The Biennial Male Bonding Ritual around the Bulldozer in Costa Rica

This morning, I slept in a bit until nearly 7. Tamara reminded me that the tractor was coming and I needed to meet the driver and neighbors at 7 al punto. So, I hurriedly pulled on some work clothes, grabbed a reheated cup of coffee and shuffled out the door down to the main creeks below the finca. They'd started without me of course.

Bulldozer starting work early morning
Summer Road Refresh Begins
Not that they needed my advice. My main job is to help cut out side brush, move water lines and participate in the social male bonding ritual of standing around watching the tractor operator perform his magic. No problem. It's great work if you can get it, especially on a nice cool summer morning such as we had today.

We go through this exercise about every 2 or 3 years. It works like this:


  • You finally get fed up with navigating all the bumps, lumps and soft spots on your road after a couple of rainy seasons
  • The city didn't come out last summer like they said they would to fix the road
  • You get in contact with the tractor operator and expect him to show up a couple weeks later after he finishes his work in some other area
  • Four weeks later, if you're lucky, he actually shows up because the neighbors in the other area found more jobs for him
  • The delays get increasingly shorter until he finally arrives and the fun begins
Cutting the back road shortcut
Neighbors and their dogs

Eugenio is our tractor operator and has been the last three cycles. Tractor, by the way, is the word they use locally to indicate a bulldozer, in this case a D4 class machine. A tractor (i.e. farm tractor) is called a chapúlin. Anyway, Eugenio is a skilled operator with a very light, precise touch. He makes quick work and I think his rate is 35 mil/hour (about $66/hr).

This year, as we did a few years back, we're having him do a cut of what we call the "back road," which is partly public road, partly private. It has never had any rock on it since we've been here, but shaved down it's a great shortcut for 3 or 4 months during the dry season. It's tricky because parts are narrow and there are exposed water lines. He nicked a line this time unfortunately, which was a situation complicated by having stirred up a bee nest near the shutoff valve.

Bulldozer heading up our driveway
Our driveway
When he reaches the end at our front gate, he backs up our driveway and grades it from top to bottom in about four passes, making a nice rise in the middle and a few desaquas, or water diversion ditches, along the way. It's such a relief to get this done as our driveway has been totally ragged for several months.

After he finished our drive, I  asked him for a light scrape as he headed down the public road from our gate to knock down the high spots. The city has promised (again) to come out this year to work on our road, but you never know. It really needs fresh rock, a real grading and compaction. Then, we're good for several years with maybe another one or two touch-ups with the tractor.

D4 bulldozer starting the grade from top of driveway
Starting the cut from the top of the drive
During the rainy season, when we will receive a minimum of about 140 inches of precipitation, you have to maintain vigilance along the road, watching for drainage problems and refreshing the desaquas every few months. Fortunately, our section of road doesn't get much traffic, so that helps it stay in pretty good shape year 'round.

Every time we do this refresh, I wish we had the funds to put down a layer of crushed rock on top (and in my dreams, concrete), but it's never to be. Meanwhile, we thoroughly enjoy the feeling of driving on a flat surface for the rest of this year.

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