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Quick Trip to MX to Get Sh*t Done


View of Tijuana above

September 25thth, 2020

Back in one of our favourite countries: Mexico!  These days the USD is worth about 20 MX pesos and the price of gas is 17.90 a litre which equates to over $3.50 a gallon.  Here the people seem to be complying with COVID recommendations for the most part and we continue to do the same.

After crossing the border and getting pesos from an ATM, (all totaled: 50 minutes) we made our way towards the small town of Valle De Guadalupe where we found a carpenter on iOverlander to help us with repairing two walls in Tigger where we’d had water damage a few years ago.  We made it there just around 5pm and Jose was still around.  We told him what we needed and added a couple of things (like fixing the sofa bed) and as we were sitting there, Fran notice a propane smell – that darn regulator was leaking!  Jose gave us a very reasonable price to sand and paint both walls.

Jose said he could get us a new one and fix it the next day along with the other work.  He found us a place to camp/park nearby and we had a fairly quiet night parked not far from his shop.  Now we know we are back in Mexico with its many sounds and smells.  There are lots of stray dogs, roosters crowing at all hours and many street food stalls.

Saturday morning, we got the area around the walls prepped so Jose could work on them and the bed and arrived back at his shop by 9:30.  Once we dropped it off we went for a walk and Doug dropped off the extra cushion back off at an upholsterer to get it recovered to match the couch (we’d kept some extra fabric just for this purpose and there was enough).  True to his word, he replaced the propane regulator, sanded and painted the walls, fixed a piece on the back of the bed (turns out it didn’t help much but he tried) and it was all done by 5ish.  He said we could return to the same spot to spend that night.  While he and his helper were working, we walked a lot, got some yummy omelets at an outdoor restaurant, got a few things done on the truck (removing the remainder of the TIP sticker from the windshield, replacing a headlight bulb, battening down the hood which had been shaking lately even though it was closed, removing ugly tape from the outside cubby (we’ll replace it was a rubber strip we think) and reinstalling the plate that covers the LPG regulator) and doing some reading in the shade.

Sunday morning, Doug went for his run and we put the inside of Tigger back together before driving to Ensenada where we hope to get a few more Tigger items fixed and some medical and dental things taken are of before returning to the US.

The weather here is in the high 20’s C / 80’s F and pretty clear.  There is a breeze most of the time which helps and it’s not very humid.

We found a parking lot where we can park overnight (and we can sleep inside) and stay in Tigger and then went for a walk looking for doctors and dentists.  It’s time for our annual physicals, Doug needs an Echo and Fran needs a mammogram.  Being Sunday, of course, nothing was open, but we went to a hospital that has doctors’ offices and were given a brochure with names and numbers.

While walking back to Tigger, Doug had his leather hat treated by a shoe shine guy.  We walked back  on more commercial streets than the malecon we’d been on and found some doctors, dentists and eyeglass shops as well as a jewelry repair place to get Fran’s wedding rings fixed.  Naturally these places were all closed but at least we know where to start on Monday.  We did not see a “car repair” section of town so we’ll look for that another day but we do have a handle on a few mechanics from iOverlander.

Monday we made a few phone calls and checked in with an overlanding friend who lives here (but she’s sick in bed with bronchitis so we cannot visit) and were able to set up some doctor and dental appointments starting today.

We left the parking lot and drove back to the hospital we’d been to yesterday.  Doug saw a cardiologist that morning and had has echo done, asked about a  few other things, got referrals to a doctor for Fran and a urologist for himself.  Our friend referred us to her dentist and he got an appointment for Friday. Next we returned to a jewelry repair place we’d see the day before and dropped off Fran’s wedding rings (a claw had broken and another was loose and due to her ChickV swelling she wanted it resized).  That afternoon we went looking for a auto body shop to have some work done on the coach of Tigger and to get the exhaust looked at.  At the latter place we made an appointment for Wednesday and at the former we returned around 3:30.

While walking around again during that work we found several dental offices and Doug decided to see if he could get seen that afternoon.  At ABC Dental he was taken right away and twenty minutes later we were out of there.  It seems his bite was off from the work he’d had done in Brazil and hopefully this will fix that issue.  We then stopped into an optical place to check out the price of glasses and it seems Costco in the US will be the way to go.  Doug did get his glasses straightened as well.

Here’s Ensenada’s main church which we wandered past:

Upon returning to the auto body shop, we had then finagle a fix for the outside cubby door; we’d removed the ugly gorilla tape that had been slowly falling off and wanted a rubber strip to cover the gap between the wall and door (water get in easily there and it rots the wood in the door).  They eventually found a large strip of rubber and glued it on, screwed in the ends and then caulked over the top edge.

Raul told us to come back in two days when the caulk would be dry and they touch it up and ensure it was working  That night we notice a couple of issues with the paint work and will have that looked at as well.

Before: After:

Tuesday, the day started with Doug going for blood work after which we dropped off some laundry.  Then it was time for his Urology appointment (all is well) and then Fran went for her check up – all was well there too.  Before the next appointment we found a place to fix Tigger’s right speaker to the stereo and that was done right away as well.

Then Doug went to an ophthalmologist to get his prosthetic eye cleaned.  Got done quite quickly and then Fran picked up her rings after we picked up our clean clothes.

Next stop was a place to get Tigger for a tire rotation and to have the brakes checked, specifically the ER brake.  We thought the tires might need balancing as well but that was all okay. Done.

During the latter work Fran went to the pharmacy to fill Doug’s script for an eye lubricant and pick up a cream her doctor said she should use and then we were done for that day.  We returned to the parking lot and decided to have dinner out at a nearly Italian restaurant which was one of very few with outdoor seating.

Wednesday morning, Fran went for her blood work and we returned to the 4×4 shop to have the exhaust manifold looked at – we’d been told there was a hole in it which was causing the vibrating sound we heard periodically.  Turns out it was not a hole but a blockage in the catalytic convertor and a secondary exhaust pipe that went nowhere!   Cristobol and his team worked on that and a missing bolt that had broken off for most of the day.

Now we do not have health insurance for everyday/preventative items so just for our readers’ information, here is a list of the medical/dental items we had done and their Mexican prices:


Doug’s consultation with the dentist:                                                                             400 pesos      =         $ 20  USD

Doug’s cardiology exam including ECKO                                                                  2,000 pesos     =          $100

Doug’s blood work & urine analysis                                                                           2,490 pesos      =          $124

Doug’s Urology appointment                                                                                            700 pesos      =          $ 35

Fran’s physical exam WITH a belly ultrasound and PAP                                 1,400 pesos      =          $ 70

Fran’s blood work & urine analysis                                                                          1,365 pesos        =          $ 68

Fran’s mammogram                                                                                                          600 pesos        =          $ 30

Prescriptions                                                                                                                        736 pesos        =          $ 37

Doug’s ophthalmology appointment                                                                        700 pesos        =          $ 35

 Total:                                                                                                                              10,391 pesos         =          $520

 So it was definitely worth the drive down here to get those all taken care of. 

As a comparison for one item, Fran’s mammogram; once in Utah our American insurer tried to claim this was not covered and we were going to be charged $1,100!  Fran called and got that straightened out quick – if you refer to the line item above, you can see we paid $30 not $1100 and it was a state of the art digital mammogram machine. 

 So the repair was done by 2 and we went back to the auto body place as asked to get some finishing touches done from the work on Monday.  It’s barely 3pm so we decide to make a run for the border as Fran has received her test results and all is good so no real reason to stay.

As we are heading north, the exhaust is still making a noise but not as loud.  We decide to live with it.  We hit the border at San Yisdro in Tijuana and we come to a standstill.  It’s 3:40 pm and we are in line until 5pm!  It took us that long to move 540m / 1700’  !!!! There are many booths not open and four lines are just crawling – there are another 8 lanes to the right of us (Ready Lanes and Sentri pass holders) that are not going that much faster.  While we sit idling, we now hear a new sound from the exhaust system.   Darn!

We decide it’s been a long day and find a hotel about 70 km / 45 mi from the border in Escondido.   We enjoy long hot showers, good internet and watch a movie.

By morning we’ve decided to head back to Mexico to a mechanic to fix the exhaust in Tijuana who gets great recommendations on iOverlander.  Doug calls Ricardo, who refers us to a friend who does exhaust work and we make a plan to be there tomorrow.  We guessed it was all going just a little too well in Ensenada that something had to cause a glitch.

As the temperature soared to 41C / 106F today we decided crossing the border into Tijuana was not a great idea as there were no campgrounds there (and they are pricey here in the San Diego area).  So we found a cheap hotel halfway to the border and after a sweaty walk about, checked in for the night.

Friday morning we were up early to head back south.  We got through the border quickly, they did a quick inspection and we were on our way. (As we are only entering Baja, no TIP needed and we still had our 180 visa with us so no immigration needed either.)  We arrived at Isaac Mendoza’s muffler shop about 9:20 – forty minutes early.  Isaac recommended replacing all exhaust manifold gaskets and he’d order the two catalytic converters we needed.  We hoped that part wouldn’t take days….

We went for a walk for a few hours over lunch and when we returned the converters were there ready to be installed.  Later in the afternoon when they were testing gaskets, they noticed the motor jump from side to side – the motor mounts were shot!   That is work this shop doesn’t do so Isaac had us reach out to Ricardo again to see if he could help.  Ricardo’s shop is not big enough for Tigger so he told us of a couple of others but they couldn’t take us until Monday.  As this meant we couldn’t drive anywhere until after that Isaac mentioned a mobile mechanic he’d used when his car broke down south of here; he called him and by the end of the day we heard that he’d come a 9-9:30 the next day, Saturday.  Now it will be interesting to see if he can get the parts needed.

The exhaust work was not completely down either so Isaac said we could stay parked out front of his shop for the night and we could plug in.  That was great as it reach 37C /  98F today.  It did cool down some after the sun set but as usual, the inside of Tigger was not so cool.

Saturday morning Fran was entertained watching the shopkeeper across the street.  He had two HUGE bags of cans that he wanted to crush.  So first he dumps them out in front of the shop:

Then his buddy in the van begins driving back and forth over them:

Then he uses a rake to gather them together so the van can continue:

They almost finished the work on the exhaust when the mobile mechanic, Roberto showed up around 10:30 (?).  He got to work right away and removed the mounts to take with him to ensure he bought the right ones.  He was back an hour later with them.  Yeah!

Old motor mount:

Well we celebrated too quickly as one of them was wrong and so he was off again and this time did not get back until sunset!  He’d gone to a few shops; nada.  Then he tried junkyards and the first one looked promising but the mount was broken.  He ended up 30km south in Rosarito where he found it.

New one:

So Isaac was finally about to close his shop (on Saturday’s he usually closes at 3 and it’s now 7) and offered us power to stay the night again.  Roberto got to work and then when he was reinstalling the skid plate, he was missing a bolt!  At first he said he had a buddy that could come weld the plate on and then after a while he said he’d go get one (where, we have no idea cause it’s like 8pm on a Saturday night – nothing is open).  He returned but it turned out the bolt was not long enough so back he went returning with several bolts and nuts.  So about 8:40 it was all done, we paid Roberto and he left.  Doug took it for a short test drive and felt satisfied all was good.  We had a late dinner and crashed.  Two long days of waiting and hanging around is exhausting but we really can’t complain in the scheme of things.

We thought crossing the border on a Sunday morning should be quick; we’d find a border crossing website that showed only 30 minute wait times.  Well that was bullsh*t.  We waited even longer than on Wednesday:  2 hour and 50 minutes!

Getting our windshield washed while in line: