Anywhere you start riding in the central valley of Costa Rica, you start riding up. The huge bowl in the middle of the country is surrounded by mountain ranges, and you have to climb at least a few thousand feet to get through a pass. On our honeymoon trip, we started out with a ride that I call overly ambitious, and Sue more accurately labels suicidal. My drive to finish left us exhausted, emotionally drained, stuck in a roach infested dump miles short of the top and both of us had problems with our over stressed knees for the next several weeks. We were determined not to make the same mistake again, and it took three attempts to make it out of the central valley.
The first day we rode about 20 miles and gained a couple of thousand feet of elevation, and then reversed course when we realized that we weren’t going to make it over the top. We ended up about 8 miles south of Heredia and a few hundred feet lower in Tuetal Norte. While there was some sense of disappointment that we had fallen short of our destination, I had a tremendous sense of pride in my mental accomplishment for the day. It’s not easy for me to turn around.
I’ve always had a hard time knowing when to say when. This time it when it was obvious that we would no longer be having fun if we pushed on, I had managed to agree to turn around with a good attitude. I was glad I did because it meant we got a chance to meet the Weins. Arnold and Caroline had traded their Canadian wheat farm for a Costa Rican Bed and Breakfast. They had moved into the Tuetal Lodge with their two children a few days before. We had a wonderful time talking with them about their coming adventure and thoroughly enjoyed the lodge and surrounding orchards, streams and gardens.
I had another opportunity to test my new attitude the following day. We climbed to Zarcerro, where we enjoyed a relaxed lunch and a walk though the topiary around the town church. As we were headed out of town we were hailed by Carlos, the manager of a local floral export business. An avid cyclist and a marathoner, he wanted to talk to us about bicycling in Costa Rica. When we expressed interest in his flower fields and processing operation, he invited us on an impromptu tour.
By the time we finished our tour it was early evening, and any attempt to continue our climb out of the Mesta Central would have ended well after dark. It’s pretty crazy to drive in Costa Rica after dark, but it’s downright dangerous to try to bicycle, so we reversed course once again and cruised downhill to Naranjo.
I don’t think we have any particular knack for making things turn out well even when they don’t go according to plan, but in Naranjo we made another friend, and got to see some home movies too. You might hesitate to agree that things turned out well since we ended up watching home movies, but these home movies were as unique as the man who starred in them. I don’t know exactly how we started talking to Rickey Vargas (you can almost tell by his name that this story has a Hollywood twist) but we ended up sitting in his bar listening to reminiscences of his days as a Hollywood and air show stunt pilot. He professed to be as impressed with our plans to bicycle around Costa Rica as we were with his exploits, and gave us his cell phone number and a promise that if we got in trouble he would hop in his Range Rover and pick us up anywhere in the country. The third time’s a charm. We climbed from Ricky’s place to Sarchi, then continued up into the clouds. The road down to San Carlos would have made a designer of bobsled tracks proud, but it was freshly paved and nearly deserted, so we laid off the brakes and flew.