Posts Tagged Mendoza

and we’re out of here…

Posted on September 19, 2011 by 5 Comments

With the motor repaired and the new muffler, we set out for a longer test drive. We bid farewell to Beto, Kuky and the pups and headed south. First though, we had to stop for some groceries, and when we returned we found this note on our car.

Hugo started his road trip from Barranquilla, Colombia a while back and had been following our progress on the blog as he slowly caught up. He had sent us a few emails and we knew he was getting close, but not this close! Apparently, he recognized the bus ;)

Our plan for the day was to just drive around. We drove through lots of wine country just put some miles on the motor and then headed back towards Maipu. There, we found a campsite and started to set up.

While Jason was in the shower, the tent campers down the site from us arrived in their car. I went out to wash a glass and said ‘hola‘. They approached and we spoke in English for about 5 minutes before I realized it was Hugo! Completely embarrassed, we ended up laughing about it (or at least Jason and I did!) Seems like we were destined to meet one way or another.

They were totally cool and we hung out with them until late in the night, with Jason trying to convince them that they should head to Ushuia instead of turning around for their flight back to the UK three weeks from now.

The whole experience was a little strange, actually. Since they’ve been reading the blog, they seemed to know everything about us. It was a little spooky – if we started to tell a story, they already knew how it ended.

We also nearly killed what will likely be Jason’s final giant jug of wine. Some things just aren’t meant to be.

 

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Rodeo Drive

Posted on September 17, 2011 by 7 Comments

Some people worry that our road-schooled child will become an introvert and socially inept. I think we may need to worry about the opposite. He needs to talk to everyone, and given the opportunity, will jump on a stage and dance with Argentine folkloric dancers.

We had the motor in, but we were still waiting for the muffler to be finished. So, for a test run, Beto took us to the rodeo.  Our old muffler was in such bad shape that the ride without it didn’t seem much louder.

I’m from Texas, and pretty familiar with the stereotypical cowboy. My friend Bill and I even worked at a beer promo booth at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo one year, and boy do we have stories. But this was a whole different type of affair. First, the clothes. Not a single western cowboy hat, but a quite a variety of sombreros. Snappy berets, even. And these guys dressed sharp – no jeans.

The tie-the-animal-to-a-pole method of getting on before the wild ride starts is in use here too – exactly what we saw in Nicaragua. And, there was no nut-crunching on the animals – they were wild and blindfolded for the bronco bucking and bull riding events.

We crammed into the stands with thousands of families with their mate kits and picnic baskets. Afterwards, it was time for some food. Beto ordered us up a giant parrilla, which is a basically a big meat-fest and some wine. Everyone had a bottle of wine at their table – no beer at this rodeo.

We sat right next to the entertainment stage, which is where Bode decided that perhaps folk dancing was his best bet to get some admiration (we wouldn’t let him ride a bull.) The crowd ooh-ed and ahh-ed at his eagerness to join and the cuteness-factor was off the charts. He was even interviewed for the local news.

This was a completely Argentinean affair which we would never have encountered without our friend, Beto. I absolutely love days like this.

 

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Honey, I’m home!

Posted on September 11, 2011 by 3 Comments

I used to jokingly say that the key to a successful marriage is getting up and leaving every morning.  Despite spending just about every waking moment together for the past 2 years, I actually still kinda believe it. It’s hard to miss someone (or be missed) if you never leave.

Over the past few days, we’ve been staying at a hotel in El Centro in order to see some sights while we wait on the machine shop. Today, the engine was ready to be picked up and I spent the day starting the assembly. Angela and Bode toured downtown, while I went to Beto’s place to work.

When I returned, just as I was opening the door I could hear Bode yell ‘Dad!’ and then he ran over and gave me a big bear-hug and told me how much he missed me. Angela was right behind him with another hug and kiss. I don’t miss much about our old life, but I miss that.

 

 

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Spring Has Sprung

Posted on September 9, 2011 by 1 Comment

The flowers are blooming, the buds are popping off of every tree branch and the birds are singing.

What’s wrong with this picture? It’s September.

For some of us, this also means allergy season. Mendoza is one of those places ideally situated in a valley where the climate is perfect for growing everything. Combine this with La Zonda, a high wind that kicks up in the afternoon and stirs up allergens, and we’ve got some sneezing and congested travelers.

All we have to do is fix the bus, cross the Andes – again – and get to the Chilean coast to find some clear air.

