Friday, March 12, 2010

COSTA RICA Day 7: Viva la Viernes

I was successfully reunited with my wheel. Alejandro brought the wheel to Bike Arenal which is also apparently called Ciclo La Fortuna, and to further confuse things, I was told that despite the sign that says that the shop was closed for renovations, the shop was open--although at the house behind the shop. Whatever, all I know is that my wheel got completely rebuilt, with new spokes, for $10! Ten! I was back in business! The weather was still a bit iffy, but after a day of milling about, we were ready to ride.

The first order of business was to head back to the waterfall. We had turned around about halfway up a killer climb last time, but this time we wanted to make it to the top. We did. From there, we went back down to La Fortuna, then on to another dirt road into La Guairia. From there, the road deteriorated to a slick, sticky, muddy, ATV trail. FUN! We climbed up some more, then descended down to the Rio Arenal. On our return trip we crossed paths with a couple of groups of ATV riders, and I think we were definitely having more fun. At least I had more mud on me.

Anyway, after some more climbs and some more killer Costa Rican scenery, it was time to head back to the hotel (of course, uphill), and then to the showers.

Our clothes were sticky, sweaty, and oh so stinky. Although we tried to air them out and let them dry, I felt bad for any TSA inspectors that had to open our bags...

After the showers, it was too late for lunch and too early for dinner--so it was perfect for coffee time! Back to the Gecko (I've got to find their beans... apparently a company called "Down To Earth." Once I was adequately caffeinated, Jean and I wandered over to an art gallery.

When we arrived, the girl working there was all alone, and we were the only ones in the shop. While we were browsing, a bus-load of demanding, impatient, and downright rude Americans rolled in. They huffed and puffed because the poor girl coudn't help all of them at once before finally making a few purchases and being herded away. Jean and I apologized, on behalf of all of the consciencous American travellers out there. We also got some VERY cool art.

Anch'io again for another great Italian dinner and then back to the hotel to start the bike break-down and pack-up process.

COSTA RICA Day 6: Well, it is a rain forest…(Jueves)

I was in a children's music video many years ago, doing stunt riding in a Billy Bob Bear costume, riding to the song, "You Picked A Fine Time To Leave Me Loose Wheel." I was reminded of this as I was without my loose wheel for the day...

It's a bit of a blessing that I didn't have my bike because we had some major mal tiempo... it was POURING. 

The day turned into another defacto chill day, Jean with her book, me with my laptop. We did try to head out for a couple of hikes when we saw some breaks in the weather, but it would literally start pouring again as soon as we arrived at the trail head. We took that as a sign.

We did brave the deluge and head in to La Fortuna for coffee--I loved the Gecko. Anyway, there we were treated to a reenactment of the famous Costa Rican Craneo y Culebra y Perro dance. In this dramatization a young boy donned a skull mask and taunted a local dog with a rubber snake. It was beautiful and moving. It was also very strange.

The really exciting part of the day came when we tried a local Italian restaurant, Anch'io, and Jean swooned over the pasta and wine. Mmmmmmmm.

Need a chainsaw???

As you may recall, I'm calling our recent wind storm the GDWSO2010 (the Great Destructive Wind Storm Of 2010), and I'm still amazed at all of the down trees I've seen. In the woods, and on the trails, there are still plenty of actual trees still down, but out on the streets and in the neighborhoods, I'm mostly seeing giant stumps and maybe big log piles. 

However, my neighbor (the house behind me), had a tree come down and crush his garage. Aside from some caution tape, NOTHING has been done. That's no big deal when it comes to his garage, but the tree that's down is resting against his neighbor's house. WTF? I'd be enraged if that tree was against my house. 

Anyway, I took this pic right after the storm, and sadly, the scene is unchanged!

Towel Sculptures from Costa Rica

Sure, I had never thought that towels would be an appropriate medium for sculpture, but the staff at Hotel El Silencio Del Campo opened my eyes...

