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Saturday, March 7, 2015

Los Cuatro Mecanicos?

Fili and his wife, our favorites!
After dealing with the heart ache that struck the four of us in an immigration office in La Paz, the diligent research, and the swift decision to drive back to the border to acquire our proper tourist papers, it wasn’t but 250km down the road when we were already beginning to experience our next obstacle. As the car lurched back and forth, grasping acceleration and losing it, the expression developing on Brian’s face was one of utter dismay. Initially we thought it was strong winds that were causing such feeling in the cars performance and quickly assured Brian he simply needed to give it more gas. It was only another 50km when reality fully struck us that we were facing a much larger issue….

After spending an hour with a mechanic who had a huge heart and spoke great English, just south of Laredo, we gave him a $20 bucks and walked away with 30 beers and a new spark plug hose that had a hole burnt through it. Yes, we paid him twenty bucks and somehow walked away with 30 beers and work having been done on our car. He explained to us how the beer was for a party that nobody showed up to and he no longer drank, so he kindly gave them to us for free. Not a bad deal, if I don’t say so myself!

Hanging out at Fili's
Somehow we were able to make it back to the U.S. in a mere 36hrs, due in large to the driving champion of the night Mr. James Teeter, who took the hard shift from 1-5:30am. After crossing back into the United States, which was easier than getting into Mexico (go figure) we were off to Arizona to meet up with some much beloved Grandparents . We were able to stop by Josh’s Grandparents house in Yuma, Arizona for some much needed showers, date milkshakes, and a tour of the local college’s solar project. After some quality time being shown around and recouping from the all night driving session, we were off again with the next destination, Elliott’s Grandparents house in Coolidge, Arizona.  
Grandpa Courtney and Joan with the Beast
 After driving all night the night before, and most of the morning without a hiccup in the cars performance we all thought that the experience the day before might have been a fluke. It wasn’t until the heat of the day, driving along 80mph interstate 10, that the car finally croaked. As we sat, with cars buzzing by us at astounding speeds, we decided to pick up the phone and give our brainiac mechanic, Jason, a call. After explaining the different symptoms we were having he came up with 3 different possibilities.

Letting the car sit for 20ish minutes to cool down, we were off again with only 150 miles to go until we reached Mr. and Mrs. Fick’s house. With multiple delays of stopping and letting the car cool down, what would have been an easy two hour drive, quickly turned into a four hour drive. As we rolled up to the Grandparent’s house much later than expected, the power steering hose abruptly start shooting fluid all over the street. Exhausted as we all were, this was the straw that broke the camel’s back. Thankfully a plate of hearty Midwestern style dinner, of pork chops, bake potato and corn, were we beginning to see any kind of positive end to the rough past few days. It was time for a FULL night’s rest, with stuffed bellies to boot.

With Grandpa and Grandma Fick
The whole next day was spent with changing the fuel filter, (the cheap and easy idea Jason gave us) identifying, and changing the power steering hose that had caused an oil slick in the Grandparent’s driveway. It took the whole day futzing with the nut at the end of the hose, because it happened to be the most rare and illusive size in the mechanic world, the 16mm. We were definitely the talk of town in the little community of Ho-Ho Kam, as everyone kept coming up to us seeing what we were doing. At one point we had five old men gathered around watching as we worked, each pitching their 65-80 year old two cents. Out of all the gummers coming up and giving their opinion, there was one in particular who knew actually something about cars and was happy to lead us along as we wrench on the car. A constant purr of golf carts, and scooters, with oxygen tanks rolling behind them was the majority of the activity we saw during the day while working on the car. A big shout out to Elliott’s Grandparents! They fed, housed us, and even did our laundry over a couple of days which is tall task for anybody. After much persistence and help, we were off again with two gallons of freshly squeezed orange and grapefruit juice thanks to James and Grandpa Fick. A quick stop at a mechanic to get a tail light fixed, which cost us nothing beside the fin off the top of our surf board (the mechanic got a little excited and drove our car under a low lying over-hang and ripped the fin off of one of our boards) and we were on the road.

As much as we had hoped, it turned out changing the fuel filter did not fix our problem of the car stalling out when it would get hot. Even though the car was not fully fixed, we were all determined to make it back to Mexico as fast as possible.

As we were on the cusp of leaving Arizona we once again found ourselves hanging out on a road just off the interstate. Just as we opened up the hood to inspect the motor, the most unique individual appeared from the bushes. He quickly walked over to us and introduced himself as Scott, and exclaimed “Bitchin motor!” We explained our troubles to him and he welcomed us up to his house to change what he thought was the issue, the thermostat. As we rolled up to his house, the four of us couldn’t stop laughing about Scott’s crazy eccentric ways and constant use of the word “bitchin”. We arrived at his place to find what was once a nice little house in the high Arizona desert, but through years of neglect and not cutting the buffalo grass (that he mentioned several times he refused to cut) it looked more like a crumbling old cinder block compound. Come to find out, he had been living there without electricity for the last year, had no running water, and hadn’t eaten in over a week. It would be an understatement to say Scott had fallen on some hard times. Even with that, he opened up his doors to help us solve our car troubles. We fixed the thermostat and made a massive pot of spicy sausage spaghetti, fed Scott and listened to his imaginative stories.  We had originally planned to spend the night there but the stories Scott was telling us kept getting more and more, wild. They included  him taking a bullet to the jaw, someone being shot to death on his property, his time in prison, and how he had met us before along the same interstate a couple years ago, it was then that we decided it had best to thank him for his service and hit the road.

