Monday, August 28, 2017

Colombia Part 2

She said, "leesen", and then she scratched her tiny shoulder with 4 fingers in rhythm, It sounded like horses quietly galloping, and she said: "Dats horses."
She’s 5 feet tall and her hair is 3 feet long. You do the math: Hair everywhere. She’s young and wild and Latin and cute as a cuy and that accent has no equal on the planet.

Meeting The Family
I knew I would be meeting her mother and sister. I knew they were going to have tough questions to ask. Who wouldn’t? I was asking the family to trust me with their youngest daughter while I took her out of her country for the first time. I prepared. I made a list and I practiced how to answer in the best Spanish I could muster. On the day of the interrogation, I took Aleja and her sister to a movie. Nathalia seemed to like me. Good, I needed every ally I could get in that room. Her mother would
be home soon and the clock was ticking.
On the long walk to her house I even asked Aleja to role play with me to get a better handle on how her mother might throw me a curve ball. “What do you think will be the toughest topic your mom is going to ask?” “Well, you do know that she is convinced you are going to sell me in Ecuador, right?” I checked my list. Nope, I hadn’t prepared for that one. “What? She thinks I’m going to sell you!” “Oh yes, she is sure of it.” My foot touched the first step. There was no turning back. The front door was open.

We climbed the stairs and entered the home. We exchanged casual niceties. I had brought a plant. It seems like a hollow trade now. I can’t believe I was that foolish: “Here’s a plant to take the place of the daughter you raised.”
She asked me to be seated. Her boyfriend appeared. Great. Guys know guys. I’m never gonna get out of here alive. And Jhonny speaks really fast. I had trouble following along. Aleja had to translate a couple times. Then her mother’s best friend entered and joined in. Sure – let’s invite the whole block.
There’s no way I’m going to pull this off in a foreign language surrounded by people who have, and should have, a healthy distrust of a man twice her age. I took a deep breath. I made peace with my ensuing failure. I mentally repeated the words; “speak from the heart”.

It was a machine gun staccato of questions and I felt my palms get wet, but I sat up straight and I answered honestly and humbly. I made eye contact and I admitted that there would be hardships and that I wasn’t interested in just adding a slave to my passenger list. I wanted a partner. I saw a slight tension release from the shoulders of Dona Aura. There was a long pause. They looked around the table at each other.  Dona Aura said “Pues, Bueno que mas vamos a hacer, tomemos  cerveza?”

I whispered to Aleja: “did your mom just suggest we drink beer?” “Yes!”

I immediately stood and volunteered to buy. AB and I walked out the door, down the steps and out of sight. “I think we won!” I think we won too!”

Goodbye Party
Alejandra has a boyfriend. Her boyfriend isn’t stupid, just Spanish disabled. When she said that her friends were throwing her a “despedida” (goodbye party), I thought she said “desaparecida”, which means “disappeared”. Hilarity ensued. I made the mistake of wondering aloud if I would get more for selling her whole or by the kilo. The butcher at the carniceria didn’t think it was very funny. I’m probably not going to try that joke with her mother.

The Last Day Of February
We departed Medellin. Hair pinned and hair brained switchbacks were the norm.
Tramps like us – Baby we were born to run. She learned English from Taylor Swift and Katy Perry. She’s heard of Led Zeppelin but she couldn’t name 1 song. She’s never heard of David Bowie. Do you remember the last elongated scene from The Graduate? The music from our phones became the 3rd passenger.

Jardin, Manizales, Salento, Cocora, Tulua, Cali, Rosas, Pasto, Lago Cocha, Las Lajas: We meandered our way out of Colombia. It was the first time she had ever left her own country. How would she live without Arepas?
Now this is how to eat chicken. The shirt was later donated to a cold dog

The Arepa – The Leatherman Of Foods
The arepa is a wonderful building material. It’s also a sturdy projectile for self-defense. However, the consumer grade commodity product that arrives at your table in the plastic basket with your silverware isn’t really fit for eating.
That's the commodity arepa
It explodes in your stomach to 3 times the normal size, and you can’t eat the rest of the day. It was designed to get the campesinos back in the fields for more work.  Because it doesn’t get served with the food on your plate; I consider it more of a delivery system
adjunct.  A little mortar and paint and you could build yourself an outhouse – and you’re gonna need one. It’s also the perfect size and weight to use as self-protection from a starving dog (they won’t eat them either). None of the above applies to the Venezuelan version.
Cold Dog of Cocora Valley

