This is Mike...
It finally happened. After 4.5 months of traveling on the road through 8 Central American countries, we finally got shaken down for money. It happened on a jungle road on the way to Almirante, Panama when we were flagged down to stop at a speed trap. Two official looking cops were there and explained I was speeding but I said I wasn't so he showed me the radar gun which showed the bogus speed. He asked me to step out of the car and took my license to speak with his partner a bit. He came back and said the speeding ticket was $150 and I had to pay there. I opened my wallet and showed him an empty billfold (I had previously given Elise the money). He said I could pay the bill at an office but he would take my license and ship it to one of two cities, each at opposite sides of the country and wasn't sure where it would end up. He indicated that I could go to the bank and come back, again, all the while holding my ID. I finally negotiated the payment down to $100 and asked Elise if she had any money. She did have the cash, we paid the jerks and were on our way.
We had no way out as they had official looking uniforms, vehicle and even a radar gun. You simply could not tell if they were not legit until we were into the throws of the shake down. I have an expired driver's license in the truck just in case and will put that in my wallet so the next time this happens I will give him the "Expired ID" and go the the "Bank" and never come back :)
Oddly enough we actually like Panama a lot so far, despite the BS that occurred today. The wilderness and mountains are amazing and the people are by and large worldly yet laid back.
We made it to Bocas Del Toro island today, leaving our SUV on the mainland in the backyard of somebody who knows someone who has a hook-up. You know how it goes in the Caribbean. No worry be happy. We'll see how that goes. Our ferry taxi took a half hour to get to Bocas island and if by divine intervention dolphins started jumping in the water half way to the island.
Side note - When I stopped the truck to unload the stuff for the island three guys speaking a Spanish Creole all came up to us and started to load our stuff on the taxi boat. Elise was trying to stay on the guys but was overwhelmed trying to keep an eye on the girls. Chase and I were trying to unload in a hurry as the ferry taxi was fully loaded with other paying passengers. I then parked the 4 Runner behind a shack at our "Hook-up" Champoo's friend's house. Yes, that is correct, our hook-up's name is, Champoo! I trusted all of our belongings to a guy named Champoo, who has a friend who has a hook up. I kinda felt like I was in college again, back in the day, breaking all the rules. Elise confided with me while on the boat that she had no idea where our stuff was and said she had an anxiety attack. All the negatives were wiped away though, once we arrived to Bocas. Sweet laid back place, keeping it tranquil baby, keeping it tranquil. We do feel bad for many of the islanders though, as it appears that many of them have glaucoma and need natural therapies.
P.S. Elise is laughing at me for typing all this.