Looking at our BITCHIN' motor

Getting our hands dirty
Though valiant in his effort to help us, fixing the thermostat was not the solution to our problem. At this point we were all tired and wanted to just get back to Mexico. So we babied the car, and through tons of patience and late nights sleeping next to the interstate, we made it back into Mexico in only two days. We crossed back in, in Laredo, Texas. We spent several hours at the border checking and re-checking to make sure we had all of the necessary paperwork to spend the next few weeks in Mexico. To say we had learned our lesson about not getting the proper tourist paperwork would be an understatement. Exhausting as the last few days had been, we were finally back in the wonderful country of Mexico. In a stop and go fashion, we made it all the way to Monterrey, Mexico before we decided we better look into the other options that Jason had given us to try and fix.

Playing football on top of the dump
Powerline party zone
The lines literally electrified our car! Watch THIS! 

After sleeping in a dump and under some high voltage power lines that electrified our car (not the best camp spot choice), we decided to head into Monterrey to look for an auto store.  While sitting in an Autozone, a store that we had all come to be too familiar with,  looking for new injectors did we stumble into a mechanic. He told us to take our car over to his shop and he would help us. $150 dollars and a whole day spent later, we had a new fuel pump. We were all skeptical of his proposed solution as I had just installed a new fuel pump before we had left Oregon. Alas, we thanked him for his service and moved on.
Massive Monterrey

Huge mountains in Monterrey
Just south of Monterrey, a massive city of 5 million citizens, we were once again stalled out behind a little diner and a barn where coffee was ground and roasted. Even though we were once again stuck in an unusual spot, the beauty there was absolutely stunning.  There was limestone faced mountains jetting straight up to several thousand feet, dense green grass and a wide array of colors and smells coming from the vast amount of plants in bloom. The gentleman that worked at the coffee roasting barn knew had a friend that was a mechanic in town that we could take our car to and see if we couldn’t get a new ignition coil. $10 bucks later we had a new ignition coil off of a car that was sitting by the mechanics shop and away we went.

Cruising down the highway 40ish miles south of Monterrey, the jerking and loss of power were once again upon us. Quickly pulling off the road, Brian and I played hot potato with all of the injectors to see if one was faulty. Basically when the car is acting up, by pulling out the injectors one at a time and replacing them so only one is out, if the car sounds better then you know which is the faulty injector. Even though we came to the conclusion that all of the injectors were fine, we still wanted to use a voltimeter to test the ohms of each of the injectors just to be sure. For this task we headed to our trusty auto parts store, AutoZone.

At AutoZone in Linares we met the best store manager any of us had ever met. With slicked back hair and a bigger build, Pedro was just the man for our problems. We told him our car symptoms and what we had suspected the issues could be. He believed we were on target and began to draw us a diagram. We went down the different levels of the diagram until we came upon a question mark with the distributor. Out to the car we went and a began tearing into the distributor to locate the ignition module. As we were working away in the parking lot of AutoZone, we began to realize we didn’t quite have the tools for the job. Good thing we were in Mexico with a great guy like Pedro looking out for us. He quickly assured us that we could take pretty much any tool we needed off the shelf and use it, and when we were finished with it to just “return” it. With sweat pouring out of us, lots of cussing, a couple of nicks in our hands we finally got the ignition module and coil out of the distributor. The ignition module checked out good, but the coil was corroded and needed replacing. We did good in taking the distributor and such apart, but it took knowledge beyond any of ours to put it back together and get the cars timing back. This is important as the distributor sends the spark for all of the spark plugs and with the timing off it can cause the gearing to begin to erode. Once again Pedro had our back and got on the phone with one of his friends, Mario, to come and finish the job for us.

Hmm, past our expertise
Mario spent several hours trying to pry out a brittle old pin that had froze into the main drive shaft coming down from the distributor. As Mario beat the living shit out of the shaft with every kind of hammer he could find, multiple times did both James and I look at each other and smile, both joking that we hoped our car would ever start again. Once out, he quickly assembled it back into place and aligned the timing for us. With cheers from us, friends and his father we negotiated a price and called it a day. The real saint of the day though, had been Pedro. Our last dilemma was where in the world were we going stay seeing how it was 7:30 at night. Our concern was erased when Pedro said we could sleep behind AutoZone and that not only would it be quiet but also SAFE. With the sudden relief, out came the pigskin and we were having ourselves a great game of catch in the massive parking lot, singing Pedro praise.  We would soon be traveling thousands of miles without another car issue…

With all of the struggle and hardship we faced in dealing with forgotten tourist papers and a multitude of car issues, it all made us stronger people and helped us came across individuals with massive hearts that we are all very thankful for

   Josh Courtney

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