PRB ~ It Doesn't Stand For Pabst Blue Ribbon
It’s the phonetic replication of the Spanish language; which sounds like a motorcycle with a sputtering carburetor issue. Listen, here’s the proof: “podrias probar esta para remover la pintura”. You must remember that the “v” sounds like another “b”. It's the constant babble of the Spanish language that refuses to ever downshift into a slower more comprehensible gear. I now live with a native Spanish speaker and I’ve never been closer to quitting the language.

“Wanna Mix Things Up?”
Before Columbus came to the New World, there were no oranges in Florida,
no bananas in Ecuador, no paprika in Hungary, no potatoes in Ireland, no coffee in Colombia, no pineapples in Hawaii, no rubber trees in Africa, no chili peppers in Thailand, no tomatoes in Italy, and no chocolate in Switzerland. Columbus “discovering” America caused the deaths and subjugation of millions. But there was an upside. They call it the Columbian Exchange. We humans re-inventoried the planet. I’ll let you decide if it was for the better or not.
But change came, and for me, my entrance into South America was a big revolution. The Spanish changed (yet again, and by a larger measure), the culture changed, the food changed, the climate changed, and the people changed. I love it down here. Don’t forget to put this continent on your bucket list. Man is it good.

Acting Class 101
My teacher said, “Take chances!” And that’s carried through to everything. If you aren’t raising eyebrows once a month for telling inappropriate jokes, you aren’t pushing the bounds of humor, and you should be. If you aren’t getting your heart broken every 2 years, you aren’t making yourself vulnerable to others, and you should be. If you aren’t coming face to face with death’s stinking breath yearly, challenge yourself a bit more.
Take chances! Keep the party rolling, because nothing is a bigger buzz kill than a corpse, especially when it’s yours, but push a little deeper, ask a bit more from yourself and others, Take Chances!

Your man on point,

Bobby Freedom

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Colombia Part 1

Everything Is Relative
The Atlantic waters of the San Blas Islands are gin colored and peppered with low lying islets & smiling local Indians. For me, the highlight wasn’t the locale; I’d seen much better during my years at sea, it was my fellow shipmates. After 5 days on the boat we disembarked in Cartagena, Colombia. It was my first time in the country and on the continent. DJ and I toured Cartagena, Minca and Santa Marta together and then he got called back to the States.

I met my new Spanish best friends and thus began the bureaucratic nightmare of getting Elsie out of Custom's grip. Entering the building was the first step and they wouldn’t let me in without closed toe shoes. I bought the cheapest pair of crocs that I swore I would never own, after seeing other cruisers offend the universe with these synthetic atrocities. I marched back over to the port authority and began the 3 day process of extracting my freedom machine from port prison.

36 Hours In Hell
I bought a new tire and got my oil changed. The mechanic only finger tightened the nut that holds all my engine oil in and in the middle of a dangerous highway it fell out with all my oil. The cops woke me in the middle of the night while hurricane Mathew
was well under way and told me that it was not safe, I was in danger, and that I had to leave. 3 tow trucks later I was safe and slept for 15 hours. That oil mishap could have burned up my engine and ended the trip but I dodged the bullet on that one. My truck has an auto-shut down when the oil is low. Lucky!

Driving In Colombia
If you find yourself in a situation with decreasing range and constant bearing; aka: a collision course, don’t follow the rules of the road, follow the rules of tonnage, which is the safety fallback a little boat on the ocean adheres to. Sure, you might be in the right but the bigger boat is going to run you down and come back to port with a paint streak on her hull and report nothing.
In Colombia you are never the stand on vessel. You must always be the give way vessel because Colombians are the world’s worst drivers. Just consider them to be rudderless hazards that have lost all steerage. They have no regard for their lives and certainly less for yours. I say again: They are the world’s worst drivers. The general consensus is that they are only in the list of the top 3, but I’m ready to commit. It’s a sense of evil they become flush with when holding a steering wheel.
Are they in love with a nurse? Are they trying to meet a doctor? Do they hate their mothers? Why would anyone drive like that? They become instantly selfish and that’s just not who they intrinsically are. If you are going to Colombia, you are going to love the Colombians, but take a defensive driving course.

