First Legal Ride

I bought my motorcycle to explore the back roads around where I live in Chiriqui Province, Panama. When I bought it I didn’t know that the driver’s license I had didn’t allow me to ride a motorcycle. Anyone who’s followed this blog knows what I went through (in SPANISH) in order to get legal. I received the endorsement on Thursday. Friday it looked as though it was going to start raining at any moment. It didn’t rain at all as it turned out. The weekends are busy times on the road because people that work during the week are out getting things done they can’t do Monday through Friday, and since I am, at BEST, a novice rider, I figured it would be better to wait for a time there would be less traffic on the roads.

Why do I classify myself as a novice rider? Well, when I was around 40 years old I had an old beater of a car that died. I didn’t have enough money to buy another car, but I saw an ad for a Honda 125 motorcycle that was for sale real cheap and I COULD afford to buy it. I rode it for most of a year to and from work on the back roads of New Orleans. But I never got an endorsement there and I never took any lessons. It’s been 30 years since I’ve ridden a motorcycle and though I passed the Panamanian test for a motorcycle endorsement looking at YouTube videos of what people in several different states in the States have to do to pass I can honestly say I’d never qualify.

Be that as it may, with the weekend over I was determined to go for a ride. The sky’s were heavily overcast, but nothing like Friday, so I got my gear on and went out on a 27 kilometer ride from my house to a place up in the hills above Boquerón to a nothing little place called Bocalatún. I have no idea what that means in English if it means anything.


I took it slow and easy stopping a couple of times to take pictures.



With all the mountains around here, when it rains Chiriqui becomes an immense watershed and there are small rivers all over the place and, of course, bridges.



This is one of only a half dozen vehicles I encountered in the hour I was riding.


Now this was a complete mystery. Just before the road turned from pavement to dirt up around 1,700 feet above sea level I came across this:


Left over from Noah’s Flood?


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5 responses to “First Legal Ride

  1. Beautiful countryside! Reminds me of my home state, West Virginia, especially the rocky creek bed and iron bridge. If the Panamanians are anything like hillbillies, there’s a simple explanation for the boat: they’ll drag anything home. My great-uncle had dozens of old cast iron bathtubs; upside-down for chicken coops, right-side-up for hog troughs. How did you hold up on the road? My back aches just thinking about it.

    Rural Chiriqui is gorgeous. It’s the second time I’ve been up that route. I did it a couple of days after I’d bought the bike. It’s a pity it was cloudy. The first time I did it it was clear and Volcan Barú, Panama’s highest point at 11,398′ (3,474 m) was clearly visible. I’ve got some other rides planned back in the hills that I’ll be showing in the future. When I feel more confident I’m going to ride over to Volcán and Cerro Punta which are the breadbasket of the country. Fantastic scenery. It’s a shame that photos can’t adequately portray the depth of the vistas along what is called La Ruta Sur (The Southern Route). I’ve been over there a couple of times with people’s cars and it’s outstanding.

    I had no back problems. I took a couple of Ibuprofen before I started out. The worst ride, so far, was bringing the bike home. It was the first time I’d ridden in thirty years so I didn’t want to chance getting out on the InterAmericana, the main highway. Instead I rode out of town up to the little town of Dolega and then branched off towards Potrerillos Abajo where the Ruta Sur begins. Great road. Lots of nice curves, and then dropped down the back way to Boquerón. That was a couple of hours. Not bad on the back, but it’s not the most comfortable seat and my legs ached a bit when I reached the house.

    I suppose they could use that boat as a planter. Lots of people on Cape Cod have done that.

  2. Hello Richard:

    From your pictures I can see you had a nice ride with a green scenery. Those old bridges bring old memories when I lived in Concepción. Later my father bought a small piece of land in Sioguí Abajo. I saw the site in your satellite map.

    Can’t wait for your next ride through the backroads of Chiriquí.

