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Top of the Mountain


We were in San Juan for adventure, and nothing sounded more adventurous than a trip into the wild, untamed rainforest. Ah, who are we kidding?

Wifey Kim and I were NOT looking for adventure. We were looking to see what there was to be seen and we were told by more than one person that we should check out the only rainforest on US soil (for those not in the know, Puerto Rico is a US territory). We had already rented a car to go to Old San Juan, and we had made the trip to the locals’ beach, Liquillo, so the next logical step was to head to the rainforest. When we initially rented the car, the small Mazda only had about 1/4 of a tank of gas. We had already been all across the Northern part of the island, so with only 1/8 of a tank left, I figured the small fuel-efficient vehicle would make it easily to the heart of the rainforest and back. The map, and wifey Kim, our navigator for the day, confirmed our suspicions, and we began our trek up Rte. 191 with visions of rain and forests dancing through our heads.

Like many islands, Puerto Rico has large elevation changes. The road to the rainforest began uphill and continued uphill steadily for all of 20 minutes before I looked down at our gas gage. Oddly, we were now significantly less than 1/8 full, but I figured it was due to the uphill angle of the vehicle. Still, I began to get nervous until we passed the main tourist center for the rainforest. We weren’t in the mood to watch a video on rainforestry, so we opted to continue driving deeper and higher, when suddenly I noticed the yellow light turn on next to the gas gage. It was the warning light, and we were near empty with maybe 1.5 to 2 lines left on the gage. Here, I began getting really nervous. We were a good 10 minutes from the tourist center.

“Um, honey…we might have a problem…”
“What do you mean?"
“Well, we are sorta out of gas. I mean, not out of gas, but VERY close. The gas light is on.”
She was silent. “We’re going to be fine.” She seemed confident, but I was worried. It was getting late and the light was diminishing as the foliage got thicker.
“Do you think we should turn back?”
She looked at the map. “We are already more than halfway through the forest. We’ll end up on the main road soon and we’ll get gas then.” We passed by a couple of buildings, mostly souvenir shops or places to buy a drink. On our right we passed a waterfall with a little sign denoting it Coco Falls.
“Does Coco Falls ring a bell? Do you see it on the map?”
She looked. “Nope. We are more than half way. We’ll probably be getting out of the forest at any moment.”
I glanced at the map. “Um, honey, the road looks longer than our trip out to Liquillo beach. There’s no way we can be halfway already.” Meanwhile, the yellow light was still on, our A/C was off (luckily we had the windows open and had a good breeze) and I had shut off the one American rock station in hopes of saving gas.

I saw a wildlife lookout point and parked along with the four other cars already parked. I thought about whether restarting the car would waste too much gas (better to leave it idling?) and decided that we were fucked either way, so it’d be better to be able to lock the car as we got our bearings.

We stepped out of the car and surveyed the area. It was actually quite beautiful and we took some long shots of the lush valleys below and walked around the stone tower erected at the lookout point. I asked to see the map.
“Um, honey…you read the map wrong.”
“This is Coco Falls right here.” I pointed to the clearly printed Coco Falls sign on the map, about 1/4 of the way on Rte. 191. We were probably about 1/3 of the way through the rain forest, mostly uphill. If we kept going forward, I was sure we would end up sleeping with the parrots and surviving on tree bark while we waited for help to arrive.

“Shit!” I proclaimed. We have to go back.” My brain processed everything. “At least its downhill."

We made our way to the car as a minivan put on its reverse lights. “Hurry up, honey!” She didn’t understand my urgency. “I want to get ahead of these guys so they’ll see us if we break down.” They were too fast, but we ended up right behind them, enough to start honking desperately if the ole Mazda gave up on us.

We made our way to the car as a minivan put on its reverse lights. “Hurry up, honey!” She didn’t understand my urgency. “I want to get ahead of these guys so they’ll see us if we break down.” They were too fast, but we ended up right behind them, enough to start honking desperately if the ole Mazda gave up on us.By now, I had spent the last 20+ minutes on edge. I was enjoying the view and the time with wifey Kim, but the idea of being stranded in a rainforest on a road with lots of blind turns in the middle of the night did not appeal to me. We began our descent down the mountain as I resolved to use as little gas pedal as necessary.

And the truth is, it worked. I rolled for 99% of the trip downhill, at times, riding the break mostly because of the steep decline. In fact, a car did end up pulling out of the parking lot behind us, but within a few minutes, we had lost them because I was trying to keep the downhill momentum going, in case we got to any flat areas or, worse, inclines. Wifey Kim was nauseous by the time we were halfway down, but I was having fun, making sharp turns at seemingly breakneck speeds in my impersonation of Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride. We saw a few areas of inclines and flat road, and I lightly road the gas pedal, the entire way watching the gas gage, which had lowered below the last bar on the gage. I expected that even at the E, I had a good few miles in the tank, but I was definitely nervous.

By the time we got back to civilization, I was thanking god for our good fortune. We pulled off of the road and found a local gas station, filled with Puerto Ricans from the not-so-rico area of the island. The guy next to me was adding oil to his leaking car, probably enough to get him home and little else more, considering his car’s death rattle. The woman ahead of me pulled out of the spot after pumping all of $2 of gas into her children-filled car. I went to the cashier and prepaid $10, trying my best to make understandable sentences with my normally decent skills, but suddenly stammering Spanish. She eventually got the hint and took the money. It gave us almost 1/2 of a tank. We hit the road and headed back to our hotel, taking our time now that we had gas to spare.

Thanks for reading, folks. I know it isn’t poker, but it’s a memory I wanted to keep and this blog is the best way to memorialize it. When I return from Puerto Rico, I look forward to getting back into the swing of poker, but…

Until then, make mine vacation!

posted by Jordan @ 4:00 PM,


At 8:04 PM, Blogger Heavy Critters said...

I'm pretty sure it's "On the Road" (could be Dharma Bums), but Kerouac describes a VERY similar scene; coasting and braking to save on gas to make it to their next destination.

At 12:11 AM, Blogger MHG said...

Make mine vacation, too! Nice photo!


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