Monday, December 31, 2007

OK Unit Number: 0-7341800

SPOT. in costa rica. will be here for awhile.
Unit Number: 0-7341800
Latitude: 8.8067
Longitude: -82.537
Nearest Town from unit Location: Aguacate, Panama
Distance to the nearest town: 5 km(s)
Time in GMT the message was sent: 01/01/2008 02:30:55

http://maps.google.com/maps?f=q&hl=en&geocode=&q=8.8067,-82.537&ie=UTF8&z=12&om=1

Sunday, December 30, 2007

when is high tide?

The place: 12 miles north of Playa Manzanillo

The time: 12:53 AM

The tide: Rising

Proximity to my truck: 15 feet.

My heart rate: over 200

I scramble for my laptop and fire it up. It blinds my tired and irritated eyes. I can barely look into the dark when rudely awoken from a dream let alone at an insanely bright 17 inch display. I squint through swollen lids and encrusted eye boogers at the spreadsheet I made for Costa Rican tides. High tide 1:28 am.

“okay 30 mins or 15 feet, which will happen first? If the tide does actually get high enough to bring water to my car it will be brief and I can dig myself out in the morning no problem. I hope.”

I stare anxiously out of my tent for the next 45 mins as my camp remains high and dry. I fall asleep after the adrenaline wears off and wake to the sunrise and low tide 125 yards away. Not really sure why a kid from the desert was smart enough to download a tidal chart but I am glad I did. I’m also glad I trusted my own instincts in setting up my camp. I asked a local a mile or so down the beach from me if I would be okay camping on the beach or if I needed to be up in the trees. Had I listened to him there would be no round of golf, there would be no Dot. There would just be a very sad me stuck in Nicoya staring at his buried truck.

So the Nicoya Peninsula is officially my favorite region of Costa Rica. For the first time since leaving Baja did I get to fully use my vehicle. 5 river crossings (one about 30 inches deep 200 yards long) 10+ miles of beach driving, more dirt than paved roads. It was dryer and flatter than the rest of the country. The only food available could be found in the ARB fridge in back of my truck. 3 nights on the beach, another tire rotation, long boring days of hitting golf balls, taking a nap, wandering around the beach, throwing rocks. A good time was had by all. And by ‘all’ I mean me.

I did a few things on the beach near Playa Manzanillo that were awfully nostalgic. I had my first campfire since Baja. It took 45 minutes of nursing smoldering, rain soaked, drift wood to finally get it to burn but once I got it burning it lasted for 2 days. That process alone would not be possible if not for all my time in Juneau, AK learning how to convert wet wood into a roaring fire. Not because I had to, but oddly enough because I wanted to, I ate a Nissin Cup-O-Noodles and 2 fresh bananas for dinner. I hadn’t eaten a one since high school. It was damn good and took me back to a time when I was happy with cheap plastic tasting food. I did learn something new about them though. The perfect utensil for such an exquisite meal? A titanium spork. I’m not making it up. The damn thing is perfect. Tines for the noodles, spoon portion for the soup. A match made in heaven and one I plan to exploit again sometime soon. The second night on the beach I stopped everything to actually watch the sunset. Or observe the earth rotating as it were. It isn’t something I do very often. But the timing was right for me stare into the fiery orb for the 15 seconds it took to descend below the horizon. The whole world slows down when you take the time to stop and enjoy something that simple. I then took a few pics, turned 180 degrees and watched the full moon rise on the opposite horizon and instantly I was 15 years old again, sitting on Melissa Dixon’s trampoline with Kelly Welker. It was the first time I ever watched the sun truly set. And coincidentally we watched the moon rise as well. Unfortunately even with all that natural beauty going on around us I didn’t get lucky. I did however take her home in my friends Toyota Mini-truck. * Of course we managed to take the scenic, off road route back to her house. So all in all not a bad night.

My time on the empty stretch of beach ended with a near humiliating experience. After repacking the car, collapsing the tent etc etc. I took a dip in the almost too warm (yep me rubbing it in for all those buried in snow back home) ocean to clean up before my drive to Playa Herradurra. I had seen an SUV go up the beach about 20 mins earlier (in 2+ days I saw maybe 20 people) and figured I was all by my lonesome. With my thumbs hooked into the waistband of my wet shorts ready to change I caught movement out of the corner of my eye. Two Americans, Jamie and Ryan, in their rented SUV had pulled up next to my camp as I was digging out clean clothes. Not as much for my sake as for theirs I’m glad I didn’t great them with an awful view of me in my birthday suit. I’m pretty sure they had no idea. But the embarrassment made me start sweating in the humid heat. So much for my bath. To make the issue even worse, while they were approaching me to ask for directions, I realized that Jamie was a rather attractive young lady. As I stood their dripping wet with sea water and sweat I was amazed at how gorgeous this woman was. Much like the previous night’s sunset I found myself just staring at the natural wonder. Jamie has to be one of the top three most beautiful women I have seen. Not in Costa Rica, not on this trip, but in my entire life. The kind of beauty that sort of stops you in your tracks and leaves you breathless. Even more so in contrast to my fat, hairy belly standing next to her . So I threw on the filthy shirt I rotated my tires in and stumbled through the directions to Playa Samarra with them. We shook hands and off they went.

The Conclusion: A few minutes later I was rallying down the beach, coke in hand, windows down, music blaring and genuinely in love with the beauty of Costa Rica’s Peninsula de Nicoya.

*Expedition Americas does not condone the illegal use of a motorized conveyance by minors or other unlicensed drivers. However, that doesn’t mean that the times of vehicular indiscretion are not remembered fondly. So while not condoning such behavior we are not going to condemn it either. Otherwise many great memories would also need be condemned.

some pics

Updated pics to the gallery. All of them are from Costa Rica.  I have quite a few more but checkout is in 30 mins so I’ll need to upload them later.

 

just in case you forgot…

 

http://www.expeditionamericas.com/gallery1.html

 

 

Saturday, December 29, 2007

reader beware

Yep this is going to be one of those posts that I’m not sure why I’m writing it. However, without a doubt a handful of you will find it highly entertaining and very apropos of whom I am/used to be back home. If frank and honest talk about the wonderful world of digestive problems and a freak accident resulting in some intense pain to a certain sensitive area of the male anatomy offend you I suggest you stop reading now and wait for my “the beach was glorious and amazing” post which I hope to throw together tomorrow. But seriously stop here if you're easily offended by less than genteel and proper decorum. You have been warned.

So what would possess me to retell a tale that requires the above disclaimer? Perhaps my recent reading of Kevin Smith’s My Boring Ass Life has inspired my vulgar side. Perhaps the solitude and lack of English communication is splintering my psyche. Or maybe, just maybe, my closest friends will find this email hysterically funny and that is good enough for me. Ideally it will appeal to the majority of my gracious readers. And now the misadventures…

One of the constants in my life, and any of my friends and many of my co-workers will attest, is my unique dietary proclivities. I wouldn’t call myself picky, nor would I call myself a dullard. The reason for my peculiar eating habits is twofold. One, many textures trigger a fairly sensitive gag reflex. Two, the majority of my non-standard meals (and even many of those) stay with me for only a few minutes. We’ve all had those experiences. Running stop signs, sweat flowing through every pore on your body, the all important clench of the muscles saving you from public humiliation and embarrassment in a mad panic to reach the solitude of your own commode (with the reassurance of a shower nearby just in case it gets really out of hand.) Let’s just say that I’ve had more than my fair share of such experiences. I can’t even begin to count the number of times my body decided when it was ready to purge without the slightest concern for what my mind was thinking. Prior to my trip it was a constant conversation. What am I going to eat? How would I survive with my slight phobia of public restrooms? What am I going to do when the situation arises and there is nowhere to evacuate? (have I run out of euphemisms yet?) For all those who have seen me leave a restaurant while dumping cash on the table and running out early the topic was truly a source of amusement. Yet I find myself 7+ weeks into my Latin American journey and only one incident so far. It unfolded a bit like this.

About 3 weeks ago, after a long day of driving due to a mudslide and a washed out bridge, I pulled into Monteverde, CR. A nice town in the hills NW of San Jose. I had a tasty chicken and black bean quesadilla at the Rainforest or Paradise CafĂ©. I forget. Apparently I dined during a shift change because I asked for my check and 40 mins later I was still waiting for it. I left some money on the table to cover meal and tip and set out for my campsite a few hours away. The winding road, not too dissimilar to Farmington Canyon, UT but narrower descended 3k washboard ridden feet of glorious panoramas and coffee farms. About 30 mins outside of Monteverde that familiar feeling kicked in. I played the ‘my mind is more powerful than my body so I can prevent this from happening’ game for about 20 more mins as the pressure, stomach pain and sweat only intensified. The real fear is that my only real option was the side of the road. Tucked into a 60 degree slope the road didn’t offer many turn outs or places to hide. As the sun began to set, as the risk of dengue and malaria are both present I spotted a corner of a fence and little foot trail. TP and babywipes already in hand I slammed the truck into P and sped off into the trees. Just as I squat down I see a Chow of all things (seriously what the hell is a chow doing in the Costa Rican jungle?) trotting down the trail toward me. I’ve had some experience with pissed off chows during my years in Alaska. Those things can be mean. So I picked up a rock and backed my extremely puckered ass down the trail. On the other side of the road I spotted a tree with just enough roots holding up the hillside for a man to stand, or squat, on the edge of the 800 foot canyon. A quick sprint to the tree, check around for spectators and the body was instantly cleansing itself of the, what I have to assume, was undercooked chicken. And it was a doosey. The kind that leaves you shaking afterwards from the trauma. I cleaned up, built a fire with the paper and turned to head to the car. Within a second of me coming around the tree, two farmers emerge from the opposite trail with the chow and another mutt. I say hello, they spot the tp in my hand and laugh a little bit. I smiled and climbed in the truck laughing at the how much differently that exchange would have unfolded if they had arrived 90 seconds earlier during my purgation. So there you go Adam, Maddog, Hardy, Ryan, Hampton, Racker, Beef, JC, Paul, Cory, Jason, Mr. Helm, Bush, Farnes (who saw me suffer a similar but far more mosquito ridden affair along the Alaska Hwy) and everyone else who has often laughed at my panic and discomfiture over the years. Once in 2 months ain’t too bad considering Pace’s or Lorena’s will do it to me every single time.

While on the topic of extremely embarrassing situations how about another one from the road? I think that sounds like a resounding ‘yes’ from the one reader who has made it this far. With that vote of confidence here is round two of ‘dave is being way too honest about stuff we don’t want to know.’ For those who jumped on the Expedition Americas bandwagon early you are familiar with boxes I built for hauling all my crap. For those who missed it you can find it here. The amazing $10 hotel I mentioned in my last post lacked something else besides cleanliness and that would be secure parking. So I pulled my truck in as close to a corner as I could and began securing items in the locked boxes. Having come from the beach I was wearing a t-shirt and a pair of Gramicci quick-dry shorts. They are basically the thinnest material you can wear. Yep, how was that for a non-sequitur? But that bit of detail is important. I needed to climb across the boxes to grab my pillow from the rear passenger side of the car. Unbeknownst to me the lid on which I was lying wasn’t fully closed, until my fat ass threw his gut across it. At which time it slammed closed. No big deal really except the tip of a certain part of my body was in the way. Actually pinched in between would be a better description. The only protection being said quick-dry shorts . The pain was unreal. Searing, piercing pain, like I was being cut with a knife. It took about 10 seconds for me to get the courage to look down at what I assumed was the pool of blood forming in my shorts. Those 10 seconds were filled with traumatic thoughts of driving to the town of Jaco 8 miles away while my unintentional bloodletting sent me into shock. Of course once I arrived at the free clinic there would a line of Tico’s ready to laugh and point since they knew all I had ahead of me was stitches from a set of rusty forceps and a band aid. Well all those thoughts were wiped away with the relief I felt when I saw there was no blood. Once in my room I dropped the shorts and watched in total amazement (despite the continuing pain) as a blood blister formed right on the part that Ali G like to refer to as 'the bell-end' which looked eerily similar to a Dot. (I hope that doesn’t ruin your next trip to the Megaplex.) Then, even more astonishing, the cherry Dot evolved before my eyes into a grape Dot, and eventually black licorice. Please, no emails about how there is no such thing as black licorice, that true licorice is black and only other flavors need to be qualified. I’ve never understood licorice purists who like to point out the error in the name ‘black licorice.’ I wonder how they would feel if they knew I really called it ‘tastes like ass licorice since I loathe the stuff. Digression aside the blood blister has now been absorbed into what I can only call a tie dyed array of blacks, blues, reds and purples. The pain is gone but a slight amount of swelling remains. Which for a guy built like me isn’t necessarily a bad thing. And on that note. I hope I didn’t lose any readers tonight and ideally you all gained a little more understanding of how honesty might not always be the best policy.

dmc

Friday, December 28, 2007

my friends...

…kick ass. Now I realize that most people might have that opinion of their chosen compatriots, however, in my case it is more than just opinion it is fact. Now ‘why,’ you might be asking yourself ‘would Dave be posting about his friends while he is kicking it solo in Costa Rica?’ It is pretty simple really…

A few weeks ago I was IM’ing my friend Kelly Ivan Hildt about my desire to play golf. Now normally wanting to play golf in December isn’t really an issue. My home state of Utah is often too cold and occasionally buried in too much snow to worry about it. Winter is time to think about golf but no real option to get out for 18 holes. It is a completely different story when you’re melting away in the sweltering heat of Central America and every resort billboard features a gorgeous photograph of an ocean side course. One of the goals I had before leaving on my trip was to get my handicap back down where I felt like I was a decent player. Saving money for Expedition Americas and playing enough golf to achieve that goal was a challenge but not only did I lower it but managed to set a personal best 6.4. Yep that is a pat on my own back and one of the main reasons I have been dying to play golf. Unfortunately, there is one major problem with all the advertising; the courses are outrageously expensive. Hildt and I discussed a way to fund, or more precisely, justify the funds for a round of golf. In jest I suggested an email to my golfing clique begging for money. He approved of the idea and the email was sent. Within a day or two more than half of the outrageous green fee had been donated to my cause.

Money in hand (or in the paypal account)I set up a tee time at the Marriott Los Suenos resort. Why the Marriott? When Ben and I were in San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua eating lunch I asked the guy about his Bridgestone Golf (my preferred ball is the B330) hat and if he was a player. More than a player he traveled the mini-tours for a while back in the late 80s and he had recommended the course. A cursory review of a few websites confirmed the course as ‘the best in Central America.’ So off I went to Playa Herradurra. The $10 a night hotel a block away was filthy, hot, unclean, unsafe and dirty. Did I mention it wasn’t clean? I celebrated Christmas Eve with a pint of Haagen Daaz and an amazing sunset. Santa brought me some ideal weather and an wonderful course. Even more surprisingly in my stocking I found a decent round. Slope 132, fairly short at 6400 yards from the blue tees, yet narrow with uneven lies and quite a few creeks to negotiate. I managed a 39 on the front while playing solo and a 42 on the back after joining a twosome, then another single. 4 hour round but obviously it wasn’t evenly balanced. I hit the ball okay but truth be told I made 8 putts of 6 feet for more. So the round was more like and 85 but I’ll take it. I finished the round with an extremely long hot shower in the club house, which may seem irrelevant, but it was the first one I had had in over a week. It was a great way to spend my Christmas and I can’t tell you how cool my friends are for stepping up and making it happen. So thanks fellas.

More ramblings from the last two weeks lie ahead.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

OK Unit Number: 0-7341800

SPOT. in costa rica. will be here for awhile.
Unit Number: 0-7341800
Latitude: 10.0053
Longitude: -83.7687
Nearest Town from unit Location: Raicero, Costa Rica
Distance to the nearest town: 3 km(s)
Time in GMT the message was sent: 12/26/2007 02:50:27

http://maps.google.com/maps?f=q&hl=en&geocode=&q=10.0053,-83.7687&ie=UTF8&z=12&om=1

OK Unit Number: 0-7341800

SPOT. in costa rica. will be here for awhile.
Unit Number: 0-7341800
Latitude: 9.6502
Longitude: -84.6553
Nearest Town from unit Location: La Mona, Costa Rica
Distance to the nearest town: 2 km(s)
Time in GMT the message was sent: 12/25/2007 17:49:18

http://maps.google.com/maps?f=q&hl=en&geocode=&q=9.6502,-84.6553&ie=UTF8&z=12&om=1

OK Unit Number: 0-7341800

SPOT. in costa rica. will be here for awhile.
Unit Number: 0-7341800
Latitude: 9.6622
Longitude: -84.658
Nearest Town from unit Location: Herradura, Costa Rica
Distance to the nearest town: 3 km(s)
Time in GMT the message was sent: 12/25/2007 17:11:30

http://maps.google.com/maps?f=q&hl=en&geocode=&q=9.6622,-84.658&ie=UTF8&z=12&om=1

Sunday, December 23, 2007

banditry

I have plenty to type about to cover the last week but for now you get to read what ben has to say (but in my defense, he is the reason I have the damn life jacket, which I wore today as matter of fact. Pick up the book Deep Survival. It is a wonderful read about the science/physiology of survival and one ben recommended to me a few months prior to my trip.  Essentially I don’t want to get caught in an undertow/riptide in the middle of nowhere with no one around to help me. Didn’t happen today but I was prepared.  I haven’t seen a soul since about 8:30 am, and that freakshow had on a speedo) enjoy ben’s post and I’ve attached a pic of him on said desolate Nicaraguan beach.

 

 

So I find myself 13 days post trip, 6 am in the morning and I am still trying to grasp all that happened between November 29th and December 8th.  I have had two weeks to organize my thoughts and experiences into some semblance of coherency but they are still as muddled as ever.   With that said I apologize for the hodgepodge of thoughts and observations that will make up this blog entry.

To begin, I accompanied Dave from Cancun, Mexico to San Jose, Costa Rica.  If I were to do it over again, and someday I will, it was a trip that should have been a week longer or a couple hundred miles shorter.   Right around Tikal in northern Guatemala we started to realize the amount of ground we had to cover, prior to my flight out of Costa Rica.   This realization led to many late night drives and a couple of long days.  Which brings me to my first observation, everything you read and hear about Central America includes some advice about not driving at night.  Well I can definitively say you have to be crazy to drive in Central America no matter what time of the day.  In fact, night was as safe as daylight since you had less tractor trailers to pass and you could at least look for headlight around blind curves.

Another thought, that has nothing to do with the previous one, for the most part the food south of Mexico wasn’t that great.  Fortunately the Coke and the produce were excellent and sustained us most of the way.  Also, kudos to Dave who had the foresight to bring a baby loaf of Tillamook Cheese, some club crackers a cutting board and a cheese slicer.   Thats right a cutting board and cheese slicer.   

In fact, Dave had a few things packed that I found comical at first but each time I stood corrected when I saw their usefulness. For example, bath mats from Bed Bath and Beyond.  They make a wonderful driver side car mat.  Just the thought of Dave going into Bed Bath and Beyond is laughable, but in actuality it was nice to shed your shoes and feel plush carpet while driving.   Or how about a life jacket?  I almost fell over laughing when he showed me the spot he had set aside for a life jacket, of course I had envisioned a bright orange U shaped life jacket like you had to wear in Scouts.  However, after a dip in the Pacific on some remote beach in Nicaragua I become a believer.           

So prior to leaving on my leg of Dave’s adventure, this was the usual conversation with friends and family.    

Me- “Yeah a buddy of mine is driving to the tip of Argentina.  I'm going to meet up with him in Cancun and explore Central America before flying out of Costa Rica.   

Person I am talking to- “Why?” followed by “Oh I have a buddy that was in _______(insert Central American country here) and he was robbed blind and left for dead.”  

These are a few exerts I read while I studied up on Central America.  “Incidents of banditry occur in the remote North” or “A relatively high level of violent crime is committed against foreigners.  Vehicle-jackings are almost an everyday occurrence, especially in Guatemala City.”

 

So with these encouraging words, I left my wife, my three year old boy and my two month old baby (yeah I still can’t believe Camille let me go either). I was filled with trepidation and anxious about the unknown.  This is one of things that makes travel so interesting for me, prior to traveling I love to read up and study about a particular destination or culture and then learn that its completely different than my perception once I arrive.  This was the case in Central America.  I am not naive enough to think that bad stuff doesn’t happen, but my experience in Central America was the complete opposite of all the warnings.  

Most people are genuinely good and are willing to help others.  One of the more fascinating aspects of this trip were the serendipitous relationships we experienced on the way.   I got to the point were I couldn't wait for the next encounter to happen.  Dave has already written about many of these experiences, but check out this list of people; Staff at the Courtyard Marriott (you might think they don’t count cause they get paid, but anyone willing to press and hang Dave’s underwear on a hanger is a good person), the waitress at Amigos, Canadian couple on KLRs, Guatemalan guy at the border, the cousins on KTMs, fat guy at the Soccer stadium, caribbean guy at the soccer stadium, Jenny and the other border agent girl, the two shoe shine kids at a border,  Alan, Bayron the kid that gave me a bible, the sandwich shop guy from Morgan Utah, the Marriott guy who Dave fell in love with over a truck.

Maybe we were just lucky, but all these people contributed to the same epiphany Ewan Mcgregor had during the “Long Way Around,” the majority of people are still good.  

To conclude, I probably could summarize this entire blog entry into one sentence-People who drive in Central America are crazy, the majority of the human race is still good (at least in Central America) and Dave shops at Bed Bath and Beyond.   Thanks Dave for having the courage to dream up and execute Expedition Americas and thank you for allowing me to enjoy some of the ride.  

Saturday, December 22, 2007

OK Unit Number: 0-7341800

SPOT. in costa rica. will be here for awhile.
Unit Number: 0-7341800
Latitude: 9.7198
Longitude: -85.22
Nearest Town from unit Location: San Lucas, Costa Rica
Distance to the nearest town: 2 km(s)
Time in GMT the message was sent: 12/22/2007 23:29:25

http://maps.google.com/maps?f=q&hl=en&geocode=&q=9.7198,-85.22&ie=UTF8&z=12&om=1

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

hello

Yeah either I am a total bum or not a lot is going on. Maybe a bit of both. I’m in Spanish school in Orosi Valley so don’t expect too much from me this week. 

 

Dave Connors

Lead - Expedition Americas

www.expeditionamericas.com

 

Sunday, December 16, 2007

OK Unit Number: 0-7341800

SPOT. in costa rica. will be here for awhile.
Unit Number: 0-7341800
Latitude: 10.1749
Longitude: -85.3723
Nearest Town from unit Location: Santa Ana, Costa Rica
Distance to the nearest town: 2 km(s)
Time in GMT the message was sent: 12/17/2007 02:20:10

http://maps.google.com/maps?f=q&hl=en&geocode=&q=10.1749,-85.3723&ie=UTF8&z=12&om=1

Thursday, December 13, 2007

time to reflect

After enough sweating on the beach I decided to head to the hills.  I’ve seen the commercial for the movie I AM LEGEND with Will Smith. Apparently something to do with him being the last man alive. Well if that were me I would find myself a nice fancy car, like a Ferrari or Aston Martin and come drive the InterAmericana between  San Isidro and San Jose, Costa Rica. It’s an amazing stretch of road that climbs 6k feet through the jungle on a winding, twisting narrow ribbon of tarmac (just for your rally enthusiasts) that any driver can appreciate.  Beautiful.  I pretty much drove right through San Jose and up to the Parque Nacional Volcan Poas (I’m going from memory on the name) it closes at 3:30 so at 3:33 I set up camp at a small Cabinas and restaurant near the park entrance.  A brief chat with the caretaker and a camping spot was mine for the taking. Dinner was a whopping $3 but for once I probably overpaid. Good thing camping was free.  However the bad food was more than compensated for by the absolutely amazing view.  The chilly 40 degree temps and 8k elevation combined for one of the best night sleeps I’ve had in awhile. 

