Long Term Costa Rica Parking

Warning, what follows is not interesting unless you are an overlander hoping to park your vehicle in San Jose while you are out of the country.  First, find a government bonded warehouse (almacen fiscal) where you will park your vehicle.  There are many options around the airport, we chose Terminal Unidas (10.00063 N, 84.197067 W), but we really didn’t shop around at all.  At Terminal Unidas at the security gate ask for Alexis and the security guard will let you through.  Drive past the parking lot on your left to an area with lots of large trucks and a huge fenced parking area.  The office is in the far left corner of the warehouse.  Brush up on your Spanish because Alexis doesn’t speak any English although he found a translator to ensure that we understood the process for suspending our permit.  Give Alexis your vehicle import permit, he will make a copy and direct you to the small office at the entrance to the fenced in area where an unofficial looking man will write some numbers on the copied vehicle import permit that should be the same numbers he writes on the key identifier tags.  Return to the office and Alexis will enter some information into a computer, print out a form with all the information needed to suspend your permit including a string of numbers specific to that warehouse.  While I was taking care of all the paperwork they took pictures of every ding, scratch, and dent on the truck as well as inside the camper.  We then drove to a second fenced lot behind the first one parked Suzie where indicated and sadly said our goodbyes.  IMG_2567

We then walked to the airport, playing Frogger across the busy San Jose interstate, I would suggest taking a taxi because it is about a 2 mile walk to the customs office.  The customs office (Aduana SantaMaria) is not at the airport it is about 1 km further down the road (9.99788 N, 84.2115 W) in a large white building.  Present your original vehicle import permit, driver’s passport, and paperwork received from the almacen fiscal and after typing a bunch of information into a computer you will be given a new suspended permit.  The top will say suspender and the permit will also say how many days you have left on your permit once you return to Costa Rica.  The official kept our original permit and stated we would be issued a new one when we returned.  This process wasn’t too difficult for us, hopefully when we return it will be just as simple to reinstate the permit and collect Suzie!

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Truck and Camper Modification

This will be a long, technical post geared more towards those individuals who like turning wrenches and are skilled at it.  Ken has done all the mechanical work on the truck and the camper except for a very few things.  I’m a lucky girl to have him and his insane ability to fabricate and fix anything, I barely know the difference between an Allen wrench and a regular wrench….is there a difference?

If you have read about our trip prep, we spent a few months scouring Craiglist and the internet dreaming of our ultimate PanAm vehicle.  It turns out our ultimate PanAm vehicle was way out of our price range.  We realized we could utilize Ken’s Ford Ranger, but then needed to find a suitable camper to fit in the back, one that was not too heavy or large.  Enter Suzie Skamper, a 1988 pop top truck Skamper camper.  Unfortunately, the previous owners had rarely used her and due to an extremely heavy snowfall the past winter there was a significant amount of water damage to the roof.

Suzie Skamper disrobed and ready for a makeover

It is much easier to list out everything we, meaning Ken, has done to both the camper and truck, so here it is.

Camper:

  • Removed water saturated ceiling and replaced with foam board and plywood.
  • Sealed all seams with 3M 5200
  • 2×4’s on roof to mount 40W solar panel and roof rack
  • Roof rack fabricated out of 3/4″ pipe
  • Deep cycle battery for camper
  • Solar charge controller and battery isolator in order to for the alternator from the truck to charge both batteries
  • 400W AC/DC inverter with USB port
  • New fuse panel and complete rewiring
  • Installed 3x 3W LED lighting in the camper, 6W flood light outside
  • 12 volt fan over bed
  • Installed fans (actually old computer fans) in the vent over the stove
  • Dead bolt and new door knob on camper door
  • Removed the pain in the hole screen door
  • New water pump and faucet
  • Everpure Charcoal filtration system for water purification
  • New propane regulator, hose, and thermocoupler for the heater
  • Custom awning conceived and created by Ken Inc.
  • Reinforced rear side doors and master locks to side doors and propane door
  • New curtains thanks to our fabulous friend Krista

Homey and read to roll!

Gonna have to get creative with just a 2 burner stove.

