Saturday, March 25, 2006
last day and entry
Today is our last day of our trip. Tomorrow we fly
home to cold rainy Oregon!!
To cap it off, we decided to visit the Panama Canal,
our goal, on a tour our hotel provided, since the
Sundance was donated a little earlier than planned.
We woke up and saw that our car was stolen, so I
went down and filed a police report.
The tour took us around the old city and out to the
canal. We saw the ruins of the first Panama city
that had been sacked by the Pirate Henry Morgan in
the 1600s. We then headed to the canal and got to
watch a ship move through the locks which was pretty
cool. The locks move faster than I had expected, and
its amazing they can build a waterway between two
oceans like they have.
After the tour, Art and I were walking around town
when we walked past a star of National Geographic.
We were initially thrown off about what we were
seeing because she/it was wearing a top. But as
she/it approached we saw the full extent of the
situation. The ugliest, nastiest older woman was not
wearing anything. As naked as the bushmen of the
Serengeti. Thats right, nothing. Horrible! I was
almost shaking from the fear that her cracked out
brain was going to tell her to try and touch me as I
walked by, but fortunately she didn´t.
In summary, this was a great roadtrip. We had our
share of issues along the way but made the trip
without getting shot or ending up in a mexican jail.
This was a perfect snapshot roadtrip of central
america. We saw a lot of places and met a lot of
people if but only for a few moments. To make this
trip any better you would need 6 months of free
time, a high ground clearence vehicle, and an
endless supply of cash. Knowing spanish would help
but is not required although it would make the trip
a bit more enjoyable but less of an adventure.
We are happy to say that we have acheived our goal.
We proved that two idiots from Oregon that dont
speak spanish could drive all the way to the Panama
Canal in a $300 car.
We like central america so much that we purchased a
round trip ticket from Panama to Portland on March
26th and returning to Panama on April 4th. The cost
for this flight is $770 each. If we return home and
its cold or raining were just going to come back and
stay here. OK, I´m just kidding, sort of. The cost
for a one way ticket was $800 and the round trip
saved us about $30. Plus now we do have the option
to return if its too wet and cold back in Oregon or
if were unable to work in our padded cells.
Panama City (PTY)
Depart 8:30 am to Atlanta (ATL)
Arrive 12:35 pm
Terminal S 1,729 mi
Duration: 4hr 5mn
Depart 5:31 pm
Terminal S to Portland (PDX)
Arrive 7:48 pm 2,169 mi
Duration: 5hr 17mn
Until the next roadtrip, Ciao for now.
Panama City day 2
Were still in Panama City. It's raining buckets here
so were stuck inside watching CNN or Spanish
speaking stations on TV. The rain has let up a bit
so we ran out to grab a bite to eat and log onto the
internet. I guess being in the middle of a rain
forest you should expect some rain but come on, this
is a little bit ridiculous. Plus the lightning is
right on top of us since the thunder only takes
about .5 sec to sound off after we see the flash.
Maybe for fun we´ll take turns holding a piece of
re-bar and the camcorder to record lightning strikes
Tonight we'll just have to take a taxi to some bar
and drown our sorrows in buckets of Panama brand
cerveza. We hope tomorrow will be a bit better and
head over to the canal. I guess this is another time
when fate steps in and prepares us for Oregon rain.
Panama City with open arms
Were in Panama City, Panama and we have 3 days too
spare. We left Colon this morning at 9am and made it
into Panama City around 10:45am. Traffic here in
Panama City is terrible and the trip from Colon
should have only taken about an hour. Panama City is
a large town of about 1.5 million. One of the
largest cities we have been through.
We have hit the first rain south of the US border
today. The rain helps cool it off a little but the
added humidity is not worth it. Quite a bit of
thunder to go along with the rain. I was hoping for
a quick shower but it lasted about 4 hours . The
temperature is 90 but the humidity is so high so we
are a wall of sweat as soon as we touch the doors to
While stuck in 6 lanes of traffic on the way into
town a motorcycle cop pulled up beside me and asked
for my driver's license. The light changed and he
waved me on while Max was taking out my
international permit from the glove box. I showed
him the license and as we were about to stop at the
next light he said good and road off. I thought we
were in for another $20 Propina (tip or gratuity)
but I guess he was only checking if we matched the
foreign plates. I guess with all the sun we have
seen we must look like locals. Yeah right, as if Max
and I could pass for anything other then Gringos.
Hotel Roma in downtown Panama is where were going to
be spending our last nights. It's a medium size
hotel and only $49 for 2 beds and a private
bathroom. Not sure if it has hot water but is so
miserable hot here I doubt we will need it. We
turned the AC on as soon as we walked into the room
to check it out. We both then passed out for about 2
hours for a power nap. We are finally done driving
for the most part. No more driving at night down
dirt roads that sometimes have pavement. No more
animals crossing the road in front of us. No more
merchants on the side of the road trying to sell us
stuff when we stop at a traffic light. And most of
all no more TOPES, TUMULOS, VIBRADORES, POTHOLES and
other unmarked rip the bottom of your car out
hazards to drive over
We found a good parking spot right outside the hotel
for old Sundance so we can see her from the room
window. We plan on taking a tour of the canal
tomorrow and visiting the museum and the locks to
see the ships pass through. We may try to swim the
canal but it's much larger then we thought.
Las Lajas is awesome. We woke up early in the
morning, but because we got in at night yesterday,
we wanted to take a look around a check out the
beach. The water was warm last night so I put my
suit on for a swim.
We headed down to the beach. It was amazing. The
beach was huge, and we saw only one other person out
there. The water was warm, hotter than my last
shower even. I went swimming. We splashed around in
the waves for an hour or so, and then headed back to
the hotel. Upon returning we met a guy named Chris
there in the hotel restaurant/bar.
Chris was 25, from Florida. He was speaking to our
hotel attendant in English, but I knew the guy
didn´t even speak english, so that was kind of
funny. We started up a conversation and I found out
that his parents were actually living on a small
coffee farm in Panama. Chris who had recently left
the the military was living on a small beach front
lot that his parents owned. He pitched a tent there
and worked at the nearby bar.
A few minutes later an older couple stopped by.
Chris knew them from the bar he worked at and they
joined in on the conversation. This went on for
about an hour, and we found out all about Chris and
the older couple´s travels. The older couple had to
leave, and then we gave Chris a ride back to his
bar, so we could check out his tent on the beach.
Chris was indeed living the life, camping out on a
near empty beach in the middle of Panama. He and his
Panamanian girlfriend were travelling to his parents
house today, but we drank a few beers with them
first. About 10 minutes later, Art and I noticed it
was noon, and decided we might as well just stay
since we were having a good time and we wouldn´t
make our destination anyway.
After this decision we decided to hit the beach
again. I think we swam for 2 or 3 hours. The hotel
also had a skim board and surf board which we tried
without much success. The waves at Las Lajas just
weren´t that great for surfing.
Later in the afternoon, we took a walk down the
beach and had another one of those fish plates like
we did in Mexico. It was so good. I love seafood.
Its too bad fish is so expensive in Oregon.
After dinner I went for another swim. No, Mom, I did
not get cramps, and I did not wait an hour. :)
It was getting late so we headed back to our hotel
where Art and I played chess and drank beers until
about 11pm. We were the only ones at the bar other
than the attendant, so when we left, he turned off
the generator (no utility power) and left us in the
dark, pitch black. Luckily we found some flashlights
in the car and were able to sqash a few cockroaches
before going to bed. Art came up with a little
system we hoped would keep the roaches from getting
into our luggage. We sprayed the bed, table, and
chairs with bugspray, and then left everything on
top of them in the hopes that the roaches wouldn´t
crawl all the way up due to the bugspray.
Thursday, March 23, 2006
Do you know the way from San
We left San Jose or at least
tried to leave San Jose before the morning rush. We
didn't succeed. We left at 7am to retrieve the car from
a place down the street where we had parked in an
underground garage. The ramp in and out of the garage is
very steep and the parking is very tight. There is only
room for 3 cars and maybe a bicycle or two. The people
that owned the house picked up all their laundry of the
lines in the basement so I could turn the car around.
