Aside from one major mishap, the last two days have been nothing but classic Mexican adventure. Sunday night my guts were back to about 80% so we went out to the tourist strip to get some food. What we found was one of the most interesting mating dances you will find in human culture. The tourist strip in Loreto is a boulevard along the coastline (two one-way streets with a row of vegetation in between). Every weekend at dusk, all of the town folk hop in their jalopies and head for the strip for a couple looks around the boulevard. Basically, you grab your buddies, your girl, and/or your kids, squeeze them into a tiny vehicle, and then start the most complacent race ever.
There were about 100 cars, all of them blasting their stereos, driving in circles for hours up and down the city’s main street. Some drive slow, some drive fast; once in a while they holler at their friends in the going the other direction. They never seem to stop, or do anything in particular other than continue the dizzying flock pattern that goes on well past 1:00am. We asked our waiter about the phenomenon while eating at a nice restaurant and he really didn’t know either. Apparently, it is just group mentality in its finest. Don’t separate from the herd.
The next morning we got up and finally hit the road for La Paz around noon. Thirty miles into the trip we were climbing winding mountain roads moving further into the hot desert. Coming into a sharp uphill turn, I downshifted into fourth gear and immediately felt all the tension in my clutch lever release. I took my hand off the lever and it stayed right up against the handlebars; I could no longer shift. After a brief moment of confusion it hit me that my clutch cable had broken. I came to a grinding fourth gear stop in a particularly exposed spot to examine my situation. After confirming my suspicion, I took off my helmet and cussed out my bike Grandpa-style for a good minute. I did not need to deal with this under the 95F degree noonday sun.
Luckily, Alex and Sarah were behind me. As they came into the turn I solemnly pointed at Al and waved him in for a pit stop. A broken clutch cable really, really sucks, but we are Eagle Scouts from Troop 43 and we were prepared for this day. Sarah decided to push ahead and let Charlie know the situation whenever she caught up to him. Meanwhile, Alex pulled out our spare all-purpose cable and screw-on cable ends. At home we had researched what we needed to bring for a broken clutch but never actually learned how to use the materials that we had brought.
Therefore, we spent about a half hour trying to ‘patch’ the original cable with our spare. Our plan was to feed both the new and old cables into a screw clamp (a small cylinder with two holes at 90 degree angles from each other; one hole for the cables, one for the screw to lock them in place) since the break was right at the clutch lever and very accessible. We made that work, but it was rubbing metal in all the wrong spots and did not look sturdy. Scratch that idea.
Next, we pulled ourselves away from the situation, thought out what tools we had to work with, and came up with a way better plan. We removed the entire clutch cable and its sheath from the bike and pulled the snapped line all the way out. Then we took our spare cable (larger gauge, smaller diameter) and worked it through the original protective rubber tubing. This was quite a feat considering that the cable end kept fraying and would not have gone through without a lot of WD-40.
With the cable essentially replace, we faced a new problem. The original cables come with stock-specific cable ends that fall into a slot on each end. Without these ends, we could not lock the new cable in place where it had originally been. Solution: Alex wrapped the bottom end several times around the clutch actuator, tied a knot, and finished it with a screw clamp to keep the knot from slipping. We then routed the housing back through the bike and up to the clutch lever where we finished the job with the same wrap and knot process around the lever itself. All this was done with zero shade over a very hot engine; grease, sweat, and blood abound.
The plan was actually very ingenious. We had a strong cable running from the engine to the clutch lever. Due to the wraps at the end, the tension was spread across multiple loops and therefore less likely to pop the screw clamp off. It was difficult to get the right tension on the line, but after some fine-tuning we had it dialed. And it held. I drove 210 more miles south on my Scouted-out clutch and it got me there no problem. By the end it had loosened a bit. When I pulled the clutch in at stops the bike still wanted to push forward… so I may have some burnt clutch payback somewhere in the next 20,000 miles. Regardless, it got me to La Paz last night and today I am getting it replaced at a local shop.
Arriving in La Paz, we quickly found a place that Sarah had researched called Pension California. $36 for a four bed room with a bathroom in the center of La Paz is hard to beat. They even let us bring our bikes off the street into their courtyard. The first thing I noticed at Pension California is that it caters to people our age; there were twenty-somethings milling around in every corner. Finally we had gotten away from the expatriate retirees.
As the sun went down last night, Alex and I went out to find food. We had an eclectic mix of tamales and Burger King. My tongue did a backflip after tasting a pickle for the first time in weeks. Fueled up, we came back with beers and found and started drinking in the common area. Within an hour the area was filled with a wide array of young internationals. Countries represented: U.S., Australia, France, Finland, Belgium, Mexico, and Argentina.
Between all of us, the two common languages were Spanish and English. We spent the next several hours telling stories and sharing drinks using whichever language best suited our vocabulary. At some points, our sentences were half Spanish, half English. Whatever it took, we got our points across and had a great time. Some of us more than others; two of our new friends took it way too far and ended up spewing their guts all over the floor. Oops! Oh well, I remember being twenty-one… mostly.
I swore I would get an early start today but it’s already 11:30 and I haven’t left the hotel. First I need to get a clutch cable and then, finally, I am going to do a day trip to La Ventana and figure out my windsurfing plans. Hopefully that means tomorrow I can wake up and immediately head out to the beach to get lit. Wish me luck!
P.S.: This afternoon I did get my clutch cable replaced. It’s just a glorified version of what Alex and I had rigged, but it won’t loosen (assuming it holds). Somehow I need to order a stock replacement and have it shipped here. Until then, the Mexican version will have to work. Next Al and I went to a clinic to get some fluid drained out of his hip that has been bothering him. The Doc wouldn’t suck it out, but he wrote a prescription to help the situation and Alex was $17 bucks lighter. We also went to Wal-Mart and bought oil for our upcoming change. Charlie and Sarah did some research on our ferry ride; we will probably be setting sail Monday or Tuesday. Until then, as I always promise: windsurfing!