Sep 2012
DISCUSSION 22 Comments

Gun-Toting Contraband Smuggler Man

Although we were having all kinds of fun with family reunions, seeing our friends, eating stuff, and drinking alcoholic beverages, it had come down to game time.  We were home for a reason, and we couldn’t avoid it any longer.  We needed to pick up a transmission, put it in a suitcase, check it onto a plane, and somehow get it through Customs in Colombia without being caught.  Since being home, we had also managed to acquire an eighth grade girl’s weight in other car parts, fishing equipment, clothing, and more car parts.  We knew it would require a great deal of savvy and luck to pull it off, so we trained for it in the only way we knew how; we played horseshoes to hone our precision, and we rode our bikes to build our endurance.  We saw a sign that said “purchase AK47 rifles” and right next to that was another that told us that guns were the source of freedom, which we were going to need, so we got some guns and shot some little clay disks.  We were willing to try anything.

Our first step was to swing by AZ Transaxle and pick up the transmission.  I was pleased to see how shiny and clean it looked; this would play a key role in my ability to lie my way through Customs in the event that I was caught trying to smuggle a used transmission into Colombia.  As you may recall, smuggling such things into Colombia is illegal.

Next, we had to pack it up.  We needed to make it as small as possible so as to fly under the radar of the Colombian Customs agents, and we needed it to be light.  The maximum weight allowed for a checked bag, regardless of how many crisp Benjamins you flash in front of the ticket agent’s face, is 100 pounds.  I decided to remove the bell housing to make it sleek like supermodel, and then build a slim wooden box in its place to protect the input shaft.  With any luck the box would survive a fall from the airplane’s cargo door.  Just to be sure, I wrapped the thing in a whole bunch of bubble wrap.  We didn’t want to sneak through Customs only to discover that we had a trashed transmission again, so we used wood and plastic.  Nature and science.

My original idea had been to try and carry the transmission in my carry-on bag.  Everyone said I was crazy, but it made good sense to me.  First of all, it would save us $350 in overweight baggage fees.  I mean seriously, who has ever had to weigh their carry-on?  All I would have to do is put the transmission in a backpack, and then pretend that the backpack weighed less than 20 pounds so that no official types would think anything was fishy.  Then, I would have to ensure that I could lift the transmission over my head and place it in the overhead compartment, while not leading on that it weighed more than 20 pounds.  And lastly, I would have to hope that the overhead compartment didn’t come crashing down, killing someone’s child.  That would make all of my sneaky heavy lifting effort null and void.  In the end I decided against it, but only for the children.

Finally the day had come.  Sheena went on her merry way to United Airlines carrying two checked bags.  In those bags were many illicit objects, including a transmission bell housing, a new starter, some new LED interior puck lights, new spark plug wires, a clutch master and slave cylinder, a new flyfishing rod, a spare alternator regulator, some new brake lines, and a few other odds and ends.  Her bags were, in short, Customs lightning rods.

In my bags, things were looking no better.  I went off to the Aeromexico counter carrying a transmission, two salvaged rear hub housings made of rusty cast iron, a slightly modified and very rusty catalytic converter, two stub axles, a fancy air filter, a timing light that looked just like a gun, and some corrosive/explosive fluids.  All very used, and all very illegal.  Well, the fluids weren’t used, but they were surely illegal.  My bag containing the transmission ended up weighing 94.5 pounds.  Just under the legal limit.  When the nice Aeromexico ticket agent weighed my bag, she looked rather shocked.  She told me, pity in her eyes, that I owed her $350.  I nicely asked her in her native tongue if she would give me another 20 pounds for free, and she instantly obliged, knocking $100 off of my fee.  Things were going great so far!  Good thing we shot those guns!

The trip to Colombia went off uneventfully.  My stopover in Hermosillo was too short to dart out to the taco stand like last time, but I did manage to gorge myself on tacos on my second stopover in Mexico City.  Poor Sheena ate at an American chain restaurant in Houston, and nothing more.