After about 10-15 pull up then back up we were facing
the ramp and ready to give the old transmission the
biggest test of the trip. Max stood out on the street to
stop traffic and I got a run of a full 2 feet at the
ramp and made it out on the second try. Once out of the
garage we were in heavy traffic. We just started to
follow the flow of traffic since we didn't really know
which way to head. We knew the way we came in and headed
in that direction looking for signs for Cartaga (sp?)
which was the general direction we wanted. After about
an hour we asked a guy stuck in traffic with us which
way to Cartaga? He motioned that we had to turn left at
the light we were at. We raced ahead of most of the
people in line to get over into the left lane to flip a
U-turn and head up the street he pointed out. It wasn't
too difficult since they had a returno just a block of
two down the street. The best way to find your way
somewhere is to follow the flow of traffic in the
general direction you are headed. We did this and used a
little roshambo and we were finally on our way out of
Directional signs are few and far between so you need to
devise other ways to make it to where you want to go. I
know that most of you think we should just ask for
directions and we do that but we need to ask 4-5 people
until we hear the same direction and even then sometimes
its of no help to us since they send us downtown or
someplace we have already been.
The drive to the Costa Rica border is a beautiful drive
through the mountains that surround San Jose. The road
is step and twisty and only two lanes. We lucked out
that Monday morning that we didn't see any large semi´s
going our direction. The traffic was light and only a
few small delivery type trucks that needed to be passed
on the blind corners or hills. Hello parents, we
normally follow the saying of ¨safety first¨ and we
would never pass on a corner but we also have found that
when driving in a foreign country to follow the other
saying of ¨When in Rome¨.
We made it to the Costa Rica-Panama border just before
noon. The border had the normal guys trying to help but
we have learned to mostly ignore them and only use the
free advice when they point to a new building for the
next step. Checking into panama was more difficult then
expected. They tried to get us to purchase our exit
ticket for $25. After haggling with them and getting
nowhere I mentioned that the $50 was all we had for gas
for our car. This was the key statement, they then said
we didn't need the exit card and needed to go over to a
different window for the car permit. By this time we had
a helper who was doing all the talking to the guys
behind the counter. We have no idea what was said but we
knew they were having issues with out car registration.
We showed them that it has worked at every other country
in Central America and then gave him the paperwork from
El Salvador so that he had all the questions he needed
in Spanish. Total cost for exiting Costa Rica and
entering Panama was $11. $5 each for a Panama tourist
visa and $1 for fumigation into Panama. Max also tipped
the guy helping us $5 which is well worth it as long as
they don't try to take us into the backrooms to get
additional crap that you don't really need. Plus one
additional benefit to this border is that Max was able
to see a couple dogs knotting in front of him so it was
like a live episode of Animal Planet.
It was now 1:30 and we were across our last border. It
felt good knowing that we wouldn't have to go through
the hassles again. The road leading away from the border
station was a dream come through. It was 4 lanes of new
concrete with 100 kph speed limit and little traffic. We
were celebrating our perceived American influence and
thinking that we were going to make really good time and
may even make it close to the canal. Our hopes were
dashed about 15 miles down the road.
The road turned back into a 2 lane piece of crap and we
started looking at our map for the next big town that
may have rooms. We found that David was not to far away
and tried to reach that town to find lodging.
We drove into David around 4 pm and while it's a good
sized town we were unable to find any lodging. The only
signage said they had hotel near the airport but that
was 20-30 km out of the way so we decided to push
forward and check for lodging somewhere down the road.
Many towns came and many towns passed and we couldn't
find a room. It was starting to get dark and we were
about to arrive in San Felix. We drove through San Felix
which was a fair sized town but could not find a hotel.
We drove back to the highway to check on an
establishment that we saw when we first turned off the
Once back to the highway we noticed some signs for
hotels towards the beach of Las Lajas so we went down
The road was mostly paved but we had to sit upright to
look for pot holes and other hazards. The lights on the
car are not very bright and it´s so dark that we could
barley see. We arrived in the town of Las Lajas which
was about 10 km off the hwy. There were no rooms in town
so we headed to the beach which was another 10 km. Once
near the beach we saw a sign for rooms. We pulled in and
they had rooms for $10 each. We took them since it was
now almost 9 pm and we were tired. We had two separate
rooms that each had a fan for cooling. I don't remember
the name of the place but it's the first place when you
arrive and the sign said something about an Italian
restaurant and something about a happy hour between 4
and 7pm where you get 3 beers for $1.25. With this
writing on the sign you would think it's a pretty nice
place and that English is spoken since happy hour was
legible to us. The place is very sparse. They have a
large round thatch carport that serves as the bar,
reception desk, and restaurant. The rooms were inside a
raised module that had 4 rooms 30 feet behind the
restaurant. The bathroom and shower were next to the
restaurant so it was only about 30 feet away. After
checking in we went to the restaurant and had dinner and
a 2 beers each. The cost was $8. I thought it was low
and when doing the math I realized I had only payed $.50
for each beer or he forgot that we had 2 each. Either
way we liked it and headed to the beach.
We couldn't see squat. We just followed the noise of
water and saw another restaurant with its lights on so
we went over there and had another beer and they cost $1
each. We walked out in front of the restaurant which was
right on the beach. It was total darkness that can only
be compared to the Amazon. We saw shooting stars and the
Milky Way and were unable to see the North Star or the
moon. It was amazing. The only light came from the
restaurant. We then headed back to our place for a night
cap beer for only $.50 and off to bed. It was hot and we
were hoping the fans would keep us cool enough and the
ants that were crawling all over the beds didn't bite
Saturday, March 18, 2006
Going to Costa Rica
Leaving Nicaragua was another exciting trip down a
pothole filled road. We left early in the morning
and arrived at the border before noon. There was a
bit of back and forth at the Costa Rican border.
Fortunately there were no border people begging for
tips just to tell us useless information. After a
couple of wrong turns we made it through in about 2
Around 4 or 5pm we rolled into San Jose the capital
of Costa Rica. I really liked San Jose. The air was
cool and comfortable because of its high altitude
location. We found a pay phone and called my friend
Raymon. Raymon directed us to a hotel and told us
he`d meet up with us later.
We drove around the area called Barrio Amon, and
found a hotel. The place was decent. Some drunk
pointed it out to us, and then asked for spare
change for doing us this favor. I like the helpful
drunks a little more than the plain beggars like we
have in the US. I guess foreigners really are more
After checking into the hotel we found Sonny´s
sports bar which is apparently a gathering spot for
3 or 4 old drunk gringos who have retired to Costa
Rica. They told us that there was a park near our
hotel where the transvestites hung out. These were
no ordinary transvestites however. These TVs
apparently jumped tourists and other unsuspecting
victims at night and stole their money.
Around 9:00pm we met up with Raymon at the Rio in
Los Yoses. He said the Rio used to be a hot spot,
but it was no longer, so we left. We drove around
looking at some of Raymon´s other favorite watering
holes before settling on El Pueblo. El Pueblo is a
little area with about 10 bars all right around each
other. We hopped back and forth between a few of
these places and drank some $2 beers.
At the end of the night after Raymon had left, Art
and I searched for a cab, not wanting to get tackled
by any TVs on the way home. Most cabbies in line
were asking for $4 to get us home. We asked them to
go lower, but none budged, so we walked to the end
of the block and easily found one for $3.
Art and I just took it easy today. We got up and
walked down to the pedestrian mall to have a
look around. Once there we found an internet
cafe, where we booked our return plane tickets
out of Panama.
Next we stopped into a nearby Casino. It seems
Costa Rica is like a mini-Vegas. There are a few
casinos around town. It was about 11:00am and we
were having fun playing the nickel slots. Art
went on quite a run going up to almost $16 from
an initial $0.20 bet in one of the slot
machines. The waitress came by every once in
awhile and brought us a screwdriver. One time
she swung by carrying a platter full of hotdogs.
This puts San Jose ahead of Vegas in my book.
You know I had one of those of course.
We spent the rest of the day just walking around
the city. We found ourselves at a seafood
restaurant where I had the paella. It was pretty
Friday, March 17, 2006
Honduras to Nicaragua.
