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Thursday, October 11, 2007

Driving in Costa Rica - Part 1

This is an older entry on cars and driving from late August, but still, an interesting story:

We have been renting the entire time that we have been here, and frankly it is getting a little tiresome and very expensive. Our first car was a Suzuki Aero. It seemed small after leaving behind my beloved Volvo cross-country. With five of us, a station wagon is really nice. Also, because we are moving things, changing cars, etc. we keep taking out the car seats. This means that often the kids get a free ride. I mean sit in Mommy's lap for a quick trip to wherever or something like that. I am not overly worried about their safety for this short time, but getting them used to going back in the carseats is not going to be fun. Especially la bebe, who hated it in the first place. And Gus thinks that he is ready to drive.

So we rented that for a few weeks, then when Auntie Myra was here and we were planning some sightseeing trips, we upgraded to a Suzuki APM (All person mover), kinda like a tall minivan. Worked well, but not a smooth drive and $100 more/week. Downgraded back to ol' trusty for another week. Then decided we have been paying too much (more than we want to, anyway) and found a dirt cheap rental. It stinks. It squeals. It is TINY. Many things do not work or work very hard (i.e. radio, roll down windows). It definitely does not make us a target (nobody would dream we had any money). BUT, it is manual and so I can drive. Don't get me wrong - I can drive a stick, but it has been awhile and there is so much more going on here (with the condition of the roads, the interesting tactics of the drivers and the kids) so stick was just one thing too many for me to feel comfortable right now.

Funny side story: When Ibarra went to get the car, the guy asked him (several times to make the point),
"you are over 21, aren't you? I mean because my insurance won't cover you if you are not...." Ibarra is 37. Just doesn't look it. I am 35 and do look it. As time progresses, this should be interesting what people may think (I got me a cute Filipino house boy - okay actually I do, but to have people think he is so young!)

Back to the driving. I have been riding shotgun for about 6 weeks now. There are go-arounds that take a little getting used to. There is a left hand turn into the road to the kids' school that has constant traffic and so you have to wait for a gap, or some nice person to wave you through/blink lights at you. There are buses that stop randomly and people running across the highway (someone described it as a human game of Frogger - pretty apt). All these things seem like I can negotiate.

So last week I started off at 12:10 to get Gus from school at 12:30. It is about a 10-15 minute drive and there is usually a line up of cars to get the kids, so plenty of time. Got there with little problem. Got him buckled in. Got back to the on-ramp to the Autopista. Now it gets dicey. To get on the Autopista in the direction I want to go, you go up a ramp, past the entrance to the Forum (business park), up a little hill and over a one-lane bridge, do a 180 degree turn, and down onto the highway.

Except today. Today there is a tractor trailer stuck/caught on the bridge. So the whole line of cars starts backing down the little hill. Then they cross the grassy area separating this road from the Autopista going the other way. Then they merge across the two lanes of highway traffic. Then they cross the other grassy area separating the two directions of the highway (perhaps median is the word, but au natural), then they turn and merge with traffic going the other directions. See, who needs an over ramp? Remember, this is my first time solo.

So what should I do. There's this old saying, "When in Rome,...."

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