Turnbuckle Blues

I leave idyllic Urique and head off for El Fuerte. I had not intended to go to El Fuerte, in fact I had never heard of El Fuerte, but Luis told me that it was very beautiful. I also got the impression that it was about 4 hours drive away.

A diversion. You can no longer buy road maps. You are totally reliant on having a good phone signal and so access to Google maps. I have not had a good signal for the last week and frankly have no idea where I have been or how I got to where I am now. Another associated effect, which may only apply to me, is that as you do not see the name of the place you are going on the map, you do nots have frequent visual reinforcement of the name. You have to rely on your memory of what someone told you. Thus I soon forgot I was going to El Fuerte. The name changed as I drove to, El Fuente, San Fuerto, San Felipe, The end result is that you do not know where you are and if asked where you are going you can only say, “No se.”

I have many rivers to cross

It is a dirt road through the mountains. I drive expecting to see signs for El er Whatsit, but there is nothing. We climb difficult roads up high mountain passes,then down into beautiful river valleys. It is very grandiose scenery and so, so remote. I see virtually no one apart from the odd truck coming in the opposite direction.


I am expecting to hit a paved road just around the next mountain with a big sign saying, er San Blackpool. Not so, the road goes on and on.

Somewhere in Mexico. Do not ask me where.

A distinguishing factor of Mexican roads , even dirt ones, are speed bumps. I hit a huge one in the middle of nowhere that is not signposted. I am doing my usual speed of 15mph but it gives the truck a big jolt.


The camper is held onto the truck by four turnbuckles. Since the camper fell off the truck a few weeks ago, I have been obsessive about making sure that the turnbuckles are super tight.


The hooks of the turnbuckles are made of soft aluminum. The jolt had bent the hooks of all four turnbuckles and so the camper was no longer attached to the truck. Bad news. I had two spares and by cannabalizing hooks from these, I fashioned four working turnbuckles. I reattach them, which is a very fiddly and tedious job. I curse soft aluminum hooks.

On and on I go but there is absolutely no sign of civilization. I have been driving for 8 hours. I go through a ford that unexpectedly has a very abrupt exit. Jolt. Yep, the hook on one of the remaining turnbuckles has bent open. It is now getting dark and it is clear that I have to find somewhere to camp. I cannot drive as the camper is precariously attached.

I find a flat spot by the side of the road, which mysteriously is the parking lot for a ruined basketball court. I have no idea where I am beyond, in the mountains. There is not a single light to be seen anywhere but someone built a basketball court here. I pass a troubled night.

Camp. You can see the road snaking up the hill behind.

Next morning, in desperation, I bash the bent turnbuckle hook with a lump of rock, caveman style. To my joy it bends easily and I am back in business!

A bad workman blames his tools.

Some sort of civilization must be just around the corner but I drive another 6 hours and see nothing other than miles and miles of magnificent Mexican mountains. I am now convinced that I am going around in circles and will never get out of this maze. I am also running out of gas.

OK I have had enough of this now

I stop by a shack that has a horse outside. The guy sells me gas in 5 liter plastic bottles. We have a classic conversation.

I, “Donde es cuidad?”

He, “Qual cuidad?”

I, “No se.”

He points me down a side road and 10 minutes later I hit a beautiful paved highway! Another 10 minutes and I am in the city of Choix, Sinaloa. I have never heard of this place before! I stop at the first Ferreteria and buy the essential tool for traveling in a Four Wheel Camper.

Never be without a 2 pound lump hammer.
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8 Responses to Turnbuckle Blues

  1. Evan says:

    What an exquisite view to ease the fear! Great luck to find the hammer! The basketball court is seems quite mysterious.

  2. timzonnablog says:

    The good news is you’re less than an hour away from El Fuerte now, according to Google Maps! Do please watch your step…stay on the highway.

  3. Alan says:

    Wow – another exciting journey! Dirt roads with large car-damaging bumps/holes in them takes me back to Khaz! That road from Urique looks well off the tarmac according to Google – great that you managed to bash your way through.
    Aluminium turn-buckle hooks? Seems a strange choice, given the loading they get. Anything you can bash back into shape with a rock seems under-specified. Any chance that you can find yourself an engineering shop that can make you steel ones? Should be a simple job.
    Maybe there’s a shop in town selling maps? They seem to be available – https://www.mexicomaps.com/index.lasso
    Might be best to stick to the metalled roads until you can sort the turnbuckle problem. Probably designed for beach-bum use!
    Good luck and keep safe!

    • Hi Alan, I was also thinking of ratchet loading cargo strap things. The actual fitting and tightening of the turnbuckles is a drag. You are working in the dark, by feel. The locking nuts are a special pain. I do not anticipate more dirt road stuff but roads change quickly in these parts!

  4. Alan says:

    A thought has occurred to me about the aluminium turnbuckles. Maybe they’re soft to protect the attachment points. If so, then it’s a bit of a Catch 22 situation. I’d still be tempted to get stronger ones and also keep off the really rough roads!

  5. Ian Calder says:

    Yes I guess the attachment system is tooled up for “civilian” use. Stainless steel turnbuckles as in yachty spec seems obvious, but it may be as Alan says.

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