Day 21. I’ll Be Back

I will try to make this a quick entry because I want to post the last several entries that I haven’t been able to post because I’ve been camping. If any of you are reading every post, there will be too much to read anyway because each day brings surprises. On the other hand, although I am writing for friends and family, I am also writing for myself, very much as I write in my diary. I want to keep track of important events and what they mean to me.
Today is going to be difficult to describe, not because so much has happened but because I’m near the end of my trip and what has been a spiritual journey. Although I look forward to seeing friends and family, in many ways I don’t want this trip to end, which it will do tomorrow—at least the Mexican and Central American part. I expect to hit the border around one and set up camp in Texas, then join my friends, Renee and Paul, in Livonia, Louisiana on Monday.
When I wake up this morning and look out the hotel window, I see one, that the hurricane is fully over, and two, that no storm surge swamped my car. I have a full agenda for the day. I have to get to a branch of Banco Aztek (the only bank that changes dollars to pesos) to get some pesos. The price of this hotel nearly wiped me out, and the one thing I learned on my way down is that in Mexico, you had better have your pesos. Dollars don’t work. I have to have some breakfast. No dinner last night because of the storm and I was worried about the dearth of my pesos, thinking if I can’t get an exchange,  I have to have enough (300 pesos) to make it to the border, because I have to make it to the border on Sunday.  I need dog food. And I need to get close to La Pesca, where I would like to camp, so that I know I’ll make the border on Sunday–the limit of my visa.
The day starts well. I start walking Lola on the beach and then remember that Jesse was going to call me in the morning, but I had left my iphone in my room. Lola was running around on the deserted beach, so I let her continue on her merry way and I went back to the hotel room to get my iphone. I knew that Lola would get worried when she discovered I wasn’t on the beach, and I like that. I came out on the porch to my room and waited a few minutes and then saw Lola come bouncing up from the beach, looking for me. I watched her track me. Her nose followed my exact path until she figured out that I had gone back to our room, and she started on a straight path here.

An Olympic size swimming pool is in the way of that path, the water flush with the top of the wall so that it looks just like another surface. Lola tried to run across it and fell in. She does not like to swim in water over her head, so she had a brief panic, then made it to a wall and got out and came running to the stairs and up to where I was standing. I suspect only other dog lovers will know why this scene was important—and a little funny when she discovered that that blue surface was water.

I packed and planned, and we were out by nine. I was hoping to make La Pesca by six, which would give me time to set up camp before the night hit.
On the road up the Emerald Coast, I checked out all the camp grounds where I could have camped last night if I hadn’t panicked when I learned from Heather and Jesse that I was on the southern edge of a hurricane and decided to take the nearest hotel room that would permit a dog. I plan to return.
I drive for about an hour to Gutierrez Zamora. It’s a few minutes after ten, so I head into town to see if there is a Banco Aztek there. After a few blocks, I see several trucks of the national police parked and several heavily armed policemen hanging around them. I park and ask them if there is a Banco Aztec in town.
They are so cool. First, they try to explain directions. They are complicated and they see that I zoned out after the third turn, so one of them said, “Sigue nosotros,” and I said, “Muchas gracias.”
Four of them pile into one of the trucks, two in the front seat, two standing up in the truck bed, the way soldiers and policemen in Mexico do. They also put on their bullet-proof vests, helmets with dark visors, and strap on their submachine guns. Then they proceed to lead me through town to the Banco Aztec. I really want to use my iphone to take a video of them leading me through town, but I think I had better not.
The money exchange is quick. That is one thing down that I don’t have to worry about. Across from where I had parked my car and left Lola inside is a small restaurant. I go in and order breakfast, huevos mexicano, without knowing what I am getting. A mother and her daughter are running the place. I am their only customer.
This is charming. While I am drinking coffee and waiting for whatever I have ordered, the mother clomes over and sits down and wants to know where I am from and why I am driving with a dog (she can see Lola watching me from across the street). She asks what many Mexicans and Central Americans ask me: esta solo? They really want to know why I’m alone. I explain.
As with the policemen, the military men who check me on the road, and these people who ask my why I’m alone, I use every event as a chance to practice my bad Spanish. I love to use my poor Spanish. I’ll talk to anyone about anything.
I can eat only 1/4thof the eggs, tomatoes, and other things and tamales that finally come. The daughter wraps them up for me for later. I enjoy these simple exchanges.
I drive out of town, stop at a Pemex and get gas and at an EXXO to get dog food. I am on the road.
The drive is simply beautiful through minor mountains and the kind of twisting roads I love. I keep careful track of where I am and where I am going by constantly checking my GPS and my map of Mexico. The GPS doesn’t work very well—it just gives you a vague idea of the major roads and where you might be, but by cross-checking the GPS with my map, I don’t make a single mistake until I hit Tampico. I don’t know how I managed to make it down through Mexico and Central America without maps—that’s why I was so frequently lost.
When I reach Tampica, I ask the man in the toll booth for the best route to Cuidad Victoria. I am pleased that I understand his directions and am doing well for about a half-hour at which point, I know I have made some kind of mistake. Really, I have been complimenting myself on my Spanish and how well I am doing that at some point, overly enchanted with my accomplishments, I miss a sign. So I am back to my usual: every few blocks, Donde esta el major calle por Ciudad Victoria?
I guess I lose about an hour, but then I am finally on my way out of town.
This is the good part—once I am out of the major city. The sky ia beautiful: a mixture of towering cumulous clouds and low flying dark clouds left from the hurricane and stratus clouds streaking across clear blue skies. I see a rainbow.
With one slight hiccup, I make the right turn at Villa Manuel to head for La Pesca. There is a funny scene at the gas station with several men—they all all interested in Lola, who guards my car.
That’s about it for the day. But the most important part is while I was driving and knowing this would be my last late afternoon drive in Mexico. I really like Mexico and the people here, and particularly the small, out-of-the way towns. I am pleased with myself—not always the case, and I’ll spare you the examples. My marker is the difference between going down through Mexico and coming back. I feel as if I can go anywhere.

It’s dark by the time we hit Soto La Marina, where we could turn east for an hour drive to La Pesca, where I know I can camp. But I decide, uncharacteristically, not to push my luck and stop at the first hotel I see and check in. Lola and I go for a long walk, then back to the room where I eat my huevos Mexicano.  I am going to be very sorry to leave Mexico. I’ll be back.

Goto Day 22: Someone Else’s Shit

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