Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Tubo de Escape and Other Capers

The last post was titled, “One Thing After Another,” where I outlined several events that seemed to pile on one another in a single, eventful day. Now, let me add on to that. After bringing our now mostly dry clothing and laying them about the van to complete drying, we set out on the return trip from Semuc Champey to civilization. With Jonathan’s impressive driving knowledge and skills, we made it safely back to paved roads. However, when we stopped at the beginning of the pavement to air up the tires, Jonathan discovered that at some point in the last 24 hours, we had hit something (whether a mega-tope [or túmulo as they are called in Guatemala] or just a large rock in the road) that discombobulated the entire exhaust system. Jonathan can give you a better description, but basically, it was in such a condition that he was almost uncomfortable driving to the next major town.

DSC03830 Those two L-brackets there are supposed to parallel to the ground.

We had been unsure of our next destination after departing Semuc Champey, but this incident cemented it for us. We were going to go to Guatemala City, as we probably needed a shop with exhaust-design experience plus a tire shop with a large variety of tires that weren’t exposed to the sun all the time. So we navigated the paved roads (hallelujah!) to Guatemala City. Interestingly enough, they apparently had issues with erosion here. At certain points, they would have signs saying “PRECAUCIÓN HUNDIMIENTO,” which means “CAUTION SINKHOLE.” And then varying amounts of the road would have sunk down and worn away. These had happened long enough ago that they had time to put up permanent signs, speed bumps, and occasionally a dirt road bypass when the road had been completely worn away. They apparently have difficulty for one reason or another in getting the heavy equipment and workers in to fix the underlying issue.


DSC03834One of the milder ones. On the more severe, they had police there to direct traffic on the one remaining lane.

DSC03832 This is one where the entire part of the original road had dropped off and they had built a dirt-road bypass for it.

Guatemala City was intense with its traffic and the number of miles it took to get through it, but it could have been worse. We had at least in 2-3 lanes on each side of the divider. There were also lots of ridiculous, pimped-out old school buses.


We finally made it all the way to the other side of the city to scope out our campground options. The first place, Turicentro La Red, looked like it was closed for the day and we didn’t see anyone around to let us in. The second option, Turicentro Automariscos, also looked like it had closed for the day. But as we sat there thinking about what to do next, a man walking through the parking lot spotted us and came to talk to us. I told him we were looking for a place to camp and he said we could, we just needed to go to the other entrance farther up the road. They soon had us set up and we were settled in just before dark.

The next morning, Jonathan went to work examining the exhaust jumble in detail. Besides the crumpled exhaust, it had nearly broken off the oil fill/dipstick tube. However, he was able to pull, pry, and bend things roughly into place and replace the torn isolator mounts. He thinks we have something that will last a bit longer, so we didn’t have to figure out how to get a new exhaust designed and installed in Central America.

DSC03836 The exhaust rubber isolator/mount had broken off.

DSC03838 Jonathan sawed through the L-brackets and repositioned them to hold up the exhaust in its new lifted position. (Apparently Central America provides ground clearance upgrades, Gratis)

After that, we still needed to obtain a replacement tire so that we had a spare. So, we packed up our gear and asked the staff if there was a good tire shop nearby. They had a couple of suggestions, and put the only one our GPS could find into the route. On the way, we found a tire shop, called Llanresa, that they had suggested. It was right on the road and looked pretty professional (we had seen so-called tire shops along the road where the mechanic was prying the tires with pry bars, etc.). So we went there. We managed to communicate to the staff what we wanted done, during which time I learned a few more terms, including spare tire, rim and plies. We actually got to hang out with the mechanic who put on our new tires. It was quite the experience for me as I had never seen the process for putting tires on rims.

If you are a "legit" tire shop in México or Central America, it is a requirement that you have a tire labeled with tire shop  on it. Interestingly, the word for tire shop changes. In northern México, it is llantera. In southern México, it is vulcanizadora. Then in Guatemala it was pinchazo.

DSC03841Chuck gets a lift. 

DSC03843Mounting new tires.  

Afterwards, we tried to go to watch Iron Man 3, but the audio was only in español, so we didn’t go. I personally am not opposed to watching movies in different languages, but Jonathan wouldn’t understand the language at all and the whole point of the Iron Man series is the witty dialogue Tony Stark has (at least for me) and that doesn’t translate well.

Spanish words of the Day:
Rim: aro
Spare tire: rueda de repuestos

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