Day 1 Venao a New Jersey

The first day on my trip back to the states was an adventure, not of the Daniel Boone type, but of
the oh-oh, I should have stopped at that hotel in the rain-soaked mountains (Hotel Paraiso) because it looks like a night in the car with Lola.
Leaving Cocoloche and driving to Pedasí was sad and inside out: sad, because I don’t think I will ever see that road again and inside out because it was the other side of how I ended my book, driving from Pedasi to Cocoloche, the night road, no cars, me telling Lola (my lab-mix) that we were almost there..
So rather than on our way in through the night, we were on our way out in the daylight, followed by Heather, Bronson, and las tres ninitas. We had coffee in the Pedasi bakery and said our good-byes. There were depths to that scene. All connected to Sarah.
So I went on, going backwards in time to Las Tablas, Chitre, and finally to the split where CA (Central America)2 meets CA1 and rather than take CA1 to Panama City, I took it northeast toward the mountains, Santiago, David, and la frontera. After the split, the drive was beyond beautiful. Driving, I went into a different space. Going away from Playa Venao, I was sad because I have made good friends there, and I am afraid I won’t see them again. I was watching the landscape within that frame. We never travel roads seeing only the landscape.
The skyscape was lovely, bright blue with white whisps to the southeast and Panama City; dark, with towering clouds to the northwest and the mountains.
After the turn toward the mountains, the drive was unremittingly beautiful, and it turned my mind from the past to where I was going. This turn went deeper with the passing miles and the ascent into the high, beautiful green mountains. There were no towns, and the mountains got steeper and steeper and the blue gray clouds swept the sides of the mountains as I drove into them.
After an hour or so, the rain hit—mist at first and you can’t tell whether you are simply driving into suspended water or rain. In this in-between space, I got into travel, the adventure of driving into the unknown, trusting your ability to deal with what happens. I was just into it: driving back through Central America and Mexico and dealing with the border dramas. The driving is beautiful, the border dramas are just what one has to go through. Basically, I was where I was going.
I’m not going alone. Lola is with me. She lies on the seat beside me, her head draped over my knee, and I endlessly pet her. I am lonely—this trip has all been about being alone and loneliness. People who live alone and have dogs or cats know what I mean.
The rain hit like a hammer when I passed the summit. I had to slow to 30 mph, driving through floods, although I was in the high mountains. There were places in the roads where the water was six inches deep. In a way, I loved this. When you have to pay attention to the rain and road, you have to move outside yourself—and that’s a certain kind of release.
After about two hours of driving through water, I spotted through the waves of rain a sign as I passed it on the right: Hotel Paraiso. $20 a night. I knew they would accept dogs. And the rooms would be fine, although the buildings through the heavy rain looked like some kind of surrealistic stage setting in which a right angle was heresy.
I saw the sign too late and was past it before I had time to stop. And it was only four o’clock, an hour and a half away from the border. I drove on, thinking I would find other hotels before David (the ugly strip mall town, where I did notwant to stay. So I drove for several miles, thinking should I turn back or go on and take my chances (metaphor). It was only four.
I went on. Part of the wager was the weather. I didn’t think Lola and I would enjoy ourselves in the high mountains in the middle of 40 days and nights. So I went on—but always thinking, should I turn back?
But I went on.
I had one scary scene. I’m driving down a rain-soaked descent and a car pulls out to pass heading my way about 100 feet in front of me. I think crash—no where I could go—I braked and got ready for the hit, but he or she (it had to be a he) continued to his left onto my right shoulder and we continued like space ships with a near miss on our merry ways.
I kept going down. NO HOTELS. Nada. It was 5:30 and because of the rain, the day was getting dark. I suddenly remembered that I had left Lola’s dogfood at Cocoloche. I thought, good thing I didn’t stay at Hotel Paraiso. Lola wouldn’t have had food. I stopped at the next supermercado and bought dog food and orange juice. I asked about hotels. Nothing the clerk said made sense other than, directo, hay hotels en David.
The end is coming:
I drove through David. The rain was pouring. No hotels. On the other side of David, I spotted another one of those car-hotels (the ones with ruby red lips advertising for $5 an hour). I was desperate because it was dark, raining heavily, and near six, and so pulled into one, thinking I could rent a hotel/carport for a night, but the attendant let me know that was not for me—they didn’t rent a carport for dos horas por un hombre y su perra. He told me there would be hotels twenty minutes down the rain-drenched road near La Concepcion.

Previous to leaving Venao, I had located after David a bed and breakfast called Little Italy in an obscure town a bit before La Concepcion. I had tried on the internet to reserve a room but couldn’t make a connection (Panamanians – r u surprised?). Stopping somewhere after David, I tried to locate “Little Italy B&B,” but the directions made no sense. So I drove on to La Concepcion. It was dark now, seven, and pouring rain. I pulled off to the side of the road to check my directions and my GPS (is God taking care of me?) focused on Urb Dona Fela with a location for Little Italy B&B. Back about five miles. I had decided Lola and I were going to do an in-car sleep-in, but I thought, at seven at night, let’s take a chance, and we drove back, to a dirt road to the right, a dirt road to the left, hit a dead end, stopped and asked for la Italia Pequena, backed up, turned left, and found Little Italy, run by this lovely couple. It’s perfect. They made dinner for us, and Lola and I are very happy. We are ready for the border tomorrow.

GoTo: Personal Writing in the Classroom: Day 2 A Dry Run

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