It’s so good to be back on the road.
After 16 days parked in front of Pablos’ shop in Calafate.
As I’m driving north, back to Bariloche and Santiago, my main regret is that No4 will never get to reach/see Ushuaia, or Tierra del Fuego. That’s so unfortunate, only 900 kms from its’ goal.
16 days. I thought I was going to go nuts. 16 days waiting for something to happen, most of it waiting for someone to even try something to fix No4.
16 cold and windy nights, sleeping out there in No4, waiting.
Oh, there’s no shortage of hotels, motels, hostals or restaurants in Calafate but, Pablos’ shop being located in the industrial park, the closest ones would be at somewhere around 3 kms down hill to town.
And I have no wheels, remember?
I could probably have stayed in town and wait until the car was ready but, since it took 16 days to get the job done with me standing in their face every day and putting as much pressure as I could, I wonder how long it would have taken if I wouldn’t have been there pushing… Probably until Christmas.
Matter of fact, that’s exactly what Elvio, the body specialist, told me when I first got there and asked:
Marc: “Euh, when do you think I can hope to be on my way?”
Elvio: “Hummm, Navidad…”
…Did I mention I was ready to be done with the trip? Didn’t I say I was going to be making a quick stop in Calafate to see the glacier and then be on my way?
Well, so much for that…
I stuck around, walked every other day to the grocery store or borrowed Pablos’ van to run in town to see if we could get at least a few parts locally.
Finding the parts was at the same time annoying and most heartwarming.
Annoying was trying to get any parts that were even just more or less Land Cruiser specific.
I think I did mention folks were getting excited when they saw No4 because Land Cruisers are virtually non-existent in Argentina? And, of course, no Land Cruisers means no Land Cruiser parts available… In the country…
I called all the parts stores, Toyota dealer (1) and salvage yards within 500 kms. Nothing. I contacted Liu, back in Santiago and she contacted all the major salvage yards over there. Nothing. And that was in Chile…
That brings us to the heart warming part.
I had chosen a Land Cruiser as vehicle for this trip because it was easy to fix and… Parts could be found for it most everywhere.
The key word here being “most”…
And I was right. There are litteraly thousands of Land Cruisers of all ages and categories in all the countries I had been through so far.
But not in Argentina. And, of course, that’s where it broke…
So I contacted my friend French in Bolivia, as I knew he was into Land Cruisers and had lots of friends who were too, big time.
F: ” I have friends in various clubs in Argentina, I’m sure we can find what you need. I’ll let you know.”
But after a while…
F: “Well, I don’t know… It’s complicated… Maybe stuff will be easier to find in surrounding countries, like here in Bolivia or in Chile…”
Santa Cruz, Bolivia, where French lives, was about… 5000 kms away… It would cost more than what the truck is worth to ship a differential housing or even just the axels down here… Because that was what I needed. Idealistically, a diff housing and axels. After a couple of weeks of having very limited succes in finding parts and facing the real possibility of never finding them, I seriously began considering abandoning No4 there. Or at least. trying to sell it and all of it’s content to the highest offer… But French and Monina didn’t quit. They kept looking and contacting other Land Cruiser fan clubs in Bolivia and Chile, creating chat groups and letting folks know about this crazy Canadian who was stuck in Calafate.
Pretty soon, I couldn’t keep up with all the messages coming in through Whatsapp from people wanting to help however they could. I even ran out of “air time” on my phone.
Great timing! I WAS going nuts! Now that I was the closest I’ve been to finding what I needed, the stupid phone wouldn’t cooperate! (Of course, there was no WI-FI at Pablos’. Well actually there was, only it didn’t work…)
Another 3 kms trip to the nearest tienda to buy myself some time…
And, as soon as I was “on the air” again, Felix wrote me:
Felix: “What do you need exactly?”
M: “A rear differential housing and the right hand side axel.”
Felix: “Well, I have a set of axels and I do have a housing but it’s been “slightly modified” to accomodate coil springs… In any case, it’s going to cost so much to ship the housing, it wouldn’t be worth it.”
M: “Where are you?”
Felix: “Santiago the Chile.”
M: ” 2000 -2500 kms away… Hummm, how much would you want for your axels?”