In the meantime, Bode and I hit up the local zoo, listed as the best zoo in South America (we might disagree – the one in Cali is pretty good).  The zoo is located in the massive and beautiful Parque General San Martin, which is roughly the size of the city center. On a map, it isn’t that far, but once we got to the park itself, it still took us over an hour to walk to the zoo on the far end. That doesn’t include stops at a playground and the velodrome to watch the cyclists drafting a motorcycle. Bode wants to bring his bike next time.

The zoo grounds are pretty spectacular, too. There are 3 km of walking trails up and around a hill that overlooks the city. The only problem was the animals. First off, there were tigers in very small cages looking very agitated and pacing back and forth. There were 3 steps so kids could walk right up and stick their little hands right next to him.

A little later we took a turn and found some small baboons that had escaped their cage. We’ve seen lots of monkeys in the wild, but monkeys that have escaped confinement tend to scare me a little.

When we go to places like this, Bode tends to befriend whatever kid is near and walk with them to each exhibit. This time, he befriended a family of 4 kids.

At one point, we were a little ahead of the family. We stopped for a snack near the gorillas, where we noticed the dad of the family giving one of them a soda. The gorilla finished it off and handed the empty bottle back. The dad filled it up again and gave it to another gorilla. Then the kids gave another a Popsicle. Now, all the gorillas forced their hands out of the cage wanting a treat. A school group came up and some of the teachers were lifting the little ones to feed the gorillas. Crazy.

The elephant was separated from humans by a large trench. Someone threw a hot dog bun over to him and he ate it. A little kid tried to do the same thing, but didn’t make it over the trench. We spent the next 5 minutes watching the elephant try to reach the bread. I don’t know a lot about their physical prowess, though for some reason I’ve read a lot of books featuring elephants lately. Apparently, they are much more agile than they appear, but Bode and I were terrified he was going to lose his footing and fall into the trench. Eventually, he gave up…but looked pissed.

Later, more monkeys on the loose, but this time they’d broken into the peacock’s cage and were eating his food. The weirdest part, though is that some of these animals had acres and acres of space, while the lions and tigers were couped up in small cages within reach of little hands.

I’m a big fan of zoos. We were members of the Oakland zoo and used to go all the time. I can’t imagine animals breaking out of their cages in the U.S. without it making national news. In fact, today I told Bode about the tiger that escaped at the SF Zoo a few years ago (that kept him a safe distance from the cage).

I’m sure these city kids enjoyed seeing the llamas, alpacas and goats but we’ve seen these things nearly every day for the last 6 months. We’ve camped with most of them or seen them in the wild.  Hell, a monkey even stole Bode’s grapefruit in the jungle one time.  I hope we’re not spoiled on zoos forever.

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The Full Mate

Posted on September 7, 2011 by 6 Comments

It took a while, but we’ve pretty much been converted over to the 4 hour lunch break. That one was actually pretty easy. The Argentinians might actually have the French beat on quality of life.

Sipping yerba mate was a little less natural. But, we’ve given in to that one too. Aside from futbol, mate has to be the national obsession. Some people literally can’t go anywhere without their mate kit – a full thermos of hot water, their personalized mate cup (usually a gourd, wood, animal horn or other organic material), a steel filtered straw (with extra filter) and lots and lots of mate leaves and azucar. There’s even a special bag for packing it all. If you run out of hot water, there are even special agua caliente machines all over town.

You can’t buy bad wine. Actually, you can if you know where to not look… but otherwise, you just can’t do it. Every restaurant has wine on the menu and a bottle is usually 6 bucks or less. Sure, a sandwich costs $10 USD, but where in the U.S. can you buy a decent bottle of wine at restaurant for 6 bucks?

What else? Well, we won’t buy the ground beef called Barfy. Angela won’t try the perfume called Maggot, but I’ll keep encouraging her. In general, the napkins in this country are completely useless – try wiping your mouth with wax paper – we just don’t get it.

There is some kind of secret code for making purchases. If something costs 18 pesos, you can pay with a 20. If it costs 17 pesos, you better give them 22 or you’ll get a scowl.

There’s lots of cheek-kissing, so that’s cool. We still don’t fully understand the etiquette, but Angela doesn’t seem to mind too much.

And the keys. The medieval keys are just… ridiculous. Sorry guys, but try again on the key thing.

