Car Update

Car update.  So far we have put 21, 000 miles on the truck.  Out of these we have over two thousand miles on dirt roads (roads that have never seen any pavement).   The miles on roads that were paved once in the last 30 years are significant but unknown.  I suppose this is the majority of roads in Central America (and the section of the Alaska Highway in northern BC, which is absolutely abysmal).

The damage so far:

  • Oil changes:
    • Mobile 1, synthetic 5W30
      • Distance: 7.5K miles
      • Jiffy Lube, Anchorage, Alaska
      • Comment:  Relatively good road conditions in Alaska and northern Canada.  The temperature was also moderate: 10C to 20C.  This allowed for a fully synthetic with high mileage on it.
    • Mobile 1, synthetic 5W30
      • Distance: 7.5K miles
      • Jiffy Lube, Long Beach, California
      • Comment:  The majority of these miles were in the US and Mexico in November and December.  With low average temperature this oil was appropriate.  The second part of the trip was between Belize and Costa Rica.  We did not hit too many hot places but we did a lot of steep and bad roads.
    • Motor Peak Performance 20W50, 50% synthetic
      • Distance: 3K miles
      • Toyota dealership (Purdy Motor), San Jose, Costa Rica
      • Comment:  The dealership recommended higher viscosity oil based on the mileage on the car (182K).  I decided to go with it since the driving conditions around here are much tougher (hot, humid, dusty and very long steep roads). The car can use more frequent oil changes.
  • Breaks:
    • Front breaks (Leon, Nicaragua)
    • Rear breaks (San Jose, Costa Rica)
    • Break fluid flush (San Jose, Costa Rica)
  • Suspension:
    • Front right wheel bearings (Leon, Nicaragua)
    • Front shocks (San Jose, Costa Rica)
    • Steering system flush (San Jose, Costa Rica)
  • Windshield:
    • Boy, is that baby cracked!

Boarding down the side of a volcano (there is a reason to visit Leon!)

Well, if it wasn’t clear by now, G is a bit of an adrenaline junkie.  He particularly loves things on a board where you move fast (kiting, snow boarding, etc.).  When he saw that you could board down the side of a volcano outside of Leon, he got that all too familiar look in his eye (he’s about to charm me into coming along).  There were two options, go down like you were snow boarding or like you were tobogganing (on your rump).  We both choose to utilize our backsides.

The day we chose was particularly hot and windy (carrying your board and gear up the side of a volcano and through the active crater wasn’t awesome).  In the end, we did make it to the top and were rewarded by some incredible views.  It was then go time, and we suited up. We were both keen and therefore close to the front of the line.  The boards were really just reinforced wood with a piece of laminate on the bottom to help with speed.  I noticed that a piece of laminate had broken off on one of the boards.  I new the jagged edge would catch and create drag.  I made sure G got the other board – knowing he would appreciate the speed more.  I was cursing that decision on the way down.  I barley get the board moving, f@$k that (okay – my form was probably not the best, but that board didn’t help).  G of course came piling down the hill after my having a grand old time.  Oh well, we were there to satisfy the adrenaline junkie.

After a bad first impression, giving Leon a chance

Well, I can’t say the city exactly welcomed us with open arms.  After a rocky couple of nights, we wanted to give the city a chance.  It was a little frustrating how many local businesses were closed because of Semana Santa, but there was nothing to be done about that.  We spent some time relaxing on a shaded bench in the central square.  George likes his coca cola, so he went to grab one from a local street vendor.  What he came back with was a plastic bag filled with ice and cola, tied off with a straw jammed in.  Not the cold refreshing glass bottle he was expecting.  The city does have its charms though.  A beautiful church in the central square (the largest in Central America) was the starting point for an Easter procession (minus the alfombras that Antigua laid out).  G and I had a front row seat from a coffee shop.  Another charm – delicious coffee.  All-in-all, Leon was a nice town – I can’t see myself visiting again though.  I don’t have the will do fend off the bed bugs.

Leon Hostels Part II

… I should start by saying that even before this incident we had been extremely cautious about bed bugs.  We never ever leave stuff on the beds and we go in rooms with minimum things.  Everything else stays in the car… 

We had paid to stay for 3 nights at this one party hostel n Leon.  Since it was Semana Santa (Easter week) everything else in town was booked.  The first night it turned out there was a bed bug infestation in our room.  Gross!

That night we had no choice but to sleep in the room.  Both T and I were very, very tired.   The same day we had woken up 5am to cross from El Salvador to Nicaragua (See the “Two border crossings one day” post).  The only solution we could find was to take shifts.  Yes, Nicolas … we did shifts of 3 hours … :).  One of us was on ‘bed bug duty’ whacking the suckers with a toothpaste and the other sleeping.  I won’t give you the number of bedbugs we killed since I hope you will still invite us to your house one day … Oh, and on top of all this suck, I had a classic case of traveler’s diarrhea …  Joy!

Next morning we were spent.  We had vouchers for free coffee at the hostel but we couldn’t wait to GTFO so we gathered all strength and stumbled to a coffee shop on the main square to look for a new place …

A few hours later we had it.  A brand new hostel.  Good ratings, supposed to be super clean, etc. etc. We move in, we washed all cloths, went trough everything that was in the first hostel (did it twice) to make sure things were clean, etc.  All great right … Wrong! The second hostel also had bed bugs!  F*&k!

Ok, there were much, much, much less suckers than the first place but still.  I was so tired that night.  I just said fuck it and crashed in bed.  T however couldn’t sleep at all.  She basically pulled an all-nighter with the toothpaste in hand …

Next morning – volcano climbing and lava boarding (see next post).  T was tired out of her mind.

Next evening we were done changing hostels.  There is no f*&^ing hope!  We just slept in two hammocks in the hostel backyard.

Tonight we are camping!  Unfortunately we have to spend the day disinfecting and looking at everything with magnifying glass….