Crazy how fast the trip has gone by…It seems like yesterday we were in San Diego and now we are in the southern depths of Nicaragua, looking to cross the border into our last country of the trip, Costa Rica! As we woke up from our double birthday extravaganza in San Juan del Sur, we anxiously packed our bags and got to the road. San Juan was okay, definately not our vibe. We had a good time there, but it is definately one of those places that we don’t need to return. But maybe it just left a bad taste in our mouth because Tommy’s iphone went missing there, most importantly, losing all the cool photos he had taken from Nica. No worries though, it is solely a material possession that can be replaced and hold no real value.
As well pulled out of the beachside town, we had our sights set on crossing the frontera of Costa Rica in the afternoon, which would start the final chapter of our story. The morning went well…Although the wind was in our face the whole time pedaling back to the highway, we felt strong and ready for the day. Once on the highway, we were heading south with windmills to our right and Lago Nicaragua to our left. It is great to see that Nica is harvesting the wind energy that is constantly blowing in the countryside. The downside to riding next to windmills is its windy, but by this point in the trip, wind isn’t really a problem. Rather than being a nuisance, we have come to accept it as the status quo. We could tell that we were approaching the border by the lines of semi trucks that were starting to build up for inspection. On the Nica side, we quickly got in line, Bradie doin’ leg work while Tommy watched the bikes. We got our exit stamps, which was cool because they didn’t want to give us entrance stamps. We are stamp fiends…Then we crossed over to the Costa Rica side. That is when we came across the biggest border crossing line we had ever seen. It looked like we standing in line for a Disney ride. After standing in line for an hour plus in the sweltering heat, we got our entrance stamp, got to the bikes, and rode away into Costa Rica, our sixth and final country of the trip! Pura Vida! After the long delays at the border, we ended up riding through the heat of the day, which seems to be quite a bit hotter here in Costa Rica. We resupplied for dinner in the town La Cruz and then pedaled south to see where camp would be that night. There was lots of open land but not much access. Luckily we found a dirt road turn to a farmhouse, where after asking for camp, we were granted permission. After setting up camp, we watched the sunset that was dropping off into ocean from our beautiful bayside outlook. Meanwhile, we were intensely gazing trying to see the illusive green flash that is rumored to happen just as the sun drops.
~Wind generated energy in Nica~
~The infamous entry photo~
It was a gusty night but we both got a great night sleep. We quickly packed up and ate breakfast because the ranch hand was trying to let the cows graze in the field we had camped in and was waiting for us to leave. The morning ride was quite cool because the national highway we were pedaling was located smack dab between two national parks, Guanacaste and Santa Rosa. Just as we were getting back on the bike from a quick break, another bike tourist pulled up. Jonathan introduced himself and told us he was a local Tico (Costa Rican), who had 10 days vacation from work and so he went on a short bike tour! It is awesome because this is the first local bike tourist we have met the whole time. Every other tourist we have met have been foreigners and it is great to see the locals enjoying their countryside the way we do. Obviously we asked if he wanted to ride with us and he jumped on board. Funny enough, 5 km after we met Jonathan, we ran into another solo tourist, cycling the opposite direction. We didn’t get his name but he was from Sweden. With the wind finally at our back, the newly formed trio crushed to Liberia, where we would take lunch and escape the heat. Jonathan was a super chill dude who easily went with our flow and was helping us out with local info, almost being somewhat of a tour guide for us. After sitting in the shade for a couple hours and doing some computer work, we started riding again. Jonathan wanted to bike to Playa del Coco, so we jumped on board because he was great company. Only 8 km from Coco, Jonathan broke a spoke, and with great teamwork we got him back on the road. Bradie had an extra spoke for him, Jonathan had the needed cassette tool, and Tommy trued the wheel.
