Thursday, November 09, 2006

Road Trip

It was late in 1972 in Panama. The guys in the barracks had a hankering for a roadtrip so we all hopped the train to Panama City, pitched in and rented a Ford and hit the road.
We'd spent months by the ocean in the heat. The Fort Sherman was slightly less humid than a glass of water. Someone said "you know in the highlands near David, Panama there are square trees." That was enough to send us on a mission.
We were on the road for a few hours gradually climbing above sea level when we saw a roadside attraction that served food so we decided to grab a bite. The sun was on its way down and the place had an outside area with Christmas lights everywhere. A band was playing an odd mix of salsa and meringue with a touch of reggae. The waitresses couldn't speak a word of English and we couldn't speak that much Spanish, but we managed to order up some chicken and some kind of bread/biscuit/roll things. We listened to the music and drank Panamanian beer and fresh rum. A couple of the guys danced with the waitresses and tried to make some time, but the girls only wanted to dance. We decided it was unwise to drive impaired so we decided to sleep in and on the car. My friends Dave, Doug and I lie there on the hood watching the stars from near the equator. Without competition from city lights, the view was stunning. We talked ourselves to sleep and continued our journey at daybreak.
The road was as crooked as a river and we soaked in the change of scenery in silence. The trees got somewhat taller and we saw sloths, raccoons, and a ton other critters that we couldn't name.
We spent the weekend in and around David taking in the sights and keeping an eye out for square trees. My buddy Dave stopped a policia on a big ol' Harley Hog to ask about the square trees. None of us knew how to say square....or trees, in Spanish so we tried our hand at sign language which was no help either. He pointed us towards an outdoors toilet. I know it probably doesn't sound that funny now, but we laughed until we cried.
On Sunday morning it was time to head on back toward Panama City. We had to make it back before dark so that we could catch the last train back across the isthmus to Fort Sherman.
It was a good weekend. One that stands out in my mind even after all these years. That trip was like so many road trips you take in set out with goals and are looking for one thing but you find something quite different.
That's what is so amazing about life. If you keep an open mind and expect to see remarkable things, you will always see remarkable things.


  1. Anonymous7:34 AM

    It would be nice to see photos of this trip but im sure there was no camera with you back then huh anyway i still enjoyed your memory.

  2. I bought a camera while I was in Panama but I really didn't shoot pictures like I do today. Then the camera was almost an after thought. Today, it's like the American Express...I don't leave home without it.


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