Highlights – Alaska to Panama
Cool Things I Did/Saw – Rode a bicycle 8,514 miles from the northern tip of Vancouver Island to Panama which included all 10 countries in North and Central America, took my first train ride with my bike, saw some whales, was allowed to visit the bridge on a ferry, rode all the way down Vancouver Island, was awed by Olympic National Park, checked out the world’s shortest river, camped out in Redwoods State Park, watched the waves crashing at Point Lobos State Reserve, weaved through peds across the Golden Gate Bridge, went to the San Diego Zoo, rode down the 3rd longest peninsula in the world (Baja California) and got to see the Riscal de Catavina boulder field, stayed in Mazatlan over Christmas, took Spanish classes in Guadalajara, ate fried grasshoppers, took a boat ride down the Canon del Sumidero, saw the ruins of a town destroyed by a volcano, climbed up my first volcano, survived a ride into the 3rd largest metropolitan area in the world (Mexico City), climbed up the largest and 3rd largest pyramids in the world, stayed in the amazing cities of Taxco, San Cristobal, Chamula, Campeche, Panajachel, Antigua, Gracias, Leon and Granada, swam in the waters of Cascadas de la Agua Azul, visited the famous Maya ruins of Xochitecatl, Xochicalo, Mount Alban, Palenque, Uxmal, Chichen Itza, Tulum, Coba, Teotihuacan, Tikal and Copan, was interviewed by a TV station, checked out the animals at the Belize Zoo, took boats over to the Isla de Janitzio, the Isle of Ometepe and Bocas del Toro, saw a volcano erupt (a little), pedaled across the Bridge of the Americas and visited the Miraflores Locks on the Panama Canal.
Worst Memory – Thinking my little sister was about to croak.
Best Memory – My little sister not croaking.
Favorite Place – The Mexican highlands of Chiapas. It was really hard leaving here. Everything about it was fascinating: the Zapatista rebel movement, the town of Chamula, the cities of San CristÃ³bal and Chiapa de Corzo, the Cascadas de la Agua Azul and Canon del Sumidero to name just some of the unique things about this area.
Least Favorite Place – Costa Rica. Way too overdeveloped, food not so great, expensive, roads and traffic kind of brutal and people that seem like they’d rather you not be there.
Best Scenery – Baja California was stunning. My favorite part was the the Riscal de Catavina boulder field.
Favorite Name for Town/City – Gracias, Crooked Tree Village, Orange Walk Town and Tlaquepaque (only because I can pronounce it).
Cleanest Place – Excluding Canada/United States, Costa Rica wasn’t too bad but if you look closely you’ll still see lots of garbage in the underbrush.
Dirtiest Place – This section of Mexico was awful. The rest of the country wasn’t much better.
Best Drivers – The ones that are walking. All drivers in Mexico and Central America have some mild sociopathic tendencies. They will not adjust their course/speed to avoid killing you. The best they’ll do is honk so you have time to kiss your a** goodbye. 🙂
Worst Drivers – Chicken bus drivers. They are insane. Passing a slow-moving long bed truck on a blind curve while going up a steep, narrow road…all in a day’s work. All drivers in Costa Rica are insane.
Scariest Moment – Flying through the air on a loaded touring bicycle.
Biggest Annoyances – Noise (dogs, roosters at 3am, car alarms/horns, loudspeakers on cars/houses and fireworks) and anything that chases, charges or almost runs me over (dogs/goats/chicken buses). Not a fan of getting stared at so hard that I have to look down to see if I remembered to put pants on.
Most Frustrating Event – Getting my laptop fixed and delivered.
Strangest Sight – Giant naked woman in a field.
Funniest Memory – The bird frogs of Somotillo, Nicaragua.
Best Campsite – The night camped out at the ruins in Oaxaco, Mexico was pretty special because that’s where I first met my good friends Karen and Martin.
Worst Campsite – A rampaging nut job did a great of scaring away all the other campers.
Most Looked Forward To – I was a little apprehensive about riding into Mexico but I looked forward to riding here more than anywhere else.
