20 June, 2013

A Trip to Oz

Wishful thinking on how the day was going to progress.

For starters, I envisioned a nice early start with no rain. Zoom down to Belize City and be done by 9:00 - 9:30 AM, at the latest. Quick tour of hardware stores, light lunch - probably at Brodie's. Back on the road and back home by 2:30 PM at the latest. Easy peasy.

Hold on right there. Let's back it up a bit... Like to the very beginning.

The first thing I had to do was to open the hood and add a quart of oil to the engine. I had stopped by Rick Magaña's, the mechanic's place, Monday afternoon for some hints on opening the hood - it had become stuck again.

Without seeing exactly what he had done, he got it open toot-sweet. Then we had checked all the fluids. Everything was fine except the oil was about a quart low. So, I thought I'd pop the hood and add the missing quart. Good to go. Except, I couldn't open the hood (Rick had explained to me then that it wasn't that the hood cable release had stretched, like I thought, but that the rubber bumpers that the hood contacted when closing, were missing, thus allowing the hood to make closer contact with the locking mechanism and by that, preventing the latch from being able to release the hood).

Well, no biggy, I thought. We'll just stop at Rick's on the way and have him pop it so i can add the motor juice.

Departure time had been agreed upon as being 7:30 AM. At the appointed time, I kissed Dianna bye-bye, and jumped into the Isuzu. With a wave to the disappointed doggies, I was on my way, through about 6-inches of mud just outside our gate. Nothing new there.

A quick stop at Doug's to pick him up. He was going to be my co-pilot and navigator for the day. I saw Twyla talking to him about large clay pots and thought - "Oh yeh, there's that new clay pot place down in Belize City that we wanted to stop at. Well, no problem. We'll have plenty of time to see that." Wishful thinking.

Doug and I cinched our seat belts and headed out to the highway. First stop - pick up five gallons of gas at the 'alternative gas station', if you know what I mean. That went fast and we were back on the road. So far so good. Next stop, Rick's and we'll get that pesky hood release taken care of.

Except, when we got there, Rick wasn't there. Oops. Doug and i stood around swatting at mosquitoes for a few minutes. Then, we decided that we would try and open the hood ourselves. Doug tugged on the hood itself while I pulled the under-dash release. Viola! It opened.

Doug told me he had had the same problem with the hood on his Isuzu. He solved it rather creatively with a couple of round rubber door-stops that he purchased at a local hardware store and screwed in place. I'm going to have to try the same thing.
Hood Up! At Rick's
Ah-hah, it was a two-person operation. I hadn't caught onto that fact the day before. Duh! So, we added the quart of oil, Closed the hood and headed back onto the highway. No more than five minutes behind schedule that would be easy to make up.

As we headed south to Belize City, we traversed several speed bumps, and about the time we got to San Joquin Village, we crossed another speed bump. Instantly I realized something was wrong. The engine was still running but the accelerator pedal was flopping loosely and having no effect on the engine. So, I immediately pulled off to the side of the road. Leaving the engine running, we practiced our new-found technique of opening the hood and stood there looking into the engine bay.

I'm not sure what I was looking for - maybe some big engine component to have fallen off and to be hanging by a thread or something, smoking. But, no. nothing like that. The only thing I saw was that it appeared the throttle cable had jumped out of a bracket sort of thing and was then just hanging limply. Almost by a thread.

After a closer examination, it seemed like there should be a way to tighten the cable fitting to this bracket if we only had some tools - which I didn't have with me. It did seem that if we popped the cable back into the bracket, that it would give the accelerator some functionality. Maybe if we gingerly crossed the speed bumps we could get back to Rick's and have him take a look at it. Nothing else for it - we sure weren't going to make it to Belize City in our current state. That early optimism of a quick trip was beginning to fade fast.
Trying A Rubber Grommet
So, we turned around - carefully and retraced our steps back up the highway to Rick's. We popped the hood again (we had become experts in the process now) and waited. Rick's helper showed up and began working on his assigned tasks. After a few minutes, I decided to move things along to try to get us back on the highway expeditiously and called Rick. I explained, more or less, what the problem was. He asked to speak to his helper, so I handed the phone to him.

After a minute, he gave the phone back, saying Rick wanted to talk to me. Rick explained that he had told his helper to fix our problem so we could get back on our journey. If he couldn't fix it, Rick would be back to the shop in half-an-hour, and he would take a look at it then. Great. We might just salvage this journey after all.

The helper began rummaging through a couple spare parts bins, grabbing rubber bushings and washers. Then, he fiddled with a knife blade (no handle), began trimming a bushing down to fit the throttle cable and the bracket. After a couple of minutes, he tightened things up and we were as good as new and ready to go. Wow! Amazing service.
Tightening the Throttle Linkage
I guess whatever bushing had been there in the first place, had rotted and fallen off, leaving the throttle cable resting in the bracket, only to become dislodged when I hit the last speed bump. Who knows how long it had been like that before that happened.

Anyway, we got back on the highway and headed south. it seemed to be holding quite well, as we traversed several other speed bumps without incident.

Just past Carmelita, we came upon the farm where I had stopped on a previous journey when the engine overheated and farms owner had helped by allowing me to park the Isuzu in his equipment yard for a day until I could return and tow it back to Corozal - to Rick's actually. My home away from home.

We wheeled off the highway into the farm and the equipment yard. I wanted to return a triangle-shaped piece of steel he had given me to help set up towing the Isuzu. He had asked that, If I could return it, he would appreciate it. So, about a month or two after the towing incident, I managed to return the triangle.