Uninterrupted Dancing
If you’re white, your grandparents danced to Benny Goodman, your parents to The Beatles, and you don’t dance to either. And none of your dance steps look remotely similar. In Latin culture grandparents, parents and all of their kids dance to Salsa. That didn’t happen in white culture. We don’t have a unifying music that transcends the generations. Here’s the result: “I’m not going to Gramma’s party. Are you kidding?” Vs: “I can’t wait to dance at Abuela’s party!” This has long ranging effects….
Colombians hate toilet seats and tear them off 

Air Guitar VS. Salsa 
Sure Latins are really good at dancing, but they suck at air guitar. Only white people are good at air guitar and everyone knows that air guitar is just as sexy as Salsa. That’s obviously uncontestable, but why are they so bad at air guitar? It’s because their music barely has any electric guitars and never any driving hard core solo riffs. They never reach for the imaginary whammy bar for the same reason they never step on the imaginary foot pedal – almost zero experience watching Eddie Van Halen. They just really lack the awkward teenage angst it takes to do air guitar which everyone knows is required to rule the world. Wait a minute….maybe they don’t want to rule the world. Maybe, just maybe…. They only want to dance. Nah, everybody wants to rule the world.

I've found some pretty spots to camp
Why They Will Never Rule The World
The 3 things a Colombian immediately think upon waking up: 1.) Where can I dance? 2.) What’s the soccer score? And, after they have their “tinto” of Juan Valdez, and their brains are working at full power – 3.) How can I cut in line more successfully? Asians just bully their way in front of you but Latins do it with dance moves. It’s the easiest country in the world in which to meet women.
Just cue up and almost immediately some cute little thing has sashayed her hips right in front of you. It shows they are trying to get ahead, and I hope they do because they are some of the best people I’ve encountered but . . . . when you put a steering wheel in their hands they somehow lose their courteous and selfless proclivities. It’s as if the steering wheel gives them the will to rule the world, but have no fear, they never will, because they can’t be on time. To anything. Ever.

The Subjectivity of Time
In order for you to derive full meaning from this I must first give you a Spanish lesson. In most Spanish speaking countries “ahora” = “now”, and “ahorita” = “right now!” “Ya” = “already”. Here’s how late the Colombians are: To them, “ahorita” means “in 2 hours”. If they want to say right now, they say “ya”. Think about it…. They have to use time travel to be punctual. The only way they can express “right now!” is to go back in time and use the past tense which is “already” That is taking tardiness to a whole new level. (Thank you Elliot Fairchild)

Every restaurant is first come first serve. There’s no such thing as reservations, because they never show up when they say they will. They must be shocked to realize that first world countries hold tables for people who actually arrive when they promised to arrive. When a white person hears 9:00, he thinks; “I need to be there at 8:55” When a Latin hears 9:00, he thinks; “Oh cool, I have until 10:30”.

A Slight Similarity To The Asians
The Asians have this “save face” thing where they’ll never tell you no. They’ll always give you at least a maybe when they really have absolutely zero intentions of following through. To a lesser extent the Colombians do it too. That is an option that every child has. The maturation process in the white world trains that out of children. Our parents taught us that no matter how difficult it might be, we must tell the truth. “Sometimes telling a person “no” is difficult son, but telling people what they want to hear doesn’t work in the long run for anyone.” We don’t say “sure!”, and then never show up.
We say, “no. I’m sorry but I won’t be attending.” Bottomline – that “save face” cowardice is just a childish trait that lingered into adulthood because your parents didn’t know better. I love you Colombians, and you are so much better than the Asians, please . . . rethink it. And yes, I love making blanket statements. My blog, remember?

The Road From Cisneros Up To Medellin
Holy Cow. Out of this world beautiful and I didn’t get one picture. I was expecting to see cherubs floating on clouds strumming harps. That’s the problem with solo travel. I’ve got the steering wheel in my hands and there’s no safe place to pull over on these mountain roads. Well – now you know, drive it yourself.

