Daily Archives: 20 December 2010

Touch & Go with the Tropic of Cancer

16 December
A beautiful day in Mexico. Woke up at 6am, had a quick breakfast and saw the largest skunk I have ever seen hop over an adobe wall where the Bibler was staked and amble over to where I was standing with his massive, all-white tail high in the air. I quickly closed the tailgate and took a step back. The skunk came to the edge of the sidewalk and then crawled into a hole under the concrete right behind the Rover and disappeared.

We filled up the gas tank in town and joked with the attendants at a Pemex station. “Alaska, muy frio!” They said. “No, no… Mexico muy caliente,” I replied. They laughed and shook their heads no.

At one point, we saw a horse riding in the back of a pick up truck, which is a sight you just don’t see everyday in the States. There were also burros and goats in numbers to rival the sightings of caribou and bison in the north.
We crossed the Tropic of Cancer and had traveled 20 kms or so when the trouble hit. At first, the Rover acted like it had no power going down the road, even though there was no reason for that to be the case. There was only a minor grade and no wind to speak of. I pulled over to the shoulder, and Peter guided me into the grass trying to avoid the broken glass and other tire pokers. The brake pedal was solid, which was not normal, and I immediately could smell brakes. It didn’t take long to realize that the master cylinder had locked up the brakes as tight as a drum.
Peter and I were able to release the pressure and get the truck going again. Peter immediately voted to return to Texas, I knew it was the smart move, but didn’t feel it was the right move. Eventually, I did turn around and we made our way to Saltillo without any further issue.

Driving back, I was not the warm & fuzzy curmudgeon everyone is used to. I was kicking myself about turning around, and really regretted not returning to Las Palmas to ask the nice people there if they knew of any good mechanics.
The road to Saltillo took us through some beautiful mountains, which didn’t help matters any. The slopes were covered in cedar trees and other junipers. We were passed by a young man on an old Yamaha 350, who gave me a quick thumbs up as he went by. This was the country that I had come to see and it was painful to be heading north again.

Just south of Piedras Negras, we hit our first military checkpoint. The guard was amused with us and the rig, and waved us through without even a glance at our passports. At Eagle Pass, we were pulled out of line, the vehicle was x-rayed, checked out by the dogs and emptied by the border guards. They only half-assed looked at a few items before telling us we could go. Welcome back.

17 December
It was obviously time for Peter and I to part company, so I dropped him off in San Antonio to catch Amtrak again. I think it is safe to say that both of us realized that the Circle to Circle trek was not a trip Peter was suppose to make, but hindsight is 20/20 and woulda, shoulda, coulda never gets you anywhere.
I had sent Mac an email from Saltillo, and he confirmed my suspicions that it was a master cylinder failure. He offered me his shop and expertise to work on the truck, which I took him up on. I’ll have more on Mac and his family later, but suffice it to say, they have been great and have gone above & beyond anything I could have expected.

20 December
The new master cylinder is in the truck. We also replaced the passenger side front wheel cylinders and fixed an axle seal leak. We agreed that I really needed to re-line the brake shoes, so they are in the shop today for that, and should be done by 5pm. If all goes well, the Rover should roll out of Mac’s shop with a revamped braking system tomorrow afternoon.
Honestly, what a roller coaster ride. Not much I can do but go with the flow. Mac wants to call my Rover “Texas”, because it doesn’t seem to want to leave this state. I’m not quite ready to go that far…

P.S. A very Happy Birthday to AJ & Megs.