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Old 09-24-2012, 10:25 AM   #2
fintip OP
Vagabond in training
fintip's Avatar
Joined: Mar 2012
Location: Austin
Oddometer: 12
I'm now in Mexico. It took me longer to get here than I'd have liked, but I am on my way.

I studied with a Mexican Jew in Israel (we learned Hebrew together), and he was one of my closest friends there while I lived there. He's visiting Mexico city, so I'm going to meet him and he's going to ride bitch while we go and explore the Yucatan Peninsula. Afterwards, assuming my money situation is still ok, I'll continue on to Costa Rica--though Costa Rica was never the goal, it was just to explore 'out there', so if I find some place I like, I may stop for a while.

The bike is running beautifully! For the most part. Unfortunately (brace yourself for Fitz' bitching, haha) I did not get to rebuild these carbs before I came out here. They work pretty well, maybe 80%. Choke is functional, bike idles happily at 1k... sometimes. It can be a little finnicky, but I haven't found a rhythm.

But the time just came, and I had to go.

I mostly powered through a bunch of rain and storm clouds--being cold in September in South Texas? Ridiculous--to get to the border. Through a lot of that, I was driving an indicated 85+, when the speed limit was 75 and there was no one in sight. That meant a good deal of time at 7k and above, continuous.

I guess it overheated after too much of that, because I started losing power and then it stopped and would only stumble when trying to start. I didn't get nervous, though, just pulled over and gave the bike a break.

After about 35 minutes (maybe sooner, I didn't push it) it was happy again. Since then, I've kept it between 6.5k and 6.9k for cruising (75-80mph/130kph/ish/indicated). Have had zero problems since then, bike is very happy going for hours and hours at that indication, buzzing along.

Question, though... In that kind of a scenario (I thought it'd be fine, also, since the weather was so chilly--evening, no sun, mild/medium rain), what does 'overheating' actually do? Since it was obviously no permanent damage (or at least no immediately meaningful damage), what actually causes combustion to not occur in the cylinders? Is the heat so great that the combustion happens early, making the timing all screwed up? That sounds unlikely, but it's all I can imagine.

Fresh oil change, oil filter change, and gear oil change day before I left, btw.

Some pictures:

In the driveway, about to leave:

By lacklacklack at 2012-09-15

Pulled over when overheated [rediagnosed: vent cap seal error makes more sense with symptoms, and did not overheat when drive more hard for longer, later, in less cold weather.] (?):

By lacklacklack at 2012-09-15

Enjoying that moment of relaxing after all the tense bad weather driving:

By lacklacklack at 2012-09-15

Slightly different angle:

By lacklacklack at 2012-09-15

By lacklacklack at 2012-09-15

So the story isn't over... I got to the border, much later than intended. Was hoping to make it to monterrey, another 3 hours past the border. Takes me forever to find internet and phone on the Mexican side (surprisingly didn't have trouble with getting lost, it's pretty straightforward). Contact couchsurfing hosts only by messages, one way, can't get any on phone. Decide, screw it, it's getting late, I'll find a hostel if I have to or whatever.

Hit the end of the international trade zone, 26 km past the border. Find out I have to go back to get permits. Oh yeah, I remember reading about this.

Drive back. Spend 45 minutes getting conflicting information on finding the office that can issue permits.

It's now midnight. Find the office.

Go through 3 stations of paperwork. At last station, at end, after showing them all documents and answering all questions... "Are you sure that your VIN # is correct?"

"Ok, let's go out and look at it."

First six digits on my VIN are... Come on, if you've read Chacal's stuff, you should know it by heart, every '81 650 maxim has the same...


...Wrong. JYA4H8. Didn't notice that during the title transfer, just kind of assumed it had to be right.

I hadn't realized this, he hadn't told me there was a problem, but when we go out to look at the bike, it turns out it has a 7 and an 8 superimposed on top of each other for the 6th digit position. Both look like factory stamped numbers. (Are there any other reports of this happening on an XJ? Of all the VIN joints in the world, this bike and I just had to meet...)

Uploaded with

I go off telling him that that may be, but it has to be a 7--4H8 didn't exist. Look, it's even stamped into the engine, 4H7. It's on all the part numbers for this year. The next year used 5N8.

And then he shows me my title: 4H8.


Just to see, he types it in as 7. Computer says no problem. (My guess is that it knows the checksum calculation and sees that when the 8 is in there it doesn't add up, but when 7 is in everything works as it should.)

While it's an obviously innocent mistake (who tries to steal a 30 year old jap bike that looks as ratted out as I've intentionally made mine to be?), they don't care. They tell me I can't get a permit without a title with the correct VIN.

So I go back to the American side, look online for a couple hours, and set up a hammock in some trees in an abandoned lot (no way I'm shelling out $50+ for some motel) and crash at 6am, defeated.

With one tiny sliver of hope.

I wake up and head to the DPS office (in lieu of a DMV, since there is none in Laredo) which I'd looked up the night before. Wait in line. Am told to go to the County Tax Assessor's Office.

Go there. Park across the street at the courthouse. Wait in line. Explain and plead my case. The people there like me. When I mention the bike is outside, they say, 'it's not in the corner of the courthouse parkinglot, is it? There was one knocked down there."

I rush out. Sure enough, someone hit it and knocked it over. Luckily, no damage--some scratches on the tank, but no dents, and the paint job wasn't pretty anyways. Some witness told the guard that a woman in a white truck did it. No one got the license.


Also, I was about to get a ticket--not allowed to park there unless I have business with the court. Drive away just as the ticket-giving official shows up, and they let me go. I drive it to the correct parkinglot, park it. Head of the Tax Assessor's office goes out. Agrees with me that it looks like a factory defect, buys my story, and issues me a temporary 30 day permit--best they can do until I get to Austin again and actually have the title changed.

Couples hours later, it works. I get through. I was sure I was going to have to leave the bike with a stranger on couchsurfing in Laredo and take buses (wasn't taking no for an answer!), so I was pretty ecstatic. Wander around Nuevo Laredo (Mexican side) for a while, absorbing it all (this time not quite lost, but certainly not finding the place I want to for 45 minutes or so), and get to the same place I got internet last time (10 pesos for 30 minutes... First time I think I've ever paid for internet in my life, this place). Contact some people and let them know I'm ok. Get the phone number of a couchsurfing host in Monterrey that seemed solid out of the list of prospects I'd been fielding.

Give host a call (as I learned to use the payphones, which have some card system with a learning curve, the night before). All is well.

Head out. Smooth sailing. Freaking cold. COLD. YOU READ IT RIGHT. STILL COLD. Storm clouds overhead the whole way through, drove from 6pm to 9pm. Never quite rained on me except for some light showers when I finally made it into Monterrey.

Had a great evening over some tacos, stayed up talking politics, money, mexico, drug war, travelling, rent, American vs. Mexican problems... And now here I am. Hoping to pound out 9 hours straight to Mexico City the day after tomorrow, I think--tomorrow is the country's couch surfing party, here at my host's house! Will be dozens of people, maybe 100!

Will be editing a video tomorrow of some of the ride. It won't be ride-focused as much as life-focused, but given that my life revolves around this, it will obviously be heavily related. Will put up the link when (if) that gets finished soon.

So there you go. It actually happened.
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