03: The Mexican Experiment – Part One: The Road to La Paz
We have been living in La Paz, Mexico since mid-December as one of our many life experiments. Paddy has always wanted to live by the sea and when we were in Cabo San Lucas last year for a couples retreat we went on an amazing adventure in La Paz. La Paz is a couple hours Northeast of Cabo to swim with whale sharks and sea lions and it was magical. So the beginning of December we packed up our car with mostly toys – blow-up paddle boards, golf clubs, yoga mats, and bicycles … and drove from our Utah home to La Paz. The entire experience from beginning to end was not only an exploration of the Mexican landscape, wildlife, and culture but also of ourselves and of love.
The road to La Paz – Day One
My concern for comfort is inconvenient at best and a downright problem other times. I am not a fan of driving long distances … I don’t like being confined in the car for prolonged periods of time – I get restless. I don’t like sitting for so long and I get physically uncomfortable. When I see something cool I want to get out and explore. I also drink lots of water during the day which also means I have to pee so on a road trip I either dehydrate so I don’t have to go as much or I have to ask Paddy to stop. This means either braving a gas station or rest stop restroom (some are very nice and some you run out of wanting to throw up – always an adventure) or find a place to squat (usually my preference but not always easy or possible). I’m also a recovering control freak and back-seat driver so riding in the passenger seat can be torturous for me – being worried about the car, other cars, our safety, the route, the road, and on and on. It requires a level of trust in everyone around me and the world and life that I have yet to master. And it is for these many reasons that road trips are usually stressful for me.
Then add all of the unknowns of Mexico – horror stories of drug lord kidnappings and shootouts, shakedowns by government officials, getting lost on the ‘highway’ that is still under construction for 25 miles, gas stations without gas, bad water, bad food, nothing for a hundred miles but sand and cacti, not to mention our shitty Spanish and troubles communicating.
The minute they let us through the border into Mexico my normal road trip anxiety quadrupled. Fear of the unknown, fear of being lost, fear of not having a cell signal, fear of the cartels and the authorities, fear of dying a slow and painful death on the side of a Mexican roadway…. AND fear of having to rely on a stranger for my welfare should something go wrong. I could go on and on about the different scenarios where this could happen but I realized I don’t really trust people. I’m afraid of people stopping to help me – I think about serial killers and rapists and crazy people and also people with less malicious intents but ulterior motives none-the-less – and these are always men. And I think as women more than men, we’re taught to fear help from strangers for these reasons. We’re taught we’re not safe alone. I know this to be true on a much broader scale than my own experience because two years ago I started going on camping trips alone. When I tell people about it or if other campers discover this, they tell me I’m crazy and it’s dangerous and they ask if I have a gun. I know tons of men who camp alone and no one asks them that. They are asked where they went and did they have fun? Fear sucks but I digress.
All in all the first day in Mexico wasn’t all that bad – for me. The border patrol between Calexico and Mexicali waived us through without even having us stop (btw, you need to stop at the border on the way in because you have to have this little document called an FMM in order to leave the country again but more about this later). We drove about five hours on ‘The 5’ (the main road that goes down the Eastern side of the peninsula only to meet up with ‘The 1’ which is the highway from Tijuana on the Western side of the peninsula about halfway down the Baja) and arrived at our destination – Alfonsina’s – well before dark. The road, although deteriorated in spots, was manageable.
But don’t let that fool you into thinking this was a pleasant drive. I was gasping or sighing when Paddy’s driving made me uncomfortable. I was annoyed by the choice of snacks at the gas stations causing a few bouts of hangry snarkiness. Paddy maintained his composure except for a few defensive comments and palpable annoyance at my annoyance. Basically, we bickered. Little sniveling comments meant to ventilate our own annoyance, discomfort, or fear. Earlier in our marriage, all of these small crappy moments could have snowballed into a major fight or us not talking to one another. But instead, we generally recognize our own part in the bickering, we each own it …. maybe after many minutes of cool down and contemplation … and then we recover by apologizing or changing the subject or putting on music, our Learning Spanish CDs, or an audiobook. We’re able to move through the crap much faster. I guess practice makes – well, obviously not perfect or we wouldn’t bicker to begin with, but definitely better.
Alfonsina’s is a hotel with a restaurant on a tiny spit in the sea of Cortez positioned just before you reach the part of ‘The 5’ that they have yet to finish. There are very few hotels, restaurants or much of anything for probably 50 miles North of this little oasis and very little for a hundred miles South. But they had amazing food, great margaritas, and a beautiful beach to comb. Rooms were clean but they did not have keys for the doors which surprisingly didn’t freak me out and we couldn’t really get our hot water to work.
That night we laid on our backs in the sand of the spit with a warm margarita buzz awed by the thousands of visible stars. We stayed until each of us had seen a shooting star and made a wish. When we got back to our room we started to get ready for bed when Paddy realized he couldn’t find his wallet with all of our money and credit cards.
We scoured the room each of us trying to recall the last time we’d seen his wallet and I think silently blaming each other for the debacle. There was also the creeping suspicion that someone had taken it from our room. The door didn’t have a lock after all but we both felt it seemed highly unlikely someone took it as we were one of three or four groups of guests staying there and everyone was charming and warm and Alfonsina’s has a great reputation – not to mention our phones and iPod (ya, Paddy still carries one of these around) were on the table. In a last-ditch effort, we decided to go back out onto the spit and see if it had somehow fallen out of his pocket even though he was fairly certain he didn’t have it out on the spit and had left it in the room. As we were walking out there I ran through the worst-case-scenario out loud. I still had my wallet with credit cards and a cash card. We had read we might have trouble using our cards and I had zero cash so that might be an issue and we also didn’t have cell service at Alfonsina’s so we’d have to drive somewhere to get cell service to cancel our cards but otherwise, this – as most things … some might even say all things – just wasn’t a big deal. We’d figure it out and make it through. I relaxed but Paddy tensed feeling like this was his fault but again, it didn’t really matter. We’d be in the shit together regardless who was to blame so who the hell cares?
When we got to the spot where we had been doing our star gazing there it was, Paddy’s wallet. Lots of joy, hugging and kissing, and a great night’s sleep.
Probably the most incredible sunrise we saw on the entire trip turned out to be at Alfonsina’s. Now onto the important stats…
ROADHEAD COUNT: Paddy = 0
Seriously? Thanks for that enlightening retelling of the first day of our journey. Oh and since we’re counting…
ROADHEAD COUNT: Sam = 0