Life on the road

Giovanni the Handyman at our hotel poses for a portrait before we leave. Photo: Alex Washburn

Giovanni the Handyman at our hotel poses for a portrait before we leave. Photo: Alex Washburn

With only a few days left in Nicaragua, Alex and I were reviewing the timeline before we battled our way through another border and on into Costa Rica. We decided that we wanted to spend a half day in Granada before moving on to the border.

Granada is a lake town that sits on the edge of Lago Nicaragua, with views of ConcepciĆ³n Volcan in the distance. We would have pictures of all of this, but there was another unfortunate motorcycle hiccup. As we pulled the motorcycles into our hotel in Granada (Hotel Casa Barcelona, a hotel that promotes jobs for local women to become independent bread winners) Alex felt/heard a snapping sensation in her clutch cable, lo and behold we could see that of the nine or ten strands of cable, all but three had snapped.

Alex shows off the damage after pulling the frayed clutch cable out of her bike. Photo: Alex Washburn

Alex shows off the damage after pulling the frayed clutch cable out of her bike. Photo: Alex Washburn

Plans for our restful day by the lake quickly dissolved into web-searches, youtube videos, and greasy fingers. After watching a video on how to remove the clutch cable, Alex stated to me “I think we can do this, without any tools”. Well one of those two statements turned out to be true.

Before I could protest, Alex was out of the hotel lobby and into the courtyard, borrowing a pair of pliers from the hotel handyman (Giovanni, he will be in the story later) and beginning to rip into the clutch lever. The only conversation we had on the subject, was whether we thought the bike could make it in its current state to the shop we are going to in Costa Rica. Upon further review we both decided it would be foolish to continue without some sort of repair.

In about thirty minutes we had dissembled the clutch lever and removed the clutch cable. Alex held it out to the two handymen that were working on staining a table in the courtyard where our bikes were. Giovanni came over to inspect the cable, and Alex asked where we might be able to obtain another one.

By now it was 4:00, and the main concern was that if we didn’t find a replacement, most of the shops would not be open on Sunday and it might mean a delay of several days to get it repaired. Giovanni said he knew of a shop and suddenly we were in his car racing through Granada.

It was at this time that the sky’s let loose the rain they has been threatening all day and monsoon style downpour drenched the tiny town as Alex and Giovanni sprinted into the shop. The full cable assemblies they had in stock were too short by only a couple of inches, so we ended up getting a long replacement cable to feed into the tubing of the original.

Back to the hotel we went, the rain went just as quickly as it came, and though the bikes were wet, it didn’t slow the installation. Giovanni provided a helping hand in getting the new cable threaded and hooking the clutch lever back up. Next we needed to attach it to the motor. Here we ran into some problems because the washer and bolt that came with the replacement cable were too big to fit into the housing on the motor.

Giovanni shapes the nut to cap the end of Alex's new clutch cable. Photo: Nathaniel Chaney

Giovanni shapes the nut to cap the end of Alex’s new clutch cable. Photo: Nathaniel Chaney

Giovanni pulled out a grinder and started shaping the nut to fit. A little bending to widen the housing, and we were able to get the nut into the system. A little adjustment at the lever, and it was good as new or at least jimmy-rigged enough to get us to Costa Rica. It wasn’t pretty, but it meant we could stay on schedule and get across the border. It took all the time we had in Granada to do it, however Alex’s faith in us being able to fix it was unwavering, she amazes me!

Also, as in Honduras, when we needed help, the right people seemed to show up. We are grateful that Giovanni was so willing to help two strangers and are still amazed at the kindness of strangers here in Central America.

The following day came early and it was time to see if the cable would hold and what the border had in store for us. The border crossing wasn’t the worst in terms of harassment, but was the most extensive in paperwork and general futility. All told it took five hours.

Nicaragua had the most amount of work to exit a country yet. Most countries are glad to let you go with a stamp and some well wishes as you become the next country’s problem. However, Nicaragua required we have an official (who is wandering around the immigration area) inspect the bikes, then we had to get a stamp from a second of official in a booth, before tracking down a police officer (who also is just wandering around) to sign our forms. It took two hours just to get all the paperwork filled out and signed just to exit Nicaragua. For comparison, exiting Honduras took all of twenty minutes.

Next it was on to Costa Rica. Instead of describing the whole procedure, we have drawn this diagram:

Here is our 5 step process to get into Costa Rica. Photo: Alex Washburn

Here is our 5 step process to get into Costa Rica. Photo: Alex Washburn

After five hours of border crossing hi jinks, which included the insurance agency typing Alex’s VIN wrong three times, we made it into the countryside and all the way to Liberia Canton for a victory dinner. Country number seven is ours for the taking, and we are off to San Jose for our appointment to have some much needed maintenance done to the bikes.

8 Comments on “Life on the road

  1. How great for you to receive so much help from literal strangers. My many trips across country I found the same to be true of so many of the small towns I stopped in. Amazingly kind, helpful and accommodating people and I’m sure your thoroughly enjoying their company. Wish you happy and continued success in the little challenges you encounter. Until later be well.

  2. I don’t know you two- I read about your adventure in the newspaper- I love in Santa Cruz CA. Enjoying your posts- be safe!

  3. Love your blog. Hope you are planning to compile these blog entries into a book! Yes continued success!

  4. Enjoying seeing you two in the papers! Missing you a bit as it is getting closer to Christmas! I know you are not a fan of the holidays but it is always fun to have you around! It sounds like you two are doing well and taking all the ups and downs in stride. You have been so lucky to run across kind souls willing to help you out and are becoming experts on crossing borders. Take care and I miss you!

    • Hey Trist,

      I am going to miss spending time with the family for the holidays. This year I guess alex and I are just skipping Christmas. I hope your holidays are great and look forward to hanging out in the new year.

      Love you guys!

  5. It had been a while since I read a post. Glad to hear you guys are doing well. Happy Christmas you two!! Keep faith alive :))
    Much love,
    Cris

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