 

After waking up early and rested I drove up to the park and went for a hike around the volcano.  It was hard reconciling a volcano summit with the lush forest surrounding the cauldron. Instead of taking pics I wanted to just savor the experience.  Stare at the smoldering sulphuric pool, inhaling the humid, acrid air, evesdropping on American and german tourists.  A brief 15 min walk took me to a separate cauldron.  This one no longer warm, rainwater having filled the dormant basin. More admiring, more evesdropping.  It was a relaxing treat to not try and document the experience. Just to live in the moment.  Or maybe I forgot to put the card back in my camera and it sat in the card reader with my laptop while I tramped around the hillside with my camera over my shoulder. I’ll let you decide. Regardless it was a good morning. Tonight crashing in a $10 fairly clean but sparse cabina in Fortuna at the base of Volcan Arenal. Tomorrow more hiking.

 

 

Dave Connors

Lead - Expedition Americas

www.expeditionamericas.com

 

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

abundance part 2

…where did I leave off? That’s right. Guatemala.

 

I don’t even know where to start.  Antigua was high on my list of places to see and worth the long drive somewhat out of our way to get there. Little did I know that Guatemala City would be the adventure it is.  What city of 1M people exists without street signs? How in the hell do people get anywhere?  Well we got somewhere. Only had to ask 37 different people what road we should take.  Seriously, how can 12 Zonas be a strategy for organization?  Ben and I referred to the stretch between Rio Hondo (Piston Honda, okay now I need to go off on a real tangent, it was really ben’s idea but we ran with it for a  few hours and I think it will be implemented in various aspects from here on out.  If you are trying to come up with criteria for evaluating multiple and disparate items trying using characters from Mike Tyson’s Punch Out as your scale. No I’m not kidding. Try it.) and Antigua as the Racimo. I assume it means the same in Spanish as English. Regardless after seeing pretty much every road in Guatemala City I can say I have no desire to go back. Well maybe to get back to Antigua.


Antigua was everything the guidebooks and recommendations made it out to be. Charming. Historic. Diverse. Beautiful. We even forked out big bucks, $35 a piece, for a hotel that would have been $200 had it been in Sedona or Palm Springs.  Food was great and cheap.  Souvenirs were overpriced and poor quality.  So I guess I have to go back to the Racimo because Antigua is a town that deserves more time.  Unfortunately we didn’t have the time we needed.

 

After a late breakfast we set out to the Honduran border. I’ve already covered our friend Ginny and the lengthy crossing as well as the Futbol match so not a ton left to say about Honduras.  Yep I can wrap up and entire country in two sentences. Come to think of it already talked about most of Nicaragua as well. 

 

One of the things that still intrigues me after hours of thought (yep I’m that dumb) and discussion with Ben is the diversity of each country, literally at the border.  Okay not at the border. Every border town is dusty, impoverished and full of people looking to get money from you.  But the people, the topography, the forests, the architecture are vastly different country to country.  Were the borders established because of the differences or were the disparities the genesis of the borders. At this point I think I assign people from a line up to their respective country. Almost like and IQ test question. Ben made the comment that he used to think everyone south of Texas was the same.  Although identifying similarities is easy, identifying differences is even less difficult.

 

That brings up the Nicaraguan/Costa Rican border.  Aware of the conflict between Nic and CR we were hoping somehow that a couple of touristas from the US might get a bit more courtesy than the rival nationalities. Nope. 4 hours. 3.5 of which were sitting and doing nothing. Just sitting and doing nothing. And doing nothing and sitting. Fun.  Again there are far worse things to do in life than wait to enter a beautiful country like Costa Rica.   Once over the border it was a long dark drive to San Jose. Ben flew out early on Saturday morning.

 

Having Ben along was more than just a help with the language (although I now know how far I need to go and am looking at immersion schools for next week) it made for a very entertaining week.  There is always a bit of fear going into 10 straight days with someone no matter how well you know them.   Well after about 4 hours we started laughing and didn’t stop until he left.  For two virtual strangers it was one hell of a good time. Thanks benji. Next time we’ll take more time.

 

Dave Connors

Lead - Expedition Americas

www.expeditionamericas.com

 

Monday, December 10, 2007

OK Unit Number: 0-7341800

SPOT. in costa rica. will be here for awhile.
Unit Number: 0-7341800
Latitude: 9.1206
Longitude: -83.7061
Nearest Town from unit Location: Ballena, Costa Rica
Distance to the nearest town: 2 km(s)
Time in GMT the message was sent: 12/11/2007 03:27:24

http://maps.google.com/maps?f=q&hl=en&geocode=&q=9.1206,-83.7061&ie=UTF8&z=12&om=1

abundance

This is going to be a long post. I have 10 days worth of catching up to do, starting with Amigo’s Bar in Belize…

Actually I’ll get to that in a second. I picked Ben up in Cancun. And at this point I need to give big props to Ben’s wife for letting him join me on my adventure with a 6 week old at home. My laundry wasn’t done yet so we spent some time in the hotel parking lot organzing the truck and we stopped to eat lunch. Once the laundry was packed (have you ever seen a pair of gramici quickdry shorts pinned to a hanger? Odd) we set out for Chitzen Itza. We arrived in Villadolid after dark, found a cheap hotel and crashed. Spent the next morning wandering around the ruins and chotchke vendors. The ruins themselves were very impressive but the site had a very sterile feel to it. I don’t want to use the term Disneyland but it wouldn’t be entirely inappropriate. I didn’t want to say anything and ruin it for Ben but on our way to Tulum I mentioned it and he said he felt the same way. Both sort of disappointed. Tulum was cool, got there at sunset and the light was perfect. Crowded but cool.

I fixed my headlight and after a nice dinner we set out for Chetumal where we would sleep before crossing the Belize border. Border was a bit nuts trying to track down cash but the crossing itself was a piece of cake. Easiest of the trip so far. We stopped in Orange Walk for lunch. Fresh bananas, bbq chicken, red beans and rice. The central square was full of life until the rain hit. Then everyone bailed for cover except the two of us and crazy single tooth man who felt like ben wanted to talk to him from a distance of 6 inches. I ate my food, drank my coke and laughed at the scene. 2 white guys and crazy man alone in the previously bustling square soaked to the core. We set out for Belize City. The roads in Belize were excellent, even the dirt ones, and the country side was beautiful. Belize has a far more Caribbean than Latin feel. Both in the people and the architecture. Sugarcane farms broken up by the occasional village of pastel colored homes and vibrant colored laundry on the clothelines. Felt like a place where we could spend a few days. Then we got to Belize City. Ben was driving, I was navigating. Figured we head to the waterfront as in most costal towns it is heart of the city. A few miles of filth and squalor and we reached the dirty ocean. Nothing there. Ben didn’t want to ‘run the gauntlet’ back out of the city but we had no other choice. The streets were small and crowded and we laughed all the way through them. The juxtaposition of Public Enemy playing as the locals all stared and pointed at the gringos was just too surreal. Once out of the city we stopped to replace the pillows left in the hotel in Chetumal then back out to the country side. We set up camp at a butterfly farm in central Belize. Clean, safe and with showers it was a comfortable place to open up the tent and wander around taking pictures. I really like the rural areas of Belize. Belize City was gross, dirty and felt very unsafe. A huge contrast to the rest of the country. After we found our campspot we decided to head up the road to grab some food at Amigos. (the only restaurant for miles)

As we pull into the parking lot we realize it is happy hour. This should be fun. Climb out of the truck and hear someone slaughtering ‘honky tonk blues’ on a karaoke machine. I’m already laughing. We walk in and the room is a square bar, surrounded by black Belizeans, one family in a corner at a table and karaoke on the tv. We choose a table next to the bar and sit down. We order some more chicken with red beans and rice. I’m sitting nearest the bar. I hear people behind me arguing. I can’t tell if they are serious or not. Ben is just staring at them. The mix of English, Creole and Spanish makes it hard to understand what is going on. The girl gets her food and heads out. The voices get louder and this exchange occurs as she is walking out the door..

