Michael Totten

Hi all

Posted by Mary Madigan

I just wanted to say hello to everyone and to say thank you again to Michael for the opportunity to guest blog. Wishing him and Spirit of America good luck in Lebanon. Once again, they’re where history is being made.

I just got back from vacation, and I’m just catching up on the news, so here’s a post about some recent driving adventures in Costa Rica.

Getting Lost is half the fun

I’ve always loved road trips. When we moved from New Jersey to California, I used the excuse of “visiting the family back east” to drag my kids on cross-country camping trips every summer.

For some odd reason they’ve forgiven me for this. Long, boring hours stuck in the back of a minivan are thankfully forgotten. They remember the friendly chipmunks in Estes Park, the horses that musically farted as they ran through our campground in Dinosaur National Park. They forget the night we drove through deserted, ghostly Nevada towns, searching desperately for a diner and a gas station.

A few years ago, we visited Thailand and Malaysia. I heard and saw so many bad things about traffic in Bangkok and Kuala Lumpur that I decided to let someone else do the driving. Nobody warned me about Costa Rica, though, so during our recent trip there we went ahead and rented a car. The roads in San Jose and the cliffhanging mountain roads on the way to the Arenal Volcano were about as crazy as Bangkok was rumored to be – except for the lack of elephants.

For adventure, whitewater rafting and jungle tours are loads of fun, but they can’t compare to a drive down local roads.


Some Tico roadrules:

  • Motorbikes can ride on any section of the road, in any direction.
  • When driving around a blind curve in a no passing zone, always cross over the solid yellow lines to face oncoming traffic. Be prepared to veer over to the shoulder to avoid oncoming traffic. Hope that there is a shoulder.
  • The larger vehicle always has the right of way
  • Potholes can consume a small car. Swerve to avoid them.


  • Slow down for cows. They’re offended if you pass them on the right.
  • Roads and streets are not always well marked. And they’re in Spanish. What’s up with that?
  • No Hay Paso means do not enter. Ceda means yield, and Comidas Tipicas means that there’s some very good fried fish, rice with beans and ceviche at the restaurant around the corner.
  • A yellow ‘pelligro’ means that you’re about to drive or fall off a cliff. (In Malaysia, a sign that reads “!” means the same thing)
  • Sometimes red lights mean “stop”, sometimes they mean “oh, go ahead, you’ve been waiting long enough”. (like in Boston)
  • When you drive above the clouds, always slow down to admire the view


Knowing what I know now, the next time I’m in Thailand, I’ll be sure to rent a car. I’ve always loved to follow the road less travelled, even if that’s just another way of saying that I’m lost.