Tank Tops Flip Flops Newsletter edition no. 100
Life is a Highway – How I came to Costa Rica Part 4. THE FINAL CHAPTER
An old client of mine wrote to me a few months ago. He has this southern drawl, and even when he writes, I can hear him speak in the words. “Myyyyyyyke. You gotta do sumthin’ amazin’ fur ya big one huned. It’s gotta be spectaculah. Just don do nuttin political.”
Thanks for the advice Don; I hope I have done you proud. So in celebration of my 100th Newsletter, here is the one so many of you have been waiting for. The conclusion of “How I Came to Costa Rica.”
So the story goes, this is a tale that must be told, for what could be your destiny, you’ll never know.
To be up to speed to the whole story, I advise you to go back and read Parts 1, 2 and 3 first.
As I stood there and enjoyed the breeze, hearing the wave’s crash against the front of the boat, I found myself wandering back in time. I was on a Carnival Cruise to the Bahamas in 1992 with all my partners and managers from my stereo business and everyone’s better halves. We docked for the night, and proceeded to let loose, ending up on the craps table at about 3 am. As could only happen to me, we got on such a roll, and had such a blast, we lost track of time. Everyone went back to the ship, except me and my partner’s wife, and when we finally exited the casino the sun was shining like a nuclear blast. You guessed it; we missed the barge. They left without us. We had nothing but the pile of cash in my pocket. No passport, no ID; just the red arm band that said CARNIVAL. The biggest hit on the radio at the time was a catchy tune, written by Tom Cochrane called LIFE IS A HIGHWAY, and it seemed to play over and over again everywhere we went. It was the perfect anthem for a couple of drunks, stuck on an island, not quite sure how to get home. To this day, whenever I hear that number, I smile and think of Sandy. I hope you are well my old friend, come visit me again soon in my little wonderland. I love you.
We proceeded to make the best of a bad situation, and decided to party like rock stars for the next couple days, planning to hook up with the group back in Florida. We might as well spend all this money I won. Fortunately, this was Pre 9/11 and the rules were a little less strict than they are today, but we still had to use my sales skills to talk our way through U.S. customs and back onto American soil. I can still remember the look on the agent’s face, when we exited the plane in Orlando. We looked like hell! We were still in the same clothes we had left the boat with 36 hours earlier; pumped full of cocktails and cigarette smoke from the casino; our hair looking like a bird’s nest; bags under our eyes from no sleep; trying to keep a straight face while we got lectured by the Immigration Officer.
Passport please. No sir.
Driver’s license? Uh uh.
Anything with your photo on it? Nope. Nothing.
Son; do you want to explain? I told him our story, pointed at Sandy and her California blonde hair, blue eyes and good looks and said “dude we are definitely Americans!!!!” He looked at us once; looked at us twice; and smiled. Welcome home, he said, and out the door we went. If you have a hot woman on your arm, you can get away with just about anything.
I came back to reality as the Ferry Captain laid on his horn. We were coming into the pier, at the bottom of the famous Guanacaste, the Doctor had told us so much about. I was giddy with anticipation. For some reason, I just knew in my heart, I was going to find my piece of paradise, somewhere on this province that looks like an upside down thumb hanging off the hand.
We made a left turn and headed towards the southern tip of the Nicoya Peninsula staying as close to the beaches as possible. For the next 2 or 3 days, we worked our way around the horn, and back up the Pacifico coast of Guanacaste. I can honestly say, I have never in my life seen such horrendous roads, and most of them are still that bad today. They weren’t even streets, as much as river beds, where the top speed many times, was maybe 20 or 30 kph. It was a crawl; a torturous journey; through dust and mud; over rocks and boulders; flash floods and culverts. It was some of the most pristine beaches I have ever experienced, but there wasn’t any way on God’s green earth that I was going to set up shop there. Nobody knows what they want until they see it, but I had a pretty good idea of what I was looking for. It was my search for Eden, and I was determined to find it.
We drove through Tambor, Montezuma and Mal Pais; Manzanilla, Samara and Nosara; Junquillal, Avallanas and finally into Tamarindo. I was exhausted. My back was broken, the car was shot, and I really needed a pain killer and a deep sleep. At the time, Tamarindo was the “hottest” tourist town in the country; everyone kept pointing me in that direction. But as I came into the center of it all, I knew it wasn’t for me either. The road was mud at the time, now of course nicely paved, and there was about 100 young kids sloshing through the muck with surf boards on their backs. We arrived at the Best Western Hotel, a landmark in the area still to this day.