“I know what you are”

“oh yeah, oh yeah”

“I know what you are”

Door shuts

“you’re nothin but a whore”

Door opens

“what did you call me, you didn’t’ call me a whore”

“you’re nothin but a fucking whore”

By now the girl is back in his face and they are yelling at each other. She is dressed to the 9s for Saturday night, gold shorts, tight tank top showing off her “trust no one” tattoo on her back and big gold earrings. He is a large man, 6’ 4” or so looks like a construction worker. They shove each other a few times. I am not ‘looking’ but can tell what is going on over my shoulder. I see Ben flinch to stand up. I think he is going to intervene since the other 15 patrons are just going about their own business. I say ‘don’t.' He looks at me with fear in his eyes. The girl has a beer bottle and is threatening to crack it over the bar to use as a knife. Someone finally steps in. Some more yelling and pushing and finally she is escorted out. Everyone settles back in. And for the most part start laughing. Then the guy takes out his knife and starts flashing it around and yelling at the whole bar ‘you don’t think I can cover my own ass.’ Ben comments “Trust No One” is out getting her gun and on the way back to finish the fight. I say no matter what happens the 2 white guys are going to jail and getting blamed for it. Our food shows up and we eat as quickly as possible. No more than 5 mins later karaoke is back up and I find myself clapping for one singer after finishing off a rousing version of All My Love. The songs went on and on. Neil Diamond, the Bee Gees, Elvis. Duets, solos, our waitress, patrons. Just nuts. We paid our bill and went back to camp. Laughing the entire time about how unbelievable the last 2 hours had been. I’m still pretty sure “Trust No One” is out looking for a gun.

Next morning we crossed into Guatemala. Met some fellow Overlanders on bikes from Canada. The first 20miles of Guat was slick slimy mud. A Snickers bar and a Coke from a roadside stand hit the spot just right. Peanutopolis is what I tasted. We arrived at Tikal about 2 in the afternoon. Tikal was amazing. The only reason we left was because of darkness. The jungle, the lack of people, the ruins, the views all incredible. Our hopes for seeing a Puma was the only expectation unsurpassed. We ran into some more people on motorcycles. They told us about the town of Flores being nestled onto an island near Santa Elena. It looked like a perfect place to crash. It was. Felt like an Italian city far more than northern Guatemala. Narrow one way streets that were more like alleyways. Buildings stacked on top of each other. Abundant restaurants and nice people to talk to. We had dinner on the edge of the lake and crashed in our cheap hotel. In the room next to ours? The Canadian couple from the border crossing earlier.

And I’m going to break this into 2 posts. For my benefit and yours. I need to go eat breakfast. More to come this afternoon.

Dave Connors

Lead - Expedition Americas

http://www.expeditionamericas.com/

Sunday, December 9, 2007

some updates

Well I find myself in a hotel bed for the 3rd night in a row. Let’s just say my wish came true and now I’m drinking coke with ice in it and brushing my teeth with local water. If I’m going to be sick I might as well enjoy the little things.

 

I’ve added pics to the gallery. Some taken by me, some by ben over the course of the last 10 days.

 

In addition a page has been created for my fine sponsors that can be found here

 

I’ll be posting a nice long recap of the last 2 weeks events later tonight.

 

Dave Connors

Lead - Expedition Americas

www.expeditionamericas.com

 

Friday, December 7, 2007

serendipity

It’s late, I’m exhausted, my eyes are burning, I just ate French Toast at Denny’s (in the parking lot of the Costa Rica hotel) of all places and I’m pretty sure I lack the ability to write a coherent or properly spelled post this evening. But damn it I’m going to try. I’m burning 6gb of photos to DVD so I need to use this time wisely. I feel almost as messed up as I did last night after taking an Ambien to sleep in my sopping wet tent and then trying to stay awake.

So Ben and I wanted to camp on a beach last night and spend the day playing in the surf. After wandering in the dark down potholed roads nears San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua we decided we need to ask for directions. I had bet Ben that the owner of Latin Latitudes B&B were white folk when we first drove past it. Once asking was agreed upon we pulled up to the gate and began our conversation with Alan from Ontario, CAN. yep, white. His b&b was undergoing maintenance so he couldn’t offer us a room. He recommended a few places back in town (20mins away) and we were set to leave when he volunteered a level spot to park and open the aforementioned wet tent. It turned out to be ideal. Slept well with the help of narcotics (the heat, moisture and humidity were too much) and woke up to the sounds of a Alan’s dog and crashing surf. We spent some time in the ocean and used his outdoor shower. The chances of us stumbling down that dirt road, at that time of night and deciding to break down and ask for help are very slim. It was pure luck that we ran across a nice place to stay, a beautiful beach, and shower to boot. Too bad my down comforter is now in the trash. I need to figure out why the tent was wet. Thank you Alan. I can only reiterate how grateful we are for your generosity.

If that good fortune wasn’t enough he recommended a nice place to eat lunch. While eating lunch in a tiny sandwich shop in San Juan del Sur we talked to a guy who grew up in Morgan, UT. Less than 30 miles from my hometown. Currently living in GA but still mighty bizarre to find ourselves talking to a Utahn so far away from home. Oh and I passed 10k on the odometer yesterday. 10k in one month. I kick ass. Or am just an idiot. Hopefully 3 weeks in Costa Rica will help balance it out a bit.

Unfortunately our good luck ran out at the Costa Rican border crossing. 4.5 hours of just standing and sitting and standing and sitting and then more standing and more sitting. It was sort of expected but still frustrating. Late drive into Alejuelo so I can take ben to the airport tomorrow morning. I will struggle with the solitude I’m sure once he is gone. I’m thinking a week of Spanish school is in order. Pics tomorrow.

Dave Connors

Lead - Expedition Americas

http://www.expeditionamericas.com/

Thursday, December 6, 2007

OK Unit Number: 0-7341800

SPOT. lost in some jungle with my boy benji. probably honduras
Unit Number: 0-7341800
Latitude: 11.1847
Longitude: -85.8134
Nearest Town from unit Location: Escamequita, Nicaragua
Distance to the nearest town: 2 km(s)
Time in GMT the message was sent: 12/07/2007 03:30:43

http://maps.google.com/maps?f=q&hl=en&geocode=&q=11.1847,-85.8134&ie=UTF8&z=12&om=1

OK Unit Number: 0-7341800

SPOT. lost in some jungle with my boy benji. probably honduras
Unit Number: 0-7341800
Latitude: 13.7776
Longitude: -86.5533
Nearest Town from unit Location: Los Planes, Nicaragua
Distance to the nearest town: 1 km(s)
Time in GMT the message was sent: 12/06/2007 19:01:26

http://maps.google.com/maps?f=q&hl=en&geocode=&q=13.7776,-86.5533&ie=UTF8&z=12&om=1

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

vive motagua

The Torneo Uncaf finale was held in Tegucigalpa (yeah if that sounds like jibberish you now know how i feel everytime I get an answer to a question in Spanish, Central Amierican club soccer championship is the translation) this fine evening. Benjamin Butterfield and I were the only 2 white people (that I could see) in the entire stadium. Apparently Motagua is not the most popular futbol team in Honduras but I would never be able to tell by the fireworks and enthusiasm in the stadium tonight. What a foreign experience. $5 ticket, ga section, beer being thrown, fireworks being launched, unified chants, they had it all. We left with about 5 mins left to avoid the chaos that would ensue afterwards. Motagua beat the Costa Rican team 2- 0. This was just one of many events I have used the word ‘bedlam’ to described since Ben joined me in Cancun.

Last night at the Guat/Honduras border we spent three and half hours surrounded by squalor and confusion. Poor kids trying to milk us for any money possible. Some idiot telling the border guard our car wasn’t US despite all the paper work. Claimed it was a diesel. We still can’t figure out his motivation. Ginny (or jenny) stuck around after her shift, and the border, closed to help us out. I think she was smitten with the blonde haired, blue eyed Benji. When we first got there she was a bit cold but after awhile she warmed up. As it was we made it through with $1 us left to spend. They wouldn’t take Guat money, banks were closed in Honduras, and we only had $20 in US and they wouldn’t/couldn’t make change, too much was considered a bribe and wouldn’t take it. I scrambled and search to no avail. Ginny loaned us her own money to help us through. She was indeed an angel. We did our best to pass on her generosity. Ben had befriended a teenage kid named Byron at the border while we waited. We ran into him later that night at a gas station. We gave him some cash, coke, gatoraid and a loaf of bread. He was headed our way but we had no room for him. Was a nice kid a bit lost after he left school. Family didn’t want him and he was just hoping to land somewhere.

