Ames is having no luck waving down cars at midnight on Mexico-85 on a Friday in late August, and it’s because he’s using the one handed wave. I teach him the two handed wave with a headlamp in each hand, and in a few minutes a white minivan pulls over. The driver speaks English, but she's mean and says she can't help us. She has no phone, no room in her car, but she’ll alert a tow truck at the next stop. Whatever. We resume waving. A Jeep with Texas plates and a UT sticker pulls over, and we figure we’ve got it made. The young couple inside speaks only Spanish, but they have tools. They agree to tow us to Monterrey. We use our slackline to hitch the Escort to the Jeep. The driver tells us, we think, that we will go very slowly.
As soon as we are off the shoulder we are going 45 mph. Ames is in the drivers seat clutching the wheel. The road tips downhill and we go faster. There are high rock walls on either side of the road and the occasional pathetic, busted guardrail. The speedometer indicates that we are going 70, 75, then Jeep’s brake lights go on. Ames has to tap the Escort’s brake just right, so we don’t catapult into the Jeep. Stupid climbers, we never doubt the wide purple webbing and carabiners that are holding us to the Jeep, hurling downhill in the dark in neutral.
The next morning we set out to find a mechanico, and soon enough meet a guy named Pepe who does suspensions. Pepe opens the Escort’s hood, pokes around and declares that it is the transmission. And si, he can fix it for maybe 600 US dollars, maybe 700 it depends. We decide to leave the car at the Hotel Palmas, and go on to Hidalgo where our friend Luis at the La Posada campground will help us.
The proprietor of the Hotel Palmas will not let us leave the car in his lot unless we pay 15 US dollars a day. Ames refuses. The chica working at the hotel takes pity on the blue-eyed gringo and says we can leave the busted Escort outside her house just around the corner on Fidel Velasquez. Just tell her brother that she said it was ok and don't tell her boss.
Once we get to Hidalgo, Luis takes Ames back into Monterrey to talk with a transmission guy. I go to the Plutonia cave with Will C. from North Carolina, and have a lovely afternoon bouldering in the cave and taking pictures. Luis and Ames return around 5, with the Escort towed safely to Hidalgo and to Ariel's garage. Once we are home and we tell this story, everyone knows who we’re talking about. Ariel is, apparently, the man who fixes cars in Hidalgo. Ames has spent all afternoon drinking Sol, and we go climbing in the Virgin Canyon. He is more talkative than usual, and a most enthusiastic belayer, offering lots of encouragement and climbing confidently himself. It may have been unwise to climb with a drunk belayer, but my safety compass wavers according to the relative political stability of the nation I am in.
Sunday is rest day for Ariel, so we go climb on the spires. Ames spends a few minutes wildly humping the grande spire. Monday comes, the day we were scheduled to go home. I send a desperate email from a stranger’s laptop before the connection is lost. The weekend visitors are gone. Ames and I climb Estrelitas in about twenty minutes and realize that when it comes to multipitching we are an effective match. We teach ourselves to simulclimb, I introduce the ever-economical simulrappell. The car will not be ready until Tuesday. There is a used transmission in Monterrey and they will go and pick it up in the morning. And maybe a clutch while they’re in town. And maybe a transmission support. I suggest selling the car, and Ames laughs. I build a large barricade between Ames's side and my side of the borrowed 6-man tent. Ames is collecting empty Sol bottles for the 7-peso deposit. I put them all on his side. Everything in El Potrero Chico shuts down during the week in the off-season. The café and restaurant are shuttered, and the depositos along the road stay closed. You have to drive or hitch hike to town to get so much as a botella de Coca-Cola. On Tuesday Ames drives the car back to La Posada and I get all excited, but it's a lie, because it won't stay in 5th gear. We can't drive back in 4th? They have plans to remove the transmission tomorrow, fix it or get it fixed, put it back, and test it again. Everyone who meets Ames tells him he should drive a Honda or a Toyota, that this is happening because he drives a Ford. I suggest we sell the car. Ames wakes me up screaming “What?! What?!” in his sleep.
Wednesday it rains all day. I read a 2-year old issue of Cosmo, and suggested selling the car. I give Ames a Cosmo quiz, “How Needy is He?”. He is very needy. We try to read sex tips, but they are too graphic for our relationship to bear.
Thursday I go along to Ariel’s to check on the Escort. It is gutted, and Ariel has to take his in-laws to the hospital in Monterrey before he can work on it. The in-laws show up, along with a parrot in a cage, and Ariel declares that he will be done with it today, after the hospital. We hit the road that night at 8. As soon as we cross the border the transmission slips out of 5th.