Traveling alone
It is surrendering to the death of hope, when, as a single overlander one begins to use the passenger seat as storage. I resist by keeping the seat clean and empty in the hopes that I will meet and include a traveling companion. It’s difficult. Most of the people I meet are married or romantically involved couples. It does happen that I meet 2 girls traveling together but trying to peel one away from the other has never worked. The single girl traveling by herself is the only option that has ever worked for me and the number of girls who travel alone in third world Latin America is tiny.
However, there are options that are available to a person who travels alone that don’t appear when you are a couple, a triple or a foursome. You certainly get invited to more dinners and events.

The singularity is bitchin – I am the undiluted captain. I play my music as loud as I want. I go where I want. I park where I want. Zero compromise. If it’s interesting to me I stop. No negotiation. No concession. I enjoy other people’s company but when I’m alone there is an overwhelming sense of “Look at you! You are doing it!” They are all my accomplishments, undivided by 2. It’s a big powerful beast and I’m the only one charged with driving it. That’s just cool. Chevere! Bacano!

It Was A Day Of Superlatives. 
It was Oct 10th 2016. My sweet mother was having hip replacement surgery as I drove into the city that is Medellin. Nothing can prepare you for driving into that city.
The sheer visual weight of all those homes and the humanity that it represents is crushing and it goes on forever. I heard myself exhale the words, “oh my god.” I drove up a hill that must have been a grade 12 – 14 degrees and it went on for 10 miles!! And there at the top the whole valley exposed itself to me. Medellin.

The Thrill Of Exploration
I pack a bag, I button up the rig, and I grab a local bus back into Medellin. Then it’s flowers, smiling loud brown people, big trees, bigger mountains, terrible roads, but who cares, I’m not driving and boy does that feel good. I’m so in love with travel that even though I live in a Freedom Machine I get a giant rush of pleasure from changing my mode of exploration.
I rented an apartment; I learned the metro and the metro cable, I joined a gym and a Spanish school. I traded fuel consumption for the consumption of delicious meals.

Friendly is not Hygenic
If you’ve known me for long, you no doubt are aware of my disdain for shaking hands. It’s unhygienic and weird. I don’t need to hold the hand of a stranger. Let’s just smile at each other. Keep your flu to yourself and we’ll become better friends. However, the Colombians are so damn friendly that every encounter starts and ends with a handshake.
Seeing this never makes me more comfortable
Even if you saw the person earlier in the day you will still be offered a palm. I play along. However, there is another component to this Colombian friendliness that I can’t agree to: They seem to have no sense of spatial recognition and respect for the personal bubble. Remember how your grandpa drove that huge Oldsmobile and he put those curb feeling whiskers at the wheel well so he didn’t scrape things? These people need to wear those because they are always bumping into me. They are always in my traffic flow. It’s as if their proximity sensors aren’t functioning. They simply don’t know how to get out of the way. Just move aside Colombians. We all need to share the sidewalk.

I’m not sure that I’m qualified to declare Medellin one of the top 10 greatest cities in the world. That’s a lofty title but I have a hunch it might be true.
They call it “The City of Eternal Spring”. The weather is damn near perfect. It’s a 3rd world city with 1st world infrastructure and dining. Your greenback dollar goes a long way and then there are the women.
The great place I lived at for 3 months
What in the world happened here? Beautiful girls everywhere! I would be remiss if I didn’t comment on the posterior of this city. It’s theorized that the strong proud haunches that have become a trademark of Colombia are due to the hills, and all the stairs they have to climb every day.
They say that Brazil invented the ass and that Cuba and Colombia immediately began fighting over the title for world’s best. What you’ll find here is nothing short of weapons grade. I’ve always thought they should rename the country Culombia. (See what I did there Spanish speakers?)
My housemates & our weekly BBQ

Grading The Latins
There’s something about Colombia that Central America just didn’t have. They are all poor, but there is a sense of style here. It’s not just abject poverty and remorse. Maybe that Darien Gap is a cultural division as well as a physical one. Something has changed. South America just really feels different. The Central Americans seem to have had a childhood spent in sepia, while these people got the full spectrum of color. I’ve spent over 2 years of my life in Central America. I see no need to go back. It’s just much better down here.