~Sunsets in Costa Rica a pretty spectacular~
~Bike tourists hangin’ with bike tourists~
We got to the beach just before sunset and Jonathan did the leg work to get camp set up. Allegedly, open camping on the beach is a little sketchy, but we found a locals house that let us camp and they lived right on the beach. Perfect! After cooking dinner and drinking coffee (Jonathan’s idea), Bradie decided to introduce himself to the neighbors, some gringos that sounded like they were having a great time! One of the guys was from Colorado and we quickly got invited over for some beers. These guys were retired gringo expats and travelers filled with stories. One man was 89 years old, fought WWII, drove Nascar in the ’40s, and drinks a case of beer and smokes a pack of cigs a day. He said his secret is that he has never drank a cup of coffee in his life. After a few rounds of beers and some great stories, we retired to our camp to get some much needed sleep.
~I think Jonathan had a long day~
Since we were on a different agenda than Jonathan, him being on vacation and wanting to take the scenic routes and us taking the direct route as we end our trip, we parted ways. Our time with him was great. He is super relaxed and a huge bike enthusiast! As we pedaled back to the main highway, Tommy spotted a melon on the side of the road with our names on it. Getting back to our dirt bag roots, we grabbed it and took a brief break to snack. We then continued to ride onward pedaling hard so we could get to the town of Santa Cruz to get lunch supplies and escape the ungodly hot weather. Costa Rica is extremely hot! A few km before Santa Cruz, we came across a large mango tree that had freshly fallen mangos on the ground, ripe and ready for the taking. Tommy was stoked because he has been waiting for this moment the entire trip. We filled a grocery sack full of mangos and then started filling our empty stomachs. After eating 10+ mangos a piece, we had our fill. We pedaled the remaining way to Santa Cruz, got some lunch supplies from the grocery and went to the parque central to eat and relax the heat away. To digress, one of the things we have noticed about Costa Rica is A) it is twice the price of all other countries we have visited thus far and B) it is way too Westernized. Local markets don’t exist, its just the large, mega stores. But anyway, as we got to the park, we immediately got approached by the police and they started giving us the 3rd degree. “You can’t drink beer in public! You can’t have your bikes here! Where’s your passport? Where do you live? When are you leaving?” Blah, blah, blah. After refusing to show our passports because we did nothing wrong, we bailed the park scene and sought out some shade elsewhere. Man, have been on the road for 4 months and never had to talk to the cops, and 2 days into Costa Rica, we are gettin hasseled. There is way too many rules here.After takin’ our siesta, we got back on the bikes to ride another 30+ km to finish the day. With the suset cerca and completely spent from the day, we made camp at this abandoned piece of land, bandit camping. We weren’t quite sure what it was for. It was half a papaya farm and half quarry, quite strange. As we cooked dinner and had our nightly debrief, we got to listen to the local population of howler monkeys, bark through into the air!
~B-Koz takin’ in the countryside~
In the morning, we were quick to wake up and get on the road. We had 50 km to ride to Playa Naranjo and needed to be there by 1230 to catch the ferry that would take us across the Golfo de Nicoya to mainland CR from the Nicoya Peninsula. The riding was pretty nice, getting to pass through farm country. We passed through endless farms of watermelon, melon, and some strange fruit that we couldn’t quite distinguish. We got to Playa Naranjo earlier than expected so we had a couple hours to chill out before taking the ferry. We started to talking to a local at the restaurant we were hangin’ at who was also a cyclist. He quickly pointed out the he also had razor sharp tan lines. Classic! He let us know that although the ferry was cheap to ride, the bikes were expensive, and are equated to motorcycles. But he gave us the local beta that if the bikes are in the back of a pick-up, it is free. So Bradie started crusing through the line of traffic builiding up for the ferry and found a local named Marco who let us put our bikes in his truck. Just after we finished loading our bikes, our cyclist friend handed us ferry tickets, gifting us free tickets! Man the generosity was just pouring out to us today!! The ferry was the nicest one we have taken so far, equipped with wifi, a bar, and shaded seats even! After a smooth, 1 hour ferry ride, we got off in Puntarenas, took our bikes and got some more shade for the remaining hour of the daily heat. It is really too hot to ride bikes from 12-3 in Costa Rica. After hangin’ beach side for an hour, we rode the rest of the afternoon/evening. There are 3 highways to San Jose, our end destination. We chose to take ruta 27, which is the newly built autopista and possibly the more tranquillo road. Soon after getting on 27, we kept our eyes out for a place to camp. Finding a dirt road, we explored it for a km or 2 until we found another abandoned quarry-like piece of land. It was less than ideal, but a place to camp. After eating dinner, the mosquitos came out and were absolutely unbearable. So we retreated to our tents, lying there naked, sweating like mad and scratching like crazy. It is even hot at night!