We woke up early and hit the road
by 9am to head for the Honduras-Nicaragua border. We
wanted to get an early start to try to cross the border
before too many people showed up to get past Managua so
that we would not have to spend the night in the large
city. Our goal was to make it south of Managua to San
Juan del Rio which is a beach town near the Costa Rica
border. We had 500 Lempiras to get rid of before we
crossed the border so were planned to top off our gas
tank and pick up some water. We were about 30 kms from
the border when fate stepped in and took care of our
We were stopped by a Honduran police/military road
block. We handed over our paperwork for the car and our
passports which is pretty standard at these road blocks.
But, the officer motioned us further off the road. When
going through our car permit he had noticed that our
entry date was correct of the 16th was correct but our
exit date of the 13th could not be possible. He then
said with a smile that he was going to have to seize our
car because of this mistake. Max and I were trying to
talk our way out of the problem with our dictionary in
hand. We tried to tell him that the officials at the
border had filled this out but it didn't make any
difference to him. The officer was not buying any of it
or at least didn't care. He then told us that he wanted
to help us out and that he could help us for a small
reward of $20 USD. I had 400 Limpiras in my pocket so we
said si, si, si, and got back into the car. Once inside
the car I gave Max the 400 that he set on the driver
side door arm rest and the officer reached down and
picked it up and told us we could leave. As we pulled
away I took a pen to the car permit and turned the 13th
into the 18th in case we got stopped again before the
You need to remember something that while all of this
sounds pretty easy it's not. We don't speak enough
Spanish and they don't speak any English. Our
conversation occurred on paper, with hand signs and with
us looking words up in the dictionary to find out what
he was saying and then when responding we look up words
in the dictionary to create our phrases.
After this we arrived at the southern border town of
Guasalle around 10:00 am and were chased by 40 people
yelling Mister and Spanish words that we dont
understand. We understand enough to know what they
wanted. We continued to drive on telling them we didn't
want their help with crossing the border.
We found the immigration building and went up to the
window to have our passports stamped to leave Honduras
and the very next window was where we had our passports
stamped to enter Nicaragua. We then had to drive to the
next building for our car permit. After standing in a
few different lines asking where to head I found the
turista window in the back of the building near the
loading docks where the truckers have to stop. The guy
behind the window took our paperwork and proceeded to
type up our new car permit for Nicaragua. He started to
ask many questions in Spanish about the car and we
pulled out our El Salvador car permit which had all of
the questions in Spanish so he was able to copy the info
he needed. Total cost to cross into Nicaragua was $20
for our entry/tourist visa´s. $6 to get out of Honduras
and $14 to get into Nicaragua. The car didn't cost
anything for the permit. But we made sure to double
check all the paperwork for the entry and exit dates.
This was also our quickest border crossing at only about
*** Tip*** Make a note here to save your paperwork it
came in handy since El Salvador asked the most questions
about the car. Everything from engine displacement to
weight to condition of the car, etc... and we were able
to hand the information over and he took what was
The roads in Nicaragua are terrible. CA-2 is the major
highway through Nicaragua, and for the most part was in
good condition. The roads from Guasalle to CA-2 in
Managua were just awful. I imagine if we had taken the
northern route out of Honduras, we would have seen
better roads on the major highway, but it was a lot
farther around, so who knows if we saved time or not
going the southern route.
There are some major potholes in Nicaragua. I mean big.
Sometimes even the potholes had potholes. There were
sections of the road where it went from pavement to
gravel roads and back to pavement. At times we were
limping along at 10mph, trying not to shake the car into
pieces. I lost our second hubcap on one of these large
potholes. At least the front two wheels match now. Once
we got onto CA-2 in Managua the road conditions improved
quite a bit, but anything off this main highway was just
terrible. We passed Lake Managua and Lake Nicaragua.
Lake Nicaragua was very impressive. Its as large as some
of the Great Lakes, and in the middle there is a big
island with two big volcanoes. You can take a ferry out
to the island and there is a road that goes around it.
We met a couple from California who said they have been
coming to Nicaragua for years and the tour of the island
was the best thing they have done here. Unfortunately we
didn´t have an extra day for that, so we just checked
into a hotel at San Juan del Sur and walked around the
town looking for dinner.
San Juan del Sur is a small beach town. To our surprise
it has been "discovered". There were a lot of gringos
all over town. I believe quite a lot of them live there
and run some of the local bars and restaurants. There
were a lot of fishing boats moored in the little bay,
but we had trouble finding a fish dinner, because of all
the places catering to Americans. So we just ate pizza.
It was good though.
There are a lot of little beaches around San Juan del
Sur. I would liked to have spent more time there to
explore some of them, and see the good surf spots, etc.
I did try the water however and it was cold. I don´t
know if the current changes or what, but the water in
San Juan was much colder than the water in southern
Later that night we went to Ricardos Bar and had a few
beers. This place seems to get pretty busy with
vacationers. There was another bar that I think was
called Casa Rita which also seemed to get pretty busy.
They played some dance music, so of course we heard "Gasolina"
Thursday, March 16, 2006
On to Honduras
From San Miguel, El Salvador, it was a short drive
to the Honduran border. The El Salvadorian roads
were great, in good condition and with little
Of course as expected the El Salvadorian - Honduran
border was a horrible mess. About 5km from the
border, a small horder of border people started
chasing our car asking to help us cross. We denied
most of them, but one especially persistant guy
named José got us ended up helping us out, so I
followed him around trying to get out of El
Salvador. Getting out of these central American
countries is usually relatively easy, as was the
case with El Salvador. One potential hazard to watch
out for is the money exchange at the border. We were
told we would need Lempiras to pay some Honduran
fees, so we exchanged some money. Originally we were
offered 8 to $1, which is just terrible. Do not fall
for this scam, find out the exchange rates ahead of
time. At the time the exchange rates were about 18.9
to $1. I talked the guy into giving us 18 to $1.
The entry point to Honduras was a nightmare though.
José brought one of his friends into the mix to help
us get across. The took us into some room in a
broken down building where some lady filled out a
paper for us. The cost was was about 130 Lempiras
but I think this whole process was a scam though
because the people there didn´t look very official
and it appeared we were just paying to have our
paperwork filled out for us. After that the border
helpers walked us to imagracion and aduana. This was
once again a small unofficial looking room with a
couple typewriters. There I had to pay about 400
Lempiras for the car permit.
The border helpers started telling me that something
very bad was happening, and to not trust the guy
handling our paperwork. At the time I was worried,
but now I believe they were trying to run some kind
of scam on me. Do not trust these border people one
bit. Try to find the real officials to get across.
The border helpers told me I needed a Road Tax for
Nicaragua that I really didn´t need. They also told
me I was going to have to pay some fee to the police
because of some situation with my title. I didn´t
have to pay that either. In both situations I think
the border helpers were trying to get the officials
to take money from me for some made up fee.
Fortunately the border officials seemed just as
annoyed with these guys as I was, and didn´t go
along with the scheme. At the end of the whole
process the guy had the nerve to ask me to pay him.
I told him I already paid José. He said they were
working separately. I then explained to him about
all the fake fees and how I thought he was trying to
scam me. So I just drove off without paying. I would
suggest that anyone trying to cross these borders
ignore these people as much as possible and don´t
give them any money.
So after about 2 hours we were finally in Honduras.
We drove only about 60 miles when we decided to stop
early in Choluteca. It was about 1pm, and we were
tired. Driving any further meant we would have to
cross the Nicaraguan border and then find a place to
stay after that. Not wanting to get involved in any
more stress for the day we found a decent hotel and
lounged around by the pool chugging frescas. :)
Later that night Art and decided to go out and see
if we could get a taste of Honduras. Choluteca is a
small city, and there wasn´t much going on. A lady
at the hotel told us to go to Toroitos for dinner.
We both had steak, and it was pretty good and priced
fairly moderately. I also had a salad, which after
eating such fresh tomatoes, I don´t think I can eat
tomatoes from the States anymore. The fresh ones
down here are great. Its a huge difference.
