My friend Burkhard, of German descent from Namibia, moved from a rather remote part of the interior of Uruguay to a place not far from our little country property. And immediately started projects. One of which was buying a Ford Model A.
Which meant taking the whole thing apart. No, I mean really apart.
And from three engines that looked like this, creating one with the best parts from each. He substituted adjustable valves – a later innovation (i.e., not original) that apparently saved days of labor.
And then, of course, one has to put the whole thing back together.
Today it had its first public-road debut. Having been a farmer all his life in Africa, he knew about windmills, and had helped with ours on our barely-used chacra (14+ acres/5.6 hectares). He mentioned that it probably needed lubrication, and since I was halfway through mowing the knee-high grass, and he was offering, we arranged to meet there this afternoon.
And there he was!
He also helped me find a plumbing solution for an annoying oversight from our Uruguayan “of course I know everything” contractor Martín, and then putt-putt-putt was on his way home before he had to use the vehicle’s lights, which are humorously (as long as you’re not driving in the dark) dim.
Next time – did I mention he also bought a Model T that he will begin restoring in a few weeks?
We finally took delivery of our new car, a Renault Duster. Though it’s been wonderful to have a loaner car for two months, it’s fabulous to be sitting high off the road again, and the Duster may replace my 2002 Toyota 4Runner as my all-time favorite car. It’s a sort-of SUV, only two wheel drive, lacks some bells and whistles such as electric mirrors, but by default – YESSSSSSSS! — front running lights turn on when you start the engine. These are required in Uruguay by law, and not having to remember to turn the lights on is a great plus. On the Meriva there was not even the option to pay the dealer a rapacious USD 100 fee to change the computer. Couldn’t be done.
I was going to write that despite close calls, I’ve never been pulled over for not having lights on. Not true: during our first visit, in March 2009, I drove through the Solís toll booth, and was pulled over by an older policeman on foot. He told me my Spanish was very good, and I was tempted to reply “yours isn’t!” but refrained – I was still struggling to understand the Rioplatense zhmumbling. He seemed to be hinting something about a Coke, like a small bribe, but the smallest I had was a 20 Euro note (we had been in Europe four months before), and I wasn’t giving him that. My lack of comprehension eventually led to an impasse, and we drove off fine-free.
Back to the story: the Meriva, you might recall, ended up like this:
Please note the license plate. Now compare to the new one:
Just a bit interesting, no? Is Universe sending a message?
A friend returning to the States for an extended period generously offered us the use of his car, and refused to accept any money for it. I wasn’t too concerned about that, because I could tell it needed some work.
And boy, did it: entire front suspension and brake pads, rear wheel cylinders, alignment, oil change … a little over USD 700. But, seeing as we’ve had the car seven weeks and probably will need it one more, the cost will come to something like USD 12.50/day, and we “leave the campsite cleaner than we found it,” as was the goal when I was a camp counselor. Win-win.
But there is one more thing it needs: a new battery. Sometimes it doesn’t want to start, and this morning it simply didn’t, even with my command “Engine-start!” as I turned the key.
Which is from a silly 2009 movie called 2012 Apocalypse. If you have access to US Netflix, you can see it at 1:42.
The movie has some other compelling scenes: the Vatican destroyed in an earthquake (1:30), the White House destroyed by an aircraft carrier in an immense tsunami (1:34), and helicopters flying in the Himalayas with giraffes slung beneath them (1:44) – you just can’t make this stuff up.
Anyway, maybe I’ll spring for a battery. I have to go to the supermarket now. Engine – start!
Lovely, sunny, crisp autumn day. I walked into town to pick up a $3,000 Western Union transfer (cost: $6) so that now we officially have enough money in the bank here to pay for our new car, which should arrive in the next few days. From where, I have no idea. We ended up with the Meriva in 2009 because it was available: with other makes and models we might have preferred, we were told to “come back in January when the new cars arrive.” At $1,000+ per month for a nothing-special rental car, we did not like that idea.