Jan 19

Day 44 – La Fortuna to San Jose, Costa Rica

by in Field Reports

Woke up today with the intention of going to San Jose to the BMW dealer there to try to get a new headlight for Kay’s bike. We spent some time this morning researching hotels in San Jose, because most of the ones we saw were either friggin’ expensive or far from the BMW dealer, and ended up spending far more time than we’d planned poking the internet. We also wanted to look up a rough translation for the parts we wanted in case no-one spoke English, and that took time, too, as we kept changing our minds.

In the end, it was after 8:30 before we left the hotel looking for breakfast, and it was nearly 10:30 by the time we got the bikes loaded and hit the road. I was annoyed about this because I wanted to get to San Jose early and figure out whether the BMW dealer would be able to help us, and sort out the logistics (i.e. hotel, etc.) Ended up snarking at Kay over I don’t even remember what, and it was tense when we set out, but as always – a few minutes on the bike set everything right and as we were riding away down the beautiful twisty roads near Arenal, all was forgiven and forgotten.

Google Maps said it was a little over 120km from La Fortuna to the BMW dealer in San Jose, and it was another day of beautiful riding. The area around La Fortuna is really pretty, with lots of little hills and lovely twisties and was just really pleasant to ride through.

After a little over an hour of riding, we were at the foot of a tallish mountain type thing and it looked like we’d be ascending. Kept getting stuck behind slow trucks, but one good thing about the 650s – they’ve got power and more to spare, so we kept zipping around them and back to zooming up the mountain until we’d get stuck behind another painfully slow truck.

At around 900 meters in elevation, we literally started riding into clouds. One minute, it was sunny with blue skies and a few puffy clouds – and a few minutes later, visibility was just a few car-lengths ahead of us. It looked and felt like fog, but every once in a while you’d get to a spot where you could see the sheer drop off to your side and see the sunshine peaking out in the valley below – under the clouds! You could occasionally see the clouds roiling below. It was really spectacular riding, although visibility got so limited at one point that Kay (who was in front) literally watched a bus two cars ahead of us vanish into the cloud.
It just dissolved into nothingness like a brilliant illusion. Visibility was that low.

Kept riding and eventually we came out above the cloud, at around 1700 meters in elevation. It was really surreal, because you could look off to the right and see the clouds adjacent to us – or even below us! We were literally above the clouds. We’ve been higher at several points in Mexico, but we didn’t encounter such low clouds there. It was truly spectacular riding.

Got into San Jose around 2PM, I think, and made our way toward the BMW dealer with really very little trouble given our normal track record for cities. There was one stretch that didn’t match what Kay had seen on the Google Map this AM, but luckily a guy on a BMW F800GS rode up beside me and I was able to ask him if he knew where the BMW dealer was. He told us it was on the road we were on, only in the other direction – so we popped a U at the next intersection and headed the right way, and found it with very little trouble after that thanks to a rather uniquely shaped intersection Kay remembered from the map.

As in Mexico City, today was another day where we walked into the BMW dealer and were VERY glad we ride BMWs. Asked the receptionist for service, and she led us to Adolfo, whose card indicates that he is the “Asesor de Servicio” – which Google translates to “Service Advisor.” He indicated that he spoke a little English, so instead of trying to use our probably very bad Spanish translation of what we needed, we just gave him the run-down in English. He had no problems getting it all and said he’d go check with his service team to see how long it would take, etc. He returned a few minutes later and said they could have the bikes done tomorrow afternoon, and went out with us to get some info off our bikes and have us pull them around to the service area.

Floppy Blinker

While we were with the bikes getting data, the director of the BMW dealership here, Norval Garnier, came out and started chatting with us in very good English. After we pulled the bikes around to the service area, Norval took us in hand, offering us water, coffee, bathrooms, air conditioned waiting areas, and went to get us a map of San Jose and inquire about potential hotels for us.

Within a few minutes, we were sitting on a shaded patio table with a nice breeze, and Norval was going over the map with us and pointing out places in Costa Rica we might still see, and advising us of potential route options for heading toward Panama. All the while, Adolfo was prepping the work order for us, and Norval was asking the other employees about hotel options as the one they normally used had upped their rates unexpectedly. He went back to highlighting the map for us in great detail, and telling us about other travelers who have been through here, and the relative size of other BMW dealers here in Central America, and all the while, people were coming up to him with things to sign – he’d sign and never miss a beat and then go back to telling us about the country, or the map, or hotel options.

He spent quite a while with us chatting over the map, trips, routes, etc. I was really impressed and flattered that he was clearly taking time away from running his rather successful and demanding business to chat with us – just a couple of motorcycle travelers who dropped in completely unexpectedly. In the end, he found a hotel for us, grabbed one of his employees to drive us and our panniers there (with instructions to wait and take us to a second hotel if the first one didn’t meet with our approval) and sat with us until we reviewed and signed off on the work orders to make sure everything was ok, etc. I have no doubt that if we had any more questions or needed anything else, he would have gone out of his way to make sure we had what we needed.

Norval and Dachary

Once again, the BMW rondel really comes through for us. I think we’ve landed very fortunately here at the BMW dealer in San Jose. The thought was in the back of our minds that we could always go through and try the BMW dealer in Panama City, but we don’t like cities and figured that navigating Panama City would be by far the bigger evil – San Jose seemed smaller and more manageable to us. And now I think we’re very fortunate to have come here instead, as Norval advises us that the Panama City dealer is much smaller and isn’t likely to have the parts we need. He was super helpful and genuinely interested, too, and that goes a very long way with us.

We’re staying in a B&B a few kilometers from the hotel (and just down from the U.S. Embassy, apparently, should we want to go there for some reason). The bedroom is goodly sized, with a double bed and a twin bed, but the bathroom is ENORMOUS. I mean really. Really. Enormous. Like you could probably fit the whole bedroom in the bathroom. And the bathroom has a mini-fridge. There are also microwaves available for us to use, and computers in the lobby if we should want them – and the guy at the front desk is apparently studying English, and speaks it very well. Once again, we’ve landed very well and we owe a lot to a great BMW dealer.

Just this morning, Kay and I were envying the tiny motos their maneuverability. We were walking back from breakfast in La Fortuna watching the tiny motos flit here and there with their lightweight bikes and no heavy crap weighing them down, and thinking “man, those guys have the right idea. Riding like that is awesome!”

But now, this afternoon, reminded us of why we love BMW. We really do love our bikes. They’re big for this trip, but they’ve been reliable and comfortable and the level of service we’ve encountered at the dealers along the way has been phenomenal. I can’t speak highly enough of Motohaus BMW in Mexico City, and now Motocicletas Bavarian, S.A. here in San Jose. A BMW may be a big heavy bike for a trip like this, but what comes with the rondel has a lot of value we hadn’t anticipated when we left home.

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