$30 to ride this ride. Breakfast, water, transportation, gear included. 40 minute ride on the back of a Harley Compatible. After 5 minutes we are out of downtown Leon. The dude tells me he did motocross for 5 years in Panama City, I suppose to reassure me as we slip and slide through the 3 inch deep sand, dodging softball sized rocks at ? mph. I tell him his resale will be good since the odometer has 00000.1 miles logged. He laughs and holds up the unplugged cable leading to the specs.
You know you are in the country when a quick return wave sends a child squealing with delight. My helmet does a switchback to process the size of the 15th male bovine we maneuver around. True longhorn. It´s fun chasing pigs for a change. They try so hard to haul ass but move like really out of shape dogs or a classic, spastic Chris Farley (rest in peace) outburst. Their quickly jiggling legs seem unconnected to the loose earth.
—Just had a thought: If you keep doing something you enjoy, eventually you will be paid for it. Not sure if it´s a law of nature, but certainly a possibility.—
I periodically question the driver´s skill, the use of my classic thinking in terms of incentives keeps me relaxed. He doesn´t want to ruin his livelihood. He´s been doing this for a while and has no visible scars. I decide I am just a sissy when it comes to bikes, analogous to past situations where I drove a 4-wheeler and a rookie was on the back trying to control involuntary sounds of terror as we fishtail around trees and boulders.
I travel from the present situation to the tune of Blueberry Wine performed by Rodney Crowell and revisit the old/new idea/fact that I can always make more money. This hypothetical option is used to counteract anxious feelings looming over the inevitable relationship between me and my bank account. In addition to this fact, I have become increasingly aware since the age of 8 that I will not have the ability to transfer any of my net worth to my next manifestation of energy/matter. Merging these two philosophies: after this state of living is finished, some of the elements bonded in molecules forming my cells will eventually find themselves rearranged and combined with others in a plant, which, if time never ends, is a statistical certainty to make its way into another inhabitant of the universe who´s livelihood is commerce based, part of me will again be able to make more money.
Giving up on worry, I focus instead on soaking in the farm-footed hills of balsa colored sugarcane alongside the endless sand road. The road ends. We get off the bike and I carry the board up the steep crumbly volcanic rock trail. 30 minutes of shoe slipping and stiff breezes brings us to the summit of an active volcano. It last blew in 1999. No damage, just some lava next to her and a little ash in the progressive university city of Leon. Sulfur smokes in the crater with vibrant yellow-green-orange walls. Scooting charcoal earth-ash with my foot reveals pitch black, steaming moist gravel. It´s hot enough to toast bread. This is a 1/2 inch below the ground we´re walking on.
From the peak, I see 6 other smoldering volcanos, the broken glass in the grass that is Leon, 15 miles away, and the Pacific yellow icing, some 30 miles away.
I put on the denim HAZMAT jumpsuit and sit on the toboggan, which is 3/8 inch plywood with 3 – 2″x2″x20″ segments -one for my asiento, one for my feet, and one for the PAC-MAN profiled PVC pipe rounded front.
The hill slants like a roof you don´t want to try walking on for about two hundred yards, during which I meekly try convincing myself that I can avoid veering off, catching an edge, and doing cartwheels with my head and ass. After this duration, I am provided the luxury of relief, because the hill suddenly drops off at an angle of Holy-Shit!°. Now I don´t have to worry about control because I am moving too fast to think. I give an authentic yell of terror and glee while the front of board starts dancing and levitating the way an innertube does when being slung into a shrinking circle behind a well-powered speedboat. Yelling = opening your mouth = catching volcanic ash in your (up to 54mph) mouth. “Cerro Negro attracts extreme-sports athletes. In 2002, Frenchman Eric Barone set the land-speed record on a bicycle here. He reached 107 miles per hour before he crashed and broke five ribs.” – copyrighted from http://www.theworld.org/2011/12/volcano-boarding-in-nicaragua/
Approximately 45 seconds after the onset, I reach the bottom and round up to a halt. Breathing resumes.
3 small bags of chips, box of strawberry milk, can of apple juice, brick of bread with icing, half brick of chocolate bread. 48C$ is just under $2.00 – I will miss this.
As Femi would say, I´m such a juicebag. Explanation to come.
People in Leon ask, ¨Why do you want to go to Jinotega?? There´s nothing there!¨ Common response from a typical city person around the globe when confronted with inquiry of a small town. The only consistent separation between people around the world is of those who live in small towns from those in cities. I have argued this point with someone who has not spent much time in the country. They can switch sides, but it´s rare. My old roommates in NYC believe the only thing worth seeing between them and LA is Chicago.
The reason I am a juicebag today is due to my tendency to slant my views based on incoming information. Human condition must be fought constantly. I start to believe there was nothing to see in rural Nicaragua. My forecast canvas has some farm animals and a lean-to. Well, they have a medevac helicopter. They´ve got the same phosphorus flat screen computer desktops I used at GA Tech. They´ve got swagger and pizza trucks. There´s a couple of 50-inch flat panel tv´s back to back, dividing the room of late teenagers playing COD Black Ops II. It´s just on a smaller scale because less people travel through. Jinotega is a remote mountain town as charming as they come with old cowboys, bright flowers, warm sun, and crisp breezes. Great place. I even got my dreads dyed the color I´ve been talking about since 4th grade. Finnegan remembers.
