12.23.2011 - 12.23.2011
A journey is a person in itself; no two are alike. And all plans, safeguards, policing, and coercion are fruitless. We find that after years of struggle that we do not take a trip; a trip takes us.
Writing from a town called Quetzeltanango. It's in Guatemala and I had no idea it existed as the second largest city in Guatemala until a few weeks ago when I booked a language class and 7 days stay at a locals's place (meals included).
Before I take you south of the Rio Grand, I'd like to hit on some of the adventures that Pale Cheeks and I have encountered in my homeland, The United States of America.
Before this past October's Colorodo, she was "The Cruiser", a 30 year old beast of a diesel, born in Japan in '81, then shipped off to Canada, most likely British Columbia where she was hauled eastward across the country to Quebec. Her original owner used her as a farm hand, her low gear ratio could and still can march through just about anything. A guy about my age right now was the last owner. He left her to his mother to sell while he went off to live in Paris. I'm sure he never knew that a 23 year old kid from NY was going to cross the border and deal with customs to buy her. I'm sure he never imagined how much tiger she still had left in her tank. I'm sure he never knew she'd make it to the Arctic Ocean in 2006 (ref. http://crosscountry-2006.blogspot.com, Billy Wagner and Charles Kunken) or make an attempt at crossing borders south of the Rio Grande.
May 2006 she lost her doors in an accident on the California Coast. October 2011, at a Landcruiser junkyard in Salida, California she got her wings back. The doors were white and she was named "Pale Cheeks".
I know it may seem that we are harping too long on Pale Cheeks but it must be remembered that she is the one primarily responsible for helping this expedition come to fruition and so attention must be given to her.
Her shell is weathered like a broken-in baseball glove. A friend of mine once said she had a nice patina. She gives of an air of romance, evidenced by the heads that she turns along roads of all sorts.
At her nose is a bull bar of welded steel connected directly to her chasis. A winch, rated for the jungles of Africa, is bolted into the assembly noted above. Under the hood you'll find a 4 cylinder diesel -that's all, and that is why she is so strong. Her beating heart is simple - not fast, not even high on horsepower. She is built to work, not show off.
But her drivetrain has a few bells and whistles. Landcruisers are renowned for their stout axels and low 4wd gear ratios. In Salida she was outfitted with pnuematically controlled locking differentials which were added to improve our chances of passing the impassible if the situation ever arose.
It is true though that one must take the good with the bad. Pale Cheeks is no exception. For one, her doors don't like to shut and once in a while will pop open on their own, almost always at the most inopportune times, i.e. rounding a turn. Occasionally, her parking break will stick. A few love taps under her rear fixes this problem. Don't count on getting an accurate read on her temp and fuel gauges at one quick glance. The gauges need to be studied over hours of travel to determine their true measure as they are in constant fluctuation. If you want to roll the drivers side window down below half way, you need to have a shim ready - I like to use a bolt. If you don't create a little friction by using the shim, the pitch of the squeeking can debilitate the driver. The 18 gallon auxillary tank at her rear has a quirk too. In order to be filled, Pale Cheeks has to be on a left to right horizontal incline. Since this isn't typically found around the pumps at a station, a wood chock is used as a jack under the rear fill-side tire. As it turns out this is a nussence for attendants in the States. The common reaction might lead one to believe a misdimeanor is being commited. (It will be noted down the road that those South of the border find it the most boringly normal fix that could done to help fill up a car). There are more, but the point is made. If you want all the good then you have to take the bad and if possible take it with a smile. You don't find charm in a new Chevy Volt. It is something that is earned, like old wine sitting patiently in a hard oak cask.
So, with the perfect tool for the job, I set off from Huntington, NY on the 2nd of October of this year to points known and unknown.
"The Cruiser" before her wings. middle of nowhere, OK