Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Dedication: 2 of the hardest days of my life and another dedication for Greg Baker and co.

Baldi Hot Springs La Fortuna, Costa Rica.

Box o Wine in the hot springs...great combo!

So check this out. The girl in the middle is Kara. Super cool and very smart girl from Chicago.

Abut a week earlier I was sitting on a small road somewhere in Costa Rica. I was a bit tired after a day of riding and I was making an adjustment to my tire. I was in the MIDDLE OF NOWHERE when this silver jeep rolls by me with this blond guy waiving at me. If your a follower of the blog this may sound familiar. So the jeep turns around at it turns out to my friends that I met in Panama City and whom I bumped into again in David, Panama Omar from Mexico and Justin from Australia. We sat on the side of the road and chatted for a second or two. They eventually took off for the beach and I headed out.

So here I am in La Fortuna. I just arrived after a grueling day and this girl, Kara, walks bye. She asks if I know Omar and Justin. Ummmmmmm ya I respond totally confused. Anyway Kara was in the back seat of the car when Omar and Justin stopped. I didnt meet her there nor did I even see her. Crazy small small world. Anyway...we all met up later for a soak at one of la Fortunas amazing hot springs!

In the picture is also her friend Jessica....a cool girl from San Mateo.

My Arrival into la Fortuna. In the distance is Volcano Arenal covered by the clouds.

The world is taking notice. Leaders all over the world are talking about fighting poverty. Here is a quick quote that I found in The Economist from President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, Brazils popular leader...

Upon first taking office in 2003, I pledged to end hunger in my country. Under the ZERO HUNGER banner, I put Poverty-eradication and the alleviation of inequality at the forefront of government action. I was convinced that without dealing squarely with these two evils, it would be impossible to overcome centuries of economic backwardness and political unrest.

The Economist, The World in 2009

I love this pic.

Jaco - San Ramon approx. 100 ks
San Ramon - La Fortuna 104 ks

Sometimes you have to take one step backwards to take two steps forward.

These two days are dedicated to my good friend Greg Baker and his wife Brenda. Thanks for the donation guys you really made my day when I was out there riding. Greg is a San Francisco State University and fraternity alum. Its been a while sinse I last saw Greg, but no worries, theres no time better than now to reconnect. On top of Greg's donation he also made a pledge to get $500 worth of donations from family, friends and associates. Amazing! Thanks for the support Greg. Greg wanted to dedicate a few days of my travels through Costa Rica because its been his and his wife's dream to one day travel down the Pan American highway and see what Central America has to offer. Hopefully, one day, his dream can come true. Until then I guess he has these pictures to get a taste of what its like. Here is an excerpt of Greg's email to me once he heard about the fundraising event...

I write you this email through teary eyes, I just absolutely broke down slobbering and sobbing after reading the blog. Called my wife downstairs, told her I am ponying up a hundo, and that was that. When she asked me what was wrong, I told her I am not a blubbering mess because something is wrong, but rather because something is so right.

You guys (Mike and I) are living a dream of mine, except I wanted to do it in my wife's old Saturn. We use to talk about just getting in our car on an odd Tuesday, no packing, no planning, just a trip to the bank to empty out the bank accounts. We would travel south on the Pan American and sell the car in Chiapas, finishing out Latin America by foot, taxi, ox, whatever. We would figure if we would return when we got to somewhere. Sometimes when things got tough, we would make each other laugh by grabbing the keys to the Saturn and saying, "We really need to go now." But even Peter Pan grew up, and you get bogged down in life, so on and so fourth. But you guys did it, my recommendation is don't stop. Keep going....forever.

Throughout these past two days, more than once, I pictured Greg and his wife crusin down the Pan American highway. I'm sure if he saw a guy like me on this bike he'd get a big laugh at that. It was thoughts like that that kept me saine while I had two of the hardest days of my life!

The day started off as usual. I was in this relatively small beach town, Jaco, and I was glad to get out. The town is overrun with tourists looking for a night out at the discos. With that came over development and an assortment of shady characters. My last night there I had two ^girly boy prostitutes^ follow me down the street, am I back in Bangkok? Anyway, I made it an early morning. I got up around 6 and was on the road by 7:30.

The first half the day was great. I probably covered around 40 kilometers before lunch. The route had some hills but mainly made its way along the coast. Its always such a treat t follow the ocean, hear the waves and do a bit of Tico watching.

Right after lunch I hit some more hills. It was already becoming a drag because it seemed like I was already climbing all day. Not to mention that it was hot as hell out. Then of course I got another flat tire. Although flat tires are frustrating as all heck Ive learned that theres no point in getting discouraged. Just take it in stride I tell myself, its all part of the process. Find some shade, change the tire and off I go.

About 20 kilometers after lunch I met these two cyclists. Real nice Ticos. One even spoke English. We stopped, had a drink and he passed me some information about the road up ahead. He was a bit concerned because my day, in total, was around 100 kilometers...maybe more. On top of that he told me that I had a huge hill to climb before I got into San Ramon. When I asked him if I had any other hills today his eyes nearly popped out of his head, ^oh ya, buddy, big hills^, he said. So he told me to take this alternative route about another 20 kilometers out of the way. By doing this I was supposed to avoid the biggest hill of all ^the real nasty mountains^, he said. ^1 step back to take 2 steps forward^, I responded. ^exactly^ was his reply as he zoomed off on his customized bike and off he went. Alone again.

I got a bit lost. I found my way.

I eventually hit the biggest hill Ive ever seen. If this isn't the nasty hill than I don't want to know what is, I thought as I started to climb. This ^hill^ is actually the beginning of the main mountain range that sweeps through Costa Rica in the middle of the country.