We slept in a dive motel after dinner at a crappy bar in Santa Rosa de Copan then came to Tegu this morning. Unlike the cluster known as Guatemala City, Tegu has been a nice city. Dirty but nice. Honduras in general is beautiful. Mountain and farms, and land cruisers everywhere. Even the woman are far more attractive than in Guatemala. I’ve lost all my pics from Antigua, Guat so that will have to be saved until I find them. Tikal, Antigua, and Amigos for another time. All deserve their own post when it’s not 2am and I’m covered in beer, diesel soot and cigarette smoke.

Dave Connors

Lead - Expedition Americas

http://www.expeditionamericas.com/

(drove my first Toyota diesel tonight too, wonderful)

OK Unit Number: 0-7341800

SPOT. lost in some jungle with my boy benji. probably honduras
Unit Number: 0-7341800
Latitude: 14.3093
Longitude: -88.1656
Nearest Town from unit Location: Intibucá, Honduras
Distance to the nearest town: 1 km(s)
Time in GMT the message was sent: 12/05/2007 16:06:13

http://maps.google.com/maps?f=q&hl=en&geocode=&q=14.3093,-88.1656&ie=UTF8&z=12&om=1

Sunday, December 2, 2007

forgot the pics, 400 more to come

No internet in belize and benji and I are having way too much fun to post anything long.  Tikal is amazing. Amigo’s bar 15miles west of Belmopan is the craziest place on the face of the earth and 3 hours there made my trip worth it. I’ll explain it in detail later when I have the time.

 

Dave Connors

Lead - Expedition Americas

www.expeditionamericas.com

 

OK Unit Number: 0-7341800

SPOT. i'm in mexico. yep. mexico. but i'm sure you knew that.
Unit Number: 0-7341800
Latitude: 17.058
Longitude: -89.1479
Nearest Town from unit Location: Unknown
Distance to the nearest town: Unknown
Time in GMT the message was sent: 12/02/2007 16:26:40

http://maps.google.com/maps?f=q&hl=en&geocode=&q=17.058,-89.1479&ie=UTF8&z=12&om=1

Saturday, December 1, 2007

OK Unit Number: 0-7341800

SPOT. i'm in mexico. yep. mexico. but i'm sure you knew that.
Unit Number: 0-7341800
Latitude: 18.4863
Longitude: -88.3993
Nearest Town from unit Location: Subteniente López, Mexico
Distance to the nearest town: 0 km(s)
Time in GMT the message was sent: 12/01/2007 16:48:55

http://maps.google.com/maps?f=q&hl=en&geocode=&q=18.4863,-88.3993&ie=UTF8&z=12&om=1

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Some Reflection

Leg two is about to be cut off. I’ve received a few emails about how quickly I have been moving. Yes I am,  I switched from Victor to Captain Chaos after I got off the ferry and blasted across the country. When planning began I looked at my budget, looked at the land mass and unfortunately Mexico was the country to be put aside. It’s proximity to the US makes it too easy to return. Having spent some time here I will come back. 


I loved Baja and already talked about that.  I felt a weird disconnect with Mexico proper.  Okay disconnect is not the right word. That implies some sort of active process going on. I was never able to connect with Mexico proper. It was just a country I was driving across.  Until I reached Campeche.   I loved the town of Campeche. I ate some shrimp in my attempt to enjoy seafood (too much ahead of me on my trip) and actually did.  I posted pics of the view from my table of the old church and the town square. I walked around the city for about 90 mins.  Strolled the waterfront, got gas, bs’d with the guys at the military check point. I’m not sure why I connected to Campeche but I did and it was a good thing.

 

I cashed in some Marriott points here in Cancun and stayed in a brand new hotel last night. Did my laundry, reorganized the truck, sent out emails, sat in the hot tub. My time in 2 huge tourist destinations, Cabo San Lucas and Cancun have been spent in bed or running errands and I haven’t regretted it at all.  I did find a top 2 or 3 taco stand in all of Mexico (in my experience) last night. No complaints there.  Mexico is huge and I’ll be here a few more days. Tomorrow I’ll be wandering around Chitzen Itza with Ben. He doesn’t know it yet but my next blog post might be by him.  But essentially Mexico is over. It’s an amazingly beautiful country and I have experiences I still need to document but the Mayan exploration and bureaucratic nightmare that is Central America begins at 2 this afternoon. After going 8K miles in 3 weeks I’m looking forward to hiking around some temples and small towns over the next few weeks.  I love to be behind the wheel but it’s time for a break.   

I appreciate your interest in my trip and keep the emails coming.   The recent happenings in Venezuela and Bolivia have me a bit concerned but I have a lot of time and ground to cover between now and when I get there.  And I’m looking forward to that ground and experience all that it has to offer.

 

Dave Connors

Lead - Expedition Americas

www.expeditionamericas.com

 

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

new pics...

have been added to the gallery.  They are interspersed throughout the other pics. I forgot to put my camera on continous so it reset every time I emptied the card.  Should be good going forward. Enjoy.

 

http://www.expeditionamericas.com/gallery1.html

 

Dave Connors

Lead - Expedition Americas

www.expeditionamericas.com

 

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

OK Unit Number: 0-7341800

SPOT. i'm in mexico. yep. mexico. but i'm sure you knew that.
Unit Number: 0-7341800
Latitude: 20.5728
Longitude: -89.9464
Nearest Town from unit Location: Santa Cruz, Mexico
Distance to the nearest town: 2 km(s)
Time in GMT the message was sent: 11/28/2007 05:03:09

http://maps.google.com/maps?f=q&hl=en&geocode=&q=20.5728,-89.9464&ie=UTF8&z=12&om=1

the atlantic

When last your humble narrator posted he was melting away in his 85 degree tent on the Pacific Ocean. This post comes to you from the dirty and warm Atlantic Ocean. Somewhere near Ciudad del Carmen. I’m not sure how many of you found the same definition I did for the word cantinflear but it went like this…

“roughly means to talk a lot but say nothing of substance” the following post sort of feels like it will be that way.

So I can’t speak well enough to make any cultural observations but I have spent enough time in the seat of this truck to make one about the driving in Mexico. So in the US whenever you come across a car going really slow and holding up traffic 9 times out of 10 it is a Hispanic. The 10th time it is Brandon Madsen. In Utah the majority of the Latino community is Mexican. I have figured out why they drive so slow. They are completely overwhelmed by other drivers actually staying in their own lanes, obeying speed limits and stop signs. This confusion forces them to drive slowly. Down here it is total bedlam. Not to say it is chaos. There is order and pattern to it but it has nothing to do with obedience to the laws of the land. So you figure it out as you go. Then as soon as you get a grasp on it you enter a different state or city with totally different patterns. So now I am the white guy, driving slow and holding everybody up. Yes I am aware of the irony.

Another thing to concern yourself with is the effects of everyone speeding is the counter measures. Topes, Vibradores and reductor de velocidad. Variations on the speed bump. It is no secret I prefer 2 lane roads to freeways. So I’ve been taking a bit of both through Mexico. As you roll down the road you get passed on blind corners, cutting people off, on the right etc. No one obeying the speed limits. You hit a small town and boom, a speed bump of some kind. Each have their own characteristics. Topes, normal speedbump but in sequence like 10 to 12 of them. So even though it’s 40mph you are going 8. They have them on both ends of town. In the middle they’ll have a Reductor. A HUGE speedbump. 18 in high, 3 feet long. Sometimes they are covered with small ripples like on the side of US freeways to warn you you’re drifting. Those are called vibradores. Well after a few hundred of those in a day you figure it is worth it to get back on the toll roads. Which also vary in quality and price from state to state. 12 pesos here, 148 there, 72, 28, just random numbers. I did however drive one of the most scenic highways I’ve ever been on. I think only Calgary to Jasper is better. It was better than i-70 between Grand Junction and Denver. Better than the Columbia River Gorge. Better than I80 through the Sierra Nevadas. The place it reminded me most of was the road between the Cassiar Highway and Prince Rupert, BC Which is just a horrible analogy because that is road I doubt anyone reading has driven. So let me lay out the day first.