I asked the worker we found in the equipment yard, if he would give that to the farmer and to please thank him for his assistance. I know the kid though I was nutty as they come. After I got back in the Isuzu, he probably tossed the metal bit onto the ground and promptly forgot all about it. But my conscience was clear. I had returned the metal bit as he had requested.

With all that good karma from fulfilling a promise, we headed on to Belize City without further incident. That is, till we got there.

It turns out that this was not the best of days to be coming to Belize City. Half of the streets downtown seem to be torn up, literally, so that they can be re-paved with concrete. And I do mean torn up. Huge pot holes and dirt mounds, No lessening of traffic. The usual bicycles, vehicles and pedestrians along with the torn up roads, made for an amazing driving experience. And... of course there's more. One of the major bridges in town was closed - half of it anyway, for re-paving. So, detours became necessary. Of course, there's no marking of detours or anything. You just figure your own way through and work out where you can get to, to get through it all. At one point, twice actually, we followed the seawall around the north edge of town just to get back to the round-a-bout on the highway, so we could get pointed in the right direction where we wanted to go.

About 9:00 AM, we found Caribbean Shipping's offices, where I had to pay the shipping charges from Florida to Belize and pick up the shipping documents. That went well and then we were off to the port to meet our customs broker. Did you notice the time slippage that has occurred here? 9:00 AM and we're just getting started.
Outside Caribbean Shipping
More detouring again and we finally pull up outside the Belize Port Authority and the Security gate, where I called our broker. Of course he couldn't meet us there. We had to meet him back up by the bridge that was being re-paved in the Santiago-Castillo parking lot to get the customs forms.

Finally, we pulled  into said parking lot meeting and shaking hands with our broker, Joseph Hamilton. First thing he asks me is, "Do you have the invoices?" Uh, that would be a big "No." No one told be I needed them. I had emailed PDFs of the invoices to Hyde Shipping in Florida (Caribbean Shipping is Hyde's local agent). But they didn't include them in their sheaf of paperwork.

He asked if I could email the invoices to him. I said "No, not without returning to Corozal." H wanted to know if I could have it down and get them emailed down to him. I envisioned trying to explain to Dianna how to create PDFs using software that she's never seen before, doing stuff with it that she's never been exposed to before... "Uh, that would be a big no." We're not emailing them. Well, maybe invoices are attached to each of the boxes. So, only one way to find out. Back to the port to meet with Mr. Hamilton's assistant Jamal.

At long last, and several variations on a theme of new roads for us to travel on, including at least two detours through the 'Tourist Village' part of the port area. This is where the cruise ships drop off their passengers to experience the 'local flavor and mingle with actual natives'. Just such an authentic plastic experience.

Anyway, we made it back to the real port area where we met our assistant broker. He took us both inside the security area, where we traded our driver licenses for snazzy blue visitor tags, and we went over to one of the customs offices where I paid the first of three fees. I absolutely don't remember what this one was for.
Port Authority Security Gate
From there, we went to another building called the Customs Mall, where we sat and waited while the assistant located the two boxes. I forgot to tell you what manner of treasure we had come to Belize City for. it was for a kitty door and a replacement pressure washer wand. A couple of highly-critical items for sure - but that's another story for some other time.
In the Customs 'Mall'
We broke open both boxes only to find no copies of the invoices. "No problem" said the assistant. What did you pay for each item?" I guessed about $30 US for the pressure washer wand and about $50 US for the kitty door.
The Large Customs Mall Warehouse
Armed with that info, we went back to the office area and sat while he and the Customs folks hashed out what the duty and other fees were going to be. Apparently, not having invoices was not going to be the big barrier to completion of the process as it initially sounded.
Everything is Computerized
After paying the duty ($45 BZD) we headed back to the gate to turn in our fancy badges in return for our driver licenses and outside the gate, waited for Jamal to show up with both boxes. Now all we had to do was pay the brokerage fee of $30 BZD and we were good to go.

Well, by now, it was about a quarter to twelve. Lunch time. Doug and I wended our way through the downtown area to the Riverside Tavern for lunch, where we both had burgers and a couple of beers. So, much for a nice early day. Well, at least the burgers are still arguably, the best in Belize.

With full tummies, we once again found ourselves driving through rubble mounds of unpaved downtown roads till we managed to get back onto the Northern Highway where we pointed the Isuzu to Benny's Hardware, where I looked unsuccessfully for replacement ceiling fan capacitors. We always seem to be able to find capacitors for table and floor fans, but ceiling fan ones are another story altogether.

After Benny's, we made a quick stop at Brodie's, so Doug could get a couple of items, then we found the new hardware store - Nationwide Hardware. They didn't have capacitors either. Bummer.

Now, we returned to the highway and headed north to Corozal. It seems that Carmelita is the place where things happen. As we approached the village, I really began to fade... That is, get tired. Time to pass the controls over to Doug and let him drive the rest of the way. I would have hated to have made the rest of the drive by myself. It probably would have become dangerous to me and everyone I passed.

Anyway, we finally made it back to Corozal, uneventfully, about 5:45 PM. A far cry from the early day that I was confident about just a short few hours before. All I wanted was to clean up and hit the sack. What a long, long day.


JRinSC said...

Someday the Gods are with you and on others don't even know your name!! That almost sounds as bad as some days back when I was still working!

Glad you got home ok...

Dave Rider said...

Hi Julian,

Thanks. I sure turned out to be 'one of those days'.
All in all though, turned out ok - got my shipment, ate at Riverside, and got home safe... with the car still running. Hey, on that, I think I came out ahead!