A history of transportation

The first car I ever owned was a 1956 Plymouth Savoy, just as you see here. It had been my grandmother’s but when she died my parents gave it to me in 1967. I was married with a kid, so it was much appreciated. My first wife and I were living in a rental in Uptown New Orleans, and our only transportation was the St. Charles streetcar, and we had to walk a few blocks to get to the streetcar line.

The streetcar was a fun way to get around, but for convenience a car is preferred. This photo was probably taken about 10 years before we were streetcar regulars on the same route.

The Plymouth carried us a few years, but in 1969 I got a decent-paying job on the New Orleans newspaper. I don’t remember what happened to the Plymouth, but I bought a mid-’60s VW Bug convertible and, boy, was that fun. I found this photo online. I don’t know who the blonde is.

When my first wife and I divorced in 1971, I left the Beetle with her, and she fairly quickly destroyed it by neglect. I moved to the French Quarter, and a bicycle became my transportation until I bought a BSA motorcycle which I shipped to Puerto Rico in 1973. The BSA stayed in Puerto Rico when I left the island about a year later.

Yep, me.

In New Orleans again, I was back on a bicycle, but later I bought a 1977 Harley-Davidson Sportster. I met my second wife-to-be in the mid-’70s, and her 1975 Toyota Corolla became “our” car for years.

Then another Corolla, bought used, and then yet another, also used, when she totaled the previous one while racing a stoplight.

After 19 years we parted company in 1995 and again I had no car. That’s when I bought my first-ever new, four-wheeled vehicle, a 1995 Ford Ranger, a pickup I kept five years until I moved to Mexico.

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Mexico

Here I purchased four new cars over 14 years. First, in 2000, a Chevy Pop, a sweet, little thing not sold in the United States. It was a Geo Metro clone with no AC or even a radio that we drove all the way to Atlanta and back in 2003. Then, in 2004, a Chevrolet Meriva, also not available in the United States. Then, in 2009, a Honda CR-V. Then, in 2014, we bought a Nissan March for my child bride.

We still own those last two, which brings me to the purpose of this post. What’s gonna come next? I have a system.

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My Honda CR-V has been the best car I’ve ever owned. Twelve years and not a single problem of any consequence. The thing runs like it did the day I drove it out of the dealership in the nearby capital city in early 2009. I’d never owned a Honda before.

Looking ahead to the day when I may need a new car due to an accident, robbery or an expense so high it’s better to just buy a new car, I like to have the next vehicle chosen. I would prefer another Honda, but the CR-Vs have doubled in price since 2009, and I won’t pay that.

I don’t have a job.

I turned to Kia, specifically the oddly named Soul — good reviews and, though I am quite tall, I can get in and out with ease. So that was my backup for a couple of years till I discovered its rather meager ground clearance, not good in a nation loaded with speed bumps.

Sticking with Kia, I turned to the Seltos, which only appeared on this side of the world relatively recently though it’s long been wildly popular in India. It was my top alternative till just a few days ago when I visited a dealership and sat in the HR-V, a relatively new addition to the Honda line that was upgraded this year. Wowzer!

The mid-model I like costs 403,900 pesos, which is about $20,000 U.S. right now, plus selling my CR-V would trim that down a bit. You cannot haggle at Mexican dealerships like you do above the border.

It’s not as large as the CR-V, but it’s large enough, plenty of headroom. And it’s a good deal less pricey than the CR-V.

It’s my new main man. But I need a reason to buy one aside from just wanting to, like a teenager. Maybe I should drive my current Honda into a tree because I don’t think it’s ever going to wear out.

It appears that when you buy a Honda, you have it for life.

The new Honda HR-V is not a Plymouth Savoy.

Dentists, dust, cars, maids, Lent, etc.

WE WENT TO the dentist yesterday, both of us. Actually, it was two dentists. One for her, and another for me.

My child bride was to get, after three months of waiting for the posts to set in her jaw, her four new implants. She ended up getting three. There was some detail with the fourth, and she’ll be returning in about 10 days to get that last one.

