Our last true roadtrip was two summers ago, in Costa Rica. Dodger and I were tooling around the west and west-central regions of the country, in a rental SUV, equipped with a GPS device that alternately worked for us or took us to Nowheresville. We needed the SUV, because one of our stops was at a small resort directly across from the ever-smoking Arenal Volcano, and this place was at the pinnacle of one of the most primitive uphill roads I have ever driven on. I include the old logging road that delivers us to our cabin up in the boondocks, which is sometimes not a road at all and on which you can get into serious trouble without cracking a sweat. We did have trouble on that Costa Rican quasi-road, but it turned out to be related strictly to the SUV and its compromised idiot-warning-light-system.
One of the adjustments we had to make on that trip involved the stark difference in sheer road usage. On the highways around here, you see almost exclusively motorized vehicles. An occasional bicycle or two. A hitchhiker, only very rarely nowadays. And deer, of course. Other roadkill potential. On the roads in Costa Rica, even on the Interamericana, the main Central American highway, you’ll see anything, and up close. People, whole families of them, walking, doing business, socializing, arguing, parenting, playing soccer, whatever. Plus, every kind of animal: cows and horses and dogs and cats and chickens and goats, and critters we couldn’t even name. All of them right there on the road, either hanging out or on the move. The Costa Ricans are ready to help you, feed you, chat. They’re among the most friendly, civilized people we’ve run into anywhere. You don’t make good time on a road like that; you might as well slow down and get to know the neighborhood, the community, the country.
Contrast that experience with cruising at 70 or 80 m.p.h. along one of our Interstates, roadways designed to make all of the above impossible. You’ll get from Point A to Point B faster, no question, but you will never, ever, see a young girl having the time of her life trying to train a goat to dance, so close to the road you can reach out your window and touch them both.