We headed a bit out of our way and up to the sugar cane fields of San Miguel de Tucuman. We really had no intention of coming this way, but wanted to check a few projects off the bus list.
One the way into town, we couldn’t help but notice the largest retailer in the world has a presence here. Again, haven’t seen one of these since Mexico. The farther south we drive, the more it feels like we’re getting closer to the U.S. instead of farther away.
We pulled in and had a look around. 9 bucks for a quart of oil. 10 bucks for a can of air (to clean the camera sensor.) You gotta do what you gotta do.
Since they had a garage, I went over to talk to the guys and see if they knew where to get some bus parts. They were pretty bored (zero customers) and were eager to help. I learned a new word – rulemanes – by explaining that I was looking for “little balls for the wheels.” They knew what I meant.
They wanted to take a look for themselves and before we knew it, the bus was up on a lift at Wal-Mart in Argentina and we had a crowd. It turned out that one of the guys saw us on the road to Tilcara and also saw us camping there. He said he waved to us on the road and I actually remember him. He also said that he saw us in a magazine, but neither one of us could figure out where it could have been. Weird.
Anyway, after an hour of having 5 guys poke at the bus, they finally agreed that we did need new bearings. At least there was consensus. The problem was, nobody knew where to find them. They were busy doing internet searches on their phones, but then ultimately told us to go to the local VW dealer.
As crazy as it sounds, I went to the VW dealer. Of course, they thought I was an idiot bringing my 40 year-old German combi to their dealership, but they did recommend a parts dealer across town. Okay, I’m an idiot.
“El Rey” on the corner of Las Piedras and Alem is the place. Luis, the owner, was super friendly and promised to help with anything we needed while we were in town. Of course, he didn’t have the bearings either, but had a guy deliver them on motorcycle within 15 minutes. He also set us up with a mechanic to install them the next morning. We went to find a cheap place to sleep and realized we would be staying in a neighborhood surrounded by rodamientos shops. Another new word for the day. Ironic.
They next morning, I went to meet Hugo. Also, an incredibly nice guy. His guys went to work as we sipped mate and tried to chat for a few hours. The new bearings went in without issue and he promised to help me with the next thing on our list. He hopped in the bus and we drove across town to the D’Mayo brother’s shop. We had a leaking brake servo and these guys knew brake servos. But, it was lunch time. Everything shuts down for 4 hours. We said goodbye to Hugo and he tells me that if I need anything while in town, just call him.
The four hour lunch break is a two sided coin. You can’t get anything done in the middle of the day. On the other hand, you can’t get anything done in the middle of the day. It’s time to go sit at a cafe like everyone else.
The funny thing is that even dinky little convenience stores are set up like cafes. Go buy your soda and if you want to drink it there, they give you an actual glass. How civilized. They even have tables and chairs on the sidewalk. You could sit and watch the world go by, except that there’s nothing happening… you just watch the people at the cafe across the street.
Anyway, 4 hours later I went back to see the D’Mayo brothers and they went to work. They told me that there are probably only 2 or 3 other air-cooled VW’s in town, so finding the right parts to fix the servo could be a problem. While they were under the car, they also discovered that I’ve broken another shock – it’s what I do – I kill shocks. So, I left to walk around town and tried to locate another shock. No luck.
When I returned, one brother rode off on his bike to find a new boot for the servo – the old one was ripped. The other brother started telling me of his love for Kenny Rogers and old Star Trek episodes. And, he says he’s related to Joe DiMaggio. The family changed some letters in the name to D’Mayo when they moved to Argentina. Makes sense to me.
When the new boot arrived, it didn’t fit, so he rode off to go look for another. I walked off with the shock and went looking for a welder. I found a muffler shop, and since they had every size of pipe and tube imaginable, they could fabricate a new end for the shock – all for free.
By 10pm or so, the bus was back on the street and ready to go.
Now, it doesn’t stall when I hit the brakes… and we’ve got some real brakes now. Head-jerkers. And, there’s no more knocking and grinding bearings from the back wheel.
It was a long day, but mission(s) accomplished. Now, there’s just one item more on the list – and it’s a big one.