When I stepped off the plane in Bogota, Sheena was waiting for me at baggage claim.  She already had her bags full of illegal contraband, and waited patiently while I recovered mine.  I found a note on my bag saying that US Customs had seized something from my bag.  I unzipped it in a panic, and quickly found that they had only stolen my brake fluid and the cleaning agent for my new washable K&N air filter.  I zipped it back up, swallowed hard, and Sheena and I coolly walked toward the exit.

“Don’t worry, Sheena,” I said, “I shot a gun before we left.  We will have freedom.”

Everything was going great and soon enough we could see the exit doors; the rays of light streamed through the plate glass like bullets from a freedom gun.  As we approached the Customs agents, a mere 50 feet from the exit doors, I whispered for Sheena to look straight ahead and be cool.  I casually checked my watch, sighed, and pretended to see someone I knew outside.  This gave me a reason not to make eye contact with the agents.  And then, all at once, we were accosted.  An agent stepped in front of us and pointed to the x-ray machine.  His gaze said it all; “I know you’re smugglers, you sons of bitches!”

We pretended it was no big deal, and walked to the x-ray machine with our 244.5 pounds of illegal imports.  Sheena put her bags on the conveyor first, and I helped her stand them on their sides in just such a way, so that the bell housing would be less obvious, and the starter would look less like a bomb.  I hefted my transmission onto the belt next, followed by my hubs, axles, catalytic converter, and gun-like timing light.  I stared at the agent behind the computer, trying to avert her gaze from the screen using extra sensory perception.

Look away … look away … look away … look-

“We have something here! We have something here!”  She looked around, hand in the air, calling for backup.  Sheena and I looked at each other; we had seen Broke Down Castle, and knew that these situations usually ended up with the smugglers spending the rest of their lives in an all-women’s Thai jail.  The agent spun the screen around so I could see it.  Sheena’s bags were still in view, but she was pointing at mine.

“What is this!?” She seemed angry, pointing directly at the transmission.  I tried to think of something quickly that would make her believe that indeed this was not a car part.  Anything but a car part.  If she knew it was a car part, it would be all over.  Our illusion of freedom would disintegrate like the crumbling walls of an all-women’s Thai jail.

“Uh…it’s a car part.”  Doh!  “It’s … um … it’s a transmission for a car.”  Doh!  Doh!

She moved the conveyor, burping Sheena’s illegal contraband out the end.  “These are car parts TOO!”, she said, pointing at my next bag containing a whole gaggle of car parts.  As the woman continued to call for backup, I gave Sheena the nod.  She quickly snatched her bags and speed walked out the door and into the street.  It had only been a few seconds, but I could no longer remember what freedom tasted like.  Whoever made that gun sign was a liar and a moron.

A woman named Alicia, someone I would come to know all too well over the course of my Customs incarceration, led me across the linoleum floor to the DIAN office.  “Everyone fears the DIAN,” Constanza would later tell us.  “They are the IRS of Colombia.  Everybody must pay the DIAN.”

I sat in an uncomfortable chair against the wall while I watched a young man being humiliated by a DIAN agent as he pulled illegal electric motors from his suitcase.  “They are for my father’s business,” he said.  “Your father can’t save you! You’re in DIAN now, son!”  They didn’t say that, but we all knew it was true.  I waited my turn, what seemed like hours.  I would have to get used to waiting, as I was now a common criminal in the Colombian DIAN justice system.  Just another scumbag smuggler, trying to outsmart The Man.

“Car part smuggler? DIAN will deal with you now.”

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  1. Nooooo, gotta wait for the next part of the story!

    Comment by Kenneth on September 21, 2012 at 1:51 pm

  2. bob

    This is better than the mystery novel I am currently reading!!!!!

    Comment by bob on September 21, 2012 at 2:04 pm

  3. Chris Knight

    More importantly, you guys own an Ariel 60? Love love love that pack!