~Roadside monkey sighting~
~Loaded bikes, loaded on the ferry~
A couple hours before the sunrise, Tommy was awoken to a familiar, but strange sound. Thunder! Haven’t heard that since leaving home…So he woke up Bradie, told him the rain was coming and so we both got out of our tents, threw on our rainflys and went back to sleep, just before the morning precipitation fell. Allegedly, it doesn’t rain this time of year in Costa Rica, so that was the first strange occurence of the day. With only 70 km from San Jose, it could potentially be our last day of riding for this trip. It all depended on how steep the hill climb was going into San Jose, because it was really talked up to be tough. Before we could load our bikes, Tommy noticed he had a flat tire, making it the 20th of the trip. Not bothering to patch it, he replaced the tube, loaded the bike and we left camp. But not 100 feet away from camp, the tube had a strange blow out, forcing him to patch the tube we originally didn’t want to. Wow, 2 flat tires and we hadn’t even got on the road yet. Staying positive and not letting set backs such as these affect us, we patched the tube and got on the road. Both of us had an extremely positive headspace and we climbed road the nice paved road. Reflecting back on all the great times we have had on the trip, it was impossible to have anything but a positive mindset. After talking to a local biker, we told us ruta 27 was muy tranquilo and basically flat compared to the other routes. Stoked on the route we took, we kept on crushing down the nicely paved road with wide shoulders. Being an autopista, it was the business route so there were lots of loud trucks, but no worries. We are sitting on cloud 9! With no shade in sight and stomachs empty, we decided to take our lunch under and overpass, giving a quick break from the shade! After a quick lunch and only 35 more km to San Jose, we pushed onward, realizing that we would make it to our final destination today! But as we got back on our bikes, Bradie realized that somehow he had gotten his 3rd flat tire of trip. Man, today is full of flats, but still can’t bring us down. After fixing it, we pressed on, smiling as the busy road echoed with honks of people cheering us on and giving us waves, thumbs up, and peace signs. Even though we have had some set backs, the universe has really been on our side today and fully stoked for us to complete our pilgrimage.
~A fairly common road hazard here in Costa Rica~
~Classic roadside bike repairs!~
~…And bike maintenance~
Cruising past many toll booths indicating the highway prohibited cyclists, we found ourselves 25 km from Escazu ( a suburb of San Jose), where we would be staying for the next few days to rest and prepare for our trip back home. We gave our friend Jane a call indicating we would be arriving that night instead of the next day and she said that was fine. Jane is a friend of our grandmother who has reached out to help these tired tourists! As we got back to the highway, we started pedaling hard. For one the sunset was within an hour away and our stoke levels had reached “Fully Torqued”. With the end in sight, we began to reflect internally at all the amazing experiences we have had over the last few months. We have tried to express it in the blog as much as we can, but words can’t describe how amazing this trip has been. Crushing to reach Jane and Randy’s house, a brief rain came, which we welcomed openly. Only 5km, a man sitting in traffic in the opposite direction, yelled out “Your almost there!” This encouraging stranger had no idea how powerful his words were. We really were almost there. We were kilometers away from completing the greatest accomplishment of both our lives. Unashamed to admit it, Tommy even became teary eyed at his words…With the sun gone, and still some ground to cover, on our last day of riding, we broke our number 1 rule. “Don’t ride at night”.
