Golf Cart Problems

We’ve been enjoying the post-holiday mid-winter lull here in Sayulita. Mexico and the U.S. saw a spike in Covid cases over the holidays (no surprise there), which may have given us something of a reprieve from the constant stream of tourists into Sayulita over the past several weeks.

The vaccine rollout north-of-the-border looks to be well underway, and the new administration is shooting for 100 million vaccine jabs in the first 100 days, so it might be only a matter of time until this little beach town is completely overwhelmed with travel-starved gringos looking for sunshine.

Nothing against vaccinated people coming down here helping out the economy and enjoying themselves responsibly.

Unfortunately, a great many visitors to Sayulita just don’t do that, which gets old really fast, especially when it impacts on our ability to carry out daily life activities such as having a restful night’s sleep, having enough water to bathe our kids or wash clothes, having reliable internet to get work done, be able to get around this tiny town in a timely manner and having anywhere to park, finding a portion of beach for our small family, etc., etc.

A glimmer of hope – January 26th, the U.S. will start requiring all travelers entering the U.S. to show proof of a Covid-negative test within the past 72 hours. Will it slow the influx a bit? It would be nice if Mexico required something similar. Anything, really.

Look who just got up from his nap.

The Friday Market here in Sayulita runs from November through April and offers everything from local cheeses, to artisan soaps, indigenous handicrafts, locally grown produce, and delicious hot food (we LOVE the Choripan grilled sausage on a bun).

We like to stock up on strawberries, dill, dried mango, Tahini, and other goodies. And, there’s always live music.

Plus, it’s one of the few places in town that actually adheres to some level of Covid protocols (temperature check and hand sanitizer at the door, one way in and one way out, and required masks) and actually stick to it!

The market is on a level we simply didn’t expect from a small town of 2,500 residents in Mexico. It seems to be part of a larger, statewide (or at least Riviera Nayarit-wide), initiative, as we’ve seen many of the same vendors on different days of the week in markets in La Cruz and San Pancho.

The thing I love most about this market is, despite a handful of booths selling kitschy souvenirs, the market seems to cater to the community rather than tourists. It’s a bit removed from the town center and beaches, and we’re always running into people we know.

Sayulita style.

Another crazy beach sunset.

Our new favorite little place is Bar Miramar, one of the very few feet-in-sand beach bars here in Sayulita that serves awesome cocktails and amazing food that you can’t get anywhere else around here.

Waiting patiently for the food to arrive…and very sleepy. That’s Fridays for you.

Saturday brings a return to Playa de Los Muertos. This was our go-to Saturday/Sunday swim spot for many weeks in a row, but we started to skip it for hikes to farther flung beaches once temperatures started to dip.

Here in mid-January, the air temps are still pretty mild (and the water is a bit chilly for our tastes), but we thought we’d still come down for a morning of playing in the sand.

Somehow, tourists aren’t phased by the cool air and sea temps. Sure, in an average January, the sea temperature in Sayulita is around 81 degrees (F). But…this has been a much cooler January than normal, and the sea temperature right now is a brisk 70 degrees (which is about the same outside of the water as well).

After four years in Southeast Asia, that’s particularly chilly to us, especially considering the surface water in Sayulita was averaging 87 degrees F when we first moved here less than three months ago!!!

You’d rarely see someone on the Oregon Coast walking around with only a bathing suit or bikini in 70-degree weather. But, by golly, plop those same people in Sayulita on a 70-degree day and they’ve all suddenly forgotten the rest of their wardrobe back at their vacation villas.

Something’s not right here. Can’t quite put my finger on it.

Lately, Riley gets a dinner show from the neighborhood chickens who find their way into our yard. They actually do an amazing job turning our compost. I haven’t had to do it once.

The road to Noe’s “school” in the jungle. I had to park out here because the main parking area was packed. The number of kids at the school suddenly doubled after the holiday break. Fortunately, the number of teachers doubled too, but not the size of the school.

Some of it is families heading south of the border in search of options for their kids, some of it is families who are working remotely. But most, I’d say, are actually snowbird/ migratory families who leave Canada or the northern U.S. every winter for six months in Mexico.

Riley got mommy AND daddy all to himself on this particular Wednesday. Happy boy.

What do ya say we go on a hike?

But first, a morning walk along the beach.

January is “fall” in Sayulita, apparently. We’ve dealt with the dry season leaves in Laos, but never had many deciduous trees in our yard.

Here, the leaves are everywhere right now, including our front drive. Noe and I can’t seem to get through one day without filling an entire garbage bag full of fallen leaves from the almond tree above our front drive.

The upside is better sea views while hiking, and we’ve discovered some pretty cool ruins of old vacation homes previously hidden in the jungle by thick vegetation.

Playa Malpaso. Looks and feels more like the Oregon Coast today.

We’ve had a few issues with the golf cart lately. Initially, it was an issue with the left-rear brake not engaging. We discovered that that was because the nubby tires that were added to the golf cart, prior to our purchase, weren’t allowing enough clearance for the shoes. So, we had spacers put in the axle hub bolts. Problem solved.