Felix: “Listen, you are doing the trip I always wanted to do. I have this 40 series troop carrier here onto which I was hoping to install this full floating rear differential. But, the trip is not going to happen for another few years for sure. I’m just not there yet. These things have been laying around the garage for a couple of years now. I’d hate for you to have to quit the trip and leave the car behind because you can’t fix it. I’ll send the axels and you pay for shipping, OK? Maybe some day, you can send replacements back…”
WOW! Not only had I just found axels, I had them for free… The feeling was overwhelming. Unbelievable. This total stranger just saved my truck. For free.
Felix: “The problem is the axels can’t cross the border into Argentina. It would cost a fortune in customs fee and they may never get there. I’m going to ship them to Puerto Natales (Chile) and you’re going to have to figure out a way for them to reach you… Sorry about that. It’s the best I can do.”
M: “Don’t worry about it, please. I’ll find a way. Gee thanks man, I don’t know what to say, how to thank you.”
F: “No problem. We are a small, tight knit community near extinction. You would do what you can to help another LC fan if you had the opportunity to do so. I’m happy to be able to help.”
I had had my first doubts about serious axel problems when the first tow truck operator and I tried but couldn’t get the right hand side axel out of the housing. The idea was to free up the blocked wheel to make it easier for his winch to haul No4 on the platform. Normally, after undoing the six nuts, the axel slides right out effortlessly.
But not this time. Didn’t matter how hard we wacked it or try to pry it out, it was just not moving…
So we tried one more time getting No4 on the deck of the tow truck using his and No4s’ winches at the same time. This resulting in me breaking my 12,500 lbs rated synthetic winch rope… And, after seeing the tow truck front wheels hanging about two feet off the ground, the operator realizing his rig was just not up to the task of loading No4.
I was back to square one. Looking for a tow truck.
At least, I had had some luck within my badluck. It could have happened anywhere in Patagonia, hundreds of kilometers from civilisation. But I had heard the clicking noise coming out of the rear end of the truck just as I was driving by a DOT depot/warehouse (DOT here is called MOP for Ministry of Obras Publicos). After loosing all forms of propulsion, No4 had finally stopped exactly 300 meters from the depot.
Of course, at the time, I had no clue the depot was manned 24/7. The only thing I could do was to walk down there to see if I could find somebody who could help me. So I locked Minnie in the truck and went.
Happy to find life in this otherwise rather hostile and empty environment, I explain my situation to the man there. But he has got a hell of a heavy accent and gets frustrated because I don’t understand all of what he’s saying.
For myself: “Sure nice to meet you too, sir.”
I do understand he doesn’t have a land line and, as I noticed, there’s no such thing as cell phone coverage out here. His only way of communication with the outside world is through his two way radio. So he calls his dispatch in Calafate who in turn, call a tow truck.
Or try to.
The friendly man explains his dispatch can’t reach anybody right now and that I’ll have to wait a little bit while they keep trying to find a tow truck. He then makes himself a tea. One tea.
For myself: “Gee thanks for offering but I think I’ll pass on the tea…”
After a while, I get tired of so much hospitality and decide to go wait in No4 with Minnie, who I CAN understand.
No4 broke down at about 10 am. The tow truck, the first one, showed up at 5 pm.
As I see it pull up, I immediately think: “This is not going to work. This thing is way too small.”
Although I had insisted on the fact that I needed a BIG tow truck, mentionning it numerous times, this is what they had sent. An older Chevy 3500 pick-up truck with a platform as a bed. It probably weighed equal or less then No4s’ 8000 lbs…
That, combined with the fact we could not take the axel out, confirmed what I thought.
Not going to work. Back to square one. Need a tow truck.
At least this time I had a ride back to the depot…
After much discussions between the truck operator, my new friend and his dispatch, they all come to the same conclusion:
We need a bigger tow truck…
Seems there is only one outfit in town that has a truck that can take No4. It’s a car rental place that has it’s own platform to haul around it’s own cars and trucks but they also, on occasions, will do outside calls.
