Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Nice Rack! and Fort Cochin

my poor rack

Since Cochin is a rather large city, we wanted to take care of some maintenance issues while there.  First of all, from one of my oopsies or from hitting one too many craters, a weld on the rear rack on my bike cracked.  It needs repaired before the whole thing rattles to pieces, so we need to find someone to weld it.  Our riding gear is also in desperate need of attention.  As Colin mentioned, it's embarrassingly filthy.  We need to find someplace with a washing machine to de-filthify our jackets and pants.  John, the owner of our guesthouse, sent me off in the morning to talk to a friend of his with a laundry business with machines (most people do laundry by hand here)!  I carried my jacket up to the shop and unfortunately was told that there would be a three day wait before he'd have an opportunity to wash our things.   

my savior welders
So I returned to the guesthouse with the bad news and found Colin with the rack removed from my bike.  Upon closer examination, it wasn't the welds that had cracked, but the the actual metal that had torn next to the welds.  Of the three attachment points between the top plate and the tubular side frame on each side, two had completely torn and the other four had cracked.   We then set out for the welding shop, and twenty minutes later, found ourselves at the front door of the Welding House (they can fix anything but a broken heart).  The shop wasn't much to look at - there were two guys sitting out front, brazing brass fixtures, and from the recesses of the shop we could hear a couple of grinders running.  The one employee who spoke a few words of English, took the rack from us and gave it to the welder and his assistant, who did a very workmanlike job of repairing the tears and welding the cracks.  I assumed that they would remove the powdercoat from the affected areas before they started welding, but no.  In less than ten minutes, they were finished and handed the still red-hot rack to the employee who had assisted us earlier.  He asked if we wanted any grinding, which I declined, or if I would like black paint, to which I said yes.  He set the rack to cool for a minute and disappeared into the back, to return with a paintbrush and a can of paint.  Since the welding process had burned a lot of the powdercoating off, he quickly scraped the loose coating off with a broken sawblade before brushing on a thick coat of paint.  In less than fifteen minutes, we had our rack welded, painted, and returned to us.  Since I had not enquired about the cost of the repair before they started, I had no idea what this would cost.  Assuming we would pay a rush charge and the foreigner charge, I was expecting to pay between 10 and 15 USD, so Re and I both smiled when we were told the total was 80 rupees (1.60 USD)!  We thanked all the gentlemen profusely and made our way back to the guesthouse before noon.   

Dip nets in Fort Cochin
After dropping off the rack in the room, we headed to the ferry to Fort Cochin.  The ferry ride through the harbor was a short twenty minutes through a working port.  One thing the ferry ride did not provide was relief from the stifling heat and humidity of the day.  We spent the next two hours wandering through the crumbling, colonial buildings and along the waterfront, where we saw groups of men operating Chinese-style dip nets, which have been used in this area for the past seven hundred years.  We returned to Ernakulam in the late afternoon and went to the tourist office to book our all-day backwater boat trip for tomorrow.  But no.  Apparently, there will be a strike tomorrow to protest something or other.  The Indian political system is made up of a number of parties, and the ruling party in Kerala is the Communist Party of India.  And apparently, they like to strike whenever the mood hits.  Communism- the political system where everyone but the political leaders lose.  We were assured that the boat trips would resume the following day, but we didn't want to hang around that long, so we will have to work on Plan B.  Back at the room, Re suggested that she might try to hand wash our riding gear and decided to use her jacket as the guinea pig.  After removing the armor and emptying the pockets, she put her jacket in a bucket, added some soap and warm water, and did her best grape stomping impression.  Several changes of the rinse water later, she had one dramatically cleaner jacket.  We decided to stop now, because we weren't sure that they would dry overnight and it would be better to have just one damp jacket.  Since the paint had finally dried on the rack, I took the opportunity to reinstall it while Re went in search of some fruit.  I was pleased to find that the rack had not warped significantly from welding, as all the welding points still lined up.  Later that evening, we went out for yet another too freakin' hot dinner. 

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