Mexico Road Trip 2005 - Car Trouble
From San Ignacio we decided to make a push to get out to Laguna San Ignacio before nightfall, in order to see the whales the next day. As we were heading out along the terribly washboarded road, and had stopped to air down the tires, Geoff noticed some black fluid sprayed around the inside of the left front wheel well. It seemed to be coming from the shock absorber. Hmmm. Maybe this is something we should have checked out before we make a 50 bumpy mile journey to the middle of nowhere.
At this point, we were fortunately just a few miles from San Ignacio, so we decided to head back into town, camp at an RV park (ugh) and figure what to do in the morning. It was around 6 PM at this point and most businesses were closed for the day. However, we did drop by a gas station to see if anyone knew of a repair shop who might be able to help us. But first we had to look in our People's Guide to Mexico book to find the Spanish word for "shock absorber" (amortiguador). Someone pointed us in the direction of a place called Leon's Garage a mile down the road. We found his driveway quite easily when we sighted the corridor of dead and disassembled cars leading towards his garage. Leon was a very nice guy and was happy to help us figure out the problem. He wasn't convinced the problem was our shock absorber, but he nonetheless tried to find us a replacement from one of the dead trucks on his lot. "¡Casi Nuevo!" he said. We weren't too sure, but perhaps it would work. Fortunately, we never did find out. He wasn't able to find a shock from his yard that fit, so he told us of a car parts store in the town of El Vizcaíno, back up the road half way to Guerrero Negro. It would be open in the morning, he said. Between the two of us, we knew just enough Spanish to figure out perhaps half of what the mechanic told us. But it worked out just fine.
We spent that night at Rice and Beans, which was perfectly sufficient if a bit noisy. This would hopefully be the first and last time we would ever stay at an official RV park. We were pretty tired, so we decided that we might as well eat at their restaurant, take showers, and make use of all the facilities that we could while we were there. We hadn't had showers since Ensenada.
We were very amused by our server at the Rice and Beans restaurant. He loved speaking with us, practicing his English. The food itself wasn't very exciting, but they were willing to serve us margaritas out on the deck, despite a country-wide ban on serving alcohol on election weekend. At some point a cop car happened to cruise by while we were eating dinner, and our server quickly removed our empty margarita glasses and scurried into the back room. After dinner, he was a little more chatty with us saying, "This is the best Mexican food you've ever had. Wait. That was a question, not a statement. Yes?" (No perhaps it wasn't the best Mexican food ever, but we were nice.) He also asked us what the word for cambio was in English. The English word "change" isn't easy to pronounce, we realized!
The next morning, we were well rested and fed, and ready for a new day of adventures searching for a new shock absorber. We drove to the auto parts place in El Vizcaíno that Leon had recommended only to find it closed. It was a Sunday — perhaps it wouldn't be open today? Fortunately, after asking around, trying another auto parts store, and finally coming back to find a crowd gathering out front, the store did open. Everyone inside was fascinated by us gringos, our van, and whether the shock absorber was really our problem. The store was just an auto parts store; the attached repair garage wasn't open. But several employees were out there in the parking lot, and under the car, playing with the steering and brakes and generally confused as to what the problem might be. They too didn't think it was the shock, but couldn't figure what else it might be. We ended up purchasing a shock absorber from them, and were told to go to the mechanic at the end of town and he would help us put it on.
Just up the road was the garage, or really, a man's home with, again, numerous dead cars and semi trucks scattered around his yard. A sign and a rope out in front showed "cerrado" but two men were inside chatting. They were both happy to help us — one was just a friend visiting and the other was the mechanic. They both played with the car, like everyone else had, but quickly determined that the problem was not the shock. They figured it out! The mysterious oil was coming from the front transfer case overflow hose, which was positioned high in the engine compartment to prevent water from being sucked in. As we had been driving on back roads for most of the trip with the front hubs locked, we had forgotten to unlock them for the short period of (2WD) high-speed driving on pavement, and apparently this causes the fluid to splash out. Whew! After chatting for awhile and sharing some beers, we were on our way back to San Ignacio and whale watching.