You Can’t drive to Costa Rico*

Rodgers H Bestgen


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This was the number one response I received when I began to discuss my plan of closing  the family shop in my native Cape Cod, picking up everything and starting fresh in Costa Rica. Fortunately I had discovered Costa Rica  just before 9/11. Im not sure if you remember that time  when the attacks occurred but my thinking was the big one was coming next that same day. My true fear was  the planes were just the warm up. It was so close to home. Time to move to a non nuclear target zone. Enter Costa Rica. Of course these thoughts were not at the front of my mind but  they were definitely swirling around in there driving the expressway tunnel in Boston the morning of the attacks.  Getting out of Dodge so to speak to the Maine border I heard on the radio that the attackers had left Logan that same morning only a few miles off  my right shoulder. This was  a truly creepy feeling. After a few days in an empty Moosehead lodge at Rangely Lakes crying my eyes out watching the aftermath there was definitely a   paradigm shift. Business was rough terrorists were trying to ace us. I was out of this nonsense! I had decided this without realizing it and subtly my every waking effort forward turned to the study of my new home and how to pull off this  move to a country I  had only visited once but had fallen in love with for its rugged beauty and rustic feel. I mean cows grazing across from a new international airport, beach 30 minutes away. Talk about ground  floor.

The Departure

Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital

August 2004

I left the Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital on the day in August 2004 my sister was finally released from the hospital into the hands of her waiting husband. I had spent the previous year by her side while she spent a year getting sicker and sicker until finally receiving a liver transplant. I was the only one with the means to be by her side so I spent the entire year in a  Brookline Hostel provided for families of critical patients by the hospital. Needless to say that was a very tough year for us.I remember my final few days before departure proudly showing off to my sister Ilsa all the things I thought necessary for my drive to Costa Rica which included a compass, a bush knife, a snake bite kit and the all important Indiana Jones leather Bush hat. I drove out of Boston and picked up my dog Seikan who had been staying at a kennel outside of Boston during my sisters illness and headed south west. I arrived in Laredo Texas 4 days later, arriving at one of the most forsaken frightening cities I had ever entered. Laredo Texas holds my personal record for the city with the most official law enforcement uniforms that I could not recognize. Ever! This is a Scary place obviously under siege. I chose a Holiday Inn with air conditioning and a pool to stage my drive through 5 countries.There I set up my bulky desktop computers, avoided the 105 degree temperatures, did some final planning on the 2004 version of the internet, secured the many many papers required for the dog and  waited 3 days for important documents sent overnight express.(very remote vibe)Of course the Rio Grande was a few hundred yards away. I had to see it so I took the poor dog down for a walk, It was smaller than I imagined but forbidding nonetheless. We beat feet pretty quick back to the AC. Thank god for the dollar taco shop across the street and the Walmart where I was able to buy a case of oil for my leaky jeep. Encountering a dearth of road maps for my planned route I just assumed the Mexican gas stations would have maps…. OK stop laughing. Anyway I had a compass built into the dash. This was after all a jeep. You’re still laughing. Believe me that compass came in handy trying to get out of  a San Salvador street fair on a rainy Saturday night. Loco! 

Driving Mexico

Lets just say the drive was pretty hairy with a jeep full of computer equipment a mountain bike strapped to the roof and a big black lab Weimaraner who would not let any officials near or in the car and not a word of Spanish on my part, I ventured forth into the badlands of Mexico. Without the roadmaps I had expected my built in compass and the main highway became my guide. Mexico is a frightening country when you go a day without seeing anybody while crossing frighteningly precipitous mountain passes.  The State Department strongly advises not travelling at night. I mistakenly did not think this applied to getting a 5 am head start my second day in country. However before I was even out of the hotel parking lot the familiar whup whup and flashing lights snapped me quickly awake. I handed over my passport and papers and was told “sorry but you will need to return to the station with us. Unfortunately it does not open until 1 PM.” they said. It was 5 a.m. in the morning no way I was losing a half a day so I tried out the only important Spanish word I had learned which was acomodacion. Spanish for bribe essentially. So they scared the crap out of me by saying I could have my passport back for $300 bucks. nervous as I was my natural frugality and anger overtook me and I got them down to 75 bucks I think. I was no longer a virgin and frankly was I was so pissed off I never paid another bribe larger than 20 bucks. At the border crossings the officials were particularly brazen, they would see the gringo  coming as evidenced by the crazy mountain bike strapped to the roof of course and would lazily scribble a number on their newspaper. Not surprisingly the further south I went the lower the bribes I paid. Whether because the countries were poorer or I was just a bit more battle hardened I cant say. Probably some combo of both

Puerto Potrero

Final destination

I chose my final destination on a map after much study of the country. On my visit I had stayed in San Jose, La Fortuna, and Quepos. While in Tamarindo I rented a scooter which if you are  brave is a great way to explore the back roads  of Guanacaste. Watch out for the cantinas along the way. I ventured as far north as Flamingo and as far south as Junquillal. The decision came after much study and even though I never visited there. Potrero became my choice. My reasoning was that a community with a dead ending beach road within an hour of an international airport was a pretty sure bet for growth and I needed to make a living so dead end beach road it was. I rented a beautiful round tree house with an ocean view and a huge yard for way too much money and I had arrived. Overestimating what I needed and could afford as many newcomers are wont to do.

View from my favorite bar stool and my new local bar Las Brisas on Potrero beach and a stones throw from my new place

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