A summary of our journey

I’ve been working on getting all my old newsletters online along with slide shows for each one – it’s been a massive task!  I am now almost completely done – only the very most recent one is left.  So – for those of you who haven’t been with us from the beginning, I hope this can give you an idea of what we’ve been up to these past 17 months!

Ready for takeoff:  June 6, 2008

Dalton Highway in Alaska: June 28, 2008

Alaska Highway: August 3, 2008

Crossing into mainland USA: September 10, 2008

In Montana, Wyoming, and Utah: October 17, 2008

Utah, Arizona, and New Mexico: November 19, 2008

Texas:  December 24, 2008

Northern Mexico: January 25, 2009

Mexico: February 21, 2009

Yucatan Peninsula: March 14, 2009

Belize, Guatemala, & Honduras: April 15, 2009

Honduras: May 13, 2009

Nicaragua & Costa Rica: June 25, 2009

Costa Rica & Panama: July 21, 2009

Made it to South America: August 16, 2009

In the Colombian Andes: September 18, 2009

books by Nancy Sathre-Vogel

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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books by Nancy Sathre-Vogel

Border Town (Paso Canoas, Costa Rica)

There’s something odd about checking into a hotel at 8:30 in the morning.  “You want a room all the way until tomorrow morning?”  Yeah – something like that.

By 5:30 this morning we were on the road – it’s the only way to even kinda, sorta beat the heat.  Although it’s hot at 5:30, it’s blazing hot by 7.

So at 8:30 we arrived at the border with Panama – the border!  We could have passed the border and made it another 22 km to a small town, then a very easy day to David tomorrow.  Or we could have stayed here today, and have a slightly harder day to David tomorrow.  We opted to take the day off.

This actually may end up being Costa Rica’s saving grace – we found a wonderful hotel here with beds for us all and air conditioning!  And it is actually considerably cheaper than many of the other places we’ve stayed in this country.  All four of us are enjoying a day of relaxing in the cool, watching TV, reading books, and drinking Pepsi.  I’ve taken advantage of the time to wander around – love all the hecticness in the duty-free markets!  I guess border towns are not all that bad after all.

Kilometers today:  33
Kilometers to date:  14169

books by Nancy Sathre-Vogel

Soft (Rio Claro, Costa Rica)

We’ve gotten soft.  Too soft.

All the way through Costa Rica, we’ve been beach-hopping our way south.  20 kilometers… 45 kilometers…  Certainly never more than 50 km in a day.  We’ve gotten used to our super-slow pace.

So today we had 75 km to go.  Half again over what we’ve been doing for a while.  And gosh darn! That last 25 km was tough!

It’s been flat for so long, and we’ve gotten used to easy riding.  Throw some hills in there – along with the blasted heat – and we melt.  They weren’t hard hills, mind you.  They were fairly small, gradual climbs, but it was constantly up and down.  Up and down.  And we’re not used to it.

I have a distinct feeling that we had better get used to it real quick – we’ve got reliable information that we’ll encounter quite a few hills in Panama.  And we know Colombia has mountains.  Our legs better grow some new muscle pretty darn quickly!

Kilometers today:  75
Kilometers to date:  14136

books by Nancy Sathre-Vogel

Off the Tourist Track (Cortez, Costa Rica)

I didn´t think it was possible to get off the tourist track here in Costa Rica.  Ever since we entered into this country, it seems like we’ve seen more foreigners than locals.  It’s crazy!  And to think this is the off-season…

But today we managed to get off it – way off it!  We pulled out of Dominical (tourist haven!) and headed south along the beach.  The entire road was lined with condos and development offices- great big tourist traps.  Yes, the beach was lovely – but all the junk that seems to come with the beach here in Costa Rica was pretty awful!

So when we pulled into Cortez to look for a hotel, we were expecting more of the same.  Big fancy hotels… loads of tourists wandering around…  But no!  Not at all.

In fact, this tiny little town isn’t much of anything.  We finally arrived into the “center” of town, but I had to ask where the center was anyway!  There really is nothing here at all.  We did manage to find the only cabinas in town – with help – and checked in to a room right before a massive downpour.

