With more than 10,000 miles since I replaced my sprocket and chain, my mind drifted back several months ago when in August I was on the top of the world in Prudhoe Bay (Deadhorse) Alaska and then had that awful experience at the Anchorage BMW dealer. More than 10,000 miles and 3 months ago. Since then my eyes and my bike have seen plenty. And while my mind is clear and my energy and enthusiasm for this journey have hardly faded, my poor F650GS Dakar, Doc, is in serious need of attention.
With its chain stretched beyond capacity, my right side mirror snapped off and since the last rain my BMW top-box started leaking and on the back of my bike is that damn spare tire I’ve been carrying since leaving San Diego nearly 2 months and 4,000 miles ago. Doc is due for some serious service and attention. Everybody raved about the Guatemala City BMW dealer. As Gustavo scribbled directions on the back of a warn envelope my anxiety increased. Getting lost in Guatemala City wasn’t something I looked forward to. I could easily waste several hours trying to find the place. To make matters worse, the BMW dealer had two downtown locations.
So in booking my Tikal plans with his Space Travel & Tours Agency in Antigua, Gustavo offered a tourist taxi that I could follow to Guatemala City. There I could drop off the bike and return in the taxi to the more scenic and tranquil city of Antigua. A brilliant idea. There was nothing drawing me to Guatemala City and the notion of spending a night there was only brought on by the fact I needed to get my bike serviced. Gustavo also offered a taxi to take me back when the bike was repaired. All at a price much lower than if I were to find and negotiate taxi rides myself. So I stripped Doc of all of its luggage, Jesse bags and all and followed my driver to Guatemala City. Just so you don’t think I was wimping out and taking the easy route to Guatemala City, my driver, a resident of the busy city, soon had me following him in circles. And when he pulled into a gas station I knew he was lost. I’m sure I would have done much worse.
I had called Jose Delbusto the service manager at BMW in Guatemala earlier in the day. He told me that he had replied to my e-mail inquiry, but I never received it. When I arrived at the dealer in Guatemala City Delbusto was nowhere to be found. Neither were any motorcycles. The showroom had spanking new BMW cars (with prices in US dollars). When I peered into the service bays I didn’t see a single motorcycle. The charming Guatemalan lady with long silky black hair, big round eyes and wearing a classy uniform that accentuated her delightful curves handed me the telephone. For the next five minutes it was cat and mouse with the girl, the phone and my improving but still limited Spanish. Seems Jose was at another facility. He insisted I explain to him what I needed done. I insisted that he be there so I could physically go over the bike and play show and tell with all the things I wanted to address. This never happened. Instead I told him what to do, then I handed the phone to my Guatemalan girl and he explained to her so she could complete the work order.
“Where are all the motorcycles?” I asked Delbusto, concerned that my bike was going to be subcontracted to a “taller mecanico” somewhere in the barrios of Guatemala City.
“I sold them all!” he laughs, doing nothing for my confidence in this place.
“Where are all the bikes getting serviced?” I asked explaining this was more important.
“I sell 70 motorcycles a year; but more than 300 cars. We have more car customers,” he explained in good but somewhat broken english.
I realized I was getting nowhere so I bit my tongue and went with my gut and the fact that virtually everyone who had experience with this dealer had nothing but great things to say. An email I received earlier this week week from my riding companion through Central Mexico, Jeremiah, touted the dealer after he had basic service and his radiator replaced under warranty.
Just as I was getting ready to leave the woman asked me for my title and registration. Unfortunately, in unpacking all my gear prior to making the jaunt to Guatemala City from Antigua, I pullled all my gear from the bike, including all 10 copies of my registraiton, title and my temporary vehicle import permit issued by the Guatemalen customs at the Mexican border.
“We will not work on bike until we have,” she flashed beautiful teeth and a charming smile — I just didn’t like what was coming out of her mouth.
“Okay. I will fax to you later today,” I agreed considering it was pushing 5pm and the dealer closed at 6pm. There was no way I could produce the documents prior to closing. And tomorrow I had plans and could not get back to Guatemala City. She just shook her head and informed me that it had to be the original documents. I could do nothing bus say “O.K.”
Great. How was I going to pull this off?
I left the bike and rode back to Antigua as my driver exhibited the classic Guatemalan machismo aggression it’s drivers’ are so well known for throughout Central America. As we sped around buses, tested the G-force limit of his van and dodged delivery boys on three wheeled bikes throughout the city, he made a quick ellphone call to Gustavo at Space Travel in Antigua. In Spanish he explained to me that Gustavo would take my documents to the BMW dealer first thing in the morning.
I handed the important vehicle documents to my driver when he dropped me off at the hotel.