Happy Birthday To Me!

Today I reached three score and ten. A milestone birthday of sorts. Tom Hanks and I probably had a much more enjoyable day of it than Orenthal James, though.

For this momentous occasion I bought myself a super present. An Hofai 200GY-5A motorcycle.

As my regular readers know, I don’t own an automobile. For one, they cost much more than I can afford to spend. For the car, for the insurance, for the gas which hovers between three and a half and four dollars a gallon.

I’ve been quite content to use Panama’s exceptionally good public transportation system. It’s efficient and cost effective. For instance, to make the round trip from my house into David and up to the Plaza Terronal shopping center with the El Rey supermarket costs me $1.90. You absolutely cannot make the round trip in your car at double that price. However, as I take that ride in, generally, air conditioned splendor I see roads going off to the north and south of the Inter American Highway and wonder, what does Bágala look like? Straight down the Boquerón road and across the Inter American is the road down to Alanje and the Las Olas beach at the Pacific Ocean. I haven’t been to either one and I’ve been in Panama for over two years now. I’ve ridden the Routa Sur that runs from Potrerillos Abajo to Volcan several times in other people’s cars but when you spot something particularly scenic you can’t say, “Hey, stop, I want to take a picture of this.”

About a year and a half ago my Gringo snowbird friend, Denny, and I went to the annual Féria (Fair) in David. One of the things we did was look at the various motorcycles on display. There were Hondas, Yamahas and Suzukis, of course, and then there was this Chinese brand, Hofai. The Hofais were anywhere from one half to one third the price of the name brands.

Denny is a major motorcycle guy. He’s ridden most of his life. He’s done major trips on two wheels including riding one from the great Northwest of the United States all the way down here to Panama. I trust his knowledge when it comes to motorcycles. After closely examining the Hofai he said they seemed to be pretty well built and, at first glance, seemed to be a good deal for the money.

I was, of course, hot to buy one. But Denny said he had a friend who owned a Suzuki 125 dual-sport bike that he was interested in selling since the friend owned a couple of farms and wanted to move up to something a little bigger. A couple of weeks later I met Denny’s friend, Brian, and the bike he wanted to sell. It was in excellent shape, had a new rear tire and Brian is a fanatic about maintenance. The price of his name-brand 125 was a couple of hundred less than the Hofai 125. What Brian was going to buy to replace it was a Hofai 200. That’s 200 as in 200cc.

Two things stopped me from sealing the deal. First, while I had enough money to buy the bike it would have brought my cash reserves down to a level that would make me feel uncomfortable. Secondly, I never liked the looks of the off-road bikes.

So I held off.

Recently the Egg Harbor 43 that I’d bought for my corporation at a theft price six years ago was sold and I received an infusion of cash into my bank account. I immediately went down to the Hofai dealership and started to look at the bikes once more. I really liked the looks of the 200cc street.

This snazzy model, including tax, tag and mandatory insurance, could be had for $2,400. I didn’t buy it right then because it was going to be a couple of days until my cut of the Egg Harbor money would be available.

That evening I called Denny’s friend, Brian, to ask him how things had been going with his Hofai over the last year. He gave it two thumbs up. Said he’d abused the bike more than any others he’d ever owned riding around on the farms. He said he wouldn’t hesitate to buy another one. It sounded like a ringing endorsement.

So why, then, did I end up with an orange dual-sport cycle instead of the street model? While the main roads here in Panama are superior to most other Central American roads, they certainly don’t hold up to U.S. standards. Take a look at this clip and you’ll see what I mean.

When I went back to the Hofai dealer I opted for the dual-sport bike which actually turned out to be nearly $400 less than the street model.

I also went to another store where I bought this expensive but highly regarded, according to internet search results, helmet and this bright reflective vest. One thing that’s imperative when riding a motorcycle is that drivers in four wheeled vehicles SEE you. Visibility is a life saver. With a Day-Glo yellow helmet, a Day-Glo vest and an orange motorcycle I should be seen by almost everyone else on the road from a great distance.

In the future I plan to be posting photos of the things I find on the back roads of Chiriquí Province, Panama.

3 Comments

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3 responses to “Happy Birthday To Me!

  1. Andres Espino Dennison

    Congratulations on your special day! May you have many more! I just passed 63 some weeks back and I am not sure I call mine a milestone, I like how Latins call birthdays complianos.. lit.. ‘I completed another year’ and they add thanks to god. How does Panama culture compare with Mexico?

    The only milestone your birthday marks is 63 year without stepping in front of a bus! Other than starting a new decade I’m not sure 70 qualifies as a “milestone” birthday, either, but the 75th is marking 3/4 of a century.

    What I think of as “milestone” birthdays are: 13-you’re now a teenager and for those of the Jewish persuasion comes Bar Mitzvah. In Latin countries it’s 15 for girls: La Quinceañera. 16-now you can get a driver’s license. 18-you can vote. 21-you can legally go into a bar and buy a drink. 25- a quarter of a century. 50-half a century.

    I don’t know how to go about comparing the cultures of Mexico and Panama. Completely different, I’d say other than a shared language. Panama has the distinction of having the first city in the continental Americas. Mexican culture is much more strongly identified with the indigenous peoples, Aztecs, Tolmecs, etc., than in Panama, and it shows on the faces of her people. In many respects Panama is a much more homogenous country than Mexico regarding the racial makeup of her people. As a republic Panama is not quite 100 years old. But the population of Panama is much like that of the United States. While there is a visible indigenous presence here for sure with the Kuna, Ngabe, Embara and other tribes, the population is a mixture of races and cultures because of the Canal. People from all over the world came to Panama to build it and many stayed. There is a large Chinese population in Panama. Most of the convenience stores in the country are owned and operated by the Chinese and its been that way for nearly a century. In fact, the generic name for a convenience store here is “El Chino” as in I’m going down to the “Chino” to get a six pack.

  2. Hi Richard:

    Congratulations on your birthday. You know the saying that “life starts at 75″ so you still have a few years to start living. Enjoyed your post about your birthday presents. I had been waiting impatiently for this post.

    Will put my ears to the ground for news on your forays into the back roads of Chiriquí. I’m sure you’ll be visiting places I’ve never been, even though I was born there.

    Happy Birthday!

    Omar.-

  3. John

    Hey Richard,

    Happy birthday. You sure gave yourself a nice present. I’ve always wanted to get a bike so I could roam around without a destination. Seems like a lot of fun.

    I want to take this opportunity to say how much you have inspired me, and the woman I love, to decide to leave the USA. We’ve thought about it for quite awhile, but your enthusiasm, practicality, and wisdom helped us reach a tipping point. Panama was our first choice, but after much consideration, we are planning on Ecuador.

    I’m a carpenter and small-potato licensed general contractor. You’re very much a “hands-on” guy, too, so I’d like to show you the house Sandy and I built. Here’s the link: BHDHBH.blogspot.com

    It’s built on the foundation of a house constructed in 1961 in a slum of Nashville, Tennessee. I tore down the old one story house, framed a new two story house and did almost all the work. I framed it, roofed it, wired it, plumbed it, tiled the floors, painted it, installed the baths and the kitchens – everything. I had to get licensed subs for the mechanicals – the codes department wouldn’t let me pull permits for electrical, HVAC and plumbing, but I did the actual work. I only hired help for the sheetrock, siding, and demolition of the old house.

    Sandy and I met online 14 years ago. We were both happily married, but, to make a long story short, both marriages failed at the same time. Sandy designed the kitchen and most of the first floor while she was still in the Netherlands – before we had met in person.

    Holy Cow, I’ve gone on and on. Happy birthday.

    John