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.


Sun 26-Mar-06

Panama City (PTY)
Depart 8:30 am to Atlanta (ATL)
Arrive 12:35 pm
Terminal S 1,729 mi
(2,783 km)
Duration: 4hr 5mn
DL
Flight: 498


Atlanta (ATL)
Depart 5:31 pm
Terminal S to Portland (PDX)
Arrive 7:48 pm 2,169 mi
(3,491 km)
Duration: 5hr 17mn
DL
Flight: 1545
 

 

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 first hand.
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 walk outside.
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.
 

 

 

Panama City

 

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 Jose????

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 the city.
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 hwy.
Once back to the highway we noticed some signs for hotels towards the beach of Las Lajas so we went down that road.
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 too hard.
 

 

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 hours.
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 hard working.
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 good.

 

 

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 excess limpiras.
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 border.
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 45 minutes.
*** 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 needed***
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 Mexico.
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" again.
 

 

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 traffic.
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 CA-2 route.
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 officials.
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 her cool.
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 we are.
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 two walls.
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 road.
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 smoke.
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 pesos.
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

Still alive

 

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

 

Posted by Max & Art on 2006-03-11 at 1:03 pm
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 kept driving.
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 but good.

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 conversation.

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.
--edit--
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 go......

 

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 then Max.

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 Highway.

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 spanish
  • 1 80 something piece tool kit – In case of car trouble
  • 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 you think?
  • 2 cans Fix a Flat – In case both spares fail
  • 1 boom box – Need our tunes since car stereo dosent really work
  • 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" somewhere
  • 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, car registration
  • 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 days

 

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.
Link 1
Link 2
Link 3
Link 4
 

 

 

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 border.
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 yatta 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.

 

 

FAQ

 

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 bribe money.
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 Utopia.
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 instant translation.
6. Why a Plymouth Sundance?Why do you have a $300 car? Etc…etc…
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.

 

 


 

Friday, February 10, 2006

The car

 

Since aquiring the super car for $300, I have driven it 300 miles back and forth to work. It seems like its running fine. The car, a 1989 Plymouth Sundance, has 161K miles on it, and I think 4000 miles more should be no problem. We do have our doubters though. :)
Today Art and I decided to take it down to the tire center and get it checked out. The front tires looked a little low and we needed a fullsized spare. We bought a used tire for a spare. It seems kind of funny to be spending 1/6th of the price of a car on a tire. We now have two spares, the full sized one, and the little doughnut that the car came with. I hate those things.
Next we stopped by Freddy's to pick up a couple things. We were torn between getting the dash mounted hip shaking hula girl and a fake baseball-through-the-window attachment. I bought a lug wrench and a jug of power steering fluid. The power steering is out, and we'll see if its just a problem of a leaky resivoir. The car also burns/leaks motor oil, so we'll need to pick up a case to add to the supplies.
The supercar is nearly ready to go. It has its issues. What $300 car doesn't but I think it will hold together for our trip, and if it doesn't there's always duct tape!

 

 

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Countdown to launch

 

Posted by Max & Art
Well I met with Art for lunch yesterday and we agreed that it is time to get this thing started. We are both so excited, it has become difficult to even do work. In less than 4 weeks we will be traveling to Panama City from Portland with little more than our own cunning and a $300 car.
I don't know the exact odds, but I am giving us a 10% chance of not being able to return because of jail, banditos, or just plain lost. There is also something like a 10% chance of us just deciding to stay down there.
Check back tomorrow hopefully I'll get some pictures of our car online.

 

 

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