After dinner we walked around to see if any local
bars were popping. The only thing we could find was
a karaoke place. I had a lot of fun there. There
were only like 6 other Hondurans there. A couple of
them were singing songs in español of course. I sang
a couple english ones, Summer of ´69 and Hotel
California by request from one of the locals.
Wednesday, March 15, 2006
Guatamala to El Salvador
We left Escuintla early. On the
road to El Salvador we hit a dead animal and felt his
head bump along our butts. We didn´t hit him when he was
alive, but we made sure he was dead. After that we hit a
big rock and our hub cap went rolling off. At one point
we tried to turn around, but high centered on the
shoulder and the engine started to smoke. We thought we
were SOL, and popped the hood. To our relief, it was
only power steering fluid that had spilt onto the hot
engine. So how would power steering fluid get onto the
engine? Fairly easily, if the cap is not on. While
topping off fluids that morning, the power steering cap
was not put back on. Thankfully the cap was still under
the hood, so we just put it back and were on our way.
We went to Monterrico looking for a beach, but only
found a small fishing village. So we got back on the
road to El Salvador.
El Salvador - Guatemala Border Crossing
Entering Guatemala, the border officials had made a
mistake in copying our license plate and reversed a
couple letters. This gave us a little difficulty in
getting out of Guatemala at the El Salvador border. We
had to spend some time to talk to the officials, make
some extra copies, and get some extra stamps. There was
no charge other than the extra copies.
Crossing into El Salvador, we ran into the same horde of
people trying to help us cross the border. Fortunately
there weren´t as many of them as the Mexico - Guatemala
border. Fortunately we met a 12 year old kid named Alex
who spoke English. He had been born in the US. He
directed us where to go to get all the proper papers
filled out and signed. Another kid watched our car while
all this was going on.
Officially there isn´t any charge to enter El Salvador,
but the guy at immigration who stamped our passports
wanted $20 which he quickly put into his pocket. El
Salvador uses the US dollar as currency. This can be
convenient for Americans. We tried to find some souvenir
colones, the former currency, but no one had any.
I tipped the two kids $2 each for their help. Alex asked
if we would need help at the Honduran border. We then
asked, "You want to come with us to Honduras?" And he
said he could go. While a translator would be nice for
the trip, there is no way we were going to be
transporting a 12 year old kid across any borders.
We were short on cash, so set out to find an ATM at the
next major city in El Salvador. We wound up in
Zacatecaluca. After trying 3 different banks, there were
no ATMs that would work with our American cards. We went
on to the next town, Usulatan. The first three ATMs
there also didn´t work for us, but then we found a
ScotiaBank which did have an ATM that worked with
foreign cards. Apparently the local Salvadoran banks are
not hooked up to the system that we would need to get
cash out with an American card.
Now with cash in hand, we decided to stay in San Miguel.
We arrived just before nightfall, and found the Tropico
Inn, which was pretty nice and seems to be where all the
Americans stay. We got the recommendation from someone
at the border who spoke english. The room was $57 which
included a buffet breakfast.
We grabbed a bite to eat and made some calls home. We
then went out for some dinner. After dinner we hopped in
a cab and asked to be taken to a Cantina. The cabbie
dropped us off at a real dive. There were 6 locals in a
little bar. The place was dead. We promptly ordered two
beers, and I put a dollar in the jukebox. I asked one of
the guys there to pick some musica español. We were the
life of the party for an hour or so, and had a great
time trying to carry on a conversation with the locals.
Tuesday, March 14, 2006
Banditos at the border
Guatemalan Border Crossing
The Mexican - Guatemala border is ridiculous. First of
all make sure you cross at Talisman, not Hildalgo on the
At Talisman there are 40 Mexicans chasing you around
asking for a propina (money) to help cross the border.
They are yelling and screaming at you so you´ll pick
them, which makes it tough to actually talk to the real
We unfortunately hooked up with one helper who didn´t
speak english. He charged us 100 pesos to run around
with the paperwork. He took us to one building where
they wanted $250 USD for car permits to enter Guatemala.
They told us it was expensive because it would work all
the way to Panama. I don´t know if this is a scam or
not, but it seems likely, since we only paid 20
quetzales (Guat. money, about $2.50) for fumigation and
41 ($5) quetzales for the auto permit sticker. The
border helper continued to annoy us throughout the whole
process, and demanded the 100 pesos even though he tried
to screw us with the allegedly fake auto permits.
In all it took us about 3 hours to cross the border.
Once in Guatemala we drove on to Escuintla. The roads
were decent, but the traffic near the border was heavy,
and Guatemalans drive like shit.
We made Escuintla shortly after nightfall, breaking our
rule of not driving at night again, hopefully for the
last time. Every business in town has bars on the
windows and armed security guards. We saw a lot of
shotguns. The 18 wheeler trucks have a driver and a
armed guard riding shotgun, literally.
We had trouble finding a hotel in Escuintla. It is a
very large poor town and there isn´t much for
accomodations. We finally found what was supposedly the
nicest hotel in Escuintla (think Motel 6) but they had
no vacancy, so we stayed next door at a much older
hotel. They had secure parking which was all we cared
about. We paid only 180 quetzales ( a little more than
$20) for the night. The room smelled like RAID, but we
didn´t see any bugs, so it was fine for us.
Tuesday, March 14, 2006
Mad it through Mexico
Were at the Mexico and Guatamala border in Tapachula and we
will cross into Guatamala in the next hour or so but I want
to catch you all up.
After Acupulco we stayed in Zipolite at a hostel/flop house
that is run by an american we think. His name was John and
he was about 50 years old and he was a,,, lets call him a
free spirit. Drunk 24-7 and enough stories to fill many
books. He is one of those guys that went to law school at
Lewis and Clark and has now dropped out of site except for a
trip to Portland about twice a year. He let us stay for free
if we paid for parking at the local church which was 50
pesos. He also has a credit system set up where you write
you mark down the numbers of beers you drink and pay for
them when you leave. Beers were 10 pesos, or just under $1
US so were getting closer to our $.40 beer goal. We also met
another guy staying there from Romania. He had been there
for 6 months with his 5 year old son. He was married to an
american and lived in the states for 6 years doing body art
and his english was perfect. How or why he was there in
Zipolite was a different story. He was no longer married to
the first chick and was sort of still married to a second
girl. Not sure which wife was the mother of the child since
he didnt really talk about it to much so our guess is that
he took off with his kid and was going to go back to Romania
after money ran out that he made while working in alaska on
fishing boats. He also told us about the 100 pesos local
hookers just down the street. When he mentioned that we
started to laugh at what you could get for under ten bucks
and he broke in with ¨I´m serious¨ ¨they are really fine
pieces of a$$¨ He then told us he hadnt done anything with
them since he had a reputation in town and didnt want to
tarnish it. We didnt talk to him after that. We also had to
make a minor repair to the car. The drivers window had
jumpped off the track so I took the door apart to re-set it.
It wants to come off a lot so I left the door panal off so
we could fix it quickly if it started to rain or we stopped
somplace. Also the car has developed a knock so we may have
a bar rod or something. Were going to take it easy on her
and not ride her too hard and check the fluids often to keep
After zipolite we headed out and arrived in Tapachula around
8pm. Were 3 days behind schedule so we had to drive in the
dark which we is a real pain in the arse and should not be
done since pigs, cows, goats, trees, rocks, and people just
wander into the road at anytime and you dont see them until
you are right on them. We stopped at the first hotel we
found which was called Hotel del Cederos. It was only 250
pesos but they only had one king bed in the rooms. None of
the rooms had 2 beds. I checked the room out and it was one
of the cleanest rooms I had seen in mexcio and they had
individual garages under the room so I told her we would
take it. Once inside we realized we were at a hooker hotel.
They had condoms on the night stand and a sign that said the
room rental was for 12 hours. We turned on the TV and there
were 5 or 6 channels and only one channel with a language we
could understand and it was a porn channel. We ended up
watching Malcom in the Middle in spanish. Its not as funny
in spanish but that way be because we didnt understand a
single thing they were saying. The hotel did have a
restaraunt so we had a couple of rib eyes for 80 pesos and a
couple of cokes.
