Jan 20

Day 45 – San Jose to Fraijanes, Costa Rica

by in Field Reports

Slept late this morning (but neither of us slept particularly well – the B&B room was nice enough but the bed was really uncomfortable) and went out to the dining room for breakfast, which was a luxury. Fresh-made rice and beans, eggs, and toast. Poked around the internet for a bit to find out about potential destinations and decided to visit Volcan Poás tomorrow morning. The plan was to go hang out at the BMW dealer until our bikes were ready, and then ride up to a hotel very close to the park and spend the night, ready to go check it out early in the AM and then ride on.

Waiting at the BMW dealer was plush. We hung out on a nice, comfy couch on a shaded porch and watched Dr. Who and Top Gear on Kay’s iPad chilling while we waited. I had brought along a soda to sip and we enjoyed the breeze and nice day, and watching them wheel bikes around. Clearly a very busy BMW dealer.

Chillin at BMW San Jose

The bikes were ready around 1PM, and we loaded up to leave San Jose and head to Volcan Poás. They’d washed the bikes while they had them, and cleaned the chain, and done all of the lovely things a BMW dealer does for a bike while it’s in for service. We had them change the oil, mount my tires, check the brake pads (I thought for sure they’d change mine because they’re still the stock brake pads – they’ve got 11k on them!) and fix Kay’s floppy turn signal. They said my break pads looked almost new. It ended up costing more than we’d expected, and now I’m annoyed that we didn’t just mount the tires ourselves – it was almost double the cost of our service in Mexico City where they changed Kay’s fork seals and changed our oil, etc.

Headed out of the city stuck in crap traffic for almost 40 minutes because there was construction on the Pan Americana. My temperature gauge on my bike was reading 111 degrees F, and Kay’s was around 42 degrees C – both agree that it was friggin HOT on the bikes stuck in traffic. But eventually we were moving again, and headed to the volcano with fairly little trouble – lots of signage.

Stopped briefly at a Taco Bell because we wanted a fast, cheap lunch – and they serve french fries at Taco Bell here (although they call them Fiesta Fries). We agree that this is wrong. But we ran into a local who rides a DR650 who came over to chat with us about our trip, so that was cool.

Heading up into the mountains toward the volcano, Kay’s temperature light came on the dash. We heaved a collective “uh oh” because we’d just gotten the bike back from service and an oil change and the first thought was that the dealer had somehow screwed something up. We pulled off to the side of the road (there wasn’t an actual place to pull off, so we looked for a relatively straight stretch where people could at least see the bikes sitting there) and waited for the bikes to cool a bit.

Waiting for the engine to cool... again

10 minutes later, Kay checked the bike and the temp light was off, so we started back up the mountain. The hotel was maybe ten kilometers away at this point. Just a few kilometers down the road, the light came back on. This time we found a drive to pull into in front of a wood carver’s shop and waited again. Pulled out later, and in a few more kilometers, the light came back on. This time we were in a really twisty stretch with no businesses and there literally wasn’t a place for us to pull over. Kay said “sorry engine!” and right after that, we saw a steep dirt drive on the left side of the road that was relatively flat at the top, so we pulled off there.

Kay went to put the bike on the side stand, and as I was watching, I saw liquid spewing out the left side of the bike. He looked down and it was the coolant boiling out of the top of the coolant release nipple thing. He quickly put it back on the center stand, and we realized we had to take the fairing off to check the fluid levels and see if we could figure out what was going on. Coolant boiling over is a Very Bad Thing, ™, so we weren’t willing to push it even until we got to the hotel.

Cheking the coolant

Dismantled the fairing fairly quickly (Kay muttering all the while about what a crap design it is that you have to unscrew 6 screws, take the seat off, and take the turn signal off just to check the coolant level) and immediately saw that the BMW dealer had drastically overfilled the coolant. It was well over an inch past the “max” line on the coolant reservoir.

Too much?

We decided that was a problem and literally tipped the bike over to dump the coolant. We didn’t have a siphon, and wouldn’t have had a container to siphon the coolant into anyway, so we laid the bike on the pannier, tipped it over until the coolant started running out, and then had to jiggle the whole bike to get enough of the coolant out. It’s still slightly over the max line, but we figured the coolant had expanded because of the heat so it would probably be ok.

Draining the coolant

The oil was reading between half and three-quarters full in the sight glass, but the oil reservoir was still quite hot when we put the fairing back on and I was afraid that hadn’t fixed the problem. Still, at this point, we’d been stopped for like 45 minutes to check and empty the coolant, and we thought that should have at least cooled the oil enough to get to the hotel.

Put the bike back together and headed up the volcano to the hotel. Found the hotel right near the top (and there was a ton of cloud cover up at the top, and some drizzling rain) only to discover that there were no vacancies. Back down the mountain to the hotel we’d passed 7KM and three stops ago.

