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Wednesday, June 19, 2024

Why Driving Route 1 in Costa Rica Fills Me With Loathing

There aren’t many things that I truly hate. I hate maraschino cherries. When I was in second grade sitting at my grandmother’s kitchen table with an open jar of syrupy red cherries sitting in front of me, I asked “Hey Grandma, can I eat the whole jar?” She said something like “I wouldn’t recommend, it but go ahead.” After vomiting a full jar of maraschino cherries onto the linoleum floor, I can say that I now hate them.

I also hate fancy little parties. My wife once forced me to attend a fancy little party in the fancy big house of a doctor that she worked with. Once I got there, I learned the party was in honor of a Scottish poet that I’d never heard of, and I was subjected to poetry readings over a dinner of haggis (which is essentially a bag of sheep’s organs). I shudder just recalling the memory.

Sitting right up there with those two items is the stretch of Route 1 between Limonal and Caldera. I hate this road. Now, to be clear I do not hate the entirety of Route 1, on the contrary, the section before the loathsome section after Limonal is one of the very best stretches of road in the country.

Turning right from Liberia, heading toward Cañas, you’d swear you were in the United States. Two lanes on either side, new construction, never a buildup of more than a few cars that can’t be easily passed, it’s highway perfection.

The trouble begins just as you arrive in the little side of the highway town of Limonal. The roomy double lanes squeeze into a single pothole ridden lane and a series of heavily laden trucks inevitably merge ahead of you, signaling that the party is now over.

You now have 50 kilometers of slow moving, constantly under construction, poorly maintained road ahead of you until you can finally take the unmarked exit to Caldera.

Part of my deep hatred for this road comes from the frequency in which I travel on it. It’s like the opposite of absence makes the heart grow fonder.

We live in coastal Guanacaste and all main roads that lead to San Jose require passing through this despicable section of highway. My youngest son has health issues that require us to frequent every single specialist, doctor’s office, and hospital in San Jose on a regular basis. My work also requires that I drive to San Jose and well beyond to place camera traps in far flung patches of jungle.

Usually I simply hate this road for its potholes and congestion, but sometimes it gives me extra reasons to hate it. I’ll list a few for you. I’ve been stuck for at least an hour due to an accident that occurred somewhere far ahead of my place in a terrible line of cars at least four times. 

Once, a bus almost merged on top of me, nearly smooshing my entire family in a pouring rainstorm. Not long ago, a cop pulled me over for passing a truck that thought 15 miles per hour was a reasonable speed (That’s technically my fault, but I still blame the road.).

The amount of times the dude with the stop sign or cone at the road construction site chose my car to walk in front of and stop traffic is uncanny. But the very worst experience this evil road ever bestowed upon me was a roadblock of artisanal gold miners that trapped my wife and I in our tiny car with three- and five-year-old boys for eight hours.

No one should be forced into a refrigerator box-sized car with two little kids for that long. It’s torture. Also, at around hour five the AC stopped working!

So there you have it. Driving Route 1 between Limonal and Caldera is among the very worst experiences you can have. It’s somewhere between barfing candied cherries on your grandmother’s shoes and attending parties full of poetry and sheep’s organs.

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