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Costa Rica
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01/20 -Toured the city today.

-Needed Colones, the local currency. Went to several banks before we found one with ATM's. Tried several ATM's before we found one that accepted one of our cards. On the first try at getting Colones, I (David) ended up getting a stack of American twenty's -- spendable but a pain in the small shops we like to frequent. On the second try, I asked for 20,000 Colones (about $60 American.) The machine spit out two 10,000 Colones bills. Great, I thought -- until I tried to spend one. Venders wouldn't accept them. Too big. So, back to the bank to get them changed to smaller bills.

-You may wonder why the equivalent of a thirty dollar bill was too big to handle. Consider that two donuts cost 10 Colones, and a lunch of two vegi-burgers and two large fruit smoothies cost 1,300 Colones.

-Walked through the town Mercada. It's a one block square indoor shopping area that is a combination flea market and farmers market. Dark and narrow isles between the shops, very crowded (watch your purse and wallet), but a fun and interesting place to visit.

-Walked through the downtown to the National Museum. Interesting display of the heritage of Costa Rica.

-Stopped in several stores looking for sandals with better support. Found and bought a pair.

-Went to several stores looking for a Coleman Air mattress. Didn't find one, but got a lead from a fellow rider that we'll follow-up on tomorrow.

-Early breakfast tomorrow, then off on a "rain-forest canopy" tour. More tomorrow.

-Love to all, David and Lisa

1/21 -This morning we drove and then hiked to get up and into the tropical rain forest to swing under the canopy of the trees. Really!

-There were nine platforms built high in the trees -- just under the canopy of branches. Steel cables connected the platforms. We were each strapped into yeoman-seats, hooked onto pulleys with carbingers, hung from the cables, and sent sliding between the platforms amongst the trees. What a blast!

-We spent the rest of the afternoon riding in a taxi through San Jose and some of it's suburbs, looking for some reported -- but apparently nonexistent -- sporting goods stores.

-Our bike, along with 124 others, have not arrived from Mexico yet. The latest word is that they, along with one mechanic, are on a Russian cargo plane headed this way. They're due into the San Jose Airport about 11 tonight. We have been told to pick them up at 5 in the morning.

-That's of some concern to many riders, and for good reason. The bikes have to be reassembled and adjusted before we can ride -- and tomorrow we are scheduled to ride over the 12,000' Cerro de La Muente pass on the 75 mile ride. That's about 7,600' higher than we are now. That's a lot of climbing!

-Tonight, after dinner, we were entertained by Costa Rican dancers doing traditional folk dances. Very nice.

-One more thing. Although these are generic messages to everyone, we think about each and every one of you every day.

-Love to all, David and Lisa

-PS I forgot to mention one of the really fine things about Costa Rica -- we can drink the water!

1/22 -This was the day from hell. It was billed as a 74 mile day with a "well earned descent" (read, big hill) at the end. The reality was a little different.

-This mornings DRG (Daily Route Guide) gave the first hint. The distance had grown to 105 miles. Add to that that we didn't get our bike (flown in from La Paz last night) until 6 this morning. We reassembled it, had the front wheel trued (bent from the flight), had the derailer hanger straightened (also bent from the flight) and had the brakes and shifters adjusted. We hit the road before 8:30.

-Unfortunately, the route took us right through downtown San Jose. That took about an hour. Then the road began an easy climb -- but right into the teeth of a fierce headwind. It took about two more hours to reach the start of the "big climb" -- the climb to the 11,171 ft summit of "The Mountain of Death" as the locals call it. So named because, legend has it, many people have climbed the mountain, only to die at the top due to the cold and winds.

-Well, we climbed, and we climbed, and we climbed -- until the we got into the clouds and experienced about 100 ft visibility on the narrow, rough, windy mountain road. We decided it was too dangerous to remain on the road, so we pulled off to wait for a SAG (safety and gear) vehicle to pick us up.

