Broken Down in Spain The thought of owning a car is pure luxury when the screws come off Sara and David's scooter. BY SARA WILSON
Courtesty of Sara Wilson
Cruisin' on the infamous scooter.
A good thing about having a scooter that's made in China is that it’s such a no-name brand that it’s not even worthy of stealing. In the beginning, David was so overprotective that he would check on it regularly to make sure it hadn’t been stolen. Now, he’s so underprotective that he has actually removed the anti-theft lock for a day to use on our bikes instead. In fact, we’ve gotten so laissez-faire about our scooter that, twice, we’ve forgotten to move it for market days. Something that used to send us into a panic because our scooter would get lost in the crowd and have who knows what happen to it.
A bad thing about having a scooter made in China is that, apparently, the bolts that hold everything together come unscrewed easily. At first, I thought that it was just a scooter thing, but after mentioning it to my brother—an expert on all things with two wheels and a motor—he casually said, "Oh, yes, that happens with Chinese scooters." Really? Who knew? All I know is that it would have been nice to have that information when we bought the bike so we could diagnose things when the scooter started sputtering and stalling on major roads.
When the engine coughing started, we dismissed it as just a dose of bad gas and patiently sputtered along until the tank was used up so that we could start over with a fresh tank; but when that didn’t solve the problem, we knew we needed help. Miraculously, we found a garage that agreed to service our made-in-China scooter and, after an hour of tightening the spark plugs and all the bolts—including the front brake disk and even the ones holding the seat in place—we were on our way, cruising on a scooter that worked better than when we first got it.
Now, I’m not complaining because our scooter has taken us places. It has delivered us safely to Murcia, a city an hour south with steep sections of the highway—although we would inch forward at such slow speeds that even the semis wanted to pass. It has taken us to Benidorm, a city an hour and a half north of us, keeping us upright, even as the winding curves of the road nearly toppled us over. And it has gotten us and a mountain of supplies safely home to the apartment, a seemingly impossible feat especially considering that our purchases included a 5 kilo bag of cat litter, 9 liters of water and 6 liters of milk. But with bags in front, bags inside the seat and one bag on each of my shoulders, we—and our supplies—got home safely!
So I’m certainly not complaining about our Chinese scooter because it definitely gets us places. But there have been times that the thought crossed my mind on how nice it would be to have a car. Like back in August when we were forced to start taking buses again because David’s mom was visiting and the scooter’s capacity of two was one too few; and in September when the rain fell so heavily that going anywhere on scooter was just unthinkable; and just last night, when we were heading home at 2:00 am and it was freezing out. The yearning for a car only got stronger as we proceeded to get misled by confusing roads and roundabouts, turning our 45 minute ride home into an hour-and-half as we nearly froze from a cold so unbearable that it sent shivers through my body until I was nearly shaking uncontrollably, crouching desperately behind David for protection from the piercing wind.
And then, just as I was consoling myself that nothing’s perfect, our Chinese scooter broke down this morning. On our way to David’s aunt and uncle’s house, it suddenly lost power, stalled and wouldn’t start again. We were left stranded on the side of the road and had to wait nearly an hour for the tow truck to arrive. And when the driver arrived, we were so happy to see him—not only because he was coming with a tow truck, but because he’s becoming an old friend as this wasn’t the first time he has come to tow our scooter away.
(A few side notes: Though we weren’t in immediate need of assistance since the tow truck was on its way, I found it interesting that only one car pulled over. I was sure that the four people inside were going to ask if we needed help but, as it turned out, they were only stopping momentarily to ask for directions to Madrid. We were happy to oblige, but a bit surprised that they didn’t even offer to help in return. Also, when in Spain, try to avoid breaking down during siesta time. The tow truck came at 2:30 pm and the insurance company called soon after saying that we would have to pay a supplemental fee of 44 euros—about $65—since we were having it towed during the sacred hours of national rest. Since everyone was eating and sleeping at that time, the driver would have to wait for the shop where we were having it towed to open, and the fee for this inconvenience would land on us. Fortunately, David talked his way out of it, but we were given our fair warning for next time.)
And now, instead of wishing for a car I am once again simply wishing that our scooter would work. But perhaps this is all just part of the package deal that comes with owning a scooter…that was made in China.
Sara Wilson is currently working as a freelance writer and lives in Torrevieja, Spain with her husband. She has kept a record of her adventures living abroad which you can find here or on her blog: http://sarawilson.wordpress.com. Contact her directly at email@example.com.