I begin the day slowly in part because breakfast at the hotel isn’t ready until ten and in part because I am reluctant to leave. The view from my bedroom and porch is breathtaking, and this little cabin is all I need: a bed, a bathroom, and a place to write.
I take Lola for a walk and then take a steep hike (video) up to the restaurant at 8:30 to see whether I had misunderstood—thinking maybe the young man last night told me that breakfast would be over at nine, not start (he had come down to my cabin to give me a 10 mil 500 colones (about 13 dollars) because I had overpaid when I left him 21 dollars (my misunderstanding of the exchange rate). But no, he meant start at nine. The owner in fact told me 9:30 might be closer to the mark; and in fact, it didn’t start until 10.
So I write a little bit, go up at 9:30, eat somewhere around 10:15, read the news, and go back to the cabin at 11:00, having finally decided to move on, leaving a perfect place, trusting I might find another good one if I began looking at two rather than three.
I am packed and out by 11:30. I think I am high in the mountains in my cabin, but I immediately start climbing, up, and up, and up for perhaps twenty minutes. Every day, I think I am experiencing the most beautiful drive, but today tops them all. At the top, the mountain is a sheer drop on either side of the road, like the drive in Escalante Canyon in Utah. The road snakes flat for a while and then drops like a sinker. Oddly enough, there are clusters of habitation alongside the road where there is enough land to build a structure before the land drops away. The clusters vary between indigenous populations selling handicrafts and various eco projects, lodges, explorations, and off-the-grid houses for sale. There is something going on here, like 60s hippies that lasted.
It’s a slow, lovely drive because of the steep grade going down and the unending curves. This is a motorcylist’s dream, beating that notorious road in North Carolina. If Vickie follows her dream of motorcycling from Sacramento to the Darien, she had better not miss this road.
I hit the Playa at around 1:00, where the road suddenly flattens out. I turn right and follow the beach road. I remember it now—the same road I took on the way down. It’s a good drive but soon turns into beach town after beach town, not nearly as beautiful as the road I’ve been driving, touristy—but mostly Costa Rican tourists. I know I don’t want to stay in these beach towns, so I plan to leave the coast at around three, which I think will give me plenty of time to find a Lola-friendly hotel.
It is pleasant, but there is absolutely nothing remarkable about this part of the drive—other than I have plenty of time to think. I don’t listen to the radio or to music on my iphone. I like to drive and think in quiet. I am always trying to know myself better. I think about being in love, how being in love, I mean truly in love, takes you outside yourself as you enter into someone else, and that’s why love feels so good. You are not in love until the person you love is more important to you than you are. Saints, like Jesus and Ghandi can shift this love to all life outside the self, lovely, but to me, that’s on the other side of the mountain.
While driving, I think of how much I enjoy just driving, driving easy, not having to get anywhere. I have at this point no obligations. I can take unplanned roads and stay where I want and as long as I want to. I am close to being a traveler. I realize I am also getting pretty good at traveling. Traveling is a skill. I also know that when you think you’re getting good at something, it’s time to be careful.
At around 2:30, I leave the beach for a stretch, and I’m seriously looking for a place to land, but I’m not finding anything. All the hotels were on the beach.
At three, I’m getting serious. I really want to find a nice place and spend the rest of the afternoon and evening writing. I see a sign for an eco-lodge on the right. I drive up a dirt road for about a mile and find it—also advertising the highest waterfall in Costa Rica nearby. Lovely place. I hold my breath as I ask the receptionist, “Permite perros?”
“Lo siento, no.”
Back out on the highway. I wasted twenty minutes. After another twenty minutes, I spot another sign for eco-lodges on the left. I turn in and follow a seriously dirt and pot-holed road. After about a half-mile, I see a Panamanian walk and ask him about the eco-lodge. “Si, si. Directo.”
I keep going, getting more worried. It’s like playing some kind of poker. How far out on the limb do you climb?
I stop a guy on a motorcycle; he says the same: si, un poco mas en este calle.
A mile further on, I find it. Beautiful spot. Clearly low foot-print. From here, you can see the ocean.
But no, no perros. Lo siento. I think of how much I love Lola and how life would be easier without her. She senses what I’m thinking and whimpers a bit (ok, maybe she just has to pee). I tell her, no, I’m hanging with you.
