Mexican life

Cars, cars, cars

I WAS 50 years old before I bought a new car. It was a 1995 Ford Ranger pickup, so not really a car but a pickup.

Before then I’d always purchased used vehicles and darn few of them too. Not a car guy.

Shortly after marrying my first wife in 1965,  I inherited a 1956 Plymouth Savoy from my granny. About three years later, I bought a VW Beetle convertible, used. Now that was fun. But I left it behind when we split in 1971, and I continued sans car.

I had bicycles and motorcycles.

My second wife had a 1975 Toyota when we met in 1976, so that was what we used until about 1985 when we bought another Toyota, used. Later, we bought a third Toyota, used. That was our ride when she dumped me in 1995.

Her current car is a Prius. She votes Democrat.

And that was when I purchased my first-ever new car, er, pickup, which I drove until I moved to Mexico five years later. I sold it in 2000. Most people who move to Mexico bring their cars  — and as much gear as they can manage, foolishly — but the pickup would not fit into either of my suitcases.

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2014 Nissan March

It was after moving to Mexico in 2000 that I shifted into high gear and began buying new cars. I have purchased four in the past 17 years. All from dealerships, all paid in full, in cash. The last was in late 2013 when we bought my child bride’s 2014 Nissan March, a model that isn’t sold in the United States.

I bought new cars, in direct opposition to the fact that it’s smarter to purchase relatively new used cars, because I did not trust used cars in Mexico. I have since altered my tune, and were I to buy another car it would be a “pre-owned” from a dealership. I still wouldn’t buy one directly from a local.

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2000 Chevy Popular (Pop)

My first car here (2000) was a Chevy Pop, very much akin to a Geo Metro from the turn of the century. It was a real honey, and we kept it till we bought the Nissan March in 2013. We sold it to a nephew, so it’s still in the family.

The Pop had become my wife’s gym car. It had no AC, no airbags, not even a radio. It had squat aside from reliability. We once drove it from here to Atlanta, barreling down the U.S. interstates with the windows wide open in springtime.

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2004 Chevrolet Meriva

But the Pop ceased to be our main car in 2004 when we bought a Chevrolet Meriva, another vehicle that’s not sold in the United States. It was sold in other parts of the world as an Opel or Vauxhall. It too was a gem, but it had no airbags, was a stick shift, no cruise control, not so basic as the Pop, but eventually I wanted something more suited to an old coot.

So we bought a 2009 Honda CR-V with automatic transmission — the first automatic of my life — A-C, of course, cruise control and airbags front and side. Mexicans drive like lunatics, so airbags are not optional equipment.

The Honda got its 170,000-kilometer service yesterday, and the mechanic informed me that the front shocks needed to be replaced. We’ll do that next week. The cost — parts and labor — will be 7,300 pesos, which is a bit over 400 bucks.

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2009 Honda CR-V

It’s the first repair of any consequence I’ve had to do with the Honda, which is a pretty good car.

Maybe we’ll buy another car one day, depending on how long I keep breathing, but if we do it’ll be a late-model used one from a dealership. I’m thinking Nissan.

Or maybe a motorcycle.

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(Note: Until recently, Gringos living in Mexico could tool around in cars with long-expired U.S. plates, and Mexico looked the other way. But a few years ago, rules were changed, and you’re not supposed to do that anymore. Most don’t.)

(Another note: I was surprised to learn recently that Renaults and Peugeots are not sold in the United States. They’re popular down here, especially Renaults.)

Mexican life

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.

Mexican life

Easy living

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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.

The Odd Pot

Riding in style

On moving over the Rio Bravo in January 2000, I intended to use the famously efficient Mexican public transportation to get around. That notion lasted eight months.

I am addicted to my own wheels, I discovered.

So I went to the Chevrolet dealership in the capital city and forked over less than $8,000 (Gringo dollars) for this little baby. It has no AC or sound system. It’s called a Chevy Pop. It’s not sold in the United States, and it’s based on an old Geo Metro design.

Chevy

It is an absolutely wonderful car. It gets a million miles to the gallon. It’s easy to maintain. The leg and headroom are huge. The backseat folds down, giving you carrying space like a pickup through the hatchback. And it never breaks down.

It cost only $500 more than a new VW Beetle at that time.

Ours has just 75,000 miles after 13 years. It was our only car till 2004 when we bought a Chevrolet Meriva, another great car that’s unavailable in the United States. It was made in Brazil and sold elsewhere as both an Opel and a Vauxhall.

At that point, the Chevy Pop became the spare vehicle. My child bride drove it downtown to the gym thrice a week, and that was about it. It was enjoying semi-retirement.*

But she was using it more of late, going here, there, everywhere hereabouts, and the fact that it has no safety equipment save seatbelts put the worry into me. Plus, she is lovely and deserves a lovely car to carry her about.

March

So last week we bought a 2014 Nissan March. The little baby has airbags, power steering, automatic transmission (which was new for her), a sound system plus Bluetooth, and other bells and whistles.

And she’ll never lock herself out again, forcing me to come rescue her, standing on the pavement, looking woebegone, staring through the window at the key.

* * * *

If you don’t count the beautiful Harley-Davidson purchased in 1977, I never bought a new vehicle until I was 50 years old. It was a 1995 Ford Ranger pickup.

I sold it five years later in Atlanta.

Since moving to Mexico in 2000, however, this Nissan is the fourth new car. The Chevy, the Meriva, our current Honda CR-V and now the March.

For years, I have looked down my nose at the Gringos who move here in their U.S.-plated vehicles, jam-packed trailers in tow like Okies fleeing dust. My opinion is that if you are moving to Mexico permanently, do it correctly. Leave your junk at home.

Buy new junk here, stuff that suits the surroundings. Mexican junk.

And buy a car like the locals do. But Mexico has allowed foreigners to bring their cars and drive around unmolested for years with expired plates.

And eternal tourist insurance.

But the rules have recently changed here, both with visas and with foreign-plated cars. This has caused lots of headache, consternation and expense where Gringos gather. Now they must have Mexican plates. This provides me pleasure.

I did it right from the get-go.

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* We sold it to a nephew last week.

(Note: Lots of links can sauce up a story, I think.)