We got up at 7 am this morning and started out for the
mexico tourist center to turn in our car permit. The office
is called Banjercito and is located on hwy 200 at the Aduana.
The process was easy. We just turned in our paperwork and
the window sticker and received some paperwork back and were
on our way into the town to find internet and make phone
calls to check in with the bosses at home before going into
Guatamala and find internet access to let you all know were
Our summary of Mexico is it rocks but it´s not so cheap
anymore. We found some of the best beaches and greatest
weather we have ever been in. Mexico is growing with
tourists but it will be sometime before they can ruin it all
since there is so much beach area that is undeveloped and
hard to get too. The most dangerous thing we found in Mexico
are the freaking TOPES. They are deadly and they have taken
a toll on us and our poor Sundance. Max has the uncanny
ability to find the biggest most hidden topes in all of
Mexico. He has left a fair amount of rubber before many of
them so if you ever come down this way and see the skid
marks before the topes just remember, Max was here.
In closing, we would stay here in a second and never return
to our padded cells at work. Its in the 90´s and the ocean
is warm. The moon lights the ocean with a glow that is
unmistakably the greatest site at night to remind us that
were not in Oregon anymore.
always wanted to get a tattoo in Mexico.
Art in Puerto Escondido
The food in Zipolite was 10 minutes old!
On to Guatemala!!
Friday, March 10, 2006
Spring Break 2006 has started
We got up and left Nexpa pretty early.
Our first stop was Playa Azul. Its a pretty large beach and
looks pretty nice. The town was big compared to some of the
others we had stayed at. There were a couple of surfers catching
a shore break.
The next we hit was La Mira where we found a small ATM. The road
curves to the right, but if you keep going straight, you´ll find
an ATM next to the police station. The best thing about this ATM
was that it had AC.
At 12:00pm, we stopped in Ixtapa and checked out some of the
hotels and beachs there. Its a resort town, so there isn´t much
to see except for the hotels and beaches. After snapping a few
pictures we drove 5 km down the road to Zihuatenejo. Art says
that Zihuatenejo (the town mentioned at the end of Shawshank
Redemption) has changed considerably since he was last there
about 10 years ago. There is much more tourism. We had lunch
there at a little marisco restaurant down a side street off the
main street near the bay. I had three fish tacos and they were
awesome. They could have been the best I have ever had. Art had
pork quesidillas which were also good.
After lunch we hit the road to make Acapulco by nightfall. We
arrived in Acapulco around 6pm. Its a frickin large city with
lots of traffic. Acapulco seems to be handling their traffic
problem by using shorter cars. We saw more VW bugs, than either
of thought were ever manufactured. After spending an hour
getting through traffic, we found a room at the Fiesta Americana
that had a vacancy and took it even though it costs us 2300
pesos. The hotel room on the 11th floor had a great view of the
beach and the strip since it was a corner room with windows on
After dropping our stuff off, we hit the street looking for
food. We didn´t make it very far before stopping in for a couple
beers underneath the bungee tower. After watching a few jumpers
and downing a couple coronas, we headed down the street to a bar
called Dollar Days where the corona girls forced us in, and
practically shoved coronas down our throats. Then they made Max
stand between them for pictures. We both got some very loud
annoying Corona horns for all our troubles.
We then escaped from there and went over to "Tacos & Beer",
where we were finally able to get dinner.
Acapulco is very expensive compared to the rest of Mexico. The
beer ranges between $2.50 and $3.00 each. Food is close to US
prices too. By 9pm we were lit. We went up to the room to get
our calling cards, but just passed out fully dressed.
We´re not sure what kind of internet access we´ll have farther
south, so we´ll update when we can.
Art and Max in Playa Azul
Max from the hotel in Acapulco
Thursday, March 09, 2006
March 9, food running low....
We got on the road and started to search for Pasquales, the
beach with the black sand. We were told it was close to
Tecoman. We set out using our now standard direction getting
method "donde esta Pasquales" then listining to the first
thing the person says before getting lost in the spanish. We
then head in the first direction and ask the next person
where to go from there. This works like a champ because we
found the place. It was pretty cool to see the black sand.
The sand comes from a volcano up the pasquales river. We had
breakfast there in one of the shacks. We had Huevos
Rancheros, they were really good.
The next stop was La Ticla. Ticla was a rocky beach with
some good surf. There were several american surfers there
camping. We stopped for a coke then Max started to fight
Montezuma and went to do battle in the worse bathroom ever
seen. (Oh yeah, he had to pay 5 pesos for the right to enter
that arena) I dont know what has happened to all the toliet
seats in Mexico but feel that the police force should make
it priority ONE to crack the crime ring that is responsible
for stealing so many toliet seats.
After leaving Ticla, we stopped at Maruata, another
recommended beach. It was very scenic with a sandy beach
straddled by two high rock cliffs.
Crusing down the highway we stopped along side the road to
take some pictures of the coastline. This stretch of hwy
along the coast is great for beaches. There are too many
beaches and too few visitors this time of year so we had
them all to ourselves.
Around 5pm we pulled off the road towards Boca del Rio Nexpa
and it turned out to be a very cool little surf camp. We
liked it and decided to stay. We rented a cabana for 500
pesos and rented a surfboard for 100 pesos and headed for
the beach. After a few hours of surfing we headed to the
local resturant and had some dinner. We were the only two
people there eating. We both had the Bistec ala Mexicana and
couple of large beers that were about 1 litre in size.
Wednesday, March 08, 2006
Deep in the heart of Mexico
After Mazatlan we stopped in Sayulita. A small village just
north of Puerto Vallarta (40km). Its a nice little town full
of older richer Americans from California. We stayed at
hotel Graditas for 300 pesos. It had 2 small beds in a room
about the size of a nice walk in closet. There was a shared
bathroom at the end of the hall.
The town had 3 or 4 internet cafes but not a single ATM and
all the shops only take cash. We were going to surf the next
morning but since we were low on fundage we left.
We drove into PV fueled up and headed down the road to
Manzanilla for lunch.
Manzanilla is north of Manzanillo just to make sure that you
dont get the two confused. Manzanilla is very nice beach
town and the water is warm enough that even Max and I could
swim in it. We ate right on the beach. Max and I had
Quesidilla con Camaron (shrimp) and max had a coke and I had
OJ. We both liked the town and will now spen all our time
back in Oregon trying to get back to a place like this.
While every town we have seen has been great, this was the
first small beach town that I would call paridise.
We thought that we would make it to Manzanillo by noon but
it was already 4pm so we started to look for a place to
stay. We first tried Santiago (where the Movie "10" was
filmed) and they had a lot of hotels but several looked
closed and nothing was gong on so we continued down the
The next town was Manzanillo which is a large town with a
port. They had several hotels but we decided to head to the
next town Tecoman to look for a room. If Tecoman didnt have
any rooms we could drive back to Manzanillo to sleep.
We arrived in Tecoman around 7pm and made one pass through
town to find hotels then went back to the nicest which was
Hotel Plaza. The only other nice hotel was Hotel Real.
Hotel Plaza cost 470 peso for the night. They also had
internet access and loged on to update our blog.
The girl at the counter spoke great english and asked if we
were surfers. We didnt want to lie so we told her yes. She
gave us a list of nice beaches to check out as we headed
south. She then told us about the great weed they have in
Michoacan and all the surfers love it. We told her we didnt
smoke but she had assumed that since we surfed we would
We walk out of the hotel and started towards teh center of
town. It was almost 9pm and we needed food so we stopped at
a hotdog stand. We both had 2 hotdogs pavo con queso and a
bottle of something like Fresca. The total for both was 50
After dinner we walked around town to walk of the hot dogs.
We picked up a six pack of Sol (beer) and headed back to the
hotel for a late swim. The water was cool but we got used to
it after a minute.
Tuesday, March 07, 2006
Well I have received some text messages wondering where we
are at and what we are doing. Well we are still alive and
having a fantastico time south of the border. I would give a
more complete update here but time is short in these
internet cafes. We are in Sayulita, MX, which is a cool
little town about 40km north of Puerto Vallarta. Our room
here cost 300 pesos which is about $30 in the US. We have
been driving pretty hard and the main roads have been good.
