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Transformers and Transformations

When we left Downtown Denver this last time in early April, we jumped in a car and drove to the Oregon Coast to visit our friend Jerry for a couple of weeks. And there, we are literally on the coast. It is a place conducive to watching the wind and rain, reading a book, doing work on a book proposal, catching up on articles long stored for reading on the computer, marveling at the waves and tides, browsing the Internet, engaging in intelligent discussions often long into the night, walking the beach and watching the wind and rain. It is beautiful.

So, this last week in La Cruz de Huanacaxtle, an event occurred that reminded me of a similar event from our last visit to Oregon.

Back at Jerry’s on the coast, a loud pop late one afternoon signaled a blown transformer just up the pole across from Jerry’s driveway. (I always blame squirrels.) Now, it’s a bit remote there. A few miles south of town. On a smaller co-op power system. Not many neighbors around. And, it was raining. But, a phone call (over the land line) brought the cavalry and, before too very long, three hi-lifter trucks were on scene, along with a new part, six or seven guys with long poles and insulated gloves, squirrel removal bags and a good attitude. We were only offline for about 90 minutes, both electrical and wifi.

Rogue, fittingly, is a fixture on the Oregon Coast. A good beach walk away. And, such good beer!
Rogue, fittingly, is a fixture on the Oregon Coast. A good beach walk away. And, such good beer!

Terrific service. Efficient. Responsive. Nice people. We had lights again and we could check to make sure that Jerry’s house had not moved any closer to the coast than it already had. Good. Then, it started to rain again.

I had not thought much about that event for some time, other than a lingering remorse for the squirrel. But, last Wednesday night, ’round about midnight, in La Cruz, part of the electricity went off. The part that powered the air conditioning units that we depend on to keep the temperature and humidity “sleepable” at night. It seemed like other things…like lights and fans…we’re still running. With the overhead fan turning, we managed eventually to get some more sleep, hoping for the best by morning. But, at eight in the morning, all the rest of the electricity went out, as did any way to get water, save for the large bottle of drinking water in the kitchen.

We waited, somewhat patiently, and waited some more. I could, at least, make coffee in the Bialetti on the gas range. Then, I ventured out to find out what was happening…or not. The building we are in is long and low, facing the ocean, with probably about 90 units. Most of those are second, or vacation, homes, primarily unoccupied at this time of year. And, of course, there are a few full time residents. The property is extremely well maintained, with an on-site staff, security and management. Yes, they were on the case.

I ran into the building manager, Paco, who was huddled with a team from the federal power entity, CFE. They concluded that during the night, an unusually large electrical surge traveled through the La Cruz grid and randomly selected the three major transformers for our building as a grounding place…ruining the transformers. How could I argue that? This will take time. Later in the morning, Paco suggested it could take well into the next day. No power. No water. Not so cool. Three 6,000 pound transformers had to be found and brought to replace the dead ones. A very big project in my mind.

And, I really had no perception of how good this CFE might be. We started to discuss the possibility of packing up and moving overnight to a nearby hotel in Bucerias, just a few kilometers away. But, by afternoon, the cavalry had arrived with trucks and lifts and guys in protective, hot suits…and parts. It still looked like an ominous project, and it was. We went to the bar at the fish market to think things over.

Electrical guys at work. Three of these. Threes tons each.
Electrical guys at work. Three of these. Threes tons each.

At 6:30, we returned to check the status, and then likely move for the night. The trucks were moving the last of the three transformer replacements (I have no idea where they could have come from) from their truck, over the wall, down to the parking level and in position to move into the hook-up place. Paco said all would be back on in “2 hours”. We could do that. After all, a property manager had brought more water, both potable for drinking and non-potable to keep the flush option open, and, I had just enough ice left to chill some beer. We could make this. (The gelato in the freezer had long gone soft by noon and begged to be consumed then, for lunch. Yes, we have our own way of “roughing it”.)

2 hours. We watched the clock and, periodically, wandered down to watch the work. At precisely 1 hour and 55 minutes after Paco gave his prediction, all the power came on. Lights, fans, fridge, coolers, and water. CFE had come through and ended this over 20 hour ordeal. They deserved, received and appreciated our thanks and “ole’s”. Life went on.

CFE is the second largest company in Mexico, just behind PEMEX, owned and operated by the federal government. Comision Federal de Electricidad employs over 80,000 people and is the electrical source for the country’s power and service. They are well liked. We are told that last year, when the devastatingly powerful hurricane Patricia came ashore just south of Puerto Vallarta, a caravan of over 100 CFE trucks and crews rolled through town immediately to go and restore all service. These guys are good.

Life is different here. And, that’s a good thing. Yes, they have transformers at hand, and transformations, in Mexico and in Oregon. And, they both seemed to have better outcomes than Xcel digging up the street again and again in Downtown Denver. Oh, and by the way, after all the power came back that evening last week, it started to rain.image