About Us

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Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
Brian & Deya met in Vancouver Canada. After a few years together we were married and made choices. One was not to have children the other was not to take life for granted. The rest is yet to come.

June 28, 2011

Panamania

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Sure, why wouldn’t we spell it that way? It’s kind of exciting, after
clearing through a very comfortable customs process we entered on to a fantastic road. Far from the clutches of doom (exaggeration) in Costa Rica, the Panamanian route from Rio Sereno to Volcan was awesome. P6080032The pavement was nearly perfect, little to no traffic and beautiful vistas and fincas everywhere. Maybe it was the combined package but this stretch on that day was one of the better rides we’ve had, definitely in the top 10. After Volcan the road becomes average, not much to say really. Prices in Panama are almost half of Costa Rica and the country seems more advanced, did I say that already?
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We had to travel South to David because we thought you could not take the route across the volcano from Volcan to Boquete, we were wrong. We’ll probably take that pass in the future. In Boquete we stayed at a place called Topaz for about 16 bucks a night, it was a pretty good spot, simple room with nice people. We checked out the town a bit and there are lots of tours and hikes possible. We had different plans so we didn’t do much there. We did meet a couple of other travellers of interest and have attached them to our links column. P6090044
It’s always interesting to meet other people and hear a little bit about their adventures. Whether they are in cars, on bikes, campers, sailboats or bicycles they each have different styles and stories to tell. Some of the stories are the same as with any travellers but many are different, this is the beauty of it.P6080040
We had planned to get to Panama City to wait until our boat to Colombia was ready to go, to do that we would take two easy days, stopping first at a beach called Las Lajas then near a place called Nata but Nata ended up giving us that sketchy feeling so we continued onto Santa Clara for the night.P6090052P6090053P6090055P6090056P6090057P6090058
The beach cabins at Las Lajas costs 10 bucks a night and were very simple but we had access to washrooms, showers and a restaurant. The food was well priced and we decided to sample some Panamanian beer before heading onto the beach for a swim. The food was excellent for the price, the beer is very light but refreshing and the surf is shallow and only mediocre but the beach is long and impressive.
After exiting Las Lajas we ended up passing Nata and got to a resort beach area. There was beach camping for 6 bucks and it looked great but with the temperature and the crowds it just didn’t seem right. We looked around for a better place and nearby we found the Blue Dolphin Hotel, the folks there let us camp for 10 bucks, it was pretty sweet and we enjoyed cooking, the swimming pool and watching the Canucks beat Boston. We barely missed a big thunder shower and were able to set up our tent under a thatch roof, yeah.
The next day was an easy ride to Panama City; it was raining
so crossing the Canal produced no good video or pictures. Fortunately Deya discovered that she has family in Panama and we were able to find their place easily. The family here is awesome, we’re really lucky to be surrounded by good people like this. They showed us around the city so we were able to experience far more than we might have on our own.
Panama is an impressive centre of activity, the Canal sets the pace for this small country and suggests a feeling that things can get done down here. It is very modern and far more advanced than the Central American countries we have been in. It’s also very nice as far as large cities go, on the ocean with the impressive Canal at its centre the city is connected to islands that are a definite tourist stop and promotes the expansion and development of foreign business. There are so many banks here I’m sure you will be able to find at least three that you have used before every few blocks. We checked out the Canal and learned about its impressive history and the work that has been done to improve the standard of living for residents since the Canal was repatriated from the US in 1999. The average cost to traverse the Canal is about 300k and about 14000 cargo ships travel it per year.
So far I would say that Panama is my favourite Central American country. Even though Costa Rica has Pura Vida, which I have a particular fondness for, I would pick Panama if I had to choose. The interesting point to note is that Panamanians do not consider themselves a part of Central America, some of this ideology comes from history and their own independence. It is however a critical area for trade and commerce and key zone connecting North, Central and South America.

June 15, 2011

One Year Anniversary


I just noticed that most of the blog I’m writing has to do with stuff we are doing and I realized that I need to pay my respects to the un-sung heroes of the story, the Bikes. The fact is the motorbikes are at the centre of everything we do. They carry us to all these places where we meet good people and enjoy good food. They take us into challenges and then take us out of them again. They connect us with people and places, break the ice and sometimes are the only thing worth talking about. They represent us and our ideas, the journey we are on and the goals we are trying to achieve for ourselves. I often talk briefly with my bike and affectionately lay a hand on him (yes him) to thank him for carrying me safely along and taking the beatings I sometimes dish out. I give Deya’s bike a pat on the back sometimes too because she doesn’t seem to do so and I feel bad for her. They are ever present and demand our attention every day, so even though we may not talk about them or take many pictures they are the reason for the stories and I’m grateful for that.