Recently though all the roads we have come across are 1 lane
each way so getting around slow trucks and tractors is
slowing us down a bit. The crazy mexican bus drivers are
also something to contend with frequently.
Monday, March 06, 2006
Entering the tropics
We´re a little behind on the logs, so I´ll catch you all up.
We arrived at 8pm in Culiacan the night of the 5th, and
stayed at hotel Los Tres Rios. It was a nice hotel and the
most expensive we had stayed in up to that point. The room
was 800 pesos. It had a pool and a restaurant where we ate
dinner for 260 pesos for both of us. I had the marlin tacos
and Art had the chipoltle beef tips. They also gave us some
carrots, celery, and radish like sticks.
We got a good nights sleep, then drove to Wal-Mart in the
morning to get a sunshade, and "The Club" for the car. After
checking the fluid levels we were on the road to El Dorado.
Upon entering El Dorado, we realized this was not the city
of gold as in the cartoon.
We asked around for the beach. Someone at the local gas
station pointed west and said it was 7 km.
We took a road heading west out of town, not really knowing
where it would take us. After driving a short time, we ran
across a sign at an intersection with a dirt road. It said
"Playas de Ponce". Since there was an actual sign we decided
to break our newly created rule, "No dirt roads," and headed
to the beach. After a couple kilometers, we noticed a couple
shacks and a house in the distance. We had found the beach.
The beach was completely vacant. We checked out the water in
the Gulf of California. It was cold, so we decided we needed
to head further south before jumping in. Once we left the
beach, we got back on the highway and headed for Mazatlan.
We got a room at Hotel Fiesta on the beach in Mazatlan for
1000 pesos. From there we went to dinner. The shrimp factory
was pretty good but was expensive. I got the imperial shrimp
which was eight shrimp wrapped in cheese and bacon. Art had
saltines and a Sprite because he was starting to battle
Montezuma. Later that night we went out to find a place to
party, but it was pretty dead. We went to Senior Frogs, and
by the time we got there it was dying down. We had a couple
beers then left. Joe´s oyster bar was supposed to be the
hotspot, but certainly this wasn´t their normal crowd.
The next day we started driving bright and early. We stopped
for lunch at a roadside restaurant. It was covered, but
large holes in the walls kept it nice and breezy. I had the
carne asada, and Art had the chili con carne. We asked for
bottled water, but I guess the lady didn´t understand
because she wouldn´t give us any even though the was a whole
rack full behind her. She must have understood my english
when I talked about her mustache.
Sunday, March 05, 2006
Today was spent mostly driving from Guaymas to Culiacan. We
realized early on that our planned destination of El Dorado
was not likely due to the distance. After looking at the
map, I suggested Boca Del Rio which is near Guasave on the
east coast of the Gulf of California.
Along the way we stopped in Navajoa for lunch. It was very
hot so we found a place with AC. I had something like
fajitas with beef and beans that was marinated in some kind
of salsa soup. We also stopped at an auto parts store to
pick up some extra fluids for the Sundance, since she gets a
little fussy in the heat.
We first ran into trouble when we followed the signs to get
to Guasave. We were on dirt gravel roads as soon as we left
the highway and there were no signs. Finding Boca del Rio
was going to be difficult but we were determined. "¿Dondé
esta Boca Del Rio?" was used often, but the response was
seldom understood. Apparently we need to follow some dirt
road alongside of a canal for 30 km. The road was very
rough, the sun was setting, and we were low on gas, but we
About three miles into it we found a paved road and
roshambowed (rock, paper, scissors) for left or right. We
took left and found a gas station. We were pretty excited
about finding the gas station and naturally assumed this was
a sign that we would also find the Boca Del Rio. We asked
the gas attendant how to get to Boca Del Rio, and we think
he told us to get back on the dirt road and follow the
canal. So we did.
There were three large topes in the road, but not to be
deterred we drove over very slowly at an angle and only
bottomed out on one of them. We passed one car with some men
working on it. I think they were trying to remove a muffler
that was dragging.
A little further we hit a big bump in the road that caused
the engine to rev up to high rpms. Our first reaction to
this was to think that we had ruined the transmission. I put
the car in park, then back in drive, and everything seemed
to work ok. We decided not to take any more chances with the
rough dirt road, and drove back to the paved road. After
getting on the paved road we realized we had no idea where
we were and just picked a direction that we thought was
east, towards the highway.
The road winded through several small farming communities
and one little poblado where all the locals were watching
what I think were horse races.
Eventually we made it back to Highway 15 to Mazatlan, and
decided to take 15 libre instead of cuoto, which is free
versus toll. It was almost dark, and we wanted to find a
room soon. We drove through Guamochil. There were some
hotels, but we decided to keep going because the roads were
good and we wanted to make up some lost time. On this
stretch of road we saw three large tour buses pass four cars
at once, of which we were one. After seeing some of this
night driving, we have decided to actually listen to the
recommendations and not drive after dark.
Saturday, March 04, 2006
Now, its our last day in America
It´s 10am, we´re still in Tucson and the power steering is
leaking worse than it did yesterday. We´re sitting at a
nearby Carl´s Jr. again waiting for a call from Pep Boys.
When the call comes, the guy tells us that the rack and
pinion is shot and that it would cost $600 to repair. That´s
why the fluid was still leaking this morning, so I guess we
wasted the $140 from yesterday.
We´ll try to make it as far as we can just adding stop leak,
but if that fails, armstrong steering, here we come.
As we approach the border, the odometer reads 163,561 miles.
Nogales here we come.
On the way to Nogales we saw a car completely flipped over
on the other side of the highway. It looked like there were
one or two bodies covered. This is the beginning of Hwy. 15
known as the Highway of Death.
At exit 4, Mariposa Rd. we stopped and got Mexican driving
insurance next to Safeway. It was $36 for two weeks. Make
sure you stop and get insurance there, since apparently no
one sells insurance in American Nogales. There is also an
faster alternate route you can take to bypass Nogales
traffic. Its the truck route at exit 4, and you can find out
about it at the insurance stand. Its an extra $3.50 for the
toll. We paid for this in US dollars. Most places will take
US dollars, but at a horrible exchange rate. The rate while
we were in Mexico was about 10.50 pesos per $1, but if you
pay for something at a store in US currency they will
usually give only 10 pesos per $1.
It took us about one hour to cross the border. Most of the
officials there spoke decent english, and we had no trouble.
The cost to enter Mexico was 210 pesos each for a tourist
visa plus $30 USD for the car registration. I needed a
passport, car registration, a photo copy of my license, and
photo copies of our tourist visa. If you make your own
copies ahead of time you will save a little time and money,
since you´ll then only need a copy of your tourist visa.
While in line at the border we met an older couple from
Ashland, OR who had a home in Sayulita, just north of Puerta
Vallarta. There are a lot of American retirees in Mexico.
After leaving the border we travelled to Hermosillo the
capital of the state Sonora. After a few wrong turns we
found an ATM and stopped for gas. We each took out 1000
pesos, roughly $100. You will need to carry cash in Mexico,
since most places do not accept anything else. We drove two
hours from Hermosillo to reach Guaymas which is a harbor on
the Gulf of California. (pop. 131,000)
Guaymas doesn´t have a beach, if you're looking for a beach
try San Carlos, which is only 20 kilometers north.
We checked into the Malibu hotel using the phrase ´dos
cameras´ which we hoped meant ´two beds´. The room was 300
pesos plus a 50 pesos key deposit which I didn´t really
understand until I looked up all the words in the Spanish
dictionary. The room was clean, sparse, but it had a TV.
We headed downtown to checkout the city where we parked and
just walked around. Strangely enough we ran into the couple
from Ashland again. They were also staying Guaymas. We went
to a local hot dog stand and got a Sonora Dog, that Pat´s
friend Jason had recommended. The Sonora Dog is a little
different than the average American hot dog. They wrapped
the dog in bacon, add relish, ketchup, mustard, sour cream,
cheese, and some other spicy sauce. It was pretty good and
cost 10 pesos.
