Here We Go Again & Again

Do you remember the movie “Ground Hog Day” where the character played by Bill Murray kept waking up each morning to find that it was the same day all over again? So it’s only fitting that on Groundhog Day, February 2nd, that I write about what has been happening in our life for the past month or so. The feeling of “Dèjá vu” keeps coming to mind.
The new year started off with many of the usual things. Animal Advocates held it’s annual Gala (fiesta) to raise money for sterilization clinics. The title for event was “Mardi Paws”, obviously with a Mardi Gras theme. Again it was a great success. Again our own Animal Advocates member, Christine, cooked & served a marvelous selection for food from Louisiana; a local ensemble entertained us with live music; and we again had many items donated from local businesses for raffle prizes. This time we changed to the countryside patio and poolside setting of a casita compound in the neighborhood town of Limón.

At the end of the month, Animal Advocates sponsored another mini-clinic in Pedasi. They have had larger ones in the past, but for now monthly small ones seemed to be working well. This time 24 animals were sterilized, many of which were feral cats. This is where the money goes from the fundraisers such as the “Gala” and “Mercado” (last one was in December). Many local people cannot afford the costs for sterilization and we also try to trap as many “animales de calle” (feral) as well. So Animal Advocates subsidizes the costs of the vets & his assistants. Future mini-clinics are scheduled in February and March.

In December, Mikkel & I bought another car, a 2004 Ford Explorer & our third one since we moved to Pedasí. Each car before, a 1998 Honda CRV and a 2000 Honda Passport, although worked for us for awhile, developed many mechanical problems over time, costing a lot of money in repair bills and challenges in transportation and acquiring parts while being repaired. The head gaskets had to be replaced with each car as well as many other issues that occurred. I was really getting frustrated with our Honda Passport that still had many problems even after having the engine rebuilt. Mikkel got a call from a friend that he knew someone trying to sell his car which was in great shape. After looking at it and confirming that it had indeed been well-maintained, and negotiating payment, we decided to purchase it. Our plan is to sell our Honda Passport.

A few weeks later, before the Gala, we drove to San Carlos & Panama City for a 5-day business trip. All was fine other than the AC stopped putting out cold air when returning home, but we had already known it had a leak and were planning to have that repaired the next week. Then the next week after the Gala, we took another business trip to Boquete & Puerto Armueles (located on the Pacific Coast near Costa Rica). This is where that “dèjá vu” feeling comes again. As we were driving to Boquete on the InterAmerican highway about 2 hours outside of the city of David, the car overheated and completely shut-down. Been there, done that, and are you kidding me, it’s happening again! We were in the usual line-up about 300 meters from the immigration checkpoint and, due to the construction of widening the highway, in a lane and nowhere to move it off the road. When Mikkel opened the hood, water was bubbling and steam was definitely coming out of the overflow system. He carefully turned the cap just one notch, but it blew out immediately. The hot water burned Mikkel’s right arm, leaving a huge blister. He doused it with cold water from a drinking bottle we had inside for temporary relief.

Thank God there was cell service and thank God we had roadside service through our car insurance which we had just bought at the beginning of the month. But it took about 2 hours or so for the tow-truck to arrive from David. When the tow-truck did arrive, the driver asked Mikkel to steer the car up on the bed while the driver was pulling it up with the chain. No problem accept when Mikkel exited the car, tripped off the truck flatbed face-first and landed on the street pavement in the lane of traffic. Again thank God there just happened to be no cars coming, especially since it was now night time. He immediately got up and came around to the other side, but he must have over-extended his right arm to stop his fall and pulled some muscles or tendons in his elbow.

So we now hop in the cab of the tow truck and travel another 2 hours to David. The car is stored overnight at the “patio” of the tow truck company and we take a taxi to a hotel in David (having cancelled our reservation in Boquete) to get some rest. The next morning, we again take a taxi to rent a car and drive to the tow truck “patio” to give directions to have the car towed again to a mechanic we had used previously to replace the serpentine belt in our Honda Passport on another pass trip to Boquete, located just outside of David. After delivering the car and talking with the mechanic, we continued our trip to Boquete, then Puerto Armueles for the night. (I will post about out stay in the future.) But while we were at the hotel in Puerto Armueles, Mikkel steps off the patio overlooking the beach (which was about a 2-foot drop) and falls again, using his right arm again to brace his fall.

The next day, we are contacted by the mechanic telling us that the car is ready. Wow! That was fast! The thermostat and starter had been replaced. So we picked up the car, returned the rental, and continued our plans to Las Lajas where we would be staying for the night. All was good, until we had just turned off the highway to La Lajas (about 1.5 hours outside David). “Here we go again”. The engine started to overheat. Mikkel pulled off to the side and we waited about an hour for the car to cool down; added some more coolant; and then drove to the hostel for the night. (Pictures will also be posted in the future.)

Back to the mechanic after making sure there was plenty of coolant and buying more coolant if the overheating occurs again. Thank God it didn’t this time. But again we left the car with the mechanic, flagged down a taxi, and went to another hotel in David for the night (having to change the dates of our reservations at a hotel in Santa Catalina). The next morning we again took a taxi out to the mechanic who then told us that the head gaskets need to be replaced and it will be about a week before it was fixed because he will have to order parts from Panama City. So we flagged another taxi down; went back to the car rental agent and rented a car for the next week. Then we had to go back to the mechanic to unload all the business materials and luggage before driving back to Pedasi.

So here we are with another car adventure, a very costly one at that (although not near to what it would be in the states if this had happened there). Oh, I forgot to mention before we left on this trip that our Honda Passport is also in a shop in Guardaré having the fuel injectors replaced and transmission serviced so we can sell it. We did manage to enjoy our stay at the hotels, and we did get some business orders while in Boquete and Las Lajas. So all was not lost. Mikkel went to the new salud (health clinic) in Pedasi on Sunday where for $2 he was examined by the doctor, prescribed and received 3 prescriptions, and treated by a nurse for the burn which involves a very painful scrubbing of the burn area to remove the dead skin and applying a silver sulfate mixture and bandage. He was ordered to return each day for a week for the same treatment, costing only $1 per day. With ice packs & pain medication, his elbow is healing slowly (no bones broken-thank God). This is all part of our adventures we experience for our third life in Pedasi, Panama. Happy Groundhog Day!

4 thoughts on “Here We Go Again & Again

  1. McMoller says:

    In the states, I don’t remember having a head gasket replaced but once over the many cars and years. Funny thing is that each of our cars were owned by expats from the US or Canada and claimed to have maintained the vehicle. We ourselves have always used coolant.

  2. Hugo Ernst says:

    I’m sure glad I do most of my own car maintenance. I sure don’t understand the head gasket thing, of all the cars I’ve had over the last 50 years (and with running a business for 24 of those years, that at any one time had 3 to 5). I’ve had a lot of cars. I’ve only had one head gasket replaced, even that one when googling it, it showed it was a problem at a certain mileage (I was within 5K). I know when talking to friends down there, that the locals, don’t know how to do preventive maintenance. I’m wondering if they run antifreeze in the cars, or just water since it doesn’t freeze? I.e. Running just water clogs up the radiator with mineral deposits, and causes excessive pressure on gasket, thus you would need radiator repair/replacement plus gasket.

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