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Jonathan Roldan – BAJA BEAT

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Thursday, August 30, 2018
A time when nothing was everything


Please steal my car!
So, this morning, I was checking out my “new car” here in La Paz. Proudly too, I might add.

You see, unlike back in the states, where everyone has several vehicles in their driveway, in Mexico where most people either do NOT own even a bicycle or depend on two legs or public transportation, we have a car. One car.


It’s a privilege. It’s independence.


In the times when we were without a car or our car was “in the shop,” it puts a real crimp in the lifestyle. Try running several businesses from several locations without transportation.


Imagine your own lifestyle if you had no car. It’s a pain in the rumble seat that we often take for granted.


Anyway, our new ride is a dandy.


It’s ONLY 16-years-old.


It’s a Honda CRV. The sun has taken most of its paint. The tires look like they still have a bit of tread on it. Three hubcaps. One blinker light broken.


The after-market radio doesn’t fit. It is held into the dashboard with two metal shims wedged into the sides of the radio to keep it from falling into the dark void behind the dashboard.


The A/C barely whispers and it tries hard to lower the ambient temperature. But, the windows do roll down. Not always a given.


And the car runs. Sort of. It over-heats on hills and long drives. Might need a new radiator. Or not. We just won’t take long drives over hills!


In 23 years here, I’ve had four cars. I’ve never had a new one. No 4WD desert beast. No fancy SUV. Just basic Baja transportation.


New cars are expensive. New cars get beat up by the desert, sand, salt and water. Baja roads take their toll. It carries fishing gear, ice chests, groceries for the restaurant and so much more. Every day.


So, we keep it simple.


We got the car from a guy who knows a guy. Who knows a local police officer. Who knows a guy that imports old cars from the U.S. Cash only. It may or may not have papers.


If you ever want to know where old American cars and trucks go when even the used-car dealer doesn’t want them, look to Mexico. Or cars that get written off by insurance companies after disasters like Hurricane Katrina where all the vehicle get submerged…well…they’re all down here!


So, we buy our car from wherever. Whomever.


One of my cars only had three seats in it. And two windows didn’t work. Another only two doors that worked and had two different colored carpets in it.


Our last “new” vehicle was 12 years ago.


It was purchased from a guy who desperately needed to leave town! Like RIGHT NOW! He already had a ticket for the ferry boat to mainland Mexico and said ultimately he needed to get to Guatemala.


So, he had to sell the car TODAY! Young kid who looked like someone might be after him. He wanted eight grand.


The car was an ancient Range Rover.


It actually had papers, but without time to inspect it and only time to test drive it around the block, I told him no way I’d pay eight grand. He pleaded. He had no choice. The ferry boat was leaving in a few hours.


We went back and forth. I got him down to $1,500! From $8,000! At that point, my wife said not to take further advantage of the situation. He gratefully took the money…and ran!


And that’s how we get our cars.


We take them to “Fernando the Mechanic,” who Jerry-rigs all the taxi drivers in town and can get cars running with duct tape and baling wire. He can make anything run for pesos and a case of beer.


He works out’ve his house. Little dead-end road near the arroyo. His wife runs a beauty salon in their living room. Fernando has the rest of the house. All the dogs in the neighborhood hang out there and the taxi drivers drink beer while they all visit and Fernando fixes their cars.


And off we go. Bouncing, creaking and rambling along.


And whenever something happens, Fernando can usually fix it.


Hehehehe…Sometimes we register it. Sometimes not.


You see the DMV down here is sometimes open. Sometimes not. You can wait for days. Sometimes you can wait months for registrations or license plates. So, lots of people drive illegally.


The cops know it’s tough to go through the DMV. So they’re pretty lenient most of the time. Live and let live.


So, we take our cars and use them! No coddling. Our cars are true Baja Burros.


When something, breaks, we call Fernando.


When the time comes and there’s simply no fixing our car any longer or not worth it, we literally ask someone to steal it!


We sometime just leave it where it had its last gasp or we get it to some back street corner somewhere.


We leave the keys in it. Doors unlocked. Windows down.


And it’s always gone the next day! SURPRISE! Hehehehe…


Some poor schmuck found a way to make it run or towed it. Or he used donkeys to haul it away! And now it’s HIS problem! Someone else thought they could make it run again. God bless ‘em.


I don’t have to haul it. I don’t have to junk it!


We never report it. Sometimes it’s not registered, so no big deal.


I’ve seen one or two of our cars from time to time around town.


One old minivan we'd had was in someone’s yard up on blocks being used as a dog house. Another was stopped on the side of the road with the hood up and the guy was pouring water into the radiator.


And I just smile. Glad someone was able to use it.


We find another car and start over.


Life in Mexico!


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