But the battery terminals were terribly corroded as well, and the suspension was getting pretty squeaky. So, we got a tune-up. The shop did a beautiful job cleaning and lubing everything, but for some reason didn’t apply any sort of protectant on the battery terminals. 10 days later, they were so corroded, the ends of a couple of the cables just fell off.

We took the cart back in, they cleaned it up, connected everything, installed new cable hardware, and coated the terminals in lithium grease (at no additional charge).

But the batteries continued to corrode, and get very hot. Plus, at this point, I was having to add distilled water to 20 of the 24 cells of the six lead-acid batteries about every two weeks.

When I bought the cart, I suspected that the batteries might need replacing at some point, and the price we paid reflected that.

But the batteries were currently testing ok on the multimeter and the specific gravity test. Borderline, but ok. Enough to get us through a couple of months…

…or not.

I didn’t know it at the time, but I should have just replaced the batteries then and there. But golf cart batteries are not cheap ($900-$1,500 for a set of six 48v lead acid batteries). I figured once they bit it, we’d replace them and that would be that.

I didn’t count on two things: 1) Due to their age and inefficiency, they were costing us $30 more per month than they should’ve been to charge, and 2) When they do finally bite the dust, they could fry the onboard charger as well.

Which is exactly what ended up happening. But we’ll get to that.

When the cart issues really started acting up, I thought I had traced the problem to this creative monstrosity.

What we were told later by the mechanics is that the onboard charger was not made for this particular golf cart, so whoever installed it added this crazy tangle of stuff as a funky work around, complete with relay (to manually cut the power to the motor when the cart is charging), and lots of electrical tape, because that’s what folks do around here.

This jumble of wires got so corroded that wires started to fall off, and the golf cart, as you might expect, began to have issues where it would suddenly lose power or not charge overnight.

Finally, one day, the cart didn’t want to charge anymore. I assumed the problem could be linked to the precarious nature of the relay and its connections and went about replacing the whole lot.

With real estate prices through the roof here in Sayulita, I’m constantly amazed when we see places like these sitting on prime beach front property in town. I’d love to know the story behind this one.

North Beach, looking back towards the center of town, with the villa ruins up on the hillside, center-left.

Following a grocery run, a quick beer stop near home.

At 2.5, Noe rarely (if ever) had any screen time. Last summer when we were in the U.S., we got an iPad to make Skype calls and Marco Polos a bit easier, and to have a device for Noe to do Zoom calls with school (if it came to that, heaven forbid).

Fortunately, here in Mexico, it hasn’t come to that. But Noe does enjoy his Marco Polos from family and friends and watching a “primitive building” YouTube video from time to time. Or a video about astronauts, or planets, or building a house, or airplanes, or veterinarians, or igloos. He’s obsessed with igloos and snow. Probably because he’s never seen snow.

Riley, on the other hand, is generally ambivalent about the iPad. I think he wants to like it because he sees his brother using it, but gets bored after about 30 seconds of watching anything and wants to play with his toys or color or read instead.

Given our feelings on screen time, Lori and I certainly don’t argue with him (though it would be nice if he could get through a video from one of the grandparents from time to time without screaming and throwing stuff).

The one thing that does hold his attention is a Spanish-language kids program called Myla Birdie (basically a young woman sitting in a room with a puppet on her hand singing and speaking in Spanish). You can download the first two for free, then you have to pay. So we have two videos. And they never seem to get old.

The kids end up getting about 10-20 minutes of screen time per day, including Marco Polo videos from friends and family, which seems about right for us.

In other news, ever wonder how they tow a golf cart in Mexico?

After replacing the relay mess, I reconnected everything and plugged in the cart, but still nothing from the charger.

Turned out that the onboard charger had gone kaput, likely from a combination of age, being a jimmy-rigged charger, and the amount of energy the dying batteries were pulling from it.

And the batteries were at the point where they were virtually unsalvageable.

Well, they were usable, but knowing they were likely the source of the problem, I didn’t feel comfortable with the idea of hooking up a brand new $400 onboard charger to the old batteries.

We were also confident that a new set of batteries with a warranty would add value to the cart when it came time to sell it. And, given that the cart is our family’s daily driver, we need it to be reliable.

So the golf cart is now in the shop…again. The charger has to be ordered and shipped from the U.S., and the batteries are on backorder due to supply chain disruptions because of, you guessed it, Covid.

We may get lucky and get the cart back in a week or two, but we won’t hold our breath.

In the meantime, we’ll be doing lots of walking. Fortunately, it’s the coolest, driest time of the year. If you’re going to have a golf cart out of commission for a while, now’s the time, I suppose.

No golf cart, but at least my rooftop cafe light project is working as intended.

2 thoughts on “Golf Cart Problems”

  1. Thanks again for your posting, it’s a good read with great photos.

  2. Shirley Northcraft

    Glad you got your wheels back! It was fun riding around in your golf cart while we were in Sayulita! I can’t believe how much Riley has changed since those photos were taken. It’s easy to see how much both boys enjoy having beach time!


Leave a Comment