Biggest Disappointment – Costa Rica.
What I’ll Remember the Most – Treeless hillsides that drain mud into the rivers leaving them devoid of life (and collapse all the time killing people), phenomenal loss of forest cover to accommodate cattle grazing/agriculture and wildlife presumably confined to tiny plots of land–I saw virtually no roadkill which means that the animals here are either smarter than the dummies in Canada/US who get run over all the time or there’s simply no animals to run over.
Friendliest People – This reminds of of something a guy told me all the way back in Baja, Mexico. He was an older foreign guy that had come up to me where I’d stopped on my bike to have a drink. I’d commented about how surprised I was at how friendly everyone in Mexico had been. His response was, “Yeah, the poorer people are, the nicer they are.” After being in Mexico and Central America for a year and a half I can safely say that he has it wrong… it’s more like, the richer you are, the less you care about anyone else. I met a lot of nice people up north but the extent that people are willing to help a complete stranger out down here has taken some getting used to especially considering the history between the United States and various Central American countries.
Least Friendliest People – My GPM (greetings per mile) were lowest in Costa Rica. Ran into some rampaging rednecks in Oregon.
Biggest Surprise – Getting waved at, honked at, whistled at and cheered on mile after mile, day after day, all through Mexico and Central America was amazing.
Hardest Hill – All the ones in Guatemala. This one resulted in a broken rear hub, me falling over, a damaged bicycle shoe and it was the first hill I had to walk up on my entire trip.
Biggest Tumble – Not even 3 days in Mexico and I get doored by a taxi.
Worst Weather – Lots of rain in Mexico for a few days so I sat in a hotel.
Windiest Place – Wind wasn’t just a big deal for this stretch. There were a few days in the Yucatan that got a little annoying but not too bad.
Favorite Food – Anything in Nicaragua. Tacos in Mexico and fried chicken in Belize were always something I kept an eye out for.
Favorite Snack – Not sure why but I really cut down on snacking during the day. If I can find a Snickers they always make a good treat.
Favorite Drink – Having a cold Coke after riding a few hours can’t be beat. Warsteiner beer, that I only had once in a German deli on Vancouver Island, was the best. The juice from the naranjilla fruit found in Panama is incredible.
Most Miles in One Day – 91.61 miles (Guerrero Negro, Mexico to San Ignacio, Mexico)
Highest Elevation – 9040 feet (Chapultepec, Mexico to Cholula, Mexico)
Greatest One Day Ascent – 6124 feet (Chiriqui Grande, Panama to Gualaca, Panama)
Top Speed – 44.4 mph (Chiriqui Grande, Panama to Gualaca, Panama)
Highest Average Speed – 15.7 mph over 91.61 miles (Guerrero Negro, Mexico to San Ignacio, Mexico)
Most Severe Injury – Had some rough days in San CristÃ³bal thanks to food poisoning or a virus (or both).
Area Most Prone to Injury – My stomach. Getting sick used to be a rarity for me. In Mexico, most than anywhere else, I found myself sitting on the toilet almost as much as my bike seat. 🙂 South of Mexico things got a lot better.
Most Thankful I Have – My Garmin 60CSx Handheld GPS. With little in the way of signs in both cities and on the highways, having something to keep me going in the right direction came in very handy. It’s usefulness south of Mexico was reduced because detailed maps aren’t available but it still helped a lot.
Wish I Had – I’m a crackhead for getting rid of my Canon 40D and the fast lens. All my pictures stink. I hate the lag on zooming and focusing with this PowerShot I have now. The low light from almost constant cloud cover makes it very hard to take a sharp picture. I’m so tired of pictures looking so bad these days that I almost don’t even want to take them.
Wish I Never Brought – I still have a fairly heavy Katadyn water filter that I should have left in Florida on my last visit. I haven’t used it since Alaska.
Best Buy – My iTouch. I love this thing. It’s so nice to have easy access to so many useful travel applications, books, email and news readers.