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GRINGAS & GUACAMOLE
By Gail Nott
Traveling Through Mexico
Traveling around Mexico, by automobile, with a significant other, can be hazardous to your health. After a recent excursion to San Miguel Allende, a Mexican city renowned for its architecture and artists, I want to share a few tips with you that may preserve your relationship and sanity.
Don’t assume that you will remember landmarks. Some people have a photographic memory; they just don’t have film. If you hope to reach your destination, don’t ask a kind-hearted Mexican directions; they don’t know where you are going or how to get you there, but they want to help. It is imperative that one of you be able to see the map, read, and understand it. No matter how hard we looked, we could never find “Quota,” but apparently it was always very near the expressway we were looking for.
Make sure you pack safety equipment. A flashlight is not a case in which you store dead batteries. Snacks and beverages are necessary for any long road trip. For children I would suggest healthy foods such as cheese, fruit and small bottles of juices. For adult males I would recommend candy, cookies, potato chips and soda. I would not purchase the coffee sold at the snack bars by the toll stations. I tripped and spilt some on my car; it easily removed all the dead bugs on the hood. The new paint job, however, is going to be expensive.
Someone in the car should be bilingual. After passing through a toll station, we decided to change drivers and use the baños. When I walked back to the car, it was surrounded by policemen. Apparently, Houston, my traveling companion, thought a plainclothes cop was a street vendor trying to sell him something and he kept saying “No.” As a policeman jerked open the car door to remove Houston, I heard the word, jail. Defiance come before fear and I blurted out “No,” believing there had to be a better answer. After a few green and pink bills changed hands, the officers explained they merely wanted to see our FM 3s, passports and insurance on the car. As we drove away, I glanced in the ashtray; ¼ inch of a hand-rolled cigarette lay nestled there. The word jail stayed with me all the way to Ajijic.
When filling up at a Pemex, Mexico’s answer to a Hess station, always have someone circle the car at least twice before you pull away. Being a trusting soul, I paid the attendant; he waved me off. Fortunately, there was a breakaway mechanism on the nozzle, which was still stuck in the gas tank of my car. While there was no damage to the car, the repair bill for the gas pump put a serious dent in our monies. Nothing is fool-proof to a sufficiently talented fool.
My final piece of advice is to accept that no matter how fast you are driving, it is not fast enough. Having a 1958 Ford pick-up truck, loaded with chickens, tailgating me for five miles was disconcerting. I truly believe if you lined up all the cars in the world, end to end, some Mexican would try to pass them. Pardon my driving, I’m reloading!