Monthly Archives: October 2011

Señor Tom in Panama City

Panama City, Panama (10,912 kilometers – 6,780 miles)

After some tear shed and uncomfortably long hugs with the Outward Bound crew, Sam’wise and Torro Bravo carted the asses of Conbigotes back to the Costa Rican coast and one more night in Manuel Antonio before our pending departure for Panama City to greet Ryan’s Father and the last country of our Central American sojourn.  Behind the 8-ball a bit, we needed to get on our horses and push 690 kilometers in 8 days to make sure Ryan’s dad, Tom (don’t call him Vince) McMahon, had two, bearded companions for his arrival.

We couldn’t figure out a way to latch 10 foot surfboards on the bikes so clearly we would have to depart without.  Out the door, Christmas came early as we were gifted with the first bit of sunshine in what felt like decades.  Two hours later, that gift was stolen from us  like when I would throw a tantrum wanting one of my brothers presents and didn’t stop crying until it was so.  What followed was five days of continuous rainfall that would test the integrity of our all of our waterproof equipment.  I will give my Ortlieb gear a 7, though Ryan will give his a 9.  I will give my Sea to Summit rear satchel, carrying the important goods such as sleeping bag and tent a 2.  It will now be forever wrapped in the tarp like a corn dog, as it proved to be as water-resistant as a spaghetti strainer.  The rain consistently dripped, but needing to be in Panama City was a larger determinant in our riding patterns over the following days.  We absolutely cruised, stopping only to dry ourselves at night in Pan-American Highway towns like Tole and Santiago.  We did spend a glorious night in David, Panama’s second largest city, to watch the Brewers get bitch-slapped out of the playoffs by the Cardinals, consequently losing Prince Fielder forever.

We plowed our way to the outskirts of Ciudad de Panama and crossed Puente de las Americas on the southern side of the Panama Canal.  This would have been a gorgeous event if there was a shoulder on the bridge wider than dental floss.  It is difficult to enjoy a landmark such as this one when cars are playing slalom with you 100 feet over one of the most famous stretches of water in the world.  With the sun going down and the skyline of the city on the horizon we were quickly reminded of how beautiful this city is.  Well, other than the part of extreme projects that dominate the area around Old Town.  Not a part of the city you would want to be past nightfall, hammered, blind or just without general use of your senses.  Christ I’m rambling here, sorry.

Anyway, Señor Tom strolled into downtown the next day and met us at the Continental Hotel and Casino – incredibly above average compared to what we are used to (the Casino portion of that title rightfully got some cash stolen by us over the course of the stay).  A handful of phenominal tourist events during the course of the following days insued.  Events such as phenomenal dinners and lunches, a visit to Rodney Carew Stadium for some Charles Cutler and Panamanian League baseball, downtown highrise inspection, the Panama Canal, arguing with hotel clerks about internet availability,  Pacific Coast potentially deadly and rocky beach exploration and befriending all of the hotel concierge team (see pictured, Danilo).

Sadly, Mr. McMahon left this morning on a jet plane bound for New Jersey and is not able to make the Colombia boat crossing with us.  We have been asked 50 times this afternoon “where is your Dad?” as everyone here fell in love with him and his at times marginally impatient New York’isms regarding speed of service and its quality.  It was a god damn pleasure having him on board for a few days.

The Conbigotes team will soon hone our sailing skills, though probably not, as we make the passage from Portobelo, Panama to Cartagena, Colombia.  With an Kiwi captain and a boat named Wild Card full of Aussie passengers, it should line up to be an interesting, exciting, and perhaps drunken 5 days of avoiding the Darien Gap to enter South America.  I will be stocking up on sea sickness pills and water wings as I turn into a 3 year old girl old out on the ocean.

Half way to Ushuaia…give or take a few hundred kilometers.




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Nicaragua. Costa Rica. The Dowry of Torro Bravo. All of It…

Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica (10,222 kilometers – 6,352 miles)

The Conbigotes wet weather gear testers have hit a significant lull in bike related distance covered over the past couple of weeks.  Our boat schedule out of Panama City along with the help of a few road mates met along the way have been a contributor to our lackadaisical pedaling schedule lately.  Currently, we are lodged in the cloud forest around San Jose, Costa Rica with the Outward Bound crew, passing the time in a way we could not imagine being any better.  We’ll explain.

