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Some very old, some specilized, some of Central America as well as Costa Rica




Oversized tires save the day! (September 7, 2011)


I have taken some heat from BMW types for the jumbo tires I chose to replace the worn out regular sized ones on my Toyota 4Runner.  They are so big they rub on some bolts inside the wheel well when I make a sharp turn on a bumpy road (like most down here in Costa Rica).  Well, I am glad I have those big suckers now.


Four years ago, I was frustrated that I couldn't get a decent up-to-date map of the Orosi Valley area.  Topos were too old, GPS couldn't tell a main road from a private access road, Google maps were recently released with high resolution, but the underlying data was old.  Store-bought paper maps were too large scale to have the necessary detail. So I decided I would prepare a set of maps for the Orosi Valley that were really useful.  Since I had time, I started the project a month ago.


In order to be accurate, I needed to travel every road on the map. A few I hadn't been on, and I started off Saturday to try them out. The last road I tried was from San Francisco de Agua Caliente to Navarro (see map 2).  If you look on the map for such a road, you won't find one.  It appeared on an earlier version, but I took it off.  It showed on Google maps as going through.  I started at the San Fran end and the road was pretty solid, dirt of course, but kind of narrow.  After I turned onto it, I met up with some surprised looking pedestrians, and even passed a house or two.


The quality of the road being as good as it was (and being unable to turn around anyway), I traveled on for several miles, enjoying vistas from completely different angles than ever before.  The road was winding and steep in places, but quite passable and dry.  Then as the road started to slope downward under some thick forest, it became muddy and slick.  Not a terribly serious problem until I suddenly came upon a locked metal gate and tried to stop.  The mud was slick, but I managed to stop, about a foot before the gate.  Backing up the hill was not an option.


The sign said private property, with "perro bravo" thrown in for good measure,  I didn't have a cellphone or a wing man and began to panic.  I honked the horn, thinking the property owner might be nearby.  No one was nearby, not even a perro bravo responded to my horn blasts.  At least I had a couple of bottles of water and something to eat.


But what to do?  I would have to at least try to back up.  When I did, the truck actually went forward into the gate.  And opened it!  I would have to pay the owner for the damage when I came across him.  But onward with the voyage.  The road was changing now, and I cursed the old data on Google maps.  No vehicle had passed this way in several years.  I could tell because in places grass had covered the road completely and thickly, and was about four feet tall.  In these places, I couldn't even see where the road was.  I had to sense where it should be based on the contours of the land.


At this point I realize I am aways from civilization and will undoubtedly be thwarted in any attempt to make it through.  But worse, how would another vehicle ever even reach mine to tow it out?  I kept thinking of that scene in Apocalypse Now where the boat had to be carried by helicopter.  That's what I would need if my 4Runner was ever to see pavement again.  I was in too deep.  My tires were caked with mud and the tread was not getting much traction on the wet ground.  I was shaking like a leaf and had to take my shirt off because of the sweats.


But why stop?  The farther I could make it, the shorter my walk out would be.  I encountered extra-tight downhill switchbacks with rollover potential, washed out segments where I bottomed out, and then came to a house.  An abandoned house.  Where did the road go from here?  I was driving through an old coffee field guessing where it might have once been.  Through four foot grass. Then, smash!  I had just flattened another gate, this one with barbed wire, but too low to be visible in the tall grass.


It was getting even steeper now, and I could see the town of Navarro below me (as in in straight down) and I was picking up speed.  Of course I was in four wheel drive, low range, low gear, but that wasn't necessarily holding the truck back. I had to keep the wheels going as fast as the truck was moving in order to maintain any modicum of control.  I was bouncing up and down like a pogo stick, when finally the road entered onto another road, with houses, and people walking.  And staring at me.


Possibly they were staring at me because I was driving a big block of mud.  Or because of my terrified appearance.  But more likely they were staring at me because they hadn't seen any vehicle come from that direction in years.  I abandoned my plans to search for the owner, apologize for trespassing, and pay for the damage to two gates.  Instead I drove directly home, took off my clothes, and jumped in the pool to cool off.  Then I got in pajamas and went to bed.  It was 1:00 pm, too early for a few shots of cheap bourbon.  What I'd give for some Makers Mark to settle my jangled nerves.


The truck handled well on the ride home, but was making a scraping noise near the right rear wheel, where I had skidded into a wooden post when I plowed through the first gate.  But it turned out to be only a torqued mudflap in front of the wheel.  I popped it back into shape and my mood improved.  What was once a bad day turned into a good one.  What was once once a good vehicle turned out to be a great one.  And if I hadn't put on those oversized tires, I would be trying to rent a helicopter about now.





Maps of each of the 7 Provincias (States) and 81 Cantons (Counties) are available here, with a brief description for each map. Or here without the descriptions.


50,000 SERIES



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