-To make a long story short, we waited 2 1/2 hours in the freezing rain and fog. Then we flagged down a local and got a ride part way up the mountain to there turn off. Thankfully, there was a kind-of restaurant there.

- Although it was rather "lightly constructed," the tables on the semi-enclosed porch were sheltered from the wind, so it felt 20 degrees warmer. We had "chocolatee caliente" (hot chocolate), then tae caliente, then sopa caliente -- all while we were trying to warm up and waiting for the SAG.

-Finally the sag came, but they could only take us to the restaurant on this side if the summit. By the time we reached the restaurant it was 4 o'clock. There were lots of other riders there -- also freezing. We still had 13 KM's and 2,500 feet of climb to reach the summit -- then another 53 KM's to get to camp. With the fog getting thicker, the temperature getting colder, and nightfall 1 1/2 hours away, we (about 49 of us) figured it wouldn't be very wise to keep riding. We'll wait for the SAG. Then Karen-Ann came in and said, "There'll be no SAG. Just get out there and ride" and she left.

-Some cried. Most got angry. One rider and his wife, who each could speak Costa Rican Spanish, got busy. He found a bus out front that was empty, so he got the driver to agree to take a bus load of passengers the rest of the way to camp at 1,000 Colones each. But what about the bikes? He spotted an empty flat bed truck across the street and convinced that driver to take the 40 bikes for us at 200 Colones each.

-We arrived at camp at about 8:30, had a late dinner, set up our tent, showered, and hit the sack. WHAT A DAY! And the saving grace? It's WARM here.

-We later learned that only a small handful of riders actually completed the whole ride.

-Tomorrow's ride is scheduled to be 95 miles -- hopefully not so hilly.

-Hope you're all well.
Love to all, David and Lisa

1/23 -Unfortunately, we started the day late because we had to wait an hour and a half for breakfast. But once we started, the first 82 KM's were wonderful. They took us up and down hills, through lush, tropical forests, across many rivers, and past many primative-looking homes with lots of friendly people. We stopped by a beautiful waterfall for a break and a photo. One rider even went swimming in the river. We were pedaling so well, we even passed a motorcycle -- albeit, a pretty sick one.

-We were zooming down a hill today when one of the Costa Rican drivers flagged us down. He explained the "wild beasts had been spotted ahead and a rider had been bitten,"

-Of course we were curious what kind of wild beasts were in the area, and whether the rider was seriously hurt -- so we asked the rider. It turned out she had ridden into a swarm of "wild bees" and had received a few stings.

-Serious -- but not quite as exciting as we had thought. (We rode on ahead, but we didn't encounter any "wild beast.")

-In the afternoon, after the waterfall, the hammer dropped. The last 50 KM's were mostly up, on some pretty steep roads. We climbed from 250 feet at the river to over 3,200 feet at the pass. Then we dropped down to San Vito at about 3,000 feet for our overnight.

-We ride the whole way, because we only average 8 KM/H climbing that steeply. We hitched a ride in the back of a small stake truck.

-When we got in, we found that very few riders were able to finish -- again. Most got rides or SAG'ed in. Some were brought in as late as 9:30 p.m.

-There's much unhappiness and discontent in the group about the long, tough rides, and about the TK&A attitude that it's the rider's fault that most of them can't finish the rides -- day after day. It will be interesting to see how long the majority will accept the, "it's not my fault" attitude exhibited by the TK&A leaders.

-On the brighter side, it's a beautiful country filled with wonderful people. We were able to visit with several of them today.

-Tonight we had a delicious Italian dinner -- fruit punch, salad, spaghetti, pizza and teramisu -- all served by a local restaurant. It was wonderful!

-We're "camped" tonight inside the town's field house, next the soccer field. It looks like a giant "any Mountain" tent display room. Wy inside, you may ask? Simple. It was raining outside when we had to choose between the soccer field and the field house.

-Haven't seen any "malaria-carrying" mesquitos yet. Nevertheless, we will keep taking our anti-malaria medicine.

-Tomorrow, we will go into Panama

-Love to all, David and Lisa

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