Sunday, June 05, 2011

Oil pans and volcanic eruptions

12 of us headed out early Saturday (well, o.k., not too early) to one of our favorite destinations--to Cortez Pass, or Paso de Cortez. Thanks to a new four-lane road that runs from Chalco to Amecameca, we can get there faster than ever. In probably just over an hour, we can be over 10,000 feet, between two (normally) snow-covered volcanoes, each one towering up over 17,000 feet. Their presence near us is the reason for the name of this blog.

Saturday was an exceptionally clear day at the pass, with blue sky and hardly any clouds. We could see two more volcanoes from the summit--La Malinche, near Puebla, which is 14,000+ feet, and even the top of Orizaba, Mexico's tallest peak, at over 18,000 feet. It actually gets chilly up at the top of the mountain. After spending some time taking pictures, we headed to La Cascada, a park that features a small, glacier-fed trout steam, that cascades over a rock ledge. Very nice. After that, we traveled to La Venta for some hot chocolate and quesadillas.

I drove our van and Fabian, a new friend from the church, drove his 2001 VW Golf. We made it down through the rocky dirt road to La Venta, but I immediately knew something was wrong. Fabian came to me with oil in his hand, saying that a rock in the road had totally blown a hole in his oil pan. Ooops. It was around 2 p.m.

As we were discussing what to do next, Fabian pointed behind me. Popo, a quite active volcano, had erupted, and vapor and ash shot several hundred feet into the air. The white vapor contrasted beautifully with the clear-blue sky. I yelled a Robert to climb to a higher vantage point, and he started taking pictures. I'll post them at some point here. It was the closest by far I'd ever been to an eruption of that magnitude. Cool...and maybe a tiny bit scary.

After that excitement we returned to the task at hand. The obvious answer was to go back down the mountain to Amecameca or Chalco to get the part. We took Daniel, Tiffany and Pancho with us, thinking that if we did have to return in one van, 12 us us just might not fit. Especially when the 12 of us included Pancho, Brigam, Fabian

We went back down the curvy mountain road and, after trying 3 different places in Amecameca, went farther to Chalco (almost the whole way back home), and found the aluminum oil pan. One the way back we happened to stop at a road-side taco stand. Two growing boys get hungry, don't you know.

We returned at around 4:40 p.m., and Fabian finally was done bolting the new oil pan on around 7 p.m. It was starting to get a little darker, and I was glad to be heading home before nightfall. Well...

I told Fabian to go ahead of me so that he could go at his own pace, and we followed. His car seemed fine, which was an answer to prayer. We made it probably 3 miles of the 5 miles of dirt road up to the summit, when we saw where Fabian had blown out the oil pan. But then we noticed that the oil trail continued. And then probably 4 of us realized at the exact same time that...THIS OIL TRAIL WAS NEW! Yes, believe it or not, he blew out a 2ND oil pan.

It was now just about dark. We tried to pull and push the car with some rather weak cords that I had in the van, but to no avail. A small pick-up truck went by, and Fabian ran up the hill when they stopped. They sold him a rather thick rope for about $4, and guess what? Now, in the darkness, we tied the two vehicles together and hauled this once again incapacitated car to the top of the mountain, over 2 miles of bumpy dirt road.

Once at the summit, we untied the rope, and for the next 20 minutes or so he coasted behind me on a very curvy, very dark and somewhat narrow mountain road. At one point the road dipped up again, so we once again tied the car and pulled it up the grade. From that point on he coasted the whole way down almost to Amecameca, with me in front of him, close enough so that if his brakes failed, he could ram into the back of the van and we could stop him.

I finally pulled his car into a nearby gas station, where he parked it for the night. Fabian texted me this afternoon about 2 saying that he repaired the oil pan (again) and the car seemed to be fine.

I was a bit overdue for a car story like this! God's hand was in every moment of this experience, and I think we all had an uncanny confidence that things were going to work out. And they did!

No comments: