Wednesday, March 7, 2007

What Do You Do For Four Days in
Chihuahua without a car?

Driving to San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, for our first winter retirement retreat we surely did not contemplate such an extended stay in Chihuahua. Our first overnight in Mexico was scheduled for Chihuahua as we drove through the interior of Mexico. When departing this very large city on Sunday morning our car decided to completely stop running. Knowing Mary Ann’s love for shopping, the car did quit in front of a huge shopping department store that was open early on a Sunday morning.

As Mary Ann can accomplish miracles in a department store, even with language barriers, she recruited a very helpful bilingual security guard. He arranged a call to our Mexican insurance company to provide for a tow truck. When the tow arrived he interpreted our options, which on a Sunday morning were not great. Eventually, we were towed to a mechanic (who just might have been a relative of the tow truck driver) who would work on a Sunday. We arrived at the mechanic’s home/garage in a very dusty neighborhood on the edge of Chihuahua. Oh, lordy! Hector “the mechanic” found a young friend, Alan, “the interpreter”, and they went to work.

The diagnosis was a failed fuel pump. I then rode to the parts store (I have a credit card!) with Hector and Alan in what could only be described as a late 50’s/early 60’s Mexican decorated Ford pickup. We felt fortunate that we found a match for the fuel pump. However when installed the car still did not run. This required that the car be checked on a diagnostic computer (now where would he find that?) which had to wait until Monday. We then returned to our previous hotel to extend our stay and wait for calls from Alan “the interpreter”, for progress or lack thereof. By Monday afternoon the part failure was diagnosed and the search was on for the part. No replacement was found in any of the parts stores, but then they moved on to the wrecking yards. Hope for Tuesday?

As we were waiting for calls we were stuck full time at the hotel, albeit a very nice new Holiday Inn Express (you can check out my review on Another crisis then arose as Mary Ann was running out of books, and her supply remained in the car in the wilds of Chihuahua. She was reduced to reading my books, a whole different genre. One bright spot was having our laptop (yes Mary Ann, it was a good idea to buy and bring a new laptop) and the hotel had free internet. These days I select hotels with free internet and wi-fi. This gave me the options of canceling hotel reservations down the line, communicating with family that we had dropped off the face of the earth, and keeping up with the news (CNN World can be tolerated for only so long) and emails. On the previous Saturday, before the car crisis, we were able to check out the historic center of Chihuahua and enjoyed the locals walking the streets and observed the bike race through downtown.

A call came from Alan. The only part is in Juarez and they need us to send money. Uh Oh! At that point the handsome bilingual desk clerk Fernando (soon to be referred to as “the savior”) took me in tow and we visited parts stores, his mechanic and then the biggest Nissan dealer I have ever seen. We discussed the part, the situation, and Hector (the Mechanic) with the Nissan folks, and the next thing we were doing was traveling with the Nissan car hauler to Hector “The Mechanic’s” house/car garage. My savior negotiated the car ransom and by early evening it was safely at Nissan.

Hurrah, a call from the Nissan Service Department. The car was running. You don’t even want to ask what all of this cost! We were now off to our next night in Zacatecas. What was the bright spot? We met some great people who went out of their way to help us and the car did not break down in the middle of the Sonoran desert between one of our nightly destinations!

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