I camped at 9k feet on a dormant volcano east of Puebla. I woke, descended to the valley, drove through corn fields, at 8k feet for 2 hours. I come to Ojo de Agua. I am thinking this is like the heart (or the eye) of this farming valley. Nope. Surreal. 35 foot tall Joshua trees. Prickly pear cactus 15 high. Something akin to a yucca 8 feet tall. Then nothing but dirt. So the eye of water is actually desert. Odd. I climb from the eye to another ridge, through 2 hours of speed bumps and corn fields and join the Autopista headed to Orizaba. At this point I’m about 8k feet. Within mins I see a sign about a steep slope ahead. 15 miles later I have dropped into a canyon 5k feet deep. Just gorgeous. Then the rain came and I lost all sight. But that 15 miles of highway were gorgeous and fast.

So speaking of Peubla. Me and cities…

After leaving Manzanillo I drove to Toluca and stayed at a hotel. Time for a real shower again. I woke early and headed into Mexico city. I found the historic downtown. Drove around looking for places to park. Too tall or full. Sundays are busy. Spent an hour. Decided to give up and go find lunch in a less hectic part of town. Made a wrong turn. Hung a right down into the outdoor market. 30mins to go a mile. Basing it from a large concert venue or sporting event I bet I saw 75k people in those 30 mins. What a mistake. At one point 7 lanes of cars, then 2, then 4 then back to 1. A random bus or cop driving the wrong direction. I was surrounded by vw beetles. Counted 26 at a stop light. Nuts. Found my way out of that mess. Ate a damn good hamburguesa from a road side cart and headed toward Puebla. Figured it would be a good town to venture into. Nope. Same thing except this was worse. All the parking garages had heights listed outside. Saw one with no height on a tight street, headed for it. Turn in, guy screams at me. Too tall. Okay now I’m screwed. What do I do. Well I get to back out, and push back the 4 cars behind me. Then I get to 48 point turn on this tiny little road. 2 sidewalks full of people stopped watching me try and turn around in this cobble stoned alley. So I gave up. Then I found a high end mall. Liverpool, with Prada, Hugo Boss and Omega and ate dinner. Excused myself to the bathroom, came back to coke on ice. I have now exposed myself to the water. So far? no harm no foul. And the coke was excellent. The 4 cheese pizza not too good. I wandered the mall listening to Spanish, watching the Christmas shopping bonanza and went out to find my 40degree camp spot and it was pure bliss compared to the coast.

After descending the afore mentioned canyon I’m back on the coast. After Mexico city and Puebla I became very insular. Eating junk food from my own cache. Not talking at gas stations. Just hoping to find something familiar. Bad idea. Made it even harder to want to stop. I had to get fuel and take a leak in Coatzacoalcos. I forced myself to find a place to park and get out. It was dark but I managed. I ate 3 quesadillas and a coke for 25 pesos. Bought a loaf of bread and picked up a Valencia Futbol jersey for $20. Mainly because it said Toyota on the front. It was nice to overcome my insulation instinct and venture out. All day I was hoping to find something familiar. Something I knew. Knowing it wasn’t out there only made me more reluctant. But I managed to overcome it. Wandered a few more hours east, talked a security guard at a little beachside pool to let me camp in the parking lot. Slept miserable in the heat and humidity but eventually dosed off. He woke me at 6 to get moving before the staff showed up. So been on the road since 6:30. Camp tonight, hotel tomorrow. Pick up ben on thurs and then off to the ruins and costa rica.

Wow. Rambling non linear post today. A bit of cantinflear if I do say so myself. I uploaded pics last night. Tonight I’ll put them in the gallery.

Dave Connors

Lead - Expedition Americas

http://www.expeditionamericas.com/

Monday, November 26, 2007

OK Unit Number: 0-7341800

SPOT. i'm in mexico. yep. mexico. but i'm sure you knew that.
Unit Number: 0-7341800
Latitude: 18.4381
Longitude: -93.2304
Nearest Town from unit Location: Las Flores Segunda Sección, Mexico
Distance to the nearest town: 2 km(s)
Time in GMT the message was sent: 11/27/2007 05:57:09

http://maps.google.com/maps?f=q&hl=en&geocode=&q=18.4381,-93.2304&ie=UTF8&z=12&om=1

Sunday, November 25, 2007

OK Unit Number: 0-7341800

SPOT. i'm in mexico. yep. mexico. but i'm sure you knew that.
Unit Number: 0-7341800
Latitude: 19.1582
Longitude: -97.9231
Nearest Town from unit Location: Pinar, Mexico
Distance to the nearest town: 1 km(s)
Time in GMT the message was sent: 11/26/2007 06:20:18

http://maps.google.com/maps?f=q&hl=en&geocode=&q=19.1582,-97.9231&ie=UTF8&z=12&om=1

Friday, November 23, 2007

freak may be too strong a word...

…but I am pretty sure I’m getting close.

This does not have to do with the fact that I am on this solo journey. It has a little bit to do with the fact that my first night in Mexico, after a full 7 hours of driving, 5 in the dark, that I pull into, within a 100 yards, a camp spot, where 6 months previous I had managed to spend an hour for lunch. Never any doubt I could find it. Yep, I tend to remember where I’ve been. But that’s not totally unusual. Yesterday was the day of enlightenment. (or just a reminder why I am here)

The plan was to take it easy. Get some PM done and drive an hour or two. I didn’t climb down from the tent until about 9:30. Slept in to honor Thanksgiving. I drove the 3 short miles to the beach and opened the tent back up to air out the bedding, rotated my tires, swam, respooled my winch cable, swam again, organized my truck, swam again, messed with my electrical gremlins, swam and then got in the truck about 3:30. Plan was to make it to Tepic at sunset, find an ipod cable, grab something to eat and set up camp. Seems simple enough right?


Decided against the pricey Autopiste for the back roads. Stopped to dick around some more with my faulty passenger side low beam. Still not fixed. Got lost in Tepic. Not once, not twice, but 3 times looking for any store that would have an ipod cable. No luck. Got gas. Ate dinner. Spoke and entire paragraph in Spanish and more importantly understood the answer coming back to me the first time. Hit the road about 8 hoping to find a spot to camp about an hour away. Well being completely out of my element in the jungle, one hour became 2, then 3 then 4. About midnight I stopped for a Military checkpoint. Asked the guy where I should camp. Said the area was unsafe and to head to Puerto Vallarta. Not too far out of my way to Guadalajara so of I went. This beach private. That beach no camping. This beach scary as hell at 1 am. Head into town, look for a cheap hotel or RV park. See a sign for a cheap hotel. Very cheap. Hourly. Skip it. No luck. Wander some more. Find the Walmart, no camping. Go back into town, look up hotels on my phone. Give up. Buy some more caffeine, and these damn vanilla wafer cookies dipped in chocolate I’m addicted to now, and back into the jungle. Head up the coast. Awesome, all private. 4 Seasons resort, Jack Nicklaus Course, Gary Player Course. Yeah this will work just fine for some stinky kid to camp. Find a dirt driveway with some name on the sign. Looks like the road hasn’t been used in awhile. Also just enough room in the field for an 80 Series Land Cruiser. Let’s see, 3:45am, I can be up and moving at 7. They’ll never know I was here. Back the truck in, bugs everywhere. EVERYWHERE. Time to climb in the back. So I push all my crap to one side. Grab my sheet to lay on and go to sleep. Didn’t send the SPOT signal because I wasn’t confident in veracity of the ‘okay’ statement. Grabbed my signal flare for safety and went to sleep. Slept sticky, sweaty and rolling to the driver’s side all night but not bad for 3 hours. Hopped in the driver’s seat drive 3 miles back toward town to a scenic viewpoint, I mean trash pile, grab the pillow and sleep another 2 hours in the front seat as buses rumble by with the engine break on for the sharp turn. Wake up to see a naked Mexican man changing into a swim suit to head down fishing. Beyond him and out of focus to my blurry eyes is a whole truck full of middle aged men staring at me.

So the part that makes me a freak? It was one hell of a day. Not great, but pretty good. That is why I’m doing this trip alone. As I was chuckling to myself wandering through Puerto Vallarta at 2am I tried to think of how all my friends would have been reacting at that point. It would have made a long day for anyone, it was for me, but I enjoyed it quite a bit.