    Comment by Chris Knight on September 21, 2012 at 3:27 pm

  4. Oh, c’mon, don’t leave us dangling! :-)

    BTW, if you’re planning lots of dirty dusty roads, forget that K&N, Nacho’s engine will thank you. K&Ns destroy engines with the super-fine dust they allow to pass. Better, a quality paper filter.

    Comment by Karl on September 21, 2012 at 3:34 pm

  5. @karl thanks …
    To be continued !!!!!!!!!

    Comment by Paddlevan on September 21, 2012 at 4:45 pm

  6. Will Brad rot in a Colombian holding cell? Will Sheena distract the evil DIAN agent while he makes a run for it? Will Nacho think he’s been abandoned? Can we handle the suspense? Will Brad be able to update from the Thai prison? Stay tuned!

    Comment by Keith on September 21, 2012 at 6:01 pm

  7. X2 on the K&N filters! I have personnal experience with them ruining our ATVs engines. Stick to High Quality paper filters! ….If ever you make it out of jail…

    Comment by Marc on September 21, 2012 at 6:50 pm

  8. Linda

    Tell me this is going to have a happy ending because now I am REALLY
    worried about you two!!!

    Comment by Linda on September 21, 2012 at 10:13 pm

  9. mashoud

    You two and your Nacho have become a stuff of legends . Your contemplative spin, your tales and the resulting anticipation leads to nothing less than total endearment for you.

    Wishing you both and Nacho good health and lots of fun. Take good care !

    Comment by mashoud on September 22, 2012 at 3:31 am

  10. tona

    best story ever!

    Comment by tona on September 22, 2012 at 7:34 am

  11. Thanks everyone. I’m working on the new blog, so you won’t have to wait so long for the results. Internet connectivity has been spotty here in this all-women’s Thai jail.

    Comment by Brad on September 22, 2012 at 8:36 am

  12. jack

    next Chapter, please

    Comment by jack on September 22, 2012 at 12:44 pm

  13. Grammie

    I love this part of your trip, can’t wait for the next episode.

    Comment by Grammie on September 22, 2012 at 7:58 pm

  14. jed

    of course your tranny blew, look how small it is. cant you find a bigger one? welcome back to colombia. we are headed up to cucoy then towards bogota if you need help or anything just type. jed

    Comment by jed on September 24, 2012 at 8:32 am

  15. Mike

    All women’s Thai jail…….. Oh happy day!

    Comment by Mike on September 26, 2012 at 4:31 am

  16. LOL! Now we need the rest of the story!!! (where are you guys? We’re on the Galapagos till the 30th, then Quito and onwards southbound)

    Comment by Kevin Beretta on September 26, 2012 at 8:23 am

  17. Namastemama

    Where is the rest of this story?
    Just found your blog. So fun!

    Comment by Namastemama on December 3, 2012 at 12:30 pm

  18. Namastemama, the rest of the story is told in “Nachoshank Redemption”. Here she is: http://www.drivenachodrive.com/2012/09/nachoshank-redemption/

    Comment by Brad on December 3, 2012 at 4:09 pm

  19. Sean

    Great story yall. I buggered off work for 5 months last summer and it was the greatest thing that I have ever done for myself. I gotta say though, why the hell is importing car parts to colombia illegal?!?!?

    Comment by Sean on April 30, 2013 at 9:36 am

  20. […] ensured him that our starter was fine, and that I’d replaced it in Colombia as a part of our mass car parts smuggling operation. He begrudgingly agreed to keep it, and told me I could come check out Nacho’s new […]

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  21. […] (due to incidentals like shipping the van/flying ourselves, replacing our engine, and the whole transmission smuggling debacle). Our costs were generally around $2,000 per month when we were just living and […]

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  22. […] (due to incidentals like shipping the van/flying ourselves, replacing our engine, and the whole transmission smuggling debacle). Our costs were generally around $2,000 per month when we were just living and […]

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