Back on the often-biked Pan-American highway, we rammed into three riders soon out of Managua, Nicaragua.  There is an interesting camaraderie you have with anybody plodding along ridiculously like ourselves.  It’s as if you have known them for years.  The one downfall is that everyone rides at their own speeds and this can sometime complicate attempting to travel with other groups.  We have found that we tend to outpace folks which is most likely due to our general craving to beat the hell out of our legs on every given day.  Soon after unintentionally distancing ourselves from the pack, we pulled into Granada, Nicaragua and ended up staying the night after finding some cheep beer and an artesian to fix my broken “Saint of Travel” necklace (thank you Abby!).

An incredibly full day got us from Granada to Volcan Maderas on Isla de Ometepe by nightfall the next day.  Ometepe is an island flanked by two 1,300 plus meter volcanoes that neither words or pictures will explain, but of course I will pathetically try anyway.  In the bottom left hand corner of Lago Nicaragua, which competes with the Great Lakes in size, sits Volcan Concepcion (see pictured above) and Volcan Maderas creating the volcanic island called Ometepe.  Lugging the bikes on the ferry proved a good move, as pedaling the island was a phenominal way to be scared shitless by all of the howler monkeys.  Scaling Volcan Maderas the next day on foot, enlightened us on just how little we use hiking and walking muscles while living on a bicycle.  It felt like someone had industrial drillpressed through our lower calves, but the hour at the top in the mouth of the volcanic lagoon was more than an acceptable exchange.

The ferry back to mainland the day after had us maneuvering towards San Juan del Sur on the Pacific Coast of Nicaragua.  A sleepy, yet scorching little beach town was the setting to rest and recoup before our trudge into Costa Rica.  Andrea, her father whose name i regrettfully forget…possibly Bruno?, and her retardedly cute boxer/pit bull puppy ¨Daddy¨ (pictured) of Hotel Joxi made sure we felt at home and fed.


(Ryan here with an important musical sidenote.  My instrument of choice is undoubtedly the guitar.  However, guitars are bulky and not very good travel companions, especially when the mode of travel is bicycle.  Luckily, I had a wonderful little instrument called a Charango, an Andean instrument I bought a few years ago in Peru.  It’s closest musical relative, in my opinion, is the ukulele, although many would say it’s more similar to the mandolin.  It has a twangy and full sound for such a small instrument, and it traveled with me through Peru, then by plane to New Jersey, then on the back of my bike across the US from New Jersey to Oregon, and again on the back of the bike from Vancouver all the way down to Guatemala.  I took pretty good care of it, but not good enough.  Heavy rains followed by strong sun day after day in the rainy season of the tropics eventually took its toll on my faithful musical companion.  I hung the Charango in the rafters at the Backpacker Hotel in Rio Dulce, Guatemala, where it may or may not have been taken down by the cleaning crew.  For the sake of the romantic, I hope it’s left alone up there as a tribute.  All that said, I spent the next few weeks without an instrument to strum, which is a rare occurrence in my life.  So I started looking for the perfect guitar.  At a giant market, typical in Latin American cities and towns, I found the information I need.  The town was called Masaya, just a hop, skip and a jump from Nicaragua’s capital, Managua.  At the time, I was looking for spokes (no one carries spokes for 700cc wheels dammit!) and I asked a guy if anyone sold guitars there at the market.  He told me I might be able to find some souvenir guitars, but right there in the town of Masaya there is not one, but two guitar makers, who have shops in town.  So I checked it out.  I walked into the showroom (living room) of Guitarras Pilarte, where I looked at beautiful handmade guitars of all styles.  Unfortunately, what I was looking for was a little guitar, one that I could travel with, and I saw none of these in the shop.  I told the nice woman in the shop what I wanted, and she said, “OK, we’ll make you one.”  So we got back on the bikes, to Granada, Isla de Ometepe and San Juan del Sur, from where I got on a bus and backtracked a few hundred kilometers to pick up my very own guitar, made to my specifications, and at a super sweet price.  The music never stops!  — Ryan)

And we are back……..