We are enjoying being away from the tourists for a little while at least!

books by Nancy Sathre-Vogel

Daryl’s Journal July 2

Today we traveled across a 40 km stretch of dirt road.  It was surprisingly flat.  We covered it by noon.  It was really hot when we got there though.  I tried riding Davy’s bike but with all the rocks I was bouncing around and it was dangerous, so Daddy let Davy play a game he really liked – called FreeCiv – for an hour.  In that hour, Davy discovered there was internet.  He played a little but not much.  However during that time he was able to unlock a bonus in a game.

books by Nancy Sathre-Vogel

Dust (Dominical, Costa Rica)

We survived!  For weeks now we’ve been fretting about this 45-km stretch of dirt road.  Since it’s rainy season, we had feared it would be one big mud-fest and we would be slipping and sliding the whole way.

So this morning we set off bright and early – just in case that 45 kilometers took us all day – and it was easy!  In fact, the first half had such a good surface we could maintain our regular speed!  Yes, it did deteriorate, but not too badly.

In the end, our biggest enemy ended up being dust rather than mud.  I arrived here totally, completely covered in mud – all that dust mixed with copious amounts of sweat!

Kilometers today:  43

Kilometers to date:

We took off bright and early in case it took us all day.

Due to construction, the road was reduced to one lane - but they still crammed in two lanes of traffic!

Due to construction, the road was reduced to one lane – but they still crammed in two lanes of traffic!

Dust, dust, and more dust

books by Nancy Sathre-Vogel

Sloths, Monkeys, Iguanas, & More (Quepos, Costa Rica)

We finally made it.  It took us quite a few days, but in the end – we got there!  Manuel Antonio National Park.

And true to its promises, we saw lots of wildlife – a couple of 3-toed sloths, a whole messload of monkeys, iguanas scurrying here and there, woodpeckers drilling holes in trees, bats hanging upside down…  It was pretty impressive!

What was not impressive, however, were the crowds.  Well, I suppose they were impressive on one level, but not the level I want.  The pathway through the rainforest was little more than a four-lane divided highway filled with two-legged traffic.  Enormous groups with guides blocking the path as the guide explained this or that.  Telescopes set up to see the animals better in the middle of the path.  It was crazy.

That being said, we all enjoyed the day tremendously.  The boys spent hours and hours playing in the waves and running through the rainforest.  What more could they ask for?

Manuel Antonio National Park

Manuel Antonio National Park

There are a lot of monkeys at Manuel Antonio!

A 3-toed sloth.  They are so high in the trees, you can barely see them.

Manuel Antonio National Park


Manuel Antonio

Davy playing in the waves

books by Nancy Sathre-Vogel

Closed (Quepos, Costa Rica)

OK – John’s finally able to walk without limping so we headed out to the national park – only to find it closed.  Apparently, it is closed every Monday.  Bummer!

So what do we do?  Head to the beach, of course.  The boys will NEVER tire of hanging out in the water!

And so we find ourselves hanging out here in Quepos yet one more day.  Tomorrow we will head out to the park and see the sloths and monkeys.  Then we’ll head on south toward Panama.

Playing the waves

Manuel Antonio National Park is right over there!


books by Nancy Sathre-Vogel

Hot Showers (Quepos, Costa Rica)

“I just took a hot shower!” Davy declared with a dreamy grin on his face.  “It felt soooo good!”

Traveling like this makes us appreciate the little things in life – a hot shower (or a shower, period!), a soft bed, or a cooked meal.  It doesn’t take much to make us happy.

This afternoon we were trying to figure out the last time we had hot showers.  As near as we can tell, the last time we felt the luxurious sensation of warm water flowing over our bodies was back in San Pedro Sula in northern Honduras.  Yes, it is true that it’s hotter than blazes here and we don’t really need hot water – but it sure feels good anyway!

Way back – ages ago – when we were still living in Boise, I would have flipped out if we didn’t have hot water.  Now, it is simply part of life – just another fact of our simple lives.  We check into a basic hostel at the end of a day in the sun, and are grateful for water – any water – to clean ourselves up with.  I wonder what will happen when we return to Boise.  How long will it take us to fall into our old routines once again?

books by Nancy Sathre-Vogel

Davy’s journal June 27, 2009

Today we went to a beach. Well, we went to the river next to the beach. The river was too deep for Mom to walk across with the camera strapped to her waist. So we played at the river. It was fun. We had a mud fight. There was a little hole where water came out of the mud and went in the river. We clogged that up and then carved a little canal in it and watched the water zoom out of it. I buried both feet in 1 ½ feet of mud, then piled more mud on. It was hard to get them out without using my hands. As I said, it was fun.

books by Nancy Sathre-Vogel