March 15, 2008

24 Hours of Sunlight

"I kept wishing a mountain lion would jump out of the woods and kill me" - Eric, after returning from a lap at around 3:00 am.

There a perfectly good chair lift - right frikin' THERE. But no - we had to ski up ski down ski up ski down ski.........all day and all night. 24 Hours. Bad thing is....we paid real money to do this.
In preparation for my hopefully-slightly-better-than-mediocre bike race season, I decided to sign up for the 24 Hours of Sunlight ski race with one of my old Bailey hommies, Eric. We were a duo team, but there were also solos, 4-person and 5-person and more-than-5 person teams as well. Like some people in the race, I decided to hike-snowboard instead of the traditional skin-up ski-down method. Most skied, some boarded, a few snow-shoed and at least a few did it on nordic equipment (totally insane).
I knew I was in for some big-time hurtin' since I hadn't been doing much all winter except for tracking my woeful fantasy football team and drinking lots beers. My three week "taper" during a drinking vacation to Costa Rica probably didn't help my endurance a whole lot either. - but I thought even though it's gonna hurt like hell, it would be good training for the bike - and it probably was.
Besides the fact that we had to ski (hike) up an insanely steep run to the top of Sunlight Mountain and then decend an even more insane black/blue run - and the fact that we were up the entire night - and the fact that it was cold - it was actually pretty fun. Well, actually the "fun" part came after we were done. Eric managed 11 laps to my pussy-assed 7. I think that total would have been good enough for second in the "duo" category (even though we were a duo - we signed up under the "just for fun" class since it was cheaper - had we signed up for the duo, we proabably would have won some swag).
The Bad: 1)it sucked carrying that snowboard on my camelback up that damn mountain - seems it was either bonking me in the back of the head or smacking the back of my feet. 2) I'm not as good of a snow boarder as I once was - or thought I was. The run down was literally a frikin' ice chute, which I could have managed on skis but not a board 3) Since the lodge screwed up our reservation for a room, we had to "camp out" in the cafeteria with a bunch of other people where the most horrible cover band you could possibly imagine was playing until 12:30 am with their amps turned up to "hearing damage" level. Actually, the band probably was not all that bad, but the volume was too much and we were not drinking beer and just wanted to chill out while the other was out on the course. 4) I pulled something in my knee while I was walking up and had a hard time even walking back down on my last lap. That sort of freaked me out since I did not want it to be a problem for biking, and luckily it hasn't so far 5) I was so tired (sleepy) afterwards that I could barely choke down 3 beers (now that's just pitiful).

March 09, 2008

Costa Rica (Page 3) - The Volcanoes Never Seen

Bust ass from the coast to make it to Arenal Volcano before dark. It's gonna be a great show with all that glowing lava flowing down the side of the mountain. Awesome. Well, it was raining and Arenal was obscured from view. NOW what are we gonna do? "First let's get some more chicharones!" The night consisted of, and ended with, more beer drinking - what else do you come to Costa Rica for. Pura Vida.....right?
We ran into this mad Coati during pee break on the road to Arenal - he smelled Chicharon juice on the Harpers and I was expecting him to attack at any moment.

Shrunken heads - you will see them hanging on random trees as you approach certain villages in the rainforest. No big deal.

From Arenal we headed west toward where we could see blue sky - down in Guanacaste. We decided a detour to Tenorio Volcano National Park and Rio Celeste would be a good day trip before heading to Monteverde. We finally get to the park and it's pouring and the girl working the front desk says: "Well normally the Rio Celeste Waterfall is soooo awesome - an amazing turquoise green and just gorgeous - but today, since it's pouring like hell and you're with the Harpers, the waterfall is a dull that will be 15 dollars please......have fun!" Also since it was pouring rain, that meant we would not be seeing any sort of wildlife at all. Luckily they had a few critters pickled in jars for us to look at.

Below is the Rio Celeste water fall as we saw it when visiting with the Harpers:

......but HERE is photo my Mom and Jay took of the same place just a week later.

March 08, 2008

Costa Rica (Page 2) Hold onto your Wallets Bitches

.....I'm telling you, the Harpers are cursed and I KNOW all them chicharones they were eating had something to do with it.