A Fling In Medellin
I’m in a difficult era. Most of the women my own age are mired in a mortgage with a serious job commitment and they have an 8 year old. They aren’t going to take off on a global jaunt. That’s why the young ones are a better match since they are foot loose and fancy free, which is where I try to operate. Aesthetically speaking I’m barely viable. I still have some hair. It hasn’t turned gray and I know how to smile. I’ve got a good squint. It’s not Clint Eastwood good, but it’s pretty good. We met at an ”intercambio”, which is where you speak English for 5 minutes and then Spanish for 5 minutes. Back and forth. My Spanish is passable. It was a rather typical boy meets girl moment. I asked for her number and followed through. So. . . . if you didn’t hate me before, you are sure to hate me now. Let me introduce you to my girlfriend Alejandra.

The next dispatch begins leg 3!

"I'm a stretched rubber band, I'm a coiled spring, I'm about to launch."

Blacktop Bobby

Friday, March 17, 2017


The World’s Greatest Palindrome:

Panama – “Just The Facts Juan”
It’s fitting to begin this tale with the history of the Panama Canal. It is, after all, the reason this country exists in the first place.
The French started the canal in 1880, and in typical French fashion they surrendered. Disease (note the paltry figure of 22,000 dead), the jungle, mud slides and the enormity of the project got the better of them. The US took over in 1904. Why 1904? Good question. Let’s look at the birth of a nation.

Panama got their independence from Spain in 1821. That's a little deceiving because they weren't really a country until 1903. That’s the year they seceded from Columbia when Teddy Roosevelt propped them up with a human puppet because he wanted that canal to happen.

The canal took the US 10 years to complete, so in 1914 the first ship passed through. The locks raise the vessels 86 feet above sea level, and then lower them 86 feet back to sea level once on the other side.

They call their currency the "Balboa" but it's the US greenback dollar. Not a facsimile - the exact bill. They've been using it since 1904. They have, for some confusing reason, created their own coins though. They are exactly the same size, weight and value as ours but with a picture of Balboa on them. However, our coins are used too, so both are in circulation. It’s a little silly.
Elsie goes to Bocas Del Toro

Now, Who Is This Balboa Guy And Why Is He On A Coin?
Vasco Nunez de Balboa – In 1501 he “discovered” the Pacific Ocean (I think building statues to him and putting his image on coins is tantamount to the American Indians praising Columbus. I guess the locals identify more with the Spanish then the indigenous people? That’s strange when you see the faces and realize there is very little Spanish blood in Panama). He sailed for Spain, and he slaughtered lots of natives, and they stole tons of gold and silver from Peru and it all passed through Panama.
I should never have taken Elsie to Bocas Del Toro

We Have Gold, Silver, A Thin Isthmus And Lots Of Mariners Ready To Take A Chance. Yep, That Means PIRATES
In July of 1668 the English Pirate Henry Morgan took all of Portobello
Portobello today
which was the Spanish stronghold on the Caribbean side of the Isthmus. He held it ransom and threatened to burn it to the ground unless the Spanish in Panama paid up. They paid up. 

Then in 1671 he marched with his Pirate army across the jungle from the Caribbean side to the Pacific side and defeated a Spanish army of 1600 soldiers. Then, through torture and every other means conceivable he extracted enough silver and gold to load 175 mules as well as capturing 600 prisoners. He marched it all back to the Caribbean side and sailed home to Jamaica & a hero’s welcome.
Who remembers Alex Dorsey from our sailing days? He's back in Panama after crossing the Pac and now on a bigger boat

As for Panama City; he super sacked it. Torched it to the ground. Gone. In fact - Panama Vieja is where the city used to be (Cool archeological site). When they rebuilt it, they did so miles to the west, at a place now called Casco Viejo.
Authority figures agree that drunkenness is a valid excuse. I plead it when they try to make me leave in the night. "Pero Senor, estoy borracho" Armed robbery is my only real threat. I'm rather buttoned up, and I have a strict cowardice strategy of total surrender. 

