Friday, October 10, 2008

Argentina, Mendoza and technical problems!

(Carlos Desgens working on Cecilia's Bike)

We finally made it to Mendoza. We had agreed to meet Cecilia here to do some work on her bike, and also to take care of the nagging problem with my bike. Peter Roemer highly recommended a mechanic here called Carlos Desgens. Apparently Carlos is one of the best BMW mechanics in all of South America, so it seemed a logical place to go and try to sort out something which could turn out to be a major problem.

(Scratched oil pump)

Frst things first, Mendoza, turns out to be a very nice town, and is the center for the Argentinean wine industry. There are wine cellars all around the area. To the west are the mountains and Chile, to the east plains. It is very arid here and apparently the ground is excellent for the cultivation of wine. The town itself is very green, most streets tree lined avenues, with parks around every block or two. It is also the center of outdoor activities in the area, from here people go skiing up in the mountains, kayaking or rafting down the rivers, trekking, mountain biking, and horseback riding amongst other things.

(The skeleton of my bike)

Unfortunately for us, we had other issue to deal with, first on to Cecilias bike. It was suffering a number of ills, including leaking transmission fluid, a bad final drive, the steering head bearing were bad, and so on. In the end, with the help of Carlos, we took care of pretty much everything. Cecilia had brought a number of spare parts with her, and the rest Carlos had, so it was basically, just the time it took us to dismantle everything, and switch the parts out and then put everything back together. She then took a test ride for a couple of days up into the mountains, and when she returned we did some minor final adjustments. We also did a double oil change, since she had apparently gotten some bad oil in Laos. Then it was off into the sunset for Cecilia, who rode off to Chile and north.

With that taken care of, it was time to have a look at my bike. All of my efforts to correct the oil pressure problem had born no fruit, so it was time for more drastic measures. We started with the items that I had previously corrected, and Carlos agreeded that those measures should have fixed the problem, and could not continue to be the cause of the problem. The next candidate was the oil pump. This was indeed damaged, a piece of metal seemed to have gotten into it and scrached up the cover and the rotor pretty bad. So we replaced it and tested the new pump. The problem was still presenting itself. (see my previous blog for a description of the problem). So it was time to dismantle the motor and have a look at the major components. The crankshaft, the main bearings, and the connecting rods. (in the interest of brevety I am just going to go over the salient points..), were all taken out and measured. Sure enough, there parts are all worn and exhibit more play than allowed in the specifications. So now the question is what to do. It is possible to fix the crank, but this is a pretty difficult thing to do, and could go wrong, leaving me either with a worse problem, or only getting me a few hundred kilometers further. In addition, there is the issue of a number of additional parts which all have to fit together in order to insure that the problem is fixed. So because, we didn't find a smoking gun (all this extra play may or may not be the cause of the problem, or only part of the problem), we decided to go ahead and replace the main engine parts. Of course these parts are not available here in Argentinia, so I spent a more than a week, e-mailing back and forth to the U.S and Europe trying to find someone who had the parts (used, but in good condition) and could send them to me here. Not quite as simple as it sounds. My favorite supplier, Eurotech in California no longer does this type of work, so Chris Canterbury referred me to a couple of other places. Long story short, in the end, I am getting the parts from Europe for quite a bit more than it would have cost me to get them from the states, but unfortunately, they did not respond in time, so I had to make a decision.

(The motor being taken apart and cleaned)

Then the waiting began.

(Katheryna at the Ice cream shop)

In the meanwhile, we have found a decent place to hang out and enjoy our days here. There is an ice-cream parlor with free wifi where we spend most of our days surfing the net, or reading books. On Thursdays we go to the movies as that is the day that the new movies come out. Usually we will see two or three movies, and that takes care of the new releases for the week. In case anyone is interested, you can find my "mini" reviews here.
As we are camped in the park just to the west of town, we have rented two bicycles to get us around. Mendoza is pretty flat, with the exception of the part outside of town where we are staying. This as it happens lies on a slight elevation which runs around 5km to the center of town. So going to town was fun, all downhill. Going home on the other hand, was not so much fun. We noticed very quickly that we are hopelessly out of shape. The first couple of times, we ended up having to walk the bikes more than we rode them. After two weeks of bicycling we were doing much better, but it was still a fight. One nice thing though, depending on which way you come, there are some really nice views of the town, in particular in the evening when all the lights are on.

The time passed quickly, we acquired a Kindle (see the Kindle blog entry), so suddenly we were really busy finding content on the web, and downloading stuff to fill it. The rest of the time was fighting about who would get to use it. Then of course a little bit of work on the pictures and blogs, and websites, all contriving to keep us pretty busy. We haven't really done much as far as touristy things are concerned.

(Andre cleaning the motor block)

Katheryna also took a little trip to Buenos Aires by bus. Some friends of hers were passing through on their own world trip, so she decided to go and spend a few days with them. This also gave her a chance to visit some family in the city. For my part, I decided to stay in Mendoza and really try and get some work done on the website. The result of which was the posting of the Brazil pictures.

The weather continued to get colder and colder, whereas it was around 30C during the day when we got here, after two months we were happy if it was 10C to 15C during the day. At night it would get cold enough that they had to turn off the water in the camping in order to insure that the water pipes didn't burst. In general though, I find the climate here quite agreeable. We only had snow once and that only briefly. For the most part it is dry and nice if a bit cool.

(The starting point for rebuilding the engine)

In due time the parts arrived, unfortunately there was still some problems with the new parts. So it would take a few more days before we got around to starting on the rebuilding of the engine. During the time that we were waiting a number of other projects were also being undertaken. For example, my rear shock was sent to Cordoba to have a new hydralic line installed. My seat is being re-apolstered, the valves, guides and springs were changed in the heads. Finally, my transmission also got re-worked.
How things are going to turn out is yet to be decided. But things look pretty good.

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