Question: Which of these events could ruin your vacation?
a) your car breaks down
b) you get mugged
c) you have shitty weather
d) you run out of beer
e) all of the above
I guess the answer to this would be "all of the above" - so thankfully only three of the four shitty things happened to us. We never did run out of beer - THAT would have ruined the vacation.

After hiking all day in the blazing-assed sun from Rara Avis - we got back to the car in Horquetas ready to get on the road to the Carribean coast. We showed up and the car had a flat tire - no big deal if you got time to burn, which we didn't. We change the tire and de-funk the car of some rotten food that was left for 3 days in the heat and finally hit the road. Getting dark so we end up staying at a road-side hotel (Las Palmas). Clean up, eat at the on-site restaraunt, drink some beers, Jen and Doreen go to bed and Earl and I drink another beer. It's 9:00 and the bar closes. We're finishing our drinks and hear some music coming from down the road. "Hey, sounds like a bar, lets go get another beer!" - What an awesome idea - it was only 100 yards down the road. Nevermind that we are dressed in tourist surf trunks and are totally out of place with the locals. The beer was good and there was even a bar fight between two young punk kids. Pretty cool. OK, midnight, let's head back to the hotel. (walking-walking -walking) - half way back in the pitch black, some fucked up dude shows up out of nowhere, right next to us and mubbling something. Next thing you know, two other dudes grab me from behind and I'm on the ground in the middle of the (normally busy) highway. After a long scuffle (it seemed long, but was probably only 30 seconds or so) one of the guys says "the money! - the money!" I pull out my wallet (which, dumb-ass me forgot to leave back in the room) and a third dude swoops in and takes it and takes off running down the highway. The other two guys jump down the embankment into to woods. Meanwhile Earl is trying to chase the guy with my wallet down - but he's gone (the fucker's on speed or some shit). We collect ourselves, Earls leg is bleeding (he got tackled but fought em off), we're both pissed. We head back to the hotel and there are the wives waiting for us - all upset and even MORE pissed. I lost my wallet with about $100/credit cards/drivers license/free drink with purchase of Burger and fries at Wendys coupon....and a headlamp (which I was geekily wearing when the shit went down) and my wedding ring which I didn't even notice was missing until 2 days later. I also had some road rash and two black-ish eyes. Earl kept everything but a bit of blood - he got sliced a few times by a broken bottle one of those punk asses had. Thankfully we were both OK and there were no knives or guns involved.

Finally made it to Puerto Viejo for a little beach time - you know lay around in the sun drinking lots of booze and pretending to know how to surf. First off, we spent several hours driving up and down the coast trying to find a place to stay - everyplace was booked. We happened upon El Pizote (or something like that) on the north end of town. The place was reasonable and frikin' awesome - the Colombian family that runs the place is great. Stay there if you're in the neighborhood.

OK - now, beach time. Wait a minute, it's raining. OK, lets drive down the coast and "sight see" until it stops. Oh wait, we've got a problem -the car won't start. Son-of-BITCH. Nobody in town owns jumper cables so we have to swap batteries with a cabbie dude to get it going. Sweet - we're in business - it's running. Let it charge baby, don't shut er down. After an hour of "charging" we shut it off to test it before we head out of town. Shit, it won't start again. We find a guy that does not have jumper cables, but he's got some "wire" - I'm talking LITTLE wire. His buddy says "don't worry, he's an electrician". He holds the wire on his battery and I hold it on ours and HOLY SHIT the dammed insulation is melting off the wire along with my palm prints. Battery swap number two.
Last resort: keep the car running all day long. Bad thing is: we need to stay close to the car AND there is no gas station in town so we can't run it too long. We make the best of it. The next day we waste bumming rides off of people to get a new battery for the rental car.

In the land of the "rent-a-rasta" (male prostitute) - you might want to stay away from the "Chocolate Salami".

Costa Rica - Page 1 (Rara Avis)

It takes 5 hours by dirt track to Rara Avis (rare birds) Preserve. It's a remote jungly, muddy, rainy, poisionous-snakey piece of land located on the east side of Braulio Carrillo National Park.