Friendly man asks his dispatch to call them and they do but can’t get anybody on the phone. Apparently, they are out on a call way up north and… I may have to wait a little bit while they keep trying to reach them…
Around 9 o’clock, I realize it’s probably not going to happen today. And so, I walk back to the truck, where Minnie is still waiting for me, and take advantage of a break in the otherwise constant wind to pop open the top, getting ready to spend the night 4 feet away from the pavement. I can’t help but think that ruta 40 is the main highway linking both ends of the country and, although there isn’t normally that much trafic, there still is a good number of commercial trucks who use it, the vast majority of which drive around 120 – 130 kmp.
As I get into bed, I look at Minnie and tell her: “If one driver should doze off and leave the pavement just a little bit, this could very well be how this story ends.”
But really, I don’t even care. If it happens then so be it. To make things more interesting, the night is dark and rainy, an apparent rarity out here in this desert. And I fall asleep, rocked by the trucks from time to time.
The next morning is downright cold and humid. I am getting tired of waiting. I am getting depressed.
And, as noon rolls around, I am back at the depot and still no tow truck in sight. I begin to have doubts we can ever find a truck that can take us. The other option for a town that has any chances of having such a truck is 290 kms to the south. We are talking thousands of dollars of towing without even knowing if anybody out there will be able to fix No4…
It’s still impossible to talk to anybody at the car rental outfit and I am getting fed up. I decide to catch the next bus to Calafate and go see for myself. As I wait for the bus, I try my luck at hitch hiking. My first time hitch hiking. At 55. I must not be very good at it as the bus shows up before any car stops…
An hour and $20 later, I am dropped at the bus terminal and walk to the car rental place. I speak directly to the owner and explain my situation.
Owner:” Be here at 3 o’clock, my driver will be back. We’ll go get your truck.”
And so, 30 hours after breaking down, I finally see a truck that should in fact be able to load us on. But, as he winches No4 up the platform, I see the drivers face changing as we both hear the winch cable go “Crrrack…BOOM”. Fortunately, it’s only caused by some loose play between the winch drum and the cable.
Driver:” Peso mucho!”
I ask the driver to take me to the best mechanic he knows in town. There are numerous repair shops in Calafate and he knows them all. After making a few phone calls, we are faced with a new problem. It’s 6:00 pm, on a friday night and all the shop Mr. Driver knows are full and simply refuse to look at the truck. I insist that he takes me to one of the best places he knows so I can at least talk to someone in person (worked great to find a tow, might work again to find a shop…).
As I explain what happens to the owner of a shop, he tells me he is sorry but can’t help me.
Shop owner: “You need to go to Pablos’. He’s the only one in town who can fix you. I can’t see anybody else. Sorry.”
And so we end up at Pablos’. We talk to Elvio (who I mistakenly think is Pablo, the boss) who says they will gladly take a look/fix us.
But not today… No room in or around the shop.
“Come back tomorrow, around 10.”
And that’s how Minnie and I slept in a service station parking lot, on a tow truck that night…
Saturday morning, I’m at the car rental place at 9:30, thinking I’m a little late since we have to be at Pablos’ by 10.
But the tow truck driver doesn’t show up until 11:00… And so we land at Pablos’ by 12:00. And that’s not a problem. For anybody.
Except maybe for me.
I am delighted when, out of curiosity I guess, Elvio (who I still think is the boss) gets out shortly after and starts to play around trying to take the axel out.
First delicatly… (note how the wheel hub rusted from overheating and then being in the rain…)
Then gets a little more serious about it…
He is finally able to get the drum off, at least… Not pretty…
But soon his motivation fades out and, as the afternoon wears away, he announces further investigation will have to wait until monday. And I prepare myself for a very quiet saturday night and sunday, alone out here in Calafates’ industrial park.
But no, I am kept awake most all night by, at first, some fiesta going on strong somewhere and then some “semi-pro” racers (or so they think) zooming by on the gravel street just in front of No4.
Then on sunday, some dude shows up in a van loaded with gear. He seems accustomed to the place as he’s got the keys to the shop and begins going in and out of the building. Out of curiosity, I walk up to him and initiate a conversation. Turns out it’s Pablo, the owner, who is just back from vacations. While he is around, all kinds of people, male and female, whom I have no clue who they are, drop by, chat, laugh and have a few beers…
All this time, NOBODY ever even looks in the relative direction of No4…
Well, it’s sunday… Comes tomorrow, 7 o’clock I hope, guys will come in and get started on No4.
