And Then There Were Two

This morning I awoke at 6am and inspected the engine work that had been done last night. I immediately saw two Very Bad Things. First, one of the brackets that had been welded the day before had broken again. Secondly, the alternator had bent down so that the belt was rubbing against another belt. Clearly I couldn’t drive the car.

I woke up the mechanic who had done the work the previous night. He came out of his house bleary-eyed to look at what had happened. He poked around a little, looked at me, and gave a half-hearted thumbs up. Then he went to work. I went to breakfast.

When we came back from breakfast, the alternator had been straightened somewhat, though it was still a little out of alignment. We topped off the coolant that had boiled over yesterday and ran the engine for a while to check for problems. Everything seemed fine, so Tyler and I went for a test drive. I asked Tyler to drive to get his opinion on the vibrations I’d been feeling.

In first, everything seemed fine. Once we started climbing the hill out of the gas station, the engine started vibrating badly. Tyler looked concerned, downshifted, and then shifted up again. The vibrations continued. “I’ve never felt anything like this” said Tyler. Neither had I, and until now I’d simply chalked it up to bad gasoline. If I had been wiser, I would have checked to see if others were feeling the same vibrations. (They weren’t.)

We learned from the mechanic that there was a volkswagen dealership about 15km down the road, in the small town of Caixas. Perhaps they could help diagnose the problem.

We loaded up and headed out. I drove slowly, trying not to strain the engine. Nevertheless, we had only gotten about 5km before the belt came off again. Jeanne towed me into the dealership.

We opened things up, and they looked at my car for a while before grinning and giving me a thumbs up. They also said that they’d never seen a car anything like this. Every mechanic in the shop gathered around to peer into my engine compartment.

We were shown into the VIP Lounge, which featured air conditioning and the Pink Panther cartoon series on a television. A secretary brought us water and coffee, and I told the others that I was going home. Tyler and Jeanne spent some time trying to convince me that I would regret the decision, but I told them my reasons for the decision, and I think that they understand.

We went to lunch, even though it was only 10am. We returned around noon, just as everyone at the dealership was going to lunch. They told me that they would return at 2pm, and that the job was nearly complete.

I’d offered Jeanne and Tyler any supplies they wished from my van, and while the mechanics were away we rearranged things. I gave them fuel filters, oil filters, a fuel pump, a CV joint & boot kit, one of my spare gas tanks, a bottle of Bombay Sapphire gin, a tow strap and various other small things. Jeanne had thrown her power steering belt, and Tyler helped her reinstall it.

Around 2pm they headed out after collecting Valdir (remember him?) from where he had been napping under a palm tree. As soon as the other vans were out of sight, my stomach cramped up with incredible pain. I was alone at the VW dealership.

The mechanics finished repairing my car, and took it out for a test drive. They came back shaking their heads, and told me that my clutch was bad. I could drive the van, but I shouldn’t drive it very fast.

So I’m in Caixas. Tomorrow I’ll hopefully get my van trucked to Recife. APL is assisting me in getting my van shipped from Recife to Oakland. After making all of the shipping arrangements, I’ll go home.

I’m not terribly disappointed to be returning home. I’d made some bad decisions in planning the trip. Things weren’t turning out the way I’d wished, and frankly I wasn’t having fun. If I do attempt this journey again, I’ll go without a schedule, without a time limit, and with my spouse as a companion.

Jeanne and Tyler are continuing south, hoping to be in Piripiri tonight. I believe that they intend to continue to send dispatches occasionally, informing people of their progress. I’ll keep people informed of my progress until I return to the United States.


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