January 3, 2011
I left Los Santos on January 1 and headed to a town on the PanAmerican called Penonome. There is not much to see in Penonome but it makes for a good base camp to explore some villages to the north in the foothills. I arrived and found a rather expensive hotel, $USD40.00 per night, on the outskirts of town. It wasn’t a sex hotel. There were a few of them further out that were cheaper, they had rates posted, but I wanted to be able to walk to town. I got settled in then spent the rest of the day walking around town.
The next day I took Electra for a run though the hills. I hope I am offered great views of the lowlands and get to see the Pacific.
One of the reasons why I am here is to buy a panama. These are the famous brimmed hats all the men and some women wear. Well, mostly the campasinos. One of the towns I will be visiting is called La Pintada. La Pintada produces the best panamas in all Panama and I want one; a high quality one that I can hang on the wall.
Driving throughout the country side was a delight. The air was cool but not crisp and some of the villas just outside of Penonome were stunning. All the lawns were nicely manicured. Whoever is selling weed wackers is doing very good. In fact, most houses, regardless of quality, have nicely manicured lawns. It seems to be a thing of national pride not just in this area but all of Panama. I don’t know where this comes from. Maybe the Americans brought this tradition with them when they were building the canal. I remember staying at an old mans house in India (he had a few rooms for rent) and his yard was the same way. HE was clearly still under the British influence. Very proper, dressed immaculate (abet a little on the grubby side), a servant and gardener and high tea. He even had a slight British accent! His house was very old and was going to dust – just like the British Empire.
During the drive I stopped at a large cemetery that was spotless. The oldest person, on a marked gravesite, was born in 1887. I am sure there were older on unmarked sites.
High in the hills I came across and Canadian operated gold/copper mine. I didn’t get to see the mine but the locals DID NOT want it there. I don’t know why but there were signs everywhere. No one asked were I was from and I didn’t tell.
After the mine, which was about 30km’s up a rough gravel road, the weld that holds on my left rear turning signal broke and left unit dangling. It was a good thing I noticed it or the whole unit would have been lost forever. I took it off and continued for about another 2km’s and the rear tyre went flat.
Upon inspection I discovered that the plug I had put in in Santa Catalina had worked its way out. I was running low trye pressure and going pretty quick this all adds up to a hot tyre and I am suspect that was the reason for its escape. On these little day trips I don’t carry any tools with me, usually, but I always carry a tyre puncture repair kit and my leatherman. Her tyres are tubeless so all I have to do is find the hole and plug it and add air and I am good to go. Aire. Plugging the hole is easy but I don’t carry a tyre pump. For situations like this I carry C02 cartridges to add air. I had 3 large and 3 small ones with me. I plugged the hole and let loose with the first C02 cartridge.
I have only used C02 cartridges once before. It was in my backyard about four and a half years ago when I wore out my first tyre. I let out all the air and purposely drilled a hole in it to practice the plug system. Prior to this I had never used this type of tyre repair before. I thought I had better gain the knowledge under controlled conditions rather that be trying to figure shit out 70km’s in the back country of Canada. I plugged the hole and added air using a little electric pump. I was amazed how well the plug system worked. And quick too. No rim removal, no tyre removal, no tube removal, no glue, no patches, no reassembly - just plug and go. Awesome!! Next, I drilled another hole and practiced with another plug but this time I used C02 to add air. It too worked great. The original plug patch kit came with only a few small C02 cartridges so I went to Canadian Tire and purchased three large cartridges. For the last four and a half years I have been carrying them with me. And now on a dirt road in the highlands of central Panama, alone, on a dirt road, under light drizzle I am going to try this again.
I used one of the large cartridges and got 10lbs of air. I ended up using three large and two small to get 35lbs of air. I drove slowly as not to heat up the tyre and have the plug pop again. I had only one small cartridge left – looking back I should have used this one too, really now what is one small cartridge going to do for me? Once I got back to the pavement I let her rip. It was now raining harder (keep tyres cool!) and civilization was near. I will have to keep my eyes peeled for a sporting goods store that sells air rifles and buy some new cartridges.
This story is one of several reasons why I will only ride with tubeless tyres. When I get a new bike, probably this summer, I will outfit it with tubeless tyres. The bike will probably be a BMW F800. It does not come with tubeless tyres but there is a great section on ADV RIDER on how to make a tube rim to support a tubeless tyre. It’s a great weekend project and easy to boot!!
Next stop La Pintada to get my panama. The ‘book’ says that the market closes at 4pm. It’s now 4:30. I hope someone is around. Well the ‘market’ ended up being someone’s house. Just like the Carlos, the mask dude. I bought the best panama he had. $USD190.00. It took three weeks to make. Yet another story and another collector’s item. Awesome!!
The panama was originally from Ecuador but became popular in Panama during the construction of the Panama Canal. When President Theodore Roosevelt wore a panama during his visit to the Panama Canal it became the height of fashion for the period.
The panama is made by braiding a half inch strip of mixed white and black palm fibers around a wooden form and sewn together at the edges. This produces a round crown. This is sewn to a brim made in the same fashion. The quality of hat is based on the tightness of the weave much like a carpet from Persia.
The hat is made of four types of fibers from the Pita, Junco, Bellata and Chonta palms. The black fibers are made by boiling the fibers with the Chisna leaf which turns them brown. The brown fibers are then buried in the ground for three days so that they oxidize and that process turns them black. His web site is www.sombrerosreynaldoquiros.com .
My stop tomorrow is El Valle. It’s like Boquette but only nicer. Then I will go to Panama City to hunt for a boat to take us to Columbia and Teresa. I hope the tyre still has air in the morning. I can’t forget to keep my eyes peeled for a sporting goods store that sells air rifles.
If the tyre is flat tomorrow I may have to use the spare tube I have in my tool box – a back up plan for situations like this. I would hate to get caught in the middle of shit-lick nowhere Africa and not have a backup plan.
Oh yeah, I have to talk to a welder too.