It was now Saturday morning. I had arrived in Panama City on Monday morning, expecting to be back on the road on Tuesday or Wednesday with my “new” used car. I was cautiously optimistic (as they say) that today would be the day I actually made the drive back to Boquete. I had a quick breakfast in my room, packed up the backpack (once again) and checked out of the apartment (once again).
I went downstairs to where the Honda was parked. I did a quick inspection of the car and set it up for my road trip: water bottle, phone charger, snacks within reach, paperwork organized (in case I got stopped), etc. I checked the GPS app on my phone and was looking at how to get out of the city. I wasn’t comfortable with the directions it was showing but I would give it a try. Just as I got ready to leave, I received a call from Sergio. He was on his way back from the airport and offered to lead me out of the city. I happily agreed.
He showed up only about 10-15 minutes later. He had the nerve to ask me for more money, because he needed to put gas in his car. I gave him some small bills from my wallet ($4). I know it was ridiculous, given his behavior and track record as my “broker,” but I was anxious to get out of town and needed his help just one more time.
We made a quick stop at a gas station, then I followed him out of the city. He took a different route this time, since we were starting from a different part of the city. This route took me along the oceanfront side of the city and it affords some impressive views of the city (see picture at top). I managed to “hang” with him until he called me and said to stay to the right at the intersection and “just keep going”. I did.
There were two things I was looking forward to seeing very soon: one was the sight of Panama City in my rear-view mirror and the other was going across the Bridge of the Americas. After that, I would be off and running.
I was excited to when the Bridge of the Americas came into sight. It's no Golden Gate Bridge but to me it represented the first milestone on my quest to get back to Boquete. I had to record the occasion:
The drive back took about 9 hours in total. However, that included a couple of short stops, a stop for lunch and gas in a town called Santiago, and a stop in David to pick up some groceries. Santiago is the last sizable town before reaching David. I had read that you should make sure your tank is full before you leave Santiago, because there isn't much for the next 4 hours (until David). It was lunch time when I reached Santiago and I saw a sign for a restaurant called Pizza Happy. How could I resist?
The Pan American Highway from Panama City to Santiago is 4 lanes (2 each direction) and good condition, so you can keep cruising at the speed limit: 80-100 (kilometers per hour, that is). I stuck to the speed limit closely, because there were police all over the place. Getting pulled over was an experience I could do without. Once you leave Santiago, the road changes to 2-lane and the first hour of driving takes you across a really rough stretch of highway. There are major cracks, potholes, etc. that you constantly have to be alert for and dodge around. Some places were so bad I saw 18-wheel big rigs weaving in and out of the bad potholes. It was a real test of the Honda’s integrity and condition and it passed with flying colors.
After getting past the really rough road, the next 3 hours or so is just passing through flatlands and hills. Not much in the way of homes or towns along the road. There are a lot of trucks, since this is the main artery through Panama, so a lot of opportunities to see how the CRV did at passing. Zoom, zoom – not a problem. There is construction work being done all the way from Santiago to David. The road is being widened to make this stretch of road four lanes as well. It was good that it was a Saturday, because most of the construction crews, and vehicles, were not present.
Since I was coming through David and passing by our favorite grocery store, Tina asked me to stop to pick up some groceries. She had been without a car since Wednesday, when she returned the rental car.
I arrived back at our condo about 5:45pm. I breathed a BIG sigh of relief. It was great to be back and Tina and I were both happy to now have our own “wheels.” I even let her drive it to church the next morning…
Posted by Mark