My first impression of Panama was the bureaucratic mess of the border crossing, but it was late in the day, after a long day of cycling, and for them stamping, and it was raining, so maybe not the most ideal conditions. I tried to make good time to the first town I could find accommodations, La Concepcion, but I was pretty worn out and it took me a couple hours. I knew darkness would be coming soon. I rode out of the rain that was hovering near the border. The flat land was easy on my legs, but the scenery was nothing special. The land near the road was covered in cow pasture and any mountains were a ways away inland. About half way to Concepcion, a concerned road policeman decided to stop me and tell me how dangerous it was cycling at night. I thought, No sh*t man, thatís why we need to stop talking and I gotta get going! He followed me into town for the rest of the way as darkness set in, as kind of a big signal to cars that I was there. Very cool. I met another nice guy on bicycle that ended up showing me to a cheap hotel. We talked a bit about his short time in the United States, in Colorado.
I got in touch with mom by phone and talked to her about the best ways to get my bike and gear back to Miami. Sheíll be looking into shipping options as one of us physically taking it to Miami on a plane seems like a waste of money and time. I wouldnít mind seeing my family, but I am afraid I would stay if I went, and I still have a few things to do in Central America.
I had another long day of riding through pretty unimpressive scenery, more cow pasture and a few nice mountains, but far away, probably where my legs would like to keep them! The road quality took a turn for the worse, so I took my time after a relatively late start. Well, time, see, its all relative. Just back in Costa Rica, it was an hour earlier! So, finally, the days are looking more how I like, with a little more light in the evenings. I ended the day in San Felix, a small town off the junction of the main road and a road to the beach. After consulting a map, I realized how close I was to the Pacific, a tempting detour, but I knew I would be seeing lots of ocean soon. It seemed like Panama might be another spot I pass through quickly. Iíve heard some good things about the Caribbean coast but it seems a bit tough to get to. Maybe I will see it another way.
From San Felix, I cycled through the tough heat and arrived in Santiago after darkness had set in. Santiago is a fairly large city and the capital of the Veraguas region. I contacted a Servas host in Penonome, a city 60 miles down the road. I had low expectations for putting together a visit on such short notice, but the Picote family was open for one. I rode to Penonome the next day and really started to feel the long hot days take a toll on my legs and butt. Luckily, the Picote family was very hospitable and offered a nice atmosphere for a couple nights, allowing me a full day of rest off the bike. I originally thought I would cut the 150 kilometers from Penonome to Panama City into a two day journey, but the next day of riding ended up being my last.