Newsletter – Cycling in Costa Rica and Panama

July 21, 2009

Bridge of the Americas over the Panama Canal

The Bridge of the Americas over the Panama Canal! It was a daunting thought to pedal over that thing, but we did it. It was very cool to look down through the metal grate and see all the boats waiting to pass through the canal.

Cycling Costa Rica and Panama has been a mixed blessing. In many ways it’s been wonderful – beaches for the kids to play on, fabulous roads for cycling, great value for the money…

But in other ways, it’s been tough – the heat and humidity have dragged us down, Davy and I have been plagued with painful ingrown toenails, and we’ve had plenty of sleepless nights. All in all, I think we are all looking forward to arriving into the Colombian mountains where we’ll face stiff mountain climbs in tolerable weather conditions.

The highlight of the past month has been right here, right now – crossing over the Panama Canal! In my mind, the canal signifies the separation between North and South – which means we are now on the southern half of the Americas! Crossing over the Bridge of the Americas was incredible – to look off to the side and see the Panama Canal stretching for miles beneath us and dozens of boats anchored in the bay awaiting passage… Wow!

A week or so ago I saw a map of the western hemisphere, and saw – for the first time in many months – the entire length of the Americas. I was stunned! From the very tippy top of the world up on the north shore of Alaska to Panama is a loonnggg ways! And to think we’ve pedaled the entire way…

And then there is Daryl – Mr. Literal himself. “We didn’t pedal it all, Mom,” he retorted. “We took a ferry across a river in Belize and we had to ride in the pilot car through the construction zone in Canada – remember? Plus, you’ve walked up some hills, so you haven’t ‘pedaled’ it all.” What am I going to do with that boy?

We’ve followed the Pacific coast all the way down, and have had many, many opportunities to play in the waves. Each time we see the sea, the kids immediately jump off their bikes and go running – it’s like some kind of magnetic attraction. As long as there is water for them to play in, they are happy.

Taking a break.

Taking a break. We love these bus stops – they’re wonderful when it starts to rain. We can sit there and wait for the rain to pass, then hit the road again.

But we’ve also spent many hours cycling through tropical jungle, sweating like fevered pigs. John and I have started waking up at 3:30 in the morning in order to get packed – sweating profusely even at that ungodly hour. Shortly before sun up, we wake the kids, eat breakfast, brush our teeth, and get on the road just as the first rays of the sun illuminate the road. Even so, it’s been tough.

With this extreme heat, it’s difficult at best to drink enough water. We fill all 16 of our water bottles before taking off in the morning and, frequently, they are empty by 8:00 in the morning. We’ve purchased rehydration salts at the pharmacy and use them to replace what we sweat out. But sometimes it just isn’t enough, and we’ve taken a few days off simply to sit and drink to rehydrate our bodies.

Removing an ingrown toenail

In order to remove a very painful ingrown toenail, the doctor had to remove the nail. This ended up being the first of five surgeries Davy would undergo in all. Those blasted ingrown toenails were horrible!

We’ve also discovered that, in this heat and humidity, bacteria grows like wildfire – which means we have to be extremely careful about infection. Davy’s ingrown toenail turned bright red and extremely painful, which led to us seeking out a clinic where they could cut the nail and dig out the offending nail. My ingrown toenail, as well, is causing me trouble – but they can’t remove it yet as it is so infected they can’t risk pulling out the nail right now. I’ll take antibiotics for a week and then, hopefully, get the ingrown nail removed. The joys of travel never cease!

Within a few days we will be on a boat to Colombia – our South American adventure is about to begin! We will spend a few days snorkeling and swimming in the pristine beauty of the San Blas islands, then head across the open ocean to Cartagena. The boys are looking forward to their time on the boat – and I’m sure they’ll enjoy it tremendously. But me? I am so prone to seasickness that I’m more than a little bit wary. I know I’ll survive, but I’m not sure I’ll like it!

Thank you so much for being a part of our adventure – you all mean more to us than we can ever express. You’ve given us support for those days when we feel we can’t go on, and have cheered our accomplishments with us. And for that, we say THANK YOU!
John, Nancy, Davy, Daryl

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About Nancy Sathre-Vogel

After 21 years as a classroom teacher, Nancy Sathre-Vogel finally woke up and realized that life was too short to spend it all with other people's kids. She and her husband quit their jobs and, together with their twin sons, climbed aboard bicycles to see the world. They enjoyed four years cycling as a family - three of them riding from Alaska to Argentina and one exploring the USA and Mexico. Now they are back in Idaho, putting down roots, enjoying life at home, and living a different type of adventure. It's a fairly sure bet that you'll find her either writing on her computer or creating fantastical pieces with the beads she's collected all over the world.

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