The clear night sky was filled with stars and a bright moon as we sat on the rooftop looking out over the skyline of Panama City. In between stories, my new German friend pulled deeply on his cigar in thoughts, and I as well. In his 70's and riding his motorcycle to the tip of South America, having spent much time traveling the world as the former director of Interpol and Europol, his stories and information on the current state of affairs were fascinating. Next to him sat my friend Charlie, a Chinese born Canadian citizen working in the U.S. as an automotive engineer. Beside him were Adrian and Andrea, a young German couple traveling by motorcycle from the US and Canada to Chile. Benjamin, a rider from France, sat at the end of the table, he too riding south and speaking mainly French, which was a joy to Jules and Christine, my French Canadian friends sitting beside me. Downstairs, my compadres Paul and Maryna, an Australian couple riding the world, were resting from the day.
I couldn't help but smile inside to think of how blessed my life has become by making the choice to live outside the box. Many of my friends here are from my travels and my life has been enriched deeply by their friendships. There is something universal in the spirit of other travelers that energizes your own. It is the common desire to learn and explore other cultures, to appreciate life and what I call the garden that was made for us.
Life really comes down to just two words, each offering distinctly differing worlds. Those two words are "yes" and "no". Sometimes, changing your life can be as simple as saying yes instead of no, and sometimes, no instead of yes.
Our time in Panama City was spent doing a few things, mostly avoiding the heat, but a new rear tire and some time exploring. There was one exploration and a fun afternoon at an international food festival where we sampled food and talked to others. Eckart found the Austrian food booth and we ended up having a good time there. The Austrian ambassador was there, Brunhilda, and we had fun. She wanted a photo with the group of us, and while it was going on several people came over to shoot pics and video as well. I'm sure they assumed we were of some fame (suckers!!!) but it was fun and we all laughed about it.
A trip to the Miraflores locks and museum were in order and it was actually a fun experience seeing the operation. Our timing was good and we got to observe the Island Princess cruise ship come through, people waving and cheering both from the boat and the observers platform.
The new, larger canal sits further back from the old locks and one could see the cargo ships being pulled by tugs, since it is wider than the old canal.
We left when the museum closed, to find that the last bus came a few minutes previous to the closing of course. After waiting for a while we hoofed it back until we located a chicken bus and then sat in a traffic jam for an hour to the hotel.
Each evening was spent at the rooftop pool and lounge where we collected riders each day. During a rain at the fish market, I stumbled onto a guy in his riding gear - Riccardo Prati from Italy who was waiting out the rain. All told there were Paul and Maryna from Australia, Peter and Eckart from Germany and Austria, Adrian and Andrea from Germany, Christine and Jules, Charlie, meself, Bas, Benjamin from France, Riccardo from Italy and another I think...
The biggest excitement was leaving the 9th floor hotel room to find smoke in the elevator and a panic run back to the room to grab my essentials and head down the staircase to the garage, where firemen and hoses and burning electric and plastic smell permeated the air. Heading out to the street, our crew and the hotel staff stood watching the escapade. It was comforting to know that a car had caught fire in the garage and absolutely no alarms went off, no calls to the rooms or attempts were made to warn guests of a hotel fire. At least the staff were safe...