Next we drove back to a restaurant we passed earlier, called
La Cochaba (sp?), a seafood restaurant. For $12, we had two
rounds of coronas and 4 smoked marlin tacos which were small
After dinner we were looking for a bar to stop in and
stumbled across VLUE. It was about 8:30pm and I marched
right up only to get stopped at the door. Using my best
newly learned spanish I said ´¿Abierto?´. The lady replied
´No, A nueve´, thus completing my first spanish
We dropped our camcorder off at the hotel and returned to
VLUE at 10pm. We were some of the first patrons to arrive
and promptly started a tab with two coronas. After an hour
or two the place was completely packed. They had a live band
called Revolución. They played everyone´s favorite Mexican
pop hits. We knew none of those pop hits, but everyone was
having a good time. We made friends with Francisco after
letting him set his bucket of coronas at our table. Franciso
was the largest Mexican I have ever seen and knew a few
words of english. There was no real dance floor so everyone
just stood up at their tables and danced.
By the end of the night, everyone noticed us at the bar
since there were no other Americans. We became
affectionately known as the ´Gringos´.
Friday, March 03, 2006
Last night in America
We´re in Tucson and the car is in the shop. We´re getting
the power steering fixed at Pep Boys. The leak is in the
high pressure line and it should be finished by 7pm. The
cost estimate is $100, but at least we won´t have to worry
about it. (foreshadowing) We also stopped into Jiffy Lube
and had the oil and transmission fluid changed for $117.
Oops, wait a second, pep boys just called and its going to
be $138 to fix the car. That brings our $300 car up to about
$500, so we´re still doing well.
That night we went out with one of Pat´s friends, Jason
Tamani, who showed us Tucson. We went to the oldest bar in
Tucson, I think it was called the buffet. We drank three
pitchers there for $5. They have a special 'happy minute'
where you can buy a pitcher for a dollar. So we got one of
those along with the one we had already bought for $4. Then
we scammed some old alcoholic into giving us his pitcher
from happy minute. A little later Tamani and I decided to do
a round of prarie fires (tequila + tabasco) for fun. We both
shot ours like champions, but Art gave his to another old
alcoholic who had a rat tail. Art told him it was tequila.
The poor guy quickly drank it, then turned around grabbing
his throat saying ´Thats some cheap tequila´.
Thursday, March 02, 2006
Operation Extreme Road trip Panama is
Today we start the adventure into Central America. Our
general outline is the following route. Leave Portland OR at
1 pm, head to Tuscon, AZ arriving around noon on Friday the
3rd. Then its Tucson, AZ to Guaymas, MX to El Dorado to
Tepic to La Placita to Acapulco to Puerto Angel to
Mapastepic then we start our country a day with stops in
Texisco, Guatemala then El Cuco or Playa el tamarindo, El
Salvador then on to Managua, Nicaragua followed by Espraza,
Costa Rica and our last couple of days in Panama in San
Felix and then the end of our trip in Panama City. We will
try to blog on a regular basis but I'm sure we will run into
places with no internet access and will not be able to
update the wondering masses with the next installment of our
action packed adventure so you'll just have to stay tuned.
Or send down the bounty hunters to find us along this route
if you dont hear from us anymore.
We'll its off to train for the trip. I'm going to spend a
lot of hours on a treadmill in case we run into trouble. The
idea is to become as fast as I can or at least run faster
Wednesday, March 01, 2006
1 day to go
Well after last nights drink-a-thon I am warmed up for some
serious Latin American partying. Tomorrow we are going to
head out in the super car, and I can barely contain my
excitement. I am ready to get started down the Pan-American
We think we have everything we need. I went and got my shots
last week, and there are some pills I have to take.
Supposedly I won't get any of the following, Hepatitis,
Yellow Fever, Malaria, or Typhoid. A big bottle of immodium
AD should help control the dysentery as well.
The drive to Tucson is going to be brutal, but hopefully I
can get some sleep in the car.
T-minus 20 hours
Were 20 someting hours away from the start of our journey.
The supercar is as ready as she will ever be, so lets go
over our list of stuff that we are brining and try to
justify why we are bringing it. This way when we look back
we can say "What the hell did we bring......for" or "Crap,
Why didn't we think of bringing......" First we'll start
with our grocery list. Take note, weather is going to range
between 70 and 90 degrees during March and is supposed to be
one of the drier months before the rainy season starts in
May. Also, everything in the below list can be stolen from
us and we wont loose anything of sentimental or true
monetary value. Although it would really suck ass if we lost
everything. Then we have to hitchhike to a village and board
a livestock bus to take us to the nearest town that has an
official unsafe, overcrowded people bus to take to a bigger
town that has an airport that's not used by drug runners on
the weekends so they let us fly out after the pilot yells
contact and spins the prop and then hands us a WWII aged
parachute to share in case he runs out of fuel again. But
other then that, were not too worried So far we have;
- 1 $300 1989 Plymouth Sundance
- 1 bottle of Immodium AD - Don't want Montezuma to
get any revenge on us
- 1 spanish dictonary – Since we don't speak any
- 1 80 something piece tool kit – In case of car
- 1 jack, 2 tire irons – In case of flat tire
- 1 full size spare, 1 doughnut spare – Should be
obvious, So we can float down the panama canal, what do
- 2 cans Fix a Flat – In case both spares fail
- 1 boom box – Need our tunes since car stereo dosent
- 1 tub of wet wipes – We have to take some
responsibility for our smell
- 4 rolls of toliet paper, 1 roll of paper towels – In
case they use the "3 shells" or the "left hand"
- 1 hula girl – Someone to show us how to dance
- 1 100w power inverter – something to charge our
cameras, phone, stereo, battries etc...
- 1 map of Mexico, 1 map of central america –to keep
us from getting lost
- 4 little flags of Mexico with suctions cups – trying
to fit in as much as possible
- 1 bible, 1 St Jude candle – Who would hurt someone
of the cloth???
- 3 base ball caps to give away to anyone that helps
or want to hurt us - $3 each, might work as a cheeper
bribe then paying someone $20
- 4 rolls of Duct Tape – Fix's everything
- 1 jug of Anti-Freeze – In case the car gets a little
hot in the 90 degree temps
- 1 bottle of Power Steering stop leak – To keep the
power steering working
- 2 quarts of oil – To keep the super car lubed up
from the inside
- 2 things of sun block – We don't want to fit in down
south that well.
- 1 can of bug spray – To keep the Dengue and Yellow
fever and malaria as far away as possible
- 16 DVC – To record the whole trip
- 1 bottle hand sanitizer – in case we run out of
toilet paper and have to use the left hand, or was it
the right hand????
- 4 bandanas – In case we have to walk, its dusty, or
if someone is baking bread next door
- 1 set of Fuzzy dice hanging from the review mirror –
Because we're idiot white trash
- 1 backpack worth of clothes each – (1 pair of jeans,
2 pair of old pants that I couldcut into shorts, 4 pairs
of shorts, 5 t-shirts, 1 sweatshirt, 1 pair of flip
flops, 1 pair of sneakers to out run Max, 4 pair of
socks, 5 pair of underwear, 1 rain parka, 1 ball cap, 1
visor, 1 pair of sunglasses This is my bag, Max will
have something similar.)
- 1 soccer ball (futbol) – to look like we actually
play their sport.
- 1 Frisbee – If we need something to do while
hitchhiking on deserted roads
- 10 photo copies of Oregon driver license, passport,
- 2 International driver licenses
We'll add to this list and re-post if we think of
anything that we have missed or if let us know if you see
something that we should have on these list.
Monday, February 27, 2006
Fate steps into the picture at t-minus 3
I had lunch with fate the other day and she swings a mighty
sword. I ate at the Panda Express which is a Chinese fast
food chain. I had the standard orange chicken with fried
rice and they tossed me a fortune cookie to make sure I felt
like I was eating authentic American Chinese food. So you
ask, what does this have to do with the trip you idiot?
you're supposed to be eating Mexican food and working on
your Spanish. But as you can see in the picture fate played
a good hand and had me eat bad Chinese food just to see my
fortune and to let me know its almost time to go. Now I know
that you are supposed to add "in bed" to the end of every
fortune cookie you get, but this time it's a little
different in the fact that's it's another sign that we are
ready for the trip. Panama, here we come.
