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Tigger Gets Some TLC and New Shoes, PAN


March 9th, 2017

As mentioned in the last post we headed straight to the mechanic recommended by Norm and iOverlander upon leaving Bocas. The drive went smoothly; we stopped for a pop at McDonald’s outside David (pronounced “Dahveed”) and got some groceries. This time Tigger started after only a little bit of playing with the connections. It’s the little things…..

We arrived at Neil’s shop and he directed us two doors down to his house to park and plug in for the night. That was very kind of him and he has good internet which also reaches his garage. Neil is located in a small village called “Rincon Largo” on the road to Boquete and about ten minutes from David.

Thursday morning we moved “our living” over to the garage and Doug and Neil spent time discussing the problems and their solutions.

Neil then took off on his motorbike to get parts in David and by the end of that day our starting and battery issues were solved. YEAH!  Neil also discovered that one of our headlights was missing a bolt (we may have been without it since that time in 2012 when a deer hit us!) and although he did not have the correct bolt, he managed to “build” one. He also recommended getting the bushings replaced so those parts have been ordered and should be here on Saturday.

Since we are going to be here a while, we asked him about getting our bathroom walls repaired. We had one wall repaired back in Mexico last January, but it appears water got in again and it’s not good and it has seeped over to soften a second wall.

He has an uncle whom he felt could help us and on Friday we took the rig over to his place. “Tio” (uncle in Spanish) said that first we should repair the outside to ensure no more water gets in (made sense) and Neil has a cousin that can help with that. He reached out to him by phone, but could not get hold of him. Now in order to repair the outside, it seems we have to cut off part of our rack on the back to access the damage but Neil says he can do that and then re-weld it after (he seems to have all kinds of machinery in that garage).

Doug has really been enjoying practicing his Spanish with all the men that come around admiring Tigger and he’s doing quite well. There are also a small bunch of local kids who come around for balloon animals. However by the end of our 12 days here, he was exhausted from the forced “socializing”.

So we spent Thursday and Friday night parked at the garage. It’s really just a large lot with a roof over a section of it and there is one “pit”; there are plenty of half repaired Jeeps and ATVs hanging around and lots of piles of parts. Neil says we can plug in and there is access to potable water. The only thing missing is a bathroom so we’re using our own.

The street we’re camped on:

The people in this village are super friendly; always say hola/buenos dias when you walk by their home. There is a real sense of community here. Neil has his parents living next door, his brothers on the same block and people are always outside chatting; men stop by the garage a lot and chat up the workers and Neil (which does not help the work to progress…..).

We had a short list of other things that needed doing on Tigger and took advantage of being under cover to do them. Our running lights have not been working for a while but after referring to the manual and playing with buttons on the dashboard, we got that sussed out and then Doug climbed up to replace bulbs.  We now have about half of them running; since we so rarely drive at night, we not too concerned.

Saturday morning the bushing parts arrived and Doug got the idea that Neil should also check our front brakes. We’d had the rear pads replaced back in September in El Salvador when we had the one rear rotor replaced and the front ones still had some life in them. Doug had brought a set of brake pads back with him when he want to LA in September so when Neil had a look he said, yes, they should be replaced and that the both front rotors had some scratches on it. Luckily, he has the tools to “smooth” out the scratches and he will install the new pads. So we spent the rest of the weekend in the garage bay as they did not get all that work done on Saturday.

Sunday we decided we needed a change of scenery from the garage but being unable to drive Tigger, we caught the bus to go into David, hoping to see a movie in a nice cool theatre. The bus came almost immediately once we found the stop and we followed along on the route on Fran’s phone with the app so we knew where we were actually going (and could figure out how to get back to the bus stop!). The bus cost 75¢ each.

The bus took us into the city to a bus terminal near the center and we found one of the two multiplexes in David, right by a casino.

There were six cinemas here but not much we wanted to see. It was about 34C/93F with nary a breath of a breeze so this meant we didn’t want to walk much more as it was mid-day and no shade. We grabbed a cab to take us to the other cinemas “at the mall” and as he began driving he asked if we’d seen how the sun looked today. It sounded like he was telling us there was an eclipse so we said no, and he pulled over and said “Look up”! Well it wasn’t an eclipse but there was a huge ring or halo around the sun.