Our goal was to head back to the farm and meet up with the Family and say farewell to our Alaskan buddies. We made it back to the farm for the night and headed out towards Heredia near San Jose along an easy route that Deya found out later was known unofficially as the “Route of Death” because so many people get killed there. I laughed because I though it was really nice but I can see why people get killed. The conversation about motorcycles being dangerous came up in this regards, as it often does among non riders, and I had to use someone’s quote, “Guns don’t kill people, people kill people.” I don’t believe that motorcycles are dangerous, though the statistics are clear about the high rate of injury and fatalities the reality is people drive like animals, they don’t exercise due diligence and caution or use safety equipment. The biggest threat we have on this trip or the commute to work is not the other cars on the road, it’s the drivers of the other cars on the road. It doesn’t seem to matter what part of the world you are in, what race, religion or class you are from, as humans we all share one common bond, we all think we’re good drivers. Oh the Irony!

We made it to Heredia and met more family; I have to say we were treated so well and really appreciate everything they have done for us. Not a new experience for us but it certainly never gets old and we really enjoyed our time there. The stay was short as we were headed to Manual Antonio for a short stay at a beautiful beach then onto San Vito to deal with some business matters.

We ended getting a little lost on our route despite excellent directions, skipped a toll road by taking a rough dirt road past the toll, ha, and circled our way in via loose GPS coordinates. We got to the beach in good time and searched for a place to stay. What is striking and never fails to confound me is how Hostels cost more than hotels. We look for secure camping, in its absence we are forced to hotel, but we always look for the hostels first. Every time it is the same thing, with two people, often there is no place for the bikes, you have to stay in a dorm and your kit is not very secure. At the end of it you can expect to pay about 10-15 bucks per person. Conversely you can find a hotel room with air conditioning and secure parking for 20-30 bucks, odd, I would say so, but this is how it has been.

Manual Antonio is absolutely beautiful, the surfing is good enough, the place is clean and you can find good food and night life. The park is fantastic too though more expensive than the first time we went there. As luck would have it I rolled over 50,000 Kms on my bike here at the same time we would be celebrating our 1 year mark on-the-road. We stayed at a place called Verde Mar for 20 bucks, it was good and they had Chef Omar on staff who prepared a Casado with Mahi-Mahi for us. It was fantastic and Deya and I shared it, there was plenty for two, for about 10 bucks. Note, the time at the farm help our budget out a lot, otherwise we would be struggling in Costa Rica, it’s not super expensive but it’s not inexpensive either.

After exiting Manual Antonio we headed South East towards San Vito. The road from Palmar Norte to San Vito was pretty broken up. Landslides and caved road was a constant, though the riding was fine and even enjoyable the reality is this road should be avoided if there is much rain. Literally the road could disappear in front of you and the mountain could come down on you all at the same time. Other than that, it’s good. San Vito itself has changed a lot since we were last there and other than the town centre many things have changed. A lot of buildings exist where there was just jungle in the past.

Our primary reason for attending San Vito was for a piece of property we bought back in 2005. To cut the story short, we met with the Municipal President (Alcalde) and his lawyer, found out that the property that was sold to us was never ours and could never be sold to us. We determined that the government agency called IDA that was responsible, specifically the guy in charge, had lied to us, to the seller and to our lawyer about the status of the property. At the end of all this we lost our investment but the stupid thing is that the community lost a hell of a lot more than that, talk about near sighted!

The other reasons for San Vito were to visit more Peace Corps folks, Hanna was one of the teachers we had heard about and her story of getting recruited by a local boxing club to fight a boxer from Panama in an upcoming competition, she had no previous experience. She didn’t really know what she was agreeing to when she nodded her head, the pressure of the community cheering her on…lol…Good job Hanna, She won! We got to meet her after all and she is as dynamic and interesting as her story, the community is lucky to have her.


San Vito sits on the path towards Rio Sereno border crossing. The route from San Vito to Rio Sereno is not exactly easy to find. We took a left at the fork in the road when we got to a high school and traveled on somewhat rough dirt road for about 4 kilometres. This road would likely be messy and slow going if it was raining a lot so keep that in mind if you go there. It is worth going there by the way, it’s a nice ride, very little traffic and tranquil. The signage is poor and we drove into Panama without even noticing. The Aduana chased us down and helped us get back to Costa Rica Customs and Immigration. If you get there and enter the little town thinking you are close, you’ve already entered Panama. It doesn’t matter though this is a really nice border crossing with good people and no helpers there to lead you astray. It didn’t take too long to clear the border: immigration, customs, insurance and bug spray and we were on our way to Boquete in Panama.

June 03, 2011

Complacency


It’s early afternoon and the road towards Ticari is easy and dry.  It’s a little longer and straighter than the previous 100 kilometres so the speed picks up and the mild drone of the road sets in. Deya leads in the number one position and I hang back a little further than usual noting that my attention is waning at the easy pace. 

There’s a lot of truck traffic on this road but again, it’s easy and the drivers are not totally insane.  Directly ahead of us is a small car, Deya is at a respectable distance.  Ahead of the car about 500 metres is a pack of three dogs on the right hand side of the road mingling as dogs often do.  One of the dogs, having just crossed the road to greet the other two has a sniff and begins his return.  He’s probably made this trip a hundred times before, in defence of his turf or maybe just because of the shear boredom of being a dog in Latin America.

The dog is beige, maybe female, short haired with the appearance of terrier or some well muscled bread, thick neck and jaw and I’ve decided to name her Pat.  Pat is not a young dog, maybe five years of age and likely looks at you with the hope of a morsel or at least an affectionate rub on the head or back.  She looks like she is probably good with kids and would not chase a cat if one was present.

Pat had finished her routine and was heading back to her home from work or whatever she was doing and noted the car coming that preceded Deya.  Deya remarked that she felt she should have beeped her horn to alert Pat to the oncoming chaos.  If the car had hit Pat she would have been thrown right into our path, most likely, and we would have had a moment of action to contend with.  But Pat, being a veteran of this road, kept an eye on the car and very lazily crossed out in front knowing very well that the car would swerve slightly and that she would cross the centre line with plenty of room to spare.

Of course Pat, having been there before, was right; the car swerved slightly to the side and Pat, never taking her eyes of the car had made it across the centre line just in time, not having to increase her pace at all.  Pat was all that and why should she waste the calories in this most tedious of repetitive tasks?

The bottom of the big shinny bumper on the fifteen tonne truck was the first thing to contact Pat, right in the head, knocking her down. She had ended so precisely in the path of an oncoming transport truck, looking the other way, lazily strolling familiar territory it looked almost as if planned.  The truck hit his brakes but not enough to jeopardize his load, himself or the other motor vehicles, he did it right.

As Pat got hit in the head, never actually seeing the truck, she fell to the ground right in front of the driver side tire.  The tire ran over her upper chest area, she didn’t even compare to a tiny speed bump, she was instantly killed.  Exiting the front tire she rolled twice before being trampled by the four wheels on two axles of the rear carriage of the truck.  The wider tire base ran over the bulk of her body leaving only the head and behind unscathed. The effect was dramatic!

The pressure produced in her chest cavity literally exploded Pat’s organs out of her stomach and anus.  There was a five meter diameter yellowish, crimson mist of bodily fluids permeating the road right in front of us.  Pat’s parts were strewn loosely over the road as she lay there limply, looking towards home.  I thought briefly of pulling over and dragging her corpse off the road but realized that the treads of traffic would likely be better than a bloated rotten corpse in a ditch, stinking for a month. The world would slow, just for a second, but nobody would stop.  I think we can all expect the same.

Deya and I blasted through the smoke and fire of Pat’s cloud of life like two fighter pilots zapping a bogie.  Deya slightly traumatized was rethinking the scene, questioning herself and her actions.  Should she have hit her horn, would Pat have awoken from her slumber to realize the frailty of life or would she have snapped out of her complacent demeanour and doubled back only to be hit by the car?  This was Deya’s lesson and her struggle to accept, the guilt of not being guilty and the finality of the judgement handed so easily to us living folks.

I was, however oddly, a little pleased with the incident.  We had just witnessed a dramatic kill, simple, straightforward with not pretence or reason other than a complacent dog looking the wrong way on a two way road.  Pat was killed fast, she never suffered and it was clear why this happened and it made me smile.  Senseless, no, it was just life and the subtle reminder of how finite this life is was there splayed all over the road.

It could have been my guts or Deya’s and the only difference would be some of the traffic stopping.  And one day, when my turn comes and life issues its final task to me I can only hope it is not because of complacency.






June 02, 2011

Tom’s Pan German Bakery

www.tomspan.com
We headed out towards La Fortuna, a tourist destination for people wanting hot springs, horse tours, zip lines, rafting and resort style stuff.  We were going to look for some hot springs, food and the bakery.  We got into La Fortuna early and looked around a bit before deciding to go West to search out the German Bakery we had seen on our initial route in.  One of the things Deya and I would regularly do at home is ride hundreds of kilometres, even over a thousand, in a day just to try a piece of pie or something from a notable shop.
The German Bakery had called and we were en route, besides it was only about 100 kilometres of backtracking.

