A pair of tired cyclists slowly climb up a hill on Ruta 27 outside Escazú. A stranger driving the other way in traffic points his head out the window and yells, “You’re almost there.” After four months and roughly 5,000 kilometers of biking through México and Central America, cousins Bradie Kozera and Tommy Peters are indeed close to the end.
“I got kind of emotional, thinking, man, you have no idea what you just said,” Peters said. “I really am almost there. We started this trip four months ago and now I’m within five kilometers of finishing the greatest accomplishment of my life.”
Their journey partly stemmed from a shared desire to prove the worth of sustainable travel and eco-tourism. The cousins began riding from San Diego, California, Oct. 29 with two friends, Isaac Manobla and Heinrich Flaig, who branched off in Guatemala and are still biking to Brazil for the World Cup.
Originally Kozera and Peters had planned to cross the equator in Ecuador, but the Colorado natives said they had to change their plans to return back to the U.S. to start working again.
They said they realized that they wanted their trip to be less of a timed race and more of a cultural adventure where they could have opportunities to soak up hospitality offered by towns and their people.
“We figured out you just can’t give yourself deadlines or expectations,” Kozera said. “We finally just figured out, well, we really like it here so let’s stay for two or three nights instead of biking every single day.”
Most nights the pair would have to knock on doors for shelter or plots of land where they could set up their hammocks and tents. Though locals were opening their doors to two sweat-coated and smelling Americans, the bikers said that almost every family they met let them stay at their houses and even fed them dinner and offered them hot showers.
From the outset the two said they had a goal to see life from the perspective of poorer populations, away from too many cities or tourist hubs. Their bikes became tools to travel to some of the unseen coves and tucked-away corners that lifelong travelers on mapped-out itineraries may never see.
“We got to experience these small communities where no one really goes to travel,” Peters said. “We got to interact with these families and have dinner with them and stay at their house.”
Before they started the long trek, family and friends had warned Kozera and Peters to stay safe. In reflecting on their trip, they said that not only did they never experience a truly threatening situation, they really only ran into people who loved their story and wanted to help.
“The hospitality we’ve seen in a variety of places has been unreal,” Peters said, as Kozera echoed his words. He said they would sometimes help the families with chores like pulling water out of a well in return for these poorer agrarian people providing roofs or plates of food.
On the rare occasions when they would ride into touristy or backpacking hotspots, other travelers immediately became curious to hear about this active and green way to see the world.
“We would just start talking to people about our adventure, and I think it’s really opened up the door,” Kozera said. “I hope that its education towards opening up this new avenue towards tourism.”
Kozera and Peters are staying with a local couple in Escazú who they met through Peters’ grandmother and plan to box up their bikes and fly home Wednesday.
They have been updating their blog called “Ranger Rides’ along the away to chronicle their story.
They agreed that it feels bittersweet to finally be here in Costa Rica, at the end of their road. As they stopped atop that steep hill coming into town, Kozera looked at his cousin and said, “I’m kind of sad, man. The grass is always greener on the other side.”