Turns out it’s called a sun halo around the sun and it happens when there are cirrus clouds in the sky and when the sun hits 22 degrees and passes through ice crystals in the clouds. It was pretty cool as we’d never seen this before.

Upon arriving at the big mall where the cinemas were he dropped us off and we looked up again for another view.

The theatre was closed but again, there wasn’t much we wanted to see anyway. So we walked over to the mall part in the hopes of finding air con and fountain drinks but neither were to be found.

Not knowing where we could catch a bus nearby, we grabbed another cab and asked him to take us to McDonalds where we could get air con and a cold fountain drink. We hung around for awhile and then walked over to a large shopping area that had a few department stores etc to also walk in the AC. We did manage to find a few things we’d been looking for, then bought a few groceries before catching the bus back. Unfortunately, the bus stop had no shade cover and we waited about a half hour till it came. It was full so we had to stand but it had air conditioning unlike the bus we took to get to David so the ride was bearable. We’d ask the driver if he stops at Caimito, which was the stop we’d originally caught the bus from and he said “si”.

Luckily Fran followed along on again as we travelled and saw our stop approaching; as the driver was not slowing down, Doug called out Caimito and he stopped at the next stop so we had a bit farther to walk but at least it was in the right area.

Part of the route to and from the bus stop is on a dirt road and about half way back we ran across four kids playing soccer in the road. Doug had his balloon pump and balloons so we stopped and he made them all balloon swords. The little girl especially was very appreciative and grabbed her little brother from their house as well and then Doug pulled out our small polaroid camera and took a picture of them to give to their parents. They thought it was magic!

Upon returning to Tigger, we were pretty wiped from the heat with no breeze, so we filled our two buckets with water, grabbed our chairs and sat in the shade soaking our feet and cooling off. After a happy hour beer, we went inside our cool home for dinner.

Monday morning, the men who work here showed up around 9:30 as seems to be the norm, but for some unknown reason did not begin working on Tigger right away. Life is lived at a much slower pace so you can’t rush things.

By mid-afternoon the wheels and tires were back on Tigger. It now has new bushings, smooth front brake rotors and new front brake pads. We took advantage of having “wheels” again and went back into David. Neil recommended that we should get a wheel alignment done and suggested a place. So we made that our first destination but they said Tigger was too large. So we’ll postpone that awhile. We went to the better mall we’d been to on Sunday and ran a few more errands before returning to Neil’s to begin the work on our bathroom walls.

Now Neil’s buddy that he thought could fix our outer bathroom wall has no time so Neil and his crew are going to attempt the outer work on Tuesday and he has decided to do the interior work as well.

Neil did the “can opening” of Tigger at the back on Tuesday and removed the two damaged walls on the inside of the bathroom. He has a vehicle job to do on Wednesday, so plans to get back to it on Thursday.

Our bathroom with no walls and we now have no running water.

Since we knew Tigger wouldn’t be worked on on Wednesday, we decided to unhook and go into David to see about getting the alignment done at a different place as well as look into tire prices. Panama seems to be less expensive for tires than in South America and a better chance of finding our size. We’ve seen posts from other overlanders and many seem to get this done before shipping. We are also considering downsizing our rims from 17” to 16” which may make any issues we have with tires in South America, a tad easier. It was getting near time to get laundry done as well as some more food shopping, so it was good timing.

We showed up at the AutoCentro before 9:30 in the morning and were told there was a 1.5 hour wait for an alignment so while we waited, Doug investigated tire types and prices and Fran browsed the store for new windshield wipers, a new front window mylar shade and window washing fluid. Turns out downsizing our rim will not be an option as they do not carry rims for Silverados in Panama. Doug felt that the price was fair for the tires here and so we purchased them here as well. As the tires had to go on first, that put off the alignment even longer.