The road from the farm to La Fortuna is sketchy with sharp, blind corners and heavy trucks going full speed around corners taking up both lanes.  Other than that it’s pretty nice.  From La Fortuna to Nuevo Arenal, the sight of the bakery, is fantastic and easy riding.

We arrived to the bakery just after noon and ordered a large sandwich to share.  It was simply fantastic.  While we sat there the owner came by, Tom, approached the tables and greeted all the patrons, he stopped back to talk to us for a bit.  He mentioned a free camping sight nearby and that he used to ride bike.  Tom was certainly an interesting guy and a delight to have met that first day.  We told him we’d come back tomorrow as we had some stuff to do in La Fortuna.  We headed back intending to try some pastries the next day and camp.
Tom and I
Mustard on every table!
La Fortuna is pretty much a tourist trap, it’s nice but typically out of our budget.  We had done well the last couple of weeks so decide to put on the tourist hat for the day we were there.  We stayed at a reasonable place that was very nice and right in town.  Deya and I got a couple of stickers for the bikes and bought a couple of tickets to a resort to check out there 25 pools of hot springs and buffet dinner.  The day was good but honestly I was an old grump and Deya wasn’t having any of it.  The hot springs and food solved all that, the night spent in a comfortable bed and later several hours in a hammock totally turned things around.  We went from hot, tired and grumpy to energetic and positive.  Totally worth the price.  We checked out early but hung out until the afternoon waiting to head back to Tom’s place for some bread and pastries.
New 8 lb tent/bed set from REI..?
When we got back to the bakery we ordered some meats and cheeses, a pastry and coffee.  Costa Rican food is just not this good and this was really good food, some of the best since we left Mexico and unique since most ingredients were imported from Germany.   Tom came by again and we talked, he sat and ate with us and said that if we didn’t want to camp he had just cleared up a room in the back and we were welcome to spend the night.  It was a genuine and excellent offer only extended to fellow bikers, helped our budget and also let us hang out at this cool place another day.  As we talked another rider showed up, Rossi, from Australia.  He was heading North and looking for a place.  There was no room in the back so he went down to the lake for the free camping spots.  Good luck Rossi; don’t hesitate to stop by our place in Mexico on your way through if you take that route!
F*%king idiot!
Deya made those! I got to put the sesame
seeds on.
We spent the night at the Bakery, Deya asked Tom if there was anything we could help him with and he said yes.  Six A.M. came early and we were up showered and ready to bake.  There was a large order on the book, Tom would direct us in the preparation.  It was a blast to work in his kitchen, loud rock‘n’roll blaring, the heat of the ovens firing, and the preparation of the breads and pastries in full motion.  Tom is a master and moves like lightning, directing us like the captain of a ship but faster and harder.  It was hard work, especially when it’s totally new and there is not only a craftsmanship involved but also science.  I’m sure, though I don’t speak German, I got called a Fu@#ing idiot more than once due to my own mistakes, it made me laugh, I loved the pace and intensity of Tom’s kitchen.

We ploughed for several hours before Tom called a well planned break.  The level of organization and planning is intense, the gas in the oven is burning and scheduling the various different products into and out of the oven was done without waste.  The recipes and timings for mixes are done off the top of his head and clearly years of experience allowed things to flow.  As we took a break and had some good food I was sure Tom was going to dismiss us, well at least me.  I asked if we were slowing him down or not and he said seriously that it was a huge help, that we didn’t have to work very hard and we were already half done.  I just about fell off the chair since I thought we were busting ass and at the final stage.  More hours of work and we finally completed the order.
Deya and I went to clean up, we were going to stay another night at Tom’s because it was just awesome and we love to lend a hand, it makes for a really rewarding experience.  After a shower we went out for dinner at a local pizza joint, Moya’s Place, that served up some of the best pizza I have ever had at reasonable prices.  Some beer, wine and good food finished the day.  Hanging out with Tom was great because Tom is a very interesting guy.  Change is always good but sadly, Tom has decided to sell the Bakery after 15 years to do something else, maybe he would take a partner in the business.  Either way, if you’re going to Costa Rica take the route North of Lake Arenal and stop at the bakery before Tom is gone or you will miss something we think is special about the area.

Moya's Place
Thanks Tom, I hope we get to visit your kitchen again, where ever it is, in the future!