Monday, 7:00 am, nobody.
Now wait a minute here, do I have this all wrong? Did I miss a day somewhere (wouldn’t be the first time)? Is today sunday?
10:30, some young guy arrives in his old renault. He too has the key to the shop. I go meet him and ask if Pablo is going to be coming in today?
Young guy: “Siii Claro, no hay problema. Pablo viene a la tarde, a las 2:00 o 3:00 pm”.
But lo and behold, here comes Pablo at around 12:00! And he doesn’t even take the time to change out of his nice white shirt and jumps right on No4 !
First using the same methods Elvio used; and getting the same results… He then asks Elvio to get a little more serious and put the heat on…
(Note the relaxed “lay down approach” of the bottled gas apparatus?)
Nope, no matter how much heat and how red the wheel hub gets, this axel is not budging.
Next, Pablo decides to take matters into his own hands and builds an “especially designed axel extractor” by welding an old axel to the outside of my axel…
…Over which he slides, first a heavy piece of metal pipe, which is clearly insufficient, and then an heavier older wheel hub…
…Which is just as unsufficient…Even when rigged to his van…
…Or his three wheeler…To be used as an inertia axel extractor.
But nope, that axel is not coming out of that housing. Period. (Note the good size sledge hammer? Tried that too…)
By that time, it was time to call it a day. After all, the friends, the many friends were all dropping in, large brown bottles in hand. It was time to relax and celebrate. Celebrate what? Not sure. but celebrate anyway.
I soon figured out that was the way things worked around here. Employees would start showing up around ten-ish in the morning, sometimes way later than the first customers would, make and drink maté (kind of a killer strong tea that everybody share sipping) while discussing the previous days’ interesting moments. Then, around eleven-ish, they would work on stuff until lunch time, still often times leaving work behind to enhance the story telling with great theatricals. Lunch would typically be be from 1:00 to 2:30, or sometimes 3:00. Then, from about 3:30 to 5:00 would be “running errands time” where Pablo, Elvio or others, or all of them, would disappear to go who knows where to get who knows what. Then again, from five-ish to seven-ish, some work would get done, in between story telling. Seven o’clock would be the typical time when friends would start dropping in with big brown bottles. And would typically be the time to celebrate…
Tuesday was day four and absolutely no progress had been made so far. Since we were unable to extract the axel, a decision had to be made.
Either we cut off the axel itself, thus sacrificing it in hopes of saving the hub (which we have no idea in what shape it is other than it had overheated like hell…). Or we cut through the hub all the way down to the axel but without cutting it, thus ruining the hub AND housing in hopes of saving the axel…
Either way, it looked like replacement parts would be next to impossible to find within hundreds if not thousands of kilometers…
According to Pablo, the problem seemed to have something to do with the external wheel bearing. He seemed to think that, if we could remove the hub, we would probably see that the problem was now located between the external and internal bearings.
I made the decision to cut the axel as Pablo was convinced it was toast anyways.
OMG !!!!! Now it is official: I do need an axel or else this vehicle is not going anywhere anymore…
At least Pablo was dead on. It doesn’t come without a struggle but he is able to undo the lock nut and remove the hub. There is NOTHING LEFT of the outer bearing, the lock nut is in rough shape but reusable, the bearing locking plate is finished but… The hub is still good. All we’ll have to do is replace the bearing races.
We find very little of the bearing. So where did it go? Well, here’s the bad news. When it desintegrated, although of course the bearing is outside the housing, most of the metal bits and pieces found their way inside the differential housing and got stuck between the axel and the housing having no place to go. The inertia of the car combined to the speed of rotation and intense friction completely melted the bearing bits, deformed the housing and melted the outside of the axel. When I stopped the car, everthing that had liquified from the heat began to cool down and became solid again. The axel was welded to the INSIDE of the differential housing.
There was only one way to get that out of there… Cut the housing.
This is the axel once finally out and with the tip of the housing still welded onto it. That my friends is NOT supposed to have a big bulge in it. It should be nice and straight. The bulge means it melted and deformed. It’s now official, I need a new differential housing…
…Or do I?
