© 1998-2012 EarthRoamer

Making Repairs

I stop by the campground in Ciuadad Constitucion where I stayed on my way south to ask the English speaking Austrian woman who runs the camp for a garage recommendation. She isn't home, but her husband recommends a shop next door to the campground and I drive over. The maestro (head mechanic) looks at my broken mounts and attempts to explain something to me in Spanish. After a few minutes, he finds a Mexican guy who speaks English to translate, and he tells me that he cannot fix the mounts, but he will send for a mechanic who can!

After waiting for a half hour or so, I decided that in order to make the repairs, my front toolboxes will have to be removed to access the broken mounts. Rather than sit around wasting time, I begin emptying the toolboxes so I can access the bolts and remove the boxes. After I have the boxes emptied, a kid who looks to be about 16 years old shows up. He hops in the passenger seat, and I follow his directions to his dad's repair shop. After making many turns through the dusty back streets, we arrive at his dad's shop. The shop is little more than a junkyard and doesn't even meet my already low expectations. It may not be pretty, but it will have to do. This shop had everything. Notice the propane tank filled with acetylene being used for cutting torches; and how about that custom spring compressor? This is where I spent a day and half getting the mounts repaired. No, this was not a five star dealer!

I couldn't imagine that they will be able to repair my mounts, but at this point my options are very limited. I get out all of my tools, and together we all begin to work. With the toolboxes removed, I try to explain to them that I don't want them to weld to the frame. Luckily, Carlos, a friend of theirs stops by. He had been raised in El Paso Texas and speaks excellent English. After politely declining his offer to sell me oceanfront property in San Carlo, he begins translating for me. The father agrees that we should not weld to the frame. He explains that he will cut off the old mounts, and then shows me a section of old truck frame that he will use to fabricate "new" mounts. He will then bolt the "new" mounts to my frame. It sounds like a reasonable plan to me, probably because it's the only plan I have.

The first task is to remove the old mounts. After siphoning gas from one car and transferring it to another car, the youngest son drives off. About twenty minutes later, he returns with a cut-off saw that looks like new and begins cutting off the old mounts. With sparks flying, and his face inches from the cutting stone, I can't believe he isn't wearing any safety glasses. I feel a little stupid when I realize that he isn't wearing any safety glasses because he doesn't have any safety glasses. I give him a pair of mine to wear.

While the youngest son starts to fabricate "new" mounts, Carlos drives me to the bolt shop to buy the bolts we will use to attach the mounts to the frame. I am concerned that they will only have low quality bolts, and the bolts will shear off. To my surprise, the bolt shop has bolts in boxes marked "Grado 8." Perfect, grade 8 bolts are exactly what I need! With the father, two sons and me working, and using the tools I brought with me along with their meager tools, we manage to get two mounts fabricated and almost completely installed by sunset. They are prepared to work until the job is finished, but I insist we finish the job mañana, no need to rush at this point.

The youngest son drives me out for dinner, where with the help of my guidebook, we carry on a strained conversation. He looks up the Spanish phrases and tries to say them in English, while I in turn butcher the Spanish pronunciations. He manages to tell me that he has three brothers and two sisters, all of who live in Baja. The conversation makes me think of friends and family back home. We return to his home and I retire to my camper, instantly falling asleep.

The next morning, the father comes out of the house singing and in a jovial mood. Within a couple of hours, we have finished installing the mounts, reinstalling the toolboxes and cleaning up our tools. They have also welded my broken spare tire carrier. Before they had started the work, I had tried to ask them how much the repairs would cost but they never gave me an answer that I understood. I have no idea what they will charge me for their work. In my Lonely Planet guidebook, it mentions that the average salary for a Mexican factory worker is about $8 U.S. per day, so I don't expect them to charge me too much.

The time has come to pay, so I ask the father ¿Cuánto? Yesterday, when we were trying to line up the camper, they had used the word "poquito" when we needed to move the camper a very small amount. Half jokingly and with a great deal of exaggeration, I smile at the father and say ¡poquito dinero! He seems to think this is pretty funny. He calmly picks up a stick and begins to "write my bill." In the dirt, he slowly writes the number 1 followed by a zero, another zero, then another zero and then a fourth zero. Four zeros? 10,000 pesos? That's a thousand U.S. dollars! I don't have $1,000 dollars. He looks at me very seriously and then begins laughing as he crosses out the last zero. Just what I need, a Mexican wise guy! 1,000 pesos is about $100 U.S. Relieved, I pay my bill, give the father and each of his sons a 200 peso tip, and let each of them pick out a photograph that I had brought along for gifts. I've never been so happy to be back on the road in my life.

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