Friday, April 17, 2009

Day 9 - Trouble lies ahead

We could see the light at the end of the tunnel, Belize was within a days drive. We got up and out the earliest we had been on the whole trip. We would be at the Belize border around 1PM leaving us plenty of time to cross over and get out of Mexico.

But the best laid plans of mice and men can change at a moments notice. Thirty miles or so out of Escarcga, the boat Hipolito is pulling, blows a tire. I see smoke coming from the right side tire and called Hipolito on the walkie talkie and told him to pull over. Hipolito had a spare tire for the trailer, but no rim. So, he took my truck to try and find someone who could mount the tire on the existing rim, in the middle of nowhere. When I say a small town, I mean a small town. These are all farming towns and only a few people have cars. The auto shops and part stores are virtually non existent. But luck was with us, and we found someone to change the tire, and we were on our way. Or so I thought. Hipolito got back in his truck, and as he tried to start it, he could hear a problem with the engine. It wouldn’t start for nothing. He’s now under the hood of the truck, tracing out the problem. Not good news, but it was still early, so we kept the faith that it would be a simple problem that he could fix, and we would be back on the road in no time. Wrong.

Hipolito is the head mechanic at the AT&T construction and repair yard, my former employer, so he knows his stuff. And in the middle of nowhere, you need his experience to fix problems that may pop up. And this was one of those times. So switching hats, Hipolito becomes a mechanic once again. And he thought he was on vacation.
After a half an hour, he comes to conclusion that not enough gas is getting to the engine and starts looking at the fuel pumps on both gas tanks as the culprits. The gas here in Mexico is of questionable quality, so fuel filters are a must. But even then, they get dirty fairly quickly. And the fuel pumps are next in line after the fuel filters.
So, Hipolito jumps in my truck and it is off to find a fuel pump for a Ford truck, in the middle of nowhere. I stay behind to watch the stuff that we had to leave behind. It’s hot and humid and time seems to creep by, even though Hipolito is only gone for an hour or so. Of course, the auto parts store, if that is what you can call it, doesn’t have the exact part, but does have a fuel pump of some sort.
It’s under the truck he goes, to install a makeshift fuel pump so we can be on our way. We’ve now been stranded for a couple of hours and our hopes for getting to Belize today are slowly beginning to fade.
Finally Hipolito comes out from under the truck and we pray that this fix works. He slowly pulls away, boat in tow. The first obstacle is a long, gradual uphill. Hipolito guns the engine and away we go…for about a quarter mile. The fuel pump is not getting enough gas to the engine and it struggles under the load of the plywood and the boat. He pulls off to the side of the road and we are stuck again.
We have a few of the local teenagers show up to see what’s going on, and they seem nice enough, but just a little nosey. We decide for the safety of our stuff, that someone should be with the trucks at all times. These are poor areas and we don’t want to leave any temptations.

But time begins to work against us and it now getting later in the afternoon and we are no further along than before. Everyone has left the area around the trucks, and it’s now just me and Hipolito. We decide to see if one of these small towns has a motel or something, but it is very unlikely. As I said, these are SMALL towns of no more than a hundred or so. We both jump in my truck and away we go.

As luck would have it, as we were heading to the local town, a tourist road assistance vehicle came along (imagine that in Mexico) and offered whatever help he could. Of course, he didn’t have a spare Ford fuel pump, but he offered to push/pull Hipolito back to Escarcga, 30 miles away, and knew of a mechanic who could correct the problem. By the time we got back to the truck, not even ten minutes later, there were already people hanging around the truck and boat.
We took the offer of assistance, and my truck hauled the boat back to the nearest town where we found a family willing to watch the boat for us while we went back to town for repairs.

At first, the roadside assistance wanted to push the truck back to town, but after bending the tailgate, we decided it would be better to pull it, rather than push it. So I grabbed some rope, tied it to the truck and away we went. Once in town, he pulled us to the mechanic, who happened to once live in San Jose, California. Hipolito was satisfied that he was a qualified mechanic and had all the proper tools to diagnosis the problem. His mechanics would work until 10PM trying to correct the problem and would start again at 8 AM if they could not fix it that night. It was now almost 9PM, so we left the truck and went out to find a room for the night.

We took the suggestion of the roadside assistance gentleman and stayed in a nice place in the heart of town and only a short distance from the mechanics’ garage. Only bad thing was no air conditioning and the bathroom had no screen on the window. Bad for us, great for the mosquitoes. We struggled to sleep with the sheets on, but it was so warm we had no choice but to sleep with the covers off. Not good. The mosquitoes had their feast of Chinese and Belizean food (Hipolito and I) and we woke up with bites all over the place.
But it had internet access (I stole an unsecured connection because it was faster), so I was happy I could update the blog and check e-mails. Tomorrow was another day, and hopefully the truck would be ready to go early, so we could be at the Belize border by 1PM.

1 comment:

oldretiredguy said...

Where are "Manny, Moe and Jack" when you need them.