And then it happened. Not sure what happened but something must of have happened as nothing happened around the car anymore for what seemed like a loooong time. Don’t know if it’s because they lost interest in the “new vehicle that came in” or if, once the axel was out, the challenge factor faded away or, and I suspect this is probably the reason, Pablo didn’t want to spend anymore time on No4 until he was aboslutely sure we were going to find the replacement parts we needed.
Not feeling like risking having the same problem on the other side, I had asked him to disassemble, inspect and reassemble the left hand side rear hub/bearings. I also told Pablo I couldn’t get any grease to enter the rear U-joint for some time and that it was now starting to have some play in it and that I’d like for him to replace either the joint or at least the grease zerk and re-grease it, Also, since most of that desintagrated bearing went inside the housing, I had asked that he changed the differential oil to make sure no debris would screw up the diff itself.
Every day, when he was around, I would ask him, again and again. And I would always get the same answer:
“Si si claro, no hay problema!”
But nothing would happen.
But the worst part was that finding and getting a diff housing down here seemed pretty much impossible. Both Pablo and Elvio had metionnend they had good contacts that could probably find the parts. But again, every day, I would ask them again and again and could never get a clear answer. There was always something that was going to happen tomorrow or some guy who was supposed to call or……
I thought I was going to go nuts.
Pablo also kept saying he could fabricate whatever parts we couldn’t find. Like the tip of the diff housing we had to cut. This would be great! That would mean not having to look for/find/get a housing down here! But again, every day, I was on his back asking him if/when he was going to get started on this fabrication. But no. He would do all the small jobs coming in every day as buddies of his would walk in with little things for him to fix. Not that it wasn’t technical or whatever, he is a machinist and he would repair and/or weld aluminium wheels or engine parts. He would fabricate big parts or small bits and pieces on his mill from washers to hydraulic pump parts. But he just didn’t seem to have any interest in me or No4 anymore.
I thought I was going to go nuts.
I seriously considered taking a bus and leaving No4 behind. In fact what stopped me was Minnie. Dogs are not allowed on buses around here and it would be next to impossible to take Minnie along with me. To leave No4 behind is one thing; to abandon Minnie is another.
For the sake of not loosing my mind, I started taking matters into my own hands.
One day, at the same time I was contacting the local salvage yards, I dismantled the rear left hand side wheel hub, replaced the bearings (yes, I was able to find them! Myself!), packed them with grease and put things back together. The next day, after I contacted Liu and while she was parts hunting in Santiago, I replaced the differential oil. And then, after I contacted French in Bolivia, I did the same bearing job to the front wheels (bearings were good, by the way).
Pablo still didn’t work on my parts but at least something was getting done.
And then Felix wrote me to offer me his set of axels.
He was going to send them to Puerto Natales. About 300 kms from here. In Chile.
Oh, I had all kinds of offers for ways to bring them in. A friend going there over the weekend. A truck driver who could smuggle them in. Or I could put them on the bus…Or whatever… But every time, there was always something coming up last minute that would make it impossible.
So again, I took matters into my own hands.
I started thinking (rarely does this happen…) I could go to Puerto Natales myself. I wasn’t going to miss much here anyways as nothing was happenning…
I could rent a car, drive there and bring back the axels thus increasing chances they actually MAKE IT here!
But then… I thought some more. It was now obvious the new diff housing was not going to happen. So I would have to rely on Pablos’ talent to fabricate/weld a new tip for my old one. Was I really, really sure, I wanted to drive No4 south, through another extra 900 kms of Patagonian tundra on a welded diff housing to make it to Ushuaia?
All of a sudden, that 900 kms (each way) seemed like a hell of a road test…
Maybe it’d be a good idea to drive the rental car down there. It would definitely be quicker, assuming it would make it all the way, of course…
The same rental outfit that had the tow truck that brought me back to town offered the possibility to do that. For a price, of course. Admittedly, it can be complicated as you have to cross in and out of Chile and Argentina five times to get to Ushuaia and back here. Not all rental places do it.
So I made the decision: No4 would never see the end of the world; but at least I would.
