan themed resto in an old mansion.

Day 7

We barely make it for the 10 am breakfast cut-off. The daily grind of riding in the heat, frolicking and drinking till the wee hours is wearing us down. Poor us. After scratching what we could out of the almost empty steam tables we head back to bed for a little nap. At the crack of noon we are rolling and have a big ride ahead of us. As soon as we leave town the highway is actually a gravel road. The washboard is incredible. I try going faster and it works but now I’m sailing along at 90kms an hour and every passing car stirs up a cloud of dust that leaves me blind for several seconds. After a half hour or so we are back on tarmac. We run into several construction zones where traffic is stopped since there is only one passable lane. We filter to the front and once the flagman gives us the nod we have first dibs on uncluttered highway until the process repeats itself. We cross a huge suspension bridge over what looks like a reservoir. We are still hurting from the previous night and stop to hydrate the bikes as well as ourselves several times. As we near San Jose we start to see some pretty scary driving. Guys pulling out to pass when there is clearly not enough room. The vehicle being passed will flash his lights to warn the folks coming head on to slow down. With everyone hard on the brakes and the passer hard on the gas it seems to work out with no panic, except for me who tucks in behind the semi I’m following so that if it all goes wrong he will hopefully clear a path. At one point Charlie pulls up beside me and motions that something is wrong with his bike. At the next stop he tells me that it seems as if the rear shock has failed or the tire has gone soft. Visually they both seem fine and we decide to wait till we get to the Hotel to have a better look. As we get to the city limits people are driving a lot more aggressively. They will accelerate when being passed and merge more forcefully. We hit the city proper right at rush hour and a steady rain starts up. Our KTMs are a little wide with the luggage and we don’t use the option of squeezing between the cars like the little Hondas. We ride through the very heart of downtown on a warm Friday night. The streets are busy, taxis, many bikes and throngs of pedestrians. We use a bank machine and are watched over by a shotgun toting guard. As we unpack the bikes we can see that the two bolts that support the rear sub frame of Charlie’s bike have sheared. A problem for tomorrow. Once checked in we opt for the Hotel restaurant and an early lights out. No pictures today, have some video I'll post later.

Day 6

We are awakened from our slumber at the foot of the volcano by some strange animal noise. Some creature is bellowing followed shortly by a very faint and distant reply. We never discover the culprit but the noise seems reminiscent of Chewbacca pleasuring himself. We had been debating whether we should spend some time in the area or head off to Tamarindo right away. The forecast decides for us. There is a low cloud ceiling and we can’t see any of the volcano. Luckily our room is graced with some art.

At breakfast we sit with the crowd we had been avoiding the night before. They all pile on to the huge buses that we will pass later in the day as they lumber up hill in first gear spewing out the soot that coats our visors. Just as finish packing it starts raining. We decide to just get moving and not worry about getting wet. The down pour makes the twisty roads a little more daunting so we throttle back and enjoy not being hot. The rain lets up and we start to ride some the best roads to date. At one point Charlie spots a sign for a scenic look out and we hang a u-turn to check it out. The road to the summit starts off innocently enough but gets progressively steeper and looser with fist sized rocks over a hard base. As I’m parked on the plateau at the summit I can see Charles tractoring up one of the switchbacks. When he doesn’t reappear I suspect he has had trouble. I come across his bike laying on it’s side with Charles standing unhurt nearby. With his bad back he can’t hoist the bike alone so we right it together and start the descent. I don’t take any picture but only because I’m shooting video…. On the way down I come to a spot where it is so steep and there is so little traction that the engine braking is enough to cause the tire to skid. If I pull in the clutch and ease off the rear brake the bike straightens out but gains even more speed. The bikes we’ve rented are enduro bikes but they have street tires which doesn’t help our cause any. I seem to remember it being better up ahead and take the speed penalty and am just able to scrub it off in a section ahead before another downhill. I get to the main road but after a few minutes there is still no Charles. I start heading back up and get to the tricky section and see Charlie’s bike on it’s side once again. Just to get by him and turn around requires spinning the tire while Charles pushes. I get turned around on a flat spot and now have to do the tricky section again. I skid and slip by the fallen bike and walk back up where we hoist the KTM upright again. Having done the section a few times I herd the second bike down the hill and we continue our little detour having added an hour to the days travel time. We stop at the first Soda along the road and regroup. The whole morning we have been riding along the shore of a huge lake and now we make a bee line for the coast. This town is much more touristy. Lots of bikinis and young shirtless guys with abs. We blend in perfectly.

Charles starts calling it Tamagringo. The beach is wide and surfers are riding the modest waves.
We even stumble across some beach art.

We hit the hotel’s outdoor bar and shortly thereafter are in a conversation with a gay couple from Colorado and another fellow who describes himself as a tea bagger, politically that is. The couple have been in town for a week and tip us off to a good supper spot. We make our way to a five or six story office tower where the roof is a Spanish Lebanese restaurant. Not a fusion of the two but a menu divided. The owner seats us and sells us on the merits of Nicaraguan beef. We both order the surf and turf and the meat is excellent. Charles gets in a serious conversation with our host but as soon as I hear the term “gross margins” I lose interest. We wander the streets and eventually find out that the happening night spot is the Number 1 club on the roof of yet another office tower. We hit one last spot before turning in just before 3.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Day 5 addendum

 Well after closing yet another hotel bar the two tired traelers only have to make it back to their little shack and a well earned we pass the lobby I mention that oddly enough I`m feeling a little hungry. The concierge hails us a cab and after a scary ride into town we are left at a local eatery where we are the only non locals. Being the adventurous types we order a hamburger and a nacho platter. Both are excellent and of huge proportions. Our brew of choice , Imperial, is of course on hand. The return ride is equally brisk and our aspiring Villeneuve drops us off back at reception and we continue our walk home as if nothing had transpired.

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Thursday, February 25, 2010

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