~What a view…Not far from San Jose~
~Unintentionally posing with the bikes~
Finally though, after weaving through the night traffic and getting turned around due to misleading google maps, we made it to Randy and Jane’s home! We got off our bikes, high-fived and hugged each other and let out a sigh of relief. Although tired and weary from the road, we hade a lot of mixed emotions running through our minds. Bradie it best, “The grass is always greener on the other side”. We have been tired and worn out from months of non stop traveling, but now that we completed the task at hand, we want to ride more. It is that familiar bittersweet emotion that I am sure many of you reading can relate to…But to digress, Randy and Jane welcomed us into their home openly, handed us a beer, and pointed us to the shower. Somehow they could read our minds and knew exactly what we needed. The steaming shower felt amazing, washing off days of dirt and sweat! The rest of the night we sat around talking to our new friends and hosts about our experiences and learning about their crazy experiences living in Costa Rica for the last 20 years. They informed us on lots of things about Costa Rica good and bad and hows its not all Pura Vida like its made out to be.
The next morning we woke up, feeling tired but rested at the same time. The thought of not having to ride loaded bikes for the next few days felt great. We have four days hear in San Jose to rest, relax, and prepare for the long, but short journey home. Our time with Randy and Jane has been great and we can’t say thanks enough for all they are doing for us as we prepare for this major shift in lifestyle. Their hospitality towards us is unmatched and have been treating us like family members, its amazing! They are really making our transition from bike tour to “real life” back home easy. Not only did they open their home to us, but they even went out of their way to get us boxes to put our bikes in. This was a chore that we thought might take us a full day to complete, but they saved us the headache and had the boxes waiting for us when we arrived. Their hospitality has really reminded us how fortunate we have been this entire trip!
~How is this bike going to fit in there?~
As we conclude the story of Ranger Rides, we would like to reflect back to all the amazing experiences we have had. We have made countless numbers of new friends. We have gained knowledge is numerous new subjects. We have learned so much about Latin history and culture that we had not known. We can’t describe how much we have learned and gained from this trip. It is easily the greatest learning experience either one of us have ever had, filling us with an unimaginable amount of life experience. The generosity we have seen from complete strangers on this trip is completely unprecedented. So many caring people have gone so far out of their way to help us in the time of need. So many people have opened up their homes to us in order to provide us with a safe, secure place to rest our heads, wash our bodies, and fill our stomachs. From the deepest part of our hearts, we want to thank EVERYONE who has helped us make it to where we are. Maybe you opened you home to us, fed us, directed us, taught us. You have all contributed and are part of The Ranger Ride. Thank you so much!!!
~So long, its been a fun ride…Looking down on San Jose~
Although there are many strangers that helped us, there are also many new friends that we would like to list and personally thank, in a more or less chronological order of the trip:
– Greg Kozera, Prudence, Christian, Aunt Shannon and Uncle Jim, Roberto, Santa Rosalia Bomberos, Pete & Sonya, Rick, John, Mark & Jen, Steve, Dave, Steve, Wes & Michele, Kurt, Chuey, Rancho Sol y Mar, Al, Mark, Pepe & Bren, Ike & Laura, Christian, Warren, Santiago, Drunk guy in Salina Cruz, Rodrigo, Noé, Heinrich, Sean, Herbet, Vela, Juan & Pati Moreno, Anthony, Franzi, Tito, Heidi & Ray, Jonathan, Marco, Elbert, Jane and Randy, and last but certainly not least IKE AND HEN!!! And everyone else, you know who you are!!!
Soon we will be boarding the plan back home, flying back in hours from what it took months to arrive to. Bike tour is the greatest thing that has happened to us and completely life changing. This has been our first big bike tour, but it is most certainly not the last. It is a passionate subject to both of us and one which we could talk for hours about. If you have enjoyed the story over the last few months and felt inspired by our experiences, we have one piece of advice…GO ON BIKE TOUR! You will understand!
Ranger B-Koz and Ranger Tom