Casco Viejo is one of the most interesting neighborhoods here. It thrusts it’s bull neck out into the Pacific with its ancient Presidio walls. It used to be dangerous and half deserted, now it’s only slightly sketchy and filled with boutique yogurt and coffee shops, but the reward for walking its streets are glimpses into the far and recent past. It’s some of the oldest that the new world has to offer.

Oh the roads I've driven
Let’s talk about Noriega – that pockmarked narco non rocker. The US came in here (Misnomer cuz we were already here. It was 1989. We controlled the Canal remember, but they love to call it an invasion so who am I to spoil their history) under the catchy slogan “Operation Just Cause”, with guns blazing and smart bombs exploding. We cornered him in the Vatican embassy and then played Van Halen and Metallica for 40 days and 40 nights and it broke his will to traffic cocaine and commit murder. In fact, he surrendered after 10 days. Latinos have zero appreciation for guitar driven rock n roll.
Bamboo Carwash

But sometimes they pay off . . . 
Party like it’s 1999! – In that year the US handed the Canal over to the Panamanians. Carter signed off on it back in ’77. They recently opened a whole new canal to handle the increased size of the world’s ever growing cargo ships. It’s rather impressive.

3rd World Mustache
Most of my time in Panama was spent wearing a ridiculous mustache. My post doc dissertation is on the correlation between mustaches and third world prominence. I needed to get into character.

My Thin Cruel Lips
Food - It’s a pleasure common to all human’s. Dining is a simple unifying action. Everyone is proud of their national food, and I’ve found that sometimes, as a foreigner I get samplings and special treatment that a local wouldn’t be given because the people are boastful of their cuisine. In Korea – I never ordered a thing and I was never better served. I simply sat down, smiled and shrugged – they took great care of me. The guy literally cut our meat for us, and the food was over the top wonderful.
Top Roping in Boquete

Since I am now safely out of Central America and with no intentions of returning for years I can now ask the following rhetorical question in complete safety: “How many Central American restaurants have you ever been to?” Really? Can’t think of even one? Not even in a major world city like Paris or London or Tokyo? You’ll find Mexican restaurants everywhere and you might find an El Salvadorian restaurant selling pupusas but you’ll never find a Guatemalan, Belizean, Honduran, Nicaraguan, Costa Rican or Panamanian restaurant. 

"I'll be playing the Noriega compound
 in the American zone from
 the 14th to the 21st.
Bring your narco dollars and don't forget to tip your waitress"
Why is that? It’s so simple – it’s because their food is freakin awful. Sure, you can get it down and it’ll quell the hunger pains, but it’s not worthy of replication. So this begs the question: When every country in Central America can grow and produce the same food and ingredients that the Mexicans have, why can’t they match their cuisine? The Mexican’s make some of the most sought after dishes on the planet (usually in the top 3 list of popular cuisines) and their neighbors produce boring unimaginative starch & gristle atrocities that you can barely push past your lips. Why? I don’t have an answer and I’ve spent way too much time thinking about it. Let me know when you get your heads around that one.
When you just really want average food best described as "Typical"

Tenedor Porfavor:
Their food hovers just above awful, but how great is it that total strangers say “Bon provecho” to each other?

I Get Paid In Sand Dollars
Here’s my Life in Elsie: Time to leave / The shelf goes up, pack away all that will fall, disconnect power cord, close all windows and hatches, warm up diesel engine, the surfboard moves from the truck cab to the floor of the camper, check tie downs, fill tanks, Check pressure in airbags and tires, do a walk around, plug in and mount phone. Then I pick a new location on the navigator app and the next adventure begins.
What you can't hear is the cacophony of frogs that sound like a Japanese video game being played by the all-time high scorer
3 Levels of Cooling”
Boondocking – I use my 4 / 12 volt fans. I run them all night. They barely pull any amps, but they barely provide any cooling.

A step up from that is when I’m plugged in for elec but the amps or volts aren’t high enough to run the a/c unit on the roof of the camper. Then I break out the 110 volt 10” fans, put them on high and redirect them as I move about. 