Truck:

  • BF Goodrich All Terrain LT 245/75/R16 E (Ken’s pride and joy, I think he has Armor All’d them at least 2 times in the past week)
  • Firestone Sport-Rite air springs
  • Shocks
  • Alignment
  • Towing mirrors
  • Hidden kill switch
  • Radio with auxillary and USB input
  • Locking gas cap
  • Ball hitch converted to step
  • Custom shelf in extended cab
  • Isn’t she pretty?

     

Lets get this show on the road!

Interlude Impossible

“Hey Sam, how’s it going?”  My standard greeting to my best friend Sam was not returned with the usual, “I’m good, what are doing?” response, I instead heard, “I’m volunteering at The Rising Sun Bistro (a local restaurant) as a bartender while they are filming ‘Restaurant Impossible,’ want to be my barback and make some money?”  My first response was, ‘What under the sun is Restaurant Impossible,’ quickly followed by, ‘Money?  Did you say money? Yes!’  That is how I happened to be spending a Friday evening pouring drinks, avoiding video cameras and a yelling TV personality instead of preparing for our trip (tune in December 19th on the Food Network to see if I am going to be that extra that gets catapulted to fame based on her excellent beer pouring skills).

This Restaurant Impossible experience is only one of the many things we’ve managed to cram into the three weeks since we have left Alaska, not to mention trying to cross everything off the many pre departure lists we have somehow created.

After an amazing day on Flathead Lake, filled with boating, lots of good wine, puppy snuggling, and good friends (thanks Jamie and Ryan!)…

Ken and Louis

Flathead Lake sunset

…we stopped and relaxed for a few days at my family’s cabin on the Smith River in Montana for some sun and fishing.

Papa Fraser and Izzie trying to prove something 

A side note about the Smith River, one of if not the all time favorite place in the world for me.  Being there always brings me a sense of peace and a reminder to slow down and enjoy ever little incredible second that life has to offer us, something that I definitely needed as the stress of getting ready was starting to get to me.

And I guess he proved it with an 18 inch rainbow.

We then booked it to Aspen, CO to attend Kathryn and Adam’s beautiful outdoor mountain wedding.  We were wined, dined, and generally pampered and thoroughly enjoyed ever second of it especially with months of Skamper travel ahead of us.

For the past week and half we have been back in Kalispell at my parent’s.  Ken has been killing it on a very long list of upgrades and alterations to the truck and camper (post to come soon) while I’ve been busy taking two recertification classes and getting together all the last minute paperwork and random details.  We are planning on hitting the road in a few days, by October 3rd at the latest, to head to Seattle for a few days then down the coast.  We are more then ready!

 

Bomba de Vegetal

A fireball explodes sky-high, 20 even 30 feet.  Huddled around the fire, hoods up against the downpour, the crowd raises their beers skyward, cheers erupting from their throats.  Welcome to a uniquely Alaskan party, the veggie bomb party.  Yes mother, it does involve a degree of danger, and yes there is generally moderate amounts of alcohol involved.  But before you stress out too much,  there have been no documented injuries or deaths during the history of veggie bomb parties.

What exactly is a veggie bomb one may wonder.  Legitimate question.  The veggie bomb was conceptualized a few years ago by Ryan Fisher and Brendan Ryan of Exit Glacier Guides as a way to dispose of their excess veggie oil with a bit of flair.  Amongst other thrilling activities that Exit Glacier Guides offers, such as ice climbing and hiking on a glacier, they also offer a veggie oil powered shuttle bus that runs from Seward to Kenai Fjords National Park.  After veggie oil gathered from restaurants and purifying and filtering it, there is generally a few gallons left that are unfit to run through the shuttle.  These few gallons are designated for veggie bombs.  On a veggie bomb party night, a large bonfire is stoked, as hot as possible.  When the bonfire has reached maximum temperature, a metal pail full of veggie oil is lowered into the center.  Once the veggie oil has started boiling (our estimation that it has reached 800 F), the designated igniter quickly dumps a pail of water, attached to long pouring stick for safety reasons, into the boiling veggie oil and creates a fireball.

Fire in the hole!

We were lucky enough to have a bon voyage/veggie bomb party this past Saturday at our house.  Things went as normal veggie bomb parties do despite the special Seward, Alaska addition of pouring rain.  People came, beer was consumed, veggie oil was exploded.  Until that moment that usually occurs at every party where guys are congregated and alcohol and fire are involved, someone (probably Ken) suggested making the veggie bombs that much bigger and better, why not throw canned vegetables in the mix.  And that was when the mother of all veggie bombs was born.

