Panama

The photo that haunts and comforts me (Drive Day 131: Nov 7th, 2003)

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So this is me, aboard the container ship that carried us to Colombia: puke-naked, half-starved and helpless. Even a stowaway would have had more agency, more control over her destiny. Thirty years later I’ve decided on a safer route. And though there is an air-sickness bag tucked into the pocket of the seat in front of me, I am comforted that we have made the right choice. Somewhere on the seas below, our camper is strapped to the deck of a roll-on, roll-off freighter ship and if we are meant to reunite and continue this roadtrip together; the Avion will survive her own crossing.

Follow this bonus-material blog and ride along on a one-year road trip that inspired the memoir The Drive: Searching for Lost Memories on the Pan American Highway. On sale now. Get yours through the buy-the-book links at the bottom of the landing page on my teresabrucebooks.com website or here or here. Planning a road trip? Buy the audiobook here. Like The Drive’s Facebook page and tweet back at me @writerteresa.

Settling the bar tab (Drive Day 129: November 6th, 2003)

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Would a bar in the states let you rack up hundreds of dollars in beer while you openly admit to planning to leave the country? Dennis and Sheila never doubt we’ll make good, or that we’ll ever forget them. We lose a hand of poker on our last night and made the rounds of XS Memories regulars to say goodbye to people and animals who feel like neighbors. Tomorrow the goodbye will be even harder – when we drop the camper off at the dock and head for an airport to Ecuador.

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Follow this bonus-material blog and ride along on a one-year road trip that inspired the memoir The Drive: Searching for Lost Memories on the Pan American Highway. On sale now. Get yours through the buy-the-book links at the bottom of the landing page on my teresabrucebooks.com website or here or here. Planning a road trip? Buy the audiobook here. Like The Drive’s Facebook page and tweet back at me @writerteresa.

Colombia would be cheaper, but…(Drive Day 128: November 5th, 2003)

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This is a picture of my father’s truck being craned into a ship bound for Colombia. It was then and is now the fastest, cheapest ocean passage to the next continent. Back then it had its risks – our camper was impounded for three days before my father broke us out of a customs lot in Cartagena and went on the run for a week. But the intervening 30 years have made it worse. I hate to dig out the “research” I did before Gary and I embarked but it’s the elephant in the room. We decide to book passage from Balboa, Panama to Manta Ecuador instead.  We’ll give up Colombia and Venezuela for a country where our Ford F350 and Avion will hopefully raise only eyebrows, not ransom demands.

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Follow this bonus-material blog and ride along on a one-year road trip that inspired the memoir The Drive: Searching for Lost Memories on the Pan American Highway. On sale now. Get yours through the buy-the-book links at the bottom of the landing page on my teresabrucebooks.com website or here or here. Planning a road trip? Buy the audiobook here. Like The Drive’s Facebook page and tweet back at me @writerteresa.

The sexier side of Panama City (Drive Day 127: November 4th, 2003)

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Day three of our big-city trip to find passage finds us playing tourist, in the old town. Where the views are lovely, the architecture nostalgic and decrepit and the hand-stitched molas irresistible souvenirs. It is here we finally give in to the pace of Panama. We can become as jaded as the expats back at Santa Clara or go with the flow. We’ll just enjoy this crazy juxtaposition of modernity and mañana syndrome.  Why make a decision affecting the rest of our journey today when we can put it off until tomorrow, when the deposits are due?

Follow this bonus-material blog and ride along on a one-year road trip that inspired the memoir The Drive: Searching for Lost Memories on the Pan American Highway. On sale now. Get yours through the buy-the-book links at the bottom of the landing page on my teresabrucebooks.com website or here or here. Planning a road trip? Buy the audiobook here. Like The Drive’s Facebook page and tweet back at me @writerteresa.

Battling bureaucracy (Drive Day 126: November 3rd, 2003)

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Regardless of which shipping route we decide to get around the Darien Gap, there is customs paperwork that has to be filed, in Panama City. The streets are too congested to maneuver the truck, and we almost get robbed on a cab ride from a police station to the customs office. Three men rush up from a traffic median and reach for my door at the same time, but before my cold-addled brain catches up, the cabbie whips a U-turn and guns the motor, effectively ripping the door handle from their hands.

Inside the PTJ – the technical judicial police building where forms are stamped, copied, filed, lost, and various other steps involving fees and irregular office hours – there is no air-conditioning. Or functioning women’s room. But there is awesome fluorescent lighting that makes for super flattering selfies after seven hours of waiting in lines.

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Follow this bonus-material blog and ride along on a one-year road trip that inspired the memoir The Drive: Searching for Lost Memories on the Pan American Highway. On sale now. Get yours through the buy-the-book links at the bottom of the landing page on my teresabrucebooks.com website or here or here. Planning a road trip? Buy the audiobook here. Like The Drive’s Facebook page and tweet back at me @writerteresa.

Canal highs and lows (Drive Day 125: November 2nd, 2003)

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Although there still is no single, connected highway to drive the length of Panama and into South America, National Highway #3 cuts across the country in the other direction. It traces the length of the Panama Canal and ends at the Caribbean city of Colon, were my parents launched our first crossing into South America. We try to find the port, on the off-chance of finding a safe, affordable crossing today. But the verdant jungle road dumps out into a traffic snarl interrupted by shirtless men jumping on cars, “negotiating” demands to leave you alone. That pledge we took that if either of us got a bad feeling about a place the other never questions it? Without a word, we turn around and head back into the safer jungle. A stop to watch tugs and container ships restores the Panama I remember – a lush sliver of wonders between two continents.

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Follow this bonus-material blog and ride along on a one-year road trip that inspired the memoir The Drive: Searching for Lost Memories on the Pan American Highway. On sale now. Get yours through the buy-the-book links at the bottom of the landing page on my teresabrucebooks.com website or here or here. Planning a road trip? Buy the audiobook here. Like The Drive’s Facebook page and tweet back at me @writerteresa.

 

Atlas, shrugged? (Drive Day 124: November 1, 2003)

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Gary’s notebook entry reads “We are drinking too many Altases,” but I cut ourselves some slack. It would take six to equal the strength of one Guiness and each one feels like it lowers my temperature by a degree, for at least the length of the time it takes to drain the bottle. They are a little less effective as painkiller. A cap fell off one of Gary’s teeth and though he’s happy he could walk into a Panamanian dentist’s office and get the resin refilled on the spot, tonight won’t be the night we stop drinking Atlases.

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Follow this bonus-material blog and ride along on a one-year road trip that inspired the memoir The Drive: Searching for Lost Memories on the Pan American Highway. On sale now. Get yours through the buy-the-book links at the bottom of the landing page on my teresabrucebooks.com website or here or here. Planning a road trip? Buy the audiobook here. Like The Drive’s Facebook page and tweet back at me @writerteresa.