"If I eat here, can I park for free?"
The height of decadence is when I’m plugged in and they have solid clean electricity and I can run the a/c non-stop. I have my own generators, and I do use them, but the thieves would take them away if I were to leave them out and go to sleep.
Like surfing, only smalller
They are perfect for what I call a mandatory siesta from 1-4. After 4 the shadows are longer, the rays are less intense, and the sunset is only a couple hours away. Congrats, you made it to the evening cool down. 

My mother and brother flew into Panama City.

That sweet Birdy Mae made a new friend
I put Birdy Mae on a forced march up this trail and she was mad at me for 2 days. She went home and had hip-replacement surgery.  I'm carrying around an extra 40 pounds of guilt these days. Good thing seamstresses are cheap in the 3rd world. I had to let all my shorts out.
Vent over my fridge. I ripped it off when I hit a low cable. Good training.
Skinny - The brother with the good hair
I picked them up and drove them around the entire country and I’ve got the pictures to prove it. First I dropped off our mother, and a week later I dropped off my brother.  
Skinny lives in Tokyo and plays Frogger all day in real time

The Friedmans: There are only 3 in this small immediate circle and we live on 3 different continents. I’m certain it isn’t what our mother thought she was signing up for, and it makes for some sad goodbyes.

A Return To The BYC
I parked on a familiar street.
BBQ, awning, mini low height table. I love my set up
That’s a first. I ordered some buffalo wings. I cracked open another ale. There was a 2 piece band playing innocuous favorites in the corner. It all came rushing back to me why I used to enjoy this place. The Balboa Yacht Club! I lived here for 6 months 10 years ago while I waited for the weather window to open and for Suzi Roberts to arrive from England. It was from here that we set off across the Pacific Ocean.
BYC - A few of the same remain
This time around, instead of stumbling down the stairs and walking the long dock out to the pontoon to catch the shuttle to Barraveigh, I moseyed back to Elsie who was parked in parallel with the other Overlanders. Full circle baby.

Hey sailors - look familiar?
Earlier Overlanders jury rigged a street light to grab power

The Darien Gap
The Pan-American Highway extends from Alaska all the way to the bottom of Patagonia. However, there is a missing link. The distance is only 60 miles as the crow flies. The road stops at Yaviza Panama and starts again in Turbo Colombia. Why the gap? Most think it is to stem the flow of drugs headed north to the US market, and there is certainly truth to that but the largest factor is that the 60 mile natural barrier stops foot and mouth disease from spreading into North America.

Overlanders Ship Their Vehicles
What did it cost? $1537 USD and mine went Roll-on-roll-off, which is more expensive then sharing a container. Elsie’s ego is too large to fit in a container. It won’t be contained. She is a Freedom Machine damnit. All that money and hassle for 60 miles.
It's not free and easy, it's actually expensive and lots of work

Elsie gets a lot of stares. Mostly they are accompanied by thumbs up and big smiles as the people reflect on the freedom that my machine represents. However, that's not always the case. Sometimes the expression is one of complete bewilderment. Why would a rich guy from the US (and by comparison we are all rich in the US) want to live in that? The real question is: why would the locals camp? Most of them are abjectly poor and their normal lives are only a scratch above camping anyway. Camping, as we in the first world know it, is just a lifestyle counter measure to our pampered first world existences. When you are still living in a cave you don’t collect kindling for fun.

Goodbye To Elsie, Hello To The Sea / DJ And Fun Without My Rig
I handed over my key, shuddered, and walked away from my Freedom Machine. That was hard. I paid a very expensive taxi to once again cross the Isthmus of Panama from Colon to Panama City to meet a friend from S’Mish
DJ Birnie as Pippy Longstrom
who was flying in to sail with me to Colombia. We drank way too much, stayed up far too late, met way too many great people and sweated more than a fat kid at wrestling practice.

You’ll have to tune in to the next episode to read about that.

I’ve flown to Panama, I’ve sailed to Panama, and now I’ve driven to Panama.

Your Man On Point,

Capt Bobby Blacktop

Random Clearing House (France, Albania, USA, Colombia)

  These lines represent 2 years of driving around Europe Red = Year 1 / Purple = Year 2 “And you may find yourself in another part of the wo...