Guanacaste - Costa Rica 03/06

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Thursday 3/9/06

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Today did not start as an adventure, just a ride for work from San Jose to Liberia in northwestern Costa Rica. But so it begins. We got nailed in a questionable speed trap. This photo shows about at least two of the reasons the ticket is invalid. Their need for shade has put them in a position to take readings before people get into the school zone, which in itself is not applicable at this time in the morning. For me the ticket would just be a souvenir, but for Andy it is worth getting it dropped.

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On down the road we met two adventurous young women (a doctor and a nurse) from Minnesota traveling by rented motorbikes. They said they missed getting a good photo of the bridge-out north of Dominical, so I gave them some info about how to find my ride report and pictures I took of the (bridgeless) Rio Saverge

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In Liberia, Andy takes some 
don't you think? At 
least he didn't do a donut in 
the living room.

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On a backroad to the coast Andy has the idea we can ride abreast to keep from getting each other dusty. A good plan always lasts at least ten minutes. I think this one lasted 11, so it qualifies. This road that we've used before was wired off and barricaded with big boulders. Well one boulder wasn't quite big enough and "someone" with the initials A.L shoved it through and we squeezed onward. The road was freshly graded and a developer probably just wanted to keep through-traffic out (illegally). The first photo shows a Guanacaste tree (albeit in dry season) for which the region is named. Guanacastes are great shade trees; the cows pull up and park under them like they were going to an old A&W drive-up burger joint. 

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Last October this was a torrential water crossing. Nothing but a puddle is left in March. See that second photo? Guys do to stop and ask for directions sometimes! She said we might not be able to reach Sugar Beach Hotel by motorbike. Really, what was she thinking? 

Well, the road to Sugar Beach Hotel (Playa Pan de Azucar) was a tad rough and loose for a resort access road, but it was the trail continuing north that really got a bit goaty. I started to gain on Andy. Well not really, it was just his dust cloud was getting more dense and lingering longer from his scramble up the loose incline. I backed off a tad on the throttle to drop back - yea you know what happens next. Not enough momentum for what lay under the dust - a steep accent. I hit some looser stuff and dug my rear tire in for a nice little nap. I rocked out of the hole and rolled back to fresh surface and dug myself in again. Wash, rinse, repeat at least three more times. Then I tried to call Andy and tell him all was well, that I just needed to turn around back down and start from the bottom, or at least some reasonable ledge. Turning the bike around is where the closest call was. Hmmm, this ground looks good... maybe I can gain enough traction here - nope. Wobble, slide, tilt, strain. Okay. Now get on with the plan and go back down. Now, having not heard from Andy, I was hoping he wouldn't be coming back down as I was heading back up. For that matter, I didn't hope to meet anyone on that section. As I found a good level spot down the grade and turned back around I spotted Andy coming down the road. I thought it would be better if he went back up first, so I wouldn't block his line if I didn't make it again. I waited this time a bit longer for the dust to settle, picked the worst lines and succeeded by some lesser standard.

From the GPS tracks, this hill was a 12% grade going up and nearly a 17% grade going down the other side (grades are measured in percent of elevation change to horizontal distance traveled, not slope angle). Also these are just averages, some short sections were most certainly steeper. azhill.jpg (70692 bytes) azucar.jpg (28340 bytes)

Continuing down the other side of this hill I cut the engine on a few sections, using the clutch/gearbox as a rear brake. That technique worked for the most part for crawling descents, but engaging the clutch on anything more that a slight roll and the engine would try to start (even with the kill switch activated the bike wouldn't run, but the firing of the cylinder would still kick the bike for a second.). Next time I'll probably need to kill the ignition by key on this small non-FI bike. More experimenting next time! Oh, yea... more close calls on the downhill... you know... severe incline, loose footing, abrupt change of traction, severe lean, willpower, and then ultimately victory.

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At the Finca Guacamaya Development I had the pleasure of meeting Sergio Pucci who runs I poked around a bit with my little digital camera and got my settings to work close enough to get a cool hermit crab in action. The beach is crawling with them. On our way out of the Finca Guacamaya Development we got held-up at a locked gate (which is a hole 'nother comedy of errors getting it open) - Now it's late and we're caught out late breaking rule #34 - no night riding in the jungle during dry season. (FYI rule #35 - no night riding in the jungle during wet season). One, the dust is severe in dry season and headlights are bad at cutting brown fog. Two, vines or barbwire. Three, animals. On roads not traveled at night birds sometimes huddle down on them -- until you are about three feet on them then they fly off.  A bird did hit Andy in the helmet. According to bird, Andy illegally entered the bird's After-Hours No-Ride Zone (see rule #34).I saw a small dinosaur dart across the road in front of Andy (that remains the best description of what I could see through the dust in our headlights).  Later something leaped at me from some vegetation along side of the road. I would like to think it was a very quiet dog or house cat. I would like to think that so shut-up (I mean it). Closer in to civilization you have to really watch for pedestrians and bicyclists. No lights, no reflectors, lots of dark clothing. Kind of TWEPGATT (The Worst Ever Possible Gear, All The Time)

Friday 3/10/06

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On the rough cut over to Nosara/Garza our support vehicle got a flat tire. Paris-Dakar anyone? We've never had a support vehicle before. Actually it was Gordo who had a bad fall last year and gave up his bike for good. Although Andy and I could slice through traffic and construction zones much faster on the bikes, it was great to have him along and also the truck to carry back-up items and so forth.

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A few snaps around Nosara/Garza. Even in the choking dust of the dry season it is wondrous paradise.

Saturday 3/11/06

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Back to San Jose via a new shortcut to Antenas through the mountains south of San Ramón. Some of the steepest roads I've run into around San Jose so far - fortunately the worst parts were fairly clean slabs of grooved concrete. More like a mountain hideaway driveway than a road. It's hard to convey the steepness, hopefully the photo on the right will give you some idea.

760 KM total round trip