The World’s Best Coffee and The World’s Worst Haircut

They’ve got it all in Boquete – 

I recently had a cup of the acclaimed Cafe Ruiz coffee in Boquete. I paid 50 cents for what some have called the greatest cup of coffee in the world.

Cafe Ruiz black goodness

My coffee palate is unrefined so I can’t comment on that. But, it did inspire me to try what is known as a caffeine nap.

My initial experiments have found pretty good results. Here’s how to take a caffeine nap:

1) Drink a cup of coffee (8 to 12 oz depending on how much caffeine you can tolerate).
2) Immediately take a 15 minute nap while the coffee and caffeine is being absorbed. Set an alarm clock because best results are found with short rest periods.
3) Wake up and enjoy a couple hours of renewed energy.

Give it a…shot


What a $2 haircut looks like

I seem to have a odd affinity for experimenting with my hair. Maybe it’s because I’ve always had strange and difficult hair. I have 3 separate cowlicks that all have minds of their own. 

Yesterday, I went to a barber in Boquete and got a $2 haircut

Check it out:

Un  pello corto malo

I am experiencing the gamut in Boquete.

My question: do you really get what you pay for? For a cup of some of the best coffee in the world, I paid 50 cents. For one of the worst haircuts I’ve gotten, ever, I paid $2. I think the $2 haircut was priced appropriately, but couldn’t Cafe Ruiz charge $1 and still have the same amount of customers? Think about it.

Boquete, Panama

I meant to say: “Bienvenidos,” at the beginning. I’m such a gringo!

Right now I’m sitting on the porch of said bungalow. I’m seven, refreshing, hours away from Panama City and couldn’t be happier. This place is gorgeous.

Boquete is a gringo ‘hot-spot’ according to the people in Panama City, but you wouldn’t know it walking around town. The old whities who have retired here mostly reside in the posh Valle Escondido community a few minutes outside the city center.

With the presence of white folks, usually comes increased prices but Boquete seems to escape this trap. Other than the price of buying a home, costs here are dirt cheap. To give you an indication, here’s what my day was like yesterday:  

  • woke up with a smile. 
  • went to breakfast at a place named Central Park – I got a cup coffee, a 2 egg veggie omelet, and a fried pancake for $2.
  • explored the town
  • went to Cafe Ruiz which is said to have some of the best coffee in the world. 1 cup = $.50.
  • cooked lunch @ my hostel overlooking a small river that swelled with rain. 1 dozen eggs = $.94. 1 organic banana = $.05.
  • bought a pineapple out of the back of some guy’s truck = $.50
  • went back to Central Park and had a delicious dinner consisting of pork loin chops and brown rice = $2.50
  • bought a Balboa (Panamanian beer) from the supermarket for    $.35
  • chatted with our hostel owner and some other guests
  • went to bed with a smile

Total cost for a great day (private hostel room included): $19.34!

Why aren’t you here with me?


    Live Uncomfortably Goes to Panama


    The decision has been made and the plane ticket has been purchased.  I’m headed to Panama! What’s the real reason I chose Panama over Thailand and other South American destination? I want to blast Van Halen’s ‘Panama’ as loud as my iPod headphones will allow, and pump my fist as hard as I can as I decend into the Panama City airport. 

    More about all this later.

    Live Uncomfortably – Wilderness Edition Pt. 2 – THE GEAR

    If you read the last post, Wilderness Edition Pt. 1, you are not only awesome, but you are also informed. I cut my Yosemite trip short mainly because I was too uncomfortable to think about writing – which was one of the main purposes of the adventure. The reason for my uncomfortable-ness can be traced directly to my gear. Frankly, I was unprepared to do battle with the Yosemite wilderness.

    While it is summer, the majority of the trip was spent at an elevation above 7500 feet. Daytime temperatures were in the 80’s to 90’s but, at night, temperatures plummeted into the 20’s. Someone with proper gear, or even slightly above average gear, would have no problem with these temperature ranges. But, as I learned, tents and sleeping bags from Wal-Mart aren’t exactly ace.

    Wal-Mart Sleeping Bags: Beat the Heat, Hold the Cold

    So, with all this in mind, I’d like to present to you my ‘Gear List.’ This is some of the gear that I would like to have on future hikes. Some of the items are non-essential, and they’re labeled as such. But, for the most part, this is the equipment I deem necessary to maintain at least a certain level of comfort while on the trail. I should also mention, that I think light weight equipment is essential when hiking any distance at all. A couple extra pounds equals a thousand extra body aches.