It only took us an afternoon to cross the border into Southern California aka Costa Rica and holy shit things changed fast, which unfortunately included prices of everything.  Therefore, we did what we could to get down the coast and into the comfortable and free arms of Manuel Antonio where we would would be hosted by Laura and Shelly of Outward Bound, Costa Rica.  We bumped into these incredibly hospitable broads in Lanquin, Guatamala where I saved Shelly’s life in a raging river (she would agree) and we were paid back with a weekend of surfing and beer in Manuel Antonio.   A welcomed addition to the team was Sam, well versed in construction projects, surfing, managing Costa Rican maintenence workers and instigating the putting back of a regular rum nightcap or 6, or as it came to be know, a “night sombrero.”  His skills around the kitchen will also earn him a fine dowry someday.  Just before the group sadly departed the driveway on Sunday evening, back to the Outward Bound base in the capitol city of San Jose, the car (a shitty yet reliable ’92 Camry named “Torro Bravo”) stopped and we heard shouts of  “do you guys want come with us?”  It took Ryan and me all of 2 seconds to retort with, “packing a bag…hang tight.”

So here we are.  Waiting out what has now been 7 consistent days of rain.  I can’t even apppropriately say “waiting” becuase that isn’t at all accurate.  This place has been a small piece of heaven, if something like that were to exist.  Burried in the outskirt cloud forests of San Jose, we have been treated to morning river hikes, incredible coffee, and waterfall repels of over 100 feet where I realized it becomes less comfortable to belay yourself down when you have pooped your pants in fear.  Nights here on the base have been mixtures of Brewer playoff games, barbeques and the general bullshitting/flagrant harrasment among new friends.  The marketing team, including Britten, Ryan and Maggie, even let us infultrate their home, drink their booze and break their bike tools all while generally offending everyone.  (I am speaking mostly for myself here…)

We have stated this umpteen times here on this ledger, but in my humble and unimportant opionion, leaving people we meet out here is the most difficult element of a this trip.  Not pedaling mountains, not avoiding buses and trucks on skinny motorways, not even the fucking mosquitos.  The hardest part is having to say goodbye and only hope you will have the opportunity to see these people again in the future.  I wish I had the knowledge to explain the reasoning of the quality of friendships made on the road, but it certainly is beyond me.

8 days and 690 kilometers to get from here to Panama City and the arrival of Ryan’s Dad to accompany us on the Panama-Colombia Caribbean crossing.  Jesus, we need to get on the move.

– Conbigotes


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Roadkill of the Week – Volume 5

$7 for the first human to correctly identify this god damn thing.  That being said, we have no frame of reference to verify any of your answers anyway, so you’re most likely shit out of luck.

My first guess was a brontosauras, but clearly it also could be some sort of variation of the cave dwelling rabbit from Monty Pyton.  Or a bison.



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Conbigotes 1 – Guatemonduras 0

Managua, Nicaragua (9,623 kilometers – 5,979 miles)

Clearly it has been sometime since our last installment, but the Conbigotes first-stringers have needed almost a month to recoup from the knock-down drag ’em out battle with the last bits of Mexico, all of Guatemala and Honduras.  This match up folks, was not Wisconsin vs. Little Sisters of the Poor.  It was however, two finely tuned specimens having it out on the battlefields of Central American shitty roadways.  As you could imagine, Conbigotes came out victorious, but it was touch and go somewhere in the middle there.  Not really, but kind of.  Maybe we are just pussies or maybe morons like us aren’t meant to attempt moving bicycles over what can barely be called a “road.”

As many do, we lurked around San Cristobal, Mexico a few days longer than planned as it indescribably seemed to tickle our “we really don’t feel like leaving yet” senses.  Juaquin, owner of El Hostelito, drove that point home as he explained how he had our same trip in mind until he got to San Cristobal, said fuck it, and opened up a superb hostel/bike shop sort of deal.  Once we dragged our asses out of there and crossed the Guatemalan border, things changed quickly.  Please throw everything we have previously stated about Mexican mountains out the window because Guatemala, admirably has absolutely no comparison as of yet.  The passage heading due east through high country towards Huehuetenango and Coban punched us in the face like the kid who smells like piss at summer camp.  I have never in my marginally inexperienced cycling career been exposed to road inclines like these.  As impossible as it seemed, these mind testing elevators turned to gravel and rock which made me (I can’t speak for Ryan here) want to cut off my legs with a rusty saw and say “see, I can’t go on anymore!”  We eventually made it to Cobán on the way to Lanquin with all of our limbs intact, but I did take a good spill that destroyed my goofy bike mirror and left bike shoe cleat.  This now has me pedaling along with one shoe clipped in and the other hanging there like an over-cooked hot dog.

