Thorn Around the World

"Triples And Tryptophan In San Jose"
It was another long lush drive through Costa Rica on a bus, looking out the window at towns and villages that occasionally broke the stream of green. Jules and I were headed for San Jose, the capital of Costa Rica, a large city in the center of the country. Our target was the Galileo Hostel, a backpacker paradise that Jules knew from her previous travels through San Jose-she insisted it was the place to stay, and she was so right.

Today happened to be Thanksgiving, an American holiday that focuses on family, friends, and food, normally served with a feast of roast Turkey and all the trimmings.and heavy doses of American football. Being a thousand miles from my home town and culture, I didn't expect to have much of a celebration this year, but how wrong I was.

Our bus arrived at the San Jose terminal, and a short cab ride later we were unloading our bags outside the colorful hostel called Galileo. Centrally located near downtown, within easy reach of the airport, Galileo is literally sitting on the Pan-American highway, the road that runs the length of North and South America. Once inside, thanks to Jules, we were welcomed by Brian, the owner, as old friends. Rocky the dog, the head honcho of numerous Galileo animal mascots, was also happy to see new people to pet him. We immediately reserved a small private bunk room, with a wonderful world map mural on the wall. Moments later, I was exploring our new digs, covered in eclectic decorations and paintings, filled with interesting young travelers. Galileo's bar, The Rugged Pineapple, was the main hangout place, next to the kitchen, community room and patio. I immediately started making new friends and met more of the staff including Tom and Andres, who were busy serving drinks and cooking food. To my surprise, a massive Thanksgiving dinner was being planned for tonight. And, Brian, being a rabid NFL Carolina Panthers fan, was glued to the football games playing on the flatscreens.
Brian got behind the bar and offered Jules and I their top secret concoction-a shot of some fruity homemade mix of liquor called the Rugged Pineapple. Then, he proceeded to proffer us pints of the only microbrew in town, in two flavors called Segua and Libertas from the Craft Brewing Company. I tried both, more than once, excited to see what a wonderfully unique Thanksgiving I was about to have in Costa Rica.

Of course, I also started asking Brian, Tom, and Andres about other bars in the neighborhood, and the slim chance that there were any dartboards in San Jose. To my surprise, they said, "Yes, in fact there's a bar a couple blocks away with three boards." My eyebrows lifted and eyes widened. "What luck," I thought, "to stay at a hostel near what is probably the only dart bar in town."

After a couple more hours of pre-feast football, several more microbrews, and becoming Brian's latest recruit as a Panther fan, I eventually convinced Tom and Andres to spend their evening break with me checking out this bar and the darts. After hearing who and what I was about, they were as interested to go play as I was.

We walked the three blocks in the early night, nearly falling into one of the tremendously deep curbside gutters that can handle torrential rains, until we reached Ozzy's Sports bar. Inside was still quiet, with just a few patrons sitting at tables or knocking around billiard balls, and a couple bartenders. But, like the entrance to heaven, one well lit niche of the bar had three steel tip boards hanging silently. I examined the dart area like a kid at Christmas-the boards were newish Nodor Supawires, on felt backboards, with regulation oches. Clearly, this was a proper darts set up, and I wondered if perhaps I was wrong-maybe there is a dart scene in San Jose, a rare find in any Latin American city. But, where were the chalkboards? Below each board was a bead board, mounted on the wall, so that beads could slide left and right like an abacus. Behind the beads were labels for standard cricket numbers as well as doubles, triples, and bullseyes. Apparently, this was how people scored their games-an intriguing adaptation I'd never seen before.

Not really knowing how to play using these bead boards-and Tom and Andres weren't either-we suited up my darts and began to play some games for fun. Andres was the first to score a double bullseye and I took a picture of his joy. No other players showed up that night, and after an hour, the three of us trundled back to Galileo for the big Thanksgiving dinner and celebration. As we walked, I wondered, "Could there be a small local league? Perhaps I could meet some players tomorrow." And, I definitely made mental notes to re-visit Ozzy's Sports bar during happy hour tomorrow.

Back at Galileo, the party was just starting. Brian sent out announcements to all of their local friends to come join them and the Galileo guests for a special San Jose version of an American holiday. The turkey had been delicately deep-fried on the patio, and every kind of side dish you'd expect-candied yams, cranberry sauce, rolls, gravy, pumpkin pie-were all splayed out across the Rugged Pineapple bar top. Dozens of guests and friends began pouring in, filling plates and scooping food and scarfing drinks with abandon. I met hikers, bikers, kayakers, backpackers, and travelers from all corners of the globe, all at Galileo to start, finish or continue their individual adventures. It was truly the most unique and global Thanksgiving dinner I'd ever had.

Between the tryptophan, brews, and pineapple booze, the night got blurry fast. Jules and I planned to stay a few nights; we'd check out San Jose's city center tomorrow and continue planning our adventures north into Nicaragua for the weeks ahead. But mostly, I kept wondering about those dartboards at Ozzy's, who I might meet tomorrow, and what wonderful darting discoveries it might lead to.

Over and double out.

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