Just as a sociopath cannot detect another´s disdain, Central Americans are immune to loud sounds at any hour. In the middle of the night, movie, dinner, or even church, some child or adult will blare the radio, blow with durative ferocity into a whistle or just talk with an outside voice about non-related issues and nobody seems affected. It is an over-sized safety pin securely buried in the top of my brain. This is one thing I will not miss about C.A.
In an attempt to enjoy a situation that I can´t easily control, I record this. It´s Wednesday around 9:30PM and I want to go to sleep because I´m getting up at 4AM for the bus to Honduras. This is what I currently hear in my hotel room: Music that sounds like a rural scene in The Godfather, volume is that of a laptop on full blast down the hall. Sounds like someone is trying to write their name in the steel siding of an airplane hanger by bashing it with the back of a hammer. A dog with a terrible bark (sounds like a cartoon saying ¨Snarf!¨= has been going off for most of the day and night with precision intervals of 4 seconds. Dirt bike after dirt bike after dirt bike after dirt bike roar past my window occasionally loud enough to set off car alarms on the street. Hotel employees are having a party downstairs, a teenager is yelling ¨Mama¨ repeatedly in the street, the bass of a passing car is making my roof rattle (concrete walls are great insulators of sound, but if the roof is thin tin, you are now inside of a giant speaker which amplifies each and every sound for a half mile radius), more dogs, dirtbikes, someone sneezed or quickly turned into The Hulk, my neighbor occasionally slams an iron fence gate in the room next door (the door is wooden, so I´m confused), and I think a cross between a helicotor and tank just passed by. If you go to Nicaragua, bring some sort of ear plugs and get blackout drunk on the nights you want to sleep.
A Bit of Luxury
The towel at the edge of my bed is warm to sit on after my shower (that´s right, this place has running water!) and it´s a double. Paint on the walls, two rebar shower curtain rods, a mirror above my own sink, oscillating fan, and let´s not forget 12 inches of electrical entertainment (don’t be lewd, I´m talking about a TV) The windows are even opaque and close like venitian blinds. All of this comfort and coziness for an easy $8 a night. I´m on the border town of Ocotal after a long day of mountain traveling. When I say long day I mean my spider senses woke up at 5:15AM (security guard missed my wake-up call), barely caught the bus from Jinotega to Selvaco, waited in direct sunlight for an hour and a half for a bus that wouldn´t let me on, walked back to the local market, 2 hrs back to Managua, 5 hrs to Ocotal, cab rides and walking, and got to my hotel around 7:30PM. Shower, dinner, movie, sleep.
8:00AM banana for breakfast, shave, another banana, bus to the border, meet two chicks from the States that give me a banana they are going to throw away so it doesn’t get crushed in their bag, really nice bus for $4.50 to the capitol of Tegucigalpa on which I write this and eat another banana. Tegucigalpa is the movie fitting, Latin American, 3rd world megalopolis. Shacks embedded into steep, dusty tan hillsides dissappearing into infinity. Think Brooklyn´s vastness of tool sheds built 300 years ago on the asteroid from Armageddon. I´ve developed a habit of evading the onslaught of taxi drivers at bus stations and searching for a cup of coffee to plan the next move. I find a gas station comparable to the nicest ones found in the States. There are extreme changes in scenery through the city. Rural Honduras that I see looks like a future scene from Terminator with more trash on the ground.
The “playa” I was looking for in San Lorenzo, had only tall pilings under expensive, waterfront restaurants and hotels. No sandy beaches to camp on. After some games of pool with locals, I wander around and meet a backpacker couple from the States. We ask a local where the bus is to leave the disappointing town. Henry, a Honduran who managed to get his U.S. citizenship, work 6 months on, 6 off, and live like a king back home, is stoked that we are from the U.S. We play music at his house and are treated to way more beer than we could drink, and I sleep in the hammock on the back porch. In the morning, I make my way across the country and the Salvadorian border. Around dark I arrived at San Salvador. Every single Honduran I met (about 30) were really nice, great people. The Caribbean side is supposed to be the place.
The Most Dangerous City In The World!!! (not since 1992)
The museum was alright. Some dude with really sweet hair and luminescant eyes (even in a grayscale photo) wrote the first literature on the genocide and revolutionary period in El Salvador. He also had some powerful captivity of emotion in his paintings comparable to ¨The Scream.¨ He even made his own globe of his own world, which made me wonder why I haven´t the same.
My neighborhood, (in fact the whole city compared to where I´ve been in C.A.) feels like Asakusa, Tokyo. This is only a relative, not absolute comparison. There are still guys with shotguns on every corner to protect residents from gangs.
I dig the city. It´s the right mix of danger, latin, and western culture. Pupusa is a cheap snack, cornmeal pancakes filled with cheese, beans, and whatever else you want, for $0.25 (they are dollarized). Mr. Donut is everywhere! Another reminder of Japan. Nice malls are a welcome change from tiendas, pulperias, and mercados. The city is much quieter than any other I´ve been to in Central America. Tall hills and a volcano surround it. I didn´t visit the nearby Pacific, arguably the best surf in C. A. Next time. I felt in the first hour that I could live here for 6 months.
My flight is Feb. 19 at 2:05AM. Spirit Air is cheap ($92) but they get you on the extras. To avoid a $100 fee for checking my $77 guitar I sell it for $30 to the sweet Salvadorian girl that works at the hostel. 11:30PM. Taxi, plane, shuttle, train, bus, bus, another bus, and walked into the T-shirt shop with $10.55 left, 6:00PM. I am in Key West to get the Silent Runner ready to go to St. Thomas or where ever.