I begin the climb around 1pm. Ive already been riding for 5 hours.

After 2 hours of climbing straight up the hill I thought I would ask a local how many more kilometers to San Ramon. I asked some guys at a little Soda (typical restaurant) and they told me around 25 more kilometers with a chuckle as they saw me grimace. ^Shit^! was all I said as I went on my way.

Another hour went by or so. I had to see again how much further. I stopped at a crafts shop along the freeway. The guy said something like 15 kilometers. I was starting to get a bit worried. I was climbing all day.

To make matters worse there was a ton of traffic along the Pan American. On top of that I was going the wrong direction, by purpose. It was a mind screw...the whole thing. I was getting frustrated. It was a Sunday (Happy Super Bowl Sunday by the way) and everyone was getting back from the beach. The Pan American was packed with cars, vans, buses and nasty looking big rigs. I was covered in sweat, oil, dirt and disgusting grime. My legs were jello and I had no idea how much longer I would last. I had been climbing this mountain range for hours with no end in sight. Nothing but switch backs through the dust covered jungle surrounded me. Every time I thought I would see the top on the next turn but every time I was disappointed. My head was starting to play games with me and I quickly realized that I was becoming my worst own enemy. Negative thoughts about not finishing the day were popping in and out of my head.

I pushed a bit harder.

I had to ask again. I was freaking tired. I kept an eye on the sun. I figured that I didn't have much time left before it got dark. With every turn all I saw were mountains and all I heard were the big rigs flying by me downshifting their gears. I asked a trucker how long till San Ramon. He thought for a second, rubbed his head, took a call on his radio and finally responded, ^10 kilometers^. Oh boy, this could be bad, I thought before thinking of a back up plan.

I didn't want to camp next to the highway. I pushed a bit harder.

I was so exhausted. I had almost nothing left in the legs. The road was actually getting steeper.

More negative thoughts. This sucked!

I took another break to collect myself. I was falling a part. I had to be honest with myself here. I had to look deep. I was getting a bit worried about the weather, it was getting colder, the sun was going down and visibility was getting worse, I had barley enough energy to get off the bike, I had a serious lack of information. Everything seemed to be falling a part on this particular day.

I finally decided to give it one last go.

I put myself in the moment. It didn't matter how long it took. Just focus the energy and concentrate. As long as there was light I was going to ride. I came up with a mantra to keep me going. Kinda like a chant. I tried a few different things. I tried to concentrate on the road, then my bike, then my body and finally my breathing. If I could get into a routine and align everything, lean back in the saddle and push I knew I could get threw this. I felt like I was going so slow but I was moving towards the top and that's all that mattered. The incline was ridiculously steep at some points.

For some reason an email that my good friend Joe sent me popped into my head. The email was titled Do...or Do Not...there is no Try. Joe is one of my best friends and has always been an inspiration to me. He rode his bike across the US to raise money and awareness for children living with disabilities. His advice to me in the email was to do or do not there is no try and of course to be safe. His slogan became mine. With every push on my right leg...do. With every push of the left...do not. Then again...there is no try. This became my mantra, my chant. The people sitting in traffic must have thought I really lost it. They could probably hear me talking to myself.

Another mantra would popped into my mind as I was climbing the massive mountain. ^One Day at a time^. How do you say that in Spanish? Something like Un Dia, Un Tiempo. Ya, ya...that had a ring to it even if it made no sense at all. I remember chuckling to myself...^damn my Spanish is bad^! With every push Un Dia and with every other push, Un Tiempo. I seemed to be making progress.

Between my two new chants that kept me going throughout the battle uphill I asked myself a few questions, ^what is this all about? What has driven you to this point? What the hell are you on this mountain doing this to yourself when there are a million other things you could be doing?^ I guess its times like this, times of deep stress when you start to look inside for answers. I remember telling myself that its about giving back...its about helping...its about a challenge and doing my part whatever that part may be to help. Then I started to pretty much curse myself out for the next 10 minutes. I suddenly realized that I was talking to myself out loud and the locals were giving me strange looks. Now climb the M(/&%r F%$#"% RIGHT NOW and end this! I dont think I have ever pushed myself so hard.

I gripped the bars harder.

The road kept winding through the mountains.

I was going crazy!

There it was...the top! The sun was beginning to set off in the distance over the ocean behind me. On the other side of the mountain was a perfect sweeping view of the jungle covered mountains that I just climbed. Some scattered clouds were clinging to the mountain. I was above the clouds. I was above the freakin clouds! The view from both sides of the mountain was spectacular!

^Do or Do there is no try^, I kept repeating more quickly.

I had about 10 meters to go until the top. I had been climbing for the past 4 hours at least. My body started shaking. I totally lost it. I started crying. I got to the top, layed the bike down and just let it out right there in the dirt next to the highway in front of some poor guys shop. I was soaking wet from the sweat, dirty as a dog just laying there. Finally I had a second to take in the view. It really was amazing. I had the biggest smile on my face. I made it!

I wonder what Greg would do if he saw me laying there. That was a funny thought that snapped me out of it.


Taking a moment and enjoying the amazin scenery on top of the hills on my way to La Fortuna! With so many hills today I needed the breaks.

Taking another break!

Coffee farms everywhere. Many hills today but the scenery was spectacular. One of the best rides ever.

The church in San Ramon, Costa Rica with the sun rising behind it.

Great views!

Yes... those are what you think they are!

Great sunset at the beach at Jaco!

Getting a little culture in at a small festival in Jaco, Costa Rica.


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