Mexico. It’s like Cuba, so near yet so foreign. Even the smell changes as soon as you pass the border. And leading up to the border you’ll find gas stations that carry pinatas (which in hindsight we should have snagged because it’s the only thing Van has really requested for his birthday). I joked the entire time we were there that Baja is like a poor man’s Big Sur. Just few hours drive from our home and $100 per night kinda made me wonder why anyone makes the trek up the coastline to drop dollars in Big Sur; never mind the beauty and tranquility. I mean, you can’t buy Viagra, a taco, and a poncho in Big Sur. Ok fine, you can probably find a decent taco. But not for pesos on the dollar and a side of diarrhea.
In any event, we nearly opted not to go two hours into our drive when we realized we left our passports at home. Passports, that in all fairness, were not needed years ago when trips down to Baja were our summer norm. Before, you know, you heard stories of families being carjacked at gunpoint, the mother raped in front of her children, and the family left roadside with no means of getting home.
Willy and I gave each other pep talks on the way back home to retrieve our passports, taking turns calming one another down and promoting all that good attitude shit that’s really the last thing you want to hear when you’re sulking in your own despair and watching minutes turn to hours all the while questioning the safety in Tijuana after dark. Especially when one member of our gang whines a whine that makes even a desert lizard’s skin crawl about having to pee. Roadside piss stops in Tijuana after dark? Let’s just say we were happy to have crossed the border and made it through Tijuana while it was still light. Never mind the other member of ours that hurled all over himself and his carseat, the mere turnabouts in Tijuana causing whatever food we had thrown back at them to quiet them on a drive that turned out to be double the amount of time we had anticipated (all because of said passports) making its way back up. And out. And all over.
It was only after cleaning up the barf that we could begin to tackle how to get to where we were going. There was added frustration having had no address for our destination provided and instructions that included “turn left at the Cali-Mart”, only there were several Cali-Marts, and “turn right after the first speed bump”. Fortunately we were able to laugh about most of it because, well, Mexico. It’s all part of the experience, verdad?
The next day was a bit of a debacle. With the loan on our new house (we’re moving at some point this summer) closing, there were documents that had to be signed. Time sensitive documents. We spent the day with broken cellular connections trying our best to figure out a plan with our loan officer who ultimately, bless him, met us – well after dark – on a secluded road outside closed businesses, halfway between where we were and the border. We signed those papers in the back of his car with nothing other than a lone street light making the dotted line visible. We turned down a street vendor selling some stale shrimp on a questionable wood platter (because, Mexico), took a picture with our loan officer (because, memories), and headed back on the road in search of that damn Cali-Mart we missed the first time we passed it.
And from there, it was smooth sailing. We ate dinner at the same roadside restaurant, nestled amongst dilapidated homes and stale stagnant run-off outlets from the ocean, each night. It was the kind of place where everyone learned your name and our waitress, Brenda, traded me a margarita for Sonny as soon as I stepped foot in the door each night. The boys hung out in the room adjacent to the bar, crashing balls on the pool table into each other. And no one even gave us stink eye. Because, well, Mexico.
We had hoped to ride some horses along the beach but Willy veto’d that idea, questioning the safety of the boys on horses we didn’t know in a country with a less-than-desirable reputation. And truthfully, when I saw the state of the horses available for riding, I too agreed — more for the horses sake than for the safety of our kids. It seemed abusive riding horses so weakened and dismal appearing.
We stopped to get gas one evening, however, and adjacent to the gas station were some horses that I told the boys we could go look at. Next thing ya know some sweet Mexican man is lifting Hooper up on a horse and giving him a tour of the questionable surroundings. I posted a picture of him on the horse on instagram and practically spit out my margarita when someone commented saying that they too were offered a ride on a horse in Mexico and when the woman asked the man the name of the horse, the man replied, “I don’t know. It’s not my horse”. Oh, Mexico.
Thinking back, I can’t even recall the boys fighting much. I’m sure it happened, but it’s amazing how something that can downright ruin your mood in the moment it’s occurring can all be but forgotten some weeks later… after the stiff margaritas have worn off, I suppose.
In any event, we made it back – albeit a two hour wait at the border (during which I took Van to pee three times) – sans barf, with some homemade tortillas, some salt still on our lips, and plans to return again. Hashtag: poor man’s Big Sur.