Today more of the same, 90 mins in PV looking for an IPOD cable. (I have 16 more cds of Spanish lessons I need to load up) A truck that is 2.59 meters tall and a seaside tourist town do not combine for convenience in parking. So a lot of walking, 5 stores, finally lowered myself to hit up Walmart. Have felt guilty for it all day. Took a pic of some A arms laying in the parking lot. I guess they have white trash using Walmart as their driveway in Mexico too. Hit the road again south. Plan to get to Colina then head east. Spent too long in Manzanilla looking for a cheap hotel. The RV park was in the industrial section and I didn’t want black lung when I woke up, so now I’m down south on some stagnant beach, not an ounce of breeze, 85 and muggy. Sweating as I type this in my sweltering tent. Tomorrow I head east into the mountains and hopefully some heat relief. I decided to nut up and go into Mexico City. If all the rumors are true if I can survive there and not get robbed or accosted the rest of the cities in my future should be much easier. Hoping Sunday will not be too crazy. We’ll see.

So with that being said I’m going to continue to celebrate the long holiday weekend and watch a little Vacation before I go to bed.

‘excuse me, does anyone know which way to the expressway?’

Dave Connors

Lead - Expedition Americas

http://www.expeditionamericas.com/

OK Unit Number: 0-7341800

SPOT. i'm in mexico. yep. mexico. but i'm sure you knew that.
Unit Number: 0-7341800
Latitude: 19.0004
Longitude: -104.2604
Nearest Town from unit Location: Caliguana, Mexico
Distance to the nearest town: 1 km(s)
Time in GMT the message was sent: 11/24/2007 01:36:49

http://maps.google.com/maps?f=q&hl=en&geocode=&q=19.0004,-104.2604&ie=UTF8&z=12&om=1

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

if i had a cd jacket this is what it would say...

‘Tyler you are, by far, the most interesting single serving friend I’ve ever had’

‘how’s that?’

‘You see I have this thing, that everything on a plane is single serving’

‘Oh I get it. It’s clever.’

‘Thank you.’

‘How’s that working out for you?’

‘What?’

‘Being clever.’

‘Great.’

‘Keep it up then.’

That is about as close as I can get from memory but essentially one of my favorite exchanges in Fight Club. Or any movie for that matter. Well, I met my first single serving friend yesterday on the ferry from La Paz to Topolobampo. Hopefully, one of many I’ll document over the course of the next year. 25 year old kid from San Diego moving to Ixtapa named Mitchell. I agreed to give him a ride into Los Moochis to the bus terminal since it was late and he was unsure of his ability to get one at the dock. I didn’t think to ask how much stuff he had; skateboard, backpack, 2 surfboards, and 2 suitcases. We made it work. Ended up camping with him on some derrick south of town. Me in my tent, him in the back of the Cruiser. Gave him a ride all the way to Mazatlan, had lunch and said goodbye. It was nice to chat in English with someone for a day or so and realize I’m not the only American wandering down here with limited language aplomb. Can ‘limited’ and ‘aplomb’ be used in the same sentence? I guess I just did it. Anyway Mitchell good luck on the new life and good luck with the waves.

Mexico proper. Not what I expected so far. I travelled through a well developed agricultural region today. With the occasional coco palm here and there to remind me I wasn’t in the Sacramento Valley or Central Oregon. Lush green fields of corn lined the hwy and there seemed to be less trash on the road. Even the roads were in decent shape. I miss Baja. Mitchell made the comment that he thinks most Mexican Nationals view Baja the way we view Alaska and I happen to agree with him. It’s remote, it’s separated from the rest of the country’s land mass and it’s unbelievably rugged and beautiful, but why do people want to live there? Well having now spent some time in the former and lived a number of years in the latter I can think of few places I would rather live all things being equal. I ventured out to the beach tonight, about 30miles south of Mazatlan, and decided I didn’t need another windy night. So I found my way down a dirt road to a shallow lake or estuary full of birds. There are times where you can pick the perfect camp spot, have the perfect sunset and know everything is going to be just fine. I like to think of Long Canyon in Moab, Hells Backbone in Escalante, or the Dollhouse. Then there are times when you just get lucky. Tonight was one of those nights. Just enough of a breeze to keep the very few bugs at bay. A picturesque sky as the sun fell behind the trees. A local fisherman, off in the distance, singing every time he pulled in his nets. Ideal temps to wander around taking pics of the cranes and herons filling the shallow water. I got lucky tonight and I’m thankful. Or maybe I earned it for helping Mitchell out. Regardless tomorrow is Thanksgiving and I’m trying to keep the proper attitude about how fortunate I am. Except…

I get to spend my turkey day rotating tires, centering my steering wheel, figuring out why my washer fluid pump stopped working. Wait I’m still a very lucky man.

So on this eve of reflection. I need to thank a few people, publicly, who helped put me down here in such a wonderful place.

Kevin Smith

Jason Lee

Carter Beauford

Stefan Lessard

Josh Carmack

Neil Young

Larry David

Dave Matthews

Ben Harper

Ed Abbey

Wallace Stegner

Christy Turlington

Jerome Garcia

Indiana Jones and Han Solo

Marty McFly

Goose

Oh wait people I actually know and not just celebrities and superstars..

In no particular order…

Ray and Linda Connors, Travis Jeremy Farnes (the strangest, most eccentric and best friend a person could ever have, but truly just bizarre, insanely bizarre), Will Carroll, Jen Carroll, the 2 Carroll Kids. The Websters, The Trunk Monkey, Kurt Jeffrey, Ryan Davis, Kaleb Galbraith, Dustin Francis, Trent Ashby, Adam Tolman, Johnny and Angel Lange, Pablo and Kiddo May, The Morgans, The entire Call clan, Dr. Stephen Lewis Petersen (for the half a tank of gas in the paypal account tonight),Henry Cubillan (the real reason I’m in this mess, him and his damn stories) Eric Vogt, TJK, Troy Seinfeld, My Boy Beef Stew, Jeremy LaVar, Trent Anderson, Bart Anderson, Ken Thibault, Brother and Sister Hardass, THE 2007 WORLD CHAMPION BOSTON REDSOX, Alancia (or however the hell you spell your name),The Roses, Jack C, Dan D, Mr. Trent Taylor, Worm, Worm’s Twin Brother, my surrogate family the Muirs for teaching me that weird is good and home is wherever you make it, I miss you guys more than you know, Maddog, Ty Maddog, Brad Gillespie, Robert Segal, Wes Johnson, Scott Brady, J and Trevor Ralls for allowing me to live their dreams for them, Benji Butterfield, Crazy George, Hampton the Dopefiend Killah, Brian Hanson, Kent McComb, McArthur, Ivan, Ophir Nuiqsit, Jim Jackson, Curnutt, Scott Simpson and for real, Josh Carmack. Thank you all and to everyone else who has helped me over the past 6 months, or past 10 years. No more sappy crap from now on. Tomorrow curse words and sarcasm.

Gracias and buenas noches,

Dave Connors

Lead - Expedition Americas

http://www.expeditionamericas.com/

oh I included a pic I’ve been meaning to post for a week now, this is for the Petersen clan and my bro, (I already emailed you so you know about it already but here is proof)

some clerical info

Just a brief blurb about a few clerical things then I’ll post up later about the last few days event.

First of all I want to thank everyone that is reading or signed up. Tomorrow is Thanksgiving for you American folk afterall. So gracias.

Brought to my attention by others.

Those reading from my site and not via email, rss or blogger direct I have adjusted the frame size to make it a bit more reader friendly. I hope it helps.

Apparently there are children, be it nieces or children of friends, reading my posts. I am going to say make sure an adult reads my blog before letting them read it. Most of you know my affinity for the f word. Isn’t has come out yet but I’m sure it’s not too far away. Just lingering, waiting to get out. As my friend Luke Chamberlain likes to point out. No funnier word in the English language if used properly.

Brought to my attention by myself.

I just re-read a few posts. Man I really should not be sending first drafts. Because I’m always feeling rushed to beat the clock, as it were, with my laptop battery life I don’t proof read and man does it show. Typos all over the place. I’ll try to work on that.

So thanks again for following me on my journey, I shall do my best to make it interesting for you. And again, I’m getting to all the emails as rapidly as my mind and battery allow.

dmc