With Lanquín and Semuc Champey in our sights, it was time to pound for one more day before drowning our legs in beer and hammocks for a few days.  We will not get into the difficulty of the last 12 kilometers into Lanquín for fear of redundancy, but I will say I was about as excited to be riding a bike as you are driving up to a police checkpoint after having that fifth beer.  Once in Lanquín , off the bike and in heaven for a while, El Retiro lodge and Semuc Champey was worth all of the shit it took to get there.  As a matter of fact, I was so happy i managed to urinate a little in the tent by accident.  I argue it was the beer’s fault and/or rain leakage, but Ryan may have another point of view.  Parque Semuc Champey the next day cured the leftover hangovers and shame.  Even though we are on a budget as firm as new tennis racket strings, We will firmly stand by the fact that we have never spent a better $13 to get hoarded around on an organized tour.  Pictures really can only explain how unreal this place is with caves, natural pools and rivers so clear it should be bottled.  Actually, I just changed my mind, pictures won’t do any of it justice.  Apologies.

Trolling out of Lanquín was no easy task.  Both goodbyes to new friends and two days to of rocks with a river called a road to Lago Izabal stared us in the face.  Day 1:  Not too terrible.  Gravel road, rain and some stomach sickness issues.  Day 2: Winner of “The Most Difficult of the Trip.”  We even made it a trophy and had a celebratory ceremony.  Half of this day consisted of the pleasurable task of pushing a 60 pound bike through more rocks, rain streams, sand and slippery clay at slightly less than a 90 degree angle.  After finally reaching the valley of Lago Izabal, too hungry to give a shit, we anticipated the next town, El Estor, was within reach somewhere shortly after nightfall.  Four more hours of riding in the dark proved that theory wrong as I again peed myself upon seeing the lights of town on the horizon.

We spent the following few days in Rio Dulce.  The jumping off point to get to the border of Honduras and a damn fine setting to rest and experience the lackluster events of Guatemalan Independence Day.  Cecilio (pictured below) helped direct us across the border a few days later after insisting we stay with him after only stopping to buy a coke.  We quickly merged our way through the much more manageable mountains of Honduras passing cities such as Puerto Cortes and San Pedro Sula on our way down to the bustling capitol city of Tegucigalpa.  From there, we only had a few more days before crossing into Nicaragua.  After spending an eternity in Mexico, Central American countries seem to pass by faster than the lottery ticket numbers on the evening news.  Nicaraguan capitol Managua was our next destination as Jorge and family (pictured) would be hosting us for a bit.  On the outskirts of town, we were treated to a few more than relaxing days on the family farm.  There wasn’t a thing not natural about life there on the finca other than the pepsi that stocked the fridge to refresh yourself from the hammering humidity.

So I may tend to exaggerate from time to time as Ryan would forcefully agree with, but this last stretch was tough.  That being said, I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.  (Other than Madison for tonight’s UW/Nebraska game)  Sometimes all of the climbing can get in your head and challenges you on more than a physical level, but it makes every ounce of flat or downhill riding that much better.  My theory from time to time is to beat the shit out of yourself to make progress and fortunately that was what we were faced with.  Hopefully the volcanoes on Isla Ometepe in the middle of Lago Nicaragua will offer similar sweat inducing events as we drop the bikes and put on our hiking shoes for a bit.  Hopefully you will hear about it less than a month from now.



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Roadkill of the Week – Volume 4

Obviously we are taking a slightly different turn in this much anticipated chapter of Roadkill of the Week.  The winner (or loser) here clearly is me.

After an incredibly long day crawling up Guatemalan mountains, we were gifted with a phenomenal camp location underneath some pines and sheltered from the intermittent rain.  Remembering we had filled the flasks with god-awful whiskey way too cheap to be anything other than brown colored rubbing alcohol, we decided to warm our spirits.  The above picture is the result.  Death.   In lieu of gifts, please send money for real booze to Ryan.


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