Friday, February 24, 2006
T-minus 6 days
The countdown is down to 6 night now. This weekend will be
our last weekend in the US. Next weekend we will be in
Mexico and only speaking Spanish. So you all better brush up
on your spanish so you can understand our blog. OK, so we
really won't be speaking Spanish but you might have trouble
understanding our blog as we try to incorporate any new
Spanish words we learn along the way. Today I surfed the
state department website and found a little additional
information on the countries we will visit. It's a bit long
and a bit depressing so I'll only added the links at the
bottom in case we need to access them for phone numbers and
so forth later on. After reading through them I'll change
Max's 10% chance of meeting our maker to a 20% chance we
will meet our maker. Which by Vegas odd's are still in our
favor. Beside, based on these odds and the fact that I'm an
optimist. I think if we meet our maker we'll only do so as a
"thrill kill" and not as a robbery since we don't have any
money or nice stuff with us. Some of you might be asking
"what's a thrill kill?" A thrill kill is where a group of 5
to 10 guys are sitting around getting drunk off cheap crappy
beer and they start talking about how bored and tough they
are they decide to go out and shoot something for the fun of
it and we happen to end up in the wrong place at the wrong
time. If you get a chance to read these links below let me
know if I'm off on our 1 in 5 odds of a maker meeting.
Of course this is a government website and our government is
not known for being very truthful. I expect to find the
opposite down south. Our government doesn't want us to visit
foreign countries. They want us to watch TV and stay home
and pay taxes. They know were going to discover what America
was like 75 years ago. Beer for $.40, fresh fish tacos 4 for
$1 etc...And remember these are the gringo prices.
Tuesday, February 21, 2006
The car will pass for locals
I feel that our Sundace will "fit in" to Latin america
without any issues. The reason I feel this is because I
drove the car to work today and parked in a regular parking
spot between all the other standard cars. There are no
telling marks on the car to show that is was mine. My boss
walked by the car and said "what a piece of crap, who the
hell are we hiring now?"
That my friends is proof that our supercar will fit in and
people will not want to steal it when its parked at the
beach or whatever restaurant were at while south of the
I have also received many email saying this is just like the
movie motorcyle diaries, what a crazy idea this is, youre
going to end up in jail, youre never coming back, yatta
First, this is not the motorcycle diaries, this would be the
sundance diaries and unlike the movie we dont have rich
parents and were not going to try to overthrow any
government (unless someone reading this wants to pay us too)
Actually, I never saw the movie but I've been told what it's
about. This trip is about having fun and seeing if 2 oregon
idiots can make it 5-6000 miles in a $300 car through
Spanish speaking countries while not knowing much more
spanish then gracias, más cerveza por favor, and mi amigo
Max es más fuerte entonces usted.
Friday, February 17, 2006
T-minus 11 days
We'll the cruise control works, the power steering works
once I put a belt on it and filled it with fluid. The seal
around the pulley leaks pretty bad. I've put some stop leak
into it so we'll see how it does. I hope it seals itself up
with the stop leak, if not I guess we'll just have armstrong
steering. In the mean time I'll call a couple of junk yards
and the Plymouth dealer to see how much it would cost to
replace it. I jacked the car up and checked the brakes. The
front brakes are fine. the rear drum brakes are rusty and I
wasnt able to get the drums off to check how much lining is
left. At least 3/4 of our stopping power is on the front so
we should be ok for at least the 5-6000 miles we need. The
brake fluid was low so I topped that off. The transmission
fluid was fine. I also replaced the air filter. It needed it
and there was a strong gas smell so it might not be firing
on all cylinders so I'll have to check that out tomorrow. We
need to replace the wipers. I filled the washer fluid and
the washer fluid pump is a little weak but we'll survive.
The rear shocks are shot and the struts in front are making
noise so well just see how well they perform as we drive
down there. I tried to simulate Mexico yesterday by driving
through Cornelius and then going down some dirt roads. She
performed with flying colors other then what I mentioned
above. I think she's ready to make a run for the border.
That is, once we get some tunes and auto insurance for Latin
America, but we will have that by end of next week or at
least once down there. The sun is shining outside and it's a
beautiful day to travel. Only 11 more days, I can't wait
until we leave...
T-minus 13 days
We registered the car after passing DEQ but we won't get the
title or registration from the state until after we leave. I
hope we can cross all the borders with only the temporary
title and registration from the state. If not we'll enjoy
ourselves in Tucson or as far south as we can make it. Plus
it freak'n cost $121 for plates and registration and $20
something for DEQ. What the hell is that!!! Then the state
wonders why so many people drive around with out tags,
insurance, license, DEQ, etc...at those prices I would
prefer to drive illegally or just hitch it, but I digress.
I've got the car this weekend. I'm going to get her cleaned
up and check her out. She's a little on the strongarm side
since the powersteering is not hooked up. There is supposed
to be a leak in the reservoir so I'll see if I can find it
and patch it up. I'll also check the breaks and fluids and
all that simple stuff that any desk jockey can do. We think
she can make it the whole way or at least were betting the
trip on it.
Also, after hearing how popular ball point pens are in
central america we have decided to use our grassroots
campaign to provide just a little bit of american
opportunities to people that are not as fortunate as we are.
Were working with Intel to provide some dropped "e"
merchandise (apparel and pens) to hand out while down there
in central america so if you have anything that you would
like to donate please let us know. We'll be more then happy
to pass them along to deserving people in latin america.
Wednesday, February 15, 2006
T-minus 15 days
Were working on getting our auto insurance today. We also
need to see about getting the title and registration
completed so that they will allow us to cross the multiple
borders. It's not as easy as just going for a drive. Why is
that? We seem to allow anyone here in the US to drive. Heck,
we even allow people without a license or DUI on the record
to drive between states and do as they please yet Mexico and
Central America want us to have our title and registration
in hand to cross the border. I don't get a warm fuzzy
feeling about carrying this much information with us. Were
also going to get as many copies of an international driving
permit from AAA in case we get pulled over and they take our
ID. We don't want to give out our passport or real license
so we'll have as many of these spare id's as possible to
hand out like candy. BTW, does anyone know someone that does
fake id? We could always pass out any extra id as long as it
looks a little like us.
We have received a few questions and I'll try to answer all
of them at one time.
1. Why are you driving to Panama, wouldn't it be easier to
just fly there?.
Yes, it would be easier if it was all about visiting Panama.
The true trip is a soul searching journey to see if we can
reach Panama City.
2. Are visa's needed? – Nope, just a passport and a lot of
3. Is it safe?
Not too sure, never done this but it should be just as safe
as the two of us driving through Gary, Indiana in a Honda.
4. Does Max's sister have dibs on his house even though she
claimed it second?
No chance for anyone to get his house. He's coming back or
he'll have someone sell it for him if he finds his Latin
5. Do you have a Spanish dictionary?
Not yet but we'll get one plus we have the get of jail free
card with the Diana factor. She's fluent in Spanish and will
be close to her phone at all times in case we need an
6. Why a Plymouth Sundance?Why do you have a $300 car?
We bought the cheapest car we could because we might donate
(donate is another word for getting the car stolen) the car
to a family in Panama. We hope that if the car gets donated
at least they will give us dinner in exchange. This is our
only real chance to experience authentic food because we all
know that Taco Bell, while tasty, is not authentic.
Monday, February 13, 2006
The $300 supercar
Thats right! We bought a 1989 Plymouth
Sundance for $300. It runs smoothly, but burns oil and the power
steering is out. That makes it tough to parallel park, but we're
going to the gym to toughen up a little bit so we can manouver
this beast. Art is going to perform a little maintenance this
weekend, so we'll see how it goes. I have driven it back and
forth to work for a month, but we'll see if it can handle the
Panamerican Hwy. If this car makes it, Plymouth ought to give me
some sponsorship or something.
Here's some pics. Check out the strategic rust spots. We'll be
sure to blend in down in Central America.