While she was doing that for over three hours, I drove about 10 blocks away to a specialist who does root canals. That went well, if longer than usual, two hours in the chair, and then I returned to the other dentist to pick up my better half.

A friend in Arizona told me yesterday that he needs a root canal, and his dentist’s fee will be $2,500. That’s U.S. dollars. My root canal cost $3,200 pesos, which is about $172 in U.S. dollars. This cost difference is astounding.

We have no dental insurance, but we don’t need it. Unfortunately, my friend in Arizona does not have dental insurance either, and he does need it. Just one more example of how life in Mexico is superior to life above the Rio Bravo.

* * * *

THE SEASON OF DUST

shelves
Veranda shelves where dust and bat poop accumulate.

This morning, like most mornings, I swept the downstairs veranda and wiped off the shelves. All the shelves were dusty, and some harbored bat turds that had dropped from the roof tiles where bats doze during the day.

We’re heading into full-tilt dry season, which means lots of dust, inside and out. The dust inside drives my child bride nuts. We really should hire a maid, but we never do. The minor reason is that we don’t want another ongoing household expense. The major reason is that we don’t want anyone underfoot here.

In the years we’ve lived here, we’ve had two maids. I forget why we fired the first, but we fired the second because she was unreliable. For months after she departed, we noticed things had been stolen, mostly clothing and music CDs. If we ever hire another maid, we will not leave her here by herself, which is another reason not to hire a maid.

* * * *

CARS, CARS, CARS

Unlike so many Gringos who make the wise decision to move over the Rio Bravo, I did not bring a car with me. Delta Airlines provided my transportation.

I bought my first car in September 2000. It was a little Chevy Pop, something that was not sold in the United States. It was almost a clone of the Geo Metro, a very nice little ride. Four years later, we bought a 2004 Chevrolet Meriva, another car that’s not sold in the United States. It was made in Brazil and sold in other nations around the world as a Vauxhall, sometimes an Opel. It too was a very nice car.

A bit over four years later, we bought our 2009 Honda CR-V. Aside from some design flaws that only the driver notices, this is a very nice car, and it’s still serving us well.

About four years later, again, we bought my wife’s 2014 Nissan March, and yet again, it’s a car that is not sold in the United States. It is small and sweet.

The Honda is almost a decade old now. It’s been great. However, a large plastic part  where the front bumper should be — why do cars no longer have bumpers? — fell off recently in the state capital. No huge issue, and a mechanic reattached it for free.

Is this a harbinger of things to come? Will we be tooling down the autopista through avocado groves and narco hangouts toward the sands of the Pacific when something else falls off or simply stops functioning? It’s a concern.

I don’t know when I’ll buy it, but I have decided on its replacement: the Kia Soul.

soul

It’s smaller than the Honda CR-V, but it’s far roomier than it looks. We went by the dealership in the capital city recently to see if my tall, lanky, aging self could get into the Soul with no problem. It was a piece of cake.

The front seat is incredibly spacious. The back seat not so much, but we never sit in the back seat. The safety ratings are good, and so are customer reviews.

Inexplicably, when I tried to sit in the significantly larger Kia Sportage, I cracked my skull on the top of the door opening. Kia, a South Korean firm, has been making a big splash in Mexico the last couple of years.

When this change will take place is unknown. Currently, the Honda is working fine. I recently bought new floor mats and had it waxed for the first time. Soon, I’ll need four new tires, no small expense. But when a new car is purchased, I’ll become a Soul Man.

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BEEF AND WALKING

I wrote the above this morning before heading out on my daily exercise march around the neighborhood plaza. The butcher shop in the next block, run by another Felipe, was closed due to its being Friday during Lent.

Semana Santa is just a couple of weeks away, so he’ll soon be able to sell again on Fridays. That won’t affect me, however, because I rarely eat beef, being more of a chicken and salad man. It always amuses me that Catholics think God worries about what they eat.

