I didn’t really know where I wanted to go today. With no plan but just to cruise daringly close to the Monteverde Rainforest, Vulcan Arenal and several other national parks I figure I’d be inspired by something when I saw it. But enduring more than a couple hours of pothole avoiding and loaded bike agility testing and another run in with the law just burned me out. Dusk came a bit too early for me today so I decide to stay in San Ramon figuring if the weather looked good in the morning I’d take a ride up toward Fortuna, Arenal and the Tabacon hot springs.
But cruising carefully and doing my best to avoid a rim crunching fate with a deep pothole, a couple cops sitting under a tree flanked by a series of orange cones pull me over. I try to stay in the middle of the road with my engine running, but they point me to the side. I refuse. I figure the more I get in the way of traffic the more likely they’ll let me go. The plan backfired. So I pulled over as one of the cops flashes a radar gun in my face wit LED numbers blinking 74. And friends this is kilometers per hour, not miles. The net speed I was traveling was about 45 mph. But I guess I was in a 50 kph zone or about 30 mph. They start writing the ticket. Our conversation turns to paying the ticket. They tell me that I have to pay the ticket on Monday in Cañas because the office is closed today (Sunday). I explain to them that I’ll have a friend pay the ticket for me. A lot of balking and shuffling. The ticket will cost $20 plus a 30% impuesta (tax). I hem and haw and explain that the tax is crazy. Who ever thought a speeding ticket would be taxable. I guess in California we do have a penalty assessment, so perhaps it made sense. But I still wasn’t buying it.
I knew they were fishing for a bribe. And I wasn’t chomping at the bait. Soon the officers were suggesting that if I paid them there, I could avoid the 30% tax. Fat chance. I explained I’d rather pay the ticket on Monday. Of course, they threatened to hold my passport until I paid. But I said no worries the could have it. I could see in their eyes their plan to extract dollars from this gringo wasn’t working. Finally, just as I was about to pack my papers back into my top-case I suggested that perhaps there was a special Sunday discount. I only regret at this point I had stashed the cash from my recent ATM withdrawal so when I reached into my pocket at pulled out 5,000 colones (about $9.50) they agreed this would be sufficient to take care of the infraction. But when I asked for a receipt that flatly refused explaining that if they gave me a receipt I’d have to pay the full amount.
I’ve been riding for more than 5 months and over 16,000 miles through 6 countries and haven’t ever been pulled over. In a period of less than 24 hours the Costa Rican police tried to extort money from me. I was beginning to get a bad taste in my mouth from Costa Rica. And the more potholes I encountered the more I wanted to be in Panama and then onto South America. Not that Costa Rica is a bad place. My trip here last April was phenomenal, so today I think I used up my Costa Rica allocation and by the time I was settled in San Ramon I mentally was prepared to beeline for the border over the next two days.