The ocean was still wearing her velvet nighty. Sets of waves rolling through her sheets like snakes through wheat fields. The winds, light offshore. The sun was sneaking over the mountainscape as I paddled in to greet it. Today was a border run day. But first things first.
The sun was at least a couple hours up now, the crowds had come, and the tire in my arms was telling me it was time to go. I snagged the second wave in the set, a gem of a right hander that stood up and peeled across the bay as if to allow me a pristine canvas of glass green to carve out the words, hasta pronto.
Due to the three month vehicle visa issued to travelers with automobiles, my time had come to exit the country in order to avoid deportation, the bike getting impounded, or at the very least, fines. From Playa Morrillo to Penas Blancas, the border crossing between Costa Rica and Panama, was a quick five hour straight shot up the Panamerican highway. So, without any further adue, I begrundingly set march out across the red clay road, through the cow pastures, along the costal road that divided blue from green that lead towards the Panamerican highway. I passed the firing Mariato river mouth surf break and justified not stopping by the sheer number of people in the line-up, took the left at the corner market and within minutes I was back on the north bound highway towards Costa Rica.
It was pushing what felt like 500 degrees on the pavement. My board shorts underneath my cargo pants had dried already while the construction stops from Santiago to David were aggravating an already persistent overheating issue. I saw two other riders on a moto tour geared up to the nines with Kevlar and leather and couldn’t help wondering how long it takes them to get ready for a riding day. Or perhaps a better question would be if those space suits were NASA sponsored. But after all, maybe I’m the idiot for preferring my raggedy ass Sambas, blown out cargo pants and my beloved Blazer’s jersey as my riding uniform. Its those little things that make it worth the risk, I guess. The subtle changes in temperature with the rises and falls of the roadway, free acupressure provided by the loose pebbles, The heat of the engine on my thighs, the sun on my shoulders, the exposure and thereby submission to the elements. I find the present moment worth a little consideration. But who am I kidding, if I wasnt dumpster diving for food and squatting beach shacks for a living, I’d invest in a space suit, or at least a pair of boots. But in all good faith, I religiously sport my duck socks. My lucky duck socks to be exact. They are my saving grace when it comes to life or death situations. After all, the obstacles are endless out here on the road. And the minute we ease into the rhythm of perfectly curving pavement through breath taking landscapes is when a herd of cows awaits you around the blind corner. A coconut fallen from the tree obstructs the path, a dead animal taking over a lane, hay bales, blown out auto tires, rim buckling potholes, man holes with no covers, rabid dogs hungry for shiny metal, etc. Not to mention the actual drivers themselves who seem to be forever and always inspired by the last sequel of Fast and Furious. An old shovel head once told me to ride like everyone is out to kill you because their half-ton weapon of metal and gas will always win. So, instead of assuming that they are benevolently awaiting as I pass peacefully through the intersection, I assume they are waiting for the precise moment to pull out in front of me in order to watch me catapult over the vehicle and smear my guts across the pavement. Because that movie sells. And invincibility is for chumps. Unless of course, you own a pair of lucky duck socks. The double decker passenger bus must have lost his patience with the slow moving semi as they ascended the low grade hill. Perhaps the incessant construction on the Panamerican was the ímpetus to his hasty decision to disregard the double yellow lines of the highway and pass the semi, unluckily for me. And its there in that blink of a milisecond where life’s marrow appears. And in finding said marrow, we most often find death. Its where things are decided. Its where you seperate the ducks from the mallards, some would say. Here at the threshold of our delicate existence is where I personally encounter the secret of fear that is so profoundly philosophized. It is here where our instincts of survival, our most basic and wise of human attributes takes over. Almost as if we cease to exist for the slightest of those slow motioning seconds and take a back seat ride through the meadows of life and death. In this case the meadow was a two lane road. And the case in point, a rousing game of chicken with a semi in the left lane and a bus full of passengers in mine. In that second, as a semi wheel larger than my bike to my left and a metal wall of passenger tour bus to my right, I did think of those two guys in apocalypse suits. I thought about Travelling Travis the garbage pail character that was flattened and stuck to the wheel of a truck, I thought about how much cooler this will be when they peel my body off the semis tire and I’m wearing my Blazers jersey. Maybe the family would get a condolence package from Rasheed Wallace or season tickets at the very least for my Rip City 'til I die fandom. If I would have thought and thereby questioned my move, this ink spilling out upon this page of would have been written on the asphalt of the Panamerican highway, spelling out the history of my years. Quack. Needless to say, I took a break. I was shaken. Bought a pack of cigarrettes and chain smoked while the same thought looped feverishly through my brain. Thats how it happens. Just that quick. But instead of season tickets for the folks, they got a phone call from their son. All is well, mom. I made it to the border. As I approached the lady at the Customs window with hopes of extending my moto visa for another month, she informed me that they do not have the authority to perform said task. I pleaded. I asked for supervisors. I even told her that I stayed the course, nudging the bike to the center line of the highway as the oncoming set of vehicles raced parallel towards me. I told her about the perfect gap between the semi and the tour bus that I just threaded like a Clyde Drexler lay-up. But the faithful stewards of the Panamanian bureaucracy seemed to have no time for heroes or humor during those hours of operation. So if the national customs officials at the international border don’t have authority to do that, then who would? She layed out my options. By leaving Panama, entering Costa Rica, returning the next day to exit CR and re-enter Panama would renew the tourist visa for another 3 months. If the tourist wanted to stay in the country and simply renew the visa on a month by month basis, he or she could visit the customs office in David, a 40 minute ride back south. Each with their pros and cons. Each will their story.To leave Panama and head to Pavones, turn to page 13 To stay and head back to David, next page please. Excerpt from The Panama Files: A choose your own adventure by Troyano Newton.2015.