Before leaving, I made sure Pablo guaranteed me he would fabricate and weld the part while I was away so that No4 would be all set and just waiting for the axel to get back on the road when I came back.
Soon as I got confirmation the axels would be in Natales monday at the latest, I rented the little car, transfered a minimal survival kit in it and left.
Mean looking Patagonian roamer…
We left saturday around noonish and on that same day, Minnie and I crossed into Chile, crossed back into Argentina, took the ferry across the strait of Magellan, although service was out for three hours due to windy conditions (wind, hey that’s new!) and finally slept on the island of Tierra del Fuego…Minnie in the passengers’ seat and myself in the drivers’ seat. Outside, the wind was howling and the temperature went down to freezing.
Welcome to Tierra del Fuego. Again not at all like I pictured it in my mind.
For much of 700 hundred out of the 900 hundred kilometers, the best part of the excitement comes when crossing borders (at least there’s lots of that…). You don’t go to Tierra del fuego for the scenery…You go there for the challenge, I guess.
But then the last two hundred kilometer turn out really pretty.
…The end of the world. The end of the longest stretch of road in the world. The achievement of a dream; somewhat.
After a journey of more than 19 months, I actually stayed in Ushuaia for less then 16 hours.
I got there at 3:30 pm on sunday and immediately started looking for the one sign that had been my phones’ background photo ever since my friends Laurent and Carole, from France, made it here on their BMW in 2012. It, was my ultimate physical goal.
But, since last october, I also had another goal. A more emotional one. I wanted to complete this journey. No matter if I had to walk, crawl or…Drive a Chevrolet Corsa down there.
I wanted to complete this journey for France and for me. Although, I will admit France had once told me, as we were beginning to prepare the trip, years ago, that for her, it wasn’t that important that she’d make it to the end. She had told me that, for her, after travelling for about a year and a half, she would be ready to go back home. She told me I could continue the voyage solo if I wanted to…And that she would look after me from home.
I kid you not. That’s what she told me.
We travelled together for 15 months, she went back home, stayed there, and I like to think she is now looking after me.
After taking the photo that I had driven 57,000 kms to get, I went looking for the right spot. Not a camping spot this time, I was going to spoil myself and hotel it tonight.
No, I went looking for, and found THE spot. I then went digging in the one piece of luggage I had brought. I got out a little white box with a 6 letter word on it.
I don’t remember if I was actually speaking out loud or if it was just in my mind but I remember what I said as I was taking the little white box out of the back pack:
“Come Honey. Come with me. We’re there. We made it.”
I walked to the boarwalk facing the bay. There was a small, half-rounded area where there was a park bench. That area actually was kind of sticking out and over the bay.
That would be the perfect spot.
I opened the box, took the little zip-lok bag out and, as I began rotating, I let France fly away over the bay in the Patagonian wind on to her last voyage.
“Farewell my love. You know my car is a little slow but, eventually, I’ll catch up with you. See you on the other side.”
It was finished. After living 25 years together, after living 15 months in less than 50 square feet, it was finished. It had been an Adventure. The Adventure of life, love, travels and death. I hadn’t realized it before october 20th, 2015 but I wished it would have continued. But, it was finished.
That evening, I celebrated my “achievement” alone with a great parilla and a bottle of wine. I went to bed early.
At seven the next morning, I was on my way to Puerto Natales where my axel was supposed to arrive today. I got there at about 7 pm and had confirmation through the internet that my axel actually had arrived. Found the carriers’ office but… They closed at 5:00. There was a lady in there so I tried my luck at knocking and making all kinds of “por favor” faces to see if I could get her to open the door. But nope, there was no way.
Guess my luck with Chilenas had dried out…
Got my axel around ten on tuesday (looks like not much happens before ten around here either…) and got on my way to Calafate.
Here’s what the little car looked like after Tierra del Fuego.
I rolled into Calafates’ industrial park mid afternoon. I was anxious to see if, as he’d said he would, Pablo would have had No4 all ready to accept the new axel.
What do you think?
Of course not! Nothing had changed. Nobody had touched the car.
I thought I was going to go nuts!
