Thursday, 12 May 2016

Our National Lampoon American Thanksgiving Vacation

Doing "time" in Hermosillo Mexico
How we love our life of adventure! We have seen some amazing places and done many wonderful things. My sweetie and I are like a couple of kids off exploring the world hand in hand, usually with big grins on our faces. In fact we often congratulate ourselves as we go about these adventures. Never do we choose the easier softer way, preferring the sense of freedom that comes from planning and taking the trip on our own,  problem solving the little bumps in the road that inevitably come along. Not only that, we pride ourselves on being thrifty travellers in our quest to make our travelling dollars outlast our wanderlust.

Every once in a while however, the joke is on us! Our trip from our winter home in Bucerias Mexico to Phoenix for Thanksgiving was just one of those times. To start with, we are Canadians going to enjoy American Thanksgiving with a bunch of  our Canadian snowbird friends who winter in Mesa Arizona. After being their snowbird neighbours for several years, it's become a tradition that we didn't want to miss even though we no longer live there. We always tell ourselves, isn't it great to have two Thanksgivings? Little did we know that we would soon be in our own version of John Candy's "Trains and Boats and Planes" as we tried to get "home" for the American holiday where no one was American!

It all started with us driving as we usually do, like obsessive crazy people from our winter home in Bucerias, just north of Puerto Vallarta Mexico. We get some sort of strange buzz from getting up at 3:30 am in our effort to beat the traffic and then driving  past supper time, pulling into our motel with just enough time to eat and pass out for the night. This usually works well, as we switch off on the driving, which allows us to take cat naps during our off shift. What we hadn't planned on during this trip was the early winter nightfall. Everyone knows that it is a mistake to drive in the dark in Mexico, as there are no streetlights, and if you have car trouble there are no shoulders to pull off on. Many times we have come upon a broken down car on the highway, with a kid standing down the road waving his shirt warning the other drivers to slow down. The last thing I ever want is to be that kid!

If only we had stopped just as dusk approached, we could have saved ourselves a pile of time and money and I wouldn't be writing this blog! But we convinced ourselves that our years of experience of driving in Mexico over-rode that wise advice. "Big mistake", I thought as I hit the big chunk of truck tire lying right in the middle of my lane. In the dark I didn't see it until the last second, and even if I had, there was no way to avoid it as there was no shoulder on one side and a big semi on the other. "Oh, bleepity bleep," we both said. "Well, let's hope we didn't do any damage." (Mistake number two). We were only a half hour from our hotel in Hermosillo so we kept on driving. When my sweetie lifted the hood, it was so hot that he just slammed it shut and said,  "Let's go eat supper, we'll deal with it in the morning when it's cool."

After a good night's sleep, we checked the oil, all was well, the water not so lucky. Totally and completely bone dry. We must have cracked the radiator. We filled it with fresh water and hoped for the best, but as soon as we started the car it was obvious that we were in big trouble. Fortunately there was a taller (garage) right across the street and our car coughed and sputtered its way over as we prayed that we wouldn't stall. The mechanic just shook his head and said, "This is very bad, this is very very bad" as he looked at the steam coming out of the tailpipe. (As this was not a steam engine!)

The guard dog at the auto mechanic's. Be careful, Bryce, she'll rip your arm off!

After three days of waiting, he was finally able to tell us that the damage was indeed serious, possibly the head was warped and the block was cracked. (I really don't understand what that means, but I knew it was bad.) He would need to order parts and it would take at least a week. At that point, we were relieved just to have some answers, as we were getting awfully tired of our hotel room, watching stupid movies, reading stupid books and telling stupid jokes. My sweetie started to refer to doing time, and our efforts to make the best of the situation started to wear thin.

Fixing the sign at our hotel
We had thought that we could just take a bus to the border and then rent a car, but dogs aren't allowed on the bus. Last minute airline tickets cost more than a trip to Europe, and we couldn't drive a Mexican rental car across the border because of insurance complications. We called around to the car rental agencies until I found one that quoted me a reasonable price to leave the car at the border. Once the driver arrived at our hotel he started on the fast pitch and suddenly the price was double what we were originally quoted, as we would need a driver to bring the car back to Hermosillo. We reluctantly loaded our luggage into the trunk, but at the last minute said "forget it," and told him we would find another way.

We went to talk to our new best friend the mechanic, hoping that he might know someone who would do it for less. He called around, but after waiting for three hours, the best he could do was to line us up with another car rental and driver for the same price, but at least this guy was up front about the price, and was even willing to drive us all the way to Tucson to pick up our Anerican rental car.

We tried to rent an American car just north of the border, but out of the two rental agencies in town, one was out of cars and the other was out of compact cars. The best they could do was $60 a day for a Rav4. We decided to try a rental agency in Tucson and figure out how to get there from the border later. We managed to find a car for $20 a day, which is a big difference when we were possibly looking at renting for 10 days.

We finally made it to Mesa just in time for Thanksgiving dinner. The car took more than two weeks to fix, but we finally got if fixed, and drove very carefully, very sensibly back to our beautiful Casa in Bucerias. This was an expensive lesson, as there were many more repairs needed to get our car fully restored, but we were grateful that, as we both survived with our humour, lives and marriage intact.

Yeah, back home safe and sound in Bucerias!


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