    1. The Tent – Necessary

    Some people, especially ‘old-timers’ as experienced hikers call them, believe that a tent is not a necessity. A lot of ‘old-timers’ will camp cowboy style (without any shelter) when the weather is fair. When it’s raining they will string up a simple tarp to stay dry.

    While I can see the value in this approach (a lighter pack), there are now tents available on the market that are under well under 2 pounds. I cannot see myself sleeping outside with nothing between me and nature, when there are tents like the Contrail by TarpTent on the market for only $200. It weighs 24.5 ounces and sets up in under 2 minutes. Can’t beat that.

    A major step up from the 5-6 lb. beast I was carrying

    2. The Bag – Necessary

    The bag that I was using was rated at +40 degrees. Meaning, I should have been able to slip into it almost naked and still be warm down to 40 degrees. I bundled and layered with long underwear, thermal socks, and a jacket, which I thought would make up for the extra 10-15 degrees of cold. I was wrong. I still froze. And on top of that, the bag took up a lot of pack space.

    For future adventures, I’ll go with something similar to the Alps Mountaineering Navajo +20 Sleeping Bag. It weighs about the same as the +40 degree bag I had, and it comes with a compression sack to drastically reduce it’s size in the backpack.

    3. The Pad – Absolutely Necessary!

    I say a sleeping pad is absolutely necessary because I went without one on my trip and I suffered severely for it. I’ve read that you lose 80% of your body heat to the ground. I know first hand that this statistic is no exaggeration. A sleeping bag placed directly on the ground is exponentially colder than a bag placed on top of a sleeping pad on the ground. I guarentee my nights would have been much more restful had I brought along a sleeping pad.

    Sleeping pads are super light weight and can be had for relatively cheap. The Therm-a-Rest Z-Lite is perfect for light weight backpacking. It folds nicely and can be strapped pretty much anywhere on the outside of a pack.

    4. The Pump – Necessary

    There are no grocery or conviences stores in the wild. So, unfortunately, we must purify our own drinking water. On my trip, I used water purifying drops. I wasn’t too keen on putting mass amounts of iodine into my system, and the water tasted awful. They worked for the week, but for trips longer than this, I’d be a fool not to buy a water pump like the MSR MiniWorks EX Filter.

    My friend has one and, within a few minutes and a little bit of pumping, we had a couple liters of delicious, fresh water. While we were pumping directly from a high Sierra lake, he told me of times when he’d pumped from much more polluted looking sources and had no problems with contamination what-so-ever.

    5. The Pack – Necessary

    Modern day hiking backpacks are absolutely unnecessary in all their frills. They are extremely expensive and the technological advances they boast can slow you down. My pack, a mid-range purchase from REI, is a perfect example. It is bulky, has a hundred different straps and pockets that I’m still discovering, and it weighs a ton.

    Ray Jardine, who I call the ‘ultimate hiker’, recommends you accumulate all your gear first, then modify and build your own personal backpack. He can make a pack perfectly suited to hike over 2,000 miles on the Pacific Crest Trail for under $20. For any serious hiking I’ll be doing the future, I’ll picking up his Ray-Way Backpack Kit.

    6. The Stove – Not Entirely Necessary

    One of my friends hiked the Pacific Crest Trail with no stove. I admire that. However, I wouldn’t want to do that myself. I like hot food and tea. On my trip, I carried a propane stove by Coleman. It was fairly heavy and awkwardly shaped.

    I’d love to have a Jet-Boil. It’s lightweight, boils water super fast, and it sounds like a jet taking off when it starts up!

    7. The Headlamp – Not Necessary but Sweet

    I carried a small, hand-held flashlight. While it got the job done, it was difficult to accomplish certain tasks with something in my hand. It was impossible to use both hands for cooking and still be able to see what I was doing. That’s where a headlamp comes in. Not only are they practical, you look awesome wearing one it too.

    I’ll stop here. The list could go on and on. There are all sorts of gear out there that you can find to make your adventures a little more comfortable and easy. Once you have the essential items, the possibility for customization is limitless.

    In the end I’m glad that I got experience doing some hiking before I purchased much gear. I now have a better idea of what items I would buy in the future. I would have hated to have bought a piece of gear only to realize that I didn’t need it, or that there was something cheaper and better out there. It was a great learning experience.

    In August, I’ll be embarking for South America or Panama or Thailand. This trip wont be a backpacking trip in the same way, but I will have to buy some gear to bring along with me. I’m going to be putting in some time researching, but if my Yosemite trip has taught me anything, it’s that you don’t really know what you’ll need until you go. I think I’m going to try to limit my purchases until I’m actually there, and then buy what I think is necessary.