First - a few hours on the back of a muffler-less Unimog. There will be no wildlife within a 5-mile radius when this beast is barreling down the road.

.......and the remaining couple of hours on the back of a tractor that has wheels that tend to fall off from time-to-time

We finally got there and thought "what the hell - where are all the birds?" (uhhh - maybe THAT'S why the place is called "rare birds" - because there ain't any) . But after hanging out for a few days we realized they mostly came in the morning in flocks that pass though in 10 minute blocks. In those ten minutes you could easily see 5-6 species - and I'm talking 5-6 NEW species each time. Pretty cool. We didn't see a LOT of birds, but we saw a huge variety. Check out the list at the bottom (about 1/2 of those are from Rara Avis).

.....The place may now have been renamed "Rara Cervezas" after we pretty much cleaned out their stock of beer and wine. The bar bill was more than the room.

We stayed in the more rustic accomadations - modeled after your typical 1930's Southern Mississippi architecture, complete with poisionous snakes.

....a waterfall bath was preferred over the creepy shower

We decided to hike the 12 miles out instead of taking the tractor - just as fast as the bumpy-ass tractor and we got at least another 10 birds.

...and in Horquetas we had chicharon and cevivche bocas and a few cold beers. And that's where our troubles began..........

.....I'm blaming the goddamn chicharones

February 2008 Costa Rica Bird List (check it suckas)
Grey Necked Wood Rail
Wattled Jacana
Northern Jacana
Grey-Headed Chachalaca
Black Guan
Turkey Vulture
Black Vulture
Plumbeous Kite
American Swallow-Tailed Kite
Semiplumbeous Hawk
Roadside Hawk
White Hawk
Short Billed Pigeon
Chiriqui Quail-Dove
Red-Lored Parrot
White Fronted Parrot
Common Barn-Owl
Squirrel Cuckoo
Groove Billed Ani
Common Pauraque
Long-Tailed Hermit Hummingbird
Green Hermit Hummingbird
Green Violet-eared Hummingbird
Violet Saberwing Hummingbird
Purple-Crowned Fairy Hummingbird
Green-Crowed Brilliant Hummingbird
Magnificent Hummingbird
Crowned Woodnymph
Purple-throated Mountain Gem Hummingbird
Cinnamon Hummingbird
Steely-vented Hummingbird
Green Thorntail Hummingbird
Violet Headed Hummingbird
Crowned Woodnymph
Belted Kingfisher
Keel-Billed Motmot
Collared Aracari
Emerald Toucanet
Keel-Billed Toucan
Chestnut Mandibled Toucan
White Fronted Nunbird
Acorn Woodpecker
Chestnut-backed Antbird
White Collared Manakin
Masked Tityra
Great Kiskadee
Grey-capped Flycatcher
White-ringed Flycatcher
Dusky-capped Flycatcher
Long-Tailed Tyrant
Tufted Flycatcher
Scale-Crested Pygmy Tyrant
Wood Thrush
Sooty Robin
Clay-colored Robin
Brown Jay
Black and White Warbler
Yellow Warbler
Collared Redstart
Slate-Throated Redstart
Grey-crowned Yellowthroat
Chestnut-sided Warbler
Black-Crowned Oriole
Baltimore Oriole
Montezuma Oropendola
Chestnut Headed Oropendola
Great-tailed Grackle
Olive-Backed Euphonia
Yellow-Throated Euphonia
Blue and Gold Tanager
Tawny capped Euphonia
Common Bush Tanager
Shining Honeycreeper
Scarlet Thighed Dacnis
Emerald Tanager
Golden-hooded Tanager
Black and Yellow Tanager
Blue-Grey Tanager
Tawny Crested Tanager
White-Throated Shrike Tanager
Scarlet-Rumped Tanager
Red-Crowned Ant Tanager
Buff-Throated Saltator
Greyish Saltator
Rose-Breasted Grosbeak
Orange-Billed Sparrow
Yellow-Faced Grassquit
Thick-Billed Seed Finch
Blue Seedeater
Rufous-Collared Sparrow
Black-Striped Sparrow
Olive Sparrow