And Jews think God wants guys to cut off the tip of their dingus.

I’m sure he has more important things on his mind, like how to get the Mohammedans to see the light and put down the scimitars.

Geezer dreams

easy-rider-dennis-hooper-peter-fonda-jack-nicholson

OVER THE PAST month I’ve been embracing some very thrilling ideas.

Dreams that have reached the very edge of realization though the reality has yet to happen and likely will not.

We all have dreams, but what sets these dreams of mine apart is that they were given very serious consideration. One or both might still happen, but likely not.

Without further ado, here they are:

(1) Buy a motorcycle. I’m a biker from way back and even though I sold my last ride around 1990, the siren call remains. Over the past month, research has narrowed my future ride — if the dream were to get off the ground — down to this:

The 2016 Suzuki Boulevard C50, an 800-cc, cruiser-style machine. I think I would look very fine astride it.

Much of motorcycling is about style, of course, and I’ve even investigated that. Were I to buy the bike, I would also order appropriate accoutrements from this place.

They’ve told me they ship to Mexico. I told you that I was looking into this very seriously.

I already have a biker babe here in the house, the most important accoutrement of all.

Given the spectacular exchange rate these days, the motorcycle would cost about $8,000. The Harley Sportster I purchased in 1977 cost $5,000. That the comparable Suzuki is just $3,000 more almost 40 years later is surprising.

(2.) Buy a new car. This is slightly more likely to happen, but just slightly. My current ride is a 2009 Honda CR-V, which I purchased new. I’ve never liked it.

It’s about eight years old now, and has never given me a lick of real trouble. It’s a great car. Its sole defects are some design lunacies that only the driver would notice.

Of course, that is always me.

No matter. If I buy a new car, I’ve narrowed it down to the 2016 Chevrolet Trax.* It would be the fourth new car I’ve purchased since moving to Mexico, if you don’t count the 2014 Nissan March we bought for my child bride 18 months ago.

With the current resale value of the Honda factored in, the Chevrolet would set me back about $8,000, just like the motorcycle. How about that? I have $8,000.

I don’t need a new car, and I probably would perish on the bike, so neither of these dreams is likely to happen.

But you never know.

Magic happens in Mexico.

* * * *

* The two cars previous to the Honda were Chevrolets, a Pop (Geo Metro clone) and a Meriva, also available as a German Opel. I loved them both.

Easy living

hammock

I RECONNECTED  with an old friend recently in San Miguel de Allende. We hadn’t seen one another in 15 years.

Over breakfast he asked me about living in Mexico, what most I liked or disliked about it. After pondering a moment, the first thing out of my mouth was that living in Mexico is easier than living above the Rio Bravo. And cheaper, of course.

This came to my mind again three days ago due to an event that beautifully illustrates what I said.

Walking out to the Honda with the intention of going downtown for a nice café Americano negro and to run a few errands, I discovered the battery was stone dead.

It was the second battery in the seven-year-old car, but I had changed the first battery before it left me stranded.

That same morning I had driven the car to various places with no indication the battery had one foot in the grave. The car cranked immediately with no hesitation.

In the afternoon, however, I was surprised at the secondary effects. The doors opened, but the trunk door wouldn’t. The automatic gear shift would not budge from Park.

Here’s what happened next when the easy and inexpensive elements of Mexican life came into play:

My wife had already driven downtown in her Nissan March. I phoned her and explained the problem. She drove home, first stopping at a garage where a mechanic immediately dropped what he was doing and came with her.

I was not totally convinced at that point that the problem was a dead battery, due to the odd — to me — side effects.

The mechanic determined that it was a dead battery. We three returned to the Nissan, dropped him off at his garage, and continued to a battery store to buy a new one.

We returned to the garage, picked up the mechanic, and the three of us returned to the Hacienda where he installed the new battery. My wife headed to the gym in the Nissan.

The mechanic and I drove the Honda to his garage, where he charged me 50 pesos, about three bucks.

The entire drama lasted about 90 minutes.