The morning at Inmigración went well on Wednessday. The afternoon was a completely different story.
I had not only flown to S. Jose to get my cedula, but to recover my pickup from the taller in S. Jose to drive back to Guanacaste. I had to be in S. Jose anyway, and I saved the cost of having the truck sent back on a flatbed. I also wanted to have a talk with the manager at the taller.
I hailed a cab at Immigration and gave the driver the name of the taller. He said he knew where it was. He didn't, and we ended up on the wrong side of town at another taller. After putting him on the phone with the taller to get directions, the next 25 minutes were spent zig-zagging through town in horrendous traffic, on potholed side and backstreets all the way to my final destination. I had no idea where I was. I told the taxista this. San Fancisco de Dos Rios, it was called. The taxi driver offered to wait for me so that I could follow him to the autopista leading back to Guanacaste.
Of course, I arrived at the taller at lunch time and there was no one at the taller. The taxi driver didn't want to wait around, so I paid him and he took off.
When the taller re-opened after lunch, I examined the invoices. They were marked "CANCELADO" ('CANCELLED"), as I had transferred the money from my bank account to the taller's bank account the previous day. I was impressed! A guy drove my pickup around the front of the taller as a MOPT crew (Ministerio de Obras Publicas y Transportes - the equivalent of the Dept. of Roads and Transportation) was cordoning off the road in front of the taller to begin road work. There was now no access to the taller and I had to inspect my car across the street with heavy machinery whizzing around me in a deafening cacaphony. I received driving directions at the same time. I got into the Bolero and took off with only a modicum of confidence in the direction I was heading.
To make a long story short, it took me about an hour to find my way to the autopista to Alajuela that then leads to Guanacaste. I stopped for directions three times. On the first stop at a Chinese grocery, a guy drew me a map that appeared quite good. I had a bit more confidence as I got into my pickup to start it. Whiinggginngiinggingg!!! The starter would not engage. It had the same problem it had when I brought the pickup into the taller. I was pissed!
I called the manager. He said he didn't know anything about a problem with the starter and, therefore, had not fixed it. But he had test driven the truck, hadn't he? Yes, but the starter had worked every time (it's an intermittent problem). But he had talked to the German taller hadn't he? No he hadn't. The German was in the hospital with dengue when he tried to contact him. He had never gotten instructions to fix the starter, as I had assumed he had.
I was able to rock the car until the starter engaged and the motor turned over (Rocking the car had some effect on the centrifugal force needed for the starter to engage). The chino-tico's map turned out to be way off; the directions too (surprise!). I stopped at a restaurant and received more directions. They were off too. Or maybe it was me. I stopped at a Texaco to diesel up and asked for directions there. That guy just plain gave me wrong directions in a malicious and sadistic attempt to get a laugh at my expense. He's probably still laughing.
I then did what I should have done from the beginning: I went on instinct. It wasn't long until I found my way to Alajuela.
The pickup was running great but for the starter issue. I stopped for a six-pack of Pilsen once past Alajuela, on my way up into the mountains to San Ramón. The truck traffic that snails its way through the mountains wasn't too bad. But as I wound down some of the hillsides, I noticed that my stick shift would pop out of 4th and into neutral by itself if I didn't keep my foot on the gas. The pickup wasn't doing this before I brought it into the taller. No biggie, I just kept my hand on the stick shift.
When a steer bounded out of nowhere to cross the highway, I hit the brakes. The car wasn't slowing down as fast as I anticipated. I applied more pressure. No effect. The car was slowing down, but barely. I put all my weight and muscle on the brake pedal and downshifted. Thankfully, the big bovine mutant made it to the other side of the road before I plowed into him. The brakes weren't doing this before I brought the pickup into the taller. This was a biggie!
I made it out of the mountains in into the province of Guanacaste as evening approched. At about Cañas, it was getting dark. I turned on my lights. But I noticed the road in front of me was still dark. I hit the brights. They worked. I switched back to my lowbeams. They didn't. This was also a biggie. I still had about 100 klicks to get back home at it would surely be pitch black in no time. This meant that I would have to drive with no lights on, or with my brights on.
I waited until I could wait no more and hit the brights and the gas pedal at the same time. Oncoming motorists were infuriated, honking horns, screaming, and hitting me with all of the halogen illumination they had. (NOTE: In Costa Rica, people drive with their brights on until you flash your brights at them to signal them to switch to low-beams - they don't switch as a courtesy. It is assumed that all motorists are comfortable driving with high-beams in their face, unless noted otherwise).
I wasn't sure which was worse: driving with no lights and not being able to see the road in front of me (or be seen by oncoming traffic), or driving with my brights on and being blinded by the high-beams and KC's of the angry, oncoming motorists.
At some point, I encountered an ambulance ahead of me. I was able to pull along side of him, get him to roll down his window and ask him to escort me to the next bomba (gas pump). He caught on quickly and hit his emergency lights. I switched to my low beams and followed close behind him to the bomba in Filadelfia.
Of course, it was now about 6:30 PM and there were no mechanics to help me out. I now had no choice: it was high-beams and pedal-to-the-metal until I arrived at home.
By the time I made it home, I was exhausted. I took my new cedula out of my wallet, looked at it and reminded myself that at least half of the day had gone well. I cracked a cold Pilsen. Not a bad day afterall!