Panama City

As alluded to in the previous posts, we’d reached a beach / heat / humidity / questioning whether that smell is coming off us or from the sewer by this point in the trip. We needed AC. And comfy beds. So we crashed in a Radisson.

Radisson Panama Canal

It was our first stay in a hotel since we left Idaho — we have, however crashed in several AirBnBs. And it was glorious. I shed, mas or menos, five pounds of sweat that had caked to my body. I showered, mas or menos, every other day. I even shaved, mas or menos, twice. The grunge was gone. At least on the outside.

Other than visiting the Panama Canal and scurrying around town to wait in lines, fill out paperwork, and complete a barrage of seemingly unnecessary bureaucratic steps in order to ship our van, we mainly just lounged. Watched shows. Ordered room service. One afternoon I sat by the pool, drank a local Ley Seca Pale Ale, and watched the tankers line up in the canal — oh, and ensured my children didn’t drown. It was blissful. But short. I retreated back to AC at the first spec of sweat.

If you find yourself in Panama City, the Radisson Panama Canal is a good stay. It’s slightly upscale, recently renovated, features granite and tile and exotic woods on nearly every surface, and has a gorgeous pool overlooking the entrance to the canal. All for about $70 USD per night.

Panama Canal

It’s true: travel does made you intelligenter.

The Panama Canal is a marvel of history and politics and engineering. I had little knowledge of any of it — Andrea and the kids, who had studied it in homeschool before arrived, were much better edumacated. I’d simply, naively thought, in yonder years, the Americas helped dig a deep trench through the skinniest part of Panama. And that ships passed through that trench. I had no idea the French first attempted (and failed) to construct it. That over 30,000 people died building it. And that it’s not a single, continuous canal: it’s a series of manmade locks interconnecting various rivers and lakes. But I’m not the sharpest crayon in the box.

The locks were the most interesting part. To me at least. Basically, a ship is pulled by a train on the side of the canal into a lock — an enclosed chamber, kinda like a pool, in the canal — and water is either added or removed, thus raising or lowering the ship to the level of the next body of water. Gigantic tankers do this. In a matter of minutes. And they must enter three sets of locks to part the land. Cuts thousands of nautical miles. But costs hundreds of thousands of dollars.

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