When you’re through changing, you’re through.
– Bruce Barton

 

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La Cueva del Volkswagen

Posted on September 4, 2011 by 7 Comments

Thanks to everyone who has emailed, commented or offered help regarding our recent engine woes. We’re waiting on the machine shop and thinking hard about improvements we can make the next time around – the list keeps growing.

Lot’s of the suggestions had to do with cooling, and I would have to say that the engine never ran hot  – even in the jungles, deserts or climbing the Andes (and we’ve been cross-crossing the Andes for almost a year.) Still, we’ll take the expected care when putting everything back together to ensure proper cooling.

The most reasonable consensus is that we’re getting dirt in the motor. The air filters aren’t that great and the extra scoops are sucking in extra dust. I have to agree with both of those. What to do about it is a little difficult, though.

I always hated the scoops – I kept them thinking that the extra cooling wouldn’t hurt. Well, the cooling didn’t hurt, but maybe the extra filth did.

At the time, I had borrowed a MIG from a friend of a neighbor (thanks, Doug!) for the weekend and had done about all the welding I could stand. There was an A/C cut into the roof, an extra gas tank on the driver’s side, all sorts of holes and things to patch up… and I’m no welder. It was a long weekend – I dug up some more photos to remind myself why I didn’t just weld over the scoop holes (last 6 pics below). Anyway, now that it’s a bit too late for that, I think I might just cut up some sheet metal and screw on some flat panels to cover them up. We’ll see how much cleaner the engine compartment and carb filters get.

I’ll also look around for some oil bath filters and might try to rig something up there as well. Can’t hurt.  But, this might have to wait for Chile or Brazil. Contrary to popular belief (mine, anyway) finding VeeDub parts in Argentina is extremely difficult. We’re now being told that there are no new bearings in town – kinda critical.

I hear it gets easier to find parts in B.A. (i.e. closer to Brazil) but in the rest of the country, they are pretty rare. Nobody imports ACVW’s because of the extremely high import duties levied to try to ‘encourage’ residents to buy new cars manufactured in the country (like Citroen & Fiat!) I hear there is a $5000 USD ‘tax’ to permanently import an outside vehicle. Likewise, the VW parts that are available are extremely expensive – so we’re getting nothing new and re-machining it all. Hopefully it will be good quality work and will last (at least until Brazil).

Until the machined parts are ready and we find bearings, all I we can do is wait. We’re checking out the parks and museums, and continuing to clean things up…

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Engine Out!

Posted on September 2, 2011 by 7 Comments

Beto and his wife Kuki welcomed us with open arms, fed us, and let us pop the top in their driveway until we could figure out what to do next.

The next morning, after rearranging several VW’s, we pulled the bus into the shop and dropped the engine. After a few hours, everything was apart and we even split the case – too much play in the crank. The front main bearing (thrust bearing?) was a little wobbly, so this means we will have to line-bore the case.

The increasing oil consumption and low compression also meant that we would re-do the heads and piston/cylinders too. We knew we would do at least this from the beginning. Overall, a pretty major overhaul, considering it’s our house and we’re stuck until it’s all completed.

In all, we got somewhere around 30K miles on the new engine we bought in Portland. Sure, we ventured to some pretty extreme locations, but the engine didn’t have any idea where we were. We changed the oil continuously, adjusted the valves and tuned it up religiously. The bearings wore out after 30K because… ?

If we were in the U.S. and lived in an actual permanent home, this wouldn’t be such a big deal. Transport yourself thousands of miles from home, where you don’t really speak the language, don’t know anyone, don’t know how or where to get things done, and are sleeping the vehicle you are about to remove the engine from… and well, it’s a slightly bigger deal.

Anyway, the really cool thing is that we’ve got help. We had never met Beto and only corresponded by email a day prior. He doesn’t know us from Adam. Now, we’re sleeping in his driveway (they offered a bedroom,) we’re sharing dinner, vino and mate, Bode is best friends with the dogs (Tobi and Gala circle the bus at night waiting for him to come out and play). And, we’re communicating (often poorly) solely in Spanish.

Every so often I venture outside of my normal thought process and wonder, “How the Hell did I get here?” Not literally – I know the answer to that one – but in the bigger scheme of life, you have to appreciate all the random or unplanned events that shape your future. Often, your entire life. Somewhere in here was one of those moments… and it’s pretty awesome.

Since the engine was out, apart and diagnosed before lunch, all we had to do now was take a 4 hour lunch break. We went to the park, sipped some more mate, then returned to the shop and cleaned up.

We’ll deliver everything to Beto’s favorite machine shop in the morning.

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