July 18th, 2008

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It’s hard to know where to start this story. It could be when brown/black liquid started spraying onto the windshield of our Galloper, or when Hernan said to call El Cubano, or with the condition of the road and the thrice broken hinges to the hood. We might as well start with the malfunctioning horn that honks at will, usually when slowing down.

Since the road is in a constant state of disrepair we slow down often and as a result do a lot of unnecessary honking. Hernan, the tattooed pierced Argentinean real estate agent that John and I were driving around with the other day, thought the honking was great. In a thick accent he says- “You know, it’s like ‘hello we are coming, it’s nice to see you’.” That is, until the horn wouldn’t stop. We turned the engine off, but kept right on honking. It’s not even our real horn, it’s the alarm horn that we don’t use, don’t want.

We carefully opened the broken hood, found which horn was making the noise and tried to disconnect it. Mind you, it’s not easy to concentrate when you are being blasted with such noise. I grabbed the yellow wire, Hernan held onto the box it was connected to, and we pulled. We unplugged two boxes but failed to disconnect the wire and, in the confusion, dropped one box into the engine. It was visible and I was able to reach an arm down to get it. Reconnected, the horn was silent. I jumped back in the car leaving John to put the hood back down. He lowered the stabilizing arm, brought the hood half way down, and as you normally would, dropped it. Because the hinges were broken it fell askew and didn’t close. Having done this myself I hopped down and helped it shut.

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Back in the car, the engine starts no problem and we’re on our merry way. That’s when brown/black stuff spews onto the windshield. I say oil, Hernan says mud. It gets worse so I look onto the hood, which is covered in black and then see the oil light brighten on the dash. We pull over immediately and that’s when Hernan says to call El Cubano. We needed to call somebody. The Galloper looked like it had barfed oil.

In 15 minutes El Cubano shows up with a helper in their own Galloper. Being in Costa Rica and hearing the name El Cubano I was a little surprised when he and his friend ended up being two rednecks from Florida. El Cubano is missing all his front teeth so his tongue curls to one side when he talks. He’s somewhere between 35 and 50. In two seconds El Cubano said it was the intercooler. The latch from the crashing hood had punctured it, and since it is high pressure, it needs to be welded with aluminum, something that can only be done in Bri Bri about 30 minutes away. El Cubano said it would be $90.00 to tow it to our house, have the intercooler welded in Bri Bri and re-weld the hood on site. This, compared to what it costs at our mechanic for a days work, seems like a huge rip-off; but what are our options? We’re immobile, don’t know anyone else who will tow us and do the work in any kind of reasonable time and need the car again within two days.

With the Gallopers hitched we head down the road towards home when, a little predictably, El Cubano wings an empty can of Imperial (read Bud Light) out the window. In the driveway he and his helper, who’s main job was to buy beer and fetch wrenches, work steadily at finishing a six pack and taking out the Intercooler. They then headed to Bri Bri, John along for the ride, guzzling Imperials the whole way, to get it welded. They were successful and after El Cubano reattached the Intercooler with much effort to compensate for the quantity of Imperial consumed, they were gone. He came back later in the week to weld the hinges himself and have a few more Imperials. Everything is working well and now we know another Puerto Viejo character who happens to be a traveling mechanic.

Russ to the rescue

February 26th, 2008

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We hoped, as we exited baggage claim in San Jose with a few hundred pounds of luggage, that someone would be waiting for us with a sign bearing our names ready to take us on a car search. No such luck. We piled our stuff against a pillar outside the airport and waited. After about 10 minutes a guy with a handle-bar mustache, sporting a hoop earing showed up to the gate with “Angie” written on a white board. “Angie” didn’t believe that it could be her, but after some urging approached and found that, in fact, it was Russell, who we had exchanged several emails with in an effort to hire him as a car expediting service. We shook hands, relieved and Russell pulled the car around. Thankfully, it was big one. We spent the rest of the afternoon between three dealerships that bring used cars straight from Korea test driving Hyundai Gallopers.

The first dealership we went to was washing the vehicle we were to test drive as we pulled in. The engine was immaculate, new hoses, everything wiped down and glistening. The inside was the same. We took it for a drive and found that, in general, it rode quite well though the shocks and steering felt a bit loose. I figured that this was going to be how the rest of the day would go: looking at recently cleaned and touched up 11-year-old cars, not knowing where dents and dings had been and then being surprised when the sloppy ride didn’t match the slick appearance. It didn’t end up that way.

The second car we drove, at a different dealership, ran out of gas halfway up a hill on a narrow road with a bridge at the bottom. After the salesman tried for 15 minutes to get it going again we walked back to Russ’s car and went to the next dealership. We found a couple suitable cars there, and after the mechanics tried several batteries in each one, test drove two. The others we wanted to test drive they couldn’t start. Apparently, these cars haven’t been used in at least a month and the dealerships don’t like to put gas or good batteries in them in case someone tries to steal them. That’s all well and good unless you’re trying to buy one and can’t test it because it won’t start or drive for more than a few blocks. Russ dropped us off at our hotel planning to get back at it the next morning.

Russ picked us up around 8am. We headed back to the dealer and spent the next three hours test driving cars (20 minutes) and waiting around( 2hours, 40 minutes). Once we decided on one we liked, a ’96, Russ took us around to the bank, the lawyers and back to the dealers. Yes, you need a lawyer to buy a car, and a phone and pretty much everything but groceries. Russ dropped us off at the hotel again around 6pm with a plan to pick up the car on Monday afternoon or Tuesday after it passed inspection and got temporary tags.

The car wasn’t ready by Monday. They told us Tuesday by noon. We closed on Tierra on Monday with John there. Everything went smoothly. Russ showed up at the dealers at 8:30 on Tuesday to see how things were going and push them along. He spent the whole day there mostly waiting for paint to come so they could touch up rust spots. Our plan was to find a futon and leave around noon to get to Tierra by 4pm. We found a futon, which Russ loaded into his vehicle along with all of our other luggage and headed over to wait at the dealers. We drove out in our new/really old Galloper at 7pm, got lost for an hour and a half and then headed for Tierra. We got to our new home around midnight and went straight to sleep after unpacking. Tuesday we woke up at 7am and cooked breakfast for our first guests. So far, so good and a big thanks goes out to Russell who made the Costa Rican car buying process go as fast and smooth as possible.

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