Eat, surf, eat, lay down, get up, surf, eat, sleep. I would have written something sooner but it’s taken some time getting used to not being able to lift my arms. Fortunately I have a full size keyboard and really flexible toes.


On the flight down here Finn asked a number of questions about what to expect. What’s it like where we’re staying? Is there going to be this or that there? Are we going to do this? My answer to him was that whatever he was thinking it was going to be… 70% of that. That’s not a knock. It’s really the great thing to me about traveling to a place like Costa Rica. Because by the time you leave you’re at 70% too and that feels so much better than running at 110.

I booked our travel through a company called CR Surf Adventures and I did pretty much everything through the internet and email. The reviews were pretty solid and they looked legit so I booked flights, sent my money in, and then really didn’t think that much more about it. About a week out I sent an email with some basic questions – anything in particular we need to pack, do I need to convert currency, that type of thing. It wasn’t until we were about to land in Liberia that I thought, “Hmmm, all I really know about this trip is that I’m supposed to walk out of the airport and look for a guy holding a sign with my name.” The next thought is “Well, this is either going to suck or be really awesome.”

Arriving in Liberia is pretty easy actually. It’s a new airport but small and you basically walk off the plane, go to customs and walk outside. The nice thing is that you don’t have to walk the Mexican gauntlet of hustlers and carnival barkers trying to sell you every sightseeing trip known to man. So we walked outside and looked for our name.

Our driver’s name was Alex and, like most drivers, was pretty chill. We got into his van when the cell phone rang and he handed it to me which I thought was odd. The guy on the other end spoke pretty good English but it takes your ears a little time getting used to the accent. Basically the guy on the other end wanted to know what kind of surfers we were. I said, “I don’t know, pretty good beginners.” Which I think with my American accent must have come out something like “We shred and rock barrels all the time.” I don’t think he caught the part about “on the Scioto River behind a boat and one time in the Outer Banks with a giant of a man named Phil holding our boards.” That was ok because I was still getting my head around the fact that the plan was for Alex to drop us off at a grocery store about 45 minutes away where we would be picked up by the guy at the other end of the phone. Hmmmm, 70%.

I have to admit that I was pretty pumped to go the grocery store. First, I go to the store all the time at home anyway. Second, if you’ve read this blog, you know about Nik and I going to the Mexican supermarket. Aside from the walk through the airport, going into the supermarket in Mexico was, to me, just mind altering and it gives you a firm sense that you’re not in Kansas anymore. I couldn’t wait to take Finn.

We pulled into the grocery store about an hour later. It might have been only twenty miles but let’s just say that Costa Rica doesn’t have the greatest transportation infrastructure. I should also stress that this was a grocery store, not a supermarket. Think IGA in West Jefferson. The whole front of the store was open and there were kids all over the place. We didn’t have a grocery list and didn’t really know what we needed which is perfect when you can’t read anything. I knew Finn was probably a little nervous which is totally understandable. It’s weird when everything around you is in a different language. After a little but of time in the store, however, he was comfortable enough to venture out solo to pick up some different items.

We managed to get some basic supplies for the couple of days we would be in Nosara. Eggs, milk, bread, cereal and headed back to the van where Finn leaned over and said “That was awesome.” Yes, yes it was… and is.

We waited about 15 minutes more when this white Land Cruiser pulled up next to us. I’m not talking New Albany Land Cruiser. I’m talking Nairobi Land Cruiser. The real deal complete with surfboards on top. The driver jumps out and lands like a cat. He was tan on top of tan, no shirt, no shoes, with long wavy hair streaked with blonde. Hello, casting? Yeah, we need someone who looks like a Costa Rican surf instructor. Got one? Check.

All the kids immediately ran over to him like he was Kris Kringle. This was a good dude.

We said goodbye to Alex and hopped in the truck with Steven. We did the perfunctory exchange of pleasantries and headed down the highway, or what is considered a highway in Costa Rica. Pretty soon into the trip Steven asked if we minded taking the dirt road. I thought we were actually on one already so how bad could it be?.

