Traveling around Costa Rica and Panama for 30 days was an incredible experience and each one of us has our favorite places, memories and experiences of the journey. Some of our favorites are the same, some are different, but in the end we each have that particular “moment” we’ll never forget.
For Ben, that “moment” was spending the day driving an ATV through the beaches and jungles of Bocas Del Toro. And legitimately so. It was incredible.
It all started the day before when we were looking for something fun to do on our last full day in Bocas. The kids have always wanted to ride ATV’s in Costa Rica, but that has proven to be challenging since we have three kids and only two adult drivers to ride with, so we’ve never done it. We had seen the ATV’s in Bocas over the week and when we walked by their storefront, we decided to inquire about whether we could toss two kids on the back of one ATV. Steve, the owner of Flying Pirates, said that we could do that, but if we wanted to, it would be fine to let Ben drive his own ATV once we got off of the main roads. Ben (10 years old) lit up like a light bulb, “REALLY?!” – “Yep” replied Steve. At that point there was no turning back, we were IN.
Steve explained to us that he made a special attachment for the ATV’s that would allow me to tow Ben’s ATV until we got off of the paved road and into the jungle. So we signed up for the next day.
We showed up the next morning at 8 am and got a quick tutorial on how to run the ATV’s, how to trouble shoot, and the few rules of the road. The ATV’s were ours for the day, unguided. “Take them out and be back tonight by 7pm.” WOW. Steve got us all hooked up, told us where to go and what to look for, gave us a few food suggestions along the way and sent us on our journey.
I towed Ben, Jacob rode on my ATV with me, and Abby rode with Erin. We drove through Bocas Town and got familiar with our new toys. A few times along the ride, the pin came out on our tow hitch, so we had to stop and perform repairs. I finally got the pin fixed and bent back into place after it popped out three or four times, and from then on out it worked perfectly.
We drove along the roads past beautiful beaches and homes and finally made it to the end of the pavement. This was the magical place in the journey that signified that Ben could ride on his own. It was like Christmas and his Birthday combined. He was so excited. We unhooked him, gave him a tutorial on how to steer, shift and brake and sent him on his way to start practicing.
I wasn’t surprised so see that he was an excellent driver. He’s been driving battery powered vehicles since he was about 3 and was even able to parallel park at the age of 4. The only thing that was different about the real ATV’s and his battery powered ATV’s of the past was the power they harnessed. Ben did an excellent job.
We sped along the edge of beaches with the crystal clear caribbean sea on our side and into the jungle. The views were stunning. We parked a few times and hiked through mud and plant life along paths that would open up into pristine private lagoons and secluded beaches. We crossed rickety bridges and drove through streams and tiny canyons. The entire day was a sensory overload.
We did have a scary moment that became very funny afterward. I was crossing a pretty intense river crossing and as I was driving out of the river on the other side, Jacob was launched off of the back of my ATV. He did a flip and landed in the river on his back. SO glad he was wearing a helmet… He got right up, unfazed and laughed about it, but it was a little freaky.. thankfully, we caught it on Ben’s helmet cam and watching it afterward was pretty funny.
We rode up the island for about 3 hours until we hit the end of the trail. Along the way, Abby took a turn driving, Jacob got to drive and of course, Ben drove. We saw one other group of riders the entire day, it was like we were out in the middle of nowhere. In retrospect, I guess we were. So cool.
On the way back, we stopped at a cool beach restaurant with a pool and good burgers, had a beer and some limonada, and relaxed our bodies. The kids played pool and darts while we watched the waves crash to the shore. After lunch we drove down the island, back to the main road, hooked Ben back up (he was NOT happy about that) and drove back to our condo. We had the ATV’s for the day, so we figured we’d stop by home, catch a shower and then take them back into town before dinner. No need to pay for a taxi when we had the ATV’s! When we arrived back in town, we had beer with Steve and Rhonda (his wife) and told them the stories of the day. Steve shared stories with us as well, including the story of how he lost his leg base jumping back in the states.
We all had an incredible day, but I know it was Ben’s favorite day of the vacation. It may have even been one of his favorite days of childhood. His sense of freedom, pride and responsibility was palpable. It made me feel the same way. It felt good to know he was responsible enough to drive a machine like that and to understand the magnitude of the opportunity that was before him. What a day…