    Take Care,


    Thanks, Omar. I’m looking forward to more rides, myself. Going to visit places I’ve seen while riding in other people’s cars, but of course you can’t ask them to stop so you can take a picture. And I want to meander down some of the roads I’ve seen riding the buses between Boqueron and David and Bugaba. Stay tuned.

  3. Hi Richard:

    I will.



  4. Yeah!! Good for you. Now there will be no stopping you 😀

  5. capt dan

    Hey Richard,
    Sorry I haven’t had the time lately to give you all the applause that you so richly deserve. You’re a unique source of local color and information about living in Panama that simply doesn’t exist elsewhere else. Period.

    My lame excuse is that I wanted to sell my house in Jupiter and it sold very quickly! (Much faster than I had anticipated.) Had to pronto (in two weeks) find and rent a place to live while looking for a new joint to buy. I have a dog, a beautiful Polish wife and like you, smoke. Three strikes. (Actually only 2, everyone loves my wife.)

    It was almost impossible to find a place that would accept such a motley group of lepers at anything approaching a reasonable monthly rate and we in desperation had to settle for a temporary dump that we hated every single minute of every day that we lived there.

    It took well over 2 months to find a new place and close on it.
    The Jupiter real estate market is red hot once again. Good news is we finally found a place we love. Bad news is then we had to move yet again. Happy to do so, but it’s such a stressful pain in the ass! We’ve lived out out of suitcases and boxes for months. Now we’re trying to figure out and remember where everything should go in the new joint.I don’t possess and doubt that I ever will, the courage to downsize to a few suitcases like you did.

    So, I’ve been very busy and very aggravated! Please forgive me.

    You personally convinced me the Panama wasn’t for me and I should stay put in South Florida. Many thanks for that. You were exactly and precisely correct, I’m certainly not a good candidate for moving to and living there.

    Your latest cameo appearance in the new Richard Phillbrook’s Panama Primer Video Series was a great example of how unsuited I am for Panama. It would drive me absolutely fucking nuts if my next door neighbor had 30 or 40 crowing roosters! You’re much more tolerant than I am or ever will be. Good for you, bad on me! The addition of sound and video (even though you’ve done some video before – but never assuming such a staring & speaking role) was both welcome and informative.

    We all need applause to thrive. I give you lots. I hope you continue to thrive and also hope that you don’t fall off your Chinese scooter on one of your adventures and bust your ass!

    Dan – Congratulations on surviving your move. I’ve done it a lot in my life. The one thing I really liked about living on boats was that wherever I went I was at home every night.

    I guess I should be happy that I influenced your decision not to retire to Panama. Not everyone can hack the experience of living in another country and deal with a language that’s not your own. Most people who try it return home within the first year. Doesn’t mean that’s a bad thing, just a shame they had to go through the pain and expense to learn that it wasn’t for them. And you can experience culture shock without ever having to leave the States. Try moving from Jupiter to Hialeah, or up to the redneck Riviera, also known as the Panhandle. But I’ll tell ya, if you want a real interesting vacation you should come down for a couple of weeks to Panama. It’s a really cool place with a lot of diversity. Bocas del Toro is great and Chiriqui Province, where I live is beautiful with all the mountains and rivers.

    As far as the roosters are concerned, they don’t bother me. Like I said they just become background noise. And this is the land of the free-range chicken so it’s impossible NOT to hear them during the day pretty much wherever you are. I also have the piercing song of the house wrens who nest under the upper deck. Just got through with the fourth brood. It’s said they only nest where the ambiance is copacetic. Must more annoying than the wrens and roosters are the flocks of parrots that sometimes come to play in the coconut palm in the back yard. They’re loud, raucous and their chatter will get on your very last nerve in a heartbeat.

    I do plan on some more videos in the future. It was fun to do, but that little four minute and some second vid took THREE HOURS to download. I know that my USB modem connection had a lot to do with it, but can you imagine the volume of use YouTube’s servers are handling constantly?

    Enjoy your new digs.