The mother of all veggie bombs

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Again, no one was harmed in the exploding of this veggie bomb.  All in all, a highly successful bon voyage/veggie bomb party.  We are definitely going to miss all of our friends in Seward.  Thank you for sending us off in style.

The Good, the Bad, the Garage Salers

They come in the early morning light, prowling, snooping, scoping.  Word spreads among them like wildfire.  Before you know it, there are five, ten of them at a time, picking up, poking, moving, bargaining, and pawing at your possessions.  They are a previously un-encountered subgroup of our population; they are hard-core garage salers.

As we embarked on the first step of downsizing our lives to fit in a small storage unit and a 6 by 15 foot camper, we had no idea the highs and lows we would experience in the process.  Initially I was enamored with the ideal of purging our lives of extraneous belongings and stripping ourselves down to the bare essentials back to what we were 8 years ago as poor college students surviving off of top ramen and sleeping on mattresses on the floor.  Remember the days when everything you owned fit in the back of your car?  That is where I wanted to be.  Ken, ever the voice of reason (or not), suggested that we rid ourselves of a majority of stuff, retaining only things we were emotionally attached to or would spend sums of money on when we returned to Seward.  I reluctantly agreed and started on the laborious process of sorting through everything we owned, deciding what to sell, and deciding how much to sell it for–all in all a very difficult, time consuming process.

As the weekend of the garage sale approached, we worried.  Did we have proper signage? Were we pricing items correctly? Why would anyone want to buy this junk?  Friday was an informal start as we invited friends over to look over everything and snap up what we thought were the good items.  It should have been our first clue when a random neighbor stopped by, uninvited and unannounced.  That neighbor called their son, that son called their daughter-in-law, that daughter-in-law called her ex- husband.  We ended up selling most of our “big ticket” items that first day.  ‘Awesome’ we thought to ourselves.  That was easy.  Oh great, now all that is left is literally stuff we know isn’t worth anything.

Rio manning the garage sale.

The next morning as I left for work, Ken put on a cup of coffee and readied himself for the day.  Since I hit my snooze one too many times, I didn’t have time to put up extra signs around town and worried for the first hour of work that no one would show up, and it would all be my fault.  My phone rang at 11:15 am; the first garage sale had been open for approximately one hour and fifteen minutes.  “Hello,” I said nervously expecting Ken to lambaste me for lack of signage because there had been absolutely no customers.  Instead I was surprised by an excited and overwhelmed boyfriend describing an unrelenting onslaught of people buying, bargaining, and almost clearing out the garage sale in the first hour it was open.

By the end of the day over 80% of the items had sold and Ken had encountered and survived a wide variety of intense and seasoned garage salers.  We didn’t even extend the sale into the second day.  All I can say is, I’m glad I was serving beers to tourists instead of dealing with garage sale mania.

Side note for all you grammar fanatics out there.  I know saler is not a word.  I apologize to you and especially to Mr. Leland, my 8th grade English teacher, who strove tirelessly to instill some grammar sense in me to now avail.

In the Beginnings

What would possess someone to think that purging their lives of a majority of possessions, packing said possessions in a storage unit, leaving friends, family and dogs behind and spend a year driving 30,000 miles in the small cab of a Ford Ranger with another someone who is also insane enough to think all of the above is a most excellent idea?  Well, we turned 30 this year and 30 kind of goes with 30,000 miles and we already live in Alaska so why not drive as far south as we can go?  Sounds like a good idea to me!

That was the gist of the conversation we had almost 7 months ago.  In that moment, possibly aided by unknown quantities of beer, whiskey, and/or wine, we decided to embark on that journey and drive the Pan American Highway all the way from Seward, Alaska to Ushuaia, Argentina.

After months and countless hours spent on the internet researching the various facets of an in depth road trip, here we are almost a month away from our scheduled departure date of September 1st.  One month away from starting the trip of a life time, a journey that will take us places we’ve never dreamed of being, and change us in ways we never thought possible.  One month away from a journey with the only limitations being the ones we place on ourselves.

“When I let go of what I am, I can become what I might be.” Lao Tzu