December 17 – 20, 2018.
We had not intended to go to Guadalajara. Guadalajara is the second largest city in Mexico, right after Mexico City, and in general we try to avoid big cities, because there is no where to camp and driving a whale like Ballena Blanca is scary enough in smaller towns with less traffic and fewer roads to navigate. But then our computer broke, and because I didn’t want to lose all my programs, files, and photos, we had little option but to get it fixed. And the closest big city looked like the best option to do that.
Finding a place to get the computer fixed was a bit stressful. I had searched online and had asked for suggestions from one of my Facebook Mexico groups. When we finally located (after much confusion on how to get off the highway and then much circling around looking for an actual store) my first choice on the outskirts of the city, it appeared to be a discount mobile phone store – maybe they fixed computers and maybe they would have done a good job but I didn’t feel good about leaving the computer with a shop whose primary focus probably was selling cheap cellular communication. My second option was a repair shop in El Centro (downtown). Their website featured pictures of employees and their families (always endearing) and no mobile phones. This time we circled around narrow congested one way streets, missing our turn to the street the shop was located on on the first pass only to find it blocked off on our second pass. Since there was no place to park and we couldn’t get a visual confirmation that this place wasn’t really just selling the latest android knockoff we headed out of downtown. After driving through many 5, 6, 7 way roundabouts we found our third option, iExperts. We couldn’t fit into the tiny parking spaces in front of the shop but after a couple of passes I determined that they didn’t seem to be selling mobile phones or anything else. We found a parking spot on a side street and walked up to the store with our poor broken Mac.
I had practiced what to say in Spanish, “La pantalla no enciende” – “The screen doesn’t come on,” – and although I fumbled it out, I didn’t need to. Our guy, Oscar, sitting at his desk in this tiny but cosy office, spoke English. He shined a flashlight at the screen and peered into it, then plugged it to an external monitor. He said he thought it might need a new screen ($18,000 pesos -$900 US – he warned us) but wanted to do some more tests before he was sure. Then he’d need to place an order for the replacement part. This was Monday and the shop would be closing after Saturday for two weeks for the Christmas holidays, but he assured me that he could fix it by the end of the week.
We left the computer with him and headed back out into the city, not really sure where we were going to spend the night. We found a park, ate lunch, took a stroll and assessed our options. There was a gated parking garage about a mile and a half from iExperts, back towards El Centro. It had good reviews on iOverlander, and only cost $6.50 US a day. We decide to check it out. Our first experience camping in an urban gated parking garage was a success. As advertised, the owner was super nice and helpful, the place was secure, and bonus – they had wifi. We were in walking distance to El Centro, where we discovered the muralist Orozco and the beauty of this amazing city. We stayed there four nights.
On Friday we left the parking lot and picked up our Mac from Oscar. It ended up being the Logic Board and not the screen, but we were happy to have it working again. We discussed what might have gone wrong, and I realized that we had been creating a power surge when the computer was plugged into our power inverter when I would flip the switch to charge our house batteries from the van’s alternator. This power surge destroyed the Logic Board. Oscar, unsure of the pronunciation of the English word for what we needed, suggested we get a regulador (“rrray-gu-lah-dor”). “Regulator,” Greg replied. “Yes,” Oscar said, “reh-gu-lay-tor, reh-gu-lay-tor.”
After this very small English lesson, we handed Oscar our credit card and left the shop $28,000 pesos (almost $1400 US for the Logic Board!) poorer, and were on our way navigating our giant white whale through crazy busy streets filled with holiday shoppers out of the big city and away from our unexpectedly awesome detour with our oh-so very expensive computer.
* Click pics to enlarge and open into a slideshow.