1/13… Shock and Awe

I went for my morning run, half an hour or forty minutes up the beach in Bahia de los Angeles, before turning around, and made it back to camp by about nine.  It hurts, because I’m sure as hell not in shape like I was six months ago, but it feels good to remind the body to keep on its toes.

I sat down to some oranges, and was enjoying my recovery as the wind from the bay dried me and brought my temperature down, when I found myself looking at the undercarriage of the truck and saw, backlit by the sun, a rod dangling from the rear passenger wheel well.

I put the orange down, and said many bad words.

There is no circumstance when a rod dangling limply from under your truck is a good thing, and that is doubly true when you’re on a beach in Mexico, a three or four hour drive through the mountains to the nearest auto parts store.

I pulled a shirt on and crawled under the truck.  Dangling from the frame was my expensive aftermarket high-quality shock absorber, with a completely cracked steel barrel that should have been connecting the rod end to axel, but in this case, wasn’t.


I pulled out the tools, took the whole assembly apart, and sat staring at what was a clearly failed weld (pictures were taken) that, once it had failed, put enough stress on the steel barrel that the barrel itself cracked and so it sat staring at me, disconsolately, in two pieces, still clinging to the bushing.“Now what?” I wondered, especially since our plans from here were taking a pretty rough road along the coast to a very small fishing camp a solid 80 or 90 miles distant along a road challenging enough to be part of the Baja 1000 race course.

I went through the five stages of Mexican backcountry grief:Anger, sadness, confusion, more anger, and then some anger.

I walked to the camp office and secured the name of the local mechanic, Samuel Diaz, whose shop I noted when we were across the street resupplying at the local market a few days ago.

I was hoping, as I walked back to the truck, that the mechanic there would be able to somehow salvage the bushing, re-weld the barrel in both places, and then I could figure out some way to lever the shock back into place.

I also noted that if I had not installed the Air Lift suspension back in Tucson, we might have had a real problem, but as it was the air bags had provided a very capable backup suspension.  Note to self: contact Air Lift, and let them know just how happy I am with their product.

Val, Feral and I hopped into Red Beauty and drove into town, hoping that Samuel would be in, would be able to reconstitute the shock, and if not… would be able to do something else (without it being clear to me what else could be done).

I pulled into the garage to see a mechanic crouched and working, with a reassuring level of professionalism, on a dune buggy.

“Ayude me” I called out, approaching him with the two parts of the shock assembly, and then pantomimed a welding action.  The mechanic, Sammy, took a look at the failed weld and clicked his tongue.  He, too, shared in my disappointment at the subpar joint.  He put his hand on my shoulder and said “Well, I try.”

With that, he dropped his tools, and led me back to the shop where he began to press out the bushing.  We walked across the street to get some supplies at the market, and when I returned, I saw the comforting nova of a welder in operation.  There was hammering, and yelling, and more welding, and a small group of guy gathered around arguing, and then filing, and then… and then, the thing was completely fixed.

I turned it over in my hands.  Sammy had welded the barrel back together at the crack on both the outside and inside, and ground off the original welds and redone them also because he didn’t trust them.  The thing was stronger than when it had left the warehouse.

Samuel Diaz, the shop owner, had been chatting with us while all this unfolded and I asked him the second most stressful question of the day: “How much?”

I was ready for a whole range of answers, but the truth is, these guys had just completely saved my bacon and salvaged a part that there was no practical way to replace, given where we were.  And it’s not like they hadn’t noticed the New York plates and didn’t know I was from out of town, and could have pretty much said any number that came to mind.

He chatted with Sammy, and consensus was reached.

Sixteen dollars.

I couldn’t believe it.

I insisted that Sammy pose with me for a picture with the repaired shock, and threw it in the front seat.I still had to make it back to camp and do the re-installation, but that struck me as child’s play compared to what had just happened: somehow, in a fishing village with no bank or even a cash machine, I got my suspension repaired inside of an hour with virtually no fuss and got change back from a twenty.

So, things go wrong here, and somehow they go full circle and go right again.

Ah, Mexico.

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