To say the roads are terrible in Costa Rica is to do a great disservice to the standard of terrible.You know those dirt roads the Amish use that you can see from 71? Superhighways compared to Costa Rica. Top speed is about 25 mph but that is only for brief moments between slowing down for ruts and the occasional cattle drive. I couldn’t decide whether it was like being in a blender, a washing machine, or a set of maracas. But it’s pretty cool when you stop the truck and get out to see monkeys. That makes it worth it..

That’s it for now. Time to go surf.

In the next edition… Scorpions, coatis, and low points.



The High School Trip

Funny how a blog about where you’re going can also be about where you’re supposed to be.

I’m supposed to be in Akron. Two of my best friends growing up are having a graduation party for their kids tonight. That’s where I’m supposed to be.

Finn and I leave in a week for Costa Rica. It’s a new tradition based on an old tradition. This is the high school trip modeled after the kindergarten trip.

If you know me you know the kindergarten trip. Starting with Sam I took each of my kids to Chicago the summer before kindergarten. They’re all my favorite trips really. Though each was a little different they all had common themes: Southwest direct, train downtown, Shedd Aquarium, Field Museum and holding hands wherever you go

I think it’s the holding hands that I miss the most.

Chicago’s a big city with lots of action so when you walk down the street, and you slow down to match your gait with smaller legs, you hold hands. It feels really good. And I think the kids love it too. You’re not carrying them or pushing them anymore. They’re big kids at 5 and they’re walking next to you on an adventure. They’re grown up now, ready for school. But in their hearts they know you’re holding on to them. And you’re not letting go.

That’s a whirlwind summer before kindergarten. New clothes are being bought, school supplies and lunch boxes are getting picked out. As parents you’re thrilled and excited to see your child take the next step. Just like you’re excited for their first baby step. But all the talk about kindergarten must be pretty terrifying to them actually.

I think about Sam a lot. Most of the time it’s memories. Tea time at the American Girl store in Chicago, her chestnut hair, Baby Baby and Rabbit going everywhere with her, Cincinnati. Memories are good. Even the bad ones. It’s thinking about the future without her that hurts.

Which is why I didn’t go to Akron. I’m not going to see her graduate.

Unanimity among three boys is nearly impossible, especially when they’re 7, 10, and 14. Oh, and they’re brothers? Forget about it. But everyone was on board for the high school trip. Finn, of course, but so were Joe and Jack. When the idea came up at the dinner table there was no arguing, no whining, no existential angst over the concept of fairness, it was just…of course there should be a trip. And impatience and jealously lost out to memories and anticipation.

I didn’t go to Akron but I’m going to Costa Rica.

It’s a whirlwind summer before high school. New clothes are being bought, technology needs are being argued about, and textbooks are being picked up. As parents, it’s actually a little terrifying. You can only think “Holy shit, he’s going to be driving in a year and a half and college costs how much a year now???”

I’m not going to hold Finn’s hand on this trip. I think he’d punch me.

We’re going surfing, he and I. 7 days of getting up early, hitting the beach, and coming home exhausted. It’s what he wanted to do for the high school trip. You know what? So did I. I got to hold his hand and walk around and see things in Chicago. I cut up his dinner and made sure he didn’t go into the bathroom alone. I tucked him in. Not on this trip. Nope. On this trip he’s going to be stronger than me. He’s going to paddle harder and longer and catch more waves. I’m going to sit on the beach while he’s still out in the water. And every time a wave comes in I’m going to watch as he paddles and I’m going to hope that he catches that wave. And when he does I’m going to celebrate his success and when he doesn’t I’m going to celebrate his effort. And I’m going to celebrate his future.

I held Sam’s hand when she said good bye. I’m going to let go of my little boys hand and say hello to a young man. This time, where I’m going is where I’m supposed to be.