The person who cleaned our room each day started with a relatively easy heart shaped design, followed for a couple of days with various geometric shapes, but then she (I'm assuming she was a she... is that wrong?), kicked it up a couple of notches by making an elephant and finally a pair of swans kissing. Origami that you can dry yourself off with... that's pretty cool!

Monday, March 8, 2010

THE Understatement of 2010

I'll take a little break from my Costa Rica postings (more coming) to briefly talk about my ride yesterday. Jean and I took the bikes up to Willowdale, and, well, to say that there was some wind damage and some trees down would be, in my opinion, THE understatement of 2010.

I'm calling that storm a couple of weeks ago the GDWSO2010 (the Great Destructive Wind Storm Of 2010). There were some MAJOR trees down. Someone (NEMBA?) has already done a significant amount of clearing, but wow, there's more to go. Get your chainsaws ready...

On the plus side, we did find some new singletrack!

Friday, March 5, 2010

Dogs of Costa Rica

I'll take a break from telling you about the trip to give you a short presentation about some of the dogs we met in Costa Rica...






We love dogs of all nationalities!

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

COSTA RICA Day 5: Quiero que me arreglen la bicicleta (Miercoles)

Another day of riding, and another broken spoke! No comprende!

After breakfast we headed out past Nuevo Arenal to a different hotel/resort called Mystica. This place is owned by an Italian couple, and they boast that there are good mountain biking trails nearby. We contacted one of the owners and made arrangements to head out there, get some good Italian food, and do some riding. Mystica was a very cool resort—we’d probably stay there for a day or two on our next trip, and the food—belisimo!

We got some directions for a ride, which included lots and lots of climbing, and headed out. I had hoped that my minor tweaking the other day would have limited by chances of busting another spoke, but alas, this was not the case. As we were climbing and climbing and climbing, I heard the all too familiar “ping” followed by “rub, rub, rub.” I could still roll without being too hampered, and I held my breath while I tightened the opposing spokes to lessen the rubbing just a bit. Then, we soldiered on. Or should I say up.

We climbed a good 700ft of elevation, then hit a town called Sabalito. From there, it was a steady downhill to Tierra Molenas where we were supposed to find a dirt road that would take us up to a wind farm. Unfortunately, we got a bit lost. Instead, we found some gnarly, rutted, jeep “roads” that seemed like fun. We cruised down for a couple of miles, ever descending, until the trail abruptly ended.

Jean was NOT a happy camper. Partially because we were slightly lost, although, I argued that point, because I had my GPS, and I knew EXACTLY where we were… I just couldn’t get us to where we wanted to go easily because the trails/road aren’t marked or mapped. The other part to her chagrin was the fact that we had essentially descended roughly 1,000ft on some gnarly trails, and our only option was to turn around and go back up.

In retrospect, the climbing wasn’t bad, and once we reached the peak in Sabalito, it was smooth downhill sailing on the road back to Mystica. The BeGo brought us back to the hotel and our hunger brought us back to the restaurant, for typico Arroz con pollo.

After an adequate amount of time to digest, we made our way down to the hot springs, when lo and behold, we ended up chatting with some fellow Massachusettians and one Connecticutian. The truly ironical thing is that one of the guys is a mountain biker and fellow NEMBA member.

As we were heading back to the room, we stopped off at the reception desk to talk with Elios, one of the VERY helpful staff here at the hotel. After much bilingual debate, he recruited his amigo to take my wheel back into town to see if anyone else could remedy my situation… 



Tuesday, March 2, 2010

COSTA RICA Day 4: More Volcano (Martes)

The Arenal volcano dominates the landscape in this part of the country, so we felt obligated to do some exploring at the Arenal Volcano National Park. No one is allowed to hike on the volcano, something to do with the fact that it’s active and magma burns, so we were kept a “safe” distance away. Some hikers did apparently try, and die, back in 2000.