I went up to the front desk and the owner was there. We still laugh about it today, as he is a very large developer in the country now. He calls me Turbo! But back then, he was just getting started running his little motel on the beach. “I don’t mean to be rude” I said to the man, “but is there like a REAL hotel in this country? I have just spent the last week roughing it, and if I have to spend one more night in a seedy surfer hotel, I am going to kill myself” I told him. He laughed and encouraged me to keep driving another 30 minutes and I would come to a resort; Melia at Playa Conchal. Today that property is a Westin hotel, but the bones of the resort were there even back in the year 2000. They had a swim up bar and a spa; an 18 hole golf course and a couple first class restaurants; and the rooms were gorgeous; Finally a real bed.
We immediately headed to the spa for a massage, mani and pedi, and sat decompressing in the AC; sucking back a cold Pilsen; smelling the flavors of relaxation. To be honest with you, I was done; cooked; finished. Turn me over and put a fork in me. I had started to come to the realization that maybe this place wasn’t for me. Although Travis and I had an amazing adventure, saw some of the lushest countryside in the world and met the friendliest people on this earth; I just didn’t want to live in a surfer town, down a dusty third world road, in the middle of nowhere. I had a vision; I knew what I was looking for; but I hadn’t been able to find it yet. Maybe it didn’t exist here.
The next day Travis was in the pool, taking his PADI class, so we could go dive the Las Catalinas islands that afternoon. The diving in Guanacaste, is some of the most intense, marine life abundant waters, I have ever done. I have made over 200 dives, but never saw whales, dolphins, turtles and Manta Rays in the quantity that I have here in Costa Rica. I would encourage ALL of you to put on a tank, and drop down to the heavens below; it is a world all onto itself.
I was sitting at the swim up bar, enjoying a Fu Fu drink with an umbrella, watching Travis struggle to take his mask off and put it back on under water, when I saw it. THERE IT WAS!!! Right in front of my eyes; was the property I had always imagined? You know when a magazine is cheaply put together; the pages are basically stapled in the middle? When you open the pamphlet, it automatically plops to the middle page: do you know what I am talking about? There was this tour magazine on the bar; the type you see everywhere in the world. Everyone advertises their zip lines and waterfall tours; surfing lessons and happy hour prices; and of course real estate as well. In the middle of the page, was THE MOST INCREDIBLE VIEW, I have ever seen in my existence. Below the photo in bold letters it said:
OCEAN VIEW PROPERTY.
TRES AMIGOS REALTY.
I was floored. I yelled to Travis and he swam over from his lesson.
I turned the magazine around and shoved it in his face! THIS IS WHAT I HAVE BEEN LOOKING FOR; I AM GOING TO BUY THIS EXACT PIECE OF PROPERTY!!! I raced to my room and picked up the phone and dialed the number on the bottom. This woman answered, may God rest her soul as she is no longer with us; and in her Czechoslovakian accent Ileana told me; “It is beauuuuutiful here in Playa Hermosa.” I will see you tomorrow in my office.
I couldn’t sleep that night. I had such high hopes; I was so excited and nervous at the same time. Could something this spectacular really be available for sale? Could I even afford it? Maybe the picture is nicer than the reality; all these thoughts raced through my head. I had felt like an explorer having just traversed this little country, about to find the Fountain of Youth. I had been chipping away at the stone; even a rock will crumble if you slap it night and day, my hero Steven Tyler used to say. It was the longest night of my life, and I was up at the crack of dawn, loading the truck and filling the cooler. Never leave home without Pilsen.
We headed north, up and over the mountain, on a road we still call the MONKEY TRAIL to this day. I was flying; so excited; and Travis had to encourage me to slow down, so we wouldn’t die before we got there. We were bumping and bouncing; fishtailing around corners; when all of a sudden we hit pavement. Pavement; something I hadn’t seen much of since I left San Jose. The road surely wasn’t quite as nice as it is today, but it was a major improvement over the beach towns we had visited for the last few days. I followed the signs as it took me north, views of Coco Bay just out the driver’s side window; GORGEOUS. My anticipation grew. We reached the crest of a hill and I slammed on the brakes. There it was; Playa Hermosa Bay. I felt a sense of relief; like when you open a letter from the IRS and it isn’t an audit. It felt like home. Years later, I hear that same comment by so many of my clients; “When I got to Playa Hermosa, it just felt like HOME.”
As I sat in the car, mesmerized, I slowly turned my head to the right. There was this dirt road going straight UP, into the heavens it seemed, to the top of this towering hill. You could tell that it was just being carved and in the early stages of development. What do you think is up that road, I asked my companion? Let’s find out, he replied, and we put it in 4 wheel drive. When we reached the peak of the mountain, parked the car and got out, I was speechless. Not only could I see for miles; not only was this quite possibly the most scenic view I have ever been fortunate for my eyes to see; but it was the SAME VIEW that was in the magazine. I AM NOT KIDDING YOU. Somehow, fate had brought me to this place, and I felt like a child opening a Christmas present, already knowing what toy was inside; the one I had specifically asked for and Santa had delivered. I raced around the crest, holding the photo in my hand. I was like a moth to a flame.
HERE! No wait HERE! This is the EXACT spot where they took the photo. I was moving the picture around, peaking over the top of the magazine, until I was literally in the foot prints of the photographer’s shoes. “I don’t know who owns this” I told my very loyal friend, “but I am going to buy this property! Don’t tell this real estate lady we came up here. If she doesn’t know what she is talking about, then we will find out on our own, who owns this, and I am going to BUY IT!”
We continued down the hill and around the bend, and came to the famous 3 Amigos statues. We still have them here today; they are iconic and will never be torn down. I get asked all the time “which Amigo are you?”
I entered the tiny little realty office, which sits today as my guard shack, and Ileana was waiting. She was a lovely gal, who had a special energy that showed how much she loved living in bliss. She didn’t have a car, so we piled back into my rental and off we went. She took me right back up to the same spot I was just at, and told me how they were developing the land; Monte Paraiso (Paradise Mountain.) It was meant to be. This was the spot I was destined to find and I didn’t let it slip through my hands. I am a firm believer, that when a door opens in life, you have to go through it. Don’t let opportunities pass you by, or you will be one of those old people, laying on their death bed, talking about all the things you DIDN’T do in your life. I never wanted to be that person. I have tried very hard to not ever take anything for granted, so I knew that there was a reason I was led to this place. The best things in life disappear quickly, so you have to grab them while you can. You only live once people; take chances; chase that dream; JUST DO IT! I am not the smartest guy, or the best businessman to ever grace your presence, but I do have a special trait that I am very proud of. I don’t procrastinate; I make decisions quick; I go with my gut instincts and it hasn’t let me down too often. Some people call it crazy; but crazy is just another point of view. You only go once around the ride, people. LIVE IT.
I spent that night at the El Velero hotel; my second office I call it today. Big Mike and I put back the better part of a bottle of Vodka, and I glanced out through the palm trees at that magnificent tranquil bay; Playa Hermosa (Beautiful Beach.) What is better than this? Nothing. They talked about how someday they might build the airport, and there was rumors of a big 5 star hotel that was going to be on the Peninsula. After having seen this entire country, I knew this was the only spot to be. Of course the airport did open, and the Four Seasons Papagayo Resort got built, but even if it hadn’t; I wouldn’t live anywhere else. This is the definition of paradise. I had always had this vision of what I was looking for when I first set out on this journey to Costa Rica. It took a voyage to get here, and I had finally found my port; Time to drop anchor; Mission Accomplished.
I had absolutely no desire to drive back to San Jose for my return flight home. We found out that there was a puddle jumper flight from Tamarindo that left every afternoon and we could return the rental car there. We drove back down the bumpy, muddy road and had about an hour to kill. So we parked the car next to this little dive bar, and had a couple last Pilsens at the beach. The ONE thing you always read about Costa Rica; Do not leave anything in your car!!! Of course the rental company had told us this, and for the last 14 days I had obeyed their advice. But I guess in the excitement of it all, and the attraction of that view swirling around my heart, I forgot. When we returned to the car, my bag was gone. Everything was in that bag. I guess I could have let that get me down, and it might have stopped others from continuing on with their goal; but not me. It was my fault, my mistake, and nothing was going to deter me from living the dream.
As I arrived back home, I had nothing in my pocket but a little bit of cash; No wallet, No passport, No I.D. and I proceeded up to the immigration counter.
Passport please. No sir.
Driver’s license? Uh uh.
Anything with your photo on it? Nope. Nothing.
Memories of Sandy came into view: No problemas; I have done this before.
That melody came up and bounced around in my head, and I started to hum. Life is a Highway, Going my way, All night long!
Here we go again! “Sir; You are not going to believe this.”
Hope to see you soon.
Come on down baby!
P.S. I want to thank all of my clients who have taken the time to write a testimonial of my services, it is greatly appreciated.