Day 9, Villas de la Colinas, May 10, 2001
Like the political slogan of the first Bush era, Barrio Mercedes spreads out before me like "a thousand points of light" against the mat black background of the surrounding hills. If they were flickering they would be fireflies. They are houses. A soft breeze keeps the evening heat at bay and on it floats strange yet exotic odors - part supper from down the hill; part flowers that line the winding driveway to this hilltop retreat. A dog barks and another answers, but they are in the distance and not distracting. I hear the familiar ring-a-ding-ding of the ubiquitous (in Costa Rica) two-stroke motorcycle. It dies out and save for the constant chirp of the crickets it is quiet at Villas de la Colinas.
Owned and operated by the Rolando and Elsa Suarez family, Villas de la Colinas is a bed and breakfast five miles from Atenas, a small town some fifty miles north of San Jose. It is also the headquarters of Moto Tours of Costa Rica, a company which both rents motorcycles and guides week-long tours throughout Costa Rica.
I haven't made it very far today, but I'm very, very happy to finally be on the road. It was getting pretty bleak the first few days of this week. When my voltage regulator didn't show up on Tuesday I began to contemplate my options. If I don´t fly to Houston to pick one up and slip it back through customs, I could be looking at next Monday for another to be shipped down. I grimaced at the thought.
So as I search for solutions I pull up Moto Costa Rica's web site and phone Fred Barnes in Virginia, one of the owners. Perhaps I can get both some bi-lingual motorcycle assistance and a nicer, cheaper, safer place to stay away from the craziness that is San Jose. It also crosses my mind that if the Quota can't be fixed in time, at least I can salvage this trip by renting a bike and touring Costa Rica for a week.
Paul Furlong, Fred's mechanic, guide, chief cook and bottle washer on site talks me through my options, offers any support he can provide and says to come on out. But, shortly I hear the cheers of the hotel staff, and amid high-fives all around (perhaps they were cheering my seven-night bill,) FedEx shows up.
The cab drops me off at 8:30am Thursday morning, and with part in hand, I get a big smile from Sr. Barqueros. We share perhaps a hundred words of Spanish and English in addition to a great game of charades, and Sr. Barqueros assures me he has checked out the electrical system and nothing else is damaged. Since I will defer my celebration until I have a few hundred problem-free miles under my belt, I turn the big twin into San José's rush-hour traffic. With fifteen years navigating Seattle's freeways, San Jose even as bad as it is, is a walk in the park. I'm back at the hotel in no time, re-install the fairing and windshield, pack and head north - bound for Villas de la Colinas. On the road at last.
Truth be told, I've been a nervous wreck since about five hours before I switched the battery terminals and initiated this insane saga. Strange people speaking strange languages in strange surroundings. Indeterminable waits for solutions to problems I could have fixed in four hours in Seattle. A mental picture of spinning, reeling and tumbling, virtually everything out of my control.. So, mounting the bike is a welcome relief, but I am still very anxious.
My load is too heavy and improperly distributed. I have too much stuff and the Quota feels awkward. I make a mental note that the spare tires and sleeping bag need to go at the first opportunity to ship them home. Running on has with four or five less octane than she is used to, her engine emits a slightly different sound than I'm used to. The change is unnerving. There is a rubbing noise. It seems to disappear at higher speeds but I can't determine the source - it might be just the changing pavement surface. I stop three times to check it out, but without success. I continue on.
Paul has given me good directions but they are based on mileage and I notice my speedometer isn't working. I stop for directions. "Donde esta Barrio Mercedes y Villas de la Colina" I ask in the best Spanish I can muster. The young man replies at a machine gun pace, and I catch nothing. He motions that I should wait and goes for his sister, who he assures me (I think) is fluent in English. A chubby, 12-year old greets me with a perfect "hello," then proceeds in rapid-fire Spanish. Perhaps it mirrors our own habit of talking very loud to non-English speakers. "Uno, dos, tres kilometres" I ask. I understand "cero" and know it must be close. I wave my appreciation and see the sign to Villas de la Colinas around the curve, not 500 meters away. I've passed my first navigation test.
Paul shows up at the main house minutes after my arrival, and sensing my anxiety, talks me down. "Just leave your stuff here" he says, "it will be safe." I do as instructed and off we ride for lunch. Over wonderful pizza cooked by recent Italian immigrants we discuss my trip. Jaco beach was my intended destination for the night, but Paul suggests I just sit tight. "Villas De la Colinas is safe and peaceful" he says, "why not get settled down?" My anxiety must show like a blinking neon open sign, and while it's a real soft sale, I'm buying, and at $25 a night it's a great bargain. I stay.
I finish a few jobs on the bike, re-attach the speedometer cable, and tighten nuts and bolts, adding Loctite as necessary. The rubbing is obvious and is fixed. I decide to write, perhaps my best therapy.
Other than the occasional dog barking in the distance, the chirping of crickets is the only sound I hear. The moon, perhaps three days past full, peeks out and gently illuminates clouds on the otherwise black eastern sky. The breeze is softer now. After eight long days I've finally found Costa Rica.
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