-Sorry I didn't see it.
-Something is tapping under my foot…shit.
I listen to the locals when I travel. And when Mexicans from different parts of the country tell you to stay the hell out of a place, you should do that. We decided to drive around Michoacan and Guerrero, the Narco states. So Lukas and I had to cover 900km in one day to arrive to Mexico city for the night.
We took turns in driving. Lukas, like all Germans I know, had a heavy foot. He made la Chichona roar as if he was driving a new M3 BMW on the autobahn. We tried to limit our stops to essentials. Around sunset, we needed to fuel up. The first gas station on the highway was out of diesel. The second and the third too. We had no choice but to stop and used the emergency tank. That same diesel tank I had been carrying since the Baja California desert.
We exited the highway to enter a tiny village and pulled over in an abandoned Pemex gas station, north of Michoacan. The whole area seemed desolated. A few people looked at us suspiciously as he hurried about our business. The funnel I had was too small for the tank. We cut a water bottle in half and used it as a funnel. We repeated the process to empty the 24L diesel tank…thirteen fucking times.
Shortly after, we heard a grinding noise coming from the wheels. The slower we drove, the loudest the noise. Lukas was driving a little too fast for my taste. The idea of breaking down at night in Michoacan was making me anxious. I had a bad feeling.
Our little diesel adventure slowed us. It was nighttime by then. Lukas was driving at over 100km/h. He accelerated to pass a truck. I was paying attention to the road when I saw it: a huge pothole in the middle of the highway. I yelled but it was too late. Lukas drove straight over it…BOOM! Something was tapping under my foot.
We stopped at the next gas station to assess the situation. The wheel was tilted and the suspension was sticking out on the side, completely out of place. Lukas fucked up, he knew it. I should have listened to my gut. I was furious at him but also at myself for not having spoken up earlier. We ate in silence. I said nothing the whole evening, it was best to sleep on it.
The next morning was hectic. I had work calls with Shitty Sugar while dealing with La Chichona’s repairs. We asked for a mechanic at the gas station, and shortly after a sketchy red 1990 Jetta showed up. The mechanic introduced himself as Dimas. He had black hair falling on his shoulders and deep wrinkles around his eyes. He had probably seen more summers than Lukas and I combined.
We talked about pricing beforehand to avoid rip offs. I put my headphones to work while assisting Dimas. Lukas was laughing out loud at the situation. I was on a conference call with my boss in the US, discussing deals in Canada, while removing a wheel at a gas station in Mexico. We laughed together and dissolved the grudge from the previous night.
The shock had broken the suspension base. The problem was simple but I knew the solution would not be. With car issues, one problem leads to another and down a rabbit hole. I finished my calls and went with Dimas on a mission to repair the suspension base, hopefully find a way to put it back in its place.
We ran from one shop to the next, ending up with more problems than solutions. Three hours later, we found a temporary fix: we cut the rubber around the base, greased it and used an industrial press to force it back to its place. It was not the best way but the quickest.
It was when we drove around the neighborhood that I realized just how bad it was. On the way back, we saw a man standing next to a semitrailer truck stopped on the side of the highway. He was naked. Dimas casually told me that he got assaulted, robbed, and left there naked. Maybe he resisted the assault. Maybe not.
We picked up a friend of Dimas and the two worked hand in hand on la Chichona. Around noon, the mechanics finished the repairs and we got back on the road.
What I love the most about the third world is the attitude toward problems. In Canada, I would have been blocked for three weeks just waiting for parts. In Mexico, a mechanic showed up on the highway thirty minutes after I called him, at 8 in the morning. He neither knew the problem nor how to solve it, but tried different approaches until he found the one that worked.
Limited resources force people to be resourceful, and to think out of the box.
No matter the problem, there is always a solution.