I left the house at 6:40, to meet up with Robert about 12 kilometers away, by 7:20. We were going mountain biking—from Punta Mala, near the tilapia breeding grounds to San Isidro, up the mountain and north. I got to the meeting place first, so I kept going until I saw Robert coming in the other direction. I turned around and off we went.
The plan was to follow this dirt road (on mountain bikes) over the ridge to the town of Zapote, where we would get on a paved road, and follow until it merged with the PanAMerican Highway, 14k south of San Isidro. The idea was also to meet my wife, who would ferry us and the bikes back home.
We started off chatting and limber, up the dirt road. It gradually got steeper, as mountain roads in Costa Rica tend to do—they are built straight up the mountainside-- We gradually lowered our gears until we were in the grannies, hunched forward so the front wheel maintains contact with the ground. Can’t stand up because the rear wheel skids… it’s hard to maintain that position for long. Soon, the front wheel skids off to the side, and I quickly unclip the pedal and look up…then down… We’re not even ¼ of the way up the hill, and there is no way to get back on the bike, so it’s push the bike up the rest of the hill. We did a lot of this. There were places where the steepness decreased, but it never left us. The ridge we wanted to cross was about 2600 meters above sea level… We did all that climbing in by my guess, a maximum of 15 miles.
Once on the ridge, the road leveled out, and we actually had some downhill sections… It was on one of these fast flat sections that I took a tumble. There was this big mud puddle—Robert went through it on the right side, so I followed him, and my rear wheel slipped and down I went—got all muddy on my right side… picked up my glasses that had fallen off my face, and got back on the bike. I think that was the only place on the whole ride I could have fallen and gotten muddy… all the other places I would have gotten beat up on rocks and covered with dust… oh well…
A little further on we came across a horseman in a little valley—the road was about a car width wide, maybe a little more, and both sides were a wall – and here comes this horseman, calling out. He is herding cattle. We quickly get to the side of the road, and put the bikes between us and the cattle—and they are scared of us. They want to turn around and go back, but there is no space, and there are three more horsemen behind them, urging the cattle forward. I was a little worried about a stampede—as these cows wanted out of there. They finally went through and we kept going. The sun is higher in the sky, and we are out in the open—it starts to really get hot. My guess is it reached the middle 90's.
It was a good ride, mostly dirt road, some gravel, with lots of hills—in both directions. I was a little skeptical of the downhills, as I am more of a road rider and the way you treat downhills is totally different, but Robert was experienced and gave me some pointers that helped out a lot. As we passed a couple of houses, I asked a villager how far it was to Zapote—expecting an answer in kilometers. His answer was ‘about an hour—or maybe two’… not quite what I expected, but something I could deal with.
A little while later, I almost fell, and the bike was feeling squirelly—my front tire was going flat. I really didn’t feel like changing the tube, so I pumped it hard and got back on. I ended up pumping up the tire another three times before the day was through.
Then we started a long downhill—into Zapote. There was a little store there, and we stopped to buy cokes and water. Also we ate a bit and then started off. The road was now paved. Not real good with knobby tires, but after all the climbing and descending we had done on loose gravel and rock and dirt, it was welcome. This road was a roller coaster, with very steep hills. It also went on and on.
At one point, I was flying down a hill, trying to build momentum for the next uphill. I was looking forward, and at the last second, saw this snake almost under my front tire—it was the same color as the pavement. I body-englished the bike to the right and missed the snake—which let go of the frog it had in its mouth in its haste to avoid being run over. The frog hopped away, happy to live another day—the snake crawled after the frog, mumbling to itself about this black tube that almost crushed it.
The rest of the ride was uneventful, except that about 14 k before San Isidro, Robert’s rear wheel starts emulating my front one. We stopped and pumped up both tires. And on we went.
Martha picked us up in San Isidro, about 1:30 pm. So we had quite an epic ride—lots of climbing, lots of descending, not much flat, a lot of heat, two flats, and one saved frog