La Chichona and I were not talking. I grabbed my harmonica and sat on the edge of the cliff, looking down on green fields and grazing cows. “Redemption song” played out first, then “the sound of silence”, followed by every Bob Dylan song my tongue could remember. La Chichona listened and cooled off. I apologized and patted her where she likes to be patted. We made peace. She started again.
The mountain road led us to a large wooden gate adorned by two reared up horses. They looked like the gates of Rohan. La Chichona and I lit the beacon, calling for aid. The gates slowly opened, and the Lord of Rohan answered.
Lucio greeted me in a casual short and t-shirt. We exchanged formalities and I extended my appreciation for his help with two bottles of wine. Lucio seemed to appreciate the gesture. He showed me in and walked around La Chichona. Eyeballing her, he said, “no wonder you can’t sell it!”. I shrugged.
Lucio’s garden looked like a western movie set. There was an old locomotive wagon, a saloon, and a small chapel in the center. He had several apartments, exotic animals, and a pool in the back of his hacienda. Above all, Lucio had toys: four luxury cars, five converted vans, and a dozen motorcycles. The bikes lined up like Russian dolls along his house, from the collector Mini Trail to the largest cruisers. He maintained them like works of art. I stared in awe. Lucio was proud.
I shared my recent struggles. “Clean it, paint it, and give me nice pictures to work with”, he said. La Chichona was a big girl. Painting her would cost a few thousand dollars. He read my concern and added, “just enough to cover the rust, two or three spray cans, no more.” He knew what he was doing. I obeyed.
A filthy car goes unnoticed by robbers so, I kept La Chichona's external appearance dirty on purpose. It was her first time power washing. Streams of rust and dirt came out. They sprayed her under, over, and inside. La Chichona came out anew, like those unbelievable makeup transformations. As I drove away, water started dripping inside the cabin. There was that hole I had forgotten about, from the time I smashed her in Baja two years before. The memory brought a touch of nostalgia. How naïve and hopeful we were...
I spent the next day on my knees, plugging, scrubbing, and spray-painting. At sunset, La Chichona was ready. The light was perfect for her photo shoot. Lucio showed her best side (and hid my poor painting job). He was more excited than I was desperate. "Now yes! Now I can advertize it" he said happily.
The day after, Jason texted me after seeing Lucio's post in the Panamerican facebook group. He wanted me to have La Chichona inspected. Lucio took me to his mechanic in San Jose, a huge garage with dozens of luxury cars. While waiting for my turn, I saw a guy shaking Lucio’s hand vigorously, saying it was an honor to finally meet the legend! Lucio was a big gun and for some reason, he was helping me.
The mechanic took La Chichona for a ride and drew his report. There were enough lines to discourage a potential buyer. I emailed it to Jason and blow by blow, we discussed every item. He reviewed the price down to include the repairs, and asked about the paperwork. I did not know about that but Lucio did. Things were moving in the right direction.
Lucio wanted La Chichona for himself, given a few more weeks. He was impressed by the V6 engine, the electrical setup, and all the room she had inside. Two days before, I was willing to throw her down a cliff. Now potential buyers were competing for her. A solid photo shoot and good connections can make miracles happen.
In the evening, I was having dinner with Lucio and his friends when the phone rang. It was Jason. I excused myself and walked off to the small chapel.
- Hey man! How are you?
- Good mate. Listen . . . I’m in.
- You mean . . . for the van?
- Yeah, if the paperwork works out. But Lucio told me it won’t be an issue.
- Amazing. Eeeeh congratulations!
- Thanks. There are flights to San Jose every day. I’ll book asap and let you know.
- Great! Thank you.
- Catch you later.
I lowered the phone slowly to the ground, still processing. Jason agreed to buy La Chichona and was flying from Mexico to do so. It was happening, for real. The end of a chapter. The end of the van life. I looked at La Chichona and felt I was making a horrible mistake. All the good memories flashed back. Suddenly, I wanted to cry.
I stayed in the quiet chapel until I got hold of myself, then joined the dinner party. When he heard the news, Lucio jumped out of his chair and hugged me. His excitement was genuine. He popped the wine and made a toast. I fell back on the chair and sipped my wine.
His words put things into perspective. I remembered the pain, the frustrations, and the endless list of struggles La Chichona had put me through. Relief swept away sadness. I felt like a man who has been let out of a grey and cheerless prison on a sunny day. I smiled, raised my glass and cheered.
To a new hope.