Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Sprockets, Rust and Uncle Val's Gin

Ain't she a beaut?!  The bike, not the mustache,
although props to Matt for that.
I love to bike.  I miss dearly my crappy, rusty bike from Mexico named Chonchita (or Chonchito, depending on if I felt like the bike was having a masculine day or a feminine day).  I recently caught wind that Chonchita is in the hands of my silly, British friend, Matt, in Tulum.  In fact, I have photographic evidence.  It made me wonder what kind of adventures my bike has been on since I left Tulum at the end of February.  Who was it carrying on it's uncomfortable seat?  Where did they go?  What did they see?  But mostly I wonder if Chonchita misses me.  I'd like to think so.  Maybe she even feels the difference between my hands gripping the handle bars and my butt firmly planted on that ridiculously hard seat and someone else's hands and butt.  Also, maybe I'm totally crazy for assuming an inanimate object has actual emotions and misses me.

It's a similar feeling I had as a child when my family would go on vacation and I had to choose which stuffed animal to bring with me.  I once stood in front of my collection of stuffed animals and proceeded to deliver a speech on how I loved them all equally but I could only take one with me which, of course, would be my beloved pot-bellied bear.  It's name was Popalee because when I was even younger I couldn't pronounce the word pot-belly.  Thus, Popalee  This is a true anecdote.  I'm serious.  I remember standing in my flowered wallpapered room, all my animals lined up on the cream colored book shelf that my dad built (there was a plethora and I won't even begin to tell you about the Barbie collection my sister and I accumulated when we were wee ones).  I seriously assumed they came alive when I wasn't around.

Taking the bikes for a spin to Punta Uva
But back to bikes.  They are an essential part of living here.  They are a popular mode of transportation as all the little hamlets beyond Puerto Viejo are close enough to bike to.  Often times taking a cab just feels excessive.  There is one road connecting Puerto Viejo to said hamlets; Playa Cocles, Playa Chiquita,  Punta Uva and Manzanillo.  The road is flanked on either side with jungle and to the east you get glimpses here and there of the ocean.  Often times you hear howler monkeys.  They are most talkative early in the morning.  But you can hear them throughout the day if you're biking by the right place at the right time.  I don't know why, but they hoot and holler when they are in the trees near the road and a truck drives by.  Without fail this happens every time.  Maybe it has something to do with the sound frequency of the vehicle, I really don't know.  But it's an interesting discovery and I ponder the why of it.  Once I saw a sloth making it's lazy, slow way across the street.  I'm torn on the decision as to whether or not a sloth is cute or just plain ugly.  Long nails and a pig nose, it's a fine line between "awww" and "ugh."  Regardless, it was pretty darn cool to watch it crawl across the road at, well, sloth like speed.  Actually it went so slow that I got bored and ended up biking away after watching it progress only half way.  There are massive spider webs built between the power lines and fences.  Fire engine red, bright pink and soft peach hibiscus plants are plentiful and tree like.  And the green.  Everything is so lush, green and alive.  For the most part, the road is lacking incline of any kind.  Despite this, the heat and humidity will cause trickles of sweat down the sides of your face, down the small of your back and behind your knees.  And forget wearing eye makeup, it will have dripped down your face so you resemble a crying clown.

The bikes I'm using these days are part of the perk of living at Om hostel.  Yes, I'm doing it again.  I'm living at a hostel as well as working reception here two days a week.  They offer some bikes for free use here.  Apart from the fact that they have a yoga studio on site, the offering of free bike use was the winning factor in my staying here.  It ended up working out even more in my benefit as I am now working here as well.  And hadn't I always wanted to test the waters of being a receptionist at a hostel?  My how your dreams can come true!

The road home with my friend and bunk mate, Molly

The bikes are not fancy by any means and all of them could use some air in the tires but they get you where you need to go and they've got personality, spunk and charisma.  There's the blue one with the finicky chain.  Be prepared to have bike grease adorn your hands everytime you use this one as forced stops are mandatory at least twice throughout your journey to put the chain back on track.  I can now add this to my list of random things I've become good at since I started traveling; efficiently and quickly putting a bike chain back on the sprocket.  (I'd like to add this is the first time in my life that I've used the word "sprocket" in my writing and a celebration of some sort should be had.  Drink a glass of dry rosé or have an Uncle Val's gin and soda with a lime for me).  There's the pale green one with the extremely long frame made for someone with gorilla arms.  There's the white and blue one that is my favorite, however, the equilibrium is somewhat off so you are always steering the bike at an angle to ride in a straight line.  Very counterintuitive.  There's the red one with the weird, slightly broken pedal and a bit of a lag in the rotation of the wheels.  This one is my least favorite and I avoid it like I avoid bad wine; only taking part if there is absolutely no other alternative.  At least bad wine can be amended slightly by adding juice or soda water.  Adding juice or soda water to the red bike will not amend it.  In any way.  I know for a fact.  I tried.  However, I would never pass judgement on ol' big red, we all have our quirks.

The one thing they have in common besides two wheels and sprockets (have another sip!) are that they are all rusty.  This is how it is here.  Metal rusts about as fast as water spilling out of a kicked over bucket.  Jewelry tarnishes immediately after you polish it, wet bathing suits rarely fully dry thus encouraging signs of the rankest smelling kind of moldy dampness.  The heat, humidity, salt and constant rain (we are just beginning to come out of the throes of the rainy season) all contribute to this common rust theme on all bikes here.  But it's all good, that doesn't stop anyone from rotating those pedals and enjoying the jungle view.  (Some native Spanish speakers here pronounce the word, "jungle" without the "j" so it sounds like "yungle."  It's my favorite word to hear.  It makes me giggle every time and I want to pat people on the head or give them a cookie for having such a darn cute pronunciation of the word.  Then I wonder if people think the same thing about me when I speak Spanish and if so, where are my cookies, eh?)

Playa Chaquita
I have a tendency to bike to my favorite beach, Playa Chaquita and while away the hours floating in the  natural pools created by coral.  I usually need to force myself to leave out of hunger or darkness approaching.  When I bike back to Om, the sun is beginning to set and it creates that glare that you battle with when you're driving due west on the highway.  I'm sure I have some grimace on my face as I try to see oncoming objects (cars, people, scooters, monkeys, sloths).  But don't let the grimace fool you.  I'm happy as the howler monkeys playing aloft in the the trees.  And as much as I would love to swing from the trees and groom another of my species, I'm pretty darn content with seeing this little corner of Costa Rica at a bike's pace, due west golden sun and all.

This is how I feel after biking!

1 comment:

  1. So many times I've been stranded in the jungle with a broken down bicycle. The best was when my chain kept falling off and two police men on motorcycles tried to help me put it back on and instead completely ripped the chain in half then left me there on the side of the road alone in Punta Uva. Awesome.