Breakdown in Puebla – nail biting, travel, dealing, coping, rolling with it, stressing, and … it’s part of the game … zen

All great plans can be brought to a screeching halt in a matter of seconds.   All long term travel comes with hiccups.   They happened to me in the 90’s and I knew that they would happen to me this time around.

There were people who were skeptical about  the idea of us driving the Rialta (Katie calls her Penelope so I may as well go with that) – so – people were skeptical of us taking Penelope to Cancun, however, they were skeptical for the wrong reasons.   The skepticism was more about the danger of driving in Mexico than it was really of breaking down ….. and ……. we broke down ….. or …… sort of – we actually didn’t break down – we were experiencing an issue with climbing giant mountains and the transmission not shifting and the check engine light turning on and – since we planned to climb more mountains – we make an active choice to get it looked at in the last major city we were going to drive through – Puebla.  I plan to write more about Puebla but here’s what you need to know for this.  Puebla is a massive cosmopolitan Mexican city.  They 4th largest city in Mexico with something like 9 million residents and an area of more than 20 blocks containing nothing but mechanic shops.   Seemed like a pretty solid choice.  We picked a VW repair place.  An English speaking guy there told us he would take us to the local gurus of transmissions (just as in the U.S. transmissions are more of a specialty that most mechanics stay away from).    The family at the shop were (and are) incredibly nice.  They assured us they could get it fixed.  They told us as we arrived mid-afternoon on a Friday (the 7th) that they would need until Tuesday (the 11th).

And then the clock stopped.  Well, for the part which related to actually getting the work completed.  Deadline 1 fell to “One more day”, Fell to “First thing next week”, Fell to “Tomorrow” ……….  Unfortunately, the clock on when our next leg of the trip flew away on a plane …. didn’t stop.  And ‘plenty of time’ became ‘less time’ became ‘yikes’ became ‘shit’ became …. plan ‘B’ anyone???

It is now the 18th.   The drive to Cancun from here is 3 days if the vehicle is fixed.  They are promising beyond all promises that it will be done on Friday (the 21st) and they will drive with me in shifts to make it to Cancun.  My flight for Trinidad leaves the morning of the 25th.  Google maps projects the drive at 22 hours – this is for a vehicle going non-stop at the Mexican speed limit which is about 7 mph faster than I feel safe driving the RV – in other words – it is about a 30 hour drive.

So, even if they finish it and have it working, we will drive non-stop for the next 30 hours to make it to Cancun in order to get to the flight to Trinidad.

In the event that they don’t fix it the options are either
a) Sit here and wait until they fix it.  This means cancel the flight to Trinidad.  This means not going to Trinidad for Carnival because at this point in time all flights to Trinidad during Carnival have been sold out for months.   This means re-booking to meet Katie some place further along into the trip, cancelling flights, changing flights and – didn’t even think of this – getting Katie’s luggage to her since she is in Cancun already without the majority of her luggage.  This option is the most conservative and while it sucks the most it’s the “safest”.
b) Fly to Cancun and leave the RV here with them to have them work on it until it is done  and then either have them drive it to the storage in Cancun or have a friend fly here after they have it fixed and drive it to storage in Cancun.  This option puts a lot of trust in a lot of other people but it does get me on to the rest of the trip.
c) Have it towed – broken – to Cancun – the same 22 hour drive – but being towed – to be left broken in Cancun until we return.  This option is not only expensive in multiple ways – the tow is probably $2000 and even if we pay the current mechanic nothing more they still have 50% deposit.  Then we will need to find a new mechanic on the back end.   While this option is theoretically “safe” it’s a pretty tough pill to swallow.

So – how ‘ya feeling reading all of this?   And toward the title of this post and a comparison.   I won’t lie and tell you I haven’t been – stressed, mad, freaked out, literally almost crying during parts of this undertaking – but on the flip side I just keep reminding myself of how lucky I am.  This problem is not about my health and it’s not about anything that is mission critical in the general scope of things.  The reality is that the worst part of this whole thing at the moment is that it’s really fun to be in the RV and to explore and the undeniable fact is that this segment of our adventure is officially closed.   The final leg of the RV journey if it happens with me at all will be a breakneck rush to get Penelope into her safe haven in Cancun.  I’m really hoping that is what actually happens but I don’t have much confidence in this moment.  BTW – if you are interested in some historical fun from our travels with Penelope (as well as our dear departed Jack) you might enjoy the old blog from our U.S. adventures –

Either way, this will sort itself out one way or the other without critically impacting my life.  In the zen of this – seeing how it pans out – when I am able to think about that last sentence I can only consider it silly that this is even a big deal at all – so many people out there have real, actual problems.  I am fretting how I am going to make it to the next destination on this fantastic, curious adventure and thus I roll with it.   Look for the next update! —- oh – and wish us luck (although we already have lots of it)

2 thoughts on “Breakdown in Puebla – nail biting, travel, dealing, coping, rolling with it, stressing, and … it’s part of the game … zen

  1. Wow Mark quite a curve ball, but you seem to be on the up side of it now. Be careful if you go with the made dash to Cancun non-stop, especially if you are bringing people with you. If it were me I would probably opt to drive with just me and Katie if Penelope is fixed or better yet have it towed and fly to Cancun. Just seems safer to me than putting even more trust in your new mechanic friends. I’m sure they are very nice people, but I error on the side of cautious most of the time. Best of luck, I know things will work out for you guys!

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