Heading back down the mountain – you guessed it, the temperature light came on again. We pulled over in a shop parking lot to let it sit, and wondered how far it was to the hotel. Amusingly, we discovered when we got going again that the sign we could see from the shop parking lot where we’d been sitting was actually the hotel – we just didn’t realize it. So we pulled in and Kay checked it out, and we decided to stop here for the night. There’s internet in the restaurant so we could research the overheating problem, and the room itself is actually a cabin – kind of cute, kind of rustic, and relatively cheap. (But no internet in the cabin, so we have to come to the restaurant to check the Web.)

Grabbed dinner in the restaurant and poked the internet to see what we could find on the F650 FAQ about overheating, etc. We’re hoping that they simply didn’t put in enough oil at the BMW dealer and that’s why it got too hot, but we’re afraid it might be a problem with the fan, too. Kay doesn’t remember if the fan came on when it was overheating.

We did discover that we were completely wrong about draining the extra coolant. The internet seems to agree that, in general, too much coolant simply isn’t a problem. Maybe when the bike’s cooled we’ll find that it just expands and contracts dramatically.

Personally, I’d like to say that the BMW dealer overlooked something, because that’s going to be the easiest thing to correct. But I fear it’s something that went wrong later, and just happened to fail on a day when we’d had service. I don’t see how the bike could have sat in the stupid traffic for 40 minutes in temperatures approaching 100 degrees without overheating then. So to me, I fear that maybe the fan died after that at some point.

Kay has worked out an explanation whereby it might simply be that the BMW dealer didn’t put in enough oil and as we exerted the bikes more climbing the mountain, it started to overheat. I’ll keep my fingers crossed for that but I fear we may have to head back to San Jose tomorrow to revisit the dealer. We’re waiting for the bike to cool now to check the oil levels, and then I think we’ll fire it up and see if the fan comes on. Wish us luck!

5 Responses to “Day 45 – San Jose to Fraijanes, Costa Rica”

  1. From Tom R.:

    Sounds like the sensor that tells the fan to turn on. Kind of curious that is started right after service. Do you have good connections to the fan motors.
    What is Dr. Who!!!
    At the borders if you were running alone how would you watch or protect your bike from being picked clean while you were getting the paperwork completed.
    Still a fan rooting for you to make it to your goal
    Tom

    Posted on January 20, 2011 at 11:04 pm #
    • From dachary:

      As you’ll see in our most recent post, it was the fan itself that died. Apparently it rusted internally and was simply no longer able to turn. Replaced it and the bike is happy again. (Luckily the BMW dealer in San Jose had one in stock, but OUCH was it expensive!)

      Dr. Who is a BBC television show about a time-traveling alien. Apparently it originally ran from 1963-1989, and then was restarted in 2005 and we’ve been downloading the new series on iTunes and watching episodes on the iPad. Our main “escapes” are reading and watching TV, and it’s kind of a luxury to be able to do both from the road!

      Re: the borders – pretty much everything on our bikes is locked down anyway – the only things we don’t have secured are the dry sacks, but if we had pack safe security nets those could be secured, too. We use the bike lock through the sleeves of our jackets to lock our jackets to our bike, and we’ve got helmet locks for the helmets, so we’d just bring the tank bags with us. (Have done with some of the earlier borders where we both did the paperwork together.) It’s absolutely do-able if you have things secured nicely to begin with.

      Thanks for following along, and hope you enjoy!

      Posted on January 22, 2011 at 8:38 am #
  2. From George M Lively:

    Sound like an adventure. I have always wanted to ride to my house in Atenas, just a little north of San Jose, from my home here in West Virginia. How were the boarder crossings – and in country gas? Are you going to brave the Daria at the end of the Pan American or take a boat to Columbia? Pura Vida! Ride hard,ride safe! peace

    Posted on January 21, 2011 at 11:50 am #
    • From dachary:

      It would be a beautiful ride, George. The border crossings can be hit and miss, depending on where you cross. We’ve found the small crossings to be infinitely better, and the crossings that involve the Pan American highway to be long and occasionally corrupt. Gas hasn’t been bad – it’s been comparable to what we’d pay in the U.S. but we’ve been getting better mileage since crossing into Mexico, because the speed limits are so low.

      The plan is to fly from Panama to Columbia. I’m not skilled enough to even consider crossing the Darian, and Kay doesn’t particularly want the hassle either, so we’re taking a plane. Boats won’t be traveling yet from Panama to Columbia (the reputable ones, anyway – don’t start until mid-February) and it’s not much cheaper to take a boat, so flying is our option of choice.

      Glad you’re following along, and you should definitely make that ride – it’s worth it and we’ve really enjoyed the ride!

      Posted on January 22, 2011 at 9:11 am #
  3. From George M Lively:

    Right on. I will continue to watch your progress. I have friends in Peru, Chile and Argentina. Peru is an old High School buddy and the other two are places my friend grows OSO Sweet onions. Ride safe! peace

    Posted on January 31, 2011 at 2:01 pm #

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