It’s a bit after four by the time I get out on the highway. Now I’m worried. There seems to be some kind of traveling law: you find the right kind of hotel when you’re not ready to quit driving, and you can’t find the right hotel when you are ready to quit.
It gets worse. I hit the end of this road and go straight on a seriously country road when I should have turned left. I realize my error by the size and frequency of the potholes. And my GPS is clunking out.
I get back to the main highway and take the north ramp, pay a toll and ask the toll-keeper am I on the way to la frontera?
No, la otra direcion. Vaya por un kilometre, vuelve, y regresa alla.
So I go up a kilometer, make a U-turn and head back and pay my toll again.
This is good for about a mile. I’ll soon be in the hills again, and I’ll find a Lola-friendly hotel somewhere.
Then the traffic stops. It takes me about fifteen minutes and several ambulances coming back from something up ahead to recognize that this is a serious stop. I think about camping again.
There are two lines: the two lines on the left aren’t moving. The two lines on the right are moving—they are exiting and going in a different direction. More people are making this choice, obviously getting some news. I slide right and then go alongside of the road, get out, and walk back to ask some truckers about why cars are bleeding to the right.
Bad accident up ahead. Some people killed. It’s going to be a long time. You can take that right road for several miles, then take a left and get back on the highway beyond the accident.
So I get back in the car and go right. It’s about five. I know I’m in trouble. Back to the sleeping in the car scenario. This is a gravel road. I’m in a wagon train and the dust is serious for those of us in the middle. The dust road crawls on for several miles. I have to make several choices, but in general, I follow the train. After about an hour, we hit a town (me, all the time looking at fields where I could pitch my tent). It’s a pretty town that was barely on the map. I think I should be able to find a Lola-friendly hotel here.
I stop and go into a cool-looking bike store and ask about Lola-friendly hotels. I also get a part for my bike that I need. I go across the street to a Cabinas, but no, no perros.
The receptionist tells me about another dog-friendly hotel a few blocks away: But, no, no perros.
I go through this with one more hotel and then decide to just drive on the major highway (if I can find it) toward the frontera and maybe I will find a hotel in some city on the way.
Well, I get lost. I have absolutely no idea of which way to turn. GPS kaput. Map doesn’t make sense. It’s raining. Getting dark. I see a man sitting on his patio not too far from the open gate to his property. I pull up and he comes toward the gate.
I say in my broken Spanish that I’m trying to get to the border, that I’ve been looking for a dog-friendly hotel in (name of town) but can’t find one. Then I ask the crucial question: Hay algunas lugares cerca de aqui a donde que puedo acampar con una tenta?
I of course know the answer. We get into a short discussion about camping, and I ask if I could put my tent up in this lawn space outside his gate.
I offer to pay for the night, and he wouldn’t hear of it.
He makes a place for me to park, and I began to put up my tent in the rain. The neighbors are curious. They tell me there is no danger here.
I get the tent up. Alexander is very curious. He offers me coffee, which I gladly accept.
I’m having a little trouble getting the rainbreak portion on correctly, but the tent is still pretty impressive. F wants me to come into his patio to have coffee. His wife comes out—she’s a sixth-grade teacher, and so we start talking about teaching. There twelve-year-old daughter is very curious about this old gringo and wants to talk to me about everything. She’s adorable.
Soon, the wife has dinner in front of me: pork, rice, beans, tomatoes, delicious. Then watermelons and other things for dessert.
At this point, Alexander asks why don’t I bring my tent in from the outside to their patio—mas securidad.
So I do this and while I’m putting my equipment into my tent, they see me putting my guitar in, and I tell them I play a lot and like to write my own songs about my problems in life. They want to hear me sing (or at least they say they do), and I’m off and running, singing for my dinner, I tell them. They are generous with their applause. I love this. I love what happened. I say good-night, that I have to go in my tent and write about what happened today. And we say good-night.
I miss Doria and Jeff. But I just made some new friends. I will write to them. I think you have to keep track of your friends the way you should keep track of where you have been in life. Alexander and Silvia’s older daughter keeps a diary. I told their younger daughter that she should do that, too.