Day 76 - To David, Panama
I got up and rode some 200 kms plus. Both my mind and sight were out of focus. This time of the year is always difficult for me. Too much was running through my head, I was reliving the past. Tears in my eyes, I was not in the right state of mind to be riding a bike. But ride I did, and it was hard and fast riding at that. Too fast, and it took the second emergency stop of the morning for that to hit home. For the second time I had almost ridden into the back of the vehicle in front. I needed to stop. I needed to get off the road. I needed time to gather my thoughts. I needed time to grieve.
Five years ago to the day our twin sons Patrick and David were born. It was also the day that they died. Much could be written about that day... but not here. Those events have, however, impacted on this venture... perhaps they are even the principle driving force behind making the trip. I billed Pat Around the Americas as "... a journey in search of direction..." In a physical sense the direction has been pretty much to head north! Direction in terms of my life plans and emotions is a much more complex matter. But in keeping with my promise to remain true to the journey in these utterings, more for myself than anything, I will record my thoughts here. My apologies if you were hoping for a ride report today – normal service will resume shortly.
Thought(s) for the day
I have been very lucky in a number of senses in my life, most notably in terms of family and friends, but also on the work front. On the death of the boys I threw myself into the job. It provided a valued anchor and was sufficiently challenging and stimulating to keep my mind occupied for much of the time. I have also been lucky in having an employer that (collectively) has extended a high degree of understanding, support and flexibility in working practice, which I am convinced has helped me considerably over these intervening years.
I have been taking the time out the trip has afforded to reflect on these issues for a while now, and I can´t say that looking back I handled the loss well. Who does? While the job provided an anchor and a degree of escape, it is my wife who is the sea in which I live (if you can permit the uncomfortable stretched metaphor). It is she who supports me and gives me direction. I am now less certain that I have done as much for her. On this I continue to reflect.
From the outset I failed to recognise and accept my pain. I wanted to put the matter behind me and get on with things as if death had not occurred. Fool! Only since I recognised and accepted my own suffering, was I able to start the process of coping with it. I am not sure we ever came close, but I can well understand why some long standing relationships fall apart after such as blow.
I have come to realise that, for me, the phrase "time is the greatest healer" is utter tosh! Time does not heal these wounds; I don´t believe it ever will. For me the pain is as real this day as it was five years ago. It is both a physical and emotional pain, fuelled by the fact that I have little or no happy memories of my sons to cling to. This is a thought that comes to me often. I saw them, after they died, but I was never able to hold them... nor was my wife. On this I continue to reflect.
Self evaluation techniques have thrown up some interesting points. I have, for example, been so reliant on my "anchor" that I have routinely placed business priorities ahead of needs at home. Even when the options have been mine to determine. The work – life balance is often a tricky one the judge, but it is curious that I have not recognised the demands of both with more equal measure. On this I continue to reflect.
On a practical level I had for some time been investing funds to support the provision of useful things in the life of a future child (college, university, car, motorbike – that sort of thing). In recent years the presence of this slowly growing financial resource became more of a burden; a cash-based reminder of the loss we suffered. It sounds a bit silly, but I wanted rid of it. And in such a way as to provide me with something meaningful in terms of a life experience and memories to cling to. Hence my "...journey in search of direction..." Being on the journey itself has, however, thrown up surprising realisations as I spend day after day, week after week with my own thoughts, stimulated as they are by the people I meet and the sights I see. This trip is an incredibly selfish indulgence, and yet another example of how I put my own issues ahead of what is really important in my life. On this I continue to reflect.
I am around the half way point in the trip, and the thoughts that have come to mind to date are, I feel, the right ones. I now have the rest of the trip to help figure out what I am going to do about them. Losing Patrick and David changed me. The pain of that loss will continue to be part of me. How I respond to that in moving forward with my life together with my wife has yet to be written.
Day 77 – to Alajuela, Costa Rica
6 June Kms travelled – 17,759
I was grateful for the restful stop at the Purple House Hostel in David, and the time left alone there to gather myself before heading on. But the border with Costa Rica at Paso Canoas beckoned, and was only 40 minutes up the road.
As with other crossings I will be updating the Borders page of this website with detailed information in due course, but needless to say that this crossing was also undertaken with relative ease. I´ve read quite a bit about crossing Central American borders, and the various experiences one could expect, but to date they have not materialised into anything that has caused difficulty. They do take a little longer than some in the south, but so far not a single border has held me up more than 2 hours, and usually then due to my own hanging around and soaking up life.
Through the border I was enjoying the ride.
Reports on road quality in Costa Rica didn´t get my hopes up in that regard, but what I encountered was better than anticipated – though there were still quite a few potholes and landslides to negotiate. That said, I also saw a number of road crews out working to repair the damage. Up over the mountains was cool in a number of senses – both due to the vistas and the temperature, as the misty mountains took on a romantic veil. A good ride, and a much needed one.
As we headed into San Jose, however, the weather closed in. This was after all the rainy season, and the rains in this part of the world seem to hold off until the mid afternoon. But then they hit with a vengeance. My plan had been to find a place to stay before the clouds opened, but my timing this day was off. Running out of the city I hit (and it almost felt like that) the tropical downfall – which stayed with me until I rolled into Alajuela and found my hotel for the night – and then it stopped! Great, thanks for that! It did freshen up both myself and the ride however, so that was something. Surprising how much water can fall in such a short space of time – with the roads quickly turning into small rivers. A bit like my nose really – as I had picked up a stinky cold in the north of Panama, and it was continuing to cause discomfort as I headed on up. Yuck!
Thought for the day
The main theme running through my mind this day was riding my bike. Weather permitting I just wanted to ride – and that was the plan. Despite the heavy cold and the afternoon rain, Idris was putting a smile back on face.
These blog entries are being reposted from Pat's website [link] in an effort to draw more attention to his fundraising efforts with UNICEF. You can help Pat reach his goal here [link] as he continues to ride throughout the Americas. Follow along daily for updates.