    It’s Not About The Destination…

    From the ages of 8-12 I loved Slush Puppie’s more than most things. There was something about the beaded texture of the ice, mixed with the sugary syrup that did it for me. Problem was, I was a child, with no access to the internet, and no driving rights. So, in my mind, there was only one place in the whole world that sold Slush Puppies. And unfortunately, that store was a little gas station about 300 miles from home, on the way to my grandparent’s summer house outside of Yosemite Valley.

    The only times I ever got to taste the forbidden high fructose corn syrup delight that is a Slush Puppie, was on family vacations. The gas station that sold them was a popular spot for my dad to stop to refuel the car. But, if the tank was full and dad didn’t need to stop, that meant no Slush Puppie for Derek. I would have to wait for the possibility of stopping on the way back – which never happened.

    The Unspoken ‘Vacationing Dad’ Rule

    My dad knew how much I loved the Slush Puppie. He had no qualms with buying me the biggest size: 32 ounces of freedom. But my dad always would get in what I call ‘Vacationing Dad mode.’ The typical ‘Vacationing Dad’ does several things. Besides drinking beer all day, everyday of vacation, they refuse to make any unnecessary stops on the way to the vacation spot. Vacation does not start until the car stops at the final destination.

    This type of strict, Spartan time-line for traveling was often disastrous, especially to me and my brother’s bladders. Anyone who drank too much water or soda was left to suffer. It was also disastrous to my Slush Puppie addiction.

    It’s About The Journey

    This past Saturday, I left San Diego headed towards Yosemite with a friend of mine. As we approached LA on I-5, we hit a particularly bad stretch of traffic. I went over the possible explanations for why there was traffic on a weekend. None came to mind of course. There is no rhyme to LA traffic, it is what it is. It exists and we deal with it. It gives people in LA something to talk about and excuses for constantly being late assholes.

    Normally, my friend and I would have just suffered through it, but with 4 or 5 more hours of driving left past LA, we decided to get out. We decided to break the cardinal ‘Vacationing Dad’ rule. We told ourselves that our trip started the moment we left San Diego.

    The great part about Southern California is that anywhere you look could be Native American territory. And you know what that means: Indian casinos!

    The only other Indian casino I had been to was literally in a tent. A very sturdy and well maintained tent, but still a tent. This casino, however, was made with standard ‘white-man’ materials. It was huge and magnificent – like the casinos you find on the outskirts of the strip in Vegas. And, to top it all off, it was located just 50 yards from the gridlock occurring on the I-5 freeway.

    Entering Forbidden Ground

    When my friend and I stepped in through the casino doors, we found the place packed with middle-aged Asians and no Indians in sight. Indian casinos are kind of sad really. They have all booze and addiction that comes along with gambling, but none of the sex like Vegas. We worked our way to the bar.

    After a beer, a shot, and a quick “We-don’t-give-a-fuck-about-golf-chat” with our bartender, we headed to the 21 tables. My friend and I are both extreme newbies to gambling, especially at a live table. We sat down at a ten dollar minimum table. We were both under the impression that once we bought in with our ten dollars, that we could bet a dollar per hand. This was, as you might have guessed, a stupid assumption. We were actually forced to put down ten dollars a hand to play, plus one more dollar on top of that for a total of $11. I’m still a little confused.

    (Authors Note: I’m going to write a post about 21, so I’ll know what I’m doing next time)

    To my complete surprise, we both won the first hand as the dealer busted. It’s a good thing too because otherwise I would have left right there, $11 poorer. The next five minutes were an absolute blur. I felt like I was constantly reaching for my wallet to pull out more dollar bills, and the cards just kept coming. The pace was phenomenal. We both decided on a hand to quit – I won, my friend lost.

    In the end, I was up $10 and my friend was out $15. Not awful for first-timers but as we exited the casino, we both agreed that it could have been a lot worse. The rate of turnover was incredible. We easily could have lost, or won, $100 in the short time we were at the table. Casinos know the numbers – the more you play, the more chances they have to take your money. Thank god we got out with our shirts.

    On The Road Again

    The casino detour cost us an hour of travel time and $25 combined after drinks and gambling losses. But once we got back on the road, the traffic was gone, and so too were any worries we might have had. A familiar feeling came over me. It felt a little like a sugar rush. Kind of like a 32 ounce Slush Puppie.