Route

 

Where I’ve gone, where I’m going. The markers indicate places I have visited so far, and the line indicates my general planned route, which can be summarized in words as: (1) visit almost everyone I know in Canada and America, then (2) drive through Mexico and all of the Central American countries, then (3) stick around in Nicaragua till my money runs out or my plans change. I will drive at least 15,000 km (9300 miles).

The Vehicle

the noble steed

My car is a 2003 Honda Civic, manual transmission. It had 350,000 km on the clock when I bought it.

Incomplete list of items in my car:
two full-size tires on rims;* snow chains;* one gallon of no-freeze windshield wiper fluid (thanks, Ashley);* jumper cables, jack, motor oil, funnel, many tools; camping supplies including MSR stove capable of burning diesel, if it comes to that; trekking poles; steri-pen UV water purification wand; multiple bikinis; five different colours of drawing ink; learn-Spanish-in-the-car CDs; filebox full of books; Montty the monkey; WAY too much yarn; pineapple Halloween costume; straw hat purchased in Cuba for $5, in 2003; two yoga mats; Mongolian boots which actually – surprisingly – aren’t that good in the snow;* Cowichan sweater;* silk pants (possibly multiple pairs?!); Gorilla glue; tiny wooden animals; bourbon;** coolant; A/C recharger; map turtle shell from my Uncle John.

* Abandoned in Clarksdale, MS – no more need for winter equipment!!
** Consumed; replaced by some absolutely incredible Oaxacan mezcal

Actually pretty complete list of car troubles encountered:

  1. In Olympia, WA: tailpipe and muffler fell off. When attempting to replace, discovered exhaust manifold was cracked. Replaced both parts. V. expensive, v. sad.
  2. In Quebec and Vermont: large amounts of snow, leading to various adventures with skidding, angry start-up noises, the use of snow chains, ice everywhere, digging out the car, etc. But no real “car troubles.” Cochita performed admirably.
  3. On the highway in Florida, whenever it started to get warm: air conditioning didn’t work. Apparently “testing” the A/C before buying, when it’s winter in Canada, isn’t very informative. Drove with windows down. Eventually fixed A/C in Austin by recharging the system ourselves – v. easy, v. cheap, accomplished in the parking lot of the Autozone where we bought the recharge kit. Hurrah!
  4. In Austin, TX: flat tire! Or rather, mostly-flat tire: a medium-fast leak. We went to a roadside tire shack recommended by the Autozone guy, where an intense-looking guy with an amazingly long rattail removed the nail that was the cause of the problem and patched the tire, efficiently and wordlessly, for $10.
  5. On the highway just outside of Mexico City: Cochita overheated! Temperature gauge zoomed up as high as it would go, and did not come down. Pulled over on the side of the highway, and within 5 minutes a roaming tow-truck with 2 mechanics inside pulled up in front of us. The lead mechanic (sporting a gloriously 90’s gel-spiked hairdo) swiftly diagnosed the problem as a burnt relay (I assume the one operating the cooling fan; but there was obviously a language barrier), cleaned it with one of many razor blades kept in his wallet (!!), refilled the radiator with water, charged us approximately $20, and sent us on our way. Cochita is fine!
  6. On the incredibly twisty mountain roads between Oaxaca City and Puerto Angel: Cochita continued to overheat! But in a peculiar way, in which the temperature rose slowly from normal to almost-maximum when the engine RPM was low, but worked fine when the RPM was high. We did our best to keep the revs up (damn those topes!) and keep the temperature in a reasonable zone; trying to get to Puerto Angel before dark meant that we couldn’t stop to see a mechanic. We ended up driving for an hour and a half after dark anyways. The next morning, we went to see a mechanic, and he reconnected a disconnected hose and refilled the coolant. Cochita is fine! She is so happy to be at the correct temperature! She loves us! She drives like a dream!

 

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