The trails around the volcano were a mix of rain forest and walking on lava rock. Unfortunately, there were a few tour groups in the area at the same time, so we never could escape the masses. One trail, I’ll call “Broken Hip” was a steep climb up broken lava rock. I call it Broken Hip because hordes of tourists—old tourists—were trying to scramble up and down the rocks. I had to hold my breath sometimes while watching these people. I’ll give them credit for not sitting back in their rocking chairs, but yikes. I did see one woman go down, but she seemed to bounce back up. Hardy foreigners. An American, I would guess, would lie there waiting for a helicopter and a lawyer. 

Anyway, the tourists did provide some interesting visuals, but they were also, unfortunately, loud. While walking on one of the trails in the forest, we were behind a group of about 20 who sounded like they were all trying to stomp on grapes and talk to each other with their hearing aids off. And they wondered why they didn’t get to see any wildlife.

After our sojourn around the volcano trails, we hit the road on the north side of Laguna de Arenal. This TWISTY narrow road had a full-on traffic jam as some large trucks and tour busses—going in opposite directions—had to do some very creative maneuvering to get by. Once past that jam, it was smooth sailing in the BeGo, passing strangle little critters on the side of the road, until we hit Nuevo Arenal. 

We stopped in this little lake-side village, for, of course, some German food. Sauerbraten anyone? Filled with meat and dumplings, we made our way back along the narrow, twisty road, pushing the BeGo like a finely tuned racing machine, back to Fortuna for another delicious coffee at the Gecko Gourmet and finally back to the hotel for more hot springs relaxation. Ah….

Costa Rica--A Short Video

Monday, March 1, 2010

COSTA RICA Day 3: The quest for a spoke! (Lunes)

As promised, we awoke on Monday ready to take on Costa Rica! We even had the pleasure of a totally clear view of the Arenal Volcano, which is directly across from our hotel, another breakfast at the hotel, and then we were suiting up for a ride—first to a waterfall, then back through Fortuna to another town with an old bridge and a swimming spot on the River Arenal.  I had “way points” plotted on my GPS, and navigation was a snap. And by snap, I mean “snap,” as in, that what I heard as Jean and I were pedaling along a rutted gravel road. I was down one spoke—drive side of course (not that I had any extra spokes with me)—and my wheel, she was a rubbin’. We kept going as best we could, but as the terrain got steeper and steeper, my wheel was more and more wobbly and rubbing the frame something fierce. We decided to call it quits and head into town, to TRY to find a bike shop.

After a couple of loops through town, Jean spied a sign that said, “Ciclo Cali,” and that, coupled with the Shimano and GT logos on the front of the building suggested a bike shop. Sure enough, it was. The mechanic didn’t speak any English, but I was able to point to the broken spoke—that’s how good my Spanish is—I can point. 

Anyway, he fixed several other bikes before mine—all with the efficiency of a practiced mechanic. When he got to mine, he found that he didn’t have the right sized spoke. He did, however, hop on his little motor scooter to go get one. I don’t know where he went, but he came back in a few minutes and set to fixing my wheel. I was out of there for only 1,500 colones (about $3.00).

Unfortunately, about 15 minutes later, I snapped ANOTHER spoke. We limped back to the shop to start the whole process over again. But now, it was lunch time, so he said come back in about 2 hours. Jean and I wandered around Fortuna again, and this time had lunch at the Lava Lounge for some frio cerveza and Arroz con pollo. We killed some more time at the Gecko Gourmet CafĂ© with one of THE best cups of coffee I’ve ever had.

Another 1,500 colones later and I was back on the road. I flipped the bike and took out some of the tension on all of the spokes, just to reduce my chance of popping another. We made it back to the hotel and took a dip in the pool, then the hot springs—ah! It wasn't the long ride we were hoping for, but it still turned out to be a fun day.

The hot springs at the hotel are great. It’s a secluded little pool surrounded by flowers, with a great view of the volcano. And, it’s right next to a bar… if you like that sort of thing. It was a relaxing evening after that with another killer meal at the hotel restaurant and then early to bed.