We were finally out of the place by 3:45! Gotta have a lot of patience and realize they are on Latin American time, not North American time.

We stopped afterwards to check out laundry prices (95¢ a piece!), then got groceries and gas and returned to Neil’s.

Now since our bathroom is apart, we cannot shower inside so Neil offered us the use of his home’s shower. Fran went after dinner and then Doug tried but no one heard him knock so he washed in Tigger using the sink. We parked for the night, hooked up and turned on the AC for the night.

New window shade and wiper blades:

Neil had mentioned to Doug that there was a laundry in the little village just over a km from here but when Doug went on Thursday morning, it was no longer there. So Fran dug out the Scrubba bag, hung some lines outside the garage and did half the laundry.

It’s now Friday the day we hoped the interior of the bathroom would now be repaired. As usual around here, things don’t go quickly, nor on schedule. It seems like Neil knows the entire population of this region as people are constantly honking as they go by, actually stop in to chat, for which he has no qualms about stopping the work to do so, his cell phone rings constantly and Doug is finding all this very frustrating.

So Friday morning Neil actually showed up well before his usual 9:30 but shortly after starting to work, an elderly relative walked by and 1.5 hours later, he returned to work. Then it was off for lunch and to buy material to begin installing the new walls. He returned about three o’clock and the job began ….. one wall is now installed after removing and replacing the toilet. We still have no water as we cannot turn on the pump until all the lines are connected. Luckily, there is potable water here and we keep refilling the 2 two gallon plastic jugs we keep as “spare water”.

Saturday was even worse; we hoped to get out of here today but he didn’t start working until about six PM and managed to get the second wall done and part of the moulding. We need another piece in order to finish and the caulking needs to be completed.

The Jerry can has been repaired, Tigger’s outside has been sealed back up and the rack is back together:

So Sunday morning after Doug began caulking and reinstalling the sink, Neil showed up for a short while and helped Doug reconnect the plumbing so we have water again! Yeah!

We unhooked and went into David to see if we could find the moulding and run some errands but we had no luck. We treated ourselves to lunch at TGI Friday’s and then returned to the garage. We did go check to see if there was a movie at a reasonable time but that didn’t pan out.

We continue to wait to hear about whether Doug will be returning to the US to work; they are really dragging their a$$es on this. If it doesn’t happen soon, we will have to renew our 30 day vehicle permit and if it doesn’t happen on our terms we may be shipping Tigger to Colombia in May instead of July.

The weather has been good; no rain, full sun most days with some cloudy periods and never less than 30C/86F though so pretty darn warm.

We had showers before dinner (at Neil’s – his wife lent us a key to the house so we have access to their bathroom when we want) and then spent a second Sunday night here in Rincon Largo parked in the garage.

Monday didn’t start ANY better. Neil showed up around 11 and said he was going into David to find the moulding and returned around five; the joy of doing things on Latin time. We are at least fortunate that we are not in a hurry to get anywhere and the camping is free.

In the early afternoon we received a message from Christine and Mark that they had crossed into Panama this morning and were in David. We invited them over to join us and we chatted a bit before they headed up to Boquete to wait for us and we’ll do some hiking together up in the cooler fresh air.

FINALLY at 7:00 on Monday night the work was done BUT Neil had not figured out the bill yet. Doug had to do some final touches like rehanging the towel racks and hooking up the plumbing etc. so he’ll do that in the morning, we’ll wash up the floors etc., hopefully Neil shows up at a decent hour so we can settle up and hit the road.

On Tuesday, Doug installed the sink and began putting up towel racks and finishing the caulking after breakfast, Neil showed up around 9:15 and we settled the bill.

As we were working, a young Canadian couple from Banff showed up to get some mechanical work done. Danny and Kana had driven from Canada to Panama mostly on the Pacific coast and were now heading north hoping to doing more on the Caribbean side. They are travelling in an SUV with a rooftop tent.  They gave us some tips for spots to check out heading south to Panama City.

After showers, we unhooked and made our way back to David for supplies and then drove up to Boquete to meet up with Christine and Mark at a camping spot at a hostel.