You see, it was a sensitive situation. My car is missing a wheel, it’s not like I could tell Pablo to f… himself and go elsewhere. And even then, there would be nowhere else to go to as he is the only qualified machinist in town who can fix me. At least, I was told he could…
Since it was tough to find the words to convince him without risking having it backfire on me, I decided to use a diferent tactic. I began following Pablo wherever he would go. I wouldn’t say a word but, every time he would turn around he would have me in his face. If he was working on a motorcycle and needed a tool, I would be in his way to get it. Working down in the pit under a car? I would squat at the end of the pit and watch him. Having a “maté” at tenish in the morning? I would be sitting there looking at him.
Hell, when he went for a shit, I was there when he would come out of the bathroom (no, I didn’t follow him IN the bathroom… But I could as well have!).
I got results.
He started working intermittently on fabricating my parts, but every minute he would leave it behind and do something else, I would follow him everywhere. Well, as a matter of fact, I would follow him even when he WAS working on my parts.
One of these tubes was elected to become part of a differential housing.
After two complete days of having me breathing down the back of his neck and insisting I DID NOT want to spend another weekend there , I got even better results. Pablo spent the whole day of friday working on fabricating and installing my parts.
And so this:
In all honesty, I was impressed. The guy really knew what he was doing. I began thinking this might actually work!
But still, it wasn’t until friday 5:30 pm that he finally decided to weld the new tip on the diff housing.
Nice deep chamfer:
Housing tip in place using an especially engineered centering tool (actually just another old axel that happened to have the right outside diameter…)
Heating up the area to be welded before and after welding. Before, to prevent a brutal change in temperature and after to slow down the cooling process.
And finally covering up the wound to further reduce the speed of the cooling process.
Later on that evening, thanks to loooong daylight hours, I went on and began re-assembling the bearing and hub unit. Only to find out, much to my displeasure, that one of the seals I had found locally didn’t fit. It was 8:30 on a friday and the parts strore closed at 8:00.
Was I going to spend yet another weekend here for a stupid seal?
I asked and was told the store was open on saturday mornings.
But would they have the right seal on hand? Or would anybody else have it?
The next morning, I walked to the store and was there at 9:30. Of course, they didn’t open until 10:00. But at least, I lucked out as they had the right size seal in stock!
Back at the shop, I put everything back together and, as I’m getting ready for the ultimate road test, who walks through the door?
My dear friend Jil.
How he can always just show up at the most critical moment is beyond me. But he does. And so, I finish re-assembling No4 in great company and soon Jil witnesses No4 first movements in 16 days.
After a 40 km trouble free run, Pablo and I square it off, I get to enjoy a couple of sips of a shared tall brown bottle and I’m on my way. Free at last!
Tonight I will celebrate again with a great parilla and a bottle of wine. Only tonight I won’t be alone. Friendship is a beautiful thing.
It’s so good to be back on the road.
After 16 days parked in front of Pablos’ shop in Calafate.
No4 never got to see Ushuaia but I did. We did. All three of us.
The close to 3000 km run back up to Santiago goes without a glitch; at least as far as No4 goes.
Two days before arriving, while still in Argentina, I stop at a campground for the night as I need a shower. Badly.
Minutes after I finish setting things up, I hear a fight outside. Like dogs fighting. For whatever reason, the owners’ two dogs attacked Minnie and I was lucky it happened close enough to No4 so I could run there and separate them.
Minnie is in bad shape. A little more and I was coming back home alone. Long story short, it’ll take three visits to two diferent vets, anti-biotics and pain killers, 12 stitches and a month before she is back to 100%.
But she is better now. Like nothing ever happened. Tough, that little Minnie.
On friday, march 18th, I rolled into Santiagos’ Parque Metropolitano, where I had been before… It was there that I was to wait for the next ship to take No4 back to north america.
It had been quite the Adventure.
I had done it. I’d made it.
Through all of the waiting and the challenging times of the last leg of the tour, I had had lots of support. Support from family and friends like you. I aknowledge and appreciate that a lot. But somebody else was also extremely supportive and the main reason why I DIDN’T GO NUTS while stuck out there.
As this story comes to a